Part 2 out of 4
"Then how do you know?"
"They've been seen. In the district. Two well-known London
Two! I looked at Raffles. I had done so often during the
evening, envying him his high spirits, his iron nerve, his
buoyant wit, his perfect ease and self-possession. But now I
pitied him; through all my own terror and consternation, I pitied
him as he sat eating and drinking, and laughing and talking,
without a cloud of fear or of embarrassment on his handsome,
taking, daredevil face. I caught up my champagne and emptied the
"Who has seen them?" I then asked calmly.
"A detective. They were traced down from town a few days ago.
They are believed to have designs on the Abbey!"
"But why aren't they run in?"
"Exactly what I asked papa on the way here this evening; he says
there is no warrant out against the men at present, and all that
can be done is to watch their movements."
"Oh! so they are being watched?"
"Yes, by a detective who is down here on purpose. And I heard
Lord Amersteth tell papa that they had been seen this afternoon
at Warbeck Junction!"
The very place where Raffles and I had been caught in the rain!
Our stampede from the inn was now explained; on the other hand, I
was no longer to be taken by surprise by anything that my
companion might have to tell me; and I succeeded in looking her
in the face with a smile.
"This is really quite exciting, Miss Melhuish," said I. "May I
ask how you come to know so much about it?"
"It's papa," was the confidential reply. "Lord Amersteth
consulted him, and he consulted me. But for goodness' sake don't
let it get about! I can't think WHAT tempted me to tell you!"
"You may trust me, Miss Melhuish. But--aren't you frightened?"
Miss Melhuish giggled.
"Not a bit! They won't come to the rectory. There's nothing for
them there. But look round the table: look at the diamonds: look
at old Lady Melrose's necklace alone!"
The Dowager Marchioness of Melrose was one of the few persons
whom it had been unnecessary to point out to me. She sat on Lord
Amersteth's right, flourishing her ear-trumpet, and drinking
champagne with her usual notorious freedom, as dissipated and
kindly a dame as the world has ever seen. It was a necklace of
diamonds and sapphires that rose and fell about her ample neck.
"They say it's worth five thousand pounds at least," continued my
companion. "Lady Margaret told me so this morning (that's Lady
Margaret next your Mr. Raffles, you know); and the old dear WILL
wear them every night. Think what a haul they would be! No; we
don't feel in immediate danger at the rectory."
When the ladies rose, Miss Melhuish bound me to fresh vows of
secrecy; and left me, I should think, with some remorse for her
indiscretion, but more satisfaction at the importance which it
had undoubtedly given her in my eyes. The opinion may smack of
vanity, though, in reality, the very springs of conversation
reside in that same human, universal itch to thrill the auditor.
The peculiarity of Miss Melhuish was that she must be thrilling
at all costs. And thrilling she had surely been.
I spare you my feelings of the next two hours. I tried hard to
get a word with Raffles, but again and again I failed. In the
dining-room he and Crowley lit their cigarettes with the same
match, and had their heads together all the time. In the
drawing-room I had the mortification of hearing him talk
interminable nonsense into the ear-trumpet of Lady Melrose, whom
he knew in town. Lastly, in the billiard-room, they had a great
and lengthy pool, while I sat aloof and chafed more than ever in
the company of a very serious Scotchman, who had arrived since
dinner, and who would talk of nothing but the recent improvements
in instantaneous photography. He had not come to play in the
matches (he told me), but to obtain for Lord Amersteth such a
series of cricket photographs as had never been taken before;
whether as an amateur or a professional photographer I was unable
to determine. I remember, however, seeking distraction in little
bursts of resolute attention to the conversation of this bore.
And so at last the long ordeal ended; glasses were emptied, men
said good-night, and I followed Raffles to his room.
"It's all up!" I gasped, as he turned up the gas and I shut the
door. "We're being watched. We've been followed down from town.
There's a detective here on the spot!"
"How do YOU know?" asked Raffles, turning upon me quite sharply,
but without the least dismay. And I told him how I knew.
"Of course," I added, "it was the fellow we saw in the inn this
"The detective?" said Raffles. "Do you mean to say you don't
know a detective when you see one, Bunny?"
"If that wasn't the fellow, which is?"
Raffles shook his head.
"To think that you've been talking to him for the last hour in
the billiard-room and couldn't spot what he was!"
"The Scotch photographer--"
I paused aghast.
"Scotch he is," said Raffles, "and photographer he may be. He is
also Inspector Mackenzie of Scotland Yard--the very man I sent
the message to that night last April. And you couldn't spot who
he was in a whole hour! O Bunny, Bunny, you were never built for
"But," said I, "if that was Mackenzie, who was the fellow you
bolted from at Warbeck?"
"The man he's watching."
"But he's watching us!"
Raffles looked at me with a pitying eye, and shook his head again
before handing me his open cigarette-case.
"I don't know whether smoking's forbidden in one's bedroom, but
you'd better take one of these and stand tight, Bunny, because
I'm going to say something offensive."
I helped myself with a laugh.
"Say what you like, my dear fellow, if it really isn't you and I
that Mackenzie's after."
"Well, then, it isn't, and it couldn't be, and nobody but a born
Bunny would suppose for a moment that it was! Do you seriously
think he would sit there and knowingly watch his man playing pool
under his nose? Well, he might; he's a cool hand, Mackenzie; but
I'm not cool enough to win a pool under such conditions. At
least I don't think I am; it would be interesting to see. The
situation wasn't free from strain as it was, though I knew he
wasn't thinking of us. Crowley told me all about it after
dinner, you see, and then I'd seen one of the men for myself this
afternoon. You thought it was a detective who made me turn tail
at that inn. I really don't know why I didn't tell you at the
time, but it was just the opposite. That loud, red-faced brute is
one of the cleverest thieves in London, and I once had a drink
with him and our mutual fence. I was an Eastender from tongue to
toe at the moment, but you will understand that I don't run
unnecessary risks of recognition by a brute like that."
"He's not alone, I hear."
"By no means; there's at least one other man with him; and it's
suggested that there may be an accomplice here in the house."
"Did Lord Crowley tell you so?"
"Crowley and the champagne between them. In confidence, of
course, just as your girl told you; but even in confidence he
never let on about Mackenzie. He told me there was a detective
in the background, but that was all. Putting him up as a guest
is evidently their big secret, to be kept from the other guests
because it might offend them, but more particularly from the
servants whom he's here to watch. That's my reading of the
situation, Bunny, and you will agree with me that it's infinitely
more interesting than we could have imagined it would prove."
"But infinitely more difficult for us," said I, with a sigh of
pusillanimous relief. "Our hands are tied for this week, at all
"Not necessarily, my dear Bunny, though I admit that the chances
are against us. Yet I'm not so sure of that either. There are
all sorts of possibilities in these three-cornered combinations.
Set A to watch B, and he won't have an eye left for C. That's
the obvious theory, but then Mackenzie's a very big A. I should
be sorry to have any boodle about me with that man in the house.
Yet it would be great to nip in between A and B and score off
them both at once! It would be worth a risk, Bunny, to do that;
it would be worth risking something merely to take on old hands
like B and his men at their own old game! Eh, Bunny? That would
be something like a match. Gentlemen and Players at single
wicket, by Jove!"
His eyes were brighter than I had known them for many a day.
They shone with the perverted enthusiasm which was roused in him
only by the contemplation of some new audacity. He kicked off
his shoes and began pacing his room with noiseless rapidity; not
since the night of the Old Bohemian dinner to Reuben Rosenthall
had Raffles exhibited such excitement in my presence; and I was
not sorry at the moment to be reminded of the fiasco to which
that banquet had been the prelude.
"My dear A. J.," said I in his very own tone, "you're far too
fond of the uphill game; you will eventually fall a victim to the
sporting spirit and nothing else. Take a lesson from our last
escape, and fly lower as you value our skins. Study the house as
much as you like, but do--not--go and shove your head into
My wealth of metaphor brought him to a stand-still, with his
cigarette between his fingers and a grin beneath his shining
"You're quite right, Bunny. I won't. I really won't. Yet--you
saw old Lady Melrose's necklace? I've been wanting it for years!
But I'm not going to play the fool; honor bright, I'm not; yet
--by Jove!--to get to windward of the professors and Mackenzie
too! It would be a great game, Bunny, it would be a great game!"
"Well, you mustn't play it this week."
"No, no, I won't. But I wonder how the professors think of going
to work? That's what one wants to know. I wonder if they've
really got an accomplice in the house? How I wish I knew their
game! But it's all right, Bunny; don't you be jealous; it shall
be as you wish."
And with that assurance I went off to my own room, and so to bed
with an incredibly light heart. I had still enough of the honest
man in me to welcome the postponement of our actual felonies, to
dread their performance, to deplore their necessity: which is
merely another way of stating the too patent fact that I was an
incomparably weaker man than Raffles, while every whit as wicked.
