The Amateur Cracksman
Of the various robberies in which we were both concerned, it is but the few, I
find, that will bear telling at any length. Not that the others contained details
which even I would hesitate to recount; it is, rather, the very absence of
untoward incident which renders them useless for my present purpose. In
point of fact our plans were so craftily laid (by Raffles) that the chances of a
hitch were invariably reduced to a minimum before we went to work. We
might be disappointed in the market value of our haul; but it was quite the
exception for us to find ourselves confronted by unforeseen impediments, or
involved in a really dramatic dilemma. There was a sameness even in our
spoil; for, of course, only the most precious stones are worth the trouble we
took and the risks we ran. In short, our most successful escapades would
prove the greatest weariness of all in narrative form; and none more so than
the dull affair of the Ardagh emeralds, some eight or nine weeks after the
Milchester cricket week. The former, however, had a sequel that I would
rather forget than all our burglaries put together.
It was the evening after our return from Ireland, and I was waiting at my
rooms for Raffles, who had gone off as usual to dispose of the plunder.
Raffles had his own method of conducting this very vital branch of our
business, which I was well content to leave entirely in his hands. He drove
the bargains, I believe, in a thin but subtle disguise of the flashy-seedy order,
and always in the Cockney dialect, of which he had made himself a master.
Moreover, he invariably employed the same "fence," who was ostensibly a
money-lender in a small (but yet notorious) way, and in reality a rascal as
remarkable as Raffles himself. Only lately I also had been to the man, but in
my proper person. We had needed capital for the getting of these very
emeralds, and I had raised a hundred pounds, on the terms you would
expect, from a soft-spoken graybeard with an ingratiating smile, an incessant
bow, and the shiftiest old eyes that ever flew from rim to rim of a pair of
spectacles. So the original sinews and the final spoils of war came in this case
from the self-same source--a circumstance which appealed to us both.
But these same final spoils I was still to see, and I waited and waited with an
impatience that grew upon me with the growing dusk. At my open window I
had played Sister Ann until the faces in the street below were no longer
distinguishable. And now I was tearing to and fro in the grip of horrible
hypotheses--a grip that tightened when at last the lift-gates opened with a
clatter outside--that held me breathless until a well-known tattoo followed on
"In the dark!" said Raffles, as I dragged him in. "Why, Bunny, what's wrong?"
"Nothing--now you've come," said I, shutting the door behind him in a fever
of relief and anxiety. "Well? Well? What did they fetch?"