Part 6 out of 8
[Illustration: The thieves' exchange--a drinking saloon where
pawnbrokers go to buy stolen goods.]
THE THIEVES' EXCHANGE.
There is, in the Eighth Ward of the City, an "Exchange," where the
light-fingered gentry congregate and interchange confidential
intelligence, the news of their profession, and exchange the stolen
goods temporarily in their possession. Attached to this is the wareroom
of the proprietor, who is simply a receiver of stolen goods. There are
many of these places in the city.
The agent of the New York Prison Association, in one of his reports,
When a burglar has successfully entered a store, and carried off a
large amount of property, in the form of fine goods, this property
itself is of no more use to him than the dust of the street. He does
not want to wear lace or jewelry. He does not need watches or pencil-
cases. He cannot eat cameos or vases. He, therefore, at once takes his
plunder to his 'fence,' and receives from him, in money, such a price
as is usually agreed upon. It is very difficult to ascertain, with any
degree of exactness, what proportion of the value of the plunder is
realized on the average by the thief; but from the best information we
could obtain, we feel confident it does not exceed one sixth.
A man whom we met in one of the jails, told us he was unsuccessful at
first, because he had received no instructions in the art. We asked him
what he deemed the most important information to be obtained by a tyro
in the business. He answered promptly: 'To know the names and
characters of all the "fences" within a circle of thirty miles.' He
could do little or nothing without this knowledge.
In the rural districts, these receivers of stolen goods are quite
unknown, except among the thieves themselves, unless some unusually
active deputy sheriff makes the discovery; but in the cities,
especially in New York and Brooklyn, they are as well known to the
police officers as the city halls of those places. These officers are
sure that everything they have in their warehouses is stolen; they are
acquainted with their ways of doing business; and they know what
thieves resort to each, and where they dispose of their ill-gotten
property. Yet this knowledge avails but little in promoting the ends of
justice. It is but rarely that any of this class are convicted of their
offences. The reason is that strict legal proof of their guilt can very
seldom be procured.
The study of the means of rapidly and effectually removing the marks
by which the property in their hands can be identified, is the main
business of their lives, and they acquire a degree of skill and
dexterity in altering or effacing these marks, which is truly
surprising. A melting-pot is always over the fire, to which all silver
ware is consigned the instant it is received. The marks on linen,
towels, and handkerchiefs, are removed, sometimes by chemicals,
sometimes by fine scissors made expressly for the purpose. Jewelry is
at once removed from its settings, and the gold is either melted or the
engraving is burnished out, so as in either case to make identification
impossible. Rich velvet and silk garments are transmogrified by the
removal and re-arrangement of the buttons and trimmings. Pointed edges
are rounded, and rounded edges are pointed, entirely changing the whole
aspect of the garment, with such celerity that the lady who had worn
the dress in the morning would not have the slightest suspicion that it
was the same in the evening. Cotton, wool, rags, and old ropes, require
no manipulation. When once thrown upon the heap, they defy the closest
scrutiny of the owners. There is scarcely an article which can be the
subject of theft, which the resources of these men do not enable them,
in a very short time, to disguise beyond the power of recognition.
Their premises are skilfully arranged for concealment. They are
abundantly provided with secret doors and sliding panels, communicating
with dark recesses. Apertures are cut in the partitions, so that a
person coming in from the front can be distinctly seen before he enters
the apartment. The 'fence' is as well skilled as any lawyer in the
nature of evidence. He knows the difference between probability and
proof as well as Sir William Hamilton himself. He does not trouble
himself about any amount of _probabilities_ that the detectives may
accumulate against him; but the said detective must be remarkably acute
if he is ever able to get anything against him which will amount to
strictly legal proof.
Strangers coming to New York should always be on the watch for
pickpockets, and even natives are not careful enough in this respect.
Picking pockets has been reduced to a science here, and is followed by
many persons as a profession. It requires long practice and great
skill, but these, when once acquired, make their possessor a dangerous
member of the community. Women, by their lightness of touch and great
facility in manipulating their victims, make the most dangerous
operators in the city. The ferry boats, cars, stages, crowded halls,
and public places afford the best opportunities to pickpockets for the
exercise of their skill.
A lady, riding in an omnibus, discovers that she has lost her purse,
which she knows was in her possession when she entered the stage. A
well-dressed gentleman sits by her, whose arms are quietly crossed
before him, and his fingers, encased in spotless kid gloves, are
entwined in his lap, in plain sight of all the passengers, who are sure
that he has not moved them since he entered the stage. Several persons
have entered and left the vehicle, and the lady, naturally supposing
one of them to be the thief, gets out to consult a policeman as to her
best course. The officer could tell her, after a glance at the
faultless gentleman who was her neighbor, that the arms so
conspicuously crossed in his lap, are false, his real arms all the time
being free to operate under the folds of his talma. The officer would
rightly point him out as the thief.
On all the street cars, you will see the sign, "_Beware of
pickpockets!_" posted conspicuously, for the purpose of warning
passengers. These wretches work in gangs of two, or three, or four.
They make their way into crowded cars, and rarely leave them without
bringing away something of value. An officer will recognize them at
once. He sees a well-known pickpocket obstructing the car entrance;
another pickpocket is abusing him in the sharpest terms for doing so,
while, at the same time, he is eagerly assisting a respectable
gentleman, or a well-dressed lady, to pass the obstruction. One or two
other pickpockets stand near. All this is as intelligible to a police
officer as the letters on a street sign. He knows that the man, who is
assisting the gentleman or lady, is picking his or her pocket; he knows
that the man who obstructs the entrance is his confederate; he knows
that the others, who are hanging about, will receive the contents of
the pocketbook as soon as their principal has abstracted the same. He
cannot arrest them, however, unless he, or some one else, sees the act
committed; but they will not remain long after they see him--they will
take the alarm, as they know his eye is on them, and leave the car as
soon as possible.
A detective one day noticed a pickpocket riding in a crowded stage on
Broadway. Stopping the vehicle, he mounted the step, and said,
"Gentlemen, there is a notorious pickpocket in this stage. It must
stand still until he leaves it."
This announcement created no little consternation amongst the
passengers, and each one commenced to feel for his valuables.
Fortunately, no one missed anything, but all began to feel
uncomfortable, as it was plain each man suspected everybody else in the
vehicle. Five minutes of painful silence elapsed, the officer keeping
the stage at a halt; and, at length, a venerable, highly respectable-
looking old gentleman got up, and made for the door, exclaiming,
"I have a large sum of money on my person, gentlemen, and I can't
consent to remain in such company."
He left the vehicle, the detective making way for him. As he did so,
the officer closed the door, and called to the driver, "Go ahead, he's
The relief of the passengers was equalled only by their surprise.
The ferry-boats, which reach or leave the city late at night, or early
in the morning, with loads of sleepy and tired travellers, are much
frequented by pickpockets. The passengers are more off their guard at
such times than at others, and the results are greater.
Persons with prominent shirt pins, or watch chains, are amongst the
principal victims of the fraternity. Those who are foolish enough to
show their money in public places, suffer in the same way. The best
plan is never to take money or valuables into public places.
Female pickpockets, in stages, often rob gentlemen while the latter are
raising or lowering a window for them. A watch, or pocketbook, or a
valuable pin, is easily taken then, as the attention of the victim is
entirely given to the act of courtesy he is performing.
Women even carry their thieving into the churches. The Catholic
churches, where the aisles are generally filled, and where the devout
worshipper can easily be approached, are usually chosen for such
exploits. The city papers frequently contain notices of such robberies.
[Illustration: A pious thief.]
A woman will approach a man on the street at night, and, accosting him
by a familiar name, will seize his arm and walk on with him. As most
men are fond of adventures, the chances are that no effort will be made
to throw off the woman, who, after walking and chatting for several
squares, will suddenly turn to him, and exclaim, with a start.
"Why! you are not Harry after all; I have made a mistake!"
And, with the most profuse apologies, she will make her escape. An
immediate search will show the man that she has carried his wallet or
his watch with her.
Young boys, termed "Kids," are very dangerous operators. They work in
gangs of three or four, and by pushing against their victim, seize what
they can and make off. Sometimes one of this gang is arrested, but as
he has transferred the plunder to his confederates, who have escaped,
there is no evidence against him.
The members of the fraternity are well known to each other, and they
arrange their scenes of operations, or "beats," with great care. No one
will intrude upon the "beat" of another, for "there is honor even among
Drunkenness is very common in New York. About eighteen thousand arrests
are made annually for drunkenness alone, and nearly ten thousand more
for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Besides these there are
thousands of cases of which the police never hear. The vice is not
confined to any class. It is to be seen in all conditions of life, and
in both sexes. Day after day you will see men under the influence of
liquor, reeling through the streets, or lying under the trees in the
public parks. The police soon rid the streets of such cases, which are
comparatively few during the day.
At night the number of intoxicated persons increases. You will then see
all classes of drunkards. There goes a young man, handsomely dressed,
evidently the son of a rich family, unable to stand by himself, and
piloted by a friend whose chief care is to avoid the police. There is a
clerk, whose habits will soon lose him his situation. Here is a woman,
well dressed, too, reeling along at a rate which will soon carry her
into the arms of the policeman. The high and the low are represented on
The bar-rooms and beer-gardens are in full blast, and will not close
until midnight. The better class establishments are quiet and orderly,
but the noise and confusion increases as we descend the scale of the
so-called respectability of these places. The sale of liquors is
enormous, and the work of destruction of body and soul that is going on
is fearful. The bar-rooms, beer-gardens, restaurants, clubs, hotels,
houses of ill-fame, concert-halls and dance-houses, are doing an
enormous trade, and thousands are engaged in the work of poisoning
themselves with drink.
[Illustration: A fashionable New Yorker--too much wine.]
Respectable men patronize the better class bar-rooms, and respectable
women the ladies' restaurants. At the latter places a very large amount
of money is spent by women for drink. Wives and mothers, and even young
girls, who are ashamed to drink at home, go to these fashionable
restaurants for their liquor. Some will drink it openly, others will
disguise it as much as possible. Absinthe has been introduced at these
places of late years, and it is said to be very popular with the
gentler sex. Those who know its effects will shudder at this. We have
seen many drunken women in New York, and the majority have been well
dressed and of respectable appearance.
A lady recently went into a confectionery store to purchase some
_bonbons_. She was handsomely dressed, and was quite pretty. As the
proprietor was making up her parcel he saw her stagger and fall.