I had, however, one rather strong point. I possessed the gift of
dismissing unpleasant considerations, not intimately connected
with the passing moment, entirely from my mind. Through the
exercise of this faculty I had lately been living my frivolous
life in town with as much ignoble enjoyment as I had derived from
it the year before; and similarly, here at Milchester, in the
long-dreaded cricket-week, I had after all a quite excellent
It is true that there were other factors in this pleasing
disappointment. In the first place, mirabile dictu, there were
one or two even greater duffers than I on the Abbey
cricket-field. Indeed, quite early in the week, when it was of
most value to me, I gained considerable kudos for a lucky catch;
a ball, of which I had merely heard the hum, stuck fast in my
hand, which Lord Amersteth himself grasped in public
congratulation. This happy accident was not to be undone even by
me, and, as nothing succeeds like success, and the constant
encouragement of the one great cricketer on the field was in
itself an immense stimulus, I actually made a run or two in my
very next innings. Miss Melhuish said pretty things to me that
night at the great ball in honor of Viscount Crowley's majority;
she also told me that was the night on which the robbers would
assuredly make their raid, and was full of arch tremors when we
sat out in the garden, though the entire premises were
illuminated all night long. Meanwhile the quiet Scotchman took
countless photographs by day, which he developed by night in a
dark room admirably situated in the servants' part of the house;
and it is my firm belief that only two of his fellow-guests knew
Mr. Clephane of Dundee for Inspector Mackenzie of Scotland Yard.
The week was to end with a trumpery match on the Saturday, which
two or three of us intended abandoning early in order to return
to town that night. The match, however, was never played. In
the small hours of the Saturday morning a tragedy took place at
Let me tell of the thing as I saw and heard it. My room opened
upon the central gallery, and was not even on the same floor as
that on which Raffles--and I think all the other men--were
quartered. I had been put, in fact, into the dressing-room of
one of the grand suites, and my too near neighbors were old Lady
Melrose and my host and hostess. Now, by the Friday evening the
actual festivities were at an end, and, for the first time that
week, I must have been sound asleep since midnight, when all at
once I found myself sitting up breathless. A heavy thud had come
against my door, and now I heard hard breathing and the dull
stamp of muffled feet.
"I've got ye," muttered a voice. "It's no use struggling."
It was the Scotch detective, and a new fear turned me cold.
There was no reply, but the hard breathing grew harder still, and
the muffled feet beat the floor to a quicker measure. In sudden
panic I sprang out of bed and flung open my door. A light burnt
low on the landing, and by it I could see Mackenzie swaying and
staggering in a silent tussle with some powerful adversary.
"Hold this man!" he cried, as I appeared. "Hold the rascal!"
But I stood like a fool until the pair of them backed into me,
when, with a deep breath I flung myself on the fellow, whose face
I had seen at last. He was one of the footmen who waited at
table; and no sooner had I pinned him than the detective loosed
"Hang on to him," he cried. "There's more of 'em below."
And he went leaping down the stairs, as other doors opened and
Lord Amersteth and his son appeared simultaneously in their
pyjamas. At that my man ceased struggling; but I was still
holding him when Crowley turned up the gas.
"What the devil's all this?" asked Lord Amersteth, blinking.
"Who was that ran downstairs?"
"Mac--Clephane!" said I hastily.
"Aha!" said he, turning to the footman. "So you're the
scoundrel, are you? Well done! Well done! Where was he
I had no idea.
"Here's Lady Melrose's door open," said Crowley. "Lady Melrose!
"You forget she's deaf," said Lord Amersteth. "Ah! that'll be her
An inner door had opened; next instant there was a little shriek,
and a white figure gesticulated on the threshold.
"Ou donc est l'ecrin de Madame la Marquise? La fenetre est
ouverte. Il a disparu!"
"Window open and jewel-case gone, by Jove!" exclaimed Lord
Amersteth. "Mais comment est Madame la Marquise? Est elle
"Oui, milor. Elle dort."
"Sleeps through it all," said my lord. "She's the only one,
"What made Mackenzie--Clephane--bolt?" young Crowley asked me.
"Said there were more of them below."
"Why the devil couldn't you tell us so before?" he cried, and
went leaping downstairs in his turn.
He was followed by nearly all the cricketers, who now burst upon
the scene in a body, only to desert it for the chase. Raffles
was one of them, and I would gladly have been another, had not
the footman chosen this moment to hurl me from him, and to make a
dash in the direction from which they had come. Lord Amersteth
had him in an instant; but the fellow fought desperately, and it
took the two of us to drag him downstairs, amid a terrified
chorus from half-open doors. Eventually we handed him over to
two other footmen who appeared with their nightshirts tucked into
their trousers, and my host was good enough to compliment me as
he led the way outside.
"I thought I heard a shot," he added. "Didn't you?"
"I thought I heard three."
And out we dashed into the darkness.
I remember how the gravel pricked my feet, how the wet grass
numbed them as we made for the sound of voices on an outlying
lawn. So dark was the night that we were in the cricketers'
midst before we saw the shimmer of their pyjamas; and then Lord
Amersteth almost trod on Mackenzie as he lay prostrate in the
"Who's this ?" he cried. "What on earth's happened?"
"It's Clephane," said a man who knelt over him. "He's got a
bullet in him somewhere."
"Is he alive?"
"Good God! Where's Crowley?"
"Here I am," called a breathless voice. "It's no good, you
fellows. There's nothing to show which way they've gone. Here's
Raffles; he's chucked it, too." And they ran up panting.
"Well, we've got one of them, at all events," muttered Lord
Amersteth. "The next thing is to get this poor fellow indoors.
Take his shoulders, somebody. Now his middle. Join hands under
him. All together, now; that's the way. Poor fellow! Poor
fellow! His name isn't Clephane at all. He's a Scotland Yard
detective, down here for these very villains!"
Raffles was the first to express surprise; but he had also been
the first to raise the wounded man. Nor had any of them a
stronger or more tender hand in the slow procession to the house.
In a little we had the senseless man stretched on a sofa in the
library. And there, with ice on his wound and brandy in his
throat, his eyes opened and his lips moved.
Lord Amersteth bent down to catch the words.
"Yes, yes," said he; "we've got one of them safe and sound. The
brute you collared upstairs." Lord Amersteth bent lower. "By
Jove! Lowered the jewel-case out of the window, did he? And
they've got clean away with it! Well, well! I only hope we'll
be able to pull this good fellow through. He's off again."
An hour passed: the sun was rising.
It found a dozen young fellows on the settees in the
billiard-room, drinking whiskey and soda-water in their overcoats
and pyjamas, and still talking excitedly in one breath. A
time-table was being passed from hand to hand: the doctor was
still in the library. At last the door opened, and Lord
Amersteth put in his head.
"It isn't hopeless," said he, "but it's bad enough. There'll be
no cricket to-day."
Another hour, and most of us were on our way to catch the early
train; between us we filled a compartment almost to suffocation.
And still we talked all together of the night's event; and still
I was a little hero in my way, for having kept my hold of the one
ruffian who had been taken; and my gratification was subtle and
intense. Raffles watched me under lowered lids. Not a word had
we had together; not a word did we have until we had left the
others at Paddington, and were skimming through the streets in a
hansom with noiseless tires and a tinkling bell.
"Well, Bunny," said Raffles, "so the professors have it, eh?"
"Yes," said I. "And I'm jolly glad!"
"That poor Mackenzie has a ball in his chest?"
"That you and I have been on the decent side for once."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"You're hopeless, Bunny, quite hopeless! I take it you wouldn't
have refused your share if the boodle had fallen to us? Yet you
positively enjoy coming off second best--for the second time
running! I confess, however, that the professors' methods were
full of interest to me. I, for one, have probably gained as much
in experience as I have lost in other things. That lowering the
jewel-case out of the window was a very simple and effective
expedient; two of them had been waiting below for it for hours."
"How do you know?" I asked.
"I saw them from my own window, which was just above the dear old
lady's. I was fretting for that necklace in particular, when I
went up to turn in for our last night--and I happened to look out
of my window. In point of fact, I wanted to see whether the one
below was open, and whether there was the slightest chance of
working the oracle with my sheet for a rope. Of course I took
the precaution of turning my light off first, and it was a lucky
thing I did. I saw the pros. right down below, and they never
saw me. I saw a little tiny luminous disk just for an instant,
and then again for an instant a few minutes later. Of course I
knew what it was, for I have my own watch-dial daubed with
luminous paint; it makes a lantern of sorts when you can get no
better. But these fellows were not using theirs as a lantern.
They were under the old lady's window. They were watching the
time. The whole thing was arranged with their accomplice inside.
Set a thief to catch a thief: in a minute I had guessed what the
whole thing proved to be."
"And you did nothing!" I exclaimed.
"On the contrary, I went downstairs and straight into Lady
"Without a moment's hesitation. To save her jewels. And I was
prepared to yell as much into her ear-trumpet for all the house
to hear. But the dear lady is too deaf and too fond of her
dinner to wake easily."
"She didn't stir."
"And yet you allowed the professors, as you call them, to take
her jewels, case and all!"
"All but this," said Raffles, thrusting his fist into my lap. "I
would have shown it you before, but really, old fellow, your face
all day has been worth a fortune to the firm!"
And he opened his fist, to shut it next instant on the bunch of
diamonds and of sapphires that I had last seen encircling the
neck of Lady Melrose.
LE PREMIER PAS
That night he told me the story of his earliest crime. Not since
the fateful morning of the Ides of March, when he had just
mentioned it as an unreported incident of a certain cricket tour,
had I succeeded in getting a word out of Raffles on the subject.
