HOW SHE RECOVERED THE POCKETBOOKS OF THREE SHOPPERS.
An Experience With a Pretty Pickpocket Which Is Duplicated Every Day In the Large Stores of New York — Why the Thieves Are So Seldom Punished.
A young woman with a pretty face pressed into crowd of bargain hunters gathered about the silver counter of a Sixth avenue dry goods store on a recent afternoon. She elbowed her way into the middle of the throng, but got no further. Perhaps the lines in front of her were too compact, or she was tired from the exertion of getting so far. At all events she remained stationary.
A demure faced young woman who walked about the outside of the circle of shoppers, apparently aimlessly and with her eyes fixed on the floor a good part of the time, seemed to take an interest in the other after several glances in her direction. The demure woman kept her eyes on the pretty woman, and after awhile she elbowed her way into the crowd, so that presently she was right behind the object of her attentions. When the pretty woman moved, the demure woman kept step with her and showed the utmost curiosity about her actions, peering over her shoulder when she could do so unobserved and at other times watching her arms and hands as closely as possible.
Suddenly a shopper directly in front of the pretty woman screamed and showed an inclination to faint.
"Somebody has stolen my purse!" she cried.
The shoppers and clerks crowded around. The former made examinations to determine whether their own purses were safe, and several declared hysterically that they, too, had been robbed. Some frightened women forgot all about the bargains and hurried away. The others, in whom curiosity was stronger than fear, plied the victims with questions. Only two in the crowd did not seem greatly interested. They were the pretty woman and the demure woman. The former was a little pale, but otherwise she appeared calm. She moved slowly and deliberately toward the edge of the crowd, but as she got free she stepped more quickly. Just then she felt a hand upon her shoulder, and turning quickly looked into the face of her follower.
"I'll trouble you for those pocketbooks," said the demure woman quietly.
"What do you mean?" demanded the pretty one, not indignantly, but in apparent surprise.
"I'll trouble you to stop into the office," said the demure woman. "I will explain there."
The pretty woman said nothing, but assumed a puzzled expression.
"Come. I'm the store detective," insisted the demure woman.
"I am sure I have done nothing, but I will go with you," was the reply.
This conversation had been carried on so quietly that none of the excited shoppers around them heard it, and when the two walked away they were not noticed. They went straight to one of the executive offices. There the detective said sharply:
"Now, there's no use of your playing it any longer. I saw you take one purse anyhow, and you've got them all. If you put me to the trouble of finding them I'll make it hot for you."
"I really think you must be crazy," returned the accused woman calmly. "I know nothing about anybody's pocketbook but my own."
The detective started in methodically to search her. She began by feeling the big, puffed sleeves and worked down. She found nothing. She stood back and looked sharply at the suspect. The latter returned her gaze in the frankest fashion, and, except that she seemed annoyed, there was nothing to arouse suspicion about her. The detective began her search all over again. Again she was foiled, and her sentiment changed to alarm. Visions of suits for damages filled her brain. At that moment the accused moved uneasily, and that directed the detective's eyes to her feet. There lay a well filled purse, and the woman's feet were making futile efforts to poke it under her skirts.
The detective caught her by the arm and gave her a quick shove. Then two more pocketbooks were exposed. Evidently the woman had slid them noiselessly down her dress and trusted to luck to recover them later.
In the meantime the victims had been making complaints to the superintendent, and the latter understood the situation when the detective, flushed with triumph, marched in with the thief and the pocketbooks. Briefly the detective related her experience, while the owners of the property indulged in exclamations of wonder and praise.
"I trust you will see that this thief is properly punished," said one to the superintendent.
"Of course," chorused the other two.
"Nothing would please me better," said the superintendent gravely. "Of course you ladies will appear to testify against her?"
There was dead silence for a moment. Then one said:
"My husband would never allow me to enter a police court."
"Certainly not," said another. "Why, the reporters would write horrid stories about us."
"I wouldn't have my name connected with such an affair for a dozen purses," said the third.
The thief smiled, The detective groaned, and the superintendent looked sarcastic.
"But think of your duty to the public," he said. "You don't want this woman to be let loose in the community, do you?"
Your detective can prosecute her," replied one of the women.
"We have tried it over and over again," replied the superintendent, "but it is impossible to get a jury to convict a woman, especially if she is pretty, upon the uncorroborated evidence of a paid detective."
The women shrugged their shoulders, but no amount of argument could induce them to change their minds. They walked out sheepishly, while the thief grinned.
"You're dead right," she said, as they disappeared, dropping all further attempt at disguising her character. "My face is my fortune."
"Just the same," said the superintendent, "we can put you to a great deal of inconvenience by having you locked up for a time, at least, and if you ever are caught in here again we'll do it, regardless of the trouble or expense. Now get out of here." — New York Sun.
Made It Harder
"Father," said the studious girl, "what is the proper pronunciation of 'q-u-i-n-i-n-e?' "
"Why, look in the dictionary."
"That's just what I have been doing. I thought I knew until I happened to see it there." — Washington Star.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008