A Thief in the Night
I shall hold my pen on that provincial tour. Not that I joined Raffles in any of the
little enterprises with which he beguiled the breaks in our journey; our last deed
in London was far too great a weight upon my soul. I could see that gallant officer
in his chair, see him at every hour of the day and night, now with his indomitable
eyes meeting mine ferociously, now a stark outline underneath a sheet. The
vision darkened my day and gave me sleepless nights. I was with our victim in
all. his agony; my mind would only leave him for that gallows of which Raffles
had said true things in jest. No, I could not face so vile a death lightly, but I could
meet it, somehow, better than I could endure a guilty suspense. In the watches of
the second night I made up my mind to meet it halfway, that very morning, while
still there might be time to save the life that we had left in jeopardy. And I got up
early to tell Raffles of my resolve.
His room in the hotel where we were staying was littered with clothes and
luggage new enough for any bridegroom; I lifted the locked cricket-bag, and
found it heavier than a cricket-bag has any right to be. But in the bed Raffles was
sleeping like an infant, his shaven self once more. And when I shook him he
awoke with a smile.
"Going to confess, eh, Bunny? Well, wait a bit; the local police won't thank you
for knocking them up at this hour. And I bought a late edition which you ought to
see; that must be it on the floor. You have a look in the stop-press column,
I found the place with a sunken heart, and this is what I read:
Colonel Crutchley, R.E., V.C., has been the victim of a dastardly outrage at his
residence, Peter Street, Campden Hill. Returning unexpectedly to the house,
which had been left untenanted during the absence of the family abroad, it was
found occupied by two ruffians, who overcame and secured the distinguished
officer by the exercise of considerable violence. When discovered through the
intelligence of the Kensington police, the gallant victim was gagged and bound
hand and foot, and in an advanced stage of exhaustion.
"Thanks to the Kensington police," observed Raffles, as I read the last words
aloud in my horror. "They can't have gone when they got my letter."
"I printed them a line while we were waiting for our train at Euston. They must
have got it that night, but they can't have paid any attention to it until yesterday
morning. And when they do, they take all. the credit and give me no more than
you did, Bunny!"
I looked at the curly head upon the pillow, at the smiling, handsome face under
the curls. And at last I understood.
"So all. the time you never meant it!"
"Slow murder? You should have known me better. A few hours' enforced Rest
Cure was the worst I wished him."
"'you might have told me, Raffles!"
"That may be, Bunny, but you ought certainly to have trusted me!"