MR. JUSTICE RAFFLES
BY E.W. HORNUNG
I. An Inaugural Banquet
II. "His Own Familiar Friend"
III. Council of War
IV. "Our Mr. Shylock"
V. Thin Air
VI. Camilla Belsize
VII. In Which We Fail to Score
VIII. The State of the Case
IX. A Triple Alliance
X. "My Raffles Right or Wrong"
XI. A Dash in the Dark
XII. A Midsummer Night's Dream
XIII. Knocked Out
XIV. Corpus Delicti
XV. Trial by Raffles
XVI. Watch and Ward
XVII. A Secret Service
XVIII. The Death of a Sinner
Mr. Justice Raffles
An Inaugural Banquet
Raffles had vanished from the face of the town, and even I had no conception of his whereabouts until he cabled to me to meet the 7.31 at Charing Cross next night. That was on the Tuesday before the 'Varsity match, or a full fortnight after his mysterious disappearance. The telegram was from Carlsbad, of all places for Raffles of all men! Of course there was only one thing that could possibly have taken so rare a specimen of physical fitness to any such pernicious spot. But to my horror he emerged from the train, on the Wednesday evening, a cadaverous caricature of the splendid person I had gone to meet.
"Not a word, my dear Bunny, till I have bitten British beef!" said he, in tones as hollow as his cheeks. "No, I'm not going to stop to clear my baggage now. You can do that for me to-morrow, Bunny, like a dear good pal."
"Any time you like," said I, giving him my arm. "But where shall we dine? Kellner's? Neapolo's? The Carlton or the Club?"
But Raffles shook his head at one and all.
"I don't want to dine at all," he said. "I know what I want!"
And he led the way from the station, stopping once to gloat over the sunset across Trafalgar Square, and again to inhale the tarry scent of the warm wood-paving, which was perfume to his nostrils as the din of its traffic was music to his ears, before we came to one of those political palaces which permit themselves to be included in the list of ordinary clubs. Raffles, to my surprise, walked in as though the marble hall belonged to him, and as straight as might be to the grill-room where white-capped cooks were making things hiss upon a silver grill. He did not consult me as to what we were to have. He had made up his mind about that in the train. But he chose the fillet steaks himself, he insisted on seeing the kidneys, and had a word to say about the fried potatoes, and the Welsh rarebit that was to follow. And all this was as uncharacteristic of the normal Raffles (who was least fastidious at the table) as the sigh with which he dropped into the chair opposite mine, and crossed his arms upon the cloth.
"I didn't know you were a member of this place," said I, feeling really rather shocked at the discovery, but also that it was a safer subject for me to open than that of his late mysterious movements.
"There are a good many things you don't know about me, Bunny," said he wearily. "Did you know I was in Carlsbad, for instance?"
"Of course I didn't."
"Yet you remember the last time we sat down together?"
"You mean that night we had supper at the Savoy?"
"It's only three weeks ago, Bunny."
"It seems months to me."
"And years to me!" cried Raffles. "But surely you remember that lost tribesman at the next table, with the nose like the village pump, and the wife with the emerald necklace?"
"I should think I did," said I; "you mean the great Dan Levy, otherwise Mr. Shylock? Why, you told me all about him, A. J."
"Did I? Then you may possibly recollect that the Shylocks were off to Carlsbad the very next day. It was the old man's last orgy before his annual cure, and he let the whole room know it. Ah, Bunny, I can sympathise with the poor brute now!"
"But what on earth took you there, old fellow?"
"Can you ask? Have you forgotten how you saw the emeralds under their table when they'd gone, and how I forgot myself and ran after them with the best necklace I'd handled since the days of Lady Melrose?"
I shook my head, partly in answer to his question, but partly also over a piece of perversity which still rankled in my recollection. But now I was prepared for something even more perverse.
"You were quite right," continued Raffles, recalling my recriminations at the time; "it was a rotten thing to do. It was also the action of a tactless idiot, since anybody could have seen that a heavy necklace like that couldn't have dropped off without the wearer's knowledge."
"You don't mean to say she dropped it on purpose?" I exclaimed with more interest, for I suddenly foresaw the remainder of his tale.
"I do," said Raffles. "The poor old pet did it deliberately when stooping to pick up something else; and all to get it stolen and delay their trip to Carlsbad, where her swab of a husband makes her do the cure with him."
I said I always felt that we had failed to fulfil an obvious destiny in the matter of those emeralds; and there was something touching in the way Raffles now sided with me against himself.
"But I saw it the moment I had yanked them up," said he, "and heard that fat swine curse his wife for dropping them. He told her she'd done it on purpose, too; he hit the nail on the head all right; but it was her poor head, and that showed me my unworthy impulse in its true light, Bunny. I didn't need your reproaches to make me realise what a skunk I'd been all round. I saw that the necklace was morally yours, and there was one clear call for me to restore it to you by hook, crook, or barrel. I left for Carlsbad as soon after its wrongful owners as prudence permitted."
"Admirable!" said I, overjoyed to find old Raffles by no means in such bad form as he looked. "But not to have taken me with you, A. J., that's the unkind cut I can't forgive."
"My dear Bunny, you couldn't have borne it," said Raffles solemnly. "The cure would have killed you; look what it's done to me."
"Don't tell me you went through with it!" I rallied him.
"Of course I did, Bunny. I played the game like a prayer-book."
"But why, in the name of all that's wanton?"
"You don't know Carlsbad, or you wouldn't ask. The place is squirming with spies and humbugs. If I had broken the rules one of the prize humbugs laid down for me I should have been spotted in a tick by a spy, and bowled out myself for a spy and a humbug rolled into one. Oh, Bunny, if old man Dante were alive to-day I should commend him to that sink of salubrity for the redraw material of another and a worse Inferno!"
The steaks had arrived, smoking hot, with a kidney apiece and lashings of fried potatoes. And for a divine interval (as it must have been to him) Raffles's only words were to the waiter, and referred to successive tankards of bitter, with the superfluous rider that the man who said we couldn't drink beer was a liar. But indeed I never could myself, and only achieved the impossible in this case out of sheer sympathy with Raffles. And eventually I had my reward, in such a recital of malignant privation as I cannot trust myself to set down in any words but his.
"No, Bunny, you couldn't have borne it for half a week; you'd have looked like that all the time!" quoth Raffles. I suppose my face had fallen (as it does too easily) at his aspersion on my endurance. "Cheer up, my man; that's better," he went on, as I did my best. "But it was no smiling matter out there. No one does smile after the first week; your sense of humour is the first thing the cure eradicates. There was a hunting man at my hotel, getting his weight down to ride a special thoroughbred, and no doubt a cheery dog at home; but, poor devil, he hadn't much chance of good cheer there! Miles and miles on his poor feet before breakfast; mud-poultices all the morning; and not the semblance of a drink all day, except some aerated muck called Gieshuebler. He was allowed to lap that up an hour after meals, when his tongue would be hanging out of his mouth. We went to the same weighing machine at cock-crow, and though he looked quite good-natured once when I caught him asleep in his chair, I have known him tear up his weight ticket when he had gained an ounce or two instead of losing one or two pounds. We began by taking our walks together, but his conversation used to get so physically introspective that one couldn't get in a word about one's own works edgeways."
"But there was nothing wrong with your works," I reminded Raffles; he shook his head as one who was not so sure.
"Perhaps not at first, but the cure soon sees to that! I closed in like a concertina, Bunny, and I only hope I shall be able to pull out like one. You see, it's the custom of the accursed place for one to telephone for a doctor the moment one arrives. I consulted the hunting man, who of course recommended his own in order to make sure of a companion on the rack. The old arch-humbug was down upon me in ten minutes, examining me from crown to heel, and made the most unblushing report upon my general condition. He said I had a liver! I'll swear I hadn't before I went to Carlsbad, but I shouldn't be a bit surprised if I'd brought one back."
And he tipped his tankard with a solemn face, before falling to work upon the Welsh rarebit which had just arrived.
"It looks like gold, and it's golden eating," said poor old Raffles. "I only wish that sly dog of a doctor could see me at it! He had the nerve to make me write out my own health-warrant, and it was so like my friend the hunting man's that it dispelled his settled gloom for the whole of that evening. We used to begin our drinking day at the same well of German damnably defiled, and we paced the same colonnade to the blare of the same well-fed band. That wasn't a joke, Bunny; it's not a thing to joke about; mud-poultices and dry meals, with teetotal poisons in between, were to be my portion too. You stiffen your lip at that, eh, Bunny? I told you that you never would or could have stood it; but it was the only game to play for the Emerald Stakes. It kept one above suspicion all the time. And then I didn't mind that part as much as you would, or as my hunting pal did; he was driven to fainting at the doctor's place one day, in the forlorn hope of a toothful of brandy to bring him round. But all he got was a glass of cheap Marsala."
"But did you win those stakes after all?"
