The location of our tale is Boston, and the scenes of the first chapter passed in Marshall street, a short one, leading from Union to Hanover street, its date is, 1842.
On Commercial street at this date, near one of the principal wharves, stood a large and rather antique block of buildings with granite front, many of which, had formerly been occupied as trading warehouses, but now on account of their dilapidated condition, were used for other purposes.
Some were used merely as places of storage, while others were occupied as dwelling houses by the more indigent class of laborers, and those who procured a livelihood by no visible means, and yet continued to exist.
One of these tenements, more black and frowning in its external appearance than its neighbors, and which stood near the water, was the residence of several individuals with whom in due time we will make the reader acquainted.
From the first floor to the attic, the interior presented unquestionable evidence of neglect and decay, while but a very few of the apartments could posibly, to all appearance afford accommodation to human beings, they having long ago been abandoned to the exclusive jurisdiction and occupation of rats and mice, or whatever other genus of animals found them convenient and commodious.
Let us enter, beginning at the first door on the left, and see what is passing within. The apartment in which you find yourself was once used as a victualing cellar, and the large board which had announced the gratifying fact to the public, now faded and cracked in an hundred places, is used as a kind of bar to secure the door upon the inside.—Everything here speaks of poverty and wretchedness. There are no chairs, and the deficiency is supplied by a rude bench and blocks, which had the peculiar hues of long use. You are looking for a table; there is none; that remnant of a counter there serves the purpose of one.
You observe two persons. The one is very tall, and nearly or perhaps quite sixty years of age. Did you ever look upona ghastly visage—such a hollow corpse-like cheek—such a thin, sharp nose—such deeply sunken eyes—such a grim deformity for a mouth, whose lips hug closely the toothless gums, and such a frightful distance from the nether lip to the apex of the chin—or did you ever gaze upon such a low, horribly wrinkled forehead, or greyer and more closely matted locks than his?
You never did. Nor would you, were you to look into the grave; for there is not another such face in the universe living or dead, as that old man's. There is not a single lineament of his sharp, colorless features that you can contemplate with pleasure.
A skeleton by some ingenious device