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The Amateur Cracksman 

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Books by Mr. Hornung 



THE SHADOW OF THE ROPE. ?i.5o. 
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IRRALIE'S BUSHRANGER. A Story 
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ft. IT. RAFFLES. 



The 
Amateur- Cracksman 

By E. W. Hornung 

^ 3 ^<c<3J^.^J^J^^ — / 2.). 



Charles Scribner's Sons 
New York 1905 



Copyright, 1899, by 
Charles Scribner's Sons 






TO 

A. c. a 

THIS FORM OF FLATTERY 



CONTENTS 

Page 

The Ides of March / 

A Costume Piece 43 

Gentlemen and Players 77 

Le Premier Pas , . ij$ 

Wilful Murder I47 

Nine Points of the Law 177 

The Return Match .2// 

The Gift of the Emperor 242 



LIST OF ILLUSTRA TIONS 



Raffles Frontispiece 

Facing 
i>age 

I saw them from my own window . . .112 



Raffles announced his intention of catch- 
the 5.2 to Esher 190 



The Amateur Cracksman 

THE IDES OF MARCH 



1 T was about half-past twelve when I re- 
turned to the Albany as a last desper- 
ate resort. The scene of my disaster was 
much as I had left it. The baccarat-count- 
ers still strewed the table, with the empty 
glasses and the loaded ash-trays. A win- 
dow had been opened to let the smoke out, 
and was letting in the fog instead. Raffles 
himself had merely discarded his dining 
jacket for one of his innumerable blazers. 
Yet he arched his eyebrows as though I had 
dragged him from his bed. 

" Forgotten something? " said he, when 
he saw me on his mat. 

" No," said I, pushing past him without 
I 



The Amateur Cracksman 

ceremony. And I led the way into his room 
with an impudence amazing to myself. 

" Not come back for your revenge, have 
you? Because I'm afraid I can't give it you 
single-handed. I was sorry myself that the 
others " 

We were face to face by his fireside, and 
I cut him short. 

" Raffles," said I, " you may well be sur- 
prised at my coming back in this way and 
at this hour. I hardly know you. I was 
never in your rooms before to-night. But 
I fagged for you at school, and you said 
you remembered me. Of course that's no 
excuse; but will you listen to me — for two 
minutes? " 

In my emotion I had at first to struggle 
for every word; but his face reassured me 
as I went on, and I was not mistaken in its 
expression. 

" Certainly, my dear man," said he; " as 
many minutes as you like. Have a Sulli- 
van and sit down." And he handed me his 
silver cigarette-case. 

" No," said I, finding a full voice as I 
shook my head; " no, I won't smoke, and I 

2 



The Ides of March 

won't sit down, thank you. Nor will you 
ask me to do either when you've heard what 
I have to say." 

" Really? " said he, lighting his own 
cigarette with one clear blue eye upon me. 
" How do you know? " 

" Because you'll probably show me the 
door," I cried bitterly; " and you'll be justi- 
fied in doing it! But it's no use beating 
about the bush. You know I dropped over 
two hundred just now? " 

He nodded. 

" I hadn't the money in my pocket." 

" I remember." 

" But I had my cheque-book, and I wTOte 
each of you a cheque at that desk." 

"Well?" 

" Not one of them was worth the paper it 
was written on, Raffles. I am overdrawn 
already at my bank! " 

" Surely only for the moment? " 

" No. I have spent everything." 

" But somebody told me you were so well 
off. I heard you had come in for money? " 

" So I did. Three years ago. It has been 
my curse; now it's all gone — every penny! 
3 



The Amateur Cracksman 

Yes, IVe been a fool; there never was nor 
will be such a fool as I've been. . . . 
Isn't this enough for you? Why don't you 
turn me out?" He was walking up and 
down with a very long face instead. 

" Couldn't your people do anything? " he 
asked at length. 

" Thank God," I cried, " I have no peo- 
ple! I was an only child. I came in for 
everything there was. My one comfort is 
that they're gone, and will never know." 

I cast myself into a chair and hid my 
face. RafHes continued to pace the rich 
carpet that was of a piece with everything 
else in his rooms. There was no variation 
in his soft and even footfalls. 

" You used to be a literary little cuss," he 
said at length; "didn't you edit the mag. 
before you left? Anyway I recollect fag- 
ging you to do my verses; and literature of 
all sorts is the very thing nowadays; any 
fool can make a living at it." 

I shook my head. "Any fool couldn't 
write off my debts," said I. 

" Then you have a fiat somewhere? " he 
went on. 

4 



The Idts of March 

" Yes, in Mount Street." 
" Well, what about the furniture? " 
I laughed aloud in my misery. " There's 
been a bill of sale on every stick for 
months! " 

And at that Raffles stood still, with raised 
eyebrows and stern eyes that I could meet 
the better now that he knew the worst; 
then, with a shrug, he resumed his walk, 
and for some minutes neither of us spoke. 
But in his handsome unmoved face I read 
my fate and death-warrant; and with every 
breath I cursed my folly and my cowardice 
in coming to him at all. Because he had 
been kind to me at school, when he was 
captain of the eleven, and I his fag, I had 
dared to look for kindness from him now; 
because I was ruined, and he rich enough 
to play cricket all the summer, and do 
nothing for the rest of the year, I had fatu- 
ously counted on his mercy, his sympathy, 
his help ! Yes, I had relied on him in my 
heart, for all my outward diflfidence and hu- 
mility; and I was rightly served. There was 
as little of mercy as of sympathy in 
that curling nostril, that rigid jaw, that cold 
5 



The Amateur Cracksman 

blue eye which never glanced my way. I 
caught up my hat. I blundered to my feet. 
I would have gone without a word; but 
Raffles stood between me .and the door. 

" Where are you going? " said he. 

" That's my business," I replied. " I 
won't trouble you any more." 

" Then how am I to help you? " 

" I didn't ask your help." 

" Then why come to me? " 

"Why, indeed!" I echoed. "Will you 
let me pass? " 

" Not until you tell me where you are 
going and what you mean to do." 

"Can't you guess?" I cried. And for 
many seconds we stood staring in each 
other's eyes. 

"Have you got the pluck?" said he, 
breaking the spell in a tone so cynical that 
it brought my last drop of blood to the boil. 

" You shall see," said I, as I stepped 
back and whipped the pistol from my over- 
coat pocket. " Now, will you let me pass 
or shall I do it here? " 

The barrel touched my temple, and my 
thumb the trigger. Mad with excitement as 
6 



The Ides of March 

I was, ruined, dishonoured, and now finally 
determined to make an end of my mis- 
spent life, my only surprise to this day is 
that I did not do so then and there. Thf 
despicable satisfaction of involving anothei 
in one's destruction added its miserable ap- 
peal to my baser egoism; and had fear or 
horror flown to my companion's face, I 
shudder to think I might have died dia- 
bolically happy with that look for my last 
impious consolation. It was the look that 
came instead which held my hand. Neither 
fear nor horror were in it; only wonder, ad- 
miration, and such a measure of pleased 
expectancy as caused me after all to pocket 
my revolver with an oath. 

"You devil!" I said. "I believe you 
wanted me to do it! " 

" Not quite," was the reply, made with a 
little start, and a change of colour that came 
too late. "To tell you the truth, though, 
I half thought you meant it, and 1 was never 
more fascinated in my life. I never dreamt 
you had such stuflf in you. Bunny! No, I'm 
hanged if I let you go now. And you'd 
better not try that game again, for you 
7 



■The Amateur Cracksman 

won't catch me stand and look on a second 
time. We must think of some way out of 
the mess. I had no idea you were a chap 
of that sort! There, let me have the gun." 

One of his hands fell kindly on my 
shoulder, while the other slipped into my 
overcoat pocket, and I suffered him to de- 
prive me of my weapon without a murmur. 
Nor was this simply because Rafifles had 
the subtle power of making himself irre- 
sistible at will. He was beyond comparison 
the most masterful man whom I have ever 
known; yet my acquiescence was du-e to 
more than the mere subjection of the weaker 
nature to the stronger. The forlorn hope 
which had brought me to the Albany was 
turned as by magic into an almost stagger- 
ing sense of safety. Raffles would help me 
after all ! A. J. Raffles would be my friend ! 
It was as though all the world had come 
round suddenly to my side; so far therefore 
from resisting his action, I caught and 
clasped his hand with a fervour as uncon- 
trollable as the frenzy which had pre- 
ceded it. 

" God bless you! " I cried. " Forgive me 
8 



The Ides of March 

for everything. I will tell you the truth. I 
did think you might help me in my extrem- 
ity, though I well knew that I had no claim 
upon you. Still — for the old school's sake 
—the sake of old times — I thought you 
might give me another chance. If you 
wouldn't I meant to blow out my brains— 
and will still if you change your mind! " 

In truth I feared that it was changing, 
with his expression, even as I spoke, and 
in spite of his kindly tone and kindlier use 
of my old school nickname. His next words 
showed me my mistake. 

" What a boy it is for jumping to conclu- 
sions! I have my vices, Bunny, but back- 
ing and fiJling is not one of them. Sit 
down, my good fellow, and have a cigarette 
to soothe your nerves. I insist. Whisky ? 
The worst thing for you; here's some coffee 
that I was brewing when you came in. Now 
listen to me. You speak of ' another chance.' 
What do you mean? Another chance at 
baccarat? Not if I know it ! You think the 
luck must turn; suppose it didn't? We 
should only have made bad worse. No, 
my dear chap, you've plunged enough. Do 
9 



The Amateur Cracksman 

you put yourself in my hands or do you 
not? Very well, then you plunge no more, 
and I undertake not to present my cheque. 
Unfortunately there are the other men; and 
still more unfortunately, Bunny, I'm as hard 
up at this moment as you are yourself ! " 

It was my turn to stare at Raffles. 
"You?" I vociferated. "You hard up? 
How am I to sit here and believe that? " 

" Did I refuse to believe it of you? " he 
returned, smiling. " And, with 3'our own 
experience, do you think that because a fel- 
low has rooms in this place, and belongs to 
a club or two, and plays a little cricket, he 
must necessarily have a balance at the 
bank? I tell you, my dear man, that at this 
moment I'm as hard up as you ever were. 
I have nothing but my wits to live on — 
absolutely nothing else. It was as neces- 
sary for me to win some money this even- 
ing as it was for you. We're in the same 
boat, Bunny; we'd better pull together." 

"Together!" I jumped at it. "I'll do 

anything in this world for you. Raffles," 

I said, " if you really mean that you won't 

give me away. Think of anything you like, 

10 



The Ides of March 

and I'll do it! I was a desperate man when 
I came here, and I'm just as desperate now. 
I don't mind what I do if only I can get out 
of this without a scandal." 

Again I see him, leaning back in one of 
the luxurious chairs with which his room 
was furnished. I see his indolent, athletic 
figure; his pale, sharp, clean-shaven feat- 
ures ; his curly black hair ; his strong, un- 
scrupulous mouth. And again I feel the 
clear beam of his wonderful eye, cold and 
luminous as a star, shining into my brain 
— sifting the very secrets of my heart. 

'* I wonder if you mean all that! " he said 
at length. " You do in your present mood ; 
but who can back his mood to last? Still, 
there's hope when a chap takes that tone. 
Now I think of it, too, you were a plucky 
little devil at school ; you once did me rather 
a good turn, I recollect. Remember it, 
Bunny? Well, wait a bit, and perhaps I'll 
be able to do you a better one. Give me 
time to think." 

He got up, lit a fresh cigarette, and fell 
to pacing the room once more, but with a 
slower and more thoughtful step, and for 



The Amateur Cracksman 

a much longer period than before. Twice 
he stopped at my chair as though on the 
point of speaking, but each time he checked 
himself and resumed his stride in silence. 
Once he threw up the window, which he 
had shut some time since, and stood for 
some moments leaning out into the fog 
which filled the Albany courtyard. Mean- 
while a clock on the chimney-piece struck 
one, and one again for the half-hour, with- 
out a word between us. 

Yet I not only kept my chair with patience, 
but I acquired an incongruous equanimity 
in that half-hour. Insensibly I had shifted 
my burden to the broad shoulders of this 
splendid friend, and my thoughts wandered 
with my eyes as the minutes passed. The 
room was the good-sized, square one, with 
the folding doors, the marble mantel-piece, 
and the gloomy, old-fashioned distinction 
peculiar to the Albany. It was charmingly 
furnished and arranged, wnth the right 
amount of negligence and the right amount 
of taste. What struck me most, however, 
was the absence of the usual insignia of a 
cricketer's den. Instead of the conventional 



The Ides of March 

rack of war-worn bats, a carved oak book- 
case, with every shelf in a Htter, filled the 
better part of one wall; and where I looked 
for cricketing groups, I found reproduc- 
tions of such works as " Love and Death " 
and " The Blessed Damozel," in dusty 
frames and different parallels. The man 
might have been a minor poet instead of an 
athlete of the first water. But there had 
always been a fine streak of aestheticism in 
his complex composition; some of these 
very pictures I had myself dusted in his 
study at school; and they set me thinking 
of yet another of his many sides — and of 
the little incident to which he had just re- 
ferred. 

Everybody knows how largely the tone 
of a public school depends on that of the 
eleven, and on the character of the captain 
of cricket in particular; and I have never 
heard it denied that in A. J. Raffles's time 
our tone was good, or that such influence 
as he troubled to exert was on the side of 
the angels. Yet it was whispered in the 
school that he was in the habit of parading 
the town at night in loud checks and a false 
beard. It was whispered, and disbelieved. 
13 



The Amateur Cracksman 

I alone knew it for a fact; for night after 
night had I pulled the rope up after him 
when the rest of the dormitory were asleep, 
and kept awake by the hour to let it down 
again on a given signal. Well, one night he 
was over-bold, and within an ace of igno- 
minious expulsion in the hey-day of his 
fame. Consummate daring and extraordi- 
nary nerve on his part, aided, doubtless, by 
some little presence of mind on mine, 
averted that untoward result; and no more 
need be said of a discreditable incident. But 
I cannot pretend to have forgotten it in 
throwing myself on this man's mercy in 
my desperation. And I was wbndering 
how much of his leniency was owing to the 
fact that Raffles had not forgotten it either, 
when he stopped and stood over my chair 
once more. 

" I've been thinking of that night we had 
the narrow squeak," he began. " Why do 
you start? " 

" I was thinking of it too." 

He smiled, as though he had read my 
thoughts, 

" Well, you were the rie;ht sort of little 
14 



The Ides of March 

beggar then, Bunny; you didn't talk and 
you didn't flinch. You asked no questions 
and you told no tales. I wonder if you're 
like that now? " 

" I don't know," said I, slightly puzzled 
by his tone. " I've made such a mess of 
my own affairs that I trust myself about 
as little as I'm likely to be trusted by any- 
body else. Yet I never in my life went 
back on a friend. I will say that; other- 
wise perhaps I mightn't be in such a hole 
to-night." 

" Exactly," said Raffles, nodding to him- 
self, as though in a: sent to some hidden 
train of thought ; " exactly what I remem- 
ber of you, and I'll bet it's as true now as 
it was ten years ago. We don't alter. Bunny. 
We only develop. I suppose neither you 
nor I are really altered since you used to 
let down that rope and I used to come up 
it hand over hand. You would stick at 
nothing for a pal — what? " 

" At nothing in this world," I was pleased 
to cry. 

"Not even at a crime?" said Rafifles, 
smiling. 

15 



The Amateur Cracksman 

I stopped to think, for his tone had 
changed, and I felt sure he was chafifing 
me. Yet his eye seemed as much in earnest 
as ever, and for my part I was in no mood 
for reservations. 

" No, not even at that," I declared; 
" name your crime, and I'm your man." 

He looked at me one moment in won- 
der, and another moment in doubt; then 
turned the matter off with a shake of his 
head, and the little cynical laugh that v/as 
all his own. 

" You're a nice chap. Bunny! A real 
desperate character — what? Suicide one 
moment, and any crime I like the next! 
What you want is a drag, my boy, and you 
did well to come to a decent law-abiding 
citizen with a reputation to lose. None 
the less we must have that money to-night 
— by hook or crook." 

"To-night, Raffles?" 

"The sooner the better. Every hour 
after ten o'clock to-morrow morning is an 
hour of risk. Let one of those cheques get 
round to your own bank, and you and it 
are dishonoured together. No, we must 
i6 



The Ides of March 

raise the wind to-night and reopen your ac- 
count first thing to-morrow. And I rather 
think I know where the wind can be raised." 

" At two o'clock in the morning? " 

*' Yes." 

" But how — but where — at such an 
hour? " 

'' From a friend of mine here in Bond 
Street." 

" He must be a very intimate friend! " 

" Intimate's not the word. I have the run 
of his 'place and a latch-key all to myself." 

" You would knock him up at this hour 
of the night?" 

" If he's in bed." 

" And it's essential that I should go in 
with you? " 

" AbsohUely." 

"Then I must; but I'm bound to say I 
don't like the idea, Raffles." 

" Do you prefer the alternative? " asked 
my companion, with a sneer. " No, hang 
it, that's unfair! " he cried apologetically in 
the same breath. " I quite understand. It's 
a ])eastly ordeal. But it would never do 
for you to stay outside. I tell you what, 
17 



The Amateur Cracksman 

you shall have a peg before we start — ^just 
one. There's the whisky, here's a syphon, 
and I'll be putting on an overcoat while 
you help yourself." 

Well, I daresay I did so with some free- 
dom, for this plan of his was not the less 
distasteful to me from its apparent inevi- 
tability. I must own, however, that it pos- 
sessed fewer terrors before my glass was 
empty. Meanwhile Rafifles rejoined me, 
with a covert coat over his blazer, and a 
soft felt hat set carelessly on the curly head 
he shook with a smile as I passed him the 
decanter. 

" When we come back," said he. " Work 
first, play afterward. Do you see what day 
it is? " he added, tearing a leaflet from a 
Shakespearian calendar, as I drained my 
glass. " March 15th. ' The Ides of March, 
the Ides of March, remember.' Eh, Bunny, 
my boy? You won't forget them, will you? " 

And, with a laugh, he threw some coals 
on the fire before turning down the gas 
like a careful householder. So we went out 
together as the clock on the chimney-piece 
was striking two. 

18 



The Ides of March 



II 



Piccadilly was a trench of raw white fog, 
rimmed with blurred street-lamps, and lined 
with a thin coating of adhesive mud. We 
met no other wayfarers on the deserted flag- 
stones, and were ourselves favoured with 
a very hard stare from the constable of the 
beat, who, however, touched his helmet on 
recognising my companion. 

" You see, I'm known to the police," 
laughed Raffles as we passed on. " Poor 
devils, they've got to keep their weather eye 
open on a night like this! A fog may be a 
bore to you and me, Bunny, but it's a per- 
fect godsend to the criminal classes, espe- 
cially so late in their season. Here we are, 

, though — and Pm hanged if the beggar isn't 

; in bed and asleep after all ! " 

We had turned into Bond Street, and had 
halted on the curb a few yards down on the 
right. Raffles was gazing up at some win- 
dows across the road, windows barely dis- 
cernible through the mist, and without the 
glimmer of a light to throw them out. They 
19 



The Amateur Cracksman 

were over a jeweller's shop, as I could see 
by the peep-hole in the shop door, and the 
bright light burning within. But the en- 
tire " upper part," with the private street- 
door next the shop, was black and blank as 
the sky itself. 

" Better give it up for to-night," I urged. 
" Surely the morning will be time enough! " 

" Not a bit of it," said Raffles. " I have 
his key. We'll surprise him. Come along." 

And seizing my right arm, he hurried 
me across the road, opened the door with 
his latch-key, and in another moment had 
shut it swiftly but softly behind us. We 
stood together in the dark. Outside, a meas- 
ured step was approaching; we had heard 
it through the fog as we crossed the street; 
now, as it drew nearer, my companion's 
fingers tightened on my arm. 

*' It may be the chap himself," he w^iis- 
pered. " He's the devil of a night-bird. Not 
a sound, Bunny! We'll startle the life out 
of him. Ah!"' 

The measured step had passed without 
a pause. Raffles drew a deep breath, and 
his singular grip of me slowly relaxed. 
20 



The Ides of March 

" But still, not a sound," he continued in 
the same whisper; " we'll take a rise out of 
him, wherever he is! Slip off your shoes 
and follow me." 

Well, you may wonder at my doing so; 
but you can never have met A. J. Raffles, 
Half his power lay in a conciliating trick 
of sinking the commander in the leader. 
And it was impossible not to follow one 
who led with such a zest. You might ques- 
tion, but you followed first. So now, when 
I heard him kick off his own shoes, I did 
the same, and was on the stairs at his heels 
before I realised what an extraordinary way 
was this of approaching a stranger for 
money in the dead of night. But obviously 
Raffles and he were on exceptional terms of 
intimacy, and I could not but infer that they 
were in the habit of playing practical jokes 
upon each other. 

