A 25-year-old Washington man was seriously wounded when he was beaten and then shot by one of two burglars he surprised when he returned home early yesterday morning.

Police identified the victim as Peter H. Burton, of 1535 Monroe St. NW. He was listed in critical condition at Wasington Hospital Center yesterday after undergoing surgery to remove bullets from his brain and jaw.

Burton, a tall, bushy-haired native of England, worked as a messenger for Arlington Courier Enterprises, and frequently made deliveries to the Washington Post.

According to police and a neighbor's accounts, Burton went next door shortly after midnight to offer friends holiday greetings. After having a drink, the friend said, Burton returned home, surprising two unidentified men who had entered his house through an unlocked door.

The two men apparently jumped Burton, beating him about the head and body. Burton ran upstairs, blood streaming from his mouth, into the bedroom where his girlfriend was sleeping. The men followed, and two shots were fired.

As Burton staggered out of the room, falling unconscious on the second floor landing, the men fled, jumping through two large windows in the front after discovering that Burton had locked the deadbolt on the door.

"He is such a trusting guy," a neighbor said. "He always left his door unlocked."