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Mr. Justice Raffles by E. W. Hornung

Part 3 out of 4

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He passed under the arch without looking round. I flattened myself
against the wall on my side of the arch; and in so standing I was all
but eye-witness of a sudden encounter in the square beyond.

The quick steps stopped, and there was a "Here you are!" on one side,
and a "Well! Where is he?" on the other, both very eager and below
the breath.

"On the job," whispered the first voice. "Up to the neck!"

"When did 'e go in?"

"Nearly an hour ago; when I sent the messenger."

"Which way?"

"Up through number seventeen."

"Next door, eh?"

"That's right."

"Over the roof?"

"Can't say; he's left no tracks. I been up to see."

"I suppose there's the usual ladder and trapdoor?"

"Yes, but the ladder's hanging in its proper place. He couldn't have put
it back there, could he?"

The other grunted; presently he expressed a doubt whether Raffles (and it
thrilled me to hear the very name) had succeeded in breaking into the
lawyer's office at all. The first man on the scene, however, was quite
sure of it--and so was I.

"And we've got to hang about," grumbled the newcomer, "till he comes
out again?"

"That's it. We can't miss him. He must come back into the square or
through into the gardens, and if he does that he'll have to come over
these here railings into Field Court. We got him either way, and there's
a step just here where we can sit and see both ways as though it had been
made for us. You come and try ... a door into the old hall ..."

That was all I heard distinctly; first their footsteps, and then the few
extra yards, made the rest unintelligible. But I had heard enough. "The
usual ladder and trap-door!" Those blessed words alone might prove worth
their weight in great letters of solid gold.

Now I could breathe again; now I relaxed my body and turned my head, and
peered through the arch with impunity, and along the whole western side
of Gray's Inn Square, with its dusky fringe of plane-trees and its vivid
line of lamps, its strip of pavement, and its wall of many-windowed
houses under one unbroken roof. Dim lights smouldered in the column of
landing windows over every door; otherwise there was no break in the
blackness of that gaunt façade. Yet in some dark room or other behind
those walls I seemed to see Raffles at work as plainly as I had just
heard our natural enemies plotting his destruction. I saw him at a safe.
I saw him at a desk. I saw him leaving everything as he had found it,
only to steal down and out into the very arms of the law. And I felt that
even that desperate _dénouement_ was little more than he deserved for
letting me think myself accessory before the fact, when all the time he
meant me to have nothing whatever to do with it! Well, I should have
everything to do with it now; if Raffles was to be saved from the
consequences of his own insanity, I and I alone must save him. It was the
chance of my life to show him my real worth. And yet the difficulty of
the thing might have daunted Raffles himself.

I knew what to do if only I could gain the house which he had made the
base of his own operations; at least I knew what to attempt, and what
Raffles had done I might do. So far the wily couple within earshot had
helped me out of their own mouths. But they were only just round the
corner that hid them from my view; stray words still reached me; and they
knew me by sight, would recognise me at a glance, might pounce upon me as
I passed. Unless--

_I_ had it!

The crowd in Holborn seemed strange and unreal as I jostled in its midst
once more. I was out of it in a moment, however, and into a 'bus, and out
of the 'bus in a couple of minutes by my watch. One more minute and I was
seeing how far back I could sit in a hansom bound for Gray's Inn Square.

"I forget the number," I had told the cabman, "but it's three or four
doors beyond Burroughs and Burroughs, the solicitors."

The gate into Holborn had to be opened for me, but the gate-keeper had
not seen me on my previous entrance and exit afoot through the postern.
It was when we drove under the further arch into the actual square that I
pressed my head hard against the back of the hansom, and turned my face
towards Field Court. The enemy might have abandoned their position, they
might meet me face to face as I landed on the pavement; that was my risk,
and I ran it without disaster. We passed the only house with an outer
door to it in the square (now there is none), and on the plate beside it
I read BURROUGHS AND BURROUGHS with a thrill. Up went my stick; my
shilling (with a peculiarly superfluous sixpence for luck) I thrust
through the trap with the other hand; and I was across the pavement, and
on the stairs four clear doors beyond the lawyer's office, before the
driver had begun to turn his horse.

They were broad bare stairs, with great office doors right and left on
every landing, and in the middle the landing window looking out into the
square. I waited well within the window on the first floor; and as my
hansom drove out under the arch, the light of its near lamp flashed
across two figures lounging on the steps of that entrance to the hall;
but there was no stopping or challenging the cabman, no sound at all but
those of hoofs and bell, and soon only that of my own heart beating as I
fled up the rest of the stairs in my rubber soles.

Near the top I paused to thank my kindly stars; sure enough there was a
long step-ladder hanging on a great nail over the last half-landing, and
a square trap-door right over the landing proper! I ran up just to see
the names on the two top doors; one was evidently that of some
pettifogging firm of solicitors, while the other bespoke a private
resident, whom I judged to be out of town by the congestion of postal
matter that met my fingers in his letter-box. Neither had any terrors for
me. The step-ladder was unhooked without another moment's hesitation.
Care alone was necessary to place it in position without making a noise;
then up I went, and up went the trapdoor next, without mishap or
hindrance until I tried to stand up in the loft, and caught my head a
crack against the tiles instead.

This was disconcerting in more ways than one, for I could not leave the
ladder where it was, and it was nearly twice my height. I struck a match
and lit up a sufficient perspective of lumber and cobwebs to reassure me.
The loft was long enough, and the trap-door plumb under the apex of the
roof, whereas I had stepped sideways off the ladder. It was to be got up,
and I got it up, though not by any means as silently as I could have
wished. I knelt and listened at the open trap-door for a good minute
before closing it with great caution, a squeak and a scuttle in the loft
itself being the only sign that I had disturbed a living creature.

There was a grimy dormer window, not looking down into the square, but
leading like a companion hatchway into a valley of once red tiles, now
stained blue-black in the starlight. It was great to stand upright here
in the pure night air out of sight of man or beast. Smokeless
chimney-stacks deleted whole pages of stars, but put me more in mind of
pollards rising out of these rigid valleys, and sprouting with telephone
wires that interlaced for foliage. The valley I was in ended fore and
aft in a similar slope to that at either side; the length of it
doubtless tallied with the frontage of a single house; and when I had
clambered over the southern extremity into a precisely similar valley I
saw that this must be the case. I had entered the fourth house beyond
Burroughs and Burroughs's, or was it the fifth? I threaded three
valleys, and then I knew.

In all three there had been dormer windows on either hand, that on the
square side leading into the loft; the other, or others, forming a sort
of skylight to some top-floor room. Suddenly I struck one of these
standing very wide open, and trod upon a rope's end curled like a snake
on the leads. I stooped down, and at a touch I knew that I had hold of
Raffles's favourite Manila, which united a silken flexibility with the
strength of any hawser. It was tied to the window-post, and it dangled
into a room in which there was a dull red glow of fire: an inhabited room
if ever I put my nose in one! My body must follow, however, where Raffles
had led the way; and when it did I came to ground sooner than I expected
on something less secure. The dying firelight, struggling through the
bars of a kitchen range, showed my tennis-shoes in the middle of the
kitchen table. A cat was stretching itself on the hearth-rug as I made a
step of a wooden chair, and came down like a cat myself.

I found the kitchen door, found a passage so dark that the window at the
end hung like a picture slashed across the middle. Yet it only looked
into the square, for I peered out when I had crept along the passage, and
even thought I both heard and saw the enemy at their old post. But I was
in another enemy's country now; at every step I stopped to listen for the
thud of feet bounding out of bed. Hearing nothing, I had the temerity at
last to strike a match upon my trousers, and by its light I found the
outer door. This was not bolted nor yet shut; it was merely ajar, and so
I left it.

The rooms opposite appeared to be an empty set; those on the second and
first floors were only partially shut off by swing doors leading to
different departments of the mighty offices of Burroughs and Burroughs.
There were no lights upon these landings, and I gathered my information
by means of successive matches, whose tell-tale ends I carefully
concealed about my person, and from copious legends painted on the walls.
Thus I had little difficulty in groping my way to the private offices of
Sir John Burroughs, head of the celebrated firm; but I looked in vain for
a layer of light under any of the massive mahogany doors with which this
portion of the premises was glorified. Then I began softly trying doors
that proved to be locked. Only one yielded to my hand; and when it was a
few inches open, all was still black; but the next few brought me to the
end of my quest, and the close of my solitary adventures.


A Midsummer Night's Work

The dense and total darkness was broken in one place, and one only, by a
plateful of light proceeding from a tiny bulb of incandescence in its
centre. This blinding atom of white heat lit up a hand hardly moving, a
pen continually poised, over a disc of snowy paper; and on the other
side, something that lay handy on the table, reflecting the light in its
plated parts. It was Raffles at his latest deviltry. He had not heard me,
and he could not see; but for that matter he never looked up from his
task. Sometimes his face bent over it, and I could watch its absolute
concentration. The brow was furrowed, and the mouth pursed, yet there was
a hint of the same quiet and wary smile with which Raffles would bowl an
over or drill holes in a door.

I stood for some moments fascinated, entranced, before creeping in to
warn him of my presence in a whisper. But this time he heard my step,
snatched up electric torch and glittering revolver, and covered me with
the one in the other's light.

"A.J.!" I gasped.

"Bunny!" he exclaimed in equal amazement and displeasure. "What the devil
do you mean by this?"

"You're in danger," I whispered. "I came to warn you!"

"Danger? I'm never out of it. But how did you know where to find me, and
how on God's earth did _you_ get here?"

"I'll tell you some other time. You know those two brutes you dodged the
other day?"

"I ought to."

"They're waiting below for you at this very moment."

Raffles peered a few moments through the handful of white light between
our faces.

"Let them wait!" said he, and replaced the torch upon the table and put
down his revolver for his pen.

"They're detectives!" I urged.

"Are they, Bunny?"

"What else could they be?"

"What, indeed!" murmured Raffles, as he fell to work again with bent head
and deliberate pen.

"You gave them the slip on Friday, but they must have known your game and
lain in wait for you here, one or other of them, ever since. It's my
belief Dan Levy put them up to it, and the yarn about the letter was just
to tempt you into this trap and get you caught in the act. He didn't want
a copy one bit; for God's sake, don't stop to finish it now!"

