A Thief in the Night
E. W. Hornung
Part 4 out of 4
something must have happened or been discovered to disperse that
truculent party of sportsmen so soon and on such good terms with
themselves. They had not got us; they might have got something
better worth having; and your phlegmatic attitude suggested what.
As luck would have it, the cases that I personally had collared
were the empty ones; the two prizes had fallen to you. Well, to
allay my horrid suspicion, I went and had another peep through
the lighted venetians. And what do you think I saw?"
I shook my head. I had no idea, nor was I very eager for
"The two poor people whom it was your own idea to despoil," quoth
Raffles, "prematurely gloating over these two pretty things?
He withdrew a hand from either pocket of his crumpled dinner-jacket,
and opened the pair under my nose. In one was a diamond tiara, and
in the other a necklace of fine emeralds set in clusters of
"You must try to forgive me, Bunny," continued Raffles before I
could speak. "I don't say a word against what you did, or undid;
in fact, now it's all. over, I am rather glad to think that you did
try to undo it. But, my dear fellow, we had both risked life,
limb, and liberty; and I had not your sentimental scruples. Why
should I go empty away? If you want to know the inner history of
my second visit to that good fellow's dressing-room, drive home
for a fresh kit and meet me at the Turkish bath in twenty minutes.
I feel more than a little grubby, and we can have our breakfast
in the cooling gallery. Besides, after a whole night in your old
haunts, Bunny, it's only in order to wind up in Northumberland
The Raffles Relics
It was in one of the magazines for December, 1899, that an article
appeared which afforded our minds a brief respite from the then
consuming excitement of the war in South Africa. These were the
days when Raffles really had white hair, and when he and I were
nearing the end of our surreptitious second innings, as
professional cracksmen of the deadliest dye. Piccadilly and
the Albany knew us no more. But we still operated, as the spirit
tempted us, from our latest and most idyllic base, on the borders
of Ham Common. Recreation was our greatest want; and though we
had both descended to the humble bicycle, a lot of reading was
forced upon us in the winter evenings. Thus the war came as a
boon to us both. It not only provided us with an honest interest
in life, but gave point and zest to innumerable spins across
Richmond Park, to the nearest paper shop; and it was from such an
expedition that I returned with inflammatory matter unconnected
with the war. The magazine was one of those that are read (and
sold) by the million; the article was rudely illustrated on every
other page. Its subject was the so-called Black Museum at
Scotland Yard; and from the catchpenny text we first learned that
the gruesome show was now enriched by a special and elaborate
exhibit known as the Raffles Relics.
"Bunny," said Raffles, "this is fame at last! It is no longer
notoriety; it lifts one out of the ruck of robbers into the society
of the big brass gods, whose little delinquencies are written in
water by the finger of time. The Napoleon Relics we know, the
Nelson Relics we've heard about, and here are mine!"
"Which I wish to goodness we could see," I added, longingly. Next
moment I was sorry I had spoken. Raffles was looking at me across
the magazine. There was a smile on his lips that I knew too well,
a light in his eyes that I had kindled.
"What an excellent idea? he exclaimed, quite softly, as though
working it out already in his brain.
"I didn't mean it for one," I answered, "and no more do you."
"Certainly I do," said Raffles. "I was never more serious in my
"You would march into Scotland Yard in broad daylight?"
"In broad lime-light," he answered, studying the magazine again,
"to set eyes on my own once more. Why here they all. are, Bunny
- you never told me there was an illustration. That's the chest
you took to your bank with me inside, and those must be my own
rope-ladder and things on top. They produce so badly in the baser
magazines that it's impossible to swear to them; there's nothing
for it but a visit of inspection."
"Then you can pay it alone," said I grimly. "You may have altered,
but they'd know me at a glance."
"By all. means, Bunny, if you'll get me the pass."
"A pass? I cried triumphantly. "Of course we should have to get
one, and of course that puts an end to the whole idea. Who on
earth would give a pass for this show, of all. others, to an old
prisoner like me?"
Raffles addressed himself to the reading of the magazine with a
shrug that showed some temper.
"The fellow who wrote this article got one," said he shortly. "He
got it from his editor, and you can get one from yours if you tried.
But pray don't try, Bunny: it would be too terrible for you to risk
a moment's embarrassment to gratify a mere whim of mine. And if I
went instead of you and got spotted, which is so likely with this
head of hair, and the general belief in my demise, the consequences
to you would be too awful to contemplate! Don't contemplate them,
my dear fellow. And do let me read my magazine."
Need I add that I set about the rash endeavor without further
expostulation? I was used to such ebullitions from the altered
Raffles of these later days, and I could well understand them. All.
the inconvenience of the new conditions fell on him. I had purged
my known offences by imprisonment, whereas Raffles was merely
supposed to have escaped punishment in death. The result was that
I could rush in where Raffles feared to tread, and was his
plenipotentiary in all. honest dealings with the outer world. It
could not but gall him to be so dependent upon me, and it was for
me to minimize the humiliation by scrupulously avoiding the least
semblance of an abuse of that power which I now had over him.
