Part 2 out of 2
to be paid for it,' says he.--'Yes,' says I, 'I do.'--'How much do you
ask for your services?' says he. Now, this was a sort of a staggerer,
for I hadn't made up my mind how much I was goin' to ask; but there
wasn't time for no more thinkin' about it, and so says I, plum, 'A
hundred dollars, and there was some expenses besides.'--'Well, well,'
says he, 'that seems like a good deal, just for bringin' a little gal
from school. It couldn't have took you more'n a couple of hours.'--'I
don't charge for time,' says I, 'it's for the risks and the science of
the thing. There's mighty few men in this town could have brought your
daughter home as neat as I did.'--'Well, well,' says he, rubbin' his
hands, 'I expect I'll have to pay for the whole term of the school,
whether she's there or not, and the business will come heavy on me.
Don't you think sixty dollars would pay you?' Now, I know when you deal
with this sort of a man there's always a good deal of difference
splittin'; and so, says I, 'No, it won't. I might take ninety dollars,
but that's the very lowest peg.'--'The very lowest?' says he, gettin' up
and walkin' about a little; and then I thought I heard the door-bell
ring again, and I was dreadful afraid somebody would come and call off
the old man before he finished the bargain. 'Well,' says I, 'we'll call
it eighty-five and expenses, and there I'll stop.'
"Groppeltacker, now he set down ag'in and looked hard at me. 'I didn't
ask you to bring my daughter back,' says he, speakin' gruff, and very
different from the way he spoke before, 'and what's more, I didn't want
her back, and what's more yet, I'm not goin' to pay you a red
cent.'--'Now, look a-here,' says I, mighty sharp, 'none o' that, old
man; fork over the money or I'll lay you out stiff as a poker, and help
myself. I'm not a fellow to be fooled with, and there's nobody in this
house can stop me.' Old Groppeltacker, he didn't turn a hair, but just
sot there, and says he, 'Before you blow any more, suppose you take my
little gold mouse out of your pocket and hand it to me.' I must say I
was took back at this, but I spoke back, as bold as brass, and said I
never seed his gold mouse. 'O, ho!' says he, 'what you didn't see was
the electric button under the table cover which rung a bell when the
mouse was picked up. That's what I call my mouse-trap.'
"At this I jist b'iled over. 'Now,' says I, 'just you hand out every
cent you've got, and your watch, too; not another word.' And I jumped up
and clapped my hand on my pistol in my hip-pocket, and just at that
minute there was a click and the nippers were on me, and there was a big
policeman with his hand on my shoulder. I couldn't speak, I was so
b'ilin' and so dumbfounded both at once. Old Groppeltacker he just
leaned back and he laughed. 'You came in,' he said to the cop,'jest the
second I rang, and as soft as a cat, and the first thing that I want
you to do is to take that gold mouse out of his pocket, and I'll be on
hand whenever you let me know I'm wanted.' The cop he took the gold
mouse out of my pocket, and says he, 'I know this fellow, and if I'm not
mistook, they'll be more charges than yourn made ag'in him.' There
wasn't no chance to show fight, so I didn't do it, but I says to old
Groppeltacker, 'There's my expenses, you've got to pay them,
anyway.'--'All right,' says he, 'jist you send in your bill marked
correct, by my daughter, and I'll settle it,' and he laughed again, and
the cop he took me off. Well, ladies and gents, that little piece of
business, together with some other old scores, took me to Sing Sing for
three years, and it tain't six months since I got out, so you can see
for yourselves what hard times a fellow in my line of business sometimes
"Well," said Aunt Martha, "I don't approve of the Groppeltacker sort of
people, but if there were more of that kind I believe there would be
fewer of your kind. That story shows you in such a bad light that I
believe it's true."
"Every word of it," said the man. "I wish it wasn't."
And now I spoke. "Since you claim to be a truth-telling being," I said
to the stout burglar, "suppose you tell me why you never attempted
before to break into my house. Every considerable dwelling in this
neighbourhood has been entered, and I have no doubt you are the men who
committed all the burglaries."
"No, sir," said he; "not men, I am the man who did 'em all; but these
two friends of mine was never with me before in a bit of business like
this. 'Tain't in their line. I have had pals with me, but they was
professionals. These ain't cracksmen, they don't know nothin' about it;
but this one is handy at tools, and that's the reason I brung him along,
but you see he kicked, and was goin' to give me away, and this young
"Never mind about that young gentleman," I said; "I have a certain
curiosity to know why my house was not entered when the others were."
"Well," said he, "I don't mind tellin' yer how that was. It was on
account of your baby. We don't like to crack a house where there's a
pretty small baby that's liable to wake up and howl any minute, and
rouse up the rest of the family. There's no workin' in a house with
comfort when there's such a young one about. I'll tell you what it is,
all your burglar-alarms and your dogs ain't worth nuthin' alongside of a
baby for guardin' a house. If a cracksman ain't careful the alarms will
go off, and if he don't know how to manage dogs, the dogs will bark. But
by George, sir, there ain't no providin' ag'in a baby. He'll howl any
time, and nobody can tell when, so I waited till your baby was a little
more settled in its ways and slept soundly, and then we come along, and
here we are."
This statement very much surprised me, and did not elate me. Without
saying so to any one, I had flattered myself that the burglars had heard
of my precautions, and of my excellent stock of firearms, and perhaps
had got a notion that I would be an intrepid man to deal with, and it
was somewhat humiliating to find that it was our baby the burglars were
afraid of, and not myself. My wife was amazed.
"Can it be possible," she said, "that these people know so much about
our baby, and that George William has been protecting this house?"
"It makes my flesh creep," said Aunt Martha. "Do you know everything
about all of us?"
"Wish I did, ma'am," said the stout burglar; "wish I'd known about that
"Well, we've had enough of this," said I, rising; "and, my dear, you and
Aunt Martha must be ready to go to bed, and David and I will keep guard
over these fellows until morning."
At this instant the youngest burglar spoke. His face wore a very anxious
"May I ask, sir," he said, "what you intend to do with me in the
"I have already said," I answered, "that I shall then hand over all of
you to the officers of justice of this country."
"But, sir," said the young man, "you will surely except me. I am not at
all concerned in this matter, and it would be of the greatest possible
injury to me to be mixed up in it, or to be mentioned in public reports
as an associate of a criminal. I'm not acquainted with the gentleman at
the other end of the bench, but I have every reason to believe from what
he said to me that he intended to notify you if this James Barlow
proceeded to any open act. For myself, I beg you will allow me to state
who and what I am, and to tell you by what a strange concatenation of
circumstances I happen to find myself in my present position--one which,
I assure you, causes me the greatest embarrassment and anxiety."
"We've had enough story-telling for one night," said I, "and you had
better reserve your statement for the magistrate."