"I don't agree with you," said Raffles without looking up, "and I don't
do things by halves, Your precious detectives must have patience. Bunny,
and so must you." He held his watch to the bulb. "In about twenty minutes
there'll be real danger, but we couldn't be safer in our beds for the
next ten. So perhaps you'll let me finish without further interruption,
or else get out by yourself as you came in."

I turned away from Raffles and his light, and blundered back to the
landing. The blood boiled in my veins. Here had I fought and groped my
way to his side, through difficulties it might have taxed even him to
surmount, as one man swims ashore with a rope from the wreck, at the same
mortal risk, with the same humane purpose. And not a word of thanks, not
one syllable of congratulation, but "get out by yourself as you came in!"
I had more than half a mind to get out, and for good; nay, as I stood and
listened on the landing, I could have found it in my outraged heart to
welcome those very sleuthhounds from the square, with a cordon of police
behind them.

Yet my boiling blood ran cold when warm breath smote my cheek and a hand
my shoulder at one and the same awful moment.

"Raffles!" I cried in a strangled voice.

"Hush, Bunny!" he chuckled in my ear. "Didn't you know who it was?"

"I never heard you; why did you steal on me like that?"

"You see you're not the only one who can do it, Bunny! I own it would
have served me right if you'd brought the square about our ears."

"Have you finished in there?" I asked gruffly.


"Then you'd better hurry up and put everything as you found it."

"It's all done, Bunny; red tape tied on such a perfect forgery that
the crux will be to prove it is one; safe locked up, and every paper
in its place."

"I never heard a sound."

"I never made one," said Raffles, leading me upstairs by the arm. "You
see how you put me on my mettle, Bunny, old boy!"

I said no more till we reached the self-contained flat at the top of the
house; then I begged Raffles to be quiet in a lower whisper than his own.

"Why, Bunny? Do you think there are people inside?"

"Aren't there?" I cried aloud in my relief.

"You flatter me, Bunny!" laughed Raffles, as we groped our way in. "This
is where they keep their John Bulldog, a magnificent figure of a
commissionaire with the V.C. itself on his manly bosom. Catch me come
when he was at home; one of us would have had to die, and it would have
been a shame either way. Poor pussy, then, poor puss!"

We had reached the kitchen and the cat was rubbing itself against
Raffles's legs.

"But how on earth did you get rid of him for the night?"

"Made friends with him when I called on Friday; didn't I tell you I had
an appointment with the bloated head of this notorious firm when I
cleared out of Lord's? I'm about to strengthen his already unrivalled
list of clients; you shall hear all about that later. We had another
interview this afternoon, when I asked my V.C. if he ever went to the
theatre; you see he had spotted Tom Fool, and told me he never had a
chance of getting to Lord's. So I got him tickets for 'Rosemary' instead,
but of course I swore they had just been given to me and I couldn't use
them. You should have seen how the hero beamed! So that's where he is,
he and his wife--or was, until the curtain went down."

"Good Lord, Raffles, is the piece over?"

"Nearly ten minutes ago, but it'll take 'em all that unless they come
home in a cab."

And Raffles had been sitting before the fire, on the kitchen table,
encouraging the cat, when this formidable V.C. and his wife must be
coming every instant nearer Gray's Inn Square!

"Why, my dear Bunny, I should back myself to swarm up and out without
making a sound or leaving a sign, if I heard our hero's key in the lock
this moment. After you, Bunny."

I climbed up with trembling knees, Raffles holding the rope taut to make
it easier. Once more I stood upright under the stars and the telephone
wires, and leaned against a chimney-stack to wait for Raffles. But before
I saw him, before I even heard his unnecessarily noiseless movements, I
heard something else that sent a chill all through me.

It was not the sound of a key in the lock. It was something far worse
than that. It was the sound of voices on the roof, and of footsteps
drawing nearer through the very next valley of leads and tiles.

I was crouching on the leads outside the dormer window as Raffles
climbed into sight within.

"They're after us up here!" I whispered in his face. "On the next roof! I
hear them!"

Up came Raffles with his hands upon the sill, then with his knees between
his hands, and so out on all-fours into the narrow rivulet of lead
between the sloping tiles. Out of the opposite slope, a yard or two on,
rose a stout stack of masonry, a many-headed monster with a chimney-pot
on each, and a full supply of wires for whiskers. Behind this Gorgon of
the house-tops Raffles hustled me without a word, and himself took
shelter as the muffled voices on the next roof grew more distinct. They
were the voices that I had overheard already in the square, the voices
but not the tones. The tones--the words--were those of an enemy divided
against itself.

"And now we've gone and come too far!" grumbled the one who had been last
to arrive upon the scene below.

"We did that," the other muttered, "the moment we came in after 'em. We
should've stopped where we were."

"With that other cove driving up and going in without ever showing a

Raffles nudged me, and I saw what I had done. But the weakling of the
pair still defended the position he had reluctantly abandoned on _terra
firma_; he was all for returning while there was time; and there were
fragments of the broken argument that were beginning to puzzle me when a
soft oath from the man in front proclaimed the discovery of the open
window and the rope.

"We got 'em," he whispered, stagily, "like rats in a trap!"

"You forget what it is we've got to get."

"Well, we must first catch our man, mustn't we? And how d'ye know his pal
hasn't gone in to warn him where we were? If he has, and we'd stopped
there, they'd do us easy."

"They may do us easier down there in the dark," replied the other, with a
palpable shiver. "They'll hear us and lie in wait. In the dark! We shan't
have a dog's chance."

"All right! You get out of it and save your skin. I'd rather work alone
than with a blessed funk!"

The situation was identical with many a one in the past between Raffles
and me. The poor brute in my part resented the charge against his courage
as warmly as I had always done. He was merely for the better part of
valour, and how right he was Raffles and I only knew. I hoped the lesson
was not lost upon Raffles. Dialogue and action alike resembled one of
our own performances far more than ordinary police methods as we knew
them. We heard the squeeze of the leader's clothes and the rattle of his
buttons over the window ledge. "It's like old times," we heard him
mutter; and before many moments the weakling was impulsively whispering
down to know if he should follow.

I felt for that fellow at every stage of his unwilling proceedings. I was
to feel for him still more. Raffles had stepped down like a cat from
behind our cover; grasping an angle of the stack with either hand, I put
my head round after him. The wretched player of my old part was on his
haunches at the window, stooping forward, more in than out. I saw Raffles
grinning in the starlight, saw his foot poised and the other poor devil
disappear. Then a dull bump, then a double crash and such a cursing as
left no doubt that the second fellow had fallen plumb on top of the
first. Also from his language I fancied he would survive the fall.

But Raffles took no peep at his handiwork; hardly had the rope whipped
out at my feet than he had untied the other end.

"Like lamplighters, Bunny!"

And back we went helter-skelter along the valleys of lead and over the
hills of tile.... The noise in the kitchen died away as we put a roof or
two between us and that of Burroughs and Burroughs.

"This is where I came out," I called to Raffles as he passed the place.
"There's a ladder here where I left it in the loft!"

"No time for ladders!" cried Raffles over his shoulder, and not for some
moments did he stop in his stride. Nor was it I who stopped him then; it
was a sudden hubbub somewhere behind us, somewhere below; the blowing of
a police whistle, and the sound of many footsteps in the square.

"That's for us!" I gasped. "The ladder! The ladder!"

"Ladder be damned!" returned Raffles, roughly. "It isn't for us at all;
it's my pal the V.C. who has come home and bottled the other blighters."

"Thinking they're thieves?"

"Thinking any rot you like! Our course is over the rest of the roofs on
this side, over the whole lot at the top end, and, if possible, down the
last staircase in the corner. Then we only have to show ourselves in the
square for a tick before we're out by way of Verulam Buildings."

"Is there another gate there?" I asked as he scampered on with me
after him.

"Yes; but it's closed and the porter leaves at twelve, and it must be
jolly near that now. Wait, Bunny! Some one or other is sure to be looking
out of the top windows across the square; they'll see us if we take our
fences too freely!"

We had come to one of the transverse tile-slopes, which hitherto we had
run boldly up and down in our helpful and noiseless rubber soles; now,
not to show ourselves against the stars, to a stray pair of eyes on some
other high level, we crept up on all fours and rolled over at full
length. It added considerably to our time over more than a whole side of
the square. Meanwhile the police whistles had stopped, but the company in
the square had swollen audibly.

It seemed an age, but I suppose it was not many minutes, before we came
to the last of the dormer windows, looking into the last vale of tiles in
the north-east angle of the square. Something gleamed in the starlight,
there was a sharp little sound of splitting wood, and Raffles led me on
hands and knees into just such a loft as I had entered before by ladder.
His electric torch discovered the trapdoor at a gleam. Raffles opened it
and let down the rope, only to whisk it up again so smartly that it
struck my face like a whiplash.

A door had opened on the top landing. We listened over the open
trap-door, and knew that another stood listening on the invisible
threshold underneath; then we saw him running downstairs, and my heart
leapt for he never once looked up. I can see him still, foreshortened by
our bird's-eye view into a Turkish fez and a fringe of white hair and red
neck, a billow of dressing-gown, and bare heels peeping out of bedroom
slippers at every step that we could follow; but no face all the way
down, because he was a bent old boy who never looked like looking up.

Raffles threw his rope aside, gave me his hand instead, and dropped me on
the landing like a feather, dropping after me without a moment's pause.
In fact, the old fellow with the fez could hardly have completed his
descent of the stairs when we began ours. Yet through the landing window
we saw him charging diagonally across the square, shouting and
gesticulating in his flight to the gathering crowd near the far corner.

"He spotted us, Bunny!" exclaimed Raffles, after listening an instant
in the entrance. "Stick to me like my shadow, and do every blessed
thing I do."

Out he dived, I after him, and round to the left with the speed of
lightning, but apparently not without the lightning's attribute of
attracting attention to itself. There was a hullabaloo across the square
behind us, and I looked round to see the crowd there breaking in our
direction, as I rushed after Raffles under an arch and up the alley in
front of Verulam Buildings.

