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A Guest At The Ludlow
by [?]

As you enter Ludlow Street Jail the door is carefully closed after you, and locked by means of an iron lock about the size of a pictorial family Bible. You then remain on the inside for quite a spell. You do not hear the prattle of soiled children any more. All the glad sunlight, and stench-condensing pavements, and the dark-haired inhabitants of Rivington street, are seen no longer, and the heavy iron storm-door shuts out the wail of the combat from the alley near by. Ludlow Street Jail may be surrounded by a very miserable and dirty quarter of the city, but when you get inside all is changed.

You register first. There is a good pen there that you can write with, and the clerk does not chew tolu and read a sporting paper while you wait for a room. He is there to attend to business, and he attends to it. He does not seem to care whether you have any baggage or not. You can stay here for days, even if you don’t have any baggage. All you need is a kind word and a mittimus from the court.

One enters this sanitarium either as a boarder or a felon. If you decide to come in as a boarder, you pay the warden $15 a week for the privilege of sitting at his table and eating the luxuries of the market. You also get a better room than at many hotels, and you have a good strong door, with a padlock on it, which enables you to prevent the sudden and unlooked-for entrance of the chambermaid. It is a good-sized room, with a wonderful amount of seclusion, a plain bed, table, chairs, carpet and so forth. After a few weeks at the seaside, at $19 per day, I think the room in which I am writing is not unreasonable at $2.

Still, of course, we miss the sea breeze.

You can pay $50 to $100 per week here if you wish, and get your money’s worth, too. For the latter sum one may live in the bridal chamber, so to speak, and eat the very best food all the time.

Heavy iron bars keep the mosquitoes out, and at night the house is brilliantly lighted by incandescent lights of one-candle power each. Neat snuffers, consisting of the thumb and forefinger polished on the hair, are to be found in each occupied room.

Bread is served to the Freshmen and Juniors in rectangular wads. It is such bread as convicts’ tears have moistened many thousand years. In that way it gets quite moist.

The most painful feature about life in Ludlow Street Jail is the confinement. One can not avoid a feeling of being constantly hampered and hemmed in.

One more disagreeable thing is the great social distinction here. The poor man who sleeps in a stone niche near the roof, and who is constantly elbowed and hustled out of his bed by earnest and restless vermin with a tendency toward insomnia, is harassed by meeting in the court-yard and corridors the paying boarders who wear good clothes, live well, have their cigars, brandy and Kentucky Sec all the time.

The McAllister crowd here is just as exclusive as it is on the outside.

But, great Scott! what a comfort it is to a man like me, who has been nearly killed by a cyclone, to feel the firm, secure walls and solid time lock when he goes to bed at night! Even if I can not belong to the 400, I am almost happy.

We retire at 7:30 o’clock at night and arise at 6:30 in the morning, so as to get an early start. A man who has five or ten years to stay in a place like this naturally likes to get at it as soon as possible each day, and so he gets up at 6:30.

We dress by the gaudy light of the candle, and while we do so, we remember far away at home our wife and the little boy asleep in her arms. They do not get up at 6:30. It is at this hour we remember the fragrant drawer in the dresser at home where our clean shirts, and collars and cuffs, and socks and handkerchiefs, are put every week by our wife. We also recall as we go about our stone den, with its odor of former corned beef, and the ghost of some bloody-handed predecessor’s snore still moaning in the walls, the picture of green grass by our own doorway, and the apples that were just ripening, when the bench warrant came.