Newspaper Page Text
MOCK nSLANp AMU
PAGES 9 ,TO 12.
THE ARGUS, FRIDAY, MARCH 23,1900.
RAFFLES. THE. AMATEUR CRACKSMAN
it v i:. w. noitr(;.
No. 5 of the Scries
(Copnuhi. 1901. br Chule Scnuoef' Sons.)
brother Ralph, who now
lived with nie ou the edge
of Ham common, had
come home from Austra
lia with a curious affec
tion of the eyes, due to
long exposure to the glare
out there and necessitating the use of
clouded spectacles in the open air. He
had not the rich complexion of the typ
ical colonist, lieing indeed ieculiarly
pale, but it apieared that he had been
con lined to his berth for the greater
part of the voyage, while his prema
turely gray hair was sufficient proof
that the rigors of bush life had at last
undermined an originally tough consti
tution. Our landlady, who spoiled my
brother from the first, was much con
cerned on his behalf and wished to
call in the local doctor, but Ralph said
dreadful tilings about the profession
and quite frightened the good woman
by arbitrarily forbidding her ever to
let a doctor Inside her door. I had to
apologize to her for the painful preju
dices and violent language of "these
colonists," but the old soul was easily
mollified. She had fallen in love with
my brother at first sight, and she never
could do too much for him. It was
owing to our landlady that I took to
railing him Ralph for the first time in
our lives on her beginning to speak of
aud to him as "Mr. Raffles."
This won't do," Raid he to me. "It's
a name that sticks."
"It must be my fault! She must have
heard it from me," said I self reproach
You must tell her it's the short for
"Hut it's longer."
"It's the short," said he, "and you've
got to tell her so."
Henceforth I heard as much of "Mr.
Ralph." his likes and his dislikes, what
he would fancy and what he would not,
and, oh. what a dear gentleman he was,
that I often remembered to say. "Ralph,
old chap." myself.
It wa an ideal cottage, as I said
when I found it. and In it our delicate
man became rapidly robust. Not that
the air was also Ideal, for, when It was
not raining, we bad the same faithful
mist from XovemlxT to March. Rut it
was something to Ralph to pet any air
at all. other than night air, and the bi
cycle did the rest. We taught our
selves, and may I never forgot our ear
lier rides through and through Rich
mond park when the afternoons "were
shortest, npon the Incomparable Ripley
road, when we gave a day to it.
That was the winter when there were
so many burglaries in the Thames val
ley from Richmond upward. It was
Bald that the thieves used bicycles in
every case, but what is not said? They
were sometimes on foot, to my knowl
edge, and we took n great interest in
the series, or, rather, sequence, of suc
cessful crimes. Raffles would often
get his devoted old lady to read him
the latest local accounts while I wa9
busy with my writing (much I wrote)
In my own room. We even rode out by
night ourselves to see if we could not
get on the tracks of the thieves, nnd
never did we fail to find hot coffee on
the hob for our return. We had Indeed
fallen upon our feet. Also the misty
nights might have been made for the
thieves. But their success was not so
"My hand's held!" yasped 1 to files.
consistent and never so enormous as
people said, especially the sufferers,
who lost more valuables than they had
ever been known to possess. Failure
,-was often the caitiff a portion, and dis
aster once, owing, ironically enough, to
that very mist which should have
served them. Cut I am goinz to tell
the story with some particularity and
perhaps some gusto. You will see why
The right house stood on high ground
near the river, with quite a drive (In at
one gate and out at the other) sweeping
past the steps. Between the two sates
was a half moon of shrubs, to the left
of the steps a conservatory and to their
right ths walk leading to tho trades
men's entrance and the back premises.
Here also was the pantry window, of
which more anon. The right houso
the residence of an opulent stockbroker
who wore a heavy watch chain and
seemed fair game. There would have
Ik'cii two objections to it had I been
the stockbroker. The house was one
of a row, though a goodly row, and an
aid' crammer had established himself
next door. There is a type of such In
stitutions in the suburbs. The youths
go about in knickerbockers, smoking
pipes, except on Saturday nights, when
they lead each other home from the
last train. It was none of our business
to spy upon these boys, but their man
ners and customs fell within the field
of observation. And we did not choose
the night upon which the whole row
was likely to be kept awake.
