"Chapter VII: Gene's Burglar." by Enid Yandell (1870-), Jean Loughborough, and Laura Hayes
I MUST write down my horrible experience of Friday night, now that I am able to sit up and think coherently.
It was very late when Marjorie and I started home. The car was crowded, as usual at that time in the evening, there being more men than women. We sandwiched ourselves into a small space, given us by a polite man, and I clutched my pocket in which–foolish girl that I was–I had three hundred dollars. This money had been received that day from the sale of some land, which had been for a long time in the family, and I had cashed the check in the afternoon, thinking I would pay a few bills on my way down town in the morning. I whispered to Marjorie to pay our fare, as I didn't care to take out my purse. "Oh, did you get the money, Virginia ?" "Yes," I assented, under my breath. "What a lucky girl! You will surely have to treat the flat." "Be careful, Marjorie!" and as I cautioned her to speak more softly, I caught the expression of a man's face just across from us. He was a coarse-looking man and wore a slouch hat pulled down over his face. He gave Marjorie a quick, piercing look, and I saw an ugly, red-looking scar over his left eye, while his thick lips were only half-hidden under his black whiskers. Altogether he was what a man out West would call an "ugly customer." He paid no further attention to us, and in talking of other things I had forgotten him entirely until we got out of the car at Chicago avenue, when, to our dismay, [Page 88] he got off too, and sauntered along leisurely behind us with his hat very far down over his eyes. We ran all the way down the block, and I was glad, indeed, to get into the house.
"WAS THAT TALL, BLACK THING OUTLINED ON THE CURTAIN THE PIANO LAMP?"
I felt a little uncomfortable even after reaching the warmth and light of our own little flat. and some thing impelled me to go to the window. I pulled back the curtain and looked out, and there, under the lamp on the opposite side of the street, stood the man looking up at me! My feelings were anything but agreeable after that, but the other girls reassured me–telling of the night-watchman, of how many men there were in the same building to be summoned at a moment's notice, etc., etc. Somewhat pacified I went in to dinner, and afterwards we spent a merry evening with a number of friends, and I forgot all about [Page 89] the man. Before I retired I took the money and pinned it into the crown of an old hat, underneath the lining, and hung the hat up in the closet, as that was always my own private safe-deposit vault.
Dismissing all thoughts of fear I opened the window for some fresh air and retired. I can't tell how long I had slept when I was suddenly awakened by a strange noise, and all my faculties became keenly alive. Through the folding-doors I saw the moonlight streaming in at the parlor windows, and the curtain swaying gently backward and forward. Was that tall, black thing outlined on the curtain the piano lamp? I strained my eyes to see, not daring to move. As I gazed, the black object moved across the room, and a silent match flashed a light upon the face of the wretched man whom we had seen on the car. Yes, there was no use in trying to disbelieve it; there was the slouch hat, the scar and the ugly, thick lips. In the instant that the match flashed I saw that he had a second man with him. They had climbed up to the balcony and come in by the window that I had left open. I knew that the Duke kept both the doors to her room closed and locked, and I wished with all my heart for the much despised pistol. Marjorie slept in the room at the end of the hall, out of hearing, and I was alone with those two horrible robbers who knew that I had three hundred dollars in my possession! All these things flashed through my mind; I grew rigid with fear. I opened my mouth and tried to call the Duke, for I knew that she was the nearest, but I could not make a sound. By this time the leader of the two men had lit a bull's-eye lantern, and as he flashed the light around the parlor, he caught sight of my bed in the back room. "Here, Bill, don't make a noise. [Page 90] This is the one that had the cash," and threw the light full on my face, which must have been as pale as death. It took all my strength of mind not to move an eyelid, and the second the light rested on me seemed an eternity. They finally turned their attention to the bureau, and began picking up the few articles of jewelry that I had left there. The next thing they did was to rummage in the bureau drawers, and as their backs were turned to me I felt this was the critical moment, and now or never I must act.
Not far from the head of my bed was a large closet which opened into Marjorie's room. The door leading into her room from the closet was closed, I knew, but the one leading into my room had been removed and a portiere hung over the opening. If I could get into the closet without their seeing me, I could open the door and rush into Marjorie's room, and there, at least, we two could fight together. I climbed out of bed expecting every moment to see them turn, as they were muttering to themselves over not finding the money. How I managed it without making some slight noise I never knew; but there I was on the floor, at last, creeping along by the wall to the curtain. How far it seemed!–and how cold I was with fear! But I knew my one chance of escape was to get into that other room. With a noiseless wave of the curtain I found myself in the closet, and sent up a prayer of thankfulless. I could hear the men opening the boxes in my bureau, and their comments on the things they wished to take. I straightened myself up, took one long stride to the closet door–I turned the handle, it creaked audibly; it seemed to stick–great heavens, it was locked! There was a commotion in the next room; the lantern was flashed on my bed. "She's got out and gone, Bill, quick, behind that curtain!" They jerked [Page 91] back the curtain, the lantern flashed on me, I saw the man with the scar point his pistol at me and then I knew no more, for I fell head first against the door.
The next I knew I found myself on the bed with the two girls hanging over me, Marjorie with a pale face and the cologne bottle, while the Duke, with a determined look, was clutching her pistol with her right hand. Marjorie said she was awakened by a piercing shriek which I suppose I uttered, and a heavy fall against her closet door. When she opened the door I was lying there unconscious, and the figure of a man was just disappearing out of the front parlor window.