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A Thief in the Night by E. W. Hornung

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subsided a little as he sat hunched up in a chair.

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

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

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

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

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

My companion reassured me with a wheezy laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

"We're scraping them still."

"No! How many?"

"Over two hundred for seven wickets."

"Who made the stand?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shall I ever forget the incredulous horror of that moment?

It was Raffles himself!

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

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

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

"Is he dead?" wheezed the asthmatic coolly.

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

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

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

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

I shook my head with an impatient smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"For my sake!" I echoed bitterly.

Raffles was more generous; he ignored my tone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Trap to Catch a Cracksman

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

"Hulloa!"

"That you, Bunny?"

"Yes - are you Raffles?"

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

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

"What on earth has happened?"

"Don't ask! You never know - "

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

"What's that?"

"Are you there, man?"

"Ye - e - es."

"At the Albany?"

"No, no; at Maguire's."

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

"In Half-moon Street."

"I know that. Is he there now?"

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

"Caught!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Not yet," said Maguire, with a glance at the pseudo-antique cabinet
in which he kept them. "Then you can save yourself the trouble,"
rejoined the secretary, as he dived under the octagonal table, and
came up with a small black bag that I knew at a glance. It was the
one that Raffles had used for heavy plunder ever since I had known
him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The secretary had picked up the dangling receiver.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barney Maguire smote the table with terrific

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

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

And the secretary helped me to not more than two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"So you rang me up!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I echoed a sentiment that was generosity itself in Raffles, but in
my case a mere truism.

"It's easy enough for me," he went on. "I am a common house-breaker,
and I escape. They don't know me from Noah. But they do know you;
and how do you come to let me escape? What has happened to you,
Bunny? That's the crux. What could have happened after they all.
dropped off?" And for a minute Raffles frowned and smiled like a
sensation novelist working out a plot; then the light broke, and
transfigured him through his burnt cork. "I've got it, Bunny!" he
exclaimed. "You took some of the stuff yourself, though of course
not nearly so much as they did.

"Splendid!" I cried. "They really were pressing it upon me at the
end, and I did say it must be very little."

"You dozed off in your turn, but you were naturally the first to
come to yourself. I had flown; so had the gold brick, the jewelled
belt, and the silver statuette. You tried to rouse the others. You
couldn't succeed; nor would you if you did try. So what did you do?
What's the only really innocent thing you could do in the
circumstances?"

"Go for the police," I suggested dubiously, little relishing the
prospect.

"There's a telephone installed for the purpose," said Raffles. "I
should ring them up, if I were you. Try not to look blue about it,
Bunny. They're quite the nicest fellows in the world, and what you
have to tell them is a mere microbe to the camels I've made them
swallow without a grain of salt. It's really the most convincing
story one could conceive; but unfortunately there's another point
which will take more explaining away."

And even Raffles looked grave enough as I nodded.

"You mean that they'll find out you rang me up?"

"They may," said Raffles. "I see that I managed to replace the
receiver all. right. But still - they may."

"I'm afraid they will," said I, uncomfortably. "I'm very much
afraid I gave something of the kind away. You see, you had not
replaced the receiver; it was dangling over you where you lay.
This very question came up, and the brutes themselves seemed so
quick to see its possibilities that I thought best to take the
bull by the horns and own that I had been rung up by somebody.
To be absolutely honest, I even went so far as to say I thought
it was Raffles!"

"You didn't, Bunny!"

"What could I say? I was obliged to think of somebody, and I saw
they were not going to recognize you. So I put up a yarn about a
wager we had made about this very trap of Maguire's. You see,
Raffles, I've never properly told you how I got in, and there's
no time now; but the first thing I had said was that I half
expected to find you here before me. That was in case they
spotted you at once. But it made all. that part about the telephone
fit in rather well."

"I should think it did, Bunny," murmured Raffles, in a tone that
added sensibly to my reward. "I couldn't have done better myself,
and you will forgive my saying that you have never in your life
done half so well. Talk about that crack you gave me on the head!
You have made it up to me a hundredfold by all. you have done
to-night. But the bother of it is that there's still so much to
do, and to hit upon, and so precious little time for thought as
well as action."

I took out my watch and showed it to Raffles without a word. It
was three o'clock in the morning, and the latter end of March. In
little more than an hour there would be dim daylight in the streets.
Raffles roused himself from a reverie with sudden decision.

"There's only one thing for it, Bunny," said he. "We must trust
each other and divide the labor. You ring up the police,(and leave
the rest to me."

"You haven't hit upon any reason for the sort of burglar they think
you were, ringing up the kind of man they know I am?"

"Not yet, Bunny, but I shall. It may not be wanted for a day or so,
and after all. it isn't for you to give the explanation. It would
be highly suspicious if you did."

"So it would," I agreed.

"Then will you trust me to hit on something - if possible before
morning - in any case by the time it s wanted? I won't fail you,
Bunny. You must see how I can never, never fail you after to-night!"

