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MR. JUSTICE RAFFLES

BY E.W. HORNUNG

1909




CONTENTS


Chapter


I. An Inaugural Banquet

II. "His Own Familiar Friend"

III. Council of War

IV. "Our Mr. Shylock"

V. Thin Air

VI. Camilla Belsize

VII. In Which We Fail to Score

VIII. The State of the Case

IX. A Triple Alliance

X. "My Raffles Right or Wrong"

XI. A Dash in the Dark

XII. A Midsummer Night's Dream

XIII. Knocked Out

XIV. Corpus Delicti

XV. Trial by Raffles

XVI. Watch and Ward

XVII. A Secret Service

XVIII. The Death of a Sinner

XIX. Apologia




Mr. Justice Raffles




CHAPTER I

An Inaugural Banquet


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 on the Tuesday before the 'Varsity
match, or a full fortnight after his mysterious disappearance. The
telegram was from Carlsbad, of all places for Raffles of all men! Of
course there was only one thing that could possibly have taken so rare a
specimen of physical fitness to any such pernicious spot. But to my
horror he emerged from the train, on the Wednesday evening, a cadaverous
caricature 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 clear
my baggage now. You can do that for me to-morrow, Bunny, like a dear
good 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 the
sunset across Trafalgar Square, and again to inhale the tarry scent of
the warm wood-paving, which was perfume to his nostrils as the din of its
traffic was music to his ears, before we came to one of those political
palaces which permit themselves to be included in the list of ordinary
clubs. Raffles, to my surprise, walked in as though the marble hall
belonged to him, and as straight as might be to the grill-room where
white-capped cooks were making things hiss upon a silver grill. He did
not consult me as to what we were to have. He had made up his mind about
that in the train. But he chose the fillet steaks himself, he insisted on
seeing the kidneys, and had a word to say about the fried potatoes, and
the Welsh rarebit that was to follow. And all this was as
uncharacteristic of the normal Raffles (who was least fastidious at the
table) 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 really
rather shocked at the discovery, but also that it was a safer subject for
me to open than that of his late mysterious movements.

"There are a good many things you don't know about me, Bunny," said he
wearily. "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 lost
tribesman at the next table, with the nose like the village pump, and the
wife with the emerald necklace?"

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

"Did I? Then you may possibly recollect that the Shylocks were off to
Carlsbad the very next day. It was the old man's last orgy before his
annual cure, and he let the whole room know it. Ah, Bunny, I can
sympathise 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 their
table when they'd gone, and how _I_ forgot myself and ran after them with
the 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 a
piece of perversity which still rankled in my recollection. But now I was
prepared for something even more perverse.

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

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

"I do," said Raffles. "The poor old pet did it deliberately when stooping
to pick up something else; and all to get it stolen and delay their trip
to 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 in
the matter of those emeralds; and there was something touching in the way
Raffles now sided with me against himself.

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

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

"My dear Bunny, you couldn't have borne it," said Raffles solemnly. "The
cure 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 squirming
with spies and humbugs. If I had broken the rules one of the prize
humbugs 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 of
salubrity for the redraw material of another and a worse Inferno!"

The steaks had arrived, smoking hot, with a kidney apiece and lashings of
fried potatoes. And for a divine interval (as it must have been to him)
Raffles's only words were to the waiter, and referred to successive
tankards of bitter, with the superfluous rider that the man who said we
couldn't drink beer was a liar. But indeed I never could myself, and only
achieved the impossible in this case out of sheer sympathy with Raffles.
And eventually I had my reward, in such a recital of malignant privation
as 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 looked
like that all the time!" quoth Raffles. I suppose my face had fallen (as
it 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 smiling
matter out there. No one does smile after the first week; your sense of
humour is the first thing the cure eradicates. There was a hunting man at
my hotel, getting his weight down to ride a special thoroughbred, and no
doubt a cheery dog at home; but, poor devil, he hadn't much chance of
good 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 up
an 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 looked
quite good-natured once when I caught him asleep in his chair, I have
known him tear up his weight ticket when he had gained an ounce or two
instead of losing one or two pounds. We began by taking our walks
together, but his conversation used to get so physically introspective
that one couldn't get in a word about one's own works edgeways."

