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MRS PETER'S BURGLAR.

By Perots Hume (Author of 'The Mvsterv of a Hansom Cab," ' The Manor Mystery.' ' The Yellow Hunchback,' 'Tho Rainbow Feather,' etc.) (All Riairrs Reserved.] P«t«r Orawshaw married beneath him. At least, his uncle said as much, and with much more vehemence than was necessary, considering how pointedly he abstained from giving a wedding present. It was not a question of rank, for Peter, being merely a bank clerk, could scarcely he said to have lowered himself when he made the daughter of a resoectablo doctor his wife. Uncle Ben really objected to the eeremotiv on the score of money, for the oiidegroom's salary was none too large, while the bride onlv brought herself and her plain trousseau to the new home. IV. Dane, being a struggling practitioner, gave his child nothing hut his blessing; so Uncle Ben was annoyed by the meanness of such a marriage settlement. And he showed hi.s annoyance promptly by cutting off Peter with a" shilling. Mr and Mrs Crawshaw did no; cave very reach, as thev were deeply in love with r.ne r.mtber, ' and thought this was the bes<: of all possible worids for billing and coning. On inquiry Peter discovered a ti-vble-down eld mansion on the outskirts of a small village three miles from the county town wherein the hank was siiu- i aied. and rented it for a song. What no ramed ir.st serve! to keep things gome: smoothly, as Olive, accustomed to poverty, managed to make little do much. Tie yoin-7 couple furnished their more or less ruirwl habitation with the flotsam and jetsam of sales i:h<\ every article represented what they called a bargain. Ihe marriage took place in spring, so they had months of sunny weather before them, ami. devoted as thev were to one another, found life verv pleasant indeed. Olive's mother, her father, her sisters and brothers, often came to see tho happy pair; but 1 im:c Bon never put/nan appearance. He might have reasonably done so, if only 10 fee Olive; but he"was too wary to risk the n.ee!hig. The photograph of little Mrs Ptter w-Hch the angrv oid man had seen, showed such a pretty'girl that Mr Benjamin Tvke feared lest she should svhoed.e him into approval. This he was determined to withhold, and told everyone_tnat Olive wr.s a pink-ar.d-white doll /if ao character. Ho" was —so rumor said— a vei'- uno'easmr, old man. and Mrs Crasv*v.n'w never believed '.hat he had _ any of tho=n redeeming finalities of which her v'v-- husband'" sometimes spoke. ' •• \"a.-iv "Id thing:" cried Olive, wrarhfrdivV "'No wonder he's a bachelor. I'ni null" sure that no woman svor.ld ever look at him." "Thc-v would—for his money, sain Peter, grimly • No one should marrv for money, darling. Moc.ev is nothing " Peter, being a bank clerk, could not be to "subscribe to this ridiculous statement, and contradicted it with a kuVdi. "Money is a very good thing, d?ar." h° declared, positively. " I wish we h"d more of it." Vi p->w vot n "i" nmii rt 1 j , lr 1 d his wit te nul s W 1 t ninse" e la ' ~ (1 * 1n d 011 m 111 J- ™» .1 r t.id Hi" cw 1 1 Id wil 11 1] itti i 1 id mv \ n I ! 1 hj u l d lotrn nd im* V" \ o ] IAU 11n m» 1 11 ler * , m p tn ihn rtnj - ! 1 a" a 1 I x s i L r 1 1 1 lll\ hut Jit r „ hj r 1 1n 1 mu « <-hui e c t -( \ „ , \-\ 11 1 1 e u 1 , t 1 l 1 cl-n ] n 1 1 g 1d t nnnlo f t i oil 11 th uii n I't 1 id ei 1 1 ' 1 1 lj , " ! n 1 x It lit 1 1 1 d 1 1 , ,1 , d Ohs wi hj t y s I 1 ! j ] t w < 1m hj 1 il I i[ u' hi-J hj 1 t t rpi tin I r til I til t 1 , ..dh.nl"! 10 o in itiil to hai ? tul p 1 I'l'tuh 1 01 th l thill 1 , i u > n \ 1 1 11 1 \ ""W n \ r I It. r 1 'tl r t I-t r l vrtl U ( v-U a? 11 _ id lh liltkli<- I \ t 1 x t ' 1 I » "<"',. At -r 1 1 li d ! o tit int ! j ufr « I } lt H N } 1 nil 1 v t-vt 1 I dl pr it ci 1 t uas s i M > tn mi . tn tn P „ ~ t tl * fit lh"n d nil ,id n \ 1 *ur 1 -rn-il «1 1 , V, ;-inr 1 c t if I e f i hj 1 n not t nit- mv r 1 | [L inn! >d mm n p \td ' , I. in i ' a t v ' ' 1•* l j t u c eL thn 1 % ' '» ILn tmi I ip u t Wild it 1 H nl 1 j j , nd tit 1 hip. t ' t nd v. i„ i» d n ' to 11 ' , , , 1 1 1 1 1 tin* , 1 1 I £ T , <, , i t 1 1 tic (it I J,mc ho <mi when \\ d nil I s \ 1 , I 1 ir 1 On\ \ le 1 ti t t' . al H I I il 1 1 m (ilditl iti t 1 u i) , , triv lm la' '"> ' \*; ' ] Dp, -it ,d d t ' 1 1 m Jit 1 hj 1 I tl mci le th i* t nofhi 1 1t | th rU 1 T 1 . t 1 pi 1 r id 1 I m d I t I ,1 1 n tit lunuHin tt'll l , ( , 1 K J a \( gi d Ji v 1 th it r ! 11 lil 1 1 11 1 1 , 3 -, 1 1 1 g i K1 n e 1 0 I n 1 !Itll is It I d art Ith 1 v ,-11 \ i' \he 1 1' 1 I u I , 1, c ti 1 Is' at 1 111 llt 1111 1 j, P , 1 1 t 111 d tit m 1 ' b,.nL \'l ti time ui's 111 1 [in ! ,