"Of course I did, Bunny," said Raffles below his breath, and with a look that I remembered later. "But the waiters are listening as it is, and I'll tell you the rest some other time. I suppose you know what brought me back so soon?"
"Hadn't you finished your cure?"
"Not by three good days. I had the satisfaction of a row royal with the Lord High Humbug to account for my hurried departure. But, as a matter of fact, if Teddy Garland hadn't got his Blue at the eleventh hour I should be at Carlsbad still."
E.M. Garland (Eton and Trinity) was the Cambridge wicketkeeper, and one of the many young cricketers who owed a good deal to Raffles. They had made friends in some country-house week, and foregathered afterward in town, where the young fellow's father had a house at which Raffles became a constant guest. I am afraid I was a little prejudiced both against the father, a retired brewer whom I had never met, and the son whom I did meet once or twice at the Albany. Yet I could quite understand the mutual attraction between Raffles and this much younger man; indeed he was a mere boy, but like so many of his school he seemed to have a knowledge of the world beyond his years, and withal such a spontaneous spring of sweetness and charm as neither knowledge nor experience could sensibly pollute. And yet I had a shrewd suspicion that wild oats had been somewhat freely sown, and that it was Raffles who had stepped in and taken the sower in hand, and turned him into the stuff of which Blues are made. At least I knew that no one could be sounder friend or saner counsellor to any young fellow in need of either. And many there must be to bear me out in their hearts; but they did not know their Raffles as I knew mine; and if they say that was why they thought so much of him, let them have patience, and at last they shall hear something that need not make them think the less.
"I couldn't let poor Teddy keep at Lord's," explained Raffles, "and me not there to egg him on! You see, Bunny, I taught him a thing or two in those little matches we played together last August. I take a fatherly interest in the child."
"You must have done him a lot of good," I suggested, "in every way."
Raffles looked up from his bill and asked me what I meant. I saw he was not pleased with my remark, but I was not going back on it.
"Well, I should imagine you had straightened him out a bit, if you ask me."
"I didn't ask you, Bunny, that's just the point!" said Raffles. And I watched him tip the waiter without the least arriere-pensee on either side.
"After all," said I, on our way down the marble stair, "you have told me a good deal about the lad. I remember once hearing you say he had a lot of debts, for example."
"So I was afraid," replied Raffles, frankly; "and between ourselves, I offered to finance him before I went abroad. Teddy wouldn't hear of it; that hot young blood of his was up at the thought, though he was perfectly delightful in what he said. So don't jump to rotten conclusions, Bunny, but stroll up to the Albany and have a drink."
And when we had reclaimed our hats and coats, and lit our Sullivans in the hall, out we marched as though I were now part-owner of the place with Raffles.
"That," said I, to effect a thorough change of conversation, since I felt at one with all the world, "is certainly the finest grill in Europe."
"That's why we went there, Bunny."
"But must I say I was rather surprised to find you a member of a place where you tip the waiter and take a ticket for your hat!"
I was not surprised, however, to hear Raffles defend his own caravanserai.
"I would go a step further," he remarked, "and make every member show his badge as they do at Lord's."
"But surely the porter knows the members by sight?"
"Not he! There are far too many thousands of them."
"I should have thought he must."
"And I know he doesn't."
"Well, you ought to know, A.J., since you're a member yourself."
"On the contrary, my dear Bunny, I happen to know because I never was one!"
"His Own Familiar Friend"
How we laughed as we turned into Whitehall! I began to feel I had been wrong about Raffles after all, and that enhanced my mirth. Surely this was the old gay rascal, and it was by some uncanny feat of his stupendous will that he had appeared so haggard on the platform. In the London lamplight that he loved so well, under a starry sky of an almost theatrical blue, he looked another man already. If such a change was due to a few draughts of bitter beer and a few ounces of fillet steak, then I felt I was the brewers' friend and the vegetarians' foe for life. Nevertheless I could detect a serious side to my companion's mood, especially when he spoke once more of Teddy Garland, and told me that he had cabled to him also before leaving Carlsbad. And I could not help wondering, with a discreditable pang, whether his intercourse with that honest lad could have bred in Raffles a remorse for his own misdeeds, such as I myself had often tried, but always failed, to produce.
So we came to the Albany in sober frame, for all our recent levity, thinking at least no evil for once in our lawless lives. And there was our good friend Barraclough, the porter, to salute and welcome us in the courtyard.
"There's a gen'leman writing you a letter upstairs," said he to Raffles. "It's Mr. Garland, sir, so I took him up."
"Teddy!" cried Raffles, and took the stairs two at a time.
I followed rather heavily. It was not jealousy, but I did feel rather critical of this mushroom intimacy. So I followed up, feeling that the evening was spoilt for me—and God knows I was right! Not till my dying day shall I forget the tableau that awaited me in those familiar rooms. I see it now as plainly as I see the problem picture of the year, which lies in wait for one in all the illustrated papers; indeed, it was a problem picture itself in flesh and blood.
Raffles had opened his door as only Raffles could open doors, with the boyish thought of giving the other boy a fright; and young Garland had very naturally started up from the bureau, where he was writing, at the sudden clap of his own name behind him. But that was the last of his natural actions. He did not advance to grasp Raffles by the hand; there was no answering smile of welcome on the fresh young face which used to remind me of the Phoebus in Guido's Aurora, with its healthy pink and bronze, and its hazel eye like clear amber. The pink faded before our gaze, the bronze turned a sickly sallow; and there stood Teddy Garland as if glued to the bureau behind him, clutching its edge with all his might. I can see his knuckles gleaming like ivory under the back of each sunburnt hand.
"What is it? What are you hiding?" demanded Raffles. His love for the lad had rung out in his first greeting; his puzzled voice was still jocular and genial, but the other's attitude soon strangled that. All this time I had been standing in vague horror on the threshold; now Raffles beckoned me in and switched on more light. It fell full upon a ghastly and a guilty face, that yet stared bravely in the glare. Raffles locked the door behind us, put the key in his pocket, and strode over to the desk.
No need to report their first broken syllables: enough that it was no note young Garland was writing, but a cheque which he was laboriously copying into Raffles's cheque-book, from an old cheque abstracted from a pass-book with A. J. RAFFLES in gilt capitals upon its brown leather back. Raffles had only that year opened a banking account, and I remembered his telling me how thoroughly he meant to disregard the instructions on his cheque-book by always leaving it about to advertise the fact. And this was the result. A glance convicted his friend of criminal intent: a sheet of notepaper lay covered with trial signatures. Yet Raffles could turn and look with infinite pity upon the miserable youth who was still looking defiantly on him.
"My poor chap!" was all he said.
And at that the broken boy found the tongue of a hoarse and quavering old man.
"Won't you hand me over and be done with it?" he croaked. "Must you torture me yourself?"
It was all I could do to refrain from putting in my word, and telling the fellow it was not for him to ask questions. Raffles merely inquired whether he had thought it all out before.
"God knows I hadn't, A. J.! I came up to write you a note, I swear I did," said Garland with a sudden sob.
"No need to swear it," returned Raffles, actually smiling. "Your word's quite good enough for me."
"God bless you for that, after this!" the other choked, in terrible disorder now.
"It was pretty obvious," said Raffles reassuringly.
"Was it? Are you sure? You do remember offering me a cheque last month, and my refusing it?"
"Why, of course I do!" cried Raffles, with such spontaneous heartiness that I could see he had never thought of it since mentioning the matter to me at our meal. What I could not see was any reason for such conspicuous relief, or the extenuating quality of a circumstance which seemed to me rather to aggravate the offence.
"I have regretted that refusal ever since," young Garland continued very simply. "It was a mistake at the time, but this week of all weeks it's been a tragedy. Money I must have; I'll tell you why directly. When I got your wire last night it seemed as though my wretched prayers had been answered. I was going to someone else this morning, but I made up my mind to wait for you instead. You were the one I really could turn to, and yet I refused your great offer a month ago. But you said you would be back to-night; and you weren't here when I came. I telephoned and found that the train had come in all right, and that there wasn't another until the morning. Tomorrow morning's my limit, and to-morrow's the match." He stopped as he saw what Raffles was doing. "Don't, Raffles, I don't deserve it!" he added in fresh distress.
But Raffles had unlocked the tantalus and found a syphon in the corner cupboard, and it was a very yellow bumper that he handed to the guilty youth.
"Drink some," he said, "or I won't listen to another word."
"I'm going to be ruined before the match begins. I am!" the poor fellow insisted, turning to me when Raffles shook his head. "And it'll break my father's heart, and—and—"
I thought he had worse still to tell us, he broke off in such despair; but either he changed his mind, or the current of his thoughts set inward in spite of him, for when he spoke again it was to offer us both a further explanation of his conduct.
