June 20, 2017

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Steve is typing up all (or most) of Mathew's reports from the New York "police office," written while we were caused to be separated by my father, and he was trying to establish himself in a career so he could formally ask for my hand. We were already pledged to one another, you see; I was 19, and he was 23 at this time. The following year we would elope, but that's another story. Steve feels that we were not allowed to even correspond; but that I could find, by hook or crook, copies of this paper which he published these reports in. I knew, through the grape vine, that he had ended up there. How I relished each edition! Even though my dear Mathew--who was easily influenced by his compatriots--was exposed to such horrors of the big city, which I fretted over. Still, he was the same dear fellow, and I believed in him. In point of fact, he never let me down.

I would get one of these papers--usually from my oldest sister, who was married, and hence didn't live at the house--and I would eagerly await the time I could sit in a corner somewhere, out of sight, and giggle over Mathew's writing. Not only that, I could see how he was putting the classical education I had given him, in our tutoring sessions, to good use! Well, I suppose one could call it "good use"...because he sort of threw in these references, quoted poetry and Greek classics, as though it was all "spice in the stew." I didn't mind. I craved his dear humor; I burned with jealousy that others benefitted from it, while I missed it so; I burned with pride, as I said last entry, that he was such a naturally-gifted writer, and that he was mine!

Now, Steve has just typed one that is particularly funny. It also bears Mathew's trademarks in many respects, including his fondness for vagabonds (or, as he would once term them, counting himself, at the time, among them, "vagabones"). Since Steve has just written an Update he doesn't want to displace, I gave him to feel that I would be very pleased, indeed, to present it in my Journal. But I have told him not to truncate it. I want you to read the report in its entirety, just as I would have read it, giggling, with tears trickling down my face (tears of happines, love, and longing), hiding in my corner or with my back to a tall tree somewhere by my favorite brook. This report is from the April 24, 1835 edition. He would only be in New York another month or so. I would see him on my birthday! Or so I am giving Steve the "nod" to say.

I reproduce the entire report, below.

Love to each and all,
Abby

 

[Reported for the Transcript.]

Police Office.
The first bright "broth of a boy" that was put to the bar this morning, was, like Joseph's coat, "of many colors." He went by the cognomen of Clark, and was entered on the watch returns as being indecorously drunk and doubly disguised--videlicet, disguised with drink, and disguised with paint; his comprehension was uncommonly confused and cloudy, and so was his complexion: In short, it was difficult to decide to what description of human beings he belonged, or whether he was not one of the baboon tribe. His hands were perfectly black--so were his breeches; his face was forty colors--the predominating hue, however, was a coal black, turned up with sky blue; and the tip of his nose was superbly surmounted by a great grog blossom, which was as red and glowing as a live coal. He sat on the seat by the side of a swarthy negro, and it was somewhat difficult to tell which was the blackest.

"Put that man of color to the bar," said the magistrate: "which one, sir," was the watchman's answer. "The shorter of the two," was the rejoinder. "If you please, sir, there is but one man of color here," said the captain, "for this here other black looking beauty is only a colored man." "That sounds something like a distinction without a difference." "No, if you please, sir, there's a wast deal of difference, for this here biggest black is a rale bred and born man of color, a genuine nigger; but this here other black fellow is only a colored man--he's been colored for the occasion, pro trumpery, as they say among the Greeks."

"Being his first appearance in that character and positively for the last night only," as they say in the drama, said Billy Clark, or as he might with more propriety be termed, Billy Black, who endeavored to stand upright and steer a straight course towards the bar. But it was no go--for straight ahead he could not go, and consequently he turned cotton spinner, and made a reel of it.

Our "pro-trumpery" Billy Black had been out to dine, or rather, he had dined out, if his own account may be credited; for he had been fishing for clams--couldn't catch any--fell into the river--was fished out himself as an odd-fish, by an odd fish, (a man with one leg, one arm, and one eye) and for fear that the bath should give him a cold, he got hot before dinner--then picked up the heads of two and the tails of three herrings, and sat down against a spile on the dock and dined most philosophically, like the saints of old, upon fried fragments. "I prefer infinitely the extremities of fried fish," said Bill to his friend, "before any other portion of them, but they relish rather better with rum than without." His friend's credit was as good as Bill's appetite--another noggin of rum was procured, and as a necessary consequence, Bill lost his centre of gravity and again fell into the river; his seven-sided friend wasn't sober enough to assist him with any other muscle but the tongue, and unwilling that Bill should become food for the muscles and clams, he bawled lustily for assistance. Six stout fellows drew Bill out--put him under a pump--washed him well--and hung him up to dry before the fire in "Loafer's Hall." Bill soon sunk into a gentle slumber, and they then procured a quantity of paint and ornamented his frontispiece, &c. until his own mother would not have known him. They then placed a high conical cap on his cranium and turned him out in the street to seek his fortune; this was soon found, for in five minutes he was in the watch house.

"It's very singular," said he, passing his thick-coated hands across his still more thickly coated face, "it's very wonderful what a sensation one's skin gets by just sipping a little liquor over night. I drank last night to quench thirst; and this morning my skin's drier than ever," added he, rubbing his hands together. "I feel so benumbed, that it must have frozen very hard last night."

"Have you any home?" said the magistrate.

"Her march is on the mountain wave, her home is on the deep," said Billy.

Mag.--Have you any settled occupation? [Here Billy began to "settle down by the head," as the sailors say of a sinking ship, from the effects of the rum, and the watchman woke him up.] Have you any regular employment, I say?

"Regular!" muttered poor Bill; "I get drunk very regular."

"Take him over," was the word, and taken over he was.

Charles W. Francisco was brought up for behaving disorderly at the Park theatre. "I deny the hallegation," said he, "in tea totum. I'm a gentleman, I'm a scholar, I'm a--

Mag.--Yes, and you're a drunkard.

Pris.--You're a no such thing.

Mag.--Take him over.

He was discharged at 9 o'clock with a reprimand--afterwards lost $50--got still more in liquor--then went to the Auction Lunch, threw a knife, ran at Mr. George Griswold, and threatened to stab him. He was secured and taken to the police office.

Mag.--What! you're here drunk again?

Pris.--Not again, sir--it's the same old drunk--I'm a trump card--a full trump--I can trump out.

Mag.--Yes, but you must trump or tramp into Bridewell first. Committed.

The name of James Johnson was called; and up stept a half drunk, half sober sort of person.

Mag.--What did you beat your wife for, Johnson?

Pris.--Please, sir, I've got no wife to beat--worse luck.

2d Pris.--Please, sir, it's me you mean.

Mag.--Is your name James Johnson?

2d Pris.--It is.

There happened to be two of the same name--one beat his wife brutally, and the other got drunk and beat the watchman. Both were committed.