Big Abel and the Little Manhattan
by Cornelius Mathews
CHAPTER I. The
Ghost of New
CHAPTER II. Big
Abel and the
come to terms;
and get a
CHAPTER III. How
it goes the
First Day: with
the City Waking
CHAPTER IV. The
the Second Day's
CHAPTER V. It
and the City
CHAPTER VI. The
City at his
and Big Abel
CHAPTER VII. The
Fifth Day of it;
and the City
himself in a
very Low Way.
Big Abel and the
busy as ever:
the City in his
CHAPTER IX. They
are in the
Seventh Day; and
where the City
CHAPTER X. It
all winds up
of the Whole,
and where the
"Sundry citizens of this good land, meaning well, and hoping well,
prompted by a certain something in their nature, have trained
to do service in various Essays, Poems, Histories, and books of
Art, Fancy, and Truth."
JEDEDIAH B. AULD. -
ONE OF THE SIX HUNDRED SCAMPERING BOYS OF THE OLD CROSBY-STREET
I DEDICATE THIS LITTLE BOOK,
SINCERE AFFECTION AND REGARD.
March 3d, 1845.
The Ghost of New York.
Whoever has sailed up or down the East River in a fog, or
driven to Hallet's Cove, Long Island, on a dusty day, or walked
the Third Avenue in the moonlight, has been beset by the vision
of a great white tower, rising, ghost-like, in the air, and holding
all the neighborhood in subjection to its repose and supernatural
port. The Shot-Tower is a strange old fellow, to be sure! 'Spite
of that incessant buzzing in his head, he holds himself as high
and grandly, as though he hadn't the trouble of making shot for
the six-and-twenty United States. He never dozes or nods, even
in the summer noon; nor does he fall asleep in the most crickety
nights, but winks, with that iron top of his, at all the stars, as
come up, one by one; and outwatches them all. There he is,
gaunt and clean, as a ghost in a new shroud, every day in the
year. Build as you may, old Gotham! Hammer and ding and
trowel on all sides of him, if you choose,—you cannot stir him an
inch, nor sully the whiteness in which he sees himself clothed, in
that pure glass of his of Kipp's Bay! If you have seen him once,
you know him always. A sturdy Shot-Tower to be sure!—and
go where you will, you carry him with you. He is the Ghost of
New York, gone into the suburbs to meditate on the wickedness
of mankind, and haunt the Big City, in many a dream of war, and
gun-shot wounds, and pattering carnage, when he falls asleep.
And can you see him from the back steps of the City Hall?
Not with the naked eye: but Lankey Fogle standing there, once
on a time, had him present to him, and shook at the very thought.
He had just come down from the witness-stand, within, and was
pausing at the porch, when he was of a sudden smitten on the
shoulder, and he heard, audibly, a voice say to him:
"Meet me by the Shot-Tower, at twelve to-night!"
A voice, but nobody; for he looked about promptly, and down
the steps, and back through the Hall. No one visible; but he
knew the voice, and had a mind—yes, he was forced to have a
mind, to obey it. Lankey Fogle had the Shot-Tower in fear; but
he must go. His hat pressed close upon his eyes—eye-brow and
brim were part each of the other; a faded blue coat, out at
elbows, the broad wrists hanging over his hand; shuffling shoes;
and Lankey, a little man, withal: he descended the steps slowly,
struck across the Park, by the angle of the Rotunda, and stood on
the brow of Chatham street, towards the square. The Jews were
as thick, with their gloomy whiskers, as blackberries; the air
smelt of old coats and hats, and the side ways were glutted with
dresses and over-coats and little, fat, greasy children. There
were countrymen moving up and down the street, horribly
harassed and perplexed, and every now and then falling into the
hands of one of these fierce-whiskered Jews, carried into a gloomy
cavern, and presently sent forth again, in a garment, coat or hat
or breeches, in which he might dance and turn his partner, to-boot.
Lankey Fogle plunged down the declivity.
"A coat, sir?"
"Wont you, now, a new under-tog?"
"That 'ere hat!"
"This way, sir, we're the No Mistake!"
And as he slipped out of their hands—
"Cotton-baggin', sir, to fill out?"
"My eyes! there's holes for a ratter!"
"He'll be a wreck, I say, 'fore he reaches the square—he'll
never live past Roosevelt—my 'ord for it!"
A soft strain of the flute floated from a back-room, as his figure
passed the door, joined by a mellow, low whistle, which are, it is
supposed, integral parts of speech in the dialect of Jewry.
Lankey glided along, wrapped up in his coat and inner meditations,
for it was nearing night; but it was of a truth as much as
he was worth to get himself clear of the young barbarians who
hung upon his skirts, as he passed along, and nearly brought them
away. It was a bad case certainly, for the sun getting toward a
level, shot through and through his apparel, passing in at an
elbow and coming out at the hand; or piercing him through, from
back to breast, as he turned; till every dusty corner of Lankey
was lighted up with a sort of dim splendor.
And when he came by the theatre (the Chatham), the case was
worse than all, for he was set upon from the area of the theatre
by a swarm of fly-away boys, with—
"Lankey! which way, now?"
"I say, Lankey Fogle, where are you larking to?"
"Come in, will you? Kirby on the top round."
"Yes, yes, he's in the big bellows to-night. We'll treat you
to a go!"
"And peanuts besides!"
"Keep off, will you, you young serpents!" And he glanced
from under his rim.
"Why, what on earth's the matter, now? Lankey in a huff!"
"Three cheers for Lankey in a huff!"
The air was cracked with a small storm of cheers, which, blowing
over, they renewed their game; but Lankey stood firm;
and when they had all run up to him with a question and a close
look in his face, and twisted him round on his heels by the arm,
he passed on, and reached the square, thinking of the old white
Shot-Tower, and the figure it would make by the time he go
there, toward the round hour of night.
He was in the elbow, turning to cross the long walk, when he
was called by name. He looked up; it was the little Franklin
Theatre, abutting the burying-ground, you know, with all its
golden letters blotted out, its balcony for the pretty actresses to
stand in razed away, its little snug box-office crushed, and the
heart and soul of it, in the shape of foot-lights and curtains,
out; it was a second-hand shop, when Lankey looked up at it,
and a mysterious little man standing in an upper window winked
at Lankey, and uttered in a low voice:
Lankey looked at him with astonishment written out on his
countenance in magnificent large text.
"I say, it's all right!"
The devil it is, thought Lankey; and looked again.
"I say, it's all right," a third time; this time with a knock
on the crown of his hat.
Lankey smiled scornfully on the mysterious man and moved
on; he had a new motive for speed.
There was Doyer street, yet; a war-path to the west, once,
it is said, in Indian times; and if he could get past that once,
all would be well. But Doyer street is a queer street, we all
know; so crooked and gad-about and whimsical. Ten chances
to one if a man enter it at one end with his head on his shoulders
it be not turned about by the time he is fairly out at the other.
Doyer street was not born, like other streets, in the
office, but was laid, so to speak, at the door of the square,
exposed to the tender mercies, dependant on the charities of
chance-comers (for every man is father to this disinterested little
by-way), to give it a stone or a touch of a kerb! The eye of
the druggist's red bottle was bloodshot, at the corner, for one
thing; and there was a melancholy old woman carrying in a
bunch of eels with their heads down for another! But Lankey
Fogle had a hope, and as sure as there's white light from the
moon, he cleared it at a moderate run.
When Lankey stood fairly at the mouth of the Bowery, he
looked far away up its broad path as if he could see, looming
up on its line, that ugly old Shot-Tower; that everlasting ghost
of a tower that, go where he would, was in Lankey Fogle's eye,
without an eye-stone to take it out. But he saw instead, this
time, how, moved by a patriotism out of bounds, the whole air
about this other theatre was indescribably hung with flags; a
general hanging out, there seemed to be, of all the bunting of
the country. The rope was strong; the flags were thick; and
they waved away, shutting out the sky and making a better
heaven for the East Bowery gazers to look up at and live under.
And black Vulture, that marvellous steed, how he came down
the great, black, gaping precipice, upon the bills, striking the
printer's ink from his heels, like fire! And the patriotic Putnam,
how he held on and clinched his teeth and set his hat fiercely
a-cock! The bills were huge and yellow, and the type fearfully
large; and how the ragamuffins plunged down the steps,
and the muffin-eaters rushed up! Lankey Fogle's resolution
shook within him; his feet quivered in his shoes with doubt;
and he was on the eve of throwing himself in the wake of a
chimney-sweeper down the pit-entrance, when, looking straight
before him, at the bill, his eye, in spite of itself, fell upon a
It was enough: he hurried on as though the devil were at his
back. And although now and then accosted by a Bowery Boy
with a rough hand, and run against in token of affectionate
by a big vagabond, Lankey, all things considered, made
good speed; and, before he well knew it, was out upon the
Avenue; and then he began to quake.
He had not gone many steps in this direction when an arm
was quietly thrust into his own; and he found himself
marching abreast of a stranger. He looked around. The stranger
was a short man in a dusty coat, with a red, blossomy nose.
What was the stranger's business with Lankey Fogle?
There was a mighty din upon the Avenue, and it was not easy
to tell. The hard riders were coming in from Harlem, and the
road roared with the spinning of wheels, and the air was thick with
flying dust. There were men, solitary, in little gossamer-built
sulkies, who seemed borne along on the air itself: and men in
couples in light waggons; and hard-drinking parties of four in
barouches; and gentlemen far gone in close coaches; all in
tremendous speed as if some great event were coming off
a mile or two ahead, and they bound to be there at the
peril of their lives. Then they were mightily bothered by men
on horseback, who, taking each the footpath at the side of the
road, laid themselves out on their horses and swept everything
clean before them. Then by great lumbering butcher-boys,
who, on shambling cart-horses, came down the Avenue in
troops, allowing themselves to be tossed about the road like so
many hulks fallen into an eddy they could not manage; scrambling
hay-carts, with the hay off, returning, and running their
scraggy poles and shelving into the ribs of travellers, without
the slightest reference to utility or ornament.
So, with all they had a hard time of it, Lankey and the
stranger. But they had got by this time at the cross-road that
strikes off to Cato's; and there began to be prospect of
and happy that there was, for Lankey Fogle was smarting
"Sir!" said the stranger, turning full upon Lankey at a point
where they began to have a glimpse of the Tower, "this is the
most important event of your life!"
Lankey did not deny it.
"It involves the destiny," continued the stranger, "the destiny,
I say, of you and your posterity to the latest generation."
The proposition was laid down and no one opposed it.
"Whether the hopes of mankind are to be blighted by the
course you shall adopt to-night, remains to be seen!"
"Remains to be seen," he resumed; "And how far you are
worthy of the trust reposed in you—"
Their noses were close together; and they watched each
other like dogs.
"By the confiding and generous Henry."
Lankey Fogle seized his hand.
"I understand you," said Lankey—"enough said!"
The stranger buttoned his coat and went into a small pothouse
by the road-side. Lankey Fogle took the road again, as
far as Cato's, and was forced to go in: it was not the Cato's of
infancy, the Cato's governed by that venerable and worthy and
dusky man, in his little cropped pate and clean apron: when
stages from far countries (Rye, and Sawpitts, and Danbury, and
Cross River) came jingling, with their merry chains, to the
door; the driver dismounted, and the inside gentlemen dismounted,
and there was a mighty bringing out of lemonade and
crackers and sugar-biscuit to be tendered in the most gallant
style to the green-veiled beauties within. No, no, that Cato's
was gone away; a great grave had been digged for that, a clean
white cloth had been spread over it, and it was buried beyond
resurrection. That Cato's had been launched on the stream of
time, and had gone backward, like an ark of peace and comfort,
and true jollity, sailing to whence it could not return. But there
stood the great white Tower over the way; reproaching it
silently for parting company: for tavern and tower they had
known each other from the corner-stone: and Lankey Fogle
hurried in, for he thought the old Tower some how or other
stooped his back to the very door of the new Cato's, to see what
kind of nonsense could be going on there now that the old soul
Lankey called for a Monongahela, hot-and-hot.
The landlord brought it himself.
"A queer night this," said the landlord.
Lankey Fogle took a long pull.
"A skimmery shimmery night, sir," pursued the landlord.
Another pull toward the bottom.
"The Shot-Tower has been busy as a bee all day to-day;
and such a singing as he's kept up!"
Lankey Fogle admitted it by his manner of setting down the
He went out very quietly, winking at the landlord in a sleepy
way; at which the landlord, in turn, shook his head. As he
got into the road again, a great hay-cart was passing, so high
piled up, that the moon now abroad, seemed to be sleeping in its
among the fresh-mown blades. His heart sunk within him. He
entered the wide gate at the Mount Vernon school, where the
used to be. He passed through the orchard. There
was a shout behind him; it was the city leaving off its work,
with a cheer. There was a mighty blaze in the sky; the city
lighted up for the night. How green the grass was!—how it
sparkled and winked and laughed in the clear moonshine! But
there was a shadow on it now—a huge shadow, made neither
by man, nor house, nor tree; it was the dark side of the old
Shot-Tower; and when Lankey looked up, how wickedly and
wilfully, cool and self-possessed, that old white ghost of a Tower
held himself! Not inquisitive, nor overbearing, but scandalously
calm and indifferent. Lankey Fogle was alarmed, much more
than if he had pitched himself head-foremost into Lankey's
and offered downright fight; and when he saw in its shadow
a figure leaning down and delving the earth—he leaped the
fence! Was it to keep his appointment, or fly from it?
Big Abel and the Little Manhattan come to terms; and get a
A voice again as at the City Hall porch: and this time a body.
It wasn't the Shot-Tower that spoke, as you might suppose; but
the figure that delved the ground rose up, slowly, bringing with
it out of the earth, some burthen or other in its hand (that was
clear); and leaning his spade against the Tower came forward,
now, getting towards the light, bearing by a ring an oblong iron
Lankey Fogle hadn't said a word as yet: and the other stepped
out into the moonlight. He was a goodly figure to look on:
a tall square person: a new hat—it shone like a cat's back in
the clear light—straight out at the rim: a new blue coat,
pantaloons of a drab tint: and in boots that as he
walked whispered in a pleasant creak of the shop they had
lately left: he stood, as I said, a goodly figure to look at,
upon the ground; with the small oblong iron box in his hand.
Lankey Fogle paused in contemplation a second or so: and
then went forward and took this other by the hand.
"I'm glad you've come," said the holder of the box. "I began
to have a doubt."
Lankey Fogle looked up at the moon. There was something
that glistened, like dew, creeping down his cheek.
"It's hard," said the other. "No doubt of that." And he
wrung Lankey again by the hand. "But it's the best we can
do, I believe. The Island is clearly ours," he went on to say.
"Yours or mine: from his snout at the Battery to where he
flanks off at Kingsbridge and Harlæm. One of us knows that:
whichever of the two it is: and if that Supreme Court of
as they call it, had its due—it would sit in that nice
building over there, and never have leave to adjourn."
Lankey's eyes glowed in the dark and looked toward the
Prison, off the shore: where it sate in the clear night, a great
square cold block, locking in, like a stone with a toad at its
heart, as it did, so many pale men and women, drearily.
"I've had enough of this," pursued the other. "Loitering
about the courts: opening attorneys' doors, softly on their
hinges: and taking off my hat to the judges, going in and out.
Ten years is enough, I think; with getting called up (they had
you to-day) to testify to all the rumpuses about the door."
It was enough. Lankey acknowledged that by being there.
"Isn't it wonderful, now, there never was a lawyer to be
found among all them hungry, starving, trotting, dancing fellows,
to take up our cases—cases involving the Property and Buildings
of all this City—there was a chance for 'em, I should say, to
make a figure in! Nobody for Plaintiff, in Fogle versus the
Corporation; or, as I thought it ought to run, Corporation at the
suit of Abel Henry Hudson. The Bar has been in fits ever
since our case was first opened in the offices. That's clear:
and they'll never wake up or come to, I'm afraid. We are to
make a verdict for ourselves. Is that it?"
Lankey Fogle took his hand again. That was it.
"We are friends?"
"I hope so," Lankey made answer. "Big Abel—we are!"
This was Big Abel, then! as hearty a person as you'd see in
many a day: with his fair blue eyes and sturdy girth.
"And we'll do—as we talked of!" said Big Abel. "Little
Manhattan (as you think your title rightly runs)—are we
The Little Manhattan was silent at the question. So silent
that he seemed to be a part of Nature there: as one of the
dark, old, slumbering, silent trees: and not a man of speech.
Hard, hard it was to him to come to any terms by which
his Great Inheritance, as he in his poor visionary way accounted
it, should pass away; to part with any share the least or
greatest of all that wide domain the City held. It was the best
(Big Abel said): and so it was. The Bay rippled gently: as
in counsel to the act: softly the old oak trees whispered, far on
high, holding council thereabout themselves: and toward the
moon the old Tower held up its head, and white as she and fair
to look on, might have agreed with her that this of Big Abel
and Lankey was well done. Done it was: and, out at the
Mount Vernon gate again, they struck across the country.
There is a little hill there, and climbing that by winding paths,
through an orchard, they got upon the road. Beyond, descending
now, they come upon the sunken meadows, with little rills
running, creeping rather, here and there, and glittering in the
moon. About, a few late fellows, the frogs were piping, in a revel
of their own; and now and then, as Lankey and Big Abel glide
along, some little birds, troubled in their dreams, stirring in the
bushes. In the midst of all this stillness or calm motion of the
night, a figure passed them: in the very middle of the field: a
It was quite clear who this was; without a question. A
Poor Scholar—who had wandered out into the open country,
and the clear night, to coax away certain cares that pressed at
his heart: to think over a past full of gloom and sadness and
hard perplexities; and to call up as he wandered on a fair
shape whose shadowy hand he sought in vain, for it flew away
ever as he stretched his own toward it. Pale he was, indeed,
but with eyes lit as the night was with a more than common and
day-time lustre. His apparel—one could see—was plain and
darkened into a better black than belonged to it in broad
day-light, by the friendly night. And yet, poor and sad, and
as he was, as you would suppose, he went on his way
singing a cheerful song; blessing everything about him,
whether it was the green earth his foot trod upon, or the air that
caught his fingers as he shook them in chorus to his singing, or
the blue, far-away sky he looked up to often as he walked.
