R. HOLMES & CO.
Being the Remarkable Adventures of Raffles Holmes, Esq., Detective and Amateur Cracksman by Birth
by John Kendrick Bangs
Contents I. INTRODUCING MR. RAFFLES HOLMES II. THE ADVENTURE OF THE DORRINGTON RUBY SEAL III. THE ADVENTURE OF MRS. BURLINGAME'S DIAMOND STOMACHER IV. THE ADVENTURE OF THE MISSING PENDANTS V. THE ADVENTURE OF THE BRASS CHECK VI. THE ADVENTURE OF THE HIRED BURGLAR VII. THE REDEMPTION OF YOUNG BILLINGTON RAND VIII. "THE NOSTALGIA OF NERVY JIM THE SNATCHER" IX. THE ADVENTURE OF ROOM 407 X. THE MAJOR-GENERAL'S PEPPERPOTS
R. HOLMES & CO.
I INTRODUCING MR. RAFFLES HOLMES
It was a blistering night in August. All day long the mercury in the thermometer had been flirting with the figures at the top of the tube, and the promised shower at night which a mendacious Weather Bureau had been prophesying as a slight mitigation of our sufferings was conspicuous wholly by its absence. I had but one comfort in the sweltering hours of the day, afternoon and evening, and that was that my family were away in the mountains, and there was no law against my sitting around all day clad only in my pajamas, and otherwise concealed from possibly intruding eyes by the wreaths of smoke that I extracted from the nineteen or twenty cigars which, when there is no protesting eye to suggest otherwise, form my daily allowance. I had tried every method known to the resourceful flat-dweller of modern times to get cool and to stay so, but alas, it was impossible. Even the radiators, which all winter long had never once given forth a spark of heat, now hissed to the touch of my moistened finger. Enough cooling drinks to float an ocean greyhound had passed into my inner man, with no other result than to make me perspire more profusely than ever, and in so far as sensations went, to make me feel hotter than before. Finally, as a last resource, along about midnight, its gridiron floor having had a chance to lose some of its stored-up warmth, I climbed out upon the fire-escape at the rear of the Richmere, hitched my hammock from one of the railings thereof to the leader running from the roof to the area, and swung myself therein some eighty feet above the concealed pavement of our backyard—so called, perhaps, because of its dimensions which were just about that square. It was a little improvement, though nothing to brag of. What fitful zephyrs there might be, caused no doubt by the rapid passage to and fro on the roof above and fence-tops below of vagrant felines on Cupid's contentious battles bent, to the disturbance of the still air, soughed softly through the meshes of my hammock and gave some measure of relief, grateful enough for which I ceased the perfervid language I had been using practically since sunrise, and dozed off. And then there entered upon the scene that marvelous man, Raffles Holmes, of whose exploits it is the purpose of these papers to tell.
I had dozed perhaps for a full hour when the first strange sounds grated upon my ear. Somebody had opened a window in the kitchen of the first-floor apartment below, and with a dark lantern was inspecting the iron platform of the fire-escape without. A moment later this somebody crawled out of the window, and with movements that in themselves were a sufficient indication of the questionable character of his proceedings, made for the ladder leading to the floor above, upon which many a time and oft had I too climbed to home and safety when an inconsiderate janitor had locked me out. Every step that he took was stealthy—that much I could see by the dim starlight. His lantern he had turned dark again, evidently lest he should attract attention in the apartments below as he passed their windows in his upward flight.
"Ha! ha!" thought I to myself. "It's never too hot for Mr. Sneak to get in his fine work. I wonder whose stuff he is after?"
Turning over flat on my stomach so that I might the more readily observe the man's movements, and breathing pianissimo lest he in turn should observe mine, I watched him as he climbed. Up he came as silently as the midnight mouse upon a soft carpet—up past the Jorkins apartments on the second floor; up stealthily by the Tinkletons' abode on the third; up past the fire-escape Italian garden of little Mrs. Persimmon on the fourth; up past the windows of the disagreeable Garraways' kitchen below mine, and then, with the easy grace of a feline, zip! he silently landed within reach of my hand on my own little iron veranda, and craning his neck to one side, peered in through the open window and listened intently for two full minutes.
"Humph!" whispered my inner consciousness to itself. "He is the coolest thing I've seen since last Christmas left town. I wonder what he is up to? There's nothing in my apartment worth stealing, now that my wife and children are away, unless it be my Jap valet, Nogi, who might make a very excellent cab driver if I could only find words to convey to his mind the idea that he is discharged."
And then the visitor, apparently having correctly assured himself that there was no one within, stepped across the window sill and vanished into the darkness of my kitchen. A moment later I too entered the window in pursuit, not so close a one, however, as to acquaint him with my proximity. I wanted to see what the chap was up to; and also being totally unarmed and ignorant as to whether or not he carried dangerous weapons, I determined to go slow for a little while. Moreover, the situation was not wholly devoid of novelty, and it seemed to me that here at last was abundant opportunity for a new sensation. As he had entered, so did he walk cautiously along the narrow bowling alley that serves for a hallway connecting my drawing-room and library with the dining-room, until he came to the library, into which he disappeared. This was not reassuring to me, because, to tell the truth, I value my books more than I do my plate, and if I were to be robbed I should much have preferred his taking my plated plate from the dining-room than any one of my editions-deluxe sets of the works of Marie Corelli, Hall Caine, and other standard authors from the library shelves. Once in the library, he quietly drew the shades at the windows thereof to bar possible intruding eyes from without, turned on the electric lights, and proceeded to go through my papers as calmly and coolly as though they were his own. In a short time, apparently, he found what he wanted in the shape of a royalty statement recently received by me from my publishers, and, lighting one of my cigars from a bundle of brevas in front of him, took off his coat and sat down to peruse the statement of my returns. Simple though it was, this act aroused the first feeling of resentment in my breast, for the relations between the author and his publishers are among the most sacred confidences of life, and the peeping Tom who peers through a keyhole at the courtship of a young man engaged in wooing his fiancee is no worse an intruder than he who would tear aside the veil of secrecy which screens the official returns of a "best seller" from the public eye. Feeling, therefore, that I had permitted matters to proceed as far as they might with propriety, I instantly entered the room and confronted my uninvited guest, bracing myself, of course, for the defensive onslaught which I naturally expected to sustain. But nothing of the sort occurred, for the intruder, with a composure that was nothing short of marvelous under the circumstances, instead of rising hurriedly like one caught in some disreputable act, merely leaned farther back in the chair, took the cigar from his mouth, and greeted me with:
"Howdy do, sir. What can I do for you this beastly hot night?"
The cold rim of a revolver-barrel placed at my temple could not more effectually have put me out of business than this nonchalant reception. Consequently I gasped out something about its being the sultriest 47th of August in eighteen years, and plumped back into a chair opposite him. "I wouldn't mind a Remsen cooler myself," he went on, "but the fact is your butler is off for to-night, and I'm hanged if I can find a lemon in the house. Maybe you'll join me in a smoke?" he added, shoving my own bundle of brevas across the table. "Help yourself."
"I guess I know where the lemons are," said I. "But how did you know my butler was out?"
"I telephoned him to go to Philadelphia this afternoon to see his brother Yoku, who is ill there," said my visitor. "You see, I didn't want him around to-night when I called. I knew I could manage you alone in case you turned up, as you see you have, but two of you, and one a Jap, I was afraid might involve us all in ugly complications. Between you and me, Jenkins, these Orientals are pretty lively fighters, and your man Nogi particularly has got jiu-jitsu down to a pretty fine point, so I had to do something to get rid of him. Our arrangement is a matter for two, not three, anyhow."
"So," said I, coldly. "You and I have an arrangement, have we? I wasn't aware of it."
"Not yet," he answered. "But there's a chance that we may have. If I can only satisfy myself that you are the man I'm looking for, there is no earthly reason that I can see why we should not come to terms. Go on out and get the lemons and the gin and soda, and let's talk this thing over man to man like a couple of good fellows at the club. I mean you no harm, and you certainly don't wish to do any kind of injury to a chap who, even though appearances are against him, really means to do you a good turn."
"Appearances certainly are against you, sir," said I, a trifle warmly, for the man's composure was irritating. "A disappearance would be more likely to do you credit at this moment."
"Tush, Jenkins!" he answered. "Why waste breath saying self-evident things? Here you are on the verge of a big transaction, and you delay proceedings by making statements of fact, mixed in with a cheap wit which, I must confess, I find surprising, and so obvious as to be visible even to the blind. You don't talk like an author whose stuff is worth ten cents a word—more like a penny-a-liner, in fact, with whom words are of such small value that no one's the loser if he throws away a whole dictionary. Go out and mix a couple of your best Remsen coolers, and by the time you get back I'll have got to the gist of this royalty statement of yours, which is all I've come for. Your silver and books and love letters and manuscripts are safe from me. I wouldn't have 'em as a gift."
"What concern have you with my royalties?" I demanded.
"A vital one," said he. "Mix the coolers, and when you get back I'll tell you. Go on. There's a good chap. It'll be daylight before long, and I want to close up this job if I can before sunrise."
What there was in the man's manner to persuade me to compliance with his wishes, I am sure I cannot say definitely. There was a cold, steely glitter in his eye, for one thing. With it, however, was a strengthfulness of purpose, a certain pleasant masterfulness, that made me feel that I could trust him, and it was to this aspect of his nature that I yielded. There was something frankly appealing in his long, thin, ascetic looking face, and I found it irresistible.
"All right," said I with a smile and a frown to express the conflicting quality of my emotions. "So be it. I'll get the coolers, but you must remember, my friend, that there are coolers and coolers, just as there are jugs and jugs. The kind of jug that remains for you will depend upon the story you have to tell when I get back, so you'd better see that it's a good one."
"I am not afraid, Jenkins, old chap," he said with a hearty laugh as I rose. "If this royalty statement can prove to me that you are the literary partner I need in my business, I can prove to you that I'm a good man to tie up to—so go along with you."
