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Chapter 15 Trial by Raffles
When I awoke it was dazzling daylight in the tower, and the little scene was quite a surprise to me. It had felt far larger in the dark. I suppose the floor-space was about twelve feet square, but it was contracted on one side by the well and banisters of a wooden staircase from the room below, on another by the ship’s bunk, and opposite that by the locker on which I lay. Moreover, the four walls, or rather the four triangles of roof, sloped so sharply to the apex of the tower as to leave an inner margin in which few grown persons could have stood upright. The port-hole windows were shrouded with rags of cobweb spotted with dead flies. They had evidently not been opened for years; it was even more depressingly obvious that we must not open them. One was thankful for such modicum of comparatively pure air as came up the open stair from the floor below; but in the freshness of the morning one trembled to anticipate the atmosphere of this stale and stuffy eyrie through the heat of a summer’s day. And yet neither the size nor the scent of the place, nor any other merely scenic feature, was half so disturbing or fantastic as the appearance of my two companions.

Raffles, not quite at the top of the stairs, but near enough to loll over the banisters, and Levy, cumbering the ship’s bunk, were indeed startling figures to an eye still dim with sleep. Raffles had an ugly cut from the left nostril to the corner of the mouth; he had washed the blood from his face, but the dark and angry streak remained to heighten his unusual pallor. Levy looked crumpled and debauched, flabbily and feebly senile, yet with his vital forces making a last flicker in his fiery eyes. He was grotesquely swathed in scarlet bunting, from which his doubled fists protruded in handcuffs; a bit of thin rope attached the handcuffs to a peg on which his coat and hat were also hanging, and a longer bit was taken round the banisters from the other end of the bunting, which I now perceived to be a tattered and torn Red Ensign. This led to the discovery that I myself had been sleeping in the union Jack, and it brought my eyes back to the ghastly face of Raffles, who was already smiling at mine.

“Enjoyed your night under canvas, Bunny? Then you might get up and present your colours to the prisoner in the bunk. You needn’t be frightened of him, Bunny; he’s such a devilish tough customer that I’ve had to clap him in irons, as you see. Yet he can’t say I haven’t given him rope enough; he’s got lashings of rope — eh, Bunny?”

“That’s right!” said Levy, with a bitter snarl. “Get a man down by foul play, and then wipe your boots on him! I’d stick it like a lamb if only you’d give me that drink.”

And then it was, as I got to my feet, and shook myself free from the folds of the union Jack, that I saw the unopened pint of champagne standing against the banisters in full view of the bunk. I confess I eyed it wistfully myself; but Raffles was adamant alike to friend and foe, and merely beckoned me to follow him down the wooden stair, without answering Levy at all. I certainly thought it a risk to leave that worthy unwatched for a moment, but it was scarcely for more. The room below was fitted with a bath and a lavatory basin, which Raffles pointed out to me without going all the way down himself. At the same time he handed me a stale remnant of the sandwiches removed with Levy from his house.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to wash these down at that tap,” said he. “The poor devil has finished what you left at daybreak, besides making a hole in my flask; but he can’t or won’t eat a bite, and if only he stands his trial and takes his sentence like a man, I think he might have the other pint to his own infernal cheek.”

“Trial and sentence!” I exclaimed. “I thought you were going to hold him up to ransom?”

“Not without a fair trial, my dear Bunny,” said Raffles in the accents of reproof. “We must hear what the old swab has to say for himself, when he’s heard what I’ve got to say to him. So you stick your head under the tap when you’ve had your snack, Bunny; it won’t come up to the swim I had after I’d taken the boat back, when you and Shylock were fast asleep, but it’s all you’ve time for if you want to hear me open my case.”

And open it he did before himself, as judge and counsel in one, sitting on the locker as on the bench, the very moment I reappeared in court.

“Prisoner in the bunk, before we formulate the charge against you we had better deal with your last request for drink, made in the same breath as a preposterous complaint about foul play. The request has been made and granted more than once already this morning. This time it’s refused. Drink has been your undoing, prisoner in the bunk; it is drink that necessitates your annual purification at Carlsbad, and yet within a week of that chastening experience you come before me without knowing where you are or how you got here.”

“That wasn’t the whisky,” muttered Levy with a tortured brow. “That was something else, which you’ll hear more about; foul play it was, and you’ll pay for it yet. There’s not a headache in a hogshead of my whisky.”