Here Aunt Martha put in her voice.
"That is not fair," she said, "two of them have been allowed to speak,
and this one has just as much right to be heard as the others. What do
you say, Cornelia?"
I hoped that my wife would put herself on my side, and would say that we
had enough of this sort of thing; but female curiosity is an unknown
quantity, and she unhesitatingly replied that she would like to hear the
young man's story. I sat down in despair. It was useless to endeavour to
withstand this yearning for personal information,--one of the curses, I
may say, of our present civilization. The young man gave no time for
change of opinion, but immediately began. His voice was rich and rather
low, and his manner exceedingly pleasing and gentle.
"I wish to state in the first place," said he, "that I am a reporter
for the press. In the exercise of my vocation I have frequently found
myself in peculiar and unpleasant positions, but never before have I
been in a situation so embarrassing, so humiliating, as this. In the
course of my studies and experiences I have found that in literature and
journalism, as well as in art, one can make a true picture only of what
one has seen. Imagination is all very well, often grand and beautiful;
but imaginative authors show us their inner selves and not our outer
world; there is to-day a demand for the real, and it is a demand which
will be satisfied with nothing but the truth. I have determined, as far
as in me lies, to endeavour to supply this demand, and I have devoted
myself to the study of Realism.
"With this end in view, I have made it a rule never to describe anything
I have not personally seen and examined. If we would thoroughly
understand and appreciate our fellow-beings we must know what they do
and how they do it; otherwise we cannot give them credit for their
virtues, or judge them properly for their faults. If I could prevent
crime I would annihilate it, and when it ceased to exist the necessity
for describing it would also cease. But it does exist. It is a powerful
element in the life of the human race. Being known and acknowledged
everywhere, it should be understood; therefore it should be described.
The grand reality of which we are a part can never be truly comprehended
until we comprehend all its parts. But I will not philosophize. I have
devoted myself to Realism, and in order to be a conscientious student I
study it in all its branches. I am frequently called upon to write
accounts of burglars and burglaries, and in order thoroughly to
understand these people and their method of action I determined, as soon
as the opportunity should offer itself, to accompany a burglarious
expedition. My sole object was the acquisition of knowledge of the
subject,--knowledge which to me would be valuable, and, I may say,
essential. I engaged this man, James Barlow, to take me with him the
first time he should have on hand an affair of this kind, and thus it is
that you find me here to-night in this company. As I came here for the
purpose of earnest and thorough investigation, I will frankly admit that
I would not have interfered with his processes, but at the same time I
would have seen that no material injuries should result to any members
of this family."
"That was very kind of you," I said, at which my wife looked at me
"If he really intended it," she remarked, "and I do not see why that was
not the case, it was kind in him."
"As for me," said Aunt Martha, very sympathetically, "I think that the
study of Realism may be carried a great deal too far. I do not think
that there is the slightest necessity for people to know anything about
burglars. If people keep talking and reading about diseases they will
get them, and if they keep talking and reading about crimes they will
find that iniquity is catching, the same as some other things. Besides,
this realistic description gets to be very tiresome. If you really want
to be a writer, young man, why don't you try your hand on some original
composition? Then you might write something which would be interesting."
"Ah, madam," said the young man, casting his eyes on the floor, "it
would be far beyond my power to write anything more wonderful than what
I have known and seen! If I may tell you some of the things which have
happened to me, you will understand why I have become convinced that in
this world of realities imagination must always take a second place."
"Of course we want to hear your story," said Aunt Martha; "that is what
we are here for."
"If I was unbound," said the young man, looking at me, "I could speak
"No doubt of it," said I; "but perhaps you might run away before you
finished your story. I wouldn't have that happen for the world."
"Don't make fun of him," said Aunt Martha. "I was going to ask you to
cut him loose, but after what you say I think it would perhaps be just
as well to keep them all tied until the narratives are completed."
With a sigh of resignation the young man began his story.
"I am American born, but my father, who was a civil engineer and of high
rank in his profession, was obliged, when I was quite a small boy, to go
to Austria, where he had made extensive contracts for the building of
railroads. In that country I spent the greater part of my boyhood and
youth. There I was educated in the best schools, my father sparing no
money to have me taught everything that a gentleman should know. My
mother died when I was a mere infant, and as my father's vocation made
it necessary for him to travel a great deal, my life was often a lonely
one. For society I depended entirely upon my fellow-scholars, my tutors,
and masters. It was my father's intention, however, that when I had
finished my studies I should go to one of the great capitals, there to
mix with the world.
"But when this period arrived I was in no haste to avail myself of the
advantages he offered me. My tastes were studious, my disposition
contemplative, and I was a lover of rural life.
"My father had leased an old castle in Carinthia, not far from the
mountains, and here he kept his books and charts, and here he came for
recreation and study whenever his arduous duties gave him a little
breathing-spell. For several months I had lived at this castle, happy
when my father was with me and happy when I was alone. I expected soon
to go to Vienna, where my father would introduce me to some of his
influential friends. But day by day I postponed the journey.
"Walking one morning a few miles from the castle, I saw at the edge of a
piece of woodland a female figure seated beneath a tree. Approaching
nearer, I perceived that she was young, and that she was sketching. I
was surprised, for I knew that in this part of the world young women, at
least those of the upper classes, to which the costume and tastes of
this one showed her to belong, were not allowed to wander about the
country by themselves; but although I stood still and watched the young
lady for some time, no companion appeared upon the scene.
"The path I had intended to take led past the piece of woodland, and I
saw no reason why I should diverge from my proposed course. I
accordingly proceeded, and when I reached the young lady I bowed and
raised my hat. I think that for some time she had perceived my approach,
and she looked up at me with a face that was half merry, half
inquisitive, and perfectly charming. I cannot describe the effect which
her expression had upon me. I had never seen her before, but her look
was not such a one as she would bestow upon a stranger. I had the most
powerful desire to stop and speak to her, but having no right to do so,
I should have passed on, had she not said to me, in the best of English,
'Good-morning, sir.' Then I stopped, you may be sure. I was so
accustomed to speak to those I meet in either French or German that I
involuntarily said to her,'_Bon jour, Mademoiselle_.'--'You need not
speak French,' she said; 'I am neither English nor American, but I speak
English. Are you the gentleman who lives in Wulrick Castle? If so, we
are neighbours, and I wish you would tell me why you live there all the
"At this I sat down by her. 'I am that person,' I said, and handed her
my card. 'But before I say any more, please tell me who you are.'--'I am
Marie Dorfler. My father's house is on the other side of this piece of
woodland; you cannot see it from here; this is part of his estate. And
now tell me why you live all by yourself in that old ruin.'--'It is not
altogether a ruin,' I answered; 'part of it is in very good condition.'
