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Chapter 8 The State of the Case
Of course I made all decent haste from the distressing scene, and of course Raffles stayed behind at the solicitation of his unhappy friends. I was sorry to desert him in view of one aspect of the case; but I was not sorry to dine quietly at the club after the alarms and excitements of that disastrous day. The strain had been the greater after sitting up all night, and I for one could barely realise all that had happened in the twenty-four hours. It seemed incredible that the same midsummer night and day should have seen the return of Raffles and our orgy at the club to which neither of us belonged; the dramatic douche that saluted us at the Albany; the confessions and conferences of the night, the overthrow of the money-lender in the morning; and then the untimely disappearance of Teddy Garland, my day of it at his father’s house, and the rain and the ruse that saved the passing situation, only to aggravate the crowning catastrophe of the money-lender’s triumph over Raffles and all his friends.

Already a bewildering sequence to look back upon; but it is in the nature of a retrospect to reverse the order of things, and it was the new risk run by Raffles that now loomed largest in my mind, and Levy’s last word of warning to him that rang the loudest in my ears. The apparently complete ruin of the Garlands was still a profound mystery to me. But no mere mystery can hold the mind against impending peril; and I was less exercised to account for the downfall of these poor people than in wondering whether it would be followed by that of their friend and mine. Had his Carlsbad crime really found him out? Had Levy only refrained from downright denunciation of Raffles in order to denounce him more effectually to the police? These were the doubts that dogged me at my dinner, and on through the evening until Raffles himself appeared in my corner of the smoking-room, with as brisk a step and as buoyant a countenance as though the whole world and he were one.

“My dear Bunny! I’ve never given the matter another thought,” said he in answer to my nervous queries, “and why the deuce should Dan Levy? He has scored us off quite handsomely as it is; he’s not such a fool as to put himself in the wrong by stating what he couldn’t possibly prove. They wouldn’t listen to him at Scotland Yard; it’s not their job, in the first place. And even if it were, no one knows better than our Mr. Shylock that he hasn’t a shred of evidence against me.”

“Still,” said I, “he happens to have hit upon the truth, and that’s half the battle in a criminal charge.”

“Then it’s a battle I should love to fight, if the odds weren’t all on Number One! What happens, after all? He recovers his property — he’s not a pin the worse off — but because he has a row with me about something else he thinks he can identify me with the Teutonic thief! But not in his heart, Bunny; he’s not such a fool as that. Dan Levy’s no fool at all, but the most magnificent knave I’ve been up against yet. If you want to hear all about his tactics, come round to the Albany and I’ll open your eyes for you.”

His own were radiant with light and life, though he could not have closed them since his arrival at Charing Cross the night before. But midnight was his hour. Raffles was at his best when the stars of the firmament are at theirs; not at Lord’s in the light of day, but at dead of night in the historic chambers to which we now repaired. Certainly he had a congenial subject in the celebrated Daniel, “a villain after my own black heart, Bunny! A foeman worthy of Excalibur itself.”

And how he longed for the fierce joy of further combat for a bigger stake! But the stake was big enough for even Raffles to shake a hopeless head over it. And his face grew grave as he passed from the fascinating prowess of his enemy to the pitiful position of his friends.

“They said I might tell you, Bunny, but the figures must keep until I have them in black and white. I’ve promised to see if there really isn’t a forlorn hope of getting these poor Garlands out of the spider’s web. But there isn’t, Bunny, I don’t mind telling you.”

“What I can’t understand,” said I, “is how father and son seem to have walked into the same parlour — and the father a business man!”

“Just what he never was,” replied Raffles; “that’s at the bottom of the whole thing. He was born into a big business, but he wasn’t born a business man. So his partners were jolly glad to buy him out some years ago; and then it was that poor old Garland lashed out into the place where you spent the day, Bunny. It has been his ruin. The price was pretty stiff to start with; you might have a house in most squares and quite a good place in the country for what you’ve got to pay for a cross between the two. But the mixture was exactly what attracted these good people; for it was not only in Mrs. Garland’s time, but it seems she was the first to set her heart upon the place. So she was the first to leave it for a better world — poor soul — before the glass was on the last vinery. And the poor old boy was left to pay the shot alone.”

“I wonder he didn’t get rid of the whole show,” said I, “after that.”

“I’ve no doubt he felt like it, Bunny, but you don’t get rid of a place like that in five minutes; it’s neither fish nor flesh; the ordinary house-hunter, with the money to spend, wants to be nearer in or further out. On the other hand there was a good reason for holding on. That part of Kensington is being gradually rebuilt; old Garland had bought the freehold, and sooner or later it was safe to sell at a handsome profit for building sites. That was the one excuse for his dip; it was really a fine investment, or would have been if he had left more margin for upkeep and living expenses. As it was he soon found himself a bit of a beggar on horseback. And instead of selling his horse at a sacrifice, he put him at a fence that’s brought down many a better rider.”

“What was that?”

“South Africans!” replied Raffles succinctly. “Piles were changing hands over them at the time, and poor old Garland began with a lucky dip himself; that finished him off. There’s no tiger like an old tiger that never tasted blood before. Our respected brewer became a reckless gambler, lashed at everything, and in due course omitted to cover his losses. They were big enough to ruin him, without being enormous. Thousands were wanted at almost a moment’s notice; no time to fix up an honest mortgage; it was a case of pay, fail, or borrow through the nose! And old Garland took ten thousand of the best from Dan Levy — and had another dip!”

“And lost again?”

“And lost again, and borrowed again, this time on the security of his house; and the ............
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