Hastening round to the front of the counter, he found her lying
helpless on the floor, dead drunk.
Standing at our window one day last winter, we noticed two ladies,
evidently a mother and daughter, come out of one of the most
fashionable private residences in the city, where they had been
visiting. They waited on the corner for a car, which was seen coming
around the park, and to our astonishment we saw the elder lady sit down
flat in the street. She was instantly jerked up by the younger woman,
whose expression of intense disgust we shall not soon forget. As the
old lady got on her feet again, her unsteadiness revealed the cause of
her singular conduct--she was drunk.
There is a depth of misery in New York which those who have not seen
it, cannot conceive of. It exists among the poorer classes, who spend
their earnings in drink. They are always half stupefied with liquor,
and are brutal and filthy. They get the poison from low shops, called
These shops sell the vilest and most poisonous liquors, and derive
their name from the fact that their customers usually bring buckets,
bowls, or pitchers for the stuff, instead of bottles or jugs. They are
confined to the worst quarters of the city, and are foul and wretched
beyond description. The proprietors are brutal wretches, who are
capable of any crime. They do all in their power to encourage
drunkenness, in order to increase their gains. They knowingly sell
actual poisons for drink--liquors which nothing would induce them to
use. On Saturday nights the rush to these places is very great. Liquor
cannot be procured the next day, and so the poor victims of the rum-
seller lay in a double quantity, and spend the Sabbath in a state of
Games of chance of all kinds are forbidden in all the States by laws
which prescribe various severe penalties for the offence; but in spite
of this prohibition, there is no country in the world where gambling is
more common than in our own, and no city in the whole Union where it is
carried on, to such an extent, as in New York.
There are several classes of gambling houses in the city, which we
shall endeavor to describe in their order.
There are very few of these houses in New York--perhaps not more than a
dozen in all. They are located in fashionable neighborhoods, and
outwardly differ in nothing from the elegant private residences which
surround them, except that the blinds are closed all day long, and the
house has a silent, deserted air. In its internal arrangements it is
magnificent. The furniture, carpets, and all its appointments are
superb. Choice paintings and works of art are scattered through the
rooms, in truly regal profusion. All that money can do to make the
place attractive and luxurious has been done, and as money can always
command taste, the work has been well done.
The servants attached to the place are generally negroes of the better
class. They are well trained, many of them having been brought up as
the _valets_, or butlers of the Southern gentry, and answer better for
such places than whites, inasmuch as they are quiet, uncommunicative,
attentive and respectful. One of these men is always in charge of the
front door, and visitors are admitted with caution, it being highly
desirable to admit only the so-called respectable.
It is said on good authority that it requires an annual outlay of one
million of dollars to keep up the first-class gaming houses of the
city. This is a large sum, but the profits of the establishments are
A work recently published in Paris, gives the following description of
the establishment of a famous gentleman whose history is more like a
romance than a reality.
JOHN MORRISSEY'S HOUSE.
"My companion nodded to a servant standing in the hall," says the
writer referred to, "and we were allowed to enter. We went through an
elegantly furnished parlor, in which were many frequenters of the
house, either conversing or reading newspapers. We next entered a large
room lighted by numerous gas-jets. In the centre of this apartment was
a long table covered with green cloth. The room was crowded with
persons busily engaged in gambling. Different games of chance are in
vogue in the United States; but the favorite game of European gamblers,
roulette, was not tolerated in the establishment we were then visiting.
In almost all the States, games of chance, for money, no matter what
its amount, are prohibited, and gambling houses, being considered as
contrary to good morals, are forbidden. Gambling for money was not,
therefore, ostensibly carried on. The stakes consisted of counters or
checks provided by the establishment. The gamblers settled their losses
by means of these checks or counters, representing an understood value.
In this manner, it appears, the letter, if not the spirit of the law
was satisfied. In case of a sudden descent from the police, it was
impossible to prove that the persons engaged in the games were playing
for money, as no money, in fact, was apparent.
"'There is no people,' said Asmodeus, in the course of his
explanations, 'that exhibits more respect for the law than the
Americans; but none understands so well how to eschew it when it
interferes with its own interests.'
"My companion also informed me that no one can recover money lost in
gambling, because gambling itself is illegal. But debts of that nature
are as secure as any other, especially among professional gamblers, and
they are seldom repudiated.
"'All those counters and checks,' said he, 'are as good as gold, and,
in this respect, no difficulty can arise. But there are, in two or
three adjoining rooms, games of different kinds conducted in private;
and the house, of course, is not responsible for the stakes. Money may
be lost on parole there; but the loser who will not or can not make
good his promise, generally finds himself in a dangerous predicament.
For though there be a few men here who came attracted either by
curiosity or because they have nothing else to do, the majority are
professional gamblers, whose revolvers are always kept ready for great
"Besides the table in the centre of the room, there were half a dozen
others in remote corners, and also in adjoining rooms, and which, as
Asmodeus had observed, were occupied by persons engaged in some
favorite game. Around the large table stood an anxious crowd. There was
evidently an exciting game in operation. Near the centre of the table
was seated a banker or dealer, with a large quantity of checks at his
right hand, of the denomination of five, ten, twenty dollars, and
upward. Thirteen cards, representing a complete pack, were affixed to
the table, at convenient distances from each other, to mark distinctly
the bets placed on each. Those who wished to play placed the amount
they intended to stake on any particular card on the table. The dealer
then producing and shuffling a pack of cards, placed them in a box,
from which he caused them to slide one by one. He lost when the card
equal in points to that on which the stake was set turned up on his
right hand; but he won when it was on the left. He faithfully and
gravely fulfilled his part, as though he were a public notary or any
other officer of the law. Every one seemed satisfied with his dealings
and decisions; for, during our stay in this 'hell,' (a name commonly
given in America to all gambling houses,) no exclamation of any sort
was made by the gamblers.
"I took him, at first, for the proprietor of the establishment. 'You
are mistaken,' said Asmodeus; 'the host is that stout man whose necktie
is pinned with a large diamond, and who is playing a game of _ecarte_
near yonder window, with a constant frequenter of his house. A few
years ago, he was one of the most renowned pugilists in the United
States. With the profits derived from his victims in the manly art, he
purchased a fine house, in which congregated the patrons and amateurs
of that art, which is more in vogue to-day in America than in England.
Shortly after, he found himself, perhaps unexpectedly, the manager of a
faro bank. The game of faro is now in progress at the green table. He
gradually withdrew himself from the noisy companions of his younger
years, and soon had the gratification to behold bankers, brokers,
merchants, and men belonging to the wealthy classes flock to his
establishment. As his business rapidly increased, he purchased this
handsome house, situated in one of the most fashionable streets of New
York. It has become a favorite resort for many persons of good standing
in society, and for 'the fancy' of New York. All transactions are above
suspicion, for deception would be a dangerous experiment. The landlord
is married, and very careful that everything is carried on in an
orderly manner. Women are not admitted into the gaming-rooms, or even
into the parlors of the house. An elegant supper is served up, every
evening, to frequenters and visitors.
"At this very moment a footman came and announced supper. Most of the
gamblers did not heed the invitation, so deeply engrossed were they in
the game. A few spectators, Asmodeus and myself amongst them, went down
into the dining-room, which was, like all the others in the
establishment, handsomely furnished. Several ornamental sideboards were
loaded with luxuries. Champagne of the best brands was freely passed
around; and when supper was over, the landlord treated his guests to
the best Havana segars. I expected we would have to face a pretty heavy
bill for this entertainment, and was on the point of pulling out my
porte-monnaie, when Asmodeus whispered me to do nothing of the sort.
'Such a proceeding,' said he, 'would be resented as an outrage by the
proprietor.' Everybody, whether known to him or not, may come here, and
either take part in or look at the game; as often as may suit his
fancy, and enjoy a good supper besides. The proprietor hardly notices
those visitors who come solely for the purpose of partaking of the good
things served up at his suppers, and drinking his champagne.'"
HOW THE VICTIMS ARE PROCURED.
"Those who keep gambling houses," continues the writer from whom we
have just quoted, "take care to be regularly informed of everything
transpiring in the city that maybe of interest to their business. You
may have noticed, lounging around the most fashionable hotels, many
well-dressed young men, who spend their money freely, though they have
no known means of support. They are agents for gambling-houses: their
business is to track the footsteps of travellers visiting New York, for
business or pleasure. They worm themselves into the confidence of
strangers; show them everything worth seeing in the city; and finally
introduce them to their employers, the gambling-house proprietors. This
hunting after wealthy strangers is systematically carried on--it is a
science. These agents leave nothing to chance; they never hurry up the
conclusion of the transaction. When the unwary stranger is in a fit
condition for the sacrifice, they take him to the gaming table with as
much indifference and coolness as butchers drive sheep to the slaughter
house. These agents have a commission on the profits realized from all
the customers they lead to the gaming table, and they display such
ability that they seldom fail to entrap those they single out for their
It is a safe rule to suspect every one who approaches you with offers
of friendship without being properly introduced. Shun all such society,
for the hope of ruining you is all that induces the men to seek you.
GAMING A NATIONAL PASSION.
"There are in New York one hundred and fifty hells or gambling houses,
all well known to the police, in which several millions of dollars are
lost every year, by unwary persons. From time to time, police officers
make a descent on the most dangerous among them, or (which is too often
the case) on those whose owners have little political influence.
Twenty-four hours after the descent has taken place, new gambling
implements are procured in lieu of those taken away, and business is
resumed as before.
"Games of chance are now in vogue all over the States, and rapidly
multiplying, because the thirst for sudden fortunes is everywhere on
the increase. Gambling is even practised on board of those splendid
steamers, that ply up and down the rivers of the country; and more than
one passenger, driven distracted by his losses at the gaming table, has
thrown himself overboard.
"As I have before remarked, no cheating is to be apprehended here, as
the percentage, taken beforehand out of the stakes, secures handsome
profits to the proprietor of the house. But fraud is frequently
resorted to in many hells; and in some of them, whether he loses or
wins, the visitor is sure to be plundered of his valuables before he is
allowed to depart. Blood is often shed in these places, their
frequenters providing themselves, against emergency, with weapons of
every description. Some gambling houses hire handsome females, and the
allurements of these sirens are added to the dangers of the gaming
table. New York keeps pace, in all these respects, with the large
cities of Europe; and in many _maisons de joie_, unsuspecting persons
run the risk, at any moment of the day or night, of losing their
fortunes, their health, and their honor."
