THE POLITE PILFERER.
Punch, September 28, 1904
Mr. Punch, Sir,—If you have an eye to spare from the other affairs of the world, will you kindly run it over the following extract from the Express:
“A boy who wanted apples and stole them had an interesting theory propounded for him at Brentford. ‘Why,’ said the magistrate, ‘didn’t you go to the owner and say, “I have an idea of getting into your orchard during the night. I don’t want to do so. I like the look of your apples. Give me two or three!” You would probably have been successful. Now you have to pay 5s.’ ”
I see an opening here for a work I have long contemplated, “Every Criminal’s Guide to Courtesy,” with the sub-title, “Tips for Thieves and Deportment for Desperados.” The book will be made up of specimen conversations to suit every occasion. The criminal who buys the volume need never fear those awkward pauses which so frequently occur when one is caught in the act of a burglary or murder.
I append a sample. We will suppose, for instance, that a burglar wishes to abstract some plate from a house. He enters the owner’s bedroom-window and the following dialogue takes place:—
Owner. Wha’s matter? A’ right. Leave it on the mat.
[Burglar coughs again. Owner sits up.
Burglar (insinuatingly). A thousand apologies, my dear Sir, for having broken in upon that sleep which, as the poet happily remarks, knits up the ravelled sleave of care. But business is business, and in these days of hustle and American competition it behoves a man to be first in the field. Thus, knowing that “Blinky Bill” Smith (a professional rival of mine) has his eye on your plate, I hastened to call on you before he could do so.
Owner. Help! Thieves! Murder!
Burglar. I hate to talk shop, but I feel it my duty to tell you that this revolver is loaded. Shall we allow it to remain so? Precisely. To proceed, then. The fame of your plate, my dear Sir, has rung through London. Every burglar in the profession is after it. When I tell you that I have had to bring myself to enter the bedroom of a perfect stranger through the window, I need scarcely add further evidence of my eagerness to possess the treasure I have mentioned. You can spare a little of it? A silver spoon? A fork, perhaps? A salver, maybe? Come, this is niggardly, my dear Sir. I need it far more than you. To you it is a luxury. To me it is a necessity. I have my living to earn. How do you suppose I could keep my wife in the style to which she has been accustomed, if everybody were as unreasonable as you? Now, some people keep their plate-basket under the—— No? In the chest of drawers? Foiled again. Now, my very dear Sir, joking apart, where is it? Did I mention that this revolver was loaded? Thank you. Thank you. Under the dressing-table? A thousand thanks. May I trouble you to make a small selection for me and put it up in a neat parcel? One million thanks. Good-night, Sir, good-night, good-night.
[Exit through window.
This is but one specimen. The rest of the book will be of equal merit, for I shall spare no pains. If after next publishing season there remains one criminal who is not the Perfect Gentleman, it will be because he is too impecunious or too stingy to spend two and sixpence (net) on the work prepared for his benefit by
Unsigned article as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 127 of Punch.