I had been in the office now about three months. At the end of each month I received a check for $12. It seemed a fortune to me and I hated to give it in at the house. The third month I received the check as usual, made out to bearer. Well, I went home and gave the check to mother, and she said I was a good boy and gave me fifty cents to spend.
I watched my mother and saw her put the check in an unused pitcher in the closet on the top shelf. It seemed as though some one was beside me all the time telling me to take it and have a good time. It belonged to me and no one else had a right to it, Satan seemed to say. And what a good time I could have with it! They would never suspect me of taking it, and I could have it cashed and no one would ever know.
So I got up in the middle of the night and started right there and then to be a burglar. I went on tiptoe as softly as I could, and was right in the middle of the kitchen floor when I stumbled over a little stool and it made a noise. It was not much of a noise, but to me it seemed like the shot out of a cannon. I thought it would wake up the whole house, but nobody but mother woke, and she said, “Who’s there?” I said nothing, only stood still and waited for her to fall asleep again. As I stood there a voice—and surely it was the voice of God—seemed to say, “Go back to bed and leave the check alone. It is not yours: it belongs to your mother. She is feeding and keeping you, and you are doing wrong.” I think if the Devil had not butted in I would have gone to bed, but he said, “Now you are here no one sees you, and what a good time you can have with that check!” That settled all good thoughts and I went up to the closet, put my hand in the pitcher, took the check and went back to bed. That was my first burglary.
Did I sleep? Well, I guess not! I rolled and tossed all the balance of the night. I knew I had done wrong. But you see the Devil was there, and I really think he owned me from the time I stole the cigars—“that little beginning.”
I got up the next morning, ate my breakfast and went to work. I still had the check, and all I had to do was to go to the bank and get it cashed. But I was afraid, and how I wished that the check was safe in the old pitcher. I worried all that day, and I think if I had gotten a chance that night after I got home, I would have put the check back. But the old Devil was there saying, “You fool, keep it! It is not missed, and even if it is no one will accuse you of stealing your own money.” I tell you, the Devil had me hand and foot, and there seemed to be no getting away. Oh! if I could have had some person to tell me plainly what to do at this time, it might have been the turning-point in my life! Anyway, the check didn’t get back to the pitcher. I had it and the Devil had me.