We groped our way so slowly upstairs 
that I had time to make more than one note 
before we reached the top. The stair was 
uncarpeted. The spread fingers of my right 
hand encountered nothing on the damp 
wall; those of my left trailed through a dust 

21 



The Amateur Cracksman 

Shat could be felt on the banisters. An eerie 
sensation had been upon me since we en- 
tered the house. It increased with every 
step we climbed. What hermit were we 
going to startle in his cell? 

We came to a landing. The banisters 
led us to the left, and to the left again. Four 
steps more, and we were on another and 
a longer landing, and suddenly a match 
blazed from the black. I never heard it 
struck. Its flash was blinding. When my 
eyes became accustomed to the light, there 
w-as Raffles holding up the match with one 
hand, and shading it with the other, be- 
tween bare boards, stripped walls, and the 
open doors of empty rooms. 

" Where have you brought me? " I cried 
" The house is unoccupied! " 

"Hush! Wait!" he whispered, and he 
led the way into one of the empty rooms. 
His match went out as we crossed the thres- 
hold, and he struck another without the 
slightest noise. Then he stood with his 
back to me, fumbling with something that 
I could not see. But, when he threw the 
second match away, there was some other 

22 



The Ides of Marcfi 

light in its stead, and a slight smell of oil. 
I stepped forward to look over his shoulder, 
but before I could do so he had turned and 
flashed a tiny lantern in my face. 

" What's this? " I gasped. " What rotten 
trick are you going to play? " 

" It's played," he answered, with his quiet 
laugh. 

" On me? " 

" I'm afraid so. Bunny." 

" Is there no one in the house, then? ** 

*' No one but ourselves." 

" So it was mere chaff about your friend 
in Bond Street, who could let us have that 
money?" 

" Not altogether. It's quite true that 
Danby is a friend of mine." 

"Danby?" 

" The jeweller underneath." 

"What do you mean?" I whispered, 
trembling like a leaf as his meaning dawned 
upon me. " Are we to get the money from 
the jeweller? " 

" Well, not exactly." 

•' What then? " 

" The equivalent — from his shop." 
23 



The Amateur Cracksman 

There was no need for another question. 
I understood everything but my own den- 
sity. He had given me a dozen hints, and 
I had taken none. And there I stood star- 
ing at him, in that empty room; and there 
he stood with his dark lantern, laughing 
at me. 

" A burglar! " I gasped. " You — you! " 

" I told you I lived by my wits." 

" Why couldn't you tell me what you 

were going to do? Why couldn't you trust 

me? Why must you lie?" I demanded, 

piqued to the quick for all my horror. 

** I wanted to tell you," said he. " I was 
on the point of telling you more than once. 
You may remember how I sounded you 
about crime, though you have probably for- 
gotten what you said yourself. I didn't think 
you meant it at the time, but I thought I'd 
put you to the test. Now I see you didn't, 
and I don't blame you. I only am to blame. 
Get out of it, my dear boy, as quick as you 
can; leave it to me. You won't give me 
away, whatever else you do! " 

Oh, his cleverness! His fiendish clever- 
ness! Had he fallen back on threats, co- 
24 



The Ides of March 

ercion, sneers, all might have been different 
even yet. But he set me free to leave him 
in the lurch. He would not blame me. He 
did not even bind me to secrecy ; he trusted 
me. He knew my weakness and my 
strength, and was playing on both with his 
master's touch. 

" Not so fast," said I. " Did I put this 
into your head, or were you going to do it 
in any case? " 

" Not in any case," said Raffles. " It's 
true I've had the key for days, but when I 
won to-night I thought of chucking it ; for, 
as a matter of fact, it's not a one-man job." 

" That settles it. I'm your man." 

" You mean it? " 

" Yes— for to-night." 

" Good old Bunny," he murm.ured, hold- 
ing the lantern for one moment to my face; 
the next he was explaining his plans, and 
I was nodding, as though we had been fel- 
low-cracksmen all our days. 

" I know the shop," he whispered, " be- 
cause I've got a few things there. I know 
this upper part too; it's been to let for a 
month, and I got an order to view, and took 



The Amateur Cracksman 

a cast of the key before using it. The one 
thing I don't know is how to make a con- 
nection between the two; at present there's 
none. We may make it up here, though I 
rather fancy the basement myself. If you 
wait a minute I'll tell you." 

He set his lantern on the floor, crept to 
a back window, and opened it with scarcely 
a sound: only to return, shaking his head, 
after shutting the window with the same 
care. 

" That was our one chance," said he : '' a 
back window above a back window; but 
it's too dark to see anything, and we daren't 
show an outside light. Come down after 
me to the basement ; and remember, though 
there's not a soul on the premises, you can't 
make too little noise. There — there — listen 
to that! " 

It was the measured tread that we had 
heard before on the f^ag-stones outside. 
Rafifles darkened his lantern, and again we 
stood motionless till it had passed. 

" Either a policeman," he muttered, " or 
a watchman that all these jewellers run be- 
tween them. The watchman's the man for 
26 



The Ides of March 

us to watch; he's simply paid to spot this 
kind of thing." 

We crept very gingerly down the stairs, 
which creaked a bit in spite of us, and we 
picked up our shoes in the passage; then 
down some narrow stone steps, at the foot 
of which Raffles showed his light, and put 
on his shoes once more, bidding me do the 
same in a rather louder tone than he had 
permitted himself to employ overhead. We 
were now considerably below the level of 
the street, in a small space with as many 
doors as it had sides. Three were ajar, and 
we saw through them into empty cellars; 
but in the fourth a key was turned and a 
bolt drawn; and this one presently let us 
out into the bottom of a deep, square well 
of fog. A similar door faced it across this 
area, and Raffles had the lantern close 
against it, and was hiding the light with 
his body, when a short and sudden crash 
made my heart stand still. Next moment 
I saw the door wide open, and Raffles stand- 
ing within and beckoning me with a jemmy. 

" Door number one," he whispered. 
" Deuce knows how many more there'll be, 
27 



The Amateur Cracksman 

but I know of two at least. We won't have 
to make much noise over them, either; 
down here there's less risk." 

We were now at the bottom of the exact 
fellow to the narrow stone stair which we 
had just descended: the yard, or well, being 
the one part common to both the private 
and the business premises. But this flight 
led to no open passage; instead, a singularly 
solid mahogany door confronted us at the 
top. 

" I thought so," muttered Raffles, hand- 
ing me the lantern, and pocketing a bunch 
of skeleton keys, after tampering for a few 
minutes with the lock. " It'll be an hour's 
work to get through that ! " 

" Can't you pick it? " 

" No. I know these locks. It's no use 
trying. We must cut it out, and it'll take 
us an hour." 

It took us forty-seven minutes by my 
watch; or, rather, it took Raffles; and never 
in my life have I seen anything more de- 
liberately done. My part was simply to 
stand by with the dark lantern in one hand, 
and a small bottle of rock-oil in the other. 
28 



The Ides of March 

Raffles had produced a pretty embroidered 
case, intended obviously for his razors, but 
filled instead with the tools of his secret 
trade, including the rock-oil. From this 
case he selected a " bit," capable of drilling 
a hole an inch in diameter, and fitted it to a 
small but very strong steel " brace." Then 
he took off his covert-coat and his blazer, 
spread them neatly on the top step — knelt 
on them — turned up his shirt-cuffs — and 
went to work with brace-and-bit near the 
key-hole. But first he oiled the bit to mini- 
mise the noise, and this he did invariably 
before beginning a fresh hole, and often 
in the middle of one. It took thirty-two 
separate borings to cut round that lock. 

I noticed that through the first circular 
orifice Raffles thrust a forefinger; then, as 
the circle became an ever-lengthening oval, 
he got his hand through up to the thumb; 
and I heard him swear softly to himself. 

" I was afraid so! " 

"What is it?" 

" An iron gate on the other side! " 

" How on earth are we to get through 
that?" I asked in dismay. 

2Q 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" Pick the lock. But there may be two. 
In that case they'll be top and bottom, and 
we shall have two fresh holes to make, as 
the door opens inwards. It won't open two 
inches as it is." 

I confess I did not feel sanguine about 
the lock-picking, seeing that one lock had 
baffled us already; and my disappointment 
and impatience must have been a revelation 
to me had I stopped to think. The truth 
is that I was entering into our nefarious 
undertaking with an involuntary zeal of 
which I was myself quite unconscious at the 
time. The romance and the peril of the 
whole proceeding held me spellbound and 
entranced. My moral sense and my sense 
of fear were stricken by a common paraly- 
sis. And there I stood, shining my light 
and holding my phial with a keener interest 
than I had ever brought to any honest 
avocation. And there knelt A. J. Raffles,, 
with his black hair tumbled, and the same 
watchful, quiet, determined half-smile with 
which I have seen him send down over 
after over in a county match! 

At last the chain of holes was complete, 



The Ides of March 

the lock wrenched out bodily, and a splen- 
did bare arm plunged up to the shoulder 
through the aperture, and through the bars 
of the iron gate beyond. 

" Now," whispered Raffles, " if there's 
only one lock it'll be in the middle. Joy! 
Here it is! Only let me pick it, and we're 
through at last." 

He withdrew his arm, a skeleton key was 
selected from the bunch, and then back 
went his arm to the shoulder. It was a 
breathless moment. I heard the heart throb- 
bing in my body, the very watch ticking in 
my pocket, and ever and anon the tinkle- 
tinkle of the skeleton key. Then — at last 
— there came a single unmistakable click. 
In another minute the mahogany door and 
the iron gate yawned behind us ; and Raffles 
was sitting on an office table, wiping his 
face, with the lantern throwing a steady 
beam by his side. 

We were now in a bare and roomy lobby 
behind the shop, but separated therefrom 
by an iron curtain, the very sight of which 
filled me with despair. Raffles, however, 
did not appear in the least depressed, but 
31 



The Amateur Cracksman 

hung up his coat and hat on some pegs in 
the lobby before examining this curtain 
with his lantern. 

" That's nothing," said he, after a min- 
ute's inspection; "we'll be through that in 
no time, but there's a door on the other 
side which may give us trouble." 

" Another door! " I groaned. " And how 
do you mean to tackle this thing? " 

" Prise it up with the jointed jemmy. 
The weak point of these iron curtains is 
the leverage you can get from below. But 
it makes a noise, and this is where you're 
coming in, Bunny ; this is where I couldn't 
do without you. I must have you over- 
head to knock through when the street's 
clear. I'll com.e with vou and show a 

light." ■ .^ 

Well, you may imagine how little I liked 
the prospect of this lonely vigil; and yet 
there was something very stimulating in 
the vital responsibility which it involved. 
Hitherto I had been a mere spectator. Now 
I was to take part in the game. And the 
fresh excitement made me more than ever 
insensible to those considerations of con- 



The Ides of March 

science and of safety which were already as 
dead nerves in my breast. 

So I took my post without a murmur in 
the front room above the shop. The fixt- 
ures had been left for the refusal of the 
incoming tenant, and fortunately for us they 
included Venetian blinds which were al- 
ready down. It was the simplest matter in 
the world to stand peeping through the 
laths into the street, to beat tw4ce with mv 
foot when anybody was approaching, and 
once when all was clear again. The noises 
that even I could hear below, with the ex- 
ception of one metallic crash at the begin- 
ning, were indeed incredibly slight; but they 
ceased altogether at each double rap from 
my toe; and a policeman passed quite half 
a dozen times beneath my eyes, and the 
man whom I took to be the jeweller's watch- 
man oftener still, during the better part of 
an hour that I spent at the window. Once, 
indeed, my heart was in my mouth, but only 
once. It was when the watchman stopped 
and peered through the peep-hole into the 
lighted shop. I waited for his whistle — I 
waited for the gallows or the gaol! But 
33 



The Amateur Cracksman 

my signals had been studiously obeyed, and 
the man passed on in undisturbed serenity. 
In the end I had a signal in my turn, and 
retraced my steps with lighted matches, 
down the broad stairs, down the narrow 
ones, across the area, and up into the lobby 
where Raffles awaited me with an out- 
stretched hand. 

" Well done, my boy ! " said he. " You're 
the same good man in a pinch, and you 
shall have your reward. I've got a thou- 
sand pound's worth if I've got a penn'oth. 
It's all in my pockets. And here's some- 
thing else I found in this locker; very de- 
cent port and some cigars, meant for poor 
dear Danby's business friends. Take a pull, 
and you shall light up presently. I've found 
a lavatory, too, and we must have a wash- 
and-brush-up before we go, for I'm as black 
as your boot." 

The iron curtain was down, but he in- 
sisted on raising it until I could peep 
through the glass door on the other side 
and see his handiwork in the shop beyond. 
Here two electric lights were left burning 
all night long, and in their cold white rays 



The Ides of March 

I could at first see nothing amiss. I looked 
along an orderly lane, an empty glass coun- 
ter on my left, glass cupboards of untouched 
silver on my right, and facing me the filmy 
black eye of the peep-hole that shone like a 
stage moon on the street. The counter 
had not been emptied by Rafifles; its con- 
tents were in the Chubb's safe, which he 
had given up at a glance; nor had he looked 
at the silver, except to choose a cigarette- 
case for me. He had confined himself en- 
tirely to the shop window. This was in 
three compartments, each secured for the 
night by removable panels with separate 
locks. Raffles had removed them a few 
hours before their time, and the electric 
light shone on a corrugated shutter bare 
as the ribs of an empty carcase. Every 
article of value was gone from the one place 
which was invisible from the little window 
in the door; elsewhere all was as it had 
been left overnight. And but for a train of 
mangled doors behind the iron curtain, a 
bottle of wine and a cigar-box with which 
liberties had been taken, a rather black 
towel in the lavatory, a burnt match here 
35 



The Amateur Cracksman 

and there, and our finger-marks on the 
dusty banisters, not a trace of our visit did 
we leave. 

" Had it in my head for long? " said 
Rafifles, as we strolled through the streets 
towards dawn, for all the world as though 
we were returning from a dance. " No, 
Bunny, I never thought of it till I saw that 
upper part empty about a month ago, and 
bought a few things in the shop to get the 
lie of the land. That reminds me that I 
never paid for them; but, by Jove, I will 
to-morrow, and if that isn't poetic justice, 
what is? One visit showed me the possi- 
bilities of the place, but a second convinced 
me of its impossibilities without a pal. So 
I had practically given up the idea, when 
you came along on the very night and in 
the very plight for it! But here we are at 
the Albany, and I hope there's some fire 
left; for I don't know how you feel. Bunny, 
but for my part I'm as cold as Keats's owl." 

He could think of Keats on his way from 
a felony! He could hanker for his fireside 
like another ! Floodgates were loosed with- 
in me, and the plain English of our advent* 
36 



The Ides of March 

lire rushed over me as cold as ice. Raffles 
was a burglar. I had helped him to com- 
mit one burglary, therefore I was a burglar 
too. Yet I could stand and warm myself 
by his fire, and watch him empty his 
pockets, as though we had done nothing 
wonderful or wicked! 

My blood froze. My heart sickened. My 
brain whirled. How I had liked this villain! 
How i had admired him! Now my liking 
and admiration must turn to loathing and 
disgust. I waited for the change. I longed 
to feel it in my heart. But — I longed and I 
waited in vain! 

I saw that he was emptying his pockets; 
the table sparkled with their hoard. Rings 
by the dozen, diamonds by the score ; brace- 
lets, pendants, aigrettes, necklaces; pearls, 
rubies, amethysts, sapphires; and diamonds 
always, diamonds in everything, flashing 
bayonets of light, dazzling me — blinding 
me — making me disbelieve because I could 
no longer forget. Last of all came no gem, 
indeed, but my own revolver from an inner 
pocket. And that struck a chord. I sup- 
pose I said something — my hand flew out. 
37 



The Amateur Cracksman 

I can see Raffles now, as he looked at me 
once more with a high arch over each clear 
eye. I can see him pick out the cartridges 
with his quiet, cynical smile, before he 
would give me my pistol back again. 

" You mayn't believe it, Bunny," said he, 
" but I never carried a loaded one before. 
On the whole I think it gives one con- 
fidence. Yet it would be very awkward if 
anything went wrong; one might use it, 
and that's not the game at all, though I 
have often thought that the murderer who 
has just done the trick must have great sen- 
sations before things get too hot for him. 
Don't look so distressed, my dear chap. I've 
never had those sensations, and I don't sup- 
pose I ever shall." 

" But this much you have done before? " 
said I hoarsely. 

" Before? My dear Bunny, you offend 
me! Did it look like a first attempt? Of 
course I have done it before." 

" Often? " 

"Well — no! Not often enough to de- 
stroy the charm, at all events; never, as a 
matter of fact, unless I'm cursedly hard up. 
38 



The Ides of March 

Did you hear about the Thimbleby dia- 
monds? Well, that was the last time — and 
a poor lot of paste they were. Then there 
was the little business of the Dormer house- 
boat at Henley last year. That was mine 
also — such as it was. I've never brought 
off a really big coup yet; when I do I shall 
chuck it up." 

Yes, I remembered both cases very well. 
To think that he was their author! It was 
incredible, outrageous, inconceivable. Then 
my eyes would fall upon the table, twinkling 
and glittering in a hundred places, and in- 
credulity was at an end. 

" How came you to begin? " I asked, as 
curiosity overcame mere wonder, and a 
fascination for his career gradually wove 
itself into my fascination for the man. 

" Ah ! that's a long story," said Rafifles. 
" It was in the Colonies, w^hen I was out 
there playing cricket. It's too long a story 
to tell you now, but I was in much the same 
fix that you were in to-night, and it was 
my only way out. I never meant it for any- 
thing more; but I'd tasted blood, and it 
was all over with me. Why should I work 
39 



The Amateur Cracksman 

when I could steal? Wiiy settle down to 
some humdrum uncongenial billet, when 
excitement, romance, danger and a decent 
living were all going begging together? Of 
course it's very wrong, but we can't all be 
moralists, and the distribution of wealth is 
very wrong to begin with. Besides, you're 
not at it all the time. I'm sick of quoting 
Gilbert's lines to myself, but they're pro- 
foundly true. I only wonder if you'll like 
the life as much as I do! " 

"Like it?" I cried out. "Not I! It's 
no life for me. Once is enough! " 

" You wouldn't give me a hand another 
time?" 

" Don't ask me, Raffles. Don't ask me, 
for God's sake!" 

" Yet you said you would do anything 
for me ! You asked me to name my crime ! 
But I knew at the time you didn't mean it; 
you didn't go back on me to-night, and 
that ought to satisfy me, goodness knows! 
I suppose I'm ungrateful, and unreasonable, 
and all that. I ought to let it end at this. 
But you're the very man for me. Bunny, 
the — very — man! Just think how we got 
40 



The Ides of March 

through to-night. Not a scratch — not a 
hitch! There's nothing very terrible in it, 
you see; there never would be, while we 
worked together." 

He was standing in front of me with a 
hand on either shoulder; he was smiling as 
he knew so well how to smile. I turned on 
my heel, planted my elbows on the chimney- 
piece, and my burning head between my 
hands. Next instant a still heartier hand 
had fallen on my back. 

" All right, my boy! You are quite right 
and I'm worse than wrong. I'll never ask 
it again. Go, if you want to, and come 
again about mid-day for the cash. There 
was no bargain ; but, of course, I'll get you 
out of your scrape — especially after the way 
you've stood by me to-night." 

I was round again with my blood on fire. 

" I'll do it again," I said, through my 
teeth. 

He shook his head. " Not you," he said, 
smiling quite good-humouredly on my in- 
sane enthusiasm. 

" I will," I cried with an oath. " I'll lend 
you a hand as often as you like! What 
4' 



The Amaieur Cracksman 

does it matter now? I've been in it once. 
I'ii be in it again. I've gone to the devil 
anyhow. I can't go back, and wouldn't if 
I could. Nothing matters another rap! 
When you want me I'm your man! " 

And that is how Raffles and I joined 
felonious forces on the Ides of March. 



42 



A COSTUME PIECE, 

T ONDON was just then talking of one 
whose name is already a name and 
nothing more. Reuben Rosenthall had made 
his millions on the diamond fields of South 
Africa, and had come home to enjoy them 
according to his lights ; how he went to 
work will scarcely be forgotten by any read- 
er of the halfpenny evening papers, which 
revelled in endless anecdotes of his original 
indigence and present prodigality, varied 
with interesting particulars of the extraor- 
dinary establishment which the millionaire 
set up in St. John's Wood. Here he kept 
a retinue of Kaffirs, who were literally his 
slaves ; and hence he would sally, with enor- 
mous diamonds in his shirt and on his 
finger, in the convoy of a prize-fighter of 
heinous repute, who was not, however, by 
any means the worst element in the Rosen- 
43 



The Amateur Cracksman 

thall menage. So said common gossip; 
but the fact was sufficiently established by 
the interference of the police on at least one 
occasion, followed by certain magisterial 
proceedings which were reported with jus- 
tifiable gusto and huge headlines in the 
newspapers aforesaid. And this was all one 
knew of Reuben Rosenthall up to the time 
when the Old Bohemian Club, having fallen 
on evil days, found it worth its while to 
organise a great dinner in honour of so 
wealthy an exponent of the club's principles. 
I was not at the banquet myself, but a 
member took Raffles, who told me all about 
it that very night. 

