Ever since the demise of their most recognized leaders in the late 1880s, the Whyos Gang of New York City’s “Bloody Sixth” Ward (with Five Points as its center) has had more misinformation printed about it than any other gang mentioned by Asbury. The first point to clarify is where the Whyos operated. The Sixth ward was bounded by the Bowery to the east, Broadway to the west, Canal Street to the north, and Park Row to the South, and lay just north of City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan. Its reputation for poverty, vice, crime, and street violence stretched back decades, to at least the 1820s.
Asbury muddied the waters considerably in his Chapter on the Whyos (Chapter XI), but even some accounts published in the 1890s began to use the term “Whyos” generically, applying it to almost any young street criminal in lower Manhattan. However, Asbury was far off-base by citing the histories of Mike McGloin, Piker Ryan, Johnny Dolan, Denver Hop, and others in the same chapter as real Whyos, like Daniel Driscoll and Dan Lyons.
It would serve everyone better to forget Asbury’s chapter on the Whyos, and instead read the classic feature article reprinted below, a full-page history of the gang from the December 27th, 1891 edition of the New York Herald. The author was never given a byline, but his treatment of the Whyos is nothing short of Homeric. This gem tells you all the important names you need to know about the Whyos: Felix Lavelle (Scotchy’s brother), the proto-Whyo; Daniel Driscoll, the king of the Whyos; Dan Lyons, his ferocious heir; Owen Bruen, the crafty survivor, as well as lesser lights like Kid Hunt, Poll Sullivan, Hoggy Walsh, Con Rice, the Harrington brothers, the Hallissy brothers, and Peter “Googy” Corcoran. The language is unique to a certain period of American journalism. Drink it in:
As it looks out upon the former haunts of the Whyos it seems to wear a satisfied expression. For the New York Tombs has an expression. It is night, and the gusty lamps of Center street are winking in the winter wind that sweeps forever up from the big square, at the New York City hall a few blocks distant. To the belated pedestrian, it looks like a huge gray monster lying on its belly like a snake, showing its teeth like a griffin. Its teeth are those low, thick, tusk-like pillars. Its eyes are those narrow windows.
And as it crouches there with the latter half of its monstrous shape hidden in the shadows, that grimly humorous expression seems to be assumed when the narrow windows are lighted up at dusk, Then the eyes seem to blink. The tusk-like pillars seem in the half light to he set in a ghastly grin. It would not surprise me if the jaws beneath the blinking eyes should open and the monster’s black throat emit with a chuckle the syllables which have so often mocked its ears.
For the Tombs has swallowed the Whyos, whose call–musical, alert, the light infantry bugle call of crime–mocked its dread echoes for ten long years and more, and only from within its cavernous viscera shall sound of them be further heard of men. When into its jaws fell the Harringtons, accused by Italian witnesses of a crime in the streets of New York–the assassination of Thomas Hunt–which from all its features—revenge in motive, luring-and lying in wait in execution–might seem more aptly one for New Yorkers to have accused Italians of in the streets of Palermo, the last of the Whyos had “tackled” his last “lush,” carried his last “gun.”
It has swallowed all those who have not swallowed themselves or each other, and the list of the leaders who met in a Chatham street saloon thirteen years ago and thence spread that cry through the labyrinthine mazes of the dark triangle between Centre and Chatham streets, Canal street and the City hall, is this, with the process of deglutition:
“Hoggy” Walsh, burglar, ten years; Jack Shea, thief, died insane in prison; Felix Lavelle, woman murderer, life; James Fitzgerald, thief, in prison; Peter Corcoran, thief; in prison; Daniel Driscoll, woman murderer, hanged; Owen Bruen, thief; nine years and five months for assault; Dennis Harrington, waiting trial for murder; William Hallisay, waiting trial for murder; Thomas Hallissy, waiting trial for murder. And these have swallowed themselves or been swallowed of each other: Daniel Lyons, killed by citizen in self-defence; “Sass” Suggero, killed by citizen in self-defence; Thomas Hunt, murdered by Whyos; Billy McGlory, attempted murder, just sentenced to Sing Sing.
