BUNNY SAVES THE DAY
Raffles sets his heart on acquiring some rare yellow diamonds. Bunny of course agrees to help him. The burglary goes according to plan; however as Raffles and Bunny are breakfasting on the following day they get an unexpected visitor. It really does appear as if this time Raffles will lose his liberty.
An established relationship story.
Written: November 2013. Word count. 12,345.
I stood, as I tended to do at balls, on the edge of the dance floor watching the dancing - well, in truth watching one particular person dance. As always happened, Raffles was taken from my side far more often than I wished him to be, as one pretty young lady, and quite a few older ladies, after another made it quite clear they wished him to invite them to dance with them. Ever the gentlemen, Raffles did indeed do as they wished, even when I believe he didn't particularly wish to do so. I had already done my duty for the evening having danced with Lady Clarence Thistlewood, and I really couldn't be bothered to invite any other lady to dance with me. Thus, I held Raffles's champagne glass for him as I watched him whirl the ladies expertly around the floor.
It no longer really troubled me to watch Raffles take ladies into his arms and hold them as they danced, because I would be the one with whom he was going home.I would be the one who would not only be in his arms later, but in his arms in our bed. My main objection these days to the ladies taking him away from my side was the mixture of perfumes his evening coat ended up being scented with. Many of the young ladies drenched themselves in far more perfume that I believed to be necessary, and quite a number of them these days were worryingly modern young ladies whom seemed to disregard the proper amount of space there should be between the lady and gentleman when dancing.
I always made Raffles remove his evening coat the moment he got back to our rooms at the Albany and take it to what was meant to be my bedroom, but was simply used for clothing we did not wear very often, books which did not fit into the bookcases in the sitting room and anything else we needed to find room for. I would not even let him kiss me until he had done so; I may have been prepared to watch him dance with the ladies, however, I had no intention of having any memory of them once we were in our rooms.
Suddenly Peter Goulding, an acquaintance of Raffles and me, came up to me and spoke to me, thus I lost sight of Raffles and his partner. We stood and talked for a minute or two until the dance came to an end and Goulding's wife, who had been dancing with Lord Clarence, appeared and they went off together.
I turned to look for Raffles, but at that moment an arm was slipped through mine and I was all but dragged away from the dance floor by a rather excited looking Raffles. "Bunny!" he cried as he closed to door of the library into which he had dragged me. He let go of my arm, turned me around and took both of my arms in his as he gazed at me. His eyes gleamed, he was smiling and he looked more eager than I believe I have ever seen him, outside of the privacy of our rooms.
"Yes, Raffles?" I smiled at him.
"Oh, Bunny, oh, my dear little rabbit, there is a young lady with whom you simply have to dance."
"No, Bunny, I won't take no for an answer. You must dance with her - I wish you to dance with her."
I stared at him. "But why?" I was more than a little taken aback by his enthusiasm that I must dance with a particular young lady - that he wanted me to dance with her. Had it been anyone other than Raffles, I believe I might have suspected he had imbibed too much of the Thistlewoods' fine champagne.
Raffles looked around him and even though the room was empty and we were standing in front of the door, he moved a little nearer to me and lowered his voice just a little. "Because she has the most beautiful, most amazing, most desirable necklace I have ever seen." My heart sank. "Well, the necklace itself is rather bland and does not do the jewels which are set in it justice. But the jewels . . . Oh, Bunny, oh, my dear Bunny, the jewels; they are exquisite."
I forced a smile onto my face and asked, "What's so special about them?" I tried to make my tone sound as if I was genuinely interested, when in fact I wasn't. I wasn't in the least bit interested.
It had been over a year since we had taken what didn't belong to us; we had no need these days to commit the crime of burglary. My books sold well, indeed they sold very well, and Raffles's work as a private tutor to boys (and some girls) who needed extra Latin tuition paid very well. Given it had been over a year since we had ventured into someone else's home for a reason other than to attend a dinner or a ball or a house party, I had dared to allow myself to hope that that side of our lives was well and truly over. However, Raffles's excitement and clear interest made me realise it wasn't.
