When MD arrived at the police station she had no idea what she would find. What could Marta have done?
MD approached the desk. "Good afternoon. I am Mrs. Darling. I received a call that my maid Marta has been arrested for heaven-knows-what and that I should come to the station and get her. Do you know what this is about?"
|The flagship Woodward & Lothrop department store|
in downtown Washington, D.C.
Affectionately known as "Woodie's"
MD was ushered into a small office where she was asked to wait.
Several minutes later a man entered the room and introduced himself as Detective Stuart.
"Mrs. Darling, thank you for coming to the station today. I'm very sorry for this inconvenience. Do you have a woman by the name of Marta in your employ?"
"Yes, I do, detective. She is one of my maids. What has she done? What is this about?"
"Well, I'm afraid we picked your girl up shoplifting at Woodie's. She was helping herself to some of the merchandise. She had quite a stash of it, too, in fact."
"Oh, dear!" MD said.
"Mrs. Darling," the detective continued, "how long has this Marta been in your employ? Do you know her well?"
"Marta has worked for me for six months or so. I'm really quite surprised that she's been arrested for shoplifting. I haven't had any trouble with her to speak of and, as far as I can tell, she's honest. I'm very surprised about all of this."
"Mrs. Darling, do you know how long your Marta has been here in the States?"
"I think maybe a year or two. Why do you ask?"
"Well, we find these girls who come up from south of the border just aren't accustomed to life how we live it here. Most of them are from small towns in the country, and the shops they have there, well, everything's under glass, so no sticky fingers can get to it. These girls get here and go into the big department stores and they just can't help themselves. Well, they help themselves, that's right, to what's spread out on the counters. That's what happened here, I think, with your girl Marta."
|A postcard of the main floor of Woodward & Lothrop at Christmas,|
ca. 1964, around the time Marta was picked up there for helping herself
"Now, Mrs. Darling, your little Marta doesn't strike me as a bad girl, and she's been scared out of her wits by all this. She's been crying like a baby for the past couple hours. She's all shook up."
"I would imagine she is, Detective Stuart."
"Here's what I propose to you, Mrs. Darling. I'm prepared to let her off this time, and so is Woodie's. But before we do, Mrs. Darling, I'm going to give Marta a real talking-to, and I'm going to scare the daylights out of her about what could happen if she gets caught again helping herself to something she has no right to. She'll get the message loud and clear, believe you me. I'd like you to sit in on this conversation, Mrs. Darling, so you know what I'm saying to her, and so she can watch you hearing it, too. And if that's okay with you, Mrs. Darling, I'll let you take her home with you afterwards, and we'll let the matter drop, so long as she doesn't get caught again, which I hope she won't. What do you say to that plan, Mrs. Darling?"
"I believe it is one, Detective. Thank you."
And so Marta got a talking-to by Detective Stuart about the perils of shoplifting and what happens to the bad girls who do it here in America—particularly those who get caught doing it more than once. And, true to his words, he did "scare the daylights" out of poor Marta, who sat in a chair in his office, blubbering with fear and remorse.
Afterwards, in the car, Marta tearfully promised MD that she would never, ever shoplift again, and she pleaded with my mother to give her another chance.
"It's all right, Marta," my mother said. "I'm not going to turn you out for this. But you must promise me that it really will never happen again. Do I have your word?"
"Yes, Señora, I promise," Marta said, crossing herself. "You have my word in the name of La Santa María!"
"Okay, Marta, I believe you—you don't have to get carried away about it . . . Now, for more pressing matters: What are we going to do about dinner tonight? It's late, and Mr. Darling will be home in only half an hour. We had better be ready!"
With her reprieve in hand, Marta was on very good behavior for the next several months. There was not one bit of trouble to be had with her.
That is, until her gentleman-friend returned to the scene . . .
Next: Hello, Big Daddy!