CHAPTER LXXIV. THE PATENT SAFE GAME.

One of the most barefaced swindles ever practiced in New York has now almost gone out of existence. It is called the "patent safe game," and was much practiced during the late war, as many of our soldiers can testify. It was carried on principally in the neighborhood of the Hudson River Depot, and the complaints of the victims, to the police, were loud and numerous. The mode of operation was as follows:

A stranger in the city would be accosted by a well-dressed individual, who would immediately begin a careless, friendly conversation. If the overtures of this individual are not repulsed in the first instance, he is soon joined by his accomplice, who professes to be a stranger to swindler number one.

The accomplice has in his possession a small brass ball or sphere, which he says is the model of a patent safe, much used by merchants in China and India. He is trying to introduce it in this country, and would like to show the gentleman his model. This brass ball is, to all appearance, solid, but to the initiated it is soon made hollow, by pressing on a certain inner circle, when the centre of the ball, which is in the shape of a small cone, drops out. The bottom of the cone may be unscrewed, when a little chamber is revealed, in which is a long piece of white paper, carefully folded and secreted. The other end of the cone, the top of it, can be unscrewed, and a second chamber is revealed, in which is a second piece of paper, exactly like the first.

Swindler number one takes the ball, examines it, and declares that it must be solid. The accomplice then presses the spring, and the centre drops out. He then unscrews one of the chambers, and reveals the paper to the admiring stranger and swindler number one. The accomplice's attention is here called away for a moment, and swindler number one, quietly winking at the stranger, abstracts the paper from the chamber, screws the lid on, and replaces the centre in the ball. Handing it back to the accomplice, he whispers to the stranger that he is about to win some money. He then bets the accomplice a sum which he thinks proportioned to the means of the stranger, that there is no paper in the ball. The bet is promptly taken by the accomplice. Swindler number one finds that he has no money, and asks the stranger to lend him the amount, offering to divide the winning with him. The stranger, who has seen the paper abstracted from the ball, is sure his new-found friend will win, and not being averse to making a little money on the spot, produces the desired amount, and hands it to his friend. The accomplice then opens the second chamber, reveals the duplicate piece of paper, and claims the stakes. The stranger loses his money, and is taught a useful lesson. He may apply to the police, if he wishes to do so, but the probabilities are that he will never see either his "friends" of the safe, or his money, again.

                     POCKET-BOOK DROPPING.

This is a common occurrence in New York, and it is well for strangers to be on their guard against it.

A gentleman was once standing in front of a handsome show window on Broadway, gazing at the wares it contained, when he felt himself tapped on the shoulder. Looking around, he saw a well-dressed man standing by him, holding in his hand a well-filled pocket-book.

"Did you drop this, sir?" asked the stranger. "I have just picked it up at your feet."

"It is not mine," said the gentleman, feeling for his own wallet, and finding it safe.

"Strange," said the man. "It was lying at your feet." As he spoke he opened it, and revealed several heavy rolls of bills. "There must be several thousand dollars here," he said.

"What are you going to do with it?" asked the gentleman.

"I don't know," said the man. "I'm a stranger in the city, and I am compelled to leave town in a couple of hours. This pocket-book will undoubtedly be advertised to-morrow, and as the amount it contains is heavy, the reward will be large. Do you stay in town to-day, sir?" he asked, suddenly.

"Yes," said the gentleman, "I shall be here several days."

"Then I will turn the pocket-book over to you," said the man, after thinking a moment. "You can advertise it. Give me twenty dollars, and take the wallet."

"What do you suppose will be the reward offered?" asked the gentleman.

"Not less than fifty dollars. In that case you will make thirty dollars clear."

"Why don't you keep the money?"

"Sir," said the man, sharply, "do you take me for a thief?"

"Not at all," was the reply. "I meant no offence." The gentleman was thoughtful or a moment, and then drew out his wallet. The fellow, he reasoned, was evidently an honest man. The owner of the wallet would certainly reimburse him for the amount he paid the finder, and might offer more and the contents of the wallet would insure him against loss. He hesitated a moment longer, and then handed the man two ten dollar bills. The stranger gave him the pocketbook, and after a few words more, walked off.

At the first opportunity, the gentleman examined the notes in the wallet carefully. They were all of the denomination of ten dollars, and amounted in all to five thousand dollars, but were each and every one counterfeits of the very grossest character. He had paid twenty dollars for a lot of worthless trash, and the game was now plain to him.

This method of swindling is still very popular with the rogues of the city.

                     THIMBLE RIGGING.

The headquarters of this game are in the neighborhood of the City Hall and Printing-house Square.

"The 'little joker' is a very simple trick, and yet, from its very simplicity, all the more successful in entrapping the unwary. The apparatus is (occasionally) a small stand, three brass thimbles and a little ball, resembling, in size and appearance, a green pea. Often the former is dispensed with, and the crown of a hat or the knees used instead. The 'rigger,' in the most nonchalant manner imaginable, places the ball apparently under one of the thimbles, in plain view of the spectators, and offers to bet any sum that 'it isn't there.' Our friend from the country who is looking on, an interested spectator - is astonished at such a proposition, and looks upon the individual making it as little better than a fool; for didn't he see the ball placed under the thimble, and therefore must it not be there still? His idea on this point is soon confirmed - a bystander takes up the bet, the thimble is raised, and there sure enough is the ball - just where he knew it was!

