A ludicrous scene occurred on board the Steamboat Knickerbocker a few mornings since. An unsophisticated fellow from Franklin county who was probably making his first steamboat voyage, “turned in” at a seasonable hour, leaving his boots, a most formidable pair, outside the berth. Of course, they were regarded by the sable knight of the blacking brushes as fair prey, as well as fit subjects for the lavishment of a little of his polishing paste, and elbow energies. A flimsy pair of sheep skin slippers were left in their place. Bright and early our green horn was astir. Judge of his astonishment when he found his “understanding” gone : Judge of his consternation, when a faithful search about all the neighboring berths failed to bring them to light. Suddenly his eyes fell upon the sheepish-looking slippers, and as suddenly the startling truth broke upon him—“I’ve been robbed! I’ve been robbed!” he cried. “Stop your boat. Hillo there! A bran new pair of cowhides, retail price twenty shillings, gone to eternal no where! Captin—I’m robbed!”

By this time fifty heads, with wondering, curious faces thereunto attached, were in full view from as many berths, listening to the outcry, and looking on in silent enjoyment of the scene.

“Darnation seize the critter that stole them boots! I wonder ef a honest man can’t steamboat it down tew York without loosing his Sunday-go-to meetin’ boots? I wonder ef it’s a gineral thing to take boots in that way?”

“Did you leave them outside your berth?” asked one.

“Tew be sure I did!” replied the bereaved one.

“Well,” said the other, “then you have been served as you might expect, for it’s a very common thing for passengers to have their boots taken away after they turn in.”

“It’s an infarnal imposition upon the travellin’ public tew steal the people’s boots this way : And see what the scamp has left in their place! I ‘spect sich a pair of old, worn out, soleless, unheelled sluff scuffs aint worth three cents. I can’t get ‘em on,” cried he, attempting to draw his great “corn planters” into them. “I can’t get ‘em on, and ef I could, they wouldn’t stay on a second—I’m blessed ef I don’t make a rumpus about this,” and having coaxed a few of his toes into each slipper, he started for “up stairs,” as he called it.

“Tell everbody you meet,” cried one.

“Go and rout the Captain, and ask him to search the boat,” advised another.

“Watch the feet of everybody you see,” suggested a third.

Armed and equipped with all this excellent advice, and filled to the chin with indignation, he went upon deck—sluff scuff, sluff scuff, sluff scuff, sluff scuff, kerslap—those slippers were in active motion over head, and the whole cabin burst into a roar of laughter. Presently the uproar on deck was tremendous. There was a running to and fro, and laughter and curses and exclamations ; but above the hub-bub was heard the shrill whine of our hero—“I’m highway robbed”---“Who’s got my boots”—“This way Captain”—“Boots”—“Bran new”—“Cost 20 shillins”—“Stop thief.”

When the storm was at its height, snowball quietly walked in with the boots, beautifully polished, followed closely and stealthily by their owner, whose eyes blazed like a mad panther’s. Having found the No., blackey was as quietly placing them where he had found them, when, with a yell of triumph, our bootless friend sprung forward, caught the astonished wretch by the neck, and exclaiming, “I’ve cotched the thievin’ scoundrel—here he is, boots and all—knowed I’d smoke ‘im eout”—commenced dragging him up the cabin stairs. The poor black yelled like a loon, and his captor roared like a young lion, while the passengers, who had gathered around them, were almost convulsed with laughter. The Captain interfered, and explained the whole matter fully and satisfactorily. Our hero gave up the slippers quietly, pulled on his boots, and with a marvellously foolish look, asked the injured boot black to step to the bar and “take sumthin.”

Albany American Citizen.


Source: New York Spirit of the Time 15.40 (29 November 1845): 465. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

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