"William—the Poor Scholar!" said Big Abel to the Little
Manhattan, as he crossed them. "He had a case in Court
once, I recollect. It was all about a book, and the judge said
it was a glorious thing to write a book; and that's all he got for
Lankey Fogle recollected tales of sages and medicine-men,
and prophets among the old tribe that once sate in the
Island; and he couldn't call to mind the case of one who
hadn't been well-fed, well-clothed, well-lodged; down to his old
age; and then laid in the earth with lamentation.
Well. They were on Murray's Hill now. The moon had
gone down, and where they stood they saw the city by his own
light, the winking of his own eyes, so to speak, and no other.
It was silent—so silent they might have heard him breathe in
his sleep almost. There were his stores, and his churches, and
his warehouses, and his forges, all asleep! All but his great
long Streets, and they were wide awake as they well could be,
on a short allowance of oil, chasing each other up and down,
crossing hither and thither and round about with long lines of
dozy lamps, plunging into the hollows, climbing the slopes and
far declivities, and blinking at each other to keep awake.
That was all they could make of it, Big Abel and Lankey;
till by and by there crept out of it, as out of a dark womb,
a coach followed closely by a hearse making speed toward the
country. And this passed away like a mist, bearing a body (a
murderer's self-smitten, no doubt, for such a one had been
lately taken from the prison) toward an old graveyard at
East Haddam, in Connecticut, with no other attendants save
the wild flying horses and their driver, and the two within, the
brother and the mistress of the suicide. Pry keenly as they
would into the wide domain they discerned that, and nothing
more. When by and by Lankey Fogle, listening, in the dead
stillness heard the beating of a doleful bell, and then what
seemed to his ear like the drumming of the partridge in the
woods, from down the city; a Phoenix rather; for presently
there sprung a mighty flame (how grimly Lankey Fogle
smiled at that!) which swallowed in an instant all the dusky
light: put out the lamps: and brought up swifter than in a
goblin dream the shining house-tops far away, and glittering
vanes, and yellow caps:—in which Lankey Fogle and Big Abel
stood out upon Murray's Hill, that you might have seen them
many a mile around. And then it fell: a great shouting that
kept it company falling with it: and all was dark again.
Big Abel and Lankey came down the hill, by the way of the
old road, and met going toward the city a countryman in a felt
hat, with a herd of cattle. Nothing passed, except that Big
Abel asked how many head he drove. Lankey Fogle spoke not
a word. He had another thought, moving among the great,
green trees, that huddle together and make a wood of themselves,
just there. They were aiming for the Reservoir: the
one off Bloomingdale: and crossing a few meadows: then a
road: then the rail-track that hurries forward here, with a
spring to clear the gloomy Tunnel, not more than three miles
away, they were under its very wall. It was Lankey that led
this time: and climbing the steps, Big Abel close after, they
came upon the wall. A goodly Mug, in truth, for the city to
drink from. But that wasn't it. A gloomy face, with all sorts
of strange, fantastic eyes, shining in it—everywhere. Nor
that. It was here, as Lankey made known to Big Abel, where
the old Manhattan in the Indian time stopped pursuing his
game: and well he might, for at that day 'twas all a wide, waste,
dreary flood beyond, so it is said. He claimed beyond this wall
no right—and made it over, to Big Abel, once and for ever. Inside
this line, he set his claim.
With their backs against the city—as they looked abroad toward
the unhoused country—a man in a woollen cap, and lame
withal, hobbled out of the little box at the middle of the wall,
and shouted after them—
"Ay—ay—there—what do you want?"
It was a gruff voice; and Big Abel and Lankey halted.
"What do you want, I say?"
Big Abel looked into the Reservoir, then down the wall, fifty
feet or so, and made answer—
"We're here to look after our property!"
The woollen cap went away with great speed, and closing
the door of the box, mounted a chair inside and looked through
a window over the door.
"Madmen no doubt, got away!" he said.
He watched till he was quite weary in the leg: and nothing
came of it: except that Lankey and Big Abel rambled the
wall:—then he unchaired himself and went to bed, making up
his mind as well as he could to have to drag the Reservoir in
Without reference to the woollen cap they got to the ground,
and made for a little public house they knew of in that suburb;
catching far-off glimpses down side-streets of the river, with a
watchman now and then; or what they supposed to be a watchman;
a something silent and monumental with a leathern top,
and lifeless stick hanging at the side. And, now they had a
view of the little public house they were glad, by his windows,
to see him yet awake. The city all about there looked so stark
and deep in slumber; the little public house the only sould astir
all round; and going in, Big Abel and Lankey found there
was work there, and plenty of it, without anything from them,
for about a table with a speckled, oil-cloth top, four boys were
hard at play with cards. One of these was a little fellow,
with a thin, pale face, and eyes so broad and dark and mournful,
they seemed always on the very edge of tears. With
cards, but in a game of their own devising, the process and
order of which (it was called Newspaper) seemed to be this:
That the two and fifty cards were inscribed each on its face
with the name of a city journal: Morning, Evening, SemiWeekly,
Weekly: with an ironical reference, by the way, in
some cases, for these gentlemen have a turn for that: and
to the four young gentlemen equally. Now, the forfeit
lay here, that at each round the holder accounted on the table
with a chalk, for the value, at news-boy rates, of the thirteen
journals in his hand, and the difference between the two lowest
was the penalty against the lowest, payable in meat and drink.
It so happened (as it came out in the course of time), that the
luck, shape the dealing as they would, fell against the little
pale-faced boy. The games to play, were three.
"Now for the Albany-brewed!" This was the cry at the
end of the first round, raised by a pock-pitted player, with a
frayed black neck-cloth raking the table as he bent over his
The Albany-brewed came in, in four glazed mugs.
Another game: the little, pale-faced boy fishing in his pocket
again, short of a penny to pay for the poached eggs.
"Broke!" said the pock-pitted player.
"He must go out!" said another over-grown fellow, who
was disposing of the eggs with his eyes as fast as he could.
"To be sure, he must!" returned the pock-pitted player:
and without further ado, they proceeded—this was strictly
according to the rule and usage of the game—to hustle him.
He resisted a little: not much. One of the players spoke for
him, but it was of no use; and when the scrambling was over on
the outside they came back presently, bringing with them a new
boy: re-opened the game: and on the third hand (going against
the new-comer, with a rush) they ordered oysters, and clearing
off the cards, set in for a regular time. Somebody was crying
at the door: but this was nothing: and, through oysters and
poached eggs, by comfortable stages they came upon the beer.
Three games more: all for beer this time: and if the house
had been a mile wide, and a couple or so high, it would have
been hardly big enough to hold them. Long ago, though, Big
Abel and Lankey Fogle had seen the way through their business;
for at the very coming into the little stall they had entered
upon it, by Big Abel's clapping his oblong box, with the ring
towards him, on the table, swinging up its lid, and saying,
"There's my proofs!" called for Lankey's.
All that Lankey Fogle did, was to call out to the landlord to
put more light on, which being done, he threw off his hat,
turned about and looked calmly on Big Abel. There was the
straight black hair, the swarthy skin, the slumberous and autumnal
eye. There was no mistaking these. The Little Manhattan,
beyond a doubt! And now Big Abel—where are you?
A little musty scrap, out of the box, another, and still another.
It seems so. In truth it does. Old Henry Hudson's lineal
heir: great-grandson, it would seem. Lankey Fogle (this was
a name he got from idle boys, and not by birth), great-grandson
to that fierce old chief, who swayed with iron, this Island once,
heading his red Manhattanese! Big Abel, great grandson to
the old navigator-trader, of brave English blood. By right of
Nature this city, built it who did, is the Little Manhattan's
clearly, all. Big Abel claims, as first discoverer (Lankey
Fogle glares on this); but, better still, purchase of some old
chief or other. He thinks it was the same chief that Lankey
claims from: but this he can't make out so well. The oblong
box is shut again: the city is between them, but whose, who
can tell? To-morrow they will set forth, dividing it for
each taking what he can, in fairness and good will.
For they are friends now. Perfect confidence: perfect confidence
between them. The long mistrust with which they have
lowered at each other through the courts is ended now; melted
into a fine, twilight mist; in which each seems magnified
and gentle to the other. To-bed, now, not as for many years,
but hopeful of their own. Yes—these, so far apart in many
things, so close together in their fortunes now—are whimsical
enough to make belief that the old merchant-navigator and the old
Indian chief are still abroad through all these streets, in spirit;
that, somehow or other, as the color of the soil shows itself in
the tree, they are still out of their very graves, holding to the
city as their own. Well! we shall see what came of it.
How it goes the First Day: with the City Waking up.
Breakfast for the Little Manhattan and Abel Henry Hudson
(known as Big Abel everywhere)! Spread in an upper
chamber, with a cheerful look out at the window, on the river:
a snowy cloth: a roasted duck, shot on the river, not far away:
a steak of savory deer: a pile of honest buckwheat cakes.
Big Abel fell to, as became his girth; but Lankey, quietly,
and thoughtful of other viands that came into his mind and
Then, brightening up after a while, how pleasant they were:
talking over plans and routes through the city; which course
now, which now.
"I shall claim all I can!" said Big Abel.
Lankey made no objection.
"He was a navigator, you know, my great-grandfather?"
"A builder, with a touch of carpenter's craft in his day?"
Very well, too.
"And now, what are you going to claim?"
"We shall see!" said Lankey. He said nothing more, and
they set out. Big Abel paying the bill, by the way, to start.
It was a bright and cheerful morning, this, on which the
Little Manhattan and Big Abel set forth to divide the City:
Pilgrims both, of good heart, and bent to seize, each what he
could, in fairness, to himself. A clear day before them, as
ever lit the Island from its first day down; so clear, the
eye commanded what it would, far away or near. Nothing
that day was lost to view: each house came out, in the
pure atmosphere, and stood forth for itself. A man a mile
away was to the eye as much a man as though he stood at
hand: the spindle post spoke up, so to say, for every one to
look at him, as much, quite as much as the steeple in his bulk.
With spirits wakeful and alert, they set out; and going in
toward the city's heart a little, were shortly at the spot, the
spot, where the blue omnibuses come from. They stood about,
half a dozen of them, waiting the coming forth from a low,
white office, of a bush-whiskered man of sun-burnt look, who
every two minutes or so appeared, accordingly, and saying,
"Now!" turned on his heel, and went in again. Whereupon
one of the blue stages put forth at a creeping pace, to get speed
as it went on; another closed in from behind, and the drivers,
three in their box seats, and as many, with a straggler thrown
in, on the walk, kept up a hubbub of talk for a few minutes
more. Their talk that morning, as it is very often, no doubt,
was all about a famous whip of their fraternity, who had come
to his death a week before. Not by diving to the ground, by
reason of a jolt, from the omnibus top (in despair of going any
faster); nor under a wheel, coming against his own with him
between (dropped there, in the hurry of making change, to get
on); nor ridden to death astride the pole (pulled to a saddle
there, by a combination of the horses out of a spite for too few
oats and too much tonnage, on a sweltering day). None of
these: but quietly, of a fever, as any other man might, in his
bed; with an old aunt and a grandmother, from the country, or
some such worthy bodies, at his side.
"He was a regular two-twenty-seven!" said one of the
drivers, talking, somewhat grandly, in the air, you see, over to
another, high up in his box, too.
"His muscle to hold in with was a caution," the other answered,
picking up his reins as the lamented used to.
"He was to have driv' twenty in hand, on a wager, next
week," spoke up one from the walk, a little man, "and he'd have
He was a little man, this speaker; but how their eyes sharpened
and their ears grew when he spoke. He was stoop-shouldered,
too, and hardier of aspect than the others: a hard-headed
little fellow: and he held all these rugged drivers in his hand
like so many hackneys. What an Authority that little man
was! and when he said, "He'd have done it!" it was settled
There was no doubt he would: they all allowed it, in chorus.
Then it came out, in further discourse, that the gentleman in
question had made the quickest trip, from the Village to White
Hall, anywhere on record, since the first stage was set on
the route—in too few minutes to speak of. But there was
another gentleman mentioned, he was present, the little driver
himself, in person, who had carried a heavier fare. Fourteen
inside, I think it was, two with him on the seat, a cradle a-top,
with a family market-basket, a boy; in fact, there was no end
to the load; and he might as well have moved the village
down into the city, come to that, churches and all, while he was
This omnibus-life, the Little Manhattan's or Big Abel's?
For the build (Henry Hudson having, it is said, brought the
first wheeled carriage into the Island), Big Abel's; but then for
horse-speed, that being at the pace and a good deal after the
manner, of the wild-horse Indian scampers, Lankey's. This
being the case, they hurried on, leaving them to run without
jurisdiction, as they always will, I guess.
Further on, they were passed by great swarthy charcoal
waggons, leaping along, with a tinkling twang from underneath,
as though they had been great grasshoppers with iron lungs.
Then they encountered, coming out, masons in green baize jackets,
bearing stone-hammers in their hands, and full of speed.
They were aiming for the suburb, where they had work to do;
plenty of it. The Little Manhattan looked at them gloomily as
"Stretching—stretching:" this was what Lankey said to himself.
"Always stretching. Will he never be still, and stop
growing?" He meant the City.
Big Abel gave them a good-morning; and seemed, by the
cheerful look he wore, to send his heart along with them as they
There was a pause between Lankey and Big Abel; when
Big Abel spoke up; his mind, somehow or other, went back to it.
"You met a man on the Avenue, yesterday?"
Was it a man with a nose like a pink?
"That was the man: and he told you I was waiting?"
He had: accosting Lankey by Big Abel's appointment, it
seemed, to jog him on his way to the Tower.
"There was another; down the Square," Lankey said, "in
front of the little Franklin Theatre, who knocked his hat on his
head, after a strange way!"
Another! Big Abel knew nothing of this one.
By this time they had come to where a master with his clerk
was bringing out in state, in front of his shop, a Giant Boot (a
miserable creature, though, to the Nabob on the other side of
the town); and Lankey Fogle began to talk of an old village
that used to be thereabout in the Indian times, to recall what
he had heard many gossips tell, of dusky wigwams, and
lit there, just where they stood, and trophies hung
upon the trees.
He would have claimed this region for his own, for this;
and Big Abel allows, if he will but show a single cinder of
the fires yet burning, a single trophy, a single pole still up,
that it is his. Lankey Fogle looked about: near, far away,
into the air, upon the ground. Nothing, Lankey! Nothing.
But after this, turning a corner not far off, his eye grew bright.
There stood before them on a little pedestal, a panther's skin
about his loins, a feather in his raven hair, in one hand a bow,
tawny too in every limb, a figure that seemed to have possession
of the spot by right. A tobacconist's; this a dumb Indian;
proffering to all comers, with the other hand, cigars. Yet, simple
as it is, and cheap, Big Abel staggers at recollection that
the town is held in every part by such as these.
The iron box he bore began to grow heavy enough: the
thought even came into his mind of dashing it in pieces on the
ground: how could his title hold against these swarming figures
everywhere? But Lankey claimed; this was a great comfort to
Big Abel; the shops alone—and did not say these Indians held
the city, as he might, in trust for him.
Presently Big Abel took possession of a great range of merchants'
shops (the seeds of which were sown, no doubt, by trader
Captain Hudson, long ago); and they went on more cheerfully
than ever. Cheerfully? Aye—proudly, and more than that.
Looking at the majestic style in which he walked that street,
only, you'd have certainly thought Big Abel owned the city,
without any reference whatever to his iron box!
Big Abel began to see his way clearly; for wherever they
went he saw, shops, shops; the trade that first set foot upon the
soil with Henry Hudson, carrying all before it in a flood.
Wigwams! He scorned (in his soul, that is to say) the thought!
What were bare tents, with little dusky old women and papooses,
diving in and out, to these gay rows with ladies, fair to
see as day, gliding in and forth again, the many-colored show
about the doors, the smiling clerks within; this was fairy-land
to him, the other heathendom and worse.
There went tumbling before them just then, before swarthy
Lankey, fair-complexioned Abel, in the sunshine a little negro-boy.
His garments, coarse and clean, were blotched with patches:—
no doubt of that. A rainbow would have faded before
him, and made a leap into the sky for another set of colors at
the very sight. He was black: very black. His hair was
woolly as the old ram's fleece. His foot, flat as the ground it
stood on. And yet was there ever such a great black earthen
jar-full, with its two wide ears, of genuine jollity, the very
and oil of gladness, such a bounding, rolling, laughing
piece of broad mirth? A great green bag, plethoric with
morning lessons, slung over his shoulder: sometimes on the
then over the gutter into the very middle of the street,
at the tail of an omnibus, on his own account: then back again
with a cry for the shoulder's sake of some other: then zigzaging
his way along the stoops, making the most, with his great
broad eyes, of the shop windows ('specially of that everlasting
white lady in the pinched-up waist, seated by the side of the
gentleman in superhuman blue pantaloons): the day was brighter,
and bluer, and happier altogether, for that cheerful negro-boy,
depend upon it!
As he rushed between the two, carolling and capering like a
colt, Big Abel dropped, unseen, a piece of silver in his gaping
bag; and Lankey Fogle dropped not money, for money he had
none, but a look so kind and magical after it, it must have
changed the coin to yellow gold before it slided to the bottom.
Another dumb Indian! Under the same circumstances as
before, only this one wore a short blue frock, and carried a box
in his hand as though he was setting out on a journey in a
great hurry, but not forgetting to take his cigars with him.
Farther down there stands a Half-Way House; the Hurrah
House, the neighbors call it; where the omnibus-drivers halt in
hot summer days, and resort of nights; with heavy streaked and
dabbled columns; a mighty lamp of many colors above its
porch (a mere child though, like the boot, to a lantern on the
East side), great enough to entertain a small drinking party in.
