CHAPTER XIV. IMPOSTORS.
New York is the paradise of impostors. They thrive here. They practice all manner of tricks upon the unwary, and are off before one can lay hands on them. Sometimes they are caught, tried, and sentenced to the penitentiary.
A FOREIGN SWINDLER.
Several months ago, a foreigner, calling himself a Russian Count, and pretending to be Colonel of Engineers in the Russian Imperial service, made his appearance in this city, and announced himself as the agent of his Government to make contracts with certain engineering firms in this country. He hired an office down town, and would occasionally show, to those whose acquaintance he had made, plans of the work that was being executed under his supervision. He brought with him letters of introduction from many of the leading men of Europe, and these, united to an easy bearing and good address, sufficed to gain him admittance into the most refined and exclusive society in this and neighboring cities. At Washington, he was treated with marked consideration, was shown through the public buildings, and was allowed to inspect the Navy Yards at Washington and Brooklyn, and the fortifications in this city and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the expected remittance from Russia failed, from some unknown reason, to arrive, and the Baron was forced to appeal to his American friends for loans, and he borrowed, from various persons, sums ranging from $500 to $2,000, and amounting in the aggregate to $25,000 or $30,000. To one gentleman, who had loaned him at various times $1,500, the Baron said, recently, that his long- expected remittance had arrived, and he made an appointment with his creditor to meet him on a certain day and go with him to a broker's to procure currency for his Russian gold. In calling at the office of the Baron on the day named, the gentleman found him busily engaged in explaining some of the plans to a stranger, and as it would be impossible for him to go to the broker's on that day he begged the indulgence of his friend and named another day. Before that day arrived the Baron had disappeared, and the police, on being informed of the circumstance, made inquiry, and ascertained that a man answering the description of him sought for had taken passage in a steamer for Europe.
Men and women are always to be found in the City, seeking aid for some charitable institution. They carry books and pencils, in which each donor is requested to inscribe his name and the amount given. Small favors are thankfully received, and they depart, assuring you in the most humble and sanctified manner that "the Lord loveth a cheerful giver." If you cannot give to-day, they are willing to call to-morrow, next week - any time that may suit your convenience. You cannot insult them, for like Uriah Heep, they are always "so 'umble." You find it hard to suspect them, but in truth, they are the most genuine impostors to be met with in the City. They are soliciting money for themselves alone, and have no connection with any charitable institution whatever.
One-armed, or one-legged beggars, whose missing member, sound as your own, is strapped to their bodies so as to be safely out of sight, women wishing to bury their husbands or children, women with borrowed or hired babies, and sundry other objects calculated to excite your pity, meet you at every step. They are vagabonds. God knows there is misery enough in this great City, but nine out of ten of these people are impostors. If you give them money it will go for drink.
A FASHIONABLE IMPOSTOR.
A well known banker, who acted as agent for one of the numerous charitable associations of this city, was called upon one day by a lady of great elegance, who said she had come at the instance of Mrs. - - , naming one of the lady managers of the association, to ask for one hundred dollars, for which she had immediate need. As the lady referred to had never drawn on him for money, except by means of a regular cheque, the banker suspected that something was wrong, and informed his visitor that it would not be convenient for him to let her have the amount just then, and asked her to call the next day. She departed, and the next morning was punctual to her engagement. Meanwhile, the banker had ascertained from the lady manager that the request made of him was an imposture. He was not in when his visitor called the second time, but his son met the lady, and, as he knew her, expressed his surprise at seeing her there. Overwhelmed with confusion, she took her departure, saying she would come back when the banker returned. She did not make her appearance, and the son, in mentioning her visit to his father, was informed of its object. It was agreed to pass the matter over in silence, and a note to that effect was dispatched by the young man to the lady - she replied, thanking him for his silence, she said she was in need of money, and did not wish her husband to know it, and hoped to raise it in such a manner, and return it before the imposture should be discovered. She was a woman of good social position, and the wife of a wealthy citizen.