Part 3 out of 4
"We are adventurers," said Raffles gravely.
"But you respect the law?"
The black eyes gleamed shrewdly.
"We are not professional rogues, if that's what you mean," said
Raffles, smiling. "But on our beam-ends we are; we would do a
good deal for a thousand pounds apiece, eh, Bunny?"
"Anything," I murmured.
The solicitor rapped his desk.
"I'll tell you what I want you to do. You can but refuse. It's
illegal, but it's illegality in a good cause; that's the risk,
and my client is prepared to pay for it. He will pay for the
attempt, in case of failure; the money is as good as yours once
you consent to run the risk. My client is Sir Bernard Debenham,
of Broom Hall, Esher."
"I know his son," I remarked.
Raffles knew him too, but said nothing, and his eye drooped
disapproval in my direction. Bennett Addenbrooke turned to me.
"Then," said he, "you have the privilege of knowing one of the
most complete young black-guards about town, and the fons et
origo of the whole trouble. As you know the son, you may know
the father too, at all events by reputation; and in that case I
needn't tell you that he is a very peculiar man. He lives alone
in a storehouse of treasures which no eyes but his ever behold.
He is said to have the finest collection of pictures in the south
of England, though nobody ever sees them to judge; pictures,
fiddles and furniture are his hobby, and he is undoubtedly very
eccentric. Nor can one deny that there has been considerable
eccentricity in his treatment of his son. For years Sir Bernard
paid his debts, and the other day, without the slightest warning,
not only refused to do so any more, but absolutely stopped the
lad's allowance. Well, I'll tell you what has happened; but
first of all you must know, or you may remember, that I appeared
for young Debenham in a little scrape he got into a year or two
ago. I got him off all right, and Sir Bernard paid me handsomely
on the nail. And no more did I hear or see of either of them
until one day last week."
The lawyer drew his chair nearer ours, and leant forward with a
hand on either knee.
"On Tuesday of last week I had a telegram from Sir Bernard; I was
to go to him at once. I found him waiting for me in the drive;
without a word he led me to the picture-gallery, which was locked
and darkened, drew up a blind, and stood simply pointing to an
empty picture-frame. It was a long time before I could get a
word out of him. Then at last he told me that that frame had
contained one of the rarest and most valuable pictures in
England--in the world--an original Velasquez. I have checked
this," said the lawyer, "and it seems literally true; the picture
was a portrait of the Infanta Maria Teresa, said to be one of the
artist's greatest works, second only to another portrait of one
of the Popes in Rome--so they told me at the National Gallery,
where they had its history by heart. They say there that the
picture is practically priceless. And young Debenham has sold it
for five thousand pounds!"
"The deuce he has," said Raffles.
I inquired who had bought it.
"A Queensland legislator of the name of Craggs--the Hon. John
Montagu Craggs, M.L.C., to give him his full title. Not that we
knew anything about him on Tuesday last; we didn't even know for
certain that young Debenham had stolen the picture. But he had
gone down for money on the Monday evening, had been refused, and
it was plain enough that he had helped himself in this way; he
had threatened revenge, and this was it. Indeed, when I hunted
him up in town on the Tuesday night, he confessed as much in the
most brazen manner imaginable. But he wouldn't tell me who was
the purchaser, and finding out took the rest of the week; but I
did find out, and a nice time I've had of it ever since!
Backwards and forwards between Esher and the Metropole,
where the Queenslander is staying, sometimes twice a day;
threats, offers, prayers, entreaties, not one of them a bit of
"But," said Raffles, "surely it's a clear case? The sale was
illegal; you can pay him back his money and force him to give the
"Exactly; but not without an action and a public scandal, and
that my client declines to face. He would rather lose even his
picture than have the whole thing get into the papers; he has
disowned his son, but he will not disgrace him; yet his picture
he must have by hook or crook, and there's the rub! I am to get
it back by fair means or foul. He gives me carte blanche in the
matter, and, I verily believe, would throw in a blank check if
asked. He offered one to the Queenslander, but Craggs simply
tore it in two; the one old boy is as much a character as the
other, and between the two of them I'm at my wits' end."
"So you put that advertisement in the paper?" said Raffles, in
the dry tones he had adopted throughout the interview.
"As a last resort. I did."
"And you wish us to STEAL this picture?"
It was magnificently said; the lawyer flushed from his hair to
"I knew you were not the men!" he groaned. "I never thought of
men of your stamp! But it's not stealing," he exclaimed
heatedly; "it's recovering stolen property. Besides, Sir Bernard
will pay him his five thousand as soon as he has the picture;
and, you'll see, old Craggs will be just as loath to let it come
out as Sir Bernard himself. No, no--it's an enterprise, an
adventure, if you like--but not stealing."
"You yourself mentioned the law," murmured Raffles.
"And the risk," I added.
"We pay for that," he said once more.
"But not enough," said Raffles, shaking his head. "My good sir,
consider what it means to us. You spoke of those clubs; we
should not only get kicked out of them, but put in prison like
common burglars! It's true we're hard up, but it simply isn't
worth it at the price. Double your stakes, and I for one am your
"Do you think you could bring it off?"
"We could try."
"But you have no--"
"Experience? Well, hardly!"
"And you would really run the risk for four thousand pounds?"
Raffles looked at me. I nodded.
"We would," said he, "and blow the odds!"
"It's more than I can ask my client to pay," said Addenbrooke,
"Then it's more than you can expect us to risk."
"You are in earnest?"
"Say three thousand if you succeed!"
"Four is our figure, Mr. Addenbrooke."
"Then I think it should be nothing if you fail."
"Doubles or quits?" cried Raffles. "Well, that's sporting.
Addenbrooke opened his lips, half rose, then sat back in his
chair, and looked long and shrewdly at Raffles--never once at me.
"I know your bowling," said he reflectively. "I go up to Lord's
whenever I want an hour's real rest, and I've seen you bowl again
and again--yes, and take the best wickets in England on a plumb
pitch. I don't forget the last Gentleman and Players; I was
there. You're up to every trick--every one . . . I'm inclined
to think that if anybody could bowl out this old Australian . . .
Damme, I believe you're my very man!"
The bargain was clinched at the Cafe Royal, where Bennett
Addenbrooke insisted on playing host at an extravagant luncheon.
I remember that he took his whack of champagne with the nervous
freedom of a man at high pressure, and have no doubt I kept him
in countenance by an equal indulgence; but Raffles, ever an
exemplar in such matters, was more abstemious even than his wont,
and very poor company to boot. I can see him now, his eyes in
his plate--thinking--thinking. I can see the solicitor glancing
from him to me in an apprehension of which I did my best to
disabuse him by reassuring looks. At the close Raffles
apologized for his preoccupation, called for an A.B.C.
time-table, and announced his intention of catching the 3.2 to
"You must excuse me, Mr. Addenbrooke," said he, "but I have my
own idea, and for the moment I should much prefer to keep it to
myself. It may end in fizzle, so I would rather not speak about
it to either of you just yet. But speak to Sir Bernard I must,
so will you write me one line to him on your card? Of course, if
you wish, you must come down with me and hear what I say; but I
really don't see much point in it."
And as usual Raffles had his way, though Bennett Addenbrooke
showed some temper when he was gone, and I myself shared his
annoyance to no small extent. I could only tell him that it was
in the nature of Raffles to be self-willed and secretive, but
that no man of my acquaintance had half his audacity and
determination; that I for my part would trust him through and
through, and let him gang his own gait every time. More I dared
not say, even to remove those chill misgivings with which I knew
that the lawyer went his way.
That day I saw no more of Raffles, but a telegram reached me when
I was dressing for dinner:
"Be in your rooms to-morrow from noon and keep rest of day
It had been sent off from Waterloo at 6.42.
So Raffles was back in town; at an earlier stage of our relations
I should have hunted him up then and there, but now I knew
better. His telegram meant that he had no desire for my society
that night or the following forenoon; that when he wanted me I
should see him soon enough.
And see him I did, towards one o'clock next day. I was watching
for him from my window in Mount Street, when he drove up
furiously in a hansom, and jumped out without a word to the man.
I met him next minute at the lift gates, and he fairly pushed me
back into my rooms.
"Five minutes, Bunny!" he cried. "Not a moment more."
And he tore off his coat before flinging himself into the nearest
"I'm fairly on the rush," he panted; "having the very devil of a
time! Not a word till I tell you all I've done. I settled my
plan of campaign yesterday at lunch. The first thing was to get
in with this man Craggs; you can't break into a place like the
Metropole, it's got to be done from the inside. Problem one, how
to get at the fellow. Only one sort of pretext would do--it must
be something to do with this blessed picture, so that I might see
where he'd got it and all that. Well, I couldn't go and ask to
see it out of curiosity, and I couldn't go as a second
representative of the other old chap, and it was thinking how I
could go that made me such a bear at lunch. But I saw my way
before we got up. If I could only lay hold of a copy of the
picture I might ask leave to go and compare it with the original.
