WHO WAS THE THIEF?
BY FRANCES HENSHAW BADEN.
Fred Loring's toilet was at length completed, and
turning from the glass, he said:
"Well, I'm off now, Nellie. Good-by."
"At last! Excuse me, Fred, but just now quietness is
more desirable than your society. It is impossible to get
baby to sleep while you are flying about the room. She
sees you, and wants to get to you," answered Nellie.
"All right. I'll get out of the way. By-by, baby."
And kissing the little one, Fred hurried out.
Ten or fifteen minutes passed. Baby was quiet at last,
almost asleep, when the door opened, and in rushed Fred
again. And up started baby, with a shout of welcome.
An impatient look came into Nellie's eyes, and the tone to
"Oh, Fred, I had almost gotten her to sleep. And now
see! And I am so tired. What has brought you back so
"Well, well, I'm sorry. But I left my revolver behind.
I guess she'll soon be quiet again," Fred said, unlocking
the drawer and taking out his revolver.
"Fred, I declare I never did see such a man. You cannot
leave the house without being armed. Do you forget
there is a law against carrying concealed weapons?"
"I remember to be on my guard, and prepared to defend
myself if it be necessary. Every day we read accounts of
persons being robbed, knocked down, and such like. I
tell you, Nellie, sensible persons go armed always."
"Perhaps, Fred. But I think the nervous and suspicious
persons are more likely to. Indeed, I never like to
see you carrying off your revolver. I'm in constant fear
of something dreadful happening."
"But never in dread of any one murdering and robbing
me. Of course not!" Fred snapped forth.
"Oh, Fred! You are so quick and suspicious of every
one, that my great fear is you'll hurt the wrong person
some time!" said Nellie, with a really anxious look on her
"Indeed I am not aware of ever having gotten hold of
the wrong person. I think you are calling on your imagination
for facts, Mrs. Loring!" Fred said angrily.
"Now, Fred, to defend myself I shall have to point to
facts. Do you forget catching hold of poor old Uncle Tom,
and choking him so he could not explain he was carrying
the clothes to his wife to wash, instead of being a thief, as
you supposed? And—"
"And will I ever forget your handing me over to a
policeman, for having attempted to pick your pocket in the
streetcar?" exclaimed a bright, merry-looking girl, who
entered the room during Nellie's attempt to defend herself
from Fred's accusation.
"Oh, Fan, don't, for mercy's sake, I cry quarter.
Two at a time is more than I can stand. And besides, I
had hoped that you would not have exposed that miserable
mistake!" Fred said, with a reproachful look.
"I intended to keep the secret. But really, Fred, I've
been almost dying to have a good laugh with Nellie over
it. And to-night the opportunity was too tempting to
"Mercy, Fan! If you tell Nellie, I'll never hear the last
"Oh, I must. It is too late to recede. Nellie will imagine
it worse, if possible, than it really is. But I'll not
prolong your agony. I'll be as brief as possible," said
And amidst the cries of "Don't! don't!" and "Yes, do,
do!" Fannie began.
"The day I reached here, just as I came out of the depot,
I spied my beloved and respected cousin Fred entering
the street car. I hurried up, and got in immediately
after him. Even if my veil had been raised I could hardly
have expected him to know me, as I have changed much
in five years. As it was, my face was completely hidden.
The car was much crowded, many standing—I next behind
Fred. I was well laden with lots of little packages,
so the idea struck me to drop a few into Fred's overcoat
pockets. Without discovery I put what I washed into one,
and was about slipping my porte-monnaie into the other,
when my hand was caught with such a grip that I screamed
right out. At the same time Fred exclaimed, 'Here is a
pickpocket!' And of course there was a policeman there,
as none was needed. I was too frightened to speak for an
instant. At length I found voice enough to say to the
officer, who was making his way toward me, 'The gentleman
will find he is mistaken in a moment.'
"After the first fright, I was really amused, notwithstanding
the mortifying situation. By that time Fred had
drawn forth my porte-monnaie. Nodding to the policeman,
"'An old dodge. Putting into my pocket what she has
taken from some one else. Has any one here lost this?' he
asked, holding up my porte-monnaie.
"No one claimed it. I managed to get off my veil then,
that I had been tugging at. I had gotten a lady in the
depot to tie it tightly behind, as it was blowing a perfect
gale when I arrived. All eyes were on me then, of course.
And the officer, not recognizing an old offender, and not a
very guilty-looking young one, hesitated. I looked
eagerly at Fred, to see if he would not recognize me, but
he did not. There was a very embarrassing pause then,
that had to be ended; so I said, not trying to restrain my
"'If you will open that porte-monnaie, Mr. Loring, you
will see my card. I thought my acquaintance would justify
my loading you with some of my bundles. If you
will notice, your other pocket is full.'
"Every one waited eagerly the result. Quickly Fred
did my bidding. You may imagine his look, when he
"'Fannie Loring! Bless my soul, coz, can you ever forgive
me? But how could I know you? I've not seen you
since you were a child.'
"There was a shout of laughter heard then, in which
Fred and I joined. But Fred's was not a very hearty
laugh; and I think he was glad to get out of that car, for
he made me walk at least three times as far as ever you
and I walk when we leave the car."
Nellie was almost convulsed with laughter, which baby
seemed to enjoy very much. And Fred exclaimed:
"It was not half as bad as you have made it out, Fan.
And just for a punishment for your laughing so, Nellie, I
hope baby will not go to sleep for hours. I'm off now."
Merry rippling laughter followed him. And Fred ran
down the stairs, and out of the house, almost hoping
somebody might attempt to rob, or murder him even, so
that his revolver might prove of great avail, and thus
silence Nellie, who was ever talking about what she called
his suspicious nature, when it was only necessary caution,
Soon baby was sleeping soundly, notwithstanding
Fred's wish to the contrary. And Nellie, putting her into
the crib, went to the bureau to arrange her hair.