But as there was no ladder, just then, to get in by, Big Abel
and Lankey passed into the house himself. Now this house is a
noisy house, and a dirty-waitered house, and badly-watered,
and meagre and thin in his drinks. But then he's proud of his
steaks; and that brings him up again. With good reason, too,
for Lankey and Big Abel lingered so in their meal, and were
so assuaged and subdued and put down, in spirit, by these same
dainty steaks of his, that it was a long while before they got
They idled the afternoon away; that was their humor;
without accomplishing much, and at dusk came to Potter's
Field (the Parade Ground, now, you know), where they took
possession of a bench. The hour fell on them like a spell;
and they were silent for a long while. There were a few rambling
there, for the fresh air; maid-servants with children; but
these, as night closed in, went out at the various gates, one
after the other, leaving Big Abel and the Little Manhattan
alone in the summer darkness. Now and then a weary
man, coming from his work, crossed the long path, to shorten
his way home; but these came only at intervals, and so drearily
and un-life-like, that all was as subdued as though they were
In the still evening air, far, far on high, a night hawk, wheeling
up and down, or crossing to and fro, kept up his lonesome
cry, and seemed like a troubled spirit that had broken away
from the city, and yet was somehow tangled and perplexed
within its view.
"This is mine, I think!" Lankey said; but so sorrowfully
that he seemed to claim a property that would be a burthen to
his spirit to own.
Big Abel pondered the claim. He recollected how from time
to time, the plough, when they were shaping this field, had used
to come upon a mouldering bone; that even now old flinty
arrowheads were found about; it was but a waste ground, a
few idle trees: he could not deny the claim that Lankey made.
He consoled himself however by seizing a great church and
place of learning, standing before them (Christian Faith and
Useful Knowledge came over passengers, you know, with
Captain Hudson), and on great squares of stately houses all
The Little Manhattan saw none of these, nor cared to see
them; for out of the dark there sprung to him, dusky men who
bore to grassy hillocks there, a warrior with his bow, a maiden
in her long black tress, a prophet in his cunning robe, and laid
them down; and though they turned their back on these now
for a time, and went away, they came again, and still again,
and never, through all time and change of place, forgot to come,
and think in peace and kindliness that here their wise man,
warrior, maiden lay. Willingly and cheerfully, so to speak of
it, the Little Manhattan took this sacred field, and yielded up the
church without a stint!
Long lingering, at length they rose; wondering at each
other not a little, and trying in the dark to guess each other's
They passed an open window, and out of it came a voice
whose sadness and sweet tarrying on the tones it poured out
checked them, as though they had some part in its gentle sorrow.
They had listened for a minute, when the Little Manhattan
turned on his friend, and said—
"This is part of the song sung in the open fields by that Poor
"It is," he answered; "and this is William's mistress. You
see her, crossing the light now!"
Lankey did: a fair gentle shape that might have lived in the
sun-beam or moon-beam for ever, and fallen by no act or seeking
of its own, to earth, among the shadows and gross cares of
But she was clearly not at ease. She moved about, singing
sometimes as before, then silent, glad, pensive, hopeful,
as a scholar's mistress, in this land of ours, well may be.
Then she came to the window and looked abroad; counting
no doubt, from afar, each step that echoed through the street;
and then falling back into the shadow of the room, was lost in
Big Abel and the Little Manhattan passed on.
There is a yellow house, not far from the Parade Ground,
famous for the cider that he draws; Newark cider, fresh and
latest, a full supply; and you may go there and drink when
you choose, and that little public-house is always at home, with
a glass for you. Thither Lankey and Big Abel repaired; and
there they supped, with many a draught, now that they were in
for work, of that same golden drink; and then they chambered
themselves up stairs. But not asleep quite so soon as you might
think, for this was a cart-street in which they lodged; in other
words, an avenue patronized by those lay-bishops, the carting
gentry, in their morning and evening trips up and down town;
and, returning now from the day's work, they kept up a buzz of
wheels for hours. Sometimes a slow cart, they could tell each
one by his sound, sauntering along with a tired horse; then a
fast cart, heard in his approach far off, thundering by the door,
and rattling away, for whole squares. Then three or four carts
in company, with a talk of cartmen; these were moderate
movers; to each other as they jogged along. Then a couple
of racers; full speed after each other; tearing up the street,
and shaking the windows, nay, the very houses to the foundation.
Then long, long after these, a cart going home late (there
was a ship in down town somewhere, that night, I know), having
the whole street to himself, and keeping up his melancholy song
till the ear ached, and would not believe he could ever go out of
hearing. And by that time (whenever it came), the Little
Manhattan and Big Abel were asleep.
The City Head-Foremost in Business; and the Second Day's Work.
An early breakfast (cider again, for he cuts in at this house at
every turn) and out again. There's a keen day's work before
you, Lankey! Big Abel! They aimed at once for the North
River; passing the old State's Prison, with its four sad columns
and yellow front, they soon had evidence that the river was
not far off, for in the front of a cooper's shop, beyond, they
jutting from a window half-bricked up; that was all his
allowance; a wedge-fashioned sign, bearing on it in alternate
stripes of red and white, "The North River Temperance Benevolent
Society," which society was clearly a conjuror in a
bottle from the small scope they had allowed him with his blinking
eye. Now, along the river as fast as they can move, with
stacks of lumber cutting out the view of the water, quite often,
and lumber-yards at the back of these, with cool, shady recesses:
idle hay-bales sleeping out on the pier in the sun:
stone-cutters: coal-yards painting the neighborhood about with
a touch or two of their free brush: and presently, as they
speeded along, they were hailed by a man from the bows of a
weather-beaten boat, lying against the wharf. He was in a
faded tarpaulin with nankins faded to match; coatless, but with
a blue cloth waistcoat of homespun texture.
"Look out there—where you goin' to!" This was his outcry.
The Little Manhattan knew him at once. Barskin, the boatman
(who had been summoned by Lankey more than once to
court as having some knowledge, got up the river, of his old
"It's all settled!" said Lankey, when he had gone near to
"It is?" said the boatman. This was evidently a matter of
considerable wonderment to Mr. Barskin, and he denoted by his
manner a vehement desire to know the particulars, it having
occurred to him that it might not be so very easy a case to dispose
of, as it involved the proprietorship of all New York.
And when Lankey made known to him, with the aid of Big
Abel, the manner of the adjustment, he kept his surprise and
astonishment at the same point.
"Really, now!" This was what the boatman said. "You
don't say so."
What was better still; this was Big Abel speaking; they
were going to celebrate the settlement on Thursday evening
next, at the old Banking-House, at the head of the city, and
would be glad to see Mr. Barskin there. He'd be there.
Big Abel and Lankey hurried on, passing now great numbers
of old boilers, rusty dogs, and long gone out of use, lying
of the river (with a very uncomfortable feeling, one would
think, towards all that good water): a Dutch woman in a door-way
mending a sail: coils of tarred rope at chandlers' shops:
when, farther down, the little negro-boy coming out of a side
street with plenty of kite tackle in his arms, and at his side a
little white, a delicate, fair-eyed little fellow, bearing kite
Pompey Smith (that was his name), and his white young
friend come over from the east side to catch a breeze; and if
you would but look that way, how still the city lay. No
breath among the steeple-vanes; no fluttering of the rosy flags;
and the long straight streets, with houses stretching on and on
in calm upright lines, suggested to the mind not a thought of
shouting masons, clattering bricks, or ringing trowels; but stood
there, as if there they had stood for ever. The wind brought no
mention of the far-off carts or jolting stages, but they passed as
pictures to the eye, and nothing more. But here where Pompey
and the white boy had come, a little gust, just an infant in
his modest way of drawing on, crept in from the sea; and the
white boy, as being readiest, set his kite on end, in Pompey's
hand, who running back a score of yards, gave her a slide up
into the air; the white boy sped away, and up she flew! The
house-top first; that was no feat at all; then, with another gentle
leap, over the liberty-cap, near by; then, with her tail raking
the very steeple's point; and off she shot, beyond all city
heights, away! Then Pompey, planting his on end, against a
post; to go by herself; pulled such a foot, that, ere a minute
could be born to follow it from earth, she elbowed white
boy's in the very bend of heaven; and now a gallant show it
was; what coaxing of the string, what humoring of the tail,
what paying out. A flight of pigeons, set forth from an old
brewery some quarter of an hour before, hanging, like motes
against the sun, were children to these two eager kites.
Who has it? Pompey now—and now the other: and now no
mortal eye can tell, for both are gone from sight. A twanging
snap, a wriggling of the skirt (a snake dropped out of heaven!),
a mad plunge, twenty yards or so, and down she goes: Pompey's:
and all through the neighborhood there springs a countless
cry of boys, "Broke loose—kite loose!" and quick eyes
having gauged her falling-place, quick feet make after; boys,
short and tall, great and little, from all streets about; but
friend, his kite put in hand of a stander-by, swiftest and
foremost of all.
Below this, a great number of people in gay dresses, many
with ribbons about them, and children at their side, came pouring
down the street, their eyes shifting from a little house at
the river-side to a green walk beyond the river. They made
for the little house first, which kept up, by aid of a bell hung
in a cover to shield his precious voice from the weather, and a
red-faced, bulky body of a man at the end of it, a great racket;
and the more desperate grew the red-faced man, the more they
rushed upon him, and the more he begged them, through the
bell, to keep rushing. Now, among these there came down
two you would have known in a thousand, or in ten thousand,
because they were beautiful in person to begin with; but that
was nothing; because they were making for the red-faced
gate-man with great speed, that wasn't much; because they
were young and pure of heart, clearly: but let us hope there
were many such seeking the free air of the green fields beyond
the river: but most of all, and all in all, because they were
evidently bound for pleasure, as two spirits in one, making up
into a little bank all the hopes and fears and joys of two, as a
common fund to draw upon when days should grow dark and
hours creep wearily, and the pale trouble should run upon and
try to break them some bleak November afternoon, far on in
William and Mary! It was they, and no other!
The Poor Scholar, with his inky finger, white for once; and
his mistress, with nothing but angels sitting in her eyes, or
dancing about there whenever she turned on him.
The book was written! That was it. That little rounded
Life which he had discerned lying in the midst of many things;
that plan of a Book unborn, which might grow to beauty in his
brain; which had risen as by magic day by day out of nothing;
which had borrowed a color of the morning light, and a whisper
from the wind, and a golden substance from the very stones under
foot. It was done. Ah, happiness, who knows its like?
The child is born; womb, cradle, mother's arms and father's
smiling, all in one. The book was done! Old Trepidation, that
said it could not be written, thou'rt a weazen, shivering,
fool! And friendly Doubt, that picked a blemish in you
at the very thought of your conceiving, sit with cripples
evermore, and go not, thou, henceforth among true-shapen men!
The book was writ! And what an afternoon was that to Mary
and the Poor Scholar. Was there ever such a sun sent to shine
of an afternoon before! And such a ferry-master to take the
pay; the jolliest of all tax-gatherers, depend upon it! And
such a charm of a boat; and the Fields; that afternoon they
took the name, Elysian, and rightfully have held it ever since!
That book was doing wonders this very afternoon; and these
were nothing to the miracles it was going to do in the way of
wedding-garments, and parson's fee, and housekeeping, down
an everlasting perspective of purest domesticity. There was
a cloud came flying across the sun just then, and they stepped
upon the boat.
Lankey Fogle might have set up a claim here, as being a
cove or creek, which in old time the Indians used to make with
their canoes in crossing, to and fro, the river; but he had his
glimmering eye elsewhere.
The afternoon steamboats were coming out; with the bridle off,
it was quite clear at the first view; a herd of them. The
Arrow first; darting like a ray along the water; the Troy, the
brave old Albany. What fellows they were for speed! And
all so easily swinging their long walking-beams as a gentleman
swings his cane in an easy promenade, when the world goes
well with him after dinner. Flags in great plenty flying from
long staves: music too (two or three bands on their way to the
Springs): and how cheerfully packed they seem in the bows,
at the stern, on the upper deck: with people too who are, to
innocent lookers-on from shore, all bent—for a vague wonder
and curiosity hangs, even yet, about the people that go a
voyage—for pleasure-land, somewhere ahead, without a thought
of care to cross their track. Here and away with a breath,
these swiftsure steamers flew; each cheered, from the pierheads,
by swarming boys; they are at the pains to execute this
piece of goodness every sunny afternoon; with a whirl of caps
and a piping shout. Seen for an instant; then out of sight.
After these, with flags too (hinting at nothing), came boats for
Dobb's Ferry, Hastings, Sing-Sing; slow coaches creeping on,
with twilight at their backs before they're out of sight. Then
a staggering old hulk that aims for somewhere over the river,
and has been this many years; but whether he ever gets there,
no traveller has ever come back that way to tell. And now,
with quite another look, though built the same; down the river,
with a racer's leap between them—the people all aghast on
board, and quite awe-stricken at coming on the city at his evening
meal—three others; and sweltering the river with glowing
coals let drop in haste, they round upon him, and hug-to with
panting breath. By the fiery light he makes in wheeling round
Lankey espies on one an Indian, all of paint, upon his side;
the old canoes come back upon his thought, the dusky oarsmen,
and their early rule along this water. Lankey! These
A mighty street now they came to, running back with a start
at the river as though he'd carry the city all before him!
As they passed across this, both Lankey Fogle and Big Abel
had a vision; of a sudden. It was of an endless series of deepdown
cellars, with gloomy small-coal fires alight therein, tended
by men in sleeves, each with the handle of a black iron noggin
in one hand, and with the other feeding them from time to time,
from countless streaked bowls. The Canal-street plan of
oyster-stewing—that was it! And there swung, as far as eye
could see, high in air, rising one upon the other, the redwhite
oyster-moons; to light the seeker down, and look shrewdly
after what goes on below. Many a revel has he seen that
faded, swinging, half-extinguished oyster-moon! The tales he
has to tell, up there rolling to and fro, about his pole; of
wicked men who sell their souls, almost, to keep his company
from night to night; of watchmen off the guard to pass
their hours, with no upbraiding from the bitter wind and pelting
rain; of jolly players there carousing, wet and dry; of parsons
even who have changed their stocks from white to black to
get an interview of these white-armed ministers below; of aldermen,
and magistrates of high degree: ah, who has seen the half,
or who can tell the third of what he knows, that wicked, staring
These are the Little Manhattan's—all of these—the only
planets he can see shining in his faded firmament!
But there's more business forward, beyond; waggons of
every order; garden-carts; barrows; all full, all tending one
way, and pressing upon the great market on the river as though
they would smother him. Every variety of driver, too; dusty
men, with hats apparently dug out of the earth; boys; women, in
rusty bombazines and dirty strings about their waists. A wild,
tumultuous rush of eager men bearing hats, of a second-hand,
you might say a twenty-second hand, complexion, in long crates,
with which they push in and out among the crowd of people
who fill up all the intervals between the carts.
And now the market himself; a low, broad-backed spread
with alleys, running hither and thither, and little platforms up
and down, and swarms of dealers of every kind, borne down,
too great for any mortal market to get along with, by great ribs
and haunches and slabs of bright red beef; and hung all
about, till he almost stooped in the shoulders, with poultry,
chicken, duck, turkey. Then upon the floor great heaps of
apples, and baskets of melons; and again upon the walls rabbits
dangling by their legs; and deer; and strings of pigeons;
and bird-cages, all alive with bobolinks and blackbirds and
quails and canaries.
That market had as much on his mind as he could carry, I
know; and seeing all he owned came fresh, with scarce a hand
between, out of the old dark mould of the very earth his fathers
were laid in, the Little Manhattan would have claimed it for
himself. But Big Abel had a word to say. Leading Lankey
to a pier-head before the market, he drew from his box, which
he planted on a spile, a part of his documents, and would have
it that his great-grandfather Hudson had made a landing there,
and had an understanding with the tribe by which it became
his fee. It didn't appear very clearly, but there was an old
parchment for it, which (to tell the truth plainly) Lankey Fogle
couldn't read, and Big Abel took it, one might say, by default.
But going back, on an errand they had there, when the Little
Manhattan saw how weather-beaten this poor market was, and
tumbling and moss-covered, and what noble promise it gave of
returning, so to speak, to the very grass that grew there once,
again, he went aside and chuckled like a very Indian, at the
thought. The errand was yet to do, and going to the very
heart of the place, they came upon a mighty huckster-woman,
Mrs. Saltus by name, the mightiest of her tribe.
She sate in the very lap of the deep shade cast by the market—
her back to it, her face toward the river—at that hour; within
a world of greens, dewy from the fields, in baskets, in bunches,
spread on a table before her, heaped about her on the
ground. And how she glowed upon that cheery summer's
afternoon, with her broad, happy face, as though she it was that
ripened all with her beaming look; she had: they got from her
the ripeness and the flavor (touches of good heart) dearest to the
buyers, I am sure. How she talked on, savoring in her rustling
speech, and sparkling eyes and waving motion, of the
corn-field, the brook, and garden-life, where all these things
took their growth. She was waiting on a bachelor of the old
school, who always bought of her; silver-buckled at the knee,
clean-hosed, and with a maple cane upon the ground.
"Your turn next, Sonny!" to a little white-headed fellow,
lingering bashfully near the table's edge, with a couple of
coppers in his fingers. "What'll you have this afternoon.
my dear. Well, Dick." This was a serving-man with a
basket. "Lankey! Bless me, this is a cure for sore eyes.
Chickweed?" This was the white-headed little fellow's order.
"Well. What can you want? Canary-seed: ah, my Beauty,
there's trouble in your eye; one of them is gone, I see. Sweet
Jack or Bob—which was it?"
It was Bob, Mrs. Saltus; that died upon his perch this morning:
he came out of this corner of the market, you know!
Diving to her pocket-bottom, in her gown, from time to time;
a strange cavern, that! what merry music of the little coin
crept out upon the air.
Mrs. Saltus! That market knew well his place, and held
his breath each morning 'till she came in. Then off at the
very top of his speed! Who knew the bills, the ragged, tattered,
dingy bills so well as she; when butchers rushed, whiteaproned,
on her, these flying in their hands? Who kept the
news so well from all the country, east, north, south, west, as
she? Whose bank of change so deep? Whose pitcher dewy
always, with draughts so clear and cold? Stories, too! In all
the pauses of the market, aye, over all its din as well, at
the murmur of the water-wheel that throws off brightness at
his every bound, could fill the air about not half so freshly!
The great snow-storm she loved to dwell on in these glowing
summer-days, when bells did all the talking of the town, and
people glided to and fro like magic to the eye! The season
short of greens! The famous wild-pigeon flights over the city,
that played the mischief with the sun and moon!