That settled it. I gripped his hand without another word, and
remained on guard over the three sleepers while Raffles stole
upstairs. I have since learned that there were servants at the
top of the house, and in the basement a man, who actually heard
some of our proceedings! But he was mercifully too accustomed to
nocturnal orgies, and those of a far more uproarious character, to
appear unless summoned to the scene. I believe he heard Raffles
leave. But no secret was made of his exit: he let himself out
and told me afterward that the first person he encountered in the
street was the constable on the beat. Raffles wished him
good-morning, as well he might; for he had been upstairs to wash
his face and hands; and in the prize-fighter's great hat and fur
coat he might have marched round Scotland Yard itself, in spite of
his having the gold brick from Sacramento in one pocket, the silver
statuette of Maguire in the other, and round his waist the
jewelled belt presented to that worthy by the State of Nevada.

My immediate part was a little hard after the excitement of those
small hours. I will only say that we had agreed that it would be
wisest for me to lie like a log among the rest for half an hour,
before staggering to my feet and rousing house and police; and that
in that half-hour Barney Maguire crashed to the floor, without
waking either himself or his companions, though not without
bringing my beating heart into the very roof of my mouth.

It was daybreak when I gave the alarm with bell and telephone. In
a few minutes we had the house congested with dishevelled domestics,
irascible doctors, and arbitrary minions of the law. If I told my
story once, I told it a dozen times, and all. on an empty stomach.
But it was certainly a most plausible and consistent tale, even
without that confirmation which none of the other victims was as
yet sufficiently recovered to supply. And in the end I was permitted
to retire from the scene until required to give further information,
or to identify the prisoner whom the good police confidently
expected to make before the day was out.

I drove straight to the flat. The porter flew to help me out of my
hansom. His face alarmed me more than any I had left in Half-moon
Street. It alone might have spelled my ruin.

"Your flat's been entered in the night, sir," he cried. "The
thieves have taken everything they could lay hands on."

"Thieves in my flat!" I ejaculated aghast. There were one or two
incriminating possessions up there, as well as at the Albany.

"The door's been forced with a jimmy," said the porter. "It was
the milkman who found it out. There's a constable up there now."

A constable poking about in my flat of all. others! I rushed
upstairs without waiting for the lift. The invader was moistening
his pencil between laborious notes in a fat pocketbook; he had
penetrated no further than the forced door. I dashed past him in
a fever. I kept my trophies in a wardrobe drawer specially fitted
with a Bramah lock. The lock was broken - the drawer void.

"Something valuable, sir?" inquired the intrusive constable at my
heels.

"Yes, indeed - some old family silver," I answered. It was quite
true. But the family was not mine.

And not till then did the truth flash across my mind. Nothing else
of value had been taken. But there was a meaningless litter in all.
the rooms. I turned to the porter, who had followed me up from the
street; it was his wife who looked after the flat.

"Get rid of this idiot as quick as you can," I whispered. "I'm
going straight to Scotland Yard myself. Let your wife tidy the
place while I'm gone, and have the lock mended before she leaves.
I'm going as I am, this minute!"

And go I did, in the first hansom I could find - but not straight
to Scotland Yard. I stopped the cab in Picadilly on the way.

Old Raffles opened his own door to me. I cannot remember finding
him fresher, more immaculate, more delightful to behold in every
way. Could I paint a picture of Raffles with something other than
my pen, it would be as I saw him that bright March morning, at his
open door in the Albany, a trim, slim figure in matutinal gray,
cool and gay and breezy as incarnate spring.

"What on earth did you do it for?" I asked within.

"It was the only solution," he answered, handing me the cigarettes.
"I saw it the moment I got outside."

"I don't see it yet."

"Why should a burglar call an innocent gentleman away from home?"

"That's what we couldn't make out."

"I tell you I got it directly I had left you. He called you away
in order to burgle you too, of course!"

And Raffles stood smiling upon me in all. his incomparable radiance
and audacity.

"But why me?" I asked. "Why on earth should he burgle me?"

"My dear Bunny, we must leave something to the imagination of the
police. But we will assist them to a fact or two in due season.
It was the dead of night when Maguire first took us to his house;
it was at the Imperial Boxing Club we met him; and you meet queer
fish at the Imperial Boxing Club. You may remember that he
telephoned to his man to prepare supper for us, and that you and
he discussed telephones and treasure as we marched through the
midnight streets. He was certainly bucking about his trophies,
and for the sake of the argument you will be good enough to admit
that you probably bucked about yours. What happens? You are
overheard; you are followed; you are worked into the same scheme,
and robbed on the same night."

"And you really think this will meet the case?"

"I am quite certain of it, Bunny, so far as it rests wit us to
meet the case at all."

"Then give me another cigarette, my dear fellow, and let me push
on to Scotland Yard."

Raffles held up both hands in admiring horror. "Scotland Yard!"

"To give a false description of what you took from that drawer in
my wardrobe."

