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Mr. Justice Raffles

Mr. Justice Raffles

Author:E. W. Hornung


Raffles had vanished from the face of the town, and even I had no conception of his whereabouts until he cabled to me to meet the 7.31 at Charing Cross next night. That was ...
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  Raffles had vanished from the face of the town, and even I had noconception of his whereabouts until he cabled to me to meet the 7.31 atCharing Cross next night. That was on the Tuesday before the 'Varsitymatch, or a full fortnight after his mysterious disappearance. Thetelegram was from Carlsbad, of all places for Raffles of all men! Ofcourse there was only one thing that could possibly have taken so rare aspecimen of physical fitness to any such pernicious spot. But to myhorror he emerged from the train, on the Wednesday evening, a cadaverouscaricature of the splendid person I had gone to meet.

  "Not a word, my dear Bunny, till I have bitten British beef!" said he,in tones as hollow as his cheeks. "No, I'm not going to stop to clearmy baggage now. You can do that for me to-morrow, Bunny, like a deargood pal."

  "Any time you like," said I, giving him my arm. "But where shall we dine?Kellner's? Neapolo's? The Carlton or the Club?"

  But Raffles shook his head at one and all.

  "I don't want to dine at all," he said. "I know what I want!"

  And he led the way from the station, stopping once to gloat over thesunset across Trafalgar Square, and again to inhale the tarry scent ofthe warm wood-paving, which was perfume to his nostrils as the din of itstraffic was music to his ears, before we came to one of those politicalpalaces which permit themselves to be included in the list of ordinaryclubs. Raffles, to my surprise, walked in as though the marble hallbelonged to him, and as straight as might be to the grill-room wherewhite-capped cooks were making things hiss upon a silver grill. He didnot consult me as to what we were to have. He had made up his mind aboutthat in the train. But he chose the fillet steaks himself, he insisted onseeing the kidneys, and had a word to say about the fried potatoes, andthe Welsh rarebit that was to follow. And all this was asuncharacteristic of the normal Raffles

who was least fastidious at thetable

as the sigh with which he dropped into the chair opposite mine,and crossed his arms upon the cloth.

  "I didn't know you were a member of this place," said I, feeling reallyrather shocked at the discovery, but also that it was a safer subject forme to open than that of his late mysterious movements.

  "There are a good many things you don't know about me, Bunny," said hewearily. "Did you know I was in Carlsbad, for instance?"

  "Of course I didn't."

  "Yet you remember the last time we sat down together?"

  "You mean that night we had supper at the Savoy?"

  "It's only three weeks ago, Bunny."

  "It seems months to me."

  "And years to me!" cried Raffles. "But surely you remember that losttribesman at the next table, with the nose like the village pump, and thewife with the emerald necklace?"

  "I should think I did," said I; "you mean the great Dan Levy, otherwiseMr. Shylock? Why, you told me all about him, A. J."

  "Did I? Then you may possibly recollect that the Shylocks were off toCarlsbad the very next day. It was the old man's last orgy before hisannual cure, and he let the whole room know it. Ah, Bunny, I cansympathise with the poor brute now!"

  "But what on earth took you there, old fellow?"

  "Can you ask? Have you forgotten how you saw the emeralds under theirtable when they'd gone, and how _I_ forgot myself and ran after them withthe best necklace I'd handled since the days of Lady Melrose?"

  I shook my head, partly in answer to his question, but partly also over apiece of perversity which still rankled in my recollection. But now I wasprepared for something even more perverse.

  "You were quite right," continued Raffles, recalling my recriminations atthe time; "it was a rotten thing to do. It was also the action of atactless idiot, since anybody could have seen that a heavy necklace likethat couldn't have dropped off without the wearer's knowledge."

  "You don't mean to say she dropped it on purpose?" I exclaimed with moreinterest, for I suddenly foresaw the remainder of his tale.

  "I do," said Raffles. "The poor old pet did it deliberately when stoopingto pick up something else; and all to get it stolen and delay their tripto Carlsbad, where her swab of a husband makes her do the cure with him."

  I said I always felt that we had failed to fulfil an obvious destiny inthe matter of those emeralds; and there was something touching in the wayRaffles now sided with me against himself.

