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Title: A Thief in the Night - Further adventures of A. J. Raffles, Cricketer and Cracksman
Author: Hornung, E. W. (Ernest William), 1866-1921
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Thief in the Night - Further adventures of A. J. Raffles, Cricketer and Cracksman" ***

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    [Illustration: I think she must have seen us, even in
                   the dim light.]


                               A THIEF

                             IN THE NIGHT


                        FURTHER ADVENTURES OF

                            A. J. RAFFLES

                       CRICKETER AND CRACKSMAN



                                  BY

                            E. W. HORNUNG


                            ILLUSTRATED BY

                             CYRUS CUNEO



                       CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

                      NEW YORK             1906



                         COPYRIGHT, 1905, BY
                            E. W. HORNUNG


                         COPYRIGHT, 1905, BY
                       CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

       *       *       *       *       *



CONTENTS


                                 Page

Out of Paradise                    1

The Chest of Silver               32

The Rest Cure                     58

The Criminologists' Club          88

The Field of Philippi            122

A Bad Night                      156

A Trap to Catch a Cracksman      184

The Spoils of Sacrilege          216

The Raffles Relics               247

The Last Word                    278

       *       *       *       *       *



ILLUSTRATIONS


I think she must have seen us, even in the
dim light                                      Frontispiece

                                                 Facing
                                                  Page

Raffles in the strong-room                          54

It was the fire-eating and prison-inspecting
colonel himself. He was ready for me, a revolver
in his hand                                         76

Raffles was as excited as any of us now; he
outstripped us all                                 106

He kept us laughing in his study until the
chapel bells rang him out                          152

The ragged trousers stripped from an evening
pair                                               176

Down went the trap-door with a bang                232

No one can make out what this little thick
velvet bag's for                                   260

       *       *       *       *       *



A Thief in the Night


Out of Paradise


If I must tell more tales of Raffles, I can but go back to our
earliest days together, and fill in the blanks left by discretion in
existing annals. In so doing I may indeed fill some small part of an
infinitely greater blank, across which you may conceive me to have
stretched my canvas for the first frank portrait of my friend. The
whole truth cannot harm him now. I shall paint in every wart. Raffles
was a villain, when all is written; it is no service to his memory to
gloze the fact; yet I have done so myself before to-day. I have
omitted whole heinous episodes. I have dwelt unduly on the redeeming
side. And this I may do again, blinded even as I write by the gallant
glamour that made my villain more to me than any hero. But at least
there shall be no more reservations, and as an earnest I shall make no
further secret of the greatest wrong that even Raffles ever did me.

I pick my words with care and pain, loyal as I still would be to my
friend, and yet remembering as I must those Ides of March when he led
me blindfold into temptation and crime. That was an ugly office, if
you will. It was a moral bagatelle to the treacherous trick he was to
play me a few weeks later. The second offence, on the other hand, was
to prove the less serious of the two against society, and might in
itself have been published to the world years ago. There have been
private reasons for my reticence. The affair was not only too
intimately mine, and too discreditable to Raffles. One other was
involved in it, one dearer to me than Raffles himself, one whose name
shall not even now be sullied by association with ours.

Suffice it that I had been engaged to her before that mad March deed.
True, her people called it "an understanding," and frowned even upon
that, as well they might. But their authority was not direct; we bowed
to it as an act of politic grace; between us, all was well but my
unworthiness. That may be gauged when I confess that this was how the
matter stood on the night I gave a worthless check for my losses at
baccarat, and afterward turned to Raffles in my need. Even after that
I saw her sometimes. But I let her guess that there was more upon my
soul than she must ever share, and at last I had written to end it
all. I remember that week so well! It was the close of such a May as
we had never had since, and I was too miserable even to follow the
heavy scoring in the papers. Raffles was the only man who could get a
wicket up at Lord's, and I never once went to see him play. Against
Yorkshire, however, he helped himself to a hundred runs as well; and
that brought Raffles round to me, on his way home to the Albany.

"We must dine and celebrate the rare event," said he. "A century takes
it out of one at my time of life; and you, Bunny, you look quite as
much in need of your end of a worthy bottle. Suppose we make it the
Café Royal, and eight sharp? I'll be there first to fix up the table
and the wine."

And at the Café Royal I incontinently told him of the trouble I was
in. It was the first he had ever heard of my affair, and I told him
all, though not before our bottle had been succeeded by a pint of the
same exemplary brand. Raffles heard me out with grave attention. His
sympathy was the more grateful for the tactful brevity with which it
was indicated rather than expressed. He only wished that I had told
him of this complication in the beginning; as I had not, he agreed
with me that the only course was a candid and complete renunciation.
It was not as though my divinity had a penny of her own, or I could
earn an honest one. I had explained to Raffles that she was an orphan,
who spent most of her time with an aristocratic aunt in the country,
and the remainder under the repressive roof of a pompous politician in
Palace Gardens. The aunt had, I believed, still a sneaking softness
for me, but her illustrious brother had set his face against me from
the first.

"Hector Carruthers!" murmured Raffles, repeating the detested name
with his clear, cold eye on mine. "I suppose you haven't seen much of
him?"

"Not a thing for ages," I replied. "I was at the house two or three
days last year, but they've neither asked me since nor been at home to
me when I've called. The old beast seems a judge of men."

And I laughed bitterly in my glass.

"Nice house?" said Raffles, glancing at himself in his silver
cigarette-case.

"Top shelf," said I. "You know the houses in Palace Gardens, don't
you?"

"Not so well as I should like to know them, Bunny."

"Well, it's about the most palatial of the lot. The old ruffian is as
rich as Croesus. It's a country-place in town."

"What about the window-fastenings?" asked Raffles casually.

I recoiled from the open cigarette-case that he proffered as he spoke.
Our eyes met; and in his there was that starry twinkle of mirth and
mischief, that sunny beam of audacious devilment, which had been my
undoing two months before, which was to undo me as often as he chose
until the chapter's end. Yet for once I withstood its glamour; for
once I turned aside that luminous glance with front of steel. There
was no need for Raffles to voice his plans. I read them all between
the strong lines of his smiling, eager face. And I pushed back my
chair in the equal eagerness of my own resolve.

"Not if I know it!" said I. "A house I've dined in--a house I've seen
_her_ in--a house where _she_ stays by the month together! Don't put
it into words, Raffles, or I'll get up and go."

"You mustn't do that before the coffee and liqueur," said Raffles
laughing. "Have a small Sullivan first: it's the royal road to a
cigar. And now let me observe that your scruples would do you honor if
old Carruthers still lived in the house in question."

"Do you mean to say he doesn't?"

Raffles struck a match, and handed it first to me. "I mean to say, my
dear Bunny, that Palace Gardens knows the very name no more. You began
by telling me you had heard nothing of these people all this year.
That's quite enough to account for our little misunderstanding. I was
thinking of the house, and you were thinking of the people in the
house."

"But who are they, Raffles? Who has taken the house, if old Carruthers
has moved, and how do you know that it is still worth a visit?"

"In answer to your first question--Lord Lochmaben," replied Raffles,
blowing bracelets of smoke toward the ceiling. "You look as though you
had never heard of him; but as the cricket and racing are the only
part of your paper that you condescend to read, you can't be expected
to keep track of all the peers created in your time. Your other
question is not worth answering. How do you suppose that I know these
things? It's my business to get to know them, and that's all there is
to it. As a matter of fact, Lady Lochmaben has just as good diamonds
as Mrs. Carruthers ever had; and the chances are that she keeps them
where Mrs. Carruthers kept hers, if you could enlighten me on that
point."

As it happened, I could, since I knew from his niece that it was one
on which Mr. Carruthers had been a faddist in his time. He had made
quite a study of the cracksman's craft, in a resolve to circumvent it
with his own. I remembered myself how the ground-floor windows were
elaborately bolted and shuttered, and how the doors of all the rooms
opening upon the square inner hall were fitted with extra Yale locks,
at an unlikely height, not to be discovered by one within the room. It
had been the butler's business to turn and to collect all these keys
before retiring for the night. But the key of the safe in the study
was supposed to be in the jealous keeping of the master of the house
himself. That safe was in its turn so ingeniously hidden that I never
should have found it for myself. I well remember how one who showed it
to me (in the innocence of her heart) laughed as she assured me that
even her little trinkets were solemnly locked up in it every night. It
had been let into the wall behind one end of the book-case, expressly
to preserve the barbaric splendor of Mrs. Carruthers; without a doubt
these Lochmabens would use it for the same purpose; and in the altered
circumstances I had no hesitation in giving Raffles all the
information he desired. I even drew him a rough plan of the
ground-floor on the back of my menu-card.

"It was rather clever of you to notice the kind of locks on the inner
doors," he remarked as he put it in his pocket. "I suppose you don't
remember if it was a Yale on the front door as well?"

"It was not," I was able to answer quite promptly. "I happen to know
because I once had the key when--when we went to a theatre together."

"Thank you, old chap," said Raffles sympathetically. "That's all I
shall want from you, Bunny, my boy. There's no night like to-night!"

It was one of his sayings when bent upon his worst. I looked at him
aghast. Our cigars were just in blast, yet already he was signalling
for his bill. It was impossible to remonstrate with him until we were
both outside in the street.

"I'm coming with you," said I, running my arm through his.

"Nonsense, Bunny!"

"Why is it nonsense? I know every inch of the ground, and since the
house has changed hands I have no compunction. Besides, 'I have been
there' in the other sense as well: once a thief, you know! In for a
penny, in for a pound!"

It was ever my mood when the blood was up. But my old friend failed
to appreciate the characteristic as he usually did. We crossed Regent
Street in silence. I had to catch his sleeve to keep a hand in his
inhospitable arm.

"I really think you had better stay away," said Raffles as we reached
the other curb. "I've no use for you this time."

"Yet I thought I had been so useful up to now?"

"That may be, Bunny, but I tell you frankly I don't want you
to-night."

"Yet I know the ground and you don't! I tell you what," said I: "I'll
come just to show you the ropes, and I won't take a pennyweight of the
swag."

Such was the teasing fashion in which he invariably prevailed upon me;
it was delightful to note how it caused him to yield in his turn. But
Raffles had the grace to give in with a laugh, whereas I too often
lost my temper with my point.

"You little rabbit!" he chuckled. "You shall have your share, whether
you come or not; but, seriously, don't you think you might remember
the girl?"

"What's the use?" I groaned. "You agree there is nothing for it but to
give her up. I am glad to say that for myself before I asked you, and
wrote to tell her so on Sunday. Now it's Wednesday, and she hasn't
answered by line or sign. It's waiting for one word from her that's
driving me mad."

"Perhaps you wrote to Palace Gardens?"

"No, I sent it to the country. There's been time for an answer,
wherever she may be."

We had reached the Albany, and halted with one accord at the
Piccadilly portico, red cigar to red cigar.

"You wouldn't like to go and see if the answer's in your rooms?" he
asked.

"No. What's the good? Where's the point in giving her up if I'm going
to straighten out when it's too late? It _is_ too late, I _have_ given
her up, and I _am_ coming with you!"

The hand that bowled the most puzzling ball in England (once it found
its length) descended on my shoulder with surprising promptitude.

"Very well, Bunny! That's finished; but your blood be on your own pate
if evil comes of it. Meanwhile we can't do better than turn in here
till you have finished your cigar as it deserves, and topped up with
such a cup of tea as you must learn to like if you hope to get on in
your new profession. And when the hours are small enough, Bunny, my
boy, I don't mind admitting I shall be very glad to have you with me."

I have a vivid memory of the interim in his rooms. I think it must
have been the first and last of its kind that I was called upon to
sustain with so much knowledge of what lay before me. I passed the
time with one restless eye upon the clock, and the other on the
Tantalus which Raffles ruthlessly declined to unlock. He admitted that
it was like waiting with one's pads on; and in my slender experience
of the game of which he was a world's master, that was an ordeal not
to be endured without a general quaking of the inner man. I was, on
the other hand, all right when I got to the metaphorical wicket; and
half the surprises that Raffles sprung on me were doubtless due to his
early recognition of the fact.

On this occasion I fell swiftly and hopelessly out of love with the
prospect I had so gratuitously embraced. It was not only my repugnance
to enter that house in that way, which grew upon my better judgment as
the artificial enthusiasm of the evening evaporated from my veins.
Strong as that repugnance became, I had an even stronger feeling that
we were embarking on an important enterprise far too much upon the
spur of the moment. The latter qualm I had the temerity to confess to
Raffles; nor have I often loved him more than when he freely admitted
it to be the most natural feeling in the world. He assured me,
however, that he had had my Lady Lochmaben and her jewels in his mind
for several months; he had sat behind them at first nights; and long
ago determined what to take or to reject; in fine, he had only been
waiting for those topographical details which it had been my chance
privilege to supply. I now learned that he had numerous houses in a
similar state upon his list; something or other was wanting in each
case in order to complete his plans. In that of the Bond Street
jeweller it was a trusty accomplice; in the present instance, a more
intimate knowledge of the house. And lastly, this was a Wednesday
night, when the tired legislator gets early to his bed.

How I wish I could make the whole world see and hear him, and smell
the smoke of his beloved Sullivan, as he took me into these, the
secrets of his infamous trade! Neither look nor language would betray
the infamy. As a mere talker, I shall never listen to the like of
Raffles on this side of the sod; and his talk was seldom garnished by
an oath, never in my remembrance by the unclean word. Then he looked
like a man who had dressed to dine out, not like one who had long
since dined; for his curly hair, though longer than another's, was
never untidy in its length; and these were the days when it was still
as black as ink. Nor were there many lines as yet upon the smooth and
mobile face; and its frame was still that dear den of disorder and
good taste, with the carved book-case, the dresser and chests of still
older oak, and the Wattses and Rossettis hung anyhow on the walls.

It must have been one o'clock before we drove in a hansom as far as
Kensington Church, instead of getting down at the gates of our private
road to ruin. Constitutionally shy of the direct approach, Raffles was
further deterred by a ball in full swing at the Empress Rooms, whence
potential witnesses were pouring between dances into the cool deserted
street. Instead he led me a little way up Church Street, and so
through the narrow passage into Palace Gardens. He knew the house as
well as I did. We made our first survey from the other side of the
road. And the house was not quite in darkness; there was a dim light
over the door, a brighter one in the stables, which stood still
farther back from the road.

"That's a bit of a bore," said Raffles. "The ladies have been out
somewhere--trust them to spoil the show! They would get to bed before
the stable folk, but insomnia is the curse of their sex and our
profession. Somebody's not home yet; that will be the son of the
house; but he's a beauty, who may not come home at all."

"Another Alick Carruthers," I murmured, recalling the one I liked
least of all the household, as I remembered it.

"They might be brothers," rejoined Raffles, who knew all the loose
fish about town. "Well, I'm not sure that I shall want you after all,
Bunny."

"Why not?"

"If the front door's only on the latch, and you're right about the
lock, I shall walk in as though I were the son of the house myself."

And he jingled the skeleton bunch that he carried on a chain as honest
men carry their latch-keys.

"You forget the inner doors and the safe."

"True. You might be useful to me there. But I still don't like leading
you in where it isn't absolutely necessary, Bunny."

"Then let me lead you," I answered, and forthwith marched across the
broad, secluded road, with the great houses standing back on either
side in their ample gardens, as though the one opposite belonged to
me. I thought Raffles had stayed behind, for I never heard him at my
heels, yet there he was when I turned round at the gate.

"I must teach you the step," he whispered, shaking his head. "You
shouldn't use your heel at all. Here's a grass border for you: walk it
as you would the plank! Gravel makes a noise, and flower-beds tell a
tale. Wait--I must carry you across this."

It was the sweep of the drive, and in the dim light from above the
door, the soft gravel, ploughed into ridges by the night's wheels,
threatened an alarm at every step. Yet Raffles, with me in his arms,
crossed the zone of peril softly as the pard.

"Shoes in your pocket--that's the beauty of pumps!" he whispered on
the step; his light bunch tinkled faintly; a couple of keys he stooped
and tried, with the touch of a humane dentist; the third let us into
the porch. And as we stood together on the mat, as he was gradually
closing the door, a clock within chimed a half-hour in fashion so
thrillingly familiar to me that I caught Raffles by the arm. My
half-hours of happiness had flown to just such chimes! I looked wildly
about me in the dim light. Hat-stand and oak settee belonged equally
to my past. And Raffles was smiling in my face as he held the door
wide for my escape.

"You told me a lie!" I gasped in whispers.

"I did nothing of the sort," he replied. "The furniture's the
furniture of Hector Carruthers, but the house is the house of Lord
Lochmaben. Look here!"

He had stooped, and was smoothing out the discarded envelope of a
telegram. "Lord Lochmaben," I read in pencil by the dim light; and the
case was plain to me on the spot. My friends had let their house,
furnished, as anybody but Raffles would have explained to me in the
beginning.

"All right," I said. "Shut the door."

And he not only shut it without a sound, but drew a bolt that might
have been sheathed in rubber.

In another minute we were at work upon the study-door, I with the tiny
lantern and the bottle of rock-oil, he with the brace and the largest
bit. The Yale lock he had given up at a glance. It was placed high up
in the door, feet above the handle, and the chain of holes with which
Raffles had soon surrounded it were bored on a level with his eyes.
Yet the clock in the hall chimed again, and two ringing strokes
resounded through the silent house before we gained admittance to the
room.

Raffle's next care was to muffle the bell on the shuttered window
(with a silk handkerchief from the hat-stand) and to prepare an
emergency exit by opening first the shutters and then the window
itself. Luckily it was a still night, and very little wind came in to
embarrass us. He then began operations on the safe, revealed by me
behind its folding screen of books, while I stood sentry on the
threshold. I may have stood there for a dozen minutes, listening to
the loud hall clock and to the gentle dentistry of Raffles in the
mouth of the safe behind me, when a third sound thrilled my every
nerve. It was the equally cautious opening of a door in the gallery
overhead.

I moistened my lips to whisper a word of warning to Raffles. But his
ears had been as quick as mine, and something longer. His lantern
darkened as I turned my head; next moment I felt his breath upon the
back of my neck. It was now too late even for a whisper, and quite out
of the question to close the mutilated door. There we could only
stand, I on the threshold, Raffles at my elbow, while one carrying a
candle crept down the stairs.

The study-door was at right angles to the lowest flight, and just to
the right of one alighting in the hall. It was thus impossible for us
to see who it was until the person was close abreast of us; but by the
rustle of the gown we knew that it was one of the ladies, and dressed
just as she had come from theatre or ball. Insensibly I drew back as
the candle swam into our field of vision: it had not traversed many
inches when a hand was clapped firmly but silently across my mouth.

I could forgive Raffles for that, at any rate! In another breath I
should have cried aloud: for the girl with the candle, the girl in her
ball-dress, at dead of night, the girl with the letter for the post,
was the last girl on God's wide earth whom I should have chosen thus
to encounter--a midnight intruder in the very house where I had been
reluctantly received on her account!

I forgot Raffles. I forgot the new and unforgivable grudge I had
against him now. I forgot his very hand across my mouth, even before
he paid me the compliment of removing it. There was the only girl in
all the world: I had eyes and brains for no one and for nothing else.
She had neither seen nor heard us, had looked neither to the right
hand nor the left. But a small oak table stood on the opposite side of
the hall; it was to this table that she went. On it was one of those
boxes in which one puts one's letters for the post; and she stooped
to read by her candle the times at which this box was cleared.

The loud clock ticked and ticked. She was standing at her full height
now, her candle on the table, her letter in both hands, and in her
downcast face a sweet and pitiful perplexity that drew the tears to my
eyes. Through a film I saw her open the envelope so lately sealed and
read her letter once more, as though she would have altered it a
little at the last. It was too late for that; but of a sudden she
plucked a rose from her bosom, and was pressing it in with her letter
when I groaned aloud.

How could I help it? The letter was for me: of that I was as sure as
though I had been looking over her shoulder. She was as true as
tempered steel; there were not two of us to whom she wrote and sent
roses at dead of night. It was her one chance of writing to me. None
would know that she had written. And she cared enough to soften the
reproaches I had richly earned, with a red rose warm from her own warm
heart. And there, and there was I, a common thief who had broken in to
steal! Yet I was unaware that I had uttered a sound until she looked
up, startled, and the hands behind me pinned me where I stood.

I think she must have seen us, even in the dim light of the solitary
candle. Yet not a sound escaped her as she peered courageously in our
direction; neither did one of us move; but the hall clock went on and
on, every tick like the beat of a drum to bring the house about our
ears, until a minute must have passed as in some breathless dream. And
then came the awakening--with such a knocking and a ringing at the
front door as brought all three of us to our senses on the spot.

"The son of the house!" whispered Raffles in my ear, as he dragged me
back to the window he had left open for our escape. But as he leaped
out first a sharp cry stopped me at the sill. "Get back! Get back!
We're trapped!" he cried; and in the single second that I stood there,
I saw him fell one officer to the ground, and dart across the lawn
with another at his heels. A third came running up to the window. What
could I do but double back into the house? And there in the hall I met
my lost love face to face.

Till that moment she had not recognized me. I ran to catch her as she
all but fell. And my touch repelled her into life, so that she shook
me off, and stood gasping: "You, of all men! You, of all men!" until I
could bear it no more, but broke again for the study-window. "Not
that way--not that way!" she cried in an agony at that. Her hands
were upon me now. "In there, in there," she whispered, pointing and
pulling me to a mere cupboard under the stairs, where hats and coats
were hung; and it was she who shut the door on me with a sob.

Doors were already opening overhead, voices calling, voices answering,
the alarm running like wildfire from room to room. Soft feet pattered
in the gallery and down the stairs about my very ears. I do not know
what made me put on my own shoes as I heard them, but I think that I
was ready and even longing to walk out and give myself up. I need not
say what and who it was that alone restrained me. I heard her name. I
heard them crying to her as though she had fainted. I recognized the
detested voice of my _bête noir_, Alick Carruthers, thick as might be
expected of the dissipated dog, yet daring to stutter out her name.
And then I heard, without catching, her low reply; it was in answer to
the somewhat stern questioning of quite another voice; and from what
followed I knew that she had never fainted at all.

"Upstairs, miss, did he? Are you sure?"

I did not hear her answer. I conceive her as simply pointing up the
stairs. In any case, about my very ears once more, there now followed
such a patter and tramp of bare and booted feet as renewed in me a
base fear for my own skin. But voices and feet passed over my head,
went up and up, higher and higher; and I was wondering whether or not
to make a dash for it, when one light pair came running down again,
and in very despair I marched out to meet my preserver, looking as
little as I could like the abject thing I felt.

"Be quick!" she cried in a harsh whisper, and pointed peremptorily to
the porch.

But I stood stubbornly before her, my heart hardened by her hardness,
and perversely indifferent to all else. And as I stood I saw the
letter she had written, in the hand with which she pointed, crushed
into a ball.

"Quickly!" She stamped her foot. "Quickly--_if you ever cared!_"

This in a whisper, without bitterness, without contempt, but with a
sudden wild entreaty that breathed upon the dying embers of my poor
manhood. I drew myself together for the last time in her sight. I
turned, and left her as she wished--for her sake, not for mine. And as
I went I heard her tearing her letter into little pieces, and the
little pieces falling on the floor.

Then I remembered Raffles, and could have killed him for what he had
done. Doubtless by this time he was safe and snug in the Albany: what
did my fate matter to him? Never mind; this should be the end between
him and me as well; it was the end of everything, this dark night's
work! I would go and tell him so. I would jump into a cab and drive
there and then to his accursed rooms. But first I must escape from the
trap in which he had been so ready to leave me. And on the very steps
I drew back in despair. They were searching the shrubberies between
the drive and the road; a policeman's lantern kept flashing in and out
among the laurels, while a young man in evening-clothes directed him
from the gravel sweep. It was this young man whom I must dodge, but at
my first step in the gravel he wheeled round, and it was Raffles
himself.

"Hulloa!" he cried. "So you've come up to join the dance as well! Had
a look inside, have you? You'll be better employed in helping to draw
the cover in front here. It's all right, officer--only another
gentleman from the Empress Rooms."

And we made a brave show of assisting in the futile search, until the
arrival of more police, and a broad hint from an irritable sergeant,
gave us an excellent excuse for going off arm-in-arm. But it was
Raffles who had thrust his arm through mine. I shook him off as we
left the scene of shame behind.

"My dear Bunny!" he exclaimed. "Do you know what brought me back?"

I answered savagely that I neither knew nor cared.

"I had the very devil of a squeak for it," he went on. "I did the
hurdles over two or three garden-walls, but so did the flyer who was
on my tracks, and he drove me back into the straight and down to High
Street like any lamplighter. If he had only had the breath to sing out
it would have been all up with me then; as it was I pulled off my coat
the moment I was round the corner, and took a ticket for it at the
Empress Rooms."

"I suppose you had one for the dance that was going on," I growled.
Nor would it have been a coincidence for Raffles to have had a ticket
for that or any other entertainment of the London season.

"I never asked what the dance was," he returned. "I merely took the
opportunity of revising my toilet, and getting rid of that rather
distinctive overcoat, which I shall call for now. They're not too
particular at such stages of such proceedings, but I've no doubt I
should have seen someone I knew if I had gone right in. I might even
have had a turn, if only I had been less uneasy about you, Bunny."

"It was like you to come back to help me out," said I. "But to lie to
me, and to inveigle me with your lies into that house of all
houses--that was not like you, Raffles--and I never shall forgive it
or you!"

Raffles took my arm again. We were near the High Street gates of
Palace Gardens, and I was too miserable to resist an advance which I
meant never to give him an opportunity to repeat.

"Come, come, Bunny, there wasn't much inveigling about it," said he.
"I did my level best to leave you behind, but you wouldn't listen to
me."

"If you had told me the truth I should have listened fast enough," I
retorted. "But what's the use of talking? You can boast of your own
adventures after you bolted. You don't care what happened to me."

"I cared so much that I came back to see."

"You might have spared yourself the trouble! The wrong had been done.
Raffles--Raffles--don't you know who she was?"

It was my hand that gripped his arm once more.

"I guessed," he answered, gravely enough even for me.

"It was she who saved me, not you," I said. "And that is the bitterest
part of all!"

Yet I told him that part with a strange sad pride in her whom I had
lost--through him--forever. As I ended we turned into High Street; in
the prevailing stillness, the faint strains of the band reached us
from the Empress Rooms; and I hailed a crawling hansom as Raffles
turned that way.

"Bunny," said he, "it's no use saying I'm sorry. Sorrow adds insult in
a case like this--if ever there was or will be such another! Only
believe me, Bunny, when I swear to you that I had not the smallest
shadow of a suspicion that _she_ was in the house."

And in my heart of hearts I did believe him; but I could not bring
myself to say the words.

"You told me yourself that you had written to her in the country," he
pursued.

"And that letter!" I rejoined, in a fresh wave of bitterness: "that
letter she had written at dead of night, and stolen down to post, it
was the one I have been waiting for all these days! I should have got
it to-morrow. Now I shall never get it, never hear from her again, nor
have another chance in this world or in the next. I don't say it was
all your fault. You no more knew that she was there than I did. But
you told me a deliberate lie about her people, and that I never shall
forgive."

I spoke as vehemently as I could under my breath. The hansom was
waiting at the curb.

"I can say no more than I have said," returned Raffles with a shrug.
"Lie or no lie, I didn't tell it to bring you with me, but to get you
to give me certain information without feeling a beast about it. But,
as a matter of fact, it was no lie about old Hector Carruthers and
Lord Lochmaben, and anybody but you would have guessed the truth."

"What is the truth?"

"I as good as told you, Bunny, again and again."

"Then tell me now."

"If you read your paper there would be no need; but if you want to
know, old Carruthers headed the list of the Birthday Honors, and Lord
Lochmaben is the title of his choice."

And this miserable quibble was not a lie! My lip curled, I turned my
back without a word, and drove home to my Mount Street flat in a new
fury of savage scorn. Not a lie, indeed! It was the one that is half a
truth, the meanest lie of all, and the very last to which I could
have dreamt that Raffles would stoop. So far there had been a degree
of honor between us, if only of the kind understood to obtain between
thief and thief. Now all that was at an end. Raffles had cheated me.
Raffles had completed the ruin of my life. I was done with Raffles, as
she who shall not be named was done with me.

And yet, even while I blamed him most bitterly, and utterly abominated
his deceitful deed, I could not but admit in my heart that the result
was out of all proportion to the intent: he had never dreamt of doing
me this injury, or indeed any injury at all. Intrinsically the deceit
had been quite venial, the reason for it obviously the reason that
Raffles had given me. It was quite true that he had spoken of this
Lochmaben peerage as a new creation, and of the heir to it in a
fashion only applicable to Alick Carruthers. He had given me hints,
which I had been too dense to take, and he had certainly made more
than one attempt to deter me from accompanying him on this fatal
emprise; had he been more explicit, I might have made it my business
to deter him. I could not say in my heart that Raffles had failed to
satisfy such honor as I might reasonably expect to subsist between us.
Yet it seems to me to require a superhuman sanity always and
unerringly to separate cause from effect, achievement from intent.
And I, for one, was never quite able to do so in this case.

I could not be accused of neglecting my newspaper during the next few
wretched days. I read every word that I could find about the attempted
jewel-robbery in Palace Gardens, and the reports afforded me my sole
comfort. In the first place, it was only an attempted robbery; nothing
had been taken, after all. And then--and then--the one member of the
household who had come nearest to a personal encounter with either of
us was unable to furnish any description of the man--had even
expressed a doubt as to the likelihood of identification in the event
of an arrest!

I will not say with what mingled feelings I read and dwelt on that
announcement. It kept a certain faint glow alive within me until the
morning brought me back the only presents I had ever made her. They
were books; jewellery had been tabooed by the authorities. And the
books came back without a word, though the parcel was directed in her
hand.

I had made up my mind not to go near Raffles again, but in my heart I
already regretted my resolve. I had forfeited love, I had sacrificed
honor, and now I must deliberately alienate myself from the one being
whose society might yet be some recompense for all that I had lost.
The situation was aggravated by the state of my exchequer. I expected
an ultimatum from my banker by every post. Yet this influence was
nothing to the other. It was Raffles I loved. It was not the dark life
we led together, still less its base rewards; it was the man himself,
his gayety, his humor, his dazzling audacity, his incomparable courage
and resource. And a very horror of turning to him again in mere need
of greed set the seal on my first angry resolution. But the anger was
soon gone out of me, and when at length Raffles bridged the gap by
coming to me, I rose to greet him almost with a shout.

He came as though nothing had happened; and, indeed, not very many
days had passed, though they might have been months to me. Yet I
fancied the gaze that watched me through our smoke a trifle less sunny
than it had been before. And it was a relief to me when he came with
few preliminaries to the inevitable point.

"Did you ever hear from her, Bunny?" he asked.

"In a way," I answered. "We won't talk about it, if you don't mind,
Raffles."

"That sort of way!" he exclaimed. He seemed both surprised and
disappointed.

"Yes," I said, "that sort of way. It's finished. What did you expect?"

"I don't know," said Raffles. "I only thought that the girl who went
so far to get a fellow out of a tight place might go a little farther
to keep him from getting into another."

"I don't see why she should," said I, honestly enough, yet with the
irritation of a less just feeling deep down in my inmost
consciousness.

"Yet you did hear from her?" he persisted.

"She sent me back my poor presents, without a word," I said, "if you
call that hearing."

I could not bring myself to own to Raffles that I had given her only
books. He asked if I was sure that she had sent them back herself; and
that was his last question. My answer was enough for him. And to this
day I cannot say whether it was more in relief than in regret that he
laid a hand upon my shoulder.

"So you are out of Paradise after all!" said Raffles. "I was not sure,
or I should have come round before. Well, Bunny, if they don't want
you there, there's a little Inferno in the Albany where you will be as
welcome as ever!"

And still, with all the magic mischief of his smile, there was that
touch of sadness which I was yet to read aright.



The Chest of Silver


Like all the tribe of which I held him head, Raffles professed the
liveliest disdain for unwieldy plunder of any description; it might be
old Sheffield, or it might be solid silver or gold, but if the thing
was not to be concealed about the person, he would have none whatever
of it. Unlike the rest of us, however, in this as in all else, Raffles
would not infrequently allow the acquisitive spirit of the mere
collector to silence the dictates of professional prudence. The old
oak chests, and even the mahogany wine-cooler, for which he had
doubtless paid like an honest citizen, were thus immovable with pieces
of crested plate, which he had neither the temerity to use nor the
hardihood to melt or sell. He could but gloat over them behind locked
doors, as I used to tell him, and at last one afternoon I caught him
at it. It was in the year after that of my novitiate, a halcyon period
at the Albany, when Raffles left no crib uncracked, and I played
second-murderer every time. I had called in response to a telegram in
which he stated that he was going out of town, and must say good-by
to me before he went. And I could only think that he was inspired by
the same impulse toward the bronzed salvers and the tarnished teapots
with which I found him surrounded, until my eyes lit upon the enormous
silver-chest into which he was fitting them one by one.

"Allow me, Bunny! I shall take the liberty of locking both doors
behind you and putting the key in my pocket," said Raffles, when he
had let me in. "Not that I mean to take you prisoner, my dear fellow;
but there are those of us who can turn keys from the outside, though
it was never an accomplishment of mine."

"Not Crawshay again?" I cried, standing still in my hat.

Raffles regarded me with that tantalizing smile of his which might
mean nothing, yet which often meant so much; and in a flash I was
convinced that our most jealous enemy and dangerous rival, the doyen
of an older school, had paid him yet another visit.

"That remains to be seen," was the measured reply; "and I for one have
not set naked eye on the fellow since I saw him off through that
window and left myself for dead on this very spot. In fact, I imagined
him comfortably back in jail."

"Not old Crawshay!" said I. "He's far too good a man to be taken
twice. I should call him the very prince of professional cracksmen."

"Should you?" said Raffles coldly, with as cold an eye looking into
mine. "Then you had better prepare to repel princes when I'm gone."

"But gone where?" I asked, finding a corner for my hat and coat, and
helping myself to the comforts of the venerable dresser which was one
of our friend's greatest treasures. "Where is it you are off to, and
why are you taking this herd of white elephants with you?"

Raffles bestowed the cachet of his smile on my description of his
motley plate. He joined me in one of his favorite cigarettes, only
shaking a superior head at his own decanter.

"One question at a time, Bunny," said he. "In the first place, I am
going to have these rooms freshened up with a potful of paint, the
electric light, and the telephone you've been at me about so long."

"Good!" I cried. "Then we shall be able to talk to each other day and
night!"

"And get overheard and run in for our pains? I shall wait till you
_are_ run in, I think," said Raffles cruelly. "But the rest's a
necessity: not that I love new paint or am pining for electric light,
but for reasons which I will just breathe in your private ear, Bunny.
You must not try to take them too seriously; but the fact is, there is
just the least bit of a twitter against me in this rookery of an
Albany. It must have been started by that tame old bird, Policeman
Mackenzie; it isn't very bad as yet, but it needn't be that to reach
my ears. Well, it was open to me either to clear out altogether, and
so confirm whatever happened to be in the air, or to go off for a
time, under some arrangement which would give the authorities ample
excuse for overhauling every inch of my rooms. Which would you have
done, Bunny?"