So down I went to Esher to find out if there was a copy in
existence, and was at Broom Hall for one hour and a half
yesterday afternoon. There was no copy there, but they must
exist, for Sir Bernard himself (there's 'copy' THERE!) has
allowed a couple to be made since the picture has been in his
possession. He hunted up the painters' addresses, and the rest of
the evening I spent in hunting up the painters themselves; but
their work had been done on commission; one copy had gone out of
the country, and I'm still on the track of the other."
"Then you haven't seen Craggs yet?"
"Seen him and made friends with him, and if possible he's the
funnier old cuss of the two; but you should study 'em both. I
took the bull by the horns this morning, went in and lied like
Ananias, and it was just as well I did--the old ruffian sails for
Australia by to-morrow's boat. I told him a man wanted to sell
me a copy of the celebrated Infanta Maria Teresa of Velasquez,
that I'd been down to the supposed owner of the picture, only to
find that he had just sold it to him. You should have seen his
face when I told him that! He grinned all round his wicked old
head. 'Did OLD Debenham admit the sale?' says he; and when I
said he had he chuckled to himself for about five minutes. He
was so pleased that he did just what I hoped he would do; he
showed me the great picture--luckily it isn't by any means a
large one--also the case he's got it in. It's an iron map-case
in which he brought over the plans of his land in Brisbane; he
wants to know who would suspect it of containing an Old Master,
too? But he's had it fitted with a new Chubb's lock, and I
managed to take an interest in the key while he was gloating over
the canvas. I had the wax in the palm of my hand, and I shall
make my duplicate this afternoon."
Raffles looked at his watch and jumped up saying he had given me
a minute too much.
"By the way," he added, "you've got to dine with him at the
"Yes; don't look so scared. Both of us are invited--I swore you
were dining with me. I accepted for us both; but I sha'n't be
His clear eye was upon me, bright with meaning and with mischief.
I implored him to tell me what his meaning was.
"You will dine in his private sitting-room," said Raffles; "it
adjoins his bedroom. You must keep him sitting as long as
possible, Bunny, and talking all the time!"
In a flash I saw his plan.
"You're going for the picture while we're at dinner?"
"If he hears you?"
"But if he does!"
And I fairly trembled at the thought.
"If he does," said Raffles, "there will be a collision, that's
all. Revolver would be out of place in the Metropole, but
I shall certainly take a life-preserver."
"But it's ghastly!" I cried. "To sit and talk to an utter
stranger and to know that you're at work in the next room!"
"Two thousand apiece," said Raffles, quietly.
"Upon my soul I believe I shall give it away!"
"Not you, Bunny. I know you better than you know yourself."
He put on his coat and his hat.
"What time have I to be there?" I asked him, with a groan.
"Quarter to eight. There will be a telegram from me saying I
can't turn up. He's a terror to talk, you'll have no difficulty
in keeping the ball rolling; but head him off his picture for all
you're worth. If he offers to show it to you, say you must go.
He locked up the case elaborately this afternoon, and there's no
earthly reason why he should unlock it again in this hemisphere."
"Where shall I find you when I get away?"
"I shall be down at Esher. I hope to catch the 9.55."
"But surely I can see you again this afternoon?" I cried in a
ferment, for his hand was on the door. "I'm not half coached up
yet! I know I shall make a mess of it!"
"Not you," he said again, "but _I_ shall if I waste any more
time. I've got a deuce of a lot of rushing about to do yet. You
won't find me at my rooms. Why not come down to Esher yourself
by the last train? That's it--down you come with the latest
news! I'll tell old Debenham to expect you: he shall give us
both a bed. By Jove! he won't be able to do us too well if he's
got his picture."
"If!" I groaned as he nodded his adieu; and he left me limp with
apprehension, sick with fear, in a perfectly pitiable condition
of pure stage-fright.
For, after all, I had only to act my part; unless Raffles failed
where he never did fail, unless Raffles the neat and noiseless
was for once clumsy and inept, all I had to do was indeed to
"smile and smile and be a villain." I practiced that smile half
the afternoon. I rehearsed putative parts in hypothetical
conversations. I got up stories. I dipped in a book on
Queensland at the club. And at last it was 7.45, and I was
making my bow to a somewhat elderly man with a small bald head
and a retreating brow.
"So you're Mr. Raffles's friend?" said he, overhauling me rather
rudely with his light small eyes. "Seen anything of him?
Expected him early to show me something, but he's never come."
No more, evidently, had his telegram, and my troubles were
beginning early. I said I had not seen Raffles since one
o'clock, telling the truth with unction while I could; even as we
spoke there came a knock at the door; it was the telegram at
last, and, after reading it himself, the Queenslander handed it
"Called out of town!" he grumbled. "Sudden illness of near
relative! What near relatives has he got?"
I knew of none, and for an instant I quailed before the perils of
invention; then I replied that I had never met any of his people,
and again felt fortified by my veracity.
"Thought you were bosom pals?" said he, with (as I imagined) a
gleam of suspicion in his crafty little eyes.
"Only in town," said I. "I've never been to his place."
"Well," he growled, "I suppose it can't be helped. Don't know
why he couldn't come and have his dinner first. Like to see the
death-bed I'D go to without MY dinner; it's a full-skin billet,
if you ask me. Well, must just dine without him, and he'll have
to buy his pig in a poke after all. Mind touching that bell?
Suppose you know what he came to see me about? Sorry I sha'n't
see him again, for his own sake. I liked Raffles--took to him
amazingly. He's a cynic. Like cynics. One myself. Rank bad
form of his mother or his aunt, and I hope she will go and kick
I connect these specimens of his conversation, though they were
doubtless detached at the time, and interspersed with remarks of
mine here and there. They filled the interval until dinner was
served, and they gave me an impression of the man which his every
subsequent utterance confirmed. It was an impression which did
away with all remorse for my treacherous presence at his table.
He was that terrible type, the Silly Cynic, his aim a caustic
commentary on all things and all men, his achievement mere vulgar
irreverence and unintelligent scorn. Ill-bred and ill-informed,
he had (on his own showing) fluked into fortune on a rise in
land; yet cunning he possessed, as well as malice, and he
chuckled till he choked over the misfortunes of less astute
speculators in the same boom. Even now I cannot feel much
compunction for my behavior by the Hon. J. M. Craggs, M.L.C.
But never shall I forget the private agonies of the situation,
the listening to my host with one ear and for Raffles with the
other! Once I heard him--though the rooms were not divided by
the old-fashioned folding-doors, and though the door that did
divide them was not only shut but richly curtained, I could have
sworn I heard him once. I spilt my wine and laughed at the top
of my voice at some coarse sally of my host's. And I heard
nothing more, though my ears were on the strain. But later, to my
horror, when the waiter had finally withdrawn, Craggs himself
sprang up and rushed to his bedroom without a word. I sat like
stone till he returned.
"Thought I heard a door go," he said. "Must have been mistaken .
. . imagination . . . gave me quite a turn. Raffles tell you
priceless treasure I got in there?"
It was the picture at last; up to this point I had kept him to
Queensland and the making of his pile. I tried to get him back
there now, but in vain. He was reminded of his great ill-gotten
possession. I said that Raffles had just mentioned it, and that
set him off. With the confidential garrulity of a man who has
dined too well, he plunged into his darling topic, and I looked
past him at the clock. It was only a quarter to ten.
In common decency I could not go yet. So there I sat (we were
still at port) and learnt what had originally fired my host's
ambition to possess what he was pleased to call a "real, genuine,
twin-screw, double-funnelled, copper-bottomed Old Master"; it was
to "go one better" than some rival legislator of pictorial
proclivities. But even an epitome of his monologue would be so
much weariness; suffice it that it ended inevitably in the
invitation I had dreaded all the evening.
"But you must see it. Next room. This way."
"Isn't it packed up?" I inquired hastily.
"Lock and key. That's all."
"Pray don't trouble," I urged.
"Trouble be hanged!" said he. "Come along."
And all at once I saw that to resist him further would be to heap
suspicion upon myself against the moment of impending discovery.
I therefore followed him into his bedroom without further
protest, and suffered him first to show me the iron map-case
which stood in one corner; he took a crafty pride in this
receptacle, and I thought he would never cease descanting on its
innocent appearance and its Chubb's lock. It seemed an
interminable age before the key was in the latter. Then the ward
clicked, and my pulse stood still.
"By Jove!" I cried next instant.
The canvas was in its place among the maps!
"Thought it would knock you," said Craggs, drawing it out and
unrolling it for my benefit. 'Grand thing, ain't it? Wouldn't
think it had been painted two hundred and thirty years? It has,
though, MY word! Old Johnson's face will be a treat when he sees
it; won't go bragging about HIS pictures much more. Why, this
one's worth all the pictures in Colony o' Queensland put
together. Worth fifty thousand pounds, my boy--and I got it for
He dug me in the ribs, and seemed in the mood for further
confidences. My appearance checked him, and he rubbed his hands.