.311co.ild f.nlv *cc Wonderful Boy I'm sure hj? would make n. new will. Peter, and [rave us hh mone\," lamented Olive, IV. I'fier fh"ok h.U rome'y head. " I'nrle T'en i ; . vcrv oh-tinate." •• He* vpvv rude." flamed out Mrs Peter. " railing m~' » pmk-and-white doll of no rharacter. I'm not, am I, Peter?" " You're the sweetest and deveiest H->n in the world, darlin?."

mad? no "It !:■:

" Except Wonderful Boy—no 0110 ;s so rh-ver and sweet as he 13. Look at him and >mile. Peter. Why don't you smile to amuse him?" -Would it amuse him?" Peter smiled dmr.allv. " The fact is, dearest,. I have a bit o't bid news to tell you." '•Oh. Peter!" Olive turned quite pale, and fnruot eve 11 Wonderful P>oy. "The bank i- cutting down espen.-e;, and I have to £O." confessed Peter, bluntly. '• Oh !" said" .Mrs Grawshaw. blankly, then smiled encouragingly. " Never mind, flarlintr: you are so clever you are sure to get another situation very soon." '• Dnriinc;!" said Peter, kissing her and then Wonderful Boy; "you arc an angel." But fond words would not straighten nut. things, which were now very crooked, and summer found the young couple woefully pressed for money. Peter duly left Hie" bank and duly tramped here, there, and everywhere looking for work. Mrs Crawshaw learnt to listen with a sinking heart for every knock, dreading to factirate tradesmen, although these, or: the whole, behaved very decently, as they sympathised with the friendless pair. Still, as the we-iry months rolled by, they naturally became pressing, and Peter did not know how to satisfy their righteous demands. There was now no love-making in the untidy garden, but only serious arguments in the bleak house as to how this bill and that ww to ha discharged. They wore their clothes threadbare; they had only one- fixe kept tip. and that was on the kitchen, and finally they reduced their meals to two spar* feasts a day. Peter could not set work, and Olive," having Wonderful Boy to attend to, -was unable to earn money. When the moist autumn winds began to breathe over tho stubbled fields, things •were at their worst, and the long, dark winter was before them. Only Wonderful Boy and the love they bore one another kept up their failing spirits. Seated before the scanty kitchen fire tho two poor things would smile anxiously at one another, and build castks in the air of future plenty. It was a very weary time. Peter was absent so often and eo late in search of work that Olive was left very much to hereelf. The girl said_ nothing to her husband, as she did not wish to make things harder for him than they already