"I only came up to leave a line for Raffles," he said to me, "in case he did get back in time. It was the porter himself who fixed me up at that bureau. He'll tell you how many times I had called before. And then I saw before my nose in one pigeon-hole your cheque-book, Raffles, and your pass-book bulging with old cheques."
"And as I wasn't back to write one for you," said Raffles, "you wrote it for me. And quite right, too!"
"Don't laugh at me!" cried the boy, his lost colour rushing back. And he looked at me again as though my long face hurt him less than the sprightly sympathy of his friend.
"I'm not laughing, Teddy," replied Raffles kindly. "I was never more serious in my life. It was playing the friend to come to me at all in your fix, but it was the act of a real good pal to draw on me behind my back rather than let me feel I'd ruined you by not turning up in time. You may shake your head as hard as you like, but I never was paid a higher compliment."
And the consummate casuist went on working a congenial vein until a less miserable sinner might have been persuaded that he had done nothing really dishonourable; but young Garland had the grace neither to make nor to accept any excuse for his own conduct. I never heard a man more down upon himself, or confession of error couched in stronger terms; and yet there was something so sincere and ingenuous in his remorse, something that Raffles and I had lost so long ago, that in our hearts I am sure we took his follies more seriously than our own crimes. But foolish he indeed had been, if not criminally foolish as he said. It was the old story of the prodigal son of an indulgent father. There had been, as I suspected, a certain amount of youthful riot which the influence of Raffles had already quelled; but there had also been much reckless extravagance, of which Raffles naturally knew less, since your scapegrace is constitutionally quicker to confess himself as such than as a fool. Suffice it that this one had thrown himself on his father's generosity, only to find that the father himself was in financial straits.
"What!" cried Raffles, "with that house on his hands?"
"I knew it would surprise you," said Teddy Garland. "I can't understand it myself; he gave me no particulars, but the mere fact was enough for me. I simply couldn't tell my father everything after that. He wrote me a cheque for all I did own up to, but I could see it was such a tooth that I swore I'd never come on him to pay another farthing. And I never will!"
The boy took a sip from his glass, for his voice had faltered, and then he paused to light another cigarette, because the last had gone out between his fingers. So sensitive and yet so desperate was the blonde young face, with the creased forehead and the nervous mouth, that I saw Raffles look another way until the match was blown out.
"But at the time I might have done worse, and did," said Teddy, "a thousand times! I went to the Jews. That's the whole trouble. There were more debts—debts of honour—and to square up I went to the Jews. It was only a matter of two or three hundred to start with; but you may know, though I didn't, what a snowball the smallest sum becomes in the hands of those devils. I borrowed three hundred and signed a promissory note for four hundred and fifty-six."
"Only fifty per cent!" said Raffles. "You got off cheap if the percentage was per annum."
"Wait a bit! It was by way of being even more reasonable than that. The four hundred and fifty-six was repayable in monthly instalments of twenty quid, and I kept them up religiously until the sixth payment fell due. That was soon after Christmas, when one's always hard up, and for the first time I was a day or two late—not more, mind you; yet what do you suppose happened? My cheque was returned, and the whole blessed balance demanded on the nail!"
Raffles was following intently, with that complete concentration which was a signal force in his equipment. His face no longer changed at anything he heard; it was as strenuously attentive as that of any judge upon the bench. Never had I clearer vision of the man he might have been but for the kink in his nature which had made him what he was.
"The promissory note was for four-fifty-six," said he, "and this sudden demand was for the lot less the hundred you had paid?"
"What did you do?" I asked, not to seem behind Raffles in my grasp of the case.
"Told them to take my instalment or go to blazes for the rest!"
"Absolutely drop the whole thing until this very week, and then come down on me for—what do you suppose?"
"Getting on for a thousand," said Raffles after a moment's thought.
"Nonsense!" I cried. Garland looked astonished too.
"Raffles knows all about it," said he. "Seven hundred was the actual figure. I needn't tell you I have given the bounders a wide berth since the day I raised the wind; but I went and had it out with them over this. And half the seven hundred is for default interest, I'll trouble you, from the beginning of January down to date!"
"Had you agreed to that?"
"Not to my recollection, but there it was as plain as a pikestaff on my promissory note. A halfpenny in the shilling per week over and above everything else when the original interest wasn't forthcoming."
"Printed or written on your note of hand?"
"Printed—printed small, I needn't tell you—but quite large enough for me to read when I signed the cursed bond. In fact I believe I did read it; but a halfpenny a week! Who could ever believe it would mount up like that? But it does; it's right enough, and the long and short of it is that unless I pay up by twelve o'clock to-morrow the governor's to be called in to say whether he'll pay up for me or see me made a bankrupt under his nose. Twelve o'clock, when the match begins! Of course they know that, and are trading on it. Only this evening I had the most insolent ultimatum, saying it was my 'dead and last chance.'"
"So then you came round here?"
"I was coming in any case. I wish I'd shot myself first!"
"My dear fellow, it was doing me proud; don't let us lose our sense of proportion, Teddy."
But young Garland had his face upon his hand, and once more he was the miserable man who had begun brokenly to unfold the history of his shame. The unconscious animation produced by the mere unloading of his heart, the natural boyish slang with which his tale had been freely garnished, had faded from his face, had died upon his lips. Once more he was a soul in torments of despair and degradation; and yet once more did the absence of the abject in man and manner redeem him from the depths of either. In these moments of reaction he was pitiful, but not contemptible, much less unlovable. Indeed, I could see the qualities that had won the heart of Raffles as I had never seen them before. There is a native nobility not to be destroyed by a single descent into the ignoble, an essential honesty too bright and brilliant to be dimmed by incidental dishonour; and both remained to the younger man, in the eyes of the other two, who were even then determining to preserve in him all that they themselves had lost. The thought came naturally enough to me. And yet I may well have derived it from a face that for once was easy to read, a clear-cut face that had never looked so sharp in profile, or, to my knowledge, half so gentle in expression.
"And what about these Jews?" asked Raffles at length.
"There's really only one."
"Are we to guess his name?"
"No, I don't mind telling you. It's Dan Levy."
"Of course it is!" cried Raffles with a nod for me. "Our Mr. Shylock in all his glory!"
Teddy snatched his face from his hands.
"You don't know him, do you?"
"I might almost say I know him at home," said Raffles. "But as a matter of fact I met him abroad."
Teddy was on his feet.
"But do you know him well enough—"
"Certainly. I'll see him in the morning. But I ought to have the receipts for the various instalments you have paid, and perhaps that letter saying it was your last chance."
"Here they all are," said Garland, producing a bulky envelope. "But of course I'll come with you—"
"Of course you'll do nothing of the kind, Teddy! I won't have your eye put out for the match by that old ruffian, and I'm not going to let you sit up all night either. Where are you staying, my man?"
"Nowhere yet. I left my kit at the club. I was going out home if I'd caught you early enough."
"Stout fellow! You stay here."
"My dear old man, I couldn't think of it," said Teddy gratefully.
"My dear young man, I don't care whether you think of it or not. Here you stay, and moreover you turn in at once. I can fix you up with all you want, and Barraclough shall bring your kit round before you're awake."
"But you haven't got a bed, Raffles?"
"You shall have mine. I hardly ever go to bed—do I, Bunny?"
"I've seldom seen you there," said I.
"But you were travelling all last night?"
"And straight through till this evening, and I sleep all the time in a train," said Raffles. "I hardly opened an eye all day; if I turned in to-night I shouldn't get a wink."
"Well, I shan't either," said the other hopelessly. "I've forgotten how to sleep!"
"Wait till I learn you!" said Raffles, and went into the inner room and lit it up.
"I'm terribly sorry about it all," whispered young Garland, turning to me as though we were old friends now.
"And I'm sorry for you," said I from my heart. "I know what it is."
Garland was still staring when Raffles returned with a tiny bottle from which he was shaking little round black things into his left palm.
"Clean sheets yawning for you, Teddy," said he. "And now take two of these, and one more spot of whisky, and you'll be asleep in ten minutes."
"What are they?"
"Somnol. The latest thing out, and quite the best."
"But won't they give me a frightful head?"
"Not a bit of it; you'll be as right as rain ten minutes after you wake up. And you needn't leave this before eleven to-morrow morning, because you don't want a knock at the nets, do you?"
"I ought to have one," said Teddy seriously. But Raffles laughed him to scorn.
"They're not playing you for runs, my man, and I shouldn't run any risks with those hands. Remember all the chances they're going to lap up to-morrow, and all the byes they've not got to let!"
And Raffles had administered his opiate before the patient knew much more about it; next minute he was shaking hands with me, and the minute after that Raffles went in to put out his light. He was gone some little time; and I remember leaning out of the window in order not to overhear the conversation in the next room. The night was nearly as fine as ever. The starry ceiling over the Albany Courtyard was only less beautifully blue than when Raffles and I had come in a couple of hours ago. The traffic in Piccadilly came as crisply to the ear as on a winter's night of hard frost. It was a night of wine, and sparkling wine, and the day at Lord's must surely be a day of nectar. I could not help wondering whether any man had ever played in the University match with such a load upon his soul as E.M. Garland was taking to his forced slumbers; and then whether any heavy-laden soul had ever hit upon two such brother confessors as Raffles and myself!