Would she come to Big Abel's, Lankey Fogle's entertainment
(she was friend of both)?
Bless their dear hearts, wouldn't she! 'Zekiel, that was her
grandson, should bring her in the garden waggon. Be there!
If there were stairs to the house (she hoped there was), and the
walls could hold her up. Good-bye, my son (to Big Abel);
good-bye, dear old Indian.
With which god-speed they proceeded to a little cabinet or
tin, about the size of a bird's cage, standing on four thin legs,
in the skirts of the market, where coffee was served in white
cups, out of the tin kept a-glow by the coals under him, and
cakes out of his top, along with it.
While they were busy at the tin, there came to them from
Mrs. Saltus—by a little boy, a hanger-on of the place—a couple
of dainty pot-cheeses; taking which in hand, they looked
towards her gratefully, and were met; she was evidently waiting
for it; with a broad, kindly smile, that said plainly enough,
"There's something nice for you!" which acted as a delicious
grace before cheese, and answered in the place of small gold
dishes, and knife and fork of solid silver.
Now, what a time there was, a little below this! How they
howl! Men with whips and sticks, and long eager arms,
stretched through the steam-boat gates; raging like evil spirits
kept out of Paradise. And all for the sake of certain little
leathern rolls and square boxes, borne in hand or guarded by
well-dressed persons within, as though they had come long
journeys just to vex and torment and hideously agitate the
outside, by the sight of them! The afternoon boats, in!
When that shout goes up, what a din fills all the streets about;
how they run, rush, scamper, tattered fellows, white, black, dingy
(chiefly), boys, men. And if they fail to make a meal, by their
manner, of these evil-disposed men who unrighteously and
cruelly keep them out of their own, in the way of trunks and
carpet-bags, they're more Christian than I am willing to allow
them to be, just now.
But the day settles by degrees over even so fierce a tumult
as this, and night comes on, bringing out lights upon the water,
twinkling; lights on land, streaking the water far away; a
gloomy sound of plashing boats along the shore, coming to or
scudding along close in. One sound after another, of all the
busy week, dies away; and by the time Big Abel and the Little
Manhattan are housed in the well-behaved little cottage across the
Battery ground, silence has taken the city in his lap, and holds
him there to nurse him to such quiet thoughts as Sunday has a
right to meet him with.
It strikes Three; and the City takes his Comfort.
Lankey! Big Abel! Awake! awake!
See! see! the Day creeps through the windows, and filling
all the chamber, gently tells you to arise.
They sleep; Lankey like a dark old wood, whose leaves are
still, and all at once! Big Abel, as a giant boat who takes in
slumber for a week to come, against the river-shore! There is
no sound astir; the silence walks about and wears his cloak of
Sabbath air, that no man knows or sees or feels he is abroad.
There's something moving through this house at least: entering
now where Lankey and Big Abel lie: not silence, but his
twin, a sleek, calm, white-coated man (civil as the dawn itself).
"Will the gentlemen be good enough to take breakfast?"
To be sure they will; in the little room, next. Breakfast
served. Each has a window to himself; and now the Battery
begins to rouse a little, slowly, and, clearly with a will against
it. But he hears some bells far up the city, and there enters
at his upper gate; first faint sign of coming life! a little man,
quite a little man, with a cane, and gaiters and small whiskers,
evidently out of health all round, who creeps along the railing
by the water; ah, how his constitution pines for salt! and gets
to a bench half way along, and there stops to smell the sea.
After him, a couple of stouter gentlemen, in gaiters too, and
checkered pantaloons, arm in arm, up and down with rapid
pace, taking in the fresh air, and using it as a delicate steam to
keep them in this good motion. Then an old gentleman, questionable
as to legs, wheeled in, in a red sulky, by a servant, and
run up and down briskly for ten minutes or so, and then left by
the servant, with his face towards the water, looking quite
but a little out of breath. Several other whiskered
gentlemen hurrying in, a drove of them, and getting under way
very promptly, and losing no time on the course.
That Battery; near as you may think it; was a great way
off to Big Abel and Lankey that day: and it was by slow degrees
alone they ever reached it. Beginning with a look out
taken at the windows, sleepily and at full length, by both; then,
after a long while, chairs in the little balcony (he was getting
nearer, clearly); then a descent to the ground, a long pause in
the door-way, taking minutes idly of the people going up and
down; with a very confused notion, however, of their number
and destination; an actual passage of the street, opening of the
gate, and inside they are! Not so fast, either. When the gate
is closed behind them, they stop to take in the Battery for
all round, up and down. Well: that's quite to their
mind. Then a little way up the right walk, to see what comes
of that part (this is lazy work for you, Big Abel, with your iron
Safe at home; and Lankey—but Little Manhattan, I believe,
is in a dream or maze, and Big Abel has caught it of him);
a turn back again, over toward the water; against the rail,
looking into that element, after an idle sort, and not making
much out of it either. Then sitting on a bench, under a broad
tree, at about the Battery's heart, the better part of an hour;
perhaps two, or three; for time doesn't count with them to-day.
People pass quietly about them; there are more now; the fast
walkers have all gone away, and everybody takes the day for
what he finds him.
And a lazy summer's day was that (as you have found by
this time); so lazy and sleepy in his look, the wonder is that
he got abroad at all, and hadn't lain behind the clouds for ever.
There was the old fort, sitting as settled and solid on his base
as if he'd never speak a word again, though twenty thousand
British ships should run their beaks directly in his face; and
far away other forts on Governor's Island, and Bedloe's, and
Gibbet's, quite as sleepy as he. And farther still, high in the
soft haze, Staten Island dozing as though he belonged to another
world, beyond the cares and tribulation of this; and the soft,
broad, slumbrous Bay, stretching like an idle Leviathan off
toward the Narrows. Nearer by, Jersey City, low-lying and
humbled under the rule of a single great chimney that peers
about, high up in the air, as if he were specially delegated to
stretch his neck for a view of New York. And on the other
hand, Gowanus, moving lazily along the road toward Bath and
And how bore the old Battery this far-and-wide repose?
Settled in the midst of it like a smooth-backed duck in
the water! He held his breath and listened for the Bay
to speak, and the ships, and the islands. The great trees;
not a whisper from them! The grass; not the rustling of a
blade! And up and down the paths there moved stout old
gentlemen, and thin young gentlemen with canes under their
arms, and masters and 'prentices, and shop-keepers and shopboys,
throngs of them; and, the very Spirit of the whole thing,
there went along, close to the railing, as near the water as he
could, an old sea-dog of a grizzled captain, who snuffed the salt
air and caught a flavor of the oakum and the tar that lingers
round about, and seemed to hush within himself the thousand
storms he knew of, off Bahamas and the Capes, and down the hot
Gulf Stream. There was a packet-captain for you! Not a word
of the sea, nor of fine company on ship-board, nor wrecks, nor
great north-westerners, nor strange appearances far from shore,
nor spouting whales, cutting voyages, men overboard. But all
about a little plot of ground, he mentioned, in Westchester: a
few acres only: the soil was good, the plough went always
twenty inches in the mould; sufficient for a horse and cow. So
much for land. The house (this was his vision of a house),
red-roofed, one-storied, with a dainty balcony before (for
smokers in long summer afternoons); a grassy green; some
sea-thought there, no doubt! and then, roving there, as easy
and as kind and soft in glossy beauty for the eye to dwell on as
the summer's day itself, a smooth, snug, cobby horse. Not far
off, a gig; at rest now; but out upon the road once with that
cobby horse, they'll play the mischief all the country round!
And, as for drivers, where's to match that grizzled seaman
with his cunning hand! Climbing far away the winding roads;
there are such roads there; they get, a truth to tell, a look-out
to the sea. Ah, there it is again, old sea-dog; all the salt is in
you still, and keeps fresh that stormy heart, though beating in
the very bloom of silent fields!
The Packet-Captain took Big Abel by the hand as he passed,
and was asked to the old Banking-House. Nothing better for
him than a walk the city's length. He'd bring his telescope
along. Very good, Mr. Captain. You shall have a welcome,
with a jolly company!
Big Abel and Lankey had no thought of going in-doors to
dinner, but made their meal at a stand at the east gate. Quite
a number were doing the same thing. And about this time
there came a pause, when the Battery was clear of everybody
but Lankey and Big Abel, who loitered up and down the ways;
and getting towards the lower side, looked off into the great
business streets. How still they were! The stillness, too, of
mere idiots and fools, with no business in the world whatever:
you laughed at them they seemed so simple-witted and purposeless,
on this quiet Sabbath-day; and all their properties partook
of this. The boxes lying there, heaped on each other, sheer
absurdities! the hogsheads, great-bodied nothings! and as for
the coils of chain, they lay so heavy on the ground you would have
thought no soul nor circumstance nor chance could ever, by
possibility, put the breath of life in them again. And the great
stores stood there, long-sided gawkies, looking about as though
they had their hands in their pockets, and would be obliged to
somebody to tell them what to do next. Idle boys without hats or
coats, going about there, gathering odds and ends of tarred rope,
and picking old nails, had them in contempt.
And now at the east gate there began to set in a heavy tide:
it had got past supper-time some how or other, in an idle way:
from Broadway, troops of young gentlemen and young ladies;
seamstresses, some; clerks; worthy small-tradesmen, with
their wives; and proceeding to certain eligible benches, ranged
themselves as if in presence of some pleasant show or other,
now exhibiting, or drawing on quite rapidly. It wasn't long
before the benches were full, when there came across the green
where the Little Manhattan and Big Abel stood under a low-branched
sycamore, two who seemed to have a heart with all these
in what was happening; and yet withdrawing, now again, into a
world of their own, of which they two had the key, and no
one could follow.
It was the Poor Scholar and his mistress.
"Well, now," said Mary, turning towards him with both
hands stretched out, as now they paused, too, not far from Big
Abel and Lankey. "Where is it?"
"Why, Mary, you're beside yourself. What do you mean?"
"I know you've got it about you, somewhere?"
"Why, a little bag of gold, to be sure!"
"A little bag of gold!" His voice grew ghostly at the very
mention of it.
"I am not paid yet; but it's all right."
"They accept it?"
"Not that either. You have such a fancy!"
"They have read it?"
"How fast of thought you are! How could they, now?"
"Why nothing easier in the world; and nothing pleasanter.
I should think they'd be glad to spend their time in some snug
little upper chamber, reading just such books, accepting them,
and paying the writers."
"Mary! There's a great book just arrived from England!"
"Well! Why, don't you know what that means? It must
be printed; it must be published; it must be circulated; and
all for the benefit of the people of the United States, who'd
complain if they were neglected. Don't you see that?"
The book then; the book of William's brain and Mary's
hope, wasn't printed yet; not quite bought and paid for, come
to that. But it was in a fair way. There wouldn't be another
great book from England under a month, and there was a fine
time to lay his egg in the sun and have it hatched. It'll chirp
merrily, I warrant you, when it's once out!
Big Abel and Lankey were as well disposed for a little cheap
and cheerful entertainment as any one, and when several
excellent rockets went up from within the Garden (admission
twenty-five cents, United States currency), they gave immediate
attention to them. These were followed by several other
equally authentic and undoubted rockets; genuine to these
people outside, as well as to those within; which performed in
the air a vast number of feats in the way of going up and
coming down in straight lines; or throwing somersets in the
air, backwards; or breaking out all over in a wild inflammation;
or changing color; or coming to an end before their time,
in a most painful fashion. This put the people on the benches,
all along, in excellent spirits; they began to grow quite lively,
and to look on with a marked approval of the enterprise of the
lessees. Then there was a ghastly light over the Garden.
Great numbers made haste to the railing; some fell back, as
commanding a deeper view of the proceedings. It was the
general feeling that in less than two minutes Moscow would
be in blaze. The excitement outside, for so quiet a day, was
quite painful. The children in arms could scarcely contain
themselves. An old patron of these entertainments gave it
as his opinion (he had seen it burned to the ground nine-and-twenty
times during the season), that Moscow would not be
fired that night. He took occasion to remind them—they were
at a point of expectation where it was hard to bring it home to
them—that this was Sunday night. As for the rockets, they
saw how softly they went up: but as for Moscow that would
never do, and they'd better make up their minds to it. After a
time they came to the steady patron's view of the matter: the
twinkling haze of the Garden-lamps fell down: the Garden
grew dark and gloomy, taking his station for the night in a
settled melancholy way, and the crowd went off, without even a
cheer in behalf of the spirited proprietors.
A foolish crowd! For by the time they had got well away,
there crept over the water from down the Bay, a sound, with
music in it; faint at first, then rising, rising, and coming on
towards the green old Battery, that Lankey Fogle seemed to
hear the voices of another land, and deluded himself for a little
while with the belief that the islands, showing now like shadows
in the far-off water, had gone from this, and were the mansions,
in another world, of spirits akin to his. A boat moved through
the distance, not far from these, plashing with her wheel as
gently as she could; and in her breast she seemed to bear the
magic harmony that troubled Lankey so. A singing-school
made nest within her decks; and that it was that on this peaceful
evening blessed the waters with the shower of cheerful notes
they scattered as the wheel went round.
A pause now! And now again it springs afresh, that tuneful
tempest on the Bay, bearing into the heart of lonesome night
such sounds, that he must grow like day, and smile at thinking
that so sweet a comfort may be his! And now it has gone away
so far, no mortal ear from shore may follow it. Nothing comes
to fill this dreary blank, which seems to hold the very world.
What was the Little Manhattan claiming, that he sate so
silent? Was it the Bay—the Islands—the Battery himself,
perhaps? He kept his eye long fixed upon a spot toward the
point, and there sprung up after a while to his fancy, in its
visionary way, a red blaze; and, gathering round it, in its dusky
light, there sate a score of men who seemed to have come out
of the darkness, and brought a tinge of it upon their cheeks,
and in their soft black eyes and sombre brows. They inclined
their eyes upon the ground; or, lifting them, peered within the
Big Abel felt how it was going with poor Lankey's heart.
"This is yours, of course!" he said. "And must be yours
for ever. No street shall cross: no shop shall sit upon this
ground. The trees are speaking for you, Lankey; and are
always telling Heaven of the council-fires that used to burnish
up their leaves. Yours, Lankey; yours for ever!"
The Little Manhattan smiled at that; the bay-girt Battery
thus made forever Lankey Fogle's Ground; and rising up, they
made for rest.
The City at his Crimes; the Little Manhattan and Big Abel still
The city wide awake again! Nimble, serpent-eyed, fresh,
how he bears his crest this Monday morning, as though he had
got back somehow to his prime, without a thought of all his
cares and crosses and riots! Clear and wide awake! Everybody
abroad, with a new face born of Sunday! Everybody
with a sprightly good-morrow! Everybody at a higher rate of
speed! People coming in from the Islands, from Jersey, from
down the Bay, ripe for new traffic on the keenest edge! The
cartmen hurrying to the wharves in clean frocks; collars even,
snow-white, twinkling among the whiskers of omnibus-drivers!
"Up Broadway? Right-up! Right-up!" This was the
cry, passing the Bowling-Green.
Presently a gouty old gentleman, from one of the hotels, is
"Up Broadway? Right-up! Right-up!"
How the great square stage rolls about, like a heavy fellow
as he is, upon his wheels. He's in no hurry—you may be sure
A confused grumbling in his bowels, and the gouty old gentleman
seen, through the windows, to be growing red in the face.
A voice down the money-hole, and silence; followed by a motion,
on the part of the stage, of six paces; a pause; and still
the cry goes on—
"Right-up! Up Broadway! Right-up!"
Wall-street, now. Plenty pouring down, neat-dressed, trimwhiskered,
but none coming out; a fine full flow of
smoothlyshaven, well broad-clothed, sprightly gentlemen as eye can
light upon. Not frightful, and blood-seeking, and cruel-eyed
as the story goes out of doors; but nice, comfortable persons,
as ready for a good turn, when their hand is in, as though their
business lay in Rose-street, where the Quakers live!
Big Abel and Lankey came to a pause here, too, and pitched
their eye against the very head of the street. Big Abel saw
rising there a massy house, stone upon stone, high in the air,
with carvings and crosses, and doors and niches. The Little
Manhattan, not one of these; but a great mound of earth swelling
in the sun, green at the top, and prouder, in his rugged
look, than the massy house itself. Big Abel looked upon New
Trinity: the old earth that stood there, many a year before, as
high as he, that was what Lankey (wicked Lankey!) saw.
The cheerful chirrup of the drivers still kept up; the
pale, quick men, whose fingers change all to gold they touch,
still poured down the street. The flood of porters, clerks, and
masters, increased and deepened as they went on; but, a little
further on, the stream was ruffled with a sudden cry, and there
came tearing through it, as for life or death, a line of ragged
boys. With what watchful faces everybody listened: with
eager hands clutched out from underneath the arms of these,
the sheets they bore: and on they sped, more furious in their
cry as they neared Wall-street.
Extra Sun! Extra Tribune! Extra Herald!
The Great Western steamship was in, of a Sunday (always
of a Sunday!), and the news-boys laid themselves out in a big
hour's work to make it known.
Barnum's now; Barnum's Museum, with the Giant, full-length
upon his canvass, going to take the dwarf: you see the
little fellow quite well if you carry a spy-glass: by way of a
pinch of snuff. The band hard at work in the balcony; that
patriotic band, whose wind will blow nothing but "Hail Columbia"
and "The Star-Spangled Flag" for a hundred years, if
they hold out so long. The moose, the elk, the buffalo; these
were all up stairs; almost as good as life.
Barnum's was Lankey's—that was clear!
Then there rolled past the fork of the Park, in a good deal of
dust which it was at the pains to raise for itself, by help of two
great coach-horses, fed up to the last oat, a carriage all in blue,
a crown all of gold (no doubt some near kinsman of good
Queen Victoria within!) upon the panel, a couple of live boys
holding on behind, in blue too. Lankey Fogle was taken
strongly with the paint, although he had a notion that pure red;
as being more according to his honest Indian taste; would have
been a shade or two nearer the thing. Big Abel—a strange
fellow, he! burst out with a laugh so quick, so hearty and
one would have thought dashing against its side it
must have shattered blue-coach all to naught, but blue-coach
rolled away, and Big Abel, with Lankey, recollecting dinner,
stepped back a square or two, and were at a door where, at
this hour, a broad stream of busy-looking men poured in and
out, without a pause.
