Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Steven desJardins and the Online Distributed Proofreading
[Illustration: Frank R. Stockton]
FRANK R. STOCKTON
THE STORIES OF THE THREE BURGLARS.
I am a householder in a pleasant country neighbourhood, about twenty
miles from New York. My family consists of myself and wife, our boy,
George William, aged two, two maid-servants, and a man; but in the
summer we have frequent visitors, and at the time of which I am about to
write my Aunt Martha was staying with us.
My house is large and pleasant, and we have neighbours near enough for
social purposes and yet not too near or too many to detract from the
rural aspect of our surroundings. But we do not live in a paradise; we
are occasionally troubled by mosquitoes and burglars.
Against the first of these annoyances we have always been able to guard
ourselves, at least in a measure, and our man and the cook declare that
they have become so used to them that they do not mind them; but to
guard against burglars is much more difficult, and to become used to
them would, I think, require a great deal of practice.
For several months before the period of this narrative our neighbourhood
had been subject to visits from burglars. From time to time houses had
been entered and robbed, and the offenders had never been detected.
We had no police force, not even a village organization. There was a
small railway station near our house, and six miles away was the county
town. For fire and police protection each household was obliged to
depend upon itself.
Before the beginning of the burglarious enterprises in our midst, we had
not felt the need of much protection in this direction; sometimes
poultry was stolen, but this was a rare occurrence, and, although
windows and doors were generally fastened for the night, this labour was
often considered much more troublesome than necessary. But now a great
change had taken place in the feelings of our community. When the first
robbery occurred the neighbours were inclined to laugh about it, and to
say that Captain Hubbard's habit of sitting up after the rest of his
family had gone to bed and then retiring and forgetting to close the
front door had invited the entrance of a passing tramp. But when a
second and a third house, where windows and doors had not been left
open, had been entered, and, in a measure, despoiled, people ceased to
laugh; and if there had been any merriment at all on the subject, it
would have been caused by the extraordinary and remarkable precautions
taken against the entrance of thieves by night. The loaded pistol became
the favourite companion of the head of the house; those who had no
watch-dogs bought them; there were new locks, new bolts, new fastenings.
At one time there was a mounted patrol of young men, which, however, was
soon broken up by their mothers. But this trouble was unavailing, for at
intervals the burglaries continued.
As a matter of course a great many theories were broached as to the
reasons for this disturbance in our hitherto peaceful neighbourhood. We
were at such a distance from the ordinary centres of crime that it was
generally considered that professional burglars would hardly take the
trouble to get to us or to get away from us, and that, therefore, the
offences were probably committed by unsuspected persons living in this
part of the country who had easy means of determining which houses were
worth breaking into and what method of entrance would be most feasible.
In this way some families, hitherto regarded as respectable families,
had fallen under suspicion.
So far, mine was the only house of any importance within the distance of
a mile from the station which had not in some way suffered from
burglars. In one or two of these cases the offenders had been frightened
away before they had done any other injury than the breaking of a
window-shutter; but we had been spared any visitation whatever. After a
time we began to consider that this was an invidious distinction. Of
course we did not desire that robbers should break into our house and
steal, but it was a sort of implied insult that robbers should think
that our house was not worth breaking into. We contrived, however, to
bear up under this implied contempt and even under the facetious
imputations of some of our lively neighbours, who declared that it
looked very suspicious that we should lose nothing, and even continue to
add to our worldly goods, while everybody else was suffering from
I did not, however, allow any relaxation in my vigilance in the
protection of my house and family. My time to suffer had not yet
arrived, and it might not arrive at all; but if it did come it should
not be my fault. I therefore carefully examined all the new precautions
my neighbours had taken against the entrance of thieves, and where I
approved of them I adopted them.
Of some of these my wife and I did not approve. For instance, a tin pan
containing iron spoons, the dinner bell, and a miscellaneous collection
of hardware balanced on the top stair of the staircase, and so connected
with fine cords that a thief coming up the stairs would send it rattling
and bounding to the bottom, was looked upon by us with great disfavour.
The descent of the pan, whether by innocent accident or the approach of
a burglar, might throw our little boy into a fit, to say nothing of the
terrible fright it would give my Aunt Martha, who was a maiden lady of
middle age, and not accustomed to a clatter in the night. A bull-dog in
the house my wife would not have, nor, indeed, a dog of any kind. George
William was not yet old enough to play with dogs, especially a sharp
one; and if the dog was not sharp it was of no use to have him in the
house. To the ordinary burglar-alarm she strongly objected. She had been
in houses where these things went off of their own accord, occasioning
great consternation; and, besides, she said that if thieves got into the
house she did not want to know it and she did not want me to know it;
the quicker they found what they came for and went away with it the
better. Of course, she wished them kept out, if such a thing were
possible; but if they did get in, our duty as parents of the dearest
little boy was non-interference. She insisted, however, that the room in
which the loveliest of children slept, and which was also occupied by
ourselves, should be made absolutely burglar proof; and this object, by
means of extraordinary bolts and chains, I flattered myself I
accomplished. My Aunt Martha had a patent contrivance for fastening a
door that she always used, whether at home or travelling, and in whose
merit she placed implicit confidence. Therefore we did not feel it
necessary to be anxious about her; and the servants slept at the top of
the house, where thieves would not be likely to go.
"They may continue to slight us by their absence," said my wife, "but I
do not believe that they will be able to frighten us by their presence."
I was not, however, so easily contented as my wife. Of course I wished
to do everything possible to protect George William and the rest of the
family, but I was also very anxious to protect our property in all parts
of the house. Therefore, in addition to everything else I had done, I
devised a scheme for interfering with the plans of men who should
feloniously break into our home.
After a consultation with a friend, who was a physician greatly
interested in the study of narcotic drugs, I procured a mixture which
was almost tasteless and without peculiar odour, and of which a small
quantity would in less than a minute throw an ordinary man into a state
of unconsciousness. The potion was, however, no more dangerous in its
effects than that quantity of ardent spirits which would cause entire
insensibility. After the lapse of several hours, the person under the
influence of the drug would recover consciousness without assistance.
But in order to provide against all contingencies my friend prepared a
powerful antidote, which would almost immediately revive one who had
been made unconscious by our potion.
The scheme that I had devised may possibly have been put into use by
others. But of this I know not. I thought it a good scheme and
determined to experiment with it, and, if possible, to make a trap which
should catch a burglar. I would reveal this plan to no one but my friend
the physician and my wife. Secrecy would be an important element in its
Our library was a large and pleasant room on the ground floor of the
house, and here I set my trap. It was my habit to remain in this room an
hour or so after the rest of the family had gone to bed, and, as I was
an early riser, I was always in it again before it was necessary for a
servant to enter it in the morning.
Before leaving the library for the night I placed in a conspicuous
position in the room a small table, on which was a tray holding two
decanters partially filled with wine, in the one red and in the other
white. There was also upon the tray an open box of biscuit and three
wine-glasses, two of them with a little wine at the bottom. I took pains
to make it appear that these refreshments had been recently partaken of.
There were biscuit crumbs upon the tray, and a drop or two of wine was
freshly spilled upon it every time the trap was set. The table, thus
arranged, was left in the room during the night, and early in the
morning I put the tray and its contents into a closet and locked it up.
A portion of my narcotic preparation was thoroughly mixed with the
contents of each of the decanters in such proportions that a glass of
the wine would be sufficient to produce the desired effect.
It was my opinion that there were few men who, after a night walk and
perhaps some labour in forcibly opening a door or a window-shutter,
would not cease for a moment in pursuance of their self-imposed task to
partake of the refreshments so conveniently left behind them by the
occupants of the house when they retired to rest. Should my surmises be
correct, I might reasonably expect, should my house be broken into, to
find an unconscious burglar in the library when I went down in the
morning. And I was sure, and my wife agreed with me, that if I should
find a burglar in that room or any other part of the house, it was
highly desirable that he should be an unconscious one.
Night after night I set my burglar trap, and morning after morning I
locked it up in the closet. I cannot say that I was exactly disappointed
that no opportunity offered to test the value of my plan, but it did
seem a pity that I should take so much trouble for nothing. It had been
some weeks since any burglaries had been committed in the neighbourhood,
and it was the general opinion that the miscreants had considered this
field worked out and had transferred their labours to a better-paying
place. The insult of having been considered unworthy the attention of
the knights of the midnight jimmy remained with us, but as all our goods
and chattels also remained with us we could afford to brook the
As the trap cost nothing my wife did not object to my setting it every
night for the present. Something might happen, she remarked, and it was
just as well to be prepared in more ways than one; but there was a point
upon which she was very positive.
"When George William is old enough to go about the house by himself,"
she said, "those decanters must not be left exposed upon the table. Of
course I do not expect him to go about the house drinking wine and
everything that he finds, but there is no knowing what a child in the
first moments of his investigative existence may do."
For myself, I became somewhat tired of acting my part in this little
farce every night and morning, but when I have undertaken anything of
this sort I am slow to drop it.
It was about three weeks since I had begun to set my trap when I was
awakened in the night by a sudden noise. I sat up in bed, and as I did
so my wife said to me sleepily,--
"What is that? Was it thunder? There it is again!" she exclaimed,
starting up. "What a crash! It must have struck somewhere." I did not
answer. It was not thunder. It was something in the house, and it
flashed into my mind that perhaps my trap had been sprung. I got out of
bed and began rapidly to dress.
"What are you going to do?" anxiously asked my wife.
"I'm going to see what has happened," said I. At that moment there was
another noise. This was like two or three heavy footsteps, followed by a
sudden thump; but it was not so loud as the others.
"John," cried my wife, "don't stir an inch, it's burglars!" and she
sprang out of bed and seized me by the arm.
"I must go down," I said; "but there is really no reason for your being
frightened. I shall call David, and shall carry my pistol, so there is
really no danger. If there are thieves in the house they have probably
decamped by this time--that is, if they are able to do so, for of course
they must know that noise would awaken the soundest sleepers."
My wife looked at me and then slowly withdrew her hands from my arm.
"You promise me," she said, "if you find a burglar downstairs in the
possession of his senses you will immediately come back to me and George
I promised her, and, slipping on some clothes, I went out into the
second-story hall. I carried no light. Before I had reached the bottom
of the back stairs I heard David, my man, coming down. To be sure it was
he and not a burglar I spoke to him in a low voice, my pistol raised in
case of an unsatisfactory reply.
"I heard that noise, sir," he whispered, "and was going down to see
"Are you ready if it's thieves?" I whispered.
"I have got the biscuit-beater," he replied.
"Come on, then," said I, and we went downstairs.
I had left no light in the library, but there was one there now, and it
shone through the open door into the hallway. We stopped and listened.
