AN OFFICER AND A LADY
It was a dark night. Bill Farden took the instrument from his pocket. The window opened. He was inside the house.
There was no sound.
He switched on the light. It was a dining room.
He first took linen; the second was silver, old family silver.
Should he leave at once? No. He entered the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and took out a dish of peas, some beef, a chicken, cold potatoes, and a strawberry cake. It was idiotic. But he was hungry.
He started eating the cake when he heard the footsteps, the noise of the opening door… It was a woman in a blue nightgown. Bill pressed the damp sponge against her nose and mouth.
Now he had the taste of danger. A moment later he was on his way up.
He went on to the top of the stairs and entered the room.
He was not alone, he heard the breathing. But there was something curious about that breathing. Most irregular. Surely not the breathing of a sleeper! He
noticed a movement under the sheets. He saw the face of a man – a man terrified with fear. The chloroform tube was empty, so he filled his mouth with the corner of a sheet and tied his hands and feet. He found two silver cigarette cases, scarf pins, rings, a jeweled photograph frame, and ninety-four dollars and put everything into his pockets.
He was in the house for thirty minutes, and already had a full bag below, his stomach was full, too and his pockets were full with money and jewelry. He was proud. On with the dance!
He entered the next door.
First he thought it unoccupied. Then he heard faint breathing. He came up the bed.
There, under the silk cover, he saw a sleeping child.
It was a girl of eight or nine; her arm was under her head, and her soft brown hair spread over the pillow, her sweet red lips were opened a bit.
Bill stood still and gazed at her. He felt all of a sudden big and dirty and clumsy and entirely out of place.
There was a small dressing table, a desk, and two or three chairs, all in pink. The wall was white, with pink flowers and animals.
Bill looked at the beautiful sleeping child, and at the child’s beautiful room and off came his cap.
‘My little girl would have a place like this,’ he said half aloud.
Bill had no little girl or big one either, and he was unmarried.
He stood there looking down and thinking that a creature could be so helpless without incurring the contempt of a strong man.
Perhaps physical force was not the only power worth having. Here was this little child lying there helpless before him – helpless, and yet far more secure from injury at his hands than a powerful man.
No, force was not made to be used against helpless beings like her. What would he do if she should awake and cry out? He would talk to her and quiet her.
But what if she would not be quieted? Force, then? No. In that case he would drop a kiss on her soft brown hair and make his escape. He put an extremely clumsy kiss on a lock of her hair and turned to go.
‘Hands up!’ The words came from behind him in a thin voice.
The sweet helpless child was sitting up in bed, a little revolver in her hand.
‘Lord above us!’ said our hero.
‘I would advise you to put your hands up before I count ten,’ said the sweet, helpless child calmly. ‘One, two, three – ‘
‘Really, now,’ Bill said. ‘Little girl, I won’t hurt you.’
‘I see you don’t take me seriously. I am Major Went worth of Squadron A of the Girls’ Military Auxiliary. Four, five, six – ‘ Bill was speechless.