" Most extraordinary show I ever went to 
in my life," said he. " As for the man him- 
self — well, I was prepared for something 
grotesque, but the fellow fairly took my 
breath away. To begin with, he's the most 
astounding brute to look at, well over six 
feet, with a chest like a barrel, and a great 
hook-nose, and the reddest hair and whisk- 
ers you ever saw. Drank like a fire-engine, 
but only got drunk enough to make us a 
speech that I wouldn't have missed for ten 
44 



A Costume Piece 

pounds. I'm only sorry you weren't there, 
too. Bunny, old chap." 

I began to be sorry myself, for Raffles 
was anything but an excitable person, and 
never had I seen him so excited before. 
Had he been following Rosenthall's exam- 
ple ? His coming to my rooms at midnight, 
merely to tell me about his dinner, was in 
itself enough to excuse a suspicion which 
was certainly at variance with my knowl- 
edge of A. J. Raffles. 

" What did he say ? " I inquired mechan- 
ically, divining some subtler explanation of 
this visit, and wondering what on earth it 
could be. 

" Say? " cried Raffles. " What did he not 
say ! He boasted of his rise, he bragged of 
his riches, and he blackguarded society for 
taking him up for his money and dropping 
him out of sheer pique and jealousy because 
he had so much. He mentioned names, too, 
with the most charming freedom, and swore 
he was as good a man as the Old Country 
had to show — pace the Old Bohemians. To 
prove it he pointed to a great diamond in 
the middle of his shirt-front with a little 
45 



The Amateur Cracksman 

finger loaded with another just like it: 
which of our bloated princes could show a 
pair like that? As a matter of fact they 
seemed quite wonderful stones, with a 
curious purple gleam to them that must 
mean a pot of money. But old Rosenthall 
swore he wouldn't take fifty thousand 
pounds for the two, and wanted to know 
where the other man was who went about 
with twenty-five thousand in his shirt-front, 
and other twenty-five on his little finger. 
He didn't exist. If he did, he wouldn't have 
the pluck to wear them. But he had — he'd 
tell us why. And before you could say 
Jack Robinson he had whipped out a whack- 
ing great revolver ! " 
" Not at the table?" 
" At the table ! In the middle of his 
speech! But it was nothing to what he 
Avanted to do. He actually wanted us to 
let him write his name in bullets on the 
opposite wall to show us why he wasn't 
afraid to go about in all his diamonds ! That 
brute Purvis, the prize-fighter, who is his 
paid bully, had to bully his master before 
he could be persuaded out of it. There was 
46 



A Costume Piece 

quite a panic for the moment; one fellow 
was saying his prayers under the table, and 
the waiters bolted to a man." 

" What a grotesque scene ! " 

" Grotesque enough, but I rather wish 
they had let him go the whole hog and 
blaze away. He was as keen as knives to 
show us how he could take care of his 
purple diamonds; and, do you know. Bun- 
ny, / was as keen as kniyes to see." 

And Raffles leant towards me with a sly, 
slow smile that made the hidden meaning of 
his visit only too plain to me at last. 

" So you think of having a try for his 
diamonds yourself?" 

He shrugged his shoulders. 

" It is horridly obvious, I admit. But — 
yes, I have set my heart upon them! To 
be quite frank. I have had them on my con- 
science for some time ; one couldn't hear 
so much of the man, and his prize-fighter, 
and his diamonds, without feeling it a kind 
of duty to have a go for them ; but when 
it comes to brandishing a revolver and prac- 
tically challenging the world, the thing be- 
comes inevitable. It is simply thrust upon 
47 



The Amateur Cracksman 

one. I was fated to hear that challenge, 
Bunny, and I, for one, must take it up. I 
was only sorry I couldn't get on my hind 
legs and say so then and there." 

" Well," I said, " I don't see the necessity 
as things are with us; but, of course, I'm 
your man." 

My tone may have been half-hearted. I 
did my best to make it otherwise. But it 
was barely a month since our Bond Street 
exploit, and we certainly could have af- 
forded to behave ourselves for some time 
to come. We had been getting along so 
nicely : by his advice I had scribbled a thing 
or two ; inspired by Raffles, I had even done 
an article on our own jewel robbery; and 
for the moment I was quite satisfied with 
this sort of adventure. I thought we ought 
to know when we were well off, and could 
see no point in our running fresh risks be- 
fore we were obliged. On the other hand, 
I was anxious not to show the least dis- 
position to break the pledge that I had given 
a month ago. But it was not on my man- 
ifest disinclination that Raffles fastened. 

" Necessity, my dear Bunny ? Does the 
48 



A Costume Piece 

writer only write when the wolf is at the 
door? Does the painter paint for bread 
alone ? Must you and I be driven to crime 
like Tom of Bow and Dick of Whitechapel ? 
You pain me, my dear chap; you needn't 
laugh, because you do. Art for art's sake 
is a vile catchword, but I confess it appeals 
to me. In this case my motives are abso- 
lutely pure, for I doubt if we shall ever be 
able to dispose of such peculiar stones. But 
if I don't have a try for them — after to- 
night — I shall never be able to hold up my 
head again." 

His eye twinkled, but it glittered too. 

" We shall have our work cut out," was 
all I said. 

" And do you suppose I should be keen 
on it if we hadn't ? " cried Raffles. " My 
dear fellow, I would rob St. Paul's Cathedral 
if I could, but I could no more scoop a till 
when the shopwalker wasn't looking than I 
could bag the apples out of an old woman's 
basket. Even that little business last month 
was a sordid affair, but it was necessary, 
and I think its strategy redeemed it to some 
extent. Now there's some credit, and more 
49 



The Amateur Cracksman 

sport, in going where they boast they're on 
their guard against you. The Bank of Eng- 
land, for example, is the ideal crib; but 
that would need half a dozen of us with 
years to give to the job; and meanwhile 
Reuben Rosenthall is high enough game for 
you and me. We know he's armed. We 
know how Billy Purvis can fight. It'll be 
no soft thing, I grant you. But what of 
that, my good Bunny — what of that? A 
man's reach must exceed his grasp, dear 
boy, or what the dickens is a heaven for? " 

" I would rather we didn't exceed ours 
just yet," I answered laughing, for his spirit 
was irresistible, and the plan was growing 
upon me, despite my qualms. 

" Trust me for that," was his reply ; " I'll 
see you through. After all I expect to find 
that the difficulties are nearly all on the sur- 
face. These fellows both drink like the 
devil, and that should simplify matters con- 
siderably. But v/e shall see, and we must 
take our time. There will probably turn out 
to be a dozen different ways in which the 
thing might be done, and we shall have to 
choose between them. It will mean watch- 



A Costume Piece 

ing the house for at least a week in any case ; 
it may mean lots of other things that will 
take much longer ; but give me a week, and 
I will tell you more. That's to say if you're 
really on ? " 

" Of course I am," I replied indignantly. 
" But why should I give you a week ? Why 
shouldn't we watch the house together ? '' 

'• Because two eyes are as good as four 
and take up less room. Never hunt in 
couples unless you're obliged. But don't 
you look offended, Bunny ; there'll be plenty 
for you to do when the time comes, that I 
promise you. You shall have your share 
of the fun, never fear, and a purple dia- 
mond all to yourself — if we're lucky." 

On the whole, however, this conversation 
left me less than lukewarm, and I still re- 
member the depression which came upon me 
when Raffles was gone. I saw the folly of 
the enterprise to which I had committed 
myself — the sheer, gratuitous, unnecessary 
folly of it. And the paradoxes in which 
Raffles revelled, and the frivolous casuistry 
which was nevertheless half sincere, and 
which his mere personality rendered wholly 
51 



The Amateur Cracksman 

plausible at the moment of utterance, ap- 
pealed very little to me when recalled in cold 
blood. I admired the spirit of pure mischief 
in which he seemed prepared to risk his 
liberty and his life, but I did not find it an 
infectious spirit on calm reflection. Yet the 
thought of withdrawal was not to be en*:er- 
tained for a moment. On the contrary, I 
was impatient of the delay ordained vby 
Raffles ; and, perhaps, no small part of my 
secret disaffection came of his galling de- 
termination to do without me until the last 
moment. 

It made it no better that this was charac- 
teristic of the man and of his attitude to- 
wards me. For a month we had been, I 
suppose, the thickest thieves in all London, 
and yet our intimacy was curiously incom- 
plete. With all his charming frankness, 
there was in Raffles a vein of capricious re- 
serve which was perceptible enough to be 
very irritating. He had the instinctive 
secretiveness of the inveterate criminal. He 
would make mysteries of matters of com- 
mon concern ; for example, I never knew 
how or where he disposed of the Bond Street 
52 



A Costume Piece 

jewels, on the proceeds of which we were 
both still leading the outward lives of hun- 
dreds of other young fellows about town. 
He was consistently mysterious about that 
and other details, of which it seemed to me 
that I had already earned the right to know 
everything. I could not but remember how 
he had led me into my first felony, by means 
of a trick, while yet uncertain whether he 
could trust me or not. That I could no 
longer afford to resent, but I did resent his 
want of confidence in me now. I said noth- 
ing about it, but it rankled every day, and 
never more than in the week that succeeded 
the Rosenthall dinner. When I met Raffles 
at the club he would tell me nothing ; when 
I went to his rooms he was out, or pretended 
to be. 

One day he told me he was getting on 
well, but slowly ; it was a more ticklish 
game than he had thought ; but when I be- 
gan to ask questions he would say no more. 
Then and there, in my annoyance, I took 
my own decision. Since he would tell me 
nothing of the result of his vigils, I deter- 
mined to keep one on my own account, and 
53 



The Amateur Cracksman 

that very evening found my way to the mil- 
lionaire's front gates. 

The house he was occupying is, I believe, 
quite the largest in the St. John's Wood 
district. It stands in the angle formed by 
two broad thoroughfares, neither of which, 
as it happens, is a 'bus route, and I doubt 
if many quieter spots exist within the four- 
mile radius. Quiet also was the great 
square house, in its garden of grass-plots 
and shrubs ; the lights were low, the million- 
aire and his friends obviously spending 
their evening elsewhere. The garden walls 
were only a few feet high. In one there was 
a side door opening into a glass passage ; 
in the other two five-barred, grained-and- 
varnished gates, one at either end of the 
little semi-circular drive, and both wide 
open. So still was the place that I had 
a great mind to walk boldly in and learn 
something of the premises ; in fact, I was on 
the point of doing so, when I heard a quick, 
shuffling step on the pavement behind me. 
I turned round and faced the dark scowl 
and the dirty clenched fists of a dilapidated 
tramp. 

5^ 



A Costume Piece 

" You fool ! " said he. " You utter idiot ! " 

" Raffles ! " 

" That's it," he whispered savagely ; 
" tell all the neighbourhood — give me away 
at the top of your voice I " 

With that he turned his back upon me, 
and shambled down the road, shrugging his 
shoulders and muttering to himself as 
though I had refused him alms. A few 
moments I stood astounded, indignant, at a 
loss ; then I followed him. His feet trailed, 
his knees gave, his back was bowed, his head 
kept nodding; it was the gait of a man 
eighty years of age. Presently he waited 
for me midway between two lamp-posts. 
As I came up he was lighting rank tobacco, 
in a cutty pipe, with an evil-smelling match, 
and the flame showed me the suspicion of a 
smile. 

" You must forgive my heat. Bunny, but 
it really was very foolish of you. Here am 
I trying every dodge — begging at the door 
one night — hiding in the shrubs the next — 
doing every mortal thing but stand and 
stare at the house as you went and did. It's 
a costume piece, and in you rush in your 
55 



The Amateur Cracksman 

ordinary clothes. I tell you they're on the 
look-out for us night and day. It's the 
toughest nut I ever tackled ! " 

" Well," said I, " if you had told me so 
before I shouldn't have come. You told me 
nothing." 

He looked hard at me from under the 
broken brim of a battered billycock. 

" You're right," he said at length. " I've 
been too close. It's become second nature 
with me when I've anything on. But here's 
an end of it, Bunny, so far as you're con- 
cerned. I'm going home now, and I want 
you to follow me; but for heaven's sake 
keep your distance, and don't speak to me 
again till I speak to you. There — give me 
a start." And he was off again, a decrepit 
vagabond, with his hands in his pockets, 
his elbows squared, and frayed coat-tails 
swinging raggedly from side to side. 

I followed him to the Finchley Road 
There he took an Atlas omnibus, and I sat 
some rows behind him on the top, but not 
far enough to escape the pest of his vile 
tobacco. That he could carry his character- 
sketch to such a pitch — he who would only 
56 



A Costume Piece 

smoke one brand of cigarette! It was the 
last, least touch of the insatiable artist, and 
it charmed away what mortification there 
still remained in me. Once more I felt the 
fascination of a comrade who was forever 
dazzling one with a fresh and unsuspected 
facet of his character. 

As we neared Piccadilly I wondered what 
he would do. Surely he was not going into 
the Albany like that ? No, he took another 
omnibus to Sloane Street, I sitting behind 
him as before. At Sloane Street we changed 
again, and were presently in the long lean 
artery of the King's Road. I was now all 
agog to know our destination, nor was I 
kept many more minutes in doubt. Raffles 
got down. I followed. He crossed the road 
and disappeared up a dark turning. I 
pressed after him, and was in time to see 
his coat-tails as he plunged into a still dark- 
er flagged alley to the right. He was hold- 
ing himself up and stepping out like a young 
man once more; also, in some subtle way, 
he already looked less disreputable. But I 
alone was there to see him, the alley was 
absolutely deserted, and desperately dark. 
S7 



The Amateur Cracksman 

At the further end he opened a door with 
a latch-key, and it was darker yet within. 

Instinctively I drew back and heard him 
chuckle. We could no longer see each 
other. 

" All right, Bunny ! There's no hanky- 
panky this time. These are studios, my 
friend, and Vm one of the lawful tenants." 

Indeed, in another minute we were in a 
lofty room with skylight, easels, dressing- 
cupboard, platform, and every other adjunct 
save the signs of actual labour. The first 
thing I saw, as Raffles lit the gas, was its 
reflection in his silk hat on the pegs beside 
the rest of his normal garments. 

"Looking for the works of art?" con- 
tinued Raffles, lighting a cigarette and be- 
ginning to divest himself of his rags. " I'm 
afraid you won't find any, but there's the 
canvas I'm always going to make a start 
upon, I tell them I'm looking high and low 
for my ideal model. I have the svove lit on 
principle twice a week, and look in and leave 
a newspaper and a smell of Sullivans — how 
good they are after shag ! Meanwhile I pay 
my rent and am a good tenant in every way ; 
58 



A Costume Piece 

and it's a very useful little pied-a-tcrre — 
there's no saying how useful it might be at 
a pinch. As it is, the billycock comes in and 
the topper goes out, and nobody takes the 
slightest notice of either; at this time of 
night the chances are that there's not a soul 
in the building except ourselves." 

" You never told me you went in for dis- 
guises," said I, watching him as he cleansed 
the grime from his face and hands. 

" No, Bunny, I've treated you very shab- 
bily all round. There was really no reason 
why I shouldn't have shown you this place 
a month ago, and yet there was no point in 
my doing so, and circumstances are just 
conceivable in which it would have suited 
us both for you to be in genuine ignorance 
of my whereabouts. I have something to 
sleep on, as you perceive, in case of need, 
and, of course, my name is not Raffles in the 
King's Road. So you will see that one 
might bolt further and fare worse." 

" Meanwhile you use the place as a dress- 
ing-room ? " 

" It's my private pavilion," said Raffles. 
" Disguises ? In some cases they're half the 
59 



The Amateur Cracksman 

battle, and it's always pleasant to feel that, 
if the worst comes to the worst, you needn't 
necessarily be convicted under your own 
name. Then they're indispensable in deal- 
ing with the fences. I drive all my bargains 
in the tongue and raiment of Shoreditch. 
If I didn't there'd be the very devil to pay 
in blackmail. Now, this cupboard's full of 
all sorts of toggery. I tell the woman who 
cleans the room that it's for my models 
when I find 'em. By the way, I only hope 
I've got something that'll fit you, for you'll 
want a rig for to-morrow night." 

" To - morrow night ! " I exclaimed. 
" Why, what do you mean to do ? " 

" The trick," said Raffles. " I intended 
writing to you as soon as I got back to my 
rooms, to ask you to look me up to-morrow 
afternoon; then I was going to unfold my 
plan of campaign, and take you straight 
into action then and there. There's nothing 
like putting the nervous players in first ; it's 
the sitting with their pads on that upsets 
their applecart ; that was another of my rea- 
sons for being so confoundedly close. You 
must try to forgive me. I couldn't help 
60 



A Costume Piece 

remembering how well you played up last 
trip, without any time to weaken on it 
beforehand. All I want is for you to be 
as cool and smart to-morrow night as you 
were then ; though, by Jove, there's no com- 
parison between the two cases ! " 
" I thought you would find it so." 
" You were right. I have. Mind you, 
I don't say this will be the tougher job all 
round ; we shall probably get in without any 
difficulty at all; it's the getting out again 
that may flummox us. That's the worst of 
an irregular household ! " cried Raffles, with 
quite a burst of virtuous indignation. " I 
assure you, Bunny, I spent the whole of 
Monday night in the shrubbery of the gar- 
den next door, looking over the wall, and, 
if you'll believe me, somebody was about 
all night long! I don't mean the Kaffirs. 
I don't believe they ever get to bed at all — 
poor devils! No, I mean Rosenthall him- 
self, and that pasty-faced beast Purvis. 
They were up and drinking from midnight, 
when they came in, to broad daylight, when 
I cleared out. Even then I left them sober 
enough to slang each other, By the way, 
6i 



The Amateur Cracksman 

they very nearly came to blows in the gar- 
den, within a few yards of me, and I heard 
something that might come in useful and 
make Rosenthall shoot crooked at a criti- 
cal moment. You know what an I. D. B. 
is?" 

" Illicit Diamond Buyer?" 

" Exactly. Well, it seems that Rosenthall 
was one. He must have let it out to Purvis 
in his cups. Anyhow, I heard Purvis taunt- 
ing him with it, and threatening him with 
the breakwater at Capetown; and I begin 
to think our friends are friend and foe. But 
about to-morrow night: there's nothing 
subtle in my plan. It's simply to get in 
while these fellows are out on the loose, and 
to lie low till they come back, and longer. 
If possible we must doctor the whisky. 
That would simplify the whole thing, 
though it's not a very sporting game to 
play; still, we must remember Rosenthall's 
revolver; we don't want him to sign his 
name on t{S. With all those Kafifirs about, 
however, it's ten to one on the whisky, and 
a hundred to one against us if we go look- 
ing for it. A brush with the heathen would 
62 



A Costume Pitce 

spoil everything, if it did no more. Besides, 
there are the ladies " 

" The deuce there are ! " 

" Ladies with an i, and the very voices 
for raising Cain. I fear, I fear the clamour ! 
It would be fatal to us. Au contraire, if 
we can manage to stow ourselves away un- 
beknowns, half the battle will be won. If 
Rosenthall turns in drunk, it's a purple dia- 
mond a-piece. If he sits up sober, it may 
be a bullet instead. We will hope not, Bun- 
ny; and all the firing wouldn't be on one 
side ; but it's on the knees of the gods." 

And so we left it when we shook hands 
in Piccadilly— not by any means as much 
later as I could have wished. Raffles would 
not ask me to his rooms that night. He 
said he made it a rule to have a long liight 
before playing cricket and — other games. 
His final word to me was framed on the 
same principle. 

" Mind, only one drink to-night. Bunny. 
Two at the outside — as you value your life 
— and mine ! " 

I remember my abject obedience ; and the 
endless, sleepless night it gave me ; and the 
63 



The Amateur Cracksman 

roofs of the houses opposite standing out 
at last against the blue-grey London dawn. 
I wondered whether I should ever see an- 
other, and was very hard on myself for that 
little expedition which I had made on my 
own wilful account. 

It was between eight and nine o'clock in 
the evening when we took up our position 
in the garden adjoining that of Reuben 
Rosenthall; the house itself was shut up, 
thanks to the outrageous libertine next 
door, who, by driving away the neighbours, 
had gone far towards delivering himself in- 
to our hands. Practically secure from sur- 
prise on that side, we could watch our house 
under cover of a wall just high enough to 
see over, while a fair margin of shrubs in 
either garden afforded us additional protec- 
tion. Thus entrenched, we had stood an 
hour, watching a pair of lighted bow-win- 
dows with vague shadows flitting continual- 
ly across the blinds, and listening to the 
drawing of corks, the clink of glasses, and 
a gradual crescendo of coarse voices with- 
in. Our luck seemed to have deserted us : 
the owner of the purple diamonds was din- 
64 



A Costume Piece 

ing at home and dining at undue length. 
I thought it was a dinner-party. Raffles 
differed ; in the • end he proved right. 
Wheels grated in the drive, a carriage and 
pair stood at the steps; there was a stam- 
pede from the dining-room, and the loud 
voices died away, to burst forth presently 
from the porch. 

