Part 2 out of 4
intended going for me on his return, but meanwhile I was not to
make hay in his absence, and so this tool of a direttore had
orders to keep me at it night and day. I undertook not to give
the poor beast away, but at the same time told him I had not the
faintest intention of doing another stroke of work that night.
"It was very dark, and I remember knocking my head against the
oranges as I ran up the long, shallow steps which ended the
journey between the direttore's lodge and the villa itself. But
at the back of the villa was the garden I spoke about, and also
a bare chunk of the cliff where it was bored by that
subterranean stair. So I saw the stars close overhead, and the
fishermen's torches far below, the coastwise lights and the
crimson hieroglyph that spelt Vesuvius, before I plunged into
the darkness of the shaft. And that was the last time I
appreciated the unique and peaceful charm of this outlandish
"The stair was in two long flights, with an air-hole or two at
the top of the upper one, but not another pin-prick till you
came to the iron gate at the bottom of the lower. As you may
read of an infinitely lighter place, in a finer work of fiction
than you are ever likely to write, Bunny, it was 'gloomy at
noon, dark as midnight at dusk, and black as the ninth plague of
Egypt at midnight.' I won't swear to my quotation, but I will to
those stairs. They were as black that night as the inside of
the safest safe in the strongest strong-room in the Chancery
Lane Deposit. Yet I had not got far down them with my bare feet
before I heard somebody else coming up in boots. You may
imagine what a turn that gave me! It could not be Faustina,
who went barefoot three seasons of the four, and yet there was
Faustina waiting for me down below. What a fright she must have
had! And all at once my own blood ran cold: for the man sang
like a kettle as he plodded up and up. It was, it must be, the
short-winded Count himself, whom we all supposed to be in Rome!
"Higher he came and nearer, nearer, slowly yet hurriedly, now
stopping to cough and gasp, now taking a few steps by
elephantine assault. I should have enjoyed the situation if it
had not been for poor Faustina in the cave; as it was I was
filled with nameless fears. But I could not resist giving that
grampus Corbucci one bad moment on account. A crazy hand-rail
ran up one wall, so I carefully flattened myself against the
other, and he passed within six inches of me, puffing and
wheezing like a brass band. I let him go a few steps higher,
and then I let him have it with both lungs.
"Buona sera, eccellenza, signori!' I roared after him. And a
scream came down in answer--such a scream! A dozen different
terrors were in it; and the wheezing had stopped, with the old
"'Chi sta la?' he squeaked at last, gibbering and whimpering
like a whipped monkey, so that I could not bear to miss his
face, and got a match all ready to strike.
"He didn't repeat my name, nor did he damn me in heaps. He did
nothing but wheeze for a good minute, and when he spoke it was
with insinuating civility, in his best English.
"'Come nearer, Arturo. You are in the lower regions down there.
I want to speak with you.'
"'No, thanks. I'm in a hurry,' I said, and dropped that match
back into my pocket. He might be armed, and I was not.
"'So you are in a 'urry!' and he wheezed amusement. 'And you
thought I was still in Rome, no doubt; and so I was until this
afternoon, when I caught train at the eleventh moment, and then
another train from Naples to Pozzuoli. I have been rowed here
now by a fisherman of Pozzuoli. I had not time to stop anywhere
in Naples, but only to drive from station to station. So I am
without Stefano, Arturo, I am without Stefano.'
"His sly voice sounded preternaturally sly in the absolute
darkness, but even through that impenetrable veil I knew it for
a sham. I had laid hold of the hand-rail. It shook violently
in my hand; he also was holding it where he stood. And these
suppressed tremors, or rather their detection in this way,
struck a strange chill to my heart, just as I was beginning to
pluck it up.
"'It is lucky for Stefano,' said I, grim as death.
"'Ah, but you must not be too 'ard on 'im,' remonstrated the
Count. 'You have stole his girl, he speak with me about it, and
I wish to speak with you. It is very audashuss, Arturo, very
audashuss! Perhaps you are even going to meet her now, eh?'
I told him straight that I was.
"'Then there is no 'urry, for she is not there.'
"'You didn't see her in the cave?' I cried, too delighted at the
thought to keep it to myself.
"'I had no such fortune,' the old devil said.
"'She is there, all the same.'
"'I only wish I 'ad known.'
"'And I've kept her long enough!'
"In fact I threw this over my shoulder as I turned and went
"'I 'ope you will find her!' his malicious voice came croaking
after me. 'I 'ope you will-- I 'ope so.'
"And find her I did."
Raffles had been on his feet some time, unable to sit still or
to stand, moving excitedly about the room. But now he stood
still enough, his elbows on the cast-iron mantelpiece, his head
between his hands.
"Dead?" I whispered.
And he nodded to the wall.
"There was not a sound in the cave. There was no answer to my
voice. Then I went in, and my foot touched hers, and it was
colder than the rock . . . Bunny, they had stabbed her to the
heart. She had fought them, and they had stabbed her to the
"You say 'they,'" I said gently, as he stood in heavy silence,
his back still turned. "I thought Stefano had been left behind?"
Raffles was round in a flash, his face white-hot, his eyes
"He was in the cave!" he shouted. "I saw him--I spotted him--it
was broad twilight after those stairs--and I went for him with my
bare hands. Not fists, Bunny; not fists for a thing like that; I
meant getting my fingers into his vile little heart and tearing
it out by the roots. I was stark mad. But he had the
revolver--hers. He blazed it at arm's length, and missed. And
that steadied me. I had smashed his funny-bone against the rock
before he could blaze again; the revolver fell with a rattle,
but without going off; in an instant I had it tight, and the
little swine at my mercy at last."
"You didn't show him any?"
"Mercy? With Faustina dead at my feet? I should have deserved
none in the next world if I had shown him any in this! No, I
just stood over him, with the revolver in both hands, feeling
the chambers with my thumb; and as I stood he stabbed at me;
but I stepped back to that one, and brought him down with a
bullet in his guts.
"'And I can spare you two or three more,' I said, for my poor
girl could not have fired a shot. 'Take that one to hell with
you--and that--and that!'
"Then I started coughing and wheezing like the Count himself,
for the place was full of smoke. When it cleared my man was very
dead, and I tipped him into the sea, to defile that rather than
Faustina's cave. And then--and then--we were alone for the last
time, she and I, in our own pet haunt; and I could scarcely see
her, yet I would not strike a match, for I knew she would not
have me see her as she was. I could say good-by to her without
that. I said it; and I left her like a man, and up the first
open-air steps with my head in the air and the stars all sharp
in the sky; then suddenly they swam, and back I went like a
lunatic, to see if she was really dead, to bring her back to
life . . . Bunny, I can't tell you any more."
"Not of the Count?" I murmured at last.
"Not even of the Count," said Raffles, turning round with a
sigh. "I left him pretty sorry for himself; but what was the
good of that? I had taken blood for blood, and it was not
Corbucci who had killed Faustina. No, the plan was his, but
that was not part of the plan. They had found out about our
meetings in the cave: nothing simpler than to have me kept hard
at it overhead and to carry off Faustina by brute force in the
boat. It was their only chance, for she had said more to Stefano
than she had admitted to me, and more than I am going to repeat
about myself. No persuasion would have induced her to listen to
him again; so they tried force; and she drew Corbucci's revolver
on them, but they had taken her by surprise, and Stefano stabbed
her before she could fire."
"But how do you know all that?" I asked Raffles, for his tale was
going to pieces in the telling, and the tragic end of poor
Faustina was no ending for me.
"Oh," said he, "I had it from Corbucci at his own revolver's
point. He was waiting at his window, and I could have potted
him at my ease where he stood against the light listening hard
enough but not seeing a thing. So he asked whether it was
Stefano, and I whispered, 'Si, signore'; and then whether he had
finished Arturo, and I brought the same shot off again. He had
let me in before he knew who was finished and who was not."
"And did you finish him?"
"No; that was too good for Corbucci. But I bound and gagged him
about as tight as man was ever gagged or bound, and I left him
in his room with the shutters shut and the house locked up. The
shutters of that old place were six inches thick, and the walls
nearly six feet; that was on the Saturday night, and the Count
wasn't expected at the vineyard before the following Saturday.
Meanwhile he was supposed to be in Rome. But the dead would
doubtless be discovered next day, and I am afraid this would
lead to his own discovery with the life still in him. I believe
he figured on that himself, for he sat threatening me gamely
till the last. You never saw such a sight as he was, with his
head split in two by a ruler tied at the back of it, and his
great moustache pushed up into his bulging eyes. But I locked
him up in the dark without a qualm, and I wished and still wish
him every torment of the damned."
"The night was still young, and within ten miles there was the
best of ports in a storm, and hundreds of holds for the humble
stowaway to choose from. But I didn't want to go further than
Genoa, for by this time my Italian would wash, so I chose the
old Norddeutscher Lloyd, and had an excellent voyage in one of
the boats slung in-board over the bridge. That's better than any
hold, Bunny, and I did splendidly on oranges brought from the
"And at Genoa?"
"At Genoa I took to my wits once more, and have been living on
nothing else ever since. But there I had to begin all over
again, and at the very bottom of the ladder. I slept in the
streets. I begged. I did all manner of terrible things, rather
hoping for a bad end, but never coming to one. Then one day I
saw a white-headed old chap looking at me through a shop-window--
a window I had designs upon--and when I stared at him he stared
at me--and we wore the same rags. So I had come to that! But
one reflection makes many. I had not recognized myself; who on
earth would recognize me? London called me--and here I am.
