CHAPTER L. HARRY HILL'S.

In passing the corner of Broadway and Houston street, you will see, to the east of the great thoroughfare, an immense red and blue lantern attached to a low, dingy frame building. This is the sign of Harry Hill's dance-house. It is one of the sights, and one of the saddest sights, too, of New York. As you approach the place from Broadway, you notice a narrow door at the side of the main entrance, opening upon a flight of stairs which lead to the dancing hall. This is the private entrance for women. They are admitted free of charge as their presence is the chief attraction to the men who visit the place. Passing through the main door you enter a room used as a bar room and eating saloon. It differs in nothing from the average low class bar rooms of the city. A narrow passage-way between the counters, leads to the entrance of the dancing hall, which apartment is situated on the floor above the bar room and in the rear of it. Visitors to this hall are charged an admittance fee of twenty-five cents, and are expected to order liquor or refreshments as soon as they enter.

                     THE PROPRIETOR.

Harry Hill is generally to be seen moving amongst his guests while the entertainment is going on. He is a short, thickset man, with a resolute, self-possessed air, and is about fifty years old. He is very decided in his manner, and is fully equal to the task of enforcing his orders. The "fancy" stand in awe of him, as they know he will follow up any command with a blow or a summary ejection from his premises. He has been in the business for twelve years, and his profits are estimated at over fifty thousand dollars a year now, clear of all expenses. He is said to be a kind, humane man, and is reputed to give largely to charitable purposes. He manages every department himself, although he has a manager to conduct affairs for him. His eye is on everybody and everything.

                     THE DANCE HALL.

It is Harry Hill's boast that he keeps a "respectable house." Unlike the other dance-houses of the city, there are no girls attached to this establishment. All the company, both male and female, consists of outsiders, who merely come here to spend an evening. The rules of the house are printed in rhyme, and are hung conspicuously in various parts of the hall. They are rigid, and prohibit any profane, indecent, or boisterous conduct. The most disreputable characters are to be seen in the audience, but no thieving or violence ever occurs within the hall. Whatever happens after persons leave the hall, the proprietor allows no violation of the law within his doors.

The hall, itself, consists simply of a series of rooms, which have been "knocked into one" by the removal of the partition walls. As all of these rooms were not of the same height, the ceiling of the hall presents a curious patchwork appearance. A long counter occupies one end of the hall, at which liquors and refreshments are served. There is a stage at another side, on which low farces are performed, and a tall Punch and Judy box occupies a conspicuous position. Benches and chairs are scattered about, and a raised platform is provided for the "orchestra," which consists of a piano, violin, and a bass viol. The centre of the room is a clear space, and is used for dancing. If you do not dance you must leave, unless you atone for your deficiency by a liberal expenditure of money. The amusements are coarse and low. The songs are broad, and are full of blasphemous outbursts, which are received with shouts of delight.

                     THE DANCERS.

You will see all sorts of people at Harry Hill's. The women are, of course, women of the town; but they are either just entering upon their career, or still in its most prosperous phase. They are all handsomely dressed, and some of them are very pretty. Some of them have come from the better classes of society, and have an elegance and refinement of manner and conversation, which win them many admirers in the crowd. They drink deep and constantly during the evening. Indeed, one is surprised to see how much liquor they imbibe. The majority come here early in the evening alone, but few go away without company for the night. You do not see the same face here very long. The women cannot escape the inevitable doom of the lost sisterhood. They go down the ladder; and Harry Hill keeps his place clear of them after the first flush of their beauty and success is past. You will then find them in the Five Points and Water street hells.

As for the men, they represent all kinds of people and professions. You may see here men high in public life, side by side with the Five Points ruffian. Judges, lawyers, policemen off duty and in plain clothes, officers of the army and navy, merchants, bankers, editors, soldiers, sailors, clerks, and even boys, mingle here in friendly confusion. As the profits of the establishment are derived from the bar, drinking is of course encouraged, and the majority of the men are more or less drunk all the time. They spend their money freely in such a condition. Harry Hill watches the course of affairs closely during the evening. If he knows a guest and likes him, he will take care that he is not exposed to danger, after he is too far gone in liquor to protect himself. He will either send him home, or send for his friends. If the man is a stranger, he does not interfere - only, no crime must be committed in his house. Thieves, pickpockets, burglars, roughs, and pugilists are plentifully scattered through the audience. These men are constantly on the watch for victims. It is easy for them to drug the liquor of a man they are endeavoring to secure, without the knowledge of the proprietor of the house; or, if they do not tamper with his liquor, they can persuade him to drink to excess. In either case, they lead him from the hall, under pretence of taking him home. He never sees home until they have stripped him of all his valuables. Sometimes he finds his long home, in less than an hour after leaving the hall; and the harbor police find his body floating on the tide at sunrise. Women frequently decoy men to places where they are robbed. No crime is committed in the dance hall, but plans are laid there, victims are marked, and tracked to loss or death, and, frequently, an idle, thoughtless visit there, has been the beginning of a life of ruin. The company to be met with, is that which ought to be shunned. Visits from curiosity are dangerous. Stay away. To be found on the Devil's ground is voluntarily to surrender yourself a willing captive to him. Stay away. It is a place in which no virtuous woman is ever seen, and in which an honest man ought to be ashamed to show his face.