The night that we did choose was as
misty as even the Thames valley is ca
pable of making them. Rattles smear
ed vaseline upon the plated parts of his
precious wheel before starting, and
our dear landlady cosseted us both and
prayed we might see nothing of bur
It was about midnight when we
cycled through Kingston to Surbiton,
having trundled our machines across
Ham fields, mournful in the mist as
those by Acheron, and so over Teddiug
I often wonder why the pantry win
dow is the vulnerable point of nine
houses out of ten. This house of ours
was almost the tenth, for the window
in question had bars of sorts, but not
the riuht sort. The only bars that Raf
fles allowed to ieat him were the kind
that are let into the stone outside.
Those fixed within are merely screwed
to the woodwork, and you may un
screw as many as necessary if you take
the trouble and have the time. Barred
windows are usually devoid of other
fasteners worthy the name. This one
was no exception to that foolish rule,
and a push with the penknife did Its
business. I am giving householders
some valuable hints, and perhaps de
serving a good mark from the critics.
These, In any case, are the ioInts that
I would see to were I a rich stock
broker in a river side suburb. In giv
ing good advice, however, I should not
have omitted to say that we had left
our machines in the semicircular shrub
bery In front, or that Raffles had most
Ingeniously fitted our lamps with dark
slides, which enabled us to leave them
It" proved sufficient to unscrew the
bars at the bottom only and then to
wrench them to either side. Neither
of us had grown stout with advancing
years, and in a few minutes we had
both wormed through into the sink and
thence to the floor. It was not an ab
solutely noiseless process, but once in
the pantry we were mice and no lon
ger blind mice. There was a gas brack
et, but we did not meddle with that.
Raffles went armed these nights with
a better light thau gas. If It were not
immoral I might recommend a dark
lantern which was more or less his pat
ent. It was that handy invention, the
electric torch, fitted by Raffles with a
dark hood to fulfill the functions of a
slide. I had held it through the bars
while he undid the screws, and now he
held It to the keyhole, in which a key
was turned upon the other side.
There was a pause for consideration,
and in the pause we put on our masks.
It was never known that these Thames
valley robberies were all committed by
miscreants decked In the livery of
crime, but that was because until this
night we had never even shown our
masks. It was a point upon which
Raffles had Insisted on all feasible oc
casions since his furtive return to the
world. Tonight it twice nearly lost
us everything but yon shall hear.
There Is a forceps for turning keys
from the wrong side of the door, but
the Implement is not so easy of manip
ulation as it might be. Raffles for one
preferred a sharp knife and the cor
ner of the panel. You go through the
panel because that Is thinnest, of
course, in the corner nearest the key,
and you use a knife when you can be
cause it makes least noise. But it does
take minutes, and even I can remem
ber shifting the electric torch from one
hand to the other before the aperture
was large enough to receive the hand
and wrist of Raflles.
He bad at such times a motto of
which I might have made earlier use,
but the fact Is that I have only once
In-fore described a downright burglary
in which I assisted and that without
knowing It at the time. The most
solemn student of these annals cannot
affirm that he has cut through many
doors in our company since what was
to me the maiden effort to which I al
lude. I, however, have cracked only
too many a crib In conjunction with A.
J. Raffles and at the crucial moment
he would whisper, "Victory or Worm
wood Scrubs. Bunny r or instead of
Wormwood Scrubs it might be Port
land Bill. Tills time it was neither one
nor the other, for with that very word
"victory" upon his lips they whitened
and parted with the first taste of de
feat. ... : . 1
"My hands held!" gasped Raffles,
and the white of his eyes showed all
around the iris, a rarer Jhing than you
At the same moment I heard the
shuffling feet and the low. excited
young voices on the other side of the
door and a faint light shone around
"Well done. Beefy!"
"Hang on to him!"
"Good old Beefy!"
"Beefy's got him!"
"So have I! So have I!"
And Raffles caught my arm with his
one free hand. "They've got me tight."
he whispered. "I'm done."
"Blaze through the door." I urged
and might have done it had I been
armed, but I never was. It was Raf
fles who monopolized that risk.