"A false description! Bunny, you have no more to learn from me.
Time was when I wouldn't have let you go there without me to
retrieve a lost umbrella - let alone a lost cause!"

And for once I was not sorry for Raffles to have the last unworthy
word, as he stood once more at his outer door and gayly waved me
down the stairs.

The Spoils of Sacrilege

There was one deed of those days which deserved a place in our
original annals. It is the deed of which I am personally most
ashamed. I have traced the course of a score of felonies, from
their source in the brain of Raffles to their issue in his hands.
I have omitted all. mention of the one which emanated from my own
miserable mind. But in these supplementary memoirs, wherein I
pledged myself to extenuate nothing more that I might have to tell
of Raffles, it is only fair that I should make as clean a breast
of my own baseness. It was I, then, and I alone, who outraged
natural sentiment, and trampled the expiring embers of elementary
decency, by proposing and planning the raid upon my own old home.

I would not accuse myself the more vehemently by making excuses at
this point. Yet I feel bound to state that it was already many
years since the place had passed from our possession into that of
an utter alien, against whom I harbored a prejudice which was some
excuse in itself. He had enlarged and altered the dear old place
out of knowledge; nothing had been good enough for him as it stood
in our day. The man was a hunting maniac, and where my dear father
used to grow prize peaches under glass, this vandal was soon
stabling his hothouse thoroughbreds, which took prizes in their
turn at all. the country shows. It was a southern county, and I
never went down there without missing another greenhouse and noting
a corresponding extension to the stables. Not that I ever set foot
in the grounds from the day we left; but for some years I used to
visit old friends in the neighborhood, and could never resist the
temptation to reconnoiter the scenes of my childhood. And so far
as could be seen from the road - which it stood too near - the house
itself appeared to be the one thing that the horsey purchaser had
left much as he found it.

My only other excuse may be none at all. in any eyes but mine. It
was my passionate desire at this period to "keep up my end" with
Raffles in every department of the game felonious. He would insist
upon an equal division of all. proceeds; it was for me to earn my
share. So far I had been useful only at a pinch; the whole credit
of any real success belonged invariably to Raffles. It had always
been his idea. That was the tradition which I sought to end, and
no means could compare with that of my unscrupulous choice. There
was the one house in England of which I knew every inch, and Raffles
only what I told him. For once I must lead, and Raffles follow,
whether he liked it or not. He saw that himself; and I think he
liked it better than he liked me for the desecration in view; but
I had hardened my heart, and his feelings were too fine for actual
remonstrance on such a point.

I, in my obduracy, went to foul extremes. I drew plans of all. the
floors from memory. I actually descended upon my friends in the
neighborhood, with the sole object of obtaining snap-shots over our
own old garden wall. Even Raffles could not keep his eyebrows down
when I showed him the prints one morning in the Albany. But he
confined his open criticisms to the house.

"Built in the late 'sixties, I see," said Raffles, "or else very
early in the 'seventies."

"Exactly when it was built," I replied. "But that's worthy of a
sixpenny detective, Raffles! How on earth did you know?"

"That slate tower bang over the porch, with the dormer windows and
the iron railing and flagstaff atop makes us a present of the period.
You see them on almost every house of a certain size built about
thirty years ago. They are quite the most useless excrescences I
know."

"Ours wasn't," I answered, with some warmth. "It was my sanctum
sanctorum in the holidays. I smoked my first pipe up there, and
wrote my first verses."

Raffles laid a kindly hand upon my shoulder - "Bunny, Bunny, you
can rob the old place, and yet you can't hear a word against it?"

"That's different," said I relentlessly. "The tower was there in
my time, but the man I mean to rob was not."

"You really do mean to do it, Bunny?"

"By myself, if necessary? I averred.

"Not again, Bunny, not again," rejoined Raffles, laughing as he
shook his head. "But do you think the man has enough to make it
worth our while to go so far afield?"

"Far afield! It's not forty miles on the London and Brighton."

"Well, that's as bad as a hundred on most lines. And when did you
say it was to be?"

"Friday week."

"I don't much like a Friday, Bunny. Why make it one?"

"It's the night of their Hunt Point-to-Point. They wind up the
season with it every year; and the bloated Guillemard usually sweeps
the board with his fancy flyers."

"You mean the man in your old house?"

"Yes; and he tops up with no end of dinner there," I went on, "to
his hunting pals and the bloods who ride for him. If the festive
board doesn't groan under a new regiment of challenge cups, it will
be no fault of theirs, and old Guillemard will have to do them
top-hole all. the same."

"So it's a case of common pot-hunting," remarked Raffles, eyeing me
shrewdly through the cigarette smoke.

"Not for us, my dear fellow," I made answer in his own tone. "I
wouldn't ask you to break into the next set of chambers here in the
Albany for a few pieces of modern silver, Raffles. Not that we need
scorn the cups if we get a chance of lifting them, and if Guillemard
does so in the first instance. It's by no means certain that he will.
But it is pretty certain to be a lively night for him and his pals
- and a vulnerable one for the best bedroom!"

