CHAPTER XXXII. ASSIGNATION HOUSES.

There are over one hundred houses of assignation in New York, known to the police. Besides these, there are places, used as such, which the officials of the law do not and cannot embrace in the general term. These are cheap hotels, where women hire rooms without meals, and receive visitors, with whom they make appointments on the streets, or in the places of amusement. Some really good houses have been ruined in this way. By tolerating one or two women of this kind, they have drawn to them others, and have finally become overrun with them to such an extent that respectable people have avoided them. Even the first-class hotels are kept busy in purging themselves of the evil.

The best houses are located in respectable, and a few in fashionable neighborhoods. In various ways they soon acquire a notoriety amongst persons having use for them. In the majority of them, the proprietress resides alone. Her visitors are persons of all classes in society. Married women meet their lovers here, and young girls pass in these polluted chambers the hours their parents suppose them to be devoting to healthful and innocent amusements. Hundreds of nominally virtuous women visit these places one or more times each week. They come sometimes in the day, but generally at night. A visit to the theatre, opera, or concert, is too often followed by a visit to one of these places, to which some women of high, social position possess pass-keys. Some visit these places because they love other men better than their husbands; others from mercenary motives. Married women, whose means are limited, too often adopt such a course to enable them to dress handsomely.

The rooms are hired from the proprietor at so much per hour, the price being generally very high. If refreshments are desired, they are furnished at an enormous rate.

In other houses, women rent rooms and take their meals outside. They bring their male friends to their rooms at any hour, as they have pass-keys to the house. These establishments pass in the neighborhood for reputable lodging-houses.

Men of "respectable" position frequently furnish houses for this purpose, and either engage women to manage them, or rent them, out at enormous sums. They live in style, and support their families on the proceeds of these dens of infamy.

The city papers are full of advertisements of these places. They are represented as "Rooms to let to quiet persons," or "Rooms in a strictly private family, where boarders are not annoyed with impertinent questions," or "A handsome room to let, with board for the lady only," or "Handsome apartments to gentlemen, by a widow lady living alone." These advertisements are at once recognized by those in search of them. Families from the country frequently stumble across these places by accident. If the female members are young and handsome, they are received, and the mistake is not found out, perhaps, until it is too late.

Respectable families are frequently victimized by having dwellings sold or rented to them which have been formerly used as houses of this kind. A Mexican Minister to the United States was once caught in this way rather curiously. Being a stranger in the city, he saw in print the notice of a splendid house, with the furniture for sale, in West Twenty-seventh street. He went up and saw it, and was pleased with the location, the house, the furniture, and even the price. He bought it, and moved in with his family. He was not located there twenty-four hours until he found that the house he had bought had been a notorious house of assignation, and that he was sandwiched in between two equally notorious houses. Many an oath came from his mouth, when a young or an old grayheaded Hotspur rang the bell; and many an old patron of the house has been astonished at being most abruptly told to go further than the next door for what he wanted. The old Mexican managed to stand it out six months, and a real estate agent, who had an eye to business, knowing that he could be tempted to sell out, advertised for a house in Twenty-seventh street, in the Spanish paper. The bait took - the diplomatist was happy to sell it for the half of what it was worth; thinking somebody would get burned, he was glad to get rid of it at any price. In a few weeks afterward, the house was re-sold for double the money paid for it, and converted back to its old purposes.