The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon IV: the Report of our Secret Commission
W. T. Stead, (The Pall Mall Gazette, July 10, 1885)
2. An Unnatural Alliance
3. The Black Sheep of the Flock
4. A Startling Statement
5. What, then about the State of Our Streets?
6. Do the Police Know of these Crimes
7. The Police and the Secret Commission
8. Theatres and Emporiums
9. Employment Agencies and Servant’s Regitries
10. The Import of Foreign Girls to London
11. How Marguerite was Ruined
12. The Foreign Export Trade
13. Recruits in the Provinces
14. An Interview with an Ex-Slave Trader
15. An Interview with “A Parcel” Shipped to Bordeaux
The watchword with which we started, Liberty for Vice, Repression for Crime, is the only safe keynote for the Legislature in dealing with this question. The Criminal Law Amendment Bill, as framed by Sir W. Harcourt, was not so much a bill for raising the age of consent and increasing the stringency of the provisions against procuration and the traffic in English girls as a bill for increasing the arbitrary power of the police in the streets.
No one who has any acquaintance with the enormous variety of the duties which modern civilization imposes upon the police can sympathize with the abuse so ignorantly and uncharitably showered upon the force. The constable is the official upon whom modern society has devolved all the duties of the ancient knight errant. There is no more useful being in the world, and there are few nobler ideals of human activity than the daily life of a really public-spirited, chivalrous policeman. But the majority of policemen, being only mortal, are no more to be trusted with arbitrary power than any other human beings, especially over the other sex. Its possession leads to corruption, and the more that power is increased the more mischief is done. I have no wish to bring any railing accusations against a body of men who are constantly performing the most arduous duties in the public service; but those who think most highly of the force should be most anxious to save it from any increase of a temptation which already seriously impairs both its morale and its efficiency. In this, I am informed, I am expressing not only the unanimous opinion of our Commission, but also the matured conviction of some of the best authorities in the force.
The power of the police over women in the streets is already ample, not merely for the purposes of maintaining order and for preventing indecency and molestation, but also for the purpose of levying blackmail upon unfortunates.
I have been assured by a chaplain of one of her Majesty’s gaols, who perhaps has more opportunities of talking to these women than any other individual in the realm, that there is absolute unanimity in the ranks that if they do not tip the police they get run in. From the highest to the lowest, he informs me, the universal testimony is that you must pay the constable, or you get into trouble. With them it has come to be part of the recognized necessities of their profession. Tipping porters is contrary to the by-laws of the railway companies, yet it is constantly done by passengers; and tipping the police is as constant a practice on the part of the women of the street. Some pay with purse, others with person–many poor wretches with both. There are good policemen who would not touch the money of a harlot or drink with her, much less have anything to do with her otherwise. But there are great numbers who regard these things as the perquisites of their office, and who act on their belief.
The power of a policeman over a girl of the streets, although theoretically very slight, is in reality almost despotic. “If you quarrel with a policeman you are done for,” is not far from the truth. The esprit de corps of the force is strong, and both prostitutes and policemen agree in this, that if a girl were once to tip and tell she might just as well leave London at once. She would be harried out of division after division, and never allowed to rest until she was outside the radius of the metropolitan district. If policemen can do that to avenge a breach of faith, it need not be pointed out that they are able materially to affect a girl’s position and prospects without absolutely doing anything wrong. They have only to appear inconveniently inquisitive when a bargain is being driven in order to scare off a customer, and at any time, if they choose to be animated by a severe sense of public duty, they can discover evidence sufficient to justify at least a threat of apprehension. A girl’s livelihood is in a policeman’s hand, and in too many cases he makes the most of his opportunity. To increase by one jot or one tittle the power of the man in uniform over the women who are left unfriended even by their own sex is a crime against liberty and justice, which no impatience at markets of vice, or holy horror at the sight of girls on the streets, ought to be allowed to excuse. If we say that the policeman is constantly tempted to transmute his power into cash, we only say that he is human and that he is poor. But it is too bad to convert the truncheoned custodians of public order into a set of “ponces” in uniform, levying a disgraceful tribute on the fallen maidens of modern Babylon.
AN UNNATURAL ALLIANCE
If the police are constantly in danger of being corrupted by the arbitrary power which they, possess, over prostitutes, the temptation presented by brothels is still more insidious. Every one knows how Mrs. Jefferies tried to tip Minahan, and how his superiors laughed him to scorn because he did not take hush money like the rest. The policeman theoretically has no power over the house of ill fame. But if he chooses he can make it almost impossible for any brothel to do good business. The police, by simple refusal to accept yesterday an interpretation of their duty on which they had acted the previous afternoon, made Northumberland-street impassable and delayed the publication of the Pall Mall Gazette by three hours. Anything more scandalous, that was not openly riotous–for the crowd was very good-humoured–than the scene upon which Lord Aberdeen, the Hon. Auberon Herbert, and many others, looked down upon from our office windows yesterday it would be difficult to conceive. Men were flung bodily through our windows, and had a single door given way the office would have been looted of every paper it contained.
The police for hours gave us no protection, and did little or nothing to secure freedom of egress and of exit to our premises. Whatever may have been the reason it was not until a question was asked in the House of Commons, and a formal complaint lodged at the Home Office, that the police abandoned an interpretation of their duty which for the greater part of the day rendered it impossible for any one to gain access to our premises, or for the ordinary and legitimate business of a newspaper to be carried on. Now, if the police can do this in dealing with an influential journal, with powerful friends in both Houses of Parliament and an immense following in the country, what can they not do in dealing with a brothel-keeper, who is constantly within an ace of breaking the law, even if he does not, as a great many of them do, convert his house into a shebeen? The inevitable result follows. Every brothel becomes more or less a source of revenue to the policemen on the beat. “The police are the brothel-keepers’ best friends,” said an old keeper to me sententiously. ” ‘Cos why? They keep things snug. And the brothel-keepers are the police’s best friend, ‘cos they pay them.” “How much did you pay the police?” I asked. “£3 a week year in and year out,” he said reflectively, “and mine was only a small house.” I have been told that at one famous house in the East-end the police allowance is as much as £500 a year, to say nothing of free quarters when they are wanted, for either the constables or the detectives.
This of course I cannot verify: I can only say that it is a matter-of common repute in the East, and if Sir Richard Cross wishes to know the name and the address of the house for purposes of independent inquiry it is at his service. What is the natural result? An alliance is struck up between the brothel keeper and the constable. A lady skilled in rescue work, and in a position to speak authoritatively, told me that if ever she wished to save a girl from a bad house in the West-end she had to take the greatest care not to allow a whisper of her intention to reach the ears of the police. “If I do.” she said, “I nearly always find that the keeper has received a warning, and that the poor girl has been spirited off to some other house.” It is better in the East; but in the West, if you want to circumvent the men whose crimes I have been exposing, don’t tell the police.