And then I proceeded to give her an account of my method of life and my
reasons for it. 'It is interesting,' she said, 'but it is very odd.'--'I
do not think it half so odd,' I answered, 'as that you should be here by
yourself.'--'That is truly an out-of-the-way sort of thing,' she said;
'but just now I am doing out-of-the-way things. If I do not do them now,
I shall never have the opportunity again. In two weeks I shall be
married, and then I shall go to Prague, and everything will be by line
and rule. No more delightful rambles by myself. No more sitting quietly
in the woods watching the little birds and hares. No more making a
sketch just where I please, no matter whether the ground be damp or
not.'--'I wonder that you are allowed to do these things now,' I
said.--'I am not allowed,' she answered. 'I do them in hours when I am
supposed to be painting flower pieces in an upper room.'--'But when
you're married,' I said, 'your husband will be your companion in such
rambles.'--'Hardly,' she said, shrugging her shoulders; 'he will be
forty-seven on the thirteenth of next month, which I believe is July,
and he is a great deal more grizzled than my father, who is past fifty.
He is very particular about all sorts of things, as I suppose he has to
be, as he is a Colonel of infantry. Nobody could possibly disapprove of
my present performances more than he would.' I could not help
ejaculating, 'Why, then, do you marry him?' She smiled at my
earnestness. 'Oh, that is all arranged,' she said, 'and I have nothing
to do with it. I have known for more than a year that I'm to marry
Colonel Kaldhein, but I cannot say that I have given myself much concern
about it until recently. It now occurs to me that if I expect to amuse
myself in the way I best like I must lose no time doing so.' I looked at
the girl with earnest interest. 'It appears to me,' said I, 'that your
ways of amusing yourself are very much like mine.'--'That is true,' she
said, looking up with animation, 'they are. Is it not delightful to be
free, to go where you like, and do what you please, without any one to
advise or interfere with you?'--'It is delightful,' said I; and for half
an hour we sat and talked about these delights and kindred subjects. She
was much interested in our castle, and urged me to make a sketch of it,
so that she may know what it now looked like. She had seen it when a
little girl, but never since, and had been afraid to wander very far in
this direction by herself. I told her that it would be far better for
her to see the castle with her own eyes, and that I could conduct her to
an eminence, not half a mile away, where she could have an excellent
view of it. This plan greatly pleased her; but looking at her watch she
said that it would be too late for her to go that morning, but if I
happened to come that way the next day, and she should be there to
finish her sketch, she would be delighted to have me show her the
"I think," interrupted Aunt Martha, "that she was a very imprudent young
"That may be," he replied, "but you must remember, madam, that up to
this time the young lady had been subjected to the most conventional
trammels, and that her young nature had just burst out into temporary
freedom and true life. It was the caged bird's flight into the bright
"Just the kind of birds," said Aunt Martha, "that shouldn't be allowed
to fly, at least until they are used to it. But you can go on with your
"Well," said the young man, "the next day we met I took her to the
piece of high ground I had mentioned, and she sketched the castle. After
that we met again and again, nearly every day. This sort of story tells
itself. I became madly in love with her, and I am sure she liked me very
well; at all events I was a companion of her own age and tastes, and
such a one, she assured me, she had never known before, and probably
would never know again."
"There was some excuse for her," said Aunt Martha; "but still she had no
right to act in that way, especially as she was so soon to be married."
"I do not think that she reasoned much upon the subject," said the young
man, "and I am sure I did not. We made no plans. Every day we thought
only of what we were doing or saying, and not at all what we had done or
would do. We were very happy.
"One morning I was sitting by Marie in the very place where I had first
met her, when we heard some one rapidly approaching. Looking up I saw a
tall man in military uniform. 'Heavens!' cried Marie, 'it is Colonel
"The situation was one of which an expectant bridegroom would not be
likely to ask many questions. Marie was seated on a low stone with her
drawing-block in her lap. She was finishing the sketch on which she was
engaged when I first saw her, and I was kneeling close to her, looking
over her work and making various suggestions, and I think my countenance
must have indicated that I found it very pleasant to make suggestions in
that way to such a pretty girl. Our heads were very close together.
Sometimes we looked at the paper, sometimes we looked at each other. But
in the instant I caught sight of the Colonel the situation had changed.
I rose to my feet, and Marie began to pick up the drawing materials,
which were lying about her.
"Colonel Kaldhein came forward almost at a run. His eyes blazed through
his gold spectacles, and his close-cut reddish beard seemed to be
singeing with the fires of rage. I had but an instant for observation,
for he came directly up to me, and with a tremendous objurgation he
struck me full in the face with such force that the blow stretched me
upon the ground.
"I was almost stunned; but I heard a scream from Marie, a storm of
angry words from Kaldhein, and I felt sure he was about to inflict
further injury. He was a much stronger man than I was, and probably was
armed. With a sudden instinct of self-preservation I rolled down a
little declivity on the edge of which I had fallen, and staggering to my
feet, plunged into a thicket and fled. Even had I been in the full
possession of my senses, I knew that under the circumstances I would
have been of no benefit to Marie had I remained upon the scene. The last
thing I heard was a shout from Kaldhein, in which he declared that he
would kill me yet. For some days I did not go out of my castle. My face
was bruised, my soul was dejected. I knew there was no possible chance
that I should meet Marie, and that there was a chance that I might meet
the angry Colonel. An altercation at this time would be very annoying
and painful to the lady, no matter what the result, and I considered it
my duty to do everything that was possible to avoid a meeting with
Kaldhein. Therefore, as I have said, I shut myself up within the walls
of old Wulrick, and gave strict orders to my servants to admit no one.
"It was at this time that the strangest events of my life occurred.
Sitting in an upper room, gazing out of the window, over the fields,
through which I had walked so happily but two days before to meet the
lady whom I had begun to think of as my Marie, I felt the head of a dog
laid gently in my lap. Without turning my head I caressed the animal,
and stroked the long hair on his neck.
"My hound Ajax was a dear companion to me in this old castle, although I
never took him in my walks, as he was apt to get into mischief, and when
I turned my head to look at him he was gone; but strange to say, the
hand which had been stroking the dog felt as if it were still resting on
"Quickly drawing my hand toward me it struck the head of the dog, and,
moving it backward and forward, I felt the ears and nose of the animal,
and then became conscious that its head was still resting upon my knee.
"I started back. Had I been stricken with blindness? But no; turning my
head, I could plainly see everything in the room. The scene from the
window was as distinct as it ever had been. I sprang to my feet, and,
as I stood wondering what this strange thing could mean, the dog brushed
up against me and licked my hand. Then the idea suddenly flashed into my
mind that by some occult influence Ajax had been rendered invisible.