"Cleared out, while I could!" said I devoutly.

"So I should have thought," rejoined Raffles. "Yet you see the merit
of my plan. I shall leave every mortal thing unlocked."

"Except that," said I, kicking the huge oak case with the iron bands
and clamps, and the baize lining fast disappearing under heavy
packages bearing the shapes of urns and candelabra.

"That," replied Raffles, "is neither to go with me nor to remain
here."

"Then what do you propose to do with it?"

"You have your banking account, and your banker," he went on. This was
perfectly true, though it was Raffles alone who had kept the one
open, and enabled me to propitiate the other in moments of emergency.

"Well?"

"Well, pay in this bundle of notes this afternoon, and say you have
had a great week at Liverpool and Lincoln; then ask them if they can
do with your silver while you run over to Paris for a merry Easter. I
should tell them it's rather heavy--a lot of old family stuff that
you've a good mind to leave with them till you marry and settle down."

I winced at this, but consented to the rest after a moment's
consideration. After all, and for more reasons that I need enumerate,
it was a plausible tale enough. And Raffles had no banker; it was
quite impossible for him to explain, across any single counter, the
large sums of hard cash which did sometimes fall into his hands; and
it might well be that he had nursed my small account in view of the
very quandary which had now arisen. On all grounds, it was impossible
for me to refuse him, and I am still glad to remember that my assent
was given, on the whole, ungrudgingly.

"But when will the chest be ready for me?" I merely asked, as I
stuffed the notes into my cigarette case. "And how are we to get it
out of this, in banking hours, without attracting any amount of
attention at this end?"

Raffles gave me an approving nod.

"I'm glad to see you spot the crux so quickly, Bunny. I have thought
of your taking it round to your place first, under cloud of night; but
we are bound to be seen even so, and on the whole it would look far
less suspicious in broad daylight. It will take you some twelve or
fifteen minutes to drive to your bank in a growler, so if you are here
with one at a quarter to ten to-morrow morning, that will exactly meet
the case. But you must have a hansom this minute if you mean to
prepare the way with those notes this afternoon!"

It was only too like the Raffles of those days to dismiss a subject
and myself in the same breath, with a sudden nod, and a brief grasp of
the hand he was already holding out for mine. I had a great mind to
take another of his cigarettes instead, for there were one or two
points on which he had carefully omitted to enlighten me. Thus, I had
still to learn the bare direction of his journey; and it was all that
I could do to drag it from him as I stood buttoning my coat and
gloves.

"Scotland," he vouchsafed at last.

"At Easter," I remarked.

"To learn the language," he explained. "I have no tongue but my own,
you see, but I try to make up for it by cultivating every shade of
that. Some of them have come in useful even to your knowledge, Bunny:
what price my Cockney that night in St. John's Wood? I can keep up my
end in stage Irish, real Devonshire, very fair Norfolk, and three
distinct Yorkshire dialects. But my good Galloway Scots might be
better, and I mean to make it so."

"You still haven't told me where to write to you."

"I'll write to you first, Bunny."

"At least let me see you off," I urged at the door. "I promise not to
look at your ticket if you tell me the train!"

"The eleven-fifty from Euston."

"Then I'll be with you by quarter to ten."

And I left him without further parley, reading his impatience in his
face. Everything, to be sure, seemed clear enough without that fuller
discussion which I loved and Raffles hated. Yet I thought we might at
least have dined together, and in my heart I felt just the least bit
hurt, until it occurred to me as I drove to count the notes in my
cigarette case. Resentment was impossible after that. The sum ran well
into three figures, and it was plain that Raffles meant me to have a
good time in his absence. So I told his lie with unction at my bank,
and made due arrangements for the reception of his chest next
morning. Then I repaired to our club, hoping he would drop in, and
that we might dine together after all. In that I was disappointed. It
was nothing, however, to the disappointment awaiting me at the Albany,
when I arrived in my four-wheeler at the appointed hour next morning.

"Mr. Raffles 'as gawn, sir," said the porter, with a note of reproach
in his confidential undertone. The man was a favorite with Raffles,
who used him and tipped him with consummate tact, and he knew me only
less well.

"Gone!" I echoed aghast. "Where on earth to?"

"Scotland, sir."

"Already?"

"By the eleven-fifty lawst night."

"Last night! I thought he meant eleven-fifty this morning!"

"He knew you did, sir, when you never came, and he told me to tell you
there was no such train."

I could have rent my garments in mortification and annoyance with
myself and Raffles. It was as much his fault as mine. But for his
indecent haste in getting rid of me, his characteristic abruptness at
the end, there would have been no misunderstanding or mistake.

"Any other message?" I inquired morosely.

"Only about the box, sir. Mr. Raffles said as you was goin' to take
chawge of it time he's away, and I've a friend ready to lend a 'and in
getting it on the cab. It's a rare 'eavy 'un, but Mr. Raffles an' me
could lift it all right between us, so I dessay me an' my friend can."

For my own part, I must confess that its weight concerned me less than
the vast size of that infernal chest, as I drove with it past club and
park at ten o'clock in the morning. Sit as far back as I might in the
four-wheeler, I could conceal neither myself nor my connection with
the huge iron-clamped case upon the roof: in my heated imagination its
wood was glass through which all the world could see the guilty
contents. Once an officious constable held up the traffic at our
approach, and for a moment I put a blood-curdling construction upon
the simple ceremony. Low boys shouted after us--or if it was not after
us, I thought it was--and that their cry was "Stop thief!" Enough said
of one of the most unpleasant cab-drives I ever had in my life.
_Horresco referens._

At the bank, however, thanks to the foresight and liberality of
Raffles, all was smooth water. I paid my cabman handsomely, gave a
florin to the stout fellow in livery whom he helped with the chest,
and could have pressed gold upon the genial clerk who laughed like a
gentleman at my jokes about the Liverpool winners and the latest
betting on the Family Plate. I was only disconcerted when he informed
me that the bank gave no receipts for deposits of this nature. I am
now aware that few London banks do. But it is pleasing to believe that
at the time I looked--what I felt--as though all I valued upon earth
were in jeopardy.

I should have got through the rest of that day happily enough, such
was the load off my mind and hands, but for an extraordinary and most
disconcerting note received late at night from Raffles himself. He was
a man who telegraphed freely, but seldom wrote a letter. Sometimes,
however, he sent a scribbled line by special messenger; and overnight,
evidently in the train, he had scribbled this one to post in the small
hours at Crewe:

    "'Ware Prince of Professors! _He was in the offing when I
    left._ If slightest cause for uneasiness about bank, withdraw
    at once and keep in own rooms like good chap.

                                             "A. J. R.

      "_P. S._--Other reasons, as you shall hear."

There was a nice nightcap for a puzzled head! I had made rather an
evening of it, what with increase of funds and decrease of anxiety,
but this cryptic admonition spoiled the remainder of my night. It had
arrived by a late post, and I only wished that I had left it all night
in my letter-box.

What exactly did it mean? And what exactly must I do? These were
questions that confronted me with fresh force in the morning.

The news of Crawshay did not surprise me. I was quite sure that Raffles
had been given good reason to bear him in mind before his journey, even if
he had not again beheld the ruffian in the flesh. That ruffian and that
journey might be more intimately connected than I had yet supposed.
Raffles never told me all. Yet the solid fact held good--held better than
ever--that I had seen his plunder safely planted in my bank. Crawshay
himself could not follow it _there_. I was certain he had not followed my
cab: in the acute self-consciousness induced by that abominable drive, I
should have known it in my bones if he had. I thought of the porter's
friend who had helped me with the chest. No, I remember him as well as I
remembered Crawshay; they were quite different types.

To remove that vile box from the bank, on top of another cab, with no
stronger pretext and no further instructions, was not to be thought of
for a moment. Yet I did think of it, for hours. I was always anxious
to do my part by Raffles; he had done more than his by me, not once or
twice, to-day or yesterday, but again and again from the very first. I
need not state the obvious reasons I had for fighting shy of the
personal custody of his accursed chest. Yet he had run worse risks for
me, and I wanted him to learn that he, too, could depend on a devotion
not unworthy of his own.

In my dilemma I did what I have often done when at a loss for light
and leading. I took hardly any lunch, but went to Northumberland
Avenue and had a Turkish bath instead. I know nothing so cleansing to
mind as well as body, nothing better calculated to put the finest
possible edge on such judgment as one may happen to possess. Even
Raffles, without an ounce to lose or a nerve to soothe, used to own a
sensuous appreciation of the peace of mind and person to be gained in
this fashion when all others failed. For me, the fun began before the
boots were off one's feet; the muffled foot-falls, the thin sound of
the fountain, even the spent swathed forms upon the couches, and the
whole clean, warm, idle atmosphere, were so much unction to my simpler
soul. The half-hour in the hot-rooms I used to count but a strenuous
step to a divine lassitude of limb and accompanying exaltation of
intellect. And yet--and yet--it was in the hottest room of all, in a
temperature of 270° Fahrenheit, that the bolt fell from the _Pall Mall
Gazette_ which I had bought outside the bath.

I was turning over the hot, crisp pages, and positively revelling in
my fiery furnace, when the following headlines and leaded paragraphs
leapt to my eye with the force of a veritable blow:

             BANK ROBBERS IN THE WEST END--DARING
                     AND MYSTERIOUS CRIME

     An audacious burglary and dastardly assault have been
     committed on the premises of the City and Suburban Bank in
     Sloane Street, W. From the details so far to hand, the
     robbery appears to have been deliberately planned and
     adroitly executed in the early hours of this morning.

     A night watchman named Fawcett states that between one and
     two o'clock he heard a slight noise in the neighborhood of
     the lower strong-room, used as a repository for the plate
     and other possessions of various customers of the bank.
     Going down to investigate, he was instantly attacked by a
     powerful ruffian, who succeeded in felling him to the ground
     before an alarm could be raised.

     Fawcett is unable to furnish any description of his
     assailant or assailants, but is of opinion that more than
     one were engaged in the commission of the crime. When the
     unfortunate man recovered consciousness, no trace of the
     thieves remained, with the exception of a single candle
     which had been left burning on the flags of the corridor.
     The strong-room, however, had been opened, and it is feared
     the raid on the chests of plate and other valuables may
     prove to have been only too successful, in view of the
     Easter exodus, which the thieves had evidently taken into
     account. The ordinary banking chambers were not even
     visited; entry and exit are believed to have been effected
     through the coal cellar, which is also situated in the
     basement. Up to the present the police have effected no
     arrest.

I sat practically paralyzed by this appalling news; and I swear that,
even in that incredible temperature, it was a cold perspiration in
which I sweltered from head to heel. Crawshay, of course! Crawshay
once more upon the track of Raffles and his ill-gotten gains! And once
more I blamed Raffles himself: his warning had come too late: he
should have wired to me at once not to take the box to the bank at
all. He was a madman ever to have invested in so obvious and obtrusive
a receptacle for treasure. It would serve Raffles right if that and no
other was the box which had been broken into by the thieves.

Yet, when I considered the character of his treasure, I fairly
shuddered in my sweat. It was a hoard of criminal relics. Suppose his
chest had indeed been rifled, and emptied of every silver thing but
one; that one remaining piece of silver, seen of men, was quite
enough to cast Raffles into the outer darkness of penal servitude! And
Crawshay was capable of it--of perceiving the insidious revenge--of
taking it without compunction or remorse.

There was only one course for me. I must follow my instructions to the
letter and recover the chest at all hazards, or be taken myself in the
attempt. If only Raffles had left me some address, to which I could
have wired some word of warning! But it was no use thinking of that;
for the rest there was time enough up to four o'clock, and as yet it
was not three. I determined to go through with my bath and make the
most of it. Might it not be my last for years?

But I was past enjoying even a Turkish bath. I had not the patience
for a proper shampoo, or sufficient spirit for the plunge. I weighed
myself automatically, for that was a matter near my heart; but I
forgot to give my man his sixpence until the reproachful intonation of
his adieu recalled me to myself. And my couch in the cooling
gallery--my favorite couch, in my favorite corner, which I had secured
with gusto on coming in--it was a bed of thorns, with hideous visions
of a plank-bed to follow!

I ought to be able to add that I heard the burglary discussed on
adjacent couches before I left. I certainly listened for it, and was
rather disappointed more than once when I had held my breath in vain.
But this is the unvarnished record of an odious hour, and it passed
without further aggravation from without; only, as I drove to Sloane
Street, the news was on all the posters, and on one I read of "a clew"
which spelt for me a doom I was grimly resolved to share.

Already there was something in the nature of a "run" upon the Sloane
Street branch of the City and Suburban. A cab drove away with a chest
of reasonable dimensions as mine drove up, while in the bank itself a
lady was making a painful scene. As for the genial clerk who had
roared at my jokes the day before, he was mercifully in no mood for
any more, but, on the contrary, quite rude to me at sight.

"I've been expecting you all the afternoon," said he. "You needn't
look so pale."

"Is it safe?"

"That Noah's Ark of yours? Yes, so I hear; they'd just got to it when
they were interrupted, and they never went back again."

"Then it wasn't even opened?"

"Only just begun on, I believe."

"Thank God!"

"You may; we don't," growled the clerk. "The manager says he believes
your chest was at the bottom of it all."

"How could it be?" I asked uneasily.

"By being seen on the cab a mile off, and followed," said the clerk.

"Does the manager want to see _me_?" I asked boldly.

"Not unless you want to see him," was the blunt reply. "He's been at
it with others all the afternoon, and they haven't all got off as
cheap as you."

"Then my silver shall not embarrass you any longer," said I grandly.
"I meant to leave it if it was all right, but after all you have said
I certainly shall not. Let your man or men bring up the chest at once.
I dare say they also have been 'at it with others all the afternoon,'
but I shall make this worth their while."

I did not mind driving through the streets with the thing this time.
My present relief was too overwhelming as yet to admit of pangs and
fears for the immediate future. No summer sun had ever shone more
brightly than that rather watery one of early April. There was a
green-and-gold dust of buds and shoots on the trees as we passed the
park. I felt greater things sprouting in my heart. Hansoms passed with
schoolboys just home for the Easter holidays, four-wheelers outward
bound, with bicycles and perambulators atop; none that rode in them
were half so happy as I, with the great load on my cab, but the
greater one off my heart.

At Mount Street it just went into the lift; that was a stroke of luck;
and the lift-man and I between us carried it into my flat. It seemed a
featherweight to me now. I felt a Samson in the exaltation of that
hour. And I will not say what my first act was when I found myself
alone with my white elephant in the middle of the room; enough that
the siphon was still doing its work when the glass slipped through my
fingers to the floor.

"Bunny!"

It was Raffles. Yet for a moment I looked about me quite in vain. He
was not at the window; he was not at the open door. And yet Raffles it
had been, or at all events his voice, and that bubbling over with fun
and satisfaction, be his body where it might. In the end I dropped my
eyes, and there was his living face in the middle of the lid of the
chest, like that of the saint upon its charger.

But Raffles was alive, Raffles was laughing as though his vocal cords
would snap--there was neither tragedy nor illusion in the apparition
of Raffles. A life-size Jack-in-the-box, he had thrust his head
through a lid within the lid, cut by himself between the two iron
bands that ran round the chest like the straps of a portmanteau. He
must have been busy at it when I found him pretending to pack, if not
far into that night, for it was a very perfect piece of work; and even
as I stared without a word, and he crouched laughing in my face, an
arm came squeezing out, keys in hand; one was turned in either of the
two great padlocks, the whole lid lifted, and out stepped Raffles like
the conjurer he was.

"So you were the burglar!" I exclaimed at last. "Well, I am just as
glad I didn't know."

He had wrung my hand already, but at this he fairly mangled it in his.

"You dear little brick," he cried, "that's the one thing of all things
I longed to hear you say! How could you have behaved as you've done if
you had known? How could any living man? How could you have acted, as
the polar star of all the stages could not have acted in your place?
Remember that I have heard a lot, and as good as seen as much as I've
heard. Bunny, I don't know where you were greatest: at the Albany,
here, or at your bank!"

"I don't know where I was most miserable," I rejoined, beginning to
see the matter in a less perfervid light. "I know you don't credit me
with much finesse, but I would undertake to be in the secret and to do
quite as well; the only difference would be in my own peace of mind,
which, of course, doesn't count."

But Raffles wagged away with his most charming and disarming smile; he
was in old clothes, rather tattered and torn, and more than a little
grimy as to the face and hands, but, on the surface, wonderfully
little the worse for his experience. And, as I say, his smile was the
smile of the Raffles I loved best.

"You would have done your damnedest, Bunny! There is no limit to your
heroism; but you forget the human equation in the pluckiest of the
plucky. I couldn't afford to forget it, Bunny; I couldn't afford to
give a point away. Don't talk as though I hadn't trusted you! I
trusted my very life to your loyal tenacity. What do you suppose would
have happened to me if you had let me rip in that strong-room? Do you
think I would ever have crept out and given myself up? Yes, I'll have
a peg for once; the beauty of all laws is in the breaking, even of the
kind we make unto ourselves."

I had a Sullivan for him, too; and in another minute he was spread out
on my sofa, stretching his cramped limbs with infinite gusto, a
cigarette between his fingers, a yellow bumper at hand on the chest of
his triumph and my tribulation.

"Never mind when it occurred to me, Bunny; as a matter of fact, it was
only the other day, when I had decided to go away for the real reasons
I have already given you. I may have made more of them to you than I
do in my own mind, but at all events they exist. And I really did want
the telephone and the electric light."

"But where did you stow the silver before you went?"

"Nowhere; it was my luggage--a portmanteau, cricket-bag, and suit-case
full of very little else--and by the same token I left the lot at
Euston, and one of us must fetch them this evening."

"I can do that," said I. "But did you really go all the way to Crewe?"

"Didn't you get my note? I went all the way to Crewe to post you those
few lines, my dear Bunny! It's no use taking trouble if you don't take
trouble enough; I wanted you to show the proper set of faces at the
bank and elsewhere, and I know you did. Besides, there was an up-train
four minutes after mine got in. I simply posted my letter in Crewe
station, and changed from one train to the other."

"At two in the morning!"

"Nearer three, Bunny. It was after seven when I slung in with the
_Daily Mail_. The milk had beaten me by a short can. But even so I had
two very good hours before you were due."

"And to think," I murmured, "how you deceived me there!"

"With your own assistance," said Raffles laughing. "If you had looked
it up you would have seen there was no such train in the morning, and
I never said there was. But I meant you to be deceived, Bunny, and I
won't say I didn't--it was all for the sake of the side! Well, when
you carted me away with such laudable despatch, I had rather an
uncomfortable half-hour, but that was all just then. I had my candle,
I had matches, and lots to read. It was quite nice in that strong-room
until a very unpleasant incident occurred."

"Do tell me, my dear fellow!"

"I must have another Sullivan--thank you--and a match. The unpleasant
incident was steps outside and a key in the lock! I was disporting
myself on the lid of the trunk at the time. I had barely time to knock
out my light and slip down behind it. Luckily it was only another box
of sorts; a jewel-case, to be more precise; you shall see the
contents in a moment. The Easter exodus has done me even better than I
dared to hope."

His words reminded me of the _Pall Mall Gazette_, which I had brought
in my pocket from the Turkish bath. I fished it out, all wrinkled and
bloated by the heat of the hottest room, and handed it to Raffles with
my thumb upon the leaded paragraphs.

"Delightful!" said he when he had read them. "More thieves than one,
and the coal-cellar of all places as a way in! I certainly tried to
give it that appearance. I left enough candle-grease there to make
those coals burn bravely. But it looked up into a blind backyard,
Bunny, and a boy of eight couldn't have squeezed through the trap.
Long may that theory keep them happy at Scotland Yard!"

"But what about the fellow you knocked out?" I asked. "That was not
like you, Raffles."

Raffles blew pensive rings as he lay back on my sofa, his black hair
tumbled on the cushion, his pale profile as clear and sharp against
the light as though slashed out with the scissors.

[Illustration: Raffles in the strong-room.]

"I know it wasn't, Bunny," he said regretfully. "But things like that,
as the poet will tell you, are really inseparable from victories like
mine. It had taken me a couple of hours to break out of that
strong-room; I was devoting a third to the harmless task of simulating
the appearance of having broken in; and it was then I heard the
fellow's stealthy step. Some might have stood their ground and killed
him; more would have bolted into a worse corner than they were in
already. I left my candle where it was, crept to meet the poor devil,
flattened myself against the wall, and let him have it as he passed. I
acknowledge the foul blow, but here's evidence that it was mercifully
struck. The victim has already told his tale."

As he drained his glass, but shook his head when I wished to replenish
it, Raffles showed me the flask which he had carried in his pocket: it
was still nearly full; and I found that he had otherwise provisioned
himself over the holidays. On either Easter Day or Bank Holiday, had I
failed him, it had been his intention to make the best escape he
could. But the risk must have been enormous, and it filled my glowing
skin to think that he had not relied on me in vain.

As for his gleanings from such jewel-cases as were spending the Easter
recess in the strong-room of my bank, without going into rhapsodies or
even particulars on the point, I may mention that they realized
enough for me to join Raffles on his deferred holiday in Scotland,
besides enabling him to play more regularly for Middlesex in the
ensuing summer than had been the case for several seasons. In fine,
this particular exploit entirely justified itself in my eyes, in spite
of the superfluous (but invariable) secretiveness which I could seldom
help resenting in my heart. I never thought less of it than in the
present instance; and my one mild reproach was on the subject of the
phantom Crawshay.

"You let me think he was in the air again," I said. "But it wouldn't
surprise me to find that you had never heard of him since the day of
his escape through your window."

"I never even thought of him, Bunny, until you came to see me the day
before yesterday, and put him into my head with your first words. The
whole point was to make you as genuinely anxious about the plate as
you must have seemed all along the line."

"Of course I see your point," I rejoined; "but mine is that you
labored it. You needn't have written me a downright lie about the
fellow."

"Nor did I, Bunny."

"Not about the 'prince of professors' being 'in the offing' when you
left?"

"My dear Bunny, but so he was!" cried Raffles. "Time was when I was
none too pure an amateur. But after this I take leave to consider
myself a professor of the professors. And I should like to see one
more capable of skippering their side!"



The Rest Cure


I had not seen Raffles for a month or more, and I was sadly in need of
his advice. My life was being made a burden to me by a wretch who had
obtained a bill of sale over the furniture in Mount Street, and it was
only by living elsewhere that I could keep the vulpine villain from my
door. This cost ready money, and my balance at the bank was sorely in
need of another lift from Raffles. Yet, had he been in my shoes, he
could not have vanished more effectually than he had done, both from
the face of the town and from the ken of all who knew him.

It was late in August; he never played first-class cricket after July,
when, a scholastic understudy took his place in the Middlesex eleven.
And in vain did I scour my _Field_ and my _Sportsman_ for the
country-house matches with which he wilfully preferred to wind up the
season; the matches were there, but never the magic name of A. J.
Raffles. Nothing was known of him at the Albany; he had left no
instructions about his letters, either there or at the club. I began
to fear that some evil had overtaken him. I scanned the features of
captured criminals in the illustrated Sunday papers; on each occasion
I breathed again; nor was anything worthy of Raffles going on. I will
not deny that I was less anxious on his account than on my own. But it
was a double relief to me when he gave a first characteristic sign of
life.

I had called at the Albany for the fiftieth time, and returned to
Piccadilly in my usual despair, when a street sloucher sidled up to me
in furtive fashion and inquired if my name was what it is.

"'Cause this 'ere's for you," he rejoined to my affirmative, and with
that I felt a crumpled note in my palm.

It was from Raffles. I smoothed out the twisted scrap of paper, and on
it were just a couple of lines in pencil:

     "Meet me in Holland Walk at dark to-night. Walk up and down
      till I come.

                                        A. J. R."

That was all! Not another syllable after all these weeks, and the few
words scribbled in a wild caricature of his scholarly and dainty hand!
I was no longer to be alarmed by this sort of thing; it was all so
like the Raffles I loved least; and to add to my indignation, when at
length I looked up from the mysterious missive, the equally
mysterious messenger had disappeared in a manner worthy of the whole
affair. He was, however, the first creature I espied under the
tattered trees of Holland Walk that evening.

"Seen 'im yet?" he inquired confidentially, blowing a vile cloud from
his horrid pipe.

"No, I haven't; and I want to know where you've seen him," I replied
sternly. "Why did you run away like that the moment you had given me
his note?"

"Orders, orders," was the reply. "I ain't such a juggins as to go agen
a toff as makes it worf while to do as I'm bid an' 'old me tongue."

"And who may you be?" I asked jealously. "And what are you to Mr.
Raffles?"

"You silly ass, Bunny, don't tell all Kensington that I'm in town!"
replied my tatterdemalion, shooting up and smoothing out into a merely
shabby Raffles. "Here, take my arm--I'm not so beastly as I look. But
neither am I in town, nor in England, nor yet on the face of the
earth, for all that's known of me to a single soul but you."

"Then where are you," I asked, "between ourselves?"

"I've taken a house near here for the holidays, where I'm going in
for a Rest Cure of my own description. Why? Oh, for lots of reasons,
my dear Bunny; among others, I have long had a wish to grow my own
beard; under the next lamp-post you will agree that it's training on
very nicely. Then, you mayn't know it, but there's a canny man at
Scotland Yard who has had a quiet eye on me longer than I like. I
thought it about time to have an eye on him, and I stared him in the
face outside the Albany this very morning. That was when I saw you go
in, and scribbled a line to give you when you came out. If he had
caught us talking he would have spotted me at once."

"So you are lying low out here!"

"I prefer to call it my Rest Cure," returned Raffles, "and it's really
nothing else. I've got a furnished house at a time when no one else
would have dreamed of taking one in town; and my very neighbors don't
know I'm there, though I'm bound to say there are hardly any of them
at home. I don't keep a servant, and do everything for myself. It's
the next best fun to a desert island. Not that I make much work, for
I'm really resting, but I haven't done so much solid reading for
years. Rather a joke, Bunny: the man whose house I've taken is one of
her Majesty's inspectors of prisons, and his study's a storehouse of
criminology. It has been quite amusing to lie on one's back and have a
good look at one's self as others fondly imagine they see one."

"But surely you get some exercise?" I asked; for he was leading me at
a good rate through the leafy byways of Campden Hill; and his step was
as springy and as light as ever.

"The best exercise I ever had in my life," said Raffles; "and you
would never live to guess what it is. It's one of the reasons why I
went in for this seedy kit. I follow cabs. Yes, Bunny, I turn out
about dusk and meet the expresses at Euston or King's Cross; that is,
of course, I loaf outside and pick my cab, and often run my three or
four miles for a bob or less. And it not only keeps you in the very
pink: if you're good they let you carry the trunks upstairs; and I've
taken notes from the inside of more than one commodious residence
which will come in useful in the autumn. In fact, Bunny, what with
these new Rowton houses, my beard, and my otherwise well-spent
holiday, I hope to have quite a good autumn season before the erratic
Raffles turns up in town."

I felt it high time to wedge in a word about my own far less
satisfactory affairs. But it was not necessary for me to recount half
my troubles. Raffles could be as full of himself as many a worse man,
and I did not like his society the less for these human outpourings.
They had rather the effect of putting me on better terms with myself,
through bringing him down to my level for the time being. But his
egoism was not even skin-deep; it was rather a cloak, which Raffles
could cast off quicker than any man I ever knew, as he did not fail to
show me now.

"Why, Bunny, this is the very thing!" he cried. "You must come and
stay with me, and we'll lie low side by side. Only remember it really
is a Rest Cure. I want to keep literally as quiet as I was without
you. What do you say to forming ourselves at once into a practically
Silent Order? You agree? Very well, then, here's the street and that's
the house."

It was ever such a quiet little street, turning out of one of those
which climb right over the pleasant hill. One side was monopolized by
the garden wall of an ugly but enviable mansion standing in its own
ground; opposite were a solid file of smaller but taller houses; on
neither side were there many windows alight, nor a solitary soul on
the pavement or in the road. Raffles led the way to one of the small
tall houses. It stood immediately behind a lamp-post, and I could not
but notice that a love-lock of Virginia creeper was trailing almost to
the step, and that the bow-window on the ground floor was closely
shuttered. Raffles admitted himself with his latch-key, and I squeezed
past him into a very narrow hall. I did not hear him shut the door,
but we were no longer in the lamplight, and he pushed softly past me
in his turn.

"I'll get a light," he muttered as he went; but to let him pass I had
leaned against some electric switches, and while his back was turned I
tried one of these without thinking. In an instant hall and staircase
were flooded with light; in another Raffles was upon me in a fury, and
all was dark once more. He had not said a word, but I heard him
breathing through his teeth.

Nor was there anything to tell me now. The mere flash of electric
light upon a hall of chaos and uncarpeted stairs, and on the face of
Raffles as he sprang to switch it off, had been enough even for me.

"So this is how you have taken the house," said I in his own
undertone. "'Taken' is good; 'taken' is beautiful!"

"Did you think I'd done it through an agent?" he snarled. "Upon my
word, Bunny, I did you the credit of supposing you saw the joke all
the time!"

"Why shouldn't you take a house," I asked, "and pay for it?"

"Why should I," he retorted, "within three miles of the Albany?
Besides, I should have had no peace; and I meant every word I said
about my Rest Cure."

"You are actually staying in a house where you've broken in to steal?"

"Not to steal, Bunny! I haven't stolen a thing. But staying here I
certainly am, and having the most complete rest a busy man could
wish."

"There'll be no rest for me!"

Raffles laughed as he struck a match. I had followed him into what
would have been the back drawing-room in the ordinary little London
house; the inspector of prisons had converted it into a separate study
by filling the folding doors with book-shelves, which I scanned at
once for the congenial works of which Raffles had spoken. I was not
able to carry my examination very far. Raffles had lighted a candle,
stuck (by its own grease) in the crown of an opera hat, which he
opened the moment the wick caught. The light thus struck the ceiling
in an oval shaft, which left the rest of the room almost as dark as
it had been before.

"Sorry, Bunny!" said Raffles, sitting on one pedestal of a desk from
which the top had been removed, and setting his makeshift lantern on
the other. "In broad daylight, when it can't be spotted from the
outside, you shall have as much artificial light as you like. If you
want to do some writing, that's the top of the desk on end against the
mantlepiece. You'll never have a better chance so far as interruption
goes. But no midnight oil or electricity! You observe that their last
care was to fix up these shutters; they appear to have taken the top
off the desk to get at 'em without standing on it; but the beastly
things wouldn't go all the way up, and the strip they leave would give
us away to the backs of the other houses if we lit up after dark. Mind
that telephone! If you touch the receiver they will know at the
exchange that the house is not empty, and I wouldn't put it past the
colonel to have told them exactly how long he was going to be away.
He's pretty particular: look at the strips of paper to keep the dust
off his precious books!"

"Is he a colonel?" I asked, perceiving that Raffles referred to the
absentee householder.

"Of sappers," he replied, "and a V.C. into the bargain, confound him!
Got it at Rorke's Drift; prison governor or inspector ever since;
favorite recreation, what do you think? Revolver shooting! You can
read all about him in his own _Who's Who_. A devil of a chap to
tackle, Bunny, when he's at home!"

"And where is he now?" I asked uneasily. "And do you know he isn't on
his way home?"

"Switzerland," replied Raffles, chuckling; "he wrote one too many
labels, and was considerate enough to leave it behind for our
guidance. Well, no one ever comes back from Switzerland at the
beginning of September, you know; and nobody ever thinks of coming
back before the servants. When they turn up they won't get in. I keep
the latch jammed, but the servants will think it's jammed itself, and
while they're gone for the lock-smith we shall walk out like
gentlemen--if we haven't done so already."

"As you walked in, I suppose?"

Raffles shook his head in the dim light to which my sight was growing
inured.

"No, Bunny, I regret to say I came in through the dormer window. They
were painting next door but one. I never did like ladder work, but it
takes less time than in picking a lock in the broad light of a street
lamp."

"So they left you a latch-key as well as everything else!"

"No, Bunny. I was just able to make that for myself. I am playing at
'Robinson Crusoe,' not 'The Swiss Family Robinson.' And now, my dear
Friday, if you will kindly take off those boots, we can explore the
island before we turn in for the night."

The stairs were very steep and narrow, and they creaked alarmingly as
Raffles led the way up, with the single candle in the crown of the
colonel's hat. He blew it out before we reached the half-landing,
where a naked window stared upon the backs of the houses in the next
road, but lit it again at the drawing-room door. I just peeped in upon
a semi-grand swathed in white and a row of water colors mounted in
gold. An excellent bathroom broke our journey to the second floor.

"I'll have one to-night," said I, taking heart of a luxury unknown in
my last sordid sanctuary.

"You'll do no such thing," snapped Raffles. "Have the goodness to
remember that our island is one of a group inhabited by hostile
tribes. You can fill the bath quietly if you try, but it empties under
the study window, and makes the very devil of a noise about it. No,
Bunny, I bale out every drop and pour it away through the scullery
sink, so you will kindly consult me before you turn a tap. Here's your
room; hold the light outside while I draw the curtains; it's the old
chap's dressing-room. Now you can bring the glim. How's that for a
jolly wardrobe? And look at his coats on their cross-trees inside:
dapper old dog, shouldn't you say? Mark the boots on the shelf above,
and the little brass rail for his ties! Didn't I tell you he was
particular? And wouldn't he simply love to catch us at his kit?"

"Let's only hope it would give him an apoplexy," said I shuddering.

"I shouldn't build on it," replied Raffles. "That's a big man's
trouble, and neither you nor I could get into the old chap's clothes.
But come into the best bedroom, Bunny. You won't think me selfish if I
don't give it up to you? Look at this, my boy, look at this! It's the
only one I use in all the house."

I had followed him into a good room, with ample windows closely
curtained, and he had switched on the light in a hanging lamp at the
bedside. The rays fell from a thick green funnel in a plateful of
strong light upon a table deep in books. I noticed several volumes of
the "Invasion of the Crimea."

"That's where I rest the body and exercise the brain," said Raffles.
"I have long wanted to read my Kinglake from A to Z, and I manage
about a volume a night. There's a style for you, Bunny! I love the
punctilious thoroughness of the whole thing; one can understand its
appeal to our careful colonel. His name, did you say? Crutchley,
Bunny--Colonel Crutchley, R.E., V.C."

"We'd put his valor to the test!" said I, feeling more valiant myself
after our tour of inspection.

"Not so loud on the stairs," whispered Raffles. "There's only one door
between us and----"

Raffles stood still at my feet, and well he might! A deafening double
knock had resounded through the empty house; and to add to the utter
horror of the moment, Raffles instantly blew out the light. I heard my
heart pounding. Neither of us breathed. We were on our way down to the
first landing, and for a moment we stood like mice; then Raffles
heaved a deep sigh, and in the depths I heard the gate swing home.

"Only the postman, Bunny! He will come now and again, though they have
obviously left instructions at the post-office. I hope the old colonel
will let them have it when he gets back. I confess it gave me a
turn."

"Turn!" I gasped. "I must have a drink, if I die for it."

"My dear Bunny, that's no part of my Rest Cure."

"Then good-by! I can't stand it; feel my forehead; listen to my heart!
Crusoe found a footprint, but he never heard a double-knock at the
street door!"