  "But I saw it the moment I had yanked them up," said he, "and heard thatfat swine curse his wife for dropping them. He told her she'd done it onpurpose, too; he hit the nail on the head all right; but it was her poorhead, and that showed me my unworthy impulse in its true light, Bunny. Ididn't need your reproaches to make me realise what a skunk I'd been allround. I saw that the necklace was morally yours, and there was one clearcall for me to restore it to you by hook, crook, or barrel. I left forCarlsbad as soon after its wrongful owners as prudence permitted."

  "Admirable!" said I, overjoyed to find old Raffles by no means in suchbad form as he looked. "But not to have taken me with you, A. J., that'sthe unkind cut I can't forgive."

  "My dear Bunny, you couldn't have borne it," said Raffles solemnly. "Thecure would have killed you; look what it's done to me."

  "Don't tell me you went through with it!" I rallied him.

  "Of course I did, Bunny. I played the game like a prayer-book."

  "But why, in the name of all that's wanton?"

  "You don't know Carlsbad, or you wouldn't ask. The place is squirmingwith spies and humbugs. If I had broken the rules one of the prizehumbugs laid down for me I should have been spotted in a tick by a spy,and bowled out myself for a spy and a humbug rolled into one. Oh, Bunny,if old man Dante were alive to-day I should commend him to that sink ofsalubrity for the redraw material of another and a worse Inferno!"

  The steaks had arrived, smoking hot, with a kidney apiece and lashings offried potatoes. And for a divine interval

as it must have been to him

Raffles's only words were to the waiter, and referred to successivetankards of bitter, with the superfluous rider that the man who said wecouldn't drink beer was a liar. But indeed I never could myself, and onlyachieved the impossible in this case out of sheer sympathy with Raffles.And eventually I had my reward, in such a recital of malignant privationas I cannot trust myself to set down in any words but his.

  "No, Bunny, you couldn't have borne it for half a week; you'd have lookedlike that all the time!" quoth Raffles. I suppose my face had fallen

asit does too easily

at his aspersion on my endurance. "Cheer up, my man;that's better," he went on, as I did my best. "But it was no smilingmatter out there. No one does smile after the first week; your sense ofhumour is the first thing the cure eradicates. There was a hunting man atmy hotel, getting his weight down to ride a special thoroughbred, and nodoubt a cheery dog at home; but, poor devil, he hadn't much chance ofgood cheer there! Miles and miles on his poor feet before breakfast;mud-poultices all the morning; and not the semblance of a drink all day,except some aerated muck called Gieshübler. He was allowed to lap that upan hour after meals, when his tongue would be hanging out of his mouth.We went to the same weighing machine at cock-crow, and though he lookedquite good-natured once when I caught him asleep in his chair, I haveknown him tear up his weight ticket when he had gained an ounce or twoinstead of losing one or two pounds. We began by taking our walkstogether, but his conversation used to get so physically introspectivethat one couldn't get in a word about one's own works edgeways."

  "But there was nothing wrong with your works," I reminded Raffles; heshook his head as one who was not so sure.

  "Perhaps not at first, but the cure soon sees to that! I closed in like aconcertina, Bunny, and I only hope I shall be able to pull out like one.You see, it's the custom of the accursed place for one to telephone fora doctor the moment one arrives. I consulted the hunting man, who ofcourse recommended his own in order to make sure of a companion on therack. The old arch-humbug was down upon me in ten minutes, examining mefrom crown to heel, and made the most unblushing report upon my generalcondition. He said I had a liver! I'll swear I hadn't before I went toCarlsbad, but I shouldn't be a bit surprised if I'd brought one back."

  And he tipped his tankard with a solemn face, before falling to work uponthe Welsh rarebit which had just arrived.