"If you take it like that," he chuckled, "how will old Johnson
take it? Go out and hang himself to his own picture-rods, I
Heaven knows what I contrived to say at last. Struck speechless
first by my relief, I continued silent from a very different
cause. A new tangle of emotions tied my tongue. Raffles had
failed--Raffles had failed! Could I not succeed? Was it too
late? Was there no way?
"So long," he said, taking a last look at the canvas before he
rolled it up--"so long till we get to Brisbane."
The flutter I was in as he closed the case!
"For the last time," he went on, as his keys jingled back into
his pocket. "It goes straight into the strong-room on board."
For the last time! If I could but send him out to Australia with
only its legitimate contents in his precious map-case! If I
could but succeed where Raffles had failed!
We returned to the other room. I have no notion how long he
talked, or what about. Whiskey and soda-water became the order
of the hour. I scarcely touched it, but he drank copiously, and
before eleven I left him incoherent. And the last train for Esher
was the 11.50 out of Waterloo.
I took a hansom to my rooms. I was back at the hotel in thirteen
minutes. I walked upstairs. The corridor was empty; I stood an
instant on the sitting-room threshold, heard a snore within, and
admitted myself softly with my gentleman's own key, which it had
been a very simple matter to take away with me.
Craggs never moved; he was stretched on the sofa fast asleep.
But not fast enough for me. I saturated my handkerchief with the
chloroform I had brought, and laid it gently over his mouth. Two
or three stertorous breaths, and the man was a log.
I removed the handkerchief; I extracted the keys from his pocket.
In less than five minutes I put them back, after winding the
picture about my body beneath my Inverness cape. I took some
whiskey and soda-water before I went.
The train was easily caught--so easily that I trembled for ten
minutes in my first-class smoking carriage--in terror of every
footstep on the platform, in unreasonable terror till the end.
Then at last I sat back and lit a cigarette, and the lights of
Waterloo reeled out behind.
Some men were returning from the theatre. I can recall their
conversation even now. They were disappointed with the piece
they had seen. It was one of the later Savoy operas, and they
spoke wistfully of the days of "Pinafore" and "Patience." One of
them hummed a stave, and there was an argument as to whether the
air was out of "Patience" or the "Mikado." They all got out at
Surbiton, and I was alone with my triumph for a few intoxicating
minutes. To think that I had succeeded where Raffles had failed!
Of all our adventures this was the first in which I had played a
commanding part; and, of them all, this was infinitely the least
discreditable. It left me without a conscientious qualm; I had
but robbed a robber, when all was said. And I had done it
myself, single-handed--ipse egomet!
I pictured Raffles, his surprise, his delight. He would think a
little more of me in future. And that future, it should be
different. We had two thousand pounds apiece--surely enough to
start afresh as honest men--and all through me!
In a glow I sprang out at Esher, and took the one belated cab
that was waiting under the bridge. In a perfect fever I beheld
Broom Hall, with the lower story still lit up, and saw the front
door open as I climbed the steps.
"Thought it was you," said Raffles cheerily. "It's all right.
There's a bed for you. Sir Bernard's sitting up to shake your
His good spirits disappointed me. But I knew the man: he was one
of those who wear their brightest smile in the blackest hour. I
knew him too well by this time to be deceived.
"I've got it!" I cried in his ear. "I've got it!"
"Got what?" he asked me, stepping back.
"The picture. He showed it me. You had to go without it; I saw
that. So I determined to have it. And here it is."
"Let's see," said Raffles grimly.
I threw off my cape and unwound the canvas from about my body.
While I was doing so an untidy old gentleman made his appearance
in the hall, and stood looking on with raised eyebrows.
"Looks pretty fresh for an Old Master, doesn't she?" said
His tone was strange. I could only suppose that he was jealous
of my success.
"So Craggs said. I hardly looked at it myself."
"Well, look now--look closely. By Jove, I must have faked her
better than I thought!"
"It's a copy!" I cried.
"It's THE copy," he answered. "It's the copy I've been tearing
all over the country to procure. It's the copy I faked back and
front, so that, on your own showing, it imposed upon Craggs, and
might have made him happy for life. And you go and rob him of
I could not speak.
"How did you manage it?" inquired Sir Bernard Debenham.
"Have you killed him?" asked Raffles sardonically.
I did not look at him; I turned to Sir Bernard Debenham, and to
him I told my story, hoarsely, excitedly, for it was all that I
could do to keep from breaking down. But as I spoke I became
calmer, and I finished in mere bitterness, with the remark that
another time Raffles might tell me what he meant to do.
"Another time!" he cried instantly. "My dear Bunny, you speak as
though we were going to turn burglars for a living!"
"I trust you won't," said Sir Bernard, smiling, "for you are
certainly two very daring young men. Let us hope our friend from
Queensland will do as he said, and not open his map-case till he
gets back there. He will find my check awaiting him, and I shall
be very much surprised if he troubles any of us again."
Raffles and I did not speak till I was in the room which had been
prepared for me. Nor was I anxious to do so then. But he
followed me and took my hand.
"Bunny," said he, "don't you be hard on a fellow! I was in the
deuce of a hurry, and didn't know that I should ever get what I
wanted in time, and that's a fact. But it serves me right that
you should have gone and undone one of the best things I ever
did. As for YOUR handiwork, old chap, you won't mind my saying
that I didn't think you had it in you. In future--"
"Don't talk to me about the future!" I cried. "I hate the whole
thing! I'm going to chuck it up!"
"So am I," said Raffles, "when I've made my pile."
THE RETURN MATCH
I had turned into Piccadilly, one thick evening in the following
November, when my guilty heart stood still at the sudden grip of
a hand upon my arm. I thought--I was always thinking--that my
inevitable hour was come at last. It was only Raffles, however,
who stood smiling at me through the fog.
"Well met!" said he. "I've been looking for you at the club."
"I was just on my way there," I returned, with an attempt to hide
my tremors. It was an ineffectual attempt, as I saw from his
broader smile, and by the indulgent shake of his head.
"Come up to my place instead," said he. "I've something amusing
to tell you."
I made excuses, for his tone foretold the kind of amusement, and
it was a kind against which I had successfully set my face for
months. I have stated before, however, and I can but reiterate,
that to me, at all events, there was never anybody in the world
so irresistible as Raffles when his mind was made up. That we
had both been independent of crime since our little service to
Sir Bernard Debenham--that there had been no occasion for that
masterful mind to be made up in any such direction for many a
day--was the undeniable basis of a longer spell of honesty than I
had hitherto enjoyed during the term of our mutual intimacy. Be
sure I would deny it if I could; the very thing I am to tell you
would discredit such a boast. I made my excuses, as I have said.
But his arm slid through mine, with his little laugh of
light-hearted mastery. And even while I argued we were on his
staircase in the Albany.
His fire had fallen low. He poked and replenished it after
lighting the gas. As for me, I stood by sullenly in my overcoat
until he dragged it off my back.
"What a chap you are!" said Raffles, playfully. "One would really
think I had proposed to crack another crib this blessed night!
Well, it isn't that, Bunny; so get into that chair, and take one
of these Sullivans and sit tight."
He held the match to my cigarette; he brought me a whiskey and
soda. Then he went out into the lobby, and, just as I was
beginning to feel happy, I heard a bolt shot home. It cost me an
effort to remain in that chair; next moment he was straddling
another and gloating over my discomfiture across his folded arms.
"You remember Milchester, Bunny, old boy?"
His tone was as bland as mine was grim when I answered that I
"We had a little match there that wasn't down on the card.
Gentlemen and Players, if you recollect?"
"I don't forget it."
"Seeing that you never got an innings, so to speak, I thought you
might. Well, the Gentlemen scored pretty freely, but the Players
were all caught."
"Don't be too sure. You remember the fellow we saw in the inn?
The florid, over-dressed chap who I told you was one of the
cleverest thieves in town?"
"I remember him. Crawshay his name turned out to be."
"Well, it was certainly the name he was convicted under, so
Crawshay let it be. You needn't waste any pity on HIM, old chap;
he escaped from Dartmoor yesterday afternoon."
Raffles smiled, but his eyebrows had gone up, and his shoulders
"You are perfectly right; it was very well done indeed. I wonder
you didn't see it in the paper. In a dense fog on the moor
yesterday good old Crawshay made a bolt for it, and got away
without a scratch under heavy fire. All honor to him, I agree; a
fellow with that much grit deserves his liberty. But Crawshay
has a good deal more. They hunted him all night long; couldn't
find him for nuts; and that was all you missed in the morning
He unfolded a Pall Mall, which he had brought in with him.
"But listen to this; here's an account of the escape, with just
the addition which puts the thing on a higher level. 'The
fugitive has been traced to Totnes, where he appears to have
committed a peculiarly daring outrage in the early hours of this
morning. He is reported to have entered the lodgings of the Rev.
