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A Thief in the Night

And in a moment he had accosted the man by the boy's nickname, obviously
without thinking of an affront which few would have read in that hearty open face
and hand.
"My name's Nasmyth," snapped the other, standing upright to glare.
"Forgive me," said Raffles undeterred. "One remembers a nickname and forgets
all. it never used to mean. Shake hands, my dear fellow! I'm Raffles. It must be
fifteen years since we met."
"At least," replied Nasmyth coldly; but he could no longer refuse Raffles his hand.
"So you are going down," he sneered, "to this great gathering?" And I stood
listening at my distance, as though still in the middle fourth.
"Rather!" cried Raffles. "I'm afraid I have let myself lose touch, but I mean to turn
over a new leaf. I suppose that isn't necessary in your case, Nasmyth?"
He spoke with an enthusiasm rare indeed in him: it had grown upon Raffles in the
train; the spirit of his boyhood had come rushing back at fifty miles an hour. He
might have been following some honorable calling in town; he might have
snatched this brief respite from a distinguished but exacting career. I am
convinced that it was I alone who remembered at that moment the life we were
really leading at that time. With me there walked this skeleton through every
waking hour that was to follow. I shall endeavor not to refer to it again. Yet it
should not be forgotten that my skeleton was always there.
"It certainly is not necessary in my case," replied Nasmyth, still as stiff as any
poker. "I happen to be a trustee."
"Of the school?"
"Like my father before me."
"I congratulate you, my dear fellow!" cried the hearty Raffles - a younger Raffles
than I had ever known in town.
"I don't know that you need," said Nasmyth sourly.
"But it must be a tremendous interest. And the proof is that you're going down to
this show, like all. the rest of us."
"No, I'm not. I live there, you see."
And I think the Nipper recalled that name as he ground his heel upon an
unresponsive flagstone.
"But you're going to this meeting at the school-house, surely?"
"I don't know. If I do there may be squalls. I don't know what you think about this
precious scheme Raffles, but I . . ."
The ragged beard stuck out, set teeth showed through the wild moustache, and
in a sudden outpouring we had his views. They were narrow and intemperate
and perverse as any I had heard him advocate as the firebrand of the Debating
Society in my first term. But they were stated with all. the old vim and venom.
The mind of Nasmyth had not broadened with the years, but neither had its
natural force abated, nor that of his character either. He spoke with great vigor at
the top of his voice; soon we had a little crowd about us; but the tall collars and
the broad smiles of the younger Old Boys did not deter our dowdy demagogue.
Why spend money on a man who had been dead two hundred years? What good
could it do him or the school? Besides, he was only technically our founder. He
had not founded a great public school. He had founded a little country grammar
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