The Whyo organization was founded at the Five Points in the latter seventies. It was many months later before its musical call “Whyo” was found to have a distinct meaning. The echo used to follow quick in the wake of crime. If a wayfarer was struck down, cries of Whyo soon resounded. No other gang had that musical call. No other gang had so Turpinesquely daring a leader as Danny Driscoll, as elusive a one as Bruen, who respectively succeeded Walsh and Fitzgerald, the founders of the dynasty. No other gang had the high lineage of the Five Points behind it. No other gang flourished in a precinct which could show 4,500 arrests in a single year in a single block—that on Mulberry street, between Park and Bayard, known as “The Bend.” No other gang ruled a street (Pell) with a record of ninety years in sentences for its denizens out of a single week’s arrests, and no other gang could show such a high percentage of violent deaths, of assaults on policemen, of wanton crime for the sake of crime.
From 1878 until 1884 must be called the golden age of the gang. In the latter year the little Chatham street coterie was estimated to have grown to about one hundred and fifty in number, although not one quarter of these were probably true Whyos acting under the direction of their leaders.
Every lad who had the courage to follow a drunken “slummer” out of McGlory’s Armory hall, which flourished in Hester street in the Whyo golden age, till he fell exhausted in his tortuous path toward a Third avenue car, called himself a Whyo. So did every young worse-than-rough who squired a pipe-loving damsel in any one of the fourteen opium joints, which in the golden age found shelter in one big building, known as the “Big Flats,” at Canal and Elizabeth streets. But actual membership in the gang meant more than an ability to repeat the musical call, with its sharp inflection rising almost to falsetto on the first syllable and the low, long-drawn baritone note of its second. It meant that a way would be found to dispose of stolen goods. It meant also that considerable political influence would be exerted in behalf of a captured Whyo.
Those who followed Dan Driscoll and Owney Bruen—never committed a robbery in person, or, at least, never were caught at one. In their own parlance they “stood for the stuff.” The band of thieves under their direction operated almost at random in their bailiwick, prowled forth at night almost like ragpickers by day, seeking treasure trove in the human refuse about the surrounding dives, and returned at morn to leave their plunder disposed of and their percentage awarded.
It was in these night excursions that the cry was used. When two or three of them would dart out of a dark tenement hallway and swoop down upon the staggering passerby, another would watch at the corner, and if the victim’s cries had set a blue-coat moving to his rescue the high note and the low note would ring out its warning—“Why-o Why-o!”
The police did not at first comprehend the case, either in its immediate purpose of warning or as a symbol of banded lawlessness. When the first Whyo attained the dignity of murder no one knew that he was a Whyo or that there was a gang. This was Felix Lavelle, Dan Driscoll’s prototype, who killed a woman, but only suffered for his crime the penalty of life imprisonment, though the murder was a far more Whyoish crime than the attempt on the life of John McCarthy, which ended in the death of “Beezie” Garrity.
Lavelle, although he had been graduated through the Catholic Protectory, and the House of Refuge to the penitentiary for robbing and assault, was, like most of the gang, of decent parentage and retained acquaintance, the social ostracism machine of the Sixth ward not being in particularly good working order, with decent people. A month before he met pretty Sarah Hayden on Christmas day, 1878, at White and Centre streets, she had been pretty Sarah Sullivan and he had been, convict though he was, a suitor for her hand.
Doubtless the girl bride’s heart overflowed with good will as she tripped up Centre street from her home at No. 46 that afternoon. Love’s young dream, which is just as radiant in Whyoland as Arcadia, was unbroken yet, and Christmas cheer and salutations had painted its prisms to even brighter hues. Felix Lavelle, her rejected suitor, stood on the corner of White street as the girl came along, neat and rosy and dressed in her holiday and bridal best, perhaps the prettiest human thing on the East Side on Christmas day. She saw the lonely Whyo and felt sorry for him. Poor Felix, all the world had been against him. So out of her store of happiness she gave him a pleasant smile and word.