With this he lighted a fresh cigar and turned to a perusal of my statement, which, I am glad to say, was a good one, owing to the great success of my book, Wild Animals I Have Never Met—the seventh-best seller at Rochester, Watertown, and Miami in June and July, 1905—while I went out into the dining-room and mixed the coolers. As you may imagine, I was not long at it, for my curiosity over my visitor lent wings to my corkscrew, and in five minutes I was back with the tempting beverages in the tall glasses, the lemon curl giving it the vertebrate appearance that all stiff drinks should have, and the ice tinkling refreshingly upon the sultry air.
"There," said I, placing his glass before him. "Drink hearty, and then to business. Who are you?"
"There is my card," he replied, swallowing a goodly half of the cooler and smacking his lips appreciatively, and tossing a visiting card across to me on the other side of the table. I picked up the card and read as follows: "Mr. Raffles Holmes, London and New York."
"Raffles Holmes?" I cried in amazement.
"The same, Mr. Jenkins," said he. "I am the son of Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective, and grandson of A. J. Raffles, the distinguished—er—ah— cricketer, sir."
I gazed at him, dumb with astonishment.
"You've heard of my father, Sherlock Holmes?" asked my visitor.
I confessed that the name of the gentleman was not unfamiliar to me.
"And Mr. Raffles, my grandfather?" he persisted.
"If there ever was a story of that fascinating man that I have not read, Mr. Holmes," said I, "I beg you will let me have it."
"Well, then," said he with that quick, nervous manner which proved him a true son of Sherlock Holmes, "did it never occur to you as an extraordinary happening, as you read of my father's wonderful powers as a detective, and of Raffles' equally wonderful prowess as a—er—well, let us not mince words—as a thief, Mr. Jenkins, the two men operating in England at the same time, that no story ever appeared in which Sherlock Holmes's genius was pitted against the subtly planned misdeeds of Mr. Raffles? Is it not surprising that with two such men as they were, working out their destinies in almost identical grooves of daily action, they should never have crossed each other's paths as far as the public is the wiser, and in the very nature of the conflicting interests of their respective lines of action as foemen, the one pursuing, the other pursued, they should to the public's knowledge never have clashed?"
"Now that you speak of it," said I, "it was rather extraordinary that nothing of the sort happened. One would think that the sufferers from the depredations of Raffles would immediately have gone to Holmes for assistance in bringing the other to justice. Truly, as you intimate, it was strange that they never did."
"Pardon me, Jenkins," put in my visitor. "I never intimated anything of the sort. What I intimated was that no story of any such conflict ever came to light. As a matter of fact, Sherlock Holmes was put upon a Raffles case in 1883, and while success attended upon every step of it, and my grandfather was run to earth by him as easily as was ever any other criminal in Holmes's grip, a little naked god called Cupid stepped in, saved Raffles from jail, and wrote the word failure across Holmes's docket of the case. I, sir, am the only tangible result of Lord Dorrington's retainers to Sherlock Holmes."
"You speak enigmatically, after the occasional fashion of your illustrious father," said I. "The Dorrington case is unfamiliar to me."
"Naturally so," said my vis-a-vis. "Because, save to my father, my grandfather, and myself, the details are unknown to anybody. Not even my mother knew of the incident, and as for Dr. Watson and Bunny, the scribes through whose industry the adventures of those two great men were respectively narrated to an absorbed world, they didn't even know there had ever been a Dorrington case, because Sherlock Holmes never told Watson and Raffles never told Bunny. But they both told me, and now that I am satisfied that there is a demand for your books, I am willing to tell it to you with the understanding that we share and share alike in the profits if perchance you think well enough of it to write it up."
"Go on!" I said. "I'll whack up with you square and honest."
"Which is more than either Watson or Bunny ever did with my father or my grandfather, else I should not be in the business which now occupies my time and attention," said Raffles Holmes with a cold snap to his eyes which I took as an admonition to hew strictly to the line of honor, or to subject myself to terrible consequences. "With that understanding, Jenkins, I'll tell you the story of the Dorrington Ruby Seal, in which some crime, a good deal of romance, and my ancestry are involved."
II THE ADVENTURE OF THE DORRINGTON RUBY SEAL
"Lord Dorrington, as you may have heard," said Raffles Holmes, leaning back in my easy-chair and gazing reflectively up at the ceiling, "was chiefly famous in England as a sporting peer. His vast estates, in five counties, were always open to any sportsman of renown, or otherwise, as long as he was a true sportsman. So open, indeed, was the house that he kept that, whether he was there or not, little week-end parties of members of the sporting fraternity used to be got up at a moment's notice to run down to Dorrington Castle, Devonshire; to Dorrington Lodge on the Isle of Wight; to Dorrington Hall, near Dublin, or to any other country place for over Sunday.
"Sometimes there'd be a lot of turf people: sometimes a dozen or more devotes of the prize-ring; not infrequently a gathering of the best-known cricketers of the time, among whom, of course, my grandfather, A. J. Raffles, was conspicuous. For the most part, the cricketers never partook of Dorrington's hospitality save when his lordship was present, for your cricket-player is a bit more punctilious in such matters than your turfmen or ring-side habitues. It so happened one year, however, that his lordship was absent from England for the better part of eight months, and, when the time came for the annual cricket gathering at his Devonshire place, he cabled his London representative to see to it that everything was carried on just as if he were present, and that every one should be invited for the usual week's play and pleasure at Dorrington Castle. His instructions were carried out to the letter, and, save for the fact that the genial host was absent, the house-part went through to perfection. My grandfather, as usual, was the life of the occasion, and all went merry as a marriage-bell. Seven months later, Lord Dorrington returned, and a week after that, the loss of the Dorrington jewels from the Devonshire strong-boxes was a matter of common knowledge. When, or by whom, they had been taken was an absolute mystery. As far as anybody could find out, they might have been taken the night before his return, or the night after his departure. The only fact in sight was that they were gone—Lady Dorrington's diamonds, a half-dozen valuable jewelled rings belonging to his lordship, and, most irremediable of losses, the famous ruby seal which George IV had given to Dorrington's grandfather, Sir Arthur Deering, as a token of his personal esteem during the period of the Regency. This was a flawless ruby, valued at some six or seven thousand pounds sterling, in which had been cut the Deering arms surrounded by a garter upon which were engraved the words, 'Deering Ton,' which the family, upon Sir Arthur's elevation to the peerage in 1836, took as its title, or Dorrington. His lordship was almost prostrated by the loss. The diamonds and the rings, although valued at thirty thousand pounds, he could easily replace, but the personal associations of the seal were such that nothing, no amount of money, could duplicate the lost ruby."
"So that his first act," I broke in, breathlessly, "was to send for—"
"Sherlock Holmes, my father," said Raffles Holmes. "Yes, Mr. Jenkins, the first thing Lord Dorrington did was to telegraph to London for Sherlock Holmes, requesting him to come immediately to Dorrington Castle and assume charge of the case. Needless to say, Mr. Holmes dropped everything else and came. He inspected the gardens, measured the road from the railway station to the castle, questioned all the servants; was particularly insistent upon knowing where the parlor-maid was on the 13th of January; secured accurate information as to the personal habits of his lordship's dachshund Nicholas; subjected the chef to a cross-examination that covered every point of his life, from his remote ancestry to his receipt for baking apples; gathered up three suit-cases of sweeping from his lordship's private apartment, and two boxes containing three each of every variety of cigars that Lord Dorrington had laid down in his cellar. As you are aware, Sherlock Holmes, in his prime, was a great master of detail. He then departed for London, taking with him an impression in wax of the missing seal, which Lord Dorrington happened to have preserved in his escritoire.
"On his return to London, Holmes inspected the seal carefully under a magnifying-glass, and was instantly impressed with the fact that it was not unfamiliar to him. He had seen it somewhere before, but where? That was now the question upper-most in his mind. Prior to this, he had never had any communication with Lord Dorrington, so that, if it was in his correspondence that the seal had formerly come to him, most assuredly the person who had used it had come by it dishonestly. Fortunately, at that time, it was a habit of my father's never to destroy papers of any sort. Every letter that he ever received was classified and filed, envelope and all. The thing to do, then, was manifestly to run over the files and find the letter, if indeed it was in or on a letter that the seal had first come to his attention. It was a herculean job, but that never feazed Sherlock Holmes, and he went at it tooth and nail. Finally his effort was rewarded. Under 'Applications for Autograph' he found a daintily-scented little missive from a young girl living at Goring-Streatley on the Thames, the daughter, she said, of a retired missionary—the Reverend James Tattersby—asking him if he would not kindly write his autograph upon the enclosed slip for her collection. It was the regular stock application that truly distinguished men receive in every mail. The only thing to distinguish it from other applications was the beauty of the seal on the fly of the envelope, which attracted his passing notice and was then filed away with the other letters of similar import.
"'Ho! ho!' quoth Holmes, as he compared the two impressions and discovered that they were identical. 'An innocent little maiden who collects autographs, and a retired missionary in possession of the Dorrington seal, eh? Well, that is interesting. I think I shall run down to Goring- Streatley over Sunday and meets Miss Marjorie Tattersby and her reverend father. I'd like to see to what style of people I have intrusted my autograph.'
"To decide was to act with Sherlock Holmes, and the following Saturday, hiring a canoe at Windsor, he made his way up the river until he came to the pretty little hamlet, snuggling in the Thames Valley, if such it may be called, where the young lady and her good father were dwelling. Fortune favored him in that his prey was still there—both much respected by the whole community; the father a fine looking, really splendid specimen of a man whose presence alone carried a conviction of integrity and a lofty man; the daughter—well, to see her was to love her, and the moment the eyes of Sherlock fell upon her face that great heart of his, that had ever been adamant to beauty, a very Gibraltar against the wiles of the other sex, went down in the chaos of a first and overwhelming passion. So hard hit was he by Miss Tattersby's beauty that his chief thought now was to avert rather than to direct suspicion towards her. After all, she might have come into possession of the jewel honestly, though how the daughter of a retired missionary, considering its intrinsic value, could manage such a thing, was pretty hard to understand, and he fled back to London to think it over. Arrived there, he found an invitation to visit Dorrington Castle again incog. Lord Dorrington was to have a mixed week-end party over the following Sunday, and this, he thought, would give Holmes an opportunity to observe the characteristics of Dorrington's visitors and possibly gain therefore some clew as to the light-fingered person from whose depredations his lordship had suffered. The idea commended itself to Holmes, and in the disguise of a young American clergyman, whom Dorrington had met in the States, the following Friday found him at Dorrington Castle.