"I can't it's the boys the wrong
house!" he whispered, "Curse the fog
It's done me, but you get out. Bunny,
while you can. Never mind me. It's
niv turn, old char."
llis one hand tightened in affection
ate farewell. I put the electric torch
in it before I went, trembling in every
inch, but without a word.
(Jet out! His turn! .Yes, I would get
out, but only to come in again, for it
was my turn mine, not his. Would
Raffles leave me held by a hand through
a hole in a door? What he would have
done in my place was the thing for
me to do now. I began by diving head
first through the pantry window and
coming to earth uiou all fours. But
even as I stood up and brushed the
gravel from the palms of my hands and
the knees of my knickerbockers I had
no notion what to do next, and yet I
was halfway to the front door before I
remembered the vile crape mask upon
my face and tore it off as the door Hew
open ami my feet were on the steps.
"He's into the next garden!" I cried
to a bevy of pajamas with bare .feet
and young faces at either end of them.
"Who? Who?" said they, giving way
"Some fellow who came through one
of your windows head first."
The other Johnny! The other John
ny!" the cherubs chorused.
"Biking past; saw the light why,
what have you there?"
Of course It was Raffles' hand that
they had. but now I was in tlie hall
among them. A red faced barrel of a
boy did all the holding, one hand round
the wrist, the other palm to palm and
his knees bra ceil up against the panel.
Another was rendering ostentatious but
ineffectual aid, and three or four others
da need abouftn their pajamas. After
all, they were not more thau" four to
one. I had raised my voice, so that
Raffles might hear me and take heart,
and now I raised it again, yet to this I
day I cannot account for my inspira
tion, that proved nothing less.
"Don't talk so loud!" they were cry
ing below their breath. "Ilon't wake
'em upstairs! This is our show!"
"Then 1 see you've got one of them,"
said I. as desired. "Well, if you want
the other you can have him too. I be
lieve he's hurt himself."
"After him! After him!" they ex
claimed as one.
"But I think he got over the wall"
"Come on, you chaps; come on!"
And there was a soft stampede to the
"Don't all desert me, I say!" gasped
the red faced hero who held Ra flies
"We must have them both, Beefy!"
"That's all very well"
"Look here," I Interposed, "I'll stay
by you. I've a friend outside. I'll get
"Thanks, awfully," said the valiant
The hall was empty now. My heart
"How did you hear them?" I inquired,
ny eye running over him.
"We were down having drinks game
o nap In there."
Beefy jerked his great head toward
an open door, and the tail of my eye
caught the glint of glasses In the fire
light, but the rest of it was otherwise
"Let me relieve you," I said, trem
bling. "No, I'm all right."
Then I must msist."
And before he could answer I had
him round the neck with such a will that
not a gurgle passed my fingers, for they
were almost buried In his hot, smooth
flesh. Oh. I am not proud of it; the act
was as vile as act could be; but I was
not going to see Raffles taken. My one
desire was to be the saving of him, and
I tremble even now to think of what
lengths I might have gone for Its fulfill
ment. As it was, I 'squeezed and tug
ged until one strong hand gave way
after the other aud came feeling round
for me, but feebly, because they had
held on so long. And what do you sup
pose was happening at the same mo
ment? Tl-e pinched white hand of
Raffles, reddening with returning blood
and with a clot of blood upon the wrist,
was craning upward and turning the
key In the lock without a moment's
"Steady on. Bunny!"
And I saw that Beefy's ears were
blue, but Raflles was feeling In his
pockets as he spoke. "Now let him
breathe," said he, clapping his hand
kerchief over the poor youth's mouth.
An empty vial was in his other hand,
nna the first few stertorous breaths
that the poor boy took were the end of
him for the time being. Oh, but it was
yillainous. .my. 4art . especially, for he
must have been far gone to go me rest
of the way so readily. I began by say
ing 1 was not proud of this deed, but its
dastardly character has come home to
me more than ever with the penance of
writing it out. I see in myself, at least
my then self, things that I never saw
quite so clearly before. Yet let me be
quite sure that I would not do the
same again. I had not the slightest de
sire to throttle this innocent lad (nor
did I), but only to extricate Raffles
from the most hopeless position he was
ever in. and, after all, it was better
than a blow from behind. Ou the
whole, I will not alter a word nor
whine about the thing any more.