The Whyo mind misinterprets every good action. What the girl meant for kindness the Whyo took for conquest. He stepped close to her with the light of desire in his shifty Whyo eyes. There was an instant’s parley. Then the bride’s rosy cheeks flushed to a deeper crimson of shame and indignation. With an insulted toss of her head she passed on.
Passed on, yes, but not far. The flame of wrath burned low in the shifty Whyo eyes and then leaped up into the flame of hate.
“Will you take that, then?” was what poor Sarah Hayden heard, next, and before she knew what “that” was which had been substituted for his original proposition a pistol cartridge cracked, a pistol bullet sped, a pistol muzzle smoked on the holiday air and Richard Hayden’s young wife—she was little more than half through her teens—lay gasping on the Centre street pavement, her life blood staining her bridal and holiday finery.
Such was the merry Christmas the Whyo gave her, and death brought her a happy New Year one week later in St. Vincent’s hospital.
The next legal holiday of Washington’s birthday, 1870, saw Felix Lavelle on his way to Sing Sing. The day before, Feb. 21, when Judge Barrett had sentenced him to life, his pious sister had lifted her eyes to the grimy General Session’s ceiling which shut out heaven from her view and cried out, ”0h, Lord Jesus, is my poor brother to be taken from me forever?” and fell fainting to the floor. Thus did the first Whyo murderer set a high Whyo type of crime. But none knew that he was a Whyo, or what Whyos were, and the only effect of his conviction was to debar him from participation in the glories of the gang. Those glories grew in every Sixth ward street during the early years of the 80’s. Skulls fractured by “falls” threatened to grow as plentiful as cut fingers at the Chambers Street hospital. Driscoll, the new leader, fired nightly by the rum which the proceeds of the frequent robberies brought him, ranged Chatham street as boldly as an outlaw might the main street of an Idaho mining camp.
While they confined themselves to robberies in the maze of streets crisscrossing from Chatham square through or about the Points to Centre street or to undetected manslaughter in the same localities, or to assaults which-might be “squared,” the Whyos were safe. But when they sought to reintroduce the customs of Hounslow Heath at Canal street and the Bowery vaulting ambition o’erleaped itself. The time was not ripe for a renaissance of the Turpin or Jack Sheppard style. So when Thomas or “Kid” Hunt, Dennis or “Butch” Harrington, now in the pen for assisting Dennis Sullivan to avenge a murder, and Michael Gaffney attempted to “stand and deliver” a coach at the corner of those two broad thoroughfares, they were promptly arrested and sentenced to five years in Sing Sing. This was in October, 1880.
Danny Driscol winged his man in two impromptu duels as desperate as ever were fought in Texas or Kentucky. For neither did he so much as pay a fine. One encounter was in Wintermayer’s, a tough New York resort, when he and Pete Flaherty, a burglar, but not a Whyo, quarreled in their cups and drew their pistols. Driscoll “got the drop” as his antagonist fired, broke his pistol arm and fled out of the door with a bullet singing after him.
A second duel grew out of the same incident which probably caused the murder of “Beezie” Garrity. It took place at No. 2 Pell street, a lodging house which was kept by John McCarthy, who moved up into the comparatively pure air of Hester street after that week in which the residents of Pell street, largely his lodgers, received ninety years in sentences for various felonies. Driscoll entered the door of the lodging house and opened a rapid fire on the bookkeeper who had ejected him. The latter promptly responded, but the Whyo’s aim was truer, and the result of the exchange of two shots per duelist was a dangerous wound for the
bookkeeper. Driscoll was arrested but when the time came for a hearing, there was no complainant.
One warm summer night in the golden age the leader strolled up town. He was not on plunder bent. It was not necessary. He had simply left the cares of state behind at the boundary of his kingdom. It was simply a case of Le Roi s’amuse. Passing through a cross street between Second and Third avenues, he saw a stout German citizen asleep in his shirt sleeves on his own door step. A street lamp showed the glitter of a watch chain upon his rotund paunch. The spirit of the pickpocket waked in the leader, and two minutes afterward the driver of a Second avenue car on the down track was astonished by the apparition of a wiry, brown eyed, brown mustached man, who leaped to the platform beside him, seized the whip from his hand and lashed his horse into a gallop. More astonished were the passengers as the car went fairly hounding down the track despite the conductor’s angry bell and the even fainter cry behind of “Stop thief” from a lumbering, breathless German citizen. He was captured hut never punished.