were, but she suffered terribly while he wag away. Constitutionally nervous, the little woman was afraid of burglars, since the ruined mansion was isolated amidst a clump of firs some distance from the houses of the village. Often, while waiting for Peter and watching over the slumbers of Wonderful Boy, Mrs Crawshasr trembled at the sighing of the wind, at the creaking of a branch, at the cheeping of a mouse. She saw a bird in every hush, a burglar in every dusky corner, and gradually became, thin with anxiety. But, always encouraging and aggressively hopeful, she never confessed these fears to Peter, for he would not have left her alono had ho guessed at these secret terrors. Then how could ho possibly get work?

There was a strong-room with a grim iron door in the old house, aud Mrs Peter privately determined that if a burglar did come she would rush in there with Wonderful Boy .and shut herself in until Peter returned. But so far the disused strong-room had never been required a3 a city of refuge, although the knowledge that it was handy always cheered the rinking heart of the poor little woman. She never told Peter of her intention lest he should make further inquiries and learn too much, but smiled and smiled constantly. Peter admired her courage immensely.

"And that stupid Uncle Hen said that you were silly and weak," cried Peter, in his turna! blundering way. "P:g!" cried Mrs Crawshaw, smiling at the doubtful compliment. " Never mind him. clear. We'll be rich somo day, and then can heap coals of lire on hie grey old head. I suppose it is grey, although I have never seen him, Peter. Oh, dear," she sighed, js her husband rose from a simple meal of bread and dripping and very weak tea, "must you go out this atV'inoon, darling'/" " Y'es, my sweet. There'.- a chance of my getting work in a Waking office."

"Oh, Peter, that's ten niilcis away! You won't be back until late."