“Well,” resumed Raffles, “your champagne is on the same high level, and here’s a pint of the best which you can open for yourself if only you show your sense before I’ve done with you. But you won’t advance that little millennium by talking about foul play as though it were all on one side and the foulest of the foul not on yours. You will only retard the business of the court. You are indicted with extortion and sharp practice in all your dealings, with cheating and misleading your customers, attempting to cheat and betray your friends, and breaking all the rules of civilised crime. You are not invited to plead either way, because this court would not attach the slightest value to your plea; but presently you will get an opportunity of addressing the court in mitigation of your sentence. Or, if you like,” continued Raffles, with a wink at me, “you may be represented by counsel. My learned friend here, I’m sure, will be proud to undertake your defence as a ‘docker’; or — perhaps I should say a ‘bunker,’ Mr. Bunny?”

And Raffles laughed as coyly as a real judge at a real judicial joke, whereupon I joined in so uproariously as to find myself degraded from the position of leading counsel to that of the general public in a single flash from the judge’s eye.

“If I hear any more laughter,” said Raffles, “I shall clear the court. It’s perfectly monstrous that people should come here to a court of justice and behave as though they were at a theatre.”

Levy had been reclining with his yellow face twisted and his red eyes shut; but now these burst open as with flames, and the dry lips spat a hearty curse at the judge upon the locker.

“Take care!” said Raffles. “Contempt of court won’t do you any good, you know!”

“And what good will all this foolery do you? Say what you’ve got to say against me, and be damned to you!”

“I fear you’re confusing our functions sadly,” said Raffles, with a compassionate shake of the head. “But so far as your first exhortation goes, I shall endeavour to take you at your word. You are a money-lender trading, among other places, in Jermyn Street, St. James’s, under the style and title of Daniel Levy.”

“It ‘appens to be my name.”

“That I can well believe,” rejoined Raffles; “and if I may say so, Mr. Levy, I respect you for it. You don’t call yourself MacGregor or Montgomery. You don’t sail under false colours at all. You fly the skull and crossbones of Daniel Levy, and it’s one of the points that distinguish you from the ruck of money-lenders and put you in a class by yourself. Unfortunately, the other points are not so creditable. If you are more brazen than most you are also more unscrupulous; if you fly at higher game, you descend to lower dodges. You may be the biggest man alive at your job; you are certainly the biggest villain.”

“But I’m up against a bigger now,” said Levy, shifting his position and closing his crimson eyes.

“Possibly,” said Raffles, as he produced a long envelope and unfolded a sheet of foolscap; “but permit me to remind you of a few of your own proven villainies before you take any more shots at mine. Last year you had three of your great bargains set aside by the law as hard and unconscionable; but every year you have these cases, and at best the terms are modified in favour of your wretched client. But it’s only the exception who will face the music of the law-courts and the Press, and you figure on the general run. You prefer people like the Lincolnshire vicar you hounded into an asylum the year before last. You cherish the memory of the seven poor devils that you drove to suicide between 1890 and 1894; that sort pay the uttermost farthing before the debt to nature! You set great store by the impoverished gentry and nobility who have you to stay with them when the worst comes to the worst, and secure a respite in exchange for introductions to their pals. No fish is too large for your net, and none is too small, from his highness of Hathipur to that poor little builder at Bromley, who cut the throats —”

“Stop it!” cried Levy, in a lather of impotent rage.

“By all means,” said Raffles, restoring the paper to its envelope. “It’s an ugly little load for one man’s soul, I admit; but you must see it was about time somebody beat you at your own beastly game.”

“It’s a pack of blithering lies,” retorted Levy, “and you haven’t beaten me yet. Stick to facts within your own knowledge, and then tell me if your precious Garlands haven’t brought their troubles on themselves?”

“Certainly they have,” said Raffles. “But it isn’t your treatment of the Garlands that has brought you to this pretty pass.”

“What is it, then?”

“Your treatment of me, Mr. Levy.”

“A cursed crook like you!”

“A party to a pretty definite bargain, however, and a discredited person only so far as that bargain is concerned.”

“And the rest!” said the money-lender, jeering feebly. “I know more about you than you guess.”