There was no sound, and then slowly and cautiously we approached the
door of the library. The scene I beheld astounded me, and involuntarily
I sprang back a step or two. So did David; but in an instant we saw that
there was no need of retreat or defence. Stretched upon the floor, not
far from the doorway, lay a tall man, his face upturned to the light of
a bull's-eye lantern which stood by the mantel-piece. His eyes were
shut, and it was evident that he was perfectly insensible. Near by, in
the wreck of the small table, glasses, and decanters, lay another man,
apparently of heavier build. He also was as still as a corpse. A little
further back, half sitting on the floor, with the upper part of his body
resting against the lounge, was another man with a black mask over his
"Are they dead?" exclaimed David, in an undertone of horror.
"No," said I, "they are not dead; they have been caught in my trap."
And I must admit that the consciousness of this created a proud
exultation of spirit within me. I had overmatched these rascals; they
were prostrated before me. If one of them moved, David and I could kill
him. But I did not believe there would be any killing, nor any moving
for the present.
In a high whisper, which could have been heard distinctly all over the
house, my wife now called to me from the top of the stairs. "What is
it?" she said. "What has happened?"
I stepped quickly to the stairway.
"Everything is all right," I said in a loud, distinct voice, intended
to assure my wife that there was no necessity for caution or alarm. "I
will be with you presently."
"I am glad to hear that nothing is the matter," said Aunt Martha, now
for the first time opening her door. "I was afraid something had
But I had business to attend to before I could go upstairs. In thinking
over and arranging this plan for the capture of burglars, I had
carefully considered its various processes, and had provided against all
the contingencies I could think of; therefore I was not now obliged to
deliberate what I should do. "Keep your eye on them," said I to David,
"and if one of them moves be ready for him. The first thing to do is to
tie them hand and foot."
I quickly lighted a lamp, and then took from another shelf of the closet
a large coil of strong cotton rope, which I had provided for such an
occasion as the present.
"Now," said I to David, "I will tie them while you stand by to knock
over any one of them who attempts to get up."
The instrument with which David was prepared to carry out my orders was
a formidable one. In the days of my youth my family was very fond of
"Maryland biscuit," which owes much of its delicacy to the fact that
before baking it is pounded and beaten by a piece of heavy iron. Some
people used one kind of a beater and some another, but we had had made
for the purpose a heavy iron club a little over a foot long, large and
heavy at one end and a handle at the other. In my present household
Maryland biscuits were never made, but I had preserved this iron beater
as a memento of my boyhood, and when the burglaries began in our
vicinity I gave it to David to keep in his room, to be used as a weapon
if necessary. I did not allow him to have a pistol, having a regard for
my own safety in a sudden night alarm, and nothing could be more
formidable in a hand-to-hand encounter than this skull-crushing club.
I began with the tall man, and rapidly tied his feet together with many
twists of the rope and as many knots. I then turned him over and tied
his elbows behind him in the same secure way. I had given so much
thought to the best method of securing a man by cords, that I do not
think this fellow could possibly have released himself when I had
finished with him.
David was obeying my orders and keeping a strict watch on the prostrate
men; but his emotions of amazement were so great that he could not keep
"What is the matter with them, sir?" he said. "How did they come so?"
"There is no time for talking now," I answered. "I will tell you all
about it when the men have been secured." I now turned my attention to
the man who was partly resting against the lounge. I first tied his
feet, and before letting him down to the floor, so as to get to his
arms, I removed his hat and his mask, which was made of black muslin. I
was surprised to see the beardless face of a young and very good-looking
man. He was well dressed, and had the general appearance of a person
belonging to theatrical circles. When his arms had been tied, I told
David he might lay down his biscuit-beater, and help me with the third
man, who was badly mixed up with the _debris_ of the refreshments. We
hauled him out and tied him up. He was rather a short man, but very
heavy, and I could see no signs of his having been hurt by the smash-up
he made in falling.
We now proceeded to search the insensible burglars for arms. Upon the
tall man we found a large revolver, a heavy billy, which seemed as if it
had seen service, and a long-bladed knife. The stout man carried two
double-barrelled pistols, and upon one of the fingers of his right hand
wore a brass ring with a murderous-looking iron protuberance upon it,
which, when driven forward by his powerful arm, was probably more
dangerous than a billy. Upon the younger man we found no arms at all,
and his hip pocket contained nothing but a small handbook on civil
I now briefly explained to David the nature of the trap which had caught
the burglars. He gazed upon me with a face glowing with amazed
"What a head you have got, sir!" he exclaimed. "I don't believe there is
another man in this State who would have thought of that. And what are
you going to do with them now, sir; hang 'em? That's what ought to be
done with them, the hounds!"
"All I shall do," I answered, "will be to keep them till daylight, and
then I shall send word to the sheriff at Kennertown, and have him send
officers for them."
"Upon my word," exclaimed David, "they are in the worst kind of a box."
Now my wife called me again. "What in the world are you doing down
there?" she called; "why don't you come upstairs?"
This annoyed me, for I was not yet ready to go upstairs. I wished to
resuscitate these fellows, for their stupor was so profound that I began
to fear that perhaps they had taken too much of the drug and ought to be
brought to their senses as speedily as possible. This feeling was due
more to my desire that serious injuries should not occur to the rascals
while in my house than to any concern for them.
"My dear," said I, stepping to the bottom of the stairs, "I have some
things to attend to down here which will occupy me a few minutes longer;
then I will come up to you."
"I can't imagine what the things are," she said, "but I suppose I can
wait," and she went into her room and closed her door after her.
I now began to consider what was to be done with the burglars after they
had been resuscitated. My first impulse was to rid the house of them by
carrying them out of doors and bringing them to their senses there. But
there was an objection to this plan. They would be pretty heavy fellows
to carry, and as it would be absolutely necessary to watch them until
they could be given into the charge of the officers of the law, I did
not want to stay out of doors to do this, for the night air was raw and
chilly, and I therefore determined to keep them in the house. And as
they could be resuscitated better in a sitting position, they must be
set up in some way or other. I consulted David on the subject.
"You might put 'em up with their backs agin the wall, sir," said he,
"but the dirty beasts would spoil the paper. I wouldn't keep them in a
decent room like this. I'd haul 'em out into the kitchen, anyway."
But as they were already in the library I decided to let them stay
there, and to get them as speedily as possible into some position in
which they might remain. I bethought me of a heavy wooden settle or
bench with back and arms which stood on the side piazza. With David's
help I brought this into the room and placed it with its back to the
"Now, then," said I to David, "we will put them on this bench, and I
will tie them fast to it. We cannot be too careful in securing them, for
if one of them were to get loose, even without arms, there is no knowing
what trouble he might make."
"Well, sir," said David, "if I'm to handle them at all, I'd rather have
them dead, as I hope they are, than have them alive; but you needn't be
afraid, sir, that any one of them will get loose. If I see any signs of
that I'll crack the rascal's skull in a jiffy."
It required a great deal of tugging and lifting to get those three men
on the bench, but we got them there side by side, their heads hanging
listlessly, some one way, some another. I then tied each one of them
firmly to the bench.
I had scarcely finished this when I again heard my wife's voice from the
top of the stairs.
"If any pipes have burst," she called down, "tell David not to catch the
water in the new milk-pans."
"Very well," I replied, "I'll see to it," and was rejoiced to hear again
the shutting of the bedroom door.
I now saturated a sponge with the powerful preparation which Dr. Marks
had prepared as an antidote, and held it under the nose of the tall
burglar. In less than twenty seconds he made a slight quivering in his
face as if he were about to sneeze, and very soon he did sneeze
slightly. Then he sneezed violently, raised his head, and opened his
eyes. For a moment he gazed blankly before him, and then looked stupidly
at David and at me. But in an instant there flashed into his face the
look of a wild beast. His quick, glittering eye took in the whole
situation at a glance. With a furious oath he threw himself forward with
such a powerful movement that he nearly lifted the bench.
"Stop that," said David, who stood near him with his iron club uplifted.
"If you do that again I'll let you feel this."
The man looked at him with a fiery flash in his eyes, and then he looked
at me, as I stood holding the muzzle of my pistol within two feet of his
face. The black and red faded out of his countenance. He became pale. He
glanced at his companions bound and helpless. His expression now changed
entirely. The fury of the wild beast was succeeded by a look of
frightened subjection. Gazing very anxiously at my pistol, he said, in a
voice which, though agitated, was low and respectful:--
"What does this mean? What are you going to do? Will you please turn
away the muzzle of that pistol?"
I took no notice of this indication of my steadiness of hand, and
"I am going to bring these other scoundrels to their senses, and early
in the morning the three of you will be on your way to jail, where I
hope you may remain for the rest of your lives."
"If you don't get killed on your way there," said David, in whose
nervous hand the heavy biscuit-beater was almost as dangerous as my
The stout man who sat in the middle of the bench was twice as long in
reviving as had been his companion, who watched the operation with
intense interest. When the burly scoundrel finally became conscious, he
sat for a few minutes gazing at the floor with a silly grin; then he
raised his head and looked first at one of his companions and then at
the other, gazed for an instant at me and David, tried to move his feet,
gave a pull at one arm and then at the other, and when he found he was
bound hard and fast, his face turned as red as fire and he opened his
mouth, whether to swear or yell I know not. I had already closed the
door, and before the man had uttered more than a premonitory sound,
David had clapped the end of his bludgeon against his mouth.
"Taste that," he said, "and you know what you will get if you disturb
this family with any of your vile cursin' and swearin'."
"Look here," said the tall man, suddenly turning to the other with an
air of authority, "keep your mouth shut and don't speak till you're
spoken to. Mind that, now, or these gentlemen will make it the worse for
David grinned as he took away his club.
"I'd gentlemen you," he said, "if I could get half a chance to do it."
The face of the heavy burglar maintained its redness, but he kept his
When the younger man was restored to his senses, his full consciousness
and power of perception seemed to come to him in an instant. His eyes
flashed from right to left, he turned deadly white, and then merely
moving his arms and legs enough to make himself aware that he was bound,
he sat perfectly still and said not a word.
I now felt that I must go and acquaint my wife with what had happened,
or otherwise she would be coming downstairs to see what was keeping me
so long. David declared that he was perfectly able to keep guard over
them, and I ran upstairs. David afterward told me that as soon as I left
the room the tall burglar endeavoured to bribe him to cut their ropes,
and told him if he was afraid to stay behind after doing this he would
get him a much better situation than this could possibly be. But as
David threatened personal injury to the speaker if he uttered another
word of the kind, the tall man said no more; but the stout man became
very violent and angry, threatening all sorts of vengeance on my
unfortunate man. David said he was beginning to get angry, when the tall
man, who seemed to have much influence over the other fellow, ordered
him to keep quiet, as the gentleman with the iron club no doubt thought
he was doing right. The young fellow never said a word.
When I told my wife that I had caught three burglars, and they were
fast bound in the library, she nearly fainted; and when I had revived
her she begged me to promise that I would not go downstairs again until
the police had carried away the horrible wretches. But I assured her
that it was absolutely necessary for me to return to the library. She
then declared that she would go with me, and if anything happened she
would share my fate. "Besides," she said, "if they are tied fast so they
can't move, I should like to see what they look like. I never saw a
I did not wish my wife to go downstairs, but as I knew there would be no
use in objecting, I consented. She hastily dressed herself, making me
wait for her; and when she left the room she locked the door on the
sleeping George William, in order that no one should get at him during
her absence. As we passed the head of the stairs, the door of my Aunt
Martha's room opened, and there she stood, completely dressed, with her
bonnet on, and a little leather bag in her hand.
