The Amateur Cracksman
Gentlemen And Players
Old Raffles may or may not have been an exceptional criminal, but as a
cricketer I dare swear he was unique. Himself a dangerous bat, a brilliant
field, and perhaps the very finest slow bowler of his decade, he took
incredibly little interest in the game at large. He never went up to Lord's
without his cricket-bag, or showed the slightest interest in the result of a
match in which he was not himself engaged. Nor was this mere hateful
egotism on his part. He professed to have lost all enthusiasm for the game,
and to keep it up only from the very lowest motives.
"Cricket," said Raffles, "like everything else, is good enough sport until you
discover a better. As a source of excitement it isn't in it with other things you
wot of, Bunny, and the involuntary comparison becomes a bore. What's the
satisfaction of taking a man's wicket when you want his spoons? Still, if you
can bowl a bit your low cunning won't get rusty, and always looking for the
weak spot's just the kind of mental exercise one wants. Yes, perhaps there's
some affinity between the two things after all. But I'd chuck up cricket to-
morrow, Bunny, if it wasn't for the glorious protection it affords a person of
"How so?" said I. "It brings you before the public, I should have thought, far
more than is either safe or wise."
"My dear Bunny, that's exactly where you make a mistake. To follow Crime
with reasonable impunity you simply MUST have a parallel, ostensible career--
the more public the better. The principle is obvious. Mr. Peace, of pious
memory, disarmed suspicion by acquiring a local reputation for playing the
fiddle and taming animals, and it's my profound conviction that Jack the
Ripper was a really eminent public man, whose speeches were very likely
reported alongside his atrocities. Fill the bill in some prominent part, and
you'll never be suspected of doubling it with another of equal prominence.
That's why I want you to cultivate journalism, my boy, and sign all you can.
And it's the one and only reason why I don't burn my bats for firewood."
Nevertheless, when he did play there was no keener performer on the field,
nor one more anxious to do well for his side. I remember how he went to the
nets, before the first match of the season, with his pocket full of sovereigns,
which he put on the stumps instead of bails. It was a sight to see the
professionals bowling like demons for the hard cash, for whenever a stump
was hit a pound was tossed to the bowler and another balanced in its stead,
while one man took #3 with a ball that spreadeagled the wicket. Raffles's
practice cost him either eight or nine sovereigns; but he had absolutely first-
class bowling all the time; and he made fifty-seven runs next day.