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

"Perhaps not at first, but the cure soon sees to that! I closed in like a
concertina, 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 for
a doctor the moment one arrives. I consulted the hunting man, who of
course recommended his own in order to make sure of a companion on the
rack. The old arch-humbug was down upon me in ten minutes, examining me
from crown to heel, and made the most unblushing report upon my general
condition. He said I had a liver! I'll swear I hadn't before I went to
Carlsbad, 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 upon
the Welsh rarebit which had just arrived.

"It looks like gold, and it's golden eating," said poor old Raffles. "I
only wish that sly dog of a doctor could see me at it! He had the nerve
to make me write out my own health-warrant, and it was so like my friend
the hunting man's that it dispelled his settled gloom for the whole of
that evening. We used to begin our drinking day at the same well of
German damnably defiled, and we paced the same colonnade to the blare of
the same well-fed band. That wasn't a joke, Bunny; it's not a thing to
joke about; mud-poultices and dry meals, with teetotal poisons in
between, 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 was
the only game to play for the Emerald Stakes. It kept one above suspicion
all the time. And then I didn't mind that part as much as you would, or
as my hunting pal did; he was driven to fainting at the doctor's place
one 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 look
that I remembered later. "But the waiters are listening as it is, and
I'll tell you the rest some other time. I suppose you know what brought
me back so soon?"

"Hadn't you finished your cure?"

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

E.M. Garland (Eton and Trinity) was the Cambridge wicketkeeper, and one
of the many young cricketers who owed a good deal to Raffles. They had
made friends in some country-house week, and foregathered afterward in
town, where the young fellow's father had a house at which Raffles
became a constant guest. I am afraid I was a little prejudiced both
against the father, a retired brewer whom I had never met, and the son
whom I did meet once or twice at the Albany. Yet I could quite understand
the mutual attraction between Raffles and this much younger man; indeed
he was a mere boy, but like so many of his school he seemed to have a
knowledge of the world beyond his years, and withal such a spontaneous
spring of sweetness and charm as neither knowledge nor experience could
sensibly pollute. And yet I had a shrewd suspicion that wild oats had
been somewhat freely sown, and that it was Raffles who had stepped in and
taken the sower in hand, and turned him into the stuff of which Blues are
made. At least I knew that no one could be sounder friend or saner
counsellor to any young fellow in need of either. And many there must be
to bear me out in their hearts; but they did not know their Raffles as I
knew mine; and if they say that was why they thought so much of him, let
them have patience, and at last they shall hear something that need not
make them think the less.

"I couldn't let poor Teddy keep at Lord's," explained Raffles, "and me
not there to egg him on! You see, Bunny, I taught him a thing or two in
those little matches we played together last August. I take a fatherly
interest 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 was
not 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 ask
me."

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

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

"So I was afraid," replied Raffles, frankly; "and between ourselves, I
offered 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 was
perfectly delightful in what he said. So don't jump to rotten
conclusions, Bunny, but stroll up to the Albany and have a drink."

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

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

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

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

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

"I would go a step further," he remarked, "and make every member show his
badge 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 was
one!"




CHAPTER II

"His Own Familiar Friend"


How we laughed as we turned into Whitehall! I began to feel I had been
wrong about Raffles after all, and that enhanced my mirth. Surely this
was the old gay rascal, and it was by some uncanny feat of his stupendous
will that he had appeared so haggard on the platform. In the London
lamplight that he loved so well, under a starry sky of an almost
theatrical blue, he looked another man already. If such a change was due
to a few draughts of bitter beer and a few ounces of fillet steak, then I
felt I was the brewers' friend and the vegetarians' foe for life.
Nevertheless I could detect a serious side to my companion's mood,
especially when he spoke once more of Teddy Garland, and told me that he
had cabled to him also before leaving Carlsbad. And I could not help
wondering, with a discreditable pang, whether his intercourse with that
honest lad could have bred in Raffles a remorse for his own misdeeds,
such as I myself had often tried, but always failed, to produce.

