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Chapter 18 The Death of a Sinner
What was I to do? I knew what Raffles would have done; he would have outstripped Mackenzie in his descent upon the moneylender, beaten the cab on foot most probably, and dared Dan Levy to denounce him to the detective. I could see a delicious situation, and Raffles conducting it inimitably to a triumphant issue. But I was not Raffles, and what was more I was due already at his chambers in the Albany. I must have been talking to Miss Belsize by the hour together; to my horror I found it close upon seven by the station clock; and it was some minutes past when I plunged into the first up train. Waterloo was reached before eight, but I was a good hour late at the Albany, and Raffles let me know it in his shirt-sleeves from the window.

“I thought you were dead, Bunny!” he muttered down as though he wished I were. I scaled his staircase at two or three bounds, and began all about Mackenzie in the lobby.

“So soon!” says Raffles, with a mere lift of the eyebrows. “Well, thank God, I was ready for him again.”

I now saw that Raffles was not dressing, though he had changed his clothes, and this surprised me for all my breathless preoccupation. But I had the reason at a glance through the folding-doors into his bedroom. The bed was cumbered with clothes and an open suit-case. A Gladstone bag stood strapped and bulging; a travelling rug lay ready for rolling up, and Raffles himself looked out of training in his travelling tweeds.

“Going away?” I ejaculated.

“Rather!” said he, folding a smoking jacket. “Isn’t it about time after what you’ve told me?”

“But you were packing before you knew!”

“Then for God’s sake go and do the same yourself!” he cried, “and don’t ask questions now. I was beginning to pack enough for us both, but you’ll have time to shove in a shirt and collar of your own if you jump straight into a hansom. I’ll take the tickets, and we’ll meet on the platform at five to nine.”

“What platform, Raffles?”

“Charing Cross. Continental train.”

“But where the deuce do you think of going?”

“Australia, if you like! We’ll discuss it in our flight across Europe.”

“Our flight!” I repeated. “What has happened since I left you, Raffles?”

“Look here, Bunny, you go and pack!” was all my answer from a savage face, as I was fairly driven to the door. “Do you realise that you were due here one golden hour ago, and have I asked what happened to you? Then don’t you ask rotten questions that there’s no time to answer. I’ll tell you everything in the train, Bunny.”

And my name at the end in a different voice, and his hand for an instant on my shoulder as I passed out, were my only consolation for his truly terrifying behaviour, my only comfort and reassurance of any kind, until we really were off by the night mail from Charing Cross.

Raffles was himself again by that time, I was thankful to find, nor did he betray that dread or expectation of pursuit which would have tallied with his previous manner. He merely looked relieved when the Embankment lights ran right and left in our wake. I remember one of his remarks, that they made the finest necklace in the world when all was said, and another that Big Ben was the Koh-i-noor of the London lights. But he had also a quizzical eye upon the paper bag from which I was endeavouring to make a meal at last. And more than once he wagged his head with a humorous admixture of reproof and sympathy; for with shamefaced admissions and downcast pauses I was allowing him to suppose I had been drinking at some riverside public-house instead of hurrying up to town, but that the rencontre with Mackenzie had served to sober me.

“Poor Bunny! We won’t pursue the matter any further; but I do know where we both should have been between seven and eight. It was as nice a little dinner as I ever ordered in my life. And to think that we never turned up to eat a bite of it!”

“Didn’t you?” I queried, and my sense of guilt deepened to remorse as Raffles shook his head.

“No fear, Bunny! I wanted to see you safe and sound. That was what made me so stuffy when you did turn up.”

Loud were my lamentations, and earnest my entreaties to Raffles to share the contents of my paper bag; but not he. To replace such a feast as he had ordered with sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs would be worse than going healthily hungry for once; it was all very well for me who knew not what I had missed. Not that Raffles was hungry by his own accounts; he had merely fancied a little dinner, more after my heart than his, for our last on British soil.

This, and the way he said it, brought me back to the heart of things; for beneath his frothy phrases I felt that the wine of life was bitter to his taste. His gayety now afforded no truer criterion to his real feelings than had his petulance at the Albany. What had happened since our parting in that fatal tower, to make this wild flight necessary without my news, and whither in all earnest were we to fly?

“Oh, nothing!” said Raffles, in unsatisfactory answer to my first question. “I thought you would have seen that we couldn’t clear out too soon after restoring poor Shylock, like our brethren in the song, ‘to his friends and his relations.’”

“But I thought you had something else for him to sign?”

“So I had, Bunny.”

“What was that?”

“A plain statement of all he had suborned me to do for him, and what he had given me for doing it,” said Raffles, as he lit a Sullivan from his last easeful. “One might almost call it a receipt for the letter I stole and he destroyed.”

“And did he sign that?”

“I insisted on it for our protection.”

“Then we are protected, and yet we cut and run?”

Raffles shrugged his shoulders as we hurtled between the lighted platforms of Herne Hill.