"Capital!" said Raffles, throwing coils of smoke between his smiles.
"Still, if it's a dinner-party, the hostess won't leave her jewels
upstairs. She'll wear them, my boy."

"Not all. of them, Raffles; she has far too many for that. Besides,
it isn't an ordinary dinner-party; they say Mrs. Guillemard is
generally the only lady there, and that she's quite charming in
herself. Now, no charming woman would clap on all. sail in jewels
for a roomful of fox-hunters."

"It depends what jewels she has."

"Well, she might wear her rope of pearls."

"I should have said so."

"And, of course, her rings."

"Exactly, Bunny."

"But not necessarily her diamond tiara - "

"Has she got one?"

" - and certainly not her emerald and diamond necklace on top of
all.!"

Raffles snatched the Sullivan from his lips, and his eyes burned
like its end.

"Bunny, do you mean to tell me there are all. these things?"

"Of course I do," said I. "They are rich people, and he's not
such a brute as to spend everything on his stable. Her jewels
are as much the talk as his hunters. My friends told me all.
about both the other day when I was down making inquiries. They
thought my curiosity as natural as my wish for a few snapshots of
the old place. In their opinion the emerald necklace alone must
be worth thousands of pounds."

Raffles rubbed his hands in playful pantomime.

"I only hope you didn't ask too many questions, Bunny! But if your
friends are such old friends, you will never enter their heads when
they hear what has happened, unless you are seen down there on the
night, which might be fatal. Your approach will require some
thought: if you like I can work out the shot for you. I shall go
down independently, and the best thing may be to meet outside the
house itself on the night of nights. But from that moment I am in
your hands."

And on these refreshing lines our plan of campaign was gradually
developed and elaborated into that finished study on which Raffles
would rely like any artist of the footlights. None were more
capable than he of coping with the occasion as it rose, of rising
himself with the emergency of the moment, of snatching a victory
from the very dust of defeat. Yet, for choice, every detail was
premeditated, and an alternative expedient at each finger's end for
as many bare and awful possibilities. In this case, however, the
finished study stopped short at the garden gate or wall; there I
was to assume command; and though Raffles carried the actual tools
of trade of which he alone was master, it was on the understanding
that for once I should control and direct their use.

I had gone down in evening-clothes by an evening train, but had
carefully overshot old landmarks, and alighted at a small station
some miles south of the one where I was still remembered. This
committed me to a solitary and somewhat lengthy tramp; but the
night was mild and starry, and I marched into it with a high
stomach; for this was to be no costume crime, and yet I should
have Raffles at my elbow all. the night. Long before I reached my
destination, indeed, he stood in wait for me on the white highway,
and we finished with linked arms.

"I came down early," said Raffles, "and had a look at the races. I
always prefer to measure my man, Bunny; and you needn't sit in the
front row of the stalls to take stock of your friend Guillemard.
No wonder he doesn't ride his own horses! The steeple-chaser isn't
foaled that would carry him round that course. But he's a fine
monument of a man, and he takes his troubles in a way that makes me
blush to add to them."

"Did he lose a horse?" I inquired cheerfully.

"No, Bunny, but he didn't win a race! His horses were by chalks
the best there, and his pals rode them like the foul fiend, but with
the worst of luck every time. Not that you'd think it, from the row
they're making. I've been listening to them from the road - you
always did say the house stood too near it."

"Then you didn't go in?"

"When it's your show? You should know me better. Not a foot would
I set on the premises behind your back. But here they are, so
perhaps you'll lead the way."

And I led it without a moment's hesitation, through the unpretentious
six-barred gate into the long but shallow crescent of the drive.
There were two such gates, one at each end of the drive, but no lodge
at either, and not a light nearer than those of the house. The shape
and altitude of the lighted windows, the whisper of the laurels on
either hand, the very feel of the gravel underfoot, were at once
familiar to my senses as the sweet, relaxing, immemorial air that
one drank deeper at every breath. Our stealthy advance was to me
like stealing back into one's childhood; and yet I could conduct it
without compunction. I was too excited to feel immediate remorse,
albeit not too lost in excitement to know that remorse for every
step that I was taking would be my portion soon enough. I mean
every word that I have written of my peculiar shame for this night's
work. And it was all. to come over me before the night was out. But
in the garden I never felt it once.

The dining-room windows blazed in the side of the house facing the
road. That was an objection to peeping through the venetian blinds,
as we nevertheless did, at our peril of observation from the road.
Raffles would never have led me into danger so gratuitous and
unnecessary, but he followed me into it without a word. I can only
plead that we both had our reward. There was a sufficient chink in
the obsolete venetians, and through it we saw every inch of the
picturesque board. Mrs. Guillemard was still in her place, but she
really was the only lady, and dressed as quietly as I had prophesied;
round her neck was her rope of pearls, but not the glimmer of an
emerald nor the glint of a diamond, nor yet the flashing
constellation of a tiara in her hair. I gripped Raffles in token
of my triumph, and he nodded as he scanned the overwhelming majority
of flushed fox-hunters. With the exception of one stripling,
evidently the son of the house, they were in evening pink to a man;
and as I say, their faces matched their coats. An enormous fellow,
with a great red face and cropped moustache, occupied my poor
father's place; he it was who had replaced our fruitful vineries
with his stinking stables; but I am bound to own he looked a genial
clod, as he sat in his fat and listened to the young bloods boasting
of their prowess, or elaborately explaining their mishaps. And for
a minute we listened also, before I remembered my responsibilities,
and led Raffles round to the back of the house.