"I dashed down-stairs, and although I could neither see nor hear it, I
felt that the dog was following me. Rushing into the open air, I saw one
of my men. 'Where is Ajax?' I cried. 'A very strange thing has happened,
sir,' he said, 'and I should have come to tell you of it, had I not been
unwilling to disturb your studies. About two hours ago Ajax was lying
here in the courtyard; suddenly he sprang to his feet with a savage
growl. His hair stood straight upon his back, his tail was stiff, and
his lips were drawn back, showing his great teeth. I turned to see what
had enraged him, but there was absolutely nothing, sir,--nothing in the
world. And never did I see Ajax so angry. But this lasted only for an
instant. Ajax suddenly backed, his tail dropped between his legs, his
head hung down, and with a dreadful howl he turned, and, leaping the
wall of the courtyard, he disappeared. I have since been watching for
his return. The gate is open, and as soon as he enters I shall chain
him, for I fear the dog is mad.'
"I did not dare to utter the thoughts that were in my mind, but, bidding
the man inform me the moment Ajax returned, I reentered the castle and
sat down in the great hall.
"The dog was beside me; his head again lay upon my knees. With a feeling
of awe, yet strangely enough without fear, I carefully passed my hand
over the animal's head. I felt his ears, his nose, his jaws, and his
neck. They were not the head, the ears, the nose, the jaws, or the neck
"I had heard of animals, and even human beings, who were totally
invisible, but who still retained their form, their palpability, and all
the powers and functions of life. I had heard of houses haunted by
invisible animals; I had read De Kay's story of the maiden Manmat'ha,
whose coming her lover perceived by the parting of the tall grain in the
field of ripe wheat through which she passed, but whose form, although
it might be folded in his arms, was yet as invisible to his sight as the
summer air. I did not doubt for a moment that the animal that had come
to me was one of those strange beings. I lifted his head; it was heavy.
I took hold of a paw which he readily gave me; he had every attribute of
a real dog, except that he could not be seen."
"I call that perfectly horrible," said Aunt Martha with a sort of a
"Perhaps," said the young man, "you would prefer that I should not
At this both my wife and Aunt Martha declared that he must go on, and
even I did not object to hearing the rest of the story.
"Well," said the young man, "Ajax never came back. It is generally
believed that dogs can see things which are invisible to us, and I am
afraid that my faithful hound was frightened, perhaps to death, when he
found that the animal whose entrance into the courtyard he had perceived
was a supernatural thing.
"But if I needed a canine companion I had one, for by day or night this
invisible dog never left me. When I slept he lay on the floor by the
side of my bed; if I put down my hand I could always feel his head, and
often he would stand up and press his nose against me, as if to assure
me that he was there. This strange companionship continued for several
days, and I became really attached to the invisible animal. His constant
companionship seemed to indicate that he had come to guard me, and that
he was determined to do it thoroughly. I felt so much confidence in his
protection, although I knew not how it could be exerted, that one
morning I decided to take a walk, and with my hand on the head of the
dog, to make sure that he was with me, I strolled into the open country.
"I had walked about a mile, and was approaching a group of large trees,
when suddenly from behind one of them the tall figure of a man appeared.
In an instant I knew it to be Colonel Kaldhein; his was a face which
could not easily be forgotten. Without a word he raised a pistol which
he held in his hand and fired at me. The ball whistled over my head.
"I stopped short, startled, and frightened almost out of my senses. I
was unarmed, and had no place of refuge. It was plain that the man was
determined to kill me.
"Quickly recocking his pistol, Kaldhein raised it again. I involuntarily
shrank back, expecting death; but before he could fire his arm suddenly
dropped, and the pistol was discharged into the ground. Then began a
strange scene. The man shouted, kicked, and beat up and down with his
arms; his pistol fell from his hand, he sprang from side to side, he
turned around, he struggled and yelled.
"I stood astounded. For an instant I supposed the man had been overtaken
by some sort of fit; but in a flash the truth came to me,--Kaldhein was
being attacked by my protector, the invisible dog.
"Horrified by this conviction, my first impulse was to save the man;
and, without knowing what I was going to do, I stepped quickly toward
him, but stumbling over something I did not see I fell sprawling. Before
I could regain my feet I saw Kaldhein fall backward to the ground, where
a scene took place, so terrible that I shall not attempt to describe it.
When, with trembling steps, I approached, the man was dead. The
invisible dog had almost torn him to pieces.
"I could do nothing. I did not remain upon the spot another minute, but
hurried home to the castle. As I rapidly walked on I felt the dog beside
me, and, putting my hand upon him, I felt that he was panting terribly.
For three days I did not leave the house.
"About the end of this time I was sitting in an upper room of the
castle, reflecting upon the recent dreadful event, when the thought
struck me that the invisible dog, who was by my side, apparently asleep,
must be of an unusually powerful build to overcome so easily such a
strong man as Kaldhein. I felt a desire to know how large the creature
really was, and, as I had never touched any portion of his body back of
his shoulders, I now passed my hand along his back. I was amazed at his
length, and when I had moved my hand at least seven feet from his head
it still rested upon his body. And then the form of that body began to
change in a manner which terrified me; but impelled by a horrible but
irresistible curiosity, my hand moved on.
"But I no longer touched the body of a dog; the form beneath my hand was
cylindrical, apparently about a foot in diameter. As my hand moved on
the diameter diminished, and the skin of the creature became cold and
clammy. I was feeling the body of a snake!
"I now had reached the open door of the room. The body of the snake
extended through it. It went on to the top of the stairs; these I began
to descend, my heart beating fast with terror, my face blanched, I am
sure, but my hand still moving along the body of the awful creature. I
had studied zoology, giving a good deal of attention to reptiles, and I
knew that, judged by the ordinary ratio of diminution of the bodies of
serpents, this one must extend a long distance down the stairs.
"But I had not descended more than a dozen steps before I felt a shiver
beneath my hand, and then a jerk, and the next moment the snake's body
was violently drawn upward. I withdrew my hand and started to one side,
and then, how, I know not, I became aware that the dog part of the
creature was coming downstairs.
"I now became possessed by a wild terror. The creature must be furious
that I had discovered his real form. He had always been careful to keep
his head toward me. I should be torn to pieces as Kaldhein had been!
Down the stairs I dashed, across the courtyard, and toward a lofty old
tower, which stood in one corner of the castle. I ran up the winding
stairs of this with a speed which belongs only to a frantically
terrified creature, until I reached the fourth story, where I dashed
through an open doorway, slammed behind me an iron door, which shut with
a spring, and fell gasping upon the floor.
"In less than a minute I was aware, by a slight rattling of the
grate-hinges, that something was pushing against the door; but I did not
move. I knew that I was safe. The room in which I lay was a prison
dungeon, and in it, in the olden times, it is said, men had been left to
perish. Escape or communication with the outer world was impossible. A
little light and air came through a narrow slit in the wall, and the
door could not be forced.