Italy had broken my heart--and there it stays."
Flippant as a schoolboy one moment, playful even in the
bitterness of the next, and now no longer giving way to the
feeling which had spoilt the climax of his tale, Raffles needed
knowing as I alone knew him for a right appreciation of those
last words. That they were no mere words I know full well.
That, but for the tragedy of his Italian life, that life would
have sufficed him for years, if not for ever, I did and do still
believe. But I alone see him as I saw him then, the lines upon
his face, and the pain behind the lines; how they came to
disappear, and what removed them, you will never guess. It was
the one thing you would have expected to have the opposite
effect, the thing indeed that had forced his confidence, the
organ and the voice once more beneath our very windows:
"Margarita de Parete,
era a' sarta d' e' signore;
se pugneva sempe e ddete
pe penzare a Salvatore!
e perzo e Salvatore!
Ma l'ommo e cacciatore!
Nun ce aje corpa tu!
Chello ch' e fatto, e fatto, un ne parlammo cchieu!"
I simply stared at Raffles. Instead of deepening, his lines had
vanished. He looked years younger, mischievous and merry and
alert as I remembered him of old in the breathless crisis of
some madcap escapade. He was holding up his finger; he was
stealing to the window; he was peeping through the blind as
though our side street were Scotland Yard itself; he was stealing
back again, all revelry, excitement, and suspense.
"I half thought they were after me before," said he. "That was
why I made you look. I daren't take a proper look myself, but
what a jest if they were! What a jest!"
"Do you mean the police?" said I.
"The police! Bunny, do you know them and me so little that you
can look me in the face and ask such a question? My boy, I'm
dead to them--off their books--a good deal deader than being off
the hooks! Why, if I went to Scotland Yard this minute, to give
myself up, they'd chuck me out for a harmless lunatic. No, I
fear an enemy nowadays, and I go in terror of the sometime
friend, but I have the utmost confidence in the dear police."
"Then whom do you mean?"
I repeated the word with a different intonation. Not that I had
never heard of that most powerful and sinister of secret
societies; but I failed to see on what grounds Raffles should
jump to the conclusion that these everyday organ-grinders
belonged to it.
"It was one of Corbucci's threats," said he. "If I killed him
the Camorra would certainly kill me; he kept on telling me so;
it was like his cunning not to say that he would put them on my
tracks whether or no."
"He is probably a member himself!"
"Obviously, from what he said."
"But why on earth should you think that these fellows are?" I
demanded, as that brazen voice came rasping through a second
"I don't think. It was only an idea. That thing is so
thoroughly Neapolitan, and I never heard it on a London organ
before. Then again, what should bring them back here?"
I peeped through the blind in my turn; and, to be sure, there
was the fellow with the blue chin and the white teeth watching
our windows, and ours only, as he bawled.
"And why?" cried Raffles, his eyes dancing when I told him.
"Why should they come sneaking back to us? Doesn't that look
suspicious, Bunny; doesn't that promise a lark?"
"Not to me," I said, having the smile for once. "How many
people, should you imagine, toss them five shilling for as many
minutes of their infernal row? You seem to forget that's what
you did an hour ago!"
Raffles had forgotten. His blank face confessed the fact. Then
suddenly he burst outlaughing at himself.
"Bunny," said he, "you've no imagination, and I never knew I had
so much! Of course you're right. I only wish you were not, for
there's nothing I should enjoy more than taking on another
Neapolitan or two. You see, I owe them something still! I
didn't settle in full. I owe them more than ever I shall pay
them on this side Styx!"
He had hardened even as he spoke: the lines and the years had
come again, and his eyes were flint and steel, with an honest
grief behind the glitter.
THE LAST LAUGH
As I have had occasion to remark elsewhere, the pick of our
exploits, from a frankly criminal point of view, are of least
use for the comparatively pure purposes of these papers. They
might be appreciated in a trade journal (if only that want could
be supplied), by skilled manipulators of the jemmy and the large
light bunch; but, as records of unbroken yet insignificant
success, they would be found at once too trivial and too
technical, if not sordid and unprofitable into the bargain. The
latter epithets, and worse, have indeed already been applied, if
not to Raffles and all his works, at least to mine upon Raffles,
by more than one worthy wielder of a virtuous pen. I need not
say how heartily I disagree with that truly pious opinion. So
far from admitting a single word of it, I maintain it is the
liveliest warning that I am giving to the world. Raffles was a
genius, and he could not make it pay! Raffles had invention,
resource, incomparable audacity, and a nerve in ten thousand.
He was both strategian and tactician, and we all now know the
difference between the two. Yet for months he had been hiding
like a rat in a hole, unable to show even his altered face by
night or day without risk, unless another risk were courted by
three inches of conspicuous crepe. Then thus far our rewards
had oftener than not been no reward at all. Altogether it was
a very different story from the old festive, unsuspected, club
and cricket days, with their noctes ambrosianae at the Albany.
And now, in addition to the eternal peril of recognition, there
was yet another menace of which I knew nothing. I thought no
more of our Neapolitan organ-grinders, though I did often think
of the moving page that they had torn for me out of my friend's
strange life in Italy. Raffles never alluded to the subject
again, and for my part I had entirely forgotten his wild ideas
connecting the organ-grinders with the Camorra, and imagining
them upon his own tracks. I heard no more of it, and thought as
little, as I say. Then one night in the autumn--I shrink from
shocking the susceptible for nothing--but there was a certain
house in Palace Gardens, and when we got there Raffles would
pass on. I could see no soul in sight, no glimmer in the
windows. But Raffles had my arm, and on we went without talking
about it. Sharp to the left on the Notting Hill side, sharper
still up Silver Street, a little tacking west and south, a
plunge across High Street, and presently we were home.
"Pyjamas first," said Raffles, with as much authority as though
it mattered. It was a warm night, however, though September,
and I did not mind until I came in clad as he commanded to find
the autocrat himself still booted and capped. He was peeping
through the blind, and the gas was still turned down. But he
said that I could turn it up, as he helped himself to a
cigarette and nothing with it.
"May I mix you one?" said I.
"What's the trouble?"
"We were followed."
"You never saw it."
"But YOU never looked round."
"I have an eye at the back of each ear, Bunny."
I helped myself and I fear with less moderation than might have
been the case a minute before.
"So that was why--"
"That was why," said Raffles, nodding; but he did not smile, and
I put down my glass untouched.
"They were following us then!"
"All up Palace Gardens."
"I thought you wound about coming back over the hill."
"Nevertheless, one of them's in the street below at this moment."
No, he was not fooling me. He was very grim. And he had not
taken off a thing; perhaps he did not think it worth while.
"Plain clothes?" I sighed, following the sartorial train of
thought, even to the loathly arrows that had decorated my person
once already for a little aeon. Next time they would giveme
double. The skilly was in my stomach when I saw Raffles's face.
"Who said it was the police, Bunny?" said he. "It's the
Italians. They're only after me; they won't hurt a hair of YOUR
head, let alone cropping it! Have a drink, and don't mind me.
I shall score them off before I'm done."
"And I'll help you!"
"No, old chap, you won't. This is my own little show. I've
known about it for weeks. I first tumbled to it the day those
Neapolitans came back with their organs, though I didn't
seriously suspect things then; they never came again, those
two, they had done their part. That's the Camorra all over,
from all accounts. The Count I told you about is pretty high up
in it, by the way he spoke, but there will be grades and grades
between him and the organ-grinders. I shouldn't be surprised
if he had every low-down Neapolitan ice-creamer in the town upon
my tracks! The organization's incredible. Then do you remember
the superior foreigner who came to the door a few days
afterwards? You said he had velvet eyes."
"I never connected him with those two!"
"Of course you didn't, Bunny, so you threatened to kick the
fellow downstairs, and only made them keener on the scent. It
was too late to say anything when you told me. But the very
next time I showed my nose outside I heard a camera click as I
passed, and the fiend was a person with velvet eyes. Then there
was a lull--that happened weeks ago. They had sent me to Italy
for identification by Count Corbucci."
"But this is all theory," I exclaimed. "How on earth can you
"I don't know," said Raffles, "but I should like to bet. Our
friend the bloodhound is hanging about the corner near the
pillar-box; look through my window, it's dark in there, and tell
me who he is."
The man was too far away for me to swear to his face, but he
wore a covert-coat of un-English length, and the lamp across the
road played steadily on his boots; they were very yellow, and
they made no noise when he took a turn. I strained my eyes,
and all at once I remembered the thin-soled, low-heeled, splay
yellow boots of the insidious foreigner, with the soft eyes and
the brown-paper face, whom I had turned from the door as a
palpable fraud. The ring at the bell was the first I had heard
of him, there had been no warning step upon the stairs, and my
suspicious eye had searched his feet for rubber soles.
"It's the fellow," I said, returning to Raffles, and I described
Raffles was delighted.
"Well done, Bunny; you're coming on," said he. "Now I wonder if
he's been over here all the time, or if they sent him over
expressly? You did better than you think in spotting those
boots, for they can only have been made in Italy, and that
looks like the special envoy. But it's no use speculating. I
must find out."
"How can you?"
"He won't stay there all night."
"When he gets tired of it I shall return the compliment and
"Not alone," said I, firmly.
"Well, we'll see. We'll see at once," said Raffles, rising.
"Out with the gas, Bunny, while I take a look. Thank you. Now
wait a bit . . . yes! He's chucked it; he's off already; and so
But I slipped to our outer door, and held the passage.
