University of Virginia Library




“The day cometh when she who has made the wretched her children,
shall be hailed `Mother,' and she who has forgotten or ill-performed her
duty to her children, shall be written childless.”

True to his dinner hour, six o'clock, Walter Herbert was
slowly mounting the steps to his sister-in-law's house, with
that heavy-heartedness one feels when there is no face within
the door one cares to see, no voice one cares to hear. “This
house is a tomb to me,” he murmured—old people have a
trick of soliloquizing—“I now have always a bad taste in my
mouth when I come near it.” As he rang the door-bell, a
hackney-coach drove up, its door was opened, and a young
lady in a gray dress, a straw bonnet, and blue veil, and a
Russia-leather traveling sack on her arm—a railroad costume
—alighted, and running up the steps asked the servant,
who answered Mr. Herbert's ring, with much earnestness in
her tone, “if Miss Grace Herbert were at home?” “No,
miss,” answered John, and was shutting the door on the
inquirer, his manner being rather addressed to the shabby
coach than to her. Some of our servants naturalize the insolence
of older civilizations with wonderful facility. The
young person's tone touched Uncle Walter's soft heart. He
put John aside, and opening wide the door, asked “If she
wished to speak with Miss Herbert.” “I do, very much,”
she replied, with a simplicity that won a smile from the dear
old man, and casting her veil aside, she added, “Do you
expect her in soon, sir?”

“No, not soon, nor till to-morrow evening, unless you


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will give me your name, and let me summon her. I think
she will come at your bidding,” he added, as he gazed in the
sweet and troubled face of the stranger. She was just deciding
to accept the kindness, when Miss Carlton's splendid
carriage drove up, and the liveried coachman motioned to
the miserable Irish driver of the hack to give place. He
drew off. The modest little stranger's eye encountered the
supercilious stare of Miss Carlton, and dropping her veil, and
saying, “It's no matter, sir, I won't trouble you,” she
glided down the steps, and giving a direction to the coachman,
drove away.

While he obeyed her order, Walter Herbert despatched
the following note:—“Dearest Grace, come home forthwith.
There has just been a distressed little damsel here inquiring
for you. She is a tight-built, trig lass, with a dainty little
mouth and lips, that an old man would love to kiss; and an
eye like a star dropped from the firmament, and blue as that;
and so light and fleet of foot, that as she sprang into the carriage,
I cried aloud, `Give me back my youth.' I should
not wonder if she were your little friend, Alice Clifford.
She looked at me as if she half knew me for your Uncle

We must precede the slow coach to its destination in
Wall-street, and enter Mr. Lisle's office where one clerk
asked another who was rummaging tables and pigeon-holes,
“What he was searching for?”

“I am looking for the note brought by the policeman on
Monday; it is not in the letter-box; it is not anywhere.
Mr. Lisle may return at any moment, and nothing vexes him
like a missing paper.”

“You need not tell him it's missing. It came from some
poor devil in the Tombs, who is probably disposed of by this


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“No, that he is not. His messenger has been here three
times to-day; he was here an hour ago, and sulked, and
said he should not take the trouble to come again.”

“Why did you not ask the name of the person who sent

“I did, and he said that was just what he did not know;
`the name was to the note, he supposed.' ”

“Ah, well, it's some gent of the upper ten got into a
scrape, who expects Mr. Lisle to get him out, and keep his
incognito. Let him take his chance. Come, sit down,
Slidell, and let a fellow pursue his studies.”

Slidell looked over the student's shoulder, and seeing him
deep in the “last new novel,” gave an expressive a-hem, and
returned to his own desk, and probably to some “study”
equally recondite. But our young students were not destined
to remain quiet at their learned researches. The door
was ajar, a light footstep was heard, and the rustling of
a petticoat, an unaccustomed sound in these resorts, followed
by an eager tap at the door. Their “Come in,” was answered
by the appearance of the young traveler already
described. She paused on the threshold, and looked eagerly
around, as if in quest of some person not present.
The young men started to their feet, and stood awaiting the
first word. It was uttered with intense earnestness:

“Is Mr. Lisle here?”

“No; he is out of town.”

“When is he expected?”

“He may come to-morrow; perhaps not for some days.
He left his return uncertain. We could hasten it by a

There was a pause, evidently a mental deliberation; a
conclusion. “Is he on a telegraph line?” she asked.