"I knew that the invisible dog, or whatever it was, could not get in
unless the door was open. I had frequently noticed that when he entered
a room it was through an open door, and I sometimes knew of his approach
by seeing an unlatched door open without visible cause; so, feeling
secure for the present, I lay and gasped and panted.
"After the lapse of a few hours, however, I was seized by a new terror.
How was I ever to get out of this horrible dungeon? Even if I made up my
mind to face the dog, trusting that he had recovered from his momentary
anger, I had no means of opening the door, and as to making any one hear
me I knew that was impossible.
"I had no hope that my servants would seek me here. I had not seen any
one when I ran into the tower, and if they should discover that I was in
this dungeon, how could they open the door? The key was in my father's
possession. He had taken it to Vienna to exhibit it as a curiosity to
some of his mechanical friends. He believed that there was not such
another key in the world. I was in the habit of making long absences
from the castle, and if I should be looked for I believed that the tower
would be the last place visited.
"Night came on; the little light in the room vanished, and, hungry,
thirsty, and almost hopeless, I fell asleep.
"During the night there was a most dreadful storm. The thunder roared,
the lightning flashed through the slit in the wall, and the wind blew
with such terrific violence that the tower shook and trembled. After a
time I heard a tremendous crash as of falling walls, and then another,
and now I felt the wind blowing into my prison.
"There was no further sleep for me. Trembling with a fearful
apprehension of what might happen next, I cowered against the wall until
the day broke, and then I perceived that in front of me was a great hole
in the wall of the dungeon, which extended for more than a yard above
the floor. I sat and gazed at this until the light became stronger, and
then I cautiously approached the aperture and looked out. Nearly the
whole of the castle lay in ruins before me!
"It was easy to see what had happened. The storm had demolished the
crumbling walls of the old building, and the tower, itself frail and
tottering, stood alone, high above the prostrate ruins. If the winds
should again arise it must fall, and at any moment its shaken
foundations might give way beneath it.
"Through the hole in the wall, which had been caused by the tearing away
of some of the connection between the tower and main building, I could
look down on the ground below, covered with masses of jagged stone; but
there was no way in which I could get down. I could not descend that
perpendicular wall. If I leaped out, death would be certain.
"As I crouched at the opening I felt the head of a dog pushed against
me. A spasm of terror ran through me, but the moment the creature began
to lick my hands I knew that I had nothing to fear from him. Instantly
my courage returned. I felt that he was my protector. I patted his head
and he renewed his caresses.
"Passing my hand over him, I found he was holding himself in his present
position by means of his forelegs, which were stretched out upon the
floor. What a dog this must be, who could climb a wall! But I gave no
time to conjectures of this sort. How could I avail myself of his
assistance? In what manner could he enable me to escape from that
"Suddenly a thought came to me. I remembered the snake part of him.
Judging from the ratio of diminution, which I have mentioned before,
that part, if hanging down, must reach nearly, if not quite, to the
ground. By taking advantage of this means of descent I might be saved,
but the feat would require dexterity and an immense amount of faith.
This serpent-like portion of the animal was invisible. How could I know
how long it was!
"But there was no time for consideration; the wind had again arisen, and
was blowing with fury. The tower shook beneath me; at any moment it
might fall. If I should again escape from death, through the assistance
of my invisible friend, I must avail myself of that assistance
"I stopped and felt the animal. He still hung by part of his body and by
his forelegs to the floor of the dungeon, and by reaching out I could
feel that the rest of him extended downward. I therefore seized his body
in my arms, threw myself out of the aperture, and began to slide down.
"In a very short time I found that I had reached the snake portion of
the creature, and, throwing my arms and legs around it, I endeavoured
with all my strength to prevent a too rapid descent; but in spite of all
my efforts, my downward progress was faster than I would have wished it
to be. But there was no stopping; I must slip down.
"In these moments of rapid descent my mind was filled with wild anxiety
concerning the serpent-like form to which I was clinging. I remembered
in a flash that there were snakes whose caudal extremity dwindled away
suddenly into a point. This one might do so, and at any instant I might
come to the end of the tail and drop upon the jagged stones below.
"Calculation after calculation of the ratio of diminution flashed
through my mind during that awful descent. My whole soul was centred
upon one point. When would this support end? When would I drop?
"Fortunately I was on the leeward side of the tower, and I was not swung
about by the wind. Steadily I descended, and steadily the diameter of
the form I grasped diminished; soon I could grasp it in my hand; then
with a terrified glance I looked below. I was still at a sickening
distance from the ground. I shut my eyes. I slipped down, down, down.
The tail became like a thick rope which I encircled with each hand. It
became thinner and thinner. It grew so small that I could not hold it;
but as I felt it slip from my fingers my feet rested on a pile of
"Bewildered and almost exhausted, I stumbled over the ruins, gained the
unencumbered ground, and ran as far from the tower as I could, sinking
down at last against the trunk of a tree in a neighbouring field.
Scarcely had I reached this spot when the fury of the wind-storm
appeared to redouble, and before the wild and shrieking blast the tower
bent and then fell with a crash upon the other ruins.
"The first thought that came into my mind when I beheld the dreadful
spectacle concerned the creature who had twice saved my life. Had he
escaped, or was he crushed beneath that mass of stone? I felt on either
side to discover if he were near me, but he was not. Had he given his
life for mine?
"Had I been stronger I would have searched for him; I would have
clambered among the ruins to see if I could discover his mangled form.
If I could but reach his faithful head I would stroke and caress it,
living or dead. But excitement, fatigue, and want of food had made me so
weak that I could do nothing but sit upon the ground with my back
against the tree.
"While thus resting I perceived that the whole of the tower had not
been demolished by the storm. Some of the rooms in which we had lived,
having been built at a later date than the rest of the great edifice,
had resisted the power of the wind and were still standing.
"From the direction of the uninjured portion of the castle I now saw
approaching a light-coloured object, which seemed to be floating in the
air about a foot from the ground. As it came nearer I saw that it was a
basket, and I immediately understood the situation. My faithful friend
was alive, and was bringing me some refreshments.
"On came the basket, rising and falling with the bounds of the dog. It
was truly an odd spectacle, but a very welcome one. In a few moments the
basket was deposited at my side, and I was caressing the head of the
faithful dog. In the basket I found a bottle of wine and some bread and
meat, which the good creature had doubtless discovered in the kitchen of
the castle, and it was not long before I was myself again. The storm had
now almost passed away, and I arose and went to my own rooms, my friend
and protector still keeping close to my side.
"On the morning of the next day, as I sat wondering what had happened
to my servants, and whether my father had been apprised of the disaster
to the castle, I felt something pulling at the skirt of my coat. I put
out my hand and found that it was the invisible dog. Imagining that he
wished me to follow him, I arose, and, obeying the impulse given me by
his gentle strain upon my coat, I followed him out of the door, across
the courtyard, and into the open country. We went on for a considerable
distance. A gentle touch of my coat admonished me when I turned from the
direction in which it was desired that I should go.