A. H. Ellingworth, curate of the parish, who missed his clothes
on rising at the usual hour; later in the morning those of the
convict were discovered neatly folded at the bottom of a drawer.
Meanwhile Crawshay had made good his second escape, though it is
believed that so distinctive a guise will lead to his recapture
during the day.' What do you think of that, Bunny?"
"He is certainly a sportsman," said I, reaching for the paper.
"He's more," said Raffles, "he's an artist, and I envy him. The
curate, of all men! Beautiful--beautiful! But that's not all.
I saw just now on the board at the club that there's been an
outrage on the line near Dawlish. Parson found insensible in the
six-foot way. Our friend again! The telegram doesn't say so,
but it's obvious; he's simply knocked some other fellow out,
changed clothes again, and come on gayly to town. Isn't it
great? I do believe it's the best thing of the kind that's ever
"But why should he come to town?"
In an instant the enthusiasm faded from Raffles's face; clearly I
had reminded him of some prime anxiety, forgotten in his
impersonal joy over the exploit of a fellow-criminal. He looked
over his shoulder towards the lobby before replying.
"I believe," said he, "that the beggar's on MY tracks!"
And as he spoke he was himself again--quietly amused--cynically
unperturbed--characteristically enjoying the situation and my
"But look here, what do you mean?" said I. "What does Crawshay
know about you?"
"Not much; but he suspects."
"Why should he?"
"Because, in his way he's very nearly as good a man as I am;
because, my dear Bunny, with eyes in his head and brains behind
them, he couldn't help suspecting. He saw me once in town with
old Baird. He must have seen me that day in the pub on the way
to Milchester, as well as afterwards on the cricket-field. As a
matter of fact, I know he did, for he wrote and told me so before
"He wrote to you! And you never told me!"
The old shrug answered the old grievance.
"What was the good, my dear fellow? It would only have worried
"Well, what did he say?"
"That he was sorry he had been run in before getting back to
town, as he had proposed doing himself the honor of paying me a
call; however, he trusted it was only a pleasure deferred, and he
begged me not to go and get lagged myself before he came out. Of
course he knew the Melrose necklace was gone, though he hadn't
got it; and he said that the man who could take that and leave
the rest was a man after his own heart. And so on, with certain
little proposals for the far future, which I fear may be the very
near future indeed! I'm only surprised he hasn't turned up yet."
He looked again towards the lobby, which he had left in darkness,
with the inner door shut as carefully as the outer one. I asked
him what he meant to do.
"Let him knock--if he gets so far. The porter is to say I'm out
of town; it will be true, too, in another hour or so."
"You're going off to-night?"
"By the 7.15 from Liverpool Street. I don't say much about my
people, Bunny, but I have the best of sisters married to a
country parson in the eastern counties. They always make me
welcome, and let me read the lessons for the sake of getting me
to church. I'm sorry you won't be there to hear me on Sunday,
Bunny. I've figured out some of my best schemes in that parish,
and I know of no better port in a storm. But I must pack. I
thought I'd just let you know where I was going, and why, in case
you cared to follow my example."
He flung the stump of his cigarette into the fire, stretched
himself as he rose, and remained so long in the inelegant
attitude that my eyes mounted from his body to his face; a second
later they had followed his eyes across the room, and I also was
on my legs. On the threshold of the folding doors that divided
bedroom and sitting-room, a well-built man stood in ill-fitting
broadcloth, and bowed to us until his bullet head presented an
unbroken disk of short red hair.
Brief as was my survey of this astounding apparition, the
interval was long enough for Raffles to recover his composure;
his hands were in his pockets, and a smile upon his face, when my
eyes flew back to him.
"Let me introduce you, Bunny," said he, "to our distinguished
colleague, Mr. Reginald Crawshay."
The bullet head bobbed up, and there was a wrinkled brow above
the coarse, shaven face, crimson also, I remember, from the grip
of a collar several sizes too small. But I noted nothing
consciously at the time. I had jumped to my own conclusion, and
I turned on Raffles with an oath.
"It's a trick!" I cried. "It's another of your cursed tricks!
You got him here, and then you got me. You want me to join you,
I suppose? I'll see you damned!"
So cold was the stare which met this outburst that I became
ashamed of my words while they were yet upon my lips.
"Really, Bunny!" said Raffles, and turned his shoulder with a
"Lord love yer," cried Crawshay, "'_E_ knew nothin'. _'E_ didn't
expect me; 'E'S all right. And you're the cool canary, YOU are,"
he went on to Raffles. "I knoo you were, but, do me proud,
you're one after my own kidney!" And he thrust out a shaggy
"After that," said Raffles, taking it, "what am I to say? But
you must have heard my opinion of you. I am proud to make your
acquaintance. How the deuce did you get in?"
"Never you mind," said Crawshay, loosening his collar; "let's
talk about how I'm to get out. Lord love yer, but that's better!"
There was a livid ring round his bull-neck, that he fingered
tenderly. "Didn't know how much longer I might have to play the
gent," he explained; "didn't know who you'd bring in."
"Drink whiskey and soda?" inquired Raffles, when the convict was
in the chair from which I had leapt.
"No, I drink it neat," replied Crawshay, "but I talk business
first. You don't get over me like that, Lor' love yer!"
"Well, then, what can I do for you?"
"You know without me tellin' you."
"Give it a name."
"Clean heels, then; that's what I want to show, and I leaves the
way to you. We're brothers in arms, though I ain't armed this
time. It ain't necessary. You've too much sense. But brothers
we are, and you'll see a brother through. Let's put it at that.
You'll see me through in yer own way. I leaves it all to you."
His tone was rich with conciliation and concession; he bent over
and tore a pair of button boots from his bare feet, which he
stretched towards the fire, painfully uncurling his toes.
"I hope you take a larger size than them," said he. "I'd have
had a see if you'd given me time. I wasn't in long afore you."
"And you won't tell me how you got in?"
"Wot's the use? I can't teach YOU nothin'. Besides, I want out.
I want out of London, an' England, an' bloomin' Europe too.
That's all I want of you, mister. I don't arst how YOU go on the
job. You know w'ere I come from, 'cos I 'eard you say; you know
w'ere I want to 'ead for, 'cos I've just told yer; the details I
leaves entirely to you."
"Well," said Raffles, "we must see what can be done."
"We must," said Mr. Crawshay, and leaned back comfortably, and
began twirling his stubby thumbs.
Raffles turned to me with a twinkle in his eye; but his forehead
was scored with thought, and resolve mingled with resignation in
the lines of his mouth. And he spoke exactly as though he and I
were alone in the room.
"You seize the situation, Bunny? If our friend here is 'copped,'
to speak his language, he means to 'blow the gaff' on you and me.
He is considerate enough not to say so in so many words, but it's
plain enough, and natural enough for that matter. I would do the
same in his place. We had the bulge before; he has it now; it's
perfectly fair. We must take on this job; we aren't in a position
to refuse it; even if we were, I should take it on! Our friend
is a great sportsman; he has got clear away from Dartmoor; it
would be a thousand pities to let him go back. Nor shall he; not
if I can think of a way of getting him abroad."
"Any way you like," murmured Crawshay, with his eyes shut. "I
leaves the 'ole thing to you."
"But you'll have to wake up and tell us things."
"All right, mister; but I'm fair on the rocks for a sleep!"
And he stood up, blinking.
"Think you were traced to town?"
"Must have been."
"Not in this fog--not with any luck."
Raffles went into the bedroom, lit the gas there, and returned
"So you got in by the window?"
"That's about it."
"It was devilish smart of you to know which one; it beats me how
you brought it off in daylight, fog or no fog! But let that
pass. You don't think you were seen?"
"I don't think it, sir."
"Well, let's hope you are right. I shall reconnoitre and soon
find out. And you'd better come too, Bunny, and have something
to eat and talk it over."
As Raffles looked at me, I looked at Crawshay, anticipating
trouble; and trouble brewed in his blank, fierce face, in the
glitter of his startled eyes, in the sudden closing of his fists.
"And what's to become o' me?" he cried out with an oath.
"You wait here."
"No, you don't," he roared, and at a bound had his back to the
door. "You don't get round me like that, you cuckoos!"
Raffles turned to me with a twitch of the shoulders. "That's
the worst of these professors," said he; "they never will use
their heads. They see the pegs, and they mean to hit 'em; but
that's all they do see and mean, and they think we're the same.
No wonder we licked them last time!"
"Don't talk through yer neck," snarled the convict. "Talk out
straight, curse you!"