We lifted the plucky fellow into Raf
fles' place in the pantry, locked the
door on him and put the key through
the panel. Now was the moment for
thinking of ourselves, and ugaiu that
infernal mask which Raflles swore by
came near being tlie undoing of us
both. We had reached the steps when
we were hailed by a voice, not from
without, but from within, and I had
just time to tear the accursed thing
from Raffles face before he turned.
A stout man with a blond mustache
ll'c lifted the plucky fellow into Unfiles'
place in the pantry.
was on tlie stairs, in his pajamas like
"What are you doing here?" said he.
"There has been an attempt upon
your house," said I, still spokesman for
the night aud still on the wings of in
spiration. "Your sous"
'.'Indeed. Well, they heard it, drove
off the thieves and have given chase."
"And where do you come in?" in
quired the stout man, descending;
"We were bicycling past, and I ac
tually saw oue fellow come head first
through jour pantry window. I think
he got over the wall."
Here a breathless boy returned.
"Can't see anything of hiin ," he
"It's true, then," remarked the cram
"Look at that door," said I.';
But unfortunately the breathless boy
looked also, and now he was being
joined by others equally short"of wind.
"Where's Beefy?" he screamed.
"What on earth's happened to Beefy?"
"My good boys," exclaimed the cram
mer, "will one of you be kind-.enough
to tell me what you've been doing and
what these gentlemen have been do
ing for you? Come in all before you
get your death. I see lights in the
classroom, and more than lights. Can
these be signs of a carouse?"
"A very innocent one, sir," said a
well set up youth with more mustache
than I have yet.
"Well, Olphert, boys will be boys.
Suppose you tell me what happened
before we come to recriminations."
The bad old proverb was my first
warning. I caught two of the jouths
exchanging glances under raised eye
brows. Y'et their stout, easy going
mentor had given me such a reassuring
glance of sidelong humor as between
man of the world and man of the
world that it was difficult to suspect
him of suspicion. I was nevertheless
itching to be gone.
Young Olphert told his story with en
gaging candor. It was true that they
had come down for an hour at nap and
cigarettes. Well, and there was no
denying that was whisky In the glasses.
The boys were now all back in their
classroom, I think entirely for the sake
of warmth, but Raffles and I were in
knickerbockers and Norfolk jackets
and very naturally remained without,
while the army crammer, who wore
bedrooin slippers, stood on the thresh
old, with an eye each way. The more
I saw of the man the better I liked aud
the more I feared him. His chief an
noyance thus far was that they had
not called him when they heard the
noise; that they had dreamed pf .leav-
lug him out-of the fun. But beseem--
ed more hurt than angry about that.
"Well, sir." concluded Olphert, "we
left old Beefy Smith hanging on to his
hand aud this gentleman with him, so
perhaps he can tell us what happened
"I wish I could," I cried, with all
their eyes upon me, for I had had time
'Some of you must have heard me
say I'd fetch my friend in from the
"Yes, I did," piped an Innocent from
"Well, and when I came back with
him things were exactly as you see
them now. Evidently the man's
strength was too much for tlie boy's,
but whether he ran upstairs or outside
I know no more than you do."
"It wasn't like that boy to run either
way," said the crammer, cocking a
clear blue eye ou me.
"But if ho gave chase!"
"It wasn't like him even to let go."
"I don't believe Beefy ever would."
put in Olphert. "That's why we gave
him the billet."
"He may have followed him through
the pantry window," I suggested
"But the door's shut," put in a boy.
"I'll have a look at it," said the cram
mer. And the key no longer in the lock
and the Insensible youth within! The
key would be missed, the door kicked
in. Nay, with the man's eye still tipon
me, I thought I could smell the chloro
form, I thought I could hear a moan
and prepared for either any moment.
And how he did stare! I have detest
ed blue eyes ever since, and blond mus
taches and the whole stout, easy going
type that is not such a fool as it looks.