"Well, to make a long story short," said Raffles Holmes, "the young clergyman was introduced to many of the leading sportsmen of the hour, and, for the most part, they passed muster, but one of them did not, and that was the well-known cricketer A. J. Raffles, for the moment Raffles entered the room, jovially greeting everybody about him, and was presented to Lord Dorrington's new guest, Sherlock Holmes recognized in him no less a person that the Reverend James Tattersby, retired missionary of Goring-Streatley- on-Thames, and the father of the woman who had filled his soul with love and yearning of the truest sort. The problem was solved. Raffles was, to all intents and purposes, caught with the goods on. Holmes could have exposed him then and there had he chosen to do so, but every time it came to the point the lovely face of Marjorie Tattersby came between him and his purpose. How could he inflict the pain and shame which the exposure of her father's misconduct would certainly entail upon that fair woman, whose beauty and fresh innocence had taken so strong a hold upon his heart? No— that was out of the question. The thing to do, clearly was to visit Miss Tattersby during her father's absence, and, if possible, ascertain from just how she had come into possession of the seal, before taking further steps in the matter. This he did. Making sure, to begin with, that Raffles was to remain at Dorrington Hall for the coming ten days, Holmes had himself telegraphed for and returned to London. There he wrote himself a letter of introduction to the Reverend James Tattersby, on the paper of the Anglo- American Missionary Society, a sheet of which he secured in the public writing-room of that institution, armed with which he returned to the beautiful little spot on the Thames where the Tattersbys abode. He spent the night at the inn, and, in conversation with the landlord and boatmen, learned much that was interesting concerning the Reverend James. Among other things, he discovered that this gentleman and his daughter had been respected residents of the place for three years; that Tattersby was rarely seen in the daytime about the place; that he was unusually fond of canoeing at night, which, he said, gave him the quiet and solitude necessary for that reflection which is so essential to the spiritual being of a minister of grace; that he frequently indulged in long absences, during which time it was supposed that he was engaged in the work of his calling. He appeared to be a man of some, but not lavish, means. The most notable and suggestive thing, however, that Holmes ascertained in his conversation with the boatmen was that, at the time of the famous Cliveden robbery, when several thousand pounds' worth of plate had been taken from the great hall, that later fell into the possession of a well-known American hotel-keeper, Tattersby, who happened to be on the river late that night, was, according to his own statement, the unconscious witness of the escape of the thieves on board a mysterious steam-launch, which the police were never able afterwards to locate. They had nearly upset his canoe with the wash of their rapidly moving craft as they sped past him after having stowed their loot safely on board. Tattersby had supposed them to be employes of the estate, and never gave the matter another thought until three days later, when the news of the robbery was published to the world. He had immediately communicated the news of what he had seen to the police, and had done all that lay in his power to aid them in locating the robbers, but all to no purpose. From that day to this the mystery of the Cliveden plot had never been solved.
"The following day Holmes called at the Tattersby cottage, and was fortunate enough to find Miss Tattersby at home. His previous impression as to her marvellous beauty was more than confirmed, and each moment that he talked to her she revealed new graces of manner that completed the capture of his hitherto unsusceptible heart. Miss Tattersby regretted her father's absence. He had gone, she said, to attend a secret missionary conference at Pentwllycod in Wales, and was not expected back for a week, all of which quite suited Sherlock Holmes. Convinced that, after years of waiting, his affinity had at last crossed his path, he was in no hurry for the return of that parent, who would put an instant quietus upon this affair of the heart. Manifestly the thing for him to do was to win the daughter's hand, and then intercept the father, acquaint him with his aspirations, and compel acquiescence by the force of his knowledge of Raffles's misdeed. Hence, instead of taking his departure immediately, he remained at the Goring- Streatley Inn, taking care each day to encounter Miss Tattersby on one pretext or another, hoping that their acquaintance would ripen into friendship, and then into something warmer. Nor was the hope a vain one, for when the far Marjorie learned that it was the visitor's intention to remain in the neighborhood until her father's return, she herself bade him to make use of the old gentleman's library, to regard himself always as a welcome daytime guest. She even suggested pleasant walks through the neighboring country, little canoe trips up and down the Thames, which they might take together, of all of which Holmes promptly availed himself, with the result that, at the end of six days, both realized that they were designed for each other, and a passionate declaration followed which opened new vistas of happiness for both. Hence it was that, when the Reverend James Tattersby arrived at Goring-Streatley the following Monday night, unexpectedly, he was astounded to find sitting together in the moonlight, in the charming little English garden at the rear of his dwelling, two persons, one of whom was his daughter Marjorie and the other a young American curate to whom he had already been introduced as A. J. Raffles.
"'We have met before, I think,' said Raffles, coldly, as his eye fell upon Holmes.
"'I—er—do not recall the fact,' replied Holmes, meeting the steely stare of the home-comer with one of his own flinty glances.
"'H'm!' ejaculated Raffles, non-plussed at the other's failure to recognize him. Then he shivered slightly. 'Suppose we go in-doors, it is a trifle chilly out here in the night air.'
"The whole thing, the greeting, the meeting, Holmes's demeanor and all, was so admirably handled that Marjorie Tattersby never guessed the truth, never even suspected the intense dramatic quality of the scene she had just gazed upon.
"'Yes, let us go in-doors,' she acquiesced. 'Mr. Dutton has something to say to you, papa.'
"'So I presumed,' said Raffles, dryly. 'And something that were better said to me alone, I fancy, eh?' he added.
"'Quite so,' said Holmes, calmly. And in-doors they went. Marjorie immediately retired to the drawing-room, and Holmes and Raffles went at once to Tattersby's study.
"'Well?' said Raffles, impatiently, when they were seated. 'I suppose you have come to get the Dorrington seal, Mr. Holmes.'
"'Ah—you know me, then, Mr. Raffles?' said Holmes, with a pleasant smile.
"'Perfectly,' said Raffles. 'I knew you at Dorrington Hall the moment I set eyes on you, and, if I hadn't, I should have known later, for the night after your departure Lord Dorrington took me into his confidence and revealed your identity to me.'
"'I am glad,' said Holmes. 'It saves me a great deal of unnecessary explanation. If you admit that you have the seal—"
"'But I don't,' said Raffles. 'I mentioned it a moment ago, because Dorrington told me that was what you were after. I haven't got it, Mr. Holmes.'
"'I know that,' observed Holmes, quietly. 'It is in the possession of Miss Tattersby, your daughter, Mr. Raffles.'
"'She showed it to you, eh?' demanded Raffles, paling.
"'No. She sealed a note to me with it, however,' Holmes replied.
"'A note to you?' cried Raffles.
"'Yes. One asking for my autograph. I have it in my possession,' said Holmes.
"'And how do you know that she is the person from whom that note really came?' Raffles asked.
"'Because I have seen the autograph which was sent in response to that request in your daughter's collection, Mr. Raffles,' said Holmes.
"'So that you conclude—?' Raffles put in, hoarsely.
"'I do not conclude; I begin by surmising, sir, that the missing seal of Lord Dorrington was stolen by one of two persons—yourself or Miss Marjorie Tattersby,' said Holmes, calmly.
"'Sir!' roared Raffles, springing to his feet menacingly.
"'Sit down, please,' said Holmes. 'You did not let me finish. I was going to add, Dr. Tattersby, that a week's acquaintance with that lovely woman, a full knowledge of her peculiarly exalted character and guileless nature, makes the alternative of guilt that affects her integrity clearly preposterous, which, by a very simple process of elimination, fastens the guilt, beyond all peradventure, on your shoulders. At any rate, the presence of the seal in this house will involve you in difficult explanations. Why is it here? How did it come here? Why are you known as the Reverend James Tattersby, the missionary, at Goring-Streatley, and as Mr. A. J. Raffles, the cricketer and man of the world, at Dorrington Hall, to say nothing of the Cliveden plate—'
"'Damnation!' roared the Reverend James Tattersby again, springing to his feet and glancing instinctively at the long low book-shelves behind him.
"'To say nothing,' continued Holmes, calmly lighting a cigarette, 'of the Cliveden plate now lying concealed behind those dusty theological tomes of yours which you never allow to be touched by any other hand than your own.'
"'How did you know?' cried Raffles, hoarsely.
"'I didn't,' laughed Holmes. 'You have only this moment informed me of the fact!'
"There was a long pause, during which Raffles paced the floor like a caged tiger.
"'I'm a dangerous man to trifle with, Mr. Holmes,' he said, finally. 'I can shoot you down in cold blood in a second.'
"'Very likely,' said Holmes. 'But you won't. It would add to the difficulties in which the Reverend James Tattersby is already deeply immersed. Your troubles are sufficient, as matters stand, without your having to explain to the world why you have killed a defenceless guest in your own study in cold blood.
"'Well—what do you propose to do?' demanded Raffles, after another pause.
"'Marry your daughter, Mr. Raffles, or Tattersby, whatever your permanent name is—I guess it's Tattersby in this case,' said Holmes. 'I love her and she loves me. Perhaps I should apologize for having wooed and won her without due notice to you, but you doubtless will forgive that. It's a little formality you sometimes overlook yourself when you happen to want something that belongs to somebody else.'
"What Raffles would have answered no one knows. He had no chance to reply, for at that moment Marjorie herself put her radiantly lovely little head in at the door with a 'May I come in?' and a moment later she was gathered in Holmes's arms, and the happy lovers received the Reverend James Tattersby's blessing. They were married a week later, and, as far as the world is concerned, the mystery of the Dorrington seal and that of the Cliveden plate was never solved.