It was striking midnight as we made our sprint along this alley, and at
the far end the porter was preparing to depart, but he waited to let us
through the gate into Gray's Inn Road, and not until he had done so can
the hounds have entered the straight. We did not hear them till the gate
had clanged behind us, nor had it opened again before we were high and
dry in a hansom.

"King's Cross!" roared Raffles for all the street to hear; but before we
reached Clerkenwell Road he said he meant Waterloo, and round we went to
the right along the tram-lines. I was too breathless to ask questions,
and Raffles offered no explanations until he had lit a Sullivan. "That
little bit of wrong way may lose us our train," he said as he puffed the
first cloud. "But it'll shoot the whole field to King's Cross as sure as
scent is scent; and if we do catch our train, Bunny, we shall have it to
ourselves as far as this pack is concerned. Hurrah! Blackfriar's Bridge
and a good five minutes to go!"

"You're going straight down to Levy's with the letter?"

"Yes; that's why I wanted you to meet me under the clock at twelve."

"But why in tennis-shoes?" I asked, recalling the injunctions in his
note, and the meaning that I had naturally read into them.

"I thought we might possibly finish the night on the river," replied
Raffles, darkly. "I think so still."

"And _I_ thought you meant me to lend you a hand in Gray's Inn!"

Raffles laughed.

"The less you think, my dear old Bunny, the better it always is!
To-night, for example, you have performed prodigies on my account; your
unselfish audacity has only been equalled by your resource; but, my dear
fellow, it was a sadly unnecessary effort."

"Unnecessary to tell you those brutes were waiting for you down below?"

"Quite, Bunny. I saw one of them and let him see me. I knew he'd send off
for his pal."

"Then I don't understand your tactics or theirs."

"Mine were to walk out the very way we did, you and I. They would never
have seen me from the opposite corner of the square, or dreamt of going
in after me if they hadn't spotted your getting in before them to put me
on my guard. The place would have been left exactly as I found it, and
those two numskulls as much in the lurch as I left them last week outside
the Albany."

"Perhaps they were beginning to fear that," said I, "and meant ferreting
for you in any case if you didn't show up."

"Not they," said Raffles. "One of them was against it as it was; it
wasn't their job at all."

"Not to take you in the act if they could?"

"No; their job was to take the letter from me as soon as I got back to
earth. That was all. I happen to know. Those were their instructions from
old Levy."


"Did it never occur to you that I was being dogged by his creatures?"

"His creatures, Raffles?"

"He set them to shadow me from the hour of our interview on Saturday
morning. Their instructions were to bag the letter from me as soon as I
got it, but to let me go free to the devil!"

"How can you know, A.J.?"

"My dear Bunny, where do you suppose I've been spending the week-end? Did
you think I'd go in with a sly dog like old Shylock without watching him
and finding out his real game? I should have thought it hardly necessary
to tell you I've been down the river all the time; down the river,"
added Raffles, chuckling, "in a Canadian canoe and a torpedo beard! I was
cruising near the foot of the old brute's garden on Friday evening when
one of the precious pair came down to tell him they had let me slip
already. I landed and heard the whole thing through the window of the
room where we shall find him to-night. It was Levy who set them to watch
the crib since they'd lost the cracksman; he was good enough to reiterate
all his orders for my benefit. You will hear me take him through them
when we get down there, so it's no use going over the same ground twice."

"Funny orders for a couple of Scotland Yard detectives!" was my puzzled
comment as Raffles produced an inordinate cab-fare.

"Scotland Yard?" said he. "My good Bunny, those were no limbs of the law;
they're old thieves set to catch a thief, and they've been caught
themselves for their pains!"

Of course they were! Every detail of their appearance and their behaviour
confirmed the statement in the flash that brought them all before my
mind! And I had never thought of it, never but dreamt that we were doing
battle with the archenemies of our class. But there was no time for
further reflection, nor had I recovered breath enough for another word,
when the hansom clattered up the cobbles into Waterloo Station. And our
last sprint of that athletic night ended in a simultaneous leap into
separate carriages as the platform slid away from the 12:10 train.


Knocked Out

But it was hardly likely to be the last excitement of the night, as I saw
for myself before Raffles joined me at Vauxhall. An arch-traitor like
Daniel Levy might at least be trusted to play the game out with loaded
dice; no single sportsman could compete against his callous machinations;
and that was obviously where I was coming in. I only wished I had not
come in before! I saw now the harm that I had done by my rash proceedings
in Gray's Inn, the extra risk entailed already and a worse one still
impending. If the wretches who had shadowed him were really Levy's
mercenaries, and if they really had been taken in their own trap, their
first measure of self-defence would be the denunciation of Raffles to the
real police. Such at least was my idea, and Raffles himself made light
enough of it; he thought they could not expose him without dragging in
Levy, who had probably made it worth their while not to do that on any
consideration. His magnanimity in the matter, which he flatly refused to
take as seriously as I did, made it difficult for me to press old
Raffles, as I otherwise might have done, for an outline of those further
plans in which I hoped to atone for my blunders by being of some use to
him after all. His nonchalant manner convinced me that they were
cut-and-dried; but I was left perhaps deservedly in the dark as to the
details. I merely gathered that he had brought down some document for
Levy to sign in execution of the verbal agreement made between them in
town; not until that agreement was completed by his signature was the
harpy to receive the precious epistle he pretended never to have written.
Raffles, in fine, had the air of a man who has the game in his hands, who
is none the less prepared for foul play on the other side, and by no
means perturbed at the prospect.

We left the train at a sweet-smelling platform, on which the lights were
being extinguished as we turned into a quiet road where bats flew over
our heads between the lamp-posts, and a policeman was passing a disc of
light over a jerry-built abuse of the name of Queen Anne. Our way led
through quieter roads of larger houses standing further back, until at
last we came to the enemy's gates. They were wooden gates without a
lodge, yet the house set well beyond them, on the river's brim, was a
mansion of considerable size and still greater peculiarity. It was really
two houses, large and small, connected by a spine of white posts and
joists and glimmering glass. In the more substantial building no lights
were to be seen from the gates, but in the annex a large French window
made a lighted square at right angles with the river and the road. We had
set foot in the gravel drive; with a long line of poplars down one side,
and on the other a wide lawn dotted with cedars and small shrubs, when
Raffles strode among these with a smothered exclamation, and a wild
figure started from the ground.

"What are you doing here?" demanded Raffles, with all the righteous
austerity of a law-abiding citizen.

"Nutting, sare!" replied an alien tongue, a gleam of good teeth in the
shadow of his great soft hat. "I been see Mistare Le-vie in ze 'ouse, on
ze beezness, shentlemen."

"Seen him, have you? Then if I were you I should make a decent
departure," said Raffles, "by the gate--" to which he pointed with
increased severity of tone and bearing.

The weird figure uncovered a shaggy head of hair, made us a grotesque bow
with his right hand melodramatically buried in the folds of a voluminous
cape, and stalked off in the starlight with much dignity. But we heard
him running in the road before the gate had clicked behind him.

"Isn't that the fellow we saw in Jermyn Street last Thursday?" I asked
Raffles in a whisper.

"That's the chap," he whispered back. "I wonder if he spotted us, Bunny?
Levy's treated him scandalously, of course; it all came out in a torrent
the other morning. I only hope he hasn't been serving Dan Levy as Jack
Rutter served old Baird! I could swear that was a weapon of sorts he'd
got under his cloak."

And as we stood together under the stars, listening to the last of the
runaway footfalls, I recalled the killing of another and a less notorious
usurer by a man we both knew, and had even helped to shield from the
consequences of his crime. Yet the memory of our terrible discovery on
that occasion had not the effect of making me shrink from such another
now; nor could I echo the hope of Raffles in my heart of hearts. If Dan
Levy also had come to a bad end--well, it was no more than he deserved,
if only for his treachery to Raffles, and, at any rate, it would put a
stop to our plunging from bad to worse in an adventure of which the
sequel might well be worst of all. I do not say that I was wicked enough
absolutely to desire the death of this sinner for our benefit; but I saw
the benefit at least as plainly as the awful possibility, and it was not
with unalloyed relief that I beheld a great figure stride through the
lighted windows at our nearer approach.

Though his back was to the light before I saw his face, and the whole man
might have been hacked out of ebony, it was every inch the living Levy
who stood peering in our direction, one hand hollowed at an ear, the
other shading both eyes.

"Is that you, boys?" he croaked in sepulchral salute.

"It depends which boys you mean," replied Raffles, marching into the zone
of light. "There are so many of us about to-night!"

Levy's arms dropped at his sides, and I heard him mutter "Raffles!" with
a malediction. Next moment he was inquiring whether we had come down
alone, yet peering past us into the velvet night for his answer.

"I brought our friend Bunny," said Raffles, "but that's all."

"Then what do you mean by saying there are so many of you about?"

"I was thinking of the gentleman who was here just before us."

"Here just before you? Why, I haven't seen a soul since my 'ousehold
went to bed."

"But we met the fellow just this minute within your gates: a little
foreign devil with a head like a mop and the cloak of an operatic

"That beggar!" cried Levy, flying into a high state of excitement on the
spot. "That blessed little beggar on my tracks down here! I've 'ad him
thrown out of the office in Jermyn Street; he's threatened me by letter
and telegram; so now he thinks he'll come and try it on in person down
'ere. Seen me, eh? I wish I'd seen '_im_! I'm ready for biters like that,
gentlemen. I'm not to be caught on the 'op down here!"

And a plated revolver twinkled and flashed in the electric light as Levy
drew it from his hip pocket and flourished it in our faces; he would have
gone prowling through the grounds with it if Raffles had not assured him
that the foreign foe had fled on our arrival. As it was the pistol was
not put back in his pocket when Levy at length conducted us indoors; he
placed it on an occasional table beside the glass that he drained on
entering; and forthwith set his back to a fire which seemed in keeping
with the advanced hour, and doubly welcome in an apartment so vast that
the billiard table was a mere item at one end, and sundry trophies of
travel and the chase a far more striking and unforeseen feature.