And well they might! There was a Saloon for you!
Where the eagle that spreads his wings above it, whets his beak
every morning (it is said) upon a carving-knife; where flags fly
at the house-top to make known to all the town about that Dinner's
ready; where, without end, along the floor small tables stand and
call for company, with salt-cellar, pepper-box, and black-bottle,
with his quill, for pepper-sauce (or some such thing); where
young gentlemen, all alike as twins, in white jackets and aprons
(white once, it is said, and since the Flood), run to and fro, in
answer to a hubbub on every side, from every one and all at
once, interpretable by them alone; where strange dishes float
along the air, sometimes a bowl, steaming high with nothing to
prompt him, inside; then a yellow ball (pudding, it is said)
upon a plate; then a cup, with a faded spoon upright therein,
waxing sadder day by day, till some day or other he will go off,
as has his element of chocolate before, in dregs; then, gasping
with great eyes, swimming through the room, a fish (this is
tradition, for who that lives can tell when he has seen the sea?).
There was a time for Lankey and Big Abel! Cheap, too!
Anything you choose to call for, and no charge worth mentioning,
and it was sure to come out of a mysterious cavern somewhere
in the earth thereabouts, in some shape or other; and
when the door which led back into the cavern opened with a
waiter, what a rush of steams and odors. Five thousand dishes
inside, all in a hurry to get out; and coming out so fast, in
such a confused way, I guess that saloon ought to keep a chemical
gentleman to call 'em by name. Anyhow, the Little Manhattan
and Big Abel (thank Heaven for that!) got forth with
their lives; and proceeded up the city again by way of Park
Row; and as they passed along, the doorways of the Row, they
saw, were held by men who were all nicely shaven as to the
face, and in a high state of embellishment, with well-cut coats,
new hats, striped pants, great chains across their breast, and
heavy rings upon the finger. These were butchers, tradesmen,
and others of that stamp, who, having fallen in with fortune one
day: the acquaintance came about through a little rattling box:
stand at leisure on these steps when off duty at the green table
up stairs, serenely ignoring their old professions; and looking
abroad from the cleanest shirt-collars, and with the reddest of
well-fed gills, upon their world of old acquaintance.
Neither Lankey nor Big Abel made any claim to these persons,
but allowed them to stand just as they did; striving to
look innocent and child-like, with all their might.
Looking beyond the Park, upon its other side, a little while,
sundry appearances came out, like, and yet unlike, to these.
These were thinner in person, than the members of the Row;
mostly pale of aspect; who seemed to have no business, calling,
occupation, craft of any name or kind; who having struck, some
hour ago, and at the sunny time of day, out of a side-street far
up town, where they had set themselves in an attitude, proceeded
now at the gentlemanliest pace in the world; tapping the
ground daintily with the point of a light stick; ranging their
eyes about in a smooth semi-circle; or greeting, occasionally,
the blue sky overhead, with a look of complacent regard.
A better gentleman, in his way, by far, than these; with
twenty tricks, to one of all Park Row; who is it now that shows
himself? A bubbling smack, as when a genial cork is drawn;
then out of water with his smooth bald head, the Fountain!
Coming slowly out—not tired, not he, with eight-and-thirty miles
of travel on this hot summer's day; but modest, and proud, too,
for he knows his worth. Now another spring, and head and
shoulders out. Now—how swift he grows—tall as any alderman:
now as Barnum's Giant, there: and now a grenadier,
his feather flying high, beyond all mortal measurement! He's
not on the treadmill, I am sure, for any sins of his; but how
he seems to climb the air. And what a frizzled pate he shakes
to every passer-by, beyond the rail! He has their confidence,
each man's; and whispers something to him, going up or down
the street. Be of good heart! Be of good heart! He always
says that; this cheerful, unfeed city Counsellor.
"A good thing for health," Big Abel says, "to have such
fountains at the city's core."
But Lankey thinks of dark old trees; of shadowy deer between;
and cataracts falling, falling, not ascending like this
idle youngster here, down the air. The Park is his, though
railed with twenty tons of iron; a hunting-ground of old; and
Lankey's eyes are wild and far away, pursuing game about its
Big Abel seizes on all the squares of houses round about, as
before, preferring them by great odds to trees.
There were two looking at the fountain beside Big Abel and
Lankey; looking at it keenly; reading it to the very heart;
following it with their eyes up and down again; up, always
with a hope; and down with something, why was this? something
of a sinking spirit.
The Poor Scholar and his mistress! There by accident, or
by choice? By accident, no doubt; and when their eyes glanced
once past the leaping stream, they smile, by chance again;
and then when they meet, why does Mary chirrup so?
"I'm sure of you, now!" she said, at once. Sure of what?
"There it is!"
Mary listened; it was a little while before she could make
anything out of a news-boy uproar which raged about the fork
of the Park, and spread itself on either hand through the two
"That's not it!"
"Why—yes it is—step, a little way, from the fountain, and
you won't fail to make it out!"
"I do make it out; but it's not
"Bless you! Had you that in your head. How could you
have that in your head? No, to be sure—that's a great book
just come in from—"
"Not from England, again!"
"No, no. This is from France; by a very great writer.
What hearts must beat in men, in those elder lands, where great
books grow like precious weeds!"
"And perish, too!" How scornful Mary was in saying that.
"Don't say that! I feel that I am but—"
It wouldn't be easy to state nicely what the Poor Scholar's
feeling was, for at that moment there was a horrible outcry
with the news-boys, a fresh detachment having broken out by
way of Ann-street; and what with this, and the altogether
gratuitous dinner-summons at the hotel over the way, there was
nothing left for the Poor Scholar and his mistress but to hang
their heads and take their way,
whithersoever they would, in
Full to the door the stages all went by, now; rolling off on
either hand, as fast as they could; clambering the far declivities,
toward a world of dust which they pierced, like so many
toiling bugs, and disappeared. And yet the old City Hall stood
there, elbowing Broadway on one hand, and on the other nudging
the Records' Office, to bring him books and papers (for
a claim of title that's always going on within), with all his
might and main. Sleep or banquet as all others will, he's wide
awake, at least, and will not go to dinner till somewhere toward
midnight. Lawyers—a great many of them knew Big
Abel and Lankey, and smiled sideways on them as they
passed—climbing in, with clients at their heels; officers;
jaded and worn down, coming out; a pale clerk toiling
up with two arms-full of law-calf-bound books, making such a
face over them, as no doubt the suitors will when, one day, they
come to eye the costs; and, by and by, crossing the Park, towards
a small court beyond, a little old man, withered with breathing
many a year the close air of the ward courts. He was grizzled,
and wrinkle-eyed, and bent—not with carrying too many cases,
I will warrant!—and wore his coat buttoned by way of waistcoat.
This gentleman would have undertaken Lankey Fogle's
suit, but he hadn't the seven-and-sixpence wherewith to pay the
opening fees. A few words passed with him and Lankey, and
he was asked to come to the entertainment.
Spreading his hand upon his breast in act of executing a sort
of gentlemen-of-the-jury cough he had, he said he would; by
all means; and went away very feebly to the small court.
They were now setting toward the Tombs, and passed on their
way a rusty, full-chopped fellow, in charge of an officer, whose
story it was, over and over again—as he was borne along—that
a man, unknown to him, had met him in a certain street, and
placed the little bits of hardware, in question as of a larceny,
in his hands. The officer, when he had told this a dozen times or
so, turned his eye upon him; and the great fellow turned his,
but not quite so boldly, too. All in the eye. That was all that
passed, and they went on after that with a better understanding.
The shadow of a cloud was flying up the city, leaping streets,
houses, steeples, every barrier that man builds to make secure
community; but not swifter than the spirit of a man they led
in irons toward the Tombs, hurried on to where no shadow of
his should ever fall upon the sunny street again.
Another officer came in from a bye-way. That was a wicked
devil he had in charge—make up your mind to that. A
Why, no. A wronger of orphans in their pale and
tender youth? Not that either. A cutter to the quick of
honest fame? I can't say that. Suspected—that's all. A
wicked devil, you see. His coat shows that, by its thin, shivering
way of sitting about the shoulders. His spindle limbs that
just keep him up; his face, colored with no memory of a sufficient
meal, even a long way off. Suspected? Who better or
more than he? Of all the men that run or walk or ride within
the city bounds, he is the guiltiest-suspected wretch. Thrust
him in a cell: the ground must be damp: on bread and water;
where rats, if any are to be had thereabout, may have free
resort to him; and in a few days—a very few days—Suspicion,
at a touch almost, will become fearful certainty. He will be
dead! Lawgivers and magistrates—you know—he will be
Big Abel would have passed the Tombs, in something of a
hurry, I believe; but the Little Manhattan, from a whim he
had, halted and went in.
The Sessions were packed close that afternoon. It was a case
of life and death, or near that, that was up; or meant to be.
But it had very little chance just then, for the two lawyers were
setting to at each other over a reporter's table; the three judges
were on their feet, on the bench, bending down to appease the
fray; the clerk had put his hat on in the confusion; and all
the officers of the court, busy as they could be, thrusting their
staves at the combatants. This was at its height when Lankey
and Big Abel entered, for the gallery was just going off, along
the whole line, in an explosive accompaniment, in regular
There was a chirping laugh (this was by a little man
of a weazen look), then a shrill one (from a smooth-faced boy),
a rough one (from a coarse fellow), and so on, till it ended in
an overwhelming burst by a huge black with a trombone in his
chest. This was too much for the court, and an order went out
immediately to have the gallery cleared; and cleared it was,
by the tumbling down the corkscrew stairs upon the street, of
the whole orchestra of laughers.
Big Abel and Lankey went out, too.
Big Abel would not have claimed the Tombs, but it was clear
in Lankey Fogle's mind that they had come over in the same
ship as his great-grandfather Hudson; and, with a twitch of
the face, Big Abel acknowledged them.
They found supper that evening at a tavern near by: the old
Seventy-Six, I think, it was: and proceeded toward the great
thoroughfare of Broadway, for a little mirth in the way of a
and they had a part of it before they reached the house. For,
going by the Horse-Sales-Room, they discovered the chamber-maid,
with the Spanish prince, and first walking gentleman, waiting
in the stable-way till the crowd about the house got in, having
a fear that the piece would go off tamely if such high characters
in it should be seen plunging (as they must) down the
cellar-way, to come up in the green-room. The house was in
a capital humor! There was a white-wigged old gentleman in
a striped waistcoat and small-clothes, with knee-buckles, very
particular about a young lady, his ward, in a book-muslin dress
and long blue waist-ribbon, who was sought by a young gentleman
in an entire suit, new, of black, with a hat which he kept
brushing up all through the courtship; and a rival young gentleman
in a frock-coat and riding-whip (the nag being an invisible
runner, out of sight always!); and at the top of the whole
a little, crop-haired valet, with the cunningest eyes in the world,
and who shook the house every time he winked. His bob-tailed
coat, when he turned about, was too much for several gentlemen
in the first tier, and they went out and came back regularly
as long as he kept doing it.
To close the day, they resorted to a refectory, hard by: a
spruce, elegant, fashionable, that's-your-sorts, refectory: where
they were allowed, at tip-top prices, to embower themselves in
a genteel stall, and to be shut in by gorgeous blue curtains, in
company with a castor all of silver; when there came to them,
at tip-top prices, a gentlemanly man of a mulatto aspect, who
was good enough (still on the same terms) to request their
which, being known, he returned presently at tip-top
speed, to answer to the prices, with a dish of birds (quails, he
called them; that was the dialect of the place), very much
crisped up, very much be-saged and be-seasoned and be-condimented;
and the quails flew away presently—for there was a
good appetite between them—tip-top, from the first moment to
the last. Then wine of the same family. Then the genteel
stall fell in and lost compass, and was altogether too narrow for
Big Abel and Lankey, who, putting their heads forth from time
to time, made discovery of numbers of elegant young gentlemen
coming in, bringing with them little black smutches upon
the lip, and cocked hats, and small canes, which all together
proceeded to a white marble bar, and were impertinent. But,
still, at tip-top prices, everything being allowed, on these terms,
at that shop.
Neither Lankey Fogle nor Big Abel went out, as you may
guess, to find lodgings that night, but made the best of the
refectory, picking out a downy spot, and dreaming, one of them,
all night long of a hideous man (the civilest man in the world!)
with a bill, bearing a strong family likeness to the silent man in
The Fifth Day of it; and the City disporting himself in a very Low
When they got forth to-day, they had not gone far before they
came to where a street plunged abruptly on the left hand, and
was away with a thought.
They paused on the edge of the great thoroughfare, fine with
silk, and oily whisker, and the canes of idle walkers, and
looked down. A ragged cloud, big with a summer shower,
raked the hollow on which they fixed their eye; the soil was
dank throughout, with ooze of slimy mud; and now that they
walk down, who claims this region, wild, and dark, and dreary
to the heart and sense? The Little Manhattan? Or is it Big
Abel's? Old houses all the way; with all the doors open, all
the casements shattered, all the chimneys broken-cornered;
and how green and yellow rages through the street, with signs
and half-doors and basements and shutters, all of their complexion.
Then, miraculous stair-ways starting in the very
street, springing up stairs on end (not ladders with ropes for
rails, but genuine bold-faced casings); meagre, yellow, longnecked
bottles and red-curtains, at windows, without number;
crazy balconies overhanging the way, with idle women leaning
over, and looking up and down the street; then about the door-ways,
on the ground, heavy fellows in roundabouts and flat-rimmed
hats, loitering, with no sign of business or employment,
past, present, or to come, to be read of anywhere in all their
idle limbs or empty looks. Women, too, among them, all of a
ruddy aspect, a slow flame-color burning silently—neck, face,
and arm—as though they stood in the very glow and focus of
some fiery furnace that blared in the neighborhood, and would
in due time, perhaps, have them for creatures of his hungry
element. Yet women still (the men no longer men!); for who
ever looked upon them kindly—not in bending pride, but pure,
true love of heart—they did not make it known to him there
lived in every ruin of them all a woman still? Black, portly,
little jugs in the windows now. Two or three men sallying
forth, one of these was black, with round rings in his ears; a
fellow in a door-way, with uncombed hair, in his bare feet,
one trouser's leg hoisted, one arm in his pocket, the other
swinging by its loops a boot. And they stood at the Points, the
very Five; and when they looked back, they saw how on the
crown they had come down from, a waggon, passing, stood out,
so high it was above this flat, in every spoke and line of harness
and button almost of the driver's coat, against the sky.
At the Five Points; for, toward the spot they stood upon,
opposite the little park, Cross-street came down his hill with a
sharp, quick trot, bringing a great church with him, some scaly
tenements of brick, and some of wood, these being shaken no
little by the way; and Anthony, with a long rolling gallop,
which gave his houses more leisure to keep their place (but
they were all tipsy, and none the better for his considerate
speed); and Orange-street creeping lazily along the mud, taking
his own time too, and miring himself dreadfully by the way.
And there you had the Points! Who claims them now?
Lankey, looking off, espied swinging at his ease, as if he felt
the torture not the least, a tawny Indian on a sign, with a store
of herbs at the window just under his nose, for him to cheer
himself with at glaring noon-time; standing out with his bow in
hand, an end touching the ground, as calmly as you please. And
then he recollects that once in this hollow was kept a famous
Indian revel, with dances wild and strange, outcries through all
the moonlight night, and many games, where the rough hand
bore the sway. Lankey's it was, no doubt; and still his title
holds, for still that revel rules the spot, although the dark faces
are all in the ground, and the white above it. Big Abel, seeking
privilege of Lankey Fogle first, looking sternly on the little
park, there at its very heart; for the souls' sake of the poor
wretches swarming round it, ordered, it is said, a chapel there,
but I guess nobody heard him, for the chapel isn't there to this
The Little Manhattan, for himself, thought the Points might
yet go back to the swamp they grew from—how his dark, sleepy
eye lighted up at that!—and that fixed his claim like iron.
And now the rain fell finely; pattering and splashing, spouting
from the gutters, settling in pools, and having everything
his own way with these; but then nobody went in doors, or
stopped business, or hurried in their talk. It was as comfortable
as heart could wish—the good understanding of the
shower and the Points. There was one, an unshaven man,
standing in a cellar-way, one step down, who seemed to think it
the best thing the shower could do, to pour away (this, it should
be known, was a gentleman that entertained a mean opinion of
mankind as well, oysters being out of season); and he curled
his lip and looked upon the pattering pools with quite a sullen
There was a man, too, in a glazed hat and roundabout,
who crossed the Points at the head of a vagabond black
horse; having given him the reins upon his back to carry for
himself; with a low cart, heaped in a corner with glossy wet
apples, whistling a martial air which he had imported on
from the southern country; being a sailor once on a
time; making a pleasure of the drizzling shower and the wet
middle of the street.
Passing on, they came to the Sign, where they found standing
at the door, a sort of gentle twin to the chieftain, a meek man,
the Indian doctor himself, with less of dusk in his aspect, less of
autumn in his slumbrous eyes, than the Little Manhattan, by
far. This was a friend of Lankey's; and being bidden to the
Thursday evening's entertainment, promised to be there (having
a patient, an aged lady, of a nervous turn, in that neighborhood,
whom he was carrying, softly, through a course of
herbs, with great advantage, he thought).
From the hill-top toward the east, there rose a sound the
sweetest in all nature's many melodies, save one, of little
voices, children's voices, in farewell of their day's tasks;
tiny, clear as thoughts that know no taint of earth, and
floating out at the windows over that dark valley of the Points,
they seemed to bear a blessing that made it less dreary to the
eye. And all the wonder is they do not, by a heavenly magic
in them, raise these sad creatures to be Blest Spirits, and leave
the darkling path they walk, for ever.
As they climbed the street now, they came upon little Neddy
Mellish (that was the little white-boy's name) again, at the
corner; his hands in his pocket, a green school-bag over his
shoulder; looking about, from minute to minute, through the
street the other way.
