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A Thief in the Night

"We have a pavilion acquaintance, when it suits my lord," replied Raffles,
chuckling. "But I know all. about him. He was president one year of the M.C.C.,
and we never had a better. He knows the game, though I believe he never
played cricket in his life. But then he knows most things, and has never done any
of them. He has never even married, and never opened his lips in the House of
Lords. Yet they say there is no better brain in the August assembly, and he
certainly made us a wonderful speech last time the Australians were over. He
has read everything and (to his credit in these days) never written a line. All.
round he is a whale for theory and a sprat for practice - but he looks quite
capable of both at crime!"
I now longed to behold this remarkable peer, in the flesh, and with the greater
curiosity since another of the things which he evidently never did was to have his
photograph published for the benefit of the vulgar. I told Raffles that I would dine
with him at Lord Thornaby's, and he nodded as though I had not hesitated for a
moment. I see now how deftly he had disposed of my reluctance. No doubt he
had thought it all. out before: his little speeches look sufficiently premeditated as I
set them down at the dictates of an excellent memory. Let it, however, be borne
in mind that Raffles did not talk exactly like a Raffles book: he said the things, but
he did not say them in so many consecutive breaths. They were punctuated by
puffs from his eternal cigarette, and the punctuation was often in the nature of a
line of asterisks, while he took a silent turn up and down his room. Nor was he
ever more deliberate than when he seemed most nonchalant and spontaneous. I
came to see it in the end. But these were early days, in which he was more
plausible to me than I can hope to render him to another human being.
And I saw a good deal of Raffles just then; it was, in fact, the one period at which
I can remember his coming round to see me more frequently than I went round to
him. Of course he would come at his own odd hours, often just as one was
dressing to go out and dine, and I can even remember finding him there when I
returned, for I had long since given him a key of the flat. It was the inhospitable
month of February, and I can recall more than one cosy evening when we
discussed anything and everything but our own malpractices; indeed, there were
none to discuss just then. Raffles, on the contrary, was showing himself with
some industry in the most respectable society, and by his advice I used the club
more than ever.
"There is nothing like it at this time of year," said he. "In the summer I have my
cricket to provide me with decent employment in the sight of men. Keep yourself
before the public from morning to night, and they'll never think of you in the still
small hours."
Our behavior, in fine, had so long been irreproachable that I rose without
misgiving on the morning of Lord Thornaby's dinner to the other Criminologists
and guests. My chief anxiety was to arrive under the aegis of my brilliant friend,
and I had begged him to pick me up on his way; but at five minutes to the
appointed hour there was no sign of Raffles or his cab. We were bidden at a
quarter to eight for eight o'clock, so after all. I had to hurry off alone.
Fortunately, Thornaby House is almost at the end of my street that was; and it
seemed to me another fortunate circumstance that the house stood back, as it
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