THE BLACK SHEEP OF THE FLOCK
Of course there are police and police. Some the best of men, others very much the reverse. Until Colonel Henderson put his foot down, and gave his superintendents to understand that the roughs were not to be allowed to maltreat the processions of the Salvation Army, the difference between a perfectly peaceful demonstration and a general riot depended almost entirely upon the goodwill or the reverse of the constable on the beat. Hence an enormous responsibility depends upon those who are charged with the maintenance of the high character of the force. Some of the superintendents are excellent men, and many of the inspectors. Others hardly deserve such praise. Mr. Charrington, in a letter received this morning, assures me that when he has gone to try and rescue poor little outraged children the police have done their best to prevent him. On one occasion he declares two policemen actually handed him over to the busies from the brothels to be murdered, saying at the same time they would go round the corner and not see it. “Only a few weeks ago when some good honest policemen did do their duty and protected me by taking into custody a man who assaulted me, they were immediately taken away from the spot and ordered not to go near it, while the scoundrel who did his best to get him murdered was allowed to remain.” An ex-officer of long standing assured me that “policemen and soldiers between them ruin more girls than any other class of men in London.” From Edinburgh I receive a report from a City missionary that he met with a case in that city where a gentleman saved a girl from a policeman who had threatened to run her in unless he might have his will with her, and, as he adds significantly, for one which we find there may be many. Many of the police are unmarried men, living in barracks as much as soldiers, and are no more fit to be invested with absolute control of the streets, which, after all, are the drawing-room of the poor, than are the Guards. Sometimes there is a thoroughly bad sheep in the flock, and his presence corrupts the rest.
A STARTLING STATEMENT
We have received a horrible statement concerning one officer who was recently in high command in the Metropolitan police–a story so horrible, both in its central fact and still more as to the tyranny which it represents, that we for some time hesitated to publish it. Even now, while promising to communicate to the Home Secretary, in order that the charge may be strictly investigated, the name of the person accused we merely give the tale in outline, so incredible does it appear to us, extracted from a written declaration now before us, which was sworn yesterday before the mayor of Winchester:–
A.B., an officer of high standing in the force, fifteen years ago violently seduced his daughter, who was then sixteen years old. Alter this intercourse had continued some time she left home, but afterwards falling into distress appealed to her father for help, saying that unless she got relief she would be compelled to apply to the magistrate. He sent a married sister to threaten her with imprisonment if she did anything of the kind. I continue the story in the words of the daughter, who is now a woman of thirty-one years of age, and engaged to be married to a man named Gibbons. “On receiving my statement that I would apply to the magistrate, he, having influence in Scotland-yard, sent two detectives in plain clothes to my lodgings, 1, Caledonian-street, King’s-cross. I was alone. One of the men set his back against the door, and they began to intimidate me. They said I was to write a letter to my father and sign it, declaring that my accusation of him was untrue. I refused to write and sign any such letter, as it would be a falsehood. I asked if I could call in Mr. Gibbons, a young man to whom I was engaged to be married, that he might be present as a witness. They then threatened me with ten years’ imprisonment and Gibbons with five if I did not write the letter. They had no warrant, but had merely been directed to intimidate me. They brought some note-paper. I had fainted with fear and distress. One of the policemen held me up to the table and composed the letter he wished me to write, and under the threat that they would take me up to prison there and then they held my hand, and forced me to write the letter. I told them, when written, that it was every bit false. I fainted again, and they left me in that condition and went away. I wrote again to my father telling him that although he had sent these detectives to my room to force me lo write the letter I’d rather suffer imprisonment to let the truth be known. On the same day that my father received this letter he applied for his pension, and in a short time afterwards he retired from the force on a good pension. We applied to a magistrate in Clerkenwell. He told us he must consult a brother magistrate, and later he informed us that, considering the position of the gentleman who was accused, he would rather not have anything to do with the case. Through the influence of the police reports against Mr. Gibbons were set afloat, and in consequence he lost his situation as a carpenter. Mr. Gibbons has made his statement before a public prosecutor.” This statement and other documents relating to the case are, it is said, in the hands of Professor Stuart, M.P. She further avers that Mr. Benjamin Scott, chairman of the London Committee for Stopping the Traffic in English Girls, sent persons to verify my story, and found it to be correct.
Now, if this story be true–and we publish it merely in order to challenge the most searching inquiry, and if possible to secure its immediate contradiction –what a piece of wickedness is here exposed to light! And what security can there be for individual liberty and the protection of female honour if the police in authority on any beat or in any division should be capable of such a crime. But it does not need so startling a piece of evidence as this to show that men, even when helmets are placed on their heads, are not fit to be trusted with what is practically absolute power over women who are even weaker and less protected than the rest of their sex. Hence I regard the excision of the clauses increasing the power of the police over women in the streets as absolutely necessary.
WHAT, THEN, ABOUT THE STATE OF THE STREETS?
Nothing can be more absurdly exaggerated than the usual talk about the scandalous state of the streets. Of course Regent-street at midnight is a grim and soul-saddening sight, and so are one or two other neighbourhoods that might be named. It may be possible to legislate solely for these quarters where vice is congested, by treating them as disorderly places, to be cleared by exceptional powers, only to be brought into exercise by the initiative of two or more residents in the neighbourhood. But we are against exceptional powers, even when initiated by private citizens. If any number of people are really in earnest about abating this scandal, why can they not imitate the example of the people of St. Jude’s, King’s-cross, and organize a vigilance committee? One or two members of this committee appeared to give evidence of general annoyance, while the police proved the individual acts of solicitation. That cleared the streets at St. Jude’s, and it would clear Regent-street. The streets belong to the prostitute as much as to the vestryman, and her right to walk there as long as she behaves herself ought to be defended to the last. Those who take their places if they are dragooned into the slums are certainly no more virtuous than the unreclaimed Magdalens of the streets.