“No, he is in some obscure village, not far from Boston.”


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“Has Mr. Lisle no friend in Boston whose name you

“No; none.”

“No business-correspondent?”

“Oh, yes. You know, Slidell? Judson Bates, Esq.”

“That may do. Will you be kind enough to give me pen,
ink, and paper?”

She wrote:—“Mr. Bates, please send an express to Mr.
Archibald Lisle, requesting him to return to New York
without delay, on important business of my brother's.

Alice Clifford.

She then requested one of the young gentlemen to take
the note to the telegraph office; and after giving him money
to pay for it, she went with such swiftness down the long steep
stair-case, that Slidell, who followed her with the intention
of offering to escort her through the questionable purlieus
of Wall-street, just reached the outer steps in time to hear
her tell her coachman to “drive to the Tombs.”

“Thunder! that's a girl, Jem,” said he, returning to the

“A go-ahead, you mean, Slidell; but somehow I don't
fancy a girl, though she be so very pretty, with such a business

“Oh, I know you don't. You like a girl compounded of
amiability, docility and imbecility, like the heroine of that
story you are reading, who never had a thought of her own,
or an independent action; a sort of `lean to' to the noble
structure, man. One of your sort, if she has soft blue eyes,
or brown waving tresses, if she be blonde or brunette, has
dimpled hands, and delicate feet; why, she'll do to stand on
a pedestal, and be worshiped till she's twenty, but she'd be
a devil of a drag for a wife. Now this peerless little stranger


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is in some sort of a strait, there's no mistake; but if there's
a way out she'll find it. How direct was her aim; how every
word told! Would it have occurred to your kind of girl
that a telegraph must be paid for? The deuce of a dollar
could you and I have raised between us after last night's
spree at Delmonico's. I am for women using the faculties
Heaven has bestowed on them.”

“There's sense in what you say Slidell, but heaven defend
us from Women's Rights women!”

“Amen and amen to that.”

While the young men were giving a brush to a much-vexed
question, Alice Clifford was pursuing her way through
the dusky twilight to the Tombs. It was a drizzling, dirty
evening. A feeble light from the lamps struggled through
the foggy atmosphere; crowds of men were hurrying homeward
from the business quarter. Overburdened women
were carrying or dragging along lagging children, and here
and there a drabbish-looking outcast, a frightful vestige of
womanhood, crouched against a wall. Omnibuses and vehicles
of all sorts were in a crush, their wearied drivers
shouting and swearing. Alice sunk back in her seat, after
for a moment curiously eyeing, through the misty window
of her coach, a scene so new to her. “Oh, what a dreadful
place!” she exclaimed, “how can people live here? There
is not a hut, or shed in Mapleton that I would not rather
have than a palace here! Oh, my poor brother in a prison
in a city, itself a prison! How slow he drives; I shall be
too late!” But the coach was soon extricated from the
crowd, and driven at a fair pace down Leonard-street to the
Tombs, the prison so called from its resemblance to its
gloomy Egyptian model. Alice heaved a deep sigh as her
eye ran over it from turret to foundation-stone.

“Shall I wait, Miss?” asked the coachman, as she was


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taking from her purse the money to pay the unconscionable
fee the fellow demanded. After hesitating for an instant,
for her calculations for the night had not gone beyond her
meeting with her brother, she gave a decided negative, and
was pressing on from the dreary outside to the more fearful
inside, when her steps were arrested by the whimpering of
her dog, a little Blenheim spaniel, who had leaped out of
the coach before her, and made a spring upon the heels of a
man passing. He turned and gave the little animal a blow
with his cane, that sent him back howling to his mistress'
feet. “Poor Pixie!” she said, taking him caressingly in her
arms. His cries continued, and brought out of a small room
adjoining the entrance, a little woman, who, asking what had
happened, the coachman replied, pointing to the man just
turning the corner into Centre-street, “'Twas that brute, he
struck the lady's dog.”

“Oh, I know the fellow,” said the woman, looking after

“Do you, ma'am?” said Alice, earnestly, as if she too recognized
him; “what is his name?”

“I don't recall his name; I'm poor on names; he's always
haunting round here to see his comrades who get in, when
he's lucky enough to keep out. You were wanting some
one perhaps, Miss?” added the woman, with an official air,
tempered with kindness.

