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word of such purchase is in the hands of the customs officials long before the purchaser reaches the shores of the United States. Did Madam but know that a full description of the elaborate Parisian gown and the valuable necklace she had bought, and confidently expected to bring in duty free, had been forwarded to the revenue officers in New York, she would never dream of omitting her treasured finery from her declaration, nor would she wear such a smug and complacent smile as she walks down the gangway.
Naturally all Americans abroad cannot be watched, nor is every purchase made by them recorded. But spies and secret agents are everywhere, and one never knows when one purchases expensive articles in a foreign land, who may be watching and making mental notes. And amateur smugglers are very prone to talk and to confide in chance friends or acquaintances, and to boast of how they plan to smuggle goods into the United States. But they quite forget that the lady or gentleman to whom they are talking may be and quite often is an employee of the State Department whose sole business it is to lend a willing and sympathetic ear to just such confidences.
Aboard ship, particularly, acquaintances are made and friendships formed with amazing rapidity, and the extent to which a passenger will confide in a man or woman who is practically an utter
stranger is simply astounding. Secret agents, both male and female, frequently pose as travelers and glean most valuable information thereby. Even if no direct confidences reveal the plans of fellow voyagers intending to smuggle goods through the customs, there is the chance of picking up stray bits of conversation or chance remarks which are excellent tips.
Of course the professional smuggler or smuggleress does not prate of his or her intentions, especially to strangers, but the female of the species in particular will talk, if only to her intimate and trusted friends, and a very large proportion of professional smugglers are women. And very clever they are too. Not only do they realize that a wealthy person's baggage is more often suspected of concealing contraband than that of a traveler in humble circumstances, and hence travel in the guise of maids or other servants, but they go even further and employ others to do the actual smuggling. These assistants bear all the ear marks of governesses, maids, butlers, valets and what not, and compose a well organized ring or gang of smugglers under the direction of the supposed wealthy society leader who meticulously declares everything dutiable in his or her baggage. This scheme has many advantages. If one of the menial members of the party is caught red-handed it is no proof of the others' connivance or wrong doing, and the fine is more than offset by the profits from the successfully smuggled goods of the others. Also it largely obviates any danger of detection through foreign purchases being reported to the officials, for the articles for which the officers will search may be passed on to others who may, to all intents and purposes, be absolute strangers to their fellow conspirators, or may even sail on another ship. Very often the most valuable goods are concealed in the luggage of members of the ring who travel third class or steerage, and who appear so seedy and have such few and worthless possessions that no one, unless experienced, would ever suspect them of smuggling thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. And these professional smuggler take advantage of another fact and thereby often succeed. In many small places, especially in the West Indies and South America, European goods may be purchased almost as cheaply as on the continent or in Great Britain. But the customs officers, as a rule, do not appear to realize this and subject the baggage of passengers arriving from such places to a most superficial examination, whereas travelers coming from Europe are questioned at length and their luggage is minutely searched. Hence a smuggler may visit the East Indies or South America and purchase valuable merchandise, with the intention of smuggling it in, with far less risk than if the goods were bought in
Europe. To be sure they may pay a trifle more and ) hence lose something in the way of profits, but this į is more than equalled by the minimized danger of J detection. But even in this the smugglers often find themselves outwitted by the government. I remember one such coup on the part of the revenue officials which came under my observation when returning from Bermuda.
It was the close of the fashionable season at the islands, and the ship was crowded with passengers. Many of these were wealthy society people and the third-class quarters were filled with servants of both sexes and every station. Also traveling third class, was a middle-aged gentleman who, to an observant person, seemed strangely out of place in such quarters.
Something about him hinted of a man far above the servant class or the ordinary steerage passenger, and he seemed to have no friends and made no acquaintances. But from morning until night he remained seated, his eyes glued to the pages of some book or magazine, and apparently oblivious to everything about, although surrounded by the chattering servants. No one paid the least attention to him, but talked as freely and exchanged confidences as openly in his hearing as though he had been a part of the ship's fittings. But as the ship reached quarantine and the officials came aboard I happened to see the book-reading occupant of a
third-class cabin sidle up to a customs inspector and quickly pass the latter a folded paper, and then, without a word or a sign of recognition, saunter on.
And when the ship docked the luggage of certain of the ostensible servants was searched with microscopic throughness, resulting in the discovery and confiscation of an amazing quantity of highly dutiable merchandise and the arrest of the surprised and chagrinned smugglers.
Later I learned that it was a common practice for merchants and dressmakers in the United States to employ servants returning from Bermuda to smuggle goods in, while others had assistants who posed as menials for the sole purpose of smuggling. Although Bermuda produces nothing of value,-save onions, potatoes and Easter liliesstill it presents a most alluring and convenient opportunity for the smuggler. The duties on goods imported from Europe to the islands are so low as to be negligible, and the trip is so short and the fare so cheap that the small additional cost of European goods purchased in the islands is more than offset. Yet, had the officials not learned of this roundabout way of smuggling, no customs officer would suspect that travelers from Bermuda had extremely valuable and highly dutiable European fabrics and other goods concealed in their baggage.
Also, many a smuggler, both amateur and professional, comes to grief through stool pigeons.