"The persons who frequent gambling houses may be divided into two
classes: occasional gamblers and professional gamblers. Among the first
may be placed those attracted by curiosity, and those strangers I have
alluded to who are brought in by salaried intermediaries. The second is
composed of men who gamble to retrieve their losses, or those who try
to deceive and lull their grief through the exciting diversions that
pervade these places.
"I see, for instance, to the right of the dealer, a tall man, with a
well-trimmed beard. He is a general in the United States army, and
married a young girl belonging to one of our best families. A few years
after his marriage his wife disappeared. As she seemed much attached to
her husband, and a model of chastity, the general belief was that she
had been the victim of some foul outrage. The friends of her family,
and the police, made active but fruitless search for her; and the
lady's disappearance remained enveloped in mystery, until she was
recognized by an American traveller, an acquaintance, in an Italian
city. It appears she had removed there, after her mysterious
disappearance from her native land, and lived quite comfortably with a
comrade-in-arms of her husband. The general has been unable, up to this
day, to forget his unfaithful wife, and he comes here, every night, to
endeavor, by gambling, to divert his mind from grief.
"Near him, that man, whose fingers are loaded with showy rings, and who
affects womanish manners, is the owner of a newspaper which delights in
praising the aristocratic institutions of the Old World--a harmless
pastime, in which and one can safely indulge, in a country where there
is no law against the press, and where everybody may relieve his mind
of any foolish idea or fancy without injury to anything but his
reputation. Gambling is more than a passion to that personage--it is
his very life, as necessary to him as the air he breathes. He has
organized lotteries throughout the States, and though they are
prohibited by severe laws, he has found the means to evade them all,
and build up a large fortune. He often plays very high, and recently
very nearly broke the bank. The latter met with a loss of two hundred
"The gambler who is now leaving the gaming-table, is a teller in one of
our city banks. He long enjoyed the confidence of the directors; but, a
few days ago, they decided to have him watched, after office hours--a
measure now resorted to by many financial institutions, on account of
frequent defalcations. To-morrow morning, that teller will be requested
by the board of directors to show his books, and give an account of the
situation and prospects of the bank. But, in spite of his proficiency
in book-keeping, he will be unable to figure up and represent the
seventy-five thousand dollars he has squandered away in gambling houses
since he commenced, six months ago, to frequent them.
"I also recognize at the table a lawyer, who, a few years ago, married
a courtesan, in whom covetousness for wealth had become, during the
last years of her life, a ruling passion. A few weeks after their
marriage, the courtesan died, bequeathing the lawyer all her fortune.
It was surmised, at the time, that she had been poisoned; and perhaps
her husband comes here to drown his remorse.
"That black-haired, rather corpulent man, whose visage is spoiled by a
dishonest glance, and demeanor tarnished by an innate vulgarity, is a
teacher of foreign languages. He assumes important airs, as teachers
generally do and though affecting, in his discourse, a Puritan
austerity, few men are more intensely devoted to the pursuit of gain.
An adventurer, he had but one purpose in view when he settled in the
United States and commenced teaching--to find an heiress. After a
fruitless search among his young pupils of the fair sex, he finally
fascinated and married a spinster. Her savings are nightly dwindling
away at the gaming table."
A CARD-TABLE ROMANCE.
One of the city journals recently published the following account of an
affair, which occurred some time since, at one of the best-known gaming
hells of Broadway. The parties referred to are members of one of the
wealthiest and most fashionable families in the city:
For some weeks past, one of the most fashionable Broadway gambling
houses had been honored with the presence of a dashing young man,
apparently not more than nineteen or twenty years of age. The gentleman
gave his name as Dick Harley, and professed to hail from New Orleans.
As he displayed a well-filled pocketbook, he was welcomed, of course.
In play he was remarkably lucky, for a time, at least. This attracted
additional attention, and not only made him an object of envy, but of
jealousy. Many of the most expert resorted to all the known arts of the
game in order to pluck the youngster, but were themselves sold.
During all these visits, young Harley appeared to feel an especial
interest in one of the visitors, who was known to hold a responsible
position in a down-town banking house. This person was nearly always a
loser, and his manner plainly told the fact that those losses greatly
affected him. He was always uneasy, his eyes inflamed, and his hand
trembling, while he would often start to his feet, and walk up and down
the apartment, in a manner bordering on frenzy. It soon began to be
whispered around that the man was utterly ruined--that there would soon
be another bank defalcation sensation, and perhaps a suicide.
[Illustration: Scene in a gambling saloon.]
For some time, young Harley had made efforts to gain the exclusive
attention of the bank officer, but had failed to do so. At length,
however, he was successful, and the New Orleans buck and the ruined
gamester sat down together.
Fortune now appeared to change. Harley had fifty thousand dollars in
his possession, which he had won. But he began to lose now, and the
bank officer was the winner. The game continued, and still Harley lost.
He remained perfectly calm in the mean time, while the winner became
even more excited than while he was unfortunate.
At length the fifty thousand dollars changed hands, and the banker
'Shall we continue the game, sir?
'No,' replied Harley.
'But you want a chance for revenge?
'No, I will play no more with you. However, I would like to make one
'What is it?'
'Step aside with me, and you shall know.'
Harley and the winner stepped a little apart, when the former
'Sir, your manner has spoken only too plainly that your losses were
about to involve you in trouble. Those losses have but just commenced;
but if you continue your play, they will soon be very great, and
yourself and family will be crushed. You have won sufficient to-night
to save your honor, have you not?
'Thank God, yes,' was the earnest reply.
'Then the condition I would make is this: leave this place and never
enter it again.'
'I'll do it,' was the almost frantic response, and the banker turned
to leave the room.
At the same time, those around had no idea of losing such, an
opportunity as now presented itself. That fifty thousand dollars must
again change hands. One of the men present advanced, and, laying his
hands upon the shoulder of Harley, said:
'Look you, youngster, you are going a little too far. You have won
from us largely.'
'Aye, and lost again,' was the calm reply.
'So have we; and you must not stand in the way of our making good that
'How can I possibly do so?'
'By persuading the winner of your money to play no more.'
'Have I not a right to do it?'
'Then I shall assume that right.'
As Harley said this he caught the bank officer by the arm, and led him
toward the door. But the little fellow was instantly seized, and hurled
to the opposite side of the room, where he fell with considerable
Instantly he sprang to his feet, while his eyes flashed fire. At the
same time, he drew a revolver, and exclaimed:
'Stand from that door, or there will be blood shed here.'
On occasions of this kind, revolver generally answers revolver. It was
so on this occasion; and Harley received two shots, which sent him
reeling upon the carpet. A crimson spot appeared near his temple, and
he clutched his breast with his hands.
Of course, there were those present who did not like the idea of
murder, and such sprang forward to the aid of the wounded lad. A black
wig fell from his head, and then long golden locks were exposed to
view. The vest was opened, and the bosom palpitating beneath the
spotless linen was that of a woman.
The surprise of all was very great, and none more so than that of the
young bank officer, when he discovered in Dick Harley no other than his
own sister. She had learned of the gaming, and had followed him in
order to save him from ruin. She had succeeded, for no person now
attempted to molest her. The wound upon the head was but slight,
although it stunned her for a few moments.
She left the house with her brother, and it is not likely that either
of them will ever enter it again.
There are many establishments of this description in the city. They are
neither so elegantly furnished nor so exclusive as to their guests as
the first-class houses. There is also another important difference. In
a first-class house, the visitor is sure to meet men who will deal
fairly with him; and if he loses, as he is almost sure to do, it is
because he is playing against more expert hands than himself. This is
what is called a "square game." Everything is open and fair, and the
bank relies on the fickleness of the cards and the superior skill of
its dealer. In the second-class houses, however, the visitor is
literally fleeced. Every advantage is taken of him, and it is morally
certain that he will lose every cent he risks. In first-class houses,
one can play or look on, as he pleases. In second-class houses, the
visitor who declines to risk something is in danger of personal
violence. He will be insulted by the proprietor or one of his
myrmidons; and if he resents the insult, his life hangs by a very
slender thread. The "runner" system is practiced very extensively in
connection with these houses. The visitor is plied with liquor
unceasingly during his stay in the rooms, and the losses of the
unfortunate man during this period of semi-unconsciousness are
Many persons coming to the city yield to the temptation to visit these
places, merely to see them. They intend to lose only a dollar or two as
the price of the exhibition. Such men voluntarily seek the danger which
threatens them. Nine out of ten who go there merely through curiosity,
lose all their money. The men who conduct the "hell" understand how to
deal with such cases, and are rarely unsuccessful.
It is in these places that clerks and other young men are ruined. They
lose, and play again, hoping to make good their losses. In this way
they squander their own means; and too frequently commence to steal
from their employers, in the vain hope of regaining all they have lost.
There is only one means of safety for all classes--_Keep away from the
gaming table altogether._
DAY GAMBLING HOUSES
At first gambling was carried on only at night. The fascination of the
game, however, has now become so great, that day gambling houses have
been opened in the lower part of the city. These are located in
Broadway, below Fulton street, and in one or two other streets within
the immediate neighborhood of Wall street.
These "houses," as they are called, are really nothing more than rooms.
They are located on the top floor of a building, the rest of which is
taken up with stores, offices, etc. They are managed on a plan similar
to the night gambling houses, and the windows are all carefully closed
with wooden shutters, to prevent any sound being heard without. The
rooms are elegantly furnished, brilliantly lighted with gas, and
liquors and refreshments are in abundance. As the stairway is thronged
with persons passing up and down, at all hours of the day, no one is
noticed in entering the building for the purpose of play. The
establishment has its "runners" and "ropers in," like the night houses,
who are paid a percentage on the winnings from their victims, and the
proprietor of the day-house is generally the owner of a night-house
higher up town.
Square games are rarely played in these houses. The victim is generally
fleeced. Men who gamble in stocks, curbstone brokers, and others,
vainly endeavor to make good a part of their losses at these places.
They are simply unsuccessful. Clerks, office-boys, and others, who can
spend but a few minutes and lose only a few dollars at a time, are
constantly seen in these hells. The aggregate of these slight winnings
by the bank is very great in the course of the day. Pickpockets and
thieves are also seen here in considerable numbers. They do not come to
practice their arts, for they would be shown no mercy if they should do
so, but come to gamble away their plunder, or its proceeds.