"I heard so much talking and so much going up and down stairs that I
thought I had better be ready to do whatever had to be done. Is it
"No," said my wife; "it's three burglars tied in a bunch in the library.
I am going down to see them."
My Aunt Martha gasped, and looked as if she were going to sit down on
"Goodness gracious!" she said, "if you're going I'll go too. I can't let
you go alone, and I never did see a burglar."
I hurried down and left the two ladies on the stairs until I was sure
everything was still safe; and when I saw that there had been no change
in the state of affairs, I told them to come down.
When my wife and Aunt Martha timidly looked in at the library door, the
effect upon them and the burglars was equally interesting. The ladies
each gave a start and a little scream, and huddled themselves close to
me, and the three burglars gazed at them with faces that expressed more
astonishment than any I had ever seen before. The stout fellow gave vent
to a smothered exclamation, and the face of the young man flushed, but
not one of them spoke.
"Are you sure they are tied fast?" whispered my Aunt Martha to me.
"Perfectly," I answered; "if I had not been sure I should not have
allowed you to come down."
Thereupon the ladies picked up courage and stepped further into the
"Did you and David catch them?" asked my aunt; "and how in the world did
you do it?"
"I'll tell you all about that another time," I said, "and you had better
go upstairs as soon as you two have seen what sort of people are these
cowardly burglars who sneak or break into the houses of respectable
people at night, and rob and steal and ruin other people's property with
no more conscience or human feeling than is possessed by the rats which
steal your corn, or the polecats which kill your chickens."
"I can scarcely believe," said Aunt Martha, "that that young man is a
At these words the eyes of the fellow spoken of glowed as he fixed them
on Aunt Martha, but he did not say a word, and the paleness which had
returned to his face did not change.
"Have they told you who they are?" asked my wife.
"I haven't asked them," I said. "And now don't you think you had better
"It seems to me," said Aunt Martha, "that those ropes must hurt them."
The tall man now spoke. "Indeed they do, madam," he said in a low voice
and very respectful manner, "they are very tight."
I told David to look at all the cords and see if any of them were too
"It's all nonsense, sir," said he, when he had finished the examination;
"not one of the ropes is a bit too tight. All they want is a chance to
pull out their ugly hands."
"Of course," said Aunt Martha, "if it would be unsafe to loosen the
knots I wouldn't do it. Are they to be sent to prison?"
"Yes," said I; "as soon as the day breaks I shall send down for the
I now heard a slight sound at the door, and turning, saw Alice, our maid
of the house, who was peeping in at the door. Alice was a modest girl,
and quite pretty.
"I heard the noise and the talking, sir," she said, "and when I found
the ladies had gone down to see what it was, I thought I would come
"And where is the cook," asked my wife; "don't she want to see
"Not a bit of it," answered Alice, very emphatically. "As soon as I told
her what it was she covered up her head with the bedclothes and
declared, ma'am, that she would never get up until they were entirely
gone out of the house."
At this the stout man grinned.
"I wish you'd all cover up your heads," he said. The tall man looked at
him severely, and he said no more.
David did not move from his post near the three burglars, but he turned
toward Alice and looked at her. We knew that he had tender feelings
toward the girl, and I think that he did not approve of her being there.
"Have they stolen anything?" asked Aunt Martha.
"They have not had any chance to take anything away," I said; and my
wife remarked that whether they had stolen anything or not, they had
made a dreadful mess on the floor, and had broken the table. They should
certainly be punished.
At this she made a motion as if she would leave the room, and an
anxious expression immediately came on the face of the tall man, who had
evidently been revolving something in his mind.
"Madam," he said, "we are very sorry that we have broken your table, and
that we have damaged some of your glass and your carpet. I assure you,
however, that nothing of the kind would have happened but for that
drugged wine, which was doubtless intended for a medicine, and not a
beverage; but weary and chilled as we were when we arrived, madam, we
were glad to partake of it, supposing it ordinary wine."
I could not help showing a little pride at the success of my scheme.
"The refreshment was intended for fellows of your class, and I am very
glad you accepted it."
The tall man did not answer me, but he again addressed my wife.
"Madam," he said, "if you ladies would remain and listen to me a few
moments, I am sure I would make you aware that there is much to
extenuate the apparent offence which I have committed to-night."
My wife did not answer him, but turning to me said, smiling, "If he
alludes to their drinking your wine he need not apologize."
The man looked at her with an expression as if her words had pained him.
"Madam," he said, "if you consent to listen to my explanations and the
story of this affair, I am sure your feelings toward me would not be so
"Now, then," said my Aunt Martha, "if he has a story to tell he ought to
be allowed to tell it, even in a case like this. Nobody should be judged
until he has said what he thinks he ought to say. Let us hear his
I laughed. "Any statement he may make," I said, "will probably deserve a
much stronger name than stories."
"I think that what you say is true," remarked my wife; "but still if he
has a story to tell I should like to hear it."
I think I heard David give a little grunt; but he was too well bred to
"Very well," said I, "if you choose to sit up and hear him talk, it is
your affair. I shall be obliged to remain here anyway, and will not
object to anything that will help to pass away the time. But these men
must not be the only ones who are seated. David, you and Alice can clear
away that broken table and the rest of the stuff, and then we might as
well sit down and make ourselves comfortable."
Alice, with cloth and brush, approached very timidly the scene of the
disaster; but the younger burglar, who was nearest to her, gazed upon
her with such a gentle and quiet air that she did not seem to be
frightened. When she and David had put the room in fair order, I placed
two easy-chairs for my wife and Aunt Martha at a moderate distance from
the burglars, and took another myself a little nearer to them, and then
told David to seat himself near the other end of the bench, and Alice
took a chair at a little distance from the ladies.
"Now, then," said Aunt Martha to the burglars, "I would like very much
to hear what any one of you can say in extenuation of having broken into
a gentleman's house by night."
Without hesitation the tall man began his speech. He had a long and
rather lean, close-shaven face, which at present bore the expression of
an undertaker conducting a funeral. Although it was my aunt who had
shown the greatest desire to hear his story, he addressed himself to my
wife. I think he imagined that she was the more influential person of
"Madam," said he, "I am glad of the opportunity of giving you and your
family an idea of the difficulties and miseries which beset a large
class of your fellow-beings of whom you seldom have any chance of
knowing anything at all, but of whom you hear all sorts of the most
misleading accounts. Now, I am a poor man. I have suffered the greatest
miseries that poverty can inflict. I am here, suspected of having
committed a crime. It is possible that I may be put to considerable
difficulty and expense in proving my innocence."
"I shouldn't wonder," I interrupted. To this remark he paid no
"Considering all this," he continued, "you may not suppose, madam, that
as a boy I was brought up most respectably and properly. My mother was a
religious woman, and my father was a boat-builder. I was sent to school,
and my mother has often told me that I was a good scholar. But she died
when I was about sixteen, and I am sure had this not happened I should
never have been even suspected of breaking the laws of my country. Not
long after her death my father appeared to lose interest in his
business, and took to rowing about the river instead of building boats
for other people to row. Very often he went out at night, and I used to
wonder why he should care to be on the water in the darkness, and
sometimes in the rain. One evening at supper he said to me: 'Thomas, you
ought to know how to row in the dark as well as in the daytime. I am
going up the river to-night, and you can come with me.'
"It was about my ordinary bedtime when we took a boat with two pair of
oars, and we pulled up the river about three miles above the city."
"What city?" I asked.
"The city where I was born, sir," he said, "and the name of which I must
be excused from mentioning for reasons connected with my only surviving
parent. There were houses on the river bank, but they were not very near
each other. Some of them had lights in them, but most of them were dark,
as it must have been after eleven o'clock. Before one of them my father
stopped rowing for a moment and looked at it pretty hard. It seemed to
be all dark, but as we pulled on a little I saw a light in the back of
"My father said nothing, but we kept on, though pulling very easy for a
mile or two, and then we turned and floated down with the tide. 'You
might as well rest, Thomas,' said he, 'for you have worked pretty hard.'
"We floated slowly, for the tide was just beginning to turn, and when we
got near the house which I mentioned, I noticed that there was no light
in it. When we were about opposite to it father suddenly looked up and
said, not speaking very loud, 'By George! if that isn't Williamson
Green's house. I wasn't thinking of it when we rowed up, and passed it
without taking notice of it. I am sorry for that, for I wanted to see
Williamson, and now I expect he has gone to bed.'
"'Who is Mr. Green?' I asked.
"'He is an old friend of mine,' said my father, 'and I haven't seen him
for some little while now. About four months ago he borrowed of me a
sextant, quadrant, and chronometer. They were instruments I took from
old Captain Barney in payment of some work I did for him. I wasn't
usin' them, and Williamson had bought a catboat and was studying
navigation; but he has given up that fad now and has promised me over
and over to send me back my instruments, but he has never done it. If
I'd thought of it I would have stopped and got 'em of him; but I didn't
think, and now I expect he has gone to bed. However, I'll row in shore
and see; perhaps he's up yet.'
"You see, ma'am," said the speaker to my wife, "I'm tellin' you all
these particulars because I am very anxious you should understand
exactly how everything happened on this night, which was the
turning-point of my life."
"Very good," said Aunt Martha; "we want to hear all the particulars."
"Well, then," continued the burglar, "we pulled up to a stone wall which
was at the bottom of Green's place and made fast, and father he got out
and went up to the house. After a good while he came back and said that
he was pretty sure Williamson Green had gone to bed, and as it wouldn't
do to waken people up from their sleep to ask them for nautical
instruments they had borrowed, he sat down for a minute on the top of
the wall, and then he slapped his knee, not making much noise, though.
"'By George!' he said, 'an idea has just struck me. I can play the
prettiest trick on Williamson that ever was played on mortal man. Those
instruments are all in a box locked up, and I know just where he keeps
it. I saw it not long ago, when I went to his house to talk about a
yacht he wants built. They are on a table in the comer of his bedroom.
He was taking me through the house to show me the improvements he had
made, and he said to me:--
"'"Martin, there's your instruments. I won't trouble you to take them
with you, because they're heavy and you're not going straight home, but
I'll bring them to you day after to-morrow, when I shall be goin' your
"'Now, then,' said my father, 'the trick I'm thinkin' of playing on
Williamson is this: I'd like to take that box of instruments out of his
room without his knowing it and carry them home, having the boat here
convenient; and then in a day or two to write to him and tell him I must
have 'em, because I have a special use for 'em. Of course he'll be
awfully cut up, not having them to send back; and when he comes down to
my place to talk about it, and after hearing all he has to say, I'll
show him the box. He'll be the most dumbfoundedest man in this State;
and if I don't choose to tell him he'll never know to his dying day how
I got that box. And if he lies awake at night, trying to think how I got
it, it will serve him right for keeping my property from me so long.'