So we came to the Albany in sober frame, for all our recent levity,
thinking at least no evil for once in our lawless lives. And there was
our good friend Barraclough, the porter, to salute and welcome us in the
courtyard.

"There's a gen'leman writing you a letter upstairs," said he to Raffles.
"It's Mr. Garland, sir, so I took him up."

"Teddy!" cried Raffles, and took the stairs two at a time.

I followed rather heavily. It was not jealousy, but I did feel rather
critical of this mushroom intimacy. So I followed up, feeling that the
evening was spoilt for me - and God knows I was right! Not till my dying
day shall I forget the tableau that awaited me in those familiar rooms. I
see it now as plainly as I see the problem picture of the year, which
lies in wait for one in all the illustrated papers; indeed, it was a
problem picture itself in flesh and blood.

Raffles had opened his door as only Raffles could open doors, with the
boyish thought of giving the other boy a fright; and young Garland had
very naturally started up from the bureau, where he was writing, at the
sudden clap of his own name behind him. But that was the last of his
natural actions. He did not advance to grasp Raffles by the hand; there
was no answering smile of welcome on the fresh young face which used to
remind me of the Phoebus in Guido's Aurora, with its healthy pink and
bronze, and its hazel eye like clear amber. The pink faded before our
gaze, the bronze turned a sickly sallow; and there stood Teddy Garland as
if glued to the bureau behind him, clutching its edge with all his might.
I can see his knuckles gleaming like ivory under the back of each
sunburnt hand.

"What is it? What are you hiding?" demanded Raffles. His love for the lad
had rung out in his first greeting; his puzzled voice was still jocular
and genial, but the other's attitude soon strangled that. All this time I
had been standing in vague horror on the threshold; now Raffles beckoned
me in and switched on more light. It fell full upon a ghastly and a
guilty face, that yet stared bravely in the glare. Raffles locked the
door behind us, put the key in his pocket, and strode over to the desk.

No need to report their first broken syllables: enough that it was no
note young Garland was writing, but a cheque which he was laboriously
copying into Raffles's cheque-book, from an old cheque abstracted from a
pass-book with A. J. RAFFLES in gilt capitals upon its brown leather
back. Raffles had only that year opened a banking account, and I
remembered his telling me how thoroughly he meant to disregard the
instructions on his cheque-book by always leaving it about to advertise
the fact. And this was the result. A glance convicted his friend of
criminal intent: a sheet of notepaper lay covered with trial signatures.
Yet Raffles could turn and look with infinite pity upon the miserable
youth who was still looking defiantly on him.

"My poor chap!" was all he said.

And at that the broken boy found the tongue of a hoarse and
quavering old man.

"Won't you hand me over and be done with it?" he croaked. "Must you
torture me yourself?"

It was all I could do to refrain from putting in my word, and telling the
fellow it was not for him to ask questions. Raffles merely inquired
whether he had thought it all out before.

"God knows I hadn't, A. J.! I came up to write you a note, I swear I
did," said Garland with a sudden sob.

"No need to swear it," returned Raffles, actually smiling. "Your word's
quite good enough for me."

"God bless you for that, after this!" the other choked, in terrible
disorder now.

"It was pretty obvious," said Raffles reassuringly.

"Was it? Are you sure? You do remember offering me a cheque last month,
and my refusing it?"

"Why, of course I do!" cried Raffles, with such spontaneous heartiness
that I could see he had never thought of it since mentioning the matter
to me at our meal. What I could not see was any reason for such
conspicuous relief, or the extenuating quality of a circumstance which
seemed to me rather to aggravate the offence.