Having given the reader a description of the "Wickedest Man in New
York," we must now introduce him to Mr. Christopher Burns, or, as he is
familiarly called, Kit Burns, the compeer of the noted John Allen.
In walking through Water street, you will notice a plain brick
building, rather neater in appearance than those surrounding it. The
lower part is painted green, and there is a small gas lamp before the
door. The number, 273, is very conspicuous, and you will also notice
the words over the door, rather the worse for exposure to the weather,
"_Kit Burns_" "_Sportsman's Sail_".
The ostensible business of Kit Burns, is that of a tavern keeper, and
it is said that his house is well kept for one of its class. The bar
does a thriving business, and is well stocked with the kind of liquor
used in Water street.
Attached to the tavern, however, are the principal attractions of the
place to those who frequent it. These are the rat and dog pits.
THE RAT PIT.
Rats are plentiful along the East River, and Burns has no difficulty in
procuring as many as he desires. These and his dogs furnish the
entertainment, in which he delights. The principal room of the house is
arranged as an amphitheatre. The seats are rough wooden benches, and in
the centre is a ring or pit, enclosed by a circular wooden fence,
several feet high. A number of rats are turned into this pit, and a dog
of the best ferret stock is thrown in amongst them. The little creature
at once falls to work to kill the rats, bets being made that she will
destroy so many rats in a given time. The time is generally "made" by
the little animal, who is well known to, and a great favorite with, the
yelling blasphemous wretches who line the benches. The performance is
greeted with shouts, oaths, and other frantic demonstrations of
delight. Some of the men will catch up the dog in their arms, and press
it to their bosom in a frenzy of joy, or kiss it as if it were a human
being, unmindful or careless of the fact that all this while the animal
is smeared with the blood of its victims. The scene is disgusting
[Illustration: A Dog Fight at Kit Burn's]
THE DOG FIGHTS.
Kit Burns is very proud of his dogs, and his cellar contains a
collection of the fiercest and most frightfully hideous animals to be
found in America. They are very docile with their owner, and seem
really fond of him. They are well fed and carefully tended, for they
are a source of great profit to their owner.
Notice is given that at such a time there will be a dog fight at
"Sportsman's Hall," and when that time arrives the roughs and bullies
of the neighborhood crowd the benches of the amphitheatre. A more
brutal, villainous-looking set it would be hard to find. They are more
inhuman in appearance than the dogs.
Two huge bull-dogs, whose keepers can hardly restrain them, are placed
in the pit, and the keeper or backer of each dog crouches in his place,
one on the right hand, the other on the left, and the dogs in the
middle. At a given signal, the animals are released, and the next
moment the combat begins. It is simply sickening. Most of our readers
have witnessed a dog fight in the streets. Let them imagine the animals
surrounded by a crowd of brutal wretches whose conduct stamps them as
beneath the struggling beasts, and they will have a fair idea of the
scene at Kit Burns's.
THE REVIVAL AT KIT BURN'S.
During the summer of 1868, while the Water street revival was going on
at John Allen's, the parties conducting the movement endeavored to
induce Kit Burns to join them. He refused all their offers, and at last
they hired his rat pit at a high price, for the purpose of using it for
religious services for one hour in each day. This was done, and the
meetings held therein were sadly disgraceful to the cause of
Christianity. We take the following account of one of these meetings
from the _New York World_, our apology for intruding it, being our
desire to present a truthful picture.
The Water street prayer-meetings are still continued. Yesterday at
noon a large crowd assembled in Kit Burns's liquor shop, very few of
whom were roughs. The majority seemed to be business men and clerks,
who stopped in to see what was going on, in a casual manner. In a few
minutes after twelve o'clock the pit was filled up very comfortably,
and Mr. Van Meter made his appearance and took up a position here he
could address the crowd from the centre of the pit, inside the
barriers. The roughs and dry goods clerks piled themselves up as high
as the roof, tier after tier, and a sickening odor came from the dogs
and debris of rats' bones under the seats.
Kit stood outside, cursing and damning the eyes of the missionaries
for not hurrying up.
Kit said, 'I'm d----d if some of the people that come here oughtn't to
be clubbed. A fellow 'u'd think that they had niver seen a dog-pit
afore. I must be d----d good-looking to have so many fellows looking at
Inside, the exhortations were kept up to fever heat. In a little
gallery above the pit, not more than four feet from the dirty ceiling,
there were half a dozen faded and antiquated women, who kept chorus to
the music of the Heavenly Jerusalem, as follows:
'To God, the mighty Lord
Your joyful thanks repeat;
To him due praise afford,
As good as he is great.
For God does prove
Our constant friend;
His boundless love
Shall never end-a-a-h.'
'That's what I call singing the bloody gospil. The man that wrote that
ballad was no slouch,' cried out George Leese, alias 'Snatchem,' one of
the worst scoundrels in New York, who is now in the saving path of
grace. As a beastly, obscene ruffian, 'Snatchem' never had his equal in
America, according to his own account. The writer has seen this fellow
at prize fights, with a couple of revolvers in his belt, engaged in the
disgusting office of sucking blood from the wild beasts who had ceased
to pummel each other for a few seconds. This man, with his bulging,
bulbous, watery-blue eyes, bloated red face, and coarse swaggering
gait, has been notorious for years in New York. The police are well
acquainted with him, and he is proud of his notoriety.
'Snatchem' asked our reporter if he ever saw such 'a-rough and-tumble-
stand-up-to-be knocked-down son of a gun as he in his life.'
Did you ever see such a kicking-in-the-head-knife-in-a dark-room fellow
as I am, eh?'
Our reporter meekly answered 'no.'
I want a quarter-stretch ticket to go to glory, I do. I can go in
harness preaching the bloody gospil against any minister in New York. I
know all Watts' Hymns and Fistiana, and I'd like to be an angel and
bite Gabriel's ear off.'
A man got upon one of the benches in the pit and commenced to preach in
a frenzy to the crowd. He related his experience as a gambler at
several gambling houses in Ann street and on Broadway. He told very
affecting stories about young men who bought stacks of chips and were
afterwards reduced to their bottom dollar and misery.
The minister asked 'if any one present was in need of his prayer, or of
water from the Jordan to wash out his sins, to let him hold up his
George Leese did so. 'He wanted all the water he could get from the
Jordan or any other river.'
A man who announced that his name was Sam Irving, and had been a great
scoundrel and dog-fighter, said he used to go to Harry Jenning's; to
Butler's, in Ninth Avenue; to McLaughlin's, in First Avenue; and to Kit
Burns's, to see dogs fight and snarl at each other; he went to Ireland
once to bring over a fighting-dog; the man who gave him that dog came
to a terrible end by his own hand. The speaker had been reared in sin
and shame; he had known the life of the streets; but now Jesus had
grabbed him where he lived, and he was going to do better. He wanted
every one to take warning by him. They could get Christ as well as him.
The prayer-meeting ended by the singing of the Doxology.
SAILORS' BOARDING HOUSES.
In walking along the streets in the vicinity of the water, you will
notice many buildings with the sign "Sailors' Boarding House." One
would suppose that poor Jack needed a snug resting place after his long
and stormy voyages, but it is about the last thing he finds in New
York. The houses for his accommodation are low, filthy, vile places,
where every effort is made to swindle him out of his money; the
proprietors are merciless sharks, and they keep the sailors who come to
this port in a state of the most abject slavery.
A ship comes in from a long voyage. Her men are discharged and paid
off. The runners for the boarding houses lie in wait for them, and, as
soon as they get their money, take them to the establishments which
prove so fatal to them. There they are made drunk, robbed of their
money and valuables, and of all their good clothing, and brought in
debt to their landlord. A captain in want of a crew applies to one of
these landlords for men. In order to secure them, he has to advance a
part of their wages, which the landlord claims for debts which Jack
never contracted. The men are made drunk, and in this state they sign
the shipping articles, and are sent to sea. When they recover their
senses, they are on the blue water, and prefer their present condition
to being at the mercy of the landlords. In this way, it frequently
happens that poor Jack never gets the benefit of a single penny of his
Efforts have been made by conscientious shipowners to put a stop to the
outrages of the landlords, but each one has failed. The wretches have
banded together, and have prevented sailors from shipping, and in the
end the ship owners have been compelled to abandon the sailor to the
mercy of his tyrants. Only a law of Congress, regulating sailors'
boarding houses, according to the system now in use in England, will
remedy the evil.
Hon. W. F. G. Shanks, who has given much time and research to this
matter, in a recent communication to a city journal, thus sums up his
experience and discoveries:
Among the things which I learned and the points on which I satisfied
myself thoroughly, I may mention, as of possible interest to the
public, the following:
1. I have carefully calculated that not less than one thousand
destitute women, and five hundred men, are supported by the one hundred
and seventy boarding-houses and thirty shipping offices in New York.
2. At least fifteen thousand sailors of all nations are annually
robbed, by these people, of not less than two millions of dollars. I
name this amount to be within bounds; I believe it to be at least half
as much more.
3. Only two of these houses have a legal existence; all the rest are
kept open in defiance of a State law, enacted in 1866, 'for the better
protection of the seamen,' whom these landsharks prey upon. A grand
jury was obtained which indicted the delinquents, who refused to take
out a license according to this law, but the _State_ Commissioners have
in vain urged the _City_ attorney to prosecute the offenders.
4. The landlords laugh at the authority of the State Commissioners for
licensing boarding houses for seamen, of which Mr. E. W. Chester is
President, and rely on the license to vend liquor issued by the Police
Board, of which Mr. Acton is President, as their ample protection.
5. The landlords have congregated mainly in the Fourth and Sixth Wards
of the city, in order to influence, if not control them politically.
The combination existing between boarding-house keepers and shipping-
masters enables them to cast, in any election in the City, at least one
thousand votes, and probably more.
6. Much of the smuggling in this port is done by the runners of these
7. Numbers of criminals flying from justice are aided to get to sea by
these men; and during the war hundreds of deserters from the army, who
had never been out of sight of land, and knew nothing of an ordinary
seaman's duty, were shipped by them as good seamen.
8. No inquiry is made by owners, captains, or shipping agents, into
the moral character or seamanship of the men employed by these agents.
9. Seamen are allowed to ship only when penniless, and often without
sufficient clothing to protect them from the inclement weather.
10. They are discharged from ships without the wages due them, and
have no alternative but to go to the men whom they know will rob them;
and the United States laws authorize the owners of vessels to deny them
their pay until ten days after the cargo is discharged--much longer
than the owners usually withhold it. It is these laws which throw the
sailor under the control of the 'land sharks.'