Accordingly, though with much misgiving, I did his ticklish behest
in Fleet Street, where, despite my past, I was already making a
certain lowly footing for myself. Success followed as it will when
one longs to fail; and one fine evening I returned to Ham Common
with a card from the Convict Supervision Office, New Scotland Yard,
which I treasure to this day. I am surprised to see that it was
undated, and might still almost "Admit Bearer to see the Museum,"
to say nothing of the bearer's friends, since my editor's name
"and party" is scrawled beneath the legend.
"But he doesn't want to come," as I explained to Raffles. "And it
means that we can both go, if we both like."
Raffles looked at me with a wry smile; he was in good enough humor
"It would be rather dangerous, Bunny. If they spotted you, they
might think of me."
"But you say they'll never know you now."
"I don't believe they will. I don't believe there's the slightest
risk; but we shall soon see. I've set my heart on seeing, Bunny,
but there's no earthly reason why I should drag you into it."
"You do that when you present this card," I pointed out. "I shall
hear of it fast enough if anything happens."
"Then you may as well be there to see the fun?"
"It will make no difference if the worst comes to the worst."
"And the ticket is for a party, isn't it?"
"It might even look peculiar if only one person made use of it?"
"Then we're both going, Bunny! And I give you my word," cried
Raffles, "that no real harm shall come of it. But you mustn't ask
to see the Relics, and you mustn't take too much interest in them
when you do see them. Leave the questioning to me: it really will
be a chance of finding out whether they've any suspicion of one's
resurrection at Scotland Yard. Still I think I can promise you a
certain amount of fun, old fellow, as some little compensation for
your pangs and fears?
The early afternoon was mild and hazy, and unlike winter but for
the prematurely low sun struggling through the haze, as Raffles
and I emerged from the nether regions at Westminster Bridge, and
stood for one moment to admire the infirm silhouettes of Abbey and
Houses in flat gray against a golden mist. Raffles murmured of
Whistler and of Arthur Severn, and threw away a good Sullivan
because the smoke would curl between him and the picture. It is
perhaps the picture that I can now see clearest of all. the set
scenes of our lawless life. But at the time I was filled with
gloomy speculation as to whether Raffles would keep his promise
of providing an entirely harmless entertainment for my benefit at
the Black Museum.
We entered the forbidding precincts; we looked relentless officers
in the face, and they almost yawned in ours as they directed us
through swing doors and up stone stairs. There was something even
sinister in the casual character of our reception. We had an
arctic landing to ourselves for several minutes, which Raffles
spent in an instinctive survey of the premises, while I cooled my
heels before the portrait of a late commissioner.
"Dear old gentleman? exclaimed Raffles, joining me. "I have met
him at dinner, and discussed my own case with him, in the old days.
But we can't know too little about ourselves in the Black Museum,
Bunny. I remember going to the old place in Whitehall, years ago,
and being shown round by one of the tip-top 'tecs. And this may
But even I could see at a glance that there was nothing of the
detective and everything of the clerk about the very young man who
had joined us at last upon the landing. His collar was the tallest
I have ever seen, and his face was as pallid as his collar. He
carried a loose key, with which he unlocked a door a little way
along the passage, and so ushered us into that dreadful repository
which perhaps has fewer visitors than any other of equal interest
in the world. The place was cold as the inviolate vault; blinds
had to be drawn up, and glass cases uncovered, before we could see
a thing except the row of murderers' death-masks - the placid
faces with the swollen necks - that stood out on their shelves to
give us ghostly greeting.
"This fellow isn't formidable," whispered Raffles, as the blinds
went up; "still, we can't be too careful. My little lot are round
the corner, in the sort of recess; don't look till we come to them
in their turn."
So we began at the beginning, with the glass case nearest the door;
and in a moment I discovered that I knew far more about its contents
than our pallid guide. He had some enthusiasm, but the most
inaccurate smattering of his subject. He mixed up the first murderer
with quite the wrong murder, and capped his mistake in the next
breath with an intolerable libel on the very pearl of our particular
"This revawlver," he began, "belonged to the celebrited burgular,
Chawles Peace. These are his spectacles, that's his jimmy, and this
here knife's the one that Chawley killed the policeman with."
Now I like accuracy for its own sake, strive after it myself, and
am sometimes guilty of forcing it upon others. So this was more
than I could pass.
"That's not quite right," I put in mildly. "He never made use of
The young clerk twisted his head round in its vase of starch.
"Chawley Peace killed two policemen," said he.
"No, he didn't; only one of them was a policeman; and he never
killed anybody with a knife."
The clerk took the correction like a lamb. I could not have
refrained from making it, to save my skin. But Raffles rewarded
me with as vicious a little kick as he could administer unobserved.
"Who was Charles Peace?" he inquired, with the bland effrontery of
any judge upon the bench.
The clerk's reply came pat and unexpected. "The greatest burgular
we ever had," said he, "till good old Raffles knocked him out!"
"The greatest of the pre-Raffleites," the master murmured, as we
passed on to the safer memorials of mere murder. There were
misshapen bullets and stained knives that had taken human life;
there were lithe, lean ropes which had retaliated after the live
letter of the Mosaic law. There was one bristling broadside of
revolvers under the longest shelf of closed eyes and swollen throats.