“Yes, ma'am; I wish to see the keeper of the prison.”

“The keeper, my dear? Why there's ever so many keepers
here. There's the head-keeper, Mr. Edson, and ever so
many underlings, and there's myself that looks after the
women; do you want any thing of me?”

“Oh, yes; above all things I want some kind woman to
help me.”

The little woman nodded, as if to say, “That's me!” and
Alice felt her heart revive as she looked into her new friend's


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face, and inferred the capabilities indicated in her keen
humorous eye, her ruddy cheek, and a pleasant smile that
expressed a benevolence which even the uses of her revolting
office could not stale. She had a firmly knit strong
frame, sturdy and short, and Alice felt like a frightened little
bird, ready to cower under a strong wing.

“My name, young lady,” she said, showing her into the
small receiving-room, “is Juliana C. Barton; sit down and
make yourself comfortable—a light heart's a small burden,
as I tell my folks when I put them in the `Black Maria,' or
boat them for Sing Sing.”

“Comfortable” was a word just then struck out of Alice's
vocabulary. She remained standing, and inquired if Mrs.
Barton were acquainted with the male prisoners?

“No, my child, I know nothing about them. I used to
have a kind of curiosity to see murderers and gentlemen
defaulters, but they are so common now-a-days that I am
'come indifferent.”

“Have you heard of a young man, committed on Saturday,
for a—a forgery?”

“La, no, my dear; that happens every day.”

“There was a young man so committed. How am I to
find him?”

“Oh, that's `as easy as sinning,' as I say to my ladies.
We must go to Edson; he'll look into his records for a
pretty young lady, when he would n't lift a finger for an old
one; but that's men's ways, you know. You won't mind
going through the `five days quarter,' it's the shortest

Alice would not have shrunk from the “shortest cut,”
were it through purgatory, to her object.

Mrs. Barton, taking a ponderous key from her waist, unlocked
the door that led into a long corridor, with staircases
on one side and cells on the other, story above story


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to the top of the building. It is in this, the “five days
quarter,” that the human offal of the city is every morning
emptied. Alice's quick eye took in a new sense of human
depravation. She groaned aloud, as she looked around upon
the miserable wretches, some sitting singly, sullen, shivering
against the stone-wall, some gossiping in groups, and some
lying where they had been thrown, on mattresses in the
cells, still steeped in intoxication, and all in dirt and rags,
and branded with the grossest vices. Alice gathered her
garments close around her, and clinging to Mrs. Barton,
begged her to hurry through the place.

“Poor child; it's something new to you, but there's no
use in feeling,” said the habituée; “you see they don't much
mind it.” She paused as a woman brushed by them, just
brought in from a scene of riot, which she was coarsely caricaturing
to an acquaintance, while her own little boy was
filching pennies out of her pocket.

“That woman,” said Mrs. Barton, lowering her voice, “is
Adèle de Russe, alias Sally Tomkins. 'Tis not six years since
I saw her riding, fine as the finest of fine ladies, with Sam

“Oh,” said Alice, “I never heard of her; I never heard
of Sam Belson; please, ma'am, let us go on.”

“Yes, yes. I thought you might have some curiosity;
but I see you don't know much of city doings. I'd like to
show Sally as she is to that mother and daughter that I saw
yesterday chatting so soft and so friendly with Belson,
at their carriage door before Stewart's shop. A decent
lady should not let the hem of her gown brush the
skirts of the coat of such as he! If they saw what I
see! my! There's a difference between men and women,
that's a fact: there's Sally and there's he! but come to the
upshot, there'll not be a pin's head to choose between them;
if any thing, I'd rather stand in her shoes than his, at the


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judgment; there will be a cloud of witnesses against such
as he, thieves and murderers they are!”