"I'm afraid I won't, little svomau," said her husband, kissing her; "but I think there's a very good "chance, of my getting tho situation, so it's worth while, my being late. I'i! tramp back at, 10 o'clock. It it's too lonely " "No, no," she broke in. eagerly. "I'm not afraid to be alone. Co and try your best, Peter, darling. It will be so joliy to see you coming in at 10 o'clock shouting 'Hurrah, I've got it:'" "You're a brick," murmured Crawshaw, hissing her again ami then embracing Wonderful Boy, svho was always ready for a carets. "Keep up your tpirits. my own brave little girl. I'll bring home a. pound of sausages if I get tho job." With this prosaic faresvell Peter tramped off. looking handsome ami determined, notwithstanding his worn garments, svhiie the lonely little wife wept a trifle as she waved her hand to encourage him. When he was out of sight she dried her tears, as there was much to be done. Wonderful Boy had to be fed and rocked to sleep, fallen branches had to be collected in the untidy garden for the tire, dishes had to he wasnetl, and various household duties had to be attended to. IJusy with these things. Mrs Crawshaw quite forgot her fears for the moment, and it was only when the darkness fell that t>he to shake and shiver as usual. Considering the isolation of the ancient mansion, and its rninv mptv room nil I ids with h<' )\i it v, is c r W t 1 w lVred ul' th g it s ntu urc I t-iil hould I ' nersoi Ho tsci & it. lr.it d tw j 'll \a ivi < impai \—- hie I\i £\tn\ 1 nt —pi ce 1 W 1 derfal P 11 He ill th mi ue f coin 1 cf th li hen and sat nvii Bto p tc'i 1 ter and 1 garments Vt th tnt tic wati_ned tn < 'n 1 count in" he lon m 1 tit tint 110 I lit it ht ju'd a use vitn trie ateig tndcstiv th 11 _ swild to « biiJi » was 1 3\v S ° J ktt n IJ.1 1 1 d inn Mt Class hiss sat up licit \ thud m f tl th hj ltd i. t]> It ~u_i '0 1 u J turn 1 „ Tihea ti i 1 hj e\i < 1 but tl mi n <. iki 1 t 1 |iu t in less nil 1 id 11 s tin. 1 t 1 i 1 r s 1 n hj 1 id s 111 1\ k 1 "d—----t 1 sm bus 1 tut he 1 li d ne | 1 1 i it s 1 s\ hi Ihtllh s<h tis sll t I lit 1 hi It une—ol by hj Wilms, fott 1 tmi utarti Thy were th i > nit aid Hi Petei hi 111 't id 11 it uul> k tho luk t' t- nl nd 11 hj i cli ur Mer flight uals id th lutl uaui ud ilthot hj l e t ' p itthn hj lo 1 t tl» iridic tlti f J lir 1 itn tl e idt i t <.n itch 1 1m in 111 n 1 aims 1111 11 d in_, t 1 1 ttn 1 ) 111 hj ss p> unibk ti mose With ts\ te iic md t 111! 1 1 limb hj e- tnt -1 I t ui'i 1 Hii n tier 1 till ti 1 iped th hei\ s

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IVwt little .Mr.-. Peter sta-red like a pa.le ghost at. Tim gi.ilf man. .Ho evidently know t!i:it no one would disturb liim. for h«i ilur.g his cap on one, chair, plaoi his bind ::•>•■ i on another, and threw himself heavily int-i .1 third. Then sho saw that he was :i. r"d-idC'<!. harsh-looking old person, somi.'tiling like a uu'lor. quite cleanshaven savo for the monkey-fringe under lus ohs-tiuato chin, and with two twinkling prey eyes, v-ery uhcPrvant, and, as file thou.'ht. cruel. Ho did not ivmovo bis shaggy npo at., so she could not see how he was dii-fisrd ; but Ilia whole aspect was rout'h, and fierce, and uncouth. Against su'.-h a powerful villain sho could do notfiiiiic, and (.-..mid only staro at him in a fro/en manner, scarcely ablo to speak so dry was htT mouth. Tho burglar locked at "her con t e'.niit uon.-■■!y. "Vcu'it ';; silly, weak creature, who won't give me any trouble, - ' he growled. '" i— dun'i —want —to give you—trouble/' stammered Mrs Orawshaw, trembling.

''Just as well, or you'd Ih> sorry for it Here, give rue something to eat."

"There's —on]v—bread and cheese."

"That will do. Look sharp. I'm not the man. to be kept waiting." He looked round the shabby kilchen as the poor girl rose to get the food. "You dont seem to have anything valuable here." '" There's nothing—valuable—in the—house," faltered tho jx>or girl, wishing there were, so that she could bribe him to go. '" Wo arc very poor-." "Oh! Have you any money?"

"No, you will find no money —here."

" Hum ! I'll have a look round the house eocm, and s-*« if you are telling mo lies. Bread and cheese!" The man took a seat at the deal table. " Haven't you anytking to drink?" ''Water: but if vtvu want tea ?"

" No. water will 'do. Sit down while T eat. I'll attend to business afterwards. Sit down, I toll you." The burglar struck a blow on the> table. " "What the deuce are you walking about for?" "I want to take baby to bed, sho gasped, hoping to carry og Wonderful Boy into the strongroom. " You can take him when I look round the house," grumbled the ruffian, who was eating heartily. "Let's have a look at the brat."