There were festoons of rope-ladders - none so ingenious as ours -
and then at last there was something that the clerk knew all. about.
It was a small tin cigarette-box, and the name upon the gaudy
wrapper was not the name of Sullivan. Yet Raffles and I knew even
more about this exhibit than the clerk.
"There, now," said our guide, "you'll never guess the history of
that! I'll give you twenty guesses, and the twentieth will be no
nearer than the first"
"I'm sure of it, my good fellow," rejoined Raffles, a discreet
twinkle in his eye. "Tell us about it, to save time."
And he opened, as he spoke, his own old twenty-five tin of purely
popular cigarettes; there were a few in it still, but between the
cigarettes were jammed lumps of sugar wadded with cotton-wool. I
saw Raffles weighing the lot in his hand with subtle satisfaction.
But the clerk saw merely the mystification which he desired to
"I thought that'd beat you, sir," said he. "It was an American
dodge. Two smart Yankees got a jeweller to take a lot of stuff
to a private room at Keliner's, where they were dining, for them to
choose from. When it came to paying, there was some bother about
a remittance; but they soon made that all. right, for they were far
too clever to suggest taking away what they'd chosen but couldn't
pay for. No, all. they wanted was that what they'd chosen might be
locked up in the safe and considered theirs until their money came
for them to pay for it. All. they asked was to seal the stuff up
in something; the jeweller was to take it away and not meddle with
it, nor yet break the seals, for a week or two. It seemed a fair
enough thing, now, didn't it, sir?"
"Eminently fair," said Raffles sententiously.
"So the jeweller thought," crowed the clerk. "You see, it wasn't
as if the Yanks had chosen out the half of what he'd brought on
appro.; they'd gone slow on purpose, and they'd paid for all. they
could on the nail, just for a blind. Well, I suppose you can guess
what happened in the end? The jeweller never heard of those
Americans again; and these few cigarettes and lumps of sugar were
all. he found."
"Duplicate boxes? I cried, perhaps a thought too promptly.
"Duplicate boxes!" murmured Raffles, as profoundly impressed as a
second Mr. Pickwick.
"Duplicate boxes!" echoed the triumphant clerk. "Artful beggars,
these Americans, sir! You've got to crawss the 'Erring Pond to
learn a trick worth one o' that?"
"I suppose so," assented the grave gentleman wit the silver hair.
"Unless," he added, as if suddenly inspired, "unless it was that
"It couldn't 've bin," jerked the clerk from his conning-tower of
a collar. "He'd gone to Davy Jones long before."
"Are you sure?" asked Raffles. "Was his body ever found?"
"Found and buried," replied our imaginative friend. "Malter, I
think it was; or it may have been Giberaltar. I forget which."
"Besides," I put in, rather annoyed at all. this wilful work, yet
not indisposed to make a late contribution - "besides, Raffles
would never have smoked those cigarettes. There was only one
brand for him. It was - let me see - "
"Sullivans? cried the clerk, right for once. "It's all. a matter
of 'abit," he went on, as he replaced the twenty-five tin box with
the vulgar wrapper. "I tried them once, and I didn't like 'em
myself. It's all. a question of taste. Now, if you want a good
smoke, and cheaper, give me a Golden Gem at quarter of the price."
"What we really do want," remarked Raffles mildly, "is to see
something else as clever as that last."
"Then come this way," said the clerk, and led us into a recess
almost monopolized by the iron-clamped chest of thrilling memory,
now a mere platform for the collection of mysterious objects under
a dust-sheet on the lid. "These," he continued, unveiling them
with an air, are the Raffles Relics, taken from his rooms in the
Albany after his death and burial, and the most complete set
we've got. That's his centre-bit, and this is the bottle of
rock-oil he's supposed to have kept dipping it in to prevent
making a noise. Here's the revawlver he used when he shot at a
gentleman on the roof down Horsham way; it was afterward taken
from him on the P. & 0. boat before he jumped overboard."
I could not help saying I understood that Raffles had never shot at
anybody. I was standing with my back to the nearest window, my hat
jammed over my brows and my overcoat collar up to my ears.
"That's the only time we know about," the clerk admitted; "and it
couldn't be brought 'ome, or his precious pal would have got more
than he did. This empty cawtridge is the one he 'id the Emperor's
pearl in, on the Peninsular and Orient. These gimlets and wedges
were what he used for fixin' doors. This is his rope-ladder, with
the telescope walking-stick he used to hook it up with; he's said
to have 'ad it with him the night he dined with the Earl of
Thornaby, and robbed the house before dinner. That's his
life-preserver; but no one can make out what this little thick
velvet bag's for, with the two holes and the elawstic round
each. Perhaps you can give a guess, sir?"
