Paradise Alley

Free Paradise Alley by Kevin Baker

Book: Paradise Alley by Kevin Baker Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kevin Baker
Lincoln with telegrams on how to deploy his armies.
    â€œDo you think there will be any violence? ” he asks me now, as if “violence” were some kind of unthinkable consequence, here in this City, in the bloodiest war of our history.
    â€œNothing more than burning the town down,” I tell him. “I suspect they will stop at Brooklyn, though. East River and all that.”
    â€œAre they determined to go through with the draft? It’s madness! I told Lincoln—”
    He cuts himself off, brooding. Running his fingers absently through the piles of foolscap and grass heaped on his desk, the pasteboard hatbox full of scribbled notes for his future editorials. Horace, with all of his hobbyhorses—his socialism and Fourierism, his enthusiasms for land reform and abolitionism, fantastic diets and free love. Some of it he even believes in.
    â€œWe must know things,” he says, his newspaper instincts rising to the fore. Furiously scribbling down notes on his desk. “Have the police turned out? How many troops are there in the City? Can we count on any more from Meade? Where are the mobs gathering at present?”
    He turns to me, wondering the same thing he asks himself when he turns his attention to any man. What can I do for the Empire of Horace?
    â€œWhat are those spendthrifts on the Common Council doing? Where is our mayor?” he demands.
    â€œMost likely in Long Branch, or Newport for the season.”
    â€œFind them, would you? It would be nice to know what they plan to do about the mob calling for our deaths.”
    â€œWhat about acknowledging our failure—” I try to ask, but Mr. Gay is already pushing me out the door.
    Maddy. I should be with her already, up in the house I rent for her by Paradise Alley. She is my first charge, surely I should be trying to do what I can for her, trying something to get her to leave.
    She won’t go, though, I know that already. I stopped by to see her, too, during my peripatetic rounds this week-end. But she would not listen to my warnings, my worries. She is so much like a child still, in mind if not in body.
    There is more to it than that, I know. She is still bitter—she has every right to be. I have betrayed her, though I never made any promises to her. I should get back to her now—but she will wait, I am sure of it. I still have time, to do Greeley’s bidding, do my job, and get back to her. Just a little while more—
    I go out the back door of the Tribune and pass into the City again. Going back out to the mob in City Hall Park. My pulse is racing, even to move among such people, but I am almost giddy to be there. Secure, as I am, in my disguises.
    Instantly, I have become one of them, thanks to the treatment my clothes received in the construction pit. Not quite a workie, or an Irishman, of course, but one of that vast, in-between class that always mortars together the City. A printer’s devil, or an itinerant craftsman, an egg dealer or a patent medicine salesman, down on his luck.
    Just now we are being exhorted by a man on top of an orange crate. I recognize him, curiously enough; he is the barber from Christadoro’s, at the Astor House. Normally a good-humored man, like all barbers, pleasant and amenable to whatever views on life or politics or women his customers like to spout as he guides a razor across their throats.
    Now he dances atop his orange crate, still in his barber’s apron and his gartered sleeves, leading the crowd in three wild cheers forGeneral McClellan, and for the The Caucasian, the banned Copperhead paper.
    â€œAnd now three groans for the damned Tribune, and the damned Times, and that goddamned Greeley! The old White Coat what thinks a nigger’s as good as a white man!” he sputters furiously, thrusting his straight razor to the sky.
    The men before him laugh, and cheer, and give three low, menacing groans on cue. Only in New York—a mob led by a

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