A Thief in the Night
"Here, take my arm - I'm not so beastly as I look. But neither am I in town, nor in
England, nor yet on the face of the earth, for all. that's known of me to a single
soul but you."
"Then where are you," I asked, "between ourselves?"
"I've taken a house near here for the holidays, where I'm going in for a Rest Cure
of my own description. Why? Oh, for lots of reasons, my dear Bunny; among
others, I have long had a wish to grow my own beard; under the next lamppost
you will agree that it's training on very nicely. Then, you mayn't know it, but
there's a canny man at Scotland Yard who has had a quiet eye on me longer
than I like. I thought it about time to have an eye on him, and I stared him in the
face outside the Albany this very morning. That was when I saw you go in, and
scribbled a line to give you when you came out. If he had caught us talking he
would have spotted me at once."
"So you are lying low out here!"
"I prefer to call it my Rest Cure," returned Raffles, "and it's really nothing else.
I've got a furnished house at a time when no one else would have dreamed of
taking one in town; and my very neighbors don't know I'm there, though I'm
bound to say there are hardly any of them at home. I don't keep a servant, and
do everything for myself. It's the next best fun to a desert island. Not that I make
much work, for I'm really resting, but I haven't done so much solid reading for
years. Rather a joke, Bunny: the man whose house I've taken is one of her
Majesty's inspectors of prisons, and his study's a storehouse of criminology. It
has been quite amusing to lie on one's back and have a good look at one's self
as others fondly imagine they see one."
"But surely you get some exercise?" I asked; for he was leading me at a good
rate through the leafy byways of Camp den Hill; and his step was as springy and
as light as ever.
"The best exercise I ever had in my life," said Raffles; "and you would never live
to guess what it is. It's one of the reasons why I went in for this seedy kit. I follow
cabs. Yes, Bunny, I turn out about dusk and meet the expresses at Euston or
King's Cross; that is, of course, I loaf outside and pick my cab, and often run my
three or four miles for a bob or less. And it not only keeps you in the very pink: if
you're good they let you carry the trunks up-stairs; and I've taken notes from the
inside of more than one commodious residence which will come in useful in the
autumn. In fact, Bunny, what with these new Rowton houses, my beard, and my
otherwise well-spent holiday, I hope to have quite a good autumn season before
the erratic Raffles turns up in town."
I felt it high time to wedge in a word about my own far less satisfactory affairs.
But it was not necessary for me to recount half my troubles. Raffles could be as
full of himself as many a worse man, and I did not like his society the less for
these human outpourings. They had rather the effect of putting me on better
terms with myself, through bringing him down to my level for the time being. But
his egoism was not even skin-deep; it was rather a cloak, which Raffles could
cast off quicker than any man I ever knew, as he did not fail to show me now.
"Why, Bunny, this is the very thing!" he cried. "You must come and stay with me,
and we'll lie low side by side. Only remember it really is a Rest Cure. I want to