"I don't let you go alone, you know."
"You can't come with me in pyjamas."
"Now I see why you made me put them on!"
"Bunny, if you don't shift I shall have to shift you. This is
my very own private one-man show. But I'll be back in an
"By all my gods."
I gave in. How could I help giving in? He did not look the man
that he had been, but you never knew with Raffles, and I could
not have him lay a hand on me. I let him go with a shrug and
my blessing, then ran into his room to see the last of him from
The creature in the coat and boots had reached the end of our
little street, where he appeared to have hesitated, so that
Raffles was just in time to see which way he turned. And
Raffles was after him at an easy pace, and had himself almost
reached the corner when my attention was distracted from the
alert nonchalance of his gait. I was marvelling that it alone
had not long ago betrayed him, for nothing about him was so
unconsciously characteristic, when suddenly I realized that
Raffles was not the only person in the little lonely street.
Another pedestrian had entered from the other end, a man heavily
built and clad, with an astrakhan collar to his coat on this
warm night, and a black slouch hat that hid his features from
my bird's-eye view. His steps were the short and shuffling ones
of a man advanced in years and in fatty degeneration, but of a
sudden they stopped beneath my very eyes. I could have dropped
a marble into the dinted crown of the black felt hat. Then, at
the same moment, Raffles turned the corner without looking
round, and the big man below raised both his hands and his face.
Of the latter I saw only the huge white moustache, like a
flying gull, as Raffles had described it; for at a glance I
divined that this was his arch-enemy, the Count Corbucci himself.
I did not stop to consider the subtleties of the system by which
the real hunter lagged behind while his subordinate pointed the
quarry like a sporting dog. I left the Count shuffling onward
faster than before, and I jumped into some clothes as though the
flats were on fire. If the Count was going to follow Raffles in
his turn, then I would follow the Count in mine, and there would
be a midnight procession of us through the town. But I found
no sign of him in the empty street, and no sign in the Earl's
Court Road, that looked as empty for all its length, save for a
natural enemy standing like a waxwork figure with a glimmer at
"Officer," I gasped, "have you seen anything of an old gentleman
with a big white mustache?"
The unlicked cub of a common constable seemed to eye me the more
suspiciously for the flattering form of my address.
"Took a hansom," said he at length.
A hansom! Then he was not following the others on foot; there
was no guessing his game. But something must be said or done.
"He's a friend of mine," I explained, "and I want to overtake
him. Did you hear where he told the fellow to drive?"
A curt negative was the policeman's reply to that; and if ever I
take part in a night assault-at-arms, revolver versus baton, in
the back kitchen, I know which member of the Metropolitan Police
Force I should like for my opponent.
If there was no overtaking the Count, however,it should be a
comparatively simple matter in the case of the couple on foot,
and I wildly hailed the first hansom that crawled into my ken.
I must tell Raffles who it was that I had seen; the Earl's
Court Road was long, and the time since he vanished in it but a
few short minutes. I drove down the length of that useful
thoroughfare, with an eye apiece on either pavement, sweeping
each as with a brush, but never a Raffles came into the pan.
Then I tried the Fulham Road, first to the west, then to the
east, and in the end drove home to the flat as bold as brass. I
did not realize my indiscretion until I had paid the man and was
on the stairs. Raffles never dreamt of driving all the way
back; but I was hoping now to find him waiting up above. He had
said an hour. I had remembered it suddenly. And now the hour
was more than up. But the flat was as empty as I had left it;
the very light that had encouraged me, pale though it was, as I
turned the corner in my hansom, was but the light that I myself
had left burning in the desolate passage.
I can give you no conception of the night that I spent. Most of
it I hung across the sill, throwing a wide net with my ears,
catching every footstep afar off, every hansom bell farther
still, only to gather in some alien whom I seldom even landed
in our street. Then I would listen at the door.
He might come over the roof; and eventually some one did; but
now it was broad daylight, and I flung the door open in the
milkman's face, which whitened at the shock as though I had
ducked him in his own pail.
"You're late," I thundered as the first excuse for my
"Beg your pardon," said he, indignantly, "but I'm half an hour
before my usual time."
"Then I beg yours," said I; "but the fact is, Mr. Maturin has had
one of his bad nights, and I seem to have been waiting hours for
milk to make him a cup of tea."
This little fib (ready enough for Raffles, though I say it)
earned me not only forgiveness but that obliging sympathy which
is a branch of the business of the man at the door. The good
fellow said that he could see I had been sitting up all night,
and he left me pluming myself upon the accidental art with which
I had told my very necessary tarra-diddle. On reflection I gave
the credit to instinct, not accident, and then sighed afresh as I
realized how the influence of the master was sinking into me,
and he Heaven knew where! But my punishment was swift to
follow, for within the hour the bell rang imperiously twice, and
there was Dr. Theobald on our mat; in a yellow Jaeger suit, with
a chin as yellow jutting over the flaps that he had turned up to
hide his pyjamas.
"What's this about a bad night?" said he.
"He couldn't sleep, and he wouldn't let me," I whispered, never
loosening my grasp of the door, and standing tight against the
other wall. "But he's sleeping like a baby now."
"I must see him."
"He gave strict orders that you should not."
"I'm his medical man, and I--"
"You know what he is," I said, shrugging; "the least thing wakes
him, and you will if you insist on seeing him now. It will be
the last time, I warn you! I know what he said, and you don't."
The doctor cursed me under his fiery moustache.
"I shall come up during the course of the morning," he snarled.
"And I shall tie up the bell," I said, "and if it doesn't ring
he'll be sleeping still, but I will not risk waking him by
coming to the door again."
And with that I shut it in his face. I was improving, as
Raffles had said; but what would it profit me if some evil had
befallen him? And now I was prepared for the worst. A boy came
up whistling and leaving papers on the mats; it was getting on
for eight o'clock, and the whiskey and soda of half-past twelve
stood untouched and stagnant in the tumbler. If the worst had
happened to Raffles, I felt that I would either never drink
again, or else seldom do anything else.
Meanwhile I could not even break my fast, but roamed the flat in
a misery not to be described, my very linen still unchanged, my
cheeks and chin now tawny from the unwholesome night. How long
would it go on? I wondered for a time. Then I changed my tune:
how long could I endure it?
It went on actually until the forenoon only, but my endurance
cannot be measured by the time, for to me every hour of it was
an arctic night. Yet it cannot have been much after eleven when
the ring came at the bell, which I had forgotten to tie up after
all. But this was not the doctor; neither, too well I knew, was
it the wanderer returned. Our bell was the pneumatic one that
tells you if the touch be light or heavy; the hand upon it now
was tentative and shy.
The owner of the hand I had never seen before. He was young and
ragged, with one eye blank, but the other ablaze with some fell
excitement. And straightway he burst into a low torrent of
words, of which all I knew was that they were Italian, and
therefore news of Raffles, if only I had known the language!
But dumb-show might help us somewhat, and in I dragged him,
though against his will, a new alarm in his one wild eye.
"Non capite?" he cried when I had him inside and had withstood
"No, I'm bothered if I do!" I answered, guessing his question
from his tone.
"Vostro amico," he repeated over and over again; and then, "Poco
tempo, poco tempo, poco tempo!"
For once in my life the classical education of my public-school
days was of real value. "My pal, my pal, and no time to be
lost!" I translated freely, and flew for my hat.
"Ecco, signore!" cried the fellow, snatching the watch from my
waistcoat pocket, and putting one black thumb-nail on the long
hand, the other on he numeral twelve. "Mezzogiorno--poco tempo
--poco tempo!" And again I seized his meaning, that it was
twenty past eleven, and we must be there by twelve. But where,
but where? It was maddening to be summoned like this, and not to
know what had happened, nor to have any means of finding out.
But my presence of mind stood by me still, I was improving by
seven-league strides, and I crammed my handkerchief between the
drum and hammer of the bell before leaving. The doctor could
ring now till he was black in the face, but I was not coming, and
he need not think it.
I half expected to find a hansom waiting, but there was none, and
we had gone some distance down the Earl's Court Road before we
got one; in fact, we had to run to the stand. Opposite is the
church with the clock upon it, as everybody knows, and at sight
of the dial my companion had wrung his hands; it was close upon
"Poco tempo--pochissimo!" he wailed. "Bloom-buree Ske-warr," he
then cried to the cabman--"numero trentotto!"
"Bloomsbury Square," I roared on my own account, "I'll show you
the house when we get there, only drive like be-damned!"
My companion lay back gasping in his corner. The small glass
told me that my own face was pretty red.
"A nice show!" I cried; "and not a word can you tell me. Didn't
you bring me a note?"
I might have known by this time that he had not, still I went
through the pantomime of writing with my finger on my cuff. But
he shrugged and shook his head.
"Niente," said he. "Una quistione di vita, di vita!"
"What's that?" I snapped, my early training come in again. "Say
Thank Italy for the stage instructions in the songs one used to
murder! The fellow actually understood.
"Or mors, eh?" I shouted, and up went the trap-door over our
"Avanti, avanti, avanti!" cried the Italian, turning up his
"Hell-to-leather," I translated, "and double fare if you do it
by twelve o'clock."
