The Amateur Cracksman
Le Premier Pas
That night he told me the story of his earliest crime. Not since the fateful
morning of the Ides of March, when he had just mentioned it as an
unreported incident of a certain cricket tour, had I succeeded in getting a
word out of Raffles on the subject. It was not for want of trying; he would
shake his head, and watch his cigarette smoke thoughtfully; a subtle look in
his eyes, half cynical, half wistful, as though the decent honest days that
were no more had had their merits after all. Raffles would plan a fresh
enormity, or glory in the last, with the unmitigated enthusiasm of the artist. It
was impossible to imagine one throb or twitter of compunction beneath those
frankly egotistic and infectious transports. And yet the ghost of a dead
remorse seemed still to visit him with the memory of his first felony, so that I
had given the story up long before the night of our return from Milchester.
Cricket, however, was in the air, and Raffles's cricket-bag back where he
sometimes kept it, in the fender, with the remains of an Orient label still
adhering to the leather. My eyes had been on this label for some time, and I
suppose his eyes had been on mine, for all at once he asked me if I still
burned to hear that yarn.
"It's no use," I replied. "You won't spin it. I must imagine it for myself."
"How can you?"
"Oh, I begin to know your methods."
"You take it I went in with my eyes open, as I do now, eh?"
"I can't imagine your doing otherwise."
"My dear Bunny, it was the most unpremeditated thing I ever did in my life!"
His chair wheeled back into the books as he sprang up with sudden energy.
There was quite an indignant glitter in his eyes.
"I can't believe that," said I craftily. "I can't pay you such a poor compliment!"
"Then you must be a fool--"
He broke off, stared hard at me, and in a trice stood smiling in his own
"Or a better knave than I thought you, Bunny, and by Jove it's the knave!
Well--I suppose I'm fairly drawn; I give you best, as they say out there. As a
matter of fact I've been thinking of the thing myself; last night's racket
reminds me of it in one or two respects. I tell you what, though, this is an