Raffles had taken up the bag that he had invented for the noiseless
filing of keys. Now he handled it as though it were a tobacco-pouch,
putting in finger and thumb, and shrugging over the puzzle with a
delicious face; nevertheless, he showed me a few grains of steel
filing as the result of his investigations, and murmured in my ear,
"These sweet police! I, for my part, could not but examine the
life-preserver with which I had once smitten Raffles himself to the
ground: actually, there was his blood upon it still; and seeing my
horror, the clerk plunged into a characteristically garbled version
of that incident also. It happened to have come to light among
others at the Old Bailey, and perhaps had its share in promoting
the quality of mercy which had undoubtedly been exercised on my
behalf. But the present recital was unduly trying, and Raffles
created a noble diversion by calling attention to an early photograph
of himself, which may still hang on the wall over the historic chest,
but which I had carefully ignored. It shows him in flannels, after
some great feat upon the tented field. I am afraid there is a
Sullivan between his lips, a look of lazy insolence in the half-shut
eyes. I have since possessed myself of a copy, and it is not Raffles
at his best; but the features are clean-cut and regular; and I often
wish that I had lent it to the artistic gentlemen who have battered
the statue out of all. likeness to the man.
"You wouldn't think it of him, would you?" quoth the clerk. "It
makes you understand how no one ever did think it of him at the
The youth was looking full at Raffles, with the watery eyes of
unsuspecting innocence. I itched to emulate the fine bravado of
"You said he had a pal," I observed, sinking deeper into the collar
of my coat. "Haven't you got a photograph of him?"
The pale clerk gave such a sickly smile, I could have smacked some
blood into his pasty face.
"You mean Bunny?" said the familiar fellow. "No, sir, he'd be out
of place; we've only room for real criminals here. Bunny was neither
one thing nor the other. He could follow Raffles, but that's all. he
could do. He was no good on his own. Even when he put up the
low-down job of robbing his old 'ome, it's believed he hadn't the
'eart to take the stuff away, and Raffles had to break in a second
time for it. No, sir, we don't bother our heads about Bunny; we
shall never hear no more of 'im. He was a harmless sort of rotter,
if you awsk me."
I had not asked him, and I was almost foaming under the respirator
that I was making of my overcoat collar. I only hoped that Raffles
would say something, and he did.
"The only case I remember anything about," he remarked, tapping the
clamped chest with his umbrella, "was this; and that time, at all.
events, the man outside must have had quite as much to do as the
one inside. May I ask what you keep in it?"
"I imagined more relics inside. Hadn't he some dodge of getting in
and out without opening the lid?"
"Of putting his head out, you mean," returned the clerk, whose
knowledge of Raffles and his Relics was really most comprehensive
on the whole. He moved some of the minor memorials and with his
penknife raised the trap-door in the lid.
"Only a skylight," remarked Raffles, deliciously unimpressed.
"Why, what else did you expect?" asked the clerk, letting the
trap-door down again, and looking sorry that he had taken so much
"A backdoor, at least!" replied Raffles, with such a sly look at
me that I had to turn aside to smile. It was the last time I
smiled that day.
The door had opened as I turned, and an unmistakable detective had
entered with two more sight-seers like ourselves. He wore the hard,
round hat and the dark, thick overcoat which one knows at a glance
as the uniform of his grade; and for one awful moment his steely
eye was upon us in a flash of cold inquiry. Then the clerk emerged
from the recess devoted to the Raffles Relics, and the alarming
interloper conducted his party to the window opposite the door.
"Inspector Druce," the clerk informed us in impressive whispers,
"who had the Chalk Farm case in hand. He'd be the man for Raffles,
if Raffles was alive to-day!"
"I'm sure he would," was the grave reply. "I should be very sorry
to have a man like that after me. But what a run there seems to be
upon your Black Museum!"
"There isn't reelly, sir," whispered the clerk. "We sometimes go
weeks on end without having regular visitors like you two gentlemen.
I think those are friends of the Inspector's, come to see the Chalk
Farm photographs, that helped to hang his man. We've a lot of
interesting photographs, sir, if you like to have a look at them."
"If it won't take long," said Raffles, taking out his watch; and as
the clerk left our side for an instant he gripped my arm. "This is
a bit too hot," he whispered, "but we mustn't cut and run like
rabbits. That might be fatal. Hide your face in the photographs,
and leave everything to me. I'll have a train to catch as soon as
ever I dare."
I obeyed without a word, and with the less uneasiness as I had time
to consider the situation. It even struck me that Raffles was for
once inclined to exaggerate the undeniable risk that we ran by
remaining in the same room with an officer whom both he and I knew
only too well by name and repute. Raffles, after all., had aged and
altered out of knowledge; but he had not lost the nerve that was
equal to a far more direct encounter than was at all. likely to be
forced upon us. On the other hand, it was most improbable that a
distinguished detective would know by sight an obscure delinquent
like myself; besides, this one had come to the front since my day.
Yet a risk it was, and I certainly did not smile as I bent over the
album of horrors produced by our guide. I could still take an
interest in the dreadful photographs of murderous and murdered men;
they appealed to the morbid element in my nature; and it was
doubtless with degenerate unction that I called Raffles's attention
to a certain scene of notorious slaughter. There was no response.
I looked round. There was no Raffles to respond. We had all. three
been examining the photographs at one of the windows; at another
three newcomers were similarly engrossed; and without one word, or
a single sound, Raffles had decamped behind all. our backs.
Fortunately the clerk was himself very busy gloating over the
horrors of the album; before he looked round I had hidden my
astonishment, but not my wrath, of which I had the instinctive sense
to make no secret.
