Many’s the time I’ve stood on the Bowery and cursed God and the day I was born, and wished that I was dead. But here I was! Nobody cared for me, and why should they, for I did not care for myself. I did not even think God cared much or He would have done something. I imagined the Devil thought he had me for keeps, and so he did not exert himself very much either. I was out of the saloon, on the street, and little as I imagined such a thing would ever happen, I never entered ——’s saloon again. All unknown to me the turning-point in my life had come.
Sizing up the situation, I knew I must have a drink, but how was I to get it? Up to this time I’d done everything on the calendar except murder, and I don’t know how I missed that. I’ve seen men killed, have been in a few shoot-ups myself, and bear some scars, but I know at this writing that God and a mother’s prayers saved me from this awful crime.
Among the many accomplishments suited to the life I was leading was that of a “strong-arm man,” and I determined to put it into use now, for I was desperate.
The rule in this dastardly work is always to select a man smaller and weaker than one’s self. As I looked about I saw a man coming up the Bowery who seemed to answer to the requirements, and I said to myself, “This is my man!” I walked up to him and touched him on the shoulder, but as he straightened up I saw that he was as big as myself, and I hesitated. I would have taken the chances even then, but he started back and asked what I wanted. I said I was hungry, thinking that he would put his hand in his pocket, and then, having only one hand, I could put the “strangle hold” on him. But he was equal to the situation. He told me afterward that I looked dangerous.
I asked him if he was ever hungry. He said, “Many’s the time.” I told him I was starving. “Come with me,” said he, and we went over to Chatham Square, to a place called “Beefsteak John’s.”
We went in and sat down, and he said, “Now order what you want.” On the Bowery in those days you could get a pretty good meal for fifteen cents—all you wanted to eat. The waiter was there to take my order. I knew him and winked to him to go away, and he went. He thought I was going to work the young fellow for his money.
The young fellow said, “Why don’t you call for something? I thought you were starving.”
Now here I was up against it. I’d panned this man for something to eat, and he was willing to pay for anything I wanted, and for the life of me I could not swallow any food. When a man is drinking he doesn’t care to eat at a table. Give him a square meal, and he doesn’t enjoy it. I know men to-day who spend every dollar they earn for drink, and eat nothing but free lunches, handed out with their drinks. That was what was the matter with me. All I wanted was drink. The