I had brazened it out with the boys,
but the first grown man was too many
for me, and the blood ran out of my
heart as though there was no Raffles
at my back. Indeed, I had forgotten
him. I had so longed to put this thing
through by myself! Even in my ex
tremity it was almost a disappoint
ment to me when his dear cool voice
fell like a delicious draft upon my ears,
but its effect upon the others is more
interesting to recall. Until now the
crammer had the center of the stage,
but at this point Raflles usurped a
place which was alwaj's his at will.
I'eople would wait for what he had to
say, as these people waited now for
the simplest and most natural thing in
"One moment!" he had begun.
"Well?" said the crammer, relieving
me of his eyes at last.
"I don't want to lose any of the
"Nor must you," said the crammer,
"But we've left our bikes outside,
and mine's a valuable one," contin
ued Raffles. "If you don't mind, we'll
bring 'em in before these fellows get
away on them."
And out he went without a look to
see the effect of his words, I after him
with a determined imitation of his self
control. But I would have given some
thing to turn round. I believe that for
oue moment the shrewd instructor was
taken in, but as I reached the steps 1
heard him asking his pupils whether
any of them had seen any bicycles out
side. That moment, however, made the
difference. We were in the shrubbery,
Raffles with his electric torch drawn
and blazing, when we heard them kick
ing at the pantry door, and in the drive
with our bicycles lefore man and boj-s
poured pellniell down the steps.
We rushed our machines to the near
er gate, for both were shut, and we got
through and swung it home behind us
in the nick of time. Even I could
mount before they could reopen the
gate, which Raffles held against them
for half an instant with unnecessary
gallantry. But he would see me in
front of him, and so it fell to me to lead
Now, I have said that it was a very
misty night (hence the whole thingt.
and also that these houses were on a
hill, but they were not nearly on the
top of the hill, and I did what I firmly
believe that almost everybody would
have done in my place. Rallies, indeed,
said he would have done it himself, but
that was his generosity, and lie was the
one man who would not. What I did
was to turn in tlie opposite direction to
the other gate, where we might so eas
ily have been cut off, and to pedal for
my life uphill!
"My God!" I shouted when I found it
"Can you turn in your own length?"
asked Raffles, following loyally.
"Then stick to it. You couldn't help
it But it's the devil of a hill!"
"And here they come!"
"Let 'em!" said Raffles and bran
dished his electric torch, our only light
A hill seems endless in the dark, for
you cannot see the end. and with the
patter of bare feet gaining on us I
thought this one could have no end at
all. Of course the boys could charge
np It quicker than we could pedal, but
I even heard the voice of their stout
Instructor growing louder through the
"Oh, to think I've let you In for
this!" I groaned, my head over the
handle bars, every ounce of my weight
first on one foot nnd then on the other.
I gtonccd at Raflles. and in the white
light of his torch he was doing it all
with his ankles, exactly as though he
had been riding in a gymkhana.
"It's the most sporting chase I wus
ever in," said he.
"All my fault!"
"My dear Bunny. I wouldn't have
missel it for the world!"
Nor would he forge ahead of me,
though he could have done so in a mo
ment, he who from his boyhood had
done everything of tlie kind so much
better than anybody else. No, he must
ride a wheel's length behind me, nnd
now we could not only hear the boys
running, but breathing also. And then
of a sudden I saw Raflles on'i.iy right
striking with his torch. A face flew out
of the darkness to meet the thick glass
bulb with the glowing wire inclosed;
it was the face of the boy Olphert,
with his enviable mustache, but it vau
ished with the crash of glass, and the
naked wire thickened to the eye like
a tuning fork struck rod hot.
I saw no more of that. One of them
had t crept up on my side also. As I
looked, hearing him pant, he was gral
bing at my left handle, and I nearly
sent Raflles Into the bodge by the sharp
turn I took to the right. His wheel's
length saved him, but my loy could
run, was overhauling me again, seemed
certain of me this time, when all at
once the bicycle ran easily; every
ounce of my weight with either foot
once more, and I was over the rest of
the hill, the gray road reeling out from
under me as I felt for my brake. I
looted back at Raffles. lie had put up
A FACE FLEW OUT OF THE DARKNESS TO MEET THE THICK
his feet. I screwed my head round still
farther, and there were the boys In
their pajamas, their hands upon their
knees, like so many wicket keepers,
and a big man shaking his fist. There
was a lamp post on the "hilltop, and
that was the last I saw.