Little Neddy Mellish was not at ease, that was clear. What
was he lingering for in that strange way? They passed a little
farther on—Big Abel and Lankey—and when, presently, they
came to the Public School; the nest of all these happy voices;
they were overpowered by two streams of boys that poured out
of the two gates, and nearly took them off their feet. It was
Public School No. 7, and all black; all but the teeth and the
wide-awake eyes, and they flashed as so many ripples or
whirlpools in the current. They shook their ears in the rain,
and spread themselves through the streets all about, coloring
them with a dingy streak as far as the eye could follow. Wild
laughers, and boisterous as the wind that whistled in the
eaves, all! till one came, slower than the rest, and about
him there fell a silence. They couldn't have much heart for
play, so near him, I am sure. Pompey, it was; but not that
Pompey that made mirth so fast, a little while ago. Not Pompey
who bore his deep green bag as though it had been a feather's
weight upon a restive colt. Nor Pompey who coaxed his
kite to carry earthly news to heaven, by swiftest mail. Slow,
mournful-eyed, poor Pompey crept forth from the school—a
great heart that day he had, to speak his lessons as he did; and
all confessed it!—and looked off to the corner where little Neddy
stood, and then he smiled from under all the trouble of his pain.
The very colors in the streaked handkerchief that bound his
brow brightened up, or seemed to, and in a minute little Neddy
had Pompey by the hand, took from him with a faint resistance
on the part of Pomp the satchel: panniered, one portly
bag on either side, and holding still his hand, Pompey and his
friend took the great thoroughfare beyond, and, seeking the awnings
from the shower, crept, hand-in-hand, towards Pompey's
door. Lankey Fogle's heart went after them, with a good will;
and if it were but liverwort of sovereign cure, then all might yet
go well with Pompey! The school-house now is still and secret
as a tomb, and Big Abel and the Little Manhattan have passed
Turning, at a bend, they found, in the heart of the bend
itself, the very thing they looked for, a little garden or house of
refreshment. Not much of a garden; a slip of the size of a
handkerchief; green, too; and a fountain (something very small
in the way of a fountain); and bowers, ever so many of them,
at least three in number. And here, while they were getting
served by a nice mistress of the place, as busy in all her motions
as though she had opened that morning, and heard a
couple of hundred calling her all at once, with cream, and
cakes, and fruit (Lankey's part was fruit alone), there drew
near to a bower; it was the centre, and pride of the garden
that was waiting for them; two young persons, one of them
very pale, the other all a-glow.
Was ever a Poor Scholar's mistress in such spirits before!
And then the way in which she took possession of the bower;
if the green chair had been of solid gold she couldn't have
treated it more grandly. Three raps of the knuckles, and
there was a banquet—not much of a one, to be sure—but what
of that! William had something to say, that was clear; but
such spirits as Mary's—why the stoutest man living would have
quailed before them, much less a poor scholar.
"The Book's to be printed, Will? I believe you admit that
"To be sure it is—they've accepted it."
"A happy time of it for the printers, now! turning all your
gentle fancies out upon the page; making your mirth laugh, your
sorrow weep; your little men and women grow again in light,
and take a shape to every human eye, all the wide world over!
Oh what dreams they'll have the first night. They'll not sleep
a wink, I fear, with thinking all your magic over!"
"And then the binder's girls, who have the folding of them
daintily! Many a clipping of wages will they lose this very
week, lingering, as they should not, naughtily about that wicked
Mary, too fanciful by half.
"Tuesday, now! By Friday, at the latest, that little bright-eyed,
clean-apparelled gentleman (your Book, I mean, Will)
must come down stairs, and begin to see company! Oh for the
first look at his sweet and cheerful face!"
In the young Scholar's heart that was settled long ago.
"The show-bills, now! All over town, speaking up, with
fresh, clean looks! Coaxing every one to stop and read!
Every one to hurry in and buy! and then away to taste the
dainty to his core!"
Was there ever such a foolish, thoughtless mistress to a Poor
Scholar, all the world over?
She stopped, and looked at Will as though she saw a Blessed
Spirit, stepped out from the sun, and not a mortal man. But
he was very pale, and still had something to say, and now could
"You forget Germany, Mary!" That was what he had to
No: she didn't. She recollected it perfectly well; it was
in all the maps, upon the globes, and hung up in the windows.
But in this connexion she didn't recollect it, she confessed.
What was Germany to this?
She hadn't heard of a famous Rendering or Translation out of
that country, that was talked about, a mighty book, with such a
power of chains, by way of binding up and riveting the
reader; such a thrilling, enchanting, wonderful and miraculous
book? Strange, she hadn't heard of that! That was the Book!
What, to come betwixt this Book of William's and the light
William was pale, I said, and Mary now, too. Had those men
who played these changeful tricks stood there, or sate within
that bower, they must have been torn piece-meal, limb by limb,
by little angry devils, leaping out of Mary's eyes, a score at
once, and many score!
When they had got forth, Big Abel and Lankey (how
Poor William and his mistress got away, heaven, whence it
came from, knows!), the shower was deepening, and they made
quickly for a house not far away. And there it was. That
little, tidy, shining palace; palace it is in all the spirit
of brick; sitting by itself, in cleanliness and purity, and through
all the falling rain eyeing calmly all passers-by with his little
winking knob and bell-pull.
At home? The ladies of this mansion are always at home,
and have been any time these fifty years. A snug parlor,
everything tidy, everything in a high state of polish, everything
demure and settled calmly in his place. The plaster-rabbits
on the mantel, not zoologically perfect, inasmuch as the necks
are movable, and have no visible appurtenance to the bodies;
and yet, to the mind, all that could be reasonably expected
of rabbits under such circumstances. A little door is slided
open, and out of a back room a nice, comfortable, smiling body—
Seventy! Yes; this was the youngest of the two maiden sisters,
Big Abel's friends, living here. Pretty good, for Seventy!
Cheerful, quick of speech and gait, and cordial, too, as the days
of hearty June are long. Another appearance out of the back
room—Eighty! Not so tall, nor quite so stout, but more
cheerful, quicker of motion, decidedly more cordial. There
was a great shaking of hands, I tell you, there! No difference
made between fair-looking Abel and the swarthy Lankey—not
the least! Talk! Plenty of it; and after that there came, out
of the back room, too, a little square table, which was suddenly
clothed (by Eighty) with a snowy cloth, and put in possession
(by Seventy) of a little family of cups and saucers, then of a
dainty pile of toast, then of a cold ham, then of a steaming
pot, and the little table was set up in the world, and ready to do
The two sisters and Big Abel had the table to themselves, the
Little Manhattan declining tea, being furnished out of a closet
with a small bag of delicate Indian corn, his hat thrown off,
and shoes, sate with his bare feet on the red brick hearth, and
by aid of a brazier, with a furnace, parched it to his heart's
Then when the tea was fairly flowing, the toast a-wing, what
stories they had to tell of this shrewd city's early day, how
small he was. (How out of his dusky corner, like an ember,
glowed Lankey Fogle's eye at this!)
Seventy had to tell of that old Negro Plot, when all the
blackness of the city roused, and like an angry tempest rising from
the earth—not now, from heaven!—threatened every life. Then,
that other, of the Doctor's Riot. It was clear that in the Little
Manhattan's heart there grew a thought or wish that riot even
yet—the city not grown too great for him—might strangle
him one day, and make it all his lair. Then of huge fires that
came upon him in his youth, and singed him to the ground like
The longest tales were Seventy's, by far. Eighty's were the
best, for memory in her was a quick furnace-light in which all
these past old things lived, like sacred children, moving there in
brighter glow, and losing not a hair of all their precious heads.
And now to-bed; up-stairs, with candles, one to lead and one
to follow, they wait on Lankey and Big Abel. Tidy chambers,
and in half a minute Big Abel sound asleep. But still the rain
kept pattering down, and stirred poor Lankey's Indian heart
with strange effect. In this humor, as he lay awake, he heard
in a far-off street the doleful cry from some late-tarrying man,
"Oysters!"—on a wet drizzly summer's night the melancholiest
sound,—delivered to his ear as though it was sung in a far-off
Then, as Lankey thought of turbulent rivers, swelled by this
heavy fall of rain, and the roar of the angry Bay stretching
far out to sea, there sprung upon the air, from down the dreary
hollow they had rambled through that day, a quick, sharp cry
for life; a woman's voice; a fearful cry for dead midnight!
Lankey was troubled. He could not sleep; and going to the
window, he bent himself upon his hands, and looked abroad.
While yet his eyes glowed strangely upon the dark, there came
gliding along a woman's shape, with hair streaming back with
the little light that was abroad from lamps about, and eyes
with sadness or joy too great to keep its fountain in
the heart. Ah, what a cry shot up just then against the sky!
She spread her hands. There was no one near to see her, save
Lankey, none besides, nor far away; all the wide city's eyes
were shut; and she possessed the night alone, with sorrow, for
another night, within her breast. For ever so! The keenest
hurts, the deadliest wrongs life lays on human souls, have
none, save God and the poor heart, to know of them!
Following this dim figure through the perilous night along
the winding way, the Little Manhattan called to mind how
once an ancient path that led into the hills ran there before
it, and how in sadness deep as this the dusky maiden took her
way, so long ago, up towards the calm, blue heaven, and sought
to soothe her spirit with the silence of the woods, the sight of
stars, and whispering of the winds of night!
When he sought sleep again, he had a troubled dream in
which, by some strange magic in his thoughts, the city passed
back out of all his squares and streets and stony flats into his
fresh, fair, lovely island-youth; of hill, stream, valley, wood.
Ah, how he pined to have them by the hand, his kinsmen, as he
saw them now, silent in the lodge, or swift at chase, or shining
from the ruddy fight! But morning came, and took them all
Big Abel and the Little Manhattan busy as ever: the City in his
Up with the light; and forth before the two good sisters could
know it, they crossed the city; tarrying for breakfast by the
way; and entered a long, winding, narrow way (Pearl street,
I guess), choked with bald, high-headed stores—that kept
tumbling great square boxes out, as though they had a hundred
hands a-piece: or swallowing them with throats that gulped
them up, like giants. (Big Abel, as they went along, kept seizing
up stores, streets, squares, by the score.) Men hurrying up
and down: some reading signs to help them on their journey;
others dashing in and out as though they had the whole
street at their fingers' ends. Then, at about one o'clock
of the day, the street gave a great roar; this was the
Auction-Stores going off into a large sale, with a number of
deep-chested gentlemen to encourage them by shouting at the
top of their lungs; and how he packed 'em, close and hot and
plenty of 'em, up-town merchants, and country merchants, and
Brooklyn merchants, and Jersey City merchants; the sight of
a green vine at the back window was decidedly refreshing:
and if that breeze, that was idling his time away with a
church-vane, had only looked in, he'd have been received with
a cheer, I know. Then, from time to time, as noon was turning
down towards three; young gentlemen in shoals, coming abroad
with flying skirts, and rushing to and fro, with soiled
crushed in the hand; and then, again, a portly man, this
was the silent partner, no doubt, coming out from a very thrifty
shop, benignant in his look and quiet in his gait, as though he
had nothing to do with the concern, nothing whatever—though
he went in there at times to give the boys (he called the two
spare, middle-aged gentlemen inside, boys, by way of defining
his own position as a man in his prime) a little counsel in their
affairs. That was all. But further down they came to a Slip,
filled brim-full of dingy boats, chiefly of the order of sloops;
and girt with stores that were clearly, by their cast of
being battered a good deal in the windows, and tumble
down about the ground, and greatly out of color—near of kin to
the boats. The way in which the tall, smooth, shaven poles,
they called 'em masts—raised themselves on end out of the mud,
and kept toying and dallying with bits of bunting at their tops,
was enough to vex a patient man going there to look on. And
then the Old Slip himself: was there ever such an ugly monster;
old, decayed, in his long, slimy logs, that showed their moss
hideously when the tide went down; idle too; and making the
greatest ado in the world, with the boats that kept his company,
whenever he had occasion to go out to sea for a few hours or so.
A vile Old Slip, I must call him; and coming upon him in the
dark night wind you'd surely see some bloody-minded man stalking
about there, with a lantern in his hand: and presently, in spite
of yourself, hear a plashing in the water, and have in mind,
before you could break away, an ugly, white body, water-bleached,
swinging by a cord against the Old Slip's ribs. I see
comfort, though. There's an old fellow lodges near this: a
stout, hearty, free, boisterous fellow: a neighbor of the slip's,
no way related: a manly, bold, gentlemanly fellow: prosperous
but free-handed, hospitable as the day.
And when they came out upon the water, there he stood,
South Street! Plenty of good warehouses, plenty of ships,
plenty of pierheads! And seeming to say all the time, "Here
am I, South Street: and here I mean to be for many a day to
come. Don't be afraid to come along, ship, brig, schooner,
sloop, perogue, long-boat, cock-boat, jolly-boat; English,
French, Dutch, Russian, Norwegian, Kamschatkan—I'm ready.
I've looked into the matter a little, and know the state of this
harbor pretty well. There's a great variety of tonnage, I can
tell you; and you may lay as deep as you please without going
to China. Come along!" And then he cocks his eye toward
the Narrows, on a sharp lookout for more sail: and how he
rattles his cordage and waves his streamers when a spanking
wind comes in! All the ships in harbor with their noisy canvass
talking at once; and he listening to every one; and understanding
them all. Now they 're still again! And the old
Street, as he measures himself in the river before him, takes
on a grave and earnest look, with such a weight of thought
about his head and ears, it makes one tremble almost to look at
him! Just then he lets out from one of his sumptuous houses,
a smooth man, of a wholesome and a hearty look, with a touch or
two of care about the eye when he looks on the water: altogether
a very pleasant and well-seeming gentleman; who comes
to where Big Abel (who has seized the shipping to half a ton,
with a boastful reference, I can tell you, to old Captain Hudson,
who first of all the many ships lay in this port, you know), and
Lankey stand: a South street merchant of the highest grade;
a tip-top merchant of South street; and better than that, an old
friend of Big Abel's.
"Well, Abel," the South street merchant said: this was his
friendly way—"How goes the lawsuit?'!
Big Abel smiled; and looked majestically about upon the
ships, the stores, the wharves.
"We've taken the matter into our own hands," that was Big
Abel's answer. "The Little Manhattan and I; you see him
here; and are now dividing the property."
The merchant being an upright and well-intentioned man,
was evidently pleased that it had been got along with so easily.
"We shall be through by to-morrow night; and then we
wind up with a little celebration with our friends: You'll come,
will you not? At the Old Banking-House; you 'll come?"
The merchant knew the Old Banking-House well; he had
business there many a day gone by. He would come, certainly,
with great pleasure: and shaking Big Abel and Lankey warmly
by the hand, he went away to help in naming a bran-new ship,
just put in water. But Lankey Fogle and Big Able tarrying
still about the spot, espied, standing out upon a pier-head,
a figure; that drew their look upon him as though he had been
a beacon-light. Comely and young, and fair; but pale as
water at his greatest trouble: standing there, his hair in motion
by the wind—that grew now to a gale—as conscious more of
something far away and suffering, than of the cheerful vessels
safely harbored round him.
Sometimes he cast his eyes upon the ground: and when, in
some other motion of his spirit, he looked up again, his eye flew
off with eager fearful speed to the far, endless fading of the
Narrows, toward the sea.
He was not one who feared a ship would never come: who
lingered long upon the farthest sky to see her smoke or sail
ascending. No, no; this was the Poor Scholar, who trembled
lest too happy speed in her should bring some fatal ship to blight
his hope; bearing from far lands some other book to take the
place of his. She was not due; but he leaped in spirit, through
the waves before her prow: and saw her cut the sea like light,
in speed no ship had ever made, could ever make. Oh, blame
him not; that he in thought would cast a chain about her way,
and hold her back a day or so. Play other tunes than those
you pipe on now, good Wind, for that Poor Scholar's sake—two
days. A day is all he asks. Another day, and he will have
his little hope embarked; then come, as sharply as you will!
Good Wind—another day!
Going on, Big Abel and Lankey came to a street which oppressed
them; with mighty leaden hats; copper serpents coiling
about at the doors; cauldrons; bells; but chiefly stoves:
wherever the eye went, up or down, it was troubled with the
sight of cones, and squares, and columns, and pyramids, but all
with a trick in them, stoves. Patent too! To cook with, to
sleep with, to sit with, to travel with —you could do anything in
that street, in the way of stoves! And, if it should so come
about at night, when a few old fellows, rusty dogs, are left
in the lonesome street, with no one to watch or check their
gambols (the young ones being all fast-locked in inside), what a
frolic and a tussle they must have among themselves—these
Patent Stoves! How they must, with all the wit that's in them,
fight and quarrel with each other for the upper hand! There's
high work, late at night, I'll warrant, in that street!
Now Big Abel, prompted by the striking of two o'clock at a
watchmaker's, recollected an Old House (a house of his:
having clearly the very heart and soul of the Old English
Captain in it) not far away. Trotting up a hilly street; out
upon Franklin-Square; and there he was. Old Walton House!
Not quite so grand as when he had his scores of waiters pouring
in and out; liveried footmen mounting and dismounting at the
door; fine gentlemen and fine ladies alighting or taking carriage;
and that Great Man, whom all men love and honor, now,
walking the long garden down to the very river's edge.
Not grandly: but soberly: and with a decent gravity as
conscious of what he was once. Not in so high a line of life
as then: for now he furnishes drinks at his bar; and sends out
stages (ignominious, this) to Oyster Bay, Cold Spring, and
Hempstead. And yet, through all, he carries the same old
front with his heavy eye-brows, iron-pitted doors, and a
knocker that speaks out in as high a key as ever. Here Big Abel
and Lankey sought to dine. There was no table spread in the
cellar, as is the usage in some houses: nor in the parlor: nor
the drawing-room: nor bed-room: nor garret: but going to the
great hall of the second floor, you found a goodly banquet
stretched out: disdaining the rooms all about: up stairs and
below. What a company the Old House has to meals! As
though his sturdy old heart, by some magic in it, could draw
them out wherever they lurked, all through the city: whoever
has a touch of his quaint humor in them. These were old
men and old women; faded bachelors; faded spinsters; not in
one costume by any means: but all with a whim in their bearing;
and a trick in the fashion of a cap, or neck-cloth, or shoe-buckle,
or wristband—that told plainly enough these were the
Old House's friends; and that they stood by him to the last.