Let me make our position perfectly clear. 
We were over the wall, at the side of the 
house, but a few^ feet from the dining-room 
windows. On our right, one angle of the 
building cut the back lawn in two diagonal- 
ly; on our left, another angle just per- 
mitted us to see the jutting steps and the 
waiting carriage. We saw Rosenthall come 
out — saw the glimmer of his diamonds be- 
fore anything. Then came the pugilist; 
then a lady with a head of hair like a bath 
sponge; then another, and the party was 
complete. 

Raffles ducked and pulled me dov;n in 
great excitement. 

" The ladies are going with them," he 
whispered. ''This is great!" 

" That's better still." 
65 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" The Gardenia ! " the millionaire had 
bawled. 

"And that's best of all," said Raffles, 
standing upright as hoofs and wheels 
crunched through the gates and rattled oft 
at a fine speed. 

"Now what?" I whispered, trembling 
with excitement. 

" They'll be clearing away. Yes, here 
come their shadows. The drawing-room 
windows open on the lawn. Bunny, it's 
the psychological moment. Where's that 
mask?" 

I produced it with a hand whose 
trembling I tried in vain to still, and could 
have died for Raffles when he made no 
comment on what he could not fail to no- 
tice. His own hands were firm and cool as 
he adjusted miy mask for me, and then his 
own. 

" By Jove, old boy," he whispered cheer- 
ily, " you look about the greatest ruffian I 
ever saw ! These masks alone will down a 
nigger, if we meet one. But I'm glad I re- 
membered to tell you not to shave. You'll 
pass for Whitechapel if the worst comes 
66 



A Costume Piece 

to the worst and you don't forget to talk the 
lingo. Better sulk like a mule if you're not 
sure of it, and leave the dialogue to me ; but, 
please our stars, there will be no need. 
Now, are you ready ? " 

" Quite." 

" Got your gag?" 

" Yes." 

"Shooter?" 

" Yes." 

" Then follow me." 

In an instant we were over the wall, in 
another on the lawn behind the house. There 
was no moon. The very stars in their 
courses had veiled themselves for our ben- 
efit. I crept at my leader's heels to some 
French windows opening upon a shallow 
verandah. He pushed. They yielded. 

" Luck again," he whispered ; " nothing 
but luck ! Now for a light." 

And the light came! 

A good score of electric burners glowed 
red for the fraction of a second, then rained 
merciless white beams into our blinded eyes. 
When we found our sight four revolvers 
covered us, and between two of them the 
67 



The Amateur Cracksman 

colossal frame of Reuben Rosenthal! shook 
with a wheezy laughter from head to foot. 

" Good evening, boys," he hiccoughed. 
" Glad to see ye at last. Shift foot or finger, 
you on the left, though, and you're a dead 
boy. I mean you, you greaser ! " he roared 
out at Raffles. " I know you. I've been 
waitin' for you. I've been zvatchin' you all 
this week ! Plucky smart you thought yer- 
self, didn't you? One day beggin', next 
time shammin' tight, and next one o' them 
old pals from Kimberley what never come 
when I'm in. But you left the same tracks 
every day, you buggins, an' the same tracks 
every night, all round the blessed premises." 

" All right, guv'nor," drawled Raffles ; 
" don't excite. It's a fair cop. We don't 
sv/eat to know 'ow you brung it orf. On'y 
don't you go for to shoot, 'cos we 'int 
awmed, s'help me Gord ! " 

" Ah, you're a knowin' one," said Rosen- 
thal!, fingering his triggers. " But you've 
struck a knowin'er." 

" Ho, yuss, we know all abaht thet ! Set 
a thief to ketch a thief — ho, yuss." 

My eyes had torn themselves from the 
68 



A Costume Piece 

round black muzzles, from the accursed dia- 
monds that had been our snare, the pasty 
pig-face of the over-fed pugilist, and the 
flaming cheeks and hook nose of Rosenthall 
himself. I was looking beyond them at the 
doorway filled with quivering silk and plush, 
black faces, white eye-balls, woolly pates. 
But a sudden silence recalled my attention 
to the millionaire. And only his nose re- 
tained its colour. 

" What d'ye mean ? " he whispered with a 
hoarse oath. " Spit it out, or, by Christ- 
mas, I'll drill you ! " 

" Whort price thet brikewater ? " drawled 
Raffles coolly. 

"Eh?" 

Rosenthall 's revolvers were describing 
widening orbits. 

" Whort price thet brikewater — old /. D. 
B.f" 

" Where in hell did you get hold o' that? " 
asked Rosenthall, with a rattle in his thick 
neck, meant for mirth. 

" You may well arst," says Raffles. " It's 
all over the plice w'ere / come from." 

*' Who can have spread such rot ? " 
69 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" I dunno," says Raffles ; " arst the geii'le- 
man on yer left; p'raps V knows." 

The gentleman on his left had turned 
livid with emotion. Guilty conscience nev- 
er declared itself in plainer terms. For a 
moment his small eye? bulged like currants 
in the suet of his face ; the next, he had pock- 
eted his pistols on a professional instinct, 
and was upon us wath his fists. 

" Out o' the light — out o' the light ! " 
yelled Rosenthall in a frenzy. 

He was too late. No sooner h&d the 
burly pugilist obstructed his fire than 
Raffles was through the window at a bound ; 
Vv'hile I, for standing still and saying noth- 
ing, was scientifically felled to the floor. 

I cannot have been many moments with- 
out my senses. Wlien I recovered them 
there was a great to-do in the garden, but I 
had the drawing-room to myself. I sat up. 
Rosenthall and Purvis were rushing about 
outside, cursing the Kaffirs and nagging at 
each other. 

" Over that wall, I tell yer ! " 

" I tell you it was this one. Can't you 
•whistle for the police ? " 
70 



A Costume Piece 

" Police be damned ! I've had enough of 
the blessed police," 

" Then we'd better get back and make 
sure of the other rotter." 

'' Oh, make sure o' yer skin. That's \Yhat 
you'd better do. Jala, you black hog, if I 
catch you skulkin'. . . ." 

I never heard the threat. I was creeping 
from the drawing-room on my hands and 
knees, my own revolver swinging by its 
steel ring from my teeth. 

For an instant I thought that the hall also 
was deserted. I was wrong, and I crept up- 
on a Kaffir on all fours. Poor devil, I could 
not bring myself to deal him a base blow, 
but I threatened him most hideously with 
my revolver, and left the white teeth chat- 
tering in his black head as I took the stairs 
three at a time. Why I went upstairs in 
that decisive fashion, as though it were my 
only course, I cannot explain. But garden 
and ground floor seemed alive with men. and 
I might have done worse. 

I turned into the first room I came to. It 
was a bedroom — empty, though lit up ; and 
never shall I forget how I started as I en- 
71 



The Amateur Cracksman 

tered, on encountering the awful villain that 
was myself at full length in a pier-glass! 
Masked, armed, and ragged, I was indeed 
fit carrion for a bullet or the hangman, and 
to one or the other I made up my mind. 
Nevertheless, I hid myself in the wardrobe 
behind the mirror ; and there I stood shiver- 
ing and cursing my fate, my folly, and 
Raffles most of all— Raffles first and last— 
for I daresay half an hour. Then the ward- 
robe door was flung suddenly open; they 
had stolen into the room without a sound; 
and I was hauled downstairs, an ignomin- 
ious captive. 

Gross scenes followed in the hall ; the la- 
dies were now upon the stage, and at sight 
of the desperate criminal they screamed with 
one accord. In truth I must have given 
them fair cause, though my mask was now 
torn away and hid nothing but my left ear. 
Rosenthall answered their shrieks with a 
roar for silence; the woman with the bath- 
sponge hair sw^ore at him shrilly in return ; 
the place became a Babel impossible to de- 
scribe. I remember wondering how long it 
would be before the police appeared. Pur- 
72 



A Costume Piece 

vis and the ladies were for calling them in 
and giving me in charge without delay. 
Rosenthall would not hear of it. He swore 
that he would shoot man or woman who 
left his sight. He had had enough of the 
police. He was not going to have them 
coming there to spoil sport ; he was going 
to deal with me in his own way. With that 
he dragged me from all other hands, flung 
me against a door, and sent a bullet crashing 
through the wood within an inch of my 
ear. 

" You drunken fool ! It'll be murder ! " 
shouted Purvis, getting in the way a second 
time. 

" Wha' do I care? He's armed, isn't he? 
I shot him in self-defence. It'll be a warn- 
ing to others. Will you stand aside, or 
d'ye want it yourself ? " 

" You're drunk," said Purvis, still be- 
tween us. " I saw you take a neat tumbler- 
ful since you come in, and it's made you 
drunk as a fool. Pull yourself together, old 
man. You ain't a-going to do what you'll 
be sorry for." 

" Then I won't shoot at him, I'll only 
73 



The Amateur Cracksman 

shoot roun' an' roun' the beggar. You're 
quite right, ole feller. Wouldn't hurt him. 
Great mishtake. Roun' an' roun'. There 
—like that!" 

His freckled paw shot up over Purvis's 
slioulder, mauve lightning came from his 
ring, a red flash from his revolver, and 
shrieks from the women as the reverbera- 
tions died away. Some splinters lodged in 
my hair. 

Next instant the prize-fighter disarmed 
him; and I was safe from the devil, but 
finally doomed to the deep sea. A police- 
man was in our midst. He had entered 
through the drawing-room window^ ; he was 
an officer of few words and creditable 
promptitude. In a twinkling he had the 
handcuffs on my wrists, while the pugilist 
explained the situation, and his patron re- 
viled the force and its representative with 
impotent malignity. A fine watch they 
kept ; a lot of good they did ; coming in when 
all was over and the whole household might 
have been murdered in their sleep. The 
officer only deigned to notice him as he 
marched me ofi". 



A Costume Piece 

** We know all about you, sir," said he 
contemptuously, and he refused the sov- 
ereign Purvis proffered. " You will be see- 
ing me again, sir, at Marylebone." 

" Shall I come now ? " 

" As you please, sir. I rather think the 
other gentleman requires you more, and I 
don't fancy this young man means to give 
much trouble." 

" Oh, I'm coming quietly," I said. 

And I went. 

In silence we traversed perhaps a hun- 
dred yards. It must have been midnight. 
We did not meet a soul. At last I v.his- 
pered : 

" How on earth did you manage it ? " 

" Purely by luck," said Raffles. " I had 
the luck to get clear away through knowing 
every brick of those back-garden walls, and 
the double luck to have these togs with the 
rest over at Chelsea. The helmet is one of 
a collection I made up at Oxford; here it 
goes over this wall, and we'd better carry the 
coat and belt before we meet a real officer. 
I got them once for a fancy ball — ostensibly 
—and thereby hangs a yarn. I always 
75 



The Amateur Cracksman 

thought they might come in useful a sec- 
ond time. My chief crux to-night was get- 
ting rid of the hansom that brought me 
back. I sent him off to Scotland Yard with 
ten bob and a special message to good old 
Mackenzie. The whole detective depart- 
ment will be at Rosenthall's in about half 
an hour. Of course, I speculated on our 
gentleman's hatred of the police — another 
huge slice of luck. If you'd got away, well 
and good ; if not, I felt he was the man 
to play with his mouse as long as possible. 
Yes, Bunny, it's been more of a costume 
piece than I intended, and we've come out 
of it with a good deal less credit. But, by 
Jove, we're jolly lucky to have come out of 
it at all!" 



7t 



GENTLEMEN AND PLAYERS 

/^LD Raffles may or may not have been 
^'"^ an exceptional criminal, but as a 
cricketer I dare swear he was unique. Him- 
self a dangerous bat, a brilliant field, and 
perhaps the very finest slow bowler of his 
decade, he took incredibly little interest in 
the game at large. He never went up to 
Lord's without his cricket-bag, or showed 
the slightest interest in the result of a match 
in which he was not himself engaged. Nor 
was this mere hateful egotism on his part. 
He professed to have lost all enthusiasm 
for the game, and to keep it up only from 
the very lowest motives. 

" Cricket," said Raffles, " like everything 
else, is good enough sport until you dis- 
cover a better. As a source of excitement 
it isn't in it with other things you wot of, 
Bunny, and the involuntary comparison be- 
comes a bore. What's the satisfaction of 
77 



The Amateur Cracksman 

taking a man's wicket when you want his 
spoons? Still, if you can bowl a bit your 
/ow cunning won't get rusty, and always 
looking for the weak spot's just the kind 
of mental exercise one wants. Yes, per- 
haps there's some affinity between the two 
things after all. But I'd chuck up cricket 
to-morrow, Bunny, if it wasn't for the glori- 
ous protection it affords a person of my 
proclivities." 

" How so? " said I. " It brings you be- 
fore the public. I should have thought, far 
more than is either safe or wise." 

" My dear Bunny, that's exactly where 
you make a mistake. To follow Crime with 
reasonable impunity you simply must have 
a parallel, ostensible career — the more pub- 
lic the better. The principle is obvious. 
Mr, Peace, of pious memory, disarmed sus- 
picion by acquiring a local reputation for 
playing the fiddle and taming animals, and 
it's my profound conviction that Jack the 
Ripper was a really eminent public man, 
whose speeches were very likely reported 
alongside his atrocities. Fill the bill in 
some prominent part, and you'll never be 
78 



Gentlemen and Players 

suspected of doubling it with another of 
equal prominence. That's why I want you 
to cultivate journalism, my boy, and sign 
all you can. And it's the one and only 
reason why I don't burn my bats for lire- 
wood." 

Nevertheless, when he did play there was 
no keener performer on the field, nor one 
more anxious to do well for his side. I re- 
member how he went to the nets, before the 
first match of the season, with his pocket 
full of sovereigns, which he put on the 
stumps instead of bails. It was a sight to 
see the professionals bowling like demons 
for the hard cash, for whenever a stump 
was hit a pound was tossed to the bowler 
and another balanced in its stead, while 
one man took £3 with a ball that spread- 
eagled the wicket. Raffles's practice cost 
him either eight or nine sovereigns; but he 
had absolutely first-class bowling all the 
time ; and he made fifty-seven runs next 
day. 

It became my pleasure to accompany 
him to all his matches, to watch every ball 
he bowled, or played, or fielded, and to sit 
79 



The Amateur Cracksman 

chatting with him in the paviHon when he 
was doing none of these three things. You 
might have seen us there, side by side, dur- 
ing the greater part of the Gentlemen's first 
innings against the Players (who had lost 
the toss) on the second Monday in July. 
We were to be seen, but not heard, for Raf- 
fles had failed to score, and was uncommon- 
ly cross for a player who cared so little for 
the game. Merely taciturn with me, he was 
positively rude to more than one member 
who wanted to know how it had happened, 
or who ventured to commiserate him on 
his luck; there he sat, with a straw hat tilted 
over his nose and a cigarette stuck between 
lips that curled disagreeably at every ad- 
vance. I was therefore much surprised 
when a young fellow of the exquisite type 
came and squeezed himself in between us, 
and met with a perfectly civil reception de- 
spite the liberty. I did not know the boy 
by sight, nor did Raffles introduce us; but 
their conversation proclaimed at once a 
slightness of acquaintanceship and a licence 
on the lad's part which combined to puzzle 
me. Mystification reached its height wheii 
80 



Gentlemen and Players 

Raffles was informed that the other's father 
was anxious to meet him, and he instantly 
consented to gratify that whim. 

" He's in the Ladies' Enclosure. Will 
you come round now? " 

" With pleasure," says Raffles. " Keep a 
place for me, Bunny." 

And they were gone. 

" Young Crowley," said some voice fur- 
ther back. " Last year's Harrow Eleven." 

" I remember him. Worst man in the 
team." 

" Keen cricketer, however. Stopped till 
he was twenty to get his colours. Governor 
made him. Keen breed. Oh, pretty, sir! 
Very pretty! " 

The game was boring me. I only came 
to see old Raffles perform. Soon I was 
looking wistfully for his return, and at 
length I saw him beckoning me from the 
palings to the right. 

" Want to introduce you to old Amer- 
steth," he whispered, when I joined him. 
" They've a cricket week next month, when 
this boy Crowley comes of age, and we've 
both got to go down and play." 
8i 



The Amateur Cracksman 

*' Both! " I echoed. " But I'm no crick- 
eter!" 

" Shut up," says Raffles. " Leave that 
to me. I've been lying for all I'm worth," 
he added sepulchrally as we reached the 
bottom of the steps. " I trust to you not 
to give the show away." 

There was the gleam in his eye that I 
knew well enough elsewhere, but was un- 
prepared for in those healthy, sane sur- 
roundings; and it was with very definite 
misgivings and surmises that I followed the 
Zingari blazer through the vast flower-bed 
of hats and bonnets that bloomed beneath 
the ladies' awning. 

Lord Amersteth was a fine-looking man 
with a short moustache and a double chin. 
He received me with much dry courtesy, 
through which, however, it was not difficult 
to read a less flattering tale. I was accepted 
as the inevitable appendage of the invalu- 
able Raffles, with whom I felt deeply in- 
censed as I made my bow. 

" I have been bold enough," said Lord 
Amersteth, " to ask one of the Gentlemen 
of England to come down and play some 
82 



Gentlemen and Players 

rustic cricket for us next month. He is kind 
enough to say that he would have Hked 
nothing better, but for this Httle fishing ex- 
pedition of yours, Mr. , Mr. ," and 

Lord Amersteth succeeded in remembering 
my name. 

It was, of course, the first I had ever 
heai d of that fishing expedition, but I made 
haste to say that it could easily, and should 
certainly, be put ofi. Rafifles gleamed ap- 
proval through his eyelashes. Lord Amer- 
steth bowed and shrugged. 

" You're very good. I'm sure," said he. 
" But I understand you're a cricketer your- 
self? " 

" He was one at school," said Rafiflcs, 
with infamous readiness. 

" Not a real cricketer," I was stammering 
meanwhile. 

" In the eleven?" said Lord Amersteth. 

" I'm afraid not," said I. 

" But only just out of it," declared Raf- 
fles, to my horror. 

" Well, well, we can't all play for the Gen- 
tlemen," said Lord Amerstetli slyly. " ?Nly 
son Crowley only just scraped into the 
8^ 



The Amateur Cracksman 

eleven at Harrow, and lie's going to play. 
I may even come in myself at a pinch; so 
you won't be the only dufifer, if you are one, 
and I shall be very glad if you will come 
down and help us too. You shall flog a 
stream before breakfast and after dinner, 
if you like." 

" I should be very proud," I was begin- 
ning, as the mere prelude to resolute ex- 
cuses; but the eye of Raffles opened wide 
upon me; and I hesitated weakly, to be duly 
lost. 

" Then that's settled," said Lord Amer- 
steth, with the slightest suspicion of grim- 
ness. " It's to be a little week, you know, 
when my son comes of age. We play the 
Free Foresters, the Dorsetshire Gentlemen, 
and probably some local lot as well. But 
Mr. Raffles will tell you all about it, and 
Crowley shall write. Another wicket! By 
Jove, they're all out! Then I rely on you 
both." And, with a little nod, Lord Amer- 
steth rose and sidled to the gangway. 

Raffles rose also, but I caught the sleeve 
of his blazer. 

" What are you thinking of? " I whis- 
84 



Gentlemen and Players 

pered savagely. " I was nowhere near the 
eleven. I'm no sort of cricketer. I shah 
have to get out of this! " 

'' Not you," he whispered back, " You 
needn't play, but come you must. If you 
wait for me after half-past six I'll tell you 
why." 

But I could guess the reason; and I am 
ashamed to say that it revolted me much 
less than did the notion of making a public 
fool of myself on a cricket-field. My gorge 
rose at this as it no longer rose at crime, 
and it was in no tranquil humour that I 
strolled about the ground while Raffles dis- 
appeared in the pavilion. Nor was my an- 
noyance lessened by a little meeting I wit- 
nessed between young Crowley and his 
father, who shrugged as he stopped and 
stooped to convey some information whicli 
made the young man look a little blank. 
It may have been pure self-consciousness 
on my part, but I could have sworn that the 
trouble was their inability to secure the great 
Rafifles without his insignificant friend. 