"'It is compounding a felony, Raffles,' said Holmes, after the wedding, 'but for a wife like that, hanged if I wouldn't compound the ten commandments!'
"I hope," I ventured to put in at that point, "that the marriage ceremony was not performed by the Reverend James Tattersby."
"Not on your life!" retorted Raffles Holmes. "My father was too fond of my mother to permit of any flaw in his title. A year later I was born, and— well, here I am—son of one, grandson of the other, with hereditary traits from both strongly developed and ready for business. I want a literary partner—a man who will write me up as Bunny did Raffles, and Watson did Holmes, so that I may get a percentage on that part of the swag. I offer you the job, Jenkins. Those royalty statements show me that you are the man, and your books prove to me that you need a few fresh ideas. Come, what do you say? Will you do it?"
"My boy," said I, enthusiastically, "don't say another word. Will I? Well, just try me!"
And so it was that Raffles Holmes and I struck a bargain and became partners.
III THE ADVENTURE OF MRS. BURLINGAME'S DIAMOND STOMACHER
I had seen the marvellous creation very often at the opera, and in many ways resented it. Not that I was in the least degree a victim to envy, hatred, and malice towards those who are possessed of a superabundance of this world's good things—far from it. I rejoice in the great fortunes of earth because, with every dollar corralled by the superior energies of the multi- millionaires, the fewer there are for other men to seek, and until we stop seeking dollars and turn our minds to other, finer things, there will be no hope of peace and sweet content upon this little green ball we inhabit. My resentment of Mrs. Burlingame's diamond stomacher was not then based on envy of its possession, but merely upon the twofold nuisance which it created at the opera-house, as the lady who wore it sat and listened to the strains of Wagner, Bizet, or Gounod, mixed in with the small-talk of Reggie Stockson, Tommie de Coupon, and other lights of the social firmament. In the first place, it caused the people sitting about me in the high seats of the opera- house to chatter about it and discuss its probable worth every time the lady made her appearance in it, and I had fled from the standee part of the house to the top gallery just to escape the talkers, and, if possible, to get my music straight, without interruptions of any sort whatsoever on the side. In the second place, the confounded thing glittered so that, from where I sat, it was as dazzling as so many small mirrors flashing in the light of the sun. It seemed as if every electric light in the house found some kind of a refractor in the thousands of gems of which it was composed, and many of the brilliant light effects of the stage were dimmed in their lustre by the persistent intrusion of Mrs. Burlingame's glory upon my line of vision.
Hence in was that, when I picked up my morning paper and read in great flaring head-lines on the front page that Mrs. Burlingame's diamond stomacher had been stolen from her at her Onyx Cottage at Newport, I smiled broadly, and slapped the breakfast-table so hard in my satisfaction that even the shredded-wheat biscuits flew up into the air and caught in the chandelier.
"Thank Heaven for that!" I said. "Next season I shall be able to enjoy my opera undisturbed."
"I little thought, at that blissful moment, how closely indeed were my own fortunes to be connected with that wonderful specimen of the jeweler's handicraft, but an hour later I was made aware of the first link in the chain that, in a measure, bound me to it. Breakfast over, I went to my desk to put the finishing touches to a novel I had written the week before, when word came up on the telephone from below that a gentleman from Busybody's Magazine wished to see me on an important matter of business.
"Tell him I'm already a subscriber," I called down, supposing the visitor to be merely an agent. "I took the magazine, and a set of Chaucer in a revolving bookcase, from one of their agents last month and have paid my dollar."
In a moment another message came over the wire.
"The gentleman says he wants to see you about writing a couple of full-page sonnets for the Christmas number," the office man 'phoned up.
"Show him up," I replied, instantly.
Two minutes later a rather handsome man, with a fine eye and a long, flowing gray beard, was ushered into my apartment.
"I am Mr. Stikes, of Busybody's, Mr. Jenkins," he said, with a twinkle in his eye. "We thought you might like to contribute to our Christmas issue. We want two sonnets, one on the old Christmas and the other on the new. We can't offer you more than a thousand dollars apiece for them, but—"
Something caught in my throat, but I managed to reply. "I might shade my terms a trifle since you want as many as two," I gurgled. "And I assume you will pay on acceptance?"
"Certainly," he said, gravely. "Could you let me have them, say—this afternoon?"
I turned away so that he would not see the expression of joy on my face, and then there came from behind me a deep chuckle and the observation in a familiar voice:
"You might throw in a couple of those Remsen coolers, too, while you're about it, Jenkins."
I whirled about as if struck, and there, in place of the gray-bearded editor, stood—Raffles Holmes.
"Bully disguise, eh!" he said, folding up his beard and putting it in his pocket.
"Ye-e-es," said I, ruefully, as I thought of the vanished two thousand. "I think I preferred you in disguise, though, old man," I added.
"You won't when you hear what I've come for," said he. "There's $5000 apiece in this job for us."
"To what job do you refer?" I asked.
"The Burlingame case," he replied. "I suppose you read in the papers this morning how Mrs. Burlingame's diamond stomacher has turned up missing."
"Yes," said I, "and I'm glad of it."
"You ought to be," said Holmes, "since it will put $5000 in your pocket. You haven't heard yet that there is a reward of $10,000 offered for its recovery. The public announcement has not yet been made, but it will be in to-night's papers, and we are the chaps that are going to get the reward."
"But how?" I demanded.
"Leave that to me," said he. "By-the-way, I wish you'd let me leave this suit-case of mine in your room for about ten days. It holds some important papers, and my shop is turned topsy-turvy just now with the painters."
"Very well," said I. "I'll shove it under my bed."
"I took the suit-case as Holmes had requested, and hid it away in my bedroom, immediately returning to the library, where he sat smoking one of my cigars as cool as a cucumber. There was something in his eye, however, that aroused my suspicion as soon as I entered.
"See here, Holmes," said I. "I can't afford to be mixed up in any shady business like this, you know. Have you got that stomacher?"
"No, I haven't," said he. "Honor bright—I haven't."
I eyed him narrowly.
"I think I understand the evasion," I went on. "You haven't got it because I have got it—it's in that suit-case under my bed."
"Open it and see for yourself," said he. "It isn't there."
"But you know where it is?" I demanded.
"How else could I be sure of that $10,000 reward?" he asked.
"Where is it?" I demanded.
"It—er—it isn't located yet—that is, not finally," said he. "And it won't be for ten days. Ten days from now Mrs. Burlingame will find it herself and we'll divvy on the reward, my boy, and not a trace of dishonesty in the whole business."
And with that Raffles Holmes filled his pockets with cigars from my stores, and bidding me be patient went his way.
The effect of his visit upon my nerves was such that any more work that day was impossible. The fear of possible complications to follow upset me wholly, and, despite his assurance that the suit-case was innocent of surreptitiously acquired stomachers, I could not rid my mind of the suspicion that he made of my apartment a fence for the concealment of his booty. The more I thought of it the more was I inclined to send for him and request him to remove the bag forthwith, and yet, if it should so happen that he had spoken the truth, I should by that act endanger our friendship and possibly break the pact, which bade fair to be profitable. Suddenly I remembered his injunction to me to look for myself and see if the stomacher really was concealed there, and I hastened to act upon it. It might have been pure bluff on his part, and I resolved not to be bluffed.
The case opened easily, and the moment I glanced into it my suspicions were allayed. It contained nothing but bundle after bundle of letters tied together with pink and blue ribbons, one or two old daguerreotypes, some locks of hair, and an ivory miniature of Raffles Holmes himself as an infant. Not a stomacher, diamond or otherwise, was hid in the case, nor any other suspicious object, and I closed it with a sheepish feeling of shame for having intruded upon the sacred correspondence and relics of the happy childhood days of my new friend.
That night, as Holmes had asserted, a reward of $10,000 was offered for the recovery of the Burlingame stomacher, and the newspapers for the next ten days were full of the theories of detectives of all sorts, amateur, professional, and reportorial. Central Office was after it in one place, others sought it elsewhere. The editor of one New York paper printed a full list of the names of the guests at Mrs. Burlingame's dinner the night the treasure was stolen, and, whether they ever discovered it for themselves or not, several bearers of highly honored social names were shadowed by reporters and others everywhere they went for the next week. At the end of five days the reward was increased to $20,000, and then Raffles Holmes's name began to appear in connection with the case. Mrs. Burlingame herself had sent for him, and, without taking it out of the hands of others, had personally requested him to look into the matter. He had gone to Newport and looked the situation over there. He had questioned all the servants in her two establishments at Newport and New York, and had finally assured the lady that, on the following Tuesday morning, he would advise her by wire of the definite location of her missing jewel.
During all this time Holmes had not communicated with me at all, and I began to fear that, offended by my behavior at our last meeting, he had cut me out of his calculations altogether, when, just as I was about to retire on Sunday night, he reappeared as he had first come to me—stealing up the fire-escape; and this time he wore a mask, and carried unquestionably a burglar's kit and a dark lantern. He started nervously as he caught sight of me reaching up to turn off the light in the library.
"Hang it call, Jenkins!" he cried. "I thought you'd gone off to the country for the week-end."
"No," said I. "I meant to go, but I was detained. What's up?"
"Oh, well—I may as well out with it," he answered. "I didn't want you to know, but—well, watch and see."
With this Raffles Holmes strode directly to my bookcase, removed my extra- illustrated set of Fox's Book of Martyrs, in five volumes, from the shelves, and there, resting upon the shelf behind them, glittered nothing less than the missing stomacher!
"Great Heavens, Holmes!" I said, "what does this mean? How did those diamonds get there?"
"I put them there myself while you were shoving my suit-case under your bed the other night," said he.
"You told me you didn't have them," I said, reproachfully.
"I didn't when I spoke—you had them," said he.
"You told me they had not been finally located," I persisted, angrily.
"I told you the truth. They were only temporarily located," he answered. "I'm going to locate them definitely to-night, and to-morrow Mrs. Burlingame will find them—"
"Where?" I cried.
"In her own safe in her New York house!" said Raffles Holmes.
