A Burglar
Rose Underwood Tells the Story of Her and Her Sisters' Adventure

Mary E. Wilkins, in Judge's Young Folks.

From Cuba Patriot July 19, 1888

Rose Underwood and her sister Fanny, and several of the other girls, were clustered around the stove at recess. It was a cold day, and some of the seats in the old school-house were none too warm, and there was generally a rush for the stove at recess. A few boys hovered shyly on the outskirts of the group and listened to the girls' chatter. It was rarely that a boy dared raise his voice. However, to-day one of them happened to be remarkably wise upon a certain topic which was agitating them all, so he had spoken quite at length, with the blushes mounting higher and higher in his chubby, honest face. There had been a burglary the night before in the village grocery store, and his father kept the store, so of course he knew a great deal about it, and had a right to speak.

Rose Underwood's sister Fanny looked significantly at her when there was a lull in the discussion. “Say, Rose, tell them about your burglar,” said she.

Rose colored up and laughed. “It isn't worth telling.”

“Yes, 'tis, too. Tell it Rose.” All the others chimed in. “Tell it, Rose — that's a good girl, now do.”

“Fanny can tell it just as well as I,” said Rose. “It was her burglar as much as mine.”

“O, Rose! you know it wasn't,” cried Fanny. “You know you did the most of it. Tell it. I think you might.”

Rose smoothed her white apron down over her plaid dress reflectively. “Well, it isn't worth telling,” she said again. “All there was about, it happened before we came here to live, you know; when we lived in Grover. I wasn't but twelve years old and Fanny was only ten and a half. Well, one night, Mr. Green came for mother to watch with Mrs. Green's sister. She was real sick with fever, and they were all worn out at his house taking care of her. And mother didn't know just what to do about it. You see father had gone away. He was out West, going to be gone six weeks — he'd been gone four then — and if she went she'd have to leave us children alone in the house. There was Fanny and little Abby and I, and we'd never staid alone in our lives. I was kind of afraid, but Mr. Green looked dreadful anxious, and I spoke up and told mother to go. I said I wasn't a mite afraid, and I tried to think I wasn't.

“Well, mother went, and just as soon as she got out of the house we locked up. We all got together in the sitting-room and played dominoes, and popped some corn, but we felt awful lonesome. We went to bed in mother's room, that opened out of the sitting-room, and we slept three in the bed, because none of us dared to sleep alone.

“I suppose we must have been asleep, because it was quite late, but all of a sudden something waked us up. I sat right up and listened, and I felt Fanny shake. ‘What's that,’ says she grabbing me. ‘Hush,’ said I. We all listened, and we heard it again. We knew what it was in a minute then. I suppose we were too much asleep before. Somebody was pushing up the kitchen window. It went hard and it kind of grated. We'd put sticks under all the windows but that, and that stuck, so we didn't think anybody could open it.

“‘It's the kitchen window,’ says I, and I jumped right out of bed. ‘Come,’ says I, ‘quick.’ And Abby and Fanny never said a word; they just scrambled out of bed and tagged right after me. And I flew up stairs, and up the attic stairs. You see, it flashed into my head that a burglar would never think of going up to the attic, for he'd know there wouldn't be anything that he wanted there, nothing but old clothes and things.

“When we got into the attic the moonlight was coming in the window, so we could see quite well, and there was an old bedstead with some old quilts on it in the corner, and we just got into that and covered us up, heads and all.

“Then we lay there, and shook. We were terribly scared, but little Abby never cried, and she was only seven years old. Well, we staid there quite awhile, before we dared peep out from under the quilts, but finally I poked my head out a little way. Then I begun to sniff, and I made the others poke their heads out and see if they didn't smell something. And, sure's you live, we could smell ham frying. We couldn't believe it at first, but we did.

“Well, we laid there and smelled the ham frying, and I got more and more uneasy. It seemed to me I hadn't been very spunky, and I thought of mother's silver spoons, and her gold breast-pin, and my gold chain, and Abby's silver cup that she'd had given her when she was a baby, and I wondered if I couldn't do anything to stop the burglar's taking them.

“Finally I got up. Fanny and Abby were most scared to death to have me. But I crawled over to the attic window, and I pushed it up an inch at a time. Then I put out my head and looked up and down the street, but I didn't see anybody coming. I begun to think I never should. But, finally, I did see Mr. Moses Lincoln coming. He'd been out to the ‘Knights of Honor,’ that he belonged to, so he was late.

“I didn't dare to holler, though he was right down below — our house was very near the street. So I just took the rag-bag that was hanging side of the window and threw it down. It fell in the yard and didn't come very near him, but of course he stopped short and looked up.

“Then I spoke just as low as I could and make him hear, and told him what the matter was. I expected nothing but the burglar would hear, too, and come right up stairs after us, or run right off with the spoons, but he didn't. Mr. Lincoln said: ‘All right,’ and he started off just as fast as he could run. He lived next house but one, and he had four grown-up sons, and he's quite an old man himself; so I guess he thought he'd better get them, and not try to drive off the burglar alone.

“Well, I staid there at the window and watched. The others kept whispering to me to come back; but somehow I'd begun not to feel quite so frightened myself. It wasn't but a few minutes any way before I saw them coming — the four Lincoln boys, and Mr. Lincoln on behind. They had sticks, and Frank Lincoln had his gun that he goes hunting with, and they marched right around to our front door and pounded on it.

“I went back with the others then, and we all sat up in bed and listened. We expected to hear Frank Lincoln's gun go off every minute, but all we heard was people talking, and then we heard the front door open and the greatest laughing. Then somebody called us, and we ran to the head of the stairs, and there he was, coming up with a lamp. You see, he'd been called home on business sooner than he'd expected, and hadn't time to send word. He got to town on a late train, and when he was coming up the street he met a man who told him that mother had gone to Mr. Green's to watch, and he supposed we children had gone over to Aunt Maria's to stay all night. He never thought of such a thing as our staying alone. And he thought he'd see if he couldn't get into the house some way without going to Mr. Green's after the key — it was so late — and he climbed into the kitchen window. Then he was hungry, he hadn't had any supper, so he cooked some ham. But the funniest part of it was, he was rather scared when the Lincoln boys and Mr. Lincoln came. He didn't know but they were burglars.”

There was a circle of eager and inquisitive faces bending toward Rose Underwood, who had jumped completely over the point of her story in her haste.

“But who was it, Rose? Who was it? Who was the burglar?”

“Why, my own father, of course,” said Rose.