There never was an easier house to enter. I used to feel that
keenly as a boy, when, by a prophetic irony, burglars were my
bugbear, and I looked under my bed every night in life. The
bow-windows on the ground floor finished in inane balconies to the
first-floor windows. These balconies had ornamental iron railings,
to which a less ingenious rope-ladder than ours could have been
hitched with equal ease. Raffles had brought it with him, round
his waist, and he carried the telescopic stick for fixing it in
place. The one was unwound, and the other put together, in a
secluded corner of the red-brick walls, where of old I had played
my own game of squash-rackets in the holidays. I made further
investigations in the starlight, and even found a trace of my
original white line along the red wall.

But it was not until we had effected our entry through the room
which had been my very own, and made our parlous way across the
lighted landing, to the best bedroom of those days and these, that
I really felt myself a worm. Twin brass bedsteads occupied the
site of the old four-poster from which I had first beheld the
light. The doors were the same; my childish hands had grasped
these very handles. And there was Raffles securing the landing
door with wedge and gimlet, the very second after softly closing
it behind us.

"The other leads into the dressing-room, of course? Then you might
be fixing the outer dressing-room door," he whispered at his work,
"but not the middle one Bunny, unless you want to. The stuff will
be in there, you see, if it isn't in here."

My door was done in a moment, being fitted with a powerful bolt;
but now an aching conscience made me busier than I need have been.
I had raised the rope-ladder after us into my own old room, and
while Raffles wedged his door I lowered the ladder from one of the
best bedroom windows, in order to prepare that way of escape which
was a fundamental feature of his own strategy. I meant to show
Raffles that I had not followed in his train for nothing. But I
left it to him to unearth the jewels. I had begun by turning up
the gas; there appeared to be no possible risk in that; and Raffles
went to work with a will in the excellent light. There were some
good pieces in the room, including an ancient tallboy in fruity
mahogany, every drawer of which was turned out on the bed without
avail. A few of the drawers had locks to pick, yet not one triffle
to our taste within. The situation became serious as the minutes
flew. We had left the party at its sweets; the solitary lady might
be free to roam her house at any minute. In the end we turned our
attention to the dressing-room. And no sooner did Raffles behold
the bolted door than up went his hands.

"A bathroom bolt," he cried below his breath, "and no bath in the
room! Why didn't you tell me, Bunny? A bolt like that speaks
volumes; there's none on the bedroom door, remember, and this one's
worthy of a strong room! What if it is their strong room, Bunny!
Oh, Bunny, what if this is their safe?"

Raffles had dropped upon his knees before a carved oak chest of
indisputable antiquity. Its panels were delightfully irregular,
its angles faultlessly faulty, its one modern defilement a strong
lock to the lid. Raffles was smiling as he produced his jimmy.
R - r - r - rip went lock or lid in another ten seconds - I was not
there to see which. I had wandered back into the bedroom in a
paroxysm of excitement and suspense. I must keep busy as well.
as Raffles, and it was not too soon to see whether the rope-ladder
was all. right. In another minute . . .

I stood frozen to the floor. I had hooked the ladder beautifully
to the inner sill of wood, and had also let down the extended rod
for the more expeditious removal of both on our return to terra
firma. Conceive my cold horror on arriving at the open window just
in time to see the last of hooks and bending rod, as they floated
out of sight and reach into the outer darkness of the night, removed
by some silent and invisible hand below!

"Raffles-Raffles - they've spotted us and moved the ladder this very
instant!"

So I panted as I rushed on tiptoe to the dressing-room. Raffles had
the working end of his jimmy under the lid of a leathern jewel case.
It flew open at the vicious twist of his wrist that preceded his reply.

"Did you let them see that you'd spotted that?"

"No."

"Good! Pocket some of these cases - no time to open them. Which
door's nearest the backstairs?"

"The other."

"Come on then?"

"No, no, I'll lead the way. I know every inch of it."

And, as I leaned against the bedroom door, handle in hand, while
Raffles stooped to unscrew the gimlet and withdraw the wedge, I
hit upon the ideal port in the storm that was evidently about to
burst on our devoted heads. It was the last place in which they
would look for a couple of expert cracksmen with no previous
knowledge of the house. If only we could gain my haven unobserved,
there we might lie in unsuspected hiding, and by the hour, if not
for days and nights.

Alas for that sanguine dream! The wedge was out, and Raffles on
his feet behind me. I opened the door, and for a second the pair
of us stood upon the threshold.