"'Better live in the midst of alarms,'" quoted Raffles, "'than dwell
in this horrible place.' I must confess we get it both ways, Bunny.
Yet I've nothing but tea in the house."

"And where do you make that? Aren't you afraid of smoke?"

"There's a gas-stove in the dining-room."

"But surely to goodness," I cried, "there's a cellar lower down!"

"My dear, good Bunny," said Raffles, "I've told you already that I
didn't come in here on business. I came in for the Cure. Not a penny
will these people be the worse, except for their washing and their
electric light, and I mean to leave enough to cover both items."

"Then," said I, "since Brutus is such a very honorable man, we will
borrow a bottle from the cellar, and replace it before we go."

Raffles slapped me softly on the back, and I knew that I had gained
my point. It was often the case when I had the presence of heart and
mind to stand up to him. But never was little victory of mine quite so
grateful as this. Certainly it was a very small cellar, indeed a mere
cupboard under the kitchen stairs, with a most ridiculous lock. Nor
was this cupboard overstocked with wine. But I made out a jar of
whiskey, a shelf of Zeltinger, another of claret, and a short one at
the top which presented a little battery of golden-leafed necks and
corks. Raffles set his hand no lower. He examined the labels while I
held folded hat and naked light.

"Mumm, '84!" he whispered. "G. H. Mumm, and A.D. 1884! I am no
wine-bibber, Bunny, as you know, but I hope you appreciate the
specifications as I do. It looks to me like the only bottle, the last
of its case, and it does seem a bit of a shame; but more shame for the
miser who hoards in his cellar what was meant for mankind! Come,
Bunny, lead the way. This baby is worth nursing. It would break my
heart if anything happened to it now!"

So we celebrated my first night in the furnished house; and I slept
beyond belief, slept as I never was to sleep there again. But it was
strange to hear the milkman in the early morning, and the postman
knocking his way along the street an hour later, and to be passed over
by one destroying angel after another. I had come down early enough,
and watched through the drawing-room blind the cleansing of all the
steps in the street but ours. Yet Raffles had evidently been up some
time; the house seemed far purer than overnight as though he had
managed to air it room by room; and from the one with the gas-stove
there came a frizzling sound that fattened the heart.

I only would I had the pen to do justice to the week I spent in-doors
on Campden Hill! It might make amusing reading; the reality for me was
far removed from the realm of amusement. Not that I was denied many a
laugh of suppressed heartiness when Raffles and I were together. But
half our time we very literally saw nothing of each other. I need not
say whose fault that was. He would be quiet; he was in ridiculous and
offensive earnest about his egregious Cure. Kinglake he would read by
the hour together, day and night, by the hanging lamp, lying upstairs
on the best bed. There was daylight enough for me in the drawing-room
below; and there I would sit immersed in criminous tomes weakly
fascinated until I shivered and shook in my stocking soles. Often I
longed to do something hysterically desperate, to rouse Raffles and
bring the street about our ears; once I did bring him about mine by
striking a single note on the piano, with the soft pedal down. His
neglect of me seemed wanton at the time. I have long realized that he
was only wise to maintain silence at the expense of perilous
amenities, and as fully justified in those secret and solitary sorties
which made bad blood in my veins. He was far cleverer than I at
getting in and out; but even had I been his match for stealth and
wariness, my company would have doubled every risk. I admit now that
he treated me with quite as much sympathy as common caution would
permit. But at the time I took it so badly as to plan a small revenge.

What with his flourishing beard and the increasing shabbiness of the
only suit he had brought with him to the house, there was no denying
that Raffles had now the advantage of a permanent disguise. That was
another of his excuses for leaving me as he did, and it was the one I
was determined to remove. On a morning, therefore, when I awoke to
find him flown again, I proceeded to execute a plan which I had
already matured in my mind. Colonel Crutchley was a married man; there
were no signs of children in the house; on the other hand, there was
much evidence that the wife was a woman of fashion. Her dresses
overflowed the wardrobe and her room; large, flat, cardboard boxes
were to be found in every corner of the upper floors. She was a tall
woman; I was not too tall a man. Like Raffles, I had not shaved on
Campden Hill. That morning, however, I did my best with a very fair
razor which the colonel had left behind in my room; then I turned out
the lady's wardrobe and the cardboard boxes, and took my choice.

I have fair hair, and at the time it was rather long. With a pair of
Mrs. Crutchley's tongs and a discarded hair-net, I was able to produce
an almost immodest fringe. A big black hat with a wintry feather
completed a headdress as unseasonable as my skating skirt and feather
boa; of course, the good lady had all her summer frocks away with her
in Switzerland. This was all the more annoying from the fact that we
were having a very warm September; so I was not sorry to hear Raffles
return as I was busy adding a layer of powder to my heated
countenance. I listened a moment on the landing, but as he went into
the study I determined to complete my toilet in every detail. My idea
was first to give him the fright he deserved, and secondly to show him
that I was quite as fit to move abroad as he. It was, however, I
confess, a pair of the colonel's gloves that I was buttoning as I
slipped down to the study even more quietly than usual. The electric
light was on, as it generally was by day, and under it stood as
formidable a figure as ever I encountered in my life of crime.

Imagine a thin but extremely wiry man, past middle age, brown and
bloodless as any crabapple, but as coolly truculent and as casually
alert as Raffles at his worst. It was, it could only be, the
fire-eating and prison-inspecting colonel himself! He was ready for
me, a revolver in his hand, taken, as I could see, from one of those
locked drawers in the pedestal desk with which Raffles had refused to
tamper; the drawer was open, and a bunch of keys depended from the
lock. A grim smile crumpled up the parchment face, so that one eye was
puckered out of sight; the other was propped open by an eyeglass,
which, however, dangled on its string when I appeared.

"A woman, begad!" the warrior exclaimed. "And where's the man, you
scarlet hussy?"

Not a word could I utter. But, in my horror and my amazement, I have
no sort of doubt that I acted the part I had assumed in a manner I
never should have approached in happier circumstances.

[Illustration: It was the fire-eating and prison-inspecting colonel
himself. He was ready for me, a revolver in his hand.]

"Come, come, my lass," cried the old oak veteran, "I'm not going to
put a bullet through you, you know! You tell me all about it, and
it'll do you more good than harm. There, I'll put the nasty thing away
and--God bless me, if the brazen wench hasn't squeezed into the wife's
kit!"

A squeeze it happened to have been, and in my emotion it felt more of
one than ever; but his sudden discovery had not heightened the
veteran's animosity against me. On the contrary, I caught a glint of
humor through his gleaming glass, and he proceeded to pocket his
revolver like the gentleman he was.

"Well, well, it's lucky I looked in," he continued. "I only came round
on the off-chance of letters, but if I hadn't you'd have had another
week in clover. Begad, though, I saw your hand-writing the moment I'd
got my nose inside! Now just be sensible and tell me where your good
man is."

I had no man. I was alone, had broken in alone. There was not a soul
in the affair (much less the house) except myself. So much I stuttered
out in tones too hoarse to betray me on the spot. But the old man of
the world shook a hard old head.

"Quite right not to give away your pal," said he. "But I'm not one of
the marines, my dear, and you mustn't expect me to swallow all that.
Well, if you won't say, you won't, and we must just send for those who
will."

In a flash I saw his fell design. The telephone directory lay open on
one of the pedestals. He must have been consulting it when he heard me
on the stairs; he had another look at it now; and that gave me my
opportunity. With a presence of mind rare enough in me to excuse the
boast, I flung myself upon the instrument in the corner and hurled it
to the ground with all my might. I was myself sent spinning into the
opposite corner at the same instant. But the instrument happened to be
a standard of the more elaborate pattern, and I flattered myself that
I had put the delicate engine out of action for the day.

Not that my adversary took the trouble to ascertain. He was looking at
me strangely in the electric light, standing intently on his guard,
his right hand in the pocket where he had dropped his revolver. And
I--I hardly knew it--but I caught up the first thing handy for
self-defence, and was brandishing the bottle which Raffles and I had
emptied in honor of my arrival on this fatal scene.

"Be shot if I don't believe you're the man himself!" cried the
colonel, shaking an armed fist in my face. "You young wolf in sheep's
clothing! Been at my wine, of course! Put down that bottle; down with
it this instant, or I'll drill a tunnel through your middle. I thought
so! Begad, sir, you shall pay for this! Don't you give me an excuse
for potting you now, or I'll jump at the chance! My last bottle of
'84--you miserable blackguard--you unutterable beast!"

He had browbeaten me into his own chair in his own corner; he was
standing over me, empty bottle in one hand, revolver in the other, and
murder itself in the purple puckers of his raging face. His language I
will not even pretend to indicate: his skinny throat swelled and
trembled with the monstrous volleys. He could smile at my appearance
in his wife's clothes; he would have had my blood for the last bottle
of his best champagne. His eyes were not hidden now; they needed no
eyeglass to prop them open; large with fury, they started from the
livid mask. I watched nothing else. I could not understand why they
should start out as they did. I did not try. I say I watched nothing
else--until I saw the face of Raffles over the unfortunate officer's
shoulder.

Raffles had crept in unheard while our altercation was at its height,
had watched his opportunity, and stolen on his man unobserved by
either of us. While my own attention was completely engrossed, he had
seized the colonel's pistol-hand and twisted it behind the colonel's
back until his eyes bulged out as I have endeavored to describe. But
the fighting man had some fight in him still; and scarcely had I
grasped the situation when he hit out venomously behind with the
bottle, which was smashed to bits on Raffles's shin. Then I threw my
strength into the scale; and before many minutes we had our officer
gagged and bound in his chair. But it was not one of our bloodless
victories. Raffles had been cut to the bone by the broken glass; his
leg bled wherever he limped; and the fierce eyes of the bound man
followed the wet trail with gleams of sinister satisfaction.

I thought I had never seen a man better bound or better gagged. But
the humanity seemed to have run out of Raffles with his blood. He tore
up tablecloths, he cut down blind-cords, he brought the dust-sheets
from the drawing-room, and multiplied every bond. The unfortunate
man's legs were lashed to the legs of his chair, his arms to its arms,
his thighs and back fairly welded to the leather. Either end of his
own ruler protruded from his bulging cheeks--the middle was hidden by
his moustache--and the gag kept in place by remorseless lashings at
the back of his head. It was a spectacle I could not bear to
contemplate at length, while from the first I found myself physically
unable to face the ferocious gaze of those implacable eyes. But
Raffles only laughed at my squeamishness, and flung a dust-sheet over
man and chair; and the stark outline drove me from the room.

It was Raffles at his worst, Raffles as I never knew him before or
after--a Raffles mad with pain and rage, and desperate as any other
criminal in the land. Yet he had struck no brutal blow, he had uttered
no disgraceful taunt, and probably not inflicted a tithe of the pain
he had himself to bear. It is true that he was flagrantly in the
wrong, his victim as laudably in the right. Nevertheless, granting the
original sin of the situation, and given this unforeseen development,
even I failed to see how Raffles could have combined greater humanity
with any regard for our joint safety; and had his barbarities ended
here, I for one should not have considered them an extraordinary
aggravation of an otherwise minor offence. But in the broad daylight
of the bathroom, which had a ground-glass window but no blind, I saw
at once the serious nature of his wound and of its effect upon the
man.

"It will maim me for a month," said he; "and if the V.C. comes out
alive, the wound he gave may be identified with the wound I've got."

The V.C.! There, indeed, was an aggravation to one illogical mind. But
to cast a moment's doubt upon the certainty of his coming out alive!

"Of course he'll come out," said I. "We must make up our minds to
that."

"Did he tell you he was expecting the servants or his wife? If so, of
course we must hurry up."

"No, Raffles, I'm afraid he's not expecting anybody. He told me, if he
hadn't looked in for letters, we should have had the place to
ourselves another week. That's the worst of it."

Raffles smiled as he secured a regular puttee of dust-sheeting. No
blood was coming through.

"I don't agree, Bunny," said he. "It's quite the best of it, if you
ask me."

"What, that he should die the death?"

"Why not?"

And Raffles stared me out with a hard and merciless light in his clear
blue eyes--a light that chilled the blood.

"If it's a choice between his life and our liberty, you're entitled to
your decision and I'm entitled to mine, and I took it before I bound
him as I did," said Raffles. "I'm only sorry I took so much trouble if
you're going to stay behind and put him in the way of releasing
himself before he gives up the ghost. Perhaps you will go and think it
over while I wash my bags and dry 'em at the gas-stove. It will take
me at least an hour, which will just give me time to finish the last
volume of Kinglake."

Long before he was ready to go, however, I was waiting in the hall,
clothed indeed, but not in a mind which I care to recall. Once or
twice I peered into the dining-room where Raffles sat before the
stove, without letting him hear me. He, too, was ready for the street
at a moment's notice; but a steam ascended from his left leg, as he
sat immersed in his red volume. Into the study I never went again; but
Raffles did, to restore to its proper shelf this and every other book
he had taken out and so destroy that clew to the manner of man who had
made himself at home in the house. On his last visit I heard him whisk
off the dust-sheet; then he waited a minute; and when he came out it
was to lead the way into the open air as though the accursed house
belonged to him.

"We shall be seen," I whispered at his heels. "Raffles, Raffles,
there's a policeman at the corner!"

"I know him intimately," replied Raffles, turning, however, the other
way. "He accosted me on Monday, when I explained that I was an old
soldier of the colonel's regiment, who came in every few days to air
the place and send on any odd letters. You see, I have always carried
one or two about me, redirected to that address in Switzerland, and
when I showed them to him it was all right. But after that it was no
use listening at the letter-box for a clear coast, was it?"

I did not answer; there was too much to exasperate in these prodigies
of cunning which he could never trouble to tell me at the time. And I
knew why he had kept his latest feats to himself: unwilling to trust
me outside the house, he had systematically exaggerated the dangers of
his own walks abroad; and when to these injuries he added the insult
of a patronizing compliment on my late disguise, I again made no
reply.

"What's the good of your coming with me?" he asked, when I had
followed him across the main stream of Notting Hill.

"We may as well sink or swim together," I answered sullenly.

"Yes? Well, I'm going to swim into the provinces, have a shave on the
way, buy a new kit piecemeal, including a cricket-bag (which I really
want), and come limping back to the Albany with the same old strain in
my bowling leg. I needn't add that I have been playing country-house
cricket for the last month under an alias; it's the only decent way to
do it when one's county has need of one. That's my itinerary, Bunny,
but I really can't see why you should come with me."

"We may as well swing together!" I growled.

"As you will, my dear fellow," replied Raffles. "But I begin to dread
your company on the drop!"

I shall hold my pen on that provincial tour. Not that I joined Raffles
in any of the little enterprises with which he beguiled the breaks in
our journey; our last deed in London was far too great a weight upon
my soul. I could see that gallant officer in his chair, see him at
every hour of the day and night, now with his indomitable eyes meeting
mine ferociously, now a stark outline underneath a sheet. The vision
darkened my day and gave me sleepless nights. I was with our victim in
all his agony; my mind would only leave him for that gallows of which
Raffles had said true things in jest. No, I could not face so vile a
death lightly, but I could meet it, somehow, better than I could
endure a guilty suspense. In the watches of the second night I made up
my mind to meet it half-way, that very morning, while still there
might be time to save the life that we had left in jeopardy. And I got
up early to tell Raffles of my resolve.

His room in the hotel where we were staying was littered with clothes
and luggage new enough for any bridegroom; I lifted the locked
cricket-bag, and found it heavier than a cricket-bag has any right to
be. But in the bed Raffles was sleeping like an infant, his shaven
self once more. And when I shook him he awoke with a smile.

"Going to confess, eh, Bunny? Well, wait a bit; the local police won't
thank you for knocking them up at this hour. And I bought a late
edition which you ought to see; that must be it on the floor. You have
a look in the stop-press column, Bunny."

I found the place with a sunken heart, and this is what I read:

                         WEST-END OUTRAGE

     Colonel Crutchley, R.E., V.C., has been the victim of a
     dastardly outrage at his residence, Peter Street, Campden
     Hill. Returning unexpectedly to the house, which had been
     left untenanted during the absence of the family abroad, it
     was found occupied by two ruffians, who overcame and secured
     the distinguished officer by the exercise of considerable
     violence. When discovered through the intelligence of the
     Kensington police, the gallant victim was gagged and bound
     hand and foot, and in an advanced stage of exhaustion.

"Thanks to the Kensington police," observed Raffles, as I read the
last words aloud in my horror. "They can't have gone when they got my
letter."

"Your letter?"

"I printed them a line while we were waiting for our train at Euston.
They must have got it that night, but they can't have paid any
attention to it until yesterday morning. And when they do, they take
all the credit and give me no more than you did, Bunny!"

I looked at the curly head upon the pillow, at the smiling, handsome
face under the curls. And at last I understood.

"So all the time you never meant it!"

"Slow murder? You should have known me better. A few hours' enforced
Rest Cure was the worst I wished him."

"You might have told me, Raffles!"

"That may be, Bunny, but you ought certainly to have trusted me!"



The Criminologists' Club


"But who are they, Raffles, and where's their house? There's no such
club on the list in Whitaker."

"The Criminologists, my dear Bunny, are too few for a local
habitation, and too select to tell their name in Gath. They are merely
so many solemn students of contemporary crime, who meet and dine
periodically at each other's clubs or houses."

"But why in the world should they ask us to dine with them?"

And I brandished the invitation which had brought me hotfoot to the
Albany: it was from the Right Hon. the Earl of Thornaby, K.G.; and it
requested the honor of my company at dinner, at Thornaby House, Park
Lane, to meet the members of the Criminologists' Club. That in itself
was a disturbing compliment: judge then of my dismay on learning that
Raffles had been invited too!

"They have got it into their heads," said he, "that the gladiatorial
element is the curse of most modern sport. They tremble especially
for the professional gladiator. And they want to know whether my
experience tallies with their theory."

"So they say!"

"They quote the case of a league player, _sus per coll._, and any
number of suicides. It really is rather in my public line."

"In yours, if you like, but not in mine," said I. "No, Raffles,
they've got their eye on us both, and mean to put us under the
microscope, or they never would have pitched on _me_."

Raffles smiled on my perturbation.

"I almost wish you were right, Bunny! It would be even better fun than
I mean to make it as it is. But it may console you to hear that it was
I who gave them your name. I told them you were a far keener
criminologist than myself. I am delighted to hear they have taken my
hint, and that we are to meet at their gruesome board."

"If I accept," said I, with the austerity he deserved.

"If you don't," rejoined Raffles, "you will miss some sport after both
our hearts. Think of it, Bunny! These fellows meet to wallow in all
the latest crimes; we wallow with them as though we knew more about it
than themselves. Perhaps we don't, for few criminologists have a soul
above murder; and I quite expect to have the privilege of lifting the
discussion into our own higher walk. They shall give their morbid
minds to the fine art of burgling, for a change; and while we're about
it, Bunny, we may as well extract their opinion of our noble selves.
As authors, as collaborators, we will sit with the flower of our
critics, and find our own level in the expert eye. It will be a
piquant experience, if not an invaluable one; if we are sailing too
near the wind, we are sure to hear about it, and can trim our yards
accordingly. Moreover, we shall get a very good dinner into the
bargain, or our noble host will belie a European reputation."

"Do you know him?" I asked.

"We have a pavilion acquaintance, when it suits my lord," replied
Raffles, chuckling. "But I know all about him. He was president one
year of the M.C.C., and we never had a better. He knows the game,
though I believe he never played cricket in his life. But then he
knows most things, and has never done any of them. He has never even
married, and never opened his lips in the House of Lords. Yet they say
there is no better brain in the august assembly, and he certainly made
us a wonderful speech last time the Australians were over. He has read
everything and (to his credit in these days) never written a line.
All round he is a whale for theory and a sprat for practice--but he
looks quite capable of both at crime!"

I now longed to behold this remarkable peer in the flesh, and with the
greater curiosity since another of the things which he evidently never
did was to have his photograph published for the benefit of the
vulgar. I told Raffles that I would dine with him at Lord Thornaby's,
and he nodded as though I had not hesitated for a moment. I see now
how deftly he had disposed of my reluctance. No doubt he had thought
it all out before: his little speeches look sufficiently premeditated
as I set them down at the dictates of an excellent memory. Let it,
however, be borne in mind that Raffles did not talk exactly like a
Raffles book: he said the things, but he did not say them in so many
consecutive breaths. They were punctuated by puffs from his eternal
cigarette, and the punctuation was often in the nature of a line of
asterisks, while he took a silent turn up and down his room. Nor was
he ever more deliberate than when he seemed most nonchalant and
spontaneous. I came to see it in the end. But these were early days,
in which he was more plausible to me than I can hope to render him to
another human being.

And I saw a good deal of Raffles just then; it was, in fact, the one
period at which I can remember his coming round to see me more
frequently than I went round to him. Of course he would come at his
own odd hours, often just as one was dressing to go out and dine, and
I can even remember finding him there when I returned, for I had long
since given him a key of the flat. It was the inhospitable month of
February, and I can recall more than one cosy evening when we
discussed anything and everything but our own malpractices; indeed,
there were none to discuss just then. Raffles, on the contrary, was
showing himself with some industry in the most respectable society,
and by his advice I used the club more than ever.

"There is nothing like it at this time of year," said he. "In the
summer I have my cricket to provide me with decent employment in the
sight of men. Keep yourself before the public from morning to night,
and they'll never think of you in the still small hours."

Our behavior, in fine, had so long been irreproachable that I rose
without misgiving on the morning of Lord Thornaby's dinner to the
other Criminologists and guests. My chief anxiety was to arrive under
the ægis of my brilliant friend, and I had begged him to pick me up on
his way; but at five minutes to the appointed hour there was no sign
of Raffles or his cab. We were bidden at a quarter to eight for eight
o'clock, so after all I had to hurry off alone.

Fortunately, Thornaby House is almost at the end of my street that
was; and it seemed to me another fortunate circumstance that the house
stood back, as it did and does, in its own august courtyard; for, as I
was about to knock, a hansom came twinkling in behind me, and I drew
back, hoping it was Raffles at the last moment. It was not, and I knew
it in time to melt from the porch, and wait yet another minute in the
shadows, since others were as late as I. And out jumped these others,
chattering in stage whispers as they paid their cab.

"Thornaby has a bet about it with Freddy Vereker, who can't come, I
hear. Of course, it won't be lost or won to-night. But the dear man
thinks he's been invited as a cricketer!"

"I don't believe he's the other thing," said a voice as brusque as the
first was bland. "I believe it's all bunkum. I wish I didn't, but I
do!"

"I think you'll find it's more than that," rejoined the other, as the
doors opened and swallowed the pair.

I flung out limp hands and smote the air. Raffles bidden to what he
had well called this "gruesome board," not as a cricketer but,
clearly, as a suspected criminal! Raffles wrong all the time, and I
right for once in my original apprehension! And still no Raffles in
sight--no Raffles to warn--no Raffles, and the clocks striking eight!

Well may I shirk the psychology of such a moment, for my belief is
that the striking clocks struck out all power of thought and feeling,
and that I played my poor part the better for that blessed surcease of
intellectual sensation. On the other hand, I was never more alive to
the purely objective impressions of any hour of my existence, and of
them the memory is startling to this day. I hear my mad knock at the
double doors; they fly open in the middle, and it is like some
sumptuous and solemn rite. A long slice of silken-legged lackey is
seen on either hand; a very prelate of a butler bows a benediction
from the sanctuary steps. I breathe more freely when I reach a
book-lined library where a mere handful of men do not overflow the
Persian rug before the fire. One of them is Raffles, who is talking to
a large man with the brow of a demi-god and the eyes and jowl of a
degenerate bulldog. And this is our noble host.

Lord Thornaby stared at me with inscrutable stolidity as we shook
hands, and at once handed me over to a tall, ungainly man whom he
addressed as Ernest, but whose surname I never learned. Ernest in
turn introduced me, with a shy and clumsy courtesy, to the two
remaining guests. They were the pair who had driven up in the hansom;
one turned out to be Kingsmill, Q.C.; the other I knew at a glance
from his photographs as Parrington, the backwoods novelist. They were
admirable foils to each other, the barrister being plump and dapper,
with a Napoleonic cast of countenance, and the author one of the
shaggiest dogs I have ever seen in evening-clothes. Neither took much
stock of me, but both had an eye on Raffles as I exchanged a few words
with each in turn. Dinner, however, was immediately announced, and the
six of us had soon taken our places round a brilliant little table
stranded in a great dark room.

I had not been prepared for so small a party, and at first I felt
relieved. If the worst came to the worst, I was fool enough to say in
my heart, they were but two to one. But I was soon sighing for that
safety which the adage associates with numbers. We were far too few
for the confidential duologue with one's neighbor in which I, at
least, would have taken refuge from the perils of a general
conversation. And the general conversation soon resolved itself into
an attack, so subtly concerted and so artistically delivered that I
could not conceive how Raffles should ever know it for an attack, and
that against himself, or how to warn him of his peril. But to this day
I am not convinced that I also was honored by the suspicions of the
club; it may have been so, and they may have ignored me for the bigger
game.

It was Lord Thornaby himself who fired the first shot, over the very
sherry. He had Raffles on his right hand, and the backwoodsman of
letters on his left. Raffles was hemmed in by the law on his right,
while I sat between Parrington and Ernest, who took the foot of the
table, and seemed a sort of feudatory cadet of the noble house. But it
was the motley lot of us that my lord addressed, as he sat back
blinking his baggy eyes.

"Mr. Raffles," said he, "has been telling me about that poor fellow
who suffered the extreme penalty last March. A great end, gentlemen, a
great end! It is true that he had been unfortunate enough to strike a
jugular vein, but his own end should take its place among the most
glorious traditions of the gallows. You tell them Mr. Raffles: it will
be as new to my friends as it is to me."

"I tell the tale as I heard it last time I played at Trent Bridge; it
was never in the papers, I believe," said Raffles gravely. "You may
remember the tremendous excitement over the Test Matches out in
Australia at the time: it seems that the result of the crucial game
was expected on the condemned man's last day on earth, and he couldn't
rest until he knew it. We pulled it off, if you recollect, and he said
it would make him swing happy."

"Tell 'em what else he said!" cried Lord Thornaby, rubbing his podgy
hands.

"The chaplain remonstrated with him on his excitement over a game at
such a time, and the convict is said to have replied: 'Why, it's the
first thing they'll ask me at the other end of the drop!'"

The story was new even to me, but I had no time to appreciate its
points. My concern was to watch its effect upon the other members of
the party. Ernest, on my left, doubled up with laughter, and tittered
and shook for several minutes. My other neighbor, more impressionable
by temperament, winced first, and then worked himself into a state of
enthusiasm which culminated in an assault upon his shirt-cuff with a
joiner's pencil. Kingsmill, Q.C., beaming tranquilly on Raffles,
seemed the one least impressed, until he spoke.

"I am glad to hear that," he remarked in a high bland voice. "I
thought that man would die game."

"Did you know anything about him, then?" inquired Lord Thornaby.

"I led for the Crown," replied the barrister, with a twinkle. "You
might almost say that I measured the poor man's neck."

The point must have been quite unpremeditated; it was not the less
effective for that. Lord Thornaby looked askance at the callous silk.
It was some moments before Ernest tittered and Parrington felt for his
pencil; and in the interim I had made short work of my hock, though it
was Johannisberger. As for Raffles, one had but to see his horror to
feel how completely he was off his guard.

"In itself, I have heard, it was not a sympathetic case?" was the
remark with which he broke the general silence.

"Not a bit."

"That must have been a comfort to you," said Raffles dryly.

"It would have been to me," vowed our author, while the barrister
merely smiled. "I should have been very sorry to have had a hand in
hanging Peckham and Solomons the other day."

"Why Peckham and Solomons?" inquired my lord.

"They never meant to kill that old lady."

"But they strangled her in her bed with her own pillow-case!"

"I don't care," said the uncouth scribe. "They didn't break in for
that. They never thought of scragging her. The foolish old person
would make a noise, and one of them tied too tight. I call it jolly
bad luck on them."

"On quiet, harmless, well-behaved thieves," added Lord Thornaby, "in
the unobtrusive exercise of their humble avocation."

And, as he turned to Raffles with his puffy smile, I knew that we had
reached that part of the programme which had undergone rehearsal: it
had been perfectly timed to arrive with the champagne, and I was not
afraid to signify my appreciation of that small mercy. But Raffles
laughed so quickly at his lordship's humor, and yet with such a
natural restraint, as to leave no doubt that he had taken kindly to my
own old part, and was playing the innocent inimitably in his turn, by
reason of his very innocence. It was a poetic judgment on old Raffles,
and in my momentary enjoyment of the novel situation I was able to
enjoy some of the good things of this rich man's table. The saddle of
mutton more than justified its place in the menu; but it had not
spoiled me for my wing of pheasant, and I was even looking forward to
a sweet, when a further remark from the literary light recalled me
from the table to its talk.

"But, I suppose," said he to Kingsmill, "it's 'many a burglar _you've_
restored to his friends and his relations'?"

"Let us say many a poor fellow who has been charged with burglary,"
replied the cheery Q.C. "It's not quite the same thing, you know, nor
is 'many' the most accurate word. I never touch criminal work in
town."

"It's the only kind I should care about," said the novelist, eating
jelly with a spoon.

"I quite agree with you," our host chimed in. "And of all the
criminals one might be called upon to defend, give me the enterprising
burglar."

"It must be the breeziest branch of the business," remarked Raffles,
while I held my breath.

But his touch was as light as gossamer, and his artless manner a
triumph of even his incomparable art. Raffles was alive to the danger
at last. I saw him refuse more champagne, even as I drained my glass
again. But it was not the same danger to us both. Raffles had no
reason to feel surprise or alarm at such a turn in a conversation
frankly devoted to criminology; it must have been as inevitable to him
as it was sinister to me, with my fortuitous knowledge of the
suspicions that were entertained. And there was little to put him on
his guard in the touch of his adversaries, which was only less light
than his own.

"I am not very fond of Mr. Sikes," announced the barrister, like a man
who had got his cue.

"But he was prehistoric," rejoined my lord. "A lot of blood has flowed
under the razor since the days of Sweet William."

"True; we have had Peace," said Parrington, and launched out into such
glowing details of that criminal's last moments that I began to hope
the diversion might prove permanent. But Lord Thornaby was not to be
denied.

"William and Charles are both dead monarchs," said he. "The reigning
king in their department is the fellow who gutted poor Danby's place
in Bond Street."

There was a guilty silence on the part of the three conspirators--for
I had long since persuaded myself that Ernest was not in their
secret--and then my blood froze.

"I know him well," said Raffles, looking up.

Lord Thornaby stared at him in consternation. The smile on the
Napoleonic countenance of the barrister looked forced and frozen for
the first time during the evening. Our author, who was nibbling cheese
from a knife, left a bead of blood upon his beard. The futile Ernest
alone met the occasion with a hearty titter.

"What!" cried my lord. "_You know the thief?_"

"I wish I did," rejoined Raffles, chuckling. "No, Lord Thornaby, I
only meant the jeweller, Danby. I go to him when I want a wedding
present."

I heard three deep breaths drawn as one before I drew my own.

"Rather a coincidence," observed our host dryly, "for I believe you
also know the Milchester people, where Lady Melrose had her necklace
stolen a few months afterward."

"I was staying there at the time," said Raffles eagerly. No snob was
ever quicker to boast of basking in the smile of the great.

"We believe it to be the same man," said Lord Thornaby, speaking
apparently for the Criminologists' Club, and with much less severity
of voice.

"I only wish I could come across him," continued Raffles heartily.
"He's a criminal much more to my mind than your murderers who swear on
the drop or talk cricket in the condemned cell!"

"He might be in the house now," said Lord Thornaby, looking Raffles in
the face. But his manner was that of an actor in an unconvincing part
and a mood to play it gamely to the bitter end; and he seemed
embittered, as even a rich man may be in the moment of losing a bet.

"What a joke, if he were!" cried the Wild West writer.

"_Absit omen!_" murmured Raffles, in better taste.

"Still, I think you'll find it's a favorite time," argued Kingsmill,
Q.C. "And it would be quite in keeping with the character of this man,
so far as it is known, to pay a little visit to the president of the
Criminologists' Club, and to choose the evening on which he happens to
be entertaining the other members."

There was more conviction in this sally than in that of our noble
host; but this I attributed to the trained and skilled dissimulation
of the bar. Lord Thornaby, however, was not to be amused by the
elaboration of his own idea, and it was with some asperity that he
called upon the butler, now solemnly superintending the removal of the
cloth.

"Leggett! Just send upstairs to see if all the doors are open and the
rooms in proper order. That's an awful idea of yours, Kingsmill, or of
mine!" added my lord, recovering the courtesy of his order by an
effort that I could follow. "We should look fools. I don't know which
of us it was, by the way, who seduced the rest from the main stream
of blood into this burglarious backwater. Are you familiar with De
Quincey's masterpiece on 'Murder as a Fine Art,' Mr. Raffles?"

"I believe I once read it," replied Raffles doubtfully.

"You must read it again," pursued the earl. "It is the last word on a
great subject; all we can hope to add is some baleful illustration or
blood-stained footnote, not unworthy of De Quincey's text. Well,
Leggett?"

The venerable butler stood wheezing at his elbow. I had not hitherto
observed that the man was an asthmatic.

"I beg your lordship's pardon, but I think your lordship must have
forgotten."

The voice came in rude gasps, but words of reproach could scarcely
have achieved a finer delicacy.

"Forgotten, Leggett! Forgotten what, may I ask?"

"Locking your lordship's dressing-room door behind your lordship, my
lord," stuttered the unfortunate Leggett, in the short spurts of a
winded man, a few stertorous syllables at a time. "Been up myself, my
lord. Bedroom door--dressing-room door--both locked inside!"

But by this time the noble master was in worse case than the man. His
fine forehead was a tangle of livid cords; his baggy jowl filled out
like a balloon. In another second he had abandoned his place as our
host and fled the room; and in yet another we had forgotten ours as
his guests and rushed headlong at his heels.

Raffles was as excited as any of us now: he outstripped us all. The
cherubic little lawyer and I had a fine race for the last place but
one, which I secured, while the panting butler and his satellites
brought up a respectful rear. It was our unconventional author,
however, who was the first to volunteer his assistance and advice.

"No use pushing, Thornaby!" cried he. "If it's been done with a wedge
and gimlet, you may smash the door, but you'll never force it. Is
there a ladder in the place?"

"There's a rope-ladder somewhere, in case of fire, I believe," said my
lord vaguely, as he rolled a critical eye over our faces. "Where is it
kept, Leggett?"

"William will fetch it, my lord."

And a pair of noble calves went flashing to the upper regions.

"What's the good of bringing it down," cried Parrington, who had
thrown back to the wilds in his excitement. "Let him hang it out of
the window above your own, and let me climb down and do the rest! I'll
undertake to have one or other of these doors open in two twos!"

The fastened doors were at right angles on the landing which we filled
between us. Lord Thornaby smiled grimly on the rest of us, when he had
nodded and dismissed the author like a hound from the leash.

"It's a good thing we know something about our friend Parrington,"
said my lord. "He takes more kindly to all this than I do, I can tell
you."

"It's grist to his mill," said Raffles charitably.