Council of War
Raffles was humming a snatch of something too choice for me to recognise when I drew in my head from the glorious night. The folding-doors were shut, and the grandfather's clock on one side of them made it almost midnight. Raffles would not stop his tune for me, but he pointed to the syphon and decanter, and I replenished my glass. He had a glass beside him also, which was less usual, but he did not sit down beside his glass; he was far too fidgety for that; even bothering about a pair of pictures which had changed places under some zealous hand in his absence, or rather two of Mr. Hollyer's fine renderings of Watts and Burne-Jones of which I had never seen Raffles take the slightest notice before. But it seemed that they must hang where he had hung them, and for once I saw them hanging straight. The books had also suffered from good intentions; he gave them up with a shrug. Archives and arcana he tested or examined, and so a good many minutes passed without a word. But when he stole back into the inner room, after waiting a little at the folding-doors, there was still some faint strain upon his lips; it was only when he returned, shutting the door none too quietly behind him, that he stopped humming and spoke out with a grimmer face than he had worn all night.
"That boy's in a bigger hole than he thinks. But we must pull him out between us before play begins. It's one clear call for us, Bunny!"
"Is it a bigger hole than you thought?" I asked, thinking myself of the conversation which I had managed not to overhear.
"I don't say that, Bunny, though I never should have dreamt of his old father being in one too. I own I can't understand that. They live in a regular country house in the middle of Kensington, and there are only the two of them. But I've given Teddy my word not to go to the old man for the money, so it's no use talking about it."
But apparently it was what they had been talking about behind the folding-doors; it only surprised me to see how much Raffles took it to heart.
"So you have made up your mind to raise the money elsewhere?"
"Before that lad in there opens his eyes."
"Is he asleep already?"
"Like the dead," said Raffles, dropping into his chair and drinking thoughtfully; "and so he will be till we wake him up. It's a ticklish experiment, Bunny, but even a splitting head for the first hour's play is better than a sleepless night; I've tried both, so I ought to know. I shouldn't even wonder if he did himself more than justice to-morrow; one often does when just less than fit; it takes off that dangerous edge of over-keenness which so often cuts one's own throat."
"But what do you think of it all, A.J.?"
"Not so much worse than I let him think I thought."
"But you must have been amazed?"
"I am past amazement at the worst thing the best of us ever does, and contrariwise of course. Your rich man proves a pauper, and your honest man plays the knave; we're all of us capable of every damned thing. But let us thank our stars and Teddy's that we got back just when we did."
"Why at that moment?"
Raffles produced the unfinished cheque, shook his head over it, and sent it fluttering across to me.
"Was there ever such a childish attempt? They'd have kept him in the bank while they sent for the police. If ever you want to play this game, Bunny, you must let me coach you up a bit."
"But it was never one of your games, A.J.!"
"Only incidentally once or twice; it never appealed to me," said Raffles, sending expanding circlets of smoke to crown the girls on the Golden Stair that was no longer tilted in a leaning tower. "No, Bunny, an occasional exeat at school is my modest record as a forger, though I admit that augured ill. Do you remember how I left my cheque-book about on purpose for what's happened? To be sinned against instead of sinning, in all the papers, would have set one up as an honest man for life. I thought, God forgive me, of poor old Barraclough or somebody of that kind. And to think it should be 'the friend in whom my soul confided'! Not that I ever did confide in him, Bunny, much as I love this lad."
Despite the tense of that last statement, it was the old Raffles who was speaking now, the incisively cynical old Raffles that I still knew the best, the Raffles of the impudent quotations and jaunty jeux d'esprit. This Raffles only meant half he said—but had generally done the other half! I met his mood by reminding him (out of his own Whitaker) that the sun rose at 3.51, in case he thought of breaking in anywhere that night. I had the honour of making Raffles smile.
"I did think of it, Bunny," said he. "But there's only one crib that we could crack in decency for this money; and our Mr. Shylock's is not the sort of city that Caesar himself would have taken ex itinere. It's a case for the testudo and all the rest of it. You must remember that I've been there, Bunny; at least I've visited his 'moving tent,' if one may jump from an ancient to an 'Ancient and Modern.' And if that was as impregnable as I found it, his permanent citadel must be perched upon the very rock of defence!"
"You must tell me about that, Raffles," said I, tiring a little of his kaleidoscopic metaphors. Let him be as allusive as he liked when there was no risky work on hand, and I was his lucky and delighted audience till all hours of the night or morning. But for a deed of darkness I wanted fewer fireworks, a steadier light from his intellectual lantern. And yet these were the very moments that inspired his pyrotechnic displays.
"Oh, I shall tell you all right," said Raffles. "But just now the next few hours are of more importance than the last few weeks. Of course Shylock's the man for our money; but knowing our tribesmen as I do, I think we had better begin by borrowing it like simple Christians."
"Then we have it to pay back again."
"And that's the psychological moment for raiding our 'miser's sunless coffers'—if he happens to have any. It will give us time to find out."
"But he doesn't keep open office all night," I objected.
"But he opens at nine o'clock in the morning," said Raffles, "to catch the early stockbroker who would rather be bled than hammered."
"Who told you that?"
"Our Mrs. Shylock."
"You must have made great friends with her?"
"More in pity than for the sake of secrets."
"But you went where the secrets were?"
"And she gave them away wholesale."
"She would," I said, "to you."
"She told me a lot about the impending libel action."
"Shylock v. Fact?"
"Yes; it's coming on before the vacation, you know."
"So I saw in some paper."
"But you know what it's all about, Bunny?"
"No, I don't."
"Another old rascal, the Maharajah of Hathipur, and his perfectly fabulous debts. It seems he's been in our Mr. Shylock's clutches for years, but instead of taking his pound of flesh he's always increasing the amount. Of course that's the whole duty of money-lenders, but now they say the figure runs well into six. No one has any sympathy with that old heathen; he's said to have been a pal of Nana's before the Mutiny, and in it up to the neck he only saved by turning against his own lot in time; in any case it's the pot and the kettle so far as moral colour is concerned. But I believe it's an actual fact that syndicates have been formed to buy up the black man's debts and take a reasonable interest, only the dirty white man always gets to windward of the syndicate. They're on the point of bringing it off, when old Levy inveigles the nigger into some new Oriental extravagance. Fact has exposed the whole thing, and printed blackmailing letters which Shylock swears are forgeries. That's both their cases in a philippine! The leeches told the Jew he must do his Carlsbad this year before the case came on; and the tremendous amount it's going to cost may account for his dunning old clients the moment he gets back."
"Then why should he lend to you?"
"I'm a new client, Bunny; that makes all the difference. Then we were very good pals out there."
"But you and Mrs. Shylock were better still?"
"Unbeknowns, Bunny! She used to tell me her troubles when I lent her an arm and took due care to look a martyr; my hunting friend had coarse metaphors about heavy-weights and the knacker's yard."
"And yet you came away with the poor soul's necklace?"
Raffles was tapping the chronic cigarette on the table at his elbow; he stood up to light it, as one does stand up to make the dramatic announcements of one's life, and he spoke through the flame of the match as it rose and fell between his puffs.
"No—Bunny—I did not!"
"But you told me you won the Emerald Stakes!" I cried, jumping up in my turn.
"So I did, Bunny, but I gave them back again."
"You gave yourself away to her, as she'd given him away to you?"
"Don't be a fool, Bunny," said Raffles, subsiding into his chair. "I can't tell you the whole thing now, but here are the main heads. They're at the Savoy Hotel, in Carlsbad I mean. I go to Pupp's. We meet. They stare. I come out of my British shell as the humble hero of the affair at the other Savoy. I crab my hotel. They swear by theirs. I go to see their rooms. I wait till I can get the very same thing immediately overhead on the second floor—where I can even hear the old swine cursing her from under his mud-poultice! Both suites have balconies that might have been made for me. Need I go on?"
"I wonder you weren't suspected."
"There's no end to your capacity for wonder, Bunny. I took some sweet old rags with me on purpose, carefully packed inside a decent suit, and I had the luck to pick up a foul old German cap that some peasant had cast off in the woods. I only meant to leave it on them like a card; as it was—well, I was waiting for the best barber in the place to open his shop next morning."
"What had happened?"
"A whole actful of unrehearsed effects; that's why I think twice before taking on old Shylock again. I admire him, Bunny, as a steely foeman. I look forward to another game with him on his own ground. But I must find out the pace of the wicket before I put myself on."
"I suppose you had tea with them, and all that sort of thing?"