As to the extent of the evil of importunate solicitation, I can bear personal testimony as to the gross exaggeration of the popular notion. I have been a night prowler for weeks. I have gone in different guises to most of the favourite rendezvous of harlots. I have strolled along Ratcliff-highway, and sauntered round and round the Quadrant at midnight. I have haunted St, James’s Park, and twice enjoyed the strange sweetness of summer night by the sides of the Serpentine. I have been at all hours in Leicester-square and the Strand, and have spent the midnight in Mile-end-road and the vicinity of the Tower. Sometimes I was alone; sometimes accompanied by a friend; and the deep and strong impression which I have brought back is one of respect and admiration for the extraordinarily good behaviour of the English girls who pursue this dreadful calling. In the whole of my wanderings I have not been accosted half-a-dozen times, and then I was more to blame than the woman. I was turned out of Hyde Park at midnight in company with a drunken prostitute, but she did not begin the conversation. I have been much more offensively accosted in Parisian boulevards than I have ever been in English park or English street, and on the whole I have brought back from the infernal labyrinth a very deep conviction that if there is one truth in the Bible that is truer than another it is this, that the publicans and harlots are nearer the kingdom of heaven than the scribes and pharisees who are always trying to qualify for a passport to bliss hereafter by driving their unfortunate sisters here to the very real hell of a police despotism.
Only in one respect would I like to see the powers of the police strengthened, and that is in exactly assimilating the law as to man and woman in molestation and solicitation. Why should not the male analogue of a prostitute – the man who habitually and persistently annoys women by solicitation – be subject to the same punishment for annoying girls by offensive overtures as are women who annoy men? It would be a real gain to get rid of one little bit, however small, of the scandalous immorality of having a severe law for the weak and a lax law for the strong.
DO THE POLICE KNOW OF THESE CRIMES
There is one argument that is constantly used, which is utterly worthless. These things could not have happened, it is said, because the police would have found them out long ago. The police knew all about them long ago, but they do not put them down. Here is one fact for the accuracy of which we can vouch from our own personal knowledge. People doubt the existence of the firm of procuresses Mdmes. X. and Z., and their delivery of virgins. What, then, will they say when I tell them, so far from the firm having retired from business owing to the exposure with which all London is ringing, that yesterday, with the street all vocal with the cries of newsboys vending the Pall Mall Gazette‘s revelations, these worthy women of business delivered over two of the certified virgins to be seduced, and entered into a further contract to supply a girl for export to a foreign brothel? Now, do the police know anything of the transactions of yesterday? If they do not know now, when we have told them all about it, what value is the argument that facts are not facts because the police must have found out all about them long ago if they had been true?
THE POLICE AND THE SECRET COMMISSION
I have often been asked whether, in the course of the six weeks during which our Secret Commission was investigating, any of its members were arrested by the police or in any way incommoded in their apparently criminal transactions by the authorities at Scotland-yard. In no single instance did we experience the slightest inconvenience from the members of the force. Experimental contracts were entered into and executed, maidens were examined and despatched to their destinations, and arrangements made for the supposed perpetration of similar crimes to those which have excited the horror and indignation of the public without the slightest interference on the part of the police. The only case in which any members of the Commission came into disagreeable proximity with the officers of the Criminal Investigation Department was very significant of the ease with which an instrument devised for the protection of the innocent can be converted into a weapon fashioned ready to the hand of the evil-doer.
One of our trusted agents brought us word that a little German girl of delicate health, about 16 years of age, who had been brought over from Cologne by a fraudulent agency, had just been launched upon the streets. She was said to be in the clutches of a bully who lived upon her earnings. She was, we were told, deeply distressed at the necessity which drove her to lead such a life, and we determined at once to rescue her if possible from, the clutches of the man who had imported her in order to profit by her ruin. A French procuress in one of the courts, leading out of Leicester-square undertook to arrange a meeting between the little German girl and myself, presumably, of course, for an immoral purpose, because if we had avowed our real intention we should never have set eyes upon the girl. Punctually at the time appointed the girl was brought to the house of assignation, but as it was impossible to arrange for her rescue under the eyes of the procuress an excuse was made for taking her away to a restaurant. The unfortunate young girl, who could only speak German, told a piteous tale. She was alone in the world, was penniless in London, was suffering from consumption, and not likely to live more than two months. She said that she had been three days without food or lodging before she fell, and her story confirmed our desire to save her.
From the restaurant we took her to a place leading off the Strand, and awaited the arrival of an excellent Swiss lady, who had arranged to take the girl, if she was willing, to a comfortable home. When after some delay this lady arrived, the girl refused to go with her that day. She might call to-morrow, and would bring her box on Saturday, but go home that night she must, for she had her rent to pay. So handing over the sovereign which was to have been her fee, we let her go. On returning home the girl appears to have spoken of the attempt to get her into a home, and the bully who lived upon her gains determined to frustrate our designs. And what did he do? He seems to have gone straight to the police and there laid an information against us imputing all manner of attempts upon the virtue, liberty, and even the life of “an innocent little English girl”–who, as it turned out, was then, and is to this day, a German prostitute walking the Strand. The consequence was that the next night, when two members of our Commission met again at the same place, they were startled by the appearance of a detective, and this is what passed:–
The detective took a seat in the room, and confronted my friend. “Who are you?” he was asked. In answer, he produced his card, similar to a railway season ticket, inscribed with his name. “I am Detective-Sergeant––, of the – Division, I have been sent here to elucidate a case.” So saying, he produced a roll of thin foolscap, numbering, perhaps, six or seven closely written sheets. He was requested to tell us what he wanted, and read from his blue foolscap, addressing himself to my friend, who was sitting on the sofa. I do not pretend to give more than the gist of what he read. He informed us that an old gentleman came here and made an agreement (or a young girl to be sold to him. It was agreed that a certain young English girl should pretend to be modest. “English girl,” interrupted my companion, “you know she is a little German prostitute now walking the Strand.” “Well,” said he, “the little German prostitute and the old gentleman met. He seemed to approve after a talk with her, and he was sufficiently satisfied with his bargain to take her to Gatti’s to dinner. They dined together there, and then she was taken to a house in a street leading off the Strand. She was taken by the old gentleman into this house, where no questions were asked, led upstairs, where she found another man. The two tried to persuade her to take a situation, offered her drugged coffee and sweets, none of which she would take, and talked to her for a long time, always endeavouring to persuade her to leave London. Presently a woman came in under the guise of the habit of a Sister of Mercy. This lady then talked to the girl, and gave her a Bible, which she tore to pieces, and tried every art to prevail upon her to accede to the request of the two gentlemen in the room. But it was all in vain. The girl saw the fiendish design of the disguised nun, and was eventually allowed to go, having received a douceur for her trouble.” This, so far as I remember, was the gist of what the sergeant read. He then began to cross-examine my friend. “You need not inculpate yourself, of course, by answering any of my questions; but I should be obliged if you would tell me all you know. What did you want with the girl, and why did you wish to entice her away?” I thought it best to tell the detective nothing, indeed to try him to the end of his tether by an insolent demeanour and a steady refusal to aid him or the police in any way. “Would you allow us to consult in private for five minutes?” I asked. “Certainly; I will retire.” We then agreed to give up my own name with an address where I could be found, and my address only. The sergeant seemed surprised, as I was not mentioned in the statement he read. “That is my name and my address. We refuse to tell you anything. My friend declines to give you either his name and address. Now do what you can. Take us in charge if you like; we should like nothing better.” ” That is final. You will give me no more information, then?” “No.” Having taken the name and address of the willing –– , Sergeant –– departed, no wiser than he came, and evidently fancying we were a pair of scoundrels. No blame to him. I should like to say a word for his politeness and civility under trying circumstances, for we purposely tried his temper to the utmost. Giving him time to get out, I followed him to see if he could stand the test of a bribe. I found him in the court talking to the servant. “Are you going off to report to Mr. Dunlop?” I asked. “Never mind what I am going to do. I am sorry I cannot introduce you to him to-night in his official capacity.” “I have already the pleasure of the superintendent’s acquaintance.” “I dare say,” was the sardonic reply. “May I walk with you a little way?” “If you please. Are you going to tell me what your fnend wanted with the little girl ?” “Certainly not, you must find out for yourself. But supposing I had come out to offer you a ten-pound note to say nothing more.” “Now don’t you try that game, please, you’ve got the wrong man.” And the sergeant walked off.