"'But, father,' said I, 'if the people have gone to bed you can't get
into the house to play him your trick.'
"'That can be managed,' says he; 'I'm rather old for climbing myself,
but I know a way by which you, Thomas, can get in easy enough. At the
back of the house is a trellis with a grape-vine running over it, and
the top of it is just under one of the second-story windows. You can
climb up that trellis, Thomas, and lift up that window-sash very
carefully, so's not to make no noise, and get in. Then you'll be in a
back room, with a door right in front of you which opens into Mr. and
Mrs. Green's bedroom. There's always a little night lamp burning in it,
by which you can see to get about. In the corner, on your right as you
go into the room, is a table with my instrument-box standing on it. The
box is pretty heavy, and there is a handle on top to carry it by. You
needn't be afraid to go in, for by this time they are both sound asleep,
and you can pick up the box and walk out as gingerly as a cat, having of
course taken your shoes off before you went in. Then you can hand the
box out the back window to me,--I can climb up high enough to reach
it,--and you can scuttle down, and we'll be off, having the best rig on
Williamson Green that I ever heard of in my born days.'
"I was a very active boy, used to climbing and all that sort of thing,
and I had no doubt that I could easily get into the house; but I did not
fancy my father's scheme.
"'Suppose,' I said, 'that Mr. Williamson Green should wake up and see
me; what could I say? How could I explain my situation?'
"'You needn't say anything,' said my father. 'If he wakes up blow out
the light and scoot. If you happen to have the box in your hand drop it
out the back window and then slip down after it. He won't see us; but
if he does he cannot catch us before we get to the boat; but if he
should, however, I'll have to explain the matter to him, and the joke
will be against me; but I shall get my instruments, which is the main
point, after all.'
"I did not argue with my father, for he was a man who hated to be
differed with, and I agreed to help him carry out his little joke. We
took off our shoes and walked quietly to the back of the house. My
father stood below, and I climbed up the trellis under the back window,
which he pointed out. The window-sash was down all but a little crack to
let in air, and I raised it so slowly and gently that I made no noise.
Then without any trouble at all I got into the room.
"I found myself in a moderate-sized chamber, into which a faint light
came from a door opposite the window. Having been several hours out in
the night my eyes had become so accustomed to darkness that this light
was comparatively strong and I could see everything.
"Looking about me my eyes fell on a little bedstead, on which lay one of
the most beautiful infants I ever beheld in my life. Its golden hair
lay in ringlets upon the pillow. Its eyes were closed, but its soft
cheeks had in them a rosy tinge which almost equalled the colour of its
dainty little lips, slightly opened as it softly breathed and dreamed."
At this point I saw my wife look quickly at the bedroom key she had in
her hand. I knew she was thinking of George William.
"I stood entranced," continued the burglar, "gazing upon this babe, for
I was very fond of children; but I remembered that I must not waste
time, and stepped softly into the next room. There I beheld Mr. and Mrs.
Williamson Green in bed, both fast asleep, the gentleman breathing a
little hard. In a corner, just where my father told me I should find it,
stood the box upon the table.
"But I could not immediately pick it up and depart. The beautiful room
in which I found myself was a revelation to me. Until that moment I had
not known that I had tastes and sympathies of a higher order than might
have been expected of the youthful son of a boat-builder. Those artistic
furnishings aroused within a love of the beautiful which I did not know
I possessed. The carpets, the walls, the pictures, the hangings in the
windows, the furniture, the ornaments,--everything, in fact, impressed
me with such a delight that I did not wish to move or go away.
"Into my young soul there came a longing. 'Oh!' I said to myself, 'that
my parents had belonged to the same social grade as that worthy couple
reposing in that bed; and oh! that I, in my infancy, had been as
beautiful and as likely to be so carefully nurtured and cultured as that
sweet babe in the next room.' I almost heaved a sigh as I thought of the
difference between these surroundings and my own, but I checked myself;
it would not do to made a noise and spoil my father's joke.
"There were a great many things in that luxurious apartment which it
would have delighted me to look upon and examine, but I forbore."
"I wish I'd been there," said the stout man; "there wouldn't have been
The speaker turned sharply upon him.
"Don't you interrupt me again," he said angrily. Then, instantly
resuming his deferential tone, he continued the story.
"But I had come there by the command of my parent, and this command must
be obeyed without trifling or loss of time. My father did not approve of
trifling or loss of time. I moved quietly toward the table in the
corner, on which stood my father's box. I was just about to put my hand
upon it when I heard a slight movement behind me. I gave a start and
glanced backward. It was Mr. Williamson Green turning over in his bed;
what if he should awake? His back was now toward me, and my impulse was
to fly and leave everything behind me; but my father had ordered me to
bring the box, and he expected his orders to be obeyed. I had often been
convinced of that.
"I stood perfectly motionless for a minute or so, and when the gentleman
recommenced his regular and very audible breathing I felt it safe to
proceed with my task. Taking hold of the box I found it was much heavier
than I expected it to be; but I moved gently away with it and passed
into the back room.
"There I could not refrain from stopping a moment by the side of the
sleeping babe, upon whose cherub-like face the light of the night lamp
dimly shone. The little child was still sleeping sweetly, and my impulse
was to stop and kiss it; but I knew that this would be wrong. The infant
might awake and utter a cry and my father's joke be spoiled. I moved to
the open window, and with some trouble, and, I think, without any noise,
I succeeded in getting out upon the trellis with the box under my arm.
The descent was awkward, but my father was a tall man, and, reaching
upward, relieved me of my burden before I got to the ground.
"'I didn't remember it was so heavy,' he whispered, 'or I should have
given you a rope to lower it down by. If you had dropped it and spoiled
my instruments, and made a lot of noise besides, I should have been
"I was very glad my father was not angry, and following him over the
greensward we quickly reached the boat, where the box was stowed away
under the bow to keep it from injury.
"We pushed off as quietly as possible and rowed swiftly down the river.
When we had gone about a mile I suddenly dropped my oar with an
exclamation of dismay.
"'What's the matter?' cried my father.
"'Oh, I have done a dreadful thing!' I said. 'Oh, father, I must go
"I am sorry to say that at this my father swore.
"'What do you want to go back for?' he said.
"'Just to think of it! I have left open the window in which that
beautiful child was sleeping. If it should take cold and die from the
damp air of the river blowing upon it I should never forgive myself. Oh,
if I had only thought of climbing up the trellis again and pulling down
that sash! I am sure I could go back and do it without making the least
noise.' My father gave a grunt; but what the grunt meant I do not know,
and for a few moments he was silent, and then he said:--
"'Thomas, you cannot go back; the distance is too great, the tide is
against us, and it is time that you and I were both in our beds. Nothing
may happen to that baby; but, attend to my words now, if any harm should
come to that child it will go hard with you. If it should die it would
be of no use for you to talk about practical jokes. You would be held
responsible for its death. I was going to say to you that it might be as
well for you not to say anything about this little venture until I had
seen how Williamson Green took the joke. Some people get angry with very
little reason, although I hardly believe he's that sort of a man; but
now things are different. He thinks all the world of that child, which
is the only one they've got; and if you want to stay outside of jail or
the house of refuge I warn you never to say a word of where you have
been this night.'
"With this he began to row again, and I followed his example, but with a
very heavy heart. All that night I dreamt of the little child with the
damp night winds blowing in upon it."
"Did you ever hear if it caught cold?" asked Aunt Martha.
"No," replied the burglar, "I never did. I mentioned the matter to my
father, and he said that he had great fears upon the subject, for
although he had written to Williamson Green, asking him to return the
instruments, he had not seen him or heard from him, and he was afraid
that the child had died or was dangerously sick. Shortly after that my
father sent me on a little trip to the Long Island coast to collect some
bills from people for whom he had done work. He gave me money to stay a
week or two at the seashore, saying that the change would do me good;
and it was while I was away on this delightful holiday that an event
occurred which had a most disastrous effect upon my future life. My
father was arrested for burglary!
"It appeared--and I cannot tell you how shocked I was when I discovered
the truth--that the box which I had carried away did not contain
nautical instruments, but was filled with valuable plate and jewels. My
unfortunate father heard from a man who had been discharged from the
service of the family whose house he had visited--whose name, by the
way, was not Green--where the box containing the valuables mentioned was
always placed at night, and he had also received accurate information in
regard to the situation of the rooms and the best method of gaining
access to them.
"I believe that some arrangement had been made between my father and
this discharged servant in regard to a division of the contents of the
box, and it was on account of a disagreement on this subject that the
man became very angry, and after pocketing what my father thought was
his fair share he departed to unknown regions, leaving behind a note to
the police which led to my father's arrest."
"That was a mean trick," said Aunt Martha.
The burglar looked at her gratefully.
"In the lower spheres of life, madam, such things often happen. Some of
the plate and jewels were found in my father's possession, and he was
speedily tried and sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. And now,
can you imagine, ladies," said the tall burglar, apparently having
become satisfied to address himself to Aunt Martha, as well as my wife,
"the wretched position in which I found myself? I was upbraided as the
son of a thief. I soon found myself without home, without occupation,
and, alas! without good reputation. I was careful not to mention my
voluntary connection with my father's crime for fear that should I do so
I might be compelled to make a statement which might increase the
severity of his punishment. For this reason I did not dare to make
inquiries concerning the child in whom I had taken such an interest,
and whose little life I had, perhaps, imperilled. I never knew, ladies,
whether that infant grew up or not.
"But I, alas! grew up to a life of hardship and degradation. It would be
impossible for persons in your sphere of life to understand what I now
was obliged to suffer. Suitable employment I could not obtain, because I
was the son of a burglar. With a father in the State prison, it was of
no use for me to apply for employment at any respectable place of
business. I laboured at one thing and another, sometimes engaging in the
most menial employments. I also had been educated and brought up by my
dear mother for a very different career. Sometimes I managed to live
fairly well, sometimes I suffered. Always I suffered from the stigma of
my father's crime, always in the eyes of the community in which I
lived--a community, I am sorry to say, incapable, as a rule, of making
correct judgments in delicate cases like these--I was looked upon as
belonging to the ranks of the dishonest. It was a hard lot, and
sometimes almost impossible to bear up under.
"I have spoken at length, ladies, in order that you may understand my
true position; and I wish to say that I have never felt the crushing
weight of my father's disgrace more deeply than I felt it last evening.
This man," nodding toward the stout burglar, "came to me shortly after I
had eaten my supper, which happened to be a frugal one, and said to
"'Thomas, I have some business to attend to to-night, in which you can
help me if you choose. I know you are a good mechanic.'
"'If it is work that will pay me,' I answered, 'I should be very glad to
do it, for I am greatly in need of money.'
"'It will pay,' said he; and I agreed to assist him.
