Out of jail, I drifted with the tide. I was arrested for a trick that, if I had got my just dues, would have put me in prison for ten years, but I got off with three years, and came out after doing two years and nine months.
When a person is cooped up he has lots of time to think. It’s think, think, think, and hope. Many’s the time I said, “Oh, if I only get out and still have my health, what a change there will be!” And I meant it.
Isn’t it queer how people will say, “I can’t stop drinking,” but when they’re in jail they have to! The prison is a sanitarium for drunkards. They don’t drink while on a visit there. Then why not stop it while one has a free foot? I thought of all these things while I was locked up, and I decided that when I was free I would hunt up my wife and baby and be a man.
Prison at best isn’t a pleasant place, but you can get the best in it if you behave. There’s no coaxing you to be good. They won’t say, “If you don’t behave I’ll send you home.” It isn’t like school. You have to behave or it’s worse for you, for they certainly put you through some pretty tough things. Many’s the time I got on my knees and told God all about it. If a man is crossing the street, sees a car coming, and is sure it will hit him, the first thing he says is, “Oh, God, save me!” The car misses him by a foot, and he forgets how much he owes. He simply says, “Thank you, God; when I’m in danger I’ll call on You again.” It was so with me. Out in the world again, I forgot all about all the promises I made in prison.
[Illustration: A Bowery lodging-house.]
“Saved by grace”
Twelve years later, after a life spent on the road and in prison, I found myself on the Bowery, in the fall of 1892, without a friend, “down and out.” After spending my last dollar in ——’s saloon, I was sitting down in the back room of that place, wondering if I dared ask —— for a drink, when in he walked. He looked at me, and said, “Now, Danny, I think you had better get a move on! Get out and hustle. You are broke, and you know I am not running this place for fun.”
I took it kind of hard, but looked at him and said, “All right.” I got up from the chair where I’d been sitting and walked out, not caring what I did, but bound to get some money. Now, —— was a good fellow in his way; they all are if you have the price; but saloon-keepers are not running their places for the benefit of others, and when a man’s money’s gone they don’t want him around. I had spent all I had, about twenty dollars, and now I was turned out, and it served me right.
Now there’s something in rum that fascinates, something we can’t understand. I wanted whiskey, and was ready to do anything to get it. The appetite in me was fierce. No one knows the terrible pangs, the great longing, but one who has been up against it. And nothing can satisfy the awful craving but whiskey.