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Sarah Joyce's Husbands Post by :eXpert_Opinion Category :Short Stories Author :Jacob A. Riis Date :October 2011 Read :2888

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Sarah Joyce's Husbands

Policeman Muller had run against a boisterous crowd surrounding a drunken woman at Prince Street and the Bowery. When he joined the crowd it scattered, but got together again before it had run half a block, and slunk after him and his prisoner to the Mulberry Street station. There Sergeant Woodruff learned by questioning the woman that she was Mary Donovan and had come down from Westchester to have a holiday. She had had it without a doubt. The Sergeant ordered her to be locked up for safe-keeping, when, unexpectedly, objection was made.

A small lot of the crowd had picked up courage to come into the station to see what became of the prisoner. From out of this, one spoke up: "Don't lock that woman up; she is my wife."

"Eh," said the Sergeant, "and who are you?"

The man said he was George Reilly and a salesman. The prisoner had given her name as Mary Donovan and said she was single. The Sergeant drew Mr. Reilly's attention to the street door, which was there for his accommodation, but he did not take the hint. He became so abusive that he, too, was locked up, still protesting that the woman was his wife.

She had gone on her way to Elizabeth Street, where there is a matron, to be locked up there; and the objections of Mr. Reilly having been silenced at last, peace was descending once more upon the station-house, when the door was opened, and a man with a swagger entered.

"Got that woman locked up here?" he demanded.

"What woman?" asked the Sergeant, looking up.

"Her what Muller took in."

"Well," said the Sergeant, looking over the desk, "what of her?"

"I want her out; she is my wife. She--"

The Sergeant rang his bell. "Here, lock this man up with that woman's other husband," he said, pointing to the stranger.

The fellow ran out just in time, as the doorman made a grab for him. The Sergeant drew a tired breath and picked up the ruler to make a red line in his blotter. There was a brisk step, a rap, and a young fellow stood in the open door.

"Say, Serg," he began.

The Sergeant reached with his left hand for the inkstand, while his right clutched the ruler. He never took his eyes off the stranger.

"Say," wheedled he, glancing around and seeing no trap, "Serg, I say: that woman w'at's locked up, she's--"

"She's what?" asked the Sergeant, getting the range as well as he could.

"My wife," said the fellow.

There was a bang, the slamming of a door, and the room was empty. The doorman came running in, looked out, and up and down the street. But nothing was to be seen. There is no record of what became of the third husband of Mary Donovan.

The first slept serenely in the jail. The woman herself, when she saw the iron bars in the Elizabeth Street station, fell into hysterics and was taken to the Hudson Street Hospital.

Reilly was arraigned in the Tombs Police Court in the morning. He paid his fine and left, protesting that he was her only husband.

He had not been gone ten minutes when Claimant No. 4 entered.

"Was Sarah Joyce brought here?" he asked Clerk Betts.

The clerk couldn't find the name.

"Look for Mary Donovan," said No. 4.

"Who are you?" asked the clerk.

"I am Sarah's husband," was the answer.

Clerk Betts smiled, and told the man the story of the other three.

"Well, I am blamed," he said.

(The end)
Jacob A. Riis's short story: Sarah Joyce's Husbands

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