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A Thief in the Night by E. W. Hornung

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A Thief in the Night

[A Book of Raffles' Adventures]

by E. W. Hornung

Out of Paradise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I laughed bitterly in my glass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Nonsense, Bunny!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Perhaps you wrote to Palace Gardens?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why not?"

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

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

"You forget the inner doors and the safe."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I answered savagely that I neither knew nor cared.

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

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

"I never asked what the dance was," he returned. "I merely took the
opportunity of revising my toilet, and getting rid of that rather
distinctive overcoat, which I shall call for now. They're not too
particular at such stages of such proceedings, but I've no doubt I
should have seen someone I knew if I had none right in. I might
even have had a turn, if only I had been less uneasy about you,
Bunny."

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was my hand that gripped his arm once more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"'What is the truth?"

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

"Then tell me now."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chest of Silver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well?"

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

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

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

Raffles gave me an approving nod.

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

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

"Scotland," he vouchsafed at last.

"At Easter," I remarked.

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

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

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

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

"The eleven-fifty from Euston."

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

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

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

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

"Scotland, sir."

"Already?"

"By the eleven-fifty lawst night"

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

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

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

"Any other message?" I inquired morosely.

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

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

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

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

"'Ware Prince of Professors! He was in the offing when I left.
If slightest cause for uneasiness about bank, withdraw at once
and keep in own rooms Like good chap,
"A. J. R.
"P. 8. - Other reasons, as you shall hear."

There was a nice nightcap for a puzzled head! I had made rather an
evening of it, what with increase of funds and decrease of anxiety,
but this cryptic admonition spoiled the remainder of my night. It
had arrived by a late post, and I only wished that I had left it all
night in my letter-box. What exactly did it mean? And what exactly
must I do? These were questions that confronted me with fresh force
in the morning.

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

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

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

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

BANK ROBBERS IN THE WEST END -
DARING AND MYSTERIOUS CRIME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is it safe?"

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

"Then it wasn't even opened?"

"Only just begun on, I believe."

"Thank God!"

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

"How could it be?" I asked uneasily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Bunny!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"At two in the morning!"

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

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

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

"Do tell me, my dear fellow!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Nor did I, Bunny."

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

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

The Rest Cure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"So you are lying low out here!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"There'll be no rest for me!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"As you walked in, I suppose?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What, that he should die the death?"

"Why not?"

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

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

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

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