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A Thief in the Night

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 cigarette-case.
"Top shelf," said I. "You know the houses in Palace Gardens, don't you?"
"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 visit?"
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