“There’s no immunity from a clever cove like that, Bunny, unless you send him to another world or put the thick of this one between you. He may hold his tongue about the last twenty-four hours — I believe he will — but that needn’t prevent him from setting old Mackenzie to watch us day and night. So we are not going to stay to be watched. We are starting off round the world for a change. Before we get very far Mr. Shylock may be in the jug himself; that accursed letter won’t be the only incriminating thing against him, you take my word. Then we can come back trailing clouds of glory, and blowing clouds of Sullivan. Then we can have our secondes noces— meaning second knocks, Bunny, and more power to our elbows when we get them!”

But I was not convinced. There was something else at the bottom of this sudden impulse and its inconceivably sudden execution. Why had he never told me of this plan? Well, because it had never become one until after the morning’s work at Levy’s bank, in itself a reason for being out of the way, as I myself admitted. But he would have told me if only I had turned up at seven: he had never meant to give me time for much packing, added Raffles, as he was anxious that neither of us should leave the impression that we had gone far afield.

I thought this was childish, and treating me like a child, to which, however, I was used; but more than ever did I feel that Raffles was not being frank with me, that he for one was making good his escape from something or somebody besides Dan Levy. And in the end he admitted that this was so. But we had not dashed through Sitting-bourne and Faversham before I wormed my way to about the last discovery that I expected to make concerning A. J. Raffles.

“What an inquisitor you are, Bunny!” said he, putting down an evening paper that he had only just taken up. “Can’t you see that this whole show has been no ordinary one for me? I’ve been fighting for a crowd I rather love. Their battle has got on my nerves as none of my own ever did; and now it’s won I honestly funk their gratitude as much as anything.”

That was another hard saying to swallow; and yet, as Raffles said it, I knew it to be true. He was looking me full in the face in the ample light of the first-class compartment, which we of course had to ourselves. Some softening influence seemed to have been at work upon him; he looked resolute as ever, but full of regret, than which nothing was rarer in A.J.

“I suppose,” said I, “that poor old Garland has treated you to a pretty good dose already?”

“Yes, Bunny; that he has.”

“And well he may, and well may Teddy and Camilla Belsize!”

“But I couldn’t do with it from them,” said Raffles, with quite a bitter little laugh. “Teddy wasn’t there, of course; he’s up north for that rotten match the team play nowadays against Liverpool. But the game’s fizzling, he’ll be home tomorrow, and I simply can’t face him and his Camilla. He’ll be a married man before we see him again,” added Raffles, getting hold of his evening paper once more.

“Is that to come off so soon?”

“The sooner the better,” said Raffles, strangely.

“You’re not quite happy about it,” said I, with execrable tact, I know, and yet deliberately, because his view of this marriage had always puzzled me.

“I’m happy as long as they are,” responded Raffles, not without a laugh at his own meritorious sentiment. “I only wish,” he sighed, “that they were both absolutely worthy of each other!”

“And you don’t think they are?”

“No, I don’t.”

“You think such a lot of young Garland?”

“I’m very fond of him, Bunny.”

“But you see his faults?”

“I’ve always seen them; they’re not full-fathom-five like mine!”

“Yet you think she’s not good enough for him?”

“Not good enough — she?” and he stopped himself at that. But his voice was enough for me; the unspoken antithesis was stronger than words could have made it. Scales fell from my eyes. “Where on earth did you get that idea?”

“I thought it was yours, A.J.”

“But why?”

“You seemed to disapprove of the engagement from the first.”

“So I did, after what poor Teddy had been up to in his extremity! I may as well be honest about that now. It was all right in a pal of ours, Bunny, but all wrong in the man who dreamt of marrying Camilla Belsize.”

“Yet you have just been moving heaven and hell to make it possible for them to marry after all!”

Raffles made another attempt upon his paper. I marvel now that he let me catechise him as I was doing. But the truth had just dawned upon me, and I simply had to see it whole as the risen sun, whereas Raffles seemed under no such passionate necessity to keep it to himself.

“Teddy’s all right,” said he, inconsistently. “He’ll never try anything of the kind again; he’s had a lesson for life. Besides, I don’t often take my hand from the plough, as you ought to know. Bunny. It was I who brought those two together. But it was none of my mundane business to put them asunder again.”

“It was you who brought them together?” I repeated insidiously.

“More or less, Bunny. It was at some cricket week, if it wasn’t two weeks running; they were pals already, but she and I were greater pals before the first week was over.”

“And yet you didn’t cut him out!”

“My dear Bunny, I should hope not.”

“But you might have done, A.J.; don’t tell me you couldn’t if you’d tried.”

Raffles played with his paper without replying. He was no coxcomb. But neither would he ape an alien humility.

“It wouldn’t have been the game, Bunny — won or lost — Teddy or no Teddy: And yet,” he added, with pensive candour, “we were getting on like a semi-detached house on fire! I burnt my fingers, I don’t mind telling you; if I hadn’t been what I am, Bunny, I might have taken my courage in all ten of ’em, and ‘put it to the touch, to win or lose it all.’”

“I wish you had,” I whispered, as he studied his paper upside down.

“Why, Bunny? What rot you do talk!” he cried, but only with the skin-deep irritation of a half-hearted displeasure.

“She’s the only woman I ever met,” I went on unguardedly, “who was your mate at heart — in pluck — in temperament!”

“How the devil do you know?” cried Raffles, off his own guard now, and staring in my guilty face.

But I have never denied that I could emulate his presence of mind upon occasion.

“You f............
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