“The Lord only knows. Captain Jamie is real peeved with me, an’ he won’t let me out until I’m about croakin’. Now, brother, I’m going to give you the tip. The only way is shut your face an’ forget it. Yellin’ an’ hollerin’ don’t win you no money in this joint. An’ the way to forget is to forget. Just get to rememberin’ every girl you ever knew. That’ll cat up hours for you. Mebbe you’ll feel yourself gettin’ woozy. Well, get woozy. You can’t beat that for killin’ time. An’ when the girls won’t hold you, get to thinkin’ of the fellows you got it in for, an’ what you’d do to ’em if you got a chance, an’ what you’re goin’ to do to ’em when you get that same chance.”
That man was Philadelphia Red. Because of prior conviction he was serving fifty years for highway robbery committed on the streets of Alameda. He had already served a dozen of his years at the time he talked to me in the jacket, and that was seven years ago. He was one of the forty lifers who were double-crossed by Cecil Winwood. For that offence Philadelphia Red lost his credits. He is middle-aged now, and he is still in San Quentin. If he survives he will be an old man when they let him out.
I lived through my twenty-four hours, and I have never been the same man since. Oh, I don’t mean physically, although next morning, when they unlaced me, I was semi-paralyzed and in such a state of collapse that the guards had to kick me in the ribs to make me crawl to my feet. But I was a changed man mentally, morally. The brute physical torture of it was humiliation and affront to my spirit and to my sense of justice. Such discipline does not sweeten a man. I emerged from that first jacketing filled with a bitterness and a passionate hatred that has only increased through the years. My God—when I think of the things men have done to me! Twenty-four hours in the jacket! Little I thought that morning when they kicked me to my feet that the time would come when twenty-four hours in the jacket meant nothing; when a hundred hours in the jacket found me smiling when they released me; when two hundred and forty hours in the jacket found the same smile on my lips.
Yes, two hundred and forty hours. Dear cotton-woolly citizen, do you know what that means? It means ten days and ten nights in the jacket. Of course, such things are not done anywhere in the Christian world nineteen hundred years after Christ. I don’t ask you to believe me. I don’t believe it myself. I merely know that it was done to me in San Quentin, and that I lived to laugh at them and to compel them to get rid of me by swinging me off because I bloodied a guard’s nose.
I write these lines to-day in the Year of Our Lord 1913, and to-day, in the Year of Our Lord 1913, men are lying in the jacket in the dungeons of San Quentin.
I shall never forget, as long as further living and further lives be vouchsafed me, my parting from Philadelphia Red that morning. He had then been seventy-four hours in the jacket.