Creeping up the stairs before us, each on the tip of his silken
toes, was a serried file of pink barbarians, redder in the face
than anywhere else, and armed with crops carried by the wrong end.
The monumental person with the short moustache led the advance. The
fool stood still upon the top step to let out the loudest and
cheeriest view-holloa that ever smote my ears.

It cost him more than he may know until I tell him. There was the
wide part of the landing between us; we had just that much start
along the narrow part, with the walls and doors upon our left, the
banisters on our right, and the baize door at the end. But if the
great Guillemard had not stopped to live up to his sporting
reputation, he would assuredly have laid one or other of us by the
heels, and either would have been tantamount to both. As I gave
Raffles a headlong lead to the baize door, I glanced down the great
well of stairs, and up came the daft yells of these sporting oafs:

"Gone away - gone away!"

"Yoick - yoick - yoick?"

"Yon-der they go?"

And gone I had, through the baize door to the back landing, with
Raffles at my heels. I held the swing door for him, and heard him
bang it in the face of the spluttering and blustering master of
the house. Other feet were already in the lower flight of the
backstairs; but the upper flight was the one for me, and in an
instant we were racing along the upper corridor with the
chuckle-headed pack at our heels. Here it was all. but dark - they
were the servants' bedrooms that we were passing now - but I knew
what I was doing. Round the last corner to the right, through the
first door to the left and we were in the room underneath the tower.
In our time a long stepladder had led to the tower itself. I
rushed in the dark to the old corner. Thank God, the ladder was
there still! It leaped under us as we rushed aloft like one
quadruped. The breakneck trap-door was still protected by a curved
brass stanchion; this I grasped with one hand, and then Raffles
with the other as I felt my feet firm upon the tower floor. In he
sprawled after me, and down went the trap-door with a bang upon the
leading hound.

I hoped to feel his dead-weight shake the house, as he crashed upon
the floor below; but the fellow must have ducked, and no crash came.
Meanwhile not a word passed between Raffles and me; he had followed
me, as I had led him, without waste of breath upon a single syllable.
But the merry lot below were still yelling and bellowing in full cry.

"Gone to ground? screamed one.

"Where's the terrier?" screeched another.

But their host of the mighty girth - a man like a soda-water bottle,
from my one glimpse of him on his feet - seemed sobered rather than
stunned by the crack on that head of his. We heard his fine voice
no more, but we could feel him straining every thew against the
trap-door upon which Raffles and I stood side by side. At least I
thought Raffles was standing, until he asked me to strike a light,
when I found him on his knees instead of on his feet, busy screwing
down the trap-door with his gimlet. He carried three or four gimlets
for wedging doors, and he drove them all. in to the handle, while I
pulled at the stanchion and pushed with my feet.

But the upward pressure ceased before our efforts. We heard the
ladder creak again under a ponderous and slow descent; and we stood
upright in the dim flicker of a candle-end that I had lit and left
burning on the floor. Raffles glanced at the four small windows in
turn and then at me. "Is there any way out at all.?" he whispered,
as no other being would or could have whispered to the man who had
led him into such a trap. "We've no rope-ladder, you know."

"Thanks to me," I groaned. "The whole thing's my fault?

"Nonsense, Bunny; there was no other way to run. But what about
these windows?"

His magnanimity took me by the throat; without a word I led him to
the one window looking inward upon sloping slates and level leads.
Often as a boy I had clambered over them, for the fearful fun of
risking life and limb, or the fascination of peering through the
great square skylight, down the well of the house into the hall
below. There were, however, several smaller skylights, for the
benefit of the top floor, through any one of which I thought we
might have made a dash. But at a glance I saw we were too late:
one of these skylights became a brilliant square before our eyes;
opened, and admitted a flushed face on flaming shoulders.

"I'll give them a fright!" said Raffles through his teeth. In
an instant he had plucked out his revolver, smashed the window
with its butt, and the slates with a bullet not a yard from the
protruding head. And that, I believe, was the only shot that
Raffles ever fired in his whole career as a midnight marauder.

"You didn't hit him?" I gasped, as the head disappeared, and we
heard a crash in the corridor.

"Of course I didn't, Bunny," he replied, backing into the tower;
"but no one will believe I didn't mean to, and it'll stick on
ten years if we're caught. That's nothing, if it gives us an
extra five minutes now, while they hold a council of war. Is
that a working flag-staff overhead?"

"It used to be."

"Then there'll be halliards."

"They were as thin as clothes-lines.".

"And they're sure to be rotten, and we should be seen cutting them
down. No, Bunny, that won't do. Wait a bit. Is there a lightning
conductor?"

"There was."

I opened one of the side windows and reached out as far as I could.
xyz
"You'll be seen from that skylight? cried Raffles in a warning
undertone.

"No, I won't. I can't see it myself. But here's the
lightning-conductor, where it always was."

"How thick," asked Raffles, as I drew in and rejoined him.