We sailed down to the river, theu on
through Thames Ditton as far as Esher
station, when we turned sharp to the
right, and from the dark stretch by
Imber court came to light In Molesey,
and were soon pedaling like gentlemen
of leisure through Bushlcy park, our
lights turned up. the broken torch put
out and awayv The big gates had Ijng
been shut, but you can maneuver a bi
cycle through the others. We had no
further adventures on the way home,
and our coffee was still warm upon the
"But I think it's an occasion for Sul
livans," said Raffles, who now kept
them for such. "By all my gods. Bun
ny, it's been the most sporting night
we ever had In our lives! Aud do you
kuow which was the most sporting
part of it?"
"That uphill ride?"
"I wasn't thinking of it."
"Turning your torch into a trunch
eon?" "My dear Bunny, a gallant lad! I
hated hitting him."
"I know," I said. "The way you got
us out of the house!"
"No. -Bunny," said Raffles, blowing
rings. "It came before that, you sin
ner, and you know it."
"You don't mean anything I did?"
said I self consciously, for 1 began to
see that this was what he did meau.
And now at latest it will also be seen
why this st.irj- has been told with un
due and inexcusable gusto. There Is
none other like It for me to tell. It
is my ne ewe lamb in all these an
nals. But Raffles had a ruder name
"It was the apotheosis of the Bunny,"
said he In a tone I never shall forget.
"I hardly knew what I was doing or
saying." I said. "The whole thing was
"Then." said Raffles, "it was the kind
of a fluke I always trusted you to make
when runs were wanted."
And he held out his dear old hand.
DATE OF KEATS' DEATH.
t-nufuri- or rvern I Uoa It on
MrIiI of !!..
As to the actual day and hour of
Keats' death there is bewildering dis
crepancy. The date has been given as
the I'Sth. tin 27th. the 21th and the 2.M
of February and the hour as the early
morning, 11 iu the forenoon and about
4 in the afternoon. Any record of
"early morning of the 2Nth" is obvious
ly a mistake arising from misappre
hension as to the significance of Sev
ern's "Eve of Death"' sketch, a confu
sion of Jan. 2S and Feb. 2S. The mis
take as to the 2th is due to the date at
the head of Severn's famous fragmen
tary letter to Armitage Brown (27th
beginning, "He is gone," written four
days subsequent to the decease. The
inscription ou the house In the I'iazza
di Spa gnu at Rome mentions l'cb. 21.
and the same date is engravea on tne
tombstone. But there soeuis no rea
sonable doubt that this is simply the
date of the registration of death.
Keats died in Severn's arms, and Sev
ern's statement, twice repeated in ex
taut letters written at the time, is ex
plicit. "The death summons," he wrote,
"happened about half past 4 ou the aft
ernoon of Friday, the 2od," aud then
follow the iKjiguaut, harrowing details.
Again, In Ids fragmentary letter to
Brown on Tuesday, the 27th, he writes,
"On the 23d. Friday, at half past 1. the
approach of death came on. (The
death agony) increased until 11 ut
night, when he gradually sank into
death, so quiet that I still thought he
slept." It would seem, therefore, that
the most definite assertions as to
Keats' death having occurred in the
early morning of tha 21th or at 11 iu
the forenoon of either the 2Hd or iMtli
must be set aside before information
so explicit as that of the one witness
of the poet's death, the friend whose
ceaseless care and love had meant so
much to Keats in those weeks of pro
longed suffering since the Januai-y
night or early morning of the famous
"Eve of Death" sketch. In a word, it
would appear irrefutable now that
Keats died about 11 o'clock on tho
night of Friday, Feb. 23. The beauti
ful and moving story has been often
told and is fumiliar to all lovers of
Keats. William Sharp in Century.
Ppceily War Cratl.
Forty -one miles an hour wj-l h tb
sperd of tin? next torjKtlo lat destroy
er to be built for the British navy. ,