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the time her trunks were all assembled ready for the customs examination the lucky first one was on the point of collapse. When asked to acknowledge her signature on her declaration, she could only gasp and nod her head. The inspector to whom the document was handed glanced at it, then at the new Persian lamb coat.
"That is a handsome coat you have on, madame," he remarked, seemingly bent on making conversation.
"Yes, I think it is rather fetching,' murmured the melting one, finding her voice again, for no woman is ever too far gone to rise to a neatly turned compliment.
"It has the real Parisian cut. You must have purchased it abroad."
"Oh, yes! You cawn't get such furs at home."
"I see you forgot to include it in your declaration."
"Why I'm wearing it. Don't you see? I'm wearing it."
"That makes no difference whatever.
You will observe that the law distinctly says that only one hundred dollars worth of goods purchased abroad may be admitted duty free. If you will kindly step to the desk, madame, I think you will be allowed to amend your declaration."
No thermometer would have recorded that matron's temperature when she realized that she had sweltered in vain, and that she must pay $130 in duty before she could take her prize away. Her impotent rage was scarcely assuaged by the knowledge that each of the other fourteen were making the same discovery in other parts of the dock. There are times when misery is too much engrossed with its own unhappiness to care whether it has company or not.
Not until weeks afterward did a nebulous suspicion in the minds of the fifteen crystallize into a conviction that he whom they had thought such an agreeable young man on the ship coming home was a fiend in human shape, an abandoned wretch with a perverted sense of humor, who had played what he was pleased to consider a practical joke upon them by telling them they would not have to pay duty on any of their European purchases they wore when going ashore. Being a gossipy person he had found out all about their purchases, had made the possession of those dutiable Persian lamb coats a bond of sympathy between them, and had been the arch conspirator in the pretended plot to trick the Government out of its just dues. Hut if any of the fifteen ever clap
eyes on the scoundrel again
Amazing beyond comprehension is the tenacity with which seemingly intelligent persons will cling to popular beliefs in the face of the most explicit and emphatic refutations, backed up by authority and reiterated again and yet again. Somebody somewhere somehow sometime got the idea that anything that had ever been worn, or which was worn upon disembarking in America, no matter what it was, or what its value, or where it was purchased, was not subject to duty. He confided this hallucination to some one else who passed it on to another. This tariff delusion, thus started on its travels, has spread like a
contagion from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Soo to the Rio Grande. Ninetynine out of every hundred trans - Atlantic passengers believe it with their whole soul on their first trip. They believe it just as implicitly as they believe that anything offered for sale in Europe must necessarily be a wonderful bargain. So they spend half their time abroad shopping and the other half wearing their purchases in order to escape the tariff which in the abstract is a heavenly beatitude, provided it is only high enough, but which becomes an unjust,tyrannical, oppressive burden to be evaded by any artifice the moment it is brought home to the individual.
On every west bound liner that crosses the Atlantic may be seen a few women suffering from the tariff delusion. They can always be i 'entified by the preposterously inappropriate costumes they wear on shipboard. They suffer the pangs of martyrdom, for they know all the other women are talking about them, and they perjure their souls with false explanations and apologies to hide what everybody knows, which is that the)' are suffering merely to trick the United States Government out of the money it so desperately needs to pay pensions. The shrewder tourists on their first trip take their purchases to a secluded spot in Switzerland where they wear them each for an hour, then sew in old labels they prudently brought from home. After the first trip they know better.
Some even think jewels purchased abroad are not dutiable if they take the precaution to wear them on going ashore. Thus, a tourist who shall be nameless here, returning on the George Washington, October 10, 1910, wore a new diamond ring and pin, his wife wore a diamond and sapphire ring and carried a silver mesh bag. None of these things were included in their declaration, yet they readily admitted they had been purchased abroad. Asked why he did not declare the jewels, the tourist triumphantly called attention to the fact that he and his wife were wearing them. He was overwhelmed when the trinkets were seized and he was obliged to redeem them by paying their full value plus 60 per cent duty with a fine on top of that for good measure.
