At ten o'clock P. M. Felicia, the maid, left by the basement door with
the policeman to get a raspberry phosphate around the corner. She
detested the policeman and objected earnestly to the arrangement.
She pointed out, not unreasonably, that she might have been allowed to
fall asleep over one of St. George Rathbone's novels on the third
floor, but she was overruled. Raspberries and cops were not created
The burglar got into the house without much difficulty; because we
must have action and not too much description in a 2,000-word story.
In the dining room he opened the slide of his dark lantern. With a
brace and centrebit he began to bore into the lock of the silver-closet.
Suddenly a click was heard. The room was flooded with electric light.
The dark velvet portieres parted to admit a fair-haired boy of eight
in pink pajamas, bearing a bottle of olive oil in his hand.
"Are you a burglar?" he asked, in a sweet, childish voice.
"Listen to that," exclaimed the man, in a hoarse voice. "Am I a
burglar? Wot do you suppose I have a three-days' growth of bristly
beard on my face for, and a cap with flaps? Give me the oil, quick,
and let me grease the bit, so I won't wake up your mamma, who is lying
down with a headache, and left you in charge of Felicia who has been
faithless to her trust."
"Oh, dear," said Tommy, with a sigh. "I thought you would be more
up-to-date. This oil is for the salad when I bring lunch from the
pantry for you. And mamma and papa have gone to the Metropolitan to
hear De Reszke. But that isn't my fault. It only shows how long the
story has been knocking around among the editors. If the author had
been wise he'd have changed it to Caruso in the proofs."
"Be quiet," hissed the burglar, under his breath. "If you raise an
alarm I'll wring your neck like a rabbit's."
"Like a chicken's," corrected Tommy. "You had that wrong. You don't
wring rabbits' necks."
"Aren't you afraid of me?" asked the burglar.
"You know I'm not," answered Tommy. "Don't you suppose I know fact
from fiction. If this wasn't a story I'd yell like an Indian when I
saw you; and you'd probably tumble downstairs and get pinched on the
"I see," said the burglar, "that you're on to your job. Go on with
Tommy seated himself in an armchair and drew his toes up under him.
"Why do you go around robbing strangers, Mr. Burglar? Have you no
"I see what you're driving at," said the burglar, with a dark frown.
"It's the same old story. Your innocence and childish insouciance is
going to lead me back into an honest life. Every time I crack a crib
where there's a kid around, it happens."
"Would you mind gazing with wolfish eyes at the plate of cold beef
that the butler has left on the dining table?" said Tommy. "I'm
afraid it's growing late."
The burglar accommodated.
"Poor man," said Tommy. "You must be hungry. If you will please stand
in a listless attitude I will get you something to eat."
The boy brought a roast chicken, a jar of marmalade and a bottle of
wine from the pantry. The burglar seized a knife and fork sullenly.
"It's only been an hour," he grumbled, "since I had a lobster and a
pint of musty ale up on Broadway. I wish these story writers would
let a fellow have a pepsin tablet, anyhow, between feeds."
"My papa writes books," remarked Tommy.
The burglar jumped to his feet quickly.
"You said he had gone to the opera," he hissed, hoarsely and with
"I ought to have explained," said Tommy. "He didn't buy the tickets."
The burglar sat again and toyed with the wishbone.
"Why do you burgle houses?" asked the boy, wonderingly.
"Because," replied the burglar, with a sudden flow of tears. "God
bless my little brown-haired boy Bessie at home."
"Ah," said Tommy, wrinkling his nose, "you got that answer in the
wrong place. You want to tell your hard-luck story before you pull
out the child stop."
"Oh, yes," said the burglar, "I forgot. Well, once I lived in
"Take the silver," said Tommy, rising from his chair.
"Hold on," said the burglar. "But I moved away." I could find no
other employment. For a while I managed to support my wife and
child by passing confederate money; but, alas! I was forced to give
that up because it did not belong to the union. I became desperate
and a burglar."
"Have you ever fallen into the hands of the police?" asked Tommy.
"I said 'burglar,' not 'beggar,'" answered the cracksman.
"After you finish your lunch," said Tommy, "and experience the usual
change of heart, how shall we wind up the story?"
"Suppose," said the burglar, thoughtfully, "that Tony Pastor turns out
earlier than usual to-night, and your father gets in from 'Parsifal'
at 10.30. I am thoroughly repentant because you have made me think of
my own little boy Bessie, and--"
"Say," said Tommy, "haven't you got that wrong?"
