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Title: A "Burgling" Incident
Author: Arthur Morrison
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1000811.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: November 2010
Date most recently updated: November 2010

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Title: A "Burgling" Incident
Author: Arthur Morrison


Published in The Melbourne Argus on 27 May, 1905


Snorkey, as described by Mr. Arthur Morrison in the "Pall Mall
Magizine," tells a very interesting tale of his experiences as a
burglar. At the time he is interviewed he is anxious to be provided with
means to pay a holiday excursion to the country, so as to be out of the
way when two of his former "pals" get their discharge from gaol.

"'Ginger Bates'll be out in a day or two, an' Joe Kelly too--both

Ginger Bates and Joe Kelly had experienced the misfortune, some months
more than two years back, to be sentenced to three years' penal
servitude. By the ordinary operation of the prison system, with prudence
and good luck they must soon be released.

"'What's this, then?' I said. 'You haven't been narking, have you?'

"'Me? Narkin'?' Snorkey glared indignantly; and, in fact, the sin of the
informer was the sole transgression of which I could never really have
suspected him. 'No. I ain't bin narkin'. I ain't bin' narkin, but I
don't want to see Ginger Bates an' Joe Kelly when they come out--not
both on 'em together, any'ow. After a week or two they'll split out
after other things, an' it won't matter so much; but when they fust come
out they'll be together, an' the fust thing they'll do, they'll ask
after me. I don't want to be at 'ome just then.'


"'Ginger Bates an' Joe Kelly 'ad got their eye on a nice place in the
country for a bust,' Snorkey proceeded, meaning thereby that his two
friends had in view a burglary at a country house. 'It was a nice medium
sort o' place, not too big, but well worth doin', an' they got me to go
down an' take the measure of it for a few days, them not wantin' to show
theirselves in the neighbourhood, o' course. So they gives me a quid for
exes, an' a few odd sheets o' glass in a glazier's frame with a lump o'
putty an' a knife on it, an' I humps the lot and starts. O' course, I
was to take my whack when they'd done the job. Nothin' better than the
glazier caper, if you want to run the rule over a likely place. Buyin'
bottles an' bones does pretty well sometimes, but you don't get the same
chances. It was very nigh two hours' run out on the rattler, an' then a
four-mile walk; very good weather, an' I put in a day or two doin' it
easy in the sun.'

"'It was a furst-rate place--quite nobby. I had a good look at it from
outside the garden wall, an' I asked a few questions at the pub an' what
not. After that I went in by the back way, with my glass on my back; an'
I had luck straight away, for I see a pantry winder broke. So I 'ad good
look round fust, an' then I went along, very 'umble an' civil to
everybody, an' got the job to mend that winder. More luck.'

"'They let me do the winder--me offerin' to do it cheap--an' so I sets
to work steady enough, with a slavey comin' to pipe me round the corner
every now an' then, to see as I didn't pinch nothink. An' o' course I
didn't. I behaved most industrious an' honest, an' you might ha' made a
picture of me, facsimiliar, to go in front of a bloomin' tract, an' done
it credit, too. But while the slavey was a-pipin' me, I was a-pipin' the
pantry--what ho! I was a-pipin' the pantry with my little eye, and there
was more bloomin' luck; for if ever I see a wedge-kip in all my nach'ral
puff, I see one fine an' large under the shelf in that bloomin' pantry!
The luck I 'ad all through that job was jist 'eavenly.'

"'Heavenly might not have been the appropriate word in the strictly moral
view, but since by the 'wedge-kip' Snorkey indicated the plate-basket of
the unsuspecting householder, I understood him well enough.

"'It was jist 'eavenly. I never 'ad sich luck before nor since. So I
finished the job very slow, an' took my money very 'umble, an' a glass
o' beer as they sent out for me, an' pratted away to the village an'
sent off a little screeve by the post, for Ginger an' Joe to come along
to-morrer night an' do the job peaceful an' pleasant. You see the new
putty I'd put in 'ud peel out on yer finger, an' it only meant takin'
out the pane an openin' the catch to do the job.'

"'Well, I put up cheap at the smallest pub, an' in the mornin' I went
out for a walk. Bein' a glazier, ye see, 'twouldn't 'a done for me not
to go on the tramp like as if it was after a job. So off I went along
the road, an' it was about the 'ottest stroll ever I took. It was a 'ot
day, without any extrys, but you don't know what a 'ot day's like till
ye've tramped in it with the sun on yer back an' two or three
thicknesses o' winder-glass for it to shine through. I took the
loneliest road out o' the village, not wantin' to be called on for
another job, an' not wantin' to be seen more'n I could 'elp.'"