Since then we have heard absolutely nothing more of the case, and we have much pleasure in stating that the conduct of Detective –– was perfect throughout.
THEATRES AND EMPORIUMS
A good deal has been said in the course of these articles and in the comments based upon the revelations already made as to the responsibility of the dissolute rich for the ruin of the daughters of the poor. No mistake would be greater, however, than the assumption that those answerable for the wide-spread corruption of the working women of London are solely to be found among the very wealthy and the immoral idlers of the “upper ten.” Their share, no doubt, is great, and greater is their responsibility for the abuse of privileges granted them for vastly different ends. If, however, I were asked to describe as by far the most ruinous form of London vice, I would point, not to fashionable West-end houses, such as that kept by Mrs. Jeffries, nor to the systematized business of procuration, but rather to certain of the great drapery and millinery establishments of the metropolis, in which every year hundreds, if not thousands, of young women are ruined. It is not my purpose to give names, and I have no wish to do more at present than indicate one of the most deadly plague spots on the social system. It is pitiful to think of the number of young girls who have been tenderly trained and carefully educated at home and at school in our country villages who will come up to town in the course of the present year only to discover that the business on which their parents fondly built high hopes as to their future position in life is little better than an open doorway–a pathway leading to the hell.
It is said that at a certain notorious theatre no girl ever kept her virtue more than three months; and that at an equally notorious business establishment in West London it is rare to find a girl who has not lost her virtue in less than six months. This may be an exaggeration, of course. Some theatrical managers are, rightly or wrongly, accused of insisting upon a claim to ruin actresses whom they allow to appear on their boards; and it is to be feared that a certain persistent report is not ill founded, and that the head of a great London emporium regards the women in his employ in much the same aspect as the Sultan of Turkey regards the inmates of his seraglio, the master of the establishment selecting for himself the prettiest girls in the shop. Such an example is naturally followed throughout the whole warehouse, from top to bottom. I have not been able to devote much time to the verification of individual cases, but sufficient has come to my knowledge to justify the assertion that while many houses of business employing hundreds of women may be and are excellently conducted, others are little better than horrible antechambers to the brothel. But upon that subject I will not dwell. In Paris, of course, in many houses it is quite understood that girls accept situations not so much for the salary, which is insufficient often to pay their lodgings, as for the opportunities which they furnish for supplementing legitimate earnings by the wages of sin. A similar system is creeping into some fashionable shops in London, and when once it obtains a firm bold the mischief is almost irremediable.
EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES AND SERVANTS’ REGISTRIES
It is bad enough when a man kills a sheep for the sake of its fleece, but it would be worse if the animal were slaughtered solely for its ears. This is, however, a fair analogy to the case when girls are ruined not for the sake of the possession of the victim, but solely because an intermediary can turn a miserable commission by luring them into a position from which a life of vice is the only exit. In the course of this inquiry it has come repeatedly under our notice that while many respectable agencies are carried on, even the most respectable are liable to be abused for vicious purposes by unscrupulous men and their female agents, and in some cases there is a suspicion, almost amounting to a certainty, that the agency itself is little better than an organization for carrying on the business of procuration. When you find that a notorious keeper of immoral houses occasionally opens a servants’ registry in the intervals when the police have chased her from the pursuit of her ordinary calling, such suspicion is natural, and, unfortunately, it is too often the case that persons engaged in a business which should be beyond reproach have a record more or less immoral, if not, as in some cases, actually criminal. A sojourn in prison for a felony is hardly a better preparation for the honest conduct of an employment agency than the keeping of a disorderly house.
Some of the most scandalous of these agencies are among those which are reputedly the most respectable. Girls are brought from a distance, often from abroad, by promises of a situation which does not exist. They pay their fee and live in continually increasing anxiety either in lodgings connected with the agency or elsewhere until their little capital is exhausted. Debt is incurred, against which their box is held as security, and when all hope disappears the agent who tempted them to London with fair promises of honest and profitable employment suggests that the only mode of making a livelihood is to accept their kind service in introducing them to gentlemen or to keepers of houses who are on the constant look out for respectable young girls. Only this week one of the most widely-known governess agencies in London offered me the choice of several poor girls, speaking French and German, to accompany me as an intimate–too intimate–travelling companion on the Continent There was no disguise whatever about the purpose for which the girl was wanted. She had to be young, not more than twenty-two, pretty, lively, and of full figure, and willing to travel alone with a gentleman, The number of girls whom this firm is said to have been the means of launching upon the London streets who would otherwise have lived quietly at home in Belgium, France, Germany, and Switzerland is I am assured if competent authorities almost incalculable. Other governess agencies will occasionally do the same thing. They get their profit, and for them that is sufficient.
