Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


A Pilgrimage To Perdition
by [?]

Let us take a typical American city; not that here we are nearer the great red heart of Hell than are the people of other lands. What is true of one is true in greater or less degree of every city throughout the world. We will suppose the city we are to examine to contain a million inhabitants. We will pause to contemplate its miles of broad streets and magnificent buildings; its imposing schools and scores of costly churches that rear their symmetrical spires far into the empyrean and fill the great dome with their melodious chimes; its marble fountains and costly plants which ravish the senses with sweet perfumes; its wealth and wisdom, luxury and learning, its philanthropic people and happy homes were Peace reigns and Plenty ever smiles. That is one side of the shield,–the one upon which the Arnolds and Talmages have looked so long that they forget there is any other,–that a golden veil may hide the face of a Fury or a Fiend.

The clock is proclaiming Night and Sin’s high noon; follow me and I will show you why I do not believe in “humanity” quite so implicitly as does Sir Edwin; why even Dr. Talmage has failed to wean me from “the awful sin of pessimism.” It is not necessary to linger long in the low concert halls and brothels where girls scarce in their teens are made the prey of the rum-inflamed passions of brutes old enough to he their grandsires; where old roues, many of whose names are a power “on ‘change,” bid against each other for half-developed maids whose virginity is certified to by a physician; where green gawks from the country are made drunk with cheap wines sold to them at fancy prices by courtesans, plucked and turned over to a subsidized police if they protest; where hundreds of pure girls are entrapped, drugged and ruined every day of the world. These social ulcers are so protrusive, have been written up so frequently by enterprising young reporters who naively supposed that to expose was to suppress, that even optimistic Dr. Talmage must at least be cognizant that such places exist,–even in Brooklyn, which enjoys the supernal blessing of his direct ministrations, and from which moral Mecca his sounding sentences are transmitted by the vicarious apostles of the press to all men,–who possess a penchant for light literature!

One glance into the low gambling dens, where haggard creatures, created in God’s image, but long ago degraded below the brute level, nightly waste the few pence which they pick up Heaven alone knows how,–perhaps by selling the virtue of their daughters, robbing their wives of ill-got gains or plundering the pockets of drunken laborers. We may pass by the opium joints where women of all ages and classes lie for hours, stupid with filthy fumes, at the mercy of bestial orientals and drunken negroes; also those dives devoted to forms of debauchery so debased that many a blase man of the world does not believe their existence more than a demoniacal dream. These are vortices of vice too fearfully foul for eyes of aught but fiends; the air too putrid for lungs that inhale that of pure and happy homes. We must shun those plague spots, else bear false witness to the world, for any true pen-picture of their hell-born horrors would, like Medusa’s awful face, turn all who gazed thereon to stone!

. . .

We must content ourselves with traveling the purlieus of Perdition, the sulphur-fumes of those profounder depths of degradation being too strong for lungs accustomed to chant optimistic lays; the glare of the burning marl too fierce for eyes used only to vernal meads and still waters; but even here, in the Purgatorium as it were, sights and sounds calculated to appall the stoutest heart are not wanting. Here stalks the demon Poverty. He is by no means so hideous as some of his brethren in the infernal hierarchy, and perchance we may inspect his dominions without succumbing to moral hysteria.