"My friend's the most impatient man on earth!" I exclaimed. "He
said he was going to catch a train, and now he's gone without a word!"
"I never heard him," said the clerk, looking puzzled.
"No more did I; but he did touch me on the shoulder," I lied,
"and say something or other. I was too deep in this beastly book
to pay much attention. He must have meant that he was off. Well,
let him be off! I mean to see all. that's to be seen."
And in my nervous anxiety to allay any suspicions aroused by my
companion's extraordinary behavior, I outstayed even the eminent
detective and his friends, saw them examine the Raffles Relics,
heard them discuss me under my own nose, and at last was alone
with the anemic clerk. I put my hand in my pocket, and measured
him with a sidelong eye. The tipping system is nothing less than
a minor bane of my existence. Not that one is a grudging giver,
but simply because in so many cases it is so hard to know whom
to tip and what to tip him. I know what it is to be the parting
guest who has not parted freely enough, and that not from
stinginess but the want of a fine instinct on the point. I made
no mistake, however, in the case of the clerk, who accepted my
pieces of silver without demur, and expressed a hope of seeing the
article which I had assured him I was about to write. He has had
some years to wait for it, but I flatter myself that these
belated pages will occasion more interest than offense if they
ever do meet those watery eyes.
Twilight was falling when I reached the street; the sky behind St.
Stephen's had flushed and blackened like an angry face; the lamps
were lit, and under every one I was unreasonable enough to look
for Raffles. Then I made foolishly sure that I should find him
hanging about the station, and hung thereabouts myself until one
Richmond train had gone without me. In the end I walked over
the bridge to Waterloo, and took the first train to Teddington
instead. That made a shorter walk of it, but I had to grope my
way through a white fog from the river to Ham Common, and it was
the hour of our cosy dinner when I reached our place of retirement.
There was only a flicker of firelight on the blinds: I was the
first to return after all. It was nearly four hours since Raffles
had stolen away from my side in the ominous precincts of Scotland
Yard. Where could he be? Our landlady wrung her hands over him;
she had cooked a dinner after her favorite's heart, and I let it
spoil before making one of the most melancholy meals of my life.
Up to midnight there was no sign of him; but long before this time
I had reassured our landlady with a voice and face that must have
given my words the lie. I told her that Mr. Ralph (as she used to
call him) had said something about going to the theatre; that I
thought he had given up the idea, but I must have been mistaken,
and should certainly sit up for him. The attentive soul brought
in a plate of sandwiches before she retired; and I prepared to make
a night of it in a chair by the sitting-room fire. Darkness and
bed I could not face in my anxiety. In a way I felt as though
duty and loyalty called me out into the winter s night; and yet
whither should I turn to look for Raffles? I could think of but
one place, and to seek him there would be to destroy myself without
aiding him. It was my growing conviction that he had been
recognized when leaving Scotland Yard, and either taken then and
there, or else hunted into some new place of hiding. It would all.
be in the morning papers; and it was all. his own fault. He had
thrust his head into the lion's mouth, and the lion's jaws had
snapped. Had he managed to withdraw his head in time?
There was a bottle at my elbow, and that night I say deliberately
that it was not my enemy but my friend. It procured me at last
some surcease from my suspense. I fell fast asleep in my chair
before the fire. The lamp was still burning, and the fire red,
when I awoke; but I sat very stiff in the iron clutch of a wintry
morning. Suddenly I slued round in my chair. And there was Raffles
in a chair behind me, with the door open behind him, quietly taking
off his boots.
"Sorry to wake you, Bunny," said he. "I thought I was behaving
like a mouse; but after a three hours' tramp one's feet are all.
I did not get up and fall upon his neck. I sat back in my chair
and blinked with bitterness upon his selfish insensibility. He
should not know what I had been through on his account.
"Walk out from town?" I inquired, as indifferently as though he
were in the habit of doing so.
"From Scotland Yard," he answered, stretching himself before the
fire in his stocking soles.
"Scotland Yard?" I echoed. "Then I was right; that's where you
were all. the time; and yet you managed to escape!"
I had risen excitedly in my turn.
"Of course I did," replied Raffles. "I never thought there would
be much difficulty about that, but there was even less than I
anticipated. I did once find myself on one side of a sort of
counter, and an officer dozing at his desk at the other side. I
thought it safest to wake him up and make inquiries about a mythical
purse left in a phantom hansom outside the Carlton. And the way
the fellow fired me out of that was another credit to the
Metropolitan Police: it's only in the savage countries that they
would have troubled to ask how one had got in."
"And how did you?" I asked. "And in the Lord's name, Raffles,
when and why?"
Raffles looked down on me under raised eyebrows, as he stood with
his coat tails to the dying fire.
"How and when, Bunny, you know as well as I do," said he,
cryptically. "And at last you shall hear the honest why and
wherefore. I had more reasons for going to Scotland Yard, my dear
fellow, than I had the face to tell you at the time."
"I don't care why you went there!" I cried. "I want to know why
you stayed, or went back, or whatever it was you may have done. I
thought they had got you, and you had given them the slip!"
Raffles smiled as he shook his head.