"After a walk of about half an hour I approached a great oak-tree, with
low, wide-spreading branches. Some one was sitting beneath it. Imagining
the truth, I rushed forward. It was Marie!
"It was needless for us to say anything, to explain the state of our
feelings toward each other. That tale was told by the delight with which
we met. When I asked her how she came to be there, she told me that
about an hour before, while sitting in front of her father's mansion,
she had felt something gently pulling at her skirts; and, although at
first frightened, she was at length impelled to obey the impulse, and,
without knowing whether it was the wind or some supernatural force which
had led her here, she had come.
"We had a great deal to say to each other. She told me that she had been
longing to send me a message to warn me that Colonel Kaldhein would
certainly kill me the next time he saw me; but she had no means of
sending me such a message, for the Colonel had had her actions closely
"When the news came of Kaldhein's death she at first feared that I had
killed him, and would therefore be obliged to fly the country; but when
it was known that he had been almost torn to pieces by wild beasts, she,
like every one else, was utterly amazed, and could not understand the
matter at all. None but the most ferocious creatures could have
inflicted the injuries of which the man had died, and where those
creatures came from no one knew. Some people thought that a pack of
blood-hounds might have broken loose from some of the estates of the
surrounding country, and, in the course of their wild journeyings, might
have met with the Colonel, and fallen upon him. Others surmised that a
bear had come down from the mountains; but the fact was that nobody knew
anything about it.
"I did not attempt to acquaint Marie with the truth. At that moment the
invisible dog was lying at my side, and I feared if I mentioned his
existence to Marie she might fly in terror. To me there was only one
important phase of the affair, and that was that Marie was now free,
that she might be mine.
"Before we parted we were affianced lovers, pledged to marry as soon as
possible. I wrote to my father, asking for his permission to wed the
lady. But in his reply he utterly forbade any such marriage. Marie also
discovered that her parents would not permit a union with a foreigner,
and would indeed oppose her marriage with any one at this time.
"However, as usual, love triumphed, and after surmounting many
difficulties we were married and fled to America. Since that time I have
been obliged to support myself and my wife, for my father will give me
no assistance. He had proposed a very different career for me, and was
extremely angry when he found his plans had been completely destroyed.
But we are hopeful, we work hard, and hope that we may yet be able to
support ourselves comfortably without aid from any one. We are young, we
are strong, we trust each other, and have a firm faith in our success.
"I had only one regret in leaving Europe, and that was that my faithful
friend, the noble and devoted invisible dog, was obliged to remain on
the other side of the Atlantic. Why this was so I do not know, but
perhaps it was for the best. I never told my wife of his existence, and
if she had accidentally discovered it, I know not what might have been
the effects upon her nervous system.
"The dog accompanied me through Austria, Switzerland, and France to
Havre, from which port we sailed. I took leave of him on the gang-plank.
He licked my hands, and I caressed and stroked him. People might have
thought that my actions denoted insanity, but every one was so greatly
occupied in these last moments before departure, that perhaps I was not
noticed. Just as I left him and hastened on board, a sailor fell
overboard from the gang-plank. He was quickly rescued, but could not
imagine why he had fallen. I believe, however, that he was tripped up by
the snake part of my friend as he convulsively rushed away."
The young man ceased, and gazed pensively upon the floor.
"Well, well, well!" exclaimed Aunt Martha, "if those are the sort of
experiences you had, I don't wonder that Realism was wonderful enough
for you. The invisible creature was very good to you, I am sure, but I
am glad it did not come with you to America."
David, who had been waiting for an opportunity to speak, now interrupted
further comments by stating that it was daylight, and if I thought well
of it, he would open the window-shutters, so that we might see any one
going toward the town. A milkman, he said, passed the house very early
every morning. When the shutters were opened we were all amazed that the
night should have passed so quickly.
The tall burglar and the young man now began to exhibit a good deal of
"I should like very much to know," said the former, "what you intend to
do in regard to us. It cannot be that you think of placing that young
gentleman and myself in the hands of the law. Of course, this man,"
pointing to the stout burglar, "cannot expect anything but a just
punishment of his crimes; but after what we have told you, you must
certainly be convinced that our connection with the affair is entirely
blameless, and should be considered as a piece of very bad luck."
"That," said I, "is a matter which will receive all the consideration it
At this moment David announced the milkman. Counselling my man to keep
strict guard over the prisoners, I went out to the road, stopped the
milkman, and gave him a message which I was certain would insure the
prompt arrival at my house of sufficient force to take safe charge of
the burglars. Excited with the importance of the commission, he whipped
up his horse and dashed away.
When I returned to the house I besought my wife and Aunt Martha to go to
bed, that they might yet get some hours of sleep; but both refused. They
did not feel in the least like sleep, and there was a subject on which
they wished to consult with me in the dining-room.
"Now," said Aunt Martha, when the door had been closed, "these men have
freely told us their stories; whether they are entirely true or not,
must, of course, be a matter of opinion; but they have laid their cases
before us, and we should not place them all in the hands of the officers
of the law without giving them due consideration, and arriving at a
decision which shall be satisfactory to ourselves."
"Let us take them in order," said I. "What do you think of the tall
"I think he is a thief and manufacturer of falsehoods," said my wife
"I am afraid," said Aunt Martha, "that he is not altogether innocent;
but there is one thing greatly in his favour,--when he told of the
feelings which overcame him when he saw that little child sleeping
peacefully in its bed in the house which he had unintentionally robbed,
I felt there must be good points in that man's nature. What do you think
"I think he is worst of the lot," I answered, "and as there are now two
votes against him, he must go to the lock-up. And now what of the stout
fellow?" I asked.
"Oh, he is a burglar by his own confession," said my wife; "there can be
no doubt of that."
"I am afraid you are right," said Aunt Martha.
"I know she is," said I, "and James Barlow, or whatever his name may be,
shall be delivered to the constable."
"Of course, there can be no difference of opinion in regard to the young
man," said Aunt Martha quickly. "Both the others admitted that he had
nothing to do with this affair except as a journalist, and although I do
not think he ought to get his realistic ideas in that way, I would
consider it positively wicked to send him into court in company with
those other men. Consider the position in which he would be placed
before the world. Consider his young wife."
"I cannot say," said my wife, "that I am inclined to believe all parts
of his story."
"I suppose," said I, laughing, "that you particularly refer to the
"I'm not so sure about all that," she answered. "Since the labours of
the psychic researchers began, we have heard of a great many strange
things; but it is evident that he is a young man of education and
culture, and in all probability a journalist or literary man. I do not
think he should be sent to the lock-up with common criminals."