"Exactly! We shall have the whole thing in his next book."

"I hope to have it at the Old Bailey first," remarked Kingsmill, Q.C.

"Refreshing to find a man of letters such a man of action too!"

[Illustration: Raffles was as excited as any of us now; he outstripped
us all.]

It was Raffles who said this, and the remark seemed rather trite for
him, but in the tone there was a something that just caught my private
ear. And for once I understood: the officious attitude of Parrington,
without being seriously suspicious in itself, was admirably calculated
to put a previously suspected person in a grateful shade. This
literary adventurer had elbowed Raffles out of the lime-light, and
gratitude for the service was what I had detected in Raffles's voice.
No need to say how grateful I felt myself. But my gratitude was shot
with flashes of unwonted insight. Parrington was one of those who
suspected Raffles, or, at all events, one who was in the secret of
those suspicions. What if he had traded on the suspect's presence in
the house? What if he were a deep villain himself, and _the_ villain
of this particular piece? I had made up my mind about him, and that in
a tithe of the time I take to make it up as a rule, when we heard my
man in the dressing-room. He greeted us with an impudent shout; in a
few moments the door was open, and there stood Parrington, flushed and
dishevelled, with a gimlet in one hand and a wedge in the other.

Within was a scene of eloquent disorder. Drawers had been pulled out,
and now stood on end, their contents heaped upon the carpet. Ward-robe
doors stood open; empty stud-cases strewed the floor; a clock, tied up
in a towel, had been tossed into a chair at the last moment. But a
long tin lid protruded from an open cupboard in one corner. And one
had only to see Lord Thornaby's wry face behind the lid to guess that
it was bent over a somewhat empty tin trunk.

"What a rum lot to steal!" said he, with a twitch of humor at the
corners of his canine mouth. "My peer's robes, with coronet complete!"

We rallied round him in a seemly silence. I thought our scribe would
put in his word. But even he either feigned or felt a proper awe.

"You may say it was a rum place to keep 'em," continued Lord Thornaby.
"But where would you gentlemen stable your white elephants? And these
were elephants as white as snow; by Jove, I'll job them for the
future!"

And he made merrier over his loss than any of us could have imagined
the minute before; but the reason dawned on me a little later, when we
all trooped down-stairs, leaving the police in possession of the
theatre of crime. Lord Thornaby linked arms with Raffles as he led the
way. His step was lighter, his gayety no longer sardonic; his very
looks had improved. And I divined the load that had been lifted from
the hospitable heart of our host.

"I only wish," said he, "that this brought us any nearer to the
identity of the gentleman we were discussing at dinner, for, of
course, we owe it to all our instincts to assume that it was he."

"I wonder!" said old Raffles, with a foolhardy glance at me.

"But I'm sure of it, my dear sir," cried my lord. "The audacity is
his and his alone. I look no further than the fact of his honoring me
on the one night of the year when I endeavor to entertain my brother
Criminologists. That's no coincidence, sir, but a deliberate irony,
which would have occurred to no other criminal mind in England."

"You may be right," Raffles had the sense to say this time, though I
flattered myself it was my face that made him.

"What is still more certain," resumed our host, "is that no other
criminal in the world would have crowned so delicious a conception
with so perfect an achievement. I feel sure the inspector will agree
with us."

The policeman in command had knocked and been admitted to the library
as Lord Thornaby spoke.

"I didn't hear what you said, my lord."

"Merely that the perpetrator of this amusing outrage can be no other
than the swell mobsman who relieved Lady Melrose of her necklace and
poor Danby of half his stock a year or two ago."

"I believe your lordship has hit the nail on the head."

"The man who took the Thimblely diamonds and returned them to Lord
Thimblely, you know."

"Perhaps he'll treat your lordship the same."

"Not he! I don't mean to cry over _my_ spilt milk. I only wish the
fellow joy of all he had time to take. Anything fresh upstairs by the
way?"

"Yes, my lord: the robbery took place between a quarter past eight and
the half-hour."

"How on earth do you know?"

"The clock that was tied up in the towel had stopped at twenty past."

"Have you interviewed my man?"

"I have, my lord. He was in your lordship's room until close on the
quarter, and all was as it should be when he left it."

"Then do you suppose the burglar was in hiding in the house?"

"It's impossible to say, my lord. He's not in the house now, for he
could only be in your lordship's bedroom or dressing-room, and we have
searched every inch of both."

Lord Thornaby turned to us when the inspector had retreated, caressing
his peaked cap.

"I told him to clear up these points first," he explained, jerking his
head toward the door. "I had reason to think my man had been
neglecting his duties up there. I am glad to find myself mistaken."

I ought to have been no less glad to see my own mistake. My suspicions
of our officious author were thus proved to have been as wild as
himself. I owed the man no grudge, and yet in my human heart I felt
vaguely disappointed. My theory had gained color from his behavior
ever since he had admitted us to the dressing-room; it had changed all
at once from the familiar to the morose; and only now was I just
enough to remember that Lord Thornaby, having tolerated those
familiarities as long as they were connected with useful service, had
administered a relentless snub the moment that service had been well
and truly performed.

But if Parrington was exonerated in my mind, so also was Raffles
reinstated in the regard of those who had entertained a far graver and
more dangerous hypothesis. It was a miracle of good luck, a
coincidence among coincidences, which had white-washed him in their
sight at the very moment when they were straining the expert eye to
sift him through and through. But the miracle had been performed, and
its effect was visible in every face and audible in every voice. I
except Ernest, who could never have been in the secret; moreover, that
gay Criminologist had been palpably shaken by his first little
experience of crime. But the other three vied among themselves to do
honor where they had done injustice. I heard Kingsmill, Q.C., telling
Raffles the best time to catch him at chambers, and promising a seat
in court for any trial he might ever like to hear. Parrington spoke of
a presentation set of his books, and in doing homage to Raffles made
his peace with our host. As for Lord Thornaby, I did overhear the name
of the Athenæum Club, a reference to his friends on the committee, and
a whisper (as I thought) of Rule II.

The police were still in possession when we went our several ways, and
it was all that I could do to drag Raffles up to my rooms, though, as
I have said, they were just round the corner. He consented at last as
a lesser evil than talking of the burglary in the street; and in my
rooms I told him of his late danger and my own dilemma, of the few
words I had overheard in the beginning, of the thin ice on which he
had cut fancy figures without a crack. It was all very well for him.
He had never realized his peril. But let him think of me--listening,
watching, yet unable to lift a finger--unable to say one warning word.

Raffles suffered me to finish, but a weary sigh followed the last
symmetrical whiff of a Sullivan which he flung into my fire before he
spoke.

"No, I won't have another, thank you. I'm going to talk to you, Bunny.
Do you really suppose I didn't see through these wiseacres from the
first?"

I flatly refused to believe he had done so before that evening. Why
had he never mentioned his idea to me? It had been quite the other
way, as I indignantly reminded Raffles. Did he mean me to believe he
was the man to thrust his head into the lion's mouth for fun? And what
point would there be in dragging me there to see the fun?

"I might have wanted you, Bunny. I very nearly did."

"For my face?"

"It has been my fortune before to-night, Bunny. It has also given me
more confidence than you are likely to believe at this time of day.
You stimulate me more than you think."

"Your gallery and your prompter's box in one?"

"Capital, Bunny! But it was no joking matter with, me either, my dear
fellow; it was touch-and-go at the time. I might have called on you at
any moment, and it was something to know I should not have called in
vain."

"But what to do, Raffles?"

"Fight our way out and bolt!" he answered, with a mouth that meant it,
and a fine gay glitter of the eyes.

I shot out of my chair.

"You don't mean to tell me you had a hand in the job?"

"I had the only hand in it, my dear Bunny."

"Nonsense! You were sitting at table at the time. No, but you may have
taken some other fellow into the show. I always thought you would!"

"One's quite enough, Bunny," said Raffles dryly; he leaned back in his
chair and took out another cigarette. And I accepted of yet another
from his case; for it was no use losing one's temper with Raffles; and
his incredible statement was not, after all, to be ignored.

"Of course," I went on, "if you really had brought off this thing on
your own, I should be the last to criticise your means of reaching
such an end. You have not only scored off a far superior force, which
had laid itself out to score off you, but you have put them in the
wrong about you, and they'll eat out of your hand for the rest of
their days. But don't ask me to believe that you've done all this
alone! By George," I cried, in a sudden wave of enthusiasm, "I don't
care how you've done it or who has helped you. It's the biggest thing
you ever did in your life!"

And certainly I had never seen Raffles look more radiant, or better
pleased with the world and himself, or nearer that elation which he
usually left to me.

"Then you shall hear all about it, Bunny, if you'll do what I ask
you."

"Ask away, old chap, and the thing's done."

"Switch off the electric lights."

"All of them?"

"I think so."

"There, then."

"Now go to the back window and up with the blind."

"Well?"

"I'm coming to you. Splendid! I never had a look so late as this. It's
the only window left alight in the house!"

His cheek against the pane, he was pointing slightly downward and very
much aslant through a long lane of mews to a little square light like
a yellow tile at the end. But I had opened the window and leaned out
before I saw it for myself.

"You don't mean to say that's Thornaby House?"

I was not familiar with the view from my back windows.

"Of course I do, you rabbit! Have a look through your own race-glass.
It has been the most useful thing of all."

But before I had the glass in focus more scales had fallen from my
eyes; and now I knew why I had seen so much of Raffles these last few
weeks, and why he had always come between seven and eight o'clock in
the evening, and waited at this very window, with these very glasses
at his eyes. I saw through them sharply now. The one lighted window
pointed out by Raffles came tumbling into the dark circle of my
vision. I could not see into the actual room, but the shadows of those
within were quite distinct on the lowered blind. I even thought a
black thread still dangled against the square of light. It was, it
must be, the window to which the intrepid Parrington had descended
from the one above.

"Exactly!" said Raffles in answer to my exclamation. "And that's the
window I have been watching these last few weeks. By daylight you can
see the whole lot above the ground floor on this side of the house;
and by good luck one of them is the room in which the master of the
house arrays himself in all his nightly glory. It was easily spotted
by watching at the right time. I saw him shaved one morning before you
were up! In the evening his valet stays behind to put things straight;
and that has been the very mischief. In the end I had to find out
something about the man, and wire to him from his girl to meet her
outside at eight o'clock. Of course he pretends he was at his post at
the time: that I foresaw, and did the poor fellow's work before my
own. I folded and put away every garment before I permitted myself to
rag the room."

"I wonder you had time!"

"It took me one more minute, and it put the clock on exactly fifteen.
By the way, I did that literally, of course, in the case of the clock
they found. It's an old dodge, to stop a clock and alter the time; but
you must admit that it looked as though one had wrapped it up all
ready to cart away. There was thus any amount of _prima-facie_
evidence of the robbery having taken place when we were all at table.
As a matter of fact, Lord Thornaby left his dressing-room one minute,
his valet followed him the minute after, and I entered the minute
after that."

"Through the window?"

"To be sure. I was waiting below in the garden. You have to pay for
your garden in town, in more ways than one. You know the wall, of
course, and that jolly old postern? The lock was beneath contempt."

"But what about the window? It's on the first floor, isn't it?"

Raffles took up the cane which he had laid down with his overcoat. It
was a stout bamboo with a polished ferule. He unscrewed the ferule,
and shook out of the cane a diminishing series of smaller canes,
exactly like a child's fishing-rod, which I afterward found to have
been their former state. A double hook of steel was now produced and
quickly attached to the tip of the top joint; then Raffles undid three
buttons of his waistcoat; and lapped round and round his waist was the
finest of Manila ropes, with the neatest of foot-loops at regular
intervals.

"Is it necessary to go any further?" asked Raffles when he had unwound
the rope. "This end is made fast to that end of the hook, the other
half of the hook fits over anything that comes its way, and you leave
your rod dangling while you swarm up your line. Of course, you must
know what you've got to hook on to; but a man who has had a porcelain
bath fixed in his dressing-room is the man for me. The pipes were all
outside, and fixed to the wall in just the right place. You see I had
made a reconnaissance by day in addition to many by night; it would
hardly have been worth while constructing my ladder on chance."

"So you made it on purpose!"

"My dear Bunny," said Raffles, as he wound the hemp girdle round his
waist once more, "I never did care for ladder work, but I always said
that if I ever used a ladder it should be the best of its kind yet
invented. This one may come in useful again."

"But how long did the whole thing take you?"

"From mother earth to mother earth? About five minutes, to-night, and
one of those was spent in doing another man's work."

"What!" I cried. "You mean to tell me you climbed up and down, in and
out, and broke into that cupboard and that big tin box, and wedged up
the doors and cleared out with a peer's robes and all the rest of it
in five minutes?"

"Of course I don't, and of course I didn't."

"Then what do you mean, and what did you do?"

"Made two bites at the cherry, Bunny! I had a dress rehearsal in the
dead of last night, and it was then I took the swag. Our noble friend
was snoring next door all the time, but the effort may still stand
high among my small exploits, for I not only took all I wanted, but
left the whole place exactly as I found it, and shut things after me
like a good little boy. All that took a good deal longer; to-night I
had simply to rag the room a bit, sweep up some studs and links, and
leave ample evidence of having boned those rotten robes _to-night_.
That, if you come to think of it, was what you writing chaps would
call the quintessential Q.E.F. I have not only shown these dear
Criminologists that I couldn't possibly have done this trick, but that
there's some other fellow who could and did, and whom they've been
perfect asses to confuse with me."

You may figure me as gazing on Raffles all this time in mute and rapt
amazement. But I had long been past that pitch. If he had told me now
that he had broken into the Bank of England, or the Tower, I should
not have disbelieved him for a moment. I was prepared to go home with
him to the Albany and find the regalia under his bed. And I took down
my overcoat as he put on his. But Raffles would not hear of my
accompanying him that night.

"No, my dear Bunny, I am short of sleep and fed up with excitement.
You mayn't believe it--you may look upon me as a plaster devil--but
those five minutes you wot of were rather too crowded even for my
taste. The dinner was nominally at a quarter to eight, and I don't
mind telling you now that I counted on twice as long as I had. But no
one came until twelve minutes to, and so our host took his time. I
didn't want to be the last to arrive, and I was in the drawing-room
five minutes before the hour. But it was a quicker thing than I care
about, when all is said."

And his last word on the matter, as he nodded and went his way, may
well be mine; for one need be no criminologist, much less a member of
the Criminologists' Club, to remember what Raffles did with the robes
and coronet of the Right Hon. the Earl of Thornaby, K.G. He did with
them exactly what he might have been expected to do by the gentlemen
with whom he had foregathered; and he did it in a manner so
characteristic of himself as surely to remove from their minds the
last aura of the idea that he and himself were the same person. Carter
Paterson was out of the question, and any labelling or addressing to
be avoided on obvious grounds. But Raffles stabled the white elephants
in the cloak-room at Charing Cross--and sent Lord Thornaby the
ticket.



The Field of Philippi


Nipper Nasmyth had been head of our school when Raffles was captain of
cricket. I believe he owed his nickname entirely to the popular
prejudice against a day-boy; and in view of the special reproach which
the term carried in my time, as also of the fact that his father was
one of the school trustees, partner in a banking firm of four
resounding surnames, and manager of the local branch, there can be
little doubt that the stigma was undeserved. But we did not think so
then, for Nasmyth was unpopular with high and low, and appeared to
glory in the fact. A swollen conscience caused him to see and hear
even more than was warranted by his position, and his uncompromising
nature compelled him to act on whatsoever he heard or saw: a savage
custodian of public morals, he had in addition a perverse enthusiasm
for lost causes, loved a minority for its own sake, and untenable
tenets for theirs. Such, at all events, was my impression of Nipper
Nasmyth, after my first term, which was also his last. I had never
spoken to him, but I had heard him speak with extraordinary force and
fervor in the school debates. I carried a clear picture of his unkempt
hair, his unbrushed coat, his dominant spectacles, his dogmatic jaw.
And it was I who knew the combination at a glance, after years and
years, when the fateful whim seized Raffles to play once more in the
Old Boys' Match, and his will took me down with him to participate in
the milder festivities of Founder's Day.

It was, however, no ordinary occasion. The bicentenary loomed but a
year ahead, and a movement was on foot to mark the epoch with an
adequate statue of our pious founder. A special meeting was to be held
at the school-house, and Raffles had been specially invited by the new
head master, a man of his own standing, who had been in the eleven
with him up at Cambridge. Raffles had not been near the old place for
years; but I had never gone down since the day I left; and I will not
dwell on the emotions which the once familiar journey awakened in my
unworthy bosom. Paddington was alive with Old Boys of all ages--but
very few of ours--if not as lively as we used to make it when we all
landed back for the holidays. More of us had moustaches and cigarettes
and "loud" ties. That was all. Yet of the throng, though two or three
looked twice and thrice at Raffles, neither he nor I knew a soul
until we had to change at the junction near our journey's end, when,
as I say, it was I who recognized Nipper Nasmyth at sight.

The man was own son of the boy we both remembered. He had grown a
ragged beard and a moustache that hung about his face like a neglected
creeper. He was stout and bent and older than his years. But he
spurned the platform with a stamping stride which even I remembered in
an instant, and which was enough for Raffles before he saw the man's
face.

"The Nipper it is!" he cried. "I could swear to that walk in a
pantomime procession! See the independence in every step: that's his
heel on the neck of the oppressor: it's the nonconformist conscience
in baggy breeches. I must speak to him, Bunny. There was a lot of good
in the old Nipper, though he and I did bar each other."

And in a moment he had accosted the man by the boy's nickname,
obviously without thinking of an affront which few would have read in
that hearty open face and hand.

"My name's Nasmyth," snapped the other, standing upright to glare.

"Forgive me," said Raffles undeterred. "One remembers a nickname and
forgets all it never used to mean. Shake hands, my dear fellow! I'm
Raffles. It must be fifteen years since we met."

"At least," replied Nasmyth coldly; but he could no longer refuse
Raffles his hand. "So you are going down," he sneered, "to this great
gathering?" And I stood listening at my distance, as though still in
the middle fourth.

"Rather!" cried Raffles. "I'm afraid I have let myself lose touch, but
I mean to turn over a new leaf. I suppose that isn't necessary in your
case, Nasmyth?"

He spoke with an enthusiasm rare indeed in him: it had grown upon
Raffles in the train; the spirit of his boyhood had come rushing back
at fifty miles an hour. He might have been following some honorable
calling in town; he might have snatched this brief respite from a
distinguished but exacting career. I am convinced that it was I alone
who remembered at that moment the life we were really leading at that
time. With me there walked this skeleton through every waking hour
that was to follow. I shall endeavor not to refer to it again. Yet it
should not be forgotten that my skeleton was always there.

"It certainly is not necessary in my case," replied Nasmyth, still as
stiff as any poker. "I happen to be a trustee."

"Of the school?"

"Like my father before me."

"I congratulate you, my dear fellow!" cried the hearty Raffles--a
younger Raffles than I had ever known in town.

"I don't know that you need," said Nasmyth sourly.

"But it must be a tremendous interest. And the proof is that you're
going down to this show, like all the rest of us."

"No, I'm not. I live there, you see."

And I think the Nipper recalled that name as he ground his heel upon
an unresponsive flagstone.

"But you're going to this meeting at the school-house, surely?"

"I don't know. If I do there may be squalls. I don't know what you
think about this precious scheme Raffles, but _I_...."

The ragged beard stuck out, set teeth showed through the wild
moustache, and in a sudden out-pouring we had his views. They were
narrow and intemperate and perverse as any I had heard him advocate as
the firebrand of the Debating Society in my first term. But they were
stated with all the old vim and venom. The mind of Nasmyth had not
broadened with the years, but neither had its natural force abated,
nor that of his character either. He spoke with great vigor at the
top of his voice; soon we had a little crowd about us; but the tall
collars and the broad smiles of the younger Old Boys did not deter our
dowdy demagogue. Why spend money on a man who had been dead two
hundred years? What good could it do him or the school? Besides, he
was only technically our founder. He had not founded a great public
school. He had founded a little country grammar school which had
pottered along for a century and a half. The great public school was
the growth of the last fifty years, and no credit to the pillar of
piety. Besides, he was only nominally pious. Nasmyth had made
researches, and he knew. And why throw good money after a bad man?

"Are there many of your opinion?" inquired Raffles, when the agitator
paused for breath. And Nasmyth beamed on us with flashing eyes.

"Not one to my knowledge as yet," said he. "But we shall see after
to-morrow night. I hear it's to be quite an exceptional gathering this
year; let us hope it may contain a few sane men. There are none on the
present staff, and I only know of one among the trustees!"

Raffles refrained from smiling as his dancing eye met mine.

"I can understand your view," he said. "I am not sure that I don't
share it to some extent. But it seems to me a duty to support a
general movement like this even if it doesn't take the direction or
the shape of our own dreams. I suppose you yourself will give
something, Nasmyth?"

"Give something? I? Not a brass farthing!" cried the implacable
banker. "To do so would be to stultify my whole position. I cordially
and conscientiously disapprove of the whole thing, and shall use all
my influence against it. No, my good sir, I not only don't subscribe
myself, but I hope to be the means of nipping a good many
subscriptions in the bud."

I was probably the only one who saw the sudden and yet subtle change
in Raffles--the hard mouth, the harder eye. I, at least, might have
foreseen the sequel then and there. But his quiet voice betrayed
nothing, as he inquired whether Nasmyth was going to speak at next
night's meeting. Nasmyth said he might, and certainly warned us what
to expect. He was still fulminating when our train came in.

"Then we meet again at Philippi," cried Raffles in gay adieu. "For you
have been very frank with us all, Nasmyth, and I'll be frank enough
in my turn to tell you that I've every intention of speaking on the
other side!"

It happened that Raffles had been asked to speak by his old college
friend, the new head master. Yet it was not at the school-house that
he and I were to stay, but at the house that we had both been in as
boys. It also had changed hands: a wing had been added, and the double
tier of tiny studies made brilliant with electric light. But the quad
and the fives-courts did not look a day older; the ivy was no thicker
round the study windows; and in one boy's castle we found the
traditional print of Charing Cross Bridge which had knocked about our
studies ever since a son of the contractor first sold it when he left.
Nay, more, there was the bald remnant of a stuffed bird which had been
my own daily care when it and I belonged to Raffles. And when we all
filed in to prayers, through the green baize door which still
separated the master's part of the house from that of the boys, there
was a small boy posted in the passage to give the sign of silence to
the rest assembled in the hall, quite identically as in the dim old
days; the picture was absolutely unchanged; it was only we who were
out of it in body and soul.

On our side of the baize door a fine hospitality and a finer flow of
spirits were the order of the night. There was a sound representative
assortment of quite young Old Boys, to whom ours was a prehistoric
time, and in the trough of their modern chaff and chat we old stagers
might well have been left far astern of the fun. Yet it was Raffles
who was the life and soul of the party, and that not by meretricious
virtue of his cricket. There happened not to be another cricketer
among us, and it was on their own subjects that Raffles laughed with
the lot in turn and in the lump. I never knew him in quite such form.
I will not say he was a boy among them, but he was that rarer being,
the man of the world who can enter absolutely into the fun and fervor
of the salad age. My cares and my regrets had never been more acute,
but Raffles seemed a man without either in his life.

He was not, however, the hero of the Old Boys' Match, and that was
expected of him by all the school. There was a hush when he went in, a
groan when he came out. I had no reason to suppose he was not trying;
these things happen to the cricketer who plays out of his class; but
when the great Raffles went on to bowl, and was hit all over the
field, I was not so sure. It certainly failed to affect his spirits;
he was more brilliant than ever at our hospitable board; and after
dinner came the meeting at which he and Nasmyth were to speak.

It was a somewhat frigid gathering until Nasmyth rose. We had all
dined with our respective hosts, and then repaired to this business in
cold blood. Many were lukewarm about it in their hearts; there was a
certain amount of mild prejudice, and a greater amount of animal
indifference, to be overcome in the opening speech. It is not for me
to say whether this was successfully accomplished. I only know how the
temperature of that meeting rose with Nipper Nasmyth.

And I dare say, in all the circumstances of the case, his really was a
rather vulgar speech. But it was certainly impassioned, and probably
as purely instinctive as his denunciation of all the causes which
appeal to the gullible many without imposing upon the cantankerous
few. His arguments, it is true, were merely an elaboration of those
with which he had favored some of us already; but they were pointed by
a concise exposition of the several definite principles they
represented, and barbed with a caustic rhetoric quite admirable in
itself. In a word, the manner was worthy of the very foundation it
sought to shake, or we had never swallowed such matter without a
murmur. As it was, there was a demonstration in the wilderness when
the voice ceased crying. But we sat in the deeper silence when Raffles
rose to reply.

I leaned forward not to lose a word. I knew my Raffles so well that I
felt almost capable of reporting his speech before I heard it. Never
was I more mistaken, even in him! So far from a gibe for a gibe and a
taunt for a taunt, there never was softer answer than that which A. J.
Raffles returned to Nipper Nasmyth before the staring eyes and
startled ears of all assembled. He courteously but firmly refused to
believe a word his old friend Nasmyth had said--about himself. He had
known Nasmyth for twenty years, and never had he met a dog who barked
so loud and bit so little. The fact was that he had far too kind a
heart to bite at all. Nasmyth might get up and protest as loud as he
liked: the speaker declared he knew him better than Nasmyth knew
himself. He had the necessary defects of his great qualities. He was
only too good a sportsman. He had a perfect passion for the weaker
side. That alone led Nasmyth into such excesses of language as we had
all heard from his lips that night. As for Raffles, he concluded his
far too genial remarks by predicting that, whatever Nasmyth might say
or think of the new fund, he would subscribe to it as handsomely as
any of us, like "the generous good chap" that we all knew him to be.

Even so did Raffles disappoint the Old Boys in the evening as he had
disappointed the school by day. We had looked to him for a noble
raillery, a lofty and loyal disdain, and he had fobbed us off with
friendly personalities not even in impeccable taste. Nevertheless,
this light treatment of a grave offence went far to restore the
natural amenities of the occasion. It was impossible even for Nasmyth
to reply to it as he might to a more earnest onslaught. He could but
smile sardonically, and audibly undertake to prove Raffles a false
prophet; and though subsequent speakers were less merciful the note
was struck, and there was no more bad blood in the debate. There was
plenty, however, in the veins of Nasmyth, as I was to discover for
myself before the night was out.

You might think that in the circumstances he would not have attended
the head master's ball with which the evening ended; but that would be
sadly to misjudge so perverse a creature as the notorious Nipper. He
was probably one of those who protest that there is "nothing personal"
in their most personal attacks. Not that Nasmyth took this tone about
Raffles when he and I found ourselves cheek by jowl against the
ballroom wall; he could forgive his franker critics, but not the
friendly enemy who had treated him so much more gently than he
deserved.

"I seem to have seen you with this great man Raffles," began Nasmyth,
as he overhauled me with his fighting eye. "Do you know him well?"

"Intimately."

"I remember now. You were with him when he forced himself upon me on
the way down yesterday. He had to tell me who he was. Yet he talks as
though we were old friends."

"You were in the upper sixth together," I rejoined, nettled by his
tone.

"What does that matter? I am glad to say I had too much self-respect,
and too little respect for Raffles, ever to be a friend of his then. I
knew too many of the things he did," said Nipper Nasmyth.

His fluent insults had taken my breath. But in a lucky flash I saw my
retort.

"You must have had special opportunities of observation, living in the
town," said I; and drew first blood between the long hair and the
ragged beard; but that was all.

"So he really did get out at nights?" remarked my adversary. "You
certainly give your friend away. What's he doing now?"

I let my eyes follow Raffles round the room before replying. He was
waltzing with a master's wife--waltzing as he did everything else.
Other couples seemed to melt before them. And the woman on his arm
looked a radiant girl.

"I meant in town, or wherever he lives his mysterious life," explained
Nasmyth, when I told him that he could see for himself. But his clever
tone did not trouble me; it was his epithet that caused me to prick my
ears. And I found some difficulty in following Raffles right round the
room.

"I thought everybody knew what he was doing; he's playing cricket most
of his time," was my measured reply; and if it bore an extra touch of
insolence, I can honestly ascribe that to my nerves.

"And is that all he does for a living?" pursued my inquisitor keenly.

"You had better ask Raffles himself," said I to that. "It's a pity you
didn't ask him in public, at the meeting!"

But I was beginning to show temper in my embarrassment, and of course
that made Nasmyth the more imperturbable.

"Really, he might be following some disgraceful calling, by the
mystery you make of it!" he exclaimed. "And for that matter I call
first-class cricket a disgraceful calling, when it's followed by men
who ought to be gentlemen, but are really professionals in gentlemanly
clothing. The present craze for gladiatorial athleticism I regard as
one of the great evils of the age; but the thinly veiled
professionalism of the so-called amateur is the greatest evil of that
craze. Men play for the gentlemen and are paid more than the players
who walk out of another gate. In my time there was none of that.
Amateurs were amateurs and sport was sport; there were no Raffleses in
first-class cricket then. I had forgotten Raffles was a modern
first-class cricketer: that explains him. Rather than see my son such
another, do you know what I'd prefer to see him?"

I neither knew nor cared: yet a wretched premonitory fascination held
me breathless till I was told.

"I'd prefer to see him a thief!" said Nasmyth savagely; and when his
eyes were done with me, he turned upon his heel. So that ended that
stage of my discomfiture.

It was only to give place to a worse. Was all this accident or fell
design? Conscience had made a coward of me, and yet what reason had I
to disbelieve the worst? We were pirouetting on the edge of an abyss;
sooner or later the false step must come and the pit swallow us. I
began to wish myself back in London, and I did get back to my room in
our old house. My dancing days were already over; there I had taken
the one resolution to which I remained as true as better men to better
vows; there the painful association was no mere sense of personal
unworthiness. I fell to thinking in my room of other dances ... and
was still smoking the cigarette which Raffles had taught me to
appreciate when I looked up to find him regarding me from the door. He
had opened it as noiselessly as only Raffles could open doors, and now
he closed it in the same professional fashion.

"I missed Achilles hours ago," said he. "And still he's sulking in his
tent!"

"I have been," I answered, laughing as he could always make me, "but
I'll chuck it if you'll stop and smoke. Our host doesn't mind; there's
an ash-tray provided for the purpose. I ought to be sulking between
the sheets, but I'm ready to sit up with you till morning."

"We might do worse; but, on the other hand, we might do still better,"
rejoined Raffles, and for once he resisted the seductive Sullivan. "As
a matter of fact, it's morning now; in another hour it will be dawn;
and where could day dawn better than in Warfield Woods, or along the
Stockley road, or even on the Upper or the Middle? I don't want to
turn in, any more than you do. I may as well confess that the whole
show down here has exalted me more than anything for years. But if we
can't sleep, Bunny, let's have some fresh air instead."

"Has everybody gone to bed?" I asked.

"Long ago. I was the last in. Why?"

"Only it might sound a little odd, our turning out again, if they were
to hear us."

Raffles stood over me with a smile made of mischief and cunning; but
it was the purest mischief imaginable, the most innocent and comic
cunning.

"They shan't hear us at all, Bunny," said he. "I mean to get out as I
did in the good old nights. I've been spoiling for the chance ever
since I came down. There's not the smallest harm in it now; and if
you'll come with me I'll show you how it used to be done."

"But I know," said I. "Who used to haul up the rope after you, and let
it down again to the minute?"

Raffles looked down on me from lowered lids, over a smile too humorous
to offend.

"My dear good Bunny! And do you suppose that even then I had only one
way of doing a thing? I've had a spare loophole all my life, and when
you're ready I'll show you what it was when I was here. Take off those
boots, and carry your tennis-shoes; slip on another coat; put out your
light; and I'll meet you on the landing in two minutes."

He met me with uplifted finger, and not a syllable; and down-stairs he
led me, stocking soles close against the skirting, two feet to each
particular step. It must have seemed child's play to Raffles; the old
precautions were obviously assumed for my entertainment; but I confess
that to me it was all refreshingly exciting--for once without a risk
of durance if we came to grief! With scarcely a creak we reached the
hall, and could have walked out of the street door without danger or
difficulty. But that would not do for Raffles. He must needs lead me
into the boys' part, through the green baize door. It took a deal of
opening and shutting, but Raffles seemed to enjoy nothing better than
these mock obstacles, and in a few minutes we were resting with sharp
ears in the boys' hall.

"Through these windows?" I whispered, when the clock over the piano
had had matters its own way long enough to make our minds quite easy.

"How else?" whispered Raffles, as he opened the one on whose ledge
our letters used to await us of a morning.

"And then through the quad----"

"And over the gates at the end. No talking, Bunny; there's a dormitory
just overhead; but ours was in front, you remember, and if they had
ever seen me I should have nipped back this way while they were
watching the other."

His finger was on his lips as we got out softly into the starlight. I
remember how the gravel hurt as we left the smooth flagged margin of
the house for the open quad; but the nearer of two long green seats
(whereon you prepared your construe for the second-school in the
summer term) was mercifully handy; and once in our rubber soles we had
no difficulty in scaling the gates beyond the fives-courts. Moreover,
we dropped into a very desert of a country road, nor saw a soul when
we doubled back beneath the outer study windows, nor heard a foot-fall
in the main street of the slumbering town. Our own fell like the
night-dews and the petals of the poet; but Raffles ran his arm through
mine, and would chatter in whispers as we went.

"So you and Nipper had a word--or was it words? I saw you out of the
tail of my eye when I was dancing, and I heard you out of the tail of
my ear. It sounded like words, Bunny, and I thought I caught my name.
He's the most consistent man I know, and the least altered from a boy.
But he'll subscribe all right, you'll see, and be very glad I made
him."

I whispered back that I did not believe it for a moment. Raffles had
not heard all Nasmyth had said of him. And neither would he listen to
the little I meant to repeat to him; he would but reiterate a
conviction so chimerical to my mind that I interrupted in my turn to
ask him what ground he had for it.

"I've told you already," said Raffles. "I mean to make him."

"But how?" I asked. "And when, and where?"

"At Philippi, Bunny, where I said I'd see him. What a rabbit you are
at a quotation!

    "'And I think that the field of Philippi
       Was where Cæsar came to an end;
      But who gave old Brutus the tip, I
           Can't comprehend!'

"You may have forgotten your Shakespeare, Bunny, but you ought to
remember that."

And I did, vaguely, but had no idea what it or Raffles meant, as I
plainly told him.

"The theatre of war," he answered--"and here we are at the stage
door!"

Raffles had stopped suddenly in his walk. It was the last dark hour of
the summer night, but the light from a neighboring lamp-post showed me
the look on his face as he turned.

"I think you also inquired when," he continued. "Well, then, this
minute--if you will give me a leg up!"

And behind him, scarcely higher than his head, and not even barred,
was a wide window with a wire blind, and the name of Nasmyth among
others lettered in gold upon the wire.

"You're never going to break in?"

"This instant, if you'll help me; in five or ten minutes, if you
won't."

"Surely you didn't bring the--the tools?"

He jingled them gently in his pocket.

"Not the whole outfit, Bunny. But you never know when you mayn't want
one or two. I'm only thankful I didn't leave the lot behind this time.
I very nearly did."

"I must say I thought you would, coming down here," I said
reproachfully.