"No, no, Bunny; I prolonged the visit, as I paid it, of my own
accord. As for my reasons, they are far too many for me to tell
you them all.; they rather weighed upon me as I walked out; but
you'll see them for yourself if you turn round."
I was standing with my back to the chair in which I had been asleep;
behind the chair was the round lodging-house table; and there,
reposing on the cloth with the whiskey and sandwiches, was the whole
collection of Raffles Relics which had occupied the lid of the
silver-chest in the Black Museum at Scotland Yard! The chest alone
was missing. There was the revolver that I had only once heard
fired, and there the blood-stained life-preserver, brace-and-bit,
bottle of rock-oil, velvet bag, rope-ladder, walking-stick, gimlets,
wedges, and even the empty cartridge-case which had once concealed
the gift of a civilized monarch to a potentate of color.
"I was a real Father Christmas," said Raffles, "when I arrived.
It's a pity you weren't awake to appreciate the scene. It was
more edifying than the one I found. You never caught me asleep in
my chair, Bunny!"
He thought I had merely fallen asleep in my chair! He could not
see that I had been sitting up for him all. night long! The hint
of a temperance homily, on top of all. I had borne, and from Raffles
of all. mortal men, tried my temper to its last limit - but a flash
of late enlightenment enabled me just to keep it.
"Where did you hide?" I asked grimly.
"At the Yard itself."
"So I gather; but whereabouts at the Yard?"
"Can you ask, Bunny?"
"I am asking."
"It's where I once hid before."
"You don't mean in the chest?"
Our eyes met for a minute.
"You may have ended up there," I conceded. "But where did you go
first when you slipped out behind my back, and how the devil did
you know where to go?"
"I never did slip out," said Raffles, "behind your back. I slipped
"Into the chest?"
I burst out laughing in his face.
"My dear fellow, I saw all. these things on the lid just afterward.
Not one of them was moved. I watched that detective show them to
"And I heard him."
"But not from the inside of the chest?"
"From the inside of the chest, Bunny. Don't look like that - it's
foolish. Try to recall a few words that went before, between the
idiot in the collar and me. Don't you remember my asking him if
there was anything in the chest?"
"One had to be sure it was empty, you see. Then I asked if there
was a backdoor to the chest as well as a skylight."
"I suppose you thought all. that meant nothing?"
"I didn't look for a meaning."
"You wouldn't; it would never occur to you that I might want to
find out whether anybody at the Yard had found out that there was
something precisely in the nature of a sidedoor - it isn't a
backdoor - to that chest. Well, there is one; there was one soon
after I took the chest back from your rooms to mine, in the good
old days. You push one of the handles down - which no one ever
does - and the whole of that end opens like the front of a doll's
house. I saw that was what I ought to have done at first: it's
so much simpler than the trap at the top; and one likes to get a
thing perfect for its own sake. Besides, the trick had not been
spotted at the bank, and I thought I might bring it off again
some day; meanwhile, in one's bedroom, with lots of things on top,
what a port in a sudden squall!"
I asked why I had never heard of the improvement before, not so
much at the time it was made, but in these later days, when there
were fewer secrets between us, and this one could avail him no more.
But I did not put the question out of pique. I put it out of sheer
obstinate incredulity. And Raffles looked at me without replying,
until I read the explanation in his look.
"I see," I said. "You used to get into it to hide from me!"
"My dear Bunny, I am not always a very genial man," he answered;
"but when you let me have a key of your rooms I could not very
well refuse you one of mine, although I picked your pocket of it
in the end. I will only say that when I had no wish to see you,
Bunny, I must have been quite unfit for human society, and it was
the act of a friend to deny you mine. I don't think it happened
more than once or twice. You can afford to forgive a fellow after
all. these years?
"That, yes," I replied bitterly; "but not this, Raffles."
"Why not? I really hadn't made up my mind to do what I did. I
had merely thought of it. It was that smart officer in the same
room that made me do it without thinking twice."
"And we never even heard you!" I murmured, in a voice of involuntary
admiration which vexed me with myself. "But we might just as well!"
I was as quick to add in my former tone.
"We shall be traced in no time through our ticket of admission."
"Did they collect it?"
"No; but you heard how very few are issued."
"Exactly. They sometimes go weeks on end without a regular visitor.
It was I who extracted that piece of information, Bunny, and I did
nothing rash until I had. Don't you see that with any luck it will
be two or three weeks before they are likely to discover their loss?"
I was beginning to see.
"And then, pray, how are they going to bring it home to us? Why
should they even suspect us, Bunny? I left early; that's all. I did.
You took my departure admirably; you couldn't have said more or
less if I had coached you myself. I relied on you, Bunny, and you
never more completely justified my confidence. The sad thing is
that you have ceased to rely on me. Do you really think that I
would leave the place in such a state that the first person who came
in with a duster would see that there had been a robbery?"
I denied the thought with all. energy, though it perished only as I
"Have you forgotten the duster that was over these things, Bunny?
Have you forgotten all. the other revolvers and life preservers that
there were to choose from? I chose most carefully, and I replaced
my relics with a mixed assortment of other people's which really
look just as well. The rope-ladder that now supplants mine is, of
course, no patch upon it, but coiled up on the chest it really looks
much the same. To be sure, there was no second velvet bag; but I
replaced my stick with another quite like it, and I even found an
empty cartridge to understudy the setting of the Polynesian pearl.