"Right," said Raffles. "I'll talk as straight as you like. You
say you put yourself in my hands--you leave it all to me--yet you
don't trust me an inch! I know what's to happen if I fail. I
accept the risk. I take this thing on. Yet you think I'm going
straight out to give you away and make you give me away in my
turn. You're a fool, Mr. Crawshay, though you have broken
Dartmoor; you've got to listen to a better man, and obey him. I
see you through in my own way, or not at all. I come and go as I
like, and with whom I like, without your interference; you stay
here and lie just as low as you know how, be as wise as your
word, and leave the whole thing to me. If you won't--if you're
fool enough not to trust me--there's the door. Go out and say
what you like, and be damned to you!"
Crawshay slapped his thigh.
"That's talking!" said he. "Lord love yer, I know where I am
when you talk like that. I'll trust yer. I know a man when he
gets his tongue between his teeth; you're all right. I don't say
so much about this other gent, though I saw him along with you on
the job that time in the provinces; but if he's a pal of yours,
Mr. Raffles, he'll be all right too. I only hope you gents ain't
And he touched his pockets with a rueful face.
"I only went for their togs," said he. "You never struck two
such stony-broke cusses in yer life!"
"That's all right," said Raffles. "We'll see you through
properly. Leave it to us, and you sit tight."
"Rightum!" said Crawshay. "And I'll have a sleep time you're
gone. But no sperrits--no, thank'ee--not yet! Once let me loose
on the lush, and, Lord love yer, I'm a gone coon!"
Raffles got his overcoat, a long, light driving-coat, I remember,
and even as he put it on our fugitive was dozing in the chair; we
left him murmuring incoherently, with the gas out, and his bare
"Not such a bad chap, that professor," said Raffles on the
stairs; "a real genius in his way, too, though his methods are a
little elementary for my taste. But technique isn't everything;
to get out of Dartmoor and into the Albany in the same
twenty-four hours is a whole that justifies its parts. Good
We had passed a man in the foggy courtyard, and Raffles had
nipped my arm.
"Who was it?"
"The last man we want to see! I hope to heaven he didn't hear
"But who is he, Raffles?"
"Our old friend Mackenzie, from the Yard!"
I stood still with horror.
"Do you think he's on Crawshay's track?"
"I don't know. I'll find out."
And before I could remonstrate he had wheeled me round; when I
found my voice he merely laughed, and whispered that the bold
course was the safe one every time.
"But it's madness--"
"Not it. Shut up! Is that YOU, Mr. Mackenzie?"
The detective turned about and scrutinized us keenly; and through
the gaslit mist I noticed that his hair was grizzled at the
temples, and his face still cadaverous, from the wound that had
nearly been his death.
"Ye have the advantage o' me, sirs," said he.
"I hope you're fit again," said my companion. "My name is
Raffles, and we met at Milchester last year."
"Is that a fact?" cried the Scotchman, with quite a start. "Yes,
now I remember your face, and yours too, sir. Ay, yon was a bad
business, but it ended vera well, an' that's the main thing."
His native caution had returned to him. Raffles pinched my arm.
"Yes, it ended splendidly, but for you," said he. "But what about
this escape of the leader of the gang, that fellow Crawshay?
What do you think of that, eh?"
"I havena the parteeculars," replied the Scot.
"Good!" cried Raffles. "I was only afraid you might be on his
tracks once more!"
Mackenzie shook his head with a dry smile, and wished us good
evening as an invisible window was thrown up, and a whistle blown
softly through the fog.
"We must see this out," whispered Raffles. "Nothing more natural
than a little curiosity on our part. After him, quick!"
And we followed the detective into another entrance on the same
side as that from which we had emerged, the left-hand side on
one's way to Piccadilly; quite openly we followed him, and at the
foot of the stairs met one of the porters of the place. Raffles
asked him what was wrong.
"Nothing, sir," said the fellow glibly.
"Rot!" said Raffles. "That was Mackenzie, the detective. I've
just been speaking to him. What's he here for? Come on, my good
fellow; we won't give you away, if you've instructions not to
The man looked quaintly wistful, the temptation of an audience
hot upon him; a door shut upstairs, and he fell.
"It's like this," he whispered. "This afternoon a gen'leman
comes arfter rooms, and I sent him to the orfice; one of the
clurks, 'e goes round with 'im an' shows 'im the empties, an' the
gen'leman's partic'ly struck on the set the coppers is up in now.
So he sends the clurk to fetch the manager, as there was one or
two things he wished to speak about; an' when they come back,
blowed if the gent isn't gone! Beg yer pardon, sir, but he's
clean disappeared off the face o' the premises!" And the porter
looked at us with shining eyes.
"Well?" said Raffles.
"Well, sir, they looked about, an' looked about, an' at larst
they give him up for a bad job; thought he'd changed his mind an'
didn't want to tip the clurk; so they shut up the place an' come
away. An' that's all till about 'alf an hour ago, when I takes
the manager his extry-speshul Star; in about ten minutes he comes
running out with a note, an' sends me with it to Scotland Yard in
a hansom. An' that's all I know, sir--straight. The coppers is
up there now, and the tec, and the manager, and they think their
gent is about the place somewhere still. Least, I reckon that's
their idea; but who he is, or what they want him for, I dunno."
"Jolly interesting!" said Raffles. "I'm going up to inquire.
Come on, Bunny; there should be some fun."
"Beg yer pardon, Mr. Raffles, but you won't say nothing about
"Not I; you're a good fellow. I won't forget it if this leads to
sport. Sport!" he whispered as we reached the landing. "It
looks like precious poor sport for you and me, Bunny!"
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. There's no time to think. This, to start with."
And he thundered on the shut door; a policeman opened it.
Raffles strode past him with the air of a chief commissioner, and
I followed before the man had recovered from his astonishment.
The bare boards rang under us; in the bedroom we found a knot of
officers stooping over the window-ledge with a constable's
lantern. Mackenzie was the first to stand upright, and he
greeted us with a glare.
"May I ask what you gentlemen want?" said he.
"We want to lend a hand," said Raffles briskly. "We lent one once
before, and it was my friend here who took over from you the
fellow who split on all the rest, and held him tightly. Surely
that entitles him, at all events, to see any fun that's going?
As for myself, well, it's true I only helped to carry you to the
house; but for old acquaintance I do hope, my dear Mr. Mackenzie,
that you will permit us to share such sport as there may be. I
myself can only stop a few minutes, in any case."
"Then ye'll not see much," growled the detective, "for he's not
up here. Constable, go you and stand at the foot o' the stairs,
and let no other body come up on any conseederation; these
gentlemen may be able to help us after all."
"That's kind of you, Mackenzie!" cried Raffles warmly. "But what
is it all? I questioned a porter I met coming down, but could
get nothing out of him, except that somebody had been to see
these rooms and not since been seen himself."
"He's a man we want," said Mackenzie. "He's concealed himself
somewhere about these premises, or I'm vera much mistaken. D'ye
reside in the Albany, Mr. Raffles?"
"Will your rooms be near these?"
"On the next staircase but one."
"Ye'll just have left them?"
"Been in all the afternoon, likely?"
"Then I may have to search your rooms, sir. I am prepared to
search every room in the Albany! Our man seems to have gone for
the leads; but unless he's left more marks outside than in, or we
find him up there, I shall have the entire building to ransack."
"I will leave you my key," said Raffles at once. "I am dining
out, but I'll leave it with the officer down below."
I caught my breath in mute amazement. What was the meaning of
this insane promise? It was wilful, gratuitous, suicidal; it
made me catch at his sleeve in open horror and disgust; but, with
a word of thanks, Mackenzie had returned to his window-sill, and
we sauntered unwatched through the folding-doors into the
adjoining room. Here the window looked down into the courtyard;
it was still open; and as we gazed out in apparent idleness,
Raffles reassured me.
"It's all right, Bunny; you do what I tell you and leave the rest
to me. It's a tight corner, but I don't despair. What you've
got to do is to stick to these chaps, especially if they search
my rooms; they mustn't poke about more than necessary, and they
won't if you're there."
"But where will you be? You're never going to leave me to be
"If I do, it will be to turn up trumps at the right moment.
Besides, there are such things as windows, and Crawshay's the man
to take his risks. You must trust me, Bunny; you've known me
"Are you going now?"
"There's no time to lose. Stick to them, old chap; don't let
them suspect YOU, whatever else you do." His hand lay an instant
on my shoulder; then he left me at the window, and recrossed the
"I've got to go now," I heard him say; "but my friend will stay
and see this through, and I'll leave the gas on in my rooms, and
my key with the constable downstairs. Good luck, Mackenzie; only
wish I could stay."
"Good-by, sir," came in a preoccupied voice, "and many thanks."
Mackenzie was still busy at his window, and I remained at mine, a
prey to mingled fear and wrath, for all my knowledge of Raffles
and of his infinite resource. By this time I felt that I knew
more or less what he would do in any given emergency; at least I
could conjecture a characteristic course of equal cunning and
audacity. He would return to his rooms, put Crawshay on his
guard, and--stow him away? No--there were such things as
windows. Then why was Raffles going to desert us all? I thought
of many things--lastly of a cab. These bedroom windows looked
into a narrow side-street; they were not very high; from them a
man might drop on to the roof of a cab--even as it passed--and be
driven away even under the noses of the police! I pictured
Raffles driving that cab, unrecognizable in the foggy night; the
vision came to me as he passed under the window, tucking up the
collar of his great driving-coat on the way to his rooms; it was
still with me when he passed again on his way back, and stopped
to hand the constable his key.