"As we were walking to the station, as the business to be attended to
was out of town, this man, whose name is James Barlow, talked to me in
such a way that I began to suspect that he intended to commit a
burglary, and openly charged him with this evil purpose. 'You may call
it burglary or anything else you please,' said he; 'property is very
unequally divided in this world, and it is my business in life to make
wrong things right as far as I can. I am going to the house of a man
who has a great deal more than he needs, and I haven't anything like as
much as I need; and so I intend to take some of his overplus,--not very
much, for when I leave his house he will still be a rich man, and I'll
be a poor one. But for a time my family will not starve.'
"'Argue as you please, James Barlow,' I said, 'what you are going to do
is nothing less than burglary.'
"'Of course it is,' said he; 'but it's all right, all the same. There
are a lot of people, Thomas, who are not as particular about these
things as they used to be, and there is no use for you to seem better
than your friends and acquaintances. Now, to show there are not so many
bigots as there used to be, there's a young man going to meet us at the
station who is greatly interested in the study of social problems. He is
going along with us just to look into this sort of thing and study it.
It is impossible for him to understand people of our class, or do
anything to make their condition better, if he does not thoroughly
investigate their methods of life and action. He's going along just as a
student, nothing more; and he may be down on the whole thing for all I
know. He pays me five dollars for the privilege of accompanying me, and
whether he likes it or not is his business. I want you to go along as a
mechanic, and if your conscience won't let you take any share in the
profit, I'll just pay you for your time.'
"'James Barlow,' said I, 'I am going with you, but for a purpose far
different from that you desire. I shall keep by your side, and if I can
dissuade you from committing the crime you intend I shall do so; but if
I fail in this, and you deliberately break into a house for purposes of
robbery, I shall arouse the inmates and frustrate your crime.' Now,
James Barlow," said he, turning to the stout man with a severe
expression on his strongly marked face, "is not what I have said
perfectly true? Did you not say to me every word which I have just
The stout man looked at the other in a very odd way. His face seemed to
broaden and redden, and he merely closed his eyes as he promptly
"That's just what I said, every blasted word of it. You've told it fair
and square, leavin' off nothin' and puttin' in nothin'. You've told the
true facts out and out, up and down, without a break."
"Now, ladies," continued the tall man, "you see my story is
corroborated, and I will conclude it by saying that when this house, in
spite of my protest, had been opened, I entered with the others with the
firm intention of stepping into a hallway or some other suitable place
and announcing in a loud voice that the house was about to be robbed. As
soon as I found the family aroused and my purpose accomplished, I
intended to depart as quickly as possible, for, on account of the shadow
cast upon me by my father's crime, I must never be found even in the
vicinity of criminal action. But as I was passing through this room I
could not resist the invitation of Barlow to partake of the refreshments
which we saw upon the table. I was faint from fatigue and insufficient
nourishment. It seemed a very little thing to taste a drop of wine in a
house where I was about to confer a great benefit. I yielded to the
temptation, and now I am punished. Partaking even that little which did
not belong to me, I find myself placed in my present embarrassing
"You are right there," said I, "it must be embarrassing; but before we
have any more reflections, there are some practical points about which
I wish you would inform me. How did that wicked man, Mr. Barlow I think
you called him, get into this house?"
The tall man looked at me for a moment, as if in doubt what he should
say; and then his expression of mingled hopelessness and contrition
changed into one of earnest frankness.
"I will tell you, sir, exactly," he said; "I have no wish to conceal
anything. I have long wanted to have an opportunity to inform occupants
of houses, especially those in the suburbs, of the insufficiency of
their window fastenings. Familiar with mechanic devices as I am, and
accustomed to think of such things, the precautions of householders
sometimes move me to laughter. Your outer doors, front and back, are of
heavy wood, chained, locked, and bolted, often double locked and bolted;
but your lower windows are closed in the first place by the lightest
kind of shutters, which are very seldom fastened at all, and in the
second place by a little contrivance connecting the two sashes, which is
held in place by a couple of baby screws. If these contrivances are of
the best kind and cannot be opened from the outside with a knife-blade
or piece of tin, the burglar puts a chisel or jimmy under the lower sash
and gently presses it upward, when the baby screws come out as easily as
if they were babies' milk-teeth. Not for a moment does the burglar
trouble himself about the front door, with its locks and chains and
bolts. He goes to the window, with its baby screws, which might as well
be left open as shut, for all the hindrance it is to his entrance; and
if he meddled with the door at all, it is simply to open it from the
inside, so that when he is ready to depart he may do so easily."
"But all that does not apply to my windows," I said. "They are not
fastened that way."
"No, sir," said the man, "your lower shutters are solid and strong as
your doors. This is right, for if shutters are intended to obstruct
entrance to a house they should be as strong as the doors. When James
Barlow first reached this house he tried his jimmy on one of the
shutters in this main building, but he could not open it. The heavy bolt
inside was too strong for him. Then he tried another near by with the
same result. You will find the shutters splintered at the bottom. Then
he walked to the small addition at the back of the house, where the
kitchen is located. Here the shutters were smaller, and of course the
inside bolts were smaller. Everything in harmony. Builders are so
careful now-a-days to have everything in harmony. When Barlow tried his
jimmy on one of these shutters the bolt resisted for a time, but its
harmonious proportions caused it to bend, and it was soon drawn from its
staples and the shutter opened, and of course the sash was opened as I
told you sashes are opened."
"Well," said I, "shutters and sashes of mine shall never be opened in
that way again."
"It was with that object that I spoke to you," said the tall man. "I
wish you to understand the faults of your fastenings, and any
information I can give you which will better enable you to protect your
house, I shall be glad to give, as a slight repayment for the injury I
may have helped to do to you in the way of broken glass and spoiled
carpet. I have made window fastenings an especial study, and, if you
employ me for the purpose, I'll guarantee that I will put your house
into a condition which will be absolutely burglar proof. If I do not do
this to your satisfaction, I will not ask to be paid a cent."
"We will not consider that proposition now," I said, "for you may have
other engagements which would interfere with the proposed job." I was
about to say that I thought we had enough of this sort of story, when
Aunt Martha interrupted me.
"It seems to me," she said, speaking to the tall burglar, "that you have
instincts, and perhaps convictions, of what is right and proper; but it
is plain that you allow yourself to be led and influenced by
unprincipled companions. You should avoid even the outskirts of evil.
You may not know that the proposed enterprise is a bad one, but you
should not take part in it unless you know that it is a good one. In
such cases you should be rigid."
The man turned toward my aunt, and looked steadfastly at her, and as he
gazed his face grew sadder and sadder.
"Rigid," he repeated; "that is hard."
"Yes," I remarked, "that is one of the meanings of the word."
Paying no attention to me, he continued:--
"Madam," said he, with a deep pathos in his voice, "no one can be
better aware than I am that I have made many mistakes in the course of
my life; but that quality on which I think I have reason to be satisfied
with myself is my rigidity when I know a thing is wrong. There occurs to
me now an instance in my career which will prove to you what I say.
"I knew a man by the name of Spotkirk, who had invented a liniment for
the cure of boils. He made a great success with his liniment, which he
called Boilene, and at the time I speak of he was a very rich man.
"One day Spotkirk came to me and told me he wanted me to do a piece of
business for him, for which he would pay me twenty-five dollars. I was
glad to hear this, for I was greatly in need of money, and I asked him
what it was he wanted me to do.
"'You know Timothy Barker,' said he. 'Well, Timothy and I have had a
misunderstanding, and I want you to be a referee or umpire between us,
to set things straight.'
"'Very good,' said I, 'and what is the point of difference?'
"'I'll put the whole thing before you.' said he, 'for of course you
must understand it or you can't talk properly to Timothy. Now, you see,
in the manufacture of my Boilene I need a great quantity of good yellow
gravel, and Timothy Barker has got a gravel pit of that kind. Two years
ago I agreed with Timothy that he should furnish me with all the gravel
I should want for one-eighth of one per cent. of the profits on the
Boilene. We didn't sign no papers, for which I am sorry, but that was
the agreement; and now Timothy says that one-eighth of one per cent.
isn't enough. He has gone wild about it, and actually wants ten per
cent., and threatens to sue me if I don't give it to him.'
"'Are you obliged to have gravel? Wouldn't something else do for your
"'There's nothing as cheap,' said Spotkirk. 'You see I have to have lots
and lots of it. Every day I fill a great tank with the gravel and let
water onto it. This soaks through the gravel, and comes out a little
pipe in the bottom of the tank of a beautiful yellow color; sometimes it
is too dark, and then I have to thin it with more water.'
"'Then you bottle it,' I said.
"'Yes,' said Spotkirk; 'then there is all the expense and labour of
"'Then you put nothing more into it,' said I.
"'What more goes into it before it's corked,' said Spotkirk, 'is my
business. That's my secret, and nobody's been able to find it out.
People have had Boilene analyzed by chemists, but they can't find out
the hidden secret of its virtue. There's one thing that everybody who
has used it does know, and that is that it is a sure cure for boils. If
applied for two or three days according to directions, and at the proper
stage, the boil is sure to disappear. As a proof of its merit I have
sold seven hundred and forty-eight thousand bottles this year.'
"'At a dollar a bottle?' said I.
"'That is the retail price,' said he.
"'Now, then, Mr. Spotkirk,' said I, 'it will not be easy to convince
Timothy Barker that one-eighth of one per cent. is enough for him. I
suppose he hauls his gravel to your factory?'
"'Hauling's got nothing to do with it,' said he; 'gravel is only ten
cents a load anywhere, and if I choose I could put my factory right in
the middle of a gravel pit. Timothy Barker has nothing to complain of.
"'But he knows you are making a lot of money,' said I, 'and it will be a
hard job to talk him over. Mr. Spotkirk, it's worth every cent of fifty
"'Now look here,' said he; 'if you get Barker to sign a paper that will
suit me, I'll give you fifty dollars. I'd rather do that than have him
bring a suit. If the matter comes up in the courts those rascally
lawyers will be trying to find out what I put into my Boilene, and that
sort of thing would be sure to hurt my business. It won't be so hard to
get a hold on Barker if you go to work the right way. You can just let
him understand that you know all about that robbery at Bonsall's
clothing-store, where he kept the stolen goods in his barn, covered up
with hay, for nearly a week. It would be a good thing for Timothy Barker
to understand that somebody else beside me knows about that business,
and if you bring it in right, it will fetch him around, sure.'
"I kept quiet for a minute or two, and then I said:--
"'Mr. Spotkirk, this is an important business. I can't touch it under a
hundred dollars.' He looked hard at me, and then he said:--
"'Do it right, and a hundred dollars is yours.'
"After that I went to see Timothy Barker, and had a talk with him.
Timothy was boiling over, and considered himself the worst-cheated man
in the world. He had only lately found out how Spotkirk made his
Boilene, and what a big sale he had for it, and he was determined to
have more of the profits.
"'Just look at it!' he shouted; 'when Spotkirk has washed out my gravel
it's worth more than it was before, and he sells it for twenty-five
cents a load to put on gentlemen's places. Even out of that he makes a
hundred and fifty per cent. profit.'