The next stage of Snorkey's story, though fully and picturesquely told
by Mr. Morrison, must be disposed of in a few sentences. After a long
tramp, Snorkey came to a lonely inn, and a travelling house van--one of
the cabins mounted on wheels which are used nowadays in England by
persons who wish to go touring without putting up at inns en route. The
tourist on this occasion was an eccentric gentleman, driven by an old
man, totally deaf. After the van had passed the inn, Snorkey followed it
up, and, to his surprise, came upon the tourist, at a lonely spot, stark

The tourist had got down to take a bath in a portable bath, which he
carried in the van. While he was enjoying himself, the deaf driver had
driven off absent-mindedly with the tourist's clothes.

An arrangement was come to by which Snorkey should lend the tourist his
coat, run after the house van, stop it, and make it return. Snorkey,
almost breathless with a long-distance trot, caught up the van, and
jumped into it by the back "door." Once within, temptation proved too
much for him. He possessed himself of the tourist's best clothes, also
his watch, chain, cash, and a handy kit-bag. Dropping out of the van, he
found a retired spot off the lane, put on the tourist's suit, hung his
own on the hedge, and waited a good while till he saw the tourist come
lamely along, with bare feet, sore from walking. Snorkey felt sure that
the tourist, on seeing the garments on the hedge would make use of them;
so, with a light mind, as he had by this time completed his own toilet
and made himself look like a swell, he departed.

"I guyed off as soon as I could to the place where I put in the pantry
winder, an' I took the winder out again, just after dusk, an' did the
show for 'alf the wedge in the kipsy--spoons an' forks in my pockets,
an' the rest in the kit-bag. That was my new idea, you see. Then I come
through the shrubbery an' out the front way, an' at the gate I met the
very slavey as was pipin' me while I put in the pantry winder! She
looked pretty 'ard, so I puts on a voice like a markis, an' 'Good
evenin'! I says, very sniffy an' condercendin' as I went past, and she
says 'Good evenin', sir,' an' lets me go. Oh, I can do it sossy, I tell
ye, when I've got 'em on!

"I went all out for the station, an' caught a train snug. I see Ginger
Bates an' Joe Kelly comin' off from the train as I got there; but I
dodged 'em all right, an' did the wedge in next day for thirty quid an'
twenty-five bob for the photo-camera--ought to 'a bin more, An' so I
pulled off a merry little double event. I never 'ad sich a day's luck as
I 'ad that day, all through. It was 'eavenly!"

"And is that all you know of the affair?" I asked.

"All that's to do with me," replied the unblushing Snorkey. "But the
toff with the van, 'is troubles wasn't over. 'E was in the papers next
day--locked up for 'ousebreakin'. It seems they missed the stuff out o'
the plate-basket soon after I'd gone, an' the slavey that piped me goin'
out gave a description o' me in the nobby tweed suit, an' somebody
remembered seein' jist such a bloke go past in a carryvan. It made a
fetchin' novelty for the 'a'penny papers--'Gentleman Burglar in a
Travelling Van,' especially when 'e was found disguised as a glazier in
my old clothers, an' 'is frame o' glass discovered concealed in a ditch.
That did it pretty plain fer 'im, yer see. 'E'd turned up first like a
glazier, and reconnoitred, an' then he'd come dossed up to clear out the
stuff. Plain enough. It was quite a catch for a bit, but it didn't
last--the rozzers 'ad to let 'im go. But they didn't let Ginger Bates
an' Joe Kelly go, though--not them. Them two unfort'nit spec'lators
prowled about lookin' for me for some time, an' about twelve o'clock at
night they sailed in to do the job without me. Well, you see, by then it
was a bit late for that place. The people was up all night, listenin'
for burglars everywhere, an' there was two policemen there on watch as
well. So Ginger Bates an' Joe Kelly was collared holus-bolus, an'
thereby prevented rainin' unproper claims to stand in with what I'd
scraped up myself. An' now they've bin wearin' knickerbockers
theirselves for more'n two years, an' as soon as they've done their
time--well, there's no knowin' but what they may make it a matter o'
professional jealousy. What O-o-o-o!"


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