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Arthur Raffles is a prominent member of London society, and a national sporting hero. As a cricketer he regularly represents England in Test matches. He uses this as a chance to commit a number of burglaries, primarily stealing valuable jewellery from his hosts. In this, he is assisted by his friend, the younger, idealistic Bunny Manders. Both men are constantly under the surveillance of Inspector Mackenzie of Scotland Yard who is always thwarted in his attempts to pin the crimes on Raffles…
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.