"Why, that's a better grisly than the one at Lord's!" exclaimed Raffles,
pausing to admire a glorious fellow near the door, while I mixed myself
the drink he had declined.

"Yes," said Levy, "the man that shot all this lot used to go about saying
he'd shoot _me_ at one time; but I need 'ardly tell you he gave it up as
a bad job, and went an' did what some folks call a worse instead. He
didn't get much show 'ere, _I_ can tell you; that little foreign snipe
won't either, nor yet any other carrion that think they want my blood.
I'd empty this shooter o' mine into their in'ards as soon as look at 'em,
I don't give a curse who they are! Just as well I wasn't brought up to
your profession, eh, Raffles?"

"I don't quite follow you, Mr. Levy."

"Oh yes you do!" said the money-lender, with his gastric chuckle. "How've
you got on with that little bit o' burgling?"

And I saw him screw up his bright eyes, and glance through the open
windows into the outer darkness, as though there was still a hope in his
mind that we had not come down alone. I formed the impression that Levy
had returned by a fairly late train himself, for he was in morning dress,
in dusty boots, and there was an abundant supply of sandwiches on the
table with the drinks. But he seemed to have confined his own attentions
to the bottle, and I liked to think that the sandwiches had been cut for
the two emissaries for whom he was welcome to look out for all night.

"How did you get on?" he repeated when he had given them up for
the present.

"For a first attempt," replied Raffles, without a twinkle, "I don't think
I've done so badly."

"Ah! I keep forgetting you're a young beginner," said Levy, catching the
old note in his turn.

"A beginner who's scarcely likely to go on, Mr. Levy, if all cribs are as
easy to crack as that lawyers' office of yours in Gray's Inn Square."

"As easy?"

Raffles recollected his pose.

"It was enormous fun," said he. "Of course one couldn't know that
there would be no hitch. There was an exciting moment towards the end.
I have to thank you for quite a new thrill of sorts. But, my dear Mr.
Levy, it was as easy as ringing the bell and being shown in; it only
took rather longer."

"What about the caretaker?" asked the usurer, with a curiosity no longer
to be concealed.

"He obliged me by taking his wife to the theatre."

"At your expense?"

"No, Mr. Levy, the item will be debited to you in due course."

"So you got in without any difficulty?"

"Over the roof."

"And then?"

"I hit upon the right room."

"And then, Raffles?"

"I opened the right safe."

"Go on, man!"

But the man was only going on at his own rate, and the more Levy pressed
him, the greater his apparent reluctance to go on at all.

"Well, I found the letter all right. Oh, yes, I made a copy of it. Was it
a good copy? Almost too good, if you ask me." Thus Raffles under
increasing pressure.

"Well? Well? You left that one there, I suppose? What happened next?"

There was no longer any masking the moneylender's eagerness to extract
the _dénouement_ of Raffles's adventure; that it required extracting must
have seemed a sufficient earnest of the ultimate misadventure so craftily
plotted by Levy himself. His great nose glowed with the imminence of
victory. His strong lips loosened their habitual hold upon each other,
and there was an impressionist daub of yellow fang between. The brilliant
little eyes were reduced to sparkling pinheads of malevolent glee. This
was not the fighting face I knew better and despised less, it was the
living epitome of low cunning and foul play.

"The next thing that happened," said Raffles, in his most leisurely
manner, "was the descent of Bunny like a bolt from the blue."

"Had he gone in with you?"

"No; he came in after me as bold as blazes to say that a couple of
common, low detectives were waiting for me down below in the square!"

"That was very kind of 'im," snarled Levy, pouring a murderous fire upon
my person from his little black eyes.

"Kind!" cried Raffles. "It saved the whole show."

"It did, did it?"

"I had time to dodge the limbs of the law by getting out another way, and
never letting them know that I had got out at all."

"Then you left them there?"

"In their glory!" said Raffles, radiant in his own.

Though I must confess I could not see them at the time, there were
excellent reasons for not stating there and then the delicious plight in
which we had really left Levy's myrmidons. I myself would have driven
home our triumph and his treachery by throwing our winning cards upon the
table and simultaneously exposing his false play. But Raffles was right,
and I should have been wrong, as I was soon enough to see for myself.

"And you came away, I suppose," suggested the money-lender, ironically,
"with my original letter in your pocket?"

"Oh, no, I didn't," replied Raffles, with a reproving shake of the head.

"I thought not!" cried Levy in a gust of exultation.

"I came away," said Raffles, "if you'll pardon the correction, with the
letter you never dreamt of writing, Mr. Levy!"

The Jew turned a deeper shade of yellow; but he had the wisdom and the
self-control otherwise to ignore the point against him. "You'd better let
me see it," said he, and flung out his open hand with a gesture of
authority which it took a Raffles to resist.

Levy was still standing with his back to the fire, and I was at his feet
in a saddle-bag chair, with my yellow beaker on the table at my elbow.
But Raffles remained aloof upon his legs, and he withdrew still further
from the fire as he unfolded a large sheet of office paper, stamped with
the notorious address in Jermyn Street, and displayed it on high like a

"You may see, by all means, Mr. Levy," said Raffles, with a slight but
sufficient emphasis on his verb.

"But I'm not to touch--is that it?"

"I'm afraid I must ask you to look first," said Raffles, smiling. "I
should suggest, however, that you exercise the same caution in showing me
that part of your _quid pro quo_ which you have doubtless in readiness;
the other part is in my pocket ready for you to sign; and after that, the
three little papers can change hands simultaneously."

Nothing could have excelled the firmness of this intimation, except the
exggravating delicacy with which it was conveyed. I saw Levy clench and
unclench his great fists, and his canine jaw working protuberantly as he
ground his teeth. But not a word escaped him, and I was admiring the
monster's self-control when of a sudden he swooped upon the table at my
side, completely filled his empty glass with neat whiskey, and,
spluttering and blinking from an enormous gulp, made a lurch for Raffles
with his drink in one hand and his plated pistol in the other.

"Now I'll have a look," he hiccoughed, "an' a good look, unless you want
a lump of lead in your liver!"

Raffles awaited his uncertain advance with a contemptuous smile.

"You're not such a fool as all that, Mr. Levy, drunk or sober," said he;
but his eye was on the waving weapon, and so was mine; and I was
wondering how a man could have got so very suddenly drunk, when the
nobbler of crude spirit was hurled with most sober aim, glass and all,
full in the face of Raffles, and the letter plucked from his grasp and
flung upon the fire, while Raffles was still reeling in his blindness,
and before I had struggled to my feet.

Raffles, for the moment, was absolutely blinded; as I say, his face was
streaming with blood and whiskey, and the prince of traitors already
crowing over his vile handiwork. But that was only for a moment, too; the
blackguard had been fool enough to turn his back on me; and, first
jumping upon my chair, I sprang upon him like any leopard, and brought
him down with my ten fingers in his neck, and such a crack on the parquet
with his skull as left it a deadweight on my hands. I remember the
rasping of his bristles as I disengaged my fingers and let the leaden
head fall back; it fell sideways now, and if it had but looked less dead
I believe I should have stamped the life out of the reptile on the spot.

I know that I rose exultant from my deed....


Corpus Delicti

Raffles was still stamping and staggering with his knuckles in his eyes,
and I heard him saying, "The letter, Bunny, the letter!" in a way that
made me realise all at once that he had been saying nothing else since
the moment of the foul assault. It was too late now and must have been
from the first; a few filmy scraps of blackened paper, stirring on the
hearth, were all that remained of the letter by which Levy had set such
store, for which Raffles had risked so much.

"He's burnt it," said I. "He was too quick for me."

"And he's nearly burnt my eyes out," returned Raffles, rubbing them
again. "He was too quick for us both."

"Not altogether," said I, grimly. "I believe I've cracked his skull and
finished him off!"

Raffles rubbed and rubbed until his bloodshot eyes were blinking out of a
blood-stained face into that of the fallen man. He found and felt the
pulse in a wrist like a ship's cable.

"No, Bunny, there's some life in him yet! Run out and see if there are
any lights in the other part of the house."

When I came back Raffles was listening at the door leading into the long
glass passage.

"Not a light!" said I.

"Nor a sound," he whispered. "We're in better luck than we might have
been; even his revolver didn't go off." Raffles extracted it from under
the prostrate body. "It might just as easily have gone off and shot him,
or one of us." And he put the pistol in his own pocket.

"But have I killed him, Raffles?"

"Not yet, Bunny."

"But do you think he's going to die?"

I was overcome by reaction now; my knees knocked together, my teeth
chattered in my head; nor could I look any longer upon the great body
sprawling prone, or the insensate head twisted sideways on the
parquet floor.

"He's all right," said Raffles, when he had knelt and felt and listened
again. I whimpered a pious but inconsistent ejaculation. Raffles sat back
on his heels, and meditatively wiped a smear of his own blood from the
polished floor. "You'd better leave him to me," he said, looking and
getting up with sudden decision.

"But what am I to do?"

"Go down to the boathouse and wait in the boat."

"Where is the boathouse?"

"You can't miss it if you follow the lawn down to the water's edge.
There's a door on this side; if it isn't open, force it with this."

And he passed me his pocket jimmy as naturally as another would have
handed over a bunch of keys.

"And what then?"

"You'll find yourself on the top step leading down to the water; stand
tight, and lash out all round until you find a windlass. Wind that
windlass as gingerly as though it were a watch with a weak heart; you
will be raising a kind of portcullis at the other end of the boathouse,
but if you're heard doing it at dead of night we may have to run or swim
for it. Raise the thing just high enough to let us under in the boat, and
then lie low on board till I come."

Reluctant to leave that ghastly form upon the floor, but now stricken
helpless in its presence, I was softer wax than ever in the hands of
Raffles, and soon found myself alone in the dew upon an errand in which I
neither saw nor sought for any point. Enough that Raffles had given me
something to do for our salvation; what part he had assigned to himself,
what he was about indoors already, and the nature of his ultimate design,
were questions quite beyond me for the moment. I did not worry about
them. Had I killed my man? That was the one thing that mattered to me,
and I frankly doubt whether even it mattered at the time so supremely as
it seemed to have mattered now. Away from the _corpus delicti_, my horror
was already less of the deed than of the consequences, and I had quite a
level view of those. What I had done was barely even manslaughter at the
worst. But at the best the man was not dead. Raffles was bringing him to
life again. Alive or dead, I could trust him to Raffles, and go about my
own part of the business, as indeed I did in a kind of torpor of the
normal sensibilities.