"We're on his track," said a voice behind me. "He's got up on the
leads, sure enough, though how he managed it from yon window is a
myst'ry to me. We're going to lock up here and try what like it
is from the attics. So you'd better come with us if you've a
The top floor at the Albany, as elsewhere, is devoted to the
servants--a congeries of little kitchens and cubicles, used by
many as lumber-rooms--by Raffles among the many. The annex in
this case was, of course, empty as the rooms below; and that was
lucky, for we filled it, what with the manager, who now joined
us, and another tenant whom he brought with him to Mackenzie's
"Better let in all Piccadilly at a crown a head," said he.
"Here, my man, out you go on the roof to make one less, and have
your truncheon handy."
We crowded to the little window, which Mackenzie took care to
fill; and a minute yielded no sound but the crunch and slither of
constabulary boots upon sooty slates. Then came a shout.
"What now?" cried Mackenzie.
"A rope," we heard, "hanging from the spout by a hook!"
"Sirs," purred Mackenzie, "yon's how he got up from below! He
would do it with one o' they telescope sticks, an' I never thocht
o't! How long a rope, my lad?"
"Quite short. I've got it."
"Did it hang over a window? Ask him that!" cried the manager.
"He can see by leaning over the parapet."
The question was repeated by Mackenzie; a pause, then "Yes, it
"Ask him how many windows along!" shouted the manager in high
"Six, he says," said Mackenzie next minute; and he drew in his
head and shoulders. "I should just like to see those rooms, six
"Mr. Raffles," announced the manager after a mental calculation.
"Is that a fact?" cried Mackenzie. "Then we shall have no
difficulty at all. He's left me his key down below."
The words had a dry, speculative intonation, which even then I
found time to dislike; it was as though the coincidence had
already struck the Scotchman as something more.
"Where is Mr. Raffles?" asked the manager, as we all filed
"He's gone out to his dinner," said Mackenzie.
"Are you sure?"
"I saw him go," said I. My heart was beating horribly. I would
not trust myself to speak again. But I wormed my way to a front
place in the little procession, and was, in fact, the second man
to cross the threshold that had been the Rubicon of my life. As
I did so I uttered a cry of pain, for Mackenzie had trod back
heavily on my toes; in another second I saw the reason, and saw
it with another and a louder cry.
A man was lying at full length before the fire on his back, with
a little wound in the white forehead, and the blood draining into
his eyes. And the man was Raffles himself!
"Suicide," said Mackenzie calmly. "No--here's the poker--looks
more like murder." He went on his knees and shook his head quite
cheerfully. "An' it's not even murder," said he, with a shade of
disgust in his matter-of-fact voice; "yon's no more than a
flesh-wound, and I have my doubts whether it felled him; but,
sirs, he just stinks o' chloryform!"
He got up and fixed his keen gray eyes upon me; my own were full
of tears, but they faced him unashamed.
"I understood ye to say ye saw him go out?" said he sternly.
"I saw that long driving-coat; of course, I thought he was inside
"And I could ha' sworn it was the same gent when he give me the
It was the disconsolate voice of the constable in the background;
on him turned Mackenzie, white to the lips.
"You'd think anything, some of you damned policemen," said he.
"What's your number, you rotter? P 34? You'll be hearing more
of this, Mr. P 34! If that gentleman was dead--instead of coming
to himself while I'm talking--do you know what you'd be? Guilty
of his manslaughter, you stuck pig in buttons! Do you know who
you've let slip, butter-fingers? Crawshay--no less--him that
broke Dartmoor yesterday. By the God that made ye, P 34, if I
lose him I'll hound ye from the forrce!"
Working face--shaking fist--a calm man on fire. It was a new
side of Mackenzie, and one to mark and to digest. Next moment he
had flounced from our midst.
"Difficult thing to break your own head," said Raffles later;
"infinitely easier to cut your own throat. Chloroform's another
matter; when you've used it on others, you know the dose to a
nicety. So you thought I was really gone? Poor old Bunny! But
I hope Mackenzie saw your face?"
"He did," said I. I would not tell him all Mackenzie must have
"That's all right. I wouldn't have had him miss it for worlds;
and you mustn't think me a brute, old boy, for I fear that man,
and, know, we sink or swim together."
"And now we sink or swim with Crawshay, too," said I dolefully.
"Not we!" said Raffles with conviction. "Old Crawshay's a true
sportsman, and he'll do by us as we've done by him; besides, this
makes us quits; and I don't think, Bunny, that we'll take on the
THE GIFT OF THE EMPEROR
When the King of the Cannibal Islands made faces at Queen
Victoria, and a European monarch set the cables tingling with his
compliments on the exploit, the indignation in England was not
less than the surprise, for the thing was not so common as it has
since become. But when it transpired that a gift of peculiar
significance was to follow the congratulations, to give them
weight, the inference prevailed that the white potentate and the
black had taken simultaneous leave of their fourteen senses. For
the gift was a pearl of price unparalleled, picked aforetime by
British cutlasses from a Polynesian setting, and presented by
British royalty to the sovereign who seized this opportunity of
restoring it to its original possessor.
The incident would have been a godsend to the Press a few weeks
later. Even in June there were leaders, letters, large
headlines, leaded type; the Daily Chronicle devoting half its
literary page to a charming drawing of the island capital which
the new Pall Mall, in a leading article headed by a pun, advised
the Government to blow to flinders. I was myself driving a poor
but not dishonest quill at the time, and the topic of the hour
goaded me into satiric verse which obtained a better place than
anything I had yet turned out. I had let my flat in town, and
taken inexpensive quarters at Thames Ditton, on the plea of a
disinterested passion for the river.
"First-rate, old boy!" said Raffles (who must needs come and see
me there), lying back in the boat while I sculled and steered.
"I suppose they pay you pretty well for these, eh?"
"Not a penny."
"Nonsense, Bunny! I thought they paid so well? Give them time,
and you'll get your check."
"Oh, no, I sha'n't," said I gloomily. "I've got to be content
with the honor of getting in; the editor wrote to say so, in so
many words," I added. But I gave the gentleman his distinguished
"You don't mean to say you've written for payment already?"
No; it was the last thing I had intended to admit. But I had
done it. The murder was out; there was no sense in further
concealment. I had written for my money because I really needed
it; if he must know, I was cursedly hard up. Raffles nodded as
though he knew already. I warmed to my woes. It was no easy
matter to keep your end up as a raw freelance of letters; for my
part, I was afraid I wrote neither well enough nor ill enough for
success. I suffered from a persistent ineffectual feeling after
style. Verse I could manage; but it did not pay. To personal
paragraphs and the baser journalism I could not and I would not
Raffles nodded again, this time with a smile that stayed in his
eyes as he leant back watching me. I knew that he was thinking of
other things I had stooped to, and I thought I knew what he was
going to say. He had said it before so often; he was sure to say
it again. I had my answer ready, but evidently he was tired of
asking the same question. His lids fell, he took up the paper he
had dropped, and I sculled the length of the old red wall of
Hampton Court before he spoke again.
"And they gave you nothing for these! My dear Bunny, they're
capital, not only qua verses but for crystallizing your subject
and putting it in a nutshell. Certainly you've taught ME more
about it than I knew before. But is it really worth fifty
thousand pounds--a single pearl?"
"A hundred, I believe; but that wouldn't scan."
"A hundred thousand pounds!" said Raffles, with his eyes shut.
And again I made certain what was coming, but again I was
mistaken. "If it's worth all that," he cried at last, "there
would be no getting rid of it at all; it's not like a diamond
that you can subdivide. But I beg your pardon, Bunny. I was
And we said no more about the emperor's gift; for pride thrives
on an empty pocket, and no privation would have drawn from me the
proposal which I had expected Raffles to make. My expectation
had been half a hope, though I only knew it now. But neither did
we touch again on what Raffles professed to have forgotten--my
"apostasy," my "lapse into virtue," as he had been pleased to
call it. We were both a little silent, a little constrained,
each preoccupied with his own thoughts. It was months since we
had met, and, as I saw him off towards eleven o'clock that Sunday
night, I fancied it was for more months that we were saying
But as we waited for the train I saw those clear eyes peering at
me under the station lamps, and when I met their glance Raffles
shook his head.
"You don't look well on it, Bunny," said he. "I never did believe
in this Thames Valley. You want a change of air."
I wished I might get it.
"What you really want is a sea voyage."
"And a winter at St. Moritz, or do you recommend Cannes or Cairo?