While Mrs. Barton was thus evolving the wisdom she
had distilled from her observation of penal life, and carrying
her analogies from the police-court to a higher tribunal, they
had passed through the prison-yard, and re-entered at the
mens' department. “Well done, little young lady!” she
exclaimed, as they turned from Edson's office, with the permit
to visit the young man in “cell No. 30,” “you are a
trump! Why, if the Mayor, and the Ten Governors to boot,
were to come into Edson's office, he would not hush up, and
go straight to the business in hand, as he did for you; his
tongue is—well, it's like the sea, never still. Stay a minute,
Tim,” she continued, to the turnkey whom she had summoned
to unlock No. 30, “we must arrange before you go
in. I would not like,” she lowered her voice, “to leave you
in the care of the men—they ain't all what they should be—”

“Oh pray,” cried Alice, interrupting her, and feeling as if
she should be maddened by another minute's delay, “let me
go in—wait five minutes. Open the door, pray—”

“Well—open it, Tim.” The turnkey obeyed. Alice
sprang in. Mrs. Barton put her hand over the turnkey's to
keep the door open, till she saw and heard the recognition.
The words, “Dear sister!” “Poor Max!” the close, fond
embrace, the burst of tears, satisfied her. She shut the
door, and her voice trembled in sympathy, as she exclaimed,
“All right, all right! The Lord forgive me, but I thought
nothing short of a love-scrape would carry a girl straight
ahead like that. And after all she's nothing but a sister!
Well, a sister's love is always the same, and lasts to the end;
that's the love for my money.” Our friend was only Mistress
Barton by courtesy. “Come, come, little lady,” she called
out, after restlessly walking up and down, “it's twice five
minutes, and I must be going.” She re-opened the door, and


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her heart melted as she found Alice still sobbing on her
brother's neck. “I am real sorry to break you off,” she
said, “but I'm pushed for time. I must be in Williamsburg
at eight, exact, at my niece's wedding; and before I go, I
must see you safe on your way to your place.”

“My place!” echoed Alice; “I have not any place.”

“No place to go to! Such a sensible little lady as you,
not to provide a place to go to.”

“Oh, Mrs. Barton, I thought only of getting to my
brother, and staying by him. Can't I stay here? Do let

“My dear, it's contrary to all rules. You can't—”

“Can't you take me to your home, Mrs. Barton? I don't
care for a bed. Let me sit in your parlor, lie on your floor,
any thing.”

“If I had a half hour to spare, my dear, I could take you
to twenty decent places; but weddings won't wait. I'm
after time now.”

“Why not go to Miss Herbert, Alice?” asked her brother.

“I have been there, Max; she is not at home, and I can't
ask a favor of the ladies there. Is there not an empty room
here, near my brother, Mrs. Barton, that I may occupy?”

“Well, that is a proposition!” said Mrs. Barton, holding
up both her hands. “Yes, my dear, we've empty rooms—
we call 'em cells, but—”

“But what? Are they not clean?”

“They are whitewashed and scoured, soon's ever the
tenant leaves.”

“And can not I take the key and lock myself in?”

“You can; but my! the thing was never heard of, that a
feminine was locked up in the male department.”

“Is there a rule against it?”

“Well, no, I guess not. No rule against what no one
ever thought of, but kind o' silent law.”


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“Then let it be silent, good Mrs. Barton. I am sure you
can do what you like here, and no one will dare to find fault
with you.”

Mistress Barton was touched by this sagacious perception
of her magisterial authority.

“It's a new case,” she said; “but I think I may use my
judgment. I see you are something out of the common
way, young lady. Tim,” to the turnkey, “unlock No. 31.”
The door was unlocked. Mrs. Barton put her head in, and
pronounced it “sweet as a nut.” “I'll just fix the bed for
you,” she said; and was proceeding to arrange the iron bedstead
that, with its mattress, was turned up against the wall,

“Oh no, no, ma'am, please,” said Alice, “I will lie on the
clean floor.”

“If you're so partic'lar, miss,” said the turnkey, “there's
a bran new rocking-chair, sent in yesterday for the gentleman
that left for Sing-Sing—he never sot in it.”

“So much the better,” thought Alice, and throwing her
blanket-shawl over it, “there's my bed,” she said, and heartily
thanking kind Mistress Barton, and agreeing with the turnkey
that he should let her out of her brother's cell at his
last round, she re-entered it, and was locked in; and Mrs.
Juliana S. Barton wended her way through the prison, murmuring,
“There's a girl for my money! She knows what
she is about, and can take care of herself; and others, too,
if need be—and so young, and so pretty! But she's as safe
as if she had a legion of angels to see to her.” Wise and
simple come to the same conclusion.

“So dear to heaven is saintly chastity,
That, when a soul is found sincerely so,
A thousand liveried angels lackey her.”