"But you ought to be glad I didn't," he rejoined with a smile. "It's
going to mean old Nasmyth's subscription to the Founder's Fund, and
that's to be a big one, I promise you! The lucky thing is that I went
so far as to bring my bunch of safe-keys. Now, are you going to help
me use them, or are you not? If so, now's your minute; if not, clear
out and be----"

"Not so fast, Raffles," said I testily. "You must have planned this
before you came down, or you would never have brought all those things
with you."

"My dear Bunny, they're a part of my kit! I take them wherever I take
my evening-clothes. As to this potty bank, I never even thought of it,
much less that it would become a public duty to draw a hundred or so
without signing for it. That's all I shall touch, Bunny--I'm not on
the make to-night. There's no risk in it either. If I am caught I
shall simply sham champagne and stand the racket; it would be an
obvious frolic after what happened at that meeting. And they will
catch me, if I stand talking here: you run away back to bed--unless
you're quite determined to 'give old Brutus the tip!'"

Now we had barely been a minute whispering where we stood, and the
whole street was still as silent as the tomb. To me there seemed least
danger in discussing the matter quietly on the spot. But even as he
gave me my dismissal Raffles turned and caught the sill above him,
first with one hand and then with the other. His legs swung like a
pendulum as he drew himself up with one arm, then shifted the position
of the other hand, and very gradually worked himself waist-high with
the sill. But the sill was too narrow for him; that was as far as he
could get unaided; and it was as much as I could bear to see of a feat
which in itself might have hardened my conscience and softened my
heart. But I had identified his doggerel verse at last. I am ashamed
to say that it was part of a set of my very own writing in the school
magazine of my time. So Raffles knew the stuff better than I did
myself, and yet scorned to press his flattery to win me over! He had
won me: in a second my rounded shoulders were a pedestal for those
dangling feet. And before many more I heard the old metallic snap,
followed by the raising of a sash so slowly and gently as to be almost
inaudible to me listening just below.

Raffles went through hands first, disappeared for an instant, then
leaned out, lowering his hands for me.

"Come on, Bunny! You're safer in than out. Hang on to the sill and let
me get you under the arms. Now all together--quietly does it--and over
you come!"

No need to dwell on our proceedings in the bank. I myself had small
part in the scene, being posted rather in the wings, at the foot of
the stairs leading to the private premises in which the manager had
his domestic being. But I made my mind easy about him, for in the
silence of my watch I soon detected a nasal note overhead, and it was
resonant and aggressive as the man himself. Of Raffles, on the
contrary, I heard nothing, for he had shut the door between us, and I
was to warn him if a single sound came through. I need scarcely add
that no warning was necessary during the twenty minutes we remained in
the bank. Raffles afterward assured me that nineteen of them had been
spent in filing one key; but one of his latest inventions was a little
thick velvet bag in which he carried the keys; and this bag had two
elastic mouths, which closed so tightly about either wrist that he
could file away, inside, and scarcely hear it himself. As for these
keys, they were clever counterfeits of typical patterns by two great
safe-making firms. And Raffles had come by them in a manner all his
own, which the criminal world may discover for itself.

When he opened the door and beckoned to me, I knew by his face that he
had succeeded to his satisfaction, and by experience better than to
question him on the point. Indeed, the first thing was to get out of
the bank; for the stars were drowning in a sky of ink and water, and
it was a comfort to feel that we could fly straight to our beds. I
said so in whispers as Raffles cautiously opened our window and peeped
out. In an instant his head was in, and for another I feared the
worst.

"What was that, Bunny? No, you don't, my son! There's not a soul in
sight that I can see, but you never know, and we may as well lay a
scent while we're about it. Ready? Then follow me, and never mind the
window."

With that he dropped softly into the street, and I after him, turning
to the right instead of the left, and that at a brisk trot instead of
the innocent walk which had brought us to the bank. Like mice we
scampered past the great schoolroom, with its gable snipping a paler
sky than ever, and the shadows melting even in the colonnade
underneath. Masters' houses flitted by on the left, lesser landmarks
on either side, and presently we were running our heads into the dawn,
one under either hedge of the Stockley road.

"Did you see that light in Nab's just now?" cried Raffles as he led.

"No; why?" I panted, nearly spent.

"It was in Nab's dressing-room."

"Yes?"

"I've seen it there before," continued Raffles. "He never was a good
sleeper, and his ears reach to the street. I wouldn't like to say how
often I was chased by him in the small hours! I believe he knew who it
was toward the end, but Nab was not the man to accuse you of what he
couldn't prove."

I had no breath for comment. And on sped Raffles like a yacht before
the wind, and on I blundered like a wherry at sea, making heavy
weather all the way, and nearer foundering at every stride. Suddenly,
to my deep relief, Raffles halted, but only to tell me to stop my
pipes while he listened.

"It's all right, Bunny," he resumed, showing me a glowing face in the
dawn. "History's on its own tracks once more, and I'll bet you it's
dear old Nab on ours! Come on, Bunny; run to the last gasp, and leave
the rest to me."

I was past arguing, and away he went. There was no help for it but to
follow as best I could. Yet I had vastly preferred to collapse on the
spot, and trust to Raffles's resource, as before very long I must. I
had never enjoyed long wind and the hours that we kept in town may
well have aggravated the deficiency. Raffles, however, was in
first-class training from first-class cricket, and he had no mercy on
Nab or me. But the master himself was an old Oxford miler, who could
still bear it better than I; nay, as I flagged and stumbled, I heard
him pounding steadily behind.

"Come on, come on, or he'll do us!" cried Raffles shrilly over his
shoulder; and a gruff sardonic laugh came back over mine. It was
pearly morning now, but we had run into a shallow mist that took me by
the throat and stabbed me to the lungs. I coughed and coughed, and
stumbled in my stride, until down I went, less by accident than to get
it over, and so lay headlong in my tracks. And old Nab dealt me a
verbal kick as he passed.

"You beast!" he growled, as I have known him growl it in form.

But Raffles himself had abandoned the flight on hearing my downfall,
and I was on hands and knees just in time to see the meeting between
him and old Nab. And there stood Raffles in the silvery mist, laughing
with his whole light heart, leaning back to get the full flavor of his
mirth; and, nearer me, sturdy old Nab, dour and grim, with beads of
dew on the hoary beard that had been lamp-black in our time.

"So I've caught you at last!" said he. "After more years than I mean
to count!"

"Then you're luckier than we are, sir," answered Raffles, "for I fear
our man has given us the slip."

"Your man!" echoed Nab. His bushy eyebrows had shot up: it was as much
as I could do to keep my own in their place.

"We were indulging in the chase ourselves," explained Raffles, "and
one of us has suffered for his zeal, as you can see. It is even
possible that we, too, have been chasing a perfectly innocent man."

"Not to say a reformed character," said our pursuer dryly. "I suppose
you don't mean a member of the school?" he added, pinking his man
suddenly as of yore, with all the old barbed acumen.

But Raffles was now his match.

"That would be carrying reformation rather far, sir. No, as I say, I
may have been mistaken in the first instance; but I had put out my
light and was looking out of the window when I saw a fellow behaving
quite suspiciously. He was carrying his boots and creeping along in
his socks--which must be why you never heard him, sir. They make less
noise than rubber soles even--that is, they must, you know! Well,
Bunny had just left me, so I hauled him out and we both crept down to
play detective. No sign of the fellow! We had a look in the
colonnade--I thought I heard him--and that gave us no end of a hunt
for nothing. But just as we were leaving he came padding past under
our noses, and that's where we took up the chase. Where he'd been in
the meantime I have no idea; very likely he'd done no harm; but it
seemed worth while finding out. He had too good a start, though, and
poor Bunny had too bad a wind."

"You should have gone on and let me rip," said I, climbing to my feet
at last.

"As it is, however, we will all let the other fellow do so," said old
Nab in a genial growl. "And you two had better turn into my house and
have something to keep the morning cold out."

You may imagine with what alacrity we complied; and yet I am bound to
confess that I had never liked Nab at school. I still remember my term
in his form. He had a caustic tongue and a fine assortment of damaging
epithets, most of which were levelled at my devoted skull during those
three months. I now discovered that he also kept a particularly mellow
Scotch whiskey, an excellent cigar, and a fund of anecdote of which a
mordant wit was the worthy bursar. Enough to add that he kept us
laughing in his study until the chapel bells rang him out.

As for Raffles, he appeared to me to feel far more compunction for
the fable which he had been compelled to foist upon one of the old
masters than for the immeasurably graver offence against society and
another Old Boy. This, indeed, did not worry him at all; and the story
was received next day with absolute credulity on all sides. Nasmyth
himself was the first to thank us both for our spirited effort on his
behalf; and the incident had the ironic effect of establishing an
immediate _entente cordiale_ between Raffles and his very latest
victim. I must confess, however, that for my own part I was thoroughly
uneasy during the Old Boys' second innings, when Raffles made a
selfish score, instead of standing by me to tell his own story in his
own way. There was never any knowing with what new detail he was about
to embellish it: and I have still to receive full credit for the tact
that it required to follow his erratic lead convincingly. Seldom have
I been more thankful than when our train started next morning, and the
poor, unsuspecting Nasmyth himself waved us a last farewell from the
platform.

"Lucky we weren't staying at Nab's," said Raffles, as he lit a
Sullivan and opened his _Daily Mail_ at its report of the robbery.
"There was one thing Nab would have spotted like the downy old bird he
always was and will be."

"What was that?"

"The front door must have been found duly barred and bolted in the
morning, and yet we let them assume that we came out that way. Nab
would have pounced on the point, and by this time we might have been
nabbed ourselves."

It was but a little over a hundred sovereigns that Raffles had taken,
and, of course, he had resolutely eschewed any and every form of paper
money. He posted his own first contribution of twenty-five pounds to
the Founder's Fund immediately on our return to town, before rushing
off to more first-class cricket, and I gathered that the rest would
follow piecemeal as he deemed it safe. By an odd coincidence, however,
a mysterious but magnificent donation of a hundred guineas was almost
simultaneously received in notes by the treasurer of the Founder's
Fund, from one who simply signed himself "Old Boy." The treasurer
happened to be our late host, the new man at our old house, and he
wrote to congratulate Raffles on what he was pleased to consider a
direct result of the latter's speech. I did not see the letter that
Raffles wrote in reply, but in due course I heard the name of the
mysterious contributor. He was said to be no other than Nipper Nasmyth
himself. I asked Raffles if it was true. He replied that he would ask
old Nipper point-blank if he came up as usual to the 'Varsity
match, and if they had the luck to meet. And not only did this happen,
but I had the greater luck to be walking round the ground with Raffles
when we encountered our shabby friend in front of the pavilion.

[Illustration: He kept us laughing in his study until the chapel bells
rang him out.]

"My dear fellow," cried Raffles, "I hear it was you who gave that
hundred guineas by stealth to the very movement you denounced. Don't
deny it, and don't blush to find it fame. Listen to me. There was a
great lot in what you said; but it's the kind of thing we ought all to
back, whether we strictly approve of it in our hearts or not."

"Exactly, Raffles, but the fact is----"

"I know what you're going to say. Don't say it. There's not one in a
thousand who would do as you've done, and not one in a million who
would do it anonymously."

"But what makes you think I did it, Raffles?"

"Everybody is saying so. You will find it all over the place when you
get back. You will find yourself the most popular man down there,
Nasmyth!"

I never saw a nobler embarrassment than that of this awkward,
ungainly, cantankerous man: all his angles seemed to have been
smoothed away: there was something quite human in the flushed,
undecided, wistful face.

"I never was popular in my life," he said. "I don't want to buy my
popularity now. To be perfectly candid with you, Raffles----"

"Don't! I can't stop to hear. They're ringing the bell. But you
shouldn't have been angry with me for saying you were a generous good
chap, Nasmyth, when you were one all the time. Good-by, old fellow!"

But Nasmyth detained us a second more. His hesitation was at an end.
There was a sudden new light in his face.

"Was I?" he cried. "Then I'll make it _two_ hundred, and damn the
odds!"

Raffles was a thoughtful man as we went to our seats. He saw nobody,
would acknowledge no remark. Neither did he attend to the cricket for
the first half-hour after lunch; instead, he eventually invited me to
come for a stroll on the practice ground, where, however, we found two
chairs aloof from the fascinating throng.

"I am not often sorry, Bunny, as you know," he began. "But I have been
sorry since the interval. I've been sorry for poor old Nipper Nasmyth.
Did you see the idea of being popular dawn upon him for the first time
in his life?"

"I did; but you had nothing to do with that, my dear man."

Raffles shook his head over me as our eyes met.

"I had everything to do with it. I tried to make him tell the meanest
lie. I made sure he would, and for that matter he nearly did. Then, at
the last moment, he saw how to hedge things with his conscience. And
his second hundred will be a real gift."

"You mean under his own name?"

"And with his own free-will. My good Bunny, is it possible you don't
know what I did with the hundred we drew from that bank!"

"I knew what you were going to do with it," said I. "I didn't know you
had actually got further than the twenty-five you told me you were
sending as your own contribution."

Raffles rose abruptly from his chair.

"And you actually thought that came out of his money?"

"Naturally."

"In my name?"

"I thought so."

Raffles stared at me inscrutably for some moments, and for some more
at the great white numbers over the grand-stand.

"We may as well have another look at the cricket," said he. "It's
difficult to see the board from here, but I believe there's another
man out."



A Bad Night


There was to be a certain little wedding in which Raffles and I took a
surreptitious interest. The bride-elect was living in some retirement,
with a recently widowed mother and an asthmatical brother, in a mellow
hermitage on the banks of the Mole. The bridegroom was a prosperous
son of the same suburban soil which had nourished both families for
generations. The wedding presents were so numerous as to fill several
rooms at the pretty retreat upon the Mole, and of an intrinsic value
calling for a special transaction with the Burglary Insurance Company
in Cheapside. I cannot say how Raffles obtained all this information.
I only know that it proved correct in each particular. I was not
indeed deeply interested before the event, since Raffles assured me
that it was "a one-man job," and naturally intended to be the one man
himself. It was only at the eleventh hour that our positions were
inverted by the wholly unexpected selection of Raffles for the English
team in the Second Test Match.

In a flash I saw the chance of my criminal career. It was some years
since Raffles had served his country in these encounters; he had never
thought to be called upon again, and his gratification was only less
than his embarrassment. The match was at Old Trafford, on the third
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in July; the other affair had been all
arranged for the Thursday night, the night of the wedding at East
Molesey. It was for Raffles to choose between the two excitements, and
for once I helped him to make up his mind. I duly pointed out to him
that in Surrey, at all events, I was quite capable of taking his
place. Nay, more, I insisted at once on my prescriptive right and on
his patriotic obligation in the matter. In the country's name and in
my own, I implored him to give it and me a chance; and for once, as I
say, my arguments prevailed. Raffles sent his telegram--it was the day
before the match. We then rushed down to Esher, and over every inch of
the ground by that characteristically circuitous route which he
enjoined on me for the next night. And at six in the evening I was
receiving the last of my many instructions through a window of the
restaurant car.

"Only promise me not to take a revolver," said Raffles in a whisper.
"Here are my keys; there's an old life-preserver somewhere in the
bureau; take that, if you like--though what you take I rather fear you
are the chap to use!"

"Then the rope be round my own neck!" I whispered back. "Whatever else
I may do, Raffles, I shan't give _you_ away; and you'll find I do
better than you think, and am worth trusting with a little more to do,
or I'll know the reason why!"

And I meant to know it, as he was borne out of Euston with raised
eyebrows, and I turned grimly on my heel. I saw his fears for me; and
nothing could have made me more fearless for myself. Raffles had been
wrong about me all these years; now was my chance to set him right. It
was galling to feel that he had no confidence in my coolness or my
nerve, when neither had ever failed him at a pinch. I had been loyal
to him through rough and smooth. In many an ugly corner I had stood as
firm as Raffles himself. I was his right hand, and yet he never
hesitated to make me his catspaw. This time, at all events, I should
be neither one nor the other; this time I was the understudy playing
lead at last; and I wish I could think that Raffles ever realized with
what gusto I threw myself into his part.

Thus I was first out of a crowded theatre train at Esher next night,
and first down the stairs into the open air. The night was close and
cloudy; and the road to Hampton Court, even now that the suburban
builder has marked much of it for his own, is one of the darkest I
know. The first mile is still a narrow avenue, a mere tunnel of leaves
at mid-summer; but at that time there was not a lighted pane or cranny
by the way. Naturally, it was in this blind reach that I fancied I was
being followed. I stopped in my stride; so did the steps I made sure I
had heard not far behind; and when I went on, they followed suit. I
dried my forehead as I walked, but soon brought myself to repeat the
experiment when an exact repetition of the result went to convince me
that it had been my own echo all the time. And since I lost it on
getting quit of the avenue, and coming out upon the straight and open
road, I was not long in recovering from my scare. But now I could see
my way, and found the rest of it without mishap, though not without
another semblance of adventure. Over the bridge across the Mole, when
about to turn to the left, I marched straight upon a policeman in
rubber soles. I had to call him "officer" as I passed, and to pass my
turning by a couple of hundred yards, before venturing back another
way.

At last I had crept through a garden gate, and round by black windows
to a black lawn drenched with dew. It had been a heating walk, and I
was glad to blunder on a garden seat, most considerately placed under
a cedar which added its own darkness to that of the night. Here I
rested a few minutes, putting up my feet to keep them dry, untying my
shoes to save time, and generally facing the task before me with a
coolness which I strove to make worthy of my absent chief. But mine
was a self-conscious quality, as far removed from the original as any
other deliberate imitation of genius. I actually struck a match on my
trousers, and lit one of the shorter Sullivans. Raffles himself would
not have done such a thing at such a moment. But I wished to tell him
that I had done it; and in truth I was not more than pleasurably
afraid; I had rather that impersonal curiosity as to the issue which
has been the saving of me in still more precarious situations. I even
grew impatient for the fray, and could not after all sit still as long
as I had intended. So it happened that I was finishing my cigarette on
the edge of the wet lawn, and about to slip off my shoes before
stepping across the gravel to the conservatory door, when a most
singular sound arrested me in the act. It was a muffled gasping
somewhere overhead. I stood like stone; and my listening attitude must
have been visible against the milky sheen of the lawn, for a labored
voice hailed me sternly from a window.

"Who on earth are you?" it wheezed.

"A detective officer," I replied, "sent down by the Burglary Insurance
Company."

Not a moment had I paused for my precious fable. It had all been
prepared for me by Raffles, in case of need. I was merely repeating a
lesson in which I had been closely schooled. But at the window there
was pause enough, filled only by the uncanny wheezing of the man I
could not see.

"I don't see why they should have sent you down," he said at length.
"We are being quite well looked after by the local police; they're
giving us a special call every hour."

"I know that, Mr. Medlicott," I rejoined on my own account. "I met one
of them at the corner just now, and we passed the time of night."

My heart was knocking me to bits. I had started for myself at last.

"Did you get my name from him?" pursued my questioner, in a suspicious
wheeze.

"No; they gave me that before I started," I replied. "But I'm sorry
you saw me, sir; it's a mere matter of routine, and not intended to
annoy anybody. I propose to keep a watch on the place all night, but I
own it wasn't necessary to trespass as I've done. I'll take myself
off the actual premises, if you prefer it."

This again was all my own; and it met with a success that might have
given me confidence.

"Not a bit of it," replied young Medlicott, with a grim geniality.
"I've just woke up with the devil of an attack of asthma, and may have
to sit up in my chair till morning. You'd better come up and see me
through, and kill two birds while you're about it. Stay where you are,
and I'll come down and let you in."

Here was a dilemma which Raffles himself had not foreseen! Outside, in
the dark, my audacious part was not hard to play; but to carry the
improvisation in-doors was to double at once the difficulty and the
risk. It was true that I had purposely come down in a true detective's
overcoat and bowler; but my personal appearance was hardly of the
detective type. On the other hand as the _soi-disant_ guardian of the
gifts one might only excite suspicion by refusing to enter the house
where they were. Nor could I forget that it was my purpose to effect
such entry first or last. That was the casting consideration. I
decided to take my dilemma by the horns.

There had been a scraping of matches in the room over the
conservatory; the open window had shown for a moment, like an empty
picture-frame, a gigantic shadow wavering on the ceiling; and in the
next half-minute I remembered to tie my shoes. But the light was slow
to reappear through the leaded glasses of an outer door farther along
the path. And when the door opened, it was a figure of woe that stood
within and held an unsteady candle between our faces.

I have seen old men look half their age, and young men look double
theirs; but never before or since have I seen a beardless boy bent
into a man of eighty, gasping for every breath, shaken by every gasp,
swaying, tottering, and choking, as if about to die upon his feet. Yet
with it all, young Medlicott overhauled me shrewdly, and it was
several moments before he would let me take the candle from him.

"I shouldn't have come down--made me worse," he began whispering in
spurts. "Worse still going up again. You must give me an arm. You will
come up? That's right! Not as bad as I look, you know. Got some good
whiskey, too. Presents are all right; but if they aren't you'll hear
of it in-doors sooner than out. Now I'm ready--thanks! Mustn't make
more noise than we can help--wake my mother."

It must have taken us minutes to climb that single flight of stairs.
There was just room for me to keep his arm in mine; with the other he
hauled on the banisters; and so we mounted, step by step, a panting
pause on each, and a pitched battle for breath on the half-landing. In
the end we gained a cosey library, with an open door leading to a
bedroom beyond. But the effort had deprived my poor companion of all
power of speech; his laboring lungs shrieked like the wind; he could
just point to the door by which we had entered, and which I shut in
obedience to his gestures, and then to the decanter and its
accessories on the table where he had left them overnight. I gave him
nearly half a glassful, and his paroxysm subsided a little as he sat
hunched up in a chair.

"I was a fool ... to turn in," he blurted in more whispers between
longer pauses. "Lying down is the devil ... when you're in for a real
bad night. You might get me the brown cigarettes ... on the table in
there. That's right ... thanks awfully ... and now a match!"

The asthmatic had bitten off either end of the stramonium cigarette,
and was soon choking himself with the crude fumes, which he inhaled in
desperate gulps, to exhale in furious fits of coughing. Never was more
heroic remedy; it seemed a form of lingering suicide; but by degrees
some slight improvement became apparent, and at length the sufferer
was able to sit upright, and to drain his glass with a sigh of rare
relief. I sighed also, for I had witnessed a struggle for dear life by
a man in the flower of his youth, whose looks I liked, whose smile
came like the sun through the first break in his torments, and whose
first words were to thank me for the little I had done in bare
humanity.

That made me feel the thing I was. But the feeling put me on my guard.
And I was not unready for the remark which followed a more exhaustive
scrutiny than I had hitherto sustained.

"Do you know," said young Medlicott, "that you aren't a bit like the
detective of my dreams?"

"Only to proud to hear it," I replied. "There would be no point in my
being in plain clothes if I looked exactly what I was."

My companion reassured me with a wheezy laugh.

"There's something in that," said he, "although I do congratulate the
insurance people on getting a man of your class to do their dirty
work. And I congratulate myself," he was quick enough to add, "on
having you to see me through as bad a night as I've had for a long
time. You're like flowers in the depths of winter. Got a drink?
That's right! I suppose you didn't happen to bring down an evening
paper?"

I said I had brought one, but had unfortunately left it in the train.

"What about the Test Match?" cried my asthmatic, shooting forward in
his chair.

"I can tell you that," said I. "We went in first----"

"Oh, I know all about that," he interrupted. "I've seen the miserable
score up to lunch. How many did we scrape altogether?"

"We're scraping them still."

"No! How many?"

"Over two hundred for seven wickets."

"Who made the stand?"

"Raffles, for one. He was 62 not out at close of play!"

And the note of admiration rang in my voice, though I tried in my
self-consciousness to keep it out. But young Medlicott's enthusiasm
proved an ample cloak for mine; it was he who might have been the
personal friend of Raffles; and in his delight he chuckled till he
puffed and blew again.

"Good old Raffles!" he panted in every pause. "After being chosen
last, and as a bowler-man! That's the cricketer for me, sir; by Jove,
we must have another drink in his honor! Funny thing, asthma; your
liquor affects your head no more than it does a man with a snake-bite;
but it eases everything else, and sees you through. Doctors will tell
you so, but you've got to ask 'em first; they're no good for asthma!
I've only known one who could stop an attack, and he knocked me
sideways with nitrite of amyl. Funny complaint in other ways; raises
your spirits, if anything. You can't look beyond the next breath.
Nothing else worries you. Well, well, here's luck to A. J. Raffles,
and may he get his century in the morning!"

And he struggled to his feet for the toast; but I drank it sitting
down. I felt unreasonably wroth with Raffles, for coming into the
conversation as he had done--for taking centuries in Test Matches as
he was doing, without bothering his head about me. A failure would
have been in better taste; it would have shown at least some
imagination, some anxiety on one's account. I did not reflect that
even Raffles could scarcely be expected to picture me in my cups with
the son of the house that I had come to rob; chatting with him,
ministering to him; admiring his cheery courage, and honestly
attempting to lighten his load! Truly it was an infernal position:
how could I rob him or his after this? And yet I had thrust myself
into it; and Raffles would never, never understand!

Even that was not the worst. I was not quite sure that young Medlicott
was sure of me. I had feared this from the beginning, and now (over
the second glass that could not possibly affect a man in his
condition) he practically admitted as much to me. Asthma was such a
funny thing (he insisted) that it would not worry him a bit to
discover that I had come to take the presents instead of to take care
of them! I showed a sufficiently faint appreciation of the jest. And
it was presently punished as it deserved, by the most violent paroxysm
that had seized the sufferer yet: the fight for breath became faster
and more furious, and the former weapons of no more avail. I prepared
a cigarette, but the poor brute was too breathless to inhale. I poured
out yet more whiskey, but he put it from him with a gesture.

"Amyl--get me amyl!" he gasped. "The tin on the table by my bed."

I rushed into his room, and returned with a little tin of tiny
cylinders done up like miniature crackers in scraps of calico; the
spent youth broke one in his handkerchief, in which he immediately
buried his face. I watched him closely as a subtle odor reached my
nostrils; and it was like the miracle of oil upon the billows. His
shoulders rested from long travail; the stertorous gasping died away
to a quick but natural respiration; and in the sudden cessation of the
cruel contest, an uncanny stillness fell upon the scene. Meanwhile the
hidden face had flushed to the ears, and, when at length it was raised
to mine, its crimson calm was as incongruous as an optical illusion.

"It takes the blood from the heart," he murmured, "and clears the
whole show for the moment. If it only lasted! But you can't take two
without a doctor; one's quite enough to make you smell the
brimstone.... I say, what's up? You're listening to something! If it's
the policeman we'll have a word with him."

It was not the policeman; it was no out-door sound that I had caught
in the sudden cessation of the bout for breath. It was a noise, a
footstep, in the room below us. I went to the window and leaned out:
right underneath, in the conservatory, was the faintest glimmer of a
light in the adjoining room.

"One of the rooms where the presents are!" whispered Medlicott at my
elbow. And as we withdrew together, I looked him in the face as I had
not done all night.

I looked him in the face like an honest man, for a miracle was to make
me one once more. My knot was cut--my course inevitable. Mine, after
all, to prevent the very thing that I had come to do! My gorge had
long since risen at the deed; the unforeseen circumstances had
rendered it impossible from the first; but now I could afford to
recognize the impossibility, and to think of Raffles and the asthmatic
alike without a qualm. I could play the game by them both, for it was
one and the same game. I could preserve thieves' honor, and yet regain
some shred of that which I had forfeited as a man!

So I thought as we stood face to face, our ears straining for the
least movement below, our eyes locked in a common anxiety. Another
muffled foot-fall--felt rather than heard--and we exchanged grim nods
of simultaneous excitement. But by this time Medlicott was as helpless
as he had been before; the flush had faded from his face, and his
breathing alone would have spoiled everything. In dumb show I had to
order him to stay where he was, to leave my man to me. And then it was
that in a gusty whisper, with the same shrewd look that had
disconcerted me more than once during our vigil, young Medlicott
froze and fired my blood by turns.

"I've been unjust to you," he said, with his right hand in his
dressing-gown pocket. "I thought for a bit--never mind what I
thought--I soon saw I was wrong. But--I've had this thing in my pocket
all the time!"

And he would have thrust his revolver upon me as a peace-offering, but
I would not even take his hand, as I tapped the life-preserver in my
pocket, and crept out to earn his honest grip or to fall in the
attempt. On the landing I drew Raffles's little weapon, slipped my
right wrist through the leathern loop, and held it in readiness over
my right shoulder. Then, down-stairs I stole, as Raffles himself had
taught me, close to the wall, where the planks are nailed. Nor had I
made a sound, to my knowledge; for a door was open, and a light was
burning, and the light did not flicker as I approached the door. I
clenched my teeth and pushed it open; and there was the veriest
villain waiting for me, his little lantern held aloft.

"You blackguard!" I cried, and with a single thwack I felled the
ruffian to the floor.

There was no question of a foul blow. He had been just as ready to
pounce on me; it was simply my luck to have got the first blow home.
Yet a fellow-feeling touched me with remorse, as I stood over the
senseless body, sprawling prone, and perceived that I had struck an
unarmed man. The lantern only had fallen from his hands; it lay on one
side, smoking horribly; and a something in the reek caused me to set
it up in haste and turn the body over with both hands.

Shall I ever forget the incredulous horror of that moment?

It was Raffles himself!

How it was possible, I did not pause to ask myself; if one man on
earth could annihilate space and time, it was the man lying senseless
at my feet; and that was Raffles, without an instant's doubt. He was
in villainous guise, which I knew of old, now that I knew the unhappy
wearer. His face was grimy, and dexterously plastered with a growth of
reddish hair; his clothes were those in which he had followed cabs
from the London termini; his boots were muffled in thick socks; and I
had laid him low with a bloody scalp that filled my cup of horror. I
groaned aloud as I knelt over him and felt his heart. And I was
answered by a bronchial whistle from the door.

"Jolly well done!" cheered my asthmatical friend. "I heard the whole
thing--only hope my mother didn't. We must keep it from her if we
can."

I could have cursed the creature's mother from my full heart; yet even
with my hand on that of Raffles, as I felt his feeble pulse, I told
myself that this served him right. Even had I brained him, the fault
had been his, not mine. And it was a characteristic, an inveterate
fault, that galled me for all my anguish: to trust and yet distrust me
to the end, to race through England in the night, to spy upon me at
his work--to do it himself after all!

"Is he dead?" wheezed the asthmatic coolly.

"Not he," I answered, with an indignation that I dared not show.

"You must have hit him pretty hard," pursued young Medlicott, "but I
suppose it was a case of getting first knock. And a good job you got
it, if this was his," he added, picking up the murderous little
life-preserver which poor Raffles had provided for his own
destruction.

"Look here," I answered, sitting back on my heels. "He isn't dead, Mr.
Medlicott, and I don't know how long he'll be as much as stunned. He's
a powerful brute, and you're not fit to lend a hand. But that
policeman of yours can't be far away. Do you think you could struggle
out and look for him?"

"I suppose I am a bit better than I was," he replied doubtfully. "The
excitement seems to have done me good. If you like to leave me on
guard with my revolver, I'll undertake that he doesn't escape me."

I shook my head with an impatient smile.

"I should never hear the last of it," said I. "No, in that case all I
can do is to handcuff the fellow and wait till morning if he won't go
quietly; and he'll be a fool if he does, while there's a fighting
chance."

Young Medlicott glanced upstairs from his post on the threshold. I
refrained from watching him too keenly, but I knew what was in his
mind.

"I'll go," he said hurriedly. "I'll go as I am, before my mother is
disturbed and frightened out of her life. I owe you something, too,
not only for what you've done for me, but for what I was fool enough
to think about you at the first blush. It's entirely through you that
I feel as fit as I do for the moment. So I'll take your tip, and go
just as I am, before my poor old pipes strike up another tune."

I scarcely looked up until the good fellow had turned his back upon
the final tableau of watchful officer and prostrate prisoner and gone
out wheezing into the night. But I was at the door to hear the last of
him down the path and round the corner of the house. And when I rushed
back into the room, there was Raffles sitting cross-legged on the
floor, and slowly shaking his broken head as he stanched the blood.

"Et tu, Bunny!" he groaned. "Mine own familiar friend!"

"Then you weren't even stunned!" I exclaimed. "Thank God for that!"

"Of course I was stunned," he murmured, "and no thanks to you that I
wasn't brained. Not to know me in the kit you've seen scores of times!
You never looked at me, Bunny; you didn't give me time to open my
mouth. I was going to let you run me in so prettily! We'd have walked
off arm-in-arm; now it's as tight a place as ever we were in, though
you did get rid of old blow-pipes rather nicely. But we shall have the
devil's own run for our money!"

Raffles had picked himself up between his mutterings, and I had
followed him to the door into the garden, where he stood busy with the
key in the dark, having blown out his lantern and handed it to me. But
though I followed Raffles, as my nature must, I was far too embittered
to answer him again. And so it was for some minutes that might
furnish forth a thrilling page, but not a novel one to those who know
their Raffles and put up with me. Suffice it that we left a locked
door behind us, and the key on the garden wall, which was the first of
half a dozen that we scaled before dropping into a lane that led to a
foot-bridge higher up the backwater. And when we paused upon the
foot-bridge, the houses along the bank were still in peace and
darkness.

Knowing _my_ Raffles as I did, I was not surprised when he dived under
one end of this bridge, and came up with his Inverness cape and opera
hat, which he had hidden there on his way to the house. The thick
socks were peeled from his patent-leathers, the ragged trousers
stripped from an evening pair, bloodstains and Newgate fringe removed
at the water's edge, and the whole sepulchre whited in less time than
the thing takes to tell. Nor was that enough for Raffles, but he must
alter me as well, by wearing my overcoat under his cape, and putting
his Zingari scarf about my neck.

"And now," said he, "you may be glad to hear there's a 3:12 from
Surbiton, which we could catch on all fours. If you like we'll go
separately, but I don't think there's the slightest danger now, and
I begin to wonder what's happening to old blow-pipes."

[Illustration: The ragged trousers stripped from an evening pair.]

So, indeed, did I, and with no small concern, until I read of his
adventures (and our own) in the newspapers. It seemed that he had made
a gallant spurt into the road, and there paid the penalty of his
rashness by a sudden incapacity to move another inch. It had
eventually taken him twenty minutes to creep back to locked doors, and
another ten to ring up the inmates. His description of my personal
appearance, as reported in the papers, is the only thing that
reconciles me to the thought of his sufferings during that half-hour.

But at the time I had other thoughts, and they lay too deep for idle
words, for to me also it was a bitter hour. I had not only failed in
my self-sought task; I had nearly killed my comrade into the bargain.
I had meant well by friend and foe in turn, and I had ended in doing
execrably by both. It was not all my fault, but I knew how much my
weakness had contributed to the sum. And I must walk with the man
whose fault it was, who had travelled two hundred miles to obtain this
last proof of my weakness, to bring it home to me, and to make our
intimacy intolerable from that hour. I must walk with him to Surbiton,
but I need not talk; all through Thames Ditton I had ignored his
sallies; nor yet when he ran his arm through mine, on the river front,
when we were nearly there, would I break the seal my pride had set
upon my lips.