11. Foreign sailors are induced to desert their ships and go in other
vessels by landlords who aim to rob them of the advance pay which
custom exacts. The sailors thus not only lose by desertion the pay due
them by the ship they abandon, as well as the advance which, they get
from their new commander, but also forfeit their nationality and the
protection of their former flag.
12. Foreign captains frequently force their men to desert them, in
order to save their keep and back pay. This they accomplish either by
bad treatment of the men or collusion with the landlords.
13. Large ships are often detained in port, after having their cargo on
board, because of the refusal of landlords to allow the seamen to ship
while their money lasts.
14. The owners submit to this indirect control of their great interests
for fear of giving offence to the men who furnish and control the
crews. The United States has not a law which would protect owners in an
effort to change the system of shipping seamen, improving their
condition, or protecting them in their rights, or in increasing the
number and the utility of seamen.
15. There is not a single training or school ship in this port,
although Boston boasts two in successful operation. The United States
laws do not require, as they should, that every ship leaving an
American port, under the United States flag, should carry its
complement of apprentices. Neither of these practical means of building
up the merchant marine service is generally adopted in the United
States, though the experience of England, and other great maritime
powers, has shown the benefit and the necessity of both systems.
16. Generally speaking, the very worst enemies of the sailor in all
ports are the consuls who are sent to protect them. Practically, they
are the aiders and abettors of landlords. There may be exceptional
cases, but I cannot venture to name them. A special investigation of
consulate abuses would reveal the sailor as the most frequent victim.
I could mention other important points, if space permitted. To be
brief, I have seen that the sailor is without protection from
Government laws, Government agents, or the owners whose interest he
serves. He is systematically robbed, imprisoned and sold into the
hardest of servitude, as openly as negroes were sold a few years ago in
the South. If he complains of the robbery, judges, who hold their
positions by the favor of the landlords who commit the robbery, release
the culprit on bail, and send the sailor to the House of Detention as a
witness, where he is forgotten, or finally turned penniless into the
street, to wander back to the man who robbed him, to beg for assistance
and work. If he refuses to ship as landlords direct, he is forcibly put
on board by legal process, or through the agency of the whiskey bottle,
and in either case is sent penniless and almost naked to sea. They
never complain of the terms of sale. After Jack has been on a packet
ship for two months, he is glad to escape, by any means, to the ills of
the boarding houses, and after enduring that slavery for a fortnight,
he is only too glad to rush back to the hardships of the ocean life he
lately thought so terrible. His life is one desperate effort to escape
the ills he has and fly to others that he knows well enough. The sailor
has no respect for Hamlet's philosophy.
THE CHURCHES AND THE CLERGY.
The churches of New York are models of architectural beauty. Trinity,
Grace, the Temple EMANUEL, and the new Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, are
the handsomest religious edifices in America. Catholics and
Episcopalians no longer have all the magnificent churches, for the
other denominations are following hard in their footsteps.
Nearly all the churches of the city are above Fourth street, and in
some localities they crowd each other too greatly. A few are very
wealthy and are well supported, but the majority are poor and
struggling. Pew-rent is very high in New York, and only those who are
well off can afford to have seats in a thriving church. Besides this,
people seem to care little for churches in New York. There are
thousands of respectable people in the great city who never see the
inside of a church, unless some special attraction draws them there.
The entire support of the churches, therefore, falls on a few.
The fashionable churches, with the exception of Grace Church, are now
located high up town. They are large and handsome, and the
congregations are wealthy and exclusive. Forms are rigidly insisted
upon, and the reputation of the church for exclusiveness is so well
known that those in the humbler walks of life never dream of entering
its doors. They feel they would be unwelcomed, that nine tenths of the
congregation would consider them unfit to address their prayers to the
Great White Throne from so exclusive a place. The widow's mite would
cause the warden's face to glimmer with a well-bred smile of
contemptuous amazement, if laid in the midst of the crisp bank bills of
the collection; and Lazarus would lay a long time at the doors of these
churches, unless the police should remove him.
Riches and magnificence are seen on every side. The music is divine,
the service is performed to perfection, and the minister satisfies his
flock that they are all in the "narrow way," which his Master once
declared to be so difficult to the feet of the rich man. But that was
eighteen hundred years ago, and things have changed since then.
St. Alban's Episcopal Chapel, in Forty-seventh street, near Lexington
Avenue, has of late attracted much attention as being the most advanced
in the ritualistic character of its services. A writer in Putnam's
Magazine, thus describes the manner in which the service is
"celebrated" in this Chapel.
One bright Sunday morning, not long ago, I visited the 'Church of St.
Alban.' It is situated in Forty-seventh street, near Lexington Avenue,
quite beyond the business portion of the city, and is rather a plain-
looking brick building, with a peaked roof, low, stained glass windows,
and a bell on the gable in front, surmounted by a cross. I arrived some
little time before the commencement of the services, and had an
opportunity to look about a little, and note the interior arrangements.
I found the church to be capable of holding about two hundred and fifty
worshippers, with plain wooden benches for seats on each side of a
central aisle, and every bench having an announcement posted upon it,
The seats of this church are all FREE, on the following conditions, a
compliance with which is an obligation binding on each person occupying
'I. To behave as in the presence of ALMIGHTY GOD.
'II. Not to leave the church during service; remaining until the
clergy and choristers have retired.
'III. That each worshipper shall contribute, according to his ability,
to the collections, which are the only means of supporting the church.
The poor can give little, and are always welcome; but those who are
able to give should not be willing to occupy seats (which might be
availed of by others), without contributing their just share to the
The pulpit, which is elevated only three or four steps, stands on the
left-hand of the congregation, close to and in front of the vestry-room
door or passage. The stalls adjoin the organ in a recess on the vestry-
room side, with others facing them on the opposite side for antiphonal
chanting or singing. The lectern, or stand on which the Bible is
placed, for reading the lessons, is on the right side opposite the
pulpit. There is no reading-desk for other parts of the service, as in
most of the Episcopal churches.
The arrangements of the chancel occupy considerable space for a
building no larger than this, and everything is very elaborate and
ornamental. It is elevated by several steps, and inside the rails is
still further raised, so as to bring the communion-table, or altar,
prominently into view. This altar is very large, built against the rear
wall of the church, with a super-altar, having a tall gilded cross in
its centre. The decorations on the wall, and about the chancel-window,
are of the most approved pattern, drawn from the highest authorities in
ritualism and church decoration. These words, in beautiful old English
letter, crown, as it were, the altar in St. Alban's: 'He that eateth
ME, even he shall live by ME.' (John vi. 57.)
On either side of the large gilded cross, on the super-altar, is a
lofty candlestick, with a candle in it, about seven feet high, or
perhaps more. Four other candlesticks, not quite so tall, and four
others, less lofty than these, again, are on each side of the altar by
the wall; and, standing in the chancel, some little distance from the
wall, on the right and left hand, are candelabras, with branches,
holding some twenty candles each. None of these were lighted when I
entered. Soon after, the bell having stopped ringing, the organ began a
voluntary, on a low note, introductory to the opening of the service.
Presently, the introcessional hymn was begun, and then, emerging from
the vestry-room door or passage, the first thing visible was a large
wooden cross, which had to be lowered to get it through the passage,
and which, when elevated, reached some six feet above the head of the
small boy who carried it, and was, of course, in full view of the
congregation. This boy, and others following, had on white robes, or
surplices. Two of the boys carried banners, with devices, and all, with
a number of adult choristers, advanced slowly towards the chancel,
singing the introcessional. Last of all came the three officiating
priests, or ministers, with purple-velvet, crown-shaped caps on their
heads, and white garments, made like sacks, and ornamented with various
colors and symbols. Profound obeisances were made towards the altar;
the hymn was ended; the choristers took their places; and one of the
priests, on arriving in front of the chancel-rail, began the intoning
of the Litany. Morning Prayer had been said at an earlier hour.
The Litany was said as in the Episcopal Prayer Book, directly after
which, notice was given that there would be a meeting of 'The Sodality
of'--exactly what and whom I did not catch at the time. The priests
then retired for a space, during which the two candles on the altar,
and the branch candles on each side in the chancel, were lighted by a
boy having a long stick, or pole, with a light on the end for the
purpose. This boy passed half a dozen or more times in front of the
altar, and every time made, or attempted to make, an obeisance--but it
was not with any great success. The frequent repetition seemed to
reduce it to little more than the 'fashionable nod.'
The introit was one of the psalms of the Psalter. While it was being
chanted, the priests returned, and with lowly bowings, even to the
knee, passed within the chancel and advanced to the front of the altar.
The Ante-Communion was then said, the Epistle and Gospel being read by
different persons. After which, notice was given of the communion, and
'a high celebration' to occur during the week. The people stood up, and
remained standing, while one of the priests left the chancel, proceeded
to the pulpit, and, after crossing himself, said, 'In the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.'
The congregation being seated again, a discourse followed, about
twenty minutes long, earnest in tone and manner, and with much good
exhortation in it. Some of the preacher's figures were rather
startling, especially when speaking of the Lord's Supper. He told his
hearers of 'the bleeding hands of the Almighty,' offering them Christ's
flesh to eat, and Christ's blood to drink. The homily ended with the
priest's turning to the altar, and saying, 'Glory be to the Father, and
to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.' He then went back to the chancel,
where the others had been sitting, caps on, to listen to the discourse.
The plates were next passed around, and the alms, being collected, were
placed on the altar. Then, from a side-table on the right, the two boys
on duty in the chancel handed to the priest, the vessels containing the
bread and wine, which were placed on the altar. The remaining candles
were then lighted. After this, the communion service proceeded; and
when the officiating priest faced the congregation, to say the
exhortation, etc., one of the others, a step below him, held the book
open for him to read from--thus serving, as it were, for a reading-
stand. Wherever possible, the priests studiously preserved a position
with their backs to the congregation. In the part of the communion
service where the bread and wine are consecrated, the officiating
priest said the words in silence. In like manner, when he partook of
the sacrament himself, it was done in entire silence, with crossings,
and the lowliest of kneeling, and postures of adoration. Without
professing to be at all learned in the meaning of the rubrics in the
Prayer Book, I venture to think the language in regard to this part of
the service to be plain enough, and to require that the officiating
minister shall say it all openly, and in the presence of the people, so
that they can see or witness what is done by him, on every such solemn
occasion. But, at St. Alban's, the priests had their faces to the
altar, and backs to the congregation, and thus it was hardly possible
to see anything, and be sure of what was done or left undone.