It was not for want of trying; he would shake his head, and watch
his cigarette smoke thoughtfully; a subtle look in his eyes, half
cynical, half wistful, as though the decent honest days that were
no more had had their merits after all. Raffles would plan a
fresh enormity, or glory in the last, with the unmitigated
enthusiasm of the artist. It was impossible to imagine one throb
or twitter of compunction beneath those frankly egotistic and
infectious transports. And yet the ghost of a dead remorse
seemed still to visit him with the memory of his first felony, so
that I had given the story up long before the night of our return
from Milchester. Cricket, however, was in the air, and Raffles's
cricket-bag back where he sometimes kept it, in the fender, with
the remains of an Orient label still adhering to the leather. My
eyes had been on this label for some time, and I suppose his eyes
had been on mine, for all at once he asked me if I still burned
to hear that yarn.
"It's no use," I replied. "You won't spin it. I must imagine it
"How can you?"
"Oh, I begin to know your methods."
"You take it I went in with my eyes open, as I do now, eh?"
"I can't imagine your doing otherwise."
"My dear Bunny, it was the most unpremeditated thing I ever did
in my life!"
His chair wheeled back into the books as he sprang up with sudden
energy. There was quite an indignant glitter in his eyes.
"I can't believe that," said I craftily. "I can't pay you such a
"Then you must be a fool--"
He broke off, stared hard at me, and in a trice stood smiling in
his own despite.
"Or a better knave than I thought you, Bunny, and by Jove it's
the knave! Well--I suppose I'm fairly drawn; I give you best, as
they say out there. As a matter of fact I've been thinking of
the thing myself; last night's racket reminds me of it in one or
two respects. I tell you what, though, this is an occasion in
any case, and I'm going to celebrate it by breaking the one good
rule of my life. I'm going to have a second drink!"
The whiskey tinkled, the syphon fizzed, the ice plopped home; and
seated there in his pyjamas, with the inevitable cigarette,
Raffles told me the story that I had given up hoping to hear.
The windows were wide open; the sounds of Piccadilly floated in
at first. Long before he finished, the last wheels had rattled,
the last brawler was removed, we alone broke the quiet of the
". . . No, they do you very well, indeed. You pay for nothing but
drinks, so to speak, but I'm afraid mine were of a comprehensive
character. I had started in a hole, I ought really to have
refused the invitation; then we all went to the Melbourne Cup,
and I had the certain winner that didn't win, and that's not the
only way you can play the fool in Melbourne. I wasn't the steady
old stager I am now, Bunny; my analysis was a confession in
itself. But the others didn't know how hard up I was, and I
swore they shouldn't. I tried the Jews, but they're extra fly
out there. Then I thought of a kinsman of sorts, a second cousin
of my father's whom none of us knew anything about, except that
he was supposed to be in one or other of the Colonies. If he was
a rich man, well and good, I would work him; if not there would
be no harm done. I tried to get on his tracks, and, as luck
would have it, I succeeded (or thought I had) at the very moment
when I happened to have a few days to myself. I was cut over on
the hand, just before the big Christmas match, and couldn't have
bowled a ball if they had played me.
"The surgeon who fixed me up happened to ask me if I was any
relation of Raffles of the National Bank, and the pure luck of it
almost took my breath away. A relation who was a high official
in one of the banks, who would finance me on my mere name--could
anything be better? I made up my mind that this Raffles was the
man I wanted, and was awfully sold to find next moment that he
wasn't a high official at all. Nor had the doctor so much as met
him, but had merely read of him in connection with a small
sensation at the suburban branch which my namesake managed; an
armed robber had been rather pluckily beaten off, with a bullet
in him, by this Raffles; and the sort of thing was so common out
there that this was the first I had heard of it! A suburban
branch--my financier had faded into some excellent fellow with a
billet to lose if he called his soul his own. Still a manager was
a manager, and I said I would soon see whether this was the
relative I was looking for, if he would be good enough to give me
the name of that branch.
"'I'll do more,' says the doctor. 'I'll get you the name of the
branch he's been promoted to, for I think I heard they'd moved
him up one already.' And the next day he brought me the name of
the township of Yea, some fifty miles north of Melbourne; but,
with the vagueness which characterized all his information, he
was unable to say whether I should find my relative there or not.
"'He's a single man, and his initials are W. F.,' said the
doctor, who was certain enough of the immaterial points. 'He
left his old post several days ago, but it appears he's not due
at the new one till the New Year. No doubt he'll go before then
to take things over and settle in. You might find him up there
and you might not. If I were you I should write.'
"'That'll lose two days,' said I, 'and more if he isn't there,'
for I'd grown quite keen on this up-country manager, and I felt
that if I could get at him while the holidays were still on, a
little conviviality might help matters considerably.
"'Then,' said the doctor, 'I should get a quiet horse and ride.
You needn't use that hand.'
"'Can't I go by train?'
"'You can and you can't. You would still have to ride. I
suppose you're a horseman?'
"'Then I should certainly ride all the way. It's a delightful
road, through Whittlesea and over the Plenty Ranges. It'll give
you some idea of the bush, Mr. Raffles, and you'll see the
sources of the water supply of this city, sir. You'll see where
every drop of it comes from, the pure Yan Yean! I wish I had time
to ride with you.'
"'But where can I get a horse?'
"The doctor thought a moment.
"'I've a mare of my own that's as fat as butter for want of
work,' said he. 'It would be a charity to me to sit on her back
for a hundred miles or so, and then I should know you'd have no
temptation to use that hand.'
"'You're far too good!' I protested.
"'You're A. J. Raffles,' he said.
"And if ever there was a prettier compliment, or a finer instance
of even Colonial hospitality, I can only say, Bunny, that I never
heard of either."
He sipped his whiskey, threw away the stump of his cigarette,
and lit another before continuing.
"Well, I managed to write a line to W. F. with my own hand,
which, as you will gather, was not very badly wounded; it was
simply this third finger that was split and in splints; and next
morning the doctor packed me off on a bovine beast that would
have done for an ambulance. Half the team came up to see me
start; the rest were rather sick with me for not stopping to see
the match out, as if I could help them to win by watching them.
They little knew the game I'd got on myself, but still less did I
know the game I was going to play.
"It was an interesting ride enough, especially after passing the
place called Whittlesea, a real wild township on the lower slope
of the ranges, where I recollect having a deadly meal of hot
mutton and tea, with the thermometer at three figures in the
shade. The first thirty miles or so was a good metal road, too
good to go half round the world to ride on, but after Whittlesea
it was a mere track over the ranges, a track I often couldn't see
and left entirely to the mare. Now it dipped into a gully and
ran through a creek, and all the time the local color was inches
thick; gum-trees galore and parrots all colors of the rainbow.
In one place a whole forest of gums had been ring-barked, and
were just as though they had been painted white, without a leaf
or a living thing for miles. And the first living thing I did
meet was the sort to give you the creeps; it was a riderless
horse coming full tilt through the bush, with the saddle twisted
round and the stirrup-irons ringing. Without thinking, I had a
shot at heading him with the doctor's mare, and blocked him just
enough to allow a man who came galloping after to do the rest.
"'Thank ye, mister,' growled the man, a huge chap in a red
checked shirt, with a beard like W. G. Grace, but the very devil
of an expression.
"'Been an accident?' said I, reining up.
"'Yes,' said he, scowling as though he defied me to ask any more.
"'And a nasty one,' I said, 'if that's blood on the saddle!'
"Well, Bunny, I may be a blackguard myself, but I don't think I
ever looked at a fellow as that chap looked at me. But I stared
him out, and forced him to admit that it was blood on the twisted
saddle, and after that he became quite tame. He told me exactly
what had happened. A mate of his had been dragged under a
branch, and had his nose smashed, but that was all; had sat tight
after it till he dropped from loss of blood; another mate was
with him back in the bush.
"As I've said already, Bunny, I wasn't the old stager that I am
now--in any respect--and we parted good enough friends. He asked
me which way I was going, and, when I told him, he said I should
save seven miles, and get a good hour earlier to Yea, by striking
off the track and making for a peak that we could see through the
trees, and following a creek that I should see from the peak.
Don't smile, Bunny! I began by saying I was a child in those
days. Of course, the short cut was the long way round; and it
was nearly dark when that unlucky mare and I saw the single
street of Yea.
"I was looking for the bank when a fellow in a white suit ran
down from the veranda.
"'Mr. Raffles?' said he.
"'Mr. Raffles,' said I, laughing as I shook his hand.
"'I was misdirected.'
"'That all? I'm relieved,' he said. 'Do you know what they are
saying? There are some brand-new bushrangers on the road between
Whittlesea and this--a second Kelly gang! They'd have caught a
Tartar in you, eh?'
"'They would in you,' I retorted, and my tu quoque shut him up
and seemed to puzzle him. Yet there was much more sense in it
than in his compliment to me, which was absolutely pointless.
"'I'm afraid you'll find things pretty rough,' he resumed, when
he had unstrapped my valise, and handed my reins to his man.
'It's lucky you're a bachelor like myself.'
"I could not quite see the point of this remark either, since,
had I been married, I should hardly have sprung my wife upon him
in this free-and-easy fashion. I muttered the conventional sort
of thing, and then he said I should find it all right when I
settled, as though I had come to graze upon him for weeks!