Then the bell rang, and I climbed to the 
top of the pavilion to watch Raffles bowL 
85 



The Amattiir Cracksman 

No subtleties are lost up there; and if ever 
a bowler was full of them, it was A. J. Raf- 
fles on this day, as, indeed, all the cricket 
world remembers. One had not to be a 
cricketer oneself to appreciate his perfect 
command of pitch and break, his beautifully 
easy action, which never varied with the 
varying pace, his great ball on the leg-stum.p 
— his dropping head-ball — in a word, the 
infinite ingenuity of that versatile attack. 
It was no mere exhibition of athletic prow- 
ess, it was an intellectual treat, and one 
with a special significance in my eyes. I 
saw the " affinity between the two things," 
saw it in that afternoon's tireless warfare 
against the flower of professional cricket. 
It was not that Raffles took many wickets 
for few runs; he was too fine a bowler to 
mind being hit; and time was short, and 
the wicket good. What I admired, and 
what I remember, was the combination of 
resource and cunning, of patience and pre- 
cision, of head-work and handiwork, which 
made every over an artistic whole. It was 
all so characteristic of that other Raffles 
whom I alone knew! 
86 



Gentlemen and Players 

" I felt like bowling this afternoon," he 
told me later in the hansom. " With a 
pitch to help me, I'd have done something 
big; as it is, three for forty-one, out of the 
four that fell, isn't so bad for a slow bowler 
on a plumb wicket against those fellows. 
But I felt venomous! Nothing riles me 
more than being asked about for my cricket 
as though I were a pro. myself." 

" Then why on earth go? " 

" To punish them, and — because we shall 
be jolly hard up. Bunny, before the season's 
over!" 

" Ah! " said I. " I thought it was that." 

" Of course, it was ! It seems they're go- 
ing to have the very devil of a week of it 
— balls — dinner-parties — swagger house- 
party — general junketings — and obviously 
a houseful of diamonds as well. Diamonds 
galore! As a general rule nothing would 
induce me to abuse my position as a guest. 
I've never done it, Bunny. But in this case 
we're engaged like the waiters and the band, 
and by heaven we'll take our toll! Let's 
have a quiet dinner somewhere and talk it 
over." 

87 



The Amate / Cracksman 

" It seems rather a v,i!gar sort of theft." 
I could not help saying-; and to this, my 
single protest, Raffles instantly assented. 

"It is a vulgar sort," said he; "but I 
can't help that. We're getting vulgarly 
hard up again, and there's an end on 't. 
Besides, these people deserve it, and can 
afford it. And don't you run away with 
the idea that all will be plain sailing; noth- 
ing will be easier than getting some stuff, 
and nothing harder than avoiding all sus- 
picion, as, of course, we must. We may 
come away with no more than a good work- 
ing plan of the premises. Who knows? In 
any case there's weeks of thinking in it for 
you and me." 

But with those weeks I will not weary 
you further than by remarking that the 
" thinking," was done entirely by Raffles, 
who did not always trouble to communicate 
his thoughts to me. His reticence, how- 
ever, was no longer an irritant. I began to 
accept it as a necessary convention of these 
little enterprises. And, after our last ad- 
venture of the kind, more especially after its 
denouement, my trust in Raffles was much 
88 



Gentlemen and Players 

too solid to be shaken by a want of trust 
in me, which I still believe to have been 
more the instinct of the criminal than the 
judgment of the man. 

It was on Monday, the tenth of August, 
that we were due at Miichester Abbey, Dor- 
set; and the beginning of the month found 
ITS cruising about that very county, with 
fly-rods actually in our hands. The idea 
was that we should acquire at once a local 
reputation as decent fishermen, and some 
kttowledge of the countryside, with a view 
to further and more deliberate operations in 
the event of an unprofitable week. There 
was another idea which Raffles kept to him- 
self until he had got me down there. Then 
one day he produced a cricket-ball in a 
meadow we were crossing, and threw me 
catches for an hour together. More hours 
be spent in bowling to me on the nearest 
green; and, if I was never a cricketer, at 
least I came nearer to being one, by the 
end of that week, than ever before or since. 

Incident began early on the Monday. 
We had sallied forth from a desolate little 
i-unction within quite a few miles of Milches- 
89 



The Amateur Cracksman 

ter, had been caught in a shower, had run 
for sheker to a wayside inn. A florid, over- 
dressed man was drinking in the parlour, 
and I could have sworn it was at the sight 
of him that Rafifles recoiled on the threshold, 
and afterwards insisted on returning to the 
station through the rain. He assured me, 
however, that the odour of stale ale had 
almost knocked him down. And I had to 
make what I could of his speculative, dow'n- 
cast eyes and knitted brows. 

Milchester Abbey is a grey, quadrangu- 
lar pile, deep-set in rich woody country, and 
twinkling with triple rows of quaint win- 
dows, every one of which seemed alight as 
we drove up just in time to dress for din- 
ner. The carriage had whirled us under I 
know not how many triumphal arches in 
process of construction, and past the tents 
and flag-poles of a juicy-looking cricket- 
field, on which Raffles undertook to bowl 
up to his reputation. But the chief signs 
of festival were within, where we found an 
enormous house-party assembled, including 
more persons of pomp, majesty, and domin- 
ion than I had ever encountered in one 



Gentlemen and Players 

room before. I confess I felt overpowered. 
Our errand and my own pretences com- 
bined to rob me of an address upon which 
I have sometimes pkimed myself; and I 
have a grim recollection of my nervous 
relief when dinner was at last announced. 
I little knew what an ordeal it was to prove. 
I had taken in a much less formidable 
young lady than might have fallen to my 
lot. Indeed I began by blessing my good 
fortune in this respect. Miss Melhuish was 
merely the rector's daughter, and she had 
only been asked to make an even number. 
She informed me of both facts before the 
soup reached us, and her subsequent con- 
versation was characterised by the same en- 
gaging candour. It exposed what was little 
short of a mania for imparting information. 
I had simply to Hsten, to nod, and to be 
thankful. When I confessed to knowing 
very few of those present, even by sight, 
my entertaining companion proceeded to 
tell me who everybody was, beginning on 
my left and working conscientiously round 
to her right. This lasted quite a long time, 
and really interested me; but a great deal 
91 



The Amateur Cracksman 

that followed did not; and, obviously to 
recapture my unworthy attention, Miss 
Melhuish suddenly asked me, in a sensa- 
tional whisper, whether I could keep a se- 
cret. 

I said I thought I might, whereupon an- 
other question followed, in still lower and 
more thrilling accents: 

" Are you afraid of burglars? " 

Burglars! I was roused at last. The 
word stabbed me. I repeated it in horrified 
query. 

" So I've found something to interest you 
at last!" said Miss Mellruish, in naive tri- 
umph. "Yes — burglars! But don't speak 
so loud! It's supposed to be kept a great 
secret. I really oughtn't to tell you at all! " 

" But what is there to tell? " I whispered 
with satisfactory impatience. 

"You promise not to speak of it?" 

"Of course!" 

" Well, then, there are burglars in the 
neighbourhood." 

" Have they committed any robberies? " 

" Not yet." 

" Then how do you know? ** 

Q2 



Gentlemen and l^layers 

" They've been seen. In the district. Two 
well-known London thieves ! " 

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 glass. 

"Who has seen them?" I then asked 
calmly. 

" A detective. They were traced down 
from town a few days ago. They are be- 
lieved 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 war- 
rant out against the men at present, and 
all that can be done is to watch their move- 
ments." 

" Oh! so they are being watched?" 

" Yes, by a detective who is down here 
93 



The Amateur Cracksman 

on purpose. And I heard Lord Amersteth 
tell papa that they had been seen this after- 
noon 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 compan- 
ion might have to tell me; and I succeeded 
in looking her in the face with a smile. 

" This is really quite exciting, Miss Mel- 
huish," 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 
consuhed me. But for goodness' sake don't 
let it get about! I can't think zvhat 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 rec- 
tory. There's nothing for them there. But 
look round the table: look at the diamonds: 
look at old Lady Melrose's necklace 
alone!" 

94 



Gentlemen and Players 

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 dissi- 
pated 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. Raf- 
fles, you knov>-); and the old dear zmll 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 
95 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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. 1 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, whd 
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 un- 
able to determine. I remember, however, 
96 



Gentlemen and Players 

seeking distraction in little bursts of reso- 
lute 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 
towa There's a detective here on the 
spotl" 

"How do you know?" asked RafHes, 
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 afternoon." 

" 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 wasl " 

" The Scotch photographer ^* 

I paused aghast. 

97 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" Scotch he is," said Raffles, " and pho- 
tographer he may be. He is also Inspector 
Mackenzie of Scotland Yard — the very man 
I sent the message to that night last April. 
x\nd you couldn't spot who he was in a 
whole hour! O Bunny, Bunny, you were 
never built for crime! " 

" But," said I, " if that was Mackenzie, 
who was the fellow you bolted from at War- 
beck?" 

" The man he's watching." 

" But he's watching us! " 

Raffles looked at rrie with a pitying eye, 
and shook his head again before handing 
me his open cigarette-case. 

" I don't know whether smoking's for- 
bidden in one's bedroom, but you'd better 
take one of these and stand tight, Bunny, 
because I'm going to say something ofifen- 
sive." 

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 sup^ 
98 



Gentlemen and Players 

pose for a moment that it was! Do you 
seriously think he would sit there and know- 
ingly watch his man playing pool under 
his nose? Well, he might; he's a cool hand, 
INIackenzie; 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 think- 
ing 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 Lon- 
don, 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/* 
99 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" 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 ofifend 
them, but more particularly from the ser- 
vants 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 
events." 

" 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 



Gentlemen and Players 

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 some- 
thing like a match. Gentlemen and Play- 
ers 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 
nev/ audacity. He kicked off his shoes and 
began pacing his room with noiseless rapid- 
ity; not since the night of the Old Bohe- 
mian dinner to Reuben Rosenthall had Raf- 
fles exhibited such excitement in my pres- 
ence; 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 
loi 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 Mackenzie's 
mouth ! " 

My wealth of metaphor brought him to 
a standstill, with his cigarette between his 
fingers and a grin beneath his shining eyes. 

" You're quite right. Bunny. I won't. I 
really won't. Yet — you saw old Lady Mel- 
rose's necklace? I've been wanting it for 
years! But I'm not going to play the fool; 
honour 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 jeal= 
ous; it shall be as you wish." 

And with that assurance I went ofif to 

I02 



Gentlemen and Players 

my own room, and so to bed with an m- 
credibly light heart. I had still enough cf 
the honest man in me to welcome the post- 
ponement of our actual felonies, to dread 
their performance, to deplore their neces- 
sity : which is merely another way of stating 
the too patent fact that I was an incom- 
parably 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 mo- 
ment, 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 time. 
It is true that there were other factors 
in this pleasing disappointment. In the 
first place, mirabUc dictii, there were one or 
two even greater dufifers than I on the Ab- 
bey cricket field. Indeed, quite early in 
the week, when it was of most value to me, 
I gained considerable kudos for a lucky 



The Amateur Cracksman 

catch; a ball, of which I had merely heard 
the hum, stuck fast in my hand, which Lord 
Amersteth himself grasped in public con- 
gratulation. This happy accident was not 
to be undone even by me, and, as nothing 
succeeds like success, and the constant en- 
couragement 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 honour 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 de- 
veloped 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 Scot- 
land Yard. 
The week was to end with a trumpery 
104 



Gentlemen and Players 

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 Milchester Abbey. 

Let me tell of the thing as I saw and 
heard it. My room opened upon the cen- 
tral 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 
neighbours were old Lady Melrose and my 
host and hostess. Now, by the Friday even- 
ing 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 w^as no reply, 
105 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 stagger- 
ing in a silent tussle with some powerful 
adversary. 

"Hold this man!" he cried, as I ap- 
peared. " 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 
his hold. 

" 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 strug- 
gling; but I was still holding him when 
Crowley turned up the gas. 

"What the devil's all this?" asked Lord 
io6 



Gentlemen and Players 

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 caught? " 

I had no idea. 

" Here's Lady Melrose's door open," said 
Crowley. " Lady Melrose ! Lady Melrose ! " 

" You forget she's deaf," said Lord Amer- 
steth. "Ah! that'll be her maid." 

An inner door had opened; next instant 
there was a little shriek, and a white figure 
gesticulated on the threshold. 

" Ou done est I'ecrin de Madame la Mar- 
quise? La fenetre est ouverte. II a dis- 
paru ! " 

" Window open and jewel-case gone, by 
Jove! " exclaimed Lord Amersteth. " Mais 
comment est Madame la Marquise? Est- 
elle bien?" 

" Oui, milor. Elle dort." 

" Sleeps through it all," said my lord. 
" She's the only one, then! " 

" What made IMackenzie — Clephane— 
bolt?" young Crowley asked me, 
107 



The Amateur Cracksman 

** Said there were more of them below." 

" Why the devil couldn't you tell us so 
before?" he cried, and went leaping down- 
stairs in his turn. 

He was followed by nearly all the cricket- 
ers, who now burst upon the scene in a 
body, only to desert it for the chase. Ralifles 
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 desper- 
ately, 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 ap- 
peared 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 
1 08 



Gentlemen and Players 

feet, how the wet grass numbed them as 
we made for the sound of voices on an out- 
lying 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 dew. 

"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 some- 
where." 

"Is he alive?" 

" Barely." 

"Good God! Where's Crowley? " 

" Here I am," called a breathless voice, 
" It's no good, you fellows. There's noth- 
ing 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 to- 
gether, now; that's the way. Poor fellow 1 
109 



The Amateur Cracksman 

Poor fellow! His name isn't Clephane at 
all. He's a Scotland Yard detective, down 
here for these very villains! " 

Rafifles 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 
w^ords. 

" Yes, yes," said he ; " we've got one of 
them safe and sound. The brute you col- 
lared 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 of? again." 

An hour passed : the sun was rising. 

It found a dozen young fellows on the 
settees in the billiard-room, drinking 
whisky and soda-water in their overcoats 
no 



Gentlemen and Players 

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 suffoca- 
tion. 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. 
Raffies 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 tyres 
and a tinkling bell. 

" Well, Bunny," said Raffles, " so the pro- 
fessors have it, eh?" 

" Yes," said I. " And I'm jolly glad! " 

" That poor Mackenzie has a ball in his 
chest? " 

III 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" That you and I have been on the de- 
cent 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 prob- 
ably 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 particu- 
lar, 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 

112 







/' 




I saw them from mv own window. 



Gentlemen and Players 

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 disc 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 w'ent downstairs and 
straight into Lady Melrose's room " 

"You did?" 

" 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." 

"Well?" 

Hi 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" 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 in- 
stant on the bunch of diamonds and of sap- 
phires that I had last seen encircling the 
neck of Lady Melrose. 



aSs 



LE PREMIER PAS 

•yHAT night he told me the story of his 
earhest 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 sub- 
ject. It was not for want of trying; he 
would shake his head, and watch his cigar- 
ette 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 
Vvould 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 egoistic and infectious trans- 
ports. 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 
OS 



The Amateur Cracksman 

story lip long before the night of our return 
from Milchester. Cricket, however, was in 
the air, and Raffles's cricket-bag back where 
ne 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 for myself." 

" 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 unpre- 
meditated 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 poor compliment ! " 

" Then you must be a fool " 

He broke off, stared hard at me, and in 
a trice stood smiling in his own despite. 
ii6 



Le Premier Pas 

*' 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 my- 
self ; 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 whisky 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 
summer night. 

"... No, they do you very well, in- 
deed. You pay for nothing but drinks, so 
to speak, but I'm afraid mine were of a com- 
prehensive character. I had started in a 
117 



The Amateur Cracksman 

hole, I ought really to have refused the 
invitation; then we all went to the Mel- 
bourne 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 Avas 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 suc- 
ceeded (or thought I had) at the very mo- 
ment 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 hap- 
pened to ask me if I was any relation of 
ii8 



Le Premier Pas 

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 con- 
nection with a small sensation at the suburb- 
an branch which my namesake managed ; an 
armed robber had been rather pluckily beat- 
en 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 rela- 
tive I was looking for, if he would be good 
enough to give me the name of that branch. 
" ' ril 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 



The Amateur Cracksman 

moved him up one already.' And the next 
day he brought me the name of the township 
of Yea, some fifty miles north of Mel- 
bourne; but, with the vagueness which 
characterised 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 hell 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 
til at 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?* 
120 



Le Premier Pas 

" ' You can and you can't. You would 
still have to ride. I suppose you're a horse- 
man? ' 

" ' Yes.' 

'"Then I should certainly ride all the 
way. It's a delightful road, through Whit- 
tlesea 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 sup- 
ply of this city, sir. You'll see where every 
drop of it comes from, the pure Yan Yean 1 
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 compli- 
ment, or a finer instance of even Colonial 
hospitality, I can only say, Bunny, that I 
never heard of either." 

121 



The Amateur Cracksman 

He sipped his whisky, threw away tlie 
stump of his cigarette, and lit another be- 
fore continuing. 

" Well, I managed to write a line to W. 
F. W'ith 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, espe- 
cially after passing the place called Whit- 
tlesea, a real wild township on the lower 
slope of the ranges, where I recollect hav- 
ing 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 Whit* 



Le Premier Pas 

tlesea 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 colour was inches thick: gum- 
trees galore and parrots all colours 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, with- 
out 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 \Y. 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. 
123 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" ' 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 
124 



Le Premier Pas 

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 fel- 
low in a white suit ran down from a veran- 
dah. 

"'Mr. Raffles?' said he. 

" ' Mr. Raffles ! ' said I, laughing as I 
shook his hand. 

" ' You're late.' 

" ' 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 til 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 un- 
strapped my valise, and handed my reins to 
his man. * It's lucky you're a bachelor like 
myself.' 

!25 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" 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! 

126 



Le Premier Pas 

" 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 bad the 
good taste to leave me by myself. 

"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-pur- 
poses ; 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 your- 
self, 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 with the bloody saddle — 
127 



The Amateur Cracksman 

the deliberate misdirection that had put me 
off the track and out of the way — and now 
the missing manager and the report of bush- 
rangers 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 describe as absolute. 

" Money I would have — but how — but 
how ? Would this stranger be open to per- 
suasion — 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 in- 
tention in my head, or one premeditated lie 
upon my lips. I might do the decent nat- 
128 



Le Premier Pas 

ural 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 
w-as 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 po- 
sition was taken ; from that moment onward 
there was no retreat. By implication, with- 
out realising what I was doing, I had al- 
ready 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 gaslight as he handed it to me. 

T20 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 per- 
sonation 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 Mel- 
bourne to see us play; and the man who 
130 



Le Premier Fas 

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 care- 
ful enough to conceal their drift. 

" * Do you know,' said this fellow Ew- 
bank, 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's not a pleasant 
thing to have to put a bullet through a fel- 
low!' 

" ' 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 ! 
131 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" 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 chance. 

" * 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 look. 
. " * 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 
132 



Le Premier Pas 

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 visi- 
ble 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 
know ! ' 

" * 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 
^33 



The Amateur Cracksmar, 

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, how- 
ever, become more and more genial as the 
evening advanced, and I had not much diffi- 
culty 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 
134 



Le Premier Pas 

the business premises before I shook hands 
with Ewbank in my room. 

" You won't guess what I did with my- 
self 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* to- 
wards 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 rfot 
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 
135 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 tlie 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 
136 



Le Premier Pas 

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 in- 
valuable 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 sec- 
onds, 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 stroir.g-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 slight- 
est reason to anticipate disturbance from 
137 



The Amateur Cracksman 

that quarter. I did think of locking myseli 
in while I was at work, but, thank good- 
ness, 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 cau- 
tion 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 Ew- 
bank upstairs, open the door myself, 
138 



Le Premier Pas 

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 doc- 
tor'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 st^ne, I tumbled 
down it wuth 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 suppli- 
cation of a spent man. What I did hear, 
plainly, was the cocking of the bank revol- 
ver before the bolts were shot back. Then, 
a tottering step, a hard, short, shallow 
139 



The Amateur Cracksman 

breathing, and Evvbank's voice in hor- 
ror — 

" ' My God ! Good Lord ! What's hap- 
pened to you ? You're bleeding Hke a pig ! ' 

" ' Not now/ came with a grateful sort 
of sigh. 

" ' But you have been ! What's done it ? ' 

" * Bushrangers.' 

"'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 . . / 

'"Don't talk!' 

" * 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 
140 



Le Premier Pas 

should come through. You must let me 
tell you — in case I don't ! ' 

" ' Well, have another sip.' 

" * Thank you ... I said bushran- 
gers ; 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 again. 

" ' 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 ? ' 

" ' This evening.' 

"'Call himself Raffles?' 

" ' Yes.' 

141 



The Amateur Cracksman 

"'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 impostor — if he's up- 
stairs still ! He must be one of the gang. 
He's going to rob the bank — if he hasn't 
done so already ! ' 

" ' 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, Bun- 
ny, 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 ca- 
reer, 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 
T42 



Le Premier Pas 

whether it would creak or not. The light 
was coming nearer — and I didn't know ! 1 
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'd 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 that door ! 

" ' No, he's not down thcrcj 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 
M3 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 
neighbours, 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 
144 



Le Premier Pas 

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 wnth your face in the mane! I 
told you about the forest of dead gums ? It 
looked perfectly ghostly ia 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 diffi- 
culty 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." 
MS 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" But I don't know myself," I com- 
plained. " 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 tre- 
mendously tickled to hear 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 
colour was a coincidence — luckily she was 
only a bay — and I fancy the condition of the 
beast must have told a tale. The doctor's 
manner was certainly different. I'm in- 
clined to think he suspected something, 
though not the right thing. I wasn't ex- 
pecting him, and I fear my appearance may 
have increased his suspicions." 

