Well, the streets here twist about beneath the Bridge, so that you do not know what’s beyond the turning. People going and coming through the arches are silhouettes. Overhead it is like the grumbling of a thunder storm. Wagons going over the stones rattle tremendously, and they carry lanterns swung beneath to be lighted at night. The streets have fine names: there is Gold Street, and then Jacob Street. Frankfort Street widens out and becomes a generous thoroughfare, all in sunlight. There is a huge, gay hoarding to the right as you go down. On your left you see one of the towers of the Bridge rising high in the air. Directly ahead the “JL” crosses the way!
Now comes the point which I have been getting at. You dip and turn into Vandewater Street. Under the Bridge at once you go, where all sounds are weird, hollow sounds, and then out again. The atmosphere has been becoming more and more charged with the character of the printing business. Now may be felt the tremour and heard the sound of moving presses. Printing houses, dealers in “litho inks,” linotype companies, paper makers, “publishers and jobbers of books,” “photo engraving” establishments are all about. Here is a far-famed publishing house the sight of which takes you back with a jump to your boyhood, your youthful, arrant, adventurous reading. Those were the happy days when the flavour of Crime was like ginger i’ the mouth. Perhaps the recollection of this affects your thoughts now, and makes your mind more active than want.
All the people going through Vandewater Street appear to be compositors. Fine, strapping, romantic people, compositors, smeared with ink! Though there are other interests in this street besides printing. There is a big schoolhouse with every window in it broken; grand, desolate look to it! There is a delightful sign which says: “Horse collars, up stairs.” There are little homes toward the end of the street—it is one block long—little, old, two-story, brick dwelling houses, in charmingly bad repair, with fire escapes, little stairs twisting up to the doors and iron railings there, and window-boxes at the windows.
As you turn at Pearl Street to go back again something comes over you. It is melodrama that comes over you. The vista of this queer, cold, lonesome, hard little street, down by the great city’s river front, was painted, or something very like it was painted, on back curtains long ago. The great, gloomy pile of the Bridge rises before over all. To make it right there should be a scream. A female figure with hair streaming upward should shoot through the air to black waters below, where there is a decrepit boat with a man in a striped jersey pulling at the oars.