"Rather thicker than a lead-pencil."

"They sometimes bear you," said Raffles, slipping on a pair of
white kid gloves, and stuffing his handkerchief into the palm of one.
"The difficulty is to keep a grip; but I've been up and down them
before to-night. And it's our only chance. I'll go first, Bunny:
you watch me, and do exactly as I do if I get down all. right."

"But if you don't?"

"If I don't," whispered Raffles, as he wormed through the window
feet foremost, "I'm afraid you'll have to face the music where you
are, and I shall have the best of it down in Acheron!"

And he slid out of reach without another word, leaving me to shudder
alike at his levity and his peril; nor could I follow him very far
by the wan light of the April stars; but I saw his forearms resting
a moment in the spout that ran around the tower, between bricks and
slates, on the level of the floor; and I had another dim glimpse of
him lower still, on the eaves over the very room that we had
ransacked. Thence the conductor ran straight to earth in an angle
of the facade. And since it had borne him thus far without mishap,
I felt that Raffles was as good as down. But I had neither his
muscles nor his nerves, and my head swam as I mounted to the window
and prepared to creep out backward in my turn.

So it was that at the last moment I had my first unobstructed view
of the little old tower of other days. Raffles was out of the way;
the bit of candle was still burning on the floor, and in its dim
light the familiar haunt was cruelly like itself of innocent memory.
A lesser ladder still ascended to a tinier trap-door in the apex of
the tower; the fixed seats looked to me to be wearing their old,
old coat of grained varnish; nay the varnish had its ancient smell,
and the very vanes outside creaked their message to my ears. I
remembered whole days that I had spent, whole books that I had read,
here in this favorite fastness of my boyhood. The dirty little
place, with the dormer window in each of its four sloping sides,
became a gallery hung with poignant pictures of the past. And here
was I leaving it with my life in my hands and my pockets full of
stolen jewels! A superstition seized me. Suppose the conductor
came down with me . . . suppose I slipped . . . and was picked
up dead, with the proceeds of my shameful crime upon me, under the
very windows

. . . where the sun
Came peeping in at dawn . . .

I hardly remember what I did or left undone. I only know that
nothing broke, that somehow I kept my hold, and that in the end the
wire ran red-hot through my palms so that both were torn and
bleeding when I stood panting beside Raffles in the flower-beds.
There was no time for thinking then. Already there was a fresh
commotion in-doors; the tidal wave of excitement which had swept
all. before it to the upper regions was subsiding in as swift a
rush downstairs; and I raced after Raffles along the edge of the
drive without daring to look behind.

We came out by the opposite gate to that by which we had stolen in.
Sharp to the right ran the private lane behind the stables and
sharp to the right dashed Raffles, instead of straight along the
open road. It was not the course I should have chosen, but I
followed Raffles without a murmur, only too thankful that he had
assumed the lead at last. Already the stables were lit up like
a chandelier; there was a staccato rattle of horseshoes in the
stable yard, and the great gates were opening as we skimmed past
in the nick of time. In another minute we were skulking in the
shadow of the kitchen-garden wall while the high-road rang with
the dying tattoo of galloping hoofs.

"That's for the police," said Raffles, waiting for me. "But the
fun's only beginning in the stables. Hear the uproar, and see
the lights! In another minute they'll be turning out the hunters
for the last run of the season

"We mustn't give them one, Raffles?"

"Of course we mustn't; but that means stopping where we are."

"We can't do that?"

"If they're wise they'll send a man to every railway station
within ten miles and draw every cover inside the radius. I can
only think of one that's not likely to occur to them."

"What's that?"

"The other side of this wall. How big is the garden, Bunny?"

"Six or seven acres."

"Well, you must take me to another of your old haunts, where we can
lie low till morning."

"And then?"

"Sufficient for the night, Bunny! The first thing is to find a
burrow. What are those trees at the end of this lane?"

"St. Leonard's Forest."

"Magnificent! They'll scour every inch of that before they come
back to their own garden. Come, Bunny, give me a leg up, and I'll
pull you after me in two ticks?

There was indeed nothing better to be done; and, much as I loathed
and dreaded entering the place again, I had already thought of a
second sanctuary of old days, which might as well be put to the
base uses of this disgraceful night. In a far corner of the garden,
over a hundred yards from the house, a little ornamental lake had
been dug within my own memory; its shores were shelving lawn and
steep banks of rhododendrons; and among the rhododendrons nestled
a tiny boathouse which had been my childish joy. It was half a
dock for the dingy in which one plowed these miniature waters and
half a bathing-box for those who preferred their morning tub among
the goldfish. I could not think of a safer asylum than this, if
we must spend the night upon the premises; and Raffles agreed with
me when I had led him by sheltering shrubbery and perilous lawn
to the diminutive chalet between the rhododendrons and the water.

