A Thief in the Night
E. W. Hornung
Part 2 out of 4
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
"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 halfway, 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:
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
"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
"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
"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
"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 aegis 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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"Leggett! Just send up-stairs 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 bloodstained 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
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
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
"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
"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!"
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 limelight, 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.
Wardrobe 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
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
"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 up-stain by
"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 Athenaeum Club, a reference
to his friends on the committee, and a whisper (as I thought) of
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
"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
"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
"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
"Ask away, old chap, and the thing's done."
"Switch off the electric lights."
"All. of them?"
"I think so."
"Now go to the back window and up with the blind."
"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-fade 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
"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 Phillipi
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
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
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
"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 outpouring 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
"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
"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
"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 modem 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
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
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
"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?"
"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
"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
"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
"I missed Achilles hours ago," said he. "And still he's sulking in
"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
"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
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'
"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 footfall 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
"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 Caesar came to an end;
But who gave old Brutus the tip, I
"You may have forgotten your Shakespeare, Bunny, but you ought to
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
Raffles had stopped suddenly in his walk. It was the last dark
hour of the summer night, but the light from a neighboring lamppost
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
"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
"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 safekeys. 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.
"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
"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. "
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 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
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.
"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
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
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
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
"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?"
"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
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
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 midsummer; 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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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