Not much do I remember of that dreamy interval, until the dream became
the nightmare that was still in store. The river ran like a broad road
under the stars, with hardly a glimmer and not a floating thing upon it.
The boathouse stood at the foot of a file of poplars, and I only found it
by stooping low and getting everything over my own height against the
stars. The door was not locked; but the darkness within was such that I
could not see my own hand as it wound the windlass inch by inch. Between
the slow ticking of the cogs I listened jealously for foreign sounds, and
heard at length a gentle dripping across the breadth of the boathouse;
that was the last of the "portcullis," as Raffles called it, rising out
of the river; indeed, I could now see the difference in the stretch of
stream underneath, for the open end of the boathouse was much less dark
than mine; and when the faint band of reflected starlight had broadened
as I thought enough, I ceased winding and groped my way down the steps
into the boat.

But inaction at such a crisis was an intolerable state, and the last
thing I wanted was time to think. With nothing more to do I must needs
wonder what I was doing in the boat, and then what Raffles could want
with the boat if it was true that Levy was not seriously hurt. I could
see the strategic value of my position if we had been robbing the house,
but Raffles was not out for robbery this time; and I did not believe he
would suddenly change his mind. Gould it be that he had never been quite
confident of the recovery of Levy, but had sent me to prepare this means
of escape from the scene of a tragedy? I cannot have been long in the
boat, for my thwart was still rocking under me, when this suspicion shot
me ashore in a cold sweat. In my haste I went into the river up to one
knee, and ran across the lawn with that boot squelching. Raffles came out
of the lighted room to meet me, and as he stood like Levy against the
electric glare, the first thing I noticed was that he was wearing an
overcoat that did not belong to him, and that the pockets of this
overcoat were bulging grotesquely. But it was the last thing I remembered
in the horror that was to come.

Levy was lying where I had left him, only straighter, and with a cushion
under his head, as though he were not merely dead, but laid out in his
clothes where he had fallen.

"I was just coming for you, Bunny," whispered Raffles before I could find
my voice. "I want you to take hold of his boots."

"His boots!" I gasped, taking Raffles by the sleeve instead. "What on
earth for?"

"To carry him down to the boat!"

"But is he--is he still--"

"Alive?" Raffles was smiling as though I amused him mightily. "Rather,
Bunny! Too full of life to be left, I can tell you; but it'll be daylight
if we stop for explanations now. Are you going to lend a hand, or am I to
drag him through the dew myself?"

I lent every fibre, and Raffles raised the lifeless trunk, I suppose by
the armpits, and led the way backward into the night, after switching off
the lights within. But the first stage of our revolting journey was a
very short one. We deposited our poor burden as charily as possible on
the gravel, and I watched over it for some of the longest minutes of my
life, while Raffles shut and fastened all the windows, left the room as
Levy himself might have left it, and finally found his way out by one of
the doors. And all the while not a movement or a sound came from the
senseless clay at my feet; but once, when I bent over him, the smell of
whiskey was curiously vital and reassuring.

We started off again, Raffles with every muscle on the strain, I with
every nerve; this time we staggered across the lawn without a rest,
but at the boathouse we put him down in the dew, until I took off my
coat and we got him lying on that while we debated about the
boathouse, its darkness, and its steps. The combination beat us on a
moment's consideration; and again I was the one to stay, and watch,
and listen to my own heart beating; and then to the water bubbling at
the prow and dripping from the blades as Raffles sculled round to the
edge of the lawn.

I need dwell no more upon the difficulty and the horror of getting that
inanimate mass on board; both were bad enough, but candour compels me to
admit that the difficulty dwarfed all else until at last we overcame it.
How near we were to swamping our craft, and making sure of our victim by
drowning, I still shudder to remember; but I think it must have prevented
me from shuddering over more remote possibilities at the time. It was a
time, if ever there was one, to trust in Raffles and keep one's powder
dry; and to that extent I may say I played the game. But it was his game,
not mine, and its very object was unknown to me. Never, in fact, had I
followed my inveterate leader quite so implicitly, so blindly, or with
such reckless excitement. And yet, if the worst did happen and our mute
passenger was never to open his eyes again, it seemed to me that we were
well on the road to turn manslaughter into murder in the eyes of any
British jury: the road that might easily lead to destruction at the
hangman's hands.

But a more immediate menace seemed only to have awaited the actual moment
of embarkation, when, as we were pushing off, the rhythmical plash and
swish of a paddle fell suddenly upon our ears, and we clutched the bank
while a canoe shot down-stream within a length of us. Luckily the night
was as dark as ever, and all we saw of the paddler was a white shirt
fluttering as it passed. But there lay Levy with his heavy head between
my shins in the stern-sheets, with his waistcoat open, and _his_ white
shirt catching what light there was as greedily as the other; and his
white face as conspicuous to my guilty mind as though we had rubbed it
with phosphorus. Nor was I the only one to lay this last peril to heart.
Raffles sat silent for several minutes on his thwart; and when he did dip
his sculls it was to muffle his strokes so that even I could scarcely
hear them, and to keep peering behind him down the Stygian stream.

So long had we been getting under way that nothing surprised me more
than the extreme brevity of our actual voyage. Not many houses and
gardens had slipped behind us on the Middlesex shore, when we turned
into an inlet running under the very windows of a house so near the
river itself that even I might have thrown a stone from any one of them
into Surrey. The inlet was empty and ill-smelling; there was a crazy
landing-stage, and the many windows overlooking us had the black gloss
of empty darkness within. Seen by starlight with a troubled eye, the
house had one salient feature in the shape of a square tower, which
stood out from the facade fronting the river, and rose to nearly twice
the height of the main roof. But this curious excrescence only added to
the forbidding character of as gloomy a mansion as one could wish to
approach by stealth at dead of night.

"What's this place?" I whispered as Raffles made fast to a post.

"An unoccupied house, Bunny."

"Do you mean to occupy it?"

"I mean our passenger to do so--if we can land him alive or dead!"

"Hush, Raffles!"

"It's a case of heels first, this time--"

"Shut up!"

Raffles was kneeling on the landing-stage--luckily on a level with our
rowlocks--and reaching down into the boat.

"Give me his heels," he muttered; "you can look after his business end.
You needn't be afraid of waking the old hound, nor yet hurting him."

"I'm not," I whispered, though mere words had never made my blood run
colder. "You don't understand me. Listen to that!"

And as Raffles knelt on the landing-stage, and I crouched in the boat,
with something desperately like a dead man stretched between us, there
was a swish and a dip outside the inlet, and a flutter of white on the
river beyond.

"Another narrow squeak!" he muttered with grim levity when the sound had
died away. "I wonder who it is paddling his own canoe at dead of night?"

"I'm wondering how much he saw."

"Nothing," said Raffles, as though there could be no two opinions on the
point. "What did we see to swear to between a sweater and a
pocket-handkerchief? Only something white, and we were looking out, and
it's far darker in here than out there on the main stream. But it'll
soon be getting light, and we really may be seen unless we land our big
fish first."

And without more ado he dragged the lifeless Levy ashore by the heels,
while I alternately grasped the landing-stage to steady the boat, and did
my best to protect the limp members and the leaden head from actual
injury. All my efforts could not avert a few hard knocks, however, and
these were sustained with such a horrifying insensibility of body and
limb, that my worst suspicions were renewed before I crawled ashore
myself, and remained kneeling over the prostrate form.

"Are you certain, Raffles?" I began, and could not finish the
awful question.

"That he's alive?" said Raffles. "Rather, Bunny, and he'll be kicking
below the belt again in a few more hours!"

"A few more _hours_, A.J.?"

"I give him four or five."

"Then it's concussion of the brain!"

"It's the brain all right," said Raffles. "But for 'concussion' I should
say 'coma,' if I were you."

"What have I done!" I murmured, shaking my head over the poor old brute.

"You?" said Raffles. "Less than you think, perhaps!"

"But the man's never moved a muscle."

"Oh, yes, he has, Bunny!"


"I'll tell you at the next stage," said Raffles. "Up with his heels and
come this way."

And we trailed across a lawn so woefully neglected that the big body
sagging between us, though it cleared the ground by several inches, swept
the dew from the rank growth until we got it propped up on some steps at
the base of the tower, and Raffles ran up to open the door. More steps
there were within, stone steps allowing so little room for one foot and
so much for the other as to suggest a spiral staircase from top to bottom
of the tower. So it turned out to be; but there were landings
communicating with the house, and on the first of them we laid our man
and sat down to rest.

"How I love a silent, uncomplaining, stone staircase!" sighed the now
quite invisible Raffles. "So of course we find one thrown away upon an
empty house. Are you there, Bunny?"

"Rather! Are you quite sure nobody else is here?" I asked, for he was
scarcely troubling to lower his voice.

"Only Levy, and he won't count till all hours."

"I'm waiting to hear how you know."

"Have a Sullivan, first."

"Are we as safe as all that?"

"If we're careful to make an ash-tray of our own pockets," said Raffles,
and I heard him tapping his cigarette in the dark. I refused to run any
risks. Next moment his match revealed him sitting at the bottom of one
flight, and me at the top of the flight below; either spiral was lost in
shadow; and all I saw besides was a cloud of smoke from the blood-stained
lips of Raffles, more clouds of cobwebs, and Levy's boots lying over on
their uppers, almost in my lap. Raffles called my attention to them
before he blew out his match.

"He hasn't turned his toes up yet, you see! It's a hog's sleep, but not
by any means his last."

"Did you mean just now that he woke up while I was in the boathouse?"

"Almost as soon as your back was turned, Bunny--if you call it waking up.
You had knocked him out, you know, but only for a few minutes."

"Do you mean to tell me that he was none the worse?"

"Very little, Bunny."