I asked him why. 

" I used to have rather a heavy mous- 
tache," said Raffles, "but I lost it the day 
after I lost my innocence." 
146 



WILFUL MURDER 

/^F 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 de- 
tails which even I would hesitate to re- 
count; it is, rather, the very absence of un- 
toward incident which renders them useless 
for my present purpose. In point of fact 
our plans were so craftily laid (by Raf- 
fles) that the chances of a hitch were invari- 
ably 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 con- 
fronted by unforeseen impediments, or in- 
volved 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 
147 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 ofif as usual to dis- 
pose of the plunder. Rafifles 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 dis- 
guise of the flashy-seedy order, and always 
in the Cockney dialect of which he had 
made himself a master. Moreover, he in- 
variably 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 Rafifles 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 
148 



Wilful Murder 

pounds, on the terms you would expect, 
from a soft-spoken greybeard with an in- 
gratiating 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 cir- 
cumstance which appealed to us both. 

But these same final spoils I was still to 
see, and I waited and waited with an im- 
patience that grew upon me with the grow- 
ing dusk. At my open window I had played 
Sister Ann until the faces in the street be- 
low 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 un- 
til a well-known tattoo followed on my 
door. 

" In the dark! " said Rafifles as I dragged 
him in. " Why, Bunny, what's wrong? " 

" Nothing — now you've come," said I, 
shutting the door behind him in a fever of 
rehef and anxiety. "Well? Well? What 
did they fetch?" 

149 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" Five hundred." 

" Down? " 

" Got it in my pocket." 

" Good man! " I cried. " You don't knov^r 
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 1 " 

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 whisky and squirt the 
soda-water all over in my anxiety to do in- 
stant justice to the occasion. 

" So you thought something had hap- 
pened?" said Raffles, leaning back in my 
chair as he lit a cigarette, and looking much 
amused. " What should you say if some- 
thing 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." 
150 



Wilful Murder 

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?" 
" It was." 

" Then how came he to chase you? " 
" My dear fellow, I'll tell >ou 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 burrow." 

" And you call that nothing! " 
" It would be something if he had suc- 
ceeded; but he has still to do that. I ad- 
mit, 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 morn- 
ing paper. He hiciv it must have been 
done by some fellow who could pass him- 
self off for a gentleman, and I saw his eye- 
151 



The Amateur Cracksman 

brows 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 plain- 
ly that I had given myself away. He gave 
up haggling. He paid my price as though 
he enjoyed doing it. But I -felt him follow- 
ing me when I made tracks; though, of 
course, I didn't turn round to see." 

"Why not?" 

" My dear Bunny, it's the very worst 
thing you can do. As long as you look un- 
suspecting 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 leav- 
ing 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 
152 



Wilful Murder 

afternoon, hearing nothing in the least sus= 
picious, and only wishing I had a window 
to look through instead of that beastly sky- 
light. 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 our hats. 
153 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" Certain enough ; but we can make as- 
surance doubly sure," said Raffles, and went 
to my window, where he stood for a minute 
or two looking down into the street. 

"All right?" I asked him. 

" All right," said he; and we went down- 
stairs forthwith, and so to the Albany arm- 
in-arm. 

But we were both rather silent on the 
way. I, for my part, was wondering what 
Raffles would do about the studio in Chel- 
sea, whither, at all events, he had been suc- 
cessfully 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 acquaint- 
ance 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 
154 



Wilful Murder 

old Baird who's said to have skinned him. 
By God, but I'd like to skin old Baird! " 

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 look- 
ing 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 Rafifles, 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 fel- 
low who does things by halves; he's only 
half gone to the bad; and look at the differ- 
ence between him and us! He's under the 
thumb of a villainous money-lender; we are 
IKK 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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. Eniin, 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." 

"Rot!" 

"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 him- 
self. 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 
156 



Wilful Murder 

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 fourteen years." 

" Good old Raffles! " I chuckled. " I be- 
gin to forgive you for being in bad form at 
dinner." 

" But I was never more earnest in my 
life." 

"Goon!" 

" 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, 
157 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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. 

" Of course." 

" But you said it didn't matter about the 
room in Chelsea? " 

" I told a lie." 

" Anyway you gave him the slip after- 
wards 1 " 

" 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 pave- 
ment 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 
158 



Wilful Murder 

with me, he sha'n't live to, and the world 
will have an extortioner the less. Waiter! 
Two Scotch whiskies and sodas. I'm off at 
eleven, Bunny; it's the only thing to be 
done." f "^ ' ^ .'I^lCZTjoJ^aMj.*-,^ 

" 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 abont 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 luck." 

" I'm coming too." 

" I don't want you." 

" But I must come! " 
159 



The Amateur Cracksman 

An ugly gleam shot from the steel-blue 
eyes. 

" To interfere? " said Raffles. 

" Not I." 

"You give me your word?" 

" I do." 

" 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 An- 
gus 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 
1 60 



Wilful Murder 

still my honest regolve. 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 w'ith 
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 II.2I, 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. 
i6i 



The Amateur Cracksman 

"Then you mean to break in?" 

" What else did you think? " 

I had not thought about it at all; the ulti- 
mate crime had monopolised my mind. Be- 
side it burglary was a bagatelle, but one to 
deprecate none the less. I saw obvious ob- 
jections: the man was an fait with cracks- 
men and their ways: he would certainly 
have firearms, and might be the first to use 
them. 

" I could wish nothing better," said Raf- 
fles. " Then it will be man to man, and 
devil take the worst shot. You don't sup- 
pose 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 sta}- where you are, my good fel- 
lov>-. 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 
162 



Wilful Murder 

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?" 

"Rather!" 

"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 
corks." 

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 
163 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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." 

"Why?" 

" I saw a light." 

" Where? " 

" Downstairs, for an instant, when I " 

His whisper died away; he had seen the 
light again; and so had I. 

It lay hke 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 wait- 
ing 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 
164 



Wilful Murder 

gravel stuck to our wet soles, and grated 
horribly in a little tiled verandah 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 instinc- 
tively 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 gent- 
ly 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 bot- 
tom of the door; it proved to be the only 
one, and the door opened, though not very 
wide. 

"What's that?" said Raffles, as some- 
thing crunched beneath his feet on the very 
threshold. 

" A pair of spectacles," I whispered, pick- 
165 



The Amateur Cracksman 

ing 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 re- 
strain. 

"Hush, man, hush!" I entreated under 
my breath. " He'll hear you! " 

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 grey 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 hun- 
dred 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 nos- 
trils; he made no other sign, and his lips 
seemed sealed. 

166 



Wilful Murder 

" That light! " said I, hoarsely; " the light 
we saw under the door! " 

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, im- 
ploring him to reflect — that his enemy was 
dead now — that we should certainly be in- 
volved — that now or never was our own 
time to escape. He shook me ofif in a sud- 
den 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 de- 
167 



The Amateur Cracksman 

fiance 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 Raf- 
fles on the landing. 

But three doors presented themselves; 
the first opened into a bedroom with the 
bed turned down but undisturbed; the sec- 
ond room was empty in every sense; the 
third door was locked. 

Raffles lit the landing gas. 

" He's in there," said he, cocking his re- 
volver. " 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 win- 
dow — a cowering figure — and Raffies struck 
aghast on the threshold. 

" Jack—Ruitcrf " 

The words came thick and slow with hor- 
ror, and in horror I heard myself repeating 
r68 



Wilful Murder 

them, while the cowering figure by the 
bath-room window rose gradually erect. 

" It's you ! " he whispered, in amazement 
no Jess 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, Rut- 
ter!" 

" Done? What have I done?" The un- 
happy 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 
169 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 inter- 
view 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, 
vvhen 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? ' 

I70 



Wilful Murder 

" 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 in- 
iquitous 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 
171 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 Rafifles, speaking 
after a pause; " we sha'n't let you give your- 
self 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 per- 
ception of his position had come with the 
bare idea of escape from it. 
172 



Wilful Murder 

" But listen to me," urged Raffles; '' we're 
here at our peril ourselves. We broke in 
like thieves to enforce redress for a griev- 
ance 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? " 

" I do." 

" But I don't want to get of? scot-free," 
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 hps 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 
173 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 smoth- 
ered 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 care- 
fully 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 es- 
cape. 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 



Wilful Murder 

three of us. Not a soul did we meet be- 
tween 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 condi- 
tion, when the evening papers apprised the 
town of a terrible tragedy at Kensal Rise? 

We walked to Mai da 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 Liver- 
pool 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 situa- 
tion as I should have endeavoured to do 
in his place; and it's just as well! I went 



The Amateur Cracksman 

to his diggings to destroy some papers, and 
what do you think I found? The poHce 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 ever served! " 

Nor, after all these years, can I think it 
will be mine. 



T7<> 



NINE POINTS OF THE LAW. 

^' \1/ELL," said Raffles, "what do you 
make of it? " 
I read the advertisement once more be- 
fore replying. It was in the last column 
of the Daily Telegraph, and it ran : — 

JWO THOUSAND POUNDS REWARD.— 
The above sum may be earned by any one 
qualified to undertake delicate mission and pre- 
pared to run certain risk.— Apply by telegram, 
Security, London. 

" I think," said I, " it's the most extraor- 
dinary advertisement that ever got into 
print!" 

Raffles smiled. 

" Not quite all that, Bunny; still, extraor- 
dinary enough, I grant you." 

" 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 



The Amateur Cracksman 

is requiring applications by telegram to a 
telegraphic address! There's something in 
the fellow who thought of that, and some- 
thing in his game; with one word he chokes 
off the million who answer an advertise- 
ment every day — when they can raise the 
stamp. My answer cost me five bob; but 
then I prepaid another." 

" You don't mean to say that you've ap- 
pHed?" 

" Rather," said Raffles. " I want two 
thousand pounds as much as any man." 

" Put your own name? " 

" Well — no, Bunny, I didn't. In point of 
fact I smell something interesting and il- 
legal, 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. 
178 



Nine Points of the Law 

* What do you think? " said he. " Se- 
curity's that fellow Addenbrooke, the 
pohce-court lawyer, and he wants to see me 
iusianter! " 

" 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 won- 
dered 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 ad- 
vertisement like that, and the one man who 
could do it W'ithout 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 luncli," 
179 



The Amateur Cracksman 

*■ 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 sub- 
stantial ofifices 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-coloured, 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 law- 
yer. 

" My name," said Rafifles, with dry ef- 
frontery. 

" 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 
mistake! " 

For a single moment RafHes looked ven- 
omous; 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 
1 80 



Nine Points of the Law 

there's anything to explain. I am harder 
up than I wished to admit under my own 
name, that's ah, and I want that thousand 
pounds reward." 

" Two thousand," said the soHcitor. 
" And the man who is not above an ahas 
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 risk? " 

" A certain risk is involved." 

" Then surely three heads will be better 
than two. I said I w^anted 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. Alust 
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. 

i8i 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" The fact is, I find myself in a difficulty," 
he confessed at last. " Yours is the first re- 
ply 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. Can- 
didly, 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 the — er — adventurous 
classes." 

" 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, 
182 



Nine Points of the Law 

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 con- 
sent to run the risk. My client is Sir Ber- 
nard 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 di- 
rection. Bennett Addenbrooke turned to 
me. 

" Then," said he, " you have the privi- 
lege of knowing one of the most complete 
young blackguards 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 store- 
house of treasures which no eyes but his 
ever behold. He is said to have the finest 
collection of pictures in the south of Eng- 
land, though nobody ever sees them to 
judge; pictures, fiddles and furniture are 
his hobby, and he is undoubtedly very ec- 
centric. Nor can one deny that there has 
been considerable eccentricity in his treat- 
183 



The Amateur Cracksman 

ment of his son. For years Sir Bernard 
paid his debts, and the other day, without 
the sHghtest 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 ofif all 
right, and Sir Bernard paid me handsomely 
on the nail. And no m.ore 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 tele- 
gram 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 pic- 
ture-gallery, Avhich was locked and dark- 
ened, 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 
184 



Nine Points of the Law 

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 por- 
trait of the Infanta Alaria Teresa, said to ]>_ 
one of the artist's greatest works, second 
only to another portrait of one of the Pope^ 
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 Rafifles. 

I inquired who had bought it. 

" A Queensland legislator of the name of 
Craggs — the Hon. John IMontagu 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 him- 
self in this way; he had threatened revenge, 
and this was it. Indeed, when I hunted him 
up in town on the Tuesday night, he con- 
185 



\ 
The Amateur Cracksman 

fessed 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! Back- 
wards and forwards between Esher and the 
Metropole, where the Queenslander is stay- 
ing, sometimes twice a day; threats, offers, 
prayers, entreaties, not one of them a bit of 
good!" 

" But," said Raffles, " surely it's a clear 
case? The sale was illegal; you can pey 
him back his money and force him to give 
the picture up." 

" Exactly; but not without an action and 
a public scandal, and that my client de- 
clines 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 cheque if asked. He offered 
one to the Queenslander, but Craggs sim- 
i86 



Nine Points of the Law 

ply 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 v,-ish us to steal this picture? " 

It was magnificently said; the lawyer 
flushed from his hair to his collar. 

"I knew you were not the men!" he 
groaned. " I never thought of m.en 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 loth 
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," mur- 
mured 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 
187 



The Amateur Cracksman 

means to ns. 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 man." 

Addenbrooke wavered. 

" 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, growing firm. 

" Then it's more than you can expect us 
to risk." 

" You are in earnest? " 

"God wot!" 

" Say three thousand if you succeed! " 

" Four is our figure, Mr. Addenbrooke." 

" Then I think it should be nothing if 
you fail." 

188 



Nine Points of the Law 

"Doubles or quits?" cried Raffles. 
'^ Well, that's sporting. Done!" 

Addenbrooke opened his lips, half rose, 
then sat back in his chair, and looked long 
ana shrewdly at Raffles — never once at me, 

" I know your bowHng," said he reflec- 
tively. " 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 Play- 
ers; 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 in- 
sisted on playing host at an extravagant 
luncheon. I remember that he took his 
whack of champagne with the nervous free- 
dom of a man at high pressure, and have 
no doubt I kept him in countenance by an 
equal indulgence; but Raffles, ever an ex- 
emplar in such matters, was more abstemi- 
ous even than his wont, and very poor com< 
189 



The Amateur Cracksman 

pany to boot. I can see him now, his eyes 
in his plate — thinking — thinking. I can see 
the sohcitor 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 preoccupa- 
tion, called for an A.B.C. time-table, and an- 
nounced his intention of catching the 3.2 
to Esher. 

" You must excuse me, Mr. Adden- 
brooke," 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 
190 




Raffles announced his intention of catching the 3.2 to Esher. 



Nine Points of the Law 

man of my acquaintance had half his au- 
dacity 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 law- 
yer 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 clear, Raffles." 

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 fol- 
lowing 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 

lOI 



The Amateur Cracksman 

without a word to the man. I met him 
next minute at the Hft 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 chair. 

"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 com-- 
192 



I 



Nine Points of the Law 

pare it with the original. So down I vrenl 
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 cele 
brated Infanta Maria Teresa of Velasquez, 
that I'd been down to the supposed owner 
of the picture, only to find that he had just 
1 93 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 Deben- 
ham 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 Mas- 
ter, 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 Metropole to-night! " 

" I? " 

" Yes; don't look so scared. Both of us 
Tg4 



Nine Points of the Law 

are invited — I swore you were dining with' 
me. I accepted for us both; but I sha'n't 
be there." 

^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 bed- 
room. 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?" 

" I am." 

"If he hears you!" 

" He sha'n't." 

"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! " 
195 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" Two thousand apiece," said Raffles, 
quietly. 

" Upon my soul I believe I shall give it 
avi-ay ! " 

" 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 tele- 
gram 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 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 
196 



Nine Points of the Law 

coached up yet! I know I shall make a 
mess of it! " 

" Not you," he said again, " but / 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 w^here 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 vil- 
lain." I practised that smile half the after- 
noon. I rehearsed putative parts in hypo- 
thetical conversations. I got up stories. 1 
dipped in a book on Queensland at the club. 
And at last it was 7.45, and I was making 
197 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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, tell- 
ing 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 to me. 

"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 verac- 
ity. 

"Thought you were bosom pals?" said 
he, with (as I imagined) a gleam of sus- 
picion in his crafty little eyes. 
198 



Nine Points of the Law 

" 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 Fd 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 Rafifles — 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 the bucket," 

I connect these specimens of his conver- 
sation, 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 th.ey 
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 
199 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 

\ behaviour 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 
200 



Nine Points of the Law 

rushed to his bedroom without a word. I 
sat Hke stone till he returned. 

"Thought I heard a door go," he said. 
'• Must have been mistaken . . . im- 
agination . . . 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 mak- 
ing 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 

201 



The Amateur Cracksman 

much weariness; suffice it that it ended in- 
evitably 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 in- 
nocent 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! 

202 



Nine Points of the Law 

"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 
v/hen he sees it; won't go bragging about 
his pictures much more. Why, this one's 
worth all the pictures in Colony o' Queens- 
land put together. Worth fifty thousand 
pounds, my boy — and I got it for five! " 

He dug me in the ribs, and seemed in the 
mood for further confidences. My appear- 
ance 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 hope!" 

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 
203 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 legiti- 
mate 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. Whisky 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 thres- 
hold, 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. 

204 



Nine Points of the Law 

Craggs never moved; he was stretched on 
the sofa fast asleep. But not fast enough 
for me. I saturate'd my handkerchief with 
the chloroform I had brought, and I 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 Inver- 
ness cape. I took some whisky 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 Water- 
loo reeled out behind. 

Some men were returning from the thea* 
tre. 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 oi 
them hummed a stave, and there was an 
205 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 Raf- 
fles had failed! Of all our adventures this 
was the first in which I had played a com- 
manding part; and, of them all, this w-as 
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 de- 
light. He would think a little more of me 
in future. And that future, it should be 
dififerent. We had two thousand pounds 
apiece — surely enough to start afresh as 
honest men — and all through me! i 

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 storey still lit 
up, and saw the front door open as I climbed 
the steps. 

" Thought it was you," said Raffles cheer- 
206 



Nine Points of the Law 

ily. " It's all right. There's a bed for you. 
Sir Bernard's sitting up to shake your 
hand." 

- 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!" 

"Whatr" 

" The picture. He showed it me. You 
had to go without it; I saw that. So I de- 
termined 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, 
(loesn't she?" said Raffles. 

His tone was strange. I could only sup- 
pose that he was jealous of my success. 
207 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" 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 im- 
posed upon Craggs, and might have made 
him happy for life. And you go and rob 
him. of that! " 

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 Ber- 
nard 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 an- 
other time Rafifles might tell me what he 
meant to do. 

208 



Nine Points of the Law 

"Another time!" he cried instantly. 
" My dear Bunny, you speak as though 
we were going to turn burglars for a Hv- 
ing!" 

" I trust you won't," said Sir Bernard, 
smiHng, " 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 cheque 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 

2Ct) 



The Amateur Cracksman 

cried. " I hate the whole thing! I'm go- 
ing to chuck it up! " 

"So am I," said Raffles, "when I've 
made my pile." 



aio 



THE RETURN MATCH 

I HAD turned into Piccadilly, one thick 
evening in the following l\ovcmber, 
when my guilty heart stood still at the sud- 
den 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 look- 
ing for you at the club." 

" I was just on my way there," I re- 
turned, w^th an attempt to hide my tremors. 
It w^as 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 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 serv- 
ice 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 

212 



The Return Match 

night! Well, it isn't that, Bunny; so get 
into that chair, and take one of these SuUi- 
vans and sit tight." 

He held the match to my cigarette; he 
brought me a whisky 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 did. 

" 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. Wellv 
the Gentlemen scored pretty freely, but the 
Players were all caught." 

" Poor devils ! " 

" Don't be too sure. You remember the 
fellow we saw in the inn ? The florid, over- 
213 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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." 

"Well dene!" 

Raffles smiled, but his eyebrows had gone 
up, and his shoulders followed suit. 

" 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 honour 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 papers." 

He unfolded a Pall Mall, which he had 
'brought in with him. 

" But listen to this ; here's an account of 
214 



The Return Match 

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 out- 
rage 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 Craw- 
shay 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 art- 
ist, 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 tel- 
egram doesn't say so, but it's obvious; he's 
simply knocked some other fellow out, 
215 



The Amateur Cracksman 

changed clothes again, and come on gaily 
to town. Isn't it great? I do believe it's 
the best thing of the kind that's ever been 
done!" 

" 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 im- 
personal joy over the exploit of a fellow- 
criminal. He looked over his shoulder to- 
wards 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 surprise. 

" 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 Bun- 
ny, with eyes in his head and brains behind 
them, he couldn't help suspecting. He saw 
216 



The Return Match 

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 
thd. cricket-field. As a matter of fact, I 
know he did, for he wrote and told me so 
before his trial." 

" He wrote to you ! And you never told 
me!" 

The old shrug answered the old griev- 
ance. 