"There!" cried Aunt Martha, "two in his favour. He must be released.
It's a poor rule that does not work both ways."
I stood for a few moments undecided. If left to myself, I would have
sent the trio to the county town, where, if any one of them could prove
his innocence, he could do so before the constitutional authorities; but
having submitted the matter to my wife and aunt, I could not well
override their decision. As for what the young man said, I gave it no
weight whatever, for of course he would say the best he could for
himself. But the testimony of the others had weight. When they both
declared that he was not a burglar, but merely a journalist, engaged in
what he supposed to be his duty, it would seem to be a cruel thing to
stamp him as a criminal by putting him in charge of the constables.
But my indecision soon came to an end, for Aunt Martha declared that no
time should be lost in setting the young man free, for should the
people in town arrive and see him sitting bound with the others it would
ruin his character forever. My wife agreed.
"Whatever there may be of truth in his story," she said, "one of two
things is certain,--either he has had most wonderful experiences out of
which he may construct realistic novels which will give him fortune and
reputation, or he has a startling imagination, which, if used in the
production of works in the romantic school, will be of the same
advantage to his future. Looking upon it, even in this light and without
any reference to his family and the possible effects on his own moral
nature, we shall assume a great responsibility in deliberately
subjecting such a person to criminal prosecution and perhaps
This was enough. "Well," said I, "we will release the young fellow and
send the two other rascals to jail."
"That was not well expressed," said my wife, "but we will not criticise
words at present."
We returned to the library and I announced my decision. When he heard it
the stout burglar exhibited no emotion. His expression indicated that,
having been caught, he expected to be sent to jail, and that was the end
of it. Perhaps he had been through this experience so often that he had
become used to it. The tall man, however, took the announcement in a
very different way. His face grew dark and his eyes glittered. "You are
making a great mistake," he said to me, "a very great mistake, and you
will have to bear the consequences."
"Very good," said I, "I will remember that remark when your trial comes
The behaviour of the young man was unexceptional. He looked upon us with
a face full of happy gratitude, and, as he thanked us for the kind
favour and the justice which we had shown him, his eyes seemed dim with
tears. Aunt Martha was much affected.
"I wonder if his mother is living," she whispered to me. "A wife is a
great deal, but a mother is more. If I had thought of her sooner I would
have spoken more strongly in his favour. And now you should untie him at
once and let him go home. His wife must be getting terribly anxious."
The young man overheard this last remark.
"You will confer a great favour on me, sir," he said, "if you will let
me depart as soon as possible. I feel a great repugnance to be seen in
company with these men, as you may imagine, from wearing a mask on
coming here. If I leave immediately I think I can catch the first train
from your station."
I considered the situation. If I did what I was asked, there would be
two bound burglars to guard, three women and a child to protect, an
uncertain stranger at liberty, and only David and myself to attend to
the whole business. "No, sir," said I, "I shall not untie you until the
officers I sent for are near at hand; then I will release you, and you
can leave the house by the back way without being seen by them. There
are other morning trains which will take you into the city early
"I think you are a little hard on him," remarked Aunt Martha, but the
young man made no complaint.
"I will trust myself to you, sir," he said.
The officers arrived much sooner than I expected. There were five of
them, including the Chief of Police, and they were accompanied by
several volunteer assistants, among whom was the milkman who had been
my messenger. This morning his customers might wait for their milk, for
all business must give way before such an important piece of sightseeing
I had barely time to untie the young man and take him to the back of the
house before the officers and their followers had entered the front
door. There was now a great deal of questioning, a great deal of
explanation, a great deal of discussion as to whether my way of catching
burglars was advisable or not, and a good deal of talk about the best
method of taking the men to town. Some of the officers were in favour of
releasing the two men, and then deciding in what manner they should be
taken to town; and if this plan had been adopted, I believe that these
two alert and practical rascals would have taken themselves out of my
house without the assistance of the officers, or at least would have
caused a great deal of trouble and perhaps injury in endeavouring to do
But the Chief of Police was of my mind, and before the men were entirely
released from the ropes by which I had tied them, they were securely
A requisition made on David and myself to appear as witnesses, the two
men were taken from the house to the wagons in which the officers and
their followers had come. My wife and Aunt Martha had gone upstairs
before the arrival of the police, and were watching the outside
proceeding from a window.
Standing in the hallway, I glanced into the dining-room, and was
surprised to see the young man still standing by a side door. I had
thought him gone, but perhaps it was wise in him to remain, and not show
himself upon the road until the coast was entirely clear. He did not see
me, and was looking backward into the kitchen, a cheerful and animated
expression upon his face. This expression did not strike me pleasantly.
He had escaped a great danger, it was true, but it was no reason for
this rather obtrusive air of exultation. Just then Alice came into the
dining-room from the kitchen, and the young man stepped back, so that
she did not notice him. As she passed he gently threw his arm quietly
around her neck and kissed her.
At that very instant, even before the girl had time to exclaim, in
rushed David from the outer side door.
"I've been watching you, you rascal," he shouted; "you're done for
now!" and he threw his strong arms around the man, pinioning his arms to
The young fellow gave a great jerk, and began to struggle powerfully.
His face turned black with rage; he swore, he kicked. He made the most
frenzied efforts to free himself, but David's arms were strong, his soul
was full of jealous fury, and in a moment I had come to his assistance.
Each of us taking the young fellow by an arm, we ran him into the
hallway and out of the front door, Alice aiding us greatly by putting
her hands against the man's back and pushing most forcibly.
"Here's another one," cried David. "I'll appear against him. He's the
worst of the lot."
Without knowing what it all meant, the Chief clapped the nippers on our
prisoner, justly believing that if burglars were about to show
themselves so unexpectedly, the best thing to do was to handcuff them as
fast as they appeared, and then to ask questions. The reasons for not
having produced this man before, and for producing him now, were not
very satisfactory to the officer.
"Have you any more in the cellar?" he asked. "If so, I should like to
take a look at them before I start away."
At this moment Aunt Martha made her appearance at the front door.
"What are you going to do with that young man?" she asked sharply. "What
right have you to put irons upon him?"
"Aunt Martha," said I, stepping back to her, "what do you think he has
"I don't know," said she; "how should I know? All I know is that we
agreed to set him free."
I addressed her solemnly: "David and I believe him to be utterly
depraved. He availed himself of the first moments of his liberation to
kiss Alice." Aunt Martha looked at me with wide-open eyes, and then her
"He did, did he?" said she. "And that is the kind of a man he is. Very
good. Let him go to jail with the others. I don't believe one word about
his young wife. If kissing respectable young women is the way he studies
Realism the quicker he goes to jail the better," and with that she
walked into the house.