My feeble heart jumped about in my body.

"Then what knocked him out again, A.J.?"

"I did."

"In the same way?"

"No, Bunny, he asked for a drink and I gave him one."

"A doctored drink!" I whispered with some horror; it was refreshing to
feel once more horrified at some act not one's own.

"So to speak," said Raffles, with a gesture that I followed by the red
end of his cigarette; "I certainly touched it up a bit, but I always
meant to touch up his liquor if the beggar went back on his word. He did
a good deal worse--for the second time of asking--and you did better than
I ever knew you do before, Bunny! I simply carried on the good work. Our
friend is full of a judicious blend of his own whiskey and the stuff poor
Teddy had the other night. And when he does come to his senses I believe
we shall find him damned sensible."

"And if he isn't, I suppose you'll keep him here until he is?"

"I shall hold him up to ransom," said Raffles, "at the top of this ruddy
tower, until he pays through both nostrils for the privilege of climbing
down alive."

"You mean until he stands by his side of your bargain?" said I, only
hoping that was his meaning, but not without other apprehensions which
Raffles speedily confirmed.

"And the rest!" he replied, significantly. "You don't suppose the skunk's
going to get off as lightly as if he'd played the game, do you? I've got
one of my own to play now, Bunny, and I mean to play it for all I'm
worth. I thought it would come to this!"

In fact, he had foreseen treachery from the first, and the desperate
device of kidnapping the traitor proved to have been as deliberate a move
as Raffles had ever planned to meet a probable contingency. He had
brought down a pair of handcuffs as well as a sufficient supply of
Somnol. My own deed of violence was the one entirely unforeseen effect,
and Raffles vowed it had been a help. But when I inquired whether he had
ever been over this empty house before, an irritable jerk of his
cigarette end foretold the answer.

"My good Bunny, is this a time for rotten questions? Of course I've been
over the whole place; didn't I tell you I'd been spending the week-end in
these parts? I got an order to view the place, and have bribed the
gardener not to let anybody else see over it till I've made up my mind.
The gardener's cottage is on the other side of the main road, which runs
flush with the front of the house; there's a splendid garden on that
side, but it takes him all his time to keep it up, so he's given up
bothering about this bit here. He only sets foot in the house to show
people over; his wife comes in sometimes to open the downstairs windows;
the ones upstairs are never shut. So you perceive we shall be fairly free
from interruption at the top of this tower, especially when I tell you
that it finishes in a room as sound-proof as old Carlyle's crow's-nest in
Cheyne Row."

It flashed across me that another great man of letters had made his local
habitation if not his name in this part of the Thames Valley; and when I
asked if this was that celebrity's house, Raffles seemed surprised that
I had not recognised it as such in the dark. He said it would never let
again, as the place was far too good for its position, which was now much
too near London. He also told me that the idea of holding Dan Levy up to
ransom had occurred to him when he found himself being followed about
town by Levy's "mamelukes," and saw what a traitor he had to cope with.

"And I hope you like the idea, Bunny," he added, "because I was never
caught kidnapping before, and in all London there wasn't a bigger man
to kidnap."

"I love it," said I (and it was true enough of the abstract idea), "but
don't you think he's just a bit too big? Won't the country ring with his

"My dear Bunny, nobody will dream he's disappeared!" said Raffles,
confidently. "I know the habits of the beast; didn't I tell you he ran
another show somewhere? Nobody seems to know where, but when he isn't
here, that's where he's supposed to be, and when he's there he cuts town
for days on end. I suppose you never noticed I've been wearing an
overcoat all this time, Bunny?"

"Oh, yes, I did," said I. "Of course it's one of his?"

"The very one he'd have worn to-night, and his soft hat from the same
peg is in one of the pockets; their absence won't look as if he'd come
out feet first, will it, Bunny? I thought his stick might be in the way,
so instead of bringing it too, I stowed it away behind his books. But
these things will serve a second turn when we see our way to letting him
go again like a gentleman."

The red end of the Sullivan went out sizzling between a moistened thumb
and finger, and no doubt Raffles put it carefully in his pocket as he
rose to resume the ascent. It was still perfectly dark on the tower
stairs; but by the time we reached the sanctum at the top we could see
each other's outlines against certain ovals of wild grey sky and dying
stars. For there was a window more like a porthole in three of the four
walls; in the fourth wall was a cavity like a ship's bunk, into which we
lifted our still unconscious prisoner as gently as we might. Nor was that
the last that was done for him, now that some slight amends were
possible. From an invisible locker Raffles produced bundles of thin,
coarse stuff, one of which he placed as a pillow under the sleeper's
head, while the other was shaken out into a covering for his body.

"And you asked me if I'd ever been over the place!" said Raffles,
putting a third bundle in my hands. "Why, I slept up here last night,
just to see if it was all as quiet as it looked; these were my
bed-clothes, and I want you to follow my example."

"I go to sleep?" I cried. "I couldn't and wouldn't for a thousand
pounds, Raffles!"

"Oh, yes, you could!" said Raffles, and as he spoke there was a horrible
explosion in the tower. Upon my word, I thought one of us was shot, until
there came the smaller sounds of froth pattering on the floor and liquor
bubbling from a bottle.

"Champagne!" I exclaimed, when he had handed me the metal cap of a flask,
and I had taken a sip. "Did you hide that up here as well?"

"I hid nothing up here except myself," returned Raffles, laughing. "This
is one of a couple of pints from the cellarette in Levy's billiard den;
take your will of it, Bunny, and perhaps the old man may have the other
when he's a good boy. I fancy we shall find it a stronger card than it
looks. Meanwhile let sleeping dogs lie and lying dogs sleep! And you'd be
far more use to me later, Bunny, if only you'd try to do the same."

I was beginning to feel that I might try, for Raffles was filling up the
metal cup every minute, and also plying me with sandwiches from Levy's
table, brought hence (with the champagne) in Levy's overcoat pocket. It
was still pleasing to reflect that they had been originally intended for
the rival bravos of Gray's Inn. But another idea that did occur to me, I
dismissed at the time, and so justly that I would disabuse any other
suspicious mind of it without delay. Dear old Raffles was scarcely more
skilful and audacious as amateur cracksman than as amateur anaesthetist,
nor was he ever averse from the practice of his uncanny genius at either
game. But, sleepy as I soon found myself at the close of our very long
night's work, I had no subsequent reason to suppose that Raffles had
given _me_ drop or morsel of anything but sandwiches and champagne.

So I rolled myself up on the locker, just as things were beginning to
take visible shape even without the tower windows behind them, and I was
almost dropping off to sleep when a sudden anxiety smote my mind.

"What about the boat?" I asked.

There was no answer.

"Raffles!" I cried. "What are you going to do about the beggar's boat?"

"You go to sleep," came the sharp reply, "and leave the boat to me."

And I fancied from his voice that Raffles also had lain him down, but on
the floor.


Trial by Raffles

When I awoke it was dazzling daylight in the tower, and the little scene
was quite a surprise to me. It had felt far larger in the dark. I suppose
the floor-space was about twelve feet square, but it was contracted on
one side by the well and banisters of a wooden staircase from the room
below, on another by the ship's bunk, and opposite that by the locker on
which I lay. Moreover, the four walls, or rather the four triangles of
roof, sloped so sharply to the apex of the tower as to leave an inner
margin in which few grown persons could have stood upright. The port-hole
windows were shrouded with rags of cobweb spotted with dead flies. They
had evidently not been opened for years; it was even more depressingly
obvious that we must not open them. One was thankful for such modicum of
comparatively pure air as came up the open stair from the floor below;
but in the freshness of the morning one trembled to anticipate the
atmosphere of this stale and stuffy eyrie through the heat of a summer's
day. And yet neither the size nor the scent of the place, nor any other
merely scenic feature, was half so disturbing or fantastic as the
appearance of my two companions.

Raffles, not quite at the top of the stairs, but near enough to loll over
the banisters, and Levy, cumbering the ship's bunk, were indeed startling
figures to an eye still dim with sleep. Raffles had an ugly cut from the
left nostril to the corner of the mouth; he had washed the blood from his
face, but the dark and angry streak remained to heighten his unusual
pallor. Levy looked crumpled and debauched, flabbily and feebly senile,
yet with his vital forces making a last flicker in his fiery eyes. He was
grotesquely swathed in scarlet bunting, from which his doubled fists
protruded in handcuffs; a bit of thin rope attached the handcuffs to a
peg on which his coat and hat were also hanging, and a longer bit was
taken round the banisters from the other end of the bunting, which I now
perceived to be a tattered and torn Red Ensign. This led to the discovery
that I myself had been sleeping in the Union Jack, and it brought my eyes
back to the ghastly face of Raffles, who was already smiling at mine.

"Enjoyed your night under canvas, Bunny? Then you might get up and
present your colours to the prisoner in the bunk. You needn't be
frightened of him, Bunny; he's such a devilish tough customer that I've
had to clap him in irons, as you see. Yet he can't say I haven't given
him rope enough; he's got lashings of rope--eh, Bunny?"

"That's right!" said Levy, with a bitter snarl. "Get a man down by foul
play, and then wipe your boots on him! I'd stick it like a lamb if only
you'd give me that drink."

And then it was, as I got to my feet, and shook myself free from the
folds of the Union Jack, that I saw the unopened pint of champagne
standing against the banisters in full view of the bunk. I confess I eyed
it wistfully myself; but Raffles was adamant alike to friend and foe, and
merely beckoned me to follow him down the wooden stair, without answering
Levy at all. I certainly thought it a risk to leave that worthy unwatched
for a moment, but it was scarcely for more. The room below was fitted
with a bath and a lavatory basin, which Raffles pointed out to me without
going all the way down himself. At the same time he handed me a stale
remnant of the sandwiches removed with Levy from his house.

"I'm afraid you'll have to wash these down at that tap," said he. "The
poor devil has finished what you left at daybreak, besides making a hole
in my flask; but he can't or won't eat a bite, and if only he stands his
trial and takes his sentence like a man, I think he might have the other
pint to his own infernal cheek."

"Trial and sentence!" I exclaimed. "I thought you were going to hold him
up to ransom?"