Yet it is difficult to work up any sympathy for the victims of the tariff delusion when they are forced to pay three times what it would have cost them to be honest. Smuggling is merely a form of stealing, which is expressly forbidden in the decalogue. No one can make any
mistake about the tariff law unless he does it wilfully. Early in the west bound voyage, so there will be plenty of time to examine it at leisure, the purser or his minions hands to each passenger a blank declaration on which to schedule his baggage, including foreign purchases, and a little blue folder. The declaration, which is numbered and has a coupon with a corresponding number attached, bears the most explicit directions for filling it-out. But for fear the plain and simple language may be misunderstood, the little blue folder, which is headed "Notice to Passengers," begins by quoting paragraph 709 appearing in the free
list of the present tariff act governing passengers' baggage, which reads as follows:
"Wearing apparel, articles of personal adornment, toilet articles, and similar personal effects of persons arriving in the United States: but this exemption shall only include such articles as actually accompany and are in the use of, and as are necessary and appropriate for the wear and use of such persons, for the immediate purposes of the journey and present comfort and convenience, and shall not be held to apply to merchandise or articles intended for other persons or for sale:
Provided, That in case of residents of the United States returning from abroad, all wearing apparel and other personal effects taken by them out of the United States to foreign countries shall be admitted free of duty, without regard to their value, upon their identity being established, under appropriate rules and regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury, but no more than one hundred dollars in value of articles purchased abroad by such residents of the United States shall be admitted free of duty upon their return."
Lest this legal phraseology should be misunderstood, the little blue folder takes it up phrase by phrase, expounding, elucidating, and explaining it until it would seem as if the law and the rules established pursuant thereto must be as plain as a pikestaff is alleged to be even to a rudimentary intellect. It is carefully pointed out that the exact number of pieces of baggage must be stated in the declaration: that after the declaration has been prepared and signed the coupon at the bottom must be detached and the declaration given to the purser; that after all his baggage has been landed upon the pier the passenger must present his coupon at the desk where an inspector will be detailed to examine the baggage; that the passenger must acknowledge in person his signature to the declaration; that all wearing apparel, jewelry, and other articles, whether used or unused, on their persons, in their clothing, or in their baggage, which have been obtained abroad by purchase or otherwise, with the foreign value or cost, must be declared ; that all wearing apparel, jewelry,
or other articles taken out of the United States which have been remodeled or improved while abroad so as to increase their value, must be declared, the statement to include the cost of such improvement. But for fear this twice repeated explanation that "wearing" foreign bought articles does not exempt them, it is explained all over again for the third time in a separate paragraph, in these words:
"Use does not exempt from duty wearitig apparel or other articles obtained abroad, but such articles will be appraised at their present value."
All cigars and cigarettes must be declared and are not included in the one hundred dollars exemption. But each passenger over eighteen years of age is entitled to bring in free of duty and internal revenue tax either fifty cigars or three hundred cigarettes for his or her bona fide personal consumption. Smokers who have had to exist for a few months upon European made cigars will see in this a deliberate attempt on the part of the United States Government to affront them, for no one in his right mind would smoke European cigars if he could get any othersHousehold goods of persons from foreign countries are admitted free of duty if actually used abroad by them not less than one year and if they are not intended for any other person or for sale.
All articles intended for other persons, for use in business, theatrical apparel, properties and sceneries, must be declared by passengers, whether foreigners or residents. Duties can not be paid by check or draft but only in currency. Passengers are also warned that to offer or give gratuities or bribes to customs officials is a violation of law. They are also explicitly invited to report any discourtesy or incivility on the part of the customs officers to the deputy collector or deputy surveyor at the pier; or if that doesn't work, to go to the custom house; or if that isn't satisfactory to go straight to the Secretary of the Treasury.
Great care is exercised in the distribution of the declarations and the little blue folders on shipboard. They are handed to each passenger personally and his attention is directed to them by word of mouth. If he fails to turn in his declaration to the purser as requested, he is reminded of his neglect. The purser must turn over a baggage declaration for every passenger to the customs officers who board the ship at quarantine. Being numbered, every blank, including those accidentally spoiled, has to be accounted for.
All this seems plain enough, doesn't it? Yet a young woman from Chicago who arrived on the Oceanic last October included in her declaration only $920 worth of gowns and jewels purchased abroad, while the inspector found a great deal more. She was taken before Deputy Surveyor O'Connor to explain.
"Did you read the printed regulations
for travelers distributed on the ship?'' she was asked.
"Oh, yes! but I didn't pay any attention to them."
"Did you read the warning that failure to declare dutiable articles rendered the articles liable to seizure and you to arrest, fine, and imprisonment?"
"Why, yes, I read that, but really I didn't take it seriously."
After the usual exemption had been disallowed and she had been obliged to pay $1,800 in duties and penalties it is said the young Chicagoan took the law much more seriously. So, also, did a Brooklyn girl returning from Paris last October. In addition to the regulation