A large portion of the congregation now went forward to the chancel-
rails, along, or on top of which, were napkins, or cloths, placed so as
to prevent a single crumb, or a single drop, falling to the floor.
While the people were engaged in kneeling at the rails, the priests
remained standing, and holding aloft the paten and chalice, with their
contents, for reverent and profound admiration. The administration of
the sacrament was as is usual in the Episcopal Church, save that the
first part of the words ('The body of our Lord Jesus Christ,' 'The
blood of our Lord Jesus Christ'), was said when the bread or wine was
given to each communicant, and the latter ('Take and eat this,' 'drink
this,') was said to three or four together. The cup, too, was retained
in the hands of the priest, and not 'delivered' into the hands of the
When all had gone forward who wished to partake of the Lord's Supper,
the vessels were replaced on the altar and carefully covered, the
concluding prayers were intoned, the _Gloria in Excelsis_ was chanted,
and the parting blessing was given. After a few moments, the whole
congregation stood up, and remained standing, while the priests, having
received water from the boys, with napkins, carefully cleansed and
wiped the vessels, giving them to the boys to place on the side-table.
The little fellow took up the big cross again, the others gathered in
line, with the older choristers, and slowly moving, with music, to the
passage at the side, the priests finally disappeared in the vestry.
The service, on this occasion, occupied exactly two hours; after
which, the people were allowed to go their way, and profit by what they
had seen and heard.
Talent, backed by experience and industry, will succeed in the long run
in New York, but talent is not essential to success here. We have often
wondered what _does_ make the success of some men in this city. They
have done well, and they have no merit as pulpit orators. In other
cities a good pastor need not of necessity be a good preacher. He may
endear himself to his congregation in a thousand ways, and they may
make his other good qualities atone for his oratorical deficiencies. In
New York, however, pastoral duties are almost entirely confined to the
ministrations in the church. The city is so immense, the flock so
widely scattered, that few clergymen can visit all their people. The
result is, that pastoral visiting is but little practiced here. The
clergyman is generally "at home," to all who choose to call, on a
certain evening in each week. A few civil words pass between the
shepherd and the sheep, but that is all. The mass of the people of this
city are neglected by the clergy. Possibly the people are at fault.
Indeed this is not only possible, but probable, for New York shows
little regard for the Sabbath and the Gospel.
A man of real talent will always, if he has a church conveniently and
fashionably located, draw a large congregation to hear him; but the
location and the prestige of the church often do more than the
minister, for some of our poor churches have men of genius in their
pulpits, while some of the wealthiest and most fashionable are called
on every Sunday to listen to the merest platitudes.
Let us not be misunderstood. There are able men in the New York
pulpits. We have Vinton, Chapin, Frothingham, Adams, Osgood, and many
others, but we have some weak-headed brethren also.
A few clergymen get rich in this city, the wealthy members of their
flocks no doubt aiding them. Some marry fortunes. As a general rule,
however, they have no chance of saving any money. Salaries are large
here, but expenses are heavy, and it requires a large income to live
respectably. A minister settled over a prosperous congregation cannot
maintain his social position, or uphold the dignity of his parish, on
less than from eight to ten thousand dollars per annum, if he has a
moderate sized family. Very little of this will go in extravagances, if
any. Many have to live on much smaller salaries, but they do it "by the
skin of their teeth."
Having seen much of clergymen, we believe that, whether wise men or
simpletons, they are, as a class, honest, sincere self-denying, and
God-fearing. There are, however, black sheep amongst them. These are
blackest in New York. There are not many of these, however.
The speculative mania (in financial, not theological, matters) to which
we have referred in the chapter on Wall street, invades even the ranks
of the clergy, and there are several well-known gentlemen of the cloth
who operate boldly and skilfully in the stock and gold markets, through
their brokers. One of these gentlemen was once sharply rebuked by the
broker, for his unclerical conduct, and advised, if he wished to carry
on his speculations, to go into the market openly himself, as the
broker declined being any longer the representative of a man who was
ashamed of his business.
There are still others who are not ashamed to mingle openly with the
throng of curbstone brokers, and carry on their operations behind the
sanctity of their white cravats.
The old graveyards of New York were located in what is now the heart of
the city; and, with the exception of the churchyards, have all passed
away. There are now, with the exception of the cemetery of Trinity
Church, which is located near Washington Heights, no graveyards in use
on the island. Interments are made either on the main land, or on Long
Island. The principal, and best known cemetery, is Greenwood.
These beautiful grounds are situated in the extreme south-eastern part
of Brooklyn, on Gowanus Heights. The entrance gate is about two and a
half miles from the South Ferry, and three from the Fulton Ferry, with
lines of horse-cars from both ferries. The cemetery is beautifully laid
out, and from its heights a view of the bay and the surrounding country
is obtained. The situation is naturally attractive, and large sums of
money have been expended in ornamenting the grounds, until they are now
second to none of the famous cemeteries of the Old World. The monuments
are numerous and many of them are of the most costly and elegant
nature. The contrast between these pure white shafts, and the dark
green of the sward and foliage, is both striking and beautiful, while,
in the far distance, the gazer, turning from this scene of silence and
death, lovely as it is, may behold the bright waters of the Bay or
Sound, covered with the life and activity of the commerce of this great
country, and the Metropolis itself lies almost at his feet.
Admission to the cemetery can be obtained during any week-day, by means
of tickets, which may be procured from any undertaker. On Sunday the
grounds are opened only to the proprietors, their families, or those
who come with them.
Four or five miles east of Brooklyn is the cemetery of the Evergreens.
It is very beautiful, but does not compare with Greenwood, in either
its natural or artificial attractions.
These grounds lie near the Evergreens, and are very handsome. Great
care has been bestowed upon them, and they are amongst the most
attractive in the neighborhood of the city.
This cemetery is only a few years old. It is in Westchester county,
immediately on the Harlem railway. It is about seven miles from the
city, and several trains stop at the main entrance during the day. The
company also run funeral trains when desired. The main avenue, or
boulevard, from the Central Park to White Plains, will run through
these grounds; and in a few years, when the upper part of the island is
more thickly settled, Woodlawn will be one of the principal cemeteries
of the city. In ten years more it will rival Greenwood.
There are three thousand lawyers practicing at the New York bar. A few
of these have large incomes, two or three making as much as fifty
thousand dollars per annum; but the average income of the majority is
limited. An income of ten or fifteen thousand dollars is considered
large in the profession, and the number of those earning such a sum is
In most cities the members of the legal profession form a clique, and
are very clannish. Each one knows everybody else, and if one member of
the bar is assailed, the rest are prompt to defend him. In New York,
however, there is no such thing as a legal "fraternity." Each man is
wrapped in his own affairs, and knows little and cares less about other
members of the profession. We have been surprised to find how little
these men know about each other. Some have never even heard of others
who are really prosperous and talented.
The courts of the city are very numerous; and each man, in entering
upon his practice, makes a specialty of some one or more of them, and
confines himself to them. His chances of success are better for doing
this, than they would be by adopting a general practice. Indeed, it
would be simply impossible for one man to practice in all.
Many of the best lawyers rarely go into the courts. They prefer chamber
practice, and will not try a case in court if they can help it. The
process in the courts is slow and vexatious, and consumes too much of
their time. Their chamber practice is profitable to them, and
beneficial to the community, as it prevents much tedious litigation.
Many lawyers with fair prospects and comfortable incomes, who are
succeeding in their profession in other places, come to New York,
expecting to rise to fame and fortune more rapidly here. They are
mistaken. The most accomplished city barrister finds success a slow and
uncertain thing. It takes some unusually fortunate circumstance to
introduce a new lawyer favorably to a New York public.
The profession in this city can boast of some eminent names in its list
of members, amongst which are those of Charles O'Conor, William M.
Evarts, the present Attorney-General of the United States, James F.
Brady, David Dudley Field, and William J. A. Fuller. These, or any of
them, are men of the first ability in their profession, and are amongst
the most honored citizens of the metropolis.
THE METROPOLITAN FIRE DEPARTMENT.
Previous to the year 1865, New York suffered from all the evils of a
volunteer fire department. It had three thousand eight hundred and ten
firemen, with a proper force of engines. The various companies were
jealous of each other, and there was scarcely a fire at which this
jealousy did not lead to blows. Frequently the fire would be left to
burn while the rival companies adjusted their difficulties. The firemen
seemed to take a delight in the most disgraceful and lawless acts, and
were more of an annoyance than a benefit to the city.
THE NEW SYSTEM.
The bill for the organization of a Metropolitan Department became a
law, by the action of the Legislature, in March, 1865. As the
inauguration of the new system would be the downfall of the old, the
friends of the latter resolved to resist it. A case was brought before
the Court of Appeals, involving the constitutionality of the bill, and
the law was sustained. Measures were set on foot to get the new system
to work as soon as possible, but, in the meantime, the leaders of the
opposition to it endeavored to be revenged, by disbanding the old
force, and leaving the city without any means of extinguishing fires.
The danger was averted, however, by promptly detailing a force from the
police to act as firemen in case of necessity. By November, 1865, the
new system was thoroughly organized, and fairly at work.
The department is under the charge of five commissioners, appointed by
the Governor. They make rules and regulations by which the force is
governed, exercise a general supervision over its affairs, and are
responsible to the Legislature for their acts. There is a chief
engineer, an assistant engineer, and ten district engineers. There are
thirty-four steam engines, four hand engines, and twelve hook-and-
ladder companies in the department, the hand engines being located in
the extreme upper part of the island. Each steam engine has a force of
twelve men attached to it, viz., a foreman, assistant foreman, an
engineer of steamer, a driver, a stoker, and seven firemen. All the
engines and carriages are drawn by horses. There are five hundred and
four men, and one hundred and forty-six horses in the department. Each
man is paid by the city for his services. The chief engineer receives
four thousand five hundred dollars per annum, foremen of companies
thirteen hundred dollars, the engineers of steamers twelve hundred
dollars, assistant engineers eleven hundred dollars, and firemen one
thousand dollars. The steamers were built by the Amoskeag Manufacturing
Company at Manchester, New Hampshire, and are amongst the very best of
the kind in use. They cost four thousand dollars apiece.