'Well,' thought I, 'these Colonials do take the cake for
hospitality!' And, still marvelling, I let him lead me into the
private part of the bank.
"'Dinner will be ready in a quarter of an hour,' said he as we
entered. 'I thought you might like a tub first, and you'll find
all ready in the room at the end of the passage. Sing out if
there's anything you want. Your luggage hasn't turned up yet, by
the way, but here's a letter that came this morning.'
"'Not for me?'
"'Yes; didn't you expect one?'
"'I certainly did not!'
"'Well, here it is.'
"And, as he lit me to my room, I read my own superscription of
the previous day--to W. F. Raffles!
"Bunny, you've had your wind bagged at footer, I daresay; you
know what that's like? All I can say is that my moral wind was
bagged by that letter as I hope, old chap, I have never yet
bagged yours. I couldn't speak. I could only stand with my own
letter in my hands until he had the good taste to leave me by
"W. F. Raffles! We had mistaken EACH OTHER for W. F.
Raffles--for the new manager who had not yet arrived! Small
wonder we had conversed at cross-purposes; the only wonder was
that we had not discovered our mutual mistake. How the other man
would have laughed! But I--I could not laugh. By Jove, no, it
was no laughing matter for me! I saw the whole thing in a flash,
without a tremor, but with the direst depression from my own
single point of view. Call it callous if you like, Bunny, but
remember that I was in much the same hole as you've since been in
yourself, and that I had counted on this W. F. Raffles even as
you counted on A. J. I thought of the man with the W. G.
beard--the riderless horse and the bloody saddle--the deliberate
misdirection that had put me off the track and out of the
way--and now the missing manager and the report of bushrangers at
this end. But I simply don't pretend to have felt any personal
pity for a man whom I had never seen; that kind of pity's usually
cant; and besides, all mine was needed for myself.
"I was in as big a hole as ever. What the devil was I to do? I
doubt if I have sufficiently impressed upon you the absolute
necessity of my returning to Melbourne in funds. As a matter of
fact it was less the necessity than my own determination which I
can truthfully ascribe as absolute.
"Money I would have--but how--but how? Would this stranger be
open to persuasion--if I told him the truth? No; that would set
us all scouring the country for the rest of the night. Why
should I tell him? Suppose I left him to find out his mistake .
. . would anything be gained? Bunny, I give you my word that I
went in to dinner without a definite intention in my head, or one
premeditated lie upon my lips. I might do the decent, natural
thing, and explain matters without loss of time; on the other
hand, there was no hurry. I had not opened the letter, and could
always pretend I had not noticed the initials; meanwhile
something might turn up. I could wait a little and see. Tempted
I already was, but as yet the temptation was vague, and its very
vagueness made me tremble.
"'Bad news, I'm afraid?' said the manager, when at last I sat
down at his table.
"'A mere annoyance,' I answered--I do assure you--on the spur of
the moment and nothing else. But my lie was told; my position was
taken; from that moment onward there was no retreat. By
implication, without realizing what I was doing, I had already
declared myself W. F. Raffles. Therefore, W. F. Raffles I would
be, in that bank, for that night. And the devil teach me how to
use my lie!
Again he raised his glass to his lips--I had forgotten mine. His
cigarette-case caught the gas-light as he handed it to me. I
shook my head without taking my eyes from his.
"The devil played up," continued Raffles, with a laugh. "Before
I tasted my soup I had decided what to do. I had determined to
rob that bank instead of going to bed, and to be back in
Melbourne for breakfast if the doctor's mare could do it. I
would tell the old fellow that I had missed my way and been
bushed for hours, as I easily might have been, and had never got
to Yea at all. At Yea, on the other hand, the personation and
robbery would ever after be attributed to a member of the gang
that had waylaid and murdered the new manager with that very
object. You are acquiring some experience in such matters,
Bunny. I ask you, was there ever a better get-out? Last night's
was something like it, only never such a certainty. And I saw it
from the beginning--saw to the end before I had finished my soup!
"To increase my chances, the cashier, who also lived in the bank,
was away over the holidays, had actually gone down to Melbourne
to see us play; and the man who had taken my horse also waited at
table; for he and his wife were the only servants, and they slept
in a separate building. You may depend I ascertained this before
we had finished dinner. Indeed I was by way of asking too many
questions (the most oblique and delicate was that which elicited
my host's name, Ewbank), nor was I careful enough to conceal
"'Do you know,' said this fellow Ewbank, who was one of the
downright sort, 'if it wasn't you, I should say you were in a
funk of robbers? Have you lost your nerve?'
"'I hope not,' said I, turning jolly hot, I can tell you;
'but--well, it is not a pleasant thing to have to put a bullet
through a fellow!'
"'No?' said he, coolly. 'I should enjoy nothing better, myself;
besides, yours didn't go through.'
"'I wish it had!' I was smart enough to cry.
"'Amen!' said he.
"And I emptied my glass; actually I did not know whether my
wounded bank-robber was in prison, dead, or at large!
"But, now that I had had more than enough of it, Ewbank would
come back to the subject. He admitted that the staff was small;
but as for himself, he had a loaded revolver under his pillow all
night, under the counter all day, and he was only waiting for his
"'Under the counter eh?' I was ass enough to say.
"'Yes; so had you!'
"He was looking at me in surprise, and something told me that to
say 'of course--I had forgotten!' would have been quite fatal,
considering what I was supposed to have done. So I looked down
my nose and shook my head.
"'But the papers said you had!' he cried.
"'Not under the counter," said I.
"'But it's the regulation!'
"For the moment, Bunny, I felt stumped, though I trust I only
looked more superior than before, and I think I justified my
"'The regulation!' I said at length, in the most offensive tone
at my command. 'Yes, the regulation would have us all dead men!
My dear sir, do you expect your bank robber to let you reach for
your gun in the place where he knows it's kept? I had mine in my
pocket, and I got my chance by retreating from the counter with
all visible reluctance.'
"Ewbank stared at me with open eyes and a five-barred forehead,
then down came his fist on the table.
"'By God! That was smart! Still,' he added, like a man who
would not be in the wrong, 'the papers said the other thing, you
"'Of course,' I rejoined, 'because they said what I told them.
You wouldn't have had me advertise the fact that I improved upon
the bank's regulations, would you?'
"So that cloud rolled over, and by Jove it was a cloud with a
golden lining. Not silver--real good Australian gold! For old
Ewbank hadn't quite appreciated me till then; he was a hard nut,
a much older man than myself, and I felt pretty sure he thought
me young for the place, and my supposed feat a fluke. But I
never saw a man change his mind more openly. He got out his best
brandy, he made me throw away the cigar I was smoking, and opened
a fresh box. He was a convivial-looking party, with a red
moustache, and a very humorous face (not unlike Tom Emmett's),
and from that moment I laid myself out to attack him on his
convivial flank. But he wasn't a Rosenthall, Bunny; he had a
treble-seamed, hand-sewn head, and could have drunk me under the
table ten times over.
"'All right,' I thought, 'you may go to bed sober, but you'll
sleep like a timber-yard!' And I threw half he gave me through
the open window, when he wasn't looking.
"But he was a good chap, Ewbank, and don't you imagine he was at
all intemperate. Convivial I called him, and I only wish he had
been something more. He did, however, become more and more
genial as the evening advanced, and I had not much difficulty in
getting him to show me round the bank at what was really an
unearthly hour for such a proceeding. It was when he went to
fetch the revolver before turning in. I kept him out of his bed
another twenty minutes, and I knew every inch of the business
premises before I shook hands with Ewbank in my room.
"You won't guess what I did with myself for the next hour. I
undressed and went to bed. The incessant strain involved in even
the most deliberate impersonation is the most wearing thing I
know; then how much more so when the impersonation is impromptu!
There's no getting your eye in; the next word may bowl you out;
it's batting in a bad light all through. I haven't told you of
half the tight places I was in during a conversation that ran
into hours and became dangerously intimate towards the end. You
can imagine them for yourself, and then picture me spread out on
my bed, getting my second wind for the big deed of the night.
"Once more I was in luck, for I had not been lying there long
before I heard my dear Ewbank snoring like a harmonium, and the
music never ceased for a moment; it was as loud as ever when I
crept out and closed my door behind me, as regular as ever when I
stopped to listen at his. And I have still to hear the concert
that I shall enjoy much more. The good fellow snored me out of
the bank, and was still snoring when I again stood and listened
under his open window.
"Why did I leave the bank first? To catch and saddle the mare
and tether her in a clump of trees close by: to have the means of
escape nice and handy before I went to work. I have often
wondered at the instinctive wisdom of the precaution;
unconsciously I was acting on what has been one of my guiding
principles ever since. Pains and patience were required: I had
to get my saddle without waking the man, and I was not used to
catching horses in a horse-paddock. Then I distrusted the poor
mare, and I went back to the stables for a hatful of oats, which
I left with her in the clump, hat and all. There was a dog, too,
to reckon with (our very worst enemy, Bunny); but I had been
'cute enough to make immense friends with him during the evening;
and he wagged his tail, not only when I came downstairs, but when
I reappeared at the back-door.