"Come, Bunny," he said at last, "I have been the one to suffer most,
when all's said and done, and I'll be the first to say that I deserved
it. You've broken my head; my hair's all glued up in my gore; and what
yarn I'm to put up at Manchester, or how I shall take the field at
all, I really don't know. Yet I don't blame you, Bunny, and I do blame
myself. Isn't it rather hard luck if I am to go unforgiven into the
bargain? I admit that I made a mistake; but, my dear fellow, I made it
entirely for your sake."

"For my sake!" I echoed bitterly.

Raffles was more generous; he ignored my tone.

"I was miserable about you--frankly--miserable!" he went on. "I
couldn't get it out of my head that somehow you would be laid by the
heels. It was not your pluck that I distrusted, my dear fellow, but it
was your very pluck that made me tremble for you. I couldn't get you
out of my head. I went in when runs were wanted, but I give you my
word that I was more anxious about you; and no doubt that's why I
helped to put on some runs. Didn't you see it in the paper, Bunny?
It's the innings of my life, so far."

"Yes," I said, "I saw that you were in at close of play. But I don't
believe it was you--I believe you have a double who plays your cricket
for you!"

And at the moment that seemed less incredible than the fact.

"I'm afraid you didn't read your paper very carefully," said Raffles,
with the first trace of pique in his tone. "It was rain that closed
play before five o'clock. I hear it was a sultry day in town, but at
Manchester we got the storm, and the ground was under water in ten
minutes. I never saw such a thing in my life. There was absolutely not
the ghost of a chance of another ball being bowled. But I had changed
before I thought of doing what I did. It was only when I was on my way
back to the hotel, by myself, because I couldn't talk to a soul for
thinking of you, that on the spur of the moment I made the man take me
to the station instead, and was under way in the restaurant car before
I had time to think twice about it. I am not sure that of all the mad
deeds I have ever done, this was not the maddest of the lot!"

"It was the finest," I said in a low voice; for now I marvelled more
at the impulse which had prompted his feat, and at the circumstances
surrounding it, than even at the feat itself.

"Heaven knows," he went on, "what they are saying and doing in
Manchester! But what can they say? What business is it of theirs? I
was there when play stopped, and I shall be there when it starts
again. We shall be at Waterloo just after half-past three, and that's
going to give me an hour at the Albany on my way to Euston, and
another hour at Old Trafford before play begins. What's the matter
with that? I don't suppose I shall notch any more, but all the better
if I don't; if we have a hot sun after the storm, the sooner they get
in the better; and may I have a bowl at them while the ground bites!"

"I'll come up with you," I said, "and see you at it."

"My dear fellow," replied Raffles, "that was my whole feeling about
you. I wanted to 'see you at it'--that was absolutely all. I wanted to
be near enough to lend a hand if you got tied up, as the best of us
will at times. I knew the ground better than you, and I simply
couldn't keep away from it. But I didn't mean you to know that I was
there; if everything had gone as I hoped it might, I should have
sneaked back to town without ever letting you know I had been up. You
should never have dreamt that I had been at your elbow; you would have
believed in yourself, and in my belief in you, and the rest would have
been silence till the grave. So I dodged you at Waterloo, and I tried
not to let you know that I was following you from Esher station. But
you suspected somebody was; you stopped to listen more than once;
after the second time I dropped behind, but gained on you by taking
the short cut by Imber Court and over the foot-bridge where I left my
coat and hat. I was actually in the garden before you were. I saw you
smoke your Sullivan, and I was rather proud of you for it, though you
must never do that sort of thing again. I heard almost every word
between you and the poor devil upstairs. And up to a certain point,
Bunny, I really thought you played the scene to perfection."

The station lights were twinkling ahead of us in the fading velvet of
the summer's night. I let them increase and multiply before I spoke.

"And where," I asked, "did you think I first went wrong?"

"In going in-doors at all," said Raffles. "If I had done that, I
should have done exactly what you did from that point on. You couldn't
help yourself, with that poor brute in that state. And I admired you
immensely, Bunny, if that's any comfort to you now."

Comfort! It was wine in every vein, for I knew that Raffles meant what
he said, and with his eyes I soon saw myself in braver colors. I
ceased to blush for the vacillations of the night, since he condoned
them. I could even see that I had behaved with a measure of decency,
in a truly trying situation, now that Raffles seemed to think so. He
had changed my whole view of his proceedings and my own, in every
incident of the night but one. There was one thing, however, which he
might forgive me, but which I felt that I could forgive neither
Raffles nor myself. And that was the contused scalp wound over which I
shuddered in the train.

"And to think that I did that," I groaned, "and that you laid yourself
open to it, and that we have neither of us got another thing to show
for our night's work! That poor chap said it was as bad a night as he
had ever had in his life; but I call it the very worst that you and I
ever had in ours."

Raffles was smiling under the double lamps of the first-class
compartment that we had to ourselves.

"I wouldn't say that, Bunny. We have done worse."

"Do you mean to tell me that you did anything at all?"

"My dear Bunny," replied Raffles, "you should remember how long I had
been maturing this felonious little plan, what a blow it was to me to
have to turn it over to you, and how far I had travelled to see that
you did it and yourself as well as might be. You know what I did see,
and how well I understood. I tell you again that I should have done
the same thing myself, in your place. But I was not in your place,
Bunny. My hands were not tied like yours. Unfortunately, most of the
jewels have gone on the honeymoon with the happy pair; but these
emerald links are all right, and I don't know what the bride was doing
to leave this diamond comb behind. Here, too, is the old silver skewer
I've been wanting for years--they make the most charming paper-knives
in the world--and this gold cigarette-case will just do for your
smaller Sullivans."

Nor were these the only pretty things that Raffles set out in
twinkling array upon the opposite cushions. But I do not pretend that
this was one of our heavy hauls, or deny that its chief interest still
resides in the score of the Second Test Match of that Australian
tour.



A Trap to Catch a Cracksman


I was just putting out my light when the telephone rang a furious
tocsin in the next room. I flounced out of bed more asleep than awake;
in another minute I should have been past ringing up. It was one
o'clock in the morning, and I had been dining with Swigger Morrison at
his club.

"Hulloa!"

"That you, Bunny?"

"Yes--are you Raffles?"

"What's left of me! Bunny, I want you--quick."

And even over the wire his voice was faint with anxiety and
apprehension.

"What on earth has happened?"

"Don't ask! You never know----"

"I'll come at once. Are you there, Raffles?"

"What's that?"

"Are you there, man?"

"Ye--e--es."

"At the Albany?"

"No, no; at Maguire's."

"You never said so. And where's Maguire?"

"In Half-moon Street."

"I know that. Is he there now?"

"No--not come in yet--and I'm caught."

"Caught!"

"In that trap he bragged about. It serves me right. I didn't believe
in it. But I'm caught at last ... caught ... at last!"

"When he told us he set it every night! Oh, Raffles, what sort of a
trap is it? What shall I do? What shall I bring?"

But his voice had grown fainter and wearier with every answer, and now
there was no answer at all. Again and again I asked Raffles if he was
there; the only sound to reach me in reply was the low metallic hum of
the live wire between his ear and mine. And then, as I sat gazing
distractedly at my four safe walls, with the receiver still pressed to
my head, there came a single groan, followed by the dull and dreadful
crash of a human body falling in a heap.

In utter panic I rushed back into my bedroom, and flung myself into
the crumpled shirt and evening clothes that lay where I had cast them
off. But I knew no more what I was doing than what to do next. I
afterward found that I had taken out a fresh tie, and tied it rather
better than usual; but I can remember thinking of nothing but Raffles
in some diabolical man-trap, and of a grinning monster stealing in to
strike him senseless with one murderous blow. I must have looked in
the glass to array myself as I did; but the mind's eye was the seeing
eye, and it was filled with this frightful vision of the notorious
pugilist known to fame and infamy as Barney Maguire.

It was only the week before that Raffles and I had been introduced to
him at the Imperial Boxing Club. Heavy-weight champion of the United
States, the fellow was still drunk with his sanguinary triumphs on
that side, and clamoring for fresh conquests on ours. But his
reputation had crossed the Atlantic before Maguire himself; the
grandiose hotels had closed their doors to him; and he had already
taken and sumptuously furnished the house in Half-moon Street which
does not re-let to this day. Raffles had made friends with the
magnificent brute, while I took timid stock of his diamond studs, his
jewelled watch-chain, his eighteen-carat bangle, and his six-inch
lower jaw. I had shuddered to see Raffles admiring the gewgaws in his
turn, in his own brazen fashion, with that air of the cool connoisseur
which had its double meaning for me. I for my part would as lief have
looked a tiger in the teeth. And when we finally went home with
Maguire to see his other trophies, it seemed to me like entering the
tiger's lair. But an astounding lair it proved, fitted throughout by
one eminent firm, and ringing to the rafters with the last word on
fantastic furniture.

The trophies were a still greater surprise. They opened my eyes to the
rosier aspect of the noble art, as presently practised on the right
side of the Atlantic. Among other offerings, we were permitted to
handle the jewelled belt presented to the pugilist by the State of
Nevada, a gold brick from the citizens of Sacramento, and a model of
himself in solid silver from the Fisticuff Club in New York. I still
remember waiting with bated breath for Raffles to ask Maguire if he
were not afraid of burglars, and Maguire replying that he had a trap
to catch the cleverest cracksman alive, but flatly refusing to tell us
what it was. I could not at the moment conceive a more terrible trap
than the heavy-weight himself behind a curtain. Yet it was easy to see
that Raffles had accepted the braggart's boast as a challenge. Nor did
he deny it later when I taxed him with his mad resolve; he merely
refused to allow me to implicate myself in its execution. Well, there
was a spice of savage satisfaction in the thought that Raffles had
been obliged to turn to me in the end. And, but for the dreadful thud
which I had heard over the telephone, I might have extracted some
genuine comfort from the unerring sagacity with which he had chosen
his night.

Within the last twenty-four hours Barney Maguire had fought his first
great battle on British soil. Obviously, he would no longer be the man
that he had been in the strict training before the fight; never, as I
gathered, was such a ruffian more off his guard, or less capable of
protecting himself and his possessions, than in these first hours of
relaxation and inevitable debauchery for which Raffles had waited with
characteristic foresight. Nor was the terrible Barney likely to be
more abstemious for signal punishment sustained in a far from
bloodless victory. Then what could be the meaning of that sickening
and most suggestive thud? Could it be the champion himself who had
received the _coup de grâce_ in his cups? Raffles was the very man to
administer it--but he had not talked like that man through the
telephone.

And yet--and yet--what else could have happened? I must have asked
myself the question between each and all of the above reflections,
made partly as I dressed and partly in the hansom on the way to
Half-moon Street. It was as yet the only question in my mind. You must
know what your emergency is before you can decide how to cope with
it; and to this day I sometimes tremble to think of the rashly direct
method by which I set about obtaining the requisite information. I
drove every yard of the way to the pugilist's very door. You will
remember that I had been dining with Swigger Morrison at his club.

Yet at the last I had a rough idea of what I meant to say when the
door was opened. It seemed almost probable that the tragic end of our
talk over the telephone had been caused by the sudden arrival and as
sudden violence of Barney Maguire. In that case I was resolved to tell
him that Raffles and I had made a bet about his burglar trap, and that
I had come to see who had won. I might or might not confess that
Raffles had rung me out of bed to this end. If, however, I was wrong
about Maguire, and he had not come home at all, then my action would
depend upon the menial who answered my reckless ring. But it should
result in the rescue of Raffles by hook or crook.

I had the more time to come to some decision, since I rang and rang in
vain. The hall, indeed, was in darkness; but when I peeped through the
letter-box I could see a faint beam of light from the back room. That
was the room in which Maguire kept his trophies and set his trap. All
was quiet in the house: could they have haled the intruder to Vine
Street in the short twenty minutes which it had taken me to dress and
to drive to the spot? That was an awful thought; but even as I hoped
against hope, and rang once more, speculation and suspense were cut
short in the last fashion to be foreseen.

A brougham was coming sedately down the street from Piccadilly; to my
horror, it stopped behind me as I peered once more through the
letter-box, and out tumbled the dishevelled prize-fighter and two
companions. I was nicely caught in my turn. There was a lamp-post
right opposite the door, and I can still see the three of them
regarding me in its light. The pugilist had been at least a fine
figure of a bully and a braggart when I saw him before his fight; now
he had a black eye and a bloated lip, hat on the back of his head, and
made-up tie under one ear. His companions were his sallow little
Yankee secretary, whose name I really forget, but whom I met with
Maguire at the Boxing Club, and a very grand person in a second skin
of shimmering sequins.

I can neither forget nor report the terms in which Barney Maguire
asked me who I was and what I was doing there. Thanks, however, to
Swigger Morrison's hospitality, I readily reminded him of our former
meeting, and of more that I only recalled as the words were in my
mouth.

"You'll remember Raffles," said I, "if you don't remember me. You
showed us your trophies the other night, and asked us both to look you
up at any hour of the day or night after the fight."

I was going on to add that I had expected to find Raffles there before
me, to settle a wager that we had made about the man-trap. But the
indiscretion was interrupted by Maguire himself, whose dreadful fist
became a hand that gripped mine with brute fervor, while with the
other he clouted me on the back.

"You don't say!" he cried. "I took you for some darned crook, but now
I remember you perfectly. If you hadn't 've spoke up slick I'd have
bu'st your face in, sonny. I would, sure! Come right in, and have a
drink to show there's--Jeehoshaphat!"

The secretary had turned the latch-key in the door, only to be hauled
back by the collar as the door stood open, and the light from the
inner room was seen streaming upon the banisters at the foot of the
narrow stairs.

"A light in my den," said Maguire in a mighty whisper, "and the
blamed door open, though the key's in my pocket and we left it locked!
Talk about crooks, eh? Holy smoke, how I hope we've landed one alive!
You ladies and gentlemen, lay round where you are, while I see."

And the hulking figure advanced on tiptoe, like a performing elephant,
until just at the open door, when for a second we saw his left
revolving like a piston and his head thrown back at its fighting
angle. But in another second his fists were hands again, and Maguire
was rubbing them together as he stood shaking with laughter in the
light of the open door.

"Walk up!" he cried, as he beckoned to us three. "Walk up and see one
o' their blamed British crooks laid as low as the blamed carpet, and
nailed as tight!"

Imagine my feelings on the mat! The sallow secretary went first; the
sequins glittered at his heels, and I must own that for one base
moment I was on the brink of bolting through the street door. It had
never been shut behind us. I shut it myself in the end. Yet it was
small credit to me that I actually remained on the same side of the
door as Raffles.

"Reel home-grown, low-down, unwashed White-chapel!" I had heard
Maguire remark within. "Blamed if our Bowery boys ain't cock-angels
to scum like this. Ah, you biter, I wouldn't soil my knuckles on your
ugly face; but if I had my thick boots on I'd dance the soul out of
your carcass for two cents!"

After this it required less courage to join the others in the inner
room; and for some moments even I failed to identify the truly
repulsive object about which I found them grouped. There was no false
hair upon the face, but it was as black as any sweep's. The clothes,
on the other hand, were new to me, though older and more pestiferous
in themselves than most worn by Raffles for professional purposes. And
at first, as I say, I was far from sure whether it was Raffles at all;
but I remembered the crash that cut short our talk over the telephone;
and this inanimate heap of rags was lying directly underneath a wall
instrument, with the receiver dangling over him.

"Think you know him?" asked the sallow secretary, as I stooped and
peered with my heart in my boots.

"Good Lord, no! I only wanted to see if he was dead," I explained,
having satisfied myself that it was really Raffles, and that Raffles
was really insensible. "But what on earth has happened?" I asked in my
turn.

"That's what I want to know," whined the person in sequins, who had
contributed various ejaculations unworthy of report, and finally
subsided behind an ostentatious fan.

"I should judge," observed the secretary, "that it's for Mr. Maguire
to say, or not to say, just as he darn pleases."

But the celebrated Barney stood upon a Persian hearth-rug, beaming
upon us all in a triumph too delicious for immediate translation into
words. The room was furnished as a study, and most artistically
furnished, if you consider outlandish shapes in fumed oak artistic.
There was nothing of the traditional prize-fighter about Barney
Maguire, except his vocabulary and his lower jaw. I had seen over his
house already, and it was fitted and decorated throughout by a
high-art firm which exhibits just such a room as that which was the
scene of our tragedietta. The person in the sequins lay glistening
like a landed salmon in a quaint chair of enormous nails and tapestry
compact. The secretary leaned against an escritoire with huge hinges
of beaten metal. The pugilist's own background presented an elaborate
scheme of oak and tiles, with inglenooks green from the joiner, and a
china cupboard with leaded panes behind his bullet head. And his
bloodshot eyes rolled with rich delight from the decanter and glasses
on the octagonal table to another decanter in the quaintest and
craftiest of revolving spirit tables.

"Isn't it bully?" asked the prize-fighter, smiling on us each in turn,
with his black and bloodshot eyes and his bloated lip. "To think that
I've only to invent a trap to catch a crook, for a blamed crook to
walk right into! You, Mr. Man," and he nodded his great head at me,
"you'll recollect me telling you that I'd gotten one when you come in
that night with the other sport? Say, pity he's not with you now; he
was a good boy, and I liked him a lot; but he wanted to know too much,
and I guess he'd got to want. But I'm liable to tell you now, or else
bu'st. See that decanter on the table?"

"I was just looking at it," said the person in sequins. "You don't
know what a turn I've had, or you'd offer me a little something."

"You shall have a little something in a minute," rejoined Maguire.
"But if you take a little anything out of that decanter, you'll
collapse like our friend upon the floor."

"Good heavens!" I cried out, with involuntary indignation, and his
fell scheme broke upon me in a clap.

"Yes, _sir_!" said Maguire, fixing me with his bloodshot orbs. "My
trap for crooks and cracksmen is a bottle of hocussed whiskey, and I
guess that's it on the table, with the silver label around its neck.
Now look at this other decanter, without any label at all; but for
that they're the dead spit of each other. I'll put them side by side,
so you can see. It isn't only the decanters, but the liquor looks the
same in both, and tastes so you wouldn't know the difference till you
woke up in your tracks. I got the poison from a blamed Indian away
west, and it's ruther ticklish stuff. So I keep the label around the
trap-bottle, and only leave it out nights. That's the idea, and that's
all there is to it," added Maguire, putting the labelled decanter back
in the stand. "But I figure it's enough for ninety-nine crooks out of
a hundred, and nineteen out of twenty 'll have their liquor before
they go to work."

"I wouldn't figure on that," observed the secretary, with a downward
glance as though at the prostrate Raffles. "Have you looked to see if
the trophies are all safe?"

"Not yet," said Maguire, with a glance at the pseudo-antique cabinet
in which he kept them.

"Then you can save yourself the trouble," rejoined the secretary, as
he dived under the octagonal table, and came up with a small black
bag that I knew at a glance. It was the one that Raffles had used for
heavy plunder ever since I had known him.

The bag was so heavy now that the secretary used both hands to get it
on the table. In another moment he had taken out the jewelled belt
presented to Maguire by the State of Nevada, the solid silver
statuette of himself, and the gold brick from the citizens of
Sacramento.

Either the sight of his treasures, so nearly lost, or the feeling that
the thief had dared to tamper with them after all, suddenly infuriated
Maguire to such an extent that he had bestowed a couple of brutal
kicks upon the senseless form of Raffles before the secretary and I
could interfere.

"Play light, Mr. Maguire!" cried the sallow secretary. "The man's
drugged, as well as down."

"He'll be lucky if he ever gets up, blight and blister him!"

"I should judge it about time to telephone for the police."

"Not till I've done with him. Wait till he comes to! I guess I'll
punch his face into a jam pudding! He shall wash down his teeth with
his blood before the coppers come in for what's left!"

"You make me feel quite ill," complained the grand lady in the chair.
"I wish you'd give me a little something, and not be more vulgar than
you can 'elp."

"Help yourself," said Maguire, ungallantly, "and don't talk through
your hat. Say, what's the matter with the 'phone?"

The secretary had picked up the dangling receiver.

"It looks to me," said he, "as though the crook had rung up somebody
before he went off."

I turned and assisted the grand lady to the refreshment that she
craved.

"Like his cheek!" Maguire thundered. "But who in blazes should _he_
ring up?"

"It'll all come out," said the secretary. "They'll tell us at the
central, and we shall find out fast enough."

"It don't matter now," said Maguire. "Let's have a drink and then
rouse the devil up."

But now I was shaking in my shoes. I saw quite clearly what this
meant. Even if I rescued Raffles for the time being, the police would
promptly ascertain that it was I who had been rung up by the burglar,
and the fact of my not having said a word about it would be directly
damning to me, if in the end it did not incriminate us both. It made
me quite faint to feel that we might escape the Scylla of our present
peril and yet split on the Charybdis of circumstantial evidence. Yet I
could see no middle course of conceivable safety, if I held my tongue
another moment. So I spoke up desperately, with the rash resolution
which was the novel feature of my whole conduct on this occasion. But
any sheep would be resolute and rash after dining with Swigger
Morrison at his club.

"I wonder if he rang _me_ up?" I exclaimed, as if inspired.

"You, sonny?" echoed Maguire, decanter in hand. "What in hell could he
know about you?"

"Or what could you know about him?" amended the secretary, fixing me
with eyes like drills.

"Nothing," I admitted, regretting my temerity with all my heart. "But
some one did ring me up about an hour ago. I thought it was Raffles. I
told you I expected to find him here, if you remember."

"But I don't see what that's got to do with the crook," pursued the
secretary, with his relentless eyes boring deeper and deeper into
mine.

"No more do I," was my miserable reply. But there was a certain
comfort in his words, and some simultaneous promise in the quantity
of spirit which Maguire splashed into his glass.

"Were you cut off sudden?" asked the secretary, reaching for the
decanter, as the three of us sat round the octagonal table.

"So suddenly," I replied, "that I never knew who it was who rang me
up. No, thank you--not any for me."

"What!" cried Maguire, raising a depressed head suddenly. "You won't
have a drink in my house? Take care, young man. That's not being a
good boy!"

"But I've been dining out," I expostulated, "and had my whack. I
really have."

Barney Maguire smote the table with terrific fist.

"Say, sonny, I like you a lot," said he. "But I shan't like you any if
you're not a good boy!"

"Very well, very well," I said hurriedly. "One finger, if I must."

And the secretary helped me to not more than two.

"Why should it have been your friend Raffles?" he inquired, returning
remorselessly to the charge, while Maguire roared "Drink up!" and then
drooped once more.

"I was half asleep," I answered, "and he was the first person who
occurred to me. We are both on the telephone, you see. And we had made
a bet----"

The glass was at my lips, but I was able to set it down untouched.
Maguire's huge jaw had dropped upon his spreading shirt-front, and
beyond him I saw the person in sequins fast asleep in the artistic
armchair.

"What bet?" asked a voice with a sudden start in it. The secretary was
blinking as he drained his glass.

"About the very thing we've just had explained to us," said I,
watching my man intently as I spoke. "I made sure it was a man-trap.
Raffles thought it must be something else. We had a tremendous
argument about it. Raffles said it wasn't a man-trap. I said it was.
We had a bet about it in the end. I put my money on the man-trap.
Raffles put his upon the other thing. And Raffles was right--it wasn't
a man-trap. But it's every bit as good--every little bit--and the
whole boiling of you are caught in it except me!"

I sank my voice with the last sentence, but I might just as well have
raised it instead. I had said the same thing over and over again to
see whether the wilful tautology would cause the secretary to open his
eyes. It seemed to have had the very opposite effect. His head fell
forward on the table, with never a quiver at the blow, never a twitch
when I pillowed it upon one of his own sprawling arms. And there sat
Maguire bolt upright, but for the jowl upon his shirt-front, while the
sequins twinkled in a regular rise and fall upon the reclining form of
the lady in the fanciful chair. All three were sound asleep, by what
accident or by whose design I did not pause to inquire; it was enough
to ascertain the fact beyond all chance of error.

I turned my attention to Raffles last of all. There was the other side
of the medal. Raffles was still sleeping as sound as the enemy--or so
I feared at first. I shook him gently: he made no sign. I introduced
vigor into the process: he muttered incoherently. I caught and twisted
an unresisting wrist--and at that he yelped profanely. But it was many
and many an anxious moment before his blinking eyes knew mine.

"Bunny!" he yawned, and nothing more until his position came back to
him. "So you came to me," he went on, in a tone that thrilled me with,
its affectionate appreciation, "as I knew you would! Have they turned
up yet? They will any minute, you know; there's not one to lose."

"No, they won't, old man!" I whispered. And he sat up and saw the
comatose trio for himself.

Raffles seemed less amazed at the result than I had been as a puzzled
witness of the process; on the other hand, I had never seen anything
quite so exultant as the smile that broke through his blackened
countenance like a light. It was all obviously no great surprise, and
no puzzle at all, to Raffles.

"How much did they have, Bunny?" were his first whispered words.

"Maguire a good three fingers, and the others at least two."

"Then we needn't lower our voices, and we needn't walk on our toes.
Eheu! I dreamed somebody was kicking me in the ribs, and I believe it
must have been true."

He had risen with a hand to his side and a wry look on his sweep's
face.

"You can guess which of them it was," said I. "The beast is jolly well
served!"

And I shook my fist in the paralytic face of the most brutal bruiser
of his time.

"He is safe till the forenoon, unless they bring a doctor to him,"
said Raffles. "I don't suppose we could rouse him now if we tried. How
much of the fearsome stuff do you suppose _I_ took? About a
tablespoonful! I guessed what it was, and couldn't resist making
sure; the minute I was satisfied, I changed the label and the position
of the two decanters, little thinking I should stay to see the fun;
but in another minute I could hardly keep my eyes open. I realized
then that I was fairly poisoned with some subtle drug. If I left the
house at all in that state, I must leave the spoil behind, or be found
drunk in the gutter with my head on the swag itself. In any case I
should have been picked up and run in, and that might have led to
anything."

"So you rang me up!"

"It was my last brilliant inspiration--a sort of flash in the
brain-pan before the end--and I remember very little about it. I was
more asleep than awake at the time."

"You sounded like it, Raffles, now that one has the clue."

"I can't remember a word I said, or what was the end of it, Bunny."

"You fell in a heap before you came to the end."

"You didn't hear that through the telephone?"

"As though we had been in the same room: only I thought it was Maguire
who had stolen a march on you and knocked you out."

I had never seen Raffles more interested and impressed; but at this
point his smile altered, his eyes softened, and I found my hand in
his.

"You thought that, and yet you came like a shot to do battle for my
body with Barney Maguire! Jack-the-Giant-killer wasn't in it with you,
Bunny!"

"It was no credit to me--it was rather the other thing," said I,
remembering my rashness and my luck, and confessing both in a breath.
"You know old Swigger Morrison?" I added in final explanation. "I had
been dining with him at his club!"

Raffles shook his long old head. And the kindly light in his eyes was
still my infinite reward.

"I don't care," said he, "how deeply you had been dining: _in vino
veritas_, Bunny, and your pluck would always out! I have never doubted
it, and I never shall. In fact, I rely on nothing else to get us out
of this mess."

My face must have fallen, as my heart sank at these words. I had said
to myself that we were out of the mess already--that we had merely to
make a clean escape from the house--now the easiest thing in the
world. But as I looked at Raffles, and as Raffles looked at me, on the
threshold of the room where the three sleepers slept on without sound
or movement, I grasped the real problem that lay before us. It was
twofold; and the funny thing was that I had seen both horns of the
dilemma for myself, before Raffles came to his senses. But with
Raffles in his right mind, I had ceased to apply my own, or to carry
my share of our common burden another inch. It had been an unconscious
withdrawal on my part, an instinctive tribute to my leader; but I was
sufficiently ashamed of it as we stood and faced the problem in each
other's eyes.

"If we simply cleared out," continued Raffles, "you would be
incriminated in the first place as my accomplice, and once they had
you they would have a compass with the needle pointing straight to me.
They mustn't have either of us, Bunny, or they will get us both. And
for my part they may as well!"

I echoed a sentiment that was generosity itself in Raffles, but in my
case a mere truism.

"It's easy enough for me," he went on. "I am a common house-breaker,
and I escape. They don't know me from Noah. But they do know you; and
how do you come to let me escape? What has happened to you, Bunny?
That's the crux. What could have happened after they all dropped off?"
And for a minute Raffles frowned and smiled like a sensation novelist
working out a plot; then the light broke, and transfigured him through
his burnt cork. "I've got it, Bunny!" he exclaimed. "You took some of
the stuff yourself, though of course not nearly so much as they did."

"Splendid!" I cried. "They really were pressing it upon me at the end,
and I did say it must be very little."

"You dozed off in your turn, but you were naturally the first to come
to yourself. I had flown; so had the gold brick, the jewelled belt,
and the silver statuette. You tried to rouse the others. You couldn't
succeed; nor would you if you did try. So what did you do? What's the
only really innocent thing you could do in the circumstances?"

"Go for the police," I suggested dubiously, little relishing the
prospect.

"There's a telephone installed for the purpose," said Raffles. "I
should ring them up, if I were you. Try not to look blue about it,
Bunny. They're quite the nicest fellows in the world, and what you
have to tell them is a mere microbe to the camels I've made them
swallow without a grain of salt. It's really the most convincing story
one could conceive; but unfortunately there's another point which
will take more explaining away."

And even Raffles looked grave enough as I nodded.

"You mean that they'll find out you rang me up?"

"They may," said Raffles. "I see that I managed to replace the
receiver all right. But still--they may."

"I'm afraid they will," said I, uncomfortably. "I'm very much afraid I
gave something of the kind away. You see, you had _not_ replaced the
receiver; it was dangling over you where you lay. This very question
came up, and the brutes themselves seemed so quick to see its
possibilities that I thought best to take the bull by the horns and
own that I had been rung up by somebody. To be absolutely honest, I
even went so far as to say I thought it was Raffles!"

"You didn't, Bunny!"

"What could I say? I was obliged to think of somebody, and I saw they
were not going to recognize you. So I put up a yarn about a wager we
had made about this very trap of Maguire's. You see, Raffles, I've
never properly told you how I got in, and there's no time now; but the
first thing I had said was that I half expected to find you here
before me. That was in case they spotted you at once. But it made all
that part about the telephone fit in rather well."

"I should think it did, Bunny," murmured Raffles, in a tone that added
sensibly to my reward. "I couldn't have done better myself, and you
will forgive my saying that you have never in your life done half so
well. Talk about that crack you gave me on the head! You have made it
up to me a hundredfold by all you have done to-night. But the bother
of it is that there's still so much to do, and to hit upon, and so
precious little time for thought as well as action."

I took out my watch and showed it to Raffles without a word. It was
three o'clock in the morning, and the latter end of March. In little
more than an hour there would be dim daylight in the streets. Raffles
roused himself from a reverie with sudden decision.

"There's only one thing for it, Bunny," said he. "We must trust each
other and divide the labor. You ring up the police, and leave the rest
to me."

"You haven't hit upon any reason for the sort of burglar they think
you were, ringing up the kind of man they know I am?"

"Not yet, Bunny, but I shall. It may not be wanted for a day or so,
and after all it isn't for you to give the explanation. It would be
highly suspicious if you did."

"So it would," I agreed.

"Then will you trust me to hit on something--if possible before
morning--in any case by the time it's wanted? I won't fail you, Bunny.
You must see how I can never, never fail you after to-night!"

That settled it. I gripped his hand without another word, and remained
on guard over the three sleepers while Raffles stole upstairs. I have
since learned that there were servants at the top of the house, and in
the basement a man, who actually heard some of our proceedings! But he
was mercifully too accustomed to nocturnal orgies, and those of a far
more uproarious character, to appear unless summoned to the scene. I
believe he heard Raffles leave. But no secret was made of his exit: he
let himself out, and told me afterward that the first person he
encountered in the street was the constable on the beat. Raffles
wished him good-morning, as well he might; for he had been upstairs to
wash his face and hands; and in the prize-fighter's great hat and fur
coat he might have marched round Scotland Yard itself, in spite of
his having the gold brick from Sacramento in one pocket, the silver
statuette of Maguire in the other, and round his waist the jewelled
belt presented to that worthy by the State of Nevada.

My immediate part was a little hard after the excitement of those
small hours. I will only say that we had agreed that it would be
wisest for me to lie like a log among the rest for half an hour,
before staggering to my feet and rousing house and police; and that in
that half-hour Barney Maguire crashed to the floor, without waking
either himself or his companions, though not without bringing my
beating heart into the very roof of my mouth.

It was daybreak when I gave the alarm with bell and telephone. In a
few minutes we had the house congested with dishevelled domestics,
irascible doctors, and arbitrary minions of the law. If I told my
story once, I told it a dozen times, and all on an empty stomach. But
it was certainly a most plausible and consistent tale, even without
that confirmation which none of the other victims was as yet
sufficiently recovered to supply. And in the end I was permitted to
retire from the scene until required to give further information, or
to identify the prisoner whom the good police confidently expected to
make before the day was out.

I drove straight to the flat. The porter flew to help me out of my
hansom. His face alarmed me more than any I had left in Half-moon
Street. It alone might have spelled my ruin.

"Your flat's been entered in the night, sir," he cried. "The thieves
have taken everything they could lay hands on."

"Thieves in my flat!" I ejaculated aghast. There were one or two
incriminating possessions up there, as well as at the Albany.

"The door's been forced with a jimmy," said the porter. "It was the
milkman who found it out. There's a constable up there now."

A constable poking about in my flat of all others! I rushed upstairs
without waiting for the lift. The invader was moistening his pencil
between laborious notes in a fat pocketbook; he had penetrated no
further than the forced door. I dashed past him in a fever. I kept
_my_ trophies in a wardrobe drawer specially fitted with a Bramah
lock. The lock was broken--the drawer void.

"Something valuable, sir?" inquired the intrusive constable at my
heels.

"Yes, indeed--some old family silver," I answered. It was quite true.
But the family was not mine.

And not till then did the truth flash across my mind. Nothing else of
value had been taken. But there was a meaningless litter in all the
rooms. I turned to the porter, who had followed me up from the street;
it was his wife who looked after the flat.

"Get rid of this idiot as quick as you can," I whispered. "I'm going
straight to Scotland Yard myself. Let your wife tidy the place while
I'm gone, and have the lock mended before she leaves. I'm going as I
am, this minute!"

And go I did, in the first hansom I could find--but not straight to
Scotland Yard. I stopped the cab in Piccadilly on the way.

Old Raffles opened his own door to me. I cannot remember finding him
fresher, more immaculate, more delightful to behold in every way.
Could I paint a picture of Raffles with something other than my pen,
it would be as I saw him that bright March morning, at his open door
in the Albany, a trim, slim figure in matutinal gray, cool and gay and
breezy as incarnate spring.

"What on earth did you do it for?" I asked within.

"It was the only solution," he answered, handing me the cigarettes.
"I saw it the moment I got outside."

"I don't see it yet."

"Why should a burglar call an innocent gentleman away from home?"

"That's what we couldn't make out."

"I tell you I got it directly I had left you. He called you away in
order to burgle you too, of course!"

And Raffles stood smiling upon me in all his incomparable radiance and
audacity.

"But why me?" I asked. "Why on earth should he burgle _me_?"