"Yes—I took them from Newport myself—very easy job, too," said Raffles Holmes. "Ever since I saw them at the opera last winter I have had this in mind, so when Mrs. Burlingame gave her dinner I served as an extra butler from Delmonico's—drugged the regular chap up on the train on his way up from New York—took his clothes, and went in his place. That night I rifled the Newport safe of the stomacher, and the next day brought it here. To- night I take it to the Burlingame house on Fifth Avenue, secure entrance through a basement door, to which, in my capacity of detective, I have obtained the key, and, while the caretakers sleep, Mrs. Burlingame's diamond stomacher will be placed in the safe on the first floor back.
"To-morrow morning I shall send Mrs. Burlingame this message: 'Have you looked in your New York safe? [Signed] Raffles Holmes,'" he continued. "She will come to town by the first train to find out what I mean; we will go to her residence; she will open the safe, and—$20,000 for us."
"By Jove! Holmes, you are a wonder," said I. "This stomacher is worth $250,000 at the least," I added, as I took the creation in my hand. "Pot of money that!"
"Yes," said he, with a sigh, taking the stomacher from me and fondling it. "The Raffles in me tells me that, but the Sherlock Holmes in my veins—well, I can't keep it, Jenkins, if that is what you mean."
I blushed at the intimation conveyed by his words, and was silent; and Holmes, gathering up his tools and stuffing the stomacher in the capacious bosom of his coat, bade me au revoir, and went out into the night.
The rest is already public property. All the morning papers were full of the strange recovery of the Burlingame stomacher the following Tuesday morning, and the name of Raffles Holmes was in every mouth. That night, the very essence of promptitude, Holmes appeared at my apartment and handed me a check for my share in the transaction.
"Why—what does this mean?" I cried, as I took in the figures; "$12,500—I thought it was to be only $10,000."
"It was," said Raffles Holmes, "but Mrs. Burlingame was so overjoyed at getting the thing back she made the check for $25,000 instead of for $20,000."
"You're the soul of honor, Holmes!" I murmured.
"On my father's side," he said, with a sigh. "On my mother's side it comes hard."
"And Mrs. Burlingame—didn't she ask you how you ferreted the thing out?" I asked.
"Yes," said Holmes. "But I told her that that was my secret, that my secret was my profession, and that my profession was my bread and butter."
"But she must have asked you who was the guilty person?" I persisted.
"Yes," said Holmes, "she did, and I took her for a little gallop through the social register, in search of the guilty party; that got on her nerves, so that when it came down to an absolute question of identity she begged me to forget it."
"I am dull of comprehension, Raffles," said I. "Tell me exactly what you mean."
"Simply this," said Raffles Holmes. "The present four hundred consists of about 19,250 people, of whom about twenty-five per cent. go to Newport at one time or another—say, 4812. Of these 4812 about ten per cent. are eligible for invitations to the Burlingame dinners, or 480. Now whom of the 480 possibilities having access to the Burlingame cottage would we naturally suspect? Surely only those who were in the vicinity the night of the robbery. By a process of elimination we narrowed them down to just ten persons exclusive of Mrs. Burlingame herself and her husband, old Billie Burlingame. We took the lot and canvassed them. There were Mr. and Mrs. Willington Bodfish—they left early and the stomacher was known to be safe at the time of their departure. There were Bishop and Mrs. Pounderby, neither of whom would be at all likely to come back in the dead of night and remove property that did not belong to them. There were Senator and Mrs. Jorrocks. The Senator is after bigger game than diamond stomachers, and Mrs. Jorrocks is known to be honest. There were Harry Gaddsby and his wife. Harry doesn't know enough to go in when it rains, and is too timid to call even his soul his own, so he couldn't have taken it; and Mrs. Gaddsby is long on stomachers, having at least five, and therefore would not be likely to try to land a sixth by questionable means. In that way we practically cleared eight possibilities of suspicion.
"'Now, Mrs. Burlingame,' said I, 'that leaves four persons still in the ring—yourself, your husband, your daughter, and the Duke of Snarleyow, your daughter's newly acquired fiance, in whose honor the dinner was given. Of these four, you are naturally yourself the first to be acquitted. Your husband comes next, and is not likely to be the guilty party, because if he wants a diamond stomacher he needn't steal it, having money enough to buy a dozen of them if he wishes. The third, your daughter, should be regarded as equally innocent, because if she was really desirous of possessing the jewel all she had to do was to borrow it from you. That brings us down to the Duke of—"
"'Hush! I beg of you, Mr. Raffles Holmes!' she cried, in great agitation. 'Not another word, I beseech you! If any one should overhear us—The subject, after all, is an unprofitable one, and I'd—I'd rather drop it, and it—it—er—it has just occurred to me that possibly I—er—possibly I—'
"'Put the jewel in the safe yourself?' I suggested.
"'Yes,' said Mrs. Burlingame,' with a grateful glance and a tremendous sigh of relief. 'Now that I think of it, Mr. Raffles Holmes—that was it. I— er—I remember perfectly that—er—that I didn't wear it at all the night of my little dinner, and that I did leave it behind me when I left town.'"
"Humph!" said I. "That may account for the extra $5000—"
"It may," said Raffles Holmes, pursing his lips into a deprecatory smile.
IV THE ADVENTURE OF THE MISSING PENDANTS
"I think," said Raffles Holmes, as he ran over his expense account while sitting in my library one night some months ago, "that in view of the present condition of my exchequer, my dear Jenkins, it behooveth me to get busy. Owning a motor-car is a demned expensive piece of business, and my balance at the back has shrunk to about $1683.59, thanks to my bills for cogs, clutches, and gasoline, plus the chauffeur's fines."
"In what capacity shall you work, Raffles or Holmes?" I asked, pausing in my writing and regarding him with that affectionate interest which contact with him had inspired in me.
"Play the combination always, Jenkins," he replied. "If I did the Raffles act alone, I should become the billionaire in this land of silk and money, your rich are so careless of their wealth—but where would my conscience be? On the other hand, if I stuck to the Holmes act exclusively, I'd starve to death; but the combination—ah—there is moderate fortune, my boy, with peace of mind thrown in."
Here he rose up, buttoned his coat about his spare figure, and reached out for his hat.
"I guess I'll tackle that case of the missing pendants to-morrow," he continued, flicking the ash from his cigar and gazing up at the ceiling with that strange twist in his eye which I had learned to regard as the harbinger of a dawning idea in his mind. "There's ten thousand dollars for somebody in that job, and you and I might as well have it as any one else."
"I'm ready," said I, as well I might be, for all I had to do in the matter was to record the adventure and take my half of the profits—no very difficult proceeding in either case.
"Good," quoth he. "I'll go to Gaffany & Co. to-morrow and offer my services."
"You have a clew?" I asked.
"I have an idea," he answered. "As for the lost diamonds, I know no more of their whereabouts than you do, but I shall be able beyond all question to restore to Gaffany & Co. two pendants just as good as those they have lost, and if I do that I am entitled to the reward, I fancy, am I not?"
"Most certainly," said I. "But where the dickens will you find two such stones? They are worth $50,000 apiece, and they must match perfectly the two remaining jewels which Gaffany & Co. have in their safe."
"I'll match 'em so closely that their own mother couldn't tell 'em apart," said Holmes, with a chuckle.
"Then the report that they are of such rarity of cut and lustre is untrue?" I asked.
"It's perfectly true," said Holmes, "but that makes no difference. The two stones that I shall return two weeks from to-day to Gaffany & Co. will be as like the two they have as they are themselves. Ta-ta, Jenkins—you can count on your half of that ten thousand as surely as though it is jingled now in your pockets."
And with that Raffles Holmes left me to my own devices.
I presume that most readers of the daily newspapers are tolerably familiar with the case of the missing pendants to which Holmes referred, and on the quest for which he was now about to embark. There may be some of you, however, who have never heard of the mysterious robbery of Gaffany & Co., by which two diamonds of almost matchless purity—half of a quartet of these stones—pear-shaped and valued at $50,000 each, had disappeared almost as if the earth had opened and swallowed them up. They were a part of the famous Gloria Diamond, found last year at Kimberley, a huge, uncut gem of such value that no single purchaser for it could be found in the world. By a syndicate arrangement Gaffany & Co. had assumed charge of it, and were in the process of making for a customer a bar with four pendants cut from the original, when two of them disappeared. They had been last seen in the hands of trusted employe of many years' standing, to whom they had been intrusted for mounting, and he had been seen to replace them, at the end of the day's work, in the little cage-like office of the custodian of the safe in which jewels of great value were kept at night. This was the last seen of them, and although five weeks had elapsed since the discovery of their loss and Holmes's decision to look into the matter, no clew of the slightest description had been discovered by the thousands of sleuths, professional or amateur, who had interested themselves in the case.
"He had such assurance!" I muttered. "To hear him talk one would almost believe that they were already in his possession."
I did not see Raffles Holmes again for five days, and then I met him only by chance, nor should I have known it was he had he not made himself known to me. I was on my way uptown, a little after six o'clock, and as I passed Gaffany's an aged man emerged from the employes' entrance, carrying a small bag in his hand. He was apparently very near-sighted, for he most unceremoniously bumped into me as he came out of the door on to the sidewalk.
Deference to age has always been a weakness of mine, and I apologized, although it was he that was at fault.
"Don't mention it, Jenkins," he whispered. "You are just the man I want to see. Cafe Panhard—to-night—eleven o'clock. Just happen in, and if a foreign-looking person with a red beard speaks to you don't throw him down, but act as if you were not annoyed by his mistake."
"You know me?" I asked.
"Tush, man—I'm Raffles Holmes!" and with that he was off.
His make-up was perfect, and as he hobbled his way along Broadway through the maze of cars, trucks, and hansoms, there was not in any part of him a hint or a suggestion that brought to mind my alert partner.