"I have regretted that refusal ever since," young Garland continued very
simply. "It was a mistake at the time, but this week of all weeks it's
been a tragedy. Money I must have; I'll tell you why directly. When I got
your wire last night it seemed as though my wretched prayers had been
answered. I was going to someone else this morning, but I made up my mind
to wait for you instead. You were the one I really could turn to, and yet
I refused your great offer a month ago. But you said you would be back
to-night; and you weren't here when I came. I telephoned and found that
the train had come in all right, and that there wasn't another until the
morning. Tomorrow morning's my limit, and to-morrow's the match." He
stopped as he saw what Raffles was doing. "Don't, Raffles, I don't
deserve it!" he added in fresh distress.

But Raffles had unlocked the tantalus and found a syphon in the
corner cupboard, and it was a very yellow bumper that he handed to
the guilty youth.

"Drink some," he said, "or I won't listen to another word."

"I'm going to be ruined before the match begins. I am!" the poor fellow
insisted, turning to me when Raffles shook his head. "And it'll break my
father's heart, and - and - "

I thought he had worse still to tell us, he broke off in such despair;
but either he changed his mind, or the current of his thoughts set inward
in spite of him, for when he spoke again it was to offer us both a
further explanation of his conduct.

"I only came up to leave a line for Raffles," he said to me, "in case he
did get back in time. It was the porter himself who fixed me up at that
bureau. He'll tell you how many times I had called before. And then I saw
before my nose in one pigeon-hole your cheque-book, Raffles, and your
pass-book bulging with old cheques."

"And as I wasn't back to write one for you," said Raffles, "you wrote it
for me. And quite right, too!"

"Don't laugh at me!" cried the boy, his lost colour rushing back. And he
looked at me again as though my long face hurt him less than the
sprightly sympathy of his friend.

"I'm not laughing, Teddy," replied Raffles kindly. "I was never more
serious in my life. It was playing the friend to come to me at all in
your fix, but it was the act of a real good pal to draw on me behind my
back rather than let me feel I'd ruined you by not turning up in time.
You may shake your head as hard as you like, but I never was paid a
higher compliment."

And the consummate casuist went on working a congenial vein until a less
miserable sinner might have been persuaded that he had done nothing
really dishonourable; but young Garland had the grace neither to make nor
to accept any excuse for his own conduct. I never heard a man more down
upon himself, or confession of error couched in stronger terms; and yet
there was something so sincere and ingenuous in his remorse, something
that Raffles and I had lost so long ago, that in our hearts I am sure we
took his follies more seriously than our own crimes. But foolish he
indeed had been, if not criminally foolish as he said. It was the old
story of the prodigal son of an indulgent father. There had been, as I
suspected, a certain amount of youthful riot which the influence of
Raffles had already quelled; but there had also been much reckless
extravagance, of which Raffles naturally knew less, since your scapegrace
is constitutionally quicker to confess himself as such than as a fool.
Suffice it that this one had thrown himself on his father's generosity,
only to find that the father himself was in financial straits.

"What!" cried Raffles, "with that house on his hands?"

"I knew it would surprise you," said Teddy Garland. "I can't understand
it myself; he gave me no particulars, but the mere fact was enough for
me. I simply couldn't tell my father everything after that. He wrote me a
cheque for all I did own up to, but I could see it was such a tooth that
I swore I'd never come on him to pay another farthing. And I never will!"

The boy took a sip from his glass, for his voice had faltered, and then
he paused to light another cigarette, because the last had gone out
between his fingers. So sensitive and yet so desperate was the blonde
young face, with the creased forehead and the nervous mouth, that I saw
Raffles look another way until the match was blown out.

"But at the time I might have done worse, and did," said Teddy, "a
thousand times! I went to the Jews. That's the whole trouble. There were
more debts - debts of honour - and to square up I went to the Jews. It was
only a matter of two or three hundred to start with; but you may know,
though I didn't, what a snowball the smallest sum becomes in the hands of
those devils. I borrowed three hundred and signed a promissory note for
four hundred and fifty-six."



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