"My dear Bunny, we must leave something to the imagination of the
police. But we will assist them to a fact or two in due season. It was
the dead of night when Maguire first took us to his house; it was at
the Imperial Boxing Club we met him; and you meet queer fish at the
Imperial Boxing Club. You may remember that he telephoned to his man
to prepare supper for us, and that you and he discussed telephones and
treasure as we marched through the midnight streets. He was certainly
bucking about his trophies, and for the sake of the argument you will
be good enough to admit that you probably bucked about yours. What
happens? You are overheard; you are followed; you are worked into the
same scheme, and robbed on the same night."

"And you really think this will meet the case?"

"I am quite certain of it, Bunny, so far as it rests with us to meet
the case at all."

"Then give me another cigarette, my dear fellow, and let me push on to
Scotland Yard."

Raffles held up both hands in admiring horror.

"Scotland Yard!"

"To give a false description of what you took from that drawer in my
wardrobe."

"A false description! Bunny, you have no more to learn from me. Time
was when I wouldn't have let you go there without me to retrieve a
lost umbrella--let alone a lost cause!"

And for once I was not sorry for Raffles to have the last unworthy
word, as he stood once more at his outer door and gayly waved me down
the stairs.



The Spoils of Sacrilege


There was one deed of those days which deserved a place in our
original annals. It is the deed of which I am personally most ashamed.
I have traced the course of a score of felonies, from their source in
the brain of Raffles to their issue in his hands. I have omitted all
mention of the one which emanated from my own miserable mind. But in
these supplementary memoirs, wherein I pledged myself to extenuate
nothing more that I might have to tell of Raffles, it is only fair
that I should make as clean a breast of my own baseness. It was I,
then, and I alone, who outraged natural sentiment, and trampled the
expiring embers of elementary decency, by proposing and planning the
raid upon my own old home.

I would not accuse myself the more vehemently by making excuses at
this point. Yet I feel bound to state that it was already many years
since the place had passed from our possession into that of an utter
alien, against whom I harbored a prejudice which was some excuse in
itself. He had enlarged and altered the dear old place out of
knowledge; nothing had been good enough for him as it stood in our
day. The man was a hunting maniac, and where my dear father used to
grow prize peaches under glass, this vandal was soon stabling his
hothouse thoroughbreds, which took prizes in their turn at all the
country shows. It was a southern county, and I never went down there
without missing another greenhouse and noting a corresponding
extension to the stables. Not that I ever set foot in the grounds from
the day we left; but for some years I used to visit old friends in the
neighborhood, and could never resist the temptation to reconnoitre the
scenes of my childhood. And so far as could be seen from the
road--which it stood too near--the house itself appeared to be the one
thing that the horsey purchaser had left much as he found it.

My only other excuse may be none at all in any eyes but mine. It was
my passionate desire at this period to "keep up my end" with Raffles
in every department of the game felonious. He would insist upon an
equal division of all proceeds; it was for me to earn my share. So far
I had been useful only at a pinch; the whole credit of any real
success belonged invariably to Raffles. It had always been his idea.
That was the tradition which I sought to end, and no means could
compare with that of my unscrupulous choice. There was the one house
in England of which I knew every inch, and Raffles only what I told
him. For once I must lead, and Raffles follow, whether he liked it or
not. He saw that himself; and I think he liked it better than he liked
me for the desecration in view; but I had hardened my heart, and his
feelings were too fine for actual remonstrance on such a point.

I, in my obduracy, went to foul extremes. I drew plans of all the
floors from memory. I actually descended upon my friends in the
neighborhood, with the sole object of obtaining snapshots over our own
old garden wall. Even Raffles could not keep his eyebrows down when I
showed him the prints one morning in the Albany. But he confined his
open criticisms to the house.

"Built in the late 'sixties, I see," said Raffles, "or else very early
in the 'seventies."

"Exactly when it was built," I replied. "But that's worthy of a
sixpenny detective, Raffles! How on earth did you know?"

"That slate tower bang over the porch, with the dormer windows and the
iron railing and flag-staff atop makes us a present of the period. You
see them on almost every house of a certain size built about thirty
years ago. They are quite the most useless excrescences I know."

"Ours wasn't," I answered, with some warmth. "It was my _sanctum
sanctorum_ in the holidays. I smoked my first pipe up there, and wrote
my first verses!"

Raffles laid a kindly hand upon my shoulder.

"Bunny, Bunny, you can rob the old place, and yet you can't hear a
word against it!"

"That's different," said I relentlessly. "The tower was there in my
time, but the man I mean to rob was not."

"You really do mean to do it, Bunny?"

"By myself, if necessary!" I averred.

"Not again, Bunny, not again," rejoined Raffles, laughing as he shook
his head. "But do you think the man has enough to make it worth our
while to go so far afield?"

"Far afield! It's not forty miles on the London and Brighton."

"Well, that's as bad as a hundred on most lines. And when did you say
it was to be?"

"Friday week."

"I don't much like a Friday, Bunny. Why make it one?"

"It's the night of their Hunt Point-to-Point. They wind up the season
with it every year; and the bloated Guillemard usually sweeps the
board with his fancy flyers."

"You mean the man in your old house?"

"Yes; and he tops up with no end of dinner there," I went on, "to his
hunting pals and the bloods who ride for him. If the festive board
doesn't groan under a new regiment of challenge cups, it will be no
fault of theirs, and old Guillemard will have to do them top-hole all
the same."

"So it's a case of common pot-hunting," remarked Raffles, eyeing me
shrewdly through the cigarette smoke.

"Not for us, my dear fellow," I made answer in his own tone. "I
wouldn't ask you to break into the next set of chambers here in the
Albany for a few pieces of modern silver, Raffles. Not that we need
scorn the cups if we get a chance of lifting them, and if Guillemard
does so in the first instance. It's by no means certain that he will.
But it is pretty certain to be a lively night for him and his
pals--and a vulnerable one for the best bedroom!"

"Capital!" said Raffles, throwing coits of smoke between his smiles.
"Still, if it's a dinner-party, the hostess won't leave her jewels
upstairs. She'll wear them, my boy."

"Not all of them, Raffles; she has far too many for that. Besides, it
isn't an ordinary dinner-party; they say Mrs. Guillemard is generally
the only lady there, and that she's quite charming in herself. Now, no
charming woman would clap on all sail in jewels for a roomful of
fox-hunters."

"It depends what jewels she has."

"Well, she might wear her rope of pearls."

"I should have said so."

"And, of course, her rings."

"Exactly, Bunny."

"But not necessarily her diamond tiara----"

"Has she got one?"

"----and certainly not her emerald and diamond necklace on top of
all!"

Raffles snatched the Sullivan from his lips, and his eyes burned like
its end.

"Bunny, do you mean to tell me there are all these things?"

"Of course I do," said I. "They are rich people, and he's not such a
brute as to spend everything on his stable. Her jewels are as much the
talk as his hunters. My friends told me all about both the other day
when I was down making inquiries. They thought my curiosity as natural
as my wish for a few snapshots of the old place. In their opinion the
emerald necklace alone must be worth thousands of pounds."

Raffles rubbed his hands in playful pantomime.

"I only hope you didn't ask too many questions, Bunny! But if your
friends are such old friends, you will never enter their heads when
they hear what has happened, unless you are seen down there on the
night, which might be fatal. Your approach will require some thought:
if you like I can work out the shot for you. I shall go down
independently, and the best thing may be to meet outside the house
itself on the night of nights. But from that moment I am in your
hands."

And on these refreshing lines our plan of campaign was gradually
developed and elaborated into that finished study on which Raffles
would rely like any artist of the footlights. None were more capable
than he of coping with the occasion as it rose, of rising himself with
the emergency of the moment, of snatching a victory from the very dust
of defeat. Yet, for choice, every detail was premeditated, and an
alternative expedient at each finger's end for as many bare and awful
possibilities. In this case, however, the finished study stopped short
at the garden gate or wall; there I was to assume command; and though
Raffles carried the actual tools of trade of which he alone was
master, it was on the understanding that for once I should control and
direct their use.

I had gone down in evening-clothes by an evening train, but had
carefully overshot old landmarks, and alighted at a small station some
miles south of the one where I was still remembered. This committed me
to a solitary and somewhat lengthy tramp; but the night was mild and
starry, and I marched into it with a high stomach; for this was to be
no costume crime, and yet I should have Raffles at my elbow all the
night. Long before I reached my destination, indeed, he stood in wait
for me on the white highway, and we finished with linked arms.

"I came down early," said Raffles, "and had a look at the races. I
always prefer to measure my man, Bunny; and you needn't sit in the
front row of the stalls to take stock of your friend Guillemard. No
wonder he doesn't ride his own horses! The steeple-chaser isn't foaled
that would carry him round that course. But he's a fine monument of a
man, and he takes his troubles in a way that makes me blush to add to
them."

"Did he lose a horse?" I inquired cheerfully.

"No, Bunny, but he didn't win a race! His horses were by chalks the
best there, and his pals rode them like the foul fiend, but with the
worst of luck every time. Not that you'd think it, from the row
they're making. I've been listening to them from the road--you always
did say the house stood too near it."

"Then you didn't go in?"

"When it's your show? You should know me better. Not a foot would I
set on the premises behind your back. But here they are, so perhaps
you'll lead the way."

And I led it without a moment's hesitation, through the unpretentious
six-barred gate into the long but shallow crescent of the drive. There
were two such gates, one at each end of the drive, but no lodge at
either, and not a light nearer than those of the house. The shape and
altitude of the lighted windows, the whisper of the laurels on either
hand, the very feel of the gravel underfoot, were at once familiar to
my senses as the sweet, relaxing, immemorial air that one drank deeper
at every breath. Our stealthy advance was to me like stealing back
into one's childhood; and yet I could conduct it without compunction.
I was too excited to feel immediate remorse, albeit not too lost in
excitement to know that remorse for every step that I was taking would
be my portion soon enough. I mean every word that I have written of my
peculiar shame for this night's work. And it was all to come over me
before the night was out. But in the garden I never felt it once.

The dining-room windows blazed in the side of the house facing the
road. That was an objection to peeping through the venetian blinds, as
we nevertheless did, at our peril of observation from the road.
Raffles would never have led me into danger so gratuitous and
unnecessary, but he followed me into it without a word. I can only
plead that we both had our reward. There was a sufficient chink in the
obsolete venetians, and through it we saw every inch of the
picturesque board. Mrs. Guillemard was still in her place, but she
really was the only lady, and dressed as quietly as I had prophesied;
round her neck was her rope of pearls, but not the glimmer of an
emerald nor the glint of a diamond, nor yet the flashing constellation
of a tiara in her hair. I gripped Raffles in token of my triumph, and
he nodded as he scanned the overwhelming majority of flushed
fox-hunters. With the exception of one stripling, evidently the son of
the house, they were in evening pink to a man; and as I say, their
faces matched their coats. An enormous fellow, with a great red face
and cropped moustache, occupied my poor father's place; he it was who
had replaced our fruitful vineries with his stinking stables; but I am
bound to own he looked a genial clod, as he sat in his fat and
listened to the young bloods boasting of their prowess, or
elaborately explaining their mishaps. And for a minute we listened
also, before I remembered my responsibilities, and led Raffles round
to the back of the house.

There never was an easier house to enter. I used to feel that keenly
as a boy, when, by a prophetic irony, burglars were my bugbear, and I
looked under my bed every night in life. The bow-windows on the ground
floor finished in inane balconies to the first-floor windows. These
balconies had ornamental iron railings, to which a less ingenious
rope-ladder than ours could have been hitched with equal ease. Raffles
had brought it with him, round his waist, and he carried the
telescopic stick for fixing it in place. The one was unwound, and the
other put together, in a secluded corner of the red-brick walls, where
of old I had played my own game of squash-rackets in the holidays. I
made further investigations in the starlight, and even found a trace
of my original white line along the red wall.

But it was not until we had effected our entry through the room which
had been my very own, and made our parlous way across the lighted
landing, to the best bedroom of those days and these, that I really
felt myself a worm. Twin brass bedsteads occupied the site of the old
four-poster from which I had first beheld the light. The doors were
the same; my childish hands had grasped these very handles. And there
was Raffles securing the landing door with wedge and gimlet, the very
second after softly closing it behind us.

"The other leads into the dressing-room, of course? Then you might be
fixing the outer dressing-room door," he whispered at his work, "but
not the middle one Bunny, unless you want to. The stuff will be in
there, you see, if it isn't in here."

My door was done in a moment, being fitted with a powerful bolt; but
now an aching conscience made me busier than I need have been. I had
raised the rope-ladder after us into my own old room, and while
Raffles wedged his door I lowered the ladder from one of the best
bedroom windows, in order to prepare that way of escape which was a
fundamental feature of his own strategy. I meant to show Raffles that
I had not followed in his train for nothing. But I left it to him to
unearth the jewels. I had begun by turning up the gas; there appeared
to be no possible risk in that; and Raffles went to work with a will
in the excellent light. There were some good pieces in the room,
including an ancient tallboy in fruity mahogany, every drawer of
which was turned out on the bed without avail. A few of the drawers
had locks to pick, yet not one trifle to our taste within. The
situation became serious as the minutes flew. We had left the party at
its sweets; the solitary lady might be free to roam her house at any
minute. In the end we turned our attention to the dressing-room. And
no sooner did Raffles behold the bolted door than up went his hands.

"A bathroom bolt," he cried below his breath, "and no bath in the
room! Why didn't you tell me, Bunny? A bolt like that speaks volumes;
there's none on the bedroom door, remember, and this one's worthy of a
strong room! What if it is their strong room, Bunny! Oh, Bunny, what
if this is their safe!"

Raffles had dropped upon his knees before a carved oak chest of
indisputable antiquity. Its panels were delightfully irregular, its
angles faultlessly faulty, its one modern defilement a strong lock to
the lid. Raffles was smiling as he produced his jimmy. R--r--r--rip
went lock or lid in another ten seconds--I was not there to see which.
I had wandered back into the bedroom in a paroxysm of excitement and
suspense. I must keep busy as well as Raffles, and it was not too
soon to see whether the rope-ladder was all right. In another
minute....

I stood frozen to the floor. I had hooked the ladder beautifully to
the inner sill of wood, and had also let down the extended rod for the
more expeditious removal of both on our return to _terra firma_.
Conceive my cold horror on arriving at the open window just in time to
see the last of hooks and bending rod, as they floated out of sight
and reach into the outer darkness of the night, removed by some silent
and invisible hand below!

"Raffles--Raffles--they've spotted us and moved the ladder this very
instant!"

So I panted as I rushed on tiptoe to the dressing-room. Raffles had
the working end of his jimmy under the lid of a leathern jewel case.
It flew open at the vicious twist of his wrist that preceded his
reply.

"Did you let them see that you'd spotted that?"

"No."

"Good! Pocket some of these cases--no time to open them. Which door's
nearest the backstairs?"

"The other."

"Come on then!"

"No, no, I'll lead the way. I know every inch of it."

And, as I leaned against the bedroom door, handle in hand, while
Raffles stooped to unscrew the gimlet and withdraw the wedge, I hit
upon the ideal port in the storm that was evidently about to burst on
our devoted heads. It was the last place in which they would look for
a couple of expert cracksmen with no previous knowledge of the house.
If only we could gain my haven unobserved, there we might lie in
unsuspected hiding, and by the hour, if not for days and nights.

Alas for that sanguine dream! The wedge was out, and Raffles on his
feet behind me. I opened the door, and for a second the pair of us
stood upon the threshold.

Creeping up the stairs before us, each on the tip of his silken toes,
was a serried file of pink barbarians, redder in the face than
anywhere else, and armed with crops carried by the wrong end. The
monumental person with the short moustache led the advance. The fool
stood still upon the top step to let out the loudest and cheeriest
view-holloa that ever smote my ears.

It cost him more than he may know until I tell him. There was the wide
part of the landing between us; we had just that much start along the
narrow part, with the walls and doors upon our left, the banisters on
our right, and the baize door at the end. But if the great Guillemard
had not stopped to live up to his sporting reputation, he would
assuredly have laid one or other of us by the heels, and either would
have been tantamount to both. As I gave Raffles a headlong lead to the
baize door, I glanced down the great well of stairs, and up came the
daft yells of these sporting oafs:

"Gone away--gone away!"

"Yoick--yoick--yoick!"

"_Yon_-der they go!"

And gone I had, through the baize door to the back landing, with
Raffles at my heels. I held the swing door for him, and heard him bang
it in the face of the spluttering and blustering master of the house.
Other feet were already in the lower flight of the backstairs; but the
upper flight was the one for me, and in an instant we were racing
along the upper corridor with the chuckle-headed pack at our heels.
Here it was all but dark--they were the servants' bedrooms that we
were passing now--but I knew what I was doing. Round the last corner
to the right, through the first door to the left and we were in the
room underneath the tower. In our time a long step-ladder had led to
the tower itself. I rushed in the dark to the old corner. Thank God,
the ladder was there still! It leaped under us as we rushed aloft like
one quadruped. The breakneck trap-door was still protected by a curved
brass stanchion; this I grasped with one hand, and then Raffles with
the other as I felt my feet firm upon the tower floor. In he sprawled
after me, and down went the trap-door with a bang upon the leading
hound.

I hoped to feel his dead-weight shake the house, as he crashed upon
the floor below; but the fellow must have ducked, and no crash came.
Meanwhile not a word passed between Raffles and me; he had followed
me, as I had led him, without waste of breath upon a single syllable.
But the merry lot below were still yelling and bellowing in full cry.

"Gone to ground!" screamed one.

"Where's the terrier?" screeched another.

But their host of the mighty girth--a man like a soda-water bottle,
from my one glimpse of him on his feet--seemed sobered rather than
stunned by the crack on that head of his. We heard his fine voice no
more, but we could feel him straining every thew against the trap-door
upon which Raffles and I stood side by side. At least I thought
Raffles was standing, until he asked me to strike a light, when I
found him on his knees instead of on his feet, busy screwing down the
trap-door with his gimlet. He carried three or four gimlets for
wedging doors, and he drove them all in to the handle, while I pulled
at the stanchion and pushed with my feet.

[Illustration: Down went the trap-door with a bang.]

But the upward pressure ceased before our efforts. We heard the ladder
creak again under a ponderous and slow descent; and we stood upright
in the dim flicker of a candle-end that I had lit and left burning on
the floor. Raffles glanced at the four small windows in turn and then
at me.

"Is there any way out at all?" he whispered, as no other being would
or could have whispered to the man who had led him into such a trap.
"We've no rope-ladder, you know."

"Thanks to me," I groaned. "The whole thing's my fault!"

"Nonsense, Bunny; there was no other way to run. But what about these
windows?"

His magnanimity took me by the throat; without a word I led him to the
one window looking inward upon sloping slates and level leads. Often
as a boy I had clambered over them, for the fearful fun of risking
life and limb, or the fascination of peering through the great square
skylight, down the well of the house into the hall below. There were,
however, several smaller skylights, for the benefit of the top floor,
through any one of which I thought we might have made a dash. But at a
glance I saw we were too late: one of these skylights became a
brilliant square before our eyes; opened, and admitted a flushed face
on flaming shoulders.

"I'll give them a fright!" said Raffles through his teeth. In an
instant he had plucked out his revolver, smashed the window with its
butt, and the slates with a bullet not a yard from the protruding
head. And that, I believe, was the only shot that Raffles ever fired
in his whole career as a midnight marauder.

"You didn't hit him?" I gasped, as the head disappeared, and we heard
a crash in the corridor.

"Of course I didn't, Bunny," he replied, backing into the tower; "but
no one will believe I didn't mean to, and it'll stick on ten years if
we're caught. That's nothing, if it gives us an extra five minutes
now, while they hold a council of war. Is that a working flag-staff
overhead?"

"It used to be."

"Then there'll be halliards."

"They were as thin as clothes-lines."

"And they're sure to be rotten, and we should be seen cutting them
down. No, Bunny, that won't do. Wait a bit. Is there a lightning
conductor?"

"There was."

I opened one of the side windows and reached out as far as I could.

"You'll be seen from that skylight!" cried Raffles in a warning
undertone.

"No, I won't. I can't see it myself. But here's the
lightning-conductor, where it always was."

"How thick," asked Raffles, as I drew in and rejoined him.

"Rather thicker than a lead-pencil."

"They sometimes bear you," said Raffles, slipping on a pair of white
kid gloves, and stuffing his handkerchief into the palm of one. "The
difficulty is to keep a grip; but I've been up and down them before
to-night. And it's our only chance. I'll go first, Bunny: you watch
me, and do exactly as I do if I get down all right."

"But if you don't!"

"If I don't," whispered Raffles, as he wormed through the window feet
foremost, "I'm afraid you'll have to face the music where you are, and
I shall have the best of it down in Acheron!"

And he slid out of reach without another word, leaving me to shudder
alike at his levity and his peril; nor could I follow him very far by
the wan light of the April stars; but I saw his forearms resting a
moment in the spout that ran around the tower, between bricks and
slates, on the level of the floor; and I had another dim glimpse of
him lower still, on the eaves over the very room that we had
ransacked. Thence the conductor ran straight to earth in an angle of
the facade. And since it had borne him thus far without mishap, I felt
that Raffles was as good as down. But I had neither his muscles nor
his nerves, and my head swam as I mounted to the window and prepared
to creep out backward in my turn.

So it was that at the last moment I had my first unobstructed view of
the little old tower of other days. Raffles was out of the way; the
bit of candle was still burning on the floor, and in its dim light the
familiar haunt was cruelly like itself of innocent memory. A lesser
ladder still ascended to a tinier trap-door in the apex of the tower;
the fixed seats looked to me to be wearing their old, old coat of
grained varnish; nay the varnish had its ancient smell, and the very
vanes outside creaked their message to my ears. I remembered whole
days that I had spent, whole books that I had read, here in this
favorite fastness of my boyhood. The dirty little place, with the
dormer window in each of its four sloping sides, became a gallery
hung with poignant pictures of the past. And here was I leaving it
with my life in my hands and my pockets full of stolen jewels! A
superstition seized me. Suppose the conductor came down with me ...
suppose I slipped ... and was picked up dead, with the proceeds of my
shameful crime upon me, under the very windows

          ... where the sun
    Came peeping in at dawn....

I hardly remember what I did or left undone. I only know that nothing
broke, that somehow I kept my hold, and that in the end the wire ran
red-hot through my palms so that both were torn and bleeding when I
stood panting beside Raffles in the flower-beds. There was no time for
thinking then. Already there was a fresh commotion in-doors; the tidal
wave of excitement which had swept all before it to the upper regions
was subsiding in as swift a rush down-stairs; and I raced after
Raffles along the edge of the drive without daring to look behind.

We came out by the opposite gate to that by which we had stolen in.
Sharp to the right ran the private lane behind the stables and sharp
to the right dashed Raffles, instead of straight along the open road.
It was not the course I should have chosen, but I followed Raffles
without a murmur, only too thankful that he had assumed the lead at
last. Already the stables were lit up like a chandelier; there was a
staccato rattle of horse-shoes in the stable yard, and the great gates
were opening as we skimmed past in the nick of time. In another minute
we were skulking in the shadow of the kitchen-garden wall while the
high-road rang with the dying tattoo of galloping hoofs.

"That's for the police," said Raffles, waiting for me. "But the fun's
only beginning in the stables. Hear the uproar, and see the lights! In
another minute they'll be turning out the hunters for the last run of
the season!"

"We mustn't give them one, Raffles!"

"Of course we mustn't; but that means stopping where we are."

"We can't do that!"

"If they're wise they'll send a man to every railway station within
ten miles and draw every cover inside the radius. I can only think of
one that's not likely to occur to them."

"What's that?"

"The other side of this wall. How big is the garden, Bunny?"

"Six or seven acres."

"Well, you must take me to another of your old haunts, where we can
lie low till morning."

"And then?"

"Sufficient for the night, Bunny! The first thing is to find a burrow.
What are those trees at the end of this lane?"

"St. Leonard's Forest."

"Magnificent! They'll scour every inch of that before they come back
to their own garden. Come, Bunny, give me a leg up, and I'll pull you
after me in two ticks!"

There was indeed nothing better to be done; and, much as I loathed and
dreaded entering the place again, I had already thought of a second
sanctuary of old days, which might as well be put to the base uses of
this disgraceful night. In a far corner of the garden, over a hundred
yards from the house, a little ornamental lake had been dug within my
own memory; its shores were shelving lawn and steep banks of
rhododendrons; and among the rhododendrons nestled a tiny boat-house
which had been my childish joy. It was half a dock for the dingy in
which one plowed these miniature waters and half a bathing-box for
those who preferred their morning tub among the goldfish. I could not
think of a safer asylum than this, if we must spend the night upon the
premises; and Raffles agreed with me when I had led him by sheltering
shrubbery and perilous lawn to the diminutive _châlet_ between the
rhododendrons and the water.

But what a night it was! The little bathing-box had two doors, one to
the water, the other to the path. To hear all that could be heard, it
was necessary to keep both doors open, and quite imperative not to
talk. The damp night air of April filled the place, and crept through
our evening-clothes and light overcoats into the very marrow; the
mental torture of the situation was renewed and multiplied in my
brain; and all the time one's ears were pricked for footsteps on the
path between the rhododendrons. The only sounds we could at first
identify came one and all from the stables. Yet there the excitement
subsided sooner than we had expected, and it was Raffles himself who
breathed a doubt as to whether they were turning out the hunters after
all. On the other hand, we heard wheels in the drive not long after
midnight; and Raffles, who was beginning to scout among the
shrubberies, stole back to tell me that the guests were departing, and
being sped, with an unimpaired conviviality which he failed to
understand. I said I could not understand it either, but suggested the
general influence of liquor, and expressed my envy of their state. I
had drawn my knees up to my chin, on the bench where one used to dry
one's self after bathing, and there I sat in a seeming stolidity at
utter variance with my inward temper. I heard Raffles creep forth
again and I let him go without a word. I never doubted that he would
be back again in a minute, and so let many minutes elapse before I
realized his continued absence, and finally crept out myself to look
for him.

Even then I only supposed that he had posted himself outside in some
more commanding position. I took a catlike stride and breathed his
name. There was no answer. I ventured further, till I could overlook
the lawns: they lay like clean slates in the starlight: there was no
sign of living thing nearer than the house, which was still lit up,
but quiet enough now. Was it a cunning and deliberate quiet assumed as
a snare? Had they caught Raffles, and were they waiting for me? I
returned to the boat-house in an agony of fear and indignation. It was
fear for the long hours that I sat there waiting for him; it was
indignation when at last I heard his stealthy step upon the gravel. I
would not go out to meet him. I sat where I was while the stealthy
step came nearer, nearer; and there I was sitting when the door
opened, and a huge man in riding-clothes stood before me in the steely
dawn.

I leaped to my feet, and the huge man clapped me playfully on the
shoulder.

"Sorry I've been so long, Bunny, but we should never have got away as
we were; this riding-suit makes a new man of me, on top of my own, and
here's a youth's kit that should do you down to the ground."

"So you broke into the house again!"

"I was obliged to, Bunny; but I had to watch the lights out one by
one, and give them a good hour after that. I went through that
dressing-room at my leisure this time; the only difficulty was to spot
the son's quarters at the back of the house; but I overcame it, as you
see, in the end. I only hope they'll fit, Bunny. Give me your patent
leathers, and I'll fill them with stones and sink them in the pond.
I'm doing the same with mine. Here's a brown pair apiece, and we
mustn't let the grass grow under them if we're to get to the station
in time for the early train while the coast's still clear."

The early train leaves the station in question at 6.20 A.M.; and that
fine spring morning there was a police officer in a peaked cap to see
it off; but he was too busy peering into the compartments for a pair
of very swell mobsmen that he took no notice of the huge man in
riding-clothes, who was obviously intoxicated, or the more
insignificant but not less horsy character who had him in hand. The
early train is due at Victoria at 8.28, but these worthies left it at
Clapham Junction, and changed cabs more than once between Battersea
and Piccadilly, and a few of their garments in each four-wheeler. It
was barely nine o'clock when they sat together in the Albany, and
might have been recognized once more as Raffles and myself.

"And now," said Raffles, "before we do anything else, let us turn out
those little cases that we hadn't time to open when we took them. I
mean the ones I handed to you, Bunny. I had a look into mine in the
garden, and I'm sorry to say there was nothing in them. The lady must
have been wearing their proper contents."

Raffles held out his hand for the substantial leather cases which I
had produced at his request. But that was the extent of my compliance;
instead of handing them over, I looked boldly into the eyes that
seemed to have discerned my wretched secret at one glance.

"It is no use my giving them to you," I said. "They are empty also."

"When did you look into them?"

"In the tower."

"Well, let me see for myself."

"As you like."

"My dear Bunny, this one must have contained the necklace you boasted
about."

"Very likely."

"And this one the tiara."

"I dare say."

"Yet she was wearing neither, as you prophesied, and as we both saw
for ourselves!"

I had not taken my eyes from his.

"Raffles," I said, "I'll be frank with you after all. I meant you
never to know, but it's easier than telling you a lie. I left both
things behind me in the tower. I won't attempt to explain or defend
myself; it was probably the influence of the tower, and nothing else;
but the whole thing came over me at the last moment, when you had gone
and I was going. I felt that I should very probably break my neck,
that I cared very little whether I did or not, but that it would be
frightful to break it at that house with those things in my pocket.
You may say I ought to have thought of all that before! you may say
what you like, and you won't say more than I deserve. It was
hysterical, and it was mean, for I kept the cases to impose on you."

"You were always a bad liar, Bunny," said Raffles, smiling. "Will you
think me one when I tell you that I can understand what you felt, and
even what you did? As a matter of fact, I have understood for several
hours now."

"You mean what I felt, Raffles?"

"And what you did. I guessed it in the boat-house. I knew that
something must have happened or been discovered to disperse that
truculent party of sportsmen so soon and on such good terms with
themselves. They had not got us; they might have got something better
worth having; and your phlegmatic attitude suggested what. As luck
would have it, the cases that I personally had collared were the empty
ones; the two prizes had fallen to you. Well, to allay my horrid
suspicion, I went and had another peep through the lighted venetians.
And what do you think I saw?"

I shook my head. I had no idea, nor was I very eager for
enlightenment.

"The two poor people whom it was your own idea to despoil," quoth
Raffles, "prematurely gloating over these two pretty things!"

He withdrew a hand from either pocket of his crumpled dinner-jacket,
and opened the pair under my nose. In one was a diamond tiara, and in
the other a necklace of fine emeralds set in clusters of brilliants.

"You must try to forgive me, Bunny," continued Raffles before I could
speak. "I don't say a word against what you did, or undid; in fact,
now it's all over, I am rather glad to think that you did try to undo
it. But, my dear fellow, we had both risked life, limb, and liberty;
and I had not your sentimental scruples. Why should I go empty away?
If you want to know the inner history of my second visit to that good
fellow's dressing-room, drive home for a fresh kit and meet me at the
Turkish bath in twenty minutes. I feel more than a little grubby, and
we can have our breakfast in the cooling gallery. Besides, after a
whole night in your old haunts, Bunny, it's only in order to wind up
in Northumberland Avenue."



The Raffles Relics


It was in one of the magazines for December, 1899, that an article
appeared which afforded our minds a brief respite from the then
consuming excitement of the war in South Africa. These were the days
when Raffles really had white hair, and when he and I were nearing the
end of our surreptitious second innings, as professional cracksmen of
the deadliest dye. Piccadilly and the Albany knew us no more. But we
still operated, as the spirit tempted us, from our latest and most
idyllic base, on the borders of Ham Common. Recreation was our
greatest want; and though we had both descended to the humble bicycle,
a lot of reading was forced upon us in the winter evenings. Thus the
war came as a boon to us both. It not only provided us with an honest
interest in life, but gave point and zest to innumerable spins across
Richmond Park, to the nearest paper shop; and it was from such an
expedition that I returned with inflammatory matter unconnected with
the war. The magazine was one of those that are read (and sold) by
the million; the article was rudely illustrated on every other page.
Its subject was the so-called Black Museum at Scotland Yard; and from
the catchpenny text we first learned that the gruesome show was now
enriched by a special and elaborate exhibit known as the Raffles
Relics.

"Bunny," said Raffles, "this is fame at last! It is no longer
notoriety; it lifts one out of the ruck of robbers into the society of
the big brass gods, whose little delinquencies are written in water by
the finger of time. The Napoleon Relics we know, the Nelson Relics
we've heard about, and here are mine!"

"Which I wish to goodness we could see," I added, longingly. Next
moment I was sorry I had spoken. Raffles was looking at me across the
magazine. There was a smile on his lips that I knew too well, a light
in his eyes that I had kindled.

"What an excellent idea!" he exclaimed, quite softly, as though
working it out already in his brain.

"I didn't mean it for one," I answered, "and no more do you."

"Certainly I do," said Raffles. "I was never more serious in my
life."

"You would march into Scotland Yard in broad daylight?"

"In broad lime-light," he answered, studying the magazine again, "to
set eyes on my own once more. Why here they all are, Bunny--you never
told me there was an illustration. That's the chest you took to your
bank with me inside, and those must be my own rope-ladder and things
on top. They produce so badly in the baser magazines that it's
impossible to swear to them; there's nothing for it but a visit of
inspection."

"Then you can pay it alone," said I grimly. "You may have altered, but
they'd know me at a glance."

"By all means, Bunny, if you'll get me the pass."

"A pass!" I cried triumphantly. "Of course we should have to get one,
and of course that puts an end to the whole idea. Who on earth would
give a pass for this show, of all others, to an old prisoner like me?"

Raffles addressed himself to the reading of the magazine with a shrug
that showed some temper.

"The fellow who wrote this article got one," said he shortly. "He got
it from his editor, and you can get one from yours if you tried. But
pray don't try, Bunny: it would be too terrible for you to risk a
moment's embarrassment to gratify a mere whim of mine. And if I went
instead of you and got spotted, which is so likely with this head of
hair, and the general belief in my demise, the consequences to you
would be too awful to contemplate! Don't contemplate them, my dear
fellow. And do let me read my magazine."

Need I add that I set about the rash endeavor without further
expostulation? I was used to such ebullitions from the altered Raffles
of these later days, and I could well understand them. All the
inconvenience of the new conditions fell on him. I had purged my known
offences by imprisonment, whereas Raffles was merely supposed to have
escaped punishment in death. The result was that I could rush in where
Raffles feared to tread, and was his plenipotentiary in all honest
dealings with the outer world. It could not but gall him to be so
dependent upon me, and it was for me to minimize the humiliation by
scrupulously avoiding the least semblance of an abuse of that power
which I now had over him. Accordingly, though with much misgiving, I
did his ticklish behest in Fleet Street, where, despite my past, I was
already making a certain lowly footing for myself. Success followed as
it will when one longs to fail; and one fine evening I returned to Ham
Common with a card from the Convict Supervision Office, New Scotland
Yard, which I treasure to this day. I am surprised to see that it was
undated, and might still almost "Admit Bearer to see the Museum," to
say nothing of the bearer's friends, since my editor's name "and
party" is scrawled beneath the legend.

"But he doesn't want to come," as I explained to Raffles. "And it
means that we can both go, if we both like."