"Gieshuebler!" said Raffles with a shudder. "But I made it last as long as tea, and thought I had located the little green lamps before I took my leave. There was a japanned despatch box in one corner. 'That's the Emerald Isle,' I thought, 'I'll soon have it out of the sea. The old man won't trust 'em to the old lady after what happened in town,' I needn't tell you I knew they were there somewhere; he made her wear them even at the tragic travesty of a Carlsbad hotel dinner."
Raffles was forgetting to be laconic now. I believe he had forgotten the lad in the next room, and everything else but the breathless battle that he was fighting over again for my benefit. He told me how he waited for a dark night, and then slid down from his sitting-room balcony to the one below. And my emeralds were not in the japanned box after all; and just as he had assured himself of the fact, the folding-doors opened "as it might be these," and there stood Dan Levy "in a suit of swagger silk pyjamas."
"They gave me a sudden respect for him," continued Raffles; "it struck me, for the first time, that mud baths mightn't be the only ones he ever took. His face was as evil as ever, but he was utterly unarmed, and I was not; and yet there he stood and abused me like a pickpocket, as if there was no chance of my firing, and he didn't care whether I did or not. So I stuck my revolver nearly in his face, and pulled the hammer up and up. Good God, Bunny, if I had pulled too hard! But that made him blink a bit, and I was jolly glad to let it down again. 'Out with those emeralds,' says I in low German mugged up in case of need. Of course you realise that I was absolutely unrecognisable, a low blackguard with a blackened face. 'I don't know what you mean,' says he, 'and I'm damned if I care.' 'Das halsband, says I, which means the necklace. 'Go to hell,' says he. But I struck myself and shook my head and then my fist at him and nodded. He laughed in my face; and upon my soul we were at a deadlock. So I pointed to the clock and held up one finger. 'I've one minute to live, old girl,' says he through the doors, 'if this rotter has the guts to shoot, and I don't think he has. Why the hell don't you get out the other way and alarm the 'ouse?' And that raised the siege, Bunny. In comes the old woman, as plucky as he was, and shoves the necklace into my left hand. I longed to refuse it. I didn't dare. And the old beast took her and shook her like a rat, until I covered him again, and swore in German that if he showed himself on the balcony for the next two minutes he'd be ein toter Englander! That was the other bit I'd got off pat; it was meant to mean 'a dead Englishman.' And I left the fine old girl clinging on to him, instead of him to her!"
I emptied my lungs and my glass too. Raffles took a sip himself.
"But the rope was fixed to your balcony, A.J.?"
"But I began by fixing the other end to theirs, and the moment I was safely up I undid my end and dropped it clear to the ground. They found it dangling all right when out they rushed together. Of course I'd picked the right ball in the way of nights; it was bone-dry as well as pitch-dark, and in five minutes I was helping the rest of the hotel to search for impossible footprints on the gravel, and to stamp out any there might conceivably have been."
"So nobody ever suspected you?"
"Not a soul, I can safely say; I was the first my victims bored with the whole yarn."
"Then why return the swag? It's an old trick of yours, Raffles, but in a case like this, with a pig like that, I confess I don't see the point."
"You forget the poor old lady, Bunny. She had a dog's life before; after that the beans he gave her weren't even fit for a dog. I loved her for her pluck in standing up to him; it beat his hollow in standing up to me; there was only one reward for her, and it was in my gift."
"But how on earth did you manage that?"
"Not by public presentation, Bunny, nor yet by taking the old dame into my confidence more cuniculi!"
"I suppose you returned the necklace anonymously?"
"As a low-down German burglar would be sure to do! No, Bunny, I planted it in the woods where I knew it would be found. And then I had to watch lest it was found by the wrong sort. But luckily Mr. Shylock had sprung a substantial reward, and all came right in the end. He sent his doctor to blazes, and had a buck feed and lashings on the night it was recovered. The hunting man and I were invited to the thanksgiving spread; but I wouldn't budge from the diet, and he was ashamed to unless I did. It made a coolness between us, and now I doubt if we shall ever have that enormous dinner we used to talk about to celebrate our return from a living tomb."
But I was not interested in that shadowy fox-hunter. "Dan Levy's a formidable brute to tackle," said I at length, and none too buoyantly.
"That's a very true observation, Bunny; it's also exactly why I so looked forward to tackling him. It ought to be the kind of conflict that the halfpenny press have learnt to call Homeric."
"Are you thinking of to-morrow, or of when it comes to robbing Peter to pay Peter?"
"Excellent, Bunny!" cried Raffles, as though I had made a shot worthy of his willow. "How the small hours brighten us up!" He drew the curtains and displayed a window like a child's slate with the sashes ruled across it. "You perceive how we have tired the stars with talking, and cleaned them from the sky! The mellifluous Heraclitus can have been no sitter up o' nights, or his pal wouldn't have boasted about tiring the sun by our methods. What a lot the two old pets must have missed!"
"You haven't answered my question," said I resignedly. "Nor have you told me how you propose to go to work to raise this money in the first instance."
"If you like to light another Sullivan," said Raffles, "and mix yourself another very small and final one, I can tell you now, Bunny."
And tell me he did.
"Our Mr. Shylock"
I have often wondered in what pause or phase of our conversation Raffles hit upon the plan which we duly carried out; for we had been talking incessantly, since his arrival about eight o'clock at night, until two in the morning. Yet that which we discussed between two and three was what we actually did between nine and ten, with the single exception necessitated by an altogether unforeseen development, of which the less said the better until the proper time. The foresight and imagination of a Raffles are obviously apt to outstrip his spoken words; but even in the course of speech his ideas would crystallise, quite palpably to the listener, and the sentence that began by throwing out a shadowy idea would culminate in a definite project, as the image comes into focus under the lens, and with as much detail into the bargain.
Suffice it that after a long night of it at the Albany, and but a bath and a cup of tea at my own flat, I found Raffles waiting for me in Piccadilly, and down we went together to the jaws of Jermyn Street. There we nodded, and I was proceeding down the hill when I turned on my heel as though I had forgotten something, and entered Jermyn Street not fifty yards behind Raffles. I had no thought of catching him up. But it so happened that I was in his wake in time to witness a first contretemps which did not amount to much at the time; this was merely the violent exit of another of Dan Levy's early callers into the very arms of Raffles. There was a heated apology, accepted with courteous composure, and followed by an excited outpouring which I did not come near enough to overhear. It was delivered by a little man in an aureole of indigo hair, who brushed his great sombrero violently as he spoke and Raffles listened. I could see from their manner that the collision which had just occurred was not the subject under discussion; but I failed to distinguish a word, though I listened outside a hatter's until Raffles had gone in and his new acquaintance had passed me with blazing eyes and a volley of husky vows in broken English.
"Another of Mr. Shylock's victims," thought I; and indeed he might have been bleeding internally from the loss of his pound of flesh; at any rate there was bloodshed in his eyes.
I stood a long time outside that hatter's window, and finally went in to choose a cap. But the light is wicked in those narrow shops, and this necessitated my carrying several caps to the broad daylight of the threshold to gauge their shades, and incidentally to achieve a swift survey of the street. Then they crowned me with an ingenious apparatus like a typewriter, to get the exact shape and measure of my skull, for I had intimated that I had no desire to dress it anywhere else for the future. All this must have taken up the most of twenty minutes, yet after getting as far as Mr. Shylock's I remembered that I required what one's hatter (and no one else) calls a "boater," and back I went to order one in addition to the cap. And as the next tack fetches the buoy, so my next perambulation (in which, however, I was thinking seriously of a new bowler) brought me face to face with Raffles once more.
We shouted and shook hands; our encounter had taken place almost under the money-lender's windows, and it was so un-English in its cordiality that between our slaps and grasps Raffles managed deftly to insert a stout packet in my breast pocket. I cannot think the most critical pedestrian could have seen it done. But streets have as many eyes as Argus, and some of them are always on one.
"They had to send to the bank for it," whispered Raffles. "It barely passed through their hands. But don't you let Shylock spot his own envelope!"
In another second he was saying something very different that anybody might have heard, and in yet another he was hustling me across Shylock's threshold. "I'll take you up and introduce you," he cried aloud. "You couldn't come to a better man, my dear fellow—he's the only honest one in Europe. Is Mr. Levy disengaged?"
A stunted young gentleman, who spoke as though he had a hare-lip or was in liquor, neither calamity having really befallen him, said that he thought so, but would see, which he proceeded to do through a telephone, after shifting the indicator from "Through" to "Private." He slid off his stool at once, and another youth, of similar appearance and still more similar peculiarity of speech, who entered in a hurry at that moment, was told to hold on while he showed the gentlemen up-stairs. There were other clerks behind the mahogany bulwark, and we heard the newcomer greeting them hoarsely as we climbed up into the presence.