"Not on your coloured crayon drawings by B. Cory Kilvert," said the
burglar. "It's always a Bessie that I have at home, artlessly
prattling to the pale-cheeked burglar's bride. As I was saying, your
father opens the front door just as I am departing with admonitions
and sandwiches that you have wrapped up for me. Upon recognizing me
as an old Harvard classmate he starts back in--"
"Not in surprise?" interrupted Tommy, with wide, open eyes.
"He starts back in the doorway," continued the burglar. And then he
rose to his feet and began to shout "Rah, rah, rah! rah, rah, rah!
rah, rah, rah!"
"Well," said Tommy, wonderingly, "that's, the first time I ever knew a
burglar to give a college yell when he was burglarizing a house, even
in a story."
"That's one on you," said the burglar, with a laugh. "I was practising
the dramatization. If this is put on the stage that college touch is
about the only thing that will make it go."
Tommy looked his admiration.
"You're on, all right," he said.
"And there's another mistake you've made," said the burglar. "You
should have gone some time ago and brought me the $9 gold piece your
mother gave you on your birthday to take to Bessie."
"But she didn't give it to me to take to Bessie," said Tommy, pouting.
"Come, come!" said the burglar, sternly. "It's not nice of you to
take advantage because the story contains an ambiguous sentence. You
know what I mean. It's mighty little I get out of these fictional
jobs, anyhow. I lose all the loot, and I have to reform every time;
and all the swag I'm allowed is the blamed little fol-de-rols and
luck-pieces that you kids hand over. Why, in one story, all I got was
a kiss from a little girl who came in on me when I was opening a safe.
And it tasted of molasses candy, too. I've a good notion to tie this
table cover over your head and keep on into the silver-closet."
"Oh, no, you haven't," said Tommy, wrapping his arms around his knees.
"Because if you did no editor would buy the story. You know you've
got to preserve the unities."
"So've you," said the burglar, rather glumly. "Instead of sitting here
talking impudence and taking the bread out of a poor man's mouth, what
you'd like to be doing is hiding under the bed and screeching at the
top of your voice."
"You're right, old man," said Tommy, heartily. "I wonder what they
make us do it for? I think the S. P. C. C. ought to interfere. I'm
sure it's neither agreeable nor usual for a kid of my age to butt in
when a full-grown burglar is at work and offer him a red sled and a
pair of skates not to awaken his sick mother. And look how they make
the burglars act! You'd think editors would know--but what's the
The burglar wiped his hands on the tablecloth and arose with a yawn.
"Well, let's get through with it," he said. "God bless you, my little
boy! you have saved a man from committing a crime this night. Bessie
shall pray for you as soon as I get home and give her her orders. I
shall never burglarize another house--at least not until the June
magazines are out. It'll be your little sister's turn then to run in
on me while I am abstracting the U. S. 4 per cent. from the tea urn
and buy me off with her coral necklace and a falsetto kiss."
"You haven't got all the kicks coming to you," sighed Tommy, crawling
out of his chair. "Think of the sleep I'm losing. But it's tough on
both of us, old man. I wish you could get out of the story and really
rob somebody. Maybe you'll have the chance if they dramatize us."
"Never!" said the burglar, gloomily. "Between the box office and my
better impulses that your leading juveniles are supposed to awaken
and the magazines that pay on publication, I guess I'll always be
"I'm sorry," said Tommy, sympathetically. "But I can't help myself
any more than you can. It's one of the canons of household fiction
that no burglar shall be successful. The burglar must be foiled by
a kid like me, or by a young lady heroine, or at the last moment by
his old pal, Red Mike, who recognizes the house as one in which he
used to be the coachman. You have got the worst end of it in any kind
of a story."
"Well, I suppose I must be clearing out now," said the burglar, taking
up his lantern and bracebit.
"You have to take the rest of this chicken and the bottle of wine with
you for Bessie and her mother," said Tommy, calmly.
"But confound it," exclaimed the burglar, in an annoyed tone, "they
don't want it. I've got five cases of Chateau de Beychsvelle at home
that was bottled in 1853. That claret of yours is corked. And you
couldn't get either of them to look at a chicken unless it was stewed
in champagne. You know, after I get out of the story I don't have so
many limitations. I make a turn now and then."
"Yes, but you must take them," said Tommy, loading his arms with the
"Bless you, young master!" recited the burglar, obedient. "Second-Story
Saul will never forget you. And now hurry and let me out, kid. Our
2,000 words must be nearly up."
Tommy led the way through the hall toward the front door. Suddenly
the burglar stopped and called to him softly: "Ain't there a cop out
there in front somewhere sparking the girl?"
"Yes," said Tommy, "but what--"
"I'm afraid he'll catch me," said the burglar. "You mustn't forget
that this is fiction."
"Great head!" said Tommy, turning. "Come out by the back door."