"Why, Fred has gone without his watch!" she exclaimed.
"I don't think he ever did that in his life before.
I wonder he has not been back again before this!"
The hours passed swiftly by. Fannie, with her merry
heart, fully compensating Nellie for Fred's absence. Eleven
o'clock came before they imagined it near so late. And
just then they heard the hall door close, and a moment
after Fred entered the room, and in an excited voice exclaimed:
"Now, ladies, perhaps you will admit the good of carrying
a revolver, when I tell you that to-night I have been
"Robbed!" exclaimed Nellie and Fannie simultaneously.
"Yes, robbed. But I did not stay so, many minutes,
thanks to my revolver! Listen, and I'll tell you all about
it. On my way home I turned Gray's corner into Fourteenth
street. You know how dark and dismal it is about
there—no lights. Well, as I turned, a fellow came rushing
along, knocked against and nearly sent me down. And
saying quickly, 'Excuse me, sir,' hurried on. I suspected
what it was—a dodge they have when relieving a man of
his watch or pocket-book. I hastened to feel for my watch.
It was gone."
"Why, Fred, your watch—"
"Stop! Don't interrupt me. Wait until I've done."
The girls exchanged looks—mirthful first, anxious after.
"In a second I was after him. Presenting my revolver,
I bade him hand me the watch. He resisted. I covered
him with my pistol, and spoke again in a tone which convinced
him I was in a dangerous mood.
"'Hand me that watch.'
"Out it came; and without taking a second look at me,
he left. And thanks to my little beauty here," tapping
his revolver, "I am home again, no worse off than when I
started. Now, what say you?"
"Oh, Fred! Oh, my dear, what have you done? Oh,
you have robbed that man of his watch! Yours is on the
bureau. You left it home," Nellie cried, in a voice of real
"What? No! Surely not!" exclaimed Fred, growing
very red, and starting toward the bureau.
Fannie handed to Fred his own watch, at the same time
fairly shaking with the laughter she had tried so hard to
"Oh, Fred, forgive me. I'm only human; I must laugh
Peal after peal came from the merry girl, who could not
restrain herself, although Nellie looked so reproachfully,
and Fred really angrily at her; the former saying:
"Indeed, Fannie, I'm too much frightened to laugh."
Fred was too mortified to say another word for some
time. At length, turning to Fannie, who had grown a
little quiet, he snappishly said:
"Pray, don't stop! I'm very happy to afford you so
Of course Fannie began anew; and Nellie trying to stop
her by looks and motions, asked:
"What shall you do, Fred?"
"It is not a matter of such vital importance that you
need look so worried, Nellie. I'll go to the police head-quarters,
explain the matter, and leave the watch. That
will be the end of it," said Fred, trying to assume a light,
Nellie hoped it might be the end of it; but still fearful
of something unpleasant, asked:
"Is it too late to-night to go, Fred?"
"Certainly it is," Fred answered.
Seeing Nellie's face still retain its anxious and frightened
expression, Fred broke out laughing himself, saying:
"You look as much frightened, Nell, as I imagine that
man looked when I went for his watch."
Next morning Fred was longer than usual getting off
from home, and all Nellie's urging haste seemed to have
the tendency to retard instead of accelerating his motions.
But at last, to her great relief, he was off. After getting a
few rods from home, he drew forth the stolen watch, and
found of course it had run down. Having no key to fit it,
he approached a jewelry store, intending to have it wound
up. He had failed to notice the very particular attention
with which a policeman was regarding him. Just as he
was about to enter the store, he was tapped on the shoulder.
Turning, he beheld the officer, a total stranger to
Fred, so he knew it was not a bit of use to explain the case
to him. So to attract as little notice as possible, he walked
quietly along with his not very agreeable companion until
they reached the police head-quarters.
There he began his explanation. All were strange faces
around him, on which he saw unmistakable signs of merriment
when he said it was "a mistake." And to his immense
surprise, after he had handed over the dreadful
watch, and was turning to leave, he was made to understand
he was a prisoner—the accusation, "Robbery and
assault, with intent to kill!"
He sank on the bench for a moment, so overwhelmed with
surprise and mortification that he could with difficulty
collect his senses enough to know what to do. Just then
a gentleman entered, and said to an officer near:
"I was surprised to hear you had caught the rascal
so speedily. Where is the scoundrel? What does he
"That it was all a mistake!" answered the officer, with a
very significant smile. "There he is," pointing to Fred.
"Of course—the villain! And if I had been so unfortunate
as not to have had a watch to hand over, he
would have murdered and robbed me of what I might
have of any value. The murderous rascal!—Ah! how are
you, Loring? You here!" advancing and shaking Fred's
hand cordially, and continuing, "Show me that cut-throat!
Which is he?"
The expression on Fred's countenance may possibly be
imagined, but I cannot describe it. And when, in answer
to the call, "Prisoner, stand up," he arose, his friend's—the
plaintiff's—surprise was stupendous for a moment;
and then breaking into a hearty chuckle, he exclaimed:
"Of course now I know it was a mistake."
The dignity of the place was forgotten by all then, and
never was such a shout of laughter heard before within
those walls. But Fred could not join in it, to save him.
He had too lately stood in the place of an individual
bearing quite too many opprobrious epithets, to feel very
He returned home to relieve Nellie's mind, telling her
it was all settled—she need have now no more anxiety
about it. But he never told her how it was settled. One
thing, however, she noticed—he was not so fond of his
revolver's companionship as he used to be. And once she
heard him say:
"If the law was more strenuous with regard to the
carrying of concealed weapons, there would be fewer