Dan Levy, as I must try to call him when Raffles is not varnishing my tale, looked a very big man at his enormous desk, but by no means so elephantine as at the tiny table in the Savoy Restaurant a month earlier. His privations had not only reduced his bulk to the naked eye, but made him look ten years younger. He wore the habiliments of a gentleman; even as he sat at his desk his well-cut coat and well-tied tie filled me with that inconsequent respect which the silk pyjamas had engendered in Raffles. But the great face that greeted us with a shrewd and rather scornful geniality impressed me yet more powerfully. In its massive features and its craggy contour it displayed the frank pugnacity of the pugilist rather than the low cunning of the traditional usurer; and the nose in particular, while of far healthier appearance than when I had seen it first and last, was both dominant and menacing in its immensity. It was a comfort to turn from this formidable countenance to that of Raffles, who had entered with his own serene unconscious confidence, and now introduced us with that inimitable air of light-hearted authority which stamped him in all shades of society.
"'Appy to meet you, sir. I hope you're well?" said Mr. Levy, dropping one aspirate but putting in the next with care. "Take a seat, sir, please."
But I kept my legs, though I felt them near to trembling, and, diving a hand into a breast pocket, I began working the contents out of the envelope that Raffles had given me, while I spoke out in a tone sufficiently rehearsed at the Albany overnight.
"I'm not so sure about the happiness," said I. "I mean about its lasting, Mr. Levy. I come from my friend, Mr. Edward Garland."
"I thought you came to borrow money!" interposed Raffles with much indignation. The moneylender was watching me with bright eyes and lips I could no longer see.
"I never said so," I rapped out at Raffles; and I thought I saw approval and encouragement behind his stare like truth at the bottom of the well.
"Who is the little biter?" the money-lender inquired of him with delightful insolence.
"An old friend of mine," replied Raffles, in an injured tone that made a convincing end of the old friendship. "I thought he was hard up, or I never should have brought him in to introduce to you."
"I didn't ask you for your introduction, Raffles," said I offensively. "I simply met you coming out as I was coming in. I thought you damned officious, if you ask me!"
Whereupon, with an Anglo-Saxon threat of subsequent violence to my person, Raffles flung open the door to leave us to our interview. This was exactly as it had been rehearsed. But Dan Levy called Raffles back. And that was exactly as we had hoped.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen!" said the Jew. "Please don't make a cockpit of my office, gentlemen; and pray, Mr. Raffles, don't leave me to the mercies of your very dangerous friend."
"You can be two to one if you like," I gasped valiantly. "I don't care."
And my chest heaved in accordance with my stage instructions, as also with a realism to which it was a relief to give full play.
"Come now," said Levy. "What did Mr. Garland send you about?"
"You know well enough," said I: "his debt to you."
"Don't be rude about it," said Levy. "What about the debt?"
"It's a damned disgrace!" said I.
"I quite agree," he chuckled. "It ought to 'ave been settled months ago."
"Months ago?" I echoed. "It's only twelve months since he borrowed three hundred pounds from you, and now you're sticking him for seven!"
"I am," said Levy, opening uncompromising lips that entirely disappeared again next instant.
"He borrows three hundred for a year at the outside, and you blackmail him for eight hundred when the year's up."
"You said 'seven' just now," interrupted Raffles, but in the voice of a man who was getting a fright.
"You also said 'blackmailing,'" added Dan Levy portentously. "Do you want to be thrown downstairs?"
"Do you deny the figures?" I retorted.
"No, I don't; have you got his repayment cards?"
"Yes, here in my hands, and they shan't leave them. You see, you're not aware," I added severely, as I turned to Raffles, "that this young fellow has already paid up one hundred in instalments; that's what makes the eight; and all this is what'll happen to you if you've been fool enough to get into the same boat."
The money-lender had borne with me longer than either of us had expected that he would; but now he wheeled back his chair and stood up, a pillar of peril and a mouthful of oaths.
"Is that all you've come to say?" he thundered. "If so, you young devil, out you go!"
"No, it isn't," said I, spreading out a document attached to the cards of receipt which Raffles had obtained from Teddy Garland; these I had managed to extract without anything else from the inner pocket in which I had been trying to empty out Raffles's envelope. "Here," I continued, "is a letter, written only yesterday, by you to Mr. Garland, in which you say, among other very insolent things: 'This is final, and absolutely no excuses of any kind will be tolerated or accepted. You have given ten times more trouble than your custom is worth, and I shall be glad to get rid of you. So you had better pay up before twelve o'clock to-morrow, as you may depend that the above threats will be carried out to the very letter, and steps will be taken to carry them into effect at that hour. This is your dead and last chance, and the last time I will write you on the subject.'"
"So it is," said Levy with an oath. "This is a very bad case, Mr. Raffles."
"I agree," said I. "And may I ask if you propose to 'get rid' of Mr. Garland by making him 'pay up' in full?"
"Before twelve o'clock to-day," said Dan Levy, with a snap of his prize-fighting jaws.
"Eight hundred, first and last, for the three hundred he borrowed a year ago?"
"Surely that's very hard on the boy," I said, reaching the conciliatory stage by degrees on which Raffles paid me many compliments later; but at the time he remarked, "I should say it was his own fault."
"Of course it is, Mr. Raffles," cried the moneylender, taking a more conciliatory tone himself. "It was my money; it was my three 'undred golden sovereigns; and you can sell what's yours for what it'll fetch, can't you?"
"Obviously," said Raffles.
"Very well, then, money's like anything else; if you haven't got it, and can't beg or earn it, you've got to buy it at a price. I sell my money, that's all. And I've a right to sell it at a fancy price if I can get a fancy price for it. A man may be a fool to pay my figure; that depends 'ow much he wants the money at the time, and it's his affair, not mine. Your gay young friend was all right if he hadn't defaulted, but a defaulter deserves to pay through the nose, and be damned to him. It wasn't me let your friend in; he let in himself, with his eyes open. Mr. Garland knew very well what I was charging him, and what I shouldn't 'esitate to charge over and above if he gave me half a chance. Why should I? Wasn't it in the bond? What do you all think I run my show for? It's business, Mr. Raffles, not robbery, my dear sir. All business is robbery, if you come to that. But you'll find mine is all above-board and in the bond."
"A very admirable exposition," said Raffles weightily.
"Not that it applies to you, Mr. Raffles," the other was adroit enough to add. "Mr. Garland was no friend of mine, and he was a fool, whereas I hope I may say that you're the one and not the other."
"Then it comes to this," said I, "that you mean him to pay up in full this morning?"
"By noon, and it's just gone ten."
"The whole seven hundred pounds?"
"Sterling," said Mr. Levy "No cheques entertained."
"Then," said I, with an air of final defeat, "there's nothing for it but to follow my instructions and pay you now on the nail!"
I did not look at Levy, but I heard the sudden intake of his breath at the sight of my bank-notes, and I felt its baleful exhalation on my forehead as I stooped and began counting them out upon his desk. I had made some progress before he addressed me in terms of protest. There was almost a tremor in his voice. I had no call to be so hasty; it looked as though I had been playing a game with him. Why couldn't I tell him I had the money with me all the time? The question was asked with a sudden oath, because I had gone on counting it out regardless of his overtures. I took as little notice of his anger.
"And now, Mr. Levy," I concluded, "may I ask you to return me Mr. Garland's promissory note?"
"Yes, you may ask and you shall receive!" he snarled, and opened his safe so violently that the keys fell out. Raffles replaced them with exemplary promptitude while the note of hand was being found.
The evil little document was in my possession at last. Levy roared down the tube, and the young man of the imperfect diction duly appeared.
"Take that young biter," cried Levy, "and throw him into the street. Call up Moses to lend you a 'and."
But the first murderer stood nonplussed, looking from Raffles to me, and finally inquiring which biter his master meant.
"That one!" bellowed the money-lender, shaking a lethal fist at me. "Mr. Raffles is a friend o' mine."
"But 'e'th a friend of 'ith too," lisped the young man. "Thimeon Markth come acroth the thtreet to tell me tho. He thaw them thake handth outthide our plathe, after he'd theen 'em arm-in-arm in Piccadilly, 'an he come in to thay tho in cathe—"
But the youth of limited articulation was not allowed to finish his explanation; he was grasped by the scruff of the neck and kicked and shaken out of the room, and his collar flung after him. I heard him blubbering on the stairs as Levy locked the door and put the key in his pocket. But I did not hear Raffles slip into the swivel chair behind the desk, or know that he had done so until the usurer and I turned round together.
"Out of that!" blustered Levy.
But Raffles tilted the chair back on its spring and laughed softly in his face.
"Not if I know it," said he. "If you don't open the door in about one minute I shall require this telephone of yours to ring up the police."
"The police, eh?" said Levy, with a sinister recovery of self-control. "You'd better leave that to me, you precious pair of swindlers!"
"Besides," continued Raffles, "of course you keep an argumentum ad hominem in one of these drawers. Ah, here it is, and just as well in my hands as in yours!"
