One of the places which they point
out on Ship Street is the Italian fruit-shop on the
corner of Perry Court, before the door of which, six
years ago, Guiseppe Cavagnaro, bursting suddenly forth
in pursuit of Martin Lavezzo, stabbed him in the back,
upon the sidewalk. “All two” of them
were to blame, so the witnesses said; but Cavagnaro
went to prison for fifteen years. That was the
same length of time, as it happened, that the feud
Nearly opposite is Sarah Ward’s
New Albion dance-hall. It opens directly from
the street There is an orchestra of three pieces, one
of which plays in tune. That calm and collected
woman whom you may see rocking in the window, or sitting
behind the bar, sewing or knitting, is not a city
missionary, come to instruct the women about her; it
is Sarah Ward, the proprietress. She knows the
Bible from end to end. She was a Sunday-school
teacher once; she had a class of girls; she spoke in
prayer-meetings; she had a framed Scripture motto in
her chamber, and she took the Teachers’ Lesson
Quarterly; she visited the sick; she prayed in secret
for her scholars’ conversion. How she came
to change her views of life nobody knows, — that
is to say, not everybody knows. And still she
is honest. It is her pride that sailors are not
drugged and robbed in the New Albion.
A few doors below, and on the same
side of the street, is the dance-hall that was Bose
King’s-. It is here that pleasure takes
on its most sordid aspect. If you wish to see
how low a white woman can fall, how coarse and offensive
a negro man can be, you will come here. There
is an inscription on the bar, in conspicuous letters, — “Welcome
By day it is comparatively still in
Ship Street. Women with soulless faces loll stolidly
in the open ground-floor windows. There are few
customers in the bar-rooms; here and there two or three
idlers shake for drinks. Policemen stroll listlessly
about, and have little to do. But at nightfall
there is a change; the scrape of fiddles, the stamp
of boot-heels, is heard from the dance-halls.
Oaths and boisterous laughter everywhere strike the
ear. Children, half-clad, run loose at eleven
o’clock. Two policemen at a corner interrogate
a young man who is hot and excited and has no hat.
He admits that he saw three men run from the alley-way
and saw the sailor come staggering out after them,
but he does not know who the men were. The policemen
“take him in,” on suspicion.
It is here that the Day-Star Mission
has planted itself. Its white flag floats close
by the spot where Martin Lavezzo fell, with the long
knife between his shoulder-blades. Its sign of
welcome is in close rivalry with the harsh strains
from Sarah Ward’s and the lighted stairway to
Bose King’s saloon. It stands here, isolated
and strange, an unbidden guest. It is a protest,
a reproof, a challenge, an uplifted finger.
But while, to a casual glance, the
Day-Star Mission is all out of place, it has, nevertheless,
its following. On Monday and Thursday afternoons
a troop of black-eyed, jet-haired Portuguese women,
half of whom are named Mary Jesus, flock in to a sewing-school.
On Tuesdays and Fridays American, Scotch, and Irish
women, from the tenement-houses of the quarter, fill
the settees, to learn the use of the needle, to enjoy
a little peace, and to hear reading and singing; and
occasionally the general public of the vicinity are
invited to an entertainment.
It was a February afternoon; at the
Mission building the board were in monthly session.
The meeting had been a spirited one. A proposition
to amend the third line of the fourth by-law, entitled
“Decorum in the Hall,” by inserting the
word “smoking,” had been debated and had
prevailed. A proposition to buy a new mangle for
the laundry had been defeated, it having been humorously
suggested that the women could mangle each other.
Other matters of interest had been considered.
Finally, as the hour for adjournment
drew near, a proposition was brought forth, appropriate
to the season. Saint Patrick’s Day was
approaching. It was to many a day of temptation,
particularly in the evening. Would it not be
a good plan to hold out the helping hand, in the form
of a Saint Patrick’s Day festival, with an address,
for example, upon Saint Patrick’s life, with
Irish songs and Irish readings? Such an entertainment
would draw; it would keep a good many people out of
the saloons. Such was the suggestion.
The proposition excited no little
interest. Ladies who had begun to put on their
wraps sat down again. To one of the board, a clergyman,
who had lately been lecturing on “Popery the
People’s Peril,” the proposition was startling.
It looked toward the breaking down of all barriers;
it gave Romanism an outright recognition. Another
member, a produce-man, understood, — in fact
he had read in his denominational weekly, — that
Saint Patrick could be demonstrated to have been a
Protestant, and he suggested that that fact might
be “brought out.” Others viewed the
matter in that humorous light in which this festival
day commonly strikes the American mind.
The motion prevailed. Even the
anti-papistic clergyman was comforted, apparently,
at last, for he was heard to whisper jocosely to his
left-hand neighbor: “Saint Patrick’s
Day in the Morning!”
A committee, with the produce-man
at the head, was appointed to select a speaker, and
to provide music and reading. It was suggested
that perhaps Mr. Wakeby and Mrs. Wilson-Smith would
volunteer, if urged, — their previous charities
in this direction had made them famous in the neighborhood.
Mr. Wakeby to read from “Handy Andy;” Mrs.
Wilson-Smith to sing “Kathleen Mavourneen,” — there
would not be standing-room!
So finally unanimity prevailed, and
with unanimity, enthusiasm.
The committee met, and the details
were settled. The chairman quietly reserved to
himself, by implication, the choice of a speaker.
He knew that it would be an audience hard to hold.
The occasion demanded a man of peculiar gifts.
Such a man, he said to himself, he knew.