They knew the Little Manhattan and Big Abel well: this
strange old company: and gave place to them; and entertained
them, to the end of the feast, with ancient courtesy. In the
midst of an antic, hobnobbing or philandering, or some such
whim, Big Abel and the Little Manhattan took their leave; carrying
their hats in hand till they reached the door.
Returning toward the river, they passed numbers of Bars or
lodging-houses: with green or yellow doors: with red curtains
sometimes in the windows, with tall pale bottles or small portly
glass decanters, crowned with lemons: sometimes a coil of
close tobacco in one corner: and, hanging at the door (this was
regular), a green parrot in a cage. The doors were all open;
and about them stood women, chiefly in plain bombazine, with
some ribbon or other about the waist, and men, duck-trowsered,
in low tarpaulin hats. Big Abel's heart leaped up to these.
They all seemed to know him there, too; and well they might,
for, in the very midst of all, there stood upon a board, Henry
Hudson, the brave old navigator himself: couldn't you catch a
trick of Big Abel in his look and bearing?
Then the signs that swung above these Bars. Oftenest, a
maiden lady, in a new white gown, smiling: always smiling:
and leaning on an anchor, as though it had been a divan. And
about the Bars, keeping as close to them as they could, great
swarms of red-shirts, and pea-jackets, and glazed hats, at
corners; spreading themselves about, and disporting in the air on
sticks and dangling strings: as though they were impatient to
get at the Bars, if the Bars didn't make haste to come to them.
And a Hat-store: where the hats were all gone out of ordinary
black wear into newspapers: in which they were corded up,
from one end of the year to the other, coming out only, one by
one, and on special demand.
It was at a Bar, the quietest little Bar they could find, that
Lankey Fogle and Big Abel went to lodge. But, to tell the
truth, Lankey Fogle and Big Abel got little sleep that night.
All through the neighborhood, there was perpetual tuning of
fiddles; scraping of sanded floors by shuffling feet; clattering
of glasses; uproarious draining of tankards and dashing down;
mingling of men's and women's voices in high and keen discourse;
with rattling to the door, at most extraordinary hours,
of hackney-coaches, and tumbling through entry-ways of bulky
unsteady bodies. Then off in a concerto, or performance of
their own, went all the creaking signs: the wind had been
mischievously disposed all that day; shaking some with a
quick clatter, and putting them to sleep, somehow or other;
keeping others busy with a slow, long, troubled, moaning sound.
The uproar grew; the sanded floors in high commotion; the
red curtains at the windows fiercer in their glow; the bottles wild
and pale with lack of drink (all drawn to keep the mirth at tip-top
pitch). How like to their own rugged sea these sailors
were! who brought with them, from far away, his rolling
motion, in their gait; his uproar, in their boisterous speech;
the hours he keeps, unlike the sober land, of night and
day to have his gambols in: and yet who bears the world in
all his climes, and tongues, of high degree or low, with a good
heart, and without partial stint, to where they will! A single
hour before the break of day, there came a lull, in which Old
Jollity took boat, or legs, or what you will, and made such port
as that rough region had to lend.
They are in the Seventh Day; and where the City finds his
When, at morning, Big Abel and the Little Manhattan set forth
from their lodging-house, there was a great turmoil of waggons
about the Ferry; a long, lazy man taking money at the gate,
at his leisure, with incidental pulls at a bell; an array of
with their heads in the street, and their carts against the
a piebald range of heads: they were, in a word, entering
the wild and wonderful region of East Bowery; of which
Catherine-street makes the southern boundary, and the Great
Bowery the western line. People who live in the West and
the South have strange notions, I am told, of all this vicinage:
and have more than once made it over in fee to the Little Manhattan
as a land of Savages. Dark rumors prevail as to the
diet, dress, and habitation of its denizens: children are seen
there—not sparely, too—and grown men and women. This is
the report: and when, from time to time, some wild, adventurous
Broadway gentleman takes cab, and allows himself to be carried
by a most desperate driver, thither: he comes back, it is said,
with hair on end, and talks in such a way of plain, simple-witted,
honest Republican folks, that listeners lift their hands on high,
and coming down, take toddies all around, and lifting them again,
find comfort in their horror. A perilous day was this, then, on
which Little Lankey and Big Abel now were bound: the last:
and when they looked along the street, the very air they saw
was red, and blue, and yellow, with long stripes shot from
housetop to walk, from windows to awning-posts, up out of
cellars, and across the way: so that you would have said a devil's
darning-needle must have lost his wings in any attempt to fly
through. And yet through all there was a steady rush of butchers'
carts, lively and frisky as young lambs: and market-wagons,
driven up and down by strange old women, who were
tossed about, with their faded black bonnets tumbling about their
ears, in a manner you would suppose no old woman would ever
submit to: a constant scamper of people to the Ferry: shoppers,
cheapening from shop to shop: and altogether a street as full as
it could hold, and wonderfully gloomy and dispirited in his look,
'spite of all the good company he kept, and all the business he
was doing. Nevertheless, Lankey Fogle and Big Abel made
their way to a part towards the head, where they heard a tradition
of a great kite that had been once sent up, swinging a man at
his tail, over the roofs: also of an Indian squaw, who had
sojourned thereabout, to a marvellous old age: and then they
were at Division-street, setting due eastward.
Here was a cheerful street for men to walk!
The dainty milliners! What tidy caps, enticing little hats
and bonnets (of no kin to those the market-women wore, I warrant
you!) perched on sticks. Inside, the gentle milliners themselves—
their clerks in little rooms beyond—and keeping up
through all the neighborhood a pleasant sound of ribbons drawn
through the hand and clicking scissors; keeping time with the
dainty minutes as they hopped over the garden fence, just at the
back-door, you see!—at the invitation of the young gentlemen in
the study-windows—they all have studies, there—of East
Brim-full of little shops! Everybody taking breakfast
one step up in the world: with a glass door by way of provocation
to strange gentlemen passing by—without privilege of stopping
to say good morning. Well: this was Big Abel's, if you
could believe the story that he told of just such a dainty body
as one of these sent up into the Island from the Captain's ship—
two hundred years before—and settling hereabout, had fixed
the fashions, downward from that time. But then no one
claimed certain tall, spare, grizzled, useless old gentlemen,
who are always seen lounging about these shops; making believe
keep the accounts; and going forth from day to day, and
coming back too, with baskets on their arms. These are said
to be husbands to the dainty milliners; but don't believe a word
of it; they're evil spirits appointed, for some wicked deeds in
youth, to pass their grey old days in tending on these milliners:
in sight of Beauty ever, no nearer, though they linger there as
long as old Methusalem! When they had got beyond this
pleasant pass; and reached the little square where Hester
street, I think it is, shakes hands with him (a trick the sideways
all about here play)—the Little Manhattan, being put
in countenance by a fierce and gloomy little Indian, in autumnal
costume—every color in the rainbow and some not in that
who watches that neighborhood from his pedestal; came to
a dead pause and set up peremptorily, quite peremptorily for
Lankey, a claim to all East Bowery without reservation.
Big Abel came to a halt, too: and demanded proofs. It was
then that Lankey Fogle, with an emphasis of manner unknown
in all their past rambles, called Big Abel's attention, distinctly
and pointedly, to what was going on around them. All over
the neighborhood, up street, down street, on the long walk of
the square, in doorways, windows—there was but one business
forward: every man of them pulling away, with a face of intense
employment, at a little dark roll he carried in his mouth:
men passing in carts, in waggons, on horseback, all smoking for
The Little Manhattan thought there was evidence for him:
they both knew whose Weed it was they wore. Big Abel, to
tell the simple truth, was staggered at the sight: but recovering
as soon as ever he could, he moved forward a pace or two,
to where, at the very heart of the Square, there springs a tall
and stately Pole; bearing high upon his top a golden cap.
"This came over with the old Navigator, I think!"
Big Abel's manner was quite oppressive in saying this.
"That was the very cap it wore, on ship-board!"
Could Lankey deny that? A Pole of Liberty: a brave big
Pole: that looked about the neighborhood high over house-tops
and church-steeples too: while Lankey's little Indian (RedLegs,
so he called him) cowered upon the ground. Big Abel
pointed to the East. Another Pole. West. Another. They
sprung so thick and looked so proud—no tree of his old faith
had such a life as these!—he hung his head; and claimed no
more that day.
Crossing a great street now—where, far as the eye can reach,
an everlasting show of Goods: piled, spread, hung about: and
great-eyed windows staring, out between. The Town is all
one shop! And if Big Abel threw his net for Trade—he has it
clear as day. Wild with trade; inflamed to scarlet, yellow,
every direful hue, with feverous trade. So it looked: yet in
the midst of all this show there was one humble man, at least,
who did his work; and murmured not; though profit never came
to him. A coffee-grinder in a corner-window hard by there:
a negro, to be sure, check-trowsered and close-bodied in
hard at his crank. How must he have sweated on that
hot summer's day, if he had been made of anything but English
pasteboard of the best!
And now, silently, they came upon a region where there were
a great number of little sooty shops; plump poultry, hopping
about on sheds, half-asleep in grocers' waggons—under cover
from the sun—or loitering near little rickety feed-stores,
the chances of business. But chiefly infested by idle dogs
(genuine idle dogs) standing in slaughter-house doorways, looking
off at nothing, basking on stoops, or sauntering through entries;
with nothing in the world to do. A region where, intending,
with the truest heart, to enter one store alone, you find yourself
(there's something marvellous in the doors that open
thereabout) in two; going up stairs to a family of your own chosen
friends, as you suppose, you are visiting, in the spirit of a wide
philanthropy, a neighborhood; all ear to any alms you have to
give in way of talk or gossipry.
Through all these parts, traversing the streets to East and
West, to North and South; there went a constant voice whose cry
was "Ung-yins!" (oh, why will he not—that painful man—
take time and breath to make it On-i-ons, like an honest Christian
soul!) accompanied always with a bunch of scaly red,
borne in hand, beside a shaking cart.
A little farther on; a chapel; a neat little house! no brave
he to overawe the way with iron gates and massy steps and
towers of stone; a little wooden church; and going in at this
the busiest hour of day—they had some heart for Heaven, even
then!—many plain, poor people meek as he. And two of these,
Lankey Fogle and Big Abel saw, radiant among all the
rest; no better clad, perhaps; no greater fortune in their purse
or anywhere; but gold, pure gold, in every look, and step and
motion that they made. Arm-in-arm these two drew near;
looking, sometimes, on the ground—ah, how they blessed the
earth by such looks as these they gave him! Then deep into
each other's eyes, so deep they seemed, in spirit, to pass each one
into the other in its long intensity. Then up to where the warm,
blue sky, was melting with a look as calm, as deep, as full of
love as theirs! Ah, thankful hearts they bore that day, Poor
William—poor no longer in his humble gauge of wealth—and
his mistress, Mary. That little child of all their yet unwedded
hopes, the Book, was walking through the world, as suited his
Estate: That Book, whose birth was watched with so much
hope, with so much fear, was now gone forth (thank God!) to
bless the world! Among the poor and sad to scatter fancies
dear as gold: to bear a promise of his Native Land to every
clime: to make this Home of his (for that it meant) grow bright
and shine anew, to all mankind! It was unto this young Book's
march about the world, they measured now their grateful steps.
Abel: Lankey: lingered—how could they fail to? And presently
there rose from out the bosom of that little house: a
song: a simple, sacred song. Hearts in it, too. But over all,
the old, the young: whatever voices strive to plead thanksgivingly:
the two went up, with tears, it seemed almost in every
thrill. Poor little Roof, you could not stay these praises from
the place they sought. Heaven had them ere they were a minnute-old!
Hurrying along, they caught some pickled garlics in their
hands (popular and prevailing everywhere in East Bowery, I
am told): and with a rusk or two, made meal as on they sped.
And now they were fairly in East Bowery; at its very heart;
and there Big Abel, making with the Little Manhattan great
speed to accomplish their work by night-fall, were hailed from a
"Hallo, my worthy!"
And there came down the street two broad-shouldered, broad-chested,
flushed men carrying pinkeys—each in his little finger
the little finger of the other—a custom believed to be endemical
in East Bowery; each man being, by a figure of speech, the
Pinkey of the other. They were both in light-colored coats,
with great, round, staring white metal buttons, pantaloons
striped, round, flat-rimmed hats, and oily locks dashed in little
patches on either side of the head. One was at least a head
higher than the other in person, and in bearing and deportment
several heads. This one it was that cried out: and as he
drew nearer, he renewed the cry,
"Well, old boy—how goes that 'ere suit?"
Big Abel took him warmly by the hand as a friend of his,
and made known the terms he had come to with the Little Manhattan.
"What do you say to that?" he asked, turning to the lesser
gentleman at his side.
"That's the feature!" he made answer.
Big Abel mentioned the entertainment and hoped to see him
there: nobody but friends to be on hand.
Be there, to be sure, and he'd bring somebody with him to
shove it along; to wit the interesting gentleman at his side—
who again remarked that, that was the Feature.
A sweltering day was this; and the two Pinkeys, who never
uncover to anything, having taken off their hats to the sun—
quite civilly to the sun—to stand aside in the shade and hold
talk with Big Abel; clapped them back again, with a knock on
the top, and moved off.
Now, down again towards the East River, they came to a
cemetery; and along its walls of brick a choice company of
boys were met, some at play, throwing somersets against its
side; some at marbles; some hop-scotching: among them all
was one who, standing near the iron gate, wrought out with
chalk, a name, letter by letter, slowly. Big Abel and Lankey
fell back and watched him as he worked. He stood close up
against the wall and holding in one hand with which he partly
scratched his head, by the leather front, a cap that fell down
behind, worked with the other, in a slow and troubled way. He
wrote it down, then rubbed it out again—then down and out
again: and down and out again, and every time 'twas Pompey
Smith, or Pomp'.
This was little Neddy Mellish, no doubt.
"Why, what's the matter, little Neddy?" said Big Abel, as
he paused and looked about upon the other boys.
"It's all up, sir, I'm afraid!" answered Neddy, whose face, to
tell the truth, was very white.
"What, with him?" pointing to the name upon the wall.
"He'll not hold out till morning, they say!" and little Neddy
took Big Abel's hand and wrung it hard, as though some comfort
was to be got that way.
"Dear heart!" Neddy spoke up again, "I wish the doctors
would let him stay, and send me off."
The doctors! they knew little Neddy Mellish well; for now,
for many days, while this pale trouble followed Pomp'—he had
followed them to the sick boy's door, and from the door,
their calm faces for a hope—aye, even leaping to the
stirrups of their gigs as on they sped, to get a word from them,
for Pompey's sake. Believe it whether you will or no, white
Neddy Mellish watched, for many days, and nights too, come to
that, nor would be driven off—beside black Pompey's bed!
But now he was not there. He hung his head and looked up
with a fear to Big Abel's face.
"I couldn't stay to see him die!" said little Neddy, with bitter
self-reproach. "Oh, what a cruel wretch I am—I couldn't
though. To see him writhing in his bed, when they told me that
he fought for life, was hard enough. Play-fellow! I've seen you
work at many games." Pompey was before him in spirit even
then. "But this was one, where all your skill and mirth and
speedy foot would go for nothing, once for all! Pomp', Pomp',
by this time poor Pomp' is dead!"
What could Big Abel say? What Lankey?—To that little
wounded, heart-sore child? Not a word. They looked through
the grated gate, upon the grave-yard within. Clearly there was
no property of theirs. The dead had it to themselves. A few
white stones; a little grassy green; a few mouldering bodies.
Nothing more. Nothing to claim—and Big Abel and Lankey
Fogle walked in silence many streets (little Neddy Mellish was
fading at a swift pace, like a ghost, far, far away), until they
to the river himself; and there they found a little old ferry;
faded as to his house; with a broken bell; a gate-keeper gone
to seed long, long ago; and, altogether, keeping the breath in his
body by being very humble, and obsequious and obliging to a
number of old, Long-Island market-women, for the sake of the
baskets they had to carry. But now, what magic sweetened all
the air to Big Abel, who grew in bulk, his bright, blue eye,
brighter, his foot more firm upon the ground. A sound of
hammers, all in chorus! a cheery shout! and, how they heave
in sight and cut great hollows in the air—ships on stocks! And
busy under them, as moles, what brisk and sturdy men! A
whole company of ships on stocks; but one had the heart, that
afternoon, of all about. By some wonder in him drew the eye
of men and boys who, gathered in a swarm near by, looked on
with curious eyes. Some sought to know him better, mounted
to his back, and rode him as a gentle beast astride; but how
they toiled, the brisk and sturdy men, to knock away his pins,
and let him take the water as he should.
In the very glow and zenith of their work, Big Abel stood
there; tall and stout you know he was; and when they caught
a sight of him, they came and put within his hand the
(she now was near her time); with a stroke he
brushed away the lingering prop, and with a leap she took the
stream. A shout!
And back through all the streets the city took it up! A
shout that had the city's heart and soul in it! A shout that always
goes with that stout ship through every sea, to every land!
Lives in her timbers, fills her sails, and keeps her keel aright!
Big Abel shook his ears as though he too had taken water;
and crowed in spirit at the sight. All Henry Hudson in him
stirred to life; and with a voice he claimed those mighty yards,
and who gainsayed him?
Fine ships, no doubt (this was what came into the Little Manhattan's
head); clear in the hull; oak-ribbed; arrows for speed.
But when he cast back an eye, although the liberty-pole was
still like a great splinter in his head; and though he claimed no
more that day; how his look brightened, too, on all around—at
sight of tumbling houses, tumbling fast; poor broken ways; and
in some pier heads, falling off, he even saw or thought he saw,
the old Island pushing out his sandy strength, as when no house
was on him, to keep him down.
Then out upon an open square, they got, bestrown with oyster-shells,
or piled on every hand in little stacks, and, standing
all about, sea-faded men; men gone to seed; a toping fry, who
always wear a rusty tarpaulin, and roundabout of knotty blue,
with beards uncut. Through all this region linger too upon the
walls stray posters, idly babbling there until some pelting shower
shall roll them down—of concerts long since sung; lectures
spoken and silent, long ago; and plays whose names are out of
mind to all beside. Then sauntering home, with little greasy,
empty boxes, strapped across the breast, a drove of match-boys,
weary in the leg, without a single cry in all their throats. The
day was hot indeed, and melted every gambol, every scampering
whim or thought of speed, out of the soul and body of these
sauntering boys; at best, to tell the truth, an idle, slow and
dreamy race beside the news-boys of the other side. A fair and
gentle girl; yet pale—how pale, and poorly clad!—accosted Big
Abel, a sempstress and a city girl returning home from work.