Not less bold a feat than his piracy of a street-car was his rape of a dray. That time he had been prevented from entering a Chrystie street lodging house. He was drunk, and whether his purpose was robbery or wanton mischief does not appear. He shot the man who resisted his ingress. The ball broke his leg. Then he fled to the Bowery, leaped on a passing dray, snatched reins and whip again, and again fled southward. The hue and cry was hard at the wheels, and when a block of vehicles stopped his course, a little boy who had run after him from the lodging house identified him. With a fluent delivery of curses the Whyo leader reached over the side of the dray, and broke the lad’s jaw with his revolver.
But this was before his palmy days. When at his prime he never was pushed to such extremes of daring. He and his gang were a recognized political factor in the ward. It was not that they had so many votes of their own, for the highest census shows twenty five in Mulberry street, twenty in Leonard, ten in Hark and one hundred for all the rest of the Sixth ward. Many of these were not true Whyos, though they sounded the cry and blackmailed the wayfarer for “’ite cents to rush de growler.” Many were not of age. Whyo age ran from fifteen to thirty years. Many more were disfranchised by conviction for felony. But when the Whyo king went or sent a retainer along a block asking respectfully for votes for a certain candidate they were generally given. It was a cheap tribute of blackmail–much cheaper for a small shopkeeper than to have his windows smashed or his stock robbed, or himself “done up” after hours. In fact, the Whyos were a sort of Janissary or Praetorian Guard to certain politicians of the Sixth ward.
Such was the golden age of the Whyos. Into their lives some rain had to fall, like the conviction of Hunt, Harrington, and Gaffney for murder. But they waxed fat and happy as a rule, and the sight of their leader, the great Danny, setting out for the races with his russet grip in his hand and a linen duster over his arm was a thing to charm. And there was an awful halo of successful criminality around his head which made the vicious of both sexes fall down and worship. Among them was “Beezie” Garrity, an ex-shop girl.
A rosy cheeked young man, with a pleasant smile, showing a white, regular set of teeth under a brown mustache and possessing a heavy but rather soft voice, quite unlike the regulation growl of the typical old-fashioned metropolitan police officer, succeeded “Old Jerry” Petty, the martinet police Captain of the Sixth, in 1884. This was “young” Captain McCullagh, so called to distinguish him from his father, also a police Captain, and he seemed not such a very terrible new broom to sweep such a precinct clean.
The social propensities of Whyodom enabled the police to securely set the net. It was learned that there was to be a Whyo ball on the night of Thursday, Oct. 9, 1884. The ball-room was in the very elbow of “the Bend,” on Mulberry street, the heart of the worst block in New York. All went merry as the night before Waterloo that evening.
There was no guard outside to sound the call, and toward midnight “Red” Riley was sitting out a quadrille to talk to a woman, who had just sunk to the Bend. There came a sudden rush of feet through the saloon outside. “Red” Riley stopped in the midst of his story and leaped to the back window, raised it, put one foot over the sill and fell back on the floor. A night stick had struck him square between the eyes. The swarm of uniformed policemen pouring in through the front door, it seemed, was supplemented by an equal number in the yard behind the ball-room in “the Bend.” “Bridgeport Lou’s” ladylike scream at the discomfiture of her cavalier was drowned in the vigorous viragoish yells and oaths of the Molls and Beezies and Brockey Lizzies to the Bend manner born. The lights went out, and in the darksome tumult was heard distinct from other sounds the clatter of stolen watches thrown hastily to the floor. Six of these metal evidences of guilt were found there next morning.
Twelve Whyos, none of them big ones, were the net proceeds of the new captain’s first venture. A day was taken to look over their records and find the prosecutable charges against them. Red Riley had one of robbing Henry Stanley, of No. 9 Pell street, who related the other half of the interrupted story in the Tombs’ police court. “Tim” Sheehan was credited with assisting in the rescue of a prisoner. Similar charges were found against others, sufficing to give six of them six months and the others from ten to sixty days apiece.