"Not without a fair trial, my dear Bunny," said Raffles in the accents of
reproof. "We must hear what the old swab has to say for himself, when
he's heard what I've got to say to him. So you stick your head under the
tap when you've had your snack, Bunny; it won't come up to the swim I had
after I'd taken the boat back, when you and Shylock were fast asleep, but
it's all you've time for if you want to hear me open my case."

And open it he did before himself, as judge and counsel in one, sitting
on the locker as on the bench, the very moment I reappeared in court.

"Prisoner in the bunk, before we formulate the charge against you we had
better deal with your last request for drink, made in the same breath as
a preposterous complaint about foul play. The request has been made and
granted more than once already this morning. This time it's refused.
Drink has been your undoing, prisoner in the bunk; it is drink that
necessitates your annual purification at Carlsbad, and yet within a week
of that chastening experience you come before me without knowing where
you are or how you got here."

"That wasn't the whisky," muttered Levy with a tortured brow. "That
was something else, which you'll hear more about; foul play it was,
and you'll pay for it yet. There's not a headache in a hogshead of
my whisky."

"Well," resumed Raffles, "your champagne is on the same high level, and
here's a pint of the best which you can open for yourself if only you
show your sense before I've done with you. But you won't advance that
little millennium by talking about foul play as though it were all on one
side and the foulest of the foul not on yours. You will only retard the
business of the court. You are indicted with extortion and sharp practice
in all your dealings, with cheating and misleading your customers,
attempting to cheat and betray your friends, and breaking all the rules
of civilised crime. You are not invited to plead either way, because this
court would not attach the slightest value to your plea; but presently
you will get an opportunity of addressing the court in mitigation of your
sentence. Or, if you like," continued Raffles, with a wink at me, "you
may be represented by counsel. My learned friend here, I'm sure, will be
proud to undertake your defence as a 'docker'; or--perhaps I should say a
'bunker,' Mr. Bunny?"

And Raffles laughed as coyly as a real judge at a real judicial joke,
whereupon I joined in so uproariously as to find myself degraded from the
position of leading counsel to that of the general public in a single
flash from the judge's eye.

"If I hear any more laughter," said Raffles, "I shall clear the court.
It's perfectly monstrous that people should come here to a court of
justice and behave as though they were at a theatre."

Levy had been reclining with his yellow face twisted and his red eyes
shut; but now these burst open as with flames, and the dry lips spat a
hearty curse at the judge upon the locker.

"Take care!" said Raffles. "Contempt of court won't do you any good,
you know!"

"And what good will all this foolery do you? Say what you've got to say
against me, and be damned to you!"

"I fear you're confusing our functions sadly," said Raffles, with a
compassionate shake of the head. "But so far as your first exhortation
goes, I shall endeavour to take you at your word. You are a money-lender
trading, among other places, in Jermyn Street, St. James's, under the
style and title of Daniel Levy."

"It 'appens to be my name."

"That I can well believe," rejoined Raffles; "and if I may say so, Mr.
Levy, I respect you for it. You don't call yourself MacGregor or
Montgomery. You don't sail under false colours at all. You fly the skull
and crossbones of Daniel Levy, and it's one of the points that
distinguish you from the ruck of money-lenders and put you in a class by
yourself. Unfortunately, the other points are not so creditable. If you
are more brazen than most you are also more unscrupulous; if you fly at
higher game, you descend to lower dodges. You may be the biggest man
alive at your job; you are certainly the biggest villain."

"But I'm up against a bigger now," said Levy, shifting his position and
closing his crimson eyes.

"Possibly," said Raffles, as he produced a long envelope and unfolded a
sheet of foolscap; "but permit me to remind you of a few of your own
proven villainies before you take any more shots at mine. Last year you
had three of your great bargains set aside by the law as hard and
unconscionable; but every year you have these cases, and at best the
terms are modified in favour of your wretched client. But it's only the
exception who will face the music of the law-courts and the Press, and
you figure on the general run. You prefer people like the Lincolnshire
vicar you hounded into an asylum the year before last. You cherish the
memory of the seven poor devils that you drove to suicide between 1890
and 1894; that sort pay the uttermost farthing before the debt to nature!
You set great store by the impoverished gentry and nobility who have you
to stay with them when the worst comes to the worst, and secure a respite
in exchange for introductions to their pals. No fish is too large for
your net, and none is too small, from his highness of Hathipur to that
poor little builder at Bromley, who cut the throats--"

"Stop it!" cried Levy, in a lather of impotent rage.

"By all means," said Raffles, restoring the paper to its envelope. "It's
an ugly little load for one man's soul, I admit; but you must see it was
about time somebody beat you at your own beastly game."

"It's a pack of blithering lies," retorted Levy, "and you haven't beaten
me yet. Stick to facts within your own knowledge, and then tell me if
your precious Garlands haven't brought their troubles on themselves?"

"Certainly they have," said Raffles. "But it isn't your treatment of the
Garlands that has brought you to this pretty pass."

"What is it, then?"

"Your treatment of me, Mr. Levy."

"A cursed crook like you!"

"A party to a pretty definite bargain, however, and a discredited person
only so far as that bargain is concerned."

"And the rest!" said the money-lender, jeering feebly. "I know more about
you than you guess."

"I should have put it the other way round," replied Raffles, smiling.
"But we are both forgetting ourselves, prisoner in the bunk. Kindly note
that your trial is resumed, and further contempt will not be allowed to
go unpurged. You referred a moment ago to my unfortunate friends; you say
they were the engineers of their own misfortunes. That might be said of
all who ever put themselves in your clutches. You squeeze them as hard as
the law will let you, and in this case I don't see how the law is to
interfere. So I interfere myself--in the first instance as disastrously
as you please."

"You did so!" exclaimed Levy, with a flicker of his inflamed eyes. "You
brought things to a head; that's all _you_ did."

"On the contrary, you and I came to an agreement which still holds good,"
said Raffles, significantly. "You are to return me a certain note of hand
for thirteen thousand and odd pounds, taken in exchange for a loan of ten
thousand, and you are also to give an understanding to leave another
fifteen thousand of yours on mortgage for another year at least, instead
of foreclosing, as you threatened and had a right to do this week. That
was your side of the bargain."

"Well," said Levy, "and when did I go back on it?"

"My side," continued Raffles, ignoring the interpolation, "was to get you
by hook or crook a certain letter which you say you never wrote. As a
matter of fact it was only to be got by crook--"


"I got hold of it, nevertheless. I brought it to you at your house last
night. And you instantly destroyed it after as foul an attack as one man
ever made upon another!"

Raffles had risen in his wrath, was towering over the prostrate prisoner,
forgetful of the mock trial, dead even to the humour which he himself had
infused into a sufficiently lurid situation, but quite terribly alive to
the act of treachery and violence which had brought that situation about.
And I must say that Levy looked no less alive to his own enormity; he
quailed in his bonds with a guilty fearfulness strange to witness in so
truculent a brute; and it was with something near a quaver that his voice
came next.

"I know that was wrong," the poor devil owned. "I'm very sorry for it,
I'm sure! But you wouldn't trust me with my own property, and that and
the drink together made me mad."

"So you acknowledge the alcoholic influence at last?"

"Oh, yes! I must have been as drunk as an owl."

"You know you've been suggesting that we drugged you?"

"Not seriously, Mr. Raffles. I knew the old stale taste too well. It must
have been the best part of a bottle I had before you got down."

"In your anxiety to see me safe and sound?"

"That's it--with the letter."

"You never dreamt of playing me false until I hesitated to let you
handle it?"

"Never for one moment, my dear Raffles!"

Raffles was still standing up to his last inch under the apex of the
tower, his head and shoulders the butt of a climbing sunbeam full of
fretful motes. I could not see his expression from the banisters,
but only its effect upon Dan Levy, who first held up his manacled
hands in hypocritical protestation, and then dropped them as though
it were a bad job.

"Then why," said Raffles, "did you have me watched almost from the moment
that we parted company at the Albany last Friday morning?"

"_I_ have you watched!" exclaimed the other in real horror. "Why should
I? It must have been the police."

"It was not the police, though the blackguards did their best to look as
if they were. I happen to be too familiar with both classes to be
deceived. Your fellows were waiting for me up at Lord's, but I had no
difficulty in shaking them off when I got back to the Albany. They gave
me no further trouble until last night, when they got on my tracks at
Gray's Inn in the guise of the two common, low detectives whom I believe
I have already mentioned to you."

"You said you left them there in their glory."

"It was glorious from my point of view rather than theirs."

Levy struggled into a less recumbent posture.

"And what makes you think," said he, "that I set this watch upon you?"

"I don't think," returned Raffles. "I know."

"And how the devil do you know?"

Raffles answered with a slow smile, and a still slower shake of the head:
"You really mustn't ask me to give everybody away, Mr. Levy!"

The money-lender swore an oath of sheer incredulous surprise, but checked
himself at that and tried one more poser.

"And what do you suppose was my object in having you watched, if it
wasn't to ensure your safety?"

"It might have been to make doubly sure of the letter, and to cut down
expenses at the same swoop, by knocking me on the head and abstracting
the treasure from my person. It was a jolly cunning idea--prisoner in
the bunk! I shouldn't be upset about it just because it didn't come off.
My compliments especially on making up your varlets in the quite
colourable image of the true detective. If they had fallen upon me, and
it had been a case of my liberty or your letter, you know well enough
which I should let go."

But Levy had fallen back upon his pillow of folded flag, and the Red
Ensign over him bubbled and heaved with his impotent paroxysms.

"They told you! They must have told you!" he ground out through his
teeth. "The traitors--the blasted traitors!"

"It's a catching complaint, you see, Mr. Levy," said Raffles,
"especially when one's elders and betters themselves succumb to it."

"But they're such liars!" cried Levy, shifting his ground again. "Don't
you see what liars they are? I did set them to watch you, but for your
own good, as I've just been telling you. I was so afraid something might
'appen to you; they were there to see that nothing did. Now do you spot
their game? I'd got to take the skunks into the secret, more or less, an'
they've played it double on us both. Meant bagging the letter from you to
blackmail me with it; that's what they meant! Of course, when they failed
to bring it off, they'd pitch any yarn to you. But that was their game
all right. You must see for yourself it could never have been mine,
Raffles, and--and let me out o' this, like a good feller!"