"As the soi-disant new manager, I had been able, in the most
ordinary course, to pump poor Ewbank about anything and
everything connected with the working of the bank, especially in
those twenty last invaluable minutes before turning in. And I
had made a very natural point of asking him where he kept, and
would recommend me to keep, the keys at night. Of course I
thought he would take them with him to his room; but no such
thing; he had a dodge worth two of that. What it was doesn't
much matter, but no outsider would have found those keys in a
month of Sundays.
"I, of course, had them in a few seconds, and in a few more I was
in the strong-room itself. I forgot to say that the moon had
risen and was letting quite a lot of light into the bank. I had,
however, brought a bit of candle with me from my room; and in the
strong-room, which was down some narrow stairs behind the counter
in the banking-chamber, I had no hesitation in lighting it.
There was no window down there, and, though I could no longer
hear old Ewbank snoring, I had not the slightest reason to
anticipate disturbance from that quarter. I did think of locking
myself in while I was at work, but, thank goodness, the iron door
had no keyhole on the inside.
"Well, there were heaps of gold in the safe, but I only took what
I needed and could comfortably carry, not much more than a couple
of hundred altogether. Not a note would I touch, and my native
caution came out also in the way I divided the sovereigns between
all my pockets, and packed them up so that I shouldn't be like
the old woman of Banbury Cross. Well, you think me too cautious
still, but I was insanely cautious then. And so it was that,
just as I was ready to go, whereas I might have been gone ten
minutes, there came a violent knocking at the outer door.
"Bunny, it was the outer door of the banking-chamber! My candle
must have been seen! And there I stood, with the grease running
hot over my fingers, in that brick grave of a strong-room!
"There was only one thing to be done. I must trust to the sound
sleeping of Ewbank upstairs, open the door myself, knock the
visitor down, or shoot him with the revolver I had been new chum
enough to buy before leaving Melbourne, and make a dash for that
clump of trees and the doctor's mare. My mind was made up in an
instant, and I was at the top of the strong-room stairs, the
knocking still continuing, when a second sound drove me back. It
was the sound of bare feet coming along a corridor.
"My narrow stair was stone, I tumbled down it with little noise,
and had only to push open the iron door, for I had left the keys
in the safe. As I did so I heard a handle turn overhead, and
thanked my gods that I had shut every single door behind me. You
see, old chap, one's caution doesn't always let one in!
"'Who's that knocking?' said Ewbank up above.
"I could not make out the answer, but it sounded to me like the
irrelevant supplication of a spent man. What I did hear,
plainly, was the cocking of the bank revolver before the bolts
were shot back. Then, a tottering step, a hard, short, shallow
breathing, and Ewbank's voice in horror--
"'My God! Good Lord! What's happened to you? You're bleeding
like a pig!'
"'Not now,' came with a grateful sort of sigh.
"'But you have been! What's done it?'
"'Down the road?'
"'This and Whittlesea--tied to tree--cock shots--left me--bleed
to death . . .'
The weak voice failed, and the bare feet bolted. Now was my
time--if the poor devil had fainted. But I could not be sure,
and there I crouched down below in the dark, at the half-shut
iron door, not less spellbound than imprisoned. It was just as
well, for Ewbank wasn't gone a minute.
"'Drink this,' I heard him say, and, when the other spoke again,
his voice was stronger.
"'Now I begin to feel alive . . .'
"'It does me good. You don't know what it was, all those miles
alone, one an hour at the outside! I never thought I should come
through. You must let me tell you--in case I don't!'
"'Well, have another sip.'
"'Thank you . . . I said bushrangers; of course, there are no
such things nowadays.'
"'What were they, then?'
"'Bank-thieves; the one that had the pot shots was the very brute
I drove out of the bank at Coburg, with a bullet in him!"'
"I knew it!"
"Of course you did, Bunny; so did I, down in that strong-room;
but old Ewbank didn't, and I thought he was never going to speak
"'You're delirious,' he says at last. 'Who in blazes do you
think you are?'
"'The new manager.'
"'The new manager's in bed and asleep upstairs.'
"'When did he arrive?'
"'Call himself Raffles?'
"'Well, I'm damned!' whispered the real man. 'I thought it was
just revenge, but now I see what it was. My dear sir, the man
upstairs is an imposter--if he's upstairs still! He must be one
of the gang. He's going to rob the bank--if he hasn't done so
"'If he hasn't done so already,' muttered Ewbank after him; 'if
he's upstairs still! By God, if he is, I'm sorry for him!'
"His tone was quiet enough, but about the nastiest I ever heard.
I tell you, Bunny, I was glad I'd brought that revolver. It
looked as though it must be mine against his, muzzle to muzzle.
"'Better have a look down here, first,' said the new manager.
"'While he gets through his window? No, no, he's not down here.'
"'It's easy to have a look.'
"Bunny, if you ask me what was the most thrilling moment of my
infamous career, I say it was that moment. There I stood at the
bottom of those narrow stone stairs, inside the strong-room, with
the door a good foot open, and I didn't know whether it would
creak or not. The light was coming nearer--and I didn't know! I
had to chance it. And it didn't creak a bit; it was far too
solid and well-hung; and I couldn't have banged it if I tried, it
was too heavy; and it fitted so close that I felt and heard the
air squeeze out in my face. Every shred of light went out,
except the streak underneath, and it brightened. How I blessed
"'No, he's not down THERE,' I heard, as though through
cotton-wool; then the streak went out too, and in a few seconds I
ventured to open once more, and was in time to hear them creeping
to my room.
"Well, now there was not a fifth of a second to be lost; but I'm
proud to say I came up those stairs on my toes and fingers, and
out of that bank (they'd gone and left the door open) just as
gingerly as though my time had been my own. I didn't even forget
to put on the hat that the doctor's mare was eating her oats out
of, as well as she could with a bit, or it alone would have
landed me. I didn't even gallop away, but just jogged off
quietly in the thick dust at the side of the road (though I own
my heart was galloping), and thanked my stars the bank was at
that end of the township, in which I really hadn't set foot. The
very last thing I heard was the two managers raising Cain and the
coachman. And now, Bunny--"
He stood up and stretched himself, with a smile that ended in a
yawn. The black windows had faded through every shade of indigo;
they now framed their opposite neighbors, stark and livid in the
dawn; and the gas seemed turned to nothing in the globes.
"But that's not all?" I cried.
"I'm sorry to say it is," said Raffles apologetically. "The
thing should have ended with an exciting chase, I know, but
somehow it didn't. I suppose they thought I had got no end of a
start; then they had made up their minds that I belonged to the
gang, which was not so many miles away; and one of them had got
as much as he could carry from that gang as it was. But I wasn't
to know all that, and I'm bound to say that there was plenty of
excitement left for me. Lord, how I made that poor brute travel
when I got among the trees! Though we must have made it over
fifty miles from Melbourne, we had done it at a snail's pace; and
those stolen oats had brisked the old girl up to such a pitch
that she fairly bolted when she felt her nose turned south. By
Jove, it was no joke, in and out among those trees, and under
branches with your face in the mane! I told you about the forest
of dead gums? It looked perfectly ghostly in the moonlight. And
I found it as still as I had left it--so still that I pulled up
there, my first halt, and lay with my ear to the ground for two
or three minutes. But I heard nothing--not a thing but the
mare's bellow and my own heart. I'm sorry, Bunny; but if ever
you write my memoirs, you won't have any difficulty in working up
that chase. Play those dead gum-trees for all they're worth, and
let the bullets fly like hail. I'll turn round in my saddle to
see Ewbank coming up hell-to-leather in his white suit, and I'll
duly paint it red. Do it in the third person, and they won't
know how it's going to end."
"But I don't know myself," I complained. "Did the mare carry you
all the way back to Melbourne?"
"Every rod, pole or perch! I had her well seen to at our hotel,
and returned her to the doctor in the evening. He was
tremendously tickled to hear that I had been bushed; next morning
he brought me the paper to show me what I had escaped at Yea!"
"Without suspecting anything?"
"Ah!" said Raffles, as he put out the gas; "that's a point on
which I've never made up my mind. The mare and her color was a
coincidence--luckily she was only a bay--and I fancied the
condition of the beast must have told a tale. The doctor's
manner was certainly different. I'm inclined to think he
suspected something, though not the right thing. I wasn't
expecting him, and I fear my appearance may have increased his
I asked him why.
"I used to have rather a heavy moustache," said Raffles, "but I
lost it the day after I lost my innocence."
Of the various robberies in which we were both concerned, it is
but the few, I find, that will bear telling at any length. Not
that the others contained details which even I would hesitate to
recount; it is, rather, the very absence of untoward incident
which renders them useless for my present purpose. In point of
fact our plans were so craftily laid (by Raffles) that the
chances of a hitch were invariably reduced to a minimum before we
went to work. We might be disappointed in the market value of
our haul; but it was quite the exception for us to find ourselves
confronted by unforeseen impediments, or involved in a really
dramatic dilemma. There was a sameness even in our spoil; for,
of course, only the most precious stones are worth the trouble we
took and the risks we ran. In short, our most successful
escapades would prove the greatest weariness of all in narrative
form; and none more so than the dull affair of the Ardagh
emeralds, some eight or nine weeks after the Milchester cricket
week. The former, however, had a sequel that I would rather
forget than all our burglaries put together.
