E. W. Hornung: A Thief in the Night

6. A Bad Night

There was to be a certain little wedding in which Raffles and I took a surreptitious interest. The bride-elect was living in some retirement, with a recently widowed mother and an asthmatical brother, in a mellow hermitage on the banks of the Mole. The bridegroom was a prosperous son of the same suburban soil which had nourished both families for generations. The wedding presents were so numerous as to fill several rooms at the pretty retreat upon the Mole, and of an intrinsic value calling for a special transaction with the Burglary Insurance Company in Cheapside. I cannot say how Raffles obtained all. this information. I only know that it proved correct in each particular. I was not indeed deeply interested before the event, since Raffles assured me that it was "a one-man job," and naturally intended to be the one man himself. It was only at the eleventh hour that our positions were inverted by the wholly unexpected selection of Raffles for the English team in the Second Test Match.

In a flash I saw the chance of my criminal career. It was some years since Raffles had served his country in these encounters; he had never thought to be called upon again, and his gratification was only less than his embarrassment. The match was at Old Trafford, on the third Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in July; the other affair had been all. arranged for the Thursday night, the night of the wedding at East Molesey. It was for Raffles to choose between the two excitements, and for once I helped him to make up his mind. I duly pointed out to him that in Surrey, at all. events, I was quite capable of taking his place. Nay, more, I insisted at once on my prescriptive right and on his patriotic obligation in the matter. In the country's name and in my own, I implored him to give it and me a chance; and for once, as I say, my arguments prevailed. Raffles sent his telegram - it was the day before the match. We then rushed down to Esher, and over every inch of the ground by that characteristically circuitous route which he enjoined on me for the next night. And at six in the evening I was receiving the last of my many instructions through a window of the restaurant car.

"Only promise me not to take a revolver," said Raffles in a whisper. "Here are my keys; there's an old life-preserver somewhere in the bureau; take that, if you like - though what you take I rather fear you are the chap to use!"

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