"I talked a good deal more with Timothy Barker, and found out a good
many things about Spotkirk's dealings with him, and then in an off-hand
manner I mentioned the matter of the stolen goods in his barn, just as
if I had known all about it from the very first. At this Timothy stopped
shouting, and became as meek as a mouse. He said nobody was as sorry as
he was when he found the goods concealed in his barn had been stolen,
and that if he had known it before the thieves took them away he should
have informed the authorities; and then he went on to tell me how he got
so poor and so hard up by giving his whole time to digging and hauling
gravel for Spotkirk, and neglecting his little farm, that he did not
know what was going to become of him and his family if he couldn't make
better terms with Spotkirk for the future, and he asked me very
earnestly to help him in this business if I could.
"Now, then, I set myself to work to consider this business. Here was a
rich man oppressing a poor one, and here was this rich man offering me
one hundred dollars--which in my eyes was a regular fortune--to help him
get things so fixed that he could keep on oppressing the poor one. Now,
then, here was a chance for me to show my principles. Here was a chance
for me to show myself what you, madam, call rigid; and rigid I was. I
just set that dazzling one hundred dollars aside, much as I wanted it.
Much as I actually needed it, I wouldn't look at it, or think of it. I
just said to myself, 'If you can do any good in this matter, do it for
the poor man;' and I did do it for Timothy Barker with his poor wife and
seven children, only two of them old enough to help him in the gravel
pit. I went to Spotkirk and I talked to him, and I let him see that if
Timothy Barker showed up the Boilene business, as he threatened to do,
it would be a bad day for the Spotkirk family. He tried hard to talk me
over to his side, but I was rigid, madam, I was rigid, and the business
ended in my getting seven per cent. of the profits of Boilene for that
poor man, Timothy Barker, and his large family; and their domestic
prosperity is entirely due--I say it without hesitation--to my efforts
on their behalf, and to my rigidity in standing up for the poor against
"Of course," I here remarked, "you don't care to mention anything about
the money you squeezed out of Timothy Barker by means of your knowledge
that he had been a receiver of stolen goods, and I suppose the Boilene
man gave you something to get the percentage brought down from ten per
cent. to seven."
The tall burglar turned and looked at me with an air of saddened
"Of course," said he, "it is of no use for a man in my position to
endeavour to set himself right in the eyes of one who is prejudiced
against him. My hope is that those present who are not prejudiced will
give my statements the consideration they deserve."
"Which they certainly will do," I continued. Turning to my wife and Aunt
Martha, "As you have heard this fine story, I think it is time for you
"I do not wish to retire," promptly returned Aunt Martha. "I was never
more awake in my life, and couldn't go asleep if I tried. What we have
heard may or may not be true, but it furnishes subjects for
reflection--serious reflection. I wish very much to hear what that man
in the middle of the bench has to say for himself; I am sure he has a
"Yes, ma'am," said the stout man, with animation, "I've got one, and I'd
like nothin' better than to tell it to you if you'll give me a little
somethin' to wet my lips with--a little beer, or whiskey and water, or
anything you have convenient."
"Whiskey and water!" said Aunt Martha with severity. "I should think
not. It seems to me you have had all the intoxicating liquors in this
house that you would want."
"But I don't think you're the kind of person who'd doctor the liquor.
This is the first gentleman's house where I ever found anything of that
"The worse for the gentleman," I remarked. The man grunted.
"Well, ma'am," he said, "call it anything you please--milk, cider, or,
if you have nothin' else, I'll take water. I can't talk without
My wife rose. "If we are to listen to another story," she said, "I want
something to keep up my strength. I shall go into the dining-room and
make some tea, and Aunt Martha can give these men some of that if she
The ladies now left the room, followed by Alice. Presently they called
me, and, leaving the burglars in charge of the vigilant David, I went to
them. I found them making tea.
"I have been upstairs to see if George William is all right, and now I
want you to tell me what you think of that man's story," said my wife.
"I don't think it a story at all," said I. "I call it a lie. A story is
a relation which purports to be fiction, no matter how much like truth
it may be, and is intended to be received as fiction. A lie is a false
statement made with the intention to deceive, and that is what I believe
we have heard to-night."
"I agree with you exactly," said my wife.
"It may be," said Aunt Martha, "that the man's story is true. There are
some things about it which make me think so; but if he is really a
criminal he must have had trials and temptations which led him into his
present mode of life. We should consider that."
"I have been studying him," I said, "and I think he is a born rascal,
who ought to have been hung long ago."
My aunt looked at me. "John," she said, "if you believe people are born
criminals, they ought to be executed in their infancy. It could be done
painlessly by electricity, and society would be the gainer, although you
lawyers would be the losers. But I do not believe in your doctrine. If
the children of the poor were properly brought up and educated, fewer of
them would grow to be criminals."
"I don't think this man suffered for want of education," said my wife;
"he used very good language; that was one of the first things that led
me to suspect him. It is not likely that sons of boat-builders speak so
correctly and express themselves so well."
"Of course, I cannot alter your opinions," said Aunt Martha, "but the
story interested me, and I very much wish to hear what that other man
has to say for himself."
"Very well," said I, "you shall hear it; but I must drink my tea and go
back to the prisoners."
"And I," said Aunt Martha, "will take some tea to them. They may be bad
men, but they must not suffer."
I had been in the library but a few moments when Aunt Martha entered,
followed by Alice, who bore a tray containing three very large cups of
tea and some biscuit.
"Now, then," said Aunt Martha to me, "if you will untie their hands, I
will give them some tea."
At these words each burglar turned his eyes on me with a quick glance. I
"Hardly," said I. "I would not be willing to undertake the task of
tying them up again, unless, indeed, they will consent to drink some
more of my wine."
"Which we won't do," said the middle burglar, "and that's flat."
"Then they must drink this tea with their hands tied," said Aunt Martha,
in a tone of reproachful resignation, and, taking a cup from the tray,
she approached the stout man and held it up to his lips. At this act of
extreme kindness we were all amused, even the burglar's companions
smiled, and David so far forgot himself as to burst into a laugh, which,
however, he quickly checked. The stout burglar, however, saw nothing to
laugh at. He drank the tea, and never drew breath until the cup was
"I forgot," said my aunt, as she removed the cup from his lips, "to ask
you whether you took much or little sugar."
"Don't make no difference to me," answered the man; "tea isn't malt
liquor; it's poor stuff any way, and it doesn't matter to me whether
it's got sugar in it or not, but it's moistenin', and that's what I
want. Now, madam, I'll just say to you, if ever I break into a room
where you're sleepin', I'll see that you don't come to no harm, even if
you sit up in bed and holler."
"Thank you," said Aunt Martha; "but I hope you will never again be
concerned in that sort of business."
He grinned. "That depends on circumstances," said he.
Aunt Martha now offered the tall man some tea, but he thanked her very
respectfully, and declined. The young man also said that he did not care
for tea, but that if the maid--looking at Alice--would give him a glass
of water he would be obliged. This was the first time he had spoken. His
voice was low and of a pleasing tone. David's face grew dark, and we
could see that he objected to this service from Alice.
"I will give him the water myself," said Aunt Martha. This she did, and
I noticed that the man's thirst was very soon satisfied. When David had
been refreshed, and biscuits refused by the burglars, who could not very
well eat them with their hands tied, we all sat down, and the stout man
began his story. I give it as he told it, omitting some coarse and rough
expressions, and a good deal of slang which would be unintelligible to
the general reader.
"There's no use," said the burglar, "for me to try and make any of you
believe that I'm a pious gentleman under a cloud, for I know I don't
look like it, and wouldn't be likely to make out a case."
At this the tall man looked at him very severely.
"I don't mean to say," he continued, "that my friend here tried anything
like that. Every word he said was perfectly true, as I could personally
testify if I was called upon the stand, and what I'm goin' to tell you
is likewise solid fact.
"My father was a cracksman, and a first-rate one, too; he brought me up
to the business, beginning when I was very small. I don't remember
havin' any mother, so I'll leave her out. My old man was very
particular; he liked to see things done right. One day I was with him,
and we saw a tinner nailing a new leader or tin water-spout to the side
of a house.
"'Look here, young man,' says Dad, 'you're makin' a pretty poor job of
that. You don't put in enough nails, and they ain't half drove in.
Supposin' there was a fire in that house some night, and the family had
to come down by the spout, and your nails would give way, and they'd
break their necks. What would you think then? And I can tell you what it
is, young man, I can appear ag'in you for doing poor work.'
"The tinner grumbled, but he used more nails and drove 'em tight, Dad
and me standin' by, an' looking at him. One rainy night not long after
this Dad took me out with him and we stopped in front of this house.
'Now, Bobbie,' said he, 'I want you to climb into that open second-story
window, and then slip down stairs and open the front door for me; the
family's at dinner.'
"'How am I to get up, Dad?' said I.
"'Oh, you can go up the spout,' says he; 'I'll warrant that it will hold
you. I've seen to it that it was put on good and strong.'
"I tried it, and as far as I can remember I never went up a safer
"And you opened the front door?" asked Aunt Martha.
"Indeed I did, ma'am," said the burglar, "you wouldn't catch me makin'
no mistakes in that line.
"After a while I got too heavy to climb spouts, and I took to the
regular business, and did well at it, too."
"Do you mean to say," asked Aunt Martha, "that you willingly and
premeditatedly became a thief and midnight robber?"
"That's what I am, ma'am," said he; "I don't make no bones about it. I'm
a number one, double-extra, back-springed, copper-fastened burglar, with
all the attachments and noiseless treadle. That's what I am, and no
mistake. There's all kinds of businesses in this world, and there's got
to be people to work at every one of 'em; and when a fellow takes any
particular line, his business is to do it well; that's my motto. When I
break into a house I make it a point to clean it out first-class, and
not to carry away no trash, nuther. Of course, I've had my ups and my
downs, like other people,--preachers and doctors and storekeepers,--they
all have them, and I guess the downs are more amusin' than the ups, at
least to outsiders. I've just happened to think of one of them, and I'll
let you have it.
"There was a man I knew named Jerry Hammond, that was a contractor, and
sometimes he had pretty big jobs on hand, buildin' or road-makin' or
somethin' or other. He'd contract to do anything, would Jerry, no matter
whether he'd ever done it before or not. I got to know his times and
seasons for collecting money, and I laid for him."
"Abominable meanness!" exclaimed my wife.
"It's all business," said the stout man, quite unabashed. "You don't
catch a doctor refusin' to practise on a friend, or a lawyer, nuther,
and in our line of business it's the same thing. It was about the end of
October, nigh four years ago, that I found out that Jerry had a lot of
money on hand. He'd been collectin' it from different parties, and had
got home too late in the day to put it in the bank, so says I to myself,
this is your time, old fellow, and you'd better make hay while the sun
shines. I was a little afraid to crack Jerry's house by myself, for he's
a strong old fellow, so I got a man named Putty Henderson to go along
with me. Putty was a big fellow and very handy with a jimmy; but he was
awful contrary-minded, and he wouldn't agree to clean out Jerry until I
promised to go halves with him. This wasn't fair, for it wasn't his job,
and a quarter would have been lots for him.
