CHAPTER XXXIV. CONCERT SALOONS.

There are seventy-five concert saloons in New York, which employ seven hundred and forty-seven waiter girls. The brothels usually termed dance-halls, are included in this estimate, but, as we design referring especially to them in another chapter, we shall pass them by, for the present, and devote this chapter to the concert saloons proper.

Eight years ago, a Philadelphia manager opened a concert mall which he called the "Melodeon," at the old Chinese Assembly Rooms on Broadway. This was the first institution of the kind ever seen in New York, and imitations of it soon became common.

We find the following faithful description of one of these saloons in one of the popular-prints of the day.

"On Broadway, near - street, we notice, just above the entrance to a cellar, a flaming transparency, with the inscription, 'Madame X - 's Arcade.' Going down a few steps, we find our view of the interior obstructed by a large screen, painted white, with the almost nude figure of a dancing Venus coarsely painted thereon. The screen is placed across the entrance, a few feet from the door, obliging us to flank it, a la Sherman, and enter the hall by going around it. We find the floor handsomely covered with matting and oil cloth. On the right-hand side, nearest the door, is the bar, over which presides a genius of the male sex, whose chief attractions consists of a decided red head, and an immense paste breastpin, stuck into the bosom of a ruffled shirt. The bar is well furnished, and any drink called for, from beer to champagne, can be instantly obtained. A significant feature, and one that easily arrests the attention, is a formidable Colt's revolver, a foot in length, suspended immediately over the sideboard. This weapon, it may be observed, is not placed there as an ornament; it is in itself a monitor, warning those inclined to be disorderly, of the danger of carrying their boisterousness or ruffianism too far. On the walls are black engravings of the French school, fit ornaments for the place. But, while we are taking this casual survey, one of the attendant nymphs, with great scantiness of clothing, affording display for bare shoulders and not unhandsome ankles, appears, and in a voice of affected sweetness wholly at variance with her brazen countenance and impertinent air, requests us to be seated, and asks what we'll have. We modestly ask for 'Two ales,' which are soon placed before us, and paid for. While quietly sipping the beverage, we will glance at our surroundings. Back of the hall - we are sitting at a table near the centre of the apartment - on a raised platform, is an asthmatic pianoforte, upon which an individual with threadbare coat, colorless vest and faded nankeen pantaloons, is thrumming away for dear life. Out of tune himself, he tortures the poor instrument in a way that threatens its instant dissolution, rending its heartstrings, and causing it to shriek with agony, wailing out the tune that the old cow died to! This is the only piece of music the performer is acquainted with, judging from the persistent manner in which he clings to it. What he lacks in musical knowledge, however, he makes up with intention, and thumps away quite manfully, only stopping, now and then to call for a drink, with which to recruit his exhausted energies.

"But we have come to behold the chief attraction of the establishment? - the 'pretty waiter girls.'"

                     THE WAITER GIRLS.

"Looking around, we see, perhaps, twenty females, in various styles of dress - some in Turkish costume (supposed to be houris no doubt); others attired as Spanish peasants; and others still in plain evening attire. The latter are for the most part far from possessing charms, and, from their looks, have long since outlived their beauty; but what they lack in this respect they make up in others. The girl that waited upon us on our entrance, again approaches, and seeing our glasses empty, takes them away to be replenished. She soon reappears, and in response to our invitation, takes a seat beside us, while we enter into conversation with her. She is a fair sample (excuse the mercantile term) of her class, and her history is a history of a majority of her associates. Not unprepossessing in appearance, by any means, Ellen - that, she tells us, is her name - is twenty-two years of age; was born in the village of Tarrytown; resided with her parents until she was eighteen, when her father died. Leaving her mother with her youngest brother, she came to New York to seek employment. On arriving in the city, she obtained a situation in a millinery store. Remained there but a short time; was out of work; had no friends, no money. Would not go back to her mother, who was poor. Saw an advertisement of Madame - for 'Pretty waiter girls.' Answered it. Was engaged in the saloon; seduced (partly by promises, and partly by threats), by one of the frequenters of the establishment - and has since led the life of a prostitute! Ellen told her story without the least emotion, and when asked about her mother, carelessly replied, 'She supposed the old woman was dead by this time.'

"Such are the effects of vice, and a life of infamy, upon the noble feelings and natural impulses of the female heart. With an exclamation of, 'Oh, there's my man!' our attendant suddenly left us, and joined an individual who had just entered the apartment, and we did not see her again.

"At a table nearly opposite to our own, are seated a couple, one, at least, of whom, to even a casual observer, is a stranger to the place and its surroundings; there is no doubt of it. Wholly enwrapped in the beauty and grace of his female companion, he is totally oblivious to all passing around. She is exerting all her arts to entice 'greeny' into her net, and before long will be counting the amount of his cash - while he, her dupe, will be, too late, reflecting upon the depravity of pretty waiter girls. By this time the saloon is crowded with men and women, of all degrees of social standing. Here is the man about-town, the hanger-round of the hotels, in clothes of unexceptionable cut and make, talking earnestly with a female, whose drawn veil conceals her face - perhaps some unfortunate victim of his lust, or probably his mistress, come to plead for justice, or for her week's allowance of money. Yonder is a youth, of, as Sylvanus Cobb, Jr., would say, 'some eighteen summers,' young in years, but old in sin, who supports on his knee a nymph du pave, with whom he has entered from the street, and upon whom he is spending his last quarter's salary, or the proceeds of an investigation into the till of his employer. In that corner, is the returned soldier, who has just been paid off, and who is now expending the hard-earned pittance of the government upon some bepainted and bedizened courtesan, while perhaps his wife and family are suffering for want of the common necessaries of life. A cry of pain, followed by a burst of brutal laughter, causes us to turn our eyes to the corner, just in time to witness a woman fall to the ground, felled by a blow from the clenched fist of the brute with whom she has been quarrelling. A moment, there is silence in the hall; but only for a moment. The girl is picked up by one of her companions - a few rough jokes at her expense - and all goes on as before. Such scenes are of too frequent occurrence to provoke comment. Observe that couple descending the steps; a handsome, almost noble-looking man, but upon whose countenance is stamped the mark of a dissolute life - upon his arm, a female, her face hidden from view by a dark veil. They advance to the bar. The gentleman whispers a word in the ear of one of the girls, a meaning smile flickers over her face as she hands him a key, with which he opens a door in the end of the room, and disappears with the female. Reader, you have seen half a dozen similar couples arrive and vanish through the same door. Do you know the why and wherefore of this proceeding? This saloon is one of the most notorious assignation houses in New York. We might go on and notice more fully the various personages and scenes, constantly varying, in this house; but we have neither space or time at present - besides, the task is not an agreeable one. So, let us leave the murky atmosphere of the 'crib,' and once more breathe the pure air of heaven."

Bad as they are, the concert saloons of Broadway are the best in the city. Those of the Bowery, and Chatham street, are mere brothels, in which no man's life is safe.

Persons entering these places run a fearful risk. They voluntarily place themselves in the midst of a number of abandoned wretches, who are ready for any deed of violence or crime. They care for nothing but money, and will rob or kill for it. Respectable people have no business in such places. They are sure to have their pockets picked, and are in danger of violence. Many men, who leave their happy homes in the morning, visit these places, for amusement or through curiosity, at night. They are drugged, robbed, murdered, and then the harbor police may find their lifeless forms floating in the river at daybreak.