" No!" cried Mrs Crawshaw with the courage of a mother, and spreading out her arms over the cradle to protect her offspring. " He's asleep." "Wake him." He struck the table again. " Wake him, I say !" "I shan't!" The color flushed Mrs Peter's pale face, and a sparkle came into her eyes as she breathed short and quick. She was like a hen defending her chickens, ruffling all her feathers in a feeble but determined wav.

The truculent villain lsugh&d. " You're more plucky than I thought," he growled good V.umoredly; "but don't try my patience too far." And to her terror he produced a savage-looking jack-knife. But it was only to cut some plug tobacco, as ho had finished his meal in a hurry and was ready to smoke. Mrs Crawshaw drew a breath of relief, although she was prepared to die rather thru?, let this scoundrel touch Wonderful Boy. Shaking in every limb, but keeping guard over the cradle, she watched the burglar filling his pipe. ''When will your husband be home?" he rapped out. "At—lo—o'clock." She looked despairingly at the timepiece, which now indicated nino.

" Time enough for me to look round and clear out before he comes." •' There's nothing for you to take," moaned the poor little woman. "We are so poor. My husband has been out of work for months." " I might take the baby," said the man hoarsely. " I'll kill 'you if you lay a finger on my child!" flashed out Mrs Peter, and losing all fear for the moment. " You can kill me, but you shan't touch baby." "Who the deuce wants to kill you!" grumbled the burglar, casting an approving glance at her flushed face. "If I wanted the brat I'd take him; but I don't. Now then (he roso in a bullying maimer) show me round the house!" A sudden idea of how to save herself and Wonderful Boy darted into the little woman's mind, and she took the baby carefully from his cradle. Never for one moment did she intend to lose sight of her treasure. "All wc have of any value is in the—the strong room," she said in a bolder voice, and led the way towards the inner door. " Take what you want and go.""Ah!" The burglar picked up his j bludgeon to follow. " I thought that you were lying. Yon have something valuable, or you wouldn't have a strong room." "It is the strong room of the people who lived here before us. We have never used it," said Mrs Peter, and entered the passage leading to the front. _ Behind her came the burglar, who had lighted a candle which happened to be jon the table. Casting sharp looks right j and left, he came close at her heels. She led him through room after room all empty, as she and Peter only managed to furnish two, and these very sparely. The man grunted his disapproval, but said nothing until they arrived at the iron door. The trembling schemer turned the key, and signed, that the burglar should open the door. "If you will steal, take what's in there," she gasped, preparing to trap him. "Steal!" The man turned and surveyed her with unfeigned surprise; then he laughed, and without further words pulled open the door to enter into the strong room, holding the candle aloft. As he did so Mrs Crawshaw pushed hard and snapped the door to with tiie strength of despair, turning the key in the lock with a loud click. While" she held Wonderful Boy to her bosom she heard the villain swear and hammer at the iron door. But the stout old door held firm, and he could not break through, so Mrs Peter, with a prayer of thankfulness, tottered back to 'the kitchen. For a moment she sank into a chair, feeling sick and faint, until a querulous cry from the baby brought her to her feet. With one idea in her head—and that was to stagger into the village for assistance—the little woman felt her way blindly to the door. As she arrived a"t it. clutching Wonderful Boy to her heart, it suddenly opened, and'there on the threshold stood Peter, who had arrived long before he was expected. " Oh !"—Mrs Crawshaw fell on his breast —"burglar!— strong room!" And then she promptly fainted, just, 41s Iter husband managed to save the baby front falling from her nerveless arms.

When she came back to her senses face and hair and dress were drenched with water, and she wa* lying back in the ragged old armchair, wherein she usually sang Wonderfid Boy to sleep. That precious angel was back again in his cradle, and over her bent Peter, with an anxious look on his face.