Of course my excitement was intense. I could hardly wait for eleven o'clock to come, and at 9.30 I found myself in front of the Cafe Panhard a full hour and a half ahead of time, and never were there more minutes in that period of waiting than there seemed to be then as I paced Broadway until the appointed hour. It seemed ages before the clock down in front of the Whirald Building pointed to 10.55, but at last the moment arrived, and I entered the cafe, taking one of the little tables in the farther corner, where the light was not unduly strong and where the turmoil of the Hungarian band was reduced by distance from moltofortissimo to a moderate approach to a pianissimo, which would admit of conversation. Again I had to wait, but not for so long a time. It was twenty minutes past eleven when a fine-looking man of military bearing, wearing a full red beard, entered, and after looking the cafe over, sauntered up to where I sat.
"Good-evening, Mr. Jenkins," said he, with a slight foreign accent. "Are you alone?"
"Yes," said I.
"If you don't mind, I should like to sit here for a few moments," he observed, pulling out the chair opposite me. "I have your permission?"
"Robinstein is my name," said he, sitting down, and producing a letter from his pocket. "I have here a not from my old friend Raffles Holmes—a note of introduction to you. I am a manufacturer of paste jewels—or rather was. I have had one or two misfortunes in my business, and find myself here in America practically stranded."
"Your place of business was—"
"In the Rue de l'Echelle in Paris," he explained. "I lost everything in unfortunate speculation, and have come here to see if I could not get a new start. Mr. Holmes thinks you can use your influence with Markoo & Co., the theatrical costumers, who, I believe, manufacture themselves all the stage jewelry they use in their business, to give me something to do. It was said in Paris that the gems which I made were of such quality that they would deceive, for a time anyhow, the most expert lapidaries, and if I can only get an opening with Markoo & Co. I am quite confident that you will not repent having exerted your good offices in my behalf."
"Why, certainly, Mr. Robinstein," said I. "Any friend of Raffles Holmes may command my services. I know Tommy Markoo very well, and as this is a pretty busy time with him, getting his stuff out for the fall productions, I have little doubt I shall be able to help you. By Jove!" I added, as I glanced over the cafe, "that's a singular coincidence—there is Markoo himself just coming in the doorway."
"Really?" said Mr. Robinstein, turning and gazing towards the door. "He's a different-looking chap from what I had imagined. Perhaps, Mr. Jenkins, it would—er—expedite matters if you—"
"Of course," I interrupted. "Tommy is alone—we'll have him over."
And I beckoned to Markoo and invited him to join us.
"Good!" said he, in his whole-souled way. "Glad to have a chance to see you—I'm so confoundedly busy these days—just think of it, I've been at the shop ever since eight o'clock this morning."
"Tommy, I want to introduce you to my friend Mr. Robinstein," said I.
"Not Isidore Robinstein, of Paris?" said Markoo.
"I have that misfortune, Mr. Markoo," said Robinstein.
"Misfortune? Gad, Mr. Robinstein, we look at things through different glasses," returned Markoo. "The man who can do your work ought never to suffer misfortune—"
"If he only stays out of the stock-market," said Robinstein.
"Aha," laughed Tommy. "Et tu, Brute?"
We all laughed, and if there was any ice to be broken after that it was along the line of business of the cafe. We got along famously together, and when we parted company, two hours later, all the necessary arrangements had been made for Mr. Robinstein to begin at once with Markoo—the following day, in fact.
Four nights later Holmes turned up at my apartment.
"Well," said I, "have you come to report progress?"
"Yes," he said. "The reward will arrive on time, but it's been the de'il's own job. Pretty, aren't they!" he added, taking a small package wrapped in tissue-paper out of his pocket, and disclosing its contents.
"Gee-rusalem, what beauties!" I cried, as my eyes fell on two such diamonds as I had never before seen. They sparkled on the paper like bits of sunshine, and that their value was quite $100,000 it did not take one like myself, who knew little of gems, to see at a glance. "You have found them, have you?"
"Found what?" asked Raffles Holmes.
"The missing pendants," said I.
"Well—not exactly," said Raffles Holmes. "I think I'm on the track of them, though. There's an old chap who works beside me down at Gaffany's who spends so much of his time drinking ice-water that I'm getting to be suspicious of him."
I roared with laughter.
"The ice-water habit is evidence of a criminal nature, eh?" I queried.
"Not per se," said Holmes, gravely, "but in conjunctibus—if my Latin is weak, please correct me—it is a very suspicious habit. When I see a man drink ten glasses of water in two hours it indicates to my mind that there is something in the water-cooler that takes his mind off his business. It is not likely to be either the ice or the water, on the doctrine of probabilities. Hence it must be something else. I caught him yesterday with his hand in it."
"His hand? In the water-cooler?" I demanded.
"Yes," said Holmes. "He said he was fishing around for a little piece of ice to cool his head, which ached, but I think differently. He got as pale as a ghost when I started in to fish for a piece for myself because my head ached too. I think he took the diamonds and has hid them there, but I'm not sure yet, and in my business I can't afford to make mistakes. If my suspicions are correct, he is merely awaiting his opportunity to fish them out and light out with them."
"Then these," I said, "are—are they paste?"
"No, indeed, they're the real thing," said Raffles Holmes, holding up one of the gems to the light, where it fairly coruscated with brilliance. "These are the other two of the original quartet."
"Great Heavens, Holmes—do you mean to say that Gaffany & Co. permit you to go about with things like this in your pocket?" I demanded.
"Not they," laughed Holmes. "They'd have a fit if they knew I had 'em, only they don't know it."
"But how have you concealed the fact from them?" I persisted.
"Robinstein made me a pair exactly like them," said Holmes. "The paste ones are now lying in the Gaffany safe, where I saw them placed before leaving the shop to-night."
"You're too deep for me, Holmes," said I. "What's the game?"
"Now don't say game, Jenkins," he protested. "I never indulge in games. My quarry is not a game, but a scheme. For the past two weeks, with three days off, I have been acting as a workman in the Gaffany ship, with the ostensible purpose of keeping my eye on certain employes who are under suspicion. Each day the remaining two pendant-stones—these—have been handed to me to work on, merely to carry out the illusion. The first day, in odd moments, I made sketches of them, and on the night of the second I had 'em down in such detail as to cut and color, that Robinstein had no difficulty in reproducing them in the materials at his disposal in Markoo's shop. And to-night all I had to do to get them was to keep them and hand in the Robinstein substitutes when the hour of closing came."
"So that now, in place of four $50,000 diamonds, Gaffany & Co. are in possession of—"
"Two paste pendants, worth about $40 apiece," said Holmes. "If I fail to find the originals I shall have to use the paste ones to carry the scheme through, but I hate to do it. It's so confoundly inartistic and as old a trick as the pyramids."
Raffles Holmes got up and paced the floor nervously.
"Ah, Jenkins," he said, with a heart-rending sigh, "that is the point. To- morrow! Heavens! what will to-morrow's story be? I—I cannot tell."
"What's the matter, Holmes?" said. "Are you in danger?"
"Physically, no—morally, my God! Jenkins, yes. I shall need all of your help," he cried.
"What can I do?" I asked. "You know you have only to command me."
"Don't leave me this night for a minute," he groaned. "If you do, I am lost. The Raffles in me is rampant when I look at those jewels and think of what they will mean if I keep them. An independent fortune forever. All I have to do is to get aboard a ship and go to Japan and live in comfort the rest of my days with the wealth in my possession, and all the instincts of honest that I possess, through the father in me, will be powerless to prevent my indulgence in this crime. Keep me in sight, and if I show the slightest inclination to give you the slip, knock me over the head, will you, for my own good?"
I promised faithfully that I would do as he asked, but, as an easier way out of an unpleasant situation, I drugged his Remsen cooler with a sleeping- powder, and an hour later he was lying off on my divan lost to the world for eight hours at least. As a further precaution I put the jewels in my own safe.
The night's sleep had the desired effect, and with the returning day Holmes's better nature asserted itself. Raffles was subdued, and he returned to Gaffany's to put the finishing touches to his work.
"Here's your check, Jenkins," said Raffles Holmes, handing me a draft for $5000. "The gems were found to-day in the water-cooler in the work-room, and Gaffany & Co. paid up like gentlemen."
"And the thief?" I asked.
"Under arrest," said Raffles Holmes. "We caught him fishing for them."
"And your past jewels, where are they?"
"I wish I knew," he answered, his face clouding over. "In the excitement of the moment of the arrest I got 'em mixed with the originals I had last night, and they didn't give me time or opportunity to pick 'em out. The four were mounted immediately and sent under guard to the purchaser. Gaffany & Co. didn't want to keep them a minute longer than was necessary. But the purchaser is so rich he will never have to sell 'em—so, you see, Jenkins, we're as safe as a church."
"Your friend Robinstein was a character, Holmes," said I.
"Yes," sighed Holmes. "Poor chap—he was a great loss to his friends. He taught me the art of making paste gems when I was in Paris. I miss him like the dickens."
"Miss him!" said I, getting anxious for Robinstein. "What happened? He isn't—"
"Dead," said Holmes. "Two years ago—dear old chap."
"Oh, come now, Holmes," I said. "What new game is this you are rigging on me? I met him only five nights ago—and you know it."
"Oh—that one," said Raffles Holmes, with a laugh. "I was that Robinstein."
"You?" I cried.
"Yes, me," said Holmes. "You don't suppose I'd let a third party into our secret, do you?"
And then he gave me one of those sweet, wistful smiles that made the wonder of the man all the greater.
"I wish to the dickens I knew whether these were real or paste!" he muttered, taking the extra pendants from his wallet as he spoke. "I don't dare ask anybody, and I haven't got any means of telling myself."
"Give them to me," said I, sternly, noting a glitter in his eye that suggested the domination for the moment of the Raffles in him.
"Tush, Jenkins," he began, uneasily.
"Give them to me, or I'll brain you, Holmes," said I, standing over him with a soda-water bottle gripped in my right hand, "for your own good. Come, give up."
He meekly obeyed.
"Come now, get on your hat," said I. "I want you to go out with me."
"What for, Jenkins?" he almost snarled.
"You'll see what for," said I.