The engine houses are all connected with the Central Station by
telegraph. They are models of neatness and convenience. The lower floor
is taken up with the apparatus and the horses. The basement is used for
storing the fuel for the steamers, and also contains a furnace, by
means of which the water in the engine boilers is always kept hot. The
upper floor is the dormitory. The twelve men composing the company
sleep here. A watch is always kept below, so that the men above, who
are allowed to go to bed after ten o'clock, may be awakened without
delay. Everything is neat and ready for use. It requires but fifteen
seconds in the day, and one minute at night to be ready for action, and
on the way to the fire.
[Illustration: Fireman on duty.]
The men are not allowed to have any other employment to occupy their
time. The department claims their whole duty. A certain number are
required to be always at the engine house. In case of an alarm being
sounded during the absence of a fireman from the engine house, he runs
directly to the fire, where he is sure to find his company. Everything
is in readiness to leave the house at a moment's notice. The horses
stand ready harnessed, and are so well trained that but a few seconds
suffices to attach them to the steamer. The fire needs only to be
lighted in the furnace, and in a few minutes the steam gauge shows a
sufficiency of power for the work to be done. Great care is taken of
the horses. They are groomed every day, and carefully fed at six
o'clock in the morning and at six in the evening. If not used on duty,
they are exercised every day by being led to and fro through the
streets in the vicinity of the engine house. They are fiery, splendid
animals, and are so well trained that they will stand with perfect
steadiness immediately in front of a burning building.
When an alarm of fire is given, it is at once telegraphed from the
nearest station to the central office, and repeated. The central office
immediately strikes a gong, by telegraph, in the house of every engine
which is to attend the fire. The locality, and often the precise spot
of the fire can be ascertained by these signals. For instance, the bell
strikes 157, thus: _one_--a pause--_five_--another pause,--and then
_seven_. The indicator will show that this signal or alarm is given
from the corner of the Bowery and Grand street. The fire is either at
this point, or within its immediate neighborhood.
There is a gong in each engine house on which the alarm is struck from
the central station. As soon as the sharp strokes give the signal of
danger and point out the locality, every man springs to his post. The
horses are hitched in a few seconds, the fire is lighted in the
furnace, and the steamer and hose carriage start for the scene of the
conflagration. The foreman runs, on foot, ahead of his steamer to clear
the way, and the driver may keep up with him, but is not allowed to
pass him. Only the engineer, his assistant, and the stoker, are allowed
to ride on the engine. The rest of the company go on foot. Fast driving
is severely punished, and racing is absolutely prohibited. The men are
required to be quiet and orderly in their deportment.
Upon reaching the fire communication is made between the engine and the
plug or hydrant, and the work begins. The chief engineer is required to
attend all fires, and all orders proceed from him. The most rigid
discipline is preserved, and the work goes on with a rapidity and
precision which are in striking contrast to the inefficiency of the old
A force of policemen is at once sent to every fire. These stretch ropes
across the street at proper distances, and no one but the members of
the Fire Department, who may be known by their uniforms and badges are
allowed to pass these barriers. In this way the firemen have plenty of
room to work, lookers on are kept at a safe distance, and the movable
property in the burning building is saved from thieves.
The life of a fireman is very arduous and dangerous, and applicants for
admission into the department are required to be persons of good health
and good character. The men are often called upon not only to face
great personal danger, but they are also subjected to a severe physical
strain from loss of rest and fatigue. For a week at a time they will be
called out and worked hard every night, but all the while are required
to be as prompt and active as though they had never lost a night's
rest. They are constantly performing acts of personal heroism, which
pass unnoticed, in the bustle and whirl of busy life around them, but
which are treasured up in the heart of some grateful mother, father,
wife, or husband, whose loved one has been rescued from death by the
Nor is the gallantry all on the side of the fireman. During the past
year there have been numerous instances where an intrepid policeman has
nobly risked his life to save some threatened fellow creature from
death by fire or by drowning.
In passing the corner of Broadway and Houston street, you will see, to
the east of the great thoroughfare, an immense red and blue lantern
attached to a low, dingy frame building. This is the sign of Harry
Hill's dance-house. It is one of the sights, and one of the saddest
sights, too, of New York. As you approach the place from Broadway, you
notice a narrow door at the side of the main entrance, opening upon a
flight of stairs which lead to the dancing hall. This is the private
entrance for women. They are admitted free of charge as their presence
is the chief attraction to the men who visit the place. Passing through
the main door you enter a room used as a bar room and eating saloon. It
differs in nothing from the average low class bar rooms of the city. A
narrow passage-way between the counters, leads to the entrance of the
dancing hall, which apartment is situated on the floor above the bar
room and in the rear of it. Visitors to this hall are charged an
admittance fee of twenty-five cents, and are expected to order liquor
or refreshments as soon as they enter.
Harry Hill is generally to be seen moving amongst his guests while the
entertainment is going on. He is a short, thickset man, with a
resolute, self-possessed air, and is about fifty years old. He is very
decided in his manner, and is fully equal to the task of enforcing his
orders. The "fancy" stand in awe of him, as they know he will follow up
any command with a blow or a summary ejection from his premises. He has
been in the business for twelve years, and his profits are estimated at
over fifty thousand dollars a year now, clear of all expenses. He is
said to be a kind, humane man, and is reputed to give largely to
charitable purposes. He manages every department himself, although he
has a manager to conduct affairs for him. His eye is on everybody and
THE DANCE HALL.
It is Harry Hill's boast that he keeps a "respectable house." Unlike
the other dance-houses of the city, there are no girls attached to this
establishment. All the company, both male and female, consists of
outsiders, who merely come here to spend an evening. The rules of the
house are printed in rhyme, and are hung conspicuously in various parts
of the hall. They are rigid, and prohibit any profane, indecent, or
boisterous conduct. The most disreputable characters are to be seen in
the audience, but no thieving or violence ever occurs within the hall.
Whatever happens after persons leave the hall, the proprietor allows no
violation of the law within his doors.
The hall, itself, consists simply of a series of rooms, which have been
"knocked into one" by the removal of the partition walls. As all of
these rooms were not of the same height, the ceiling of the hall
presents a curious patchwork appearance. A long counter occupies one
end of the hall, at which liquors and refreshments are served. There is
a stage at another side, on which low farces are performed, and a tall
Punch and Judy box occupies a conspicuous position. Benches and chairs
are scattered about, and a raised platform is provided for the
"orchestra," which consists of a piano, violin, and a bass viol. The
centre of the room is a clear space, and is used for dancing. If you do
not dance you must leave, unless you atone for your deficiency by a
liberal expenditure of money. The amusements are coarse and low. The
songs are broad, and are full of blasphemous outbursts, which are
received with shouts of delight.
You will see all sorts of people at Harry Hill's. The women are, of
course, women of the town; but they are either just entering upon their
career, or still in its most prosperous phase. They are all handsomely
dressed, and some of them are very pretty. Some of them have come from
the better classes of society, and have an elegance and refinement of
manner and conversation, which win them many admirers in the crowd.
They drink deep and constantly during the evening. Indeed, one is
surprised to see how much liquor they imbibe. The majority come here
early in the evening alone, but few go away without company for the
night. You do not see the same face here very long. The women cannot
escape the inevitable doom of the lost sisterhood. They go down the
ladder; and Harry Hill keeps his place clear of them after the first
flush of their beauty and success is past. You will then find them in
the Five Points and Water street hells.
As for the men, they represent all kinds of people and professions. You
may see here men high in public life, side by side with the Five Points
ruffian. Judges, lawyers, policemen off duty and in plain clothes,
officers of the army and navy, merchants, bankers, editors, soldiers,
sailors, clerks, and even boys, mingle here in friendly confusion. As
the profits of the establishment are derived from the bar, drinking is
of course encouraged, and the majority of the men are more or less
drunk all the time. They spend their money freely in such a condition.
Harry Hill watches the course of affairs closely during the evening. If
he knows a guest and likes him, he will take care that he is not
exposed to danger, after he is too far gone in liquor to protect
himself. He will either send him home, or send for his friends. If the
man is a stranger, he does not interfere--only, no crime must be
committed in his house. Thieves, pickpockets, burglars, roughs, and
pugilists are plentifully scattered through the audience. These men are
constantly on the watch for victims. It is easy for them to drug the
liquor of a man they are endeavoring to secure, without the knowledge
of the proprietor of the house; or, if they do not tamper with his
liquor, they can persuade him to drink to excess. In either case, they
lead him from the hall, under pretence of taking him home. He never
sees home until they have stripped him of all his valuables. Sometimes
he finds his long home, in less than an hour after leaving the hall;
and the harbor police find his body floating on the tide at sunrise.
Women frequently decoy men to places where they are robbed. No crime is
committed in the dance hall, but plans are laid there, victims are
marked, and tracked to loss or death, and, frequently, an idle,
thoughtless visit there, has been the beginning of a life of ruin. The
company to be met with, is that which ought to be shunned. Visits from
curiosity are dangerous. Stay away. To be found on the Devil's ground
is voluntarily to surrender yourself a willing captive to him. Stay
away. It is a place in which no virtuous woman is ever seen, and in
which an honest man ought to be ashamed to show his face.
THE WICKEDEST WOMAN IN NEW YORK
We have already quoted at some length from an interesting work entitled
"_Asmodeus in New York_," recently published in Paris, and we now ask
the reader's attention to the following sketch of an entertainment
given at the mansion of a female, whose infamous exploits as an
abortionist have earned her the title of "the wickedest woman in New
A BALL AT THE WICKEDEST WOMAN'S.
We entered. The lady of the house, richly attired in a silver-brocaded
dress and wearing a crown of diamonds, very kindly welcomed us,
thanking Asmodeus for bringing in a distinguished stranger. The
introduction over, we mingled with the crowd, and went through the
rooms opened to the guests, while the lady led to an adjacent room a
few female friends, to show them her necklaces, rings, bracelets, and
'American ladies,' said Asmodeus, 'avail themselves of every
opportunity to exhibit their treasures, down to their silver, china,
and linen. They are fond of jewels, the most showy being especially in
favor. But I would not warrant that all those gems that flash in the
gaslight are genuine stones. There is such a demand now for California
diamonds that, very likely, many sets now adorning the wives of lucky
speculators are mingled with worthless imitations. Time is necessary to
learn how to distinguish precious stones from spurious ones, and few
persons can devote as much leisure as did yonder Jew banker in
collecting pearls, the smallest of which in his possession is worth
twenty thousand dollars. He recently gave to his wife a necklace made
up of twenty of such pearls, and their number increases every year.'