But what a night it was! The little bathing-box had two doors,
one to the water, the other to the path. To hear all. that could
be heard, it was necessary to keep both doors open, and quite
imperative not to talk. The damp night air of April filled the
place, and crept through our evening clothes and light overcoats
into the very marrow; the mental torture of the situation was
renewed and multiplied in my brain; and all. the time one's ears
were pricked for footsteps on the path between the rhododendrons.
The only sounds we could at first identify came one and all. from
the stables. Yet there the excitement subsided sooner than we
had expected, and it was Raffles himself who breathed a doubt as
to whether they were turning out the hunters after all. On the
other hand, we heard wheels in the drive not long after midnight;
and Raffles, who was beginning to scout among the shrubberies,
stole back to tell me that the guests were departing, and being
sped, with an unimpaired conviviality which he failed to understand.
I said I could not understand it either, but suggested the general
influence of liquor, and expressed my envy of their state. I had
drawn my knees up to my chin, on the bench where one used to dry
one's self after bathing, and there I sat in a seeming stolidity
at utter variance with my inward temper. I heard Raffles creep
forth again and I let him go without a word. I never doubted that
he would be back again in a minute, and so let many minutes elapse
before I realized his continued absence, and finally crept out
myself to look for him.

Even then I only supposed that he had posted himself outside in
some more commanding position. I took a catlike stride and
breathed his name. There was no answer. I ventured further, till
I could overlook the lawns: they lay like clean slates in the
starlight: there was no sign of living thing nearer than the house,
which was still lit up, but quiet enough now. Was it a cunning
and deliberate quiet assumed as a snare? Had they caught Raffles,
and were they waiting for me? I returned to the boat-house in an
agony of fear and indignation. It was fear for the long hours
that I sat there waiting for him; it was indignation when at last
I heard his stealthy step upon the gravel. I would not go out to
meet him. I sat where I was while the stealthy step came nearer,
nearer; and there I was sitting when the door opened, and a huge
man in riding-clothes stood before me in the steely dawn.

I leaped to my feet, and the huge man clapped me playfully on
the shoulder.

"Sorry I've been so long, Bunny, but we should never have got away
as we were; this riding-suit makes a new man of me, on top of my
own, and here's a youth's kit that should do you down to the ground."

"So you broke into the house again?

"I was obliged to, Bunny; but I had to watch the lights out one by
one, and give them a good hour after that I went through that
dressing room at my leisure this time; the only difficulty was to
spot the son's quarters at the back of the house; but I overcame it,
as you see, in the end. I only hope they'll fit, Bunny. Give me
your patent leathers, and I'll fill them with stones and sink them
in the pond. I'm doing the same with mine. Here's a brown pair
apiece, and we mustn't let the grass grow under them if we're to
get to the station in time for the early train while the coast's
still clear."

The early train leaves the station in question at 6.20 A.M.; and
that fine spring morning there was a police officer in a peaked cap
to see it off; but he was too busy peering into the compartments
for a pair of very swell mobsmen that he took no notice of the
huge man in riding-clothes, who was obviously intoxicated, or the
more insignificant but not less horsy character who had him in
hand. The early train is due at Victoria at 8.28, but these
worthies left it at Clapham Junction, and changed cabs more than
once between Battersea and Piccadilly, and a few of their garments
in each four-wheeler. It was barely nine o'clock when they sat
together in the Albany, and might have been recognized once more
as Raffles and myself.

"And now," said Raffles, "before we do anything else, let us turn
out those little cases that we hadn't time to open when we took
them. I mean the ones I handed to you, Bunny. I had a look into
mine in the garden, and I'm sorry to say there was nothing in them.
The lady must have been wearing their proper contents."

Raffles held out his hand for the substantial leather cases which
I had produced at his request. But that was the extent of my
compliance; instead of handing them over, I looked boldly into the
eyes that seemed to have discerned my wretched secret at one glance.

"It is no use my giving them to you," I said. "They are empty also."

"When did you look into them?"

"In the tower."

"Well, let me see for myself."

"As you like."

"My dear Bunny, this one must have contained the necklace you
boasted about."

"Very likely."

"And this one the tiara."

"I dare say."

"Yet she was wearing neither, as you prophesied, and as we both
saw for ourselves?

I had not taken my eyes from his.

"Raffles," I said, "I'll be frank with you after all. I meant you
never to know, but it's easier than telling you a lie. I left both
things behind me in the tower. I won't attempt to explain or defend
myself; it was probably the influence of the tower, and nothing
else; but the whole thing came over me at the last moment, when you
had gone and I was going. I felt that I should very probably break
my neck, that I cared very little whether I did or not, but that it
would be frightful to break it at that house with those things in my
pocket. You may say I ought to have thought of all. that before!
you may say what you like, and you won't say more than I deserve.
It was hysterical, and it was mean, for I kept the cases to impose
on you."

"You were always a bad liar, Bunny," said Raffles, smiling. "Will
you think me one when I tell you that I can understand what you
felt, and even what you did? As a matter of fact, I have understood
for several hours now."

"You mean what I felt, Raffles?"

"And what you did. I guessed it in the boathouse. I knew that

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