And Raffles Holmes obeying, we walked down to the river's edge, where I stood for a moment, and then hurled the remaining stones far out into the waters.
Holmes gave a gasp and then a sigh of relief.
"There," I said. "It doesn't matter much to us now whether the confounded things were real or not."
V THE ADVENTURE OF THE BRASS CHECK
"Jenkins," said Raffles Holmes to me the other night as we sat in my den looking over the criminal news in the evening papers, in search of some interesting material for him to work on, "this paper says that Mrs. Wilbraham Ward-Smythe has gone to Atlantic City for a week, and will lend her gracious presence to the social functions of the Hotel Garrymore, at that interesting city by the sea, until Monday, the 27th, when she will depart for Chicago, where her sister is to be married on the 29th. How would you like to spend the week with me at the Garrymore?"
"It all depends upon what we are going for," said I. "Also, what in thunder has Mrs. Wilbraham Ward-Smythe got to do with us, or we with her?"
"Nothing at all," said Holmes. "That is, nothing much."
"Who is she?" I asked, eying him suspiciously.
"All I know is what I have seen in the papers," said Holmes. "She came in on the Altruria two weeks ago, and attracted considerable attention by declaring $130,000 worth of pearl rope that she bought in Paris, instead of, woman-like, trying to smuggle it through the custom-house. It broke the heart of pretty nearly every inspector in the service. She'd been watched very carefully by the detective bureau in Paris, and when she purchased the rope there, the news of it was cabled over in cipher, so that they'd all be on the lookout for it when she came in. The whole force on the pier was on the qui vive, and one of the most expert women searchers on the pay-roll was detailed to give her special attention the minute she set foot on shore; but instead of doing as they all believed she would do, and giving the inspectors a chance to catch her at trying to evade the duties, to their very great profit, she calmly and coolly declared the stuff, paid her little sixty-five per cent. like a major, and drove off to the Castoria in full possession of her jewels. The Collector of the Port had all he could do to keep 'em from draping the custom-house for thirty days, they were all so grief-stricken. She'll probably take the rope to Atlantic City with her."
"Aha!" said I. "That's the milk in the cocoanut, is it? You're after that pearl rope, are you, Raffles?"
"On my honor as a Holmes," said he, "I am not. I shall not touch the pearl rope, although I have no doubt that I shall have some unhappy moments during the week that I am in the same hotel with it. That's one reason why I'd like to have you go along, Jenkins—just to keep me out of temptation. Raffles may need more than Holmes to keep him out of mischief. I am confident, however, that with you to watch out for me, I shall be able to suppress the strong tendency towards evil which at times besets me."
"We'd better keep out of it altogether, Holmes," said I, not liking the weight of responsibility for his good behavior that more than once he had placed on my shoulders. "You don't deny, I suppose, that the pearl rope is a factor in your intentions, whatever they may be."
"Of course I don't, Jenkins," was his response. "If it were not for her pearl rope, Mrs. Wilbraham Ward-Smythe could go anywhere she pleased without attracting any more attention from me than a passing motor-car. It would be futile for me to deny that, as a matter of fact, the pearl rope is an essential part of my scheme, and, even if it were not futile to do so, I should still not deny it, because neither my father nor my grandfather, Holmes nor Raffles, ever forgot that a gentleman does not lie."
"Then count me out," said I.
"Even if there is $7500 in it for you?" he said, with a twinkle in his eye.
"If it were $107,500 you could still count me out," I retorted. "I don't like the business."
"Very well," said he, with a sight. "I shall have to go alone and endeavor to fight the terrible temptation unaided, with a strong probability that I shall fail, and, yielding to it, commit my first real act of crime, and in that event, with the possibility of a term at Trenton prison, if I am caught."
"Give it up, Raffles," I pleaded.
"And all because, in the hour of my need, my best friend, whose aid I begged, refused me," he went on, absolutely ignoring my plea.
"Oh, well, if you put it on that score," I said, "I'll go—but you must promise me not to touch the pearls."
"I'll do my best not to," he replied. "As usual, you have carte-blanche to put me out of business if you catch me trying it."
With this understanding I accompanied Raffles Holmes to Atlantic City the following afternoon, and the following evening we were registered at the Hotel Garrymore.
Holmes was not mistaken in his belief that Mrs. Wilbraham Ward-Smythe would take her famous pearl rope to Atlantic City with her. That very evening, while we were sitting at dinner, the lady entered, and draped about her stately neck and shoulders was the thing itself, and a more beautiful decoration was never worn by woman from the days of the Queen of Sheba to this day of lavish display in jewels. It was a marvel, indeed, but the moment I saw it I ceased to give the lady credit for superior virtue in failing to smuggle it through the custom-house, for its very size would have precluded the possibility of a successful issue to any such attempted evasion of the law. It was too bulky to have been secreted in any of the ordinary ways known to smugglers. Hence her candid acknowledgment of its possession was less an evidence of the lady's superiority to the majority of her sex in the matter of "beating the government" than of her having been confronted with the proverbial choice of the unidentified Hobson.
"By Jove! Jenkins," Raffles Holmes muttered, hoarsely, as Mr. Ward-Smythe paraded the length of the dining-room, as fairly corruscating with her rich possessions as though she were a jeweller's window incarnate, "it's a positive crime for a woman to appear in a place like this arrayed like that. What right has she to subject poor weak humanity to such temptation as now confronts every servant in this hotel, to say nothing of guests, who, like ourselves, are made breathless with such lavish display? There's poor old Tommie Bankson over there, for instance. See how he gloats over those pearls. He's fairly red-eyed over them."
I glanced across the dining-room, and sure enough, there sat Tommie Bankson, and even from where we were placed we could see his hands tremble with the itch for possession, and his lips go dry with excitement as he thought of the material assets in full view under the glare of the dining-room electric lights.
"I happen to know on the inside," continued Holmes, "that Tommie is not only a virtual bankrupt through stock speculation, but is actually face to face with criminal disgrace for misuse of trust funds, all of which he could escape if he could lay his hands upon half the stuff that woman is so carelessly wearing to-night. Do you think it's fair to wear, for the mere gratification of one's vanity, things that arouse in the hearts of less fortunate beings such passionate reflections and such dire temptations as those which are now besetting that man?"
"I guess we've got enough to do looking after Raffles to-night, old man, without wasting any of our nerve-tissue on Tommie Bankson," I replied. "Come on—let's get out of this. We'll go over to the Pentagon for the night, and to-morrow we'll shake the sands of Atlantic City from our feet and hie ourselves back to New York, where the temptations are not so strong."
"It's too late," said Raffles Holmes. "I've set out on this adventure and I'm going to put it through. I wouldn't give up in the middle of an enterprise of this sort any more than I would let a balky horse refuse to take a fence I'd put him to. It's going to be harder than I thought, but we're in it, and I shall stay to the end."
"What the devil is the adventure, anyhow?" I demanded, impatiently. "You vowed you wouldn't touch the rope."
"I hope not to," was his response. "It is up to you to see that I don't. My plan does not involve my laying hands upon even the shadow of it."
So we stayed on at the Garrymore, and a worse week I never had anywhere. With every glimpse of that infernal jewel the Raffles in Holmes became harder and harder to control. In the daytime he was all right, but when night came on he was feverish with the desire to acquire possession of the pearls. Twice in the middle of the night I caught him endeavoring to sneak out of our room, and upon each occasion, when I rushed after him and forced him back, he made no denial of my charge that he was going after the jewel. The last time it involved us both in such a terrible struggle that I vowed then and there that the following morning should see my departure.
"I can't stand the strain, Holmes," said I.
"Well, if you can't stand your strain," said Raffles Holmes, "what do you think of mine?"
"The thing to do is to get out, that's all," I retorted. "I won't have a nerve left in twenty-four hours. For four nights now I haven't had a minute's normal sleep, and this fight you've just put up has regularly knocked me out."
"One more day Jenkins," he pleaded. "She goes day after to-morrow, and so do we."
"We?" I cried. "After her?"
"Nope—she to Chicago—we to New York," said Holmes. "Stick it out, there's a good fellow," and of course I yielded.
The next day—Sunday—was one of feverish excitement, but we got through it without mishap, and on Monday morning it was with a sigh of relief that I saw Mrs. Wilbraham Ward-Smythe pull out of the Philadelphia station en route for Chicago, while Raffles Holmes and I returned to New York.
"Well, Raffles," said I, as we sped on our homeward way, "we've had our trouble for our pains."
He laughed crisply. "Have we?" said he. "I guess not—not unless you have lost the trunk check the porter gave you."
"What, this brass thing?" I demanded, taking the check from my pocket and flicking it in the air like a penny.
"That very brass thing," said Holmes.
"You haven't lifted that damned rope and put it in my trunk!" I roared.
"Hush, Jenkins! For Heaven's sake don't make a scene. I haven't done anything of the sort," he whispered, looking about him anxiously to make sure that we had not been overheard. "Those pearls are as innocent of my touch as the top of the Himalaya Mountains is of yours."
"Then what have you done?" I demanded, sulkily.
"Just changed a couple of trunk checks, that's all," said Raffles Holmes. "That bit of brass you have in your hand, which was handed to you in the station by the porter of the Garrymore, when presented at Jersey City will put you in possession of Mrs. Wilbraham Ward-Smythe's trunk, containing the bulk of her jewels. She's a trifle careless about her possessions, as any one could see who watched the nonchalant way in which she paraded the board walk with a small fortune on her neck and fingers. Most women would carry such things in a small hand-satchel, or at least have the trunk sent by registered express, but not Mrs. Wilbraham Ward-Smythe; and, thanks to her loud voice, listening outside of her door last night, I heard her directing her maid here she wished the gems packed."
"And where the dickens is my trunk?" I asked.
"On the way to Chicago," said Raffles Holmes, calmly. "Mrs. Wilbraham Ward- Smythe has the check for it."
"Safe business!" I sneered. "Bribed the porter, I presume?"
"Jenkins, you are exceedingly uncomplimentary at times," said Raffles Holmes, showing more resentment than I had ever given him credit for. "Perhaps you observed that I didn't go to the station in the omnibus."