Then began the war, which only ended five years after, when Owney Bruen, the last of their leaders, gave vent to the miserable, despairing cry “The police are hounding me!” Driscoll might have made the same complaint with feeling if not justice, for the next two years or less he was locked up twenty-seven times. In the year 1888, the last one of his civil life, Policeman Early impaired his prestige and made himself a terror to the gang by administering a good, sound, all round clubbing, which laid him up for days.
But the war was a war and not a mere “pacification.” Patrolman Cottrell’s leg was broken in one skirmish. Patrolman Adams was ignominlously imprisoned in the doorway of No. 33 Park street while burglar McCormic escaped. Patrolman Lyons had worse luck and was thrown down a flight of stairs when he chased a gang into a hallway. A brick thrown from a roof at Pearl and Park streets broke Patrolman Drafton’s jaw. Patrolman Rankin got a bullet through his helmet as he paced his beat one night at Duane and Center streets. Danny Lyons, who out-whyoed even Driscoll and Lavelle, by a strange savagery, which found expression in the gentle pastime of biting off the tails of barroom cats, looked higher than a mere patrolman, and assaulted Roundsman Shields with a loaded cane.
Night stick and nippers were getting the upper hand all the time, but the Whyo at bay developed constantly in savagery. This was shown on the occasion in 1885 when “Beezie” Garrity first made manifest to the police the same quality of devotion to the gang which shows a kind of burlesque, distorted pathos about her taking off.
There had been some kind of Whyo larks on the roof of No. 9 Mulberry street. In the course of them one of them the belles of “the Bend” was pitched off the roof and picked up a writhing, gasping of broken bones, which soon became a mangled corpse. It was intentional. It was a Whyo joke–much such an example of facetiousness as in circles which the world would hardly call polite would the the pulling of a chair from the place where some one had intended to sit down. “Beezie” had been the girl’s only feminine companion on the roof. Capt. McCullagh thought to terrify her into “squealing” by locking her up with the men of the gang for three days.
But the bold, dark faced girl remained as dumb as an oyster, and when he let her out and sought to coax her into admission her refusal to criminate might have been the result of the schooling of a Tombs lawyer, so perfectly evasive was it.
To the end she went, having successfully protected the gang from the consequences of one murder, trying vainly almost with her dying breath to protect its leader from the consequences of another–her own–to the end that was coming quicker than the prophet dreamed; to the end that was to be the beginning of the end of the wild dance of death in which the Whyos pirouetted in the flame and smoke of their own pistol muzzles in a wild murder craze to their separate dooms; to the end of the night of terror in Whyoland.
Again and again has been told the story of the murder of the hot morning of June 20, 1860, when the king and queen of the Whyos came up Hester street, rolling in their chariot of state, a “night-hawk’s” crazy hack, to execute royal, if drunken, justice upon the rebellious lord of Castle McCarthy. “Beezie” Garrity was shot dead in the melee. What was characteristic of the Whyo leader was the adroitness of his flight–his last desperate effort to double on the police, on whom he had so often doubled before.
Leaving the bleeding body of the queen lying in the lodging house hallway, where he had meant to leave the body of his old Pell street enemy, the Whyo king ran through the steaming streets, just growing gray with the early dawn of the summer solstice. It was a short sprint to his home at No. 128 Baxter street, and every step of the way was quickened by the echo of the foot of some new pursuer. Into the house he plunged and up the stairs. On came police and ward detectives after him. No sign of the murderer in No. 128. Then to the roof the chase mounted, through the scuttle and down through the scuttle of the roof of No. 126. There lay “Apple Meg,” Driscoll’s mother, in bed. She sleepily denied any knowledge of her son’s whereabouts.
Out on the fire escape and thence through the window back into No. 128 the chase by some happy inspiration followed. There in his room lolled the Whyo leader in his shirt sleeves, surprised at the officers’ intrusion, denying all knowledge of the cause of his arrest. It was the last but one of his quickwitted strokes for safety–that clever double-back into the house which the police had searched and, as he thought, would not search again.