He had opened the top drawer in the right-hand pedestal, and taken therefrom a big bulldog revolver; it was the work of few moments to empty its five chambers, and hand the pistol by its barrel to the owner.
"Curse you!" hissed the latter, hurling it into the fender with a fearful clatter. "But you'll pay for this, my fine gentlemen; this isn't sharp practice, but criminal fraud."
"The burden of proof," said Raffles, "lies with you. Meanwhile, will you be good enough to open that door instead of looking as sick as a cold mud-poultice?"
The money-lender had, indeed, turned as grey as his hair; and his eyebrows, which were black and looked dyed, stood out like smears of ink. Nevertheless, the simile which Raffles had employed with his own unfortunate facility was more picturesque than discreet. I saw it set Mr. Shylock thinking. Luckily, the evil of the day was sufficient for it and him; but so far from complying, he set his back to the locked door and swore a sweet oath never to budge.
"Oh, very well!" resumed Raffles, and the receiver was at his ear without more ado. "Is that the Exchange? Give me nine-two-double-three Gerrard, will you?"
"It's fraud," reiterated Levy. "And you know it."
"It's nothing of the sort, and you know it," murmured Raffles, with the proper pre-occupation of the man at the telephone.
"You lent the money," I added. "That's your business. It's nothing to do with you what he chooses to do with it."
"He's a cursed swindler," hissed Levy. "And you're his damned decoy!"
I was not sorry to see Raffles's face light up across the desk.
"Is that Howson, Anstruther and Martin?—they're only my solicitors, Mr. Levy.... Put me through to Mr. Martin, please.... That you, Charlie? ... You might come in a cab to Jermyn Street—I forget the number—Dan Levy's, the money-lender's—thanks, old chap! ... Wait a bit, Charlie—a constable...."
But Dan Levy had unlocked his door and flung it open.
"There you are, you scoundrels! But we'll meet again, my fine swell-mobsmen!"
Raffles was frowning at the telephone.
"I've been cut off," said he. "Wait a bit! Clear call for you, Mr. Levy, I believe!"
And they changed places, without exchanging another word until Raffles and I were on the stairs.
"Why, the 'phone's not even through!" yelled the money-lender, rushing out.
"But we are, Mr. Levy!" cried Raffles. And down we ran into the street.
Raffles hailed a passing hansom, and had bundled me in before I realised that he was not coming with me.
"Drive down to the club for Teddy's cricket-bag," said he; "we'll make him get straight into flannels to save time. Order breakfast for three in half-an-hour precisely, and I'll tell him everything before you're back."
His eyes were shining with the prospect as I drove away, not sorry to escape the scene of that young man's awakening to better fortune than he deserved. For in my heart I could not quite forgive the act in which Raffles and I had caught him overnight. Raffles might make as light of it as he pleased; it was impossible for another to take his affectionately lenient view, not of the moral question involved, but of the breach of faith between friend and friend. My own feeling in the matter, however, if a little jaundiced, was not so strong as to prevent me from gloating over the victory in which I had just assisted. I thought of the notorious extortioner who had fallen to our unscrupulous but not indictable wiles; and my heart tinkled with the hansom bell. I thought of the good that we had done for once, of the undoubted wrong we had contrived to right by a species of justifiable chicanery. And I forgot all about the youth whose battle we had fought and won, until I found myself ordering his breakfast, and having his cricket-bag taken out to my cab.
Raffles was waiting for me in the Albany courtyard. I thought he was frowning at the sky, which was not what it had been earlier in the morning, until I remembered how little time there was to lose.
"Haven't you seen anything of him?" he cried as I jumped out.
"Of whom, Raffles?"
"Teddy, of course!"
"Teddy Garland? Has he gone out?"
"Before I got in," said Raffles, grimly. "I wonder where the devil he is!"
He had paid the cabman and taken down the bag himself. I followed him up to his rooms.
"But what's the meaning of it, Raffles?"
"That's what I want to know."
"Could he have gone out for a paper?"
"They were all here before I went. I left them on his bed."
"Or for a shave?"
"That's more likely; but he's been out nearly an hour."
"But you can't have been gone much longer yourself, Raffles, and I understood you left him fast asleep?"
"That's the worst of it, Bunny. He must have been shamming. Barraclough saw him go out ten minutes after me."
"Could you have disturbed him when you went?"
Raffles shook his head.
"I never shut a door more carefully in my life. I made row enough when I came back, Bunny, on purpose to wake him up, and I can tell you it gave me a turn when there wasn't a sound from in there! He'd shut all the doors after him; it was a second or two before I had the pluck to open them. I thought something horrible had happened!"
"You don't think so still?"
"I don't know what to think," said Raffles, gloomily; "nothing has panned out as I thought it would. You must remember that we have given ourselves away to Dan Levy, whatever else we have done, and without doubt set up the enemy of our lives in the very next street. It's close quarters, Bunny; we shall have an expert eye upon us for some time to come. But I should rather enjoy that than otherwise, if only Teddy hadn't bolted in this rotten way."
Never had I known Raffles in so pessimistic a mood. I did not share his sombre view of either matter, though I confined my remarks to the one that seemed to weigh most heavily on his mind.
"A guinea to a gooseberry," I wagered, "that you find your man safe and sound at Lord's."
"I rang them up ten minutes ago," said Raffles. "They hadn't heard of him then; besides, here's his cricket-bag."
"He may have been at the club when I fetched it away—I never asked."
"I did, Bunny. I rang them up as well, just after you had left."
"Then what about his father's house?"
"That's our one chance," said Raffles. "They're not on the telephone, but now that you're here I've a good mind to drive out and see if Teddy's there. You know what a state he was in last night, and you know how a thing can seem worse when you wake and remember it than it did at the time it happened. I begin to hope he's gone straight to old Garland with the whole story; in that case he's bound to come back for his kit; and by Jove, Bunny, there's a step upon the stairs!"
We had left the doors open behind us, and a step it was, ascending hastily enough to our floor. But it was not the step of a very young man, and Raffles was the first to recognise the fact; his face fell as we looked at each other for a single moment of suspense; in another he was out of the room, and I heard him greeting Mr. Garland on the landing.
"Then you haven't brought Teddy with you?" I heard Raffles add.
"Do you mean to say he isn't here?" replied so pleasant a voice—in accents of such acute dismay—that Mr. Garland had my sympathy before we met.
"He has been," said Raffles, "and I'm expecting him back every minute. Won't you come in and wait, Mr. Garland?"
The pleasant voice made an exclamation of premature relief; the pair entered, and I was introduced to the last person I should have suspected of being a retired brewer at all, much less of squandering his money in retirement as suggested by his son. I was prepared for a conventional embodiment of reckless prosperity, for a pseudo-military type in louder purple and finer linen than the real thing. I shook hands instead with a gentle, elderly man, whose kindly eyes beamed bravely amid careworn furrows, and whose slightly diffident yet wholly cordial address won my heart outright.
"So you've lost no time in welcoming the wanderer!" said he. "You're nearly as bad as my boy, who was quite bent on seeing Raffles last night or first thing this morning. He told me he should stay the night in town if necessary, and he evidently has."
There was still a trace of anxiety in the father's manner, but there was also a twinkle in his eyes, which kindled with genial fires as Raffles gave a perfectly truthful account of the young man's movements (as distinct from his words and deeds) overnight.
"And what do you think of his great news?" asked Mr. Garland. "Was it a surprise to you, Raffles?"
Raffles shook his head with a rather weary smile, and I sat up in my chair. What great news was this?
"This son of mine has just got engaged," explained Mr. Garland for my benefit. "And as a matter of fact it's his engagement that brings me here; you gentlemen mustn't think I want to keep an eagle eye upon him; but Miss Belsize has just wired to say she is coming up early to go with us to the match, instead of meeting at Lord's, and I thought she would be so disappointed not to find Teddy, especially as they are bound to see very little of each other all day."
I for my part was wondering why I had not heard of Miss Belsize or this engagement from Raffles. He must himself have heard of it last thing at night in the next room, while I was star-gazing here at the open window. Yet in all the small hours he had never told me of a circumstance which extenuated young Garland's conduct if it did nothing else. Even now it was not from Raffles that I received either word or look of explanation. But his face had suddenly lit up.
"May I ask," he exclaimed, "if the telegram was to Teddy or to you, Mr. Garland?"
"It was addressed to Teddy, but of course I opened it in his absence."
"Could it have been an answer to an invitation or suggestion of his?"
"Very easily. They had lunch together yesterday, and Camilla might have had to consult Lady Laura."
"Then that's the whole thing!" cried Raffles. "Teddy was on his way home while you were on yours into town! How did you come?"
"In the brougham."
"Through the Park?"
"While he was in a hansom in Knightsbridge or Kensington Gore! That's how you missed him," said Raffles confidently. "If you drive straight back you'll be in time to take him on to Lord's."