  "It looks like gold, and it's golden eating," said poor old Raffles. "Ionly wish that sly dog of a doctor could see me at it! He had the nerveto make me write out my own health-warrant, and it was so like my friendthe hunting man's that it dispelled his settled gloom for the whole ofthat evening. We used to begin our drinking day at the same well ofGerman damnably defiled, and we paced the same colonnade to the blare ofthe same well-fed band. That wasn't a joke, Bunny; it's not a thing tojoke about; mud-poultices and dry meals, with teetotal poisons inbetween, were to be my portion too. You stiffen your lip at that, eh,Bunny? I told you that you never would or could have stood it; but it wasthe only game to play for the Emerald Stakes. It kept one above suspicionall the time. And then I didn't mind that part as much as you would, oras my hunting pal did; he was driven to fainting at the doctor's placeone day, in the forlorn hope of a toothful of brandy to bring him round.But all he got was a glass of cheap Marsala."

  "But did you win those stakes after all?"

  "Of course I did, Bunny," said Raffles below his breath, and with a lookthat I remembered later. "But the waiters are listening as it is, andI'll tell you the rest some other time. I suppose you know what broughtme back so soon?"

  "Hadn't you finished your cure?"

  "Not by three good days. I had the satisfaction of a row royal with theLord High Humbug to account for my hurried departure. But, as a matter offact, if Teddy Garland hadn't got his Blue at the eleventh hour I shouldbe at Carlsbad still."

  E.M. Garland

Eton and Trinity

was the Cambridge wicketkeeper, and oneof the many young cricketers who owed a good deal to Raffles. They hadmade friends in some country-house week, and foregathered afterward intown, where the young fellow's father had a house at which Rafflesbecame a constant guest. I am afraid I was a little prejudiced bothagainst the father, a retired brewer whom I had never met, and the sonwhom I did meet once or twice at the Albany. Yet I could quite understandthe mutual attraction between Raffles and this much younger man; indeedhe was a mere boy, but like so many of his school he seemed to have aknowledge of the world beyond his years, and withal such a spontaneousspring of sweetness and charm as neither knowledge nor experience couldsensibly pollute. And yet I had a shrewd suspicion that wild oats hadbeen somewhat freely sown, and that it was Raffles who had stepped in andtaken the sower in hand, and turned him into the stuff of which Blues aremade. At least I knew that no one could be sounder friend or sanercounsellor to any young fellow in need of either. And many there must beto bear me out in their hearts; but they did not know their Raffles as Iknew mine; and if they say that was why they thought so much of him, letthem have patience, and at last they shall hear something that need notmake them think the less.

  "I couldn't let poor Teddy keep at Lord's," explained Raffles, "and menot there to egg him on! You see, Bunny, I taught him a thing or two inthose little matches we played together last August. I take a fatherlyinterest in the child."

  "You must have done him a lot of good," I suggested, "in every way."

  Raffles looked up from his bill and asked me what I meant. I saw he wasnot pleased with my remark, but I was not going back on it.

  "Well, I should imagine you had straightened him out a bit, if you askme."

  "I didn't ask you, Bunny, that's just the point!" said Raffles. And Iwatched him tip the waiter without the least _arrière-pensée_ oneither side.

  "After all," said I, on our way down the marble stair, "you have told mea good deal about the lad. I remember once hearing you say he had a lotof debts, for example."

  "So I was afraid," replied Raffles, frankly; "and between ourselves, Ioffered to finance him before I went abroad. Teddy wouldn't hear of it;that hot young blood of his was up at the thought, though he wasperfectly delightful in what he said. So don't jump to rottenconclusions, Bunny, but stroll up to the Albany and have a drink."

  And when we had reclaimed our hats and coats, and lit our Sullivans inthe hall, out we marched as though I were now part-owner of the placewith Raffles.

  "That," said I, to effect a thorough change of conversation,since I felt at one with all the world, "is certainly the finestgrill in Europe."

  "That's why we went there, Bunny."

  "But must I say I was rather surprised to find you a member of a placewhere you tip the waiter and take a ticket for your hat!"

  I was not surprised, however, to hear Raffles defend his owncaravanserai.

  "I would go a step further," he remarked, "and make every member show hisbadge as they do at Lord's."

  "But surely the porter knows the members by sight?"

  "Not he! There are far too many thousands of them."

  "I should have thought he must."

  "And I know he doesn't."

  "Well, you ought to know, A.J., since you're a member yourself."

  "On the contrary, my dear Bunny, I happen to know because I never wasone!"