It was the evening after our return from Ireland, and I was
waiting at my rooms for Raffles, who had gone off as usual to
dispose of the plunder. Raffles had his own method of conducting
this very vital branch of our business, which I was well content
to leave entirely in his hands. He drove the bargains, I
believe, in a thin but subtle disguise of the flashy-seedy order,
and always in the Cockney dialect, of which he had made himself a
master. Moreover, he invariably employed the same "fence," who
was ostensibly a money-lender in a small (but yet notorious) way,
and in reality a rascal as remarkable as Raffles himself. Only
lately I also had been to the man, but in my proper person. We
had needed capital for the getting of these very emeralds, and I
had raised a hundred pounds, on the terms you would expect, from
a soft-spoken graybeard with an ingratiating smile, an incessant
bow, and the shiftiest old eyes that ever flew from rim to rim of
a pair of spectacles. So the original sinews and the final
spoils of war came in this case from the self-same source--a
circumstance which appealed to us both.
But these same final spoils I was still to see, and I waited and
waited with an impatience that grew upon me with the growing
dusk. At my open window I had played Sister Ann until the faces
in the street below were no longer distinguishable. And now I was
tearing to and fro in the grip of horrible hypotheses--a grip
that tightened when at last the lift-gates opened with a clatter
outside--that held me breathless until a well-known tattoo
followed on my door.
"In the dark!" said Raffles, as I dragged him in. "Why, Bunny,
"Nothing--now you've come," said I, shutting the door behind him
in a fever of relief and anxiety. "Well? Well? What did they
"Got it in my pocket."
"Good man!" I cried. "You don't know what a stew I've been in.
I'll switch on the light. I've been thinking of you and nothing
else for the last hour. I--I was ass enough to think something
had gone wrong!"
Raffles was smiling when the white light filled the room, but for
the moment I did not perceive the peculiarity of his smile. I
was fatuously full of my own late tremors and present relief; and
my first idiotic act was to spill some whiskey and squirt the
soda-water all over in my anxiety to do instant justice to the
"So you thought something had happened?" said Raffles, leaning
back in my chair as he lit a cigarette, and looking much amused.
"What would you say if something had? Sit tight, my dear chap!
It was nothing of the slightest consequence, and it's all over
now. A stern chase and a long one, Bunny, but I think I'm well
to windward this time."
And suddenly I saw that his collar was limp, his hair matted, his
boots thick with dust.
"The police?" I whispered aghast.
"Oh, dear, no; only old Baird."
"Baird! But wasn't it Baird who took the emeralds?"
"Then how came he to chase you?"
"My dear fellow, I'll tell you if you give me a chance; it's
really nothing to get in the least excited about. Old Baird has
at last spotted that I'm not quite the common cracksman I would
have him think me. So he's been doing his best to run me to my
"And you call that nothing!"
"It would be something if he had succeeded; but he has still to
do that. I admit, however, that he made me sit up for the time
being. It all comes of going on the job so far from home. There
was the old brute with the whole thing in his morning paper. He
KNEW it must have been done by some fellow who could pass himself
off for a gentleman, and I saw his eyebrows go up the moment I
told him I was the man, with the same old twang that you could
cut with a paper-knife. I did my best to get out of it--swore I
had a pal who was a real swell--but I saw very plainly that I had
given myself away. He gave up haggling. He paid my price as
though he enjoyed doing it. But I FELT him following me when I
made tracks; though, of course, I didn't turn round to see."
"My dear Bunny, it's the very worst thing you can do. As long as
you look unsuspecting they'll keep their distance, and so long as
they keep their distance you stand a chance. Once show that you
know you're being followed, and it's flight or fight for all
you're worth. I never even looked round; and mind you never do
in the same hole. I just hurried up to Blackfriars and booked
for High Street, Kensington, at the top of my voice; and as the
train was leaving Sloane Square out I hopped, and up all those
stairs like a lamplighter, and round to the studio by the back
streets. Well, to be on the safe side, I lay low there all the
afternoon, hearing nothing in the least suspicious, and only
wishing I had a window to look through instead of that beastly
skylight. However, the coast seemed clear enough, and thus far
it was my mere idea that he would follow me; there was nothing to
show he had. So at last I marched out in my proper rig--almost
straight into old Baird's arms!"
"What on earth did you do?"
"Walked past him as though I had never set eyes on him in my
life, and didn't then; took a hansom in the King's Road, and
drove like the deuce to Clapham Junction; rushed on to the
nearest platform, without a ticket, jumped into the first train I
saw, got out at Twickenham, walked full tilt back to Richmond,
took the District to Charing Cross, and here I am! Ready for a
tub and a change, and the best dinner the club can give us. I
came to you first, because I thought you might be getting
anxious. Come round with me, and I won't keep you long."
"You're certain you've given him the slip?" I said, as we put on
"Certain enough; but we can make assurance doubly sure," said
Raffles, and went to my window, where he stood for a moment or
two looking down into the street.
"All right?" I asked him.
"All right," said he; and we went downstairs forthwith, and so to
the Albany arm-in-arm.
But we were both rather silent on our way. I, for my part, was
wondering what Raffles would do about the studio in Chelsea,
whither, at all events, he had been successfully dogged. To me
the point seemed one of immediate importance, but when I
mentioned it he said there was time enough to think about that.
His one other remark was made after we had nodded (in Bond
Street) to a young blood of our acquaintance who happened to be
getting himself a bad name.
"Poor Jack Rutter!" said Raffles, with a sigh. "Nothing's sadder
than to see a fellow going to the bad like that. He's about mad
with drink and debt, poor devil! Did you see his eye? Odd that
we should have met him to-night, by the way; it's old Baird who's
said to have skinned him. By God, but I'd like to skin old
And his tone took a sudden low fury, made the more noticeable by
another long silence, which lasted, indeed, throughout an
admirable dinner at the club, and for some time after we had
settled down in a quiet corner of the smoking-room with our
coffee and cigars. Then at last I saw Raffles looking at me with
his lazy smile, and I knew that the morose fit was at an end.
"I daresay you wonder what I've been thinking about all this
time?" said he. "I've been thinking what rot it is to go doing
things by halves!"
"Well," said I, returning his smile, "that's not a charge that
you can bring against yourself, is it?"
"I'm not so sure," said Raffles, blowing a meditative puff; "as a
matter of fact, I was thinking less of myself than of that poor
devil of a Jack Rutter. There's a fellow who does things by
halves; he's only half gone to the bad; and look at the
difference between him and us! He's under the thumb of a
villainous money-lender; we are solvent citizens. He's taken to
drink; we're as sober as we are solvent. His pals are beginning
to cut him; our difficulty is to keep the pal from the door.
Enfin, he begs or borrows, which is stealing by halves; and we
steal outright and are done with it. Obviously ours is the more
honest course. Yet I'm not sure, Bunny, but we're doing the
thing by halves ourselves!"
"Why? What more could we do?" I exclaimed in soft derision,
looking round, however, to make sure that we were not overheard.
"What more," said Raffles. "Well, murder--for one thing."
"A matter of opinion, my dear Bunny; I don't mean it for rot.
I've told you before that the biggest man alive is the man who's
committed a murder, and not yet been found out; at least he ought
to be, but he so very seldom has the soul to appreciate himself.
Just think of it! Think of coming in here and talking to the
men, very likely about the murder itself; and knowing you've done
it; and wondering how they'd look if THEY knew! Oh, it would be
great, simply great! But, besides all that, when you were caught
there'd be a merciful and dramatic end of you. You'd fill the
bill for a few weeks, and then snuff out with a flourish of
extra-specials; you wouldn't rust with a vile repose for seven or
"Good old Raffles!" I chuckled. "I begin to forgive you for
being in bad form at dinner."
"But I was never more earnest in my life."
"I mean it."
"You know very well that you wouldn't commit a murder, whatever
else you might do."
"I know very well I'm going to commit one to-night!"
He had been leaning back in the saddle-bag chair, watching me
with keen eyes sheathed by languid lids; now he started forward,
and his eyes leapt to mine like cold steel from the scabbard.
They struck home to my slow wits; their meaning was no longer in
doubt. I, who knew the man, read murder in his clenched hands,
and murder in his locked lips, but a hundred murders in those
hard blue eyes.
"Baird?" I faltered, moistening my lips with my tongue.
"But you said it didn't matter about the room in Chelsea?"
"I told a lie."
"Anyway you gave him the slip afterwards!"
"That was another. I didn't. I thought I had when I came up to
you this evening; but when I looked out of your window--you
remember? to make assurance doubly sure--there he was on the
opposite pavement down below."
"And you never said a word about it!"
"I wasn't going to spoil your dinner, Bunny, and I wasn't going
to let you spoil mine. But there he was as large as life, and,
of course, he followed us to the Albany. A fine game for him to
play, a game after his mean old heart: blackmail from me, bribes
from the police, the one bidding against the other; but he
sha'n't play it with me, he sha'n't live to, and the world will
have an extortioner the less. Waiter! Two Scotch whiskeys and
sodas. I'm off at eleven, Bunny; it's the only thing to be
"You know where he lives, then?"
"Yes, out Willesden way, and alone; the fellow's a miser among
other things. I long ago found out all about him."
