The burglar stepped inside the window quickly, and then he took his time. A burglar who respects his art always takes his time before taking anything else.
The house was a private residence. By its boarded front door and untrimmed Boston ivy the burglar knew that the mistress of it was sitting on some oceanside piazza telling a sympathetic man in a yachting cap that no one had ever understood her sensitive, lonely heart. He knew by the light in the third-story front windows, and by the lateness of the season, that the master of the house had come home, and would soon extinguish his light and retire. For it was September of the year and of the soul, in which season the house’s good man comes to consider roof gardens and stenographers as vanities, and to desire the return of his mate and the more durable blessings of decorum and the moral excellencies.
The burglar lighted a cigarette. The guarded glow of the match illuminated his salient points for a moment. He belonged to the third type of burglars.
This third type has not yet been recognized and accepted. The police have made us familiar with the first and second. Their classification is simple. The collar is the distinguishing mark.
When a burglar is caught who does not wear a collar he is described as a degenerate of the lowest type, singularly vicious and depraved, and is suspected of being the desperate criminal who stole the handcuffs out of Patrolman Hennessy’s pocket in 1878 and walked away to escape arrest.
The other well-known type is the burglar who wears a collar. He is always referred to as a Raffles in real life. He is invariably a gentleman by daylight, breakfasting in a dress suit, and posing as a paperhanger, while after dark he plies his nefarious occupation of burglary. His mother is an extremely wealthy and respected resident of Ocean Grove, and when he is conducted to his cell he asks at once for a nail file and the Police Gazette. He always has a wife in every State in the Union and fiancées in all the Territories, and the newspapers print his matrimonial gallery out of their stock of cuts of the ladies who were cured by only one bottle after having been given up by five doctors, experiencing great relief after the first dose.
The burglar wore a blue sweater. He was neither a Raffles nor one of the chefs from Hell’s Kitchen. The police would have been baffled had they attempted to classify him. They have not yet heard of the respectable, unassuming burglar who is neither above nor below his station.
This burglar of the third class began to prowl. He wore no masks, dark lanterns, or gum shoes. He carried a 38-calibre revolver in his pocket, and he chewed peppermint gum thoughtfully.
The furniture of the house was swathed in its summer dust protectors. The silver was far away in safe-deposit vaults. The burglar expected no remarkable “haul.” His objective point was that dimly lighted room where the master of the house should be sleeping heavily after whatever solace he had sought to lighten the burden of his loneliness. A “touch” might be made there to the extent of legitimate, fair professional profits—loose money, a watch, a jewelled stick-pin—nothing exorbitant or beyond reason. He had seen the window left open and had taken the chance.
The burglar softly opened the door of the lighted room. The gas was turned low. A man lay in the bed asleep. On the dresser lay many things in confusion—a crumpled roll of bills, a watch, keys, three poker chips, crushed cigars, a pink silk hair bow, and an unopened bottle of bromo-seltzer for a bulwark in the morning.
The burglar took three steps toward the dresser. The man in the bed suddenly uttered a squeaky groan and opened his eyes. His right hand slid under his pillow, but remained there.
“Lay still,” said the burglar in conversational tone. Burglars of the third type do not hiss. The citizen in the bed looked at the round end of the burglar’s pistol and lay still.
“Now hold up both your hands,” commanded the burglar.
The citizen had a little, pointed, brown-and-gray beard, like that of a painless dentist. He looked solid, esteemed, irritable, and disgusted. He sat up in bed and raised his right hand above his head.
“Up with the other one,” ordered the burglar. “You might be amphibious and shoot with your left. You can count two, can’t you? Hurry up, now.”
“Can’t raise the other one,” said the citizen, with a contortion of his lineaments.
“What’s the matter with it?”
“Rheumatism in the shoulder.”
“Was. The inflammation has gone down.” The burglar stood for a moment or two, holding his gun on the afflicted one. He glanced at the plunder on the dresser and then, with a half-embarrassed air, back at the man in the bed. Then he, too, made a sudden grimace.
“Don’t stand there making faces,” snapped the citizen, bad-humouredly. “If you’ve come to burgle why don’t you do it? There’s some stuff lying around.”
“‘Scuse me,” said the burglar, with a grin; “but it just socked me one, too. It’s good for you that rheumatism and me happens to be old pals. I got it in my left arm, too. Most anybody but me would have popped you when you wouldn’t hoist that left claw of yours.”
“How long have you had it?” inquired the citizen.
“Four years. I guess that ain’t all. Once you’ve got it, it’s you for a rheumatic life—that’s my judgment.”
“Ever try rattlesnake oil?” asked the citizen, interestedly.
“Gallons,” said the burglar. “If all the snakes I’ve used the oil of was strung out in a row they’d reach eight times as far as Saturn, and the rattles could be heard at Valparaiso, Indiana, and back.”
“Some use Chiselum’s Pills,” remarked the citizen.
“Fudge!” said the burglar. “Took ’em five months. No good. I had some relief the year I tried Finkelham’s Extract, Balm of Gilead poultices and Potts’s Pain Pulverizer; but I think it was the buckeye I carried in my pocket what done the trick.”
“Is yours worse in the morning or at night?” asked the citizen.
“Night,” said the burglar; “just when I’m busiest. Say, take down that arm of yours—I guess you won’t—Say! did you ever try Blickerstaff’s Blood Builder?”
“I never did. Does yours come in paroxysms or is it a steady pain?”
The burglar sat down on the foot of the bed and rested his gun on his crossed knee.
“It jumps,” said he. “It strikes me when I ain’t looking for it. I had to give up second-story work because I got stuck sometimes half-way up. Tell you what—I don’t believe the bloomin’ doctors know what is good for it.”
“Same here. I’ve spent a thousand dollars without getting any relief. Yours swell any?”
“Of mornings. And when it’s goin’ to rain—great Christopher!”
“Me, too,” said the citizen. “I can tell when a streak of humidity the size of a table-cloth starts from Florida on its way to New York. And if I pass a theatre where there’s an ‘East Lynne’ matinee going on, the moisture starts my left arm jumping like a toothache.”
“It’s undiluted—hades!” said the burglar.
“You’re dead right,” said the citizen.
The burglar looked down at his pistol and thrust it into his pocket with an awkward attempt at ease.
“Say, old man,” he said, constrainedly, “ever try opodeldoc?”
“Slop!” said the citizen angrily. “Might as well rub on restaurant butter.”
“Sure,” concurred the burglar. “It’s a salve suitable for little Minnie when the kitty scratches her finger. I’ll tell you what! We’re up against it. I only find one thing that eases her up. Hey? Little old sanitary, ameliorating, lest-we-forget Booze. Say—this job’s off—’scuse me—get on your clothes and let’s go out and have some. ‘Scuse the liberty, but—ouch! There she goes again!”
“For a week,” said the citizen. “I haven’t been able to dress myself without help. I’m afraid Thomas is in bed, and—”
“Climb out,” said the burglar, “I’ll help you get into your duds.”
The conventional returned as a tidal wave and flooded the citizen. He stroked his brown-and-gray beard.
“It’s very unusual—” he began.
“Here’s your shirt,” said the burglar, “fall out. I knew a man who said Omberry’s Ointment fixed him in two weeks so he could use both hands in tying his four-in-hand.”
As they were going out the door the citizen turned and started back.
“‘Liked to forgot my money,” he explained; “laid it on the dresser last night.”
The burglar caught him by the right sleeve.
“Come on,” he said bluffly. “I ask you. Leave it alone. I’ve got the price. Ever try witch hazel and oil of wintergreen?”