THE IMPORT OF FOREIGN GIRLS TO LONDON
London, say those who are engaged in the white slave trade, is the greatest market of human flesh in the whole world. Like other markets the traffic consists of imports and exports, and although we have heard a great deal of late about the exportation of English girls abroad, there is a chapter quite as ghastly which remains to be written concerning the import of foreign girls into England. The difference between the two is that in England vice is free, whereas on the Continent it is a legalized slavery, and that of course is immense. But so far as the ruin of innocent girls is concerned the compulsion of poverty and helplessness arising from youth, inexperience, friendlessness, and absolute ignorance of the language, is quite as tyrannical as the savagery of the State brothel-keeper and the unfeeling barbarity of the official doctor. Girls are regularly brought over to London from France, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland for the purpose of being ruined. The idea of the men who import these girls, many of whom are perfectly respectable, is to force them to lead a life of vice from which they can reap a heavy profit. There is a great colony of maquereaux in the French quarter whose chief idea of securing an easy livelihood is to get a girl into their possession, body and soul, to drive her upon the street, and to live and thrive upon the profits of her prostitution.
Some very remarkable cases of importation have been exposed by Miss Sterling, the devoted and public-spirited founder of the Edinburgh and Leith Children’s Aid and Refuge. According to the official correspondent, George N–––, described by the pastor in Hamburg as “the young German workman who did certainly trade in young girls,” got two girls, Annie and Elise, by the following advertisement in the Reform of Hamburg: “A good family in Edinburgh, in Scotland, wish to adopt a girl, age nine to twelve years of age; a child of poor parents or orphan preferred; address letters to No. 424, Stockbridge Post Office, Edinburgh.” After Miss Sterling rescued these poor children from his clutches, N––– became very violent, and police protection was afforded Miss Sterling for five months. She was threatened with death, and went about in fear of her life, her only offence being that she had rescued two wee bairns from the hand of a slave trader. It is apparently an organized trade. Much surprise was expressed by the Hamburg Burgomaster that English law did not deal with such cases, and as late as March 8, 1884, Count Münster referred in terms of honor to the shocking trade which George N––– and others seem to have been carrying on for some time. The stewardesses on Currie’s steamers are apparently useful in detecting these offences. The hint ought not to be lost here.
Several times in the course of the present inquiry we have heard of cases, apparently authentic, in which girls who had been struggling vainly for weeks against the necessity of seeking a livelihood on the trottoir had succumbed in some cases only a week, and in others only a day before we heard of the case. One very painful instance of this nature will never be forgotten by those engaged in this inquiry. A German girl who had been brought over by prormises of a situation, and then had found herself confronted by the alternative of starvation or prostitution, was actually brought to the house of a trustworthy person in order to be placed by us in a place of safety. Some misunderstanding arose about the time when we should have arrived, and the girl, timid and mistrustful, took alarm at the arrival of some well-known slave traders of the colony, left the house, and was immediately carried off by the maquereaux, who was furious at the thought that his prey might escape him. The poor girl cast an appealing look to her friend as she was hurried off, but it was of no avail. “It is high time you were doing something,” said her captor. “You must start at once.” That night she was compelled to receive two visitors, and then she disappeared, as so many others have done, into the great gulf. No traces of her have we been able again to discover, in spite of all efforts. During the operations of the Commission we constantly felt ourselves to be in the position of spectators who watch a shipwreck with straining eyes, making such endeavours as they can to snatch here and there one stray swimmer from a watery grave. A rope is thrown into the abyss; it falls a yard short, and the last chance is gone. The waters close over the strong swimmer in his agony, and no second opportunity is afforded. Occasionally we were more fortunate–not indeed in preventing but in rescuing; and in the case of one victim of this cruellest of all frauds, we took down the following story from her own lips:–
HOW MARGUERITE WAS RUINED
Marguerite de S–––, a French girl, twenty-one years of age, formerly a leading dressmaker in a Parisian establishment, whose mother is dead, and whose father is foreman in a large French warehouse–a person of much refinement, quick intelligence, and pleasing manners.—–was induced to come to this country by an advertisement inserted in the Journal des Renseignements, published by Mdme Pilus, 56, Rue de Richelieu, Paris. This This advertisement offered a nursery governess’s place in England to a respectable French girl, and answers were were to be addressed to “M.B –––, 33 ––– street, Lambeth London.” M. B–– professed himself to be the head of an employment agency, for the respectability of which Mdme Palus (sic) vouched “You can put yourself safely in his hands,” she said. Now, this M.B ––– disreputable even amongt the shadiest characters in the French colony.
He lives in a room for which he pays 3s. 6d. a week rent, and the furniture of his chamber could probably be purchased for 15s. Marguerite wrote to M. B––, applying for the situation, and was forwarded a letter in French, purporting to come from a “Mr. Southern, of Oaley-street, London,” who promised that if she came he would “treat her as one of the family.” This letter was written by a man whom I have seen, who confesses that he was employed to invent the whole story. There was no “Mr. Southern” in existence, and when she arrived in London upon the day agreed upon, the poor girl made a long and trying search for him in vain. She then betook herself to M. B–––’s room to seek explanations. The man whom M.B–– employed as his secretary here met her in a state of intoxication, and in escorting her (as he insisted upon doing) to the London Bridge Hotel, where she had previously taken a room, he made improper proposals to her which she indignantly rejected. This the man admits. The next morning M. B––, whom Marguerite describes as “an exceedingly ill-looking man,” visited her. Telling her she “arrived too late, the vacancy having been filled up”–she arrived at the time appointed– M. B––– offered to find her another place in three days if she would give him 10s., and she gave him 7s., the only English money she had. In the evening he returned to tell her he hoped to get her a situation, but he feared she was too good-looking for it, as the lady was of a jealous disposition. Claiming that he had been spending money in her interests, he got another 2s. On two following days he came with similar stories with the same result, and at the end of a week she found her small stock of cash had almost disappeared.