Again I looked round the room; it was a young man's club, and
young men were laughing, chatting, smoking, drinking, on every
hand. One nodded to me through the smoke. Like a machine I
nodded to him, and turned back to Raffles with a groan.
"Surely you will give him a chance!" I urged. "The very sight of
your pistol should bring him to terms."
"It wouldn't make him keep them."
"But you might try the effect?"
"I probably shall. Here's a drink for you, Bunny. Wish me
"I'm coming too."
"I don't want you."
"But I must come!"
An ugly gleam shot from the steel blue eyes.
"To interfere?" said Raffles.
"You give me your word?"
"Bunny, if you break it--"
"You may shoot me, too!"
"I most certainly should," said Raffles, solemnly. "So you come
at your own peril, my dear man; but, if you are coming--well, the
sooner the better, for I must stop at my rooms on the way."
Five minutes later I was waiting for him at the Piccadilly
entrance to the Albany. I had a reason for remaining outside.
It was the feeling--half hope, half fear--that Angus Baird might
still be on our trail--that some more immediate and less
cold-blooded way of dealing with him might result from a sudden
encounter between the money-lender and myself. I would not warn
him of his danger; but I would avert tragedy at all costs. And
when no such encounter had taken place, and Raffles and I were
fairly on our way to Willesden, that, I think, was still my
honest resolve. I would not break my word if I could help it,
but it was a comfort to feel that I could break it if I liked, on
an understood penalty. Alas! I fear my good intentions were
tainted with a devouring curiosity, and overlaid by the
fascination which goes hand in hand with horror.
I have a poignant recollection of the hour it took us to reach
the house. We walked across St. James's Park (I can see the
lights now, bright on the bridge and blurred in the water), and
we had some minutes to wait for the last train to Willesden. It
left at 11.21, I remember, and Raffles was put out to find it did
not go on to Kensal Rise. We had to get out at Willesden Junction
and walk on through the streets into fairly open country that
happened to be quite new to me. I could never find the house
again. I remember, however, that we were on a dark footpath
between woods and fields when the clocks began striking twelve.
"Surely," said I, "we shall find him in bed and asleep?"
"I hope we do," said Raffles grimly.
"Then you mean to break in?"
"What else did you think?"
I had not thought about it at all; the ultimate crime had
monopolized my mind. Beside it burglary was a bagatelle, but one
to deprecate none the less. I saw obvious objections: the man
was au fait with cracksmen and their ways: he would certainly
have firearms, and might be the first to use them.
"I could wish nothing better," said Raffles. "Then it will be man
to man, and devil take the worst shot. You don't suppose I
prefer foul play to fair, do you? But die he must, by one or the
other, or it's a long stretch for you and me."
"Better that than this!"
"Then stay where you are, my good fellow. I told you I didn't
want you; and this is the house. So good-night."
I could see no house at all, only the angle of a high wall rising
solitary in the night, with the starlight glittering on
battlements of broken glass; and in the wall a tall green gate,
bristling with spikes, and showing a front for battering-rams in
the feeble rays an outlying lamp-post cast across the new-made
road. It seemed to me a road of building-sites, with but this
one house built, all by itself, at one end; but the night was too
dark for more than a mere impression.
Raffles, however, had seen the place by daylight, and had come
prepared for the special obstacles; already he was reaching up
and putting champagne corks on the spikes, and in another moment
he had his folded covert-coat across the corks. I stepped back
as he raised himself, and saw a little pyramid of slates snip the
sky above the gate; as he squirmed over I ran forward, and had my
own weight on the spikes and corks and covert-coat when he gave
the latter a tug.
"Coming after all?"
"Take care, then; the place is all bell-wires and springs. It's
no soft thing, this! There--stand still while I take off the
The garden was very small and new, with a grass-plot still in
separate sods, but a quantity of full-grown laurels stuck into
the raw clay beds. "Bells in themselves," as Raffles whispered;
"there's nothing else rustles so--cunning old beast!" And we
gave them a wide berth as we crept across the grass.
"He's gone to bed!"
"I don't think so, Bunny. I believe he's seen us."
"I saw a light."
"Downstairs, for an instant, when I--"
His whisper died away; he had seen the light again; and so had I.
It lay like a golden rod under the front-door--and vanished. It
reappeared like a gold thread under the lintel--and vanished for
good. We heard the stairs creak, creak, and cease, also for
good. We neither saw nor heard any more, though we stood waiting
on the grass till our feet were soaked with the dew.
"I'm going in," said Raffles at last. "I don't believe he saw us
at all. I wish he had. This way."
We trod gingerly on the path, but the gravel stuck to our wet
soles, and grated horribly in a little tiled veranda with a glass
door leading within. It was through this glass that Raffles had
first seen the light; and he now proceeded to take out a pane,
with the diamond, the pot of treacle, and the sheet of brown
paper which were seldom omitted from his impedimenta. Nor did he
dispense with my own assistance, though he may have accepted it
as instinctively as it was proffered. In any case it was these
fingers that helped to spread the treacle on the brown paper, and
pressed the latter to the glass until the diamond had completed
its circuit and the pane fell gently back into our hands.
Raffles now inserted his hand, turned the key in the lock, and,
by making a long arm, succeeded in drawing the bolt at the bottom
of the door; it proved to be the only one, and the door opened,
though not very wide.
"What's that?" said Raffles, as something crunched beneath his
feet on the very threshold.
"A pair of spectacles," I whispered, picking them up. I was
still fingering the broken lenses and the bent rims when Raffles
tripped and almost fell, with a gasping cry that he made no
effort to restrain.
"Hush, man, hush!" I entreated under my breath. "He'll hear
For answer his teeth chattered--even his--and I heard him
fumbling with his matches. "No, Bunny; he won't hear us,"
whispered Raffles, presently; and he rose from his knees and lit
a gas as the match burnt down.
Angus Baird was lying on his own floor, dead, with his gray hairs
glued together by his blood; near him a poker with the black end
glistening; in a corner his desk, ransacked, littered. A clock
ticked noisily on the chimney-piece; for perhaps a hundred
seconds there was no other sound.
Raffles stood very still, staring down at the dead, as a man
might stare into an abyss after striding blindly to its brink.
His breath came audibly through wide nostrils; he made no other
sign, and his lips seemed sealed.
"That light!" said I, hoarsely; "the light we saw under the
With a start he turned to me.
"It's true! I had forgotten it. It was in here I saw it first!"
"He must be upstairs still!"
"If he is we'll soon rout him out. Come on!"
Instead I laid a hand upon his arm, imploring him to
reflect--that his enemy was dead now--that we should certainly
be involved--that now or never was our own time to escape. He
shook me off in a sudden fury of impatience, a reckless contempt
in his eyes, and, bidding me save my own skin if I liked, he once
more turned his back upon me, and this time left me half resolved
to take him at his word. Had he forgotten on what errand he
himself was here? Was he determined that this night should end
in black disaster? As I asked myself these questions his match
flared in the hall; in another moment the stairs were creaking
under his feet, even as they had creaked under those of the
murderer; and the humane instinct that inspired him in defiance
of his risk was borne in also upon my slower sensibilities.
Could we let the murderer go? My answer was to bound up the
creaking stairs and to overhaul Raffles on the landing.
But three doors presented themselves; the first opened into a
bedroom with the bed turned down but undisturbed; the second room
was empty in every sense; the third door was locked.
Raffles lit the landing gas.
"He's in there," said he, cocking his revolver. "Do you remember
how we used to break into the studies at school? Here goes!"
His flat foot crashed over the keyhole, the lock gave, the door
flew open, and in the sudden draught the landing gas heeled over
like a cobble in a squall; as the flame righted itself I saw a
fixed bath, two bath-towels knotted together--an open window--a
cowering figure--and Raffles struck aghast on the threshold.
The words came thick and slow with horror, and in horror I heard
myself repeating them, while the cowering figure by the bathroom
window rose gradually erect.
"It's you!" he whispered, in amazement no less than our own;
"it's you two! What's it mean, Raffles? I saw you get over the
gate; a bell rang, the place is full of them. Then you broke in.
What's it all mean?"
"We may tell you that, when you tell us what in God's name you've
"Done? What have I done?" The unhappy wretch came out into the
light with bloodshot, blinking eyes, and a bloody shirt-front.
"You know--you've seen--but I'll tell you if you like. I've
killed a robber; that's all. I've killed a robber, a usurer, a
jackal, a blackmailer, the cleverest and the cruellest villain
unhung. I'm ready to hang for him. I'd kill him again!"
And he looked us fiercely in the face, a fine defiance in his
dissipated eyes; his breast heaving, his jaw like a rock.
"Shall I tell you how it happened?" he went passionately on.
"He's made my life a hell these weeks and months past. You may
know that. A perfect hell! Well, to-night I met him in Bond
Street. Do you remember when I met you fellows? He wasn't
twenty yards behind you; he was on your tracks, Raffles; he saw
me nod to you, and stopped me and asked me who you were. He
seemed as keen as knives to know, I couldn't think why, and
didn't care either, for I saw my chance. I said I'd tell him all
about you if he'd give me a private interview. He said he
wouldn't. I said he should, and held him by the coat; by the
time I let him go you were out of sight, and I waited where I was
till he came back in despair. I had the whip-hand of him then.