You see the sort of fellow they have to show people round: do you
think he's the kind to see the difference next time, or to connect
it with us if he does? One left much the same things, lying much
as he left them, under a dust-sheet which is only taken off for
the benefit of the curious, who often don't turn up for weeks on
I admitted that we might be safe for three or four weeks. Raffles
held out his hand.
"Then let us be friends about it, Bunny, and smoke the cigarette
of Sullivan and peace! A lot may happen in three or four weeks;
and what should you say if this turned out to be the last as well
as the least of all. my crimes? I must own that it seems to me
their natural and fitting end, though I might have stopped more
characteristically than with a mere crime of sentiment. No, I
make no promises, Bunny; now I have got these things, I may be
unable to resist using them once more. But with this war one gets
all. the excitement one requires - and rather more than usual may
happen in three or four weeks?"
Was he thinking even then of volunteering for the front? Had he
already set his heart on the one chance of some atonement for his
life - nay, on the very death he was to die? I never knew, and
shall never know. Yet his words were strangely prophetic, even to
the three or four weeks in which those events happened that
imperilled the fabric of our empire, and rallied her sons from the
four winds to fight beneath her banner on the veldt. It all. seems
very ancient history now. But I remember nothing better or more
vividly than the last words of Raffles upon his last crime, unless
it be the pressure of his hand as he said them, or the rather sad
twinkle in his tired eyes.
The Last Word
The last of all. these tales of Raffles is from a fresher and a
sweeter pen. I give it exactly as it came to me, in a letter which
meant more to me than it can possibly mean to any other reader.
And yet, it may stand for something with those for whom these pale
reflections have a tithe of the charm that the real man had for me;
and it is to leave such persons thinking yet a little better of him
(and not wasting another thought on me) that I am permitted to
retail the very last word about their hero and mine.
The letter was my first healing after a chance encounter and a
sleepless night; and I print every word of it except the last
"39 CAMPDEN GROVE COURT, W.,
"June 28, 1900.
"DEAR HARRY: You may have wondered at the very few words I could
find to say to you when we met so strangely yesterday. I did not
mean to be unkind. I was grieved to see you so cruelly hurt and
lame. I could not grieve when at last I made you tell me how it
happened. I honor and envy every man of you - every name in those
dreadful lists that fill the papers every day. But I knew about
Mr. Raffles, and I did not know about you, and there was something
I longed to tell you about him, something I could not tell you in
a minute in the street, or indeed by word of mouth at all. That
is why I asked you for your address.
"You said I spoke as if I had known Mr. Raffles. Of course I
have often seen him playing cricket, and heard about him and you.
But I only once met him, and that was the night after you and I
met last. I have always supposed that you knew all. about our
meeting. Yesterday I could see that you knew nothing. So I
have made up my mind to tell you every word.
"That night - I mean the next night - they were all. going out to
several places, but I stayed behind at Palace Gardens. I had
gone up to the drawing-room after dinner, and was just putting on
the lights, when in walked Mr. Raffles from the balcony. I knew
him at once, because I happened to have watched him make his
hundred at Lord's only the day before. He seemed surprised that
no one had told me he was there, but the whole thing was such a
surprise that I hardly thought of that. I am afraid I must say
that it was not a very pleasant surprise. I felt instinctively
that he had come from you, and I confess that for the moment it
made me very angry indeed. Then in a breath he assured me that
you knew nothing of his coming, that you would never have allowed
him to come, but that he had taken it upon himself as your intimate
friend and one who would be mine as well. (I said that I would
tell you every word.)
"Well, we stood looking at each other for some time, and I was never
more convinced of anybody's straightness and sincerity; but he was
straight and sincere with me, and true to you that night, whatever
he may have been before and after. So I asked him why he had come,
and what had happened; and he said it was not what had happened, but
what might happen next; so I asked him if he was thinking of you,
and he just nodded, and told me that I knew very well what you had
done. But I began to wonder whether Mr. Raffles himself knew, and
I tried to get him to tell me what you had done, and he said I knew
as well as he did that you were one of the two men who had come to
the house the night before. I took some time to answer. I was
quite mystified by his manner. At last I asked him how he knew. I
can hear his answer now.
"'Because I was the other man,' he said quite quietly; 'because I
led him blindfold into the whole business, and would rather pay the
shot than see poor Bunny suffer for it.'
"Those were his words, but as he said them he made their meaning
clear by going over to the bell, and waiting with his finger ready
to ring for whatever assistance or protection I desired. Of course
I would not let him ring at all.; in fact, at first I refused to
believe him. Then he led me out into the balcony, and showed me
exactly how he had got up and in. He had broken in for the second
night running, and all. to tell me that the first night he had
brought you with him on false pretences. He had to tell me a
great deal more before I could quite believe him. But before he
went (as he had come) I was the one woman in the world who knew that
A. J. Raffles, the great cricketer, and the so-called 'amateur
cracksman' of equal notoriety, were one and the same person.