But in the streets of London how is one to know the time? In
the Earl's Court Road it had not been half-past, and at Barker's
in High Street it was but a minute later. A long half-mile a
minute, that was going like the wind, and indeed we had done
much of it at a gallop. But the next hundred yards took us five
minutes by the next clock, and which was one to believe? I fell
back upon my own old watch (it was my own), which made it
eighteen minutes to the hour as we swung across the Serpentine
bridge, and by the quarter we were in the Bayswater Road--not up
"Presto, presto," my pale guide murmured. "Affretatevi--avanti!"
"Ten bob if you do it," I cried through the trap, without the
slightest notion of what we were to do. But it was "una
quistione di vita," and "vostro amico" must and could only be my
What a very godsend is the perfect hansom to the man or woman in
a hurry! It had been our great good fortune to jump into a
perfect hansom; there was no choice, we had to take the first
upon the rank, but it must have deserved its place with the rest
nowhere. New tires, superb springs, a horse in a thousand, and
a driver up to every trick of his trade! In and out we went
like a fast half-back at the Rugby game, yet where the traffic
was thinnest, there were we. And how he knew his way! At the
Marble Arch he slipped out of the main stream, and so into
Wigmore Street, then up and in and out and on until I saw the
gold tips of the Museum palisade gleaming between the horse's
ears in the sun. Plop, plop, plop; ting, ling, ling; bell and
horse-shoes, horse-shoes and bell, until the colossal figure of
C. J. Fox in a grimy toga spelt Bloomsbury Square with my watch
still wanting three minutes to the hour.
"What number?" cried the good fellow over-head.
"Trentotto, trentotto," said my guide, but he was looking to the
right, and I bundled him out to show the house on foot. I had
not half-a-sovereign after all, but I flung our dear driver a
whole one instead, and only wish that it had been a hundred.
Already the Italian had his latch-key in the door of 38, and in
another moment we were rushing up the narrow stairs of as dingy
a London house as prejudiced countryman can conceive. It was
panelled, but it was dark and evil-smelling, and how we should
have found our way even to the stairs but for an unwholesome jet
of yellow gas in the hall, I cannot myself imagine. However,
up we went pell-mell, to the right-about on the half-landing,
and so like a whirlwind into the drawing-room a few steps
higher. There the gas was also burning behind closed shutters,
and the scene is photographed upon my brain, though I cannot
have looked upon it for a whole instant as I sprang in at my
This room also was panelled, and in the middle of the wall on
our left, his hands lashed to a ring-bolt high above his head,
his toes barely touching the floor, his neck pinioned by a strap
passing through smaller ring-bolts under either ear, and every
inch of him secured on the same principle, stood, or rather
hung, all that was left of Raffles, for at the first glance I
believed him dead. A black ruler gagged him, the ends lashed
behind his neck, the blood upon it caked to bronze in the
gaslight. And in front of him, ticking like a sledge-hammer,
its only hand upon the stroke of twelve, stood a simple,
old-fashioned, grandfather's clock--but not for half an instant
longer--only until my guide could hurl himself upon it and send
the whole thing crashing into the corner. An ear-splitting
report accompanied the crash, a white cloud lifted from the
fallen clock, and I saw a revolver smoking in a vice screwed
below the dial, an arrangement of wires sprouting from the dial
itself, and the single hand at once at its zenith and in contact
"Tumble to it, Bunny?"
He was alive; these were his first words; the Italian had the
blood-caked ruler in his hand, and with his knife was reaching
up to cut the thongs that lashed the hands. He was not tall
enough, I seized him and lifted him up, then fell to work with
my own knife upon the straps. And Raffles smiled faintly upon
us through his blood-stains.
"I want you to tumble to it," he whispered; "the neatest thing
in revenge I ever knew, and another minute would have fixed it.
I've been waiting for it twelve hours, watching the clock
round, death at the end of the lap! Electric connection. Simple
enough. Hour-hand only--O Lord!"
We had cut the last strap. He could not stand. We supported him
between us to a horsehair sofa, for the room was furnished, and
I begged him not to speak, while his one-eyed deliverer was at
the door before Raffles recalled him with a sharp word in
"He wants to get me a drink, but that can wait," said he, in
firmer voice; "I shall enjoy it the more when I've told you what
happened. Don't let him go, Bunny; put your back against the
door. He's a decent soul, and it's lucky for me I got a word
with him before they trussed me up. I've promised to set him up
in life, and I will, but I don't want him out of my sight for
"If you squared him last night," I exclaimed, "why the blazes
didn't he come to me till the eleventh hour?"
"Ah, I knew he'd have to cut it fine though I hoped not quite
so fine as all that. But all's well that ends well, and I
declare I don't feel so much the worse. I shall be sore about
the gills for a bit--and what do you think?"
He pointed to the long black ruler with the bronze stain; it lay
upon the floor; he held out his hand for it, and I gave it to
"The same one I gagged him with," said Raffles, with his still
ghastly smile; "he was a bit of an artist, old Corbucci, after
"Now let's hear how you fell into his clutches," said I,
briskly, for I was as anxious to hear as he seemed to tell me,
only for my part I could have waited until we were safe in the
"I do want to get it off my chest, Bunny," old Raffles admitted,
"and yet I hardly can tell you after all. I followed your
friend with the velvet eyes. I followed him all the way here.
Of course I came up to have a good look at the house when he'd
let himself in, and damme if he hadn't left the door ajar! Who
could resist that? I had pushed it half open and had just one
foot on the mat when I got such a crack on the head as I hope
never to get again. When I came to my wits they were hauling me
up to that ring-bolt by the hands, and old Corbucci himself was
bowing to me, but how HE got here I don't know yet."
"I can tell you that," said I, and told how I had seen the Count
for myself on the pavement underneath our windows. "Moreover,"
I continued, "I saw him spot you, and five minutes after in
Earl's Court Road I was told he'd driven off in a cab. He would
see you following his man, drive home ahead, and catch you by
having the door left open in the way you describe."
"Well," said Raffles, "he deserved to catch me somehow, for he'd
come from Naples on purpose, ruler and all, and the ring-bolts
were ready fixed, and even this house taken furnished for nothing
else! He meant catching me before he'd done, and scoring me off
in exactly the same way that I scored off him, only going one
better of course. He told me so himself, sitting where I am
sitting now, at three o'clock this morning, and smoking a most
abominable cigar that I've smelt ever since. It appears he sat
twenty-four hours when I left HIM trussed up, but he said twelve
would content him in my case, as there was certain death at the
end of them, and I mightn't have life enough left to appreciate
my end if he made it longer. But I wouldn't have trusted him if
he could have got the clock to go twice round without firing off
the pistol. He explained the whole mechanism of that to me; he
had thought it all out on the vineyard I told you about; and
then he asked if I remembered what he had promised me in the
name of the Camorra. I only remembered some vague threats, but
he was good enough to give me so many particulars of that
institution that I could make a European reputation by exposing
the whole show if it wasn't for my unfortunate resemblance to
that infernal rascal Raffles. Do you think they would know me
at the Yard, Bunny, after all this time? Upon my soul I've a
good mind to risk it!"
I offered no opinion on the point. How could it interest me
then? But interested I was in Raffles, never more so in my
life. He had been tortured all night and half a day, yet he
could sit and talk like this the moment we cut him down; he had
been within a minute of his death, yet he was as full of life
as ever; ill-treated and defeated at the best, he could still
smile through his blood as though the boot were on the other
leg. I had imagined that I knew my Raffles at last. I was not
likely so to flatter myself again.
"But what has happened to these villains?" I burst out, and my
indignation was not only against them for their cruelty, but
also against their victim for his phlegmatic attitude toward
them. It was difficult to believe that this was Raffles.
"Oh," said he, "they were to go off to Italy INSTANTER; they
should be crossing now. But do listen to what I am telling you;
it's interesting, my dear man. This old sinner Corbucci turns
out to have been no end of a boss in the Camorra--says so
himself. One of the capi paranze, my boy, no less; and the
velvety Johnny a giovano onorato, Anglice, fresher. This fellow
here was also in it, and I've sworn to protect him from them
evermore; and it's just as I said, half the organ-grinders in
London belong, and the whole lot of them were put on my tracks
by secret instructions. This excellent youth manufactures iced
poison on Saffron Hill when he's at home."
"And why on earth didn't he come to me quicker?"
"Because he couldn't talk to you, he could only fetch you, and
it was as much as his life was worth to do that before our
friends had departed. They were going by the eleven o'clock
from Victoria, and that didn't leave much chance, but he
certainly oughtn't to have run it as fine as he did. Still you
must remember that I had to fix things up with him in the fewest
possible words, in a single minute that the other two were
indiscreet enough to leave us alone together."
The ragamuffin in question was watching us with all his solitary
eye, as though he knew that we were discussing him. Suddenly he
broke out in agonized accents, his hands clasped, and a face so
full of fear that every moment I expected to see him on his
knees. But Raffles answered kindly, reassuringly, I could tell
from his tone, and then turned to me with a compassionate shrug.
"He says he couldn't find the mansions, Bunny, and really it's
not to be wondered at. I had only time to tell him to hunt you
up and bring you here by hook or crook before twelve to-day, and
after all he has done that. But now the poor devil thinks you're
riled with him, and that we'll give him away to the Camorra."
"Oh, it's not with him I'm riled," I said frankly, "but with
those other blackguards, and--and with you, old chap, for taking
it all as you do, while such infamous scoundrels have the last
laugh, and are safely on their way to France!"
Raffles looked up at me with a curiously open eye, an eye that I
never saw when he was not in earnest. I fancied he did not like
my last expression but one. After all, it was no laughing matter
"But are they?" said he. "I'm not so sure."