"No, you went over to the drug-store after some phenacetine for your headache," said I.
"Precisely," said Holmes, "and after purchasing the phenacetine I jumped aboard the Garrymore express-wagon and got a lift over to the station. It was during that ride that I transferred Mrs. Ward-Smythe's check from her trunk to yours, and vice versa. It's one of the easiest jobs in the Raffles business, especially at this season of the year, when travel is heavy and porters are overworked."
"I'll see the trunk in the Hudson River, pearl rope and all, before I'll claim it at Jersey City or anywhere else," said I.
"Perfectly right," Holmes returned. "We'll hand the check to the expressman when he comes through the train, and neither of us need appear further in the matter. It will merely be delivered at your apartment."
"Why not yours?" said I.
"Raffles!" said he, laconically, and I understood.
"And then what?" I asked.
"Let it alone, unopened, safe as a church, until Mrs. Wilbraham Ward-Smythe discovers her loss, which will be to-morrow afternoon, and then—"
"Mr. Holmes will step in, unravel the mystery, prove it to be a mere innocent mistake, collect about ten or fifteen thousand dollars reward, divvy up with you, and the decks will be cleared for what turns up next," said this wonderful player of dangerous games. "And, as a beginning, Jenkins, please sign this," he added.
Holmes handed me a typewritten-letter which read as follows.
"THE RICHMORE, June 30, 1905. "Raffles Holmes, Esq.. "DEAR SIR,—I enclose herewith my check for $1000 as a retainer for your services in locating for me a missing trunk, which contains articles which I value at $10,000. This trunk was checked through to New York from Atlantic City on Monday last, 9.40 train, and has not since been found. Whether or not it has been stolen, or has gone astray in some wholly innocent manner, is not as yet clear. I know of no one better equipped for the task of finding it for me than yourself, who, I am given to understand, are the son of the famous Sherlock Holmes of England. The check represents the ten per cent. commission on the value of the lost articles, which I believe is the customary fee for services such as I seek. Very truly yours."
"What are you going to do with this?" I demanded.
"Send it as an enclosure to Mrs. Wilbraham Ward-Smythe, showing my credentials as your agent, in asking her if by any mischance your trunk has got mixed in with her luggage," observed Holmes. "For form's sake, I shall send it to twenty or thirty other people known to have left Atlantic City the same day. Moreover, it will suggest the idea to Mrs. Wilbraham Ward- Smythe that I am a good man to locate her trunk also, and the delicate intimation of my terms will—"
"Aha! I see," said I. "And my thousand-dollar check to you?"
"I shall, of course, keep," observed Holmes. "You want the whole business to be bona fide, don't you? It would be unscrupulous for you to ask for its return."
I didn't exactly like the idea, but, after all, there was much in what Holmes said, and the actual risk of my own capital relieved my conscience of the suspicion that by signing the letter I should become a partner in a confidence game. Hence I signed the note, mailed it to Raffles Holmes, enclosing my check for $1000 with it.
Three days later Holmes entered my room with a broad grin on his face.
"How's this for business?" said he, handing me a letter he had received that morning from Chicago.
"DEAR SIR,—I am perfectly delighted to receive your letter of July 1. I think I have Mr. Jenkins's missing trunk. What pleases me most, however, is the possibility of your recovering mine, which also went astray at the same time. It contained articles of even greater value than Mr. Jenkins's—my pearl rope, among other things, which is appraised at $130,000. Do you think there is any chance of your recovering it for me? I enclose my check for $5000 as a retainer. The balance of your ten per cent. fee I shall gladly pay on receipt of my missing luggage. "Most sincerely yours, "MAUDE WARD-SMYTHE."
"I rather think, my dear Jenkins," observed Raffles Holmes, "that we have that $13,000 reward cinched."
"There's $7000 for you, Jenkins," said Holmes, a week later, handing me his check for that amount. "Easy money that. It only took two weeks to turn the trick, and $14,000 for fourteen days' work is pretty fair pay. If we could count on that for a steady income I think I'd be able to hold Raffles down without your assistance."
"You got fourteen thousand, eh?" said I. "I thought it was only to be $13,000."
"It was fourteen thousand counting in your $1000," said Raffles Holmes. "You see, I'm playing on the square, old man. Half and half in everything."
I squeezed his hand affectionately.
"But—he-ew!" I ejaculated, with a great feeling of relief. "I'm glad the thing's over with.
"So am I," said Holmes, with a glitter in his eye. "If we'd kept that trunk in this apartment another day there'd have been trouble. I had a piece of lead-pipe up my sleeve when I called here Tuesday night."
"What for?" I asked.
"You!" said Raffles Holmes. "If you hadn't had that poker-party with you I'd have knocked you out and gone to China with the Ward-Smythe jewels. Sherlock Holmes stock was 'way below par Tuesday night."
VI THE ADVENTURE OF THE HIRED BURGLAR
I had not seen Raffles Holmes for some weeks, nor had I heard from him, although I had faithfully remitted to his address his share of the literary proceeds of his adventures as promptly as circumstances permitted—$600 on the first tale, $920 on the second, and no less than $1800 on the third, showing a constantly growing profit on our combination from my side of the venture. These checks had not even been presented for payment at the bank. Fearing from this that he might be ill, I called at Holmes's lodgings in the Rexmere, a well-established bachelor apartment hotel, on Forty-fourth Street, to inquire as to the state of his health. The clerk behind the desk greeted my cordially as I entered, and bade me go at once to Holmes's apartment on the eighteenth floor, which I immediately proceeded to do.
"Here is Mr. Holmes's latch-key, sir," said the clerk. "He told me you were to have access to his apartment at any time."
"He is in, is he?" I asked.
"I really don't know, sir. I will call up and inquire, if you wish," replied the clerk.
"Oh, never mind," said I. "I'll go up, anyhow, and if he is out, I'll wait."
So up I went, and a few moments later had entered the apartment. As the door opened, the little private hallway leading to his den at the rear burst into a flood of light, and from an inner room, the entrance to which was closed, I could hear Holmes's voice cheerily carolling out snatches of such popular airs as "Tammany" and "Ef Yo' Habn't Got No Money Yo' Needn't Bodder Me."
I laughed quietly and at the same time breathed a sigh of relief. It was very evident from the tone of his voice that there was nothing serious the matter with my friend and partner.
"Hullo, Raffles!" I called out, knocking on the door to the inner room.
"Tam-ma-nee, Tam-ma-nee; Swampum, swampum, Get their wampum, Tam-ma-nee,"
was the sole answer, and in such fortissimo tones that I was not surprised that he did not hear me.
"Oh, I say, Raffles," I hallooed, rapping on the door again, this time with the head of my cane. "It's Jenkins, old man. Came to look you up. Was afraid something had happened to you."
"'Way down upon the Suwanee River, Far, far away, Dere's whar my heart am turnin' ever, Dere's whar de ole folks stay,"
was the reply.
Again I laughed.
"He's suffering from a bad attack of coonitis this evening," I observed to myself. "Looks to me as if I'd have to let it run its course."
Whereupon I retired to a very comfortable couch near the window and sat down to await the termination of the musical.
Five minutes later the singing having shown no signs of abatement I became impatient, and a third assault on the door followed, this time with cane, hands, and toes in unison.
"I'll have him out this time or die!" I ejaculated, filled with resolve, and then began such a pounding upon the door as should have sufficed to awake a dead Raffles, not to mention a living one.
"Hi, there, Jenkins!" cried a voice behind me, in the midst of this operation, identically the same voice, too, as that still going on in the room in front of me. "What the dickens are you trying to do—batter the house down?"
I whirled about like a flash, and was deeply startled to see Raffles himself standing by the divan I had just vacated, divesting himself of his gloves and light overcoat.
"You—Raffles?" I roared in astonishment.
"Yep," said he. "Who else?"
"But the—the other chap—in the room there?"
"Oh," laughed Raffles. "That's my alibi-prover—hold on a minute and I'll show you."
Whereupon he unlocked the door into the bedroom, whence had come the tuneful lyrics, threw it wide open, and revealed to my astonished gaze no less an object than a large talking-machine still engaged in the strenuous fulfilment of its noisy mission.
"What the dickens!" I said.
"It's attacked to my front-door," said Raffles, silencing the machine. "The minute the door is opened it begins to sing like the four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie."
"But what good is it?" said I.
"Oh, well—it keeps the servants from spending too much time in my apartment, snooping among my papers, perhaps; and it my some day come in useful in establishing an alibi if things go wrong with me. You'd have sworn I was in there just now, wouldn't you?"
"I would indeed," said I.
"Well—you see, I wasn't, so there you are," said Raffles Holmes. "By-the- way, you've come at an interesting moment. There'll be things doing before the evening is over. I've had an anxious caller here five times already to- day. I've been standing in the barber-shop opposite getting a line on him. His card name is Grouch, his real name is—"
Here Raffles Holmes leaned forward and whispered in my ear a name of such eminent respectability that I fairly gasped.
"You don't mean the Mr. ——"
"Nobody else," said Raffles Holmes. "Only he don't know I know who he is. The third time Grouch called I trailed him to Blank's house, and then recognized him as Blank himself."
"And what does he want with you?" I asked.
"That remains to be seen," said Raffles Holmes. "All I know is that next Tuesday he will be required to turn over $100,000 unregistered bonds to a young man about to come of age, for whom he has been a trustee."
"Aha!" said I. "And you think—"
"I don't think, Jenkins, until the time comes. Gray matter is scarce these times, and I'm not wasting any of mine on unnecessary speculation," said Raffles Holmes.
At this point the telephone-bell rang and Raffles answered the summons.
"Yes, I'll see Mr. Grouch. Show him up," he said. "It would be mighty interesting reading if some newspaper showed him up," he added, with a grin, as he returned. "By-the-way, Jenkins, I think you'd better go in there and have a half-hour's chat with the talking-machine. I have an idea old man Grouch won't have much to say with a third party present. Listen all you want to, but don't breathe too loud or you'll frighten him away."