Near him stood tho stout, squat figure of the bursrlar. the very sight of which made her shriek faintly: "Ho wants my baby! He wants my baby!" " I want the baby, and Peter, and I want you." said the burglar, gruffly. "You've -.lot a ■\tvrvk-t>n<.v-\vliite ' doll" of tic character, as I thought." Something familiar in the words made Mrs Peter sit up and stare with reviving energy. "'Then you're not a burglar';'' she faltere-d. clinging to her husband. "Tie is Uncle Ren. darling heart," win's■pered Peter, doing all h* could to reassure her. "You has-e made a mistake. He came to see if we svere really poor, and wanted for that ionsen to look over the house."

"Ho! ho! And von took me for a burglar!" laughed Untie thumping on the boor with, his bludgeon. "I never guess"'! that rntil you talked about, mv stealing things from the strong room. I imtlersland nosr svhy you !o"ked me in so oleverlv. 1 mighl have been tlmro now but that Peter let rile out. Ho! ho'"

'■' Uncle Pen'" Mrs Oinsvshaw stood up. and the color returned to her scan cheek swiftly. "Whv didn't you tell me von ss-ere Unci-' Ben?"

"T thought you'd guess," said the soidisant, burglar." with a jolly laugh. "But you talked so strangely. You asked if we bad money." "Yes; T wished to learn if Pcier really svas poor."

"And Trm rnirl that von wanted mv baby" "Of eours lo make him mv heir." "The fart, is." explained Peter, with a sympathising laugh, ''you and T T nrle ?.«n have bow .it cm-is-purposes, darling. I'm p.oitv von have been frightened " "Frightened!" erhn-rl Mr Tdcc, with scorn. " Not she. She .stood up to TTIO like a good, one. to protect the baby, and inveided me irdo the strong room in a wonderfully clever mfirmer. i was quite taken in." Peter"—Uncle Ben clipped his nephew on the bark —"it is just as well tint the mistake wr.« made. It hns rlcarly proved that, your wife is a woman of pluck and urrit. My dear " —he turned to Olive frankly—"l'm sorry I paid you u-otty a iihik-arid-white doll of nn character. Yoifre the best and bravest and prettiest wife, in the world. Kiss me, anr] then we cm arrange to put Peter right." 'Teter is right," paid the young husband, sturdily. "I've got thai situation, darling heart—one pound a week ; no I've brought home two pounds of sausages." "Pound a. week be hanged !" said Uncle Pen, gruffly. "I'll get you a much better situation, and I'll furnish the house, and put- things in order nil round. Also, \ shall make a. new will in your favor, Peter. I've been a. fool, but I really never thought "—his eyes twinkled as they jested on rosy, flushed, Mrs Orawfihaw—"that I'd be taken [or a burglar." "You do look iik'> one," f-he replied, .saucily. " And now that you are going to he mv O'.vu real uncle. I shall buy your clothes." I

"Minv'" said the old man. delightedly. ".Ami th« babv?" Mrs Peter snatched Wonderful Boy from the cradle to hold lvm towards the man s'ne had been so afraid of. And Wonderful Bov, as such a marvellous baby would, woke in the nick of time to smile sleepily at bis delighted granduncle. "Will you give him to me, my dear?" asked the. ruffian, meaningly. " If you will take Peter and me also, she replied. After which, there was no more to be said, as the offer was promptly accepted. Then they bad the two -pounds of sausages for supper. Titß E.vn.

The Rev. John Brown was in the habit on festive occasions of proposing the. health of a certain young iadv as his favorite, toast. Noticing that he. had abruptly abandoned the practice, a curious acquaintance asked him the reason. "Because," he raid. sadly, "I have, toasted her for 16 years without, being able to make her Brown, and so I've resolved to toast her no longer." Preacher: "We never realise the full value of anything until we lose it." Bereaved Widow: "That's so; especially if the lost thins: is insured."

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19150109.2.16

Bibliographic details

MRS PETER'S BURGLAR., Issue 15696, 9 January 1915

Word Count
4,504

MRS PETER'S BURGLAR. Issue 15696, 9 January 1915

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