"But there wasn't no use arguin', and along we went, and about one
o'clock we was standin' alongside Jerry's bed, where he was fast asleep.
He was a bachelor, and lived pretty much by himself. I give him a punch
to waken him up, for we'd made up our minds that that was the way to
work this job. It wouldn't pay us to go around huntin' for Jerry's
money. He was such a sharp old fellow, it was six to four we'd never
find it. He sat up in bed with a jump like a hop-toad, and looked first
at one and then at the other of us. We both had masks on, and it wasn't
puzzlin' to guess what we was there fur.
"'Jerry Hammond,' says I, speakin' rather rough and husky, 'we knows
that you've got a lot o' money in this house, and we've come fur it. We
mean business, and there's no use foolin'. You can give it to us quiet
and easy, and keep a whole head on your shoulders, or we'll lay you out
ready fur a wake and help ourselves to the funds; and now you pays your
money and you can take your choice how you do it. There's nothin'
shabby about us, but we mean business. Don't we, pard?'--'That's so,'
"'Look here,' says Jerry, jest as cool as if he had been sittin' outside
on his own curbstone, 'I know you two men and no mistake. You're Tommy
Randall, and you're Putty Henderson, so you might as well take off them
masks.'--'Which I am glad to do,' says I, 'for I hate 'em,' and I put
mine in my pocket, and Putty he took off his."
"Excuse me," said Aunt Martha, interrupting at this point, "but when Mr.
Hammond mentioned the name of Tommy Randall, to whom did he refer?"
"I can explain that, madam," said the tall burglar, quickly. "This man
by his criminal course of life has got himself into a good many scrapes,
and is frequently obliged to change his name. Since I accidentally
became acquainted with him he has had several aliases, and I think that
he very often forgets that his real name is James Barlow."
"That's so," said the stout man, "there never was a more correct person
than this industrious and unfortunate man sittin' by me. I am dreadful
forgetful, and sometimes I disremember what belongs to me and what
don't. Names the same as other things.
"'Well, now, Jerry,' says I, 'you needn't think you're goin' to make
anythin' by knowin' us. You've got to fork over your cash all the same,
and if you think to make anything by peachin' on us after we've cleared
out and left you peaceful in your bed, you're mistook so far as I'm
concerned; for I've made the track clear to get out of this town before
daybreak, and I don't know when I'll come back. This place is gettin' a
little too hot for me, and you're my concludin' exercise.' Jerry he sat
still for a minute, considerin.' He wasn't no fool, and he knowed that
there wasn't no use gettin' scared, nor cussin', nor hollerin'. What's
more, he knowed that we was there to get his money, and if he didn't
fork it over he'd get himself laid out, and that was worse than losin'
money any day. 'Now, boys, says he, 'I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll
make you an offer; a fair and square offer. What money I've got I'll
divide even with you, each of us takin' a third, and I'll try to make up
what I lose out of my next contract. Now nothin' could be no squarer
than that.'--'How much money have you got, Jerry?' says I, 'that's the
first thing to know.'--'I've got thirty-one hundred dollars even,' says
he, 'and that will be one thousand and thirty-three dollars and
thirty-three cents apiece. I've got bills to pay to-morrow for lumber
and bricks, and my third will pay 'em. If I don't I'll go to pieces. You
don't want to see me break up business, do you?'--'Now, Jerry,' says I,
'that won't do. You haven't got enough to divide into three parts. Putty
and me agree to go halves with what we get out of you, and when I lay
out a piece of business I don't make no changes. Half of that money is
for me, and half is for Putty. So just hand it out, and don't let's have
no more jabberin'.'
"Jerry he looked at me pretty hard, and then says he: 'You're about the
close-fisted and meanest man I ever met with. Here I offer you a third
part of my money, and all you've got to do is to take it and go away
peaceable. I'd be willin' to bet two to one that it's more than you
expected to get, and yet you are not satisfied; now, I'll be hanged if
I'm going to do business with you.'--'You can be hanged if you like,'
says I, 'but you'll do the business all the same.'--'No, I won't,' says
he, and he turns to Putty Henderson. 'Now, Putty,' says he, 'you've got
a pile more sense that this pal of yourn, and I'm goin' to see if I
can't do business with you. Now, you and me together can lick this Tommy
Randall just as easy as not, and if you'll help me do it I'll not only
divide the money with you, but I'll give you fifty dollars extra, so
that instead of fifteen hundred and fifty dollars--that's all he'd given
you, if he didn't cheat you--you'll have sixteen hundred, and I'll have
fifteen hundred instead of the thousand and thirty-three dollars which I
would have had left if my first offer had been took. So, Putty, what do
you say to that?' Now, Putty, he must have been a little sore with me on
account of the arguments we'd had about dividin', and he was mighty glad
besides to get the chance of makin' fifty dollars extry, and so he said
it was all right, and he'd agree. Then I thought it was about time for
me to take in some of my sail, and says I: 'Jerry, that's a pretty good
joke, and you can take my hat as soon as I get a new one, but of course
I don't mean to be hard on you, and if you really have bills to pay
to-morrow I'll take a third, and Putty'll take another, and we'll go
away peaceful.'--'No, you won't,' sings out Jerry, and with that he
jumps out of bed right at me, and Putty Henderson he comes at me from
the other side, and, between the two, they gave me the worst lickin' I
ever got in my born days, and then they dragged me down stairs and
kicked me out the front door, and I had hardly time to pick myself up
before I saw a policeman about a block off, and if he hadn't been a fat
one he'd had me sure. It wouldn't have been pleasant, for I was a good
deal wanted about that time.
"So you see, ladies and gents, that it's true what I said,--things don't
always go right in our line of business no more than any other one."
"I think you were served exactly right," said Aunt Martha; "and I wonder
such an experience did not induce you to reform."
"It did, ma'am, it did," said the burglar. "I made a vow that night that
if ever again I had to call in any one to help me in business of that
kind I wouldn't go pards with him. I'd pay him so much for the job, and
I'd take the risks, and I've stuck to it.
"But even that don't always work. Luck sometimes goes ag'in' a man,
even when he's working by himself. I remember a thing of that kind that
was beastly hard on me. A gentleman employed me to steal his daughter."
"What!" exclaimed my wife and Aunt Martha. "Steal his own daughter! What
do you mean by that?"
"That's what it was," said the stout burglar; "no more nor less. I was
recommended to the gent as a reliable party for that sort of thing, and
I met him to talk it over, and then he told me just how the case stood.
He and his wife were separated, and the daughter, about eleven years
old, had been given to her by the court, and she put it into a boardin'
school, and the gent he was goin' to Europe, and he wanted to get the
little gal and take her with him. He tried to get her once, but it
slipped up, and so there wasn't no good in his showin' hisself at the
school any more, which was in the country, and he knowed that if he
expected to get the gal he'd have to hire a professional to attend to
"Now, when I heard what he had to say, I put on the strictly pious, and,
says I, 'that's a pretty bad thing you're askin' me to do, sir, to
carry away a little gal from its lovin' mother, and more 'an that, to
take it from a school where it's gettin' all the benefits of
eddication.'--'Eddication,' says he; 'that's all stuff. What eddication
the gal gets at a school like that isn't worth a row of pins, and when
they go away they don't know nothin' useful, nor even anything tip-top
ornamental. All they've learned is the pianer and higher mathematics. As
for anythin' useful, they're nowhere. There isn't one of them could
bound New Jersey or tell you when Washington crossed the
Delaware.'--'That may be, sir,' says I, 'but them higher branches comes
useful. If Washington really did cross the Delaware, your little gal
could ask somebody when it was, but she couldn't ask 'em how the pianer
was played, nor what the whole multiplication table came to added up.
Them things she'd have to learn how to do for herself. I give you my
word, sir, I couldn't take a little gal from a school, where she was
gettin' a number one eddication, silver forks and towels extry.' The
gent looked pretty glum, for he was to sail the next day, and if I
didn't do the job for him he didn't know who would, and he said that he
was sorry to see that I was goin' back on him after the recommend I'd
had, and I said that I wouldn't go back on him if it wasn't for my
conscience. I was ready to do any common piece of business, but this
stealin' away little gals from lovin' mothers was a leetle too much for
me. 'Well,' says he, 'there ain't no time to be lost, and how much more
will satisfy your conscience?' When I said a hundred dollars, we struck
"Well, we cut and dried that business pretty straight. I took a cab and
went out to the school, and the gent he got the key of a house that was
to let about three miles from the school, and he was to stay there and
look at that empty house until I brought him the gal, when he was to pay
me and take her away. I'd like to have had more time, so that I could go
out and see how the land laid, but there wasn't no more time, and I had
to do the best I could. The gent told me they all went a walkin' every
afternoon, and that if I laid low that would be the best time to get
her, and I must just fetch her along, no matter who hollered.
"I didn't know exactly how I was going to manage it, but I took along
with me a big bag that was made for the conveyance of an extinct
millionaire, but which had never been used, owin' to beforehand
arrangements which had been made with the party's family.
"I left the cab behind a bit of woods, not far from the school, and then
I laid low, and pretty soon I seed 'em all coming out, in a double line,
with the teacher behind 'em, for a walk. I had a description of the
little gal as was wanted, and as they come nearer I made her out easy.
She was the only real light-haired one in the lot. I hid behind some
bushes in the side of the road, and when they come up, and the
light-haired little gal was just opposite to me, I jumped out of the
bushes and made a dash at her. Whoop! what a row there was in one
second! Such a screamin' and screechin' of gals, such a pilin' on top
each other, and the teacher on top the whole of 'em, bangin' with her
umbrella; they pulled at the gal and they pulled at me, an' they yelled
and they howled, and I never was in such a row and hope I never shall be
again, and I grabbed that girl by her frock, and I tumbled some over one
way and some another, and I got the umbrella over my head, but I didn't
mind it, and I clapped that bag over the little gal, and I jerked, up
her feet and let her slip into it, and then I took her up like a bag of
meal, and put across the field, with the whole kit and boodle after me.
But I guess most of 'em must have tumbled down in hysterics, judgin'
from the screechin', and I got up to the cab and away we went. Well,
when we got to the house where I was to meet the gent, he began straight
off to blow at me. 'What do you mean,' he yelled, 'bringin' my daughter
in a bag?'--'It's the only way to do it, sir,' says I; 'they can't
holler and they can't kick, and people passin' by don't know what you've
got,' and so sayin' I untied the strings, put the little gal on her
feet, and pulled off the bag, and then I'd be hanged if I ever saw a man
so ragin' mad as he was. 'What do I want with that gal?' he cried;
'that's not my daughter. That girl's hair is as black as a coal, and
she's a Jew besides.' As soon as I sot my eyes on the little varmint it
come over me that I got the thing crooked, and in the scrimmage I let go
of the right gal and grabbed another.