"He had told me his secret, thrown himself on my mercy, and put
his liberty if not his life in my hands, but all. for your sake,
Harry, to right you in my eyes at his own expense. And yesterday
I could see that you knew nothing whatever about it, that your
friend had died without telling you of his act of real and yet vain
self-sacrifice! Harry, I can only say that now I understand your
friendship, and the dreadful lengths to which it carried you. How
many in your place would not have gone as far for such a friend?
Since that night, at any rate, I for one have understood. It has
grieved me more than I can tell you, Harry, but I have always
"He spoke to me quite simply and frankly of his life. It was
wonderful to me then that he should speak of it as he did, and
still more wonderful that I should sit and listen to him as I did.
But I have often thought about it since, and have long ceased to
wonder at myself. There was an absolute magnetism about Mr.
Raffles which neither you nor I could resist. He had the strength
of personality which is a different thing from strength of
character; but when you meet both kinds together, they carry the
ordinary mortal off his or her feet. You must not imagine you are
the only one who would have served and followed him as you did.
When he told me it was all. a game to him, and the one game he knew
that was always exciting, always full of danger and of drama, I
could just then have found it in my heart to try the game myself!
Not that he treated me to any ingenious sophistries or paradoxical
perversities. It was just his natural charm and humor, and a
touch of sadness with it all., that appealed to something deeper
than one's reason and one's sense of right. Glamour, I suppose,
is the word. Yet there was far more in him than that. There were
depths, which called to depths; and you will not misunderstand me
when I say I think it touched him that a woman should listen to
him as I did, and in such circumstances. I know that it touched
me to think of such a life so spent, and that I came to myself and
implored him to give it all. up. I don't think I went on my knees
over it. But I am afraid I did cry; and that was the end. He
pretended not to notice anything, and then in an instant he froze
everything with a flippancy which jarred horribly at the time, but
has ever since touched me more than all. the rest. I remember that
I wanted to shake hands at the end. But Mr. Raffles only shook
his head, and for one instant his face was as sad as it was gallant
and gay all. the rest of the time. Then he went as he had come, in
his own dreadful way, and not a soul in the house knew that he had
been. And even you were never told!
"I didn't mean to write all. this about your own friend, whom you
knew so much better yourself, yet you see that even you did not
know how nobly he tried to undo the wrong he had done you; and now
I think I know why he kept it to himself. It is fearfully late
- or early - I seem to have been writing all. night - and I will
explain the matter in the fewest words. I promised Mr. Raffles
that I would write to you, Harry, and see you if I could. Well,
I did write, and I did mean to see you, but I never had an answer
to what I wrote. It was only one line, and I have long known you
never received it. I could not bring myself to write more, and
even those few words were merely slipped into one of the books
which you had given me. Years afterward these books, with my name
in them, must have been found in your rooms; at any rate they were
returned to me by somebody; and you could never have opened them,
for there was my line where I had left it. Of course you had never
seen it, and that was all. my fault. But it was too late to write
again. Mr. Raffles was supposed to have been drowned, and
everything was known about you both. But I still kept my own
independent knowledge to myself; to this day, no one else knows
that you were one of the two in Palace Gardens; and I still blame
myself more than you may think for nearly everything that has
"You said yesterday that your going to the war and getting wounded
wiped out nothing that had gone before. I hope you are not growing
morbid about the past. It is not for me to condone it, and yet I
know that Mr. Raffles was what he was because he loved danger and
adventure, and that you were what you were because you loved Mr.
Raffles. But, even admitting it was all. as bad as bad could be, he
is dead, and you are punished. The world forgives, if it does not
forget. You are young enough to live everything down. Your part
in the war will help you in more ways than one. You were always
fond of writing. You have now enough to write about for a literary
lifetime. You must make a new name for yourself. You must Harry,
and you will!
"I suppose you know that my aunt, Lady Melrose, died some years ago?
She was the best friend I had in the world, and it is thanks to her
that I am living my own life now in the one way after my own heart.
This is a new block of flats, one of those where they do everything
for you; and though mine is tiny, it is more than all. I shall ever
want. One does just exactly what one likes - and you must blame
that habit for all. that is least conventional in what I have said.
Yet I should like you to understand why it is that I have said so
much, and, indeed, left nothing unsaid. It is because I want never
to have to say or hear another word about anything that is past and
over. You may answer that I run no risk! Nevertheless, if you did
care to come and see me some day as an old friend, we might find
one or two new points of contact, for I am rather trying to write
myself! You might almost guess as much from this letter; it is
long enough for anything; but, Harry, if it makes you realize that
one of your oldest friends is glad to have seen you, and will be
gladder still to see you again, and to talk of anything and
everything except the past, I shall cease to be ashamed even of
"And so good-by for the present from
I omit her name and nothing else. Did I not say in the beginning
that it should never be sullied by association with mine? And
yet - and yet - even as I write I have a hope in my heart of hearts
which is not quite consistent with that sentiment. It is as faint
a hope as man ever had, and yet its audacity makes the pen tremble
in my fingers. But, if it be ever realized, I shall owe more than
I could deserve in a century of atonement to one who atoned more
nobly than I ever can. And to think that to the end I never heard
one word of it from Raffles!
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