"You said they were!"
"I said they should be."
"Didn't you hear them go?"
"I heard nothing but the clock all night. It was like Big Ben
striking at the last--striking nine to the fellow on the drop."
And in that open eye I saw at last a deep glimmer of the ordeal
through which he had passed.
"But, my dear old Raffles, if they're still on the premises--"
The thought was too thrilling for a finished sentence.
"I hope they are," he said grimly, going to the door. "There's a
gas on! Was that burning when you came in?"
Now that I thought of it, yes, it had been.
"And there's a frightfully foul smell," I added, as I followed
Raffles down the stairs. He turned to me gravely with his hand
upon the front-room door, and at the same moment I saw a coat
with an astrakhan collar hanging on the pegs.
"They are in here, Bunny," he said, and turned the handle.
The door would only open a few inches. But a detestable odor
came out, with a broad bar of yellow gaslight. Raffles put his
handkerchief to his nose. I followed his example, signing to our
ally to do the same, and in another minute we had all three
squeezed into the room.
The man with the yellow boots was lying against the door, the
Count's great carcass sprawled upon the table, and at a glance
it was evident that both men had been dead some hours. The old
Camorrist had the stem of a liqueur-glass between his swollen
blue fingers, one of which had been cut in the breakage, and the
livid flesh was also brown with the last blood that it would
ever shed. His face was on the table, the huge moustache
projecting from under either leaden cheek, yet looking itself
strangely alive. Broken bread and scraps of frozen macaroni lay
upon the cloth and at the bottom of two soup-plates and a
tureen; the macaroni had a tinge of tomato; and there was a
crimson dram left in the tumblers, with an empty fiasco to show
whence it came. But near the great gray head upon the table
another liqueur-glass stood, unbroken, and still full of some
white and stinking liquid; and near that a tiny silver flash,
which made me recoil from Raffles as I had not from the dead;
for I knew it to be his.
"Come out of this poisonous air," he said sternly, "and I will
tell you how it has happened."
So we all three gathered together in the hall. But it was
Raffles who stood nearest the street-door, his back to it, his
eyes upon us two. And though it was to me only that he spoke at
first, he would pause from point to point, and translate into
Italian for the benefit of the one-eyed alien to whom he owed his
"You probably don't even know the name, Bunny," he began, "of the
deadliest poison yet known to science. It is cyanide of cacodyl,
and I have carried that small flask of it about with me for
months. Where I got it matters nothing; the whole point is
that a mere sniff reduces flesh to clay. I have never had any
opinion of suicide, as you know, but I always felt it worth
while to be forearmed against the very worst. Well, a bottle
of this stuff is calculated to stiffen an ordinary roomful of
ordinary people within five minutes; and I remembered my flask
when they had me as good as crucified in the small hours of this
morning. I asked them to take it out of my pocket. I begged
them to give me a drink before they left me. And what do you
suppose they did?"
I thought of many things but suggested none, while Raffles
turned this much of his statement into sufficiently fluent
Italian. But when he faced me again his face was still flaming.
"That beast Corbucci!" said he--"how can I pity him? He took the
flask; he would give me none; he flicked me in the face instead.
My idea was that he, at least, should go with me--to sell my
life as dearly as that--and a sniff would have settled us both.
But no, he must tantalize and torment me; he thought it brandy;
he must take it downstairs to drink to my destruction! Can you
have any pity for a hound like that?"
"Let us go," I at last said, hoarsely, as Raffles finished
speaking in Italian, and his second listener stood open-mouthed.
"We will go," said Raffles, "and we will chance being seen; if
the worst comes to the worst this good chap will prove that I
have been tied up since one o'clock this morning, and the medical
evidence will decide how long those dogs have been dead."
But the worst did not come to the worst, more power to my
unforgotten friend the cabman, who never came forward to say what
manner of men he had driven to Bloomsbury Square at top speed on
the very day upon which the tragedy was discovered there, or
whence he had driven them. To be sure, they had not behaved
like murderers, whereas the evidence at the inquest all went to
show that the defunct Corbucci was little better. His
reputation, which transpired with his identity, was that of a
libertine and a renegade, while the infernal apparatus upstairs
revealed the fiendish arts of the anarchist to boot. The inquiry
resulted eventually in an open verdict, and was chiefly
instrumental in killing such compassion as is usually felt for
the dead who die in their sins.
But Raffles would not have passed this title for this tale.
TO CATCH A THIEF
Society persons are not likely to have forgotten the series of
audacious robberies by which so many of themselves suffered in
turn during the brief course of a recent season. Raid after
raid was made upon the smartest houses in town, and within a few
weeks more than one exalted head had been shorn of its priceless
tiara. The Duke and Duchess of Dorchester lost half the
portable pieces of their historic plate on the very night of
their Graces' almost equally historic costume ball. The
Kenworthy diamonds were taken in broad daylight, during the
excitement of a charitable meeting on the ground floor, and the
gifts of her belted bridegroom to Lady May Paulton while the
outer air was thick with a prismatic shower of confetti. It was
obvious that all this was the work of no ordinary thief, and
perhaps inevitable that the name of Raffles should have been
dragged from oblivion by callous disrespecters of the departed
and unreasoning apologists for the police. These wiseacres did
not hesitate to bring a dead man back to life because they knew
of no living one capable of such feats; it is their heedless and
inconsequent calumnies that the present paper is partly intended
to refute. As a matter of fact, our joint innocence in this
matter was only exceeded by our common envy, and for a long
time, like the rest of the world, neither of us had the
slightest clew to the identity of the person who was following
in our steps with such irritating results.
"I should mind less," said Raffles, "if the fellow were really
playing my game. But abuse of hospitality was never one of my
strokes, and it seems to me the only shot he's got. When we
took old Lady Melrose's necklace, Bunny, we were not staying with
the Melroses, if you recollect."
We were discussing the robberies for the hundredth time, but for
once under conditions more favorable to animated conversation
than our unique circumstances permitted in the flat. We did
not often dine out. Dr. Theobald was one impediment, the risk
of recognition was another. But there were exceptions, when the
doctor was away or the patient defiant, and on these rare
occasions we frequented a certain unpretentious restaurant in
the Fulham quarter, where the cooking was plain but excellent,
and the cellar a surprise. Our bottle of '89 champagne was
empty to the label when the subject arose, to be touched by
Raffles in the reminiscent manner indicated above. I can see
his clear eye upon me now, reading me, weighing me. But I was
not so sensitive to his scrutiny at the time. His tone was
deliberate, calculating, preparatory; not as I heard it then,
through a head full of wine, but as it floats back to me across
the gulf between that moment and this.
"Excellent fillet!" said I, grossly. "So you think this chap is
as much in society as we were, do you?"
I preferred not to think so myself. We had cause enough for
jealousy without that. But Raffles raised his eyebrows an
"As much, my dear Bunny? He is not only in it, but of it;
there's no comparison between us there. Society is in rings like
a target, and we never were in the bull's-eye, however thick you
may lay on the ink! I was asked for my cricket. I haven't
forgotten it yet. But this fellow's one of themselves, with
the right of entre into the houses which we could only 'enter'
in a professional sense. That's obvious unless all these little
exploits are the work of different hands, which they as obviously
are not. And it's why I'd give five hundred pounds to put salt
on him to-night!"
"Not you," said I, as I drained my glass in festive incredulity.
"But I would, my dear Bunny. Waiter! another half-bottle of
this," and Raffles leant across the table as the empty one was
taken away. "I never was more serious in my life," he continued
below his breath. "Whatever else our successor may be, he's not
a dead man like me, or a marked man like you. If there's any
truth in my theory he's one of the last people upon whom
suspicion is ever likely to rest; and oh, Bunny, what a partner
he would make for you and me!"
Under less genial influences the very idea of a third partner
would have filled my soul with offence; but Raffles had chosen
his moment unerringly, and his arguments lost nothing by the
flowing accompaniment of the extra pint. They were, however,
quite strong in themselves. The gist of them was that thus far
we had remarkably little to show for what Raffles would call "our
second innings." This even I could not deny. We had scored a
few "long singles," but our "best shots" had gone "straight to
hand," and we were "playing a deuced slow game." Therefore we
needed a new partner--and the metaphor failed Raffles.
It had served its turn. I already agreed with him. In truth I
was tired of my false position as hireling attendant, and had
long fancied myself an object of suspicion to that other
impostor the doctor. A fresh, untrammelled start was a
fascinating idea to me, though two was company, and three in our
case might be worse than none. But I did not see how we could
hope, with our respective handicaps, to solve a problem which was
already the despair of Scotland Yard.
"Suppose I have solved it," observed Raffles, cracking a walnut
in his palm.
"How could you?" I asked, without believing for an instant that
"I have been taking the Morning Post for some time now."
"You have got me a good many odd numbers of the less base society
"I can't for the life of me see what you're driving at."
Raffles smiled indulgently as he cracked another nut.
"That's because you've neither observation nor imagination,
Bunny--and yet you try to write! Well, you wouldn't think it,
but I have a fairly complete list of the people who were at the
various functions under cover of which these different little
coups were brought off."
I said very stolidly that I did not see how that could help him.
It was the only answer to his good-humored but self-satisfied
contempt; it happened also to be true.
"Think," said Raffles, in a patient voice.
"When thieves break in and steal," said I, "upstairs, I don't see
much point in discovering who was downstairs at the time."
"Quite," said Raffles--"when they do break in."