When the men had been placed in the two vehicles in which the police had
come, the Chief and I made an examination of the premises, and we found
that the house had been entered by a kitchen window, in exactly the
manner which the tall burglar had described. Outside of this window,
close to the wall, we found a leathern bag, containing what the Chief
declared to be an excellent assortment of burglars' tools. The officers
and their prisoners now drove away, and we were left to a long morning
nap, if we were so fortunate as to get it, and a late breakfast.
In the course of the trial of the three men who had entered my house
some interesting points in regard to them were brought out. Several
detectives and policemen from New York were present, and their testimony
proved that my three burglars were men of eminence in their profession,
and that which most puzzled the metropolitan detectives was to discover
why these men should have been willing to devote their high talents to
the comparatively insignificant business of breaking into a suburban
The tall man occupied a position of peculiar eminence in criminal
circles. He was what might be called a criminal manager. He would take
contracts for the successful execution of certain crimes,--bank
robberies, for instance,--and while seldom taking part in the actual
work of a burglary or similar operation, he would plan all the details
of the affair, and select and direct his agents with great skill and
judgment. He had never been arrested before, and the detectives were
delighted, believing they would now have an opportunity of tracing to
him a series of very important criminal operations that had taken place
in New York and some other large cities. He was known as Lewis Mandit,
and this was believed to be his real name.
The stout man was a first-class professional burglar and nothing more,
and was in the employ of Mandit. The young man was a decidedly uncommon
personage. He was of a good family, had been educated at one of our
principal colleges, had travelled, and was in every way qualified to
make a figure in society. He had been a newspaper man, and a writer for
leading periodicals, and had shown considerable literary ability; but a
life of honest industry did not suit his tastes, and he had now adopted
knavery as a regular profession.
This man, who was known among his present associates as Sparky, still
showed himself occasionally in newspaper offices, and was generally
supposed to be a correspondent for a Western journal; but his real
business position was that of Mandit's head man.
Sparky was an expert in many branches of crime. He was an excellent
forger, a skilful lock-picker, an ingenious planner of shady projects,
and had given a great deal of earnest study to the subject of the
loopholes of the law. He had a high reputation in criminal circles for
his ability in getting his fellow-rascals out of jail. There was reason
to believe that in the past year no less than nine men, some condemned
to terms of imprisonment, and some held for trial, had escaped by means
of assistance given them by Sparky.
His methods of giving help to jail-birds were various. Sometimes liberty
was conferred through the agency of saws and ropes, at other times
through that of a habeas corpus and an incontestible alibi. His means
were adapted to the circumstances of the case, and it was believed that
if Sparky could be induced to take up the case of a captured rogue, the
man had better chance of finding himself free than the law had of
keeping him behind bars, especially if his case were treated before it
had passed into its more chronic stages.
Sparky's success was greatly due to his extremely specious manner, and
his power of playing the part that the occasion demanded. In this
particular he was even the superior of Mandit, who was an adept in this
line. These two men found no difficulty in securing the services of
proficient burglars, safe-robbers, and the like; for, in addition to the
high rewards paid these men, they were in a manner insured against
permanent imprisonment in case of misfortune. It was always arranged
that, if any of their enterprises came to grief, and if either Mandit or
Sparky should happen to be arrested, the working miscreants should
substantiate any story their superiors might choose to tell of
themselves, and, if necessary, to take upon themselves the whole
responsibility of the crime. In this case their speedy release was to be
looked upon as assured.
A great deal of evidence in regard to the character and practices of
these two men came from the stout burglar, commonly known as Barney
Fitch. When he found that nothing was to be expected from his two
astute employers, and that they were in as bad a place as himself, he
promptly turned State's evidence, and told all that he knew about them.
It was through the testimony of this man that the motive for the
attempted robbery of my house was found out. It had no connection
whatever with the other burglaries of our neighbourhood, those,
probably, having been committed by low-class thieves, who had not broken
into my house simply because my doors and windows had been so well
secured; nor had our boy, George William, any share whatever in the
protection of the household.
The burglary was undertaken solely for the purpose of getting possession
of some important law papers, which were to be used in a case in which I
was concerned, which soon would be tried. If these papers could be
secured by the opposite party, the side on which I was engaged would
have no case at all, and a suit involving a great deal of property must
drop. With this end in view the unscrupulous defendants in the case had
employed Mandit to procure the papers; and that astute criminal manager
had not only arranged all the details of the affair, but had gone
himself to the scene of action in order to see that there should be no
mistake in carrying out the details of this most important piece of
The premises had been thoroughly reconnoitred by Sparky, who, a few days
before the time fixed for the burglary, had visited my house in the
capacity of an agent of a telescopic bookcase, which could be extended
as new volumes were required, therefore need never exhibit empty
shelves. The young man had been included in the party on account of his
familiarity with legal documents, it being, of course, of paramount
importance that the right papers should be secured. His ingenuity was
also to be used to cover up, if possible, all evidence that the house
had been entered at all, it being desirable to make it appear to the
court that I had never had these documents in my possession, and that
they never existed.
Had it not been for a very natural desire for refreshment that
interfered with their admirably laid plans, it is probable that the
mechanical skill of Mandit would have been equal to the noiseless
straightening of the bent bolt, and the obliteration of the scratches
and dents made by the attempts upon other shutters, and that Sparky,
after relocking all open desks or cabinets, and after the exit of the
others, would have closed and fastened the kitchen shutters, and would
then have left the house by means of an open window in the upper hall
and the roof of a piazza.
Thus it was that these three men, so eminent in their different spheres
of earnest endeavour, came to visit my comparatively humble abode; and
thus it was that they not only came to that abode, but to the deepest
grief. They were "wanted" in so many quarters, and on so many charges,
that before they had finished serving out their various sentences their
ability to wickedly avail themselves of the property of others would
have suffered greatly from disuse, and the period of life left them for
the further exercise of those abilities would be inconveniently limited.
I was assured by a prominent detective that it had been a long time
since two such dangerous criminals as Mandit and Sparky had fallen into
the hands of the law. These men, by means of very competent outside
assistance, made a stout fight for acquittal on some of the charges
brought against them; but when they found that further effort of this
kind would be unavailing, and that they would be sentenced to long terms
of imprisonment, they threw off their masks of outraged probity and
stood out in their true characters of violent and brutal ruffians.
Barney Fitch, the cracksman, was a senior warden compared to them.
It was a long time before my Aunt Martha recovered from her
disappointment in regard to the youngest burglar.
"Of course I was mistaken," she said. "That sort of thing will happen;
but I really had good grounds for believing him to be a truthful person,
so I am not ashamed for having taken him for what he said he was. I have
now no doubt before he fell in his wicked ways that he was a very good
writer, and might have become a novelist or a magazine author; but his
case is a very sad proof that the study of Realism may be carried too
far," and she heaved a sigh.