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Authors: A Thief in the Night

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BOOK: E. W. Hornung_A J Raffles 03
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A Thief in the Night
A Book of Raffles' Adventures
First published in 1905
ISBN 978-1-62011-139-0
Duke Classics
© 2012 Duke Classics and its licensors. All rights reserved.
While every effort has been used to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information contained in this edition, Duke Classics does not assume liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in this book. Duke Classics does not accept responsibility for loss suffered as a result of reliance upon the accuracy or currency of information contained in this book.
Out of Paradise

If I must tell more tales of Raffles, I can but back to our
earliest days together, and fill in the blanks left by discretion
in existing annals. In so doing I may indeed fill some small part
of an infinitely greater blank, across which you may conceive me
to have stretched my canvas for the first frank portrait of my
friend. The whole truth cannot harm him now. I shall paint in
every wart. Raffles was a villain, when all is written; it is no
service to his memory to glaze the fact; yet I have done so myself
before to-day. I have omitted whole heinous episodes. I have
dwelt unduly on the redeeming side. And this I may do again, blinded
even as I write by the gallant glamour that made my villain more to
me than any hero. But at least there shall be no more reservations,
and as an earnest I shall make no further secret of the greatest
wrong that even Raffles ever did me.

I pick my words with care and pain, loyal as I still would be to my
friend, and yet remembering as I must those Ides of March when he
led me blindfold into temptation and crime. That was an ugly office,
if you will. It was a moral bagatelle to the treacherous trick he
was to play me a few weeks later. The second offence, on the other
hand, was to prove the less serious of the two against society, and
might in itself have been published to the world years ago. There
have been private reasons for my reticence. The affair was not only
too intimately mine, and too discreditable to Raffles. One other
was involved in it, one dearer to me than Raffles himself, one whose
name shall not even now be sullied by association with ours.

Suffice it that I had been engaged to her before that mad March
deed. True, her people called it "an understanding," and frowned
even upon that, as well they might. But their authority was not
direct; we bowed to it as an act of politic grace; between us, all
was well but my unworthiness. That may be gauged when I confess
that this was how the matter stood on the night I gave a worthless
check for my losses at baccarat, and afterward turned to Raffles in
my need. Even after that I saw her sometimes. But I let her guess
that there was more upon my soul than she must ever share, and at
last I had written to end it all. I remember that week so well! It
was the close of such a May as we had never had since, and I was too
miserable even to follow the heavy scoring in the papers. Raffles
was the only man who could get a wicket up at Lord's, and I never
once went to see him play. Against Yorkshire, however, he helped
himself to a hundred runs as well; and that brought Raffles round
to me, on his way home to the Albany.

"We must dine and celebrate the rare event," said he. "A century
takes it out of one at my time of life; and you, Bunny, you look
quite as much in need of your end of a worthy bottle. Suppose we
make it the Cafe Royal, and eight sharp? I'll be there first to fix
up the table and the wine."

And at the Cafe Royal I incontinently told him of the trouble I was
in. It was the first he had ever heard of my affair, and I told
him all, though not before our bottle had been succeeded by a pint
of the same exemplary brand. Raffles heard me out with grave
attention. His sympathy was the more grateful for the tactful
brevity with which it was indicated rather than expressed. He only
wished that I had told him of this complication in the beginning; as
I had not, he agreed with me that the only course was a candid and
complete renunciation. It was not as though my divinity had a penny
of her own, or I could earn an honest one. I had explained to
Raffles that she was an orphan, who spent most of her time with an
aristocratic aunt in the country, and the remainder under the
repressive roof of a pompous politician in Palace Gardens. The aunt
had, I believed, still a sneaking softness for me, but her
illustrious brother had set his face against me from the first.

"Hector Carruthers!" murmured Raffles, repeating the detested name
with his clear, cold eye on mine. "I suppose you haven't seen much
of him?"

"Not a thing for ages," I replied. "I was at the house two or three
days last year, but they've neither asked me since nor been at home
to me when I've called. The old beast seems a judge of men."

And I laughed bitterly in my glass.

"Nice house?" said Raffles, glancing at himself in his silver

"Top shelf," said I. "You know the houses in Palace Gardens, don't

"Not so well as I should like to know them, Bunny."

"Well, it's about the most palatial of the lot. The old ruffian is
as rich as Croesus. It's a country-place in town."

"What about the window-fastenings?" asked Raffles casually.

I recoiled from the open cigarette-case that he proffered as he
spoke. Our eyes met; and in his there was that starry twinkle of
mirth and mischief, that sunny beam of audacious devilment, which
had been my undoing two months before, which was to undo me as often
as he chose until the chapter's end. Yet for once I withstood its
glamour; for once I turned aside that luminous glance with front of
steel. There was no need for Raffles to voice his plans. I read
them all between the strong lines of his smiling, eager face. And
I pushed back my chair in the equal eagerness of my own resolve.