"Is this your defence?" asked Raffles as he resumed his seat on the
judicial locker.

"Isn't it your own?" the other asked in his turn, with an eager removal
of all resentment from his manner. "'Aven't we both been got at by those
two jackets? Of course I was sorry ever to 'ave trusted 'em an inch, and
you were quite right to serve me as you did if what they'd been telling
you 'ad been the truth; but, now you see it was all a pack of lies it's
surely about time to stop treating me like a mad dog."

"Then you really mean to stand by your side of the original arrangement?"

"Always did," declared our captive; "never 'ad the slightest intention of
doing anything else."

"Then where's the first thing you promised me in fair exchange for what
you destroyed last night? Where's Mr. Garland's note of hand?"

"In my pocket-book, and that's in my pocket."

"In case the worst comes to the worst," murmured Raffles in sly
commentary, and with a sidelong glance at me.

"What's that? Don't you believe me? I'll 'and it over this minute, if
only you'll take these damned things off my wrists. There's no excuse for
'em now, you know!"

Raffles shook his head.

"I'd rather not trust myself within reach of your raw fists yet,
prisoner. But my marshal will produce the note from your person if
it's there."

It was there, in a swollen pocket-book which I replaced otherwise intact
while Raffles compared the signature on the note of hand with samples
which he had brought with him for the purpose.

"It's genuine enough," said Levy, with a sudden snarl and a lethal look
that I intercepted at close quarters.

"So I perceive," said Raffles. "And now I require an equally genuine
signature to this little document which is also a part of your bond."

The little document turned out to be a veritable Deed, engrossed on
parchment, embossed with a ten-shilling stamp, and duly calling itself an
INDENTURE, in fourteenth century capitals. So much I saw as I held it up
for the prisoner to read over. The illegally legal instrument is still in
existence, with its unpunctuated jargon about "hereditaments" and "fee
simple," its "and whereas the said Daniel Levy" in every other line, and
its eventual plain provision for "the said sum of £15,000 to remain
charged upon the security of the hereditaments in the said recited
Indenture ... until the expiration of one year computed from--" that
summer's day in that empty tower! The whole thing had been properly and
innocently prepared by old Mother Hubbard, the "little solicitor" whom
Raffles had mentioned as having been in our house at school, from a copy
of the original mortgage deed supplied in equal innocence by Mr. Garland.
I sometimes wonder what those worthy citizens would have said, if they
had dreamt for a moment under what conditions of acute duress their deed
was to be signed!

Signed it was, however, and with less demur than might have been expected
of so inveterate a fighter as Dan Levy. But his one remaining course was
obviously the line of least resistance; no other would square with his
ingenious repudiation of the charge of treachery to Raffles, much less
with his repeated protestations that he had always intended to perform
his part of their agreement. It was to his immediate interest to convince
us of his good faith, and up to this point he might well have thought he
had succeeded in so doing. Raffles had concealed his full knowledge of
the creature's duplicity, had enjoyed leading him on from lie to lie, and
I had enjoyed listening almost as much as I now delighted in the dilemma
in which Levy had landed himself; for either he must sign and look
pleasant, or else abandon his innocent posture altogether; and so he
looked as pleasant as he could, and signed in his handcuffs, with but the
shadow of a fight for their immediate removal.

"And now," said Levy, when I had duly witnessed his signature, "I think
I've about earned that little drop of my own champagne."

"Not quite yet," replied Raffles, in a tone like thin ice. "We are only
at the point we should have reached the moment I arrived at your house
last night; you have now done under compulsion what you had agreed to do
of your own free will then."

Levy lay back in the bunk, plunged in billows of incongruous bunting,
with fallen jaw and fiery eyes, an equal blend of anger and alarm. "But I
told you I wasn't myself last night," he whined. "I've said I was very
sorry for all I done, but can't 'ardly remember doing. I say it again
from the bottom of my 'eart."

"I've no doubt you do," said Raffles. "But what you did after our
arrival was nothing to what you had already done; it was only the last
of those acts of treachery for which you are still on your
trial--prisoner in the bunk!"

"But I thought I'd explained all the rest?" cried the prisoner, in a
palsy of impotent rage and disappointment.

"You have," said Raffles, "in the sense of making your perfidy even
plainer than it was before. Come, Mr. Levy! I know every move you've
made, and the game's been up longer than you think; you won't score a
point by telling lies that contradict each other and aggravate your
guilt. Have you nothing better to say why the sentence of the court
should not be passed upon you?"

A sullen silence was broken by a more precise and staccato repetition
of the question. And then to my amazement, I beheld the gross lower
lip of Levy actually trembling, and a distressing flicker of the
inflamed eyelids.

"I felt you'd swindled me," he quavered out "And I thought--I'd

"Bravo!" cried Raffles. "That's the first honest thing you've said; let
me tell you, for your encouragement, that it reduces your punishment by
twenty-five per cent. You will, nevertheless, pay a fine of fifteen
hundred pounds for your latest little effort in low treason."

Though not unprepared for some such ultimatum, I must own I heard it with
dismay. On all sorts of grounds, some of them as unworthy as itself, this
last demand failed to meet with my approval; and I determined to
expostulate with Raffles before it was too late. Meanwhile I hid my
feelings as best I could, and admired the spirit with which Dan Levy
expressed his.

"I'll see you damned first!" he cried. "It's blackmail!"

"Guineas," said Raffles, "for contempt of court."

And more to my surprise than ever, not a little indeed to my secret
disappointment, our captive speedily collapsed again, whimpering,
moaning, gnashing his teeth, and clutching at the Red Ensign, with closed
eyes and distorted face, so much as though he were about to have a fit
that I caught up the half-bottle of champagne, and began removing the
wire at a nod from Raffles.

"Don't cut the string just yet," he added, however, with an eye on
Levy--who instantly opened his.

"I'll pay up!" he whispered, feebly yet eagerly. "It serves me right. I
promise I'll pay up!"

"Good!" said Raffles. "Here's your own cheque-book from your own room,
and here's my fountain pen."

"You won't take my word?"

"It's quite enough to have to take your cheque; it should have been
hard cash."

"So it shall be, Raffles, if you come up with me to my office!"

"I dare say."

"To my bank, then!"

"I prefer to go alone. You will kindly make it an open cheque payable
to bearer."

The fountain pen was poised over the chequebook, but only because I had
placed it in Levy's fingers, and was holding the cheque-book under them.

"And what if I refuse?" he demanded, with a last flash of his
native spirit.

"We shall say good-bye, and give you until to-night."

"All day to call for help in!" muttered Levy, all but to himself.

"Do you happen to know where you are?" Raffles asked him.

"No, but I can find out."

"If you knew already you would also know that you might call till you
were black in the face; but to keep you in blissful ignorance you will be
bound a good deal more securely than you are at present. And to spare
your poor voice you will also be very thoroughly gagged."

Levy took remarkably little notice of either threat or gibe.

"And if I give in and sign?" said he, after a pause.

"You will remain exactly as you are, with one of us to keep you company,
while the other goes up to town to cash your cheque. You can't expect me
to give you a chance of stopping it, you know."

This, again, struck me as a hard condition, if only prudent when one came
to think of it from our point of view; still, it took even me by
surprise, and I expected Levy to fling away the pen in disgust. He
balanced it, however, as though also weighing the two alternatives very
carefully in his mind, and during his deliberations his bloodshot eyes
wandered from Raffles to me and back again to Raffles. In a word, the
latest prospect appeared to disturb Mr. Levy less than, for obvious
reasons, it did me. Certainly for him it was the lesser of the two evils,
and as such he seemed to accept it when he finally wrote out the cheque
for fifteen hundred guineas (Raffles insisting on these), and signed it
firmly before sinking back as though exhausted by the effort.

Raffles was as good as his word about the champagne now: dram by dram
he poured the whole pint into the cup belonging to his flask, and dram
by dram our prisoner tossed it off, but with closed eyes, like a
delirious invalid, and towards the end, with a head so heavy that
Raffles had to raise it from the rolled flag, though foul talons still
came twitching out for more. It was an unlovely process, I will
confess; but what was a pint, as Raffles said? At any rate I could bear
him out that these potations had not been hocussed, and Raffles
whispered the same for the flask which he handed me with Levy's
revolver at the head of the wooden stairs.

"I'm coming down," said I, "for a word with you in the room below."

Raffles looked at me with open eyes, then more narrowly at the red lids
of Levy, and finally at his own watch.

"Very well, Bunny, but I must cut and run for my train in about a minute.
There's a 9.24 which would get me to the bank before eleven, and back
here by one or two."

"Why go to the bank at all?" I asked him point-blank in the lower room.

"To cash his cheque before he has a chance of stopping it. Would you like
to go instead of me, Bunny?"

"No, thank you!"

"Well, don't get hot about it; you've got the better billet of the two."

"The softer one, perhaps."

"Infinitely, Bunny, with the old bird full of his own champagne, and his
own revolver in your pocket or your hand! The worst he can do is to
start yelling out, and I really do believe that not a soul would hear
him if he did. The gardeners are always at work on the other side of the
main road. A passing boatload is the only danger, and I doubt if even
they would hear."

"My billet's all right," said I, valiantly. "It's yours that
worries me."

"Mine!" cried Raffles, with an almost merry laugh. "My dear, good Bunny,
you may make your mind easy about my little bit! Of course, it'll take
some doing at the bank. I don't say it's a straight part there. But trust
me to play it on my head."

"Raffles," I said, in a low voice that may have trembled, "it's not a
part for you to play at all! I don't mean the little bit at the bank. I
mean this whole blackmailing part of the business. It's not like you,
Raffles. It spoils the whole thing!"

I had got it off my chest without a hitch. But so far Raffles had not
discouraged me. There was a look on his face which even made me think
that he agreed with me in his heart. Both hardened as he thought it over.

"It's Levy who's spoilt the whole thing," he rejoined obdurately in

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