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The Shoplifters
by [?]

“No,” she added, “but I’ll tell you what I will do. If you will let her go I will look after her. Parole her, unofficially, with me.”

Constance drew a card from her case and handed it to the detective. He read it carefully, and a puzzled look came over his face. “Charge account–good customer–pays promptly,” he muttered under his breath.

For a moment he hesitated. Then he sat down at a desk.

“Mrs. Dunlap,” he said, “I’ll do it.”

He pulled a piece of printed paper from the desk, filled in a few blanks, then turned to Kitty Carr, handing her a pen.

“Sign here,” he said brusquely.

Constance bent over and read. It was a form of release:

“I, Kitty Carr, residing at–East –th Street, single, age twenty- seven years, in consideration of the sum of One Dollar, hereby admit taking the following property… without having paid therefor and with intent not to pay therefor, and by reason of the withdrawal of the complaint of larceny, OF WHICH I AM GUILTY, I hereby remise, release, and forever discharge the said Stacy Co. or its representatives from any claims, action, or causes of action which I may have against the Stacy Co. or its representatives or agents by reason of the withdrawal of said charge of larceny and failure to prosecute.”

“Signed, Kitty Carr.”

“Now, Kitty,” soothed Constance, as the trembling signature was blotted and added to a photograph which had quietly been taken, “they are going to let you go this time–with me. Come, straighten your hat, wipe your eyes. You must take me home with you–where we can have a nice long talk. Remember, I am your friend.”

On the way uptown and across the city the girl managed to tell most of her history. She came from a family of means in another city. Her father was dead, but her mother and a brother were living. She herself had a small annuity, sufficient to live on modestly, and had come to New York seeking a career as an artist. Her story, her ambitions appealed to Constance, who had been somewhat of an artist herself and recognized even in talking to the girl that she was not without some ability.

Then, too, she found that Kitty actually lived, as she had said, in a cozy little kitchenette apartment with two friends, a man and his wife, both of whom happened to be out when they arrived. As Constance looked about she could see clearly that there was indeed no adequate reason why the girl should steal.

“How do you feel?” asked Constance when the girl had sunk half exhausted on a couch in the living room.

“Oh, so nervous,” she replied, pressing her hands to the back of her head, “and I have a terrible headache, although it is a little better now.”

They had talked for perhaps half an hour, as Constance soothed her, when there was the sound of a key in the door. A young woman in black entered. She was well-dressed, in fact elegantly dressed in a quiet way, somewhat older than Kitty, but by no means as attractive.

“Why–hello, Kitty,” she cried, “what’s the matter!”

“Oh, Annie, I’m so unstrung,” replied the girl, then recollecting Constance, added, “let me introduce my friend, Mrs. Dunlap. This is Mrs. Annie Grayson, who has taken me in as a lodger and is ever so kind to me.”

Constance nodded, and the woman held out her hand frankly.

“Very glad to meet you,” she said. “My husband, Jim, is not at home, but we are a very happy little family up here. Why, Kitty, what is the matter?”

The girl had turned her face down in the sofa pillows and was sobbing again. Between sobs she blurted out the whole of the sordid story. And as she proceeded, Annie glanced quickly from her to Constance, for confirmation.

Suddenly she rose and extended her hand to Constance.

“Mrs. Dunlap,” she said, “how can I ever thank you for what you have done for Kitty? She is almost like a sister to me. You–you were– too good.”