Raffles looked at me with a wry smile; he was in good enough humor
now.

"It would be rather dangerous, Bunny. If they spotted you, they might
think of me."

"But you say they'll never know you now."

"I don't believe they will. I don't believe there's the slightest
risk; but we shall soon see. I've set my heart on seeing, Bunny, but
there's no earthly reason why I should drag you into it."

"You do that when you present this card," I pointed out. "I shall hear
of it fast enough if anything happens."

"Then you may as well be there to see the fun?"

"It will make no difference if the worst comes to the worst."

"And the ticket is for a party, isn't it?"

"It is."

"It might even look peculiar if only one person made use of it?"

"It might."

"Then we're both going, Bunny! And I give you my word," cried Raffles,
"that no real harm shall come of it. But you mustn't ask to see the
Relics, and you mustn't take too much interest in them when you do see
them. Leave the questioning to me: it really will be a chance of
finding out whether they've any suspicion of one's resurrection at
Scotland Yard. Still I think I can promise you a certain amount of
fun, old fellow, as some little compensation for your pangs and
fears!"

The early afternoon was mild and hazy, and unlike winter but for the
prematurely low sun struggling through the haze, as Raffles and I
emerged from the nether regions at Westminster Bridge, and stood for
one moment to admire the infirm silhouettes of Abbey and Houses in
flat gray against a golden mist. Raffles murmured of Whistler and of
Arthur Severn, and threw away a good Sullivan because the smoke would
curl between him and the picture. It is perhaps the picture that I can
now see clearest of all the set scenes of our lawless life. But at the
time I was filled with gloomy speculation as to whether Raffles would
keep his promise of providing an entirely harmless entertainment for
my benefit at the Black Museum.

We entered the forbidding precincts; we looked relentless officers in
the face, and they almost yawned in ours as they directed us through
swing doors and up stone stairs. There was something even sinister in
the casual character of our reception. We had an arctic landing to
ourselves for several minutes, which Raffles spent in an instinctive
survey of the premises, while I cooled my heels before the portrait of
a late commissioner.

"Dear old gentleman!" exclaimed Raffles, joining me. "I have met him
at dinner, and discussed my own case with him, in the old days. But we
can't know too little about ourselves in the Black Museum, Bunny. I
remember going to the old place in Whitehall, years ago, and being
shown round by one of the tip-top 'tecs. And this may be another."

But even I could see at a glance that there was nothing of the
detective and everything of the clerk about the very young man who had
joined us at last upon the landing. His collar was the tallest I have
ever seen, and his face was as pallid as his collar. He carried a
loose key, with which he unlocked a door a little way along the
passage, and so ushered us into that dreadful repository which
perhaps has fewer visitors than any other of equal interest in the
world. The place was cold as the inviolate vault; blinds had to be
drawn up, and glass cases uncovered, before we could see a thing
except the row of murderers' death-masks--the placid faces with the
swollen necks--that stood out on their shelves to give us ghostly
greeting.

"This fellow isn't formidable," whispered Raffles, as the blinds went
up; "still, we can't be too careful. My little lot are round the
corner, in the sort of recess; don't look till we come to them in
their turn."

So we began at the beginning, with the glass case nearest the door;
and in a moment I discovered that I knew far more about its contents
than our pallid guide. He had some enthusiasm, but the most inaccurate
smattering of his subject. He mixed up the first murderer with quite
the wrong murder, and capped his mistake in the next breath with an
intolerable libel on the very pearl of our particular tribe.

"This revawlver," he began, "belonged to the celebrited burgular,
Chawles Peace. These are his spectacles, that's his jimmy, and this
here knife's the one that Chawley killed the policeman with."

Now I like accuracy for its own sake, strive after it myself, and am
sometimes guilty of forcing it upon others. So this was more than I
could pass.

"That's not quite right," I put in mildly. "He never made use of the
knife."

The young clerk twisted his head round in its vase of starch.

"Chawley Peace killed two policemen," said he.

"No, he didn't; only one of them was a policeman; and he never killed
anybody with a knife."

The clerk took the correction like a lamb. I could not have refrained
from making it, to save my skin. But Raffles rewarded me with as
vicious a little kick as he could administer unobserved. "Who was
Charles Peace?" he inquired, with the bland effrontery of any judge
upon the bench.

The clerk's reply came pat and unexpected.

"The greatest burgular we ever had," said he, "till good old Raffles
knocked him out!"

"The greatest of the pre-Raffleites," the master murmured, as we
passed on to the safer memorials of mere murder. There were misshapen
bullets and stained knives that had taken human life; there were
lithe, lean ropes which had retaliated after the live letter of the
Mosaic law. There was one bristling broadside of revolvers under the
longest shelf of closed eyes and swollen throats. There were festoons
of rope-ladders--none so ingenious as ours--and then at last there was
something that the clerk knew all about. It was a small tin
cigarette-box, and the name upon the gaudy wrapper was not the name of
Sullivan. Yet Raffles and I knew even more about this exhibit than the
clerk.

"There, now," said our guide, "you'll never guess the history of that!
I'll give you twenty guesses, and the twentieth will be no nearer than
the first."

"I'm sure of it, my good fellow," rejoined Raffles, a discreet twinkle
in his eye. "Tell us about it, to save time."

And he opened, as he spoke, his own old twenty-five tin of purely
popular cigarettes; there were a few in it still, but between the
cigarettes were jammed lumps of sugar wadded with cotton-wool. I saw
Raffles weighing the lot in his hand with subtle satisfaction. But the
clerk saw merely the mystification which he desired to create.

"I thought that'd beat you, sir," said he. "It was an American dodge.
Two smart Yankees got a jeweller to take a lot of stuff to a private
room at Kellner's, where they were dining, for them to choose from.
When it came to paying, there was some bother about a remittance; but
they soon made that all right, for they were far too clever to suggest
taking away what they'd chosen but couldn't pay for. No, all they
wanted was that what they'd chosen might be locked up in the safe and
considered theirs until their money came for them to pay for it. All
they asked was to seal the stuff up in something; the jeweller was to
take it away and not meddle with it, nor yet break the seals, for a
week or two. It seemed a fair enough thing, now, didn't it, sir?"

"Eminently fair," said Raffles sententiously.

"So the jeweller thought," crowed the clerk. "You see, it wasn't as if
the Yanks had chosen out the half of what he'd brought on appro.;
they'd gone slow on purpose, and they'd paid for all they could on the
nail, just for a blind. Well, I suppose you can guess what happened in
the end? The jeweller never heard of those Americans again; and these
few cigarettes and lumps of sugar were all he found."

"Duplicate boxes!" I cried, perhaps a thought too promptly.

"Duplicate boxes!" murmured Raffles, as profoundly impressed as a
second Mr. Pickwick.

"Duplicate boxes!" echoed the triumphant clerk. "Artful beggars, these
Americans, sir! You've got to crawss the 'Erring Pond to learn a
trick worth one o' that!"

"I suppose so," assented the grave gentleman with the silver hair.
"Unless," he added, as if suddenly inspired, "unless it was that man
Raffles."

"It couldn't 've bin," jerked the clerk from his conning-tower of a
collar. "He'd gone to Davy Jones long before."

"Are you sure?" asked Raffles. "Was his body ever found?"

"Found and buried," replied our imaginative friend. "Malter, I think
it was; or it may have been Giberaltar. I forget which."

"Besides," I put in, rather annoyed at all this wilful work, yet not
indisposed to make a late contribution--"besides, Raffles would never
have smoked those cigarettes. There was only one brand for him. It
was--let me see----"

"Sullivans!" cried the clerk, right for once. "It's all a matter of
'abit," he went on, as he replaced the twenty-five tin box with the
vulgar wrapper. "I tried them once, and I didn't like 'em myself. It's
all a question of tiste. Now, if you want a good smoke, and cheaper,
give me a Golden Gem at quarter of the price."

"What we really do want," remarked Raffles mildly, "is to see
something else as clever as that last."

"Then come this way," said the clerk, and led us into a recess almost
monopolized by the iron-clamped chest of thrilling memory, now a mere
platform for the collection of mysterious objects under a dust-sheet
on the lid. "These," he continued, unveiling them with an air, "are
the Raffles Relics, taken from his rooms in the Albany after his death
and burial, and the most complete set we've got. That's his
centre-bit, and this is the bottle of rock-oil he's supposed to have
kept dipping it in to prevent making a noise. Here's the revawlver he
used when he shot at a gentleman on the roof down Horsham way; it was
afterward taken from him on the P. & O. boat before he jumped
overboard."

I could not help saying I understood that Raffles had never shot at
anybody. I was standing with my back to the nearest window, my hat
jammed over my brows and my overcoat collar up to my ears.

"That's the only time we know about," the clerk admitted; "and it
couldn't be brought 'ome, or his precious pal would have got more than
he did. This empty cawtridge is the one he 'id the Emperor's pearl in,
on the Peninsular and Orient. These gimlets and wedges were what he
used for fixin' doors. This is his rope-ladder, with the telescope
walking-stick he used to hook it up with; he's said to have 'ad it
with him the night he dined with the Earl of Thornaby, and robbed the
house before dinner. That's his life-preserver; but no one can make
out what this little thick velvet bag's for, with the two holes and
the elawstic round each. Perhaps you can give a guess, sir?"

Raffles had taken up the bag that he had invented for the noiseless
filing of keys. Now he handled it as though it were a tobacco-pouch,
putting in finger and thumb, and shrugging over the puzzle with a
delicious face; nevertheless, he showed me a few grains of steel
filing as the result of his investigations, and murmured in my ear,
"These sweet police!" I, for my part, could not but examine the
life-preserver with which I had once smitten Raffles himself to the
ground: actually, there was his blood upon it still; and seeing my
horror, the clerk plunged into a characteristically garbled version of
that incident also. It happened to have come to light among others at
the Old Bailey, and perhaps had its share in promoting the quality of
mercy which had undoubtedly been exercised on my behalf. But the
present recital was unduly trying, and Raffles created a noble
diversion by calling attention to an early photograph of himself,
which may still hang on the wall over the historic chest, but which I
had carefully ignored. It shows him in flannels, after some great feat
upon the tented field. I am afraid there is a Sullivan between his
lips, a look of lazy insolence in the half-shut eyes. I have since
possessed myself of a copy, and it is not Raffles at his best; but the
features are clean-cut and regular; and I often wish that I had lent
it to the artistic gentlemen who have battered the statue out of all
likeness to the man.

[Illustration: No one can make out what this little thick velvet bag's
for.]

"You wouldn't think it of him, would you?" quoth the clerk. "It makes
you understand how no one ever did think it of him at the time."

The youth was looking full at Raffles, with the watery eyes of
unsuspecting innocence. I itched to emulate the fine bravado of my
friend.

"You said he had a pal," I observed, sinking deeper into the collar of
my coat. "Haven't you got a photograph of him?"

The pale clerk gave such a sickly smile, I could have smacked some
blood into his pasty face.

"You mean Bunny?" said the familiar fellow. "No, sir, he'd be out of
place; we've only room for real criminals here. Bunny was neither one
thing nor the other. He could follow Raffles, but that's all he could
do. He was no good on his own. Even when he put up the low-down job of
robbing his old 'ome, it's believed he hadn't the 'eart to take the
stuff away, and Raffles had to break in a second time for it. No, sir,
we don't bother our heads about Bunny; we shall never hear no more of
'im. He was a harmless sort of rotter, if you awsk me."

I had not asked him, and I was almost foaming under the respirator
that I was making of my overcoat collar. I only hoped that Raffles
would say something, and he did.

"The only case I remember anything about," he remarked, tapping the
clamped chest with his umbrella, "was this; and that time, at all
events, the man outside must have had quite as much to do as the one
inside. May I ask what you keep in it?"

"Nothing, sir."

"I imagined more relics inside. Hadn't he some dodge of getting in and
out without opening the lid?"

"Of putting his head out, you mean," returned the clerk, whose
knowledge of Raffles and his Relics was really most comprehensive on
the whole. He moved some of the minor memorials and with his penknife
raised the trap-door in the lid.

"Only a skylight," remarked Raffles, deliciously unimpressed.

"Why, what else did you expect?" asked the clerk, letting the
trap-door down again, and looking sorry that he had taken so much
trouble.

"A backdoor, at least!" replied Raffles, with such a sly look at me
that I had to turn aside to smile. It was the last time I smiled that
day.

The door had opened as I turned, and an unmistakable detective had
entered with two more sight-seers like ourselves. He wore the hard,
round hat and the dark, thick overcoat which one knows at a glance as
the uniform of his grade; and for one awful moment his steely eye was
upon us in a flash of cold inquiry. Then the clerk emerged from the
recess devoted to the Raffles Relics, and the alarming interloper
conducted his party to the window opposite the door.

"Inspector Druce," the clerk informed us in impressive whispers, "who
had the Chalk Farm case in hand. _He'd_ be the man for Raffles, if
Raffles was alive to-day!"

"I'm sure he would," was the grave reply. "I should be very sorry to
have a man like that after _me_. But what a run there seems to be
upon your Black Museum!"

"There isn't reelly, sir," whispered the clerk. "We sometimes go weeks
on end without having regular visitors like you two gentlemen. I think
those are friends of the Inspector's, come to see the Chalk Farm
photographs, that helped to hang his man. We've a lot of interesting
photographs, sir, if you like to have a look at them."

"If it won't take long," said Raffles, taking out his watch; and as
the clerk left our side for an instant he gripped my arm. "This is a
bit too hot," he whispered, "but we mustn't cut and run like rabbits.
That might be fatal. Hide your face in the photographs, and leave
everything to me. I'll have a train to catch as soon as ever I dare."

I obeyed without a word, and with the less uneasiness as I had time to
consider the situation. It even struck me that Raffles was for once
inclined to exaggerate the undeniable risk that we ran by remaining in
the same room with an officer whom both he and I knew only too well by
name and repute. Raffles, after all, had aged and altered out of
knowledge; but he had not lost the nerve that was equal to a far more
direct encounter than was at all likely to be forced upon us. On the
other hand, it was most improbable that a distinguished detective
would know by sight an obscure delinquent like myself; besides, this
one had come to the front since my day. Yet a risk it was, and I
certainly did not smile as I bent over the album of horrors produced
by our guide. I could still take an interest in the dreadful
photographs of murderous and murdered men; they appealed to the morbid
element in my nature; and it was doubtless with degenerate unction
that I called Raffles's attention to a certain scene of notorious
slaughter. There was no response. I looked round. There was no Raffles
to respond. We had all three been examining the photographs at one of
the windows; at another three newcomers were similarly engrossed; and
without one word, or a single sound, Raffles had decamped behind all
our backs.

Fortunately the clerk was himself very busy gloating over the horrors
of the album; before he looked round I had hidden my astonishment, but
not my wrath, of which I had the instinctive sense to make no secret.

"My friend's the most impatient man on earth!" I exclaimed. "He said
he was going to catch a train, and now he's gone without a word!"

"I never heard him," said the clerk, looking puzzled.

"No more did I; but he did touch me on the shoulder," I lied, "and say
something or other. I was too deep in this beastly book to pay much
attention. He must have meant that he was off. Well, let him be off! I
mean to see all that's to be seen."

And in my nervous anxiety to allay any suspicions aroused by my
companion's extraordinary behavior, I outstayed even the eminent
detective and his friends, saw them examine the Raffles Relics, heard
them discuss me under my own nose, and at last was alone with the
anæmic clerk. I put my hand in my pocket, and measured him with a
side-long eye. The tipping system is nothing less than a minor bane of
my existence. Not that one is a grudging giver, but simply because in
so many cases it is so hard to know whom to tip and what to tip him. I
know what it is to be the parting guest who has not parted freely
enough, and that not from stinginess but the want of a fine instinct
on the point. I made no mistake, however, in the case of the clerk,
who accepted my pieces of silver without demur, and expressed a hope
of seeing the article which I had assured him I was about to write. He
has had some years to wait for it, but I flatter myself that these
belated pages will occasion more interest than offense if they ever do
meet those watery eyes.

Twilight was falling when I reached the street; the sky behind St.
Stephen's had flushed and blackened like an angry face; the lamps were
lit, and under every one I was unreasonable enough to look for
Raffles. Then I made foolishly sure that I should find him hanging
about the station, and hung thereabouts myself until one Richmond
train had gone without me. In the end I walked over the bridge to
Waterloo, and took the first train to Teddington instead. That made a
shorter walk of it, but I had to grope my way through a white fog from
the river to Ham Common, and it was the hour of our cosy dinner when I
reached our place of retirement. There was only a flicker of firelight
on the blinds: I was the first to return after all. It was nearly four
hours since Raffles had stolen away from my side in the ominous
precincts of Scotland Yard. Where could he be? Our landlady wrung her
hands over him; she had cooked a dinner after her favorite's heart,
and I let it spoil before making one of the most melancholy meals of
my life.

Up to midnight there was no sign of him; but long before this time I
had reassured our landlady with a voice and face that must have given
my words the lie. I told her that Mr. Ralph (as she used to call him)
had said something about going to the theatre; that I thought he had
given up the idea, but I must have been mistaken, and should certainly
sit up for him. The attentive soul brought in a plate of sandwiches
before she retired; and I prepared to make a night of it in a chair by
the sitting-room fire. Darkness and bed I could not face in my
anxiety. In a way I felt as though duty and loyalty called me out into
the winter's night; and yet whither should I turn to look for Raffles?
I could think of but one place, and to seek him there would be to
destroy myself without aiding him. It was my growing conviction that
he had been recognized when leaving Scotland Yard, and either taken
then and there, or else hunted into some new place of hiding. It would
all be in the morning papers; and it was all his own fault. He had
thrust his head into the lion's mouth, and the lion's jaws had
snapped. Had he managed to withdraw his head in time?

There was a bottle at my elbow, and that night I say deliberately that
it was not my enemy but my friend. It procured me at last some
surcease from my suspense. I fell fast asleep in my chair before the
fire. The lamp was still burning, and the fire red, when I awoke; but
I sat very stiff in the iron clutch of a wintry morning. Suddenly I
slued round in my chair. And there was Raffles in a chair behind me,
with the door open behind him, quietly taking off his boots.

"Sorry to wake you, Bunny," said he. "I thought I was behaving like a
mouse; but after a three hours' tramp one's feet are all heels."

I did not get up and fall upon his neck. I sat back in my chair and
blinked with bitterness upon his selfish insensibility. He should not
know what I had been through on his account.

"Walk out from town?" I inquired, as indifferently as though he were
in the habit of doing so.

"From Scotland Yard," he answered, stretching himself before the fire
in his stocking soles.

"Scotland Yard!" I echoed. "Then I was right; that's where you were
all the time; and yet you managed to escape!"

I had risen excitedly in my turn.

"Of course I did," replied Raffles. "I never thought there would be
much difficulty about that, but there was even less than I
anticipated. I did once find myself on one side of a sort of counter,
and an officer dozing at his desk at the other side. I thought it
safest to wake him up and make inquiries about a mythical purse left
in a phantom hansom outside the Carlton. And the way the fellow fired
me out of that was another credit to the Metropolitan Police: it's
only in the savage countries that they would have troubled to ask how
one had got in."

"And how did you?" I asked. "And in the Lord's name, Raffles, when and
why?"

Raffles looked down on me under raised eyebrows, as he stood with his
coat tails to the dying fire.

"How and when, Bunny, you know as well as I do," said he, cryptically.
"And at last you shall hear the honest why and wherefore. I had more
reasons for going to Scotland Yard, my dear fellow, than I had the
face to tell you at the time."

"I don't care why you went there!" I cried. "I want to know why you
stayed, or went back, or whatever it was you may have done. I thought
they had got you, and you had given them the slip?"

Raffles smiled as he shook his head.

"No, no, Bunny; I prolonged the visit, as I paid it, of my own accord.
As for my reasons, they are far too many for me to tell you them all;
they rather weighed upon me as I walked out; but you'll see them for
yourself if you turn round."

I was standing with my back to the chair in which I had been asleep;
behind the chair was the round lodging-house table; and there,
reposing on the cloth with the whiskey and sandwiches, was the whole
collection of Raffles Relics which had occupied the lid of the
silver-chest in the Black Museum at Scotland Yard! The chest alone was
missing. There was the revolver that I had only once heard fired, and
there the blood-stained life-preserver, brace-and-bit, bottle of
rock-oil, velvet bag, rope-ladder, walking-stick, gimlets, wedges, and
even the empty cartridge-case which had once concealed the gift of a
civilized monarch to a potentate of color.

"I was a real Father Christmas," said Raffles, "when I arrived. It's a
pity you weren't awake to appreciate the scene. It was more edifying
than the one I found. You never caught _me_ asleep in my chair,
Bunny!"

He thought I had merely fallen asleep in my chair! He could not see
that I had been sitting up for him all night long! The hint of a
temperance homily, on top of all I had borne, and from Raffles of all
mortal men, tried my temper to its last limit--but a flash of late
enlightenment enabled me just to keep it.

"Where did you hide?" I asked grimly.

"At the Yard itself."

"So I gather; but whereabouts at the Yard?"

"Can you ask, Bunny?"

"I am asking."

"It's where I once hid before."

"You don't mean in the chest?"

"I do."

Our eyes met for a minute.

"You may have ended up there," I conceded. "But where did you go first
when you slipped out behind my back, and how the devil did you know
where to go?"

"I never did slip out," said Raffles, "behind your back. I slipped
in."

"Into the chest?"

"Exactly."

I burst out laughing in his face.

"My dear fellow, I saw all these things on the lid just afterward. Not
one of them was moved. I watched that detective show them to his
friends.

"And I heard him."

"But not from the inside of the chest!"

"From the inside of the chest, Bunny. Don't look like that--it's
foolish. Try to recall a few words that went before, between the idiot
in the collar and me. Don't you remember my asking him if there was
anything in the chest?"

"Yes."

"One had to be sure it was empty, you see. Then I asked if there was a
backdoor to the chest as well as a skylight."

"I remember."

"I suppose you thought all that meant nothing?"

"I didn't look for a meaning."

"You wouldn't; it would never occur to you that I might want to find
out whether anybody at the Yard had found out that there _was_
something precisely in the nature of a sidedoor--it isn't a
backdoor--to that chest. Well, there is one; there was one soon after
I took the chest back from your rooms to mine, in the good old days.
You push one of the handles down--which no one ever does--and the
whole of that end opens like the front of a doll's house. I saw that
was what I ought to have done at first: it's so much simpler than the
trap at the top; and one likes to get a thing perfect for its own
sake. Besides, the trick had not been spotted at the bank, and I
thought I might bring it off again some day; meanwhile, in one's
bedroom, with lots of things on top, what a port in a sudden squall!"

I asked why I had never heard of the improvement before, not so much
at the time it was made, but in these later days, when there were
fewer secrets between us, and this one could avail him no more. But I
did not put the question out of pique. I put it out of sheer obstinate
incredulity. And Raffles looked at me without replying, until I read
the explanation in his look.

"I see," I said. "You used to get into it to hide from me!"

"My dear Bunny, I am not always a very genial man," he answered; "but
when you let me have a key of your rooms I could not very well refuse
you one of mine, although I picked your pocket of it in the end. I
will only say that when I had no wish to see you, Bunny, I must have
been quite unfit for human society, and it was the act of a friend to
deny you mine. I don't think it happened more than once or twice. You
can afford to forgive a fellow after all these years!"

"That, yes," I replied bitterly; "but not this, Raffles."

"Why not? I really hadn't made up my mind to do what I did. I had
merely thought of it. It was that smart officer in the same room that
made me do it without thinking twice."

"And we never even heard you!" I murmured, in a voice of involuntary
admiration which vexed me with myself. "But we might just as well!" I
was as quick to add in my former tone.

"Why, Bunny?"

"We shall be traced in no time through our ticket of admission."

"Did they collect it?"

"No; but you heard how very few are issued."

"Exactly. They sometimes go weeks on end without a regular visitor. It
was I who extracted that piece of information, Bunny, and I did
nothing rash until I had. Don't you see that with any luck it will be
two or three weeks before they are likely to discover their loss?"

I was beginning to see.

"And then, pray, how are they going to bring it home to us? Why should
they even suspect us, Bunny? I left early; that's all I did. You took
my departure admirably; you couldn't have said more or less if I had
coached you myself. I relied on you, Bunny, and you never more
completely justified my confidence. The sad thing is that you have
ceased to rely on me. Do you really think that I would leave the place
in such a state that the first person who came in with a duster would
see that there had been a robbery?"

I denied the thought with all energy, though it perished only as I
spoke.

"Have you forgotten the duster that was over these things, Bunny? Have
you forgotten all the other revolvers and life-preservers that there
were to choose from? I chose most carefully, and I replaced my relics
with a mixed assortment of other people's which really look just as
well. The rope-ladder that now supplants mine is, of course, no patch
upon it, but coiled up on the chest it really looks much the same. To
be sure, there was no second velvet bag; but I replaced my stick with
another quite like it, and I even found an empty cartridge to
understudy the setting of the Polynesian pearl. You see the sort of
fellow they have to show people round: do you think he's the kind to
see the difference next time, or to connect it with us if he does? One
left much the same things, lying much as he left them, under a
dust-sheet which is only taken off for the benefit of the curious, who
often don't turn up for weeks on end."

I admitted that we might be safe for three or four weeks. Raffles held
out his hand.

"Then let us be friends about it, Bunny, and smoke the cigarette of
Sullivan and peace! A lot may happen in three or four weeks; and what
should you say if this turned out to be the last as well as the least
of all my crimes? I must own that it seems to me their natural and
fitting end, though I might have stopped more characteristically than
with a mere crime of sentiment. No, I make no promises, Bunny; now I
have got these things, I may be unable to resist using them once
more. But with this war one gets all the excitement one requires--and
rather more than usual may happen in three or four weeks!"

Was he thinking even then of volunteering for the front? Had he
already set his heart on the one chance of some atonement for his
life--nay, on the very death he was to die? I never knew, and shall
never know. Yet his words were strangely prophetic, even to the three
or four weeks in which those events happened that imperilled the
fabric of our empire, and rallied her sons from the four winds to
fight beneath her banner on the veldt. It all seems very ancient
history now. But I remember nothing better or more vividly than the
last words of Raffles upon his last crime, unless it be the pressure
of his hand as he said them, or the rather sad twinkle in his tired
eyes.



The Last Word


The last of all these tales of Raffles is from a fresher and a sweeter
pen. I give it exactly as it came to me, in a letter which meant more
to me than it can possibly mean to any other reader. And yet, it may
stand for something with those for whom these pale reflections have a
tithe of the charm that the real man had for me; and it is to leave
such persons thinking yet a little better of him (and not wasting
another thought on me) that I am permitted to retail the very last
word about their hero and mine.

The letter was my first healing after a chance encounter and a
sleepless night; and I print every word of it except the last.

                                 "39 CAMPDEN GROVE COURT, W.,

                                         "June 28, 1900.

    "DEAR HARRY: You may have wondered at the very few words I
    could find to say to you when we met so strangely yesterday.
    I did not mean to be unkind. I was grieved to see you so
    cruelly hurt and lame. I could not grieve when at last I
    made you tell me how it happened. I honor and envy every man
    of you--every name in those dreadful lists that fill the
    papers every day. But I knew about Mr. Raffles, and I did not
    know about you, and there was something I longed to tell you
    about him, something I could not tell you in a minute in the
    street, or indeed by word of mouth at all. That is why I
    asked you for your address.

    "You said I spoke as if I had known Mr. Raffles. Of course I
    have often seen him playing cricket, and heard about him and
    you. But I only once met him, and that was the night after
    you and I met last. I have always supposed that you knew all
    about our meeting. Yesterday I could see that you knew
    nothing. So I have made up my mind to tell you every word.

    "That night--I mean the next night--they were all going out
    to several places, but I stayed behind at Palace Gardens. I
    had gone up to the drawing-room after dinner, and was just
    putting on the lights, when in walked Mr. Raffles from the
    balcony. I knew him at once, because I happened to have
    watched him make his hundred at Lord's only the day before.
    He seemed surprised that no one had told me he was there, but
    the whole thing was such a surprise that I hardly thought of
    that. I am afraid I must say that it was not a very pleasant
    surprise. I felt instinctively that he had come from you, and
    I confess that for the moment it made me very angry indeed.
    Then in a breath he assured me that you knew nothing of his
    coming, that you would never have allowed him to come, but
    that he had taken it upon himself as your intimate friend and
    one who would be mine as well. (I said that I would tell you
    every word.)

    "Well, we stood looking at each other for some time, and I
    was never more convinced of anybody's straightness and
    sincerity; but he was straight and sincere with me, and true
    to you that night, whatever he may have been before and
    after. So I asked him why he had come, and what had happened;
    and he said it was not what had happened, but what might
    happen next; so I asked him if he was thinking of you, and he
    just nodded, and told me that I knew very well what you had
    done. But I began to wonder whether Mr. Raffles himself knew,
    and I tried to get him to tell me what you had done, and he
    said I knew as well as he did that you were one of the two
    men who had come to the house the night before. I took some
    time to answer. I was quite mystified by his manner. At last
    I asked him how he knew. I can hear his answer now.

    "'Because I was the other man,' he said quite quietly;
    'because I led him blindfold into the whole business, and
    would rather pay the shot than see poor Bunny suffer for it.'

    "Those were his words, but as he said them he made their
    meaning clear by going over to the bell, and waiting with his
    finger ready to ring for whatever assistance or protection I
    desired. Of course I would not let him ring at all; in fact,
    at first I refused to believe him. Then he led me out into
    the balcony, and showed me exactly how he had got up and in.
    He had broken in for the second night running, and all to
    tell me that the first night he had brought you with him on
    false pretences. He had to tell me a great deal more before I
    could quite believe him. But before he went (as he had come)
    I was the one woman in the world who knew that A. J. Raffles,
    the great cricketer, and the so-called 'amateur cracksman' of
    equal notoriety, were one and the same person.

    "He had told me his secret, thrown himself on my mercy, and
    put his liberty if not his life in my hands, but all for your
    sake, Harry, to right you in my eyes at his own expense. And
    yesterday I could see that you knew nothing whatever about
    it, that your friend had died without telling you of his act
    of real and yet vain self-sacrifice! Harry, I can only say
    that now I understand your friendship, and the dreadful
    lengths to which it carried you. How many in your place would
    not have gone as far for such a friend? Since that night, at
    any rate, I for one have understood. It has grieved me more
    than I can tell you, Harry, but I have always understood.

    "He spoke to me quite simply and frankly of his life. It was
    wonderful to me then that he should speak of it as he did,
    and still more wonderful that I should sit and listen to him
    as I did. But I have often thought about it since, and have
    long ceased to wonder at myself. There was an absolute
    magnetism about Mr. Raffles which neither you nor I could
    resist. He had the strength of personality which is a
    different thing from strength of character; but when you meet
    both kinds together, they carry the ordinary mortal off his
    or her feet. You must not imagine you are the only one who
    would have served and followed him as you did. When he told
    me it was all a game to him, and the one game he knew that
    was always exciting, always full of danger and of drama, I
    could just then have found it in my heart to try the game
    myself! Not that he treated me to any ingenious sophistries
    or paradoxical perversities. It was just his natural charm
    and humor, and a touch of sadness with it all, that appealed
    to something deeper than one's reason and one's sense of
    right. Glamour, I suppose, is the word. Yet there was far
    more in him than that. There were depths, which called to
    depths; and you will not misunderstand me when I say I think
    it touched him that a woman should listen to him as I did,
    and in such circumstances. I know that it touched me to think
    of such a life so spent, and that I came to myself and
    implored him to give it all up. I don't think I went on my
    knees over it. But I am afraid I did cry; and that was the
    end. He pretended not to notice anything, and then in an
    instant he froze everything with a flippancy which jarred
    horribly at the time, but has ever since touched me more than
    all the rest. I remember that I wanted to shake hands at the
    end. But Mr. Raffles only shook his head, and for one instant
    his face was as sad as it was gallant and gay all the rest of
    the time. Then he went as he had come, in his own dreadful
    way, and not a soul in the house knew that he had been. And
    even you were never told!

    "I didn't mean to write all this about your own friend, whom
    you knew so much better yourself, yet you see that even you
    did not know how nobly he tried to undo the wrong he had done
    you; and now I think I know why he kept it to himself. It is
    fearfully late--or early--I seem to have been writing all
    night--and I will explain the matter in the fewest words. I
    promised Mr. Raffles that I would write to you, Harry, and
    see you if I could. Well, I did write, and I did mean to see
    you, but I never had an answer to what I wrote. It was only
    one line, and I have long known you never received it. I
    could not bring myself to write more, and even those few
    words were merely slipped into one of the books which you had
    given me. Years afterward these books, with my name in them,
    must have been found in your rooms; at any rate they were
    returned to me by somebody; and you could never have opened
    them, for there was my line where I had left it. Of course
    you had never seen it, and that was all my fault. But it was
    too late to write again. Mr. Raffles was supposed to have
    been drowned, and everything was known about you both. But I
    still kept my own independent knowledge to myself; to this
    day, no one else knows that you were one of the two in Palace
    Gardens; and I still blame myself more than you may think for
    nearly everything that has happened since.

    "You said yesterday that your going to the war and getting
    wounded wiped out nothing that had gone before. I hope you
    are not growing morbid about the past. It is not for me to
    condone it, and yet I know that Mr. Raffles was what he was
    because he loved danger and adventure, and that you were what
    you were because you loved Mr. Raffles. But, even admitting
    it was all as bad as bad could be, he is dead, and you are
    punished. The world forgives, if it does not forget. You are
    young enough to live everything down. Your part in the war
    will help you in more ways than one. You were always fond of
    writing. You have now enough to write about for a literary
    lifetime. You must make a new name for yourself. You must
    Harry, and you will!

    "I suppose you know that my aunt, Lady Melrose, died some
    years ago? She was the best friend I had in the world, and it
    is thanks to her that I am living my own life now in the one
    way after my own heart. This is a new block of flats, one of
    those where they do everything for you; and though mine is
    tiny, it is more than all I shall ever want. One does just
    exactly what one likes--and you must blame that habit for all
    that is least conventional in what I have said. Yet I should
    like you to understand why it is that I have said so much,
    and, indeed, left nothing unsaid. It is because I want never
    to have to say or hear another word about _anything_ that is
    past and over. You may answer that I run no risk!
    Nevertheless, if you did care to come and see me some day as
    an old friend, we might find one or two new points of
    contact, for I am rather trying to write myself! You might
    almost guess as much from this letter; it is long enough for
    anything; but, Harry, if it makes you realize that one of
    your oldest friends is glad to have seen you, and will be
    gladder still to see you again, and to talk of anything and
    everything _except the past_, I shall cease to be ashamed
    even of its length!

      "And so good-by for the present from

                                            "____"

I omit her name and nothing else. Did I not say in the beginning that
it should never be sullied by association with mine? And yet--and
yet--even as I write I have a hope in my heart of hearts which is not
quite consistent with that sentiment. It is as faint a hope as man
ever had, and yet its audacity makes the pen tremble in my fingers.
But, if it be ever realized, I shall owe more than I could deserve in
a century of atonement to one who atoned more nobly than I ever can.
And to think that to the end I never heard one word of it from
Raffles!

THE END

       *       *       *       *       *





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