Most young people do not adequately realize what consummate address and fair seeming can be assumed by a deceiving stranger until experience enlightens them, and they suffer for their credulity. The danger, especially to young girls traveling alone, is understood by their parents; and no daughter is safe who disregards their injunction to permit no advances by a new and self-introduced acquaintance, either man or woman.
A lady gave, some years ago, in one of the religious papers, an experience of her own when she was a girl, which shows one of the artful ways by which designing men win the confidence of the innocent.
Traveling from Boston to New York, she had the company of a girl friend as far as Springfield. For the rest of the way she was to ride alone, and, as she supposed, unnoticed, save by the watchful conductor, to whose care her father had entrusted her.
She was beginning to feel lonely when a gentlemanly looking man of about forty-five approached her seat with an apology, and, by way of question, spoke her name. Surprised, but on her guard, for she remembered her home warnings, she made no reply; but the pleasant stranger went on to say that he was a schoolmate of her mother, whom he called by her girl name. This had its effect; and when he mentioned the names of other persons whom she knew, and begged to hear something of these old friends with whom he once went to school, she made no objection to his seating himself by her side.
The man made himself very agreeable; and the young girl of sixteen thought how delighted her mother would be to know she had met one of her old playmates, who said so many complimentary things about her. He talked very tenderly about the loss of his wife, and once went back to his own seat to get a picture of his motherless little girl, and a box of bonbons.
The conductor passed just then, and asked the young lady if she ever saw that gentleman before. She told him No; but, though the question was put very kindly and quietly, it made her quite indignant.
As they approached the end of the journey, the man penciled a brief note to her mother on a card, Signed what purported to be his name, and gave it to her. Then he asked if he might get her a carriage provided her uncle, whom she expected, did not meet her, and she assented at once.
When the train arrived in New York, and the conductor came and took her traveling-bag, she was vexed, and protested that the gentleman had promised to look after her. The official told her kindly, but firmly, that her father had put her in his care, and he should not leave her until he had seen her under her uncle’s protection or put her in a carriage himself. She turned for appeal to her new acquaintance, but he had vanished.
When she reached home after her visit, and told her experience, and presented the card, her mother said she had never known nor heard of such a man. The stranger had evidently sat within hearing distance of the girl and her schoolmate, and listening to their merry chatter all the way from Boston to Springfield, had given him the clue to names and localities that enabled him to play his sinister game. Only the faithfulness of the wise conductor saved her from possibilities too painful to be recorded here.