It's all very well, A. J., but you forget what I told you about
"I forget nothing. I merely don't want to hurt your feelings.
But, look here, a sea voyage you shall have. I want a change
myself, and you shall come with me as my guest. We'll spend July
in the Mediterranean."
"But you're playing cricket--"
"Hang the cricket!"
"Well, if I thought you meant it--"
"Of course I mean it. Will you come?"
"Like a shot--if you go."
And I shook his hand, and waved mine in farewell, with the
perfectly good-humored conviction that I should hear no more of
the matter. It was a passing thought, no more, no less. I soon
wished it were more; that week found me wishing myself out of
England for good and all. I was making nothing. I could but
subsist on the difference between the rent I paid for my flat and
the rent at which I had sublet it, furnished, for the season.
And the season was near its end, and creditors awaited me in
town. Was it possible to be entirely honest? I had run no bills
when I had money in my pocket, and the more downright dishonesty
seemed to me the less ignoble.
But from Raffles, of course, I heard nothing more; a week went
by, and half another week; then, late on the second Wednesday
night, I found a telegram from him at my lodgings, after seeking
him vainly in town, and dining with desperation at the solitary
club to which I still belonged.
"Arrange to leave Waterloo by North German Lloyd special," he
wired, "9.25 A. M. Monday next will meet you Southampton aboard
Uhlan with tickets am writing."
And write he did, a light-hearted letter enough, but full of
serious solicitude for me and for my health and prospects; a
letter almost touching in the light of our past relations, in the
twilight of their complete rupture. He said that he had booked
two berths to Naples, that we were bound for Capri, which was
clearly the island of the Lotos-eaters, that we would bask there
together, "and for a while forget." It was a charming letter. I
had never seen Italy; the privilege of initiation should be his.
No mistake was greater than to deem it an impossible country for
the summer. The Bay of Naples was never so divine, and he wrote
of "faery lands forlorn," as though the poetry sprang unbidden to
his pen. To come back to earth and prose, I might think it
unpatriotic of him to choose a German boat, but on no other line
did you receive such attention and accommodation for your money.
There was a hint of better reasons. Raffles wrote, as he had
telegraphed, from Bremen; and I gathered that the personal use of
some little influence with the authorities there had resulted in
a material reduction in our fares.
Imagine my excitement and delight! I managed to pay what I owed
at Thames Ditton, to squeeze a small editor for a very small
check, and my tailors for one more flannel suit. I remember that
I broke my last sovereign to get a box of Sullivan's cigarettes
for Raffles to smoke on the voyage. But my heart was as light as
my purse on the Monday morning, the fairest morning of an unfair
summer, when the special whirled me through the sunshine to the
A tender awaited us at Southampton. Raffles was not on board,
nor did I really look for him till we reached the liner's side.
And then I looked in vain. His face was not among the many that
fringed the rail; his hand was not of the few that waved to
friends. I climbed aboard in a sudden heaviness. I had no
ticket, nor the money to pay for one. I did not even know the
number of my room. My heart was in my mouth as I waylaid a
steward and asked if a Mr. Raffles was on board. Thank
heaven--he was! But where? The man did not know, was plainly on
some other errand, and a-hunting I must go. But there was no
sign of him on the promenade deck, and none below in the saloon;
the smoking-room was empty but for a little German with a red
moustache twisted into his eyes; nor was Raffles in his own
cabin, whither I inquired my way in desperation, but where the
sight of his own name on the baggage was certainly a further
reassurance. Why he himself kept in the background, however, I
could not conceive, and only sinister reasons would suggest
themselves in explanation.
"So there you are! I've been looking for you all over the ship!"
Despite the graven prohibition, I had tried the bridge as a last
resort; and there, indeed, was A. J. Raffles, seated on a
skylight, and leaning over one of the officers' long chairs, in
which reclined a girl in a white drill coat and skirt--a slip of
a girl with a pale skin, dark hair, and rather remarkable eyes.
So much I noted as he rose and quickly turned; thereupon I could
think of nothing but the swift grimace which preceded a start of
"Why--BUNNY?" cried Raffles. "Where have YOU sprung from?"
I stammered something as he pinched my hand.
"And are you coming in this ship? And to Naples, too? Well,
upon my word! Miss Werner, may I introduce him?"
And he did so without a blush, describing me as an old
schoolfellow whom he had not seen for months, with wilful
circumstance and gratuitous detail that filled me at once with
confusion, suspicion, and revolt. I felt myself blushing for us
both, and I did not care. My address utterly deserted me, and I
made no effort to recover it, to carry the thing off. All I
would do was to mumble such words as Raffles actually put into my
mouth, and that I doubt not with a thoroughly evil grace.
"So you saw my name in the list of passengers and came in search
of me? Good old Bunny; I say, though, I wish you'd share my
cabin. I've got a beauty on the promenade deck, but they
wouldn't promise to keep me by myself. We ought to see about it
before they shove in some alien. In any case we shall have to
get out of this."
For a quartermaster had entered the wheelhouse, and even while we
had been speaking the pilot had taken possession of the bridge;
as we descended, the tender left us with flying handkerchiefs and
shrill good-bys; and as we bowed to Miss Werner on the promenade
deck, there came a deep, slow throbbing underfoot, and our
voyage had begun.
It did not begin pleasantly between Raffles and me. On deck he
had overborne my stubborn perplexity by dint of a forced though
forceful joviality; in his cabin the gloves were off.
"You idiot," he snarled, "you've given me away again!"
"How have I given you away?"
I ignored the separate insult in his last word.
"How? I should have thought any clod could see that I meant us
to meet by chance!"
"After taking both tickets yourself?"
"They knew nothing about that on board; besides, I hadn't decided
when I took the tickets."
"Then you should have let me know when you did decide. You lay
your plans, and never say a word, and expect me to tumble to them
by light of nature. How was I to know you had anything on?"
I had turned the tables with some effect. Raffles almost hung
"The fact is, Bunny, I didn't mean you to know. You--you've grown
such a pious rabbit in your old age!"
My nickname and his tone went far to mollify me, other things
went farther, but I had much to forgive him still.
"If you were afraid of writing," I pursued, "it was your business
to give me the tip the moment I set foot on board. I would have
taken it all right. I am not so virtuous as all that."
Was it my imagination, or did Raffles look slightly ashamed? If
so, it was for the first and last time in all the years I knew
him; nor can I swear to it even now.
"That," said he, "was the very thing I meant to do--to lie in
wait in my room and get you as you passed. But--"
"You were better engaged?"
"The charming Miss Werner?"
"She is quite charming."
"Most Australian girls are," said I.
"How did you know she was one?" he cried.
"I heard her speak."
"Brute!" said Raffles, laughing; "she has no more twang than you
have. Her people are German, she has been to school in Dresden,
and is on her way out alone."
"Money?" I inquired.
"Confound you!" he said, and, though he was laughing, I thought
it was a point at which the subject might be changed.
"Well," I said, "it wasn't for Miss Werner you wanted us to play
strangers, was it? You have some deeper game than that, eh?"
"I suppose I have."
"Then hadn't you better tell me what it is?"
Raffles treated me to the old cautious scrutiny that I knew so
well; the very familiarity of it, after all these months, set me
smiling in a way that might have reassured him; for dimly already
I divined his enterprise.
"It won't send you off in the pilot's boat, Bunny?"
"Then--you remember the pearl you wrote the--"
I did not wait for him to finish his sentence.
"You've got it!" I cried, my face on fire, for I caught sight of
it that moment in the stateroom mirror.
Raffles seemed taken aback.
"Not yet," said he; "but I mean to have it before we get to
"Is it on board?"
"But how--where--who's got it?"
"A little German officer, a whipper-snapper with perpendicular
"I saw him in the smoke-room."
"That's the chap; he's always there. Herr Captain Wilhelm von
Heumann, if you look in the list. Well, he's the special envoy
of the emperor, and he's taking the pearl out with him."
"You found this out in Bremen?"
"No, in Berlin, from a newspaper man I know there. I'm ashamed
to tell you, Bunny, that I went there on purpose!"
I burst out laughing.
"You needn't be ashamed. You are doing the very thing I was
rather hoping you were going to propose the other day on the
"You were HOPING it?" said Raffles, with his eyes wide open.
Indeed, it was his turn to show surprise, and mine to be much
more ashamed than I felt.
"Yes," I answered, "I was quite keen on the idea, but I wasn't
going to propose it."
"Yet you would have listened to me the other day?"
Certainly I would, and I told him so without reserve; not
brazenly, you understand; not even now with the gusto of a man
who savors such an adventure for its own sake, but doggedly,
defiantly, through my teeth, as one who had tried to live
honestly and failed. And, while I was about it, I told him much
more. Eloquently enough, I daresay, I gave him chapter and verse
of my hopeless struggle, my inevitable defeat; for hopeless and
inevitable they were to a man with my record, even though that
record was written only in one's own soul. It was the old story
of the thief trying to turn honest man; the thing was against
nature, and there was an end of it.