In the meanwhile, dancing had commenced in several spacious rooms; in
others, card-playing was being indulged in. Servants, wearing black
garments and white neckties, were busy carrying refreshments around.
Many persons, preferring the pleasure of eating to those of playing or
dancing, were seated in another room at a table loaded with meats and
delicacies. Next to this, another room, elegantly furnished, was
crowded with young and old men, indulging in smoking. Boxes of cigars
were piled up on elegant _etageres_; and I noticed that many a smoker,
besides the cigar he was smoking, filled his pockets with that luxury.
While going through the several rooms opened to the public, Asmodeus
called my attention to their costly furniture. Some of these rooms were
lined with fine _brocatelle_, imported from France, Italy, China, and
Japan, the latter conspicuous for their fantastical drawing and
patterns; others with Persian and Indian cloths; and the several pieces
of furniture were of unexceptionable taste. Some were inlaid with gold,
bronze, or china; some were made up of rosewood, artistically carved.
Gems of art and curiosities of every description were displayed upon
_etageres_; and through the house, made bright as day by hundreds of
gaslights, one walked on soft, smooth carpets of the best manufactures
of Europe. They alone were worth a fortune.
Amazed at such luxury, exceeding that of many a patrician family in
Europe, I thought our Amphitryon was either one of those wealthy
merchants whose ships carry the American flag over the broad ocean, or
those manufacturers who build up enormous fortunes at the expense of
'You are mistaken,' said Asmodeus. 'We will call, by and by, on one of
those merchant-princes you allude to. For the present we are in the
house of one of Juno's priestesses. You are aware, Juno was called
Lucina when she superintended the birth of children. But the lady who
has welcomed us so kindly is far from assisting in the birth of
children; her calling, on the contrary, is to prevent it; she practices
infanticide every day, and it is by carrying on this business she has
obtained the wealth she is making so great a display of. Every one of
those window-shades, so nicely arranged to ward off the rays of the
sun, cost one thousand dollars. They were painted by our best artists,
none of them having declined to display his talents for the benefit of
Madame Killer--such is the name of the owner of this splendid
residence. As there are thirty windows, you may easily figure up the
cost of those gorgeous shades. That of all the furniture is in the same
proportion: every piece of it, I dare say, has been purchased with the
money received for the murder of a child.'
Bewildered at these revelations, I thought Asmodeus was deceiving me.
He quietly continued:
'That stout gentleman, going from one to another, and making himself
affable with everybody, who looks like a good-natured person, and whose
unctuous manners remind one of a clergyman, is the husband of Madame
Killer. He is an accomplished scholar, and has obtained his diploma
from one of our best medical colleges. He might have obtained a
competency by honest practice. But when Madame Killer, already enriched
through her nefarious business, hinted that she was disposed to marry
him, Bungling eagerly took the hint, and espoused this abortionist.
'Of course, after the marriage, Madame Killer retained her own name, as
it was already a notorious one. Love, you may be sure, had nothing to
do with this matrimonial transaction. Madame Killer married Bungling
because his science might be of some service in many delicate
circumstances--in about the same way a merchant takes in a partner
when he has too much to do. The couple have been uniformly prosperous
since they married, about ten years ago. True, they had two or three
unpleasant misunderstandings with the police, on account of a few poor
creatures dying of ill-treatment at their hands; but they came out of
all of them triumphantly.'
'Must I infer from this that the laws of America do not punish
infanticide?' said I, 'that fearful crime of getting rid of children
before or after their natural birth. Even the unfortunate who stakes
her life to conceal the consequences of a fault, is amenable to law;
she is punished for child-murder, as well as her accomplice, in every
'By and by,' answered Asmodeus, 'I will explain that subject to you. I
will content myself, for the present, by saying that the laws of
America are no less severe than those of Europe, as regards the crimes
of infanticide and abortion. But in such cases, as well as in many
others, the law often remains a dead letter.'
I longed to depart from the house. I fancied, after Asmodeus's
frightful revelations, the very air we breathed was impregnated with
deadly miasma. Dancing had been interrupted for awhile; and in a hall,
connected with a conservatory, filled with rare and odoriferous plants,
a concert was beginning. Every note from a sonorous piano sounded in my
ear like the wailing of one of those poor little beings the Amphitryons
had brought to an untimely death. And then, of what character were
those women, crowding the rooms, in spite of the crumpling of their
splendid dresses? Who were those men, who had either accompanied or
were courting them?
'You are quite mistaken,' said Asmodeus, 'if you believe we are in the
midst of a mixed crowd, such as that denominated the _demi-monde_ in
the French capital, and not tolerated, as yet, at private receptions
here, or at places of public resort. To be sure, what is called the
social evil unfortunately exists in New York, as in the large cities of
Europe; but it keeps aloof from decent society. It is true, that such
is the discretion of corrupt females, it is often impossible to
distinguish an honest woman from one who has lost her chastity. Of
course I do not speak of those creatures so deeply fallen into habits
of corruption, that they shrink no longer from exhibiting their
degradation. Perhaps we shall have an opportunity of visiting the
backgrounds of our civilization, where those wretched creatures live.
For the present, I must set you right concerning the standing in
society of the guests of this house.
'Most of those men, who so often appreciate the good things served
around by the waiters, are wealthy merchants, lawyers, and physicians.
I even recognize among them a few magistrates and legislators. They
have accompanied their wives; and some, even, have brought their
daughters to this dreadful house, where some unfortunate woman is,
perhaps, dying in the upper story, and paying with her life the
violation of nature's laws. Some guests have come through curiosity,
attracted by the splendors of a residence opened for the first time to
the gaze of strangers. Others have availed themselves of the
opportunity of gayly spending here a few idle hours, and do not trouble
themselves with the Amphitryons' respectability. Lastly, many guests
did not deem it safe to decline Madame Killer's invitation; for that
Thug of society holds in her hands the honor of hundreds of families,
and it would be dangerous to arouse her resentment. A single word from
her lips, some well-concocted story, would bring on awful scandals. She
could, for instance, apprise yonder husband, so attentive to his wife,
that the latter, during the two years he has served his country abroad,
has applied to Madame Killer's art to remove the consequences of an
adulterous intrigue. That young man, who has just inherited a large
estate, and seems so much enamoured of that light-haired young lady,
might learn, tomorrow morning, through an anonymous letter, that the
fair beauty, instead of spending, as he believes she did, the summer
months in the country, had secreted herself in Madame Killer's
'Undoubtedly, the dread of some awful revelation has brought here many
persons, as out of five hundred invited guests only a few do not attend
Madame Killer's _soiree_. But I am far from believing that they would
not have come, under any circumstances, even had they been free from
fear of personal consequences. Madame Killer is wealthy, and nobody
cares about the way she has obtained her wealth. Whoever is worth one
million dollars, no matter how acquired, honestly or dishonestly, is
welcome everywhere, and his _soirees_ and receptions are attended by
the best society. I see, for instance, talking with Madame Killer, a
merchandise broker, whose name was given to a ship launched this very
morning, and who would be shut out of decent society in any other
country. Three years ago, he failed to the amount of two or three
millions of dollars. According to his balance-sheet, he could pay
fifty cents on the dollar. But, when his book-keeper joyfully informed
his employer of such an unexpected result, "Change it, by all means,"
exclaimed the broker, "my creditors do not expect even fifteen cents on
the dollar, and were I to give them fifty, what benefit would I derive
from my failure?" And he paid ten cents only on the dollar.
'Near that honest broker--who has become wealthy in consequence of that
transaction, and at the same time a man of importance, being now a
director of a trust company, and other concerns--see that young man,
wearing side-whiskers, after the English fashion. His light hair and
blue eyes denote his German origin. He is an exchange broker, and made
two hundred thousand dollars last year in this quick way: Pretending to
have realized large profits in stock gambling, he succeeded in
inspiring such confidence in the president of one of our most
respectable banks, where he kept his account, that his checks were
indiscriminately certified by that officer. One check for two hundred
thousand dollars was in that way certified, and the money had just been
paid out to a compeer, when the directors of the bank discovered that
the adventurer had but a small deposit in their hands. He failed the
next day, and the president, who had rashly caused a heavy loss to the
bank, blew out his own brains.
'The guest who is making his bow to the lady of the house, was formerly
secretary of one of our railroad companies. The stock had gone up one
hundred per cent. above par, on the strength of the manager's report,
exhibiting the prosperous condition of the company's affairs, when an
over-issue of stock, to the amount of two millions of dollars, was
detected. To satisfy the public clamor, the secretary and another
officer of the company were discharged. But all inquiry respecting this
stupendous fraud was indefinitely postponed. The discharged employes of
the company now live in high style, and give parties, which their
former employers, the directors of the railroad concern, do not fail to
Next to him, that dandy, who is talking with a gentleman whose beard,
though he is a judge of the Supreme Court, might grace the chin of a
musketeer, is a wealthy banker's son. He is fresh from the State's
prison; and, strange indeed, the magistrate he is speaking to, is the
very one who sentenced him--perhaps, because of the pressure of public
opinion, which must, after all, be taken into consideration. Our dandy,
when his father retired, became sole manager of a banking house, and
attempted to double, in a few weeks, the wealth his father had toiled
thirty years to accumulate.
Discarding legitimate speculation, he gambled at the Stock Exchange,
which soon swallowed up the money and other deposits confided to his
keeping. Then he became almost crazy. To keep up his credit with our
banks and procure resources--and led astray by the hope of realizing
profits large enough to make up his losses--he became a forger. He
imitated the signatures of his correspondents, his own friends, in
fact, of everybody in town; and, one morning, the people were startled
in reading in the newspapers that forged notes, amounting to several
millions of dollars, were flooding the street. The young man was
sentenced to prison for a term of five years--one for each forged
million! as remarked the wag who is now talking with him.'
'How is it he is out of prison?'
'That is precisely a point of American law which deserves a passing
notice. Most of the State governors are vested with the pardoning
power. When the exercise of such a prerogative devolves upon State
legislatures, corrupting influences are less to be apprehended. A
single individual may be coaxed to pardon by his political friends, or
even bribed. But money, and political connections, are of little avail
when one has to deal with one hundred legislators. In New York State,
the legislature has no control over the pardoning power, which is
vested exclusively in the governor. The family and friends of that
youth represented his crime, stupendous as it was, as the first he had