" What was the good, my dear fellow ? 
It would only have worried you." 

"Well, what did he say?" 

" That he was sorry he had been run in 
before getting back to town, as he had pro- 
posed doing himself the honour 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 neck- 
lace 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 pro- 
posals for the far future, which I fear may 
be the very near future indeed! I'm only 
surprised he hasn't turned up yet." 
217 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 coun- 
try 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 
218 



The Return Match 

eye^ 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 disc of short 
red hair. 

Brief as was my survey of this astound- 
ing 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. Regi- 
nald 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! '* 

2IQ 



The Amateur Cracksman 

So cold was the stare which met this out- 
burst that I became ashamed of my words 
while they were yet upon my lips. 

"Really, Bunny!" said Raffles, and 
turned his shoulder with a shrug. 

" Lord love yer," cried Crawshay, " 'e 
knew nothin'. '£ 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 hand. 

"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 whisky and soda? " inquired 
220 



The Return Match 

Raffles, when the convict was in the chair 
from which I had leapt. 

" No, I drink it neat," repHed Crawshay, 
" blit 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 3'ou'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 uncurl- 
ing 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?" 

221 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" Wot's the use ? I can't teach yon 
nothin'. Besides, I want out. I want out 
of London, an' England, an' bloomin' 
Europe too. That's all I want of you, mis- 
ter. I don't arst how you go on the job. 
You know w'ere I come from, 'cos I 'card 
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 ]\Ir. Crawshay, and 
leaned back comfortably, and began twirl- 
ing his stubby thumbs. 

Raffles turned to me with a twinkle in his 
eye; but his forehead was scored with 
thought, and resolve mingled with resigna- 
tion 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 gafif ' 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, 

232 



The Return Match 

I would do the same in his place. We had 
the bulge before ; he has it now ; it's perfect- 
ly 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 Craw- 
shay, 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." 

"And here?" 

" Not in this fog — not with any luck." 

Raffles went into the bedroom, lit the ga« 
there, and returned next minute. 

" So you got in by the window ? '* 

" That's about it." 

22.7. 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" It was devilish smart of you to know 
which one; it beats me how you brought it 
off in dayHght, 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 some- 
thing 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 sud- 
den 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 ; 
224 



The Return Match 

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 ! " 

225 



The Amateur Cracksman 

Crawsliay 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 get's 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 prov- 
inces; but if he's a pal of yours, Mr. 
Raffles, he'll be all right too. I only hope 
you gents ain't too stony " 

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 
226 



The Return Match 

put it on our fugitive was dozing in the 
chair ; we left him murmuring incoherently, 
with the gas out, and his bare feet toast- 
ing. 

""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 ever>'thing; to get out of Dartmoor 
and into the Albany in the same twenty- 
four hours is a whole that justifies its parts. 
Good Lord ! " 

We had passed a man in the foggy courts 
yard, and Raffles had nipped my arm. 

"Who was it?" 

" The last man we want to see ! I hope 
to heaven he didn't hear me ! " 

"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 
227 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 scrutin- 
ised 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 com- 
panion. " 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 Craw- 
shay? What do you think of that, eh?" 
228 



The Return Match 

" 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 an- 
other 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 Mac- 
kenzie, the detective. I've just been speak- 
ing to him. What's he here for? Come 
on, my good fellow ; we won't give you 
away, if you've instructions not to tell." 
229 



The Amateur Cracksman 

The man looked quaintly wistful, the 
temptation of an audience hot upon him; 
a door shut upstairs, arid be fell. 

" It's like this," he whispered. " This 
arfternoon 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 por- 
ter 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 run- 
ning out with a note, an' sends me with it 
230 



The Return Match 

to Scotland Yard in a hansom. An' thafs 
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 me ? " 

" 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 



The Amateur Cracksman 

a knot of officers stooping over the window- 
ledge with a constable's lantern. Macken- 
zie 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 tight. 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 ac- 
quaintance I do hope, my dear Mr. Macken- 
zie, 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. Consta- 
ble, 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 
232 



The Return Match 

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 Macken- 
zie. " He's concealed himself somewhere 
about these premises, or I'm vera much 
mistaken. D'ye reside in the Albany, Mr. 
Raffles?" 

" I do." 

" Will your rooms be near these?" 

" On the next staircase but one." 

" Ye'll just have left them?" 

" Just." 

" Been in all the afternoon, likely ? ** 

" Not all." 

" 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." 
233 



The Amateur Cracksman 

I caught my breath in mute amazement. 
What was the meaning of this insane prom- 
ise? 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 re- 
assured 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, especial- 
ly 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 landed alone ? " 

" 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 long enough." 
234 



The Return Match 

" And you're going now ? " 

" There's no time to lose. Stick to them, 
old chap ; don't let them suspect you, what- 
ever else you do." His hand lay an instant 
on my shoulder; then he left me at the 
window, and recrossed the room. 

" 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 ke}'' with the constable 
downstairs. Good luck, Mackenzie; only 
wish I could stay." 

" Goodbye, 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 leSvS 
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 Rafifles going to desert us all ? I 
235 



The Amateur Cracksman 

thought of many things — lastly of a cab. 
These bedroom windows looked into a nar- 
row 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 po- 
lice! I pictured Raffles driving that cab, 
unrecognisable 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 con- 
stable 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 mind." 

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 
236 



The Return Match 

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 Mac- 
kenzie's undisguised annoyance. 

" 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." 
237 



The Amateur Cracksman 

The question was repeated by Mackenzie ; 
a pause, then " Yes, it did." 

"Ask him how many windows along!" 
shouted the manager in high excitement. 

" Six, he says," said Mackenzie next 
minute; and he drew in his head and 
shoulders. " I should just like to see those 
rooms, six windows along." 

" Mr. Raffles's," 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 intona- 
tion, which even then I found time to dis- 
like; it was as though the coincidence had 
already struck the Scotchman as something 
more. 

" Where is Mr. Raffles ? " asked the man- 
ager, as we all filed downstairs. 

" He's gone out to his dinner," said Mac- 
kenzie. 

" 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 
238 



The Return Match 

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 Rafifles him- 
self! 

" Suicide," said Mackenzie calmly. " No 
— here's the poker — looks more like mur- 
der." 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 grey 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. 
239 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" I saw that long driving-coat ; of 
course, I thought he was inside it." 

" And I could ha' sworn it was the same 
gent when he give me the key ! " 

It was the disconsolate voice of the con- 
stable in the background; on him turned 
Llackenzie, 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? Craw- 
shay — 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 Macken- 
zie, 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 
240 



The Return Match 

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 seen, however. 

" 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 to- 
gether." 

" And now we sink or swim with Craw- 
shay, 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 professors 
again ! " 



241 



THE GIFT OF THE EMPEROR 



\17HEN 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 com- 
mon 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 unparal- 
leled, 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. 
242 



The Gift of the Emperor 

The incident would have been a godsend 
to the Press a few weeks later. Even in 
June there were leaders, letters, large head- 
lines, leaded type; the Daily Chronicle de- 
voting 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 cheque." 

" Oh, no, I sha'n't," said I gloomily. 
243 



The Amateur Cracksman 

*' I've got to be content with the honour of 
getting in; the editor wrote to say so, in 
so many words," I added. But I gave the 
gentleman his distinguished name. 

" You don't mean to say you've written 
for payment aheady?" 

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 con- 
cealment. I had written for my money be- 
cause 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 free lance of letters; 
for my part, I was afraid I wrote neither 
well enough nor ill enough for success. I 
suffered from a persistent ineffectual feel- 
ing 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 stoop. 

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, 

244 



The Gift of the Emperor 

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. 1 had my answer 
ready, but evidently he was tired of asking 
the same question. His Hds 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 crystallising your sub- 
ject and putting it in a nutshell. Certainly 
you've taught inc 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 forgetting! " 

And we said no more about the emperor's 
245 



The Amateur Cracksman 

gift; for pride thrives on an empty pocket, 
and no privation would have drawn from 
me the proposal which I had expected Raf- 
fles to make. My expectation had been 
half a hope, though I only knew it now. 
But neither did we touch again on what 
Rafifles 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 pre- 
occupied 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 goodbye. 

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 RafHes 
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 
246 



The Gift of the Emperor 

well, A. J., but you forget what I told you 
about my funds." 

" 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 Mediter- 
ranean." 

" 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- 
humoured 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 sub- 
let it, furnished, for the season. And the 
season was near its end, and creditors 
awaited me in town. Was it possible to be 
247 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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 noth- 
ing 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 Ncrth 
German Lloyd special," he wired, "9.25 
a.m. Monday next will meet you South- 
ampton aboard Uhlan with tickets am writ- 
ing." 

And write he did, a light-hearted letter 
enough, but full of serious solicitude for 
me and for my health and prospects; a let- 
ter 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 to- 
gether, " and for a while forget." It was a 
248 



The Gift of the Emperor 

charming letter. I had never seen Italy; 
the privilege of initiation should be his. No 
mistake was greater than to deem it an im- 
pos'sible 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 authori- 
ties there had resulted in a material reduc- 
tion in our fares. 

Imagine my excitement and delight! I 
managed to pay what I owed at Thames 
Dttton, to squeeze a small editor for a very 
small cheque, 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 voy- 
age. But my heart was as light as my 
purse on the Monday morning, the fairest 
249 



The Amateur Cracksman 

morning of an unfair summer, when the 
special whirled me through the sunshine to 
the sea. 

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 w^aved 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 in- 
quired my way in desperation, but where 
the sight of his own name on the baggage 
was certainly a further reassurance. Why 
250 



The Gift of the Emperor 

he himself kept in the background, however, 
I could not conceive, and only sinister rea- 
sons would suggest themselves in explana- 
tion. 

" 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 sky- 
light, and leaning over one of the offtcers' 
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 re- 
markable 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 well-feigned as- 
tonishment. 

" Why Bunny f " cried Rafifles. 

" 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, describ- 
251 



The Amateur Cracksman 

ing me as an old schoolfellow whom he had 
not seen for months, with wilful circum- 
stance and gratuitous detail that filled me 
at once with confusion, suspicion, and re- 
volt. I felt myself blushing for us both, 
and I did not care. My address utterly de- 
serted 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 act- 
ually put into my mouth, and that I doubt 
not with a thoroughly evil grace. 

" So you saw my name in the list of pas- 
sengers 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 
wheel-house, 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 
goodbyes; and as we bowed to Miss Werner 

2^2 



The Gift of the Emperor 

on the promenade deck, there came a deep, 
slow throbbing under-foot, and our voyage 
had begun. 

It did not begin pleasantly between Raf- 
fles and me. On deck he had overborne 
my stubborn perplexity by dint of a forced 
though forceful joviality; in his cabin the 
gloves were ofif. 

" You idiot," he snarled, " you've given 
me away again ! " 

" How have 1 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 know nothing about that on 
board ; besides, I hadn't decided when I 
took the tickets." 

" Then you should have let me knov/ 
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?" 



253 



The Amateur Cracksman 

I had turned the tables with some effect 
Raffles almost hung his head. 

" 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 pur- 
sued, " 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 virtu- 
ous as all that." 

Was it my imagination, or did Rafifles 
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? " 

" Say otherwise." 

" The charming Miss Werner? " 

" She is quite charming." 

" Most Australian girls are," said I. 
254 



The Gift of the Emperor 

" 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 Wer- 
ner 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?" 

RafHes treated me to the old cautious 
scrutiny that I knew so well; the very famil- 
iarity of it, after all these months, set me 
smiling in a way that might have reassured 
him; for dimly already I divined his enter- 
prise. 

" It won't send you ofif in the pilot's boat, 
Bunny? " 

255 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" Not quite." 

" Then — you remember the pearl you 
wrote the '' 

I did not wait for him to finish his sen- 
tence, 

" 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 w-e get to Naples." 

" Is it on board? " 

" Yes." 

" But how — where — who's got it? " 

" A little German officer, a w^hipper-snap- 
per with perpendicular moustaches." 

" 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! " 
256 



The Gift of the Emperor 

I burst out laughing. 

" You needn't be ashamed. You are do- 
ing the very thing I was rather hoping you 
were going to propose the other day on the 
river." 

" 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 with- 
out reserve; not brazenly, you understand; 
not even now with the gusto of a man who 
savours such an adventure for its own sake, 
but doggedly, defiantly, thro.ugh my teeth, 
as one wlio had tried to live honestly and 
<ailed. 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 rec- 
257 



The Amateur Cracksman 

ord 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 chequers; 
why not reconcile oneself 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 bet- 
ter for the shade. My conclusion he con- 
sidered 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 alone! " 
258 



The Gift of the Emperor 

" Then you don't still think it too remark- 
able 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 formidable cuss?" 

" 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 be- 
yond. 

" But is he the chap we have to deal with? 
Won't the pearl be in the purser's keep- 
ing?" 

Raffles stood at the door, frowning out 
upon the Solent, but for an instant he 
turned to me with a snifT. 

" 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 
259 



The Amateur Cracksman 

himself knows that von Heumann has it on 
him." 

"And he has?" 

" Must have." 

" Then we have only him to deal with? " 

He answered me without a word. Some- 
thing white was fluttering past once more, 
and Raffles, stepping forth, made the 
promenaders three. 



II 

I do not ask to set foot aboard a finer 
steamship than the Uhlan of the Nord- 
deutscher Lloyd, to meet a kindlier gentle- 
man than her then 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 w'as 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 
260 



The Gift of the Emperor 

ready to revel between bright skies and 
sparkling sea with the light-hearted detach- 
ment 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 Mediter- 
ranean. They w^ere 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 experi- 
ence of women (a side of his character upon 
w^hich 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 
261 



The Amateur Cracksman 

to a giddy young schoolgirl? I would not 
be unfair for the world. I think I have ad- 
mitted 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 there- 
fore the more anxious to describe her with- 
out injustice. I confess to some little preju- 
dice 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 within me. 

Jealousy there was in another quarter — 
crude, rampant, undignified jealousy. Cap- 
tain von Heumann would twirl his mous- 
taches into twin spires, shoot his white cuffs 
over his rings, and stare at me insolently 
through his rimless eye-glasses; we ought 
to have consoled each other, but we never 
262 



The Gift of the Emperor 

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 in- 
nings. 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 disin- 
genuously with obnoxious conduct towards 
a German on a German boat. 

" 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 con- 
tent. I had feared Rafifles 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. 

263 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" 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 sharp- 
ly 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 mid- 
summer; the Uhlan was very empty indeed. 
She had, however, but a limited supply of 
cabins on the promenade deck, and there 
w^as just that excuse for my sharing Raf- 
fles's room. I could have had one to my- 
self 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 cur- 
264 



Tlie Gift of the Emperor 

tains 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, how- 
ever, the good-humour of his tone, and did 
my best to catch it. 

" I have found something else, Bun- 
ny." 

"I daresay!" 

" You misunderstand me. The whipper- 
snapper's making his century this after- 
noon. 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 
26]; 



The Amateur Cracksman 

shop? But now the time has come. It 
must be done at Genoa or not at all." 

"On land?" 

" 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 earli- 
est train, and nothing be known till the ship 
was sailing and von Heumann found dead 
or drugged " 

" Not dead! " I exclaimed. 

" Of course not," assented Rafifles, " 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 worst." 

I asked him how he proposed to enter 
von Heumann's state-room unobserved, and 
even through the curtained gloom of ours 
his face lighted up. 

266 



The Gift of the Emperor 

" 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 trap-door 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 be- 
low? " 

" It's extremely unlikely that anybody 
will be astir below, so unlikely that we can 
267 



The Amateur Cracksman 

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!" 

"And I?" 

" You will hand me what I want, and 
hold the fort in case of accidents, and gen- 
erally lend me the moral support you've 
made me require. It's a luxury. Bunny, 
but I found it devilish difficult to do v;ith- 
out it after you turned pi! " 

He said that von Heumann was certain 
to sleep with a bolted door, which he, of 



The Gift of the Emperor 

course, would leave unbolted, and spoke 
of other ways of laying a false scent while 
rifling the cabin. Not that Raffles antici- 
pat'ed a tiresome search. The pearl would 
be about von Heumann's person; in fact, 
Raffles knew exactly where and in what 
he kept it. Naturally I asked how he could 
have come by such knowledge, and his an- 
swer led up to a momentary unpleasantness. 

" It's a very old story, Bunny. I really 
forget in what Book it comes; I'm only sure 
of the Testament. But Samson was the 
unlucky hero, and one Delilah the heroine." 

And he looked so knowing that I could 
not be in a moment's doubt as to his mean- 
ing. 

" So the fair Australian has been playing 
Delilah?" said I. 

" In a very harmless, innocent sort of 
way." 

" She got his mission out of him? " 

" Yes, I've forced him to score all the 
points he could, and that was his great 
stroke, as I hoped it would be. He has 
even shown Amy the pearl." 

" Amy, eh! and she promptly told you? '* 
269 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" Nothing of the kind. What makes you 
think so? I had the greatest trouble in 
getting it out of her." 

His tone should have been a sufficient 
warning to me. I had not the tact to take 
it as such. At last I knew the meaning of 
his furious flirtation, and stood wagging my 
head and shaking my finger, blinded to his 
frowns by my own enlightenment. 

" Wily worm ! " said I. " Now I see 
through it all; how dense I've been! " 

"Sure you're not still?" 

" No; now I understand what has beaten 
me all the week. I simply couldn't fathom 
what you saw in that little girl. I never 
dreamt it was part of the game." 

" So you think it was that and nothing 
more? " 

" You deep old dog — of course I do! " 

" You didn't know she was the daughter 
of a wealthy squatter? " 

" There are wealthy women by the dozen 
who would marry you to-morrow." 

" It doesn't occur to you that I might 
like to draw stumps, start clean, and live 
happily ever after — in the bush? " 
270 



The Gift of the Emperor 

"With that voice? It certainly does 
not!" 

"Bunny!" he cried, so fiercely that I 
braced myself for a blow. 

But no more followed. 

" Do you think you would live happily? " 
I made bold to ask him. 

" God knows! " he answered. And with 
that he left me, to marvel at his look and 
tone, and, more than ever, at the insuf- 
ficiently exciting cause. 



Ill 

Of all the mere feats of cracksmanship 
which I have seen Raffles perform, at once 
the most delicate and most difficult was 
that which he accomplished between one 
and two o'clock on the Tuesday morning-, 
aboard the North German steamer Uhlan, 
lying at anchor in Genoa harbour. 

Not a hitch occurred. Everything had 
been foreseen; everything happened as I 
had been assured everything must. No- 
body was about below, only the ship's boys 
271 



The Amateur Cracksman 

on deck, and nobody on the bridge. It 
was twenty-five minutes past one when Raf- 
fles, without a stitch of clothing on his body, 
but with a glass phial, corked with cotton- 
wool, between his teeth, and a tiny screw- 
driver behind his ear, squirmed feet first 
through the ventilator over his berth; and 
it was nineteen minutes to two when he re- 
turned, head first, with the phial still be- 
tween his teeth, and the cotton-wool 
rammed home to still the rattling of that 
which lay like a great grey bean within. 
He had taken screws out and put them in 
again; he had unfastened von Heumann's 
ventilator and had left it fast as he had 
found it — fast as he instantly proceeded to 
make his ovv'n. As for von Heumann, it 
had been enough to place the drenched wad 
first on his moustache, and then to hold it 
between his gaping lips; thereafter the in- 
truder had climbed both ways across his 
shins without eliciting a groan. 

And here was the prize — this pearl as large 
as a filbert — with a pale pink tinge like a 
lady's finger-nail — this spoil of a filibuster- 
ing age — this gift from a European era- 
272 



The Gift of the Emperor 

peror to a South Sea chief. We gloated 
over it when all was snug. We toasted it 
in whisky and soda-water laid in overnight 
in "view of the great moment. But the mo- 
ment was greater, more triumphant, than 
our most sanguine dreams. All we had 
now to do was to secrete the gem (which 
Raffles had prised from its setting, replacing 
the latter), so that we could stand the strict- 
est search and yet take it ashore with us at 
Naples; and this Raffles was doing when I 
turned in. I myself would have landed in- 
continently, that night, at Genoa and bolted 
with the spoil; he would not hear of it, for a 
dozen good reasons which will be obvious. 
On the whole I do not think that any- 
thing was discovered or suspected before 
we weighed anchor; but I cannot be sure. 
It is difficult to believe that a man could 
be chloroformed in his sleep and feel no 
tell-tale effects, snifif no suspicious odour, 
in the morning. Nevertheless, von Heu- 
mann reappeared as though nothing had 
happened to him, his German cap over his 
eyes and his moustaches brushing the peak. 
And by ten o'clock we were quit of Genoa; 
273 



The Amateur Cracksman 

the last lean, blue-chinned official had left 
our decks; the last fruitseller had been 
beaten ofif with bucketsful of water and left 
cursing us from his boat; the last passenger 
had come aboard at the last moment — a fussy 
greybeard who kept the big ship waiting 
while he haggled with his boatman over 
half a lira. But at length we were off, the 
tug was shed, the lighthouse passed, and 
Raffles and I leaned together over the rail, 
watching our shadows on the pale green, 
liquid, veined marble that again washed the 
vessel's side. 