Mr. Garland begged us both to drive back with him; and we thought we might; we decided that we would, and were all three under way in about a minute. Yet it was considerably after eleven when we bowled through Kensington to a house that I had never seen before, a house since swept away by the flowing tide of flats, but I can still see every stone and slate of it as clearly as on that summer morning more than ten years ago. It stood just off the thoroughfare, in grounds of its own out of all keeping with their metropolitan environment; they ran from one side-street to another, and further back than we could see. Vivid lawn and towering tree, brilliant beds and crystal vineries, struck one more forcibly (and favourably) than the mullioned and turreted mansion of a house. And yet a double stream of omnibuses rattled incessantly within a few yards of the steps on which the three of us soon stood nonplussed.
Mr. Edward had not been seen or heard of at the house. Neither had Miss Belsize arrived; that was the one consolatory feature.
"Come into the library," said Mr. Garland; and when we were among his books, which were somewhat beautifully bound and cased in glass, he turned to Raffles and added hoarsely: "There's something in all this I haven't been told, and I insist on knowing what it is."
"But you know as much as I do," protested Raffles. "I went out leaving Teddy asleep and came back to find him flown."
"What time was that?"
"Between nine and half-past when I went out. I was away nearly an hour."
"Why leave him asleep at that time of morning?"
"I wanted him to have every minute he could get. We had been sitting up rather late."
"But why, Raffles? What could you have to talk about all night when you were tired and it was Teddy's business to keep fresh for to-day? Why, after all, should he want to see you the moment you got back? He's not the first young fellow who's got rather suddenly engaged to a charming girl; is he in any trouble about it, Raffles?"
"About his engagement—not that I'm aware."
"Then he is in some trouble?"
"He was, Mr. Garland," answered Raffles. "I give you my word that he isn't now."
Mr. Garland grasped the back of a chair.
"Was it some money trouble, Raffles? Of course, if my boy has given you his confidence, I have no right simply as his father—"
"It is hardly that, sir," said Raffles, gently; "it is I who have no right to give him away. But if you don't mind leaving it at that, Mr. Garland, there is perhaps no harm in my saying that it was about some little temporary embarrassment that Teddy was so anxious to see me."
"And you helped him?" cried the poor man, plainly torn between gratitude and humiliation.
"Not out of my pocket," replied Raffles, smiling. "The matter was not so serious as Teddy thought; it only required adjustment."
"God bless you, Raffles!" murmured Mr. Garland, with a catch in his voice. "I won't ask for a single detail. My poor boy went to the right man; he knew better than to come to me. Like father, like son!" he muttered to himself, and dropped into the chair he had been handling, and bent his head over his folded arms.
He seemed to have forgotten the untoward effect of Teddy's disappearance in the peculiar humiliation of its first cause. Raffles took out his watch, and held up the dial for me to see. It was after the half-hour now; but at this moment a servant entered with a missive, and the master recovered his self-control.
"This'll be from Teddy!" he cried, fumbling with his glasses. "No; it's for him, and by special messenger. I'd better open it. I don't suppose it's Miss Belsize again."
"Miss Belsize is in the drawing-room, sir," said the man. "She said you were not to be disturbed."
"Oh, tell her we shan't be long," said Mr. Garland, with a new strain of trouble in his tone. "Listen to this—listen to this," he went on before the door was shut: "'What has happened? Lost toss. Whipham plays if you don't turn up in time.—J. S.'"
"Jack Studley," said Raffles, "the Cambridge skipper."
"I know! I know! And Whipham's reserve man, isn't he?"
"And another wicket-keeper, worse luck!" exclaimed Raffles. "If he turns out and takes a single ball, and Teddy is only one over late, it will still be too late for him to play."
"Then it's too late already," said Mr. Garland, sinking back into his chair with a groan.
"But that note from Studley may have been half-an-hour on the way."
"No, Raffles, it's not an ordinary note; it's a message telephoned straight from Lord's—probably within the last few minutes—to a messenger office not a hundred yards from this door!"
Mr. Garland sat staring miserably at the carpet; he was beginning to look ill with perplexity and suspense. Raffles himself, who had turned his back upon us with a shrug of acquiescence in the inevitable, was a monument of discomfiture as he stood gazing through a glass door into the adjoining conservatory. There was no actual window in the library, but this door was a single sheet of plate-glass into which a man might well have walked, and I can still see Raffles in full-length silhouette upon a panel of palms and tree-ferns. I see the silhouette grow tall and straight again before my eyes, the door open, and Raffles listening with an alert lift of the head. I, too, hear something, an elfin hiss, a fairy fusillade, and then the sudden laugh with which Raffles rejoined us in the body of the room.
"It's raining!" he cried, waving a hand above his head. "Have you a barometer, Mr. Garland?"
"That's an aneroid under the lamp-bracket."
"How often do you set the indicator?"
"Last thing every night. I remember it was between Fair and Change when I went to bed. It made me anxious."
"It may make you thankful now. It's between Change and Rain this morning. And the rain's begun, and while there's rain there's hope!"
In a twinkling Raffles had regained all his own irresistible buoyancy and assurance. But the older man was not capable of so prompt a recovery.
"Something has happened to my boy!"
"But not necessarily anything terrible."
"If I knew what, Raffles—if only I knew what!"
Raffles eyed the pale and twitching face with sidelong solicitude. He himself had the confident expression which always gave me confidence; the rattle on the conservatory roof was growing louder every minute.
"I intend to find out," said he; "and if the rain goes on long enough, we may still see Teddy playing when it stops. But I shall want your help, sir."
"I am ready to go with you anywhere, Raffles."
"You can only help me, Mr. Garland, by staying where you are."
"Where I am?"
"In the house all day," said Raffles firmly. "It is absolutely essential to my idea."
"And that is, Raffles?"
"To save Teddy's face, in the first instance. I shall drive straight up to Lord's, in your brougham if I may. I know Studley rather well; he shall keep Teddy's place open till the last possible moment."
"But how shall you account for his absence?" I asked.
"I shall account for it all right," said Raffles darkly. "I can save his face for the time being, at all events at Lord's."
"But that's the only place that matters," said I.
"On the contrary, Bunny, this very house matters even more as long as Miss Belsize is here. You forget that they're engaged, and that she's in the next room now."
"Good God!" whispered Mr. Garland. "I had forgotten that myself."
"She is the last who must know of this affair," said Raffles, with, I thought, undue authority. "And you are the only one who can keep it from her, sir."
"Miss Belsize mustn't go up to Lord's this morning. She would only spoil her things, and you may tell her from me that there would be no play for an hour after this, even if it stopped this minute, which it won't. Meanwhile let her think that Teddy's weatherbound with the rest of them in the pavilion; but she mustn't come until you hear from me again; and the best way to keep her here is to stay with her yourself."
"And when may I expect to hear?" asked Mr. Garland as Raffles held out his hand.
"Let me see. I shall be at Lord's in less than twenty minutes; another five or ten should polish off Studley; and then I shall barricade myself in the telephone-box and ring up every hospital in town! You see, it may be an accident after all, though I don't think so. You won't hear from me on the point unless it is; the fewer messengers flying about the better, if you agree with me as to the wisdom of keeping the matter dark at this end."
"Oh, yes, I agree with you, Raffles; but it will be a terribly hard task for me!"
"It will, indeed, Mr. Garland. Yet no news is always good news, and I promise to come straight to you the moment I have news of any kind."
With that they shook hands, our host with an obvious reluctance that turned to a less understandable dismay as I also prepared to take my leave of him.
"What!" cried he, "am I to be left quite alone to hoodwink that poor girl and hide my own anxiety?"
"There's no reason why you should come, Bunny," said Raffles to me. "If either of them is a one-man job, it's mine."
Our host said no more, but he looked at me so wistfully that I could not but offer to stay with him if he wished it; and when at length the drawing-room door had closed upon him and his son's fiancee, I took an umbrella from the stand and saw Raffles through the providential downpour into the brougham.
"I'm sorry, Bunny," he muttered between the butler in the porch and the coachman on the box. "This sort of thing is neither in my line nor yours, but it serves us right for straying from the path of candid crime. We should have opened a safe for that seven hundred."
"But what do you really think is at the bottom of this extraordinary disappearance?"
"Some madness or other, I'm afraid; but if that boy is still in the land of the living, I shall have him before the sun goes down on his insanity."
"And what about this engagement of his?" I pursued. "Do you disapprove of it?"
"Why on earth should I?" asked Raffles, rather sharply, as he plunged from under my umbrella into the brougham.
"Because you never told me when he told you," I replied. "Is the girl beneath him?"
Raffles looked at me inscrutably with his clear blue eyes.
"You'd better find out for yourself," said he. "Tell the coachman to hurry up to Lord's—and pray that this rain may last!"