“I should have put it the other way round,” replied Raffles, smiling. “But we are both forgetting ourselves, prisoner in the bunk. Kindly note that your trial is resumed, and further contempt will not be allowed to go unpurged. You referred a moment ago to my unfortunate friends; you say they were the engineers of their own misfortunes. That might be said of all who ever put themselves in your clutches. You squeeze them as hard as the law will let you, and in this case I don’t see how the law is to interfere. So I interfere myself — in the first instance as disastrously as you please.”

“You did so!” exclaimed Levy, with a flicker of his inflamed eyes. “You brought things to a head; that’s all you did.”

“On the contrary, you and I came to an agreement which still holds good,” said Raffles, significantly. “You are to return me a certain note of hand for thirteen thousand and odd pounds, taken in exchange for a loan of ten thousand, and you are also to give an understanding to leave another fifteen thousand of yours on mortgage for another year at least, instead of foreclosing, as you threatened and had a right to do this week. That was your side of the bargain.”

“Well,” said Levy, “and when did I go back on it?”

“My side,” continued Raffles, ignoring the interpolation, “was to get you by hook or crook a certain letter which you say you never wrote. As a matter of fact it was only to be got by crook —”


“I got hold of it, nevertheless. I brought it to you at your house last night. And you instantly destroyed it after as foul an attack as one man ever made upon another!”

Raffles had risen in his wrath, was towering over the prostrate prisoner, forgetful of the mock trial, dead even to the humour which he himself had infused into a sufficiently lurid situation, but quite terribly alive to the act of treachery and violence which had brought that situation about. And I must say that Levy looked no less alive to his own enormity; he quailed in his bonds with a guilty fearfulness strange to witness in so truculent a brute; and it was with something near a quaver that his voice came next.

“I know that was wrong,” the poor devil owned. “I’m very sorry for it, I’m sure! But you wouldn’t trust me with my own property, and that and the drink together made me mad.”

“So you acknowledge the alcoholic influence at last?”

“Oh, yes! I must have been as drunk as an owl.”

“You know you’ve been suggesting that we drugged you?”

“Not seriously, Mr. Raffles. I knew the old stale taste too well. It must have been the best part of a bottle I had before you got down.”

“In your anxiety to see me safe and sound?”

“That’s it — with the letter.”

“You never dreamt of playing me false until I hesitated to let you handle it?”

“Never for one moment, my dear Raffles!”

Raffles was still standing up to his last inch under the apex of the tower, his head and shoulders the butt of a climbing sunbeam full of fretful motes. I could not see his expression from the banisters, but only its effect upon Dan Levy, who first held up his manacled hands in hypocritical protestation, and then dropped them as though it were a bad job.

“Then why,” said Raffles, “did you have me watched almost from the moment that we parted company at the Albany last Friday morning?”

“I have you watched!” exclaimed the other in real horror. “Why should I? It must have been the police.”

“It was not the police, though the blackguards did their best to look as if they were. I happen to be too familiar with both classes to be deceived. Your fellows were waiting for me up at Lord’s, but I had no difficulty in shaking them off when I got back to the Albany. They gave me no further trouble until last night, when they got on my tracks at Gray’s Inn in the guise of the two common, low detectives whom I believe I have already mentioned to you.”

“You said you left them there in their glory.”

“It was glorious from my point of view rather than theirs.”

Levy struggled into a less recumbent posture.

“And what makes you think,” said he, “that I set this watch upon you?”

“I don’t think,” returned Raffles. “I know.”

“And how the devil do you know?”

Raffles answered with a slow smile, and a still slower shake of the head: “You really mustn’t ask me to give everybody away, Mr. Levy!”

The money-lender swore an oath of sheer incredulous surprise, but checked himself at that and tried one more poser.

“And what do you suppose was my object in having you watched, if it wasn’t to ensure your safety?”

“It might have been to make doubly sure of the letter, and to cut down expenses at the same swoop, by knocking me on the head and abstracting the treasure from my person. It was a jolly cunning idea — prisoner in the bunk! I shouldn’t be upset about it just because it didn’t come off. My compliments especially on making up your varlets in the quite colourable image of the true detective. If they had fallen upon me, and it had been a case of my liberty or your letter, you know well enough which I should let go.”

But Levy had fallen back upon his pillow of folded flag, and the Red............
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