CHAPTER XXXIII. STREET-WALKERS.

As soon as the sun sets over the Great City, Broadway, and the streets running parallel with it, become infested with numbers of young girls and women, who pass up and down the thoroughfares with a quick, mysterious air, which rarely fails to draw attention to them. These are known as street-walkers, and it would seem from outward indications that their number is steadily increasing. The best looking and the best dressed are seen on Broadway, and in parts of Fifth and Fourth Avenues. The others correspond to the localities they frequent. They are chiefly young girls, seventeen being the average age, but you will see children of twelve and thirteen amongst them. Very few promenade Broadway below Canal street. The neighborhoods of the hotels and places of amusement are the most frequented. Some of the girls are pretty and modest, but the majority are ugly and brazen. New faces are constantly appearing on Broadway, to take the places of the old ones which have gone down to the depths.

The majority of the girls have some regular employment at which they work in the day. Their regular earnings are small, and they take this means of increasing them. Some, however, sleep all day, and ply their infamous trade at night. There are cases in which the girls are driven to such a life by their parents, who either wish to rid themselves of their child's support, or to profit by her earnings. We have known cases where the girls have voluntarily supported their parents by the wages of their shame. We once heard of two sisters, well known on Broadway, who devoted their earnings to paying off a heavy debt of their father, which he was unable to meet. Sometimes these girls deserve more pity than blame; but a very large proportion of them, perhaps the majority, act as decoys for garroters and thieves. Hundreds of strangers, coming to the city, follow them to their rooms only to find themselves in the power of thieves, who compel them on pain of instant death to surrender all their valuables. The room taken by the decoy is vacated immediately after the robbery, the girl and her confederate disappear, and it is impossible to find them.

The police do not allow these girls to stop and converse with men on Broadway. If a girl succeeds in finding a companion, she beckons him into one of the side streets, where the police will not interfere with her. If he is willing to go with her, she conducts him to her room which is in one of the numerous bed-houses of the city.

                     BED-HOUSES

These bed-houses are simply large or small dwellings containing many furnished rooms, which are let to street-walkers by the week, or which are hired to applicants of any class by the night. They are very profitable, and are frequently owned by men of good social position, who rent them out to others, or who retain the ownership, and employ a manager. The rent, whether weekly or nightly, is invariably paid in advance, so that the landlord loses nothing.

The girl leads her companion to one of these houses, and if she has a room already engaged, proceeds directly to it; if not, one is engaged from a domestic on the spot, the price is paid, and the parties are shown up stairs. The place is kept dark and quiet, in order to avoid the attention of the police. The houses are more or less comfortable and handsome, according to the class by which they are patronized. They are sometimes preferred by guilty parties in high life, as the risk of being seen and recognized is less there than in more aristocratic houses. These houses have a constant run of visitors from, about eight o'clock until long after midnight.

                     TRAVELLING STREET-WALKERS.

The various night lines of steamers running from New York city, are literally overrun with abandoned women, seeking companions. The Albany and the Boston lines are made intensely disagreeable by such persons. A correspondent of one of the New Jersey papers, thus relates his experience on board of one of the magnificent vessels of a Boston line.

The grand saloon is filled with a throng of travellers listening to the sweet music discoursed by a band in the upper gallery, employed for the season by the company. One cannot but remark, with mingled pain and indignation, the large number of brazen-faced prostitutes and professional gamblers who saunter up and down the saloon and galleries, seeking their prey among the unsuspecting passengers. 
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If a gentleman is seated alone, along comes one of these painted wretches, boldly addressing him, and to escape her horrible proffers, he must seek some other part of the boat, or follow the example of every respectable lady, by occupying his stateroom at an early hour in the evening. It is really getting to be exceedingly unpleasant and disagreeable for a lady to travel by this line, even if accompanied by a gentleman; and let no one permit a female relative or friend to take this route alone, if they have the slightest regard for the decencies and proprieties of life. While the band was discoursing sweet strains of music, shrill screams were heard proceeding from the forward saloon. The passengers rushed to the scene. A young woman was being carried by main force, exerted by the servants, below. She struggled fiercely, biting, striking and cursing! What a horrible sight. One observer, at least, earnestly trusts he may never behold such an one again. She was one of the courtesans who had been parading up and down the saloons all the evening. She had inveigled an unsophisticated countryman into a stateroom and robbed him. He reported her to the captain, and threatened public exposure of the transaction before he could procure assistance! And now her screams can be plainly heard, resounding through, the gilded saloons, above the run of the machinery and strains of the musicians.

                     PANEL THIEVING.

This method of robbery is closely connected with street-walking. The girl in this case acts in concert with a confederate, who is generally a man. She takes her victim to her room, and directs him to deposit his clothing on a chair, which is placed but a few inches from the wall at the end of the room. This wall is false, and generally of wood. It is built some three or four feet from the real wall of the room, thus forming a closet. As the whole room is papered and but dimly lighted, a visitor cannot detect the fact that it is a sham. A panel, which slides noiselessly and rapidly, is arranged in the false wall, and the chair with the visitor's clothing upon it is placed just in front of it. While the visitor's attention is engaged in another quarter, the girl's confederate, who is concealed in the closet, slides back the panel, and rifles the pockets of the clothes on the chair. The panel is then noiselessly closed. When the visitor is about to depart, or sometimes not until long after his departure, he discovers his loss. He is sure the girl did not rob him, and he is completely bewildered in his efforts to account for the robbery. Of course the police could tell him how his money was taken, and could recover it, too, but in nine cases out of ten the man is ashamed to seek their assistance, as he does not wish his visit to such a place to be made public.

                     THE "HUSBAND GAME."

The street-walkers are adepts in deceit. Their chief object is to procure money, and they do not hesitate to plunder their victims in order to obtain it. One of their favorite "dodges" is called the "husband game." This is played as follows. A man is picked up on the street, after nine o'clock, and carried to the girl's room. He is asked to pay his money in advance, which he does. The girl then turns the lights down, and seems about to prepare to retire for the night, when a loud knocking is heard. The girl, in alarm, informs him that she is a married woman, and that her husband has returned. She begs him to escape, or he will be killed. The visitor, terribly frightened, is glad to get off through a side door. His money is not returned, but the woman promises to meet him the next night, which engagement, of course, is never kept. In ten minutes more she is on Broadway in search of a fresh, victim.