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Chapter 13 Knocked Out
But it was hardly likely to be the last excitement of the night, as I saw for myself before Raffles joined me at Vauxhall. An arch-traitor like Daniel Levy might at least be trusted to play the game out with loaded dice; no single sportsman could compete against his callous machinations; and that was obviously where I was coming in. I only wished I had not come in before! I saw now the harm that I had done by my rash proceedings in Gray’s Inn, the extra risk entailed already and a worse one still impending. If the wretches who had shadowed him were really Levy’s mercenaries, and if they really had been taken in their own trap, their first measure of self-defence would be the denunciation of Raffles to the real police. Such at least was my idea, and Raffles himself made light enough of it; he thought they could not expose him without dragging in Levy, who had probably made it worth their while not to do that on any consideration. His magnanimity in the matter, which he flatly refused to take as seriously as I did, made it difficult for me to press old Raffles, as I otherwise might have done, for an outline of those further plans in which I hoped to atone for my blunders by being of some use to him after all. His nonchalant manner convinced me that they were cut-and-dried; but I was left perhaps deservedly in the dark as to the details. I merely gathered that he had brought down some document for Levy to sign in execution of the verbal agreement made between them in town; not until that agreement was completed by his signature was the harpy to receive the precious epistle he pretended never to have written. Raffles, in fine, had the air of a man who has the game in his hands, who is none the less prepared for foul play on the other side, and by no means perturbed at the prospect.

We left the train at a sweet-smelling platform, on which the lights were being extinguished as we turned into a quiet road where bats flew over our heads between the lamp-posts, and a policeman was passing a disc of light over a jerry-built abuse of the name of Queen Anne. Our way led through quieter roads of larger houses standing further back, until at last we came to the enemy’s gates. They were wooden gates without a lodge, yet the house set well beyond them, on the river’s brim, was a mansion of considerable size and still greater peculiarity. It was really two houses, large and small, connected by a spine of white posts and joists and glimmering glass. In the more substantial building no lights were to be seen from the gates, but in the annex a large French window made a lighted square at right angles with the river and the road. We had set foot in the gravel drive; with a long line of poplars down one side, and on the other a wide lawn dotted with cedars and small shrubs, when Raffles strode among these with a smothered exclamation, and a wild figure started from the ground.

“What are you doing here?” demanded Raffles, with all the righteous austerity of a law-abiding citizen.

“Nutting, sare!” replied an alien tongue, a gleam of good teeth in the shadow of his great soft hat. “I been see Mistare Le-vie in ze ’ouse, on ze beezness, shentlemen.”

“Seen him, have you? Then if I were you I should make a decent departure,” said Raffles, “by the gate —” to which he pointed with increased severity of tone and bearing.

The weird figure uncovered a shaggy head of hair, made us a grotesque bow with his right hand melodramatically buried in the folds of a voluminous cape, and stalked off in the starlight with much dignity. But we heard him running in the road before the gate had clicked behind him.

“Isn’t that the fellow we saw in Jermyn Street last Thursday?” I asked Raffles in a whisper.

“That’s the chap,” he whispered back. “I wonder if he spotted us, Bunny? Levy’s treated him scandalously, of course; it all came out in a torrent the other morning. I only hope he hasn’t been serving Dan Levy as Jack Rutter served old Baird! I could swear that was a weapon of sorts he’d got under his cloak.”

And as we stood together under the stars, listening to the last of the runaway footfalls, I recalled the killing of another and a less notorious usurer by a man we both knew, and had even helped to shield from the consequences of his crime. Yet the memory of our terrible discovery on that occasion had not the effect of making me shrink from such another now; nor could I echo the hope of Raffles in my heart of hearts. If Dan Levy also had come to a bad end — well, it was no more than he deserved, if only for his treachery to Raffles, and, at any rate, it would put a stop to our plunging from bad to worse in an adventure of which the sequel might well be worst of all. I do not say that I was wicked enough absolutely to desire the death of this sinner for our benefit; but I saw the benefit at least as plainly as the awful possibility, and it was not with unalloyed relief that I beheld a great figure stride through the lighted windows at our nearer approach.

Though his back was to the light before I saw his face, and the whole man might have been hacked out of ebony, it was every inch the living Levy who stood peering in our direction, one hand hollowed at an ear, the other shading both eyes.

“Is that you, boys?” he croaked in sepulchral salute.

“It depends which boys you mean,” replied Raffles, marching into the zone of light. “There are so many of us about to-night!”

Levy’s arms dropped at his sides, and I heard him mutter “Raffles!” with a malediction. Next moment he was inquiring whether we had come down alone, yet peering past us into the velvet night for his answer.

“I brought our friend Bunny,” said Raffles, “but that’s all.”

“Then what do you mean by saying there are so many of you about?”

“I was thinking of the gentleman who was here just before us.”

“Here just before you? Why, I haven’t seen a soul since my ‘ousehold went to bed.”

“But we met the fellow just this minute within your gates: a little foreign devil with a head like a mop and the cloak of an operatic conspirator.”

“That beggar!” cried Levy, flying into a high state of excitement on the spot. “That blessed little beggar on my tracks down here! I’ve ‘ad him thrown out of the office in Jermyn Street; he’s threatened me by letter and telegram; so now he thinks he’ll come and try it on in person down ’ere. Seen me, eh? I wish I’d seen ‘im! I’m ready for biters like that, gentlemen. I’m not to be caught on the ‘op down here!”

And a plated revolver twinkled and flashed in the electric light as Levy drew it from his hip pocket and flourished it in our faces; he would have gone prowling through the grounds with it if Raffles had not assured him that the foreign foe had fled on our arrival. As it was the pistol was not put back in his pocket when Levy at length conducted us indoors; he placed it on an occasional table beside the glass that he drained on entering; and forthwith set his back to a fire which seemed in keeping with the advanced hour, and doubly welcome in an apartment so vast that the billiard table was a mere item at one end, and sundry trophies of travel and the chase a far more striking and unforeseen feature.

“Why, that’s a better grisly than the one at Lord’s!” exclaimed Raffles, pausing to admire a glorious fellow near the door, while I mixed myself the drink he had declined.

“Yes,” said Levy, “the man that shot all this lot used to go about saying he’d shoot me at one time; but I need ‘ardly tell you he gave it up as a bad job, and went an’ did what some folks call a worse instead. He didn’t get much show ’ere, I can tell you; that little foreign snipe won’t either, nor yet any other carrion that think they want my blood. I’d empty this shooter o’ mine into their in’ards as soon as look at ’em, I don’t give a curse who they are! Just as well I wasn’t brought up to your profession, eh, Raffles?”

“I don’t quite follow you, Mr. Levy.”
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