"But that's what they have done in all these cases. An upstairs
door found screwed up, when things were at their height below;
thief gone and jewels with him before alarm could be raised.
Why, the trick's so old that I never knew you condescend to play
"Not so old as it looks," said Raffles, choosing the cigars and
handing me mine. "Cognac or Benedictine, Bunny?"
"Brandy," I said, coarsely.
"Besides," he went on, "the rooms were not screwed up; at
Dorchester House, at any rate, the door was only locked, and the
key missing, so that it might have been done on either side."
"But that was where he left his rope-ladder behind him!" I
exclaimed in triumph; but Raffles only shook his head.
"I don't believe in that rope-ladder, Bunny, except as a blind."
"Then what on earth do you believe?"
"That every one of these so-called burglaries has been done from
the inside, by one of the guests; and what's more I'm very much
mistaken if I haven't spotted the right sportsman."
I began to believe that he really had, there was such a wicked
gravity in the eyes that twinkled faintly into mine. I raised
my glass in convivial congratulation, and still remember the
somewhat anxious eye with which Raffles saw it emptied.
"I can only find one likely name," he continued, "that figures in
all these lists, and it is anything but a likely one at first
sight. Lord Ernest Belville was at all those functions. Know
anything about him, Bunny?"
"Not the Rational Drink fanatic?"
"That's all I want to know."
"Quite," said Raffles; "and yet what could be more promising? A
man whose views are so broad and moderate, and so widely held
already (saving your presence, Bunny), does not bore the world
with them without ulterior motives. So far so good. What are
this chap's motives? Does he want to advertise himself? No,
he's somebody already. But is he rich? On the contrary, he's
as poor as a rat for his position, and apparently without the
least ambition to be anything else; certainly he won't enrich
himself by making a public fad of what all sensible people are
agreed upon as it is. Then suddenly one gets one's own old
idea--the alternative profession! My cricket--his Rational
Drink! But it is no use jumping to conclusions. I must know
more than the newspapers can tell me. Our aristocratic friend
is forty, and unmarried. What has he been doing all these
years? How the devil was I to find out?"
"How did you?" I asked, declining to spoil my digestion with a
conundrum, as it was his evident intention that I should.
"Interviewed him!" said Raffles, smiling slowly on my amazement.
"You--interviewed him?" I echoed. "When--and where?"
"Last Thursday night, when, if you remember, we kept early hours,
because I felt done. What was the use of telling you what I had
up my sleeve, Bunny? It might have ended in fizzle, as it still
may. But Lord Ernest Belville was addressing the meeting at
Exeter Hall; I waited for him when the show was over, dogged him
home to King John's Mansions, and interviewed him in his own
rooms there before he turned in."
My journalistic jealousy was piqued to the quick. Affecting a
scepticism I did not feel (for no outrage was beyond the pale of
his impudence), I inquired dryly which journal Raffles had
pretended to represent. It is unnecessary to report his answer.
I could not believe him without further explanation.
"I should have thought," he said, "that even you would have
spotted a practice I never omit upon certain occasions. I always
pay a visit to the drawing-room, and fill my waistcoat pocket
from the card-tray. It is an immense help in any little
temporary impersonation. On Thursday night I sent up the card of
a powerful writer connected with a powerful paper; if Lord Ernest
had known him in the flesh I should have been obliged to confess
to a journalistic ruse; luckily he didn't--and I had been sent by
my editor to get the interview for next morning. What could be
better--for the alternative profession?"
I inquired what the interview had brought forth.
"Everything," said Raffles. "Lord Ernest has been a wanderer
these twenty years. Texas, Fiji, Australia. I suspect him of
wives and families in all three. But his manners are a liberal
education. He gave me some beautiful whiskey, and forgot all
about his fad. He is strong and subtle, but I talked him off his
guard. He is going to the Kirkleathams' to-night--I saw the card
stuck up. I stuck some wax into his keyhole as he was switching
off the lights."
And, with an eye upon the waiters, Raffles showed me a skeleton
key, newly twisted and filed; but my share of the extra pint (I
am afraid no fair share) had made me dense. I looked from the
key to Raffles with puckered forehead--for I happened to catch
sight of it in the mirror behind him.
"The Dowager Lady Kirkleatham," he whispered, "has diamonds as
big as beans, and likes to have 'em all on--and goes to bed
early--and happens to be in town!"
And now I saw.
"The villain means to get them from her!"
"And I mean to get them from the villain," said Raffles; "or,
rather, your share and mine."
"Will he consent to a partnership?"
"We shall have him at our mercy. He daren't refuse."
Raffles's plan was to gain access to Lord Ernest's rooms before
midnight; there we were to lie in wait for the aristocratic
rascal, and if I left all details to Raffles, and simply stood by
in case of a rumpus, I should be playing my part and earning my
share. It was a part that I had played before, not always with a
good grace, though there had never been any question about the
share. But to-night I was nothing loath. I had had just
champagne enough--how Raffles knew my measure!--and I was ready
and eager for anything. Indeed, I did not wish to wait for the
coffee, which was to be especially strong by order of Raffles.
But on that he insisted, and it was between ten and eleven when
at last we were in our cab.
"It would be fatal to be too early," he said as we drove; "on
the other hand, it would be dangerous to leave it too late. One
must risk something. How I should love to drive down Piccadilly
and see the lights! But unnecessary risks are another story."
King John's Mansions, as everybody knows, are the oldest, the
ugliest, and the tallest block of flats in all London. But they
are built upon a more generous scale than has since become the
rule, and with a less studious regard for the economy of space.
We were about to drive into the spacious courtyard when the
gate-keeper checked us in order to let another hansom drive out.
It contained a middle-aged man of the military type, like
ourselves in evening dress. That much I saw as his hansom
crossed our bows, because I could not help seeing it, but I
should not have given the incident a second thought if it had
not been for his extraordinary effect upon Raffles. In an
instant he was out upon the curb, paying the cabby, and in
another he was leading me across the street, away from the
"Where on earth are you going?" I naturally exclaimed.
"Into the park," said he. "We are too early."
His voice told me more than his words. It was strangely stern.
"Was that him--in the hansom?"
"Well, then, the coast's clear," said I, comfortably. I was for
turning back then and there, but Raffles forced me on with a hand
that hardened on my arm.
"It was a nearer thing than I care about," said he. "This seat
will do; no, the next one's further from a lamp-post. We will
give him a good half-hour, and I don't want to talk."
We had been seated some minutes when Big Ben sent a languid chime
over our heads to the stars. It was half-past ten, and a sultry
night. Eleven had struck before Raffles awoke from his sullen
reverie, and recalled me from mine with a slap on the back. In a
couple of minutes we were in the lighted vestibule at the inner
end of the courtyard of King John's Mansions.
"Just left Lord Ernest at Lady Kirkleatham's," said Raffles.
"Gave me his key and asked us to wait for him in his rooms. Will
you send us up in the lift?"
In a small way, I never knew old Raffles do anything better.
There was not an instant's demur. Lord Ernest Belville's rooms
were at the top of the building, but we were in them as quickly
as lift could carry and page-boy conduct us. And there was no
need for the skeleton key after all; the boy opened the outer
door with one of his own, and switched on the lights before
"Now that's interesting," said Raffles, as soon as we were alone;
"they can come in and clean when he is out. What if he keeps his
swag at the bank? By Jove, that's an idea for him! I don't
believe he's getting rid of it; it's all lying low somewhere, if
I'm not mistaken, and he's not a fool."
While he spoke he was moving about the sitting-room, which was
charmingly furnished in the antique style, and making as many
remarks as though he were an auctioneer's clerk with an
inventory to prepare and a day to do it in, instead of a
cracksman who might be surprised in his crib at any moment.
"Chippendale of sorts, eh, Bunny? Not genuine, of course; but
where can you get genuine Chippendale now, and who knows it when
they see it? There's no merit in mere antiquity. Yet the way
people pose on the subject! If a thing's handsome and useful,
and good cabinet-making, it's good enough for me."
"Hadn't we better explore the whole place?" I suggested
nervously. He had not even bolted the outer door. Nor would he
when I called his attention to the omission.
"If Lord Ernest finds his rooms locked up he'll raise Cain," said
Raffles; "we must let him come in and lock up for himself before
we corner him. But he won't come yet; if he did it might be
awkward, for they'd tell him down below what I told them. A new
staff comes on at midnight. I discovered that the other night."
"Supposing he does come in before?"
"Well, he can't have us turned out without first seeing who we
are, and he won't try it on when I've had one word with him.
Unless my suspicions are unfounded, I mean."
"Isn't it about time to test them?"
"My good Bunny, what do you suppose I've been doing all this
while? He keeps nothing in here. There isn't a lock to the
Chippendale that you couldn't pick with a penknife, and not a
loose board in the floor, for I was treading for one before the
boy left us. Chimney's no use in a place like this where they
keep them swept for you. Yes, I'm quite ready to try his
There was but a bathroom besides; no kitchen, no servant's room;
neither are necessary in King John's Mansions. I thought it as
well to put my head inside the bathroom while Raffles went into
the bedroom, for I was tormented by the horrible idea that the
man might all this time be concealed somewhere in the flat. But
the bathroom blazed void in the electric light. I found Raffles
hanging out of the starry square which was the bedroom window,
for the room was still in darkness. I felt for the switch at the
"Put it out again!" said Raffles fiercely. He rose from the
sill, drew blind and curtains carefully, then switched on the
light himself. It fell upon a face creased more in pity than in
anger, and Raffles only shook his head as I hung mine.