Once again Raffles looked around him before answering me. "They are yellow diamonds, Bunny. Yellow diamonds; very rare and so beautiful. I swear as my eyes came to rest on them I quite forgot to breathe for several seconds. However, do not take my word for it; you have to see them for yourself and to do so you must invite Miss Delahunt to dance with you."
I sighed softly. "What makes you think she'll wish to dance with me?"
He looked slightly, very slightly, abashed. "Well, I'm afraid I rather promised her you would."
"Raffles!" I said, slightly more exasperated than was really necessary. However, given I wasn't just somewhat irritated by the fact he had assumed I would be quite happy to ask an unknown young lady to dance with me, but also by the fact that he wished to once again turn to burgling, I felt it was justified.
He took his hands from my arms and cupped my face instead. "Don't be cross with me, my rabbit, please don't be annoyed. Look I give you my word, my word, Bunny; if the diamonds do not excite you as much as they excite me, then I shall say no more about them. I will forget about them and push their beauty from my mind. Now I can't say fairer than that, can I?" His tone was soft and more intimate than it would normally be outside of our rooms, and the way he was looking at me made my mouth become a little dry and I wished me could simply thank Lord and Lady Clarence for a pleasant evening and leave, return to the Albany and -
I was so taken up in the way he was looking at me, the way his eyes shone and the way he smiled his intimate smile, that when I felt one of his hands slide into my hair as he brushed it from my forehead, I made a soft noise of pleasure which caused him to widen his eyes and give me a look which promised 'later'.
"Well, my rabbit," he said, now tangling my hair around his fingers as he stroked my cheek with the first finger of his other hand. "What say you? Will you do this thing for me?"
I sighed softly again; he knew what my answer would be even before I gave it, as he always knew exactly how to bend me to his will, how to get me to say aye even when I would rather have said nay. "Yes, Raffles," I said, "I will ask Miss Delahunt to dance with me, and I will look at her diamonds. However, I shall also hold you to your word."
He smiled at me, took his hand from my hair and put both hands on my shoulders. "I would expect nothing else from my dear rabbit," he said.
I smiled back and again longed for the moment we would close the front door of our rooms behind us and he removed his evening coat. "Well, come along then, you had better introduce me to Miss Delahunt."
His smile became more intense. "I do adore you, Bunny," he said softly, "you do know that, do you not?"
I again smiled back at him. "Yes, Raffles, of course I know. Now let us get this over with."
He laughed. "Oh, Bunny, Bunny, Bunny; only you could consider dancing with a very attractive young lady something to be 'got over with'."
I merely shrugged and opened the library door and let him lead the way through the ladies and gentlemen that stood sipping champagne and talking over to a young lady I had never seen before. She was, as he had said, attractive; however, from the way she coloured slightly when Raffles paid her a compliment and lowered her gaze as he introduced us, as well as the fact the neckline of her dress was not in the least revealing, I believed her to be demure and not a modern young lady. As such, I realised I was actually looking forward to dancing with her.
The orchestra started to play a waltz, the dance at which I am the most accomplished. I took her hand and led her onto the dance floor and put my hand on her waist, making sure I did not hold her too tightly or too closely as she rested her hand on my shoulder and we began to dance. I have never found it easy to talk and dance at the same time, thus I was glad that either she felt the same or simply didn't have anything to say to me, as she remained silent.
Not having to converse with her also meant I was free to look at her necklace. As my gaze came to rest on it, I was extremely pleased it was a waltz we were dancing. I feared had it been anything else that I might have made an absolute fool of myself by completely forgetting the steps. As it was, I managed to cover up a half-missed step quite well.
I could not take my eyes off of the diamonds as they shimmered in the light. Raffles had not done justice to the sheer elegant beauty of the jewels; yes, he had called them beautiful but these were beyond mere beauty; I actually did not believe a word existed to adequately describe them. I quite understood what he meant when he had said he forgot how to breathe for several seconds, as they had the same affect on me.
As much as I was enjoying dancing with Miss Delahunt, and I was enjoying it, I could hardly wait for the dance to be over so that I could find Raffles. I