Doggedly he stuck to his line of defense that McCarthy had slain the girl in shooting at him instead of his having killed her in shooting at McCarthy. Prop after prop was knocked from under the flimsy structure. McCarthy’s revolver was given up immediately after the shooting, with every chamber loaded and no evidence of discharge and reloading. Then the girl herself, persuaded by relatives–for “Beezie” was the black sheep of an honest Sixth ward family–or by the priest to tell the truth, even at “Danny’s” expense, withdrew before she died her antemortem statement against McCarthy.
Still, with a wondrous sense of dramatic consistency, he took his part of a persecuted Robin Hood of the slums–an impulsive, misguided, merry lad, whom the injustice of the rulers of the land had driven under the east side greenwood. Owney Bruen was his faithful Friar Tuck, cheerfully acting out his part in the labored lie and perjuring himself picturesquely in his fatuous belief in his leader’s lucky star.
That was in the autumn of 1886. Death was not staring him in the face as yet. Death had to do with others of his hand ere it should have time to call for him in the jail yard on a winter morning fifteen months afterward. Death, violent death, had made a tryst with the inmates of the house where he lived, where he sought to hide, whence he was led to prison, and, strange to say, it left him till the last.
Love, Whyo love, was behind “Kid” Hunt’s hatred of “Poll” Sullivan, though “Kid” said that the kicking of his shins by the burly “Poll” and an unpleasant allusion to a recent incarceration on Blackwell’s Island were the causes of his deed. “Kid” thought best to conceal his motive, because he had a wife and two children living at No. 11 Pell street and the wife was not the woman who had told “Kid” of Sullivan’s attention to her during his stay on the island! No, it was Lizzie Gallagher, another black sheep of a Sixth ward fold. She it is who, as his widow–for he married her on coming out of prison–now mourns with a fierce, revengeful grief the final sequel of the tale she told “Kid” of “Poll’s” false friendship.
It was a commonplace murder enough externally, this which hid so strong a touch of nature in its hidden recesses. A pistol shot at Leonard and Centre streets, at half-past seven o’clock on the night of Nov. 29, 1886, a little more than two months after Driscoll’s conviction. No one knows who did it at first, though there is a crowd around the bleeding, big body, and chilling, hook nose of Poll as he lies on the pavement. Then an officer snatches “Con” Rice, finds a pistol on him, extorts the reluctant confession that “Kid” Hunt, who was with Owney Bruen, shot “Poll” and ran away, intrusting the pistol to “Con.” Then all the echoes of the night about the Points are loud with the confident assertion that “Owney gave him de gun,” but no evidence, not a shred, beyond “Con” Rice’s extorted admission, that anybody had given him the gun. Then the police drag net is set and “Poll’s” body made ready for burial.
Then was there seen in Whyoland a bit of warm, pure, human feeling. “Poll” had been a practical joker. A “dead all around kidder,” the neighborhood called him, and he had “kidded” the button works girls so long that when he was gone they missed him. He used to stand on Centre street as they flocked up to their work at Canal and Elm every morning with anxious glances at the “Clipper” clock . Then “Poll” would snatch their dinner baskets to delay them and dodge the sound cuffs which they aimed at his ears, while a shower of Sixth ward badinage filled the air. Sometimes he would vary this formula by uncaging the morning occupant of a neighboring cigar store’s rat trap amid their hurrying ranks and thus hasten their screaming flight up Centre street as much as he had delayed it the day before.
Thus “Poll” Sullivan’s “kidding” and the exchange of chaff which followed it grew to be quite the event of the day with the button works girls. On the morning of Nov. 30 their shrill chatter was hushed as they hurried up Centre street, particularly as they passed the corner of Leonard. Then it broke out approvingly as someone said, “Girls, let’s get him some flowers.” So on the big, good-natured rough’s coffin, as he lay in his namesake Sullivan’s undertaking rooms, there was laid that night a wreath, the tribute of the button works girl’s, who mourned that they should be “kidded” no more.
Five years for manslaughter was “Kid’s” sentence. He would have gone scott free had it not been for his own admissions.