"Not if I know it!" said I. "A house I've dined in - a house I've
seen her in - a house where she stays by the month together! Don't
put it into words, Raffles, or I'll get up and go."

"You mustn't do that before the coffee and liqueur," said Raffles
laughing. "Have a small Sullivan first: it's the royal road to a
cigar. And now let me observe that your scruples would do you honor
if old Carruthers still lived in the house in question."

"Do you mean to say he doesn't?"

Raffles struck a match, and handed it first to me. "I mean to say,
my dear Bunny, that Palace Gardens knows the very name no more. You
began by telling me you had heard nothing of these people all this
year. That's quite enough to account for our little misunderstanding.
I was thinking of the house, and you were thinking of the people in
the house."

"But who are they, Raffles? Who has taken the house, if old
Carruthers has moved, and how do you know that it is still worth a

"In answer to your first question - Lord Lochmaben," replied Raffles,
blowing bracelets of smoke toward the ceiling. "You look as though
you had never heard of him; but as the cricket and racing are the
only part of your paper that you condescend to read, you can't be
expected to keep track of all the peers created in your time. Your
other question is not worth answering. How do you suppose that I
know these things? It's my business to get to know them, and that's
all there is to it. As a matter of fact, Lady Lochmaben has just
as good diamonds as Mrs. Carruthers ever had; and the chances are
that she keeps them where Mrs. Carruthers kept hers, if you could
enlighten me on that point."

As it happened, I could, since I knew from his niece that it was
one on which Mr. Carruthers had been a faddist in his time. He
had made quite a study of the cracksman's craft, in a resolve to
circumvent it with his own. I remembered myself how the ground-floor
windows were elaborately bolted and shuttered, and how the doors of
all the rooms opening upon the square inner hall were fitted with
extra Yale locks, at an unlikely height, not to be discovered by one
within the room. It had been the butler's business to turn and to
collect all these keys before retiring for the night. But the key
of the safe in the study was supposed to be in the jealous keeping
of the master of the house himself. That safe was in its turn so
ingeniously hidden that I never should have found it for myself. I
well remember how one who showed it to me (in the innocence of her
heart) laughed as she assured me that even her little trinkets were
solemnly locked up in it every night. It had been let into the wall
behind one end of the book-case, expressly to preserve the barbaric
splendor of Mrs. Carruthers; without a doubt these Lochmabens would
use it for the same purpose; and in the altered circumstances I had
no hesitation in giving Raffles all the information he desired. I
even drew him a rough plan of the ground-floor on the back of my

"It was rather clever of you to notice the kind of locks on the
inner doors," he remarked as he put it in his pocket. "I suppose you
don't remember if it was a Yale on the front door as well?"

"It was not," I was able to answer quite promptly. "I happen to know
because I once had the key when - when we went to a theatre together."

"Thank you, old chap," said Raffles sympathetically. "That's all I
shall want from you, Bunny, my boy. There's no night like to-night!"

It was one of his sayings when bent upon his worst. I looked at him
aghast. Our cigars were just in blast, yet already he was signalling
for his bill. It was impossible to remonstrate with him until we
were both outside in the street.

"I'm coming with you," said I, running my arm through his.

"Nonsense, Bunny!"

"Why is it nonsense? I know every inch of the ground, and since the
house has changed hands I have no compunction. Besides, 'I have
been there' in the other sense as well: once a thief, you know! In
for a penny, in for a pound!"

It was ever my mood when the blood was up. But my old friend failed
to appreciate the characteristic as he usually did. We crossed
Regent Street in silence. I had to catch his sleeve to keep a hand
in his inhospitable arm.

"I really think you had better stay away," said Raffles as we reached
the other curb. "I've no use for you this time."

"Yet I thought I had been so useful up to now?"

"That may be, Bunny, but I tell you frankly I don't want you

"Yet I know the ground and you don't! I tell you what," said I:
"I'll come just to show you the ropes, and I won't take a pennyweight
of the swag."

Such was the teasing fashion in which he invariably prevailed upon
me; it was delightful to note how it caused him to yield in his turn.
But Raffles had the grace to give in with a laugh, whereas I too
often lost my temper with my point.

"You little rabbit!" he chuckled. "You shall have your share, whether
you come or not; but, seriously, don't you think you might remember
the girl?"

"What's the use?" I groaned. "You agree there is nothing for it but
to give her up. I am glad to say that for myself before I asked you,
and wrote to tell her so on Sunday. Now it's Wednesday, and she
hasn't answered by line or sign. It's waiting for one word from her
that's driving me mad."

"Perhaps you wrote to Palace Gardens?"

"No, I sent it to the country. There's been time for an answer,
wherever she may be."

BOOK: E. W. Hornung_A J Raffles 03
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