A difficult situation confronted us. The girl was in trouble and needed help, and what were we going to do about it? She was as pretty a girl as I ever saw, with large black eyes, a regular Southern type of beauty, and just beginning the downward career. That means, as the girls on the Bowery put it, first the Tenderloin, then the white lights and lots of so-called pleasure, until her beauty begins to fade, which usually takes about a year. Second, Fourteenth Street, a little lower down the grade. Third, the Bowery, still lower, where they get nothing but blows and kicks. The fourth and last step, some joint like this, the back room of a saloon, down and out, all respect gone, nothing to live for; some mother’s girl picked up some morning frozen stiff; the patrol, the morgue, and then Potter’s Field. Some mother away in a country town is waiting for her girl who never comes back.
God help the mothers who read this, for it’s true. Look to your girls and don’t trust the first strange woman who comes into your house, for she may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. She wants your daughter’s fresh young beauty, that’s her trade, and the Devil pays good and plenty.
I asked the girl whether she had any friends near, and she said she had an aunt living on Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, that she thought might take her. Then looking around the room she said, “But he won’t let me go anyhow.” I followed her look, and there standing with his back to the wall was a man I knew. Here was this young girl made to slave and earn a living for this cur! There’s lots of it done in New York—well-dressed men doing no work, living on the earnings of young girls.
We got the address of the aunt in Philadelphia, and I went out and sent a message over the wire, asking if she would receive Annie if she came to Philadelphia. I received an answer in forty-two minutes saying, “Yes, send her on. I’ll meet her at the station.”
I hurried back, thanking God for the answer, and found them sitting at the same table. Annie was looking better than when we first met her. I said, “It’s all right; her aunt will take care of her; now all we have to do is to get her to the ferry and buy her ticket.”
There was a tap on my shoulder, and looking around I saw the man she had pointed out, and he said, “You want to keep your hands off that girl, Dan, or there’s going to be trouble.” Now I knew this kind of man; I knew he would do me if he got a chance, and he was a big fellow at that; but I thought I could hold my own with him or any of his class. I didn’t mind what he said; all I was thinking about was getting the girl to Cortlandt Street Ferry.
When we got on our feet to make a start he came over and said, “She don’t go out of this place; if she does there’s going to be trouble.” I said, “Well, if you’re looking for trouble you will get all that’s coming to you, and you’ll get it good and plenty.” And I started toward the door. He came after me, asking me what I was going to do. I said, “I’m not going to bother with you, I’m merely going to get a couple of ’Bulls’—policemen—and they will give you all the trouble you want. But that girl goes with me.”