I felt myself (she says) utterly helpless, and knowing no other person in London I even clung for guidance and help to M. B––, whose words and behaviour did not inspire me with more confidence than his looks. He advised me to leave the hotel, and offered to find me a cheap apartment. I accepted his offer, and removed to a room at 6s. a week at 19, Manners-street, button-street. Afterwards advertisements appeared on my behalf. There were a few answers, which B–– gave me to understand were of a trivial or of an immoral character. On my remarking to B–– that I should soon be without money, he said: “You have a nice gold watch and chain; but if you want to get a good advance on them, you must pledge them through me.” A day or two before this he tried to get some more money from me. On my refusing, he presently informed me that he was about to leave for Paris for a short trip, as he wanted to find out why Mdme. Pilus kept sending him girls while he had no vacancies open for them. Before taking leave of me he said he would as a dcrnier devoir introduce me to the Misses Oppenheim, of Berners-street, as he had every confidence that those ladies could shortly procure me a nice place. He took me to their office, and they undertook to find a place for me, but the only situation they ever offered me was that of a nursemaid. This 1 declined and never called on them again. B––left for Paris. After being about a month in London I was visited at my room by a person I had not before met, L––, who I afterwards learned was really in league with B––. I had the day before pledged my gold watch and chain, but having paid my landlady and bought some necessaries, I had spent my money, and really did not know what to do, as I did not like to let my father know how I was situated. I was, therefore, glad to see a person who professed the most friendly intentions in my behalf, as did this L––. He assured me that B–– and C–– M–– had plotted to rob me of my box on my arrival at Victoria station, as it was there that they expected me. He said B–– had left in the parcels office a parcel containing nothing more valuable than old newspapers, and it was arranged that when I deposited my box in that office, C–– M––should hand to me the ticket given out for this parcel of newspapers, instead of the one for my box. Then L––declared to me that I was in the hands of rogues, that there were three of them, and that they were still conspiring to cheat, rob, and ruin me. You must get out of this house at once,” he said, “for if you remain another day B––will contrive to steal your box.” I was greatly alarmed at hearing all this. He represented himself as an honest man, and I took him for such. He asked me to go out and breakfast with him, and I consenting, he took me to a neighbouring restaurant. During the meal he assured me that I was a nice little woman, and that he should like to have one just like me. He said he was a merchant, and could earn £5. He offered to take an apartment for me, more suitable than the one 1 was in. He said he would take me to his own apartments, which were in a house kept by a married couple, but he took me instead to apartments in a house kept by a maquereau and his woman, in Poland-street. As soon as I had taken possession of these apartments he unmasked himself, telling me I should have to pay £2 a week for the lodgings, ,£1 5s, for my board, and £1 5s. for his own board, Altogether ,£4 10s. I asked him how 1 was to find the money? “Oh,” he said, “of course you must see gentlemen.” When I indignantly refused to prostitute myself in order to keep him, he gave me a severe beating. He struck me on the neck and on the head. I shrieked and he left the room, which was ever afterwards closed against him. The maquereau and his woman took my part. But I had brought my box and all my things to their house; I had no money, and there was only one way of paying my way and of saving my things. The lady of the house said she could introduce me to a nice gentleman, who would pay me well. I saw there was no other way of extricating myself from my difficulties, so I consented, and I fell. After staying one week at this place I removed to 142, S––street, where I stayed a fortnight, and then to 129, in the same street, which was kept by the same proprietor. 1 stayed at this last place four months, paying only 27s. 6d. a week. 1 then removed to 156, W––street, Pimlico, where I was staying when I was rescued.
One of our Commissioners interviewed B–––, and he not only acknowledged the frauds which he has committed in bringing French girls over, but he also offered to bring over a French girl for our Commissioner provided we advanced 10s. for the preliminary expenses and paid him £5 on delivery of the parcel. His method was to advertise in a Normandy family newspaper, promising excellent situations to be procured through his agency. This man is still at work.
THE FOREIGN EXPORT TRADE
There is not much need to say much about the foreign traffic in English girls, thanks to the labours of Mr. Scott’s committee, and the admirable report of Mr. Snagge, which Sir W, Harcourt seems to have forgotten, beyond this–it is the supreme development, the superlative and climax of the possibilities of blank and irremediable temporal damnation which a girl inherits who allows herself to be seduced. Prostitution in England is Purgatory; under the State regulated system which prevails abroad it is Hell. The foreign traffic is the indefinite prolongation of the labyrinth of modern Babylon, with absolute and utter hopelessness of any redemption. When a girl steps over the fatal brink she is at once regarded as fair game for the slave trader who collects his human “parcels ” in the great central mart of London for transmission to the uttermost ends o the earth. They move from stage to stage, from town to town–bought exchanged, sold–driven on and ever on like the restless ghosts of the damned, until at last they too sleep “where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.”
RECRUITS IN THE PROVINCES
If any say that the foreign traffic has ceased, they deceive themselves. Only last week a sample lot of three “coils,” or parcels, left the region of Leicester-square for Belgium. Two of them are now in Antwerp, one in Brussels. A much larger consignment is expected shortly. The bagmen of this international traffic are now in the provinces. They say that the London girls have been frightened by the recent exposure of what comes of going abroad. They got three with difficulty. In the provinces they will pick them up more easily. In London they could only get three; in the country they hope to get three dozen. They are recruiting now. The next consignment may start to-morrow night, but of that I have not yet positive information.
The work of inquiring into the ramifications of this new slave trade was the most dangerous part of the investigations. The traffic is almost entirely in the hands of ex-convicts, who know too well the discomforts of the maison correctionelle to stick at any trifles which might remove an inconvenient witness or help them to escape conviction. It was at first a new sensation for me to sit smoking and drinking with men fresh from gaol in the “snug” of a gin palace, and asking as to the precise cost of disposing of girls in foreign brothels. One excellent trader who dwells in such odour of sanctity as can come from having his headquarters within archiepiscopal shade kindly undertook to dispose of a mistress of whom it was supposed that I wished to rid myself before my approaching marriage by depositing her without any ado in a house of ill-fame in Brussels. For this considerable service he would only charge £10. Another agent eagerly competed for the job, and was ready to put it through straight if the other had held back. With a heroism and self-sacrifice worthy of the sainted martyrs a pure and noble girl volunteered to face the frightful risks of being placed in the Belgian brothel if it was thought necessary to complete the exposure. “God has been with me hitherto,” said she: “why should He forsake me if in His cause I face the risks? Surely He will take care of me there as well as here.” I would not sanction so terrible an experiment. But that there are women capable of such sublimity of devotion to the cause of their outraged and degraded sisters tends to relieve, as by a ray of Heaven’s light, the darkness of this awful hell.
AN INTERVIEW WITH AN EX-SLAVE TRADER
This week I had a long interview with John, the S–––, who had within the last few weeks returned to London from a prolonged–involuntary–sojourn in his native Belgium. This worthy has long had a high reputation among the exporters of English girls, not only because of his own exploits, but still more because of those of his wife, an Irishwoman, who is now practising as procuress for foreign brothels in the city of Manchester. In April, 1881, John, the S––, was convicted in the Belgian courts of felony and excitement to debauchery, and condemned to six years’ imprisonment in the Maison Correctionnelle at Ghent. He was released last April, one year of his sentence being remitted for good behaviour. John is a man who, if well fed and cared for, would be of remarkable, and even commanding, presence. Now he is somewhat broken down, but his countenance is striking, and his grey hair gives him an interesting appearance. We met in a restaurant in the Strand, where we had a long and confidential conversation upon the trade in English girls–a profession which he declares he has now for ever abjured. He has had too much plank bed and bread and water, he says, and having reformed he had no objection to talk very freely concerning the business of exportation.
