And he tipped his tankard with a solemn face, before falling to work upon the Welsh rarebit which had just arrived.
It looks like gold, and it’s golden eating,” said poor old Raffles. I only wish that sly dog of a doctor could see me at it! He had the nerve to make me write out my own health-warrant, and it was so like my friend the hunting man’s that it dispelled his settled gloom for the whole of that evening. We used to begin our drinking day at the same well of German damnably defiled, and we paced the same colonnade to the blare of the same well-fed band. That wasn’t a joke, Bunny; it’s not a thing to joke about; mud-poultices and dry meals, with teetotal poisons in between, were to be my portion too. You stiffen your lip at that, eh, Bunny? I told you that you never would or could have stood it; but it was the only game to play for the Emerald Stakes. It kept one above suspicion all the time. And then I didn’t mind that part as much as you would, or as my hunting pal did; he was driven to fainting at the doctor’s place one day, in the forlorn hope of a toothful of brandy to bring him round. But all he got was a glass of cheap Marsala.”
But did you win those stakes after all?”
Of course I did, Bunny,” said Raffles below his breath, and with a look that I remembered later. But the waiters are listening as it is, and I’ll tell you the rest some other time. I suppose you know what brought me back so soon?”
Hadn’t you finished your cure?”
Not by three good days. I had the satisfaction of a row royal with the Lord High Humbug to account for my hurried departure. But, as a matter of fact, if Teddy Garland hadn’t got his Blue at the eleventh hour I should be at Carlsbad still.”
E.M. Garland (Eton and Trinity) was the Cambridge wicketkeeper, and one of the many young cricketers who owed a good deal to Raffles. They had made friends in some country-house week, and foregathered afterward in town, where the young fellow’s father had a house at which Raffles became a constant guest. I am afraid I was a little prejudiced both against the father, a retired brewer whom I had never met, and the son whom I did meet once or twice at the Albany. Yet I could quite understand the mutual attraction between Raffles and this much younger man; indeed he was a mere boy, but like so many of his school he seemed to have a knowledge of the world beyond his years, and withal such a spontaneous spring of sweetness and charm as neither knowledge nor experience could sensibly pollute. And yet I had a shrewd suspicion that wild oats had been somewhat freely sown, and that it was Raffles who had stepped in and taken the sower in hand, and turned him into the stuff of which Blues are made. At least I knew that no one could be sounder friend or saner counsellor to any young fellow in need of either. And many there must be to bear me out in their hearts; but they did not know their Raffles as I knew mine; and if they say that was why they thought so much of him, let them have patience, and at last they shall hear something that need not make them think the less.
I couldn’t let poor Teddy keep at Lord’s,” explained Raffles, and me not there to egg him on! You see, Bunny, I taught him a thing or two in those little matches we played together last August. I take a fatherly interest in the child.”
You must have done him a lot of good,” I suggested, in every way.”
Raffles looked up from his bill and asked me what I meant. I saw he was not pleased with my remark, but I was not going back on it.