Von Heumann was having his innings 
once more; it was part of the design that 
he should remain in all day, and so post- 
pone the inevitable hour; and, though the 
lady looked bored, and was for ever glanc- 
ing in our direction, he seemed only too 
willing to avail himself of his opportunities. 
But Raffles was moody and ill-at-ease. He 
had not the air of a successful man. I could 
but opine that the impending parting at 
Naples sat heavily on his spirit. 

He would neither talk to me, nor would 
he let me go. 

274 



The Gift of the Emperor 

" Stop where you are, Bunny. I've things 
to tell you. Can you swim? " 

" A bit." 

''Ten miles?" 

"Ten?" I burst out laughing. "Not 
one! Why do you ask?" 

" We shall be within a ten miles' swim 
of the shore most of the day." 

" What on earth are you driving at, Raf- 
fles?" 

" Nothing; only I shall swim for it if the 
worst comes to the worst. I suppose you 
can't swim under water at all? " 

I did not answer his question. I scarcely 
heard it: cold beads were bursting through 
my skin. 

" Why should the worst come to the 
worst?" I whispered. "We aren't found 
out, are we? " 

" No." 

" Then why speak as though we were ? " 

" We may be; an old enemy of ours is on 
board." 

" An old enemy? " 

" Mackenzie." 

"Never!" 

275 



The Amateur Cracksman 

" The man with the beard who came 
aboard last." 

" Are you sure? " 

" Sure ! I was only sorry to see you 
didn't recognise him too." 

I took my handkerchief to my face; now 
that I thought of it, there had been some- 
thing familiar in the old man's gait, as well 
as something rather youthful for his appar- 
ent years; his very beard seemed unconvinc- 
ing, now that T recalled it in the light of this 
horrible revelation. I looked up and down 
the deck, but the old man was nowhere to 
be seen. 

"That's the worst of it," said Raffles. 
" I saw him go into the captain's cabin 
twenty minutes ago." 

"But what can have brought him?" I 
cried miserably. " Can it be a coincidence 
— is it somebody else he's after? " 

Raffles shook his head. 

" Hardly this time." 

" Then you think he's after you? " 

" I've been afraid of it for some weeks.*'' 

" Yet there you stand! " 

"What am I to do ^ I don't want to 
276 



The Gift of the Emperor 

swim for it before I must. I begin to wish 
I'd taken your advice, Bunny, and left the 
ship at Genoa. But I've not the smallest 
dottbt that Mac w^as watching both ship 
and station till the last moment. That's why 
he ran it so fine." 

He took a cigarette and handed me 
the case, but I shook my head impatient- 
ly- 

" I still don't understand," said I. " Why 
should he be after you? He couldn't come 
all this way about a jewel which was per- 
fectly safe for all he knew^ What's your 
own theory? " 

" Simply that he's been on my track for 
some time, probably ever since friend Craw- 
shay slipped clean through his fingers last 
November. There have been other indica- 
tions. I am really not unprepared for this. 
But it can only be pure suspicion. I'll defy 
him to bring anything home, and I'll defy 
him to find the pearl! Theory, my dear 
Bunny? I know how he's got here as well 
as though I'd been inside that Scotchman's 
skin, and I know what he'll do next. He 
found out I'd gone abroad, and looked for 
277 



The Amateur Cracksman 

a motive; he found out about von Heumann 
and his mission, and there was his motive 
cut-and-dried. Great chance — to nab me 
on a new job altogether. But he won't do 
it, Bunny; mark my words, he'll search the 
ship and search us all, when the loss is 
known; but he'll search in vain. And there's 
the skipper beckoning the whipper-snapper 
to his cabin: the fat will be in the fire in 
live minutes! " 

Yet there was no conflagration, no fuss, 
no searching of the passengers, no whisper 
of what had happened in the air; instead 
of a stir there was portentous peace; and 
it was clear to me that Raffles was not a 
little disturbed at the falsification of all his 
predictions. There was something sinister 
in silence under such a loss, and the silence 
was sustained for hours during which Mac- 
kenzie never reappeared. But he was 
abroad during the luncheon-hour — he was 
in our cabin! I had left my book in Raf- 
fles's berth, and in taking it after lunch I 
touched the quilt. It was warm from the 
recent pressure of flesh and blood, and on 
an instinct I sprang to the ventilator; as I 
278 



The Gift of the Emperor 

opened it the ventilator opposite was closed 
with a snap. 

I waylaid Raffles. "All right! Let him 
find the pearl." 

" Have you dumped it overboard? " 

" That's a question I sha'n't condescend 
to answer." 

He turned on his heel, and at subsequent 
intervals I saw him making the most of his 
last afternoon with the inevitable Miss Wer- 
ner. I remember that she looked both cool 
and smart in quite a simple affair of brown 
holland, which toned well with her com- 
plexion, and was cleverly relieved with 
touches of scarlet. I quite admired her that 
afternoon, for her eyes were really very 
good, and so were her teeth, yet I had never 
admired her more directly in my own de- 
spite. For I passed them again and again 
in order to get a word with Raffles, to tell 
him I knew there was danger in the wind; 
but he would not so much as catch my eye. 
So at last I gave it up. And I saw him 
next in the captain's cabin. 

They had summoned him first; he had 
gone in smiling; and smiling I found him 
279 



The Amateur Cracksman 

when they summoned me. The state-room 
was spacious, as befitted that of a com- 
mander. Mackenzie sat on the settee, his 
beard in front of him on the pohshed table; 
but a revolver lay in front of the captain; 
and, when I had entered, the chief ofheer, 
who had summoned me, shut the door and 
put his back to it. Von Heumann coei- 
pleted the party, his fingers busy with his 
moustache. 

Raffles greeted me. 

" This is a great joke! " he cried. " You 
remember the pearl you were so keen about, 
Bunny, the emperor's pearl, the pearl money 
wouldn't buy? It seems it was entrusted to 
our little friend here, to take out to Canoodle 
Dum, and the poor little chap's gone and 
lost it; ergo, as we're Britishers, they think 
we've got it! " 

" But I know ye have," put in Mackenzie, 
nodding to his beard. 

" You will recognise that loyal and pa- 
triotic voice," said Raflfles. " Mon, 'tis our 
auld acquaintance Mackenzie, o' Scoteland 
Yarrd an' Scoteland itsel' ! " 

" Dat is enough," cried the captain. 
2 So 



The Gift of the Emperoi 

" Have you submid to be searge, or do I' 
vorce you? " 

"What you will," said Raffles, "but it 
witl do you no harm to give us fair play 
first. You accuse us of breaking into Cap- 
tain von Heumann's state-room during the 
small hours of this morning, and abstract- 
in»- from it this confounded pearl. Well, I 
can prove that I was in my own room all 
night long, and I have no doubt my friend 
can prove the same." 

'•' Most certainly I can," said I indignant- 
ly. " The ship's boys can bear witness to 
that." 

Mackenzie laughed, and shook his head 
at his reflection in the polished mahogany. 
" That was ver clever," said he, " and 
like enough it would ha' served ye had I not 
stepped aboard. But I've just had a look 
at they ventilators, and I think I know how 
ye worrked it. Anyway, captain, it makes 
no matter. I'll just be clappin' the darbies 

on these young sparks, an' then " 

"By what right?" roared Raffles, In a 
ringing voice, and I never saw his face in 
such a blaze. " Search us if you like; search 
281 



The Amateur Cracksman 

every scrap and stitch we possess; but you 
dare to lay a finger on us without a war- 
rant!" 

" I wouldna' dare," said Mackenzie 
gravely, as he fumbled in his breast pocket, 
and Raffles dived his hand into his own. 
" Haud his wrist! " shouted the Scotchman; 
and the huge Colt that had been with us 
many a night, but had never been fired in 
my hearing, clattered on the table and was 
raked in by the captain. 

"All right," said Raffles savagely to the 
mate. " You can let go now. I won't try 
it again. Now, Mackenzie, let's see your 
warrant! " 

"Ye'll no mishandle it?" 

" What good would that do me? Let me 
see it," said Raffles, peremptorily, and the 
detective obeyed. Raffles raised his eye- 
brows as he perused the document; his 
mouth hardened, but suddenly relaxed; 
and it was with a smile and a shrug that he 
returned the paper. 

"Wull that do for ye?" inquired Mac- 
kenzie. 

"It may. I congratulate you, Macken- 

%82 



The Gift of the Emperor 

zie; it's a strong hand, at any rate. Two 
burglaries and the Melrose necklace, 
Bunny ! " And he turned to me with a rue- 
ful smile. 

" An' all easy to prove," said the Scotch- 
man, pocketing the warrant. " I've one o' 
these for you," he added, nodding to me, 
" only not such a long one." 

" To think," said the captain reproach- 
fully, " that my shib should be made a den 
of thiefs! It shall be a very disagreeable 
madder, I have been obliged to pud 
you both in irons until we ged to Na- 
ples." 

" Surely not! " exclaimed Raffles. " Mac- 
kenzie, intercede with him; don't give your 
countrymen away before all hands! Cap- 
tain, we can't escape ; surely you could hush 
it up for the night? Look here, here's 
everything I have in my pockets; you empty 
yours, too, Bunny, and they shall strip us 
stark if they suspect we've weapons up our 
sleeves. All I ask is that we are allowed to 
get out of this without gyves upon our 
wrists ! " 

" Webbons you may not have," said the 
283 



The Amateur Cracksman 

captain; " but wad about der bearl dat you 
were sdealing? " 

" You shall have it! " cried Raffles. " You 
shall have it this minute if you guarantee 
no public indignity on board! " 

" That I'll see to," said Mackenzie, " as 
long as you behave yourselves. There now, 
where is't ? " 

" On the table under your nose." 
My eyes fell with the rest, but no pearl 
was there; only the contents of our pockets 
• — our watches, pocket-books, pencils, pen- 
knives, cigarette cases — lay on the shiny 
table along with the revolvers already men- 
tioned. 

" Ye're humbuggin' us," said Mackenzie. 
" What's the use? " 

" I'm doing nothing of the sort," laughed 
Raffles. " I'm testing you. Where's the 
harm?" 
" It's here, joke apart? " 
" On that table, by all my gods." 
Mackenzie opened the cigarette cases and 
shook each particular cigarette. There- 
upon Raffles prayed to be allowed to smoke 
one, and, when his prayer was heard, ob- 
284 



The Gift of the Emperor 

served that the pearl had been on the table 
much longer than the cigarettes. Macken- 
zie promptly caught up the Colt and opened 
the chamber in the butt. 

"Not there, not there," said Raffles; 
" but you're getting hot. Try the car- 
tridges." 

Mackenzie emptied them into his palm, 
and shook each one at his ear without re- 
sult. 

"Oh, give them to me!" 

And, in an instant, Raffles had found the 
right one, had bitten out the bullet, and 
placed the emperor's pearl with a flourish 
in the centre of the table. 

" After that you will perhaps show me 
such little consideration as is in your power. 
Captain, I have been a bit of a villain, as 
you see, and as such I am ready and willing 
to lie in irons all night if you deem it requi- 
site for the safety of the ship. All I ask 
is that you do me one favour first." 

" That shall debend on wad der vafour 
has been." 

" Captain, I've done a worse thing aboard 
your ship than any of you know. I have 
285 



The Amateur Cracksman 

become engaged to be married, and I want 
to say goodbye! " 

I suppose we were all equally amazed; 
but the only one to express his amazement 
was von Heumann, whose deep-chested 
German oath was almost his first contribu- 
tion to the proceedings. He was not slow 
to follow it, however, with a vigorous pro- 
test against the proposed farewell; but he 
was overruled, and the masterful prisoner 
had his way. He was to have five minutes 
with the girl, while the captain and Mac- 
kenzie stood within range (but not earshot), 
with their revolvers behind their backs. As 
we were moving from the cabin, in a body, 
he stopped and gripped my hand. 

" So I've let you in at last. Bunny — at 
last and after all! If you knew how sorry 
I am. . . . But you won't get much — 
I don't see why you should get anything at 
all. Can you forgive me? This may be 
for years, and it may be for ever, you know ! 
You were a good pal always when it came 
to the scratch; some day or other you 
mayn't be so sorry to remember you were 
a good pal at the last! " 
286 



The Gift of the Emperor 

There was a meaning in his eye that I un- 
derstood; and my teeth were set, and my 
nerves strung ready, as I wrung that strong 
and cunning hand for the last time in my 
hfe. 

How that last scene stays with me, and 
will stay to my death ! How I see every de- 
tail, every shadow on the sunlit deck! We 
were among the islands that dot the course 
from Genoa to Naples; that was Elba fall- 
ing back on our starboard quarter, that 
purple patch with the hot sun setting over 
it. The captain's cabin opened to starboard, 
and the starboard promenade deck, sheeted 
with sunshine and scored with shadow, was 
deserted but for the group of which I was 
one, and for the pale, slim, brown figure 
further aft with Raffles. Engaged? I could 
not believe it, cannot to this day. Yet there 
they stood together, and we did not hear 
a word; there they stood out against the 
sunset, and the long, dazzling highway of 
sunlit sea that sparkled from Elba to the 
Uhlan's plates; and their shadows reached 
almost to our feet. 

Suddenly — an instant — and the thing was 
287 



The Amateur Cracksman 

done — a thing 1 have never known whether 
to admire or to detest. He caught her — he 
kissed her before us all — then flung her 
from him so that she almost fell. It was 
that action which foretold the next. The 
mate sprang after him, and I sprang after 
the mate. 

Raffles was on the rail, but only just, 
" Hold him, Bunny! " he cried. " Hold 
him tight! " 

And, as I obeyed that last behest with all 
my might, without a thought of what I was 
doing, save that he bade me do it, I saw 
his hands shoot up and his head bob down, 
and his lithe, spare body cut the sunset as 
cleanly and precisely as though he had 
plunged at his leisure from a diver's board! 



Of what followed on deck I can tell you 
nothing, for I was not there. Nor can my 
final punishment, my long imprisonment, 
my ever-lasting disgrace, concern or profit 
you, beyond the interest and advantage to 
be gleaned from the knowledge that I at 
least had my deserts. But one thing I must 
2S8 



The Gift of the Emperor 

set down, believe it who will — one more 
thing only and I am done. 

It was into a second-class cabin, on the 
starboard side, that I was promptly thrust 
in irons, and the door locked upon me as 
though I were another Raffles. Meanwhile 
a boat was lowered, and the sea scoured to 
no purpose, as is doubtless on record else- 
where. But either the setting sun, flashing 
over the waves, must have blinded all eyes, 
or else mine were victims of a strange illu- 
sion. 

For the boat was back, the screw throb- 
bing, and the prisoner peering through his 
porthole across the sunlit waters that he be- 
lieved had closed for ever over his comrade's 
head. Suddenly the sun sank behind the 
Island of Elba, the lane of dancing sunlight 
was instantaneously quenched and swal- 
lowed in the trackless waste, and in the 
middle distance, already miles astern, either 
my sight deceived me or a black speck 
bobbed amid the grey. The bugle had 
blown for dinner: it may well be that all 
save myself had ceased to strain an eye. 
And now I lost what I had found, now it 
280 



The Amateur Cracksman 

rose, now sank, and now I gave it up utterly. 
Yet anon it would rise again, a mere mote 
dancing in the dim grey distance, drifting 
towards a purple island, beneath a fading 
western sky, streaked with dead gold and 
cerise. And night fell before I knew 
whether it was a human head or not. 

■ '-> ^. te ti c-r. 

:^-^( T^E End, 



OTHER BOOKS BY MR. HORNUNG 



The 
Amateur Cracksman 

30th Thousand. 12 mo, $1.2^. The titles of 
the stories are : 

i. The Ides of March V. Wilful Murder 

II. A Costume Piece VI. Nine Points of the Law 

III. Gentlemen and Players VII. The Return Match 

IV, Le Premier Pas VIII. The Gift of the Emperor 

" For sheer excitement and inventive genius 
the burglarian exploits of ' The Amateur Cracks- 
man ' carry off the palm. Raffles is as distinct 
and convincing a creation as Sherlock 
Holmes." — The Bookman. 

" Raffles is amazing ; his resource is perfect ; 
he talks like a gentleman and acts like one, 
except when occupied with pressing business in 
another man's house, at midnight, and naturally 
he has a ' cool nerve,' a nerve positively arctic. 
They all have nerves like that, these Raffleses. ' ' 
— Neia York Tribune. 

Dead MenTell NoTales 

A Novel. 1 2 mo, $1.23 

*' In this novel, as in the previous ones from 
Mr. Hornung's pen, there is a wealth of well- 
handled incidents. It is story-telling of the 
most direct kind and holds the attention from 
the first page to the last. Mr. Hornung seems 
to us in each succeeding book from his pen to 
gain in confidence and authority, and we do 
not hesitate to place him among the first of the 
comparatively new writers who must be reck- 
oned w i th . " — Literature. 



OTHER BOOKS BY MR. HORNUNG 

Some Persons 
Unknown 

" In about half-a-dozen cases the scene is laid 
in Australia, and the dramatic and tragic aspects 
of Colonial life are treated by Mr. Hornung 
with that happy union of vigor and sympathy 
which has stood him in such good stead in his 
earlier novels." — London Spectator, 



In the Ivory Series, Each iSniOf 1^ cents : 

The Boss of Taroomba 

"There are passages in E. W. Hornung's 
latest story, 'The Boss of Taroomba,' which 
remind us by their vividness and fantastic quality 
of Stevenson in some of his South Sea Island 
tales. . . . The hero is an uncommon 
creation even for fiction." 

— Chicago Times-Herald. 

A Bride from the Bush 

" Mr. E. W. Hornung is one of the most 
successful delineators of Bush life." 

— Chicago Tribune, ! 

Irralie's Bushranger 

** A capital little story of Australian love and 
adventure. There is no flagging in the press 
and stir of the story." — The Nation. 

Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 



OTHER BOOKS BY MR. HORNUNG 

The Rogue's March 

A Romance. i2mo, $1.50 

" Mr. Hornung has succeeded admirably in 
his object : his AustraHan scenes are a veritable 
nightmare; they sear the imagination, and it 
will be some time before we get Hookey Simpson, 
the clank of the chains, and the hero's degrada- 
tion off our mind.' ' — London Saturday Review. 

'* Vividly and vigorously told." 

— London Academy, 



Each i2mo, $1,25 : 

My Lord Duke 

** Mr. Hornung is a natural humorist, and 
has the art of telHng a story." 

— Philadelphia Evening Telegraph. 

" It is pleasant to turn to a real story by a 

real story- writer. Such is * My Lord Duke.' 

. . . Its story is its own, both in plot and 

in characterization. It is a capital Httle novel.'' 

— The Nation. 

Young Blood 

" Whether Lowndes be entirely realized or 
not does not much matter ; the conception of 
him is already a distinction. He is an advent- 
urer of genius, but not built on the usual lines. 
. . And his vitality is inexhaustible. We 
leave him, not without a stain upon his char- 
acter, but with considerable regret in our 
minds." — The Bookman. 



OTHER BOOKS BY MR. HORNUNG 






f' 



** * Peccavi * is at once the most serious and the 
strongest novel that has issued from Mr, Homung's 
engaging pen, * • A striking and admirable 

^^°^''' —The Spectator. 



PECCAVI 

l2mo, $1.^0 

*»It must be said that the erring parson is a fine 
figure, standing aloof, yet never passive in his awful 
solitude. He works out a grand and unselfish 
salvation in an heroic way." 

— The Athenaum. 

AT LARGE 

$1-50 

'* Once more, he gives us a book decidedly 
entertaining to read." 

— New York Tribune. 

" More life and go than in most recent fiction 
and it is told so well that it has not a single dull 
page." 

— San Francisco Chronicle. 



L 



Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 



OTHER BOOKS BY MR. HORNUNG 



RAFFLES 

More Adventures of the Amateur Cracksman 

With tix full-page illustrations, by F. C. YOHN, 

draiun in a humor in exact harmony tuitb 

Mr. Hornung's conceptions. 

"D AFFLES, the clever, the resourceful, the 
"*■ big-hearted, here appears again in a new 
series of experiences and adventures that not 
only prove as absorbing as those in The Ama- 
teur Cracksman^ but exhibit his character in its 
larger and later devel- 
opments and bring his 
interesting career to a 
heroic conclusion. 

The exploits detailed 
in this book illustrate 
the author's ability to 
satisfactorily follow a 
character of power and 
ideals such as Raffles 
possessed, through the 
intricacies of an environment so unnatural to 
it, to a consistent and satisfying climax. 

The final story, disclosing the conclusion 
of Raffles's career, has not appeared serially 
and is here first published. 



CONTENTS 

No Sinecure 
A Jubilee Present 
The Fate of Faustina 
The Last Laugh 
To Catch a Thief 
An Old Flame 
The Wrong House 
The Knees or the Gods 



Charles Scribner's Sons. New York 



Lie 






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