Why Crime Does Not Pay
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Such a person is Sophie Lyons, the most remarkable and the greatest criminal of modern times. This extraordinary woman is herself a striking evidence that crime does not pay and that the same energy and brains exerted in honest endeavor win enduring wealth and respectability.
Sophie Lyons was a "thief from the cradle," as one Chief of Police said; at the early age of six years she had already been trained by her stepmother to be a pickpocket and a shoplifter. A beautiful child with engaging manners, she was sent out every day into the stores and among the crowds of shoppers, and was soundly whipped if she came out of a shop with less than three pocketbooks.
As the child grew into womanhood she was conspicuously beautiful, and soon became known as "Pretty Sophie." Then romance entered her life and she married Ned Lyons, the famous bank burglar. Her husband was a member of the great gang of expert safe-blowers who were the terror of the police and the big banks of some years ago.
Women are regarded as dangerous and are seldom taken into the confidence of such criminals as these. But Sophie Lyons was not only welcomed to their councils, but was taken along with them to the actual scenes of their operations.
Sophie Lyons became famous not only among the burglars who work with dark lantern and jimmy but also among those specialists who are called "bank sneaks"—the daring men who walk into banks in broad daylight, in the midst of business, and get away with great bundles of money. Her fame spread, too, among other specialists—the shoplifters, pickpockets, confidence women, jewelry robbers, importers of forbidden opium, and the men engaged in bringing Chinamen into the country (a very profitable and hazardous field).
For twenty-five years Sophie Lyons was "The Queen of the Bank Burglars," the active leader of many expeditions in various parts of the world, and with her were associated about all of the great criminals of Europe and America. It has been said that she has been arrested in nearly every large city in America, and in every country in Europe except Turkey. She has served sentences in several prisons, and, on one occasion, her husband, Ned Lyons, was in Sing Sing while she herself was confined in the women's wing of the prison across the road. Ned Lyons managed to make his escape and very soon drove up to the women's prison and effected the escape of his wife, Sophie Lyons.
But all this belongs to the past. Sophie Lyons has learned that her new life as a respected woman is the only one that is really worth while. The comfortable fortune she has now honestly accumulated has proved that it is not true that "once a thief always a thief."
The actual happenings in her career have been more extraordinary than the imagination of any novelist has dreamed; more surprising than any scene on the stage.
Yet nearly every one of those whose exploits she has recounted here is now an outcast, has served a good share of life in prison, is in poverty, or has died poor. Surely, as she has asserted again and again—and hopes to abundantly prove—CRIME DOES NOT PAY.
This great truth forced itself upon her after many, many years of profitless life in the Underworld. And her own life experience and her present fortune of half a million dollars, all honestly acquired, have demonstrated that half the industry and ability that great criminals expend will return them richer and more enduring success in honest fields of endeavor.