"It's all right, old boy," said he; "but corridors have windows
too, and servants have eyes; and you and I are supposed to be in
the other room, not in this. But cheer up, Bunny! This is THE
room; look at the extra bolt on the door; he's had that put on,
and there's an iron ladder to his window in case of fire! Way
of escape ready against the hour of need; he's a better man than
I thought him, Bunny, after all. But you may bet your bottom
dollar that if there's any boodle in the flat it's in this room."
Yet the room was very lightly furnished; and nothing was locked.
We looked everywhere, but we looked in vain. The wardrobe was
filled with hanging coats and trousers in a press, the drawers
with the softest silk and finest linen. It was a camp bedstead
that would not have unsettled an anchorite; there was no place
for treasure there. I looked up the chimney, but Raffles told me
not to be a fool, and asked if I ever listened to what he said.
There was no question about his temper now. I never knew him in
"Then he has got it in the bank," he growled. "I'll swear I'm
not mistaken in my man!"
I had the tact not to differ with him there. But I could not
help suggesting that now was our time to remedy any mistake we
might have made. We were on the right side of midnight still.
"Then we stultify ourselves downstairs," said Raffles. "No, I'll
be shot if I do! He may come in with the Kirkleatham diamonds!
You do what you like, Bunny, but I don't budge."
"I certainly shan't leave you," I retorted, "to be knocked into
the middle of next week by a better man than yourself."
I had borrowed his own tone, and he did not like it. They never
do. I thought for a moment that Raffles was going to strike
me--for the first and last time in his life. He could if he
liked. My blood was up. I was ready to send him to the devil.
And I emphasized my offence by nodding and shrugging toward a
pair of very large Indian clubs that stood in the fender, on
either side of the chimney up which I had presumed to glance.
In an instant Raffles had seized the clubs, and was whirling
them about his gray head in a mixture of childish pique and
puerile bravado which I should have thought him altogether above.
And suddenly as I watched him his face changed, softened, lit
up, and he swung the clubs gently down upon the bed.
"They're not heavy enough for their size," said he rapidly; "and
I'll take my oath they're not the same weight!"
He shook one club after the other, with both hands, close to his
ear; then he examined their butt-ends under the electric light.
I saw what he suspected now, and caught the contagion of his
suppressed excitement. Neither of us spoke. But Raffles had
taken out the portable tool-box that he called a knife, and
always carried, and as he opened the gimlet he handed me the club
he held. Instinctively I tucked the small end under my arm, and
presented the other to Raffles.
"Hold him tight," he whispered, smiling. "He's not only a better
man than I thought him, Bunny; he's hit upon a better dodge than
ever I did, of its kind. Only I should have weighted them
evenly--to a hair."
He had screwed the gimlet into the circular butt, close to the
edge, and now we were wrenching in opposite directions. For a
moment or more nothing happened. Then all at once something
gave, and Raffles swore an oath as soft as any prayer. And for
the minute after that his hand went round and round with the
gimlet, as though he were grinding a piano-organ, while the end
wormed slowly out on its delicate thread of fine hard wood.
The clubs were as hollow as drinking-horns, the pair of them, for
we went from one to the other without pausing to undo the padded
packets that poured out upon the bed. These were deliciously
heavy to the hand, yet thickly swathed in cotton-wool, so that
some stuck together, retaining the shape of the cavity, as though
they had been run out of a mould. And when we did open them--but
let Raffles speak.
He had deputed me to screw in the ends of the clubs, and to
replace the latter in the fender where we had found them. When
I had done the counterpane was glittering with diamonds where it
was not shimmering with pearls.
"If this isn't that tiara that Lady May was married in," said
Raffles, "and that disappeared out of the room she changed in,
while it rained confetti on the steps, I'll present it to her
instead of the one she lost. . . . It was stupid to keep these
old gold spoons, valuable as they are; they made the difference
in the weight. . . . Here we have probably the Kenworthy
diamonds. . . . I don't know the history of these pearls. . . .
This looks like one family of rings--left on the basin-stand,
perhaps--alas, poor lady! And that's the lot."
Our eyes met across the bed.
"What's it all worth?" I asked, hoarsely.
"Impossible to say. But more than all we ever took in all our
lives. That I'll swear to."
"More than all--"
My tongue swelled with the thought.
"But it'll take some turning into cash, old chap!"
"And--must it be a partnership?" I asked, finding a lugubrious
voice at length.
"Partnership be damned!" cried Raffles, heartily. "Let's get out
quicker than we came in."
We pocketed the things between us, cotton-wool and all, not
because we wanted the latter, but to remove all immediate traces
of our really meritorious deed.
"The sinner won't dare to say a word when he does find out,"
remarked Raffles of Lord Ernest; "but that's no reason why he
should find out before he must. Everything's straight in here, I
think; no, better leave the window open as it was, and the blind
up. Now out with the light. One peep at the other room. That's
all right, too. Out with the passage light, Bunny, while I
His words died away in a whisper. A key was fumbling at the lock
"Out with it--out with it!" whispered Raffles in an agony; and as
I obeyed he picked me off my feet and swung me bodily but
silently into the bedroom, just as the outer door opened, and a
masterful step strode in.
The next five were horrible minutes. We heard the apostle of
Rational Drink unlock one of the deep drawers in his antique
sideboard, and sounds followed suspiciously like the splash of
spirits and the steady stream from a siphon. Never before or
since did I experience such a thirst as assailed me at that
moment, nor do I believe that many tropical explorers have known
its equal. But I had Raffles with me, and his hand was as
steady and as cool as the hand of a trained nurse. That I know
because he turned up the collar of my overcoat for me, for some
reason, and buttoned it at the throat. I afterwards found that
he had done the same to his own, but I did not hear him doing
it. The one thing I heard in the bedroom was a tiny metallic
click, muffled and deadened in his overcoat pocket, and it not
only removed my last tremor, but strung me to a higher pitch of
excitement than ever. Yet I had then no conception of the game
that Raffles was deciding to play, and that I was to play with
him in another minute.
It cannot have been longer before Lord Ernest came into his
bedroom. Heavens, but my heart had not forgotten how to thump!
We were standing near the door, and I could swear he touched me;
then his boots creaked, there was a rattle in the fender--and
Raffles switched on the light.
Lord Ernest Belville crouched in its glare with one Indian club
held by the end, like a footman with a stolen bottle. A
good-looking, well-built, iron-gray, iron-jawed man; but a fool
and a weakling at that moment, if he had never been either
"Lord Ernest Belville," said Raffles, "it's no use. This is a
loaded revolver, and if you force me I shall use it on you as I
would on any other desperate criminal. I am here to arrest you
for a series of robberies at the Duke of Dorchester's, Sir John
Kenworthy's, and other noblemen's and gentlemen's houses during
the present season. You'd better drop what you've got in your
hand. It's empty."
Lord Ernest lifted the club an inch or two, and with it his
eyebrows--and after it his stalwart frame as the club crashed
back into the fender. And as he stood at his full height, a
courteous but ironic smile under the cropped moustache, he
looked what he was, criminal or not.
"Scotland Yard?" said he.
"That's our affair, my lord."
"I didn't think they'd got it in them," said Lord Ernest. "Now
I recognize you. You're my interviewer. No, I didn't think any
of you fellows had got all that in you. Come into the other
room, and I'll show you something else. Oh, keep me covered by
all means. But look at this!"
On the antique sideboard, their size doubled by reflection in the
polished mahogany, lay a coruscating cluster of precious stones,
that fell in festoons about Lord Ernest's fingers as he handed
them to Raffles with scarcely a shrug.
"The Kirkleatham diamonds," said he. "Better add 'em to the
Raffles did so without a smile; with his overcoat buttoned up to
the chin, his tall hat pressed down to his eyes, and between the
two his incisive features and his keen, stern glance, he looked
the ideal detective of fiction and the stage. What _I_ looked
God knows, but I did my best to glower and show my teeth at his
side. I had thrown myself into the game, and it was obviously a
"Wouldn't take a share, I suppose?" Lord Ernest said casually.
Raffles did not condescend to reply. I rolled back my lips like
"Then a drink, at least!"
My mouth watered, but Raffles shook his head impatiently.
"We must be going, my lord, and you will have to come with us."
I wondered what in the world we should do with him when we had
"Give me time to put some things together? Pair of pyjamas and
tooth-brush, don't you know?"
"I cannot give you many minutes, my lord, but I don't want to
cause a disturbance here, so I'll tell them to call a cab if you
like. But I shall be back in a minute, and you must be ready in
five. Here, inspector, you'd better keep this while I am gone."
And I was left alone with that dangerous criminal! Raffles
nipped my arm as he handed me the revolver, but I got small
comfort out of that.
"'Sea-green Incorruptible?'" inquired Lord Ernest as we stood
face to face.
"You don't corrupt me," I replied through naked teeth.
"Then come into my room. I'll lead the way. Think you can hit
me if I misbehave?"
I put the bed between us without a second's delay. My prisoner
flung a suit-case upon it, and tossed things into it with a
dejected air; suddenly, as he was fitting them in, without
raising his head (which I was watching), his right hand closed
over the barrel with which I covered him.
"You'd better not shoot," he said, a knee upon his side of the
bed; "if you do it may be as bad for you as it will be for me!"
I tried to wrest the revolver from him.
"I will if you force me," I hissed.
