This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. Paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading.

This is an attractive and informative article, as Samuel promised in his previous piece, 'Samuel on Police Courts' (no. 106, 26 October 1889). He succeeds in bringing his general remarks alive by brief vignettes of those brought in. His account of the lost child give a far more positive view of policing and policemen than several earlier articles in the series. See below. The mention of 'several men dressed in women's clothes registers the changes brought about by the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act. These included broadening the concept of 'gross indecency' to include any public expression of affection between men, whether 'dressed in women’s clothes' or not. These 'several men' may be prostitutes, given that the scene is set in Charge Office, but the Act had given parliamentary encouragement to many forms of prejudice against homosexuality in men. —— David Skilton

TOLD you last week, sir, something of my experience in a magistrates' clerk’s office, and I might as well supplement that by just passing you along a corridor or two, down a flight steps or so, to that portion of the police department known as the charge-office. Here it is where the prisoner on first being 'brought in' is told the charge against him, numerous entries regarding his own description and the belongings found upon him at the time of his arrest being made whilst he is kept waiting prior to his being conducted to his lonely cell. Opposite a long oak counter, in front of which the prisoner with his captor usually stands, is a 'lean-to' mahogany desk, at which several clerks, all in uniform, sit making entries in ponderous tomes, this duty going on night and day the year through. Let us suppose that we are standing idly chatting (there is very little of idle chat, though, in that office) there. Suddenly a confused noise of scuffling is heard, a dull murmur of voices sounds from without, the door it banged rather than pushed in, and there is hurried in by two stalwart but somewhat breathless policemen a male human object with dishevelled hair, a scared-looking white face, tremulous limbs, and manacled hands. He is shoved up to the long oak counter, both officers keeping their hands on him. One of the clerks and the officer in charge leave the mahogany desk and step to the counter. Then one of the policemen states the charge upon which the prisoner is locked up; the prisoner is asked to give an account of himself (his name, address, &c., being entered in one of the huge volumes), his pockets are searched, the miscellaneous collection extracted from them is laid upon the counter, and then, entries having been made of each separate article, he is hurried off to a small gate doorway, which closes behind him with an ominous snap (as though it were some animal taking within its hungry jaws a toothsome human being) as he is led away to the cells.

To the student of human nature the Charge-office is chiefly valuable as showing those who are in durance vile in perhaps their most unguarded moment. In the dock a man often raises his courage to the sticking places, puts on a bold front, and completely deceives the general observer as to his state of mind and feeling; there he can be absolutely stolid or comparatively flippant. It is not so in the Charge-office. Here he has, since his capture, scarcely had time to recover his breath. I say recover his breath, because I never knew any man, however criminal, cool, or hardened) who did not 'catch' his breath and gasp a bit when first the iron clutch of the law descends upon his shoulder and grips him. In the Charge-office he has scarcely begun to realise that he is a prisoner, and that the game is up; there is the hunted look in the man's eyes, though, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, and however indifferent he may try to appear, his arrest has evidently acted as a species of shock and utterly unnerved him. Those manacled hands are vibrating with excitement, and sometimes with passion, and in many cases it would go hard with the officer could they get at his throat.

Perhaps the men who seem to suffer most are embezzling clerks and men of a similar class who have been arrested under warrant. They have usually known of the existence of this warrant and have been hiding away, racked by terrible anxieties and seeing an avenging officer in every man they meet. You can see that by the seams in their faces, the black half circle under their eyes, and the restless look in the latter. In most cases they have been drinking to drown care, and their perceptions are as yet deadened; the terrible awakening in the cold and lonely cell has yet to come – the time when they must look ruin and social desolation straight in the face, unbuoyed up by artificial stimulants. No wonder that some men never during a lifetime quite recover their elasticity of mind after that awakening. No wonder that being locked up in the middle of a debauch so frequently brings on delirium tremens.

The drunkard who is brought in is oftentimes a most amusing object – if the aspect of a drunken man ever can be wholly amusing. Generally he is profoundly indifferent to being locked up, and says, 'Locksh me up, an' welcome; make it warm for you. Shober ash judgsh. No marrer, five bob and costsh; have a drink in mornin', ole man' (this to the officer in charge) 'breakfastin' wi' the magistratesh, hurrah. I haven't been home sinsh mornin', and since I got me pay, ' &c., &c. Sometimes, of course, he comes in with blood-stained face, and froths at the mouth, and generally demeans himself like a maniac – but he is soon taught that that sort of thing will not do. Amongst the amusing drunkards I have seen some most curious objects brought in, including an organ grinder with a faithful monkey (which positively seemed to feel the disgrace of their position more than its master did), a busking nigger [a caucasian blacked up 'minstrel'], with his face all corked and with a very dilapidated banjo (carried by one of the policemen), a man who had been the victim of a practical joke, and who had been sprinkled with powder blue all over, and then left helplessly drunk by companions only one whit less tight than himself, and several men dressed in women's clothes.

One of the most amusing, and at the same time pleasantly pathetic, sights that I know of in connection with the Charge-office is that afforded by the lost children who are brought in. An officer finds one wandering about, with its knuckles twisted into its eyes, dismally looking for its 'mammy, ' and he very gently and soothingly (being mayhap a family man himself) leads it to the police-station, where, by a most careful, ingenious, and painstaking course of pumping, the officer in charge endeavours to get its name and address. As a general rule its sole description of itself is that its name is 'Tommy' (residence very uncertain indeed), and that it wants its 'Dada.' But these children are soon mollified, for most of the officers are married men, and exercise infinite patience with them; and, indeed, expend not a few coppers for spice and cake for them to render them happy till they are restored to their frantic mothers and anxious fathers. Let fathers and mothers who temporarily lose children please remember how kind the officers usually are. I warrant me that when most children are claimed they are found at the police-station as contentedly playing as though they were at home. Children, of a truth, soon adapt themselves to circumstances.

Very curious indeed are many of the articles found upon prisoners when they are arrested, and, singular to say, it is very often the case that 'drunks' have upon them when 'run in' pounds of steak, cow-heels, and other similar dainties. To see these drunks, by-the-way. foggily considering what fictitious name they shall give, and then, having given it, trying to remember it again, is infinitely funny.

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Last modified 16 March 2022