By “Broomstraw.”

Sam Collins was bound to have a spree. He had sold his boat-load of flour, received the money, and intended to indemnify himself for the labor and hard life of a flat-boat ; so he laid off fifty dollars, to see New Orleans. In the hands of an exquisite, at a first class hotel, with wines, dinners, operas, and their consequences, fifty dollars would go a very short distance ; while the same sum would go a good way invested in cheap brandy, theatre tickets, corporation fines, and the catalogue of amusement appropriate to them.

Without doubt, Sam would have made out his week, and have been dragged abroad an up-river boat, by some more careful colleague, but that his fifty dollars came to a premature end.

Among other tastes which he had acquired about the boat yard, on the head waters of the noble Tennessee, was an indiscriminate partiality for all games of chance. He was not only versed in all the arts of “short cards,” but had attacked all the fancy amusements which came along, from the faro-dealer in his buggy, to the more humble thimble-rigger, who paused in the tavern porch long enough to collect a few dimes from the unwary.

Having limited himself to a certain sum, Mr. Collins reflected that if he could only “git a streak agin some of them d—d games,” he could extend his stay in “Orleens” to an indefinite period at the expense of the gamblers. So, after fixing up, with the assistance of his friends, he set off to find a game. He played against the faro banks, got into a row with a bystander who refused to drink with him, and was turned out after a great row, and obstinate resistance on his part ; in the course of which, he knocked down his antagonist, and received a slight wound on his shoulder. His valorous boatman carried him off, swearing vengeance against their “d—d bonemills.” He was, however, appeased by an introduction to an elegant apartment, where the game of rouge et noir was conducted, by some silent and genteel Frenchmen. There were very few persons in the room, so Sam drank claret (they had nothing else), as long as he had room for it ; but the whole affair was Choctaw to him. After a few words, which were quite unintelligible to him, they paid him a dollar. Then came some more gibberish, when they raked down five dollars. It was a dull affair, he understood not a word, knew nothing of the game, and was rapidly drinking himself and party sober. Besides he had begun to learn that it was a losing game. So, as the place was too quiet, genteel, and expensive for the party, they left. With the exception of a slight scuffle with some watchmen, they met with no other adventure, until they reached the purlieus of the city, and saw, to their great delight, the congenial beams of a red lantern in a low doggery. Here they felt perfectly at home. They called for liquor, made proclamation of their united and several capacities to “lick the city,” or any of its citizens, and made the acquaintance of a very “peaceable” little man, who soon led the way to a room in which there was a new device, with which Sam was charmed. Amongst other games going on there, were several tables ornamented with horizontal wheels, the edges whereof, as well as those of the circular box in which the wheel was enclosed, was fitted with little tin pockets, numbered to correspond with the figures painted upon an oil-cloth, spread upon a table. The person who bet placed his money upon any number he liked; the wheel was put in rapid motion, and a marble was thrown upon its surface, when the impetus given the wheel was exhausted, the marble, of course, stopped in one of the little tin pockets. If the number of that pocket corresponded with that upon which the bettor had placed his money, he received a considerably larger amount of money than he had put down. If it did not correspond, of course he lost his stake. Our friends soon comprehended this game. They drank strychnine whiskey, and followed the marble in its rapid revolution, until they were perfectly giddy. They were perfectly at home, and formed acquaintances from every flat-boat at the levee ; but the demon of discord again disturbed their enjoyment. Two boatmen began to squabble about a bet. This soon grew to a fight, in which Sam and his merry men took an active part. This resulted in a call of the police, and the extinguishments of the lamps ; and as Tom O’Shanter has it,

“In an instant all was dark.”

The game and the gamblers had disappeared when the police entered ; but notwithstanding they made a desperate resistance, the police marched them off to the “Calaboose.”

Upon the examination of witnesses, it appeared that Sam and his men had been drunk and disorderly, and they were accordingly fined.This somewhat reduced Sam's "pile;" but then he had "no showin' agin the perleese."

Upon being discharged, the party found it was broad day ; so, having adjourned to an eating house, they refreshed themselves with drink, oysters, and a row with the bar-keeper ; but as he did not possess sufficient muscle to afford any one of them a decent fight, Sam interfered and restored peace.

It was now ten o’clock, and Sam began to long for “something fresh.” Accordingly he set out accompanied by one or two of his party. For a while they saw nothing but nursery maids and children. After a while, however, a man appeared, who attracted their particular attention. He wore a green baize jacket, and bent beneath the weight of a large box, which was also covered with baize. He set down his box, removed the cover, and revealed to the admiring gaze of the boatmen, a mahogany case—much resembling an old-fashioned “secretary”—and opening a door, revealed a “small, but select” collection of puppets, some representing kings, others “eminent tragedians,” tight-rope performers, &c. But the crowning glory of all was an equestrian, whose artistic excellence bewildered and charmed the jolly boatmen.

Presently the “Professor” changed the tune to “Dance, boatmen, dance!” Regarding this as an invitation, they did dance, in a style which quite astonished the proprietor of the organ.

Suddenly Sam paused.

“Boys,” said he, “you’re making blasted fools of yourselves. Don’t you see them ladies laughing at you?” (He referred to the nursery-maids). “You don’t understand the ways of this town. This is one of the new fashioned games—ain’t it Mister Showman?”

The man nodded assent.

“There didn’t I tell you so? You can’t fool me. I’ll go a half on this ‘ere”—placing the money on the box opposite the clown.

The man ground out the few remaining bars of the tune, and swept off the half.

“Blast the luck,” said Sam. “Now I’ll bet right here in the square." [1]

The man changed his stops, and looked first at Sam, and then at his five dollar gold piece.

“O, turn on—I’ll got it all!” said Sam. “Boys, let’s break the bank!”

Accordingly, other bets were soon made.

At the conclusion of the tune, the organ-grinder secured all the money.

“Why, boys,” said Sam, “this is worse than chuck-a-luck. I haven’t won a bet!”

“Nor me,” “nor me,” said the others.

“Well boys, I’m broke,” said Sam. [1] "Can any of you stake me?”

They were all “dead broke.”

“Well, stranger,” said Sam, “were in bad luck, and can’t play any more against your game.”

The Italian bowed very politely, and continued his performance.

“O, you might as well knock off—you can win no more.”

The music stopped. The Italian, satisfied with the patronage of the boatmen, shouldered his organ, and set off to charm the other nursery-maids ; but never again did he meet with such munificent patrons.



Source: New York Spirit of the Times 30.2 (18 February 1860): 21. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] Quotation marks missing here in original.

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