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A Pilgrimage To Perdition
by [?]

Poverty? What do you know of it, my well-fed optimistic friends? You pay your taxes, give a few pence to the beggar at the street corner, perhaps contribute a few dollars to this or the other relief fund that does not relieve,– and wonder that people do not go to work and earn their bread. “There is always work for those who really want it,” one of you complacently informs me. Are you quite sure? In a city like this we are traversing I have seen fifty thousand men who “really wanted work,” and could not find it. Fifty thousand unemployed, destitute and desperate people in one city. I was one of the number. Why didn’t they scatter? you will ask. Whither should they go, and how? Take to the snow-clad country, be arrested as vags, and herded as criminals? For my part I did “scatter,”– tramped one hundred miles in a northern winter without food, and found three days’ employment,–loading ice into box cars! Many of those fifty thousand idle men had families to support. How did they do it? Now you are getting into Hell!

Come with me and I will show you thousands of families in this city alone who have not had in six months as good a meal as could be picked out of your garbage barrel; hundreds of families that sleep this winter night on the bare floor of filthy tenements or huddled like swine on an armful of foul rags and straw; delicate women and children dying for lack of proper warmth and nourishment; hundreds of men who regard it as a godsend to get arrested that they may have shelter from the piercing winds of the night and a bite to eat in the morning. Put your head into this 10-cent lodging house if you want to get some new ideas regarding the “trend of humanity.” Glance into this low groggery–but one of several thousand in this great city–and “size up the gang” before being too sure that a “pessimist” is simply a person troubled with a superabundance of black bile. Of the million people who make up this great city, probably six hundred thousand are already plunged deep in the abyss where lurk Want and Crime, or trembling on its verge, and the number who thus “live from hand to mouth,” who feel that they have “no stake in the country,”–that God and man are against them– is ever on the increase. That verdant, sunkissed crust upon which Arnolds complacently saunter and Talmages proudly strut, grows thinner year by year, while the fires below wax ever hotter, more turbulent, more explosive!

Would you know how thin this crust actually is; how fissured and honey-combed from beneath, until it can scarce sustain its own weight, and the sulphur fumes ever rise through it like steam through a sieve, inspect the city government and note how and what constitutes the controlling power. When you learn, as you will if you examine carefully, that those thousands of vile drinking dens dictate who shall be our public servants, and what laws we shall live under; that the “madam” of the fashionable bagnio is more potent at police headquarters than any delegation of the Y.M.C.A.; that no whereas or resolution of philanthropists can withstand the fiat of the ward bosses; that everywhere there is collusion with criminals and jobbery, perhaps you will not be quite so certain of “the world’s great future.”

. . .

Do you turn to the church to make good the promise of the optimist? Let us explore the “amen corner” and see how many pious souls we shall there find whose incomes are chiefly drawn from buildings rented for immoral purposes. Even while I write I see an old white-haired man, whose power in prayer is the pride of his church, making his rounds, collecting his monthly stipend from the keepers of negro brothels and the lowest grade of drinking dens,–places where nightly assemble people of all ages, colors and sexes and enact scenes that might bring a blush to even the brazen front of Belial!