To what extent,” I asked, “do you think English girls leave this country for foreign houses of prostitution?”
John did not reply offhand. He began an elaborate calculation as to the numbers of brothels in Brussels, Antwerp, Lille, Boulogne, and Ostend in which, to his own knowledge, English girls had been placed. Alter a while he said: “I can only speak for Belgium and the North of France. I know nothing of the supply to Bordeaux, Paris, Holland, and the rest of the Continent. But I should think that, on an average, to these places which 1 have named twenty English girls are in the habit of going every month.”
That is about 250 par annual, a large figure. How many of these are prostitutes before they start ?”
About one in three, I should think. Two-thirds of them think they are going to situations, and only learn their fate when they are safely within the brothel. Even then the truth is broken to them by degrees. The English girl is placed alone in the midst of foreign women, who are carefully tutored not to excite her suspicions until she is broken in. Then, little by little, she is allowed to see where she is, and she comes to accept her fate as inevitable, and submits.”
Don’t you think an export of 250 girls per annum is rather large when you take into account the small area which they supply?”
“No,” said he; “I think not. Girls do not as a rule stay very long in one house. They are constantly being exchanged and passed on from brothel to brothel, so that there is no knowing how far into the interior of the Continent they may ultimately make their way. They begin in Belgium and the North of France, and are worked gradually inland.”
“How many English girls do you regard as the ordinary complement of the houses which you used to supply? “
“One or two is the ordinary rate. I should say that the normal number of English girls in Brussels is twenty to thirty. In Antwerp they are much more numerous. I should say that you would find little difficulty in finding four or five English girls in twenty houses in Antwerp. Possibly there are altogether a hundred English girls in Belgian houses of ill fame at this moment. That of course is more or less of a guess on my part. I have no statistics, but that is what I should expect from what I know of the houses and their habits.”
“How are these houses supplied?”
“It is a regular business. I was only in it in a small way. In fact, I only took abroad eleven girls in all, not including those which my wife sent. Of these I took five to Brussels, three to Antwerp, two to Boulogne, and one to Lille. But my experience is a fair sample of the larger traders’. I was paid so much a girl by the keeper of the house, provided that on arrival she passed her examination as a healthy subject. If she was diseased and had to be sent into the hospital I lost my money. The keepers used to promise that if they came out cured, and entered their houses, they would pay me my commission; but they never did,” said he, with a sigh over the dishonesty of the keepers.
“What was the usual commission?”
“I have had as much as £10 (250f.), but out of that I had to pay expenses of collection and delivery.”
“Are these heavy?”
“Oh, no,” said he, “railway and steamboat fare and a few expenses. My wife would go out into the street, and pick up girls– they might either be prostitutes anxious for a change, servant girls out of work, or shop girls. I always told them where they were going to, but others I dare say were less particular. It is very simple. You get the girl to listen to you, and you can persuade her to anything. If they were not as silly as they are, they would never believe you. But they swallow anything. You tell them they will have good situations, fine clothes, liberty to go to the theatre, high wages, and all the inducements which would enable a sharp girl to smell a rat. But they are not sharp girls; they swallow the bait like gudgeons, and off they go.”
“How do they go?”
“By Dover to Ostend for the most part. Sometimes the woman of the house comes to Dover to receive them. She takes good care of them after she gets hold of them.”
“What are the difficulties in the way of the trade?” “(1.) The possibility that some stewardess or Englishwoman on board the Ostend steamer may get into conversation with the girls, and warn them where they are being taken. If girls get to know that on board, the consignee would be aghast, and the parcel would never reach its destination. (2.) If they are safely landed without having their suspicions aroused, there is a danger that they may take alarm alter they land, when they could make it very disagreeable for us if they communicates with the police. The Belgian police would always befriend the girls, but then, you see, the police speak no English, the girls no French. The interpreting is usually carried on by the keeper, and she takes good care to make the most of her advantage. (3.) After the girls are delivered at their destination they may be got out if any friend appeals to the Procureur du Roi. The English Consuls are not much good. But the Procureur du Roi is bound by law to release any English girl detained in a brothel against her will, even if she has not paid her debt.”
“Why, then, do girls remain?”
“They cannot easily summon the Procureur, and then when the opportunity occurs it is so easy to deceive a girl, to make her drunk, or otherwise to spoil her chance of escape. Sometimes girls complain very bitterly, especially at the official surgical inspection. English girls do not like that, and there have been cases where they have resisted it violently. You see in England girls are so free. Belgium is not so free as England, but it is better than France. In the French provincial brothels there is very little liberty. Girls are constantly being changed. Sometimes one girl will be in three or four houses in one year.”
“Who are the chief exporters now?”
“F–––– has gone to Liverpool, a fine field for picking up girls. My wife is in Manchester, Alfred of the beautiful teeth and some half-dozen others are in London. K–––, P–––, C––––, C––––, and R–––, all Belgians, are all in the business. The export of little girls of thirteen or fourteen for Continental brothels is chiefly in the hands of a woman named Kate. I do not know who supplies the infants of eight and nine. Most of these agents will place any girl entrusted to them in a foreign brothel, but I–no, not for a thousand pounds! If you want to stop the trade, place a trustworthy person on board steamer to warn the girls, and get some one to see to it that the Procureur du Roi does his duty. That would cut the trade up by the roots so far as it is carried on in unwilling girls.”