Then another inmate of the royal household of No. 128 Baxter street stepped into the mazes of the Whyo dance of death. The wildest Whyo figure of them all was this–that of “Danny” Lyons, not “Stable Gang Danny,” then lying with Driscoll in the Tombs for the murder of Quinn, the athlete, but “Whyo Danny,” the biter, stabber, gouger, amputator of the tails of Five Points bar-room cats. “Danny” trod a drunken, carmagnolish measure down Worth street one summer morning in 1887–trod it to No. 199, between the Points and Chatham street, Dan Murphy’s saloon. The pavement in front of it was consecrated by the blood of one Whyo, “Sass” Suggero, dead from the blow of a “bung-starter” administered by a mutinous subject in Whyoland. But “Danny,” full of Five Points whisky, danced over the ill-omened pavement; danced after the new cat, which fled with a yowl, as if mindful of the fate of her predecessor; danced the bartender into the back room; danced the bottles off the shelves; danced howling for the blood of Dan Murphy.
“Why-oh, why-oh,” shrilling no longer in the darkness of Five Points’ hallways. Shrilling rather in the darkness of the night’s Plutonian shore. Oh. They were making rare preparations in the shades for the coming of the prisoned chieftan in the Tombs. “Poll,” the court jester, and Danny, the boldest knight of the Whyo round table of Chatham street, were there, ready to greet his ears with the familiar cry when he came.
He was coming fast. Aug. 16, 1887, Daniel Lyons was buried. Dec. 2 Daniel Driscoll was led forth to receive his death sentence after an appellate court had affirmed the verdict of the previous year.
The window of the cell had by loosening the stone been enlarged almost enough to allow the passage of a man’s body. In another day the Whyo chief would have been free to grasp the rope which the band were ready to throw eras the Elm street wall, and he and “Stable Gang Danny” Lyons who was in the plot with him, would have made one last dash for liberty. It was undoubtedly his wife whose place “Beezie” had taken when be was the king, who had taken Beezie’s place when he was the captive, who brought him the disguise and the saw.
He rewarded her for her devotion. Rewarded her and her mother, too, “Apple Mag,” with whom he hidden after so many of his escapes. The day after he took McCarthy’s medicine they fell a quarreling in his presence—the wives and mothers of Whyoland are more remarkable for warmth than refined of feeling—over the disposition of his body. Tired of their squabbling at last he turned and said:—
“You _ _ _ , neither of you’ll git it. See?”
Such were the last words of the Whyo king, or rather the last veritable expression of his character. What he said afterward was mere gallows yard formulae.
McCarthy’s medicine was taken on January 23, 1888. If it had been taken on January 24 its recipient would have had to be carried to it. The grip of the law broke his moral vertebra before the hemp broke his neck.
A shattered and disorganized band of bandits was Owney Bruen left in charge of, whom neither the fiercest of “hummers” nor the sight of his late majesty’s brown derby hat, which he had willed to his successor, could cheer. Nor could his high example of cajoling into self-sacrificing perjury a luckless lad who had given bim a stolen watch to dispose of
raise their spirits.
A few months after Driscoll’s end he was sentenced to nine years and five for assaulting a German grocer in City Hall place who had refused to “lend” him money.
This was the last sentence on a Whyo for a crime committed under the organization. The Hallissy brothers, William and Thomas, when they were arrested for killing their brother-in-law, Thomas McLaughlin, in East Eighty-sixth street last summer, were simply recognized by the police as members of the old gang who had, like “Kid” Hunt, strayed far uptown. When Captain Brooks, Captain McCullogh’s successor, made the arrest of the Harringtons and Dennis Sullivan for “Kid’s” murder three weeks ago his clue was on the recollection of “Poll” Sullivan’s taking off and the fact that Dennis had been known to blame the death from grief of his father and sister on “Poll’s” slayer.
So the cry of the children of the Points, children of the Tombs, is stilled! Only from the throat of their Minotaur–the grim gray monster crouching there in the flare of the gusty Centre street lamps–can it come.
Cry of the night birds of the slums! Boot and saddle and to the standard call of crime! Silent in death! Silent in shame!