She bore a pile of garments on her arm a horse (at charge of
that gilt-lettered, gorgeous firm she worked for) had better have
been there to carry.
And yet she spoke to Big Abel cheerfully.
He had a heart; Lankey, silent as night, looked on and
had a heart too; and told her there was, in his belief, in the
breast-pocket of a great white coat (she had to touch again—
some error in a thread or so) he pointed to: a wonder that would
take her breath away: (He had shrewdly sunk a little mine of
silver there): and when she got it back again, to take that little
dainty hat of hers, the cheerful creature of dark over-hours
of work, and that light snowy frock, of the same lineage with
the hat; and make good speed up to the old Banking House, as
for a ball or feast, or something of that kind. Her burthen
grew as light as air. A minute—she was out of sight; and in
that minute the old Banking House became a piece of fairy-land,
and Big Abel took the part of first fairy at a bound.
Why, what a spot is this they've come upon? Far as the
eye can reach on every side, the stoops, the walks, the area-steps,
are pattered thick with children, as though they had been
sprinkled there, in some strange freak, out of a boundless watering
pot; a little shower on every side. When the old city looks
for children, he comes here I know. Out at windows idle women
lean, and talk to neighbors near at hand, or hail across the way.
Men, heavy in their walk and fat of look, plunge down;
ducking beneath blue signs; and in the beer shops, everywhere,
quench and put out the glowing day. The sturdy foundries by
the river, too, are tired at last, and make it known to all the
world by ringing out a peal upon their bells. Through all that
world of Eastern Bowery, work is done; and everything, till
daylight come again, is sport, in name, whatever it may be. And
moving on, there approached Big Abel and Lankey, what seemed
a small swarm of glowing fire-flies, burning their way through
the dusk with an even wing, which always kept them at a certain
height above the earth. But, drawing nearer, these lights
helped them to see behind them the sallow faces of a body of
fire-boys, smoking their path through the street. Presently a
watchman's rattle was sprung; the constellation knew it at
once; broke up chaotically, and went round the neighboring
corners in several pieces. Shortly after this, an overwhelming
shout in a neighboring street; and in less than a minute there
came tumbling back, a square box on wheels (a fire-engine, no
doubt); and tore away, in the very teeth of the sturdy watch,
and made merry, in its rough way, for miles.
And now, in Tompkins' Square; the trees sickly, and thin;
the benches rude; the walks, ill-tended—but what a sight, off
toward the East! The river, with its smoothest bay, and all it had
of gentleness and calm, in that fair summer hour, seemed
floating to the eye on towards this silent Square, and blessing it.
Serene! The children stopped, in all their frolics stopped, to
look at it, as on a picture in a pleasant book; old men thought
over all their lives gone by, however dark and rough, with
something of a holy calm; and women drew into their
gentle hearts the spell of all it showed, to nurse their gentleness
yet more. That Square, abuse him as you may, and treat
him to as poor a culture as you will, can never grow a base, or
low, or worthless square, while he may look out on the River,
as now he looks. The Prison, too, upon the Island (Lankey and
Big Abel knew him well), no more a Prison, but softened to a
palace and an ark of rest, lingering there some fairy changes of
the tide, to glide away; or silently go off in silver mist, up
into the sky! They cannot loiter now—for company is forward
at the old Banking-House, and Big Abel, with Lankey,
make new speed out at a gate on the west; and crossing a nimble
thoroughfare, they come upon a street that makes them pause
The heart of little Neddy Mellish guessed aright. Poor
Pomp' was dead! Who else could be so calmly borne away:
this was his procession passing now!—No hearse, no horse, no
coach; a little coffin borne by men; and after it a line of poor
black women in kerchiefs crossed upon the breast. How silently
they moved!—was death nearer in the thought of these poor
women, now that little Pomp' was borne away with quiet tread,
than when there is a tramp of hoofs, and rolling wheels, and
talkers scaring him? One white mourner only. Gliding on—oh
what a peace there is about that little coffin borne by friendly
hands; as like to life as death may be in all the gentle, tender
bearing of it up. One white mourner! The street is still—
there is a hope of human hearts as yet—and children hang
about its path; and wonder with their little simple eyes what
gentle show this is that moves so deftly on. But little Neddy
Mellish. He is in the line, as calm, as orderly as any. Behind
them all—alone! Although they speak to him—the poor black
women—with their looks, and tell him softly to bear up. Away
from that—he must be nearer to his old, dear, little friend!
Nearer? He ought to lie, now, by his very side. Close to the
coffin, helping in his feeble way to hold it up; although he weeps,
there's comfort in the burthen that he bears. Who thought that
he should ever carry Pompey so! And once or twice the fancy
came into his little foolish head to knock upon the coffin lid as
though poor Pomp', so summoned, might arise and come again
to play with little Neddy. Not to the churchyard where little
Neddy Mellish wrought his name (no, not there—for there white
people lie alone in all their ashen splendor!) but toward a
country-field they're moving with poor Pomp': good-bye—thou
little negro-boy; perhaps there is a Heaven for thee after all—
who knows? And at the suburb, Lankey and Big Abel (who
had kept it company all along) part with it, and take their way—
how pale they saw that little Neddy was!
It all winds up with an Entertainment: a Bird's-Eye View of the
and where the City's Moving to.
Upon the Roof: whither they have been climbing now, to speak
so, for seven busy days. The old Banking-House Roof that
bears him high and calm, or used to, at the head of Union
Square; under a canvass—wigwam, camp or awning, as you
choose. Big Abel and the Little Manhattan; two Figures
brought out by the friendly dusk that half the city, looking that
way, might know them well. A quiet hour is this for Lankey
and Big Abel: talking over all their past rambles; Abel, with
a high and cheery spirit; Lankey, I must confess it, with a
tinge of sadness in his voice.
By and by; as they sat talking thus; there came out at the
scuttle way, a handle-basket: for a time the light below was all
cut off, and then, emerging slowly, and yet cheerfully, Mrs.
Saltus! There was an arm-chair set for her, in a choice corner
of the Roof; and when she took it, folding her broad ruddy
hands upon her lap, how heartily she glowed—an extra
cheerful summer's evening in herself. And after her the old
Attorney, with his grizzled hair (some show of brushing it put
on). If that Old Banking-House had been a mighty coffin he
could not have come from it more like a ghost. He seemed to
think there might be Judges of some high court there; by his
manner. Mrs. Saltus spoke a word of comfort to him at once;
she knew his father well; a worthy man, pains-taking in his
craft! (he had been a smith): and she never looked to see his
son a great lawyer. A penetrating woman, a keen-eyed woman,
that Mrs. Saltus; to find anywhere in that torn dress and ghostly
shell, a lawyer of the least degree. The poor Attorney took his
seat humbly though; and had no motion to make at all; none
whatever. Presently, a gush of mint (it wasn't the Indian
Doctor with his herbs!) came up the scuttle; a playful scuffling
by the way; followed by the two Pinkeys (Great Pinkey and
Small Pinkey, Lankey in his humor called them): who executed
impromptu, on arriving on the roof, an Oriental Saraband (out
of East Bowery); in which they went off, impromptu again, into
the two sexes; turning each other; forwarding; and deporting
altogether as though this was a regular thing, in the way of a
dance, and no mistake. To the huge delight of Mrs. Saltus, who
rolled in her chair; and put them in countenance whenever the
course of their proceedings brought them that way. By the
time they had subsided into a playful fist-fight, in a corner;
with a solid tread, but gentlemanly withal, and self-sustained,
there came along—the South Street Merchant; the South
Street Merchant of the highest grade; the tip-top Merchant of
South Street; and better than that, an old friend of Big Abel's.
And now the Indian Doctor! A quiet man, with not a word to
say; who settled like a piece of shadow, far over on the roof,
under a corner of the canvass; by a pole, as though he had
some faint notion of a wigwam, in his head, and meant to stand
by it, that night. As one who ascends a companion ladder, as
the best of stairs; bearing in his hand, as having worlds within
it, his great glass; out came the good old Packet Captain; and
shook himself, once on the Roof, as though he stood upon the
deck of some brave ship, and saw far out to sea. A proud man
was the old Packet Captain; but when he saw quite close at
hand, green fields and trees, he softened down, and talked with
his old crony, the great merchant of South Street; of many
things, born under both their eyes, far in the past. What a
scrambling fellow he is, that Boatman, Barskin, by name!
He's used to sloops, and their way of coming on deck, you may
see at once. The great company on the roof, they're apple
dealers to Barskin, and country people with firkins to freight down
the river, that's all they are to him; or can ever be. But like
a streak of gentle light, coming not from Heaven, as it should;
one who meant to be the first of all that company; but who was
crossed, most sadly crossed in an iron she had to deal with (a
little, wicked, perverse, over-fiery iron!) the young Sempstress!
There was a blessing for Big Abel he could never outgo
(in all his thousand, thousand city friends) when that
young sempstress took his hand, in what a grasp for one so
young and pale; and smiled on him. She had brought—this
kept her back a little, too,—a favor—a bright red ribbon of the
color of true heart's blood—with a quaint device; for Big Abel
The company all assembled; and what have we here?
A table spread (Big Abel had this in his mind as long ago as
when he met Lankey at the Tower) with every city growth,
with every city dainty; piled high, stretched out, and deep
with row on row. Take to! take to! you are all welcome.
Big Abel has a good heart for you all (for it is he that gives the
feast; though the Little Manhattan in his poor way is one
of the entertainers). A joyous time, a cheerful time; for, though
unlike, how Big Abel drew them all together, and had them move,
through that good feast, as one. You don't know the half as yet,
though! For there was Big Abel's health to drink; and a
speech from Big Abel.
Big Abel was very grateful (this was his speech as I have
been told): that his friends were with him there that night. He
loved them; every one. For many a day he had known them,
every one; and watched them grow out of the very city's heart.
They had a soul in them, all of them, that would never die.
(He meant this in a way of his own.) The time could never
come, in this great city, when Mrs. Saltus should cease to be, for
one: the great Packet Captain for another: the two Pinkeys for
two more: the boatman, Barskin: the Indian Doctor, with his
home-grown herbs: the young Sempstress always.
How their hearts sunk at that!
A pale young Laborer, like this, always; a poor Attorney: and
yet a mighty merchant, for the water-side, to bring the city up
"And a Big Abel!" They cried in chorus, "Always a
Big Abel!" He cast his eye upon the oblong iron box that
stood before him; and could not deny it.
At this juncture Mrs. Saltus, with a mighty smile that had a
mystery in it, I am sure, brought forward the handle-basket:
and presently there leaped out of it quite a number (I'll not
to count them) of stout, short-necked, apoplectic bottles—
cherry bounce of choice make for Big Abel! After this a small
roll of leaf tobacco for the Little Manhattan: reared at
in her own garden, tended by her own fruitful hand, from
first to last. Everybody had a fresh start, with a brimming glass
of cherry bounce! And then, there was a time! What stories
Mrs. Saltus had to tell! To the Indian Doctor, of a sovereign
herb that grew once by this same old Banking House: To the
Packet Captain, of a sloop that was wrecked in a gale, in a
September long ago, under very trying circumstances: To the
Poor Attorney, of a famous law case that raged once between
two farmers, one a Staten Islander, the other of Westchester,
who, running, full force, one down the city, the other up: this
seems apocryphal: came against each other in the City Hall,
with a crash, and both fell dead, leaving their estate, with all
their deeds and vouchers, for the two Attorneys to pick and come
Then, to the Sempstress, a most moving story, which she fetched
with her spick-and-span new out of Bloomingdale, of a Blighted
Heart, that brought the very tears into her foolish eyes. It was
about a tin-smith, too, I believe. Then there was no end to what
she had to say to Barskin: of up the river, and down; and
freights; and crops: and here she got off to the Packet Captain
and made his eyes roll with the description of a prize Ox fatted at
West Farms, to her knowledge, till he couldn't leave the stable,
and (the old story!) had to go back again, and get out that way,
and take to his growth in a great meadow; the only place to
give him scope. And as to the two Pinkeys: it was as much as
she could do to get a word with them: they were busy as two
great bumble-bees about the pale, little Sempstress; pressing
their suit with vehemence and spirit, and a mighty resolution
that made her shake like a willow twig: the Small Pinkey always
giving way, always, when it came to a crisis, and deferring
to the Great. The number of times the poor Sempstress'
health had to go about was beyond belief. Arms' length, drunk
once; then from the crown of the hat; then over the left shoulder
(the cherry bounce was playing the mischief with the wits of
these two Pinkeys); then from two glasses at once: and finally
out of the bottle: they had to take to that at last. By which time
Mrs. Saltus had brought home to the South-street Merchant, that
tip-top gentleman, an account of a great fish that, as she
him, was in the habit, the quite constant habit, of coming up
the North River, directly abreast of the market (her market)
and, by the most unseemly references to others of his tribe, who
were there carred-up, putting the whole market to the blush. I
am afraid the cherry bounce was going home rapidly to Mrs.
And under the cherry-bounce; I think it was at its height;
Big Abel walked the Roof as though it had been the very top
and ridge of all the world. He called the company to look upon
the city (his city, now; in the full stream of his brisk spirits);
spread below. Could any eye there, take all in? Southward!
Thick and dark, with houses; of all shapes, and heights, and
schools. Westward! Another city back of that. East! He
took up Brooklyn in his thoughts, even as a little child; and
bade him look into his Father's face—the city's! Then
Williamsburgh. Then wheeling round—What more? A score of
towns; who watched his steps, and walked with him. And
twinkling houses, dotting here and there, the Island through
and making head against the darkness. Then suddenly he
started all unto their feet and bade them to behold! A light far,
far away—upon the heights of Harlaem (kindled there at Big
Abel's prompting). Towards that the city springs, and leaps, and
takes such mighty strides, that nothing can be or make a bar to
him. To Harlaem! on to Harlaem! That was Big Abel's cry
(still friendly to the cherry bounce); and when his eye had
wearied of this work, the Packet Captain brought his glass to
bear, and showed him still other clusters all about; where, in the
fields, at roadsides, on the hills, the city gathered strength, and
seized the Island in his arms.
The Little Manhattan drawing from some nook or recess
or other about his person, a long, brown pipe; and runing
it out at full arm's length upon the rail, smoked (out of
Mrs. Saltus' friendly roll) silently. As he, Big Abel, looked
abroad, so boastfully; did no thought then cross thy spirit of the
little part thou heldst in all that shadowy and lighted world?
That all thy share in it, was in thy old heathen fancy of things
gone by, many and many a day; and in the visionary rule of
here and there, a gloomy hollow (worth naught to none but thee),
a crooked way, a few dumb Indians at a trader's door.
Then sprung afresh Big Abel's boast. He counted up his
stores, his streets, his ships, his goods of every clime, his piles
on piles of every mortal ware; His shops of iron and brass; His
steeple-stacks; His gates; His squares; His roads that run
through all the Island's length; His aqueducts; His stages,
thousand fold and doubling day by day; His Rail-Tracks, swift
as light and shot as far; then swelling up he talked; without a
check from any one of all his company; of Bridges cast to
Brooklyn, with a thought; another, with scarce less dispatch,
to Jersey shore; and then he spanned the Islands of the Bay,
and caught them in his vasty net. What wonder then, there
grew in Lankey Fogle's heart (poor sad Manhattan); a hope that
downfall yet would come upon the city's head; that yet he
would be led against his will, oh sorely now against his will, back
to his old drear wilderness; and lose himself in dusky lodges and
by silent paths as though never he had been. It cannot be, I
fear as yet, poor Lankey! No, No. The city grows; but you
decline, I fear. (They never thought to drink your health!)
You still will wander as a shade, the city-hills, the city-slopes;
sit sadly down by mile-stones as the city grows; stand by the
river's side, seeing there, what no other eye may see; dwindling
like a spirit to the city's eye, while he, Big Abel, waxes on
sturdier by every street he walks; by every square he builds.
They say that you it is (but I for one will not believe it),
that through the city light, unseen, great fires at night: and
threaten with red overthrow the town from end to end. I know
you love the grass that grows at times (by chance only, Lankey!)
under horses' hoofs in swift thoroughfares. That often
in the market-house, you sleep alone; or in a rolling boat upon
the river; or underneath a tree out of the city's hateful breath,
where you may get a sight of ancient stars. Often withdrawing
too, into that little village of Manhattanville at the Island's
farthest point—it is said—for long, long spells.
Happiest, perchance, in that calm season of your own, the Indian
summer-time, when air and earth, and all things in and
on them, share the gentle melancholy of your spirit, and nature
shades her beauty and the brightness of her eye, in sympathy
with you. Then Little Manhattan walks about, more master
of the city for a little while, than sturdy Abel, even.
There is a light; of all the lights that burned that night; winking
near by at this high revel; a cheerful light; not star-light,
nor moon-light, nor sun-light, nor candle-light altogether; but
wedding-light; made up of the best, choicest beams of all the
other. You see them moving in its broad ray as though it
were their element, for ever; the two. An old aunt's house; a
kindly and a hospitable old aunt's house; and this is William
and Mary, linked with that chain that brightens every day, at
every season of the year, in every place, once forged aright; a
second since. A blessing be in all your days, young Scholar
and fair Wife! Let winds blow swift or slow; seas run
rough or smooth; though all the world take arms against thy
gentle craft, the fortress thou art in, will keep them off.
Still on the revel runs, on that high Roof—how long, who
knows, or who will dare to guess (Big Abel with the heart of
twenty giants, the leader of it all)?
Good night! Good night! Little Manhattan, Packet Captain,
Boatman, Great Pinkey and Small, pale Sempstress (happy,
now awhile); thou Indian herbalist, poor Attorney, tip-top Merchant
of South Street, Mrs. Saltus, Big Abel, Good Night! In
the suburbs far beyond—hark, the swift beating of a cheerful
band. The marching song, it seems, of the Great City
setting forth toward the mighty Future he is called to fill!