BURGLARY UNDER ARMS
And there P. Sybarite stood, near the middle of a fence-enclosed area of earth and flagstones; winded and weary; looking up and all around him in distressed perplexity; in a stolen coat (to be honest about it) and with six months’ income from a million dollars unlawfully procured and secreted upon his person; wanted for resisting arrest and assaulting the minions of the law; hounded by a vengeful and determined posse; unacquainted with his whereabouts, ignorant of any way of escape from that hollow square, round whose sides window after excitable window was lighting up in his honour; all in all, as distressful a figure of a fugitive from justice as ever was on land or sea....
Conceiving the block as a well a-brim with blackness and clamorous with violent sound, studded on high with inaccessible, yellow-bright loopholes wherefrom hostile eyes spied upon his every secret movement, and haunted below by vicious perils both animate and still: he found himself possessed of an overpowering desire to go away from there quickly.
But—short of further dabbling in crime—how?
To break his way to the street through one of those houses would he not only to invite apprehension: it would be downright burglary.
To continue his headlong career of the fugitive backyards tom-cat was out of the question, entirely too much like hard work, painful into the bargain—witness scratched and abraded palms and agonised shins. Sooner or later his strength must fail, some one would surely espy him and cry on the chase, he must be surrounded and overwhelmed: while to hide behind some ash-barrel was not only ignoble but downright fatuous: faith the most sublime in his Kismet couldn’t excuse any hope that, eventually, he wouldn’t be discovered and ignominiously routed out.
Very well, then! So be it! Calmly P. Sybarite elected to venture another and deeper dive into amateurish malfeasance; and gravely he studied the inoffensive building whose back premises he was then infesting.
It seemed to offer at least the negative invitation of desuetude. It showed no lights; had not an open window—so far as could be determined by straining sight aided only by a faint reflection from the livid skies. One felt warranted in assuming the premises to be vacant. Encouraging surmise! If such were in fact the case, he might hope soon to be counting his spoils in the privacy of his top-floor-hall-bedroom, back....
At the same time, to one ignorant of the primary principles of house-breaking, the problem of negotiating an entrance was of formidable proportions.
To break a basement window was feasible, certainly—but highly inadvisable for a number of obvious reasons.
To force a window-latch required (if memory served) a long flat-bladed knife—a kitchen knife; and P. Sybarite happened to have no such implement about him.