I could dictate where the interview should be, and I made him
take me home with him, still swearing to tell him all about you
when we'd had our talk. Well, when we got here I made him give
me something to eat, putting him off and off; and about ten
o'clock I heard the gate shut. I waited a bit, and then asked
him if he lived alone.
"'Not at all,' says he; 'did you not see the servant?'
"I said I'd seen her, but I thought I'd heard her go; if I was
mistaken no doubt she would come when she was called; and I
yelled three times at the top of my voice. Of course there was
no servant to come. I knew that, because I came to see him one
night last week, and he interviewed me himself through the gate,
but wouldn't open it. Well, when I had done yelling, and not a
soul had come near us, he was as white as that ceiling. Then I
told him we could have our chat at last; and I picked the poker
out of the fender, and told him how he'd robbed me, but, by God,
he shouldn't rob me any more. I gave him three minutes to write
and sign a settlement of all his iniquitous claims against me, or
have his brains beaten out over his own carpet. He thought a
minute, and then went to his desk for pen and paper. In two
seconds he was round like lightning with a revolver, and I went
for him bald-headed. He fired two or three times and missed; you
can find the holes if you like; but I hit him every time--my God!
I was like a savage till the thing was done. And then I didn't
care. I went through his desk looking for my own bills, and was
coming away when you turned up. I said I didn't care, nor do I;
but I was going to give myself up to-night, and shall still; so
you see I sha'n't give you fellows much trouble!"
He was done; and there we stood on the landing of the lonely
house, the low, thick, eager voice still racing and ringing
through our ears; the dead man below, and in front of us his
impenitent slayer. I knew to whom the impenitence would appeal
when he had heard the story, and I was not mistaken.
"That's all rot," said Raffles, speaking after a pause; "we
sha'n't let you give yourself up."
"You sha'n't stop me! What would be the good? The woman saw me;
it would only be a question of time; and I can't face waiting to
be taken. Think of it: waiting for them to touch you on the
shoulder! No, no, no; I'll give myself up and get it over."
His speech was changed; he faltered, floundered. It was as though
a clearer perception of his position had come with the bare idea
of escape from it.
"But listen to me," urged Raffles; "We're here at our peril
ourselves. We broke in like thieves to enforce redress for a
grievance very like your own. But don't you see? We took out a
pane--did the thing like regular burglars. Regular burglars will
get the credit of all the rest!"
"You mean that I sha'n't be suspected?"
"But I don't want to get off scotfree," cried Rutter
hysterically. "I've killed him. I know that. But it was in
self-defence; it wasn't murder. I must own up and take the
consequences. I shall go mad if I don't!"
His hands twitched; his lips quivered; the tears were in his
eyes. Raffles took him roughly by the shoulder.
"Look here, you fool! If the three of us were caught here now,
do you know what those consequences would be? We should swing in
a row at Newgate in six weeks' time! You talk as though we were
sitting in a club; don't you know it's one o'clock in the
morning, and the lights on, and a dead man down below? For God's
sake pull yourself together, and do what I tell you, or you're a
dead man yourself."
"I wish I was one!" Rutter sobbed. "I wish I had his revolver to
blow my own brains out. It's lying under him. O my God, my God!"
His knees knocked together: the frenzy of reaction was at its
height. We had to take him downstairs between us, and so through
the front door out into the open air.
All was still outside--all but the smothered weeping of the
unstrung wretch upon our hands. Raffles returned for a moment to
the house; then all was dark as well. The gate opened from
within; we closed it carefully behind us; and so left the
starlight shining on broken glass and polished spikes, one and
all as we had found them.
We escaped; no need to dwell on our escape. Our murderer seemed
set upon the scaffold--drunk with his deed, he was more trouble
than six men drunk with wine. Again and again we threatened to
leave him to his fate, to wash our hands of him. But incredible
and unmerited luck was with the three of us. Not a soul did we
meet between that and Willesden; and of those who saw us later,
did one think of the two young men with crooked white ties,
supporting a third in a seemingly unmistakable condition, when
the evening papers apprised the town of a terrible tragedy at
We walked to Maida Vale, and thence drove openly to my rooms.
But I alone went upstairs; the other two proceeded to the Albany,
and I saw no more of Raffles for forty-eight hours. He was not
at his rooms when I called in the morning; he had left no word.
When he reappeared the papers were full of the murder; and the
man who had committed it was on the wide Atlantic, a steerage
passenger from Liverpool to New York.
"There was no arguing with him," so Raffles told me; "either he
must make a clean breast of it or flee the country. So I rigged
him up at the studio, and we took the first train to Liverpool.
Nothing would induce him to sit tight and enjoy the situation as
I should have endeavored to do in his place; and it's just as
well! I went to his diggings to destroy some papers, and what do
you think I found. The police in possession; there's a warrant
out against him already! The idiots think that window wasn't
genuine, and the warrant's out. It won't be my fault if it's
Nor, after all these years, can I think it will be mine.
NINE POINTS OF THE LAW
Well," said Raffles, "what do you make of it?"
I read the advertisement once more before replying. It was in
the last column of the Daily Telegraph, and it ran:
TWO THOUSAND POUNDS REWARD--The above sum may be earned by any
one qualified to undertake delicate mission and prepared to run
certain risk.--Apply by telegram, Security, London.
"I think," said I, "it's the most extraordinary advertisement
that ever got into print!"
"Not quite all that, Bunny; still, extraordinary enough, I grant
"Look at the figure!"
"It is certainly large."
"And the mission--and the risk!"
"Yes; the combination is frank, to say the least of it. But the
really original point is requiring applications by telegram to a
telegraphic address! There's something in the fellow who thought
of that, and something in his game; with one word he chokes off
the million who answer an advertisement every day--when they can
raise the stamp. My answer cost me five bob; but then I prepaid
"You don't mean to say that you've applied?"
"Rather," said Raffles. "I want two thousand pounds as much as
"Put your own name?"
"Well--no, Bunny, I didn't. In point of fact I smell something
interesting and illegal, and you know what a cautious chap I am.
I signed myself Glasspool, care of Hickey, 38, Conduit Street;
that's my tailor, and after sending the wire I went round and
told him what to expect. He promised to send the reply along the
moment it came. I shouldn't be surprised if that's it!"
And he was gone before a double-knock on the outer door had done
ringing through the rooms, to return next minute with an open
telegram and a face full of news.
"What do you think?" said he. "Security's that fellow
Addenbrooke, the police-court lawyer, and he wants to see me
"Do you know him, then?"
"Merely by repute. I only hope he doesn't know me. He's the
chap who got six weeks for sailing too close to the wind in the
Sutton-Wilmer case; everybody wondered why he wasn't struck off
the rolls. Instead of that he's got a first-rate practice on the
seamy side, and every blackguard with half a case takes it
straight to Bennett Addenbrooke. He's probably the one man who
would have the cheek to put in an advertisement like that, and
the one man who could do it without exciting suspicion. It's
simply in his line; but you may be sure there's something shady
at the bottom of it. The odd thing is that I have long made up
my mind to go to Addenbrooke myself if accidents should happen."
"And you're going to him now?"
"This minute," said Raffles, brushing his hat; "and so are you."
"But I came in to drag you out to lunch."
"You shall lunch with me when we've seen this fellow. Come on,
Bunny, and we'll choose your name on the way. Mine's Glasspool,
and don't you forget it."
Mr. Bennett Addenbrooke occupied substantial offices in
Wellington Street, Strand, and was out when we arrived; but he
had only just gone "over the way to the court"; and five minutes
sufficed to produce a brisk, fresh-colored, resolute-looking man,
with a very confident, rather festive air, and black eyes that
opened wide at the sight of Raffles.
"Mr.--Glasspool?" exclaimed the lawyer.
"My name," said Raffles, with dry effrontery.
"Not up at Lord's, however!" said the other, slyly. "My dear
sir, I have seen you take far too many wickets to make any
For a single moment Raffles looked venomous; then he shrugged and
smiled, and the smile grew into a little cynical chuckle.
"So you have bowled me out in my turn?" said he. "Well, I don't
think there's anything to explain. I am harder up than I wished
to admit under my own name, that's all, and I want that thousand
"Two thousand," said the solicitor. "And the man who is not
above an alias happens to be just the sort of man I want; so
don't let that worry you, my dear sir. The matter, however, is
of a strictly private and confidential character." And he looked
very hard at me.
"Quite so," said Raffles. "But there was something about a
"A certain risk is involved."
"Then surely three heads will be better than two. I said I
wanted that thousand pounds; my friend here wants the other. We
are both cursedly hard up, and we go into this thing together or
not at all. Must you have his name too? I should give him my
real one, Bunny."
Mr. Addenbrooke raised his eyebrows over the card I found for
him; then he drummed upon it with his finger-nail, and his
embarrassment expressed itself in a puzzled smile.
"The fact is, I find myself in a difficulty," he confessed at
last. "Yours is the first reply I have received; people who can
afford to send long telegrams don't rush to the advertisements in
the Daily Telegraph; but, on the other hand, I was not quite
prepared to hear from men like yourselves. Candidly, and on
consideration, I am not sure that you ARE the stamp of men for
me--men who belong to good clubs! I rather intended to appeal to