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A Thief in the Night

A Bad Night
There was to be a certain little wedding in which Raffles and I took a surreptitious
interest. The bride-elect was living in some retirement, with a recently widowed
mother and an asthmatical brother, in a mellow hermitage on the banks of the
Mole. The bridegroom was a prosperous son of the same suburban soil which
had nourished both families for generations. The wedding presents were so
numerous as to fill several rooms at the pretty retreat upon the Mole, and of an
intrinsic value calling for a special transaction with the Burglary Insurance
Company in Cheapside. I cannot say how Raffles obtained all. this information. I
only know that it proved correct in each particular. I was not indeed deeply
interested before the event, since Raffles assured me that it was "a one-man
job," and naturally intended to be the one man himself. It was only at the eleventh
hour that our positions were inverted by the wholly unexpected selection of
Raffles for the English team in the Second Test Match.
In a flash I saw the chance of my criminal career. It was some years since
Raffles had served his country in these encounters; he had never thought to be
called upon again, and his gratification was only less than his embarrassment.
The match was at Old Trafford, on the third Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in
July; the other affair had been all. arranged for the Thursday night, the night of
the wedding at East Molesey. It was for Raffles to choose between the two
excitements, and for once I helped him to make up his mind. I duly pointed out to
him that in Surrey, at all. events, I was quite capable of taking his place. Nay,
more, I insisted at once on my prescriptive right and on his patriotic obligation in
the matter. In the country's name and in my own, I implored him to give it and me
a chance; and for once, as I say, my arguments prevailed. Raffles sent his
telegram - it was the day before the match. We then rushed down to Esher, and
over every inch of the ground by that characteristically circuitous route which he
enjoined on me for the next night. And at six in the evening I was receiving the
last of my many instructions through a window of the restaurant car.
"Only promise me not to take a revolver," said Raffles in a whisper. "Here are my
keys; there's an old life-preserver somewhere in the bureau; take that, if you like -
though what you take I rather fear you are the chap to use!"
"Then the rope be round my own neck!" I whispered back. "Whatever else I may
do, Raffles, I shan't give you away; and you'll find I do better than you think, and
am worth trusting with a little more to do, or I'll know the reason why!"
And I meant to know it, as he was borne out of Euston with raised eyebrows, and
I turned grimly on my heel. I saw his fears for me; and nothing could have made
me more fearless for myself. Raffles had been wrong about me all. these years;
now was my chance to set him right. It was galling to feel that he had no
confidence in my coolness or my nerve, when neither had ever failed him at a
pinch. I had been loyal to him through rough and smooth. In many an ugly corner
I had stood as firm as Raffles himself. I was his right hand, and yet he never
hesitated to make me his catspaw. This time, at all. events, I should be neither
 
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