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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Stories Of The Three Burglars - Chapter 4
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The Stories Of The Three Burglars - Chapter 4 Post by :Truman Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :1597

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The Stories Of The Three Burglars - Chapter 4

"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 watched.

"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 anxiety.

"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 needs."

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 man's case?"

"I think he is a thief and manufacturer of falsehoods," said my wife promptly.

"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 of him?"

"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 invisible dog-snake."

"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 conviction."

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 on."

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 enough."

"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 as this.

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 so.

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 manacled.

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 his side.

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 done?"

"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 brows contracted.

"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 dwelling.

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 business.

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.


(THE END)
Frank R. Stockton's fiction book: Stories of the Three Burglars

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