Raffles entirely disagreed with me. He shook his head over my
conventional view. Human nature was a board of checkers; why not
reconcile one's self to alternate black and white? Why desire to
be all one thing or all the other, like our forefathers on the
stage or in the old-fashioned fiction? For his part, he enjoyed
himself on all squares of the board, and liked the light the
better for the shade. My conclusion he considered absurd.
"But you err in good company, Bunny, for all the cheap moralists
who preach the same twaddle: old Virgil was the first and worst
offender of you all. I back myself to climb out of Avernus any
day I like, and sooner or later I shall climb out for good. I
suppose I can't very well turn myself into a Limited Liability
Company. But I could retire and settle down and live blamelessly
ever after. I'm not sure that it couldn't be done on this pearl
"Then you don't still think it too remarkable to sell?"
"We might take a fishery and haul it up with smaller fry. It
would come after months of ill luck, just as we were going to
sell the schooner; by Jove, it would be the talk of the Pacific!"
"Well, we've got to get it first. Is this von What's-his-name a
"More so than he looks; and he has the cheek of the devil!"
As he spoke a white drill skirt fluttered past the open
state-room door, and I caught a glimpse of an upturned moustache
"But is he the chap we have to deal with? Won't the pearl be in
the purser's keeping?"
Raffles stood at the door, frowning out upon the Solent, but for
an instant he turned to me with a sniff.
"My good fellow, do you suppose the whole ship's company knows
there's a gem like that aboard? You said that it was worth a
hundred thousand pounds; in Berlin they say it's priceless. I
doubt if the skipper himself knows that von Heumann has it on
"And he has?"
"Then we have only him to deal with?"
He answered me without a word. Something white was fluttering
past once more, and Raffles, stepping forth, made the promenaders
I do not ask to set foot aboard a finer steamship than the Uhlan
of the Norddeutscher Lloyd, to meet a kindlier gentleman than her
commander, or better fellows than his officers. This much at
least let me have the grace to admit. I hated the voyage. It
was no fault of anybody connected with the ship; it was no fault
of the weather, which was monotonously ideal. Not even in my own
heart did the reason reside; conscience and I were divorced at
last, and the decree made absolute. With my scruples had fled all
fear, and I was ready to revel between bright skies and sparkling
sea with the light-hearted detachment of Raffles himself. It was
Raffles himself who prevented me, but not Raffles alone. It was
Raffles and that Colonial minx on her way home from school.
What he could see in her--but that begs the question. Of course
he saw no more than I did, but to annoy me, or perhaps to punish
me for my long defection, he must turn his back on me and devote
himself to this chit from Southampton to the Mediterranean. They
were always together. It was too absurd. After breakfast they
would begin, and go on until eleven or twelve at night; there was
no intervening hour at which you might not hear her nasal laugh,
or his quiet voice talking soft nonsense into her ear. Of course
it was nonsense! Is it conceivable that a man like Raffles, with
his knowledge of the world, and his experience of women (a side
of his character upon which I have purposely never touched, for
it deserves another volume); is it credible, I ask, that such a
man could find anything but nonsense to talk by the day together
to a giddy young schoolgirl? I would not be unfair for the world.
I think I have admitted that the young person had points. Her
eyes, I suppose, were really fine, and certainly the shape of the
little brown face was charming, so far as mere contour can charm.
I admit also more audacity than I cared about, with enviable
health, mettle, and vitality. I may not have occasion to report
any of this young lady's speeches (they would scarcely bear it),
and am therefore the more anxious to describe her without
injustice. I confess to some little prejudice against her. I
resented her success with Raffles, of whom, in consequence, I saw
less and less each day. It is a mean thing to have to confess,
but there must have been something not unlike jealousy rankling
Jealousy there was in another quarter--crude, rampant,
undignified jealousy. Captain von Heumann would twirl his
mustaches into twin spires, shoot his white cuffs over his rings,
and stare at me insolently through his rimless eyeglasses; we
ought to have consoled each other, but we never exchanged a
syllable. The captain had a murderous scar across one of his
cheeks, a present from Heidelberg, and I used to think how he
must long to have Raffles there to serve the same. It was not as
though von Heumann never had his innings. Raffles let him go in
several times a day, for the malicious pleasure of bowling him
out as he was "getting set"; those were his words when I taxed
him disingenuously with obnoxious conduct towards a German on a
"You'll make yourself disliked on board!"
"By von Heumann merely."
"But is that wise when he's the man we've got to diddle?"
"The wisest thing I ever did. To have chummed up with him would
have been fatal--the common dodge."
I was consoled, encouraged, almost content. I had feared Raffles
was neglecting things, and I told him so in a burst. Here we
were near Gibraltar, and not a word since the Solent. He shook
his head with a smile.
"Plenty of time, Bunny, plenty of time. We can do nothing before
we get to Genoa, and that won't be till Sunday night. The voyage
is still young, and so are we; let's make the most of things
while we can."
It was after dinner on the promenade deck, and as Raffles spoke
he glanced sharply fore and aft, leaving me next moment with a
step full of purpose. I retired to the smoking-room, to smoke
and read in a corner, and to watch von Heumann, who very soon
came to drink beer and to sulk in another.
Few travellers tempt the Red Sea at midsummer; the Uhlan was very
empty indeed. She had, however, but a limited supply of cabins
on the promenade deck, and there was just that excuse for my
sharing Raffles's room. I could have had one to myself
downstairs, but I must be up above. Raffles had insisted that I
should insist on the point. So we were together, I think, without
suspicion, though also without any object that I could see.
On the Sunday afternoon I was asleep in my berth, the lower one,
when the curtains were shaken by Raffles, who was in his
shirt-sleeves on the settee.
"Achilles sulking in his bunk!"
"What else is there to do?" I asked him as I stretched and
yawned. I noted, however, the good-humor of his tone, and did my
best to catch it.
"I have found something else, Bunny."
"You misunderstand me. The whipper-snapper's making his century
this afternoon. I've had other fish to fry."
I swung my legs over the side of my berth and sat forward, as he
was sitting, all attention. The inner door, a grating, was shut
and bolted, and curtained like the open porthole.
"We shall be at Genoa before sunset," continued Raffles. "It's
the place where the deed's got to be done."
"So you still mean to do it?"
"Did I ever say I didn't?"
"You have said so little either way."
"Advisedly so, my dear Bunny; why spoil a pleasure trip by
talking unnecessary shop? But now the time has come. It must be
done at Genoa or not at all."
"No, on board, to-morrow night. To-night would do, but to-morrow
is better, in case of mishap. If we were forced to use violence
we could get away by the earliest train, and nothing be known
till the ship was sailing and von Heumann found dead or
"Not dead!" I exclaimed.
"Of course not," assented Raffles, "or there would be no need for
us to bolt; but if we should have to bolt, Tuesday morning is our
time, when this ship has got to sail, whatever happens. But I
don't anticipate any violence. Violence is a confession of
terrible incompetence. In all these years how many blows have
you known me to strike? Not one, I believe; but I have been
quite ready to kill my man every time, if the worst came to the
I asked him how he proposed to enter von Heumann's state-room
unobserved, and even through the curtained gloom of ours his face
"Climb into my bunk, Bunny, and you shall see."
I did so, but could see nothing. Raffles reached across me and
tapped the ventilator, a sort of trapdoor in the wall above his
bed, some eighteen inches long and half that height. It opened
outwards into the ventilating shaft.
"That," said he, "is our door to fortune. Open it if you like;
you won't see much, because it doesn't open far; but loosening a
couple of screws will set that all right. The shaft, as you may
see, is more or less bottomless; you pass under it whenever you
go to your bath, and the top is a skylight on the bridge. That's
why this thing has to be done while we're at Genoa, because they
keep no watch on the bridge in port. The ventilator opposite
ours is von Heumann's. It again will only mean a couple of
screws, and there's a beam to stand on while you work."
"But if anybody should look up from below?"
"It's extremely unlikely that anybody will be astir below, so
unlikely that we can afford to chance it. No, I can't have you
there to make sure. The great point is that neither of us should
be seen from the time we turn in. A couple of ship's boys do
sentry-go on these decks, and they shall be our witnesses; by
Jove, it'll be the biggest mystery that ever was made!"
"If von Heumann doesn't resist."
"Resist! He won't get the chance. He drinks too much beer to
sleep light, and nothing is so easy as to chloroform a heavy
sleeper; you've even done it yourself on an occasion of which
it's perhaps unfair to remind you. Von Heumann will be past
sensation almost as soon as I get my hand through his ventilator.
I shall crawl in over his body, Bunny, my boy!"
"You will hand me what I want and hold the fort in case of
accidents, and generally lend me the moral support you've made me
require. It's a luxury, Bunny, but I found it devilish difficult
to do without it after you turned pi!"