"Again the ball is covered, and once more the bet is offered. Eager to prove his sagacity, our friend produces a 'V' or 'X spot' and covers the sharper's money. The thimble is raised, a moment of expectation, a single glance, and the ball is gone! A shout of laughter from the swindler and his confederates standing around, announces the fact that the gentleman from the rural districts has been 'sold.' Pocketing, not his money, but his loss, the victim walks away disconsolate, painfully conscious that he has been 'done,' not only out of his cash, but has had the wool pulled over his eyes in a (to him) most incomprehensible manner."

                     SEWING MACHINE SWINDLES.

The country newspapers are filled with advertisements of cheap sewing machines. From one to ten dollars is the price asked. The men who insert these advertisements are amongst the most unprincipled swindlers in New York. The machines they offer for sale are worthless.

A lady living in a neighboring State once sent five dollars to one of these fellows for his machine, and received in return a flimsy little instrument, so small that she could put it in her pocket. The needle could not be used at all, and after turning the handle a few times the cranks and wheels became bent, and twisted into one confused and useless mass. The machine was not worth twenty-five cents.

A fellow, some time ago, advertised a machine for fifty cents, and proclaimed it to the world as "the most perfect ever invented." It was simply a brass instrument in the shape of a fly, and the only use to which it could be put was to fasten work to a table. It was so flimsy that it did not last more than two or three days in this way.

                     THE POCKET TIME KEEPER.

Almost every reader of this book has seen in some newspaper the advertisements of the various "Pocket Time-Keepers," manufactured and offered for sale in this city. The price is usually one dollar. The article is merely a pasteboard sun-dial. The purchaser can make little or no use of it, and is swindled out of his money.

                     MOCK AUCTION'S.

The day of mock auctions has gone by, but there are still one or two of these establishments lingering in the city. These are managed in various ways.

At some of these establishments a lot of pencil cases, watches, or other goods, is offered for-sale. The lot generally contains a dozen or a gross of articles. Bids are started by the "decoys" of the proprietor, who are scattered through the crowd, and strangers are thus induced to make offers for them. Each man supposes he is bidding for a single lot, and is greatly astonished to find the whole lot knocked down to him. He is told he must take the entire lot, that his bid was for all. Some are weak enough to comply with the demand, but others resist it.

Admiral Farragut, during the war, made a bid for a penknife at one of these places, and was astonished at being told he must take the whole gross of the article. The old hero was not to be caught in this way, however, and he quietly called in a policeman, and gave the auctioneer in charge for attempting to swindle him.

A well-known Broadway auctioneer was brought before the Mayor, some time ago, on the following complaint. A gentleman, who appeared against the auctioneer, stated that he had attended his last sale. The auctioneer put up a box containing twelve silver pencil-cases, and the gentleman, supposing from his manner and language, that he was selling them fairly, bid two dollars and fifty cents for the lot. To his surprise, he was told that he had bid two dollars and fifty cents for each pencil-case, and that he must pay thirty dollars for the whole lot. The money had been paid and the auctioneer refused to return it, insisting that the gentleman should take one pencil-case or nothing. The Mayor compelled the scamp to refund the money, and warned him that he would revoke his license if a similar complaint were again made against him.

In some of these establishments, a stranger who attempts to remonstrate against the swindle fares badly. He is hustled out by the confederates of the proprietor, and if he attempts to defend himself, is handed over to the police on a charge of attempting to create a disturbance.

Other establishments sell watches and cheap jewelry. A really good article is put up, and passed around through the crowd as a sample. It draws bids rapidly, and is knocked down to the highest bidder. It has by this time been handed back to the auctioneer, and when the purchaser demands it, he is given some worthless article, which the dealer and his assistants swear was the one exhibited to the crowd. Remonstrances are useless. The bogus article must be taken or the money lost, unless the victim calls in the police. The city authorities have recently stationed a policeman at the door of one of these establishments, to warn strangers of its true character.

A friend of the writer - a "verdant countryman," too - once attended one of these auctions. A magnificent hunting-case watch was put up, and knocked down to John, as we shall call him, at the low price of ten dollars. As the announcement of the sale was made, John, who had his money in his hand, stepped briskly to the desk.

"Will you let me see that watch a minute?" he asked.

"Certainly, sir," said the auctioneer, handing him the watch.

"That's a magnificent watch," said John, admiringly, "and I think I got it pretty cheap!"

"Yes," replied the man, "that's the cheapest watch I ever sold."

"Well," said John, putting the watch in his pocket, and laying his ten dollars on the desk, "I'm very well satisfied with my bargain."

The auctioneer, alarmed for the repeater, which was his own, exclaimed quickly,

"We generally give a case with our watches, sir; let us fit one on that."

"No," said John, quietly, as he turned away, "I'm satisfied with the watch - I don't want a case!"

He walked leisurely away, but the auctioneer sprang after him.

"That watch is not for sale," said the man, angrily.

"It's bought and paid for," said John, coolly, buttoning his coat across his breast.

"I don't want your money, I want my watch!" shouted the man.

"It was a fair sale!" said John. "Gentlemen," he exclaimed, turning to the crowd, "I appeal to you. Was not it a fair sale?"

"Yes!" "Yes!" "Keep the watch!" cried the spectators, delighted that, for once, the sharper had met his match.

A policeman now approached, and John, stating the circumstances of the case to him, placed himself under his protection. The officer and the crowd accompanied him to his hotel, which he reached in safety. He left for home the next morning, taking his prize with him, and to this day boasts that he was "rather too much for New York, if he was from the country!"