"I don't see how a man could help makin' mistakes with that
school-teacher's umbrella whanging away at his knowledge box, but I
wasn't goin' to let on. 'She ain't no Jew, nuther,' says I, 'and she's
your daughter, too; you needn't try to play no tricks on me. Pay me my
money and take her away as quick as you can, that's my advice, or before
you know it you'll be nabbed.'--'Pay ye!' he yelled; 'do you think I'd
pay you anything for that little Jew?'--'She's just as much a Christian
as you are,' says I. 'Ain't you a Christian, little gal? and is'nt this
gentleman your father? and ain't you surprised that he wants to give you
back to be put in the bag?' I said this hopin' she'd have sense enough
to say he was her father so's to get rid of me.
"The wretched gal had been clean dumbfounded when she was took out of
the bag, and hadn't done nothin' so far but blubber and cry, and try to
get away, which she couldn't, because I held her frock; but now she ups
and screams he wasn't her father, and she'd never seen him before, and
then he storms and swears, and tells me to take her back where I got
her, and I tell him I'll see him hanged first, and what I want is my
money; she screams, and he swears he'll not pay me a cent, and I squares
off and says that I'll thrash him out of his skin, and then he calls in
his coachman, and they both make at me, and I backs out the door to get
my cabby to stand by me, and I found that he'd cut out, havin' most
likely got frightened, afraid of bein' mixed up in trouble. Then I seed
on the high road, some half a mile away, some men comin' gallopin', and
the gent he looked out and seed 'em, too, and then says he to me,
'You'll jist take that little Jew gal back where you got her from; she's
no use to me; I'm goin';' and at that I hollered for my money, and made
a grab at him, but the coachman he tripped me over backward, and before
I could git up again they was both off with the horses on a run.
"I was so mad I couldn't speak, but there wasn't no time for foolin',
and I hadn't made up my mind which door I should cut out of, when the
fellows on horseback went ridin' past as hard as they could go. They
must have seed the carriage drivin' away, and thought for sure it had
the gal in it, and they was after it, lickety-split.
"When they was clean gone I looked round for the little gal, but
couldn't see her, but all a-sudden she came out of the fireplace, where
she'd been hidin'. She'd got over her cryin', and over her scare, too,
judgin' from her looks. 'I'm glad he's gone,' says she, 'and I'm mighty
glad, too, that Mr. Haskins and them other men didn't see me.'--'Who's
they?' says I.--'They's neighbors,' says she;' if they knew I was here
they'd took me back.'--'Well, you little minx,' say I, 'isn't that what
you want?'--'No,' says she. 'I didn't want to go with that man, for I
don't know him, and I hate him, but I don't want to go back to that
school. I hate it worse than anything in the whole world. You haven't no
idea what a horrid place it is. They just work you to death, and don't
give you half enough to eat. My constitution won't stand it. I've told
Pop that, and he thinks so too, but Marm, she don't believe in it, and
my stayin' there is all her doin'. I've been wantin' to get away for
ever so long, but I didn't want to be took off in a bag; but now that
I'm out of that horrid hole I don't want to go back, and if you'll take
me home to Pop, I know he won't let me go back, and he'll pay you real
handsome besides.'--'Who's your Pop?' says I.--'He's Mr. Groppeltacker,
of Groppeltacker & Mintz, corset findings, seven hundred and something
or other, I forget the number now, Broadway. Oh, Pop does a lot of
business, I tell you, and he's got lots of money. He sends corset
findings to South America, and Paris, and Chicago, and Madagascar, and
the uttermost parts of the earth. I've heard him say that often, and you
needn't be afraid of his not bein' able to pay you. A lot more than that
man would have paid you for his little gal, if you'd catched the right
one. So if you take me to Pop, and get me there safe and sound, it will
be an awful good speck for you.'
"Now, I begins to think to myself that perhaps there was somethin' in
what that little Jew gal was sayin', and that I might make something out
of the gal after all. I didn't count on gettin' a big pile out of old
Groppeltacker,--it wasn't likely he was that kind of a man,--but
whatever I did get would be clean profit, and I might as well try it on.
He couldn't make no charge ag'in me fur bringin' him his daughter, if
she asked me to do it; so says I to her, 'Now, if I take you home to
your Pop, will you promise on your word an' honour, that you won't say
nothin' about my carryin' you off in a bag, and say that you seed me
walkin' along the road and liked my looks, and told me you were
sufferin', and asked me to take you home to your kind parents, where you
might be took proper care of; and that I said I wasn't goin' that way,
but I'd do it out of pure Christian charity, and nothin' more nor less,
and here you was? And then, of course, you can tell him he ought to do
the handsome thing by me.'--'I'll do that,' says she, 'and I tell how
you talked to me awful kind for more than an hour, tryin' to keep me to
stay at the school, and it wasn't till I got down on my knees and weeped
that you agreed to take me to my kind father.'--'All right,' says I, 'I
might as well take you along, but we'll have to go back by the railroad
and foot it, at least two miles, to the station, and I don't know about
walkin' across the country with a little girl dressed as fine as you
are. I might get myself suspicioned.'--'That's so,' says she; 'we might
meet somebody that'd know me,' and then she wriggled up her little
forehead and began to think. I never did see such a little gal as sharp
as that one was; needles was nothin' to her. In about a minute she says,
'Where's that bag of yourn?'--'Here it is,' says I; and then she took it
and looked at it up and down, with her head cocked on one side. 'If I'd
somethin' to cut that bag with,' says she, 'I could fix myself up so
that nobody'd know me, don't care who it was.'--'I don't want that bag
cut,' says I; 'it's an extry good bag; it was made for a particular
purpose, and cost money.'--'Pop will pay expenses,' says she; 'how much
did it cost?'--'It was four dollars cash,' said I.--'They cheated you
like everything,' says she; 'you could get a bag like that any day for a
dollar and seventy-five cents. Will you let it go at that?'--'All
right,' says I, for I was tickled to see how sharp that little Jew gal
was, and ten to one I'd throwed away the bag before we got to town; so
she pulled a little book out of her pocket with a pencil stuck in it,
and turnin' over to a blank page she put down, 'Bag, one dollar and
seventy-five;' then she borrows my big knife, and holdin' the top of the
bag up ag'in her belt, she made me stick a pin in it about a
hand's-breadth from the floor; then she took the knife and cut the bag
clean across, me a-holdin' one side of it; then she took the top end of
that bag and slipped it on her, over her head and shoulders, and tied
the drawin' strings in it round her waist, and it hung around her just
like a skirt, nearly touchin' the ground; then she split open the rest
of the bag, and made a kind of shawl out of it, puttin' it into shape
with a lot o' pins, and pinnin' it on herself real clever. She had lots
of pins in her belt, and she told me that she never passed a pin in that
school without pickin' it up, and that she had four hundred and
fifty-nine of them now in her room, which she was mighty sorry to leave
behind, and that these she had now was this day's pickin' up.
"When she got done workin' at herself you couldn't see not a ribbon nor
a hem of her fine clothes; it was all black skirt and shawl, and she'd
put up her sleeve, so that when her arm stuck out it was bare. Then she
took all the ribbons and flowers off her hat, and crumpled it up, and
when she tied it on what a guy she was. 'Now,' says she, 'I can go
barefoot.'--'Which you won't,' says I, 'for you'll get your feet all
cut, but you can muddy your shoes,' which she did, I pumpin' on 'em, so
that the dust in the back yard would stick. Then we starts off across
the country, and, upon my word, I was pretty nigh ashamed to be seen
walkin' with such a little scarecrow. When I bought the tickets at the
station she asked me how much they was, and put it down in her book.
When we got into the cars the people all looked hard at her, and I
reckon they thought some kind of a home had been burnt down, and this
was one of the orphans that had been saved. But they didn't say nothin',
and she fixed herself as comfortable as you please; and before long a
boy came through the car with fruit in a basket, and then says she to
me, 'I want two apples.' The boy had gone past us, but I got up and
followed him and bought her two apples. 'How much did you give for
them?' says she, when I come back.--'They was two for five cents,' says
I.--'Well,' says she, 'they do stick you dreadful. Two for three cents
is all papa or I pays for apples like them,' and she took out her little
book and put down, 'Apples, three cents.'--'Very well, miss,' says I,
'but if you want any more refreshments you buy 'em yourself.'--'I think
I'd better,' says she, and she went to work eatin' them two apples. She
hadn't more than got through with 'em when the boy came around ag'in. 'I
want a banana,' says she; 'lend me five cents,' which I did, and she put
down, 'Cash, five cents.' Then the boy come up, and says she, 'How much
are your bananas?'--'Five cents,' said he.--'For two?' says she.--'No,'
says he, 'for one.'--'What do you take me for?' says she. 'I've bought
bananas before. I'll give you three cents for that one,' pointin' to the
biggest in the lot.--'I can't do that,' said the boy; 'the price is five
cents.'--'I'd like a banana,' says she, 'but I don't pay more'n three
cents; take it or leave it,' and with that the boy went on. 'Now,' says
I, 'you've gouged yourself out of a banana.'--'Not a bit of it,' says
she; 'he'll be back;' and in two minutes he was back, and said she might
have it for three cents. 'Have you got two coppers?' said she. 'Let me
see 'em.' He said he had, and showed 'em to her, and she took 'em and
the banana, and then give him five cents, and then she didn't give the
change to me, but put it in her pocket. 'Now,' says she, 'if you'd buy
things that way, you'd be rich in time.'
"When we got to the city we took the elevated and went up town to
Forty-eighth street, and then walked over to her father's house. It was
a big one, on one of the cross streets. When we got there, she told me
to wait a minute, and, lookin' around to see that nobody was comin', she
slipped off the skirt and the cape she had made and rolled 'em up in a
bundle. 'It don't matter about my hat and shoes,' says she, 'but they
wouldn't know me in such duds.' Then, handin' me the bundle, she said,
'For twenty-five cents you can get that bag mended just as good as new,
so you can take it, and it will save us a dollar and a half.'--'No, you
don't,' says I, for I'd had enough of her stinginess. 'I don't touch
that bag ag'in, and I made up my mind that minute to charge the old man
five dollars' worth. When the front door was opened, the servant gal
looked as if she couldn't believe her eyes, but my young woman was as
cool as you please, and she had me showed into a room off the hall, and
then she went up-stairs.
"I sat a-waitin' a long time, which gave me a good chance to look around
at things. The room was real handsome, and I took a peep at the window
fastenin's and the lay of the doors, thinkin' the knowledge might come
in handy some time. Right in front of me on a table was a little yellow
mouse, and it struck me as I looked at it that that must be gold. I
listened if anybody was comin', and then I picked it up to see if it
really was. I thought I heard the door-bell ring just then, and shut it
up in my hand quick, but nobody went to the door; and then I looked at
the little mouse, and if it wasn't pure gold it was the best imitation
ever I see, so I slipped it quietly in my pocket to look at it ag'in
when I had time.
"Pretty soon old Groppeltacker come in, shut the door, and sot down. 'So
you brought my daughter back,' says he.--'Yes,' says I.--'And you expect