"You'd better not," he repeated, smiling; and now I saw that if I
did I should only shoot into the bed or my own legs. His hand
was on the top of mine, bending it down, and the revolver with
it. The strength of it was as the strength of ten of mine; and
now both his knees were on the bed; and suddenly I saw his other
hand, doubled into a fist, coming up slowly over the suit-case.
"Help!" I called feebly.
"Help, forsooth! I begin to believe YOU ARE from the Yard," he
said--and his upper-cut came with the "Yard." It caught me under
It lifted me off my legs. I have a dim recollection of the crash
that I made in falling.
Raffles was standing over me when I recovered consciousness. I
lay stretched upon the bed across which that blackguard Belville
had struck his knavish blow. The suit-case was on the floor,
but its dastardly owner had disappeared.
"Is he gone?" was my first faint question.
"Thank God you're not, anyway!" replied Raffles, with what struck
me then as mere flippancy. I managed to raise myself upon one
"I meant Lord Ernest Belville," said I, with dignity. "Are you
quite sure that he's cleared out?"
Raffles waved a hand towards the window, which stood wide open to
the summer stars.
"Of course," said he, "and by the route I intended him to take;
he's gone by the iron-ladder, as I hoped he would. What on
earth should we have done with him? My poor, dear Bunny, I
thought you'd take a bribe! But it's really more convincing as
it is, and just as well for Lord Ernest to be convinced for the
"Are you sure he is?" I questioned, as I found a rather shaky
pair of legs.
"Of course!" cried Raffles again, in the tone to make one blush
for the least misgiving on the point. "Not that it matters one
bit," he added, airily, "for we have him either way; and when he
does tumble to it, as he may any minute, he won't dare to open
"Then the sooner we clear out the better," said I, but I looked
askance at the open window, for my head was spinning still.
"When you feel up to it," returned Raffles, "we shall STROLL out,
and I shall do myself the honor of ringing for the lift. The
force of habit is too strong in you, Bunny. I shall shut the
window and leave everything exactly as we found it. Lord Ernest
will probably tumble before he is badly missed; and then he may
come back to put salt on us; but I should like to know what he
can do even if he succeeds! Come, Bunny, pull yourself together,
and you'll be a different man when you're in the open air."
And for a while I felt one, such was my relief at getting out of
those infernal mansions with unfettered wrists; this we managed
easily enough; but once more Raffles's performance of a small
part was no less perfect than his more ambitious work upstairs,
and something of the successful artist's elation possessed him as
we walked arm-in-arm across St. James's Park. It was long since
I had known him so pleased with himself, and only too long since
he had had such reason.
"I don't think I ever had a brighter idea in my life," he said;
"never thought of it till he was in the next room; never dreamt
of its coming off so ideally even then, and didn't much care,
because we had him all ways up. I'm only sorry you let him knock
you out. I was waiting outside the door all the time, and it
made me sick to hear it. But I once broke my own head, Bunny, if
you remember, and not in half such an excellent cause!"
Raffles touched all his pockets in his turn, the pockets that
contained a small fortune apiece, and he smiled in my face as we
crossed the lighted avenues of the Mall. Next moment he was
hailing a hansom--for I suppose I was still pretty pale--and not
a word would he let me speak until we had alighted as near as was
prudent to the flat.
"What a brute I've been, Bunny!" he whispered then, "but you
take half the swag, old boy, and right well you've earned it.
No, we'll go in by the wrong door and over the roof; it's too
late for old Theobald to be still at the play, and too early for
him to be safely in his cups."
So we climbed the many stairs with cat-like stealth, and like
cats crept out upon the grimy leads. But to-night they were no
blacker than their canopy of sky; not a chimney-stack stood out
against the starless night; one had to feel one's way in order to
avoid tripping over the low parapets of the L-shaped wells that
ran from roof to basement to light the inner rooms. One of these
wells was spanned by a flimsy bridge with iron handrails that
felt warm to the touch as Raffles led the way across! A hotter
and a closer night I have never known.
"The flat will be like an oven," I grumbled, at the head of our
"Then we won't go down," said Raffles, promptly; we'll slack it
up here for a bit instead. No, Bunny, you stay where you are!
I'll fetch you a drink and a deck-chair, and you shan't come
down till you feel more fit."
And I let him have his way, I will not say as usual, for I had
even less than my normal power of resistance that night. That
villainous upper-cut! My head still sang and throbbed, as I
seated myself on one of the aforesaid parapets, and buried it in
my hot hands. Nor was the night one to dispel a headache; there
was distinct thunder in the air. Thus I sat in a heap, and
brooded over my misadventure, a pretty figure of a subordinate
villain, until the step came for which I waited; and it never
struck me that it came from the wrong direction.
"You have been quick," said I, simply.
"Yes," hissed a voice I recognized; "and you've got to be quicker
still! Here, out with your wrists; no, one at a time; and if you
utter a syllable you're a dead man."
It was Lord Ernest Belville; his close-cropped, iron-gray
moustache gleamed through the darkness, drawn up over his set
teeth. In his hand glittered a pair of handcuffs, and before I
knew it one had snapped its jaws about my right wrist.
"Now come this way," said Lord Ernest, showing me a revolver
also, "and wait for your friend. And, recollect, a single
syllable of warning will be your death!"
With that the ruffian led me to the very bridge I had just
crossed at Raffles's heels, and handcuffed me to the iron rail
midway across the chasm. It no longer felt warm to my touch, but
icy as the blood in all my veins.
So this high-born hypocrite had beaten us at our game and his,
and Raffles had met his match at last! That was the most
intolerable thought, that Raffles should be down in the flat on
my account, and that I could not warn him of his impending fate;
for how was it possible without making such an outcry as should
bring the mansions about our ears? And there I shivered on that
wretched plank, chained like Andromeda to the rock, with a black
infinity above and below; and before my eyes, now grown familiar
with the peculiar darkness, stood Lord Ernest Belville, waiting
for Raffles to emerge with full hands and unsuspecting heart!
Taken so horribly unawares, even Raffles must fall an easy prey
to a desperado in resource and courage scarcely second to
himself, but one whom he had fatally underrated from the
beginning. Not that I paused to think how the thing had
happened; my one concern was for what was to happen next.
And what did happen was worse than my worst foreboding, for first
a light came flickering into the sort of companion-hatch at the
head of the stairs, and finally Raffles--in his shirt-sleeves!
He was not only carrying a candle to put the finishing touch to
him as a target; he had dispensed with coat and waistcoat
downstairs, and was at once full-handed and unarmed.
"Where are you, old chap?" he cried, softly, himself blinded by
the light he carried; and he advanced a couple of steps towards
Belville. "This isn't you, is it?"
And Raffles stopped, his candle held on high, a folding chair
under the other arm.
"No, I am not your friend," replied Lord Ernest, easily; "but
kindly remain standing exactly where you are, and don't lower
that candle an inch, unless you want your brains blown into the
Raffles said never a word, but for a moment did as he was bid;
and the unshaken flame of the candle was testimony alike to the
stillness of the night and to the finest set of nerves in Europe.
Then, to my horror, he coolly stooped, placing candle and chair
on the leads, and his hands in his pockets, as though it were but
a popgun that covered him.
"Why didn't you shoot?" he asked insolently as he rose.
"Frightened of the noise? I should be, too, with an old-pattern
machine like that. All very well for service in the field--but
on the house-tops at dead of night!"
"I shall shoot, however," replied Lord Ernest, as quietly in his
turn, and with less insolence, "and chance the noise, unless you
instantly restore my property. I am glad you don't dispute the
last word," he continued after a slight pause. "There is no
keener honor than that which subsists, or ought to subsist,
among thieves; and I need hardly say that I soon spotted you as
one of the fraternity. Not in the beginning, mind you! For the
moment I did think you were one of these smart detectives jumped
to life from some sixpenny magazine; but to preserve the
illusion you ought to provide yourself with a worthier
lieutenant. It was he who gave your show away," chuckled the
wretch, dropping for a moment the affected style of speech which
seemed intended to enhance our humiliation; "smart detectives
don't go about with little innocents to assist them. You needn't
be anxious about him, by the way; it wasn't necessary to pitch
him into the street; he is to be seen though not heard, if you
look in the right direction. Nor must you put all the blame upon
your friend; it was not he, but you, who made so sure that I
had got out by the window. You see, I was in my bathroom all the
time--with the door open."
"The bathroom, eh?" Raffles echoed with professional interest.
"And you followed us on foot across the park?"
"And then in a cab?"
"And afterwards on foot once more."
"The simplest skeleton would let you in down below."
I saw the lower half of Lord Ernest's face grinning in the light
of the candle set between them on the ground.
"You follow every move," said he; "there can be no doubt you are
one of the fraternity; and I shouldn't wonder if we had formed
our style upon the same model. Ever know A. J. Raffles?"
The abrupt question took my breath away; but Raffles himself did
not lose an instant over his answer.
"Intimately," said he.
"That accounts for you, then," laughed Lord Ernest, "as it does
for me, though I never had the honor of the master's
acquaintance. Nor is it for me to say which is the worthier
disciple. Perhaps, however, now that your friend is handcuffed
in mid-air, and you yourself are at my mercy, you will concede me
some little temporary advantage?"
And his face split in another grin from the cropped moustache
downward, as I saw no longer by candlelight but by a flash of
lightning which tore the sky in two before Raffles could reply.
"You have the bulge at present," admitted Raffles; "but you have