AN INTERVIEW WITH “A PARCEL” SHIPPED TO BORDEAUX
The following is the story of one who, for no lofty motive but from the dire compulsion of adverse destiny, was doomed for three years and nine months to sojourn in a foreign brothel. This person had spent nearly four years in a house of ill-fame” in Bordeaux, where she had been placed by a scoundrelly Greek who once kept a cigar shop in a street leading off Regent-street, and who took her and three others over from London on the assurance that he would find them good situations either as barmaids or in gentlemen’s families. Her story, which is confirmed in many details by her husband, whom she rejoined after her prolonged sojourn in the south of France, is fairly typical of the way in which the foreign slave trade is worked:–
It is now nearly six years since (said Mrs. M––), after my husband’s prolonged ill health had brought our little household to the verge of destitution that I left him to make my living. One of my friends, an English girl in an honest situation, told me that a certain Greek, whose address she mentioned, was anxious to take her and other three girls to Bordeaux, where he could find them excellent situations as soon as they arrived. I was unhappy owing to the quarrel with my husband, and I grasped the suggestion that I should go with her to Bordeaux as affording the means of escaping from the associations and sufferings with which I was so painfully familiar in London. I saw the Greek, and he convinced me that he was quite able to fulfil his promise and place me. In a good situation if I would only put myself in his hands. Foolishly enough, for 1 had not learned wisdom by painful experience, I consented to go with my friend and two others. Our names were Mary Hanson, aged twenty, Rosina Marks, whose age I don’t remember, Anna Giffard, a dressmaker, aged twenty-five, and myself, Amelia M––, but I went by the name of Amelia Powell. We were all taken down lo St. Katharine’s Dock, and placed on board a steamer bound for Bordeaux. We left London on a Thursday night in February or or March of 1879, and arrived in Bordeaux on Sunday, about seven in the evening. From the steamer we were taken direct, suspecting nothing, to the house of Mdme. Suchon, 36, Rue Lambert, which we believed to be an hotel, or the house of the friend to whom the Greek was about to introduce us; but the landlady was very kind, and we felt convinced that the Greek was a man of his word. On Monday, however, a cruel awakening awaited us. Our own clothes were taken away, and we were tricked out with silk dresses and other finery. Before that, however, we were taken to a doctor. We were alarmed at this, and protested, but unfortunately we could speak no French, and the doctor was almost as ignorant of English. What were we to do? We were alone in a strange land; the man who had taken us over had disappeared. We were absolutely at the mercy of the keepers of the house. After the examination the mistress gave us the fine clothes I have spoken of, and insisted that very night, after giving us champagne, upon introducing us to gentlemen. I objected, and declared that I should leave. “You can’t do that,” said the landlady, “because you are indebted to me eighteen hundred francs.” “Eighteen hundred francs?” said I. “Why, I have not been in the house two days.” “Oh, you forget,” said she ; “you have to pay the cost of your commission for being brought over, and the price of the silk dress you are wearing.” That is the regular rule, as I afterwards learned. Girls are brought from England under the belief that they are going to a pleasant situation, and then they are consigned to one of the houses at so many pounds per head. This purchase-money or commission, which varies from £10 upward, is entered against the girl as a debt to her landlady. That, however, is not the worst. They equip you in fine clothes, which they insist upon you taking, and then debit you with twice their value, running up in this way a debt of perhaps 1,800 f. I was told that I must be a good girl, and do as they wished me to, and I would soon earn sufficient money to get back to my husband, but if I did not I would never see him again. I may mention that I told the doctor that I was a married woman. “Where is your husband?” he said, and proceeded without further notice with my examination. It was some time before I could reconcile myself to receiving gentlemen, but what weighed with me was that unless I consented I should never earn sufficient money to pay off my debt and return to London. In order to raise funds I was submissive, and being then young and attractive I earned my money in less than six months. Of course none of that money actually remains with you. It is entered to your credit in the books of the establishment, and the theory is that when you have worked off your debt you are free to go, but the keeper takes very good care that you shall never work off your debt. When the account shows that you have only four or five hundred francs against you the mistress sets to work to induce you, by cozening, cajoling, or absolute fraud, to accept other articles of clothing. Thus you go on month after month. “How long did you stay there?” “Three years and nine months.” “And why in the world did you not communicate with your husband?” “We were never allowed to send letters out of the house. Letters were allowed to come in after they had been read by the mistress, but no replies were ever permitted. Sometimes we used to try and send messages by English sailors who used to visit us, but never any answer came. There were seventeen girls in the house, which was a large one, the entry being three francs. Ours was a middle-class house as distinguished from the low class one, the entrance to which is one franc, and the fashionable house in Rue Berguin, where the entrance fee is ten francs and only four girls are kept. When I was there an English girl called S––, who was said to be the daughter of a coach-builder in the Edgware-road, died. A sum stood on the book as due to the house, and when a brother came over from London to take her dead body home for burial, the mistress refused to allow the corpse to be removed until the debt was paid. She had been taken from England to Spain and had been bought or exchanged from the Spanish house to the one in Bordeaux where she died. One of the English girls who came out with me–Mary Hanson–was sold off to South America. When I say sold I mean that an agent who was picking up girls arranged to pay her debt, and took her off with him to the new world. She assented, as girls always do when they have been long in one house, and see no prospect of paying their debt, for those who want to remove them always hold out inducements that they will be able to buy their liberty much sooner in the new place to which they are going.” “Do you know any girls who have ever bought their liberty?” “No. We are always trying and trying, but we never succeed, although we have earned sufficient money over and over again to pay for all that has been spent upon us, but every artifice is used by the keepers, as I have explained, to hold us in their power. Drink is a potent agency and easily used.” “How many English girls were there in the house of Mdme. Suchon? Two; but we used to meet with others who were in other houses in the town at the visite when we went to see the doctor at the public building in the Rue Graffe on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Mary Hanson came round to bid us good-bye before she went to South America.” “Could she not have made her escape when visiting?” “She was not alone. We were never allowed out except in company with the mistress.” “How was it, then, that you got free?” “A gentleman from Toulouse took a fancy to me, paid off all my debts, and gave me money to pay my passage to London. Otherwise I should have been thereto this day.” “What English girl did you leave in the house?” “Poor Rosina Marks, who cried very piteously when I came away.” ‘How lucky you are, Amelia,’ she said; ‘as for me, I shall never be able to pay my debt, and shall die here.'” “Is Rosina there still?” “To the best of my belief, but of course she is never allowed to write, and all that I know is that she was there two years ago, and I have never heard of her death. Her family were publicans in Southampton, and her father was employed at Squire –– near that town. A very timid girl was Rosina, and madame used to bully her fearfully. I have often wished that something could be done to get her out, but there seems no chance.”
Some one should try to do something for poor Rosina–if she be still alive and is still at Bordeaux. But who knows? She may be dead, or sold to Spain or elsewhere, or, like many others, she may have drunk away her reason and her senses. There are plenty more going the same road. Every now and then we hear of the mysterious disappearance of girls. Boys, although much more adventurous, do not disappear in this way. The inference is plain. There have been the cases from West Ham, the case of the girl Hearnden, at Folkestone, the case of the granddaughter of a correspondent on the south coast, who has written to us imploring to know whether we can help her to tidings of her vanished child. Now that the silence has been broken we shall hear of many such, and regret their endless multiplication. The one safeguard is publicity, publicity, publicity. And all who attempt to silence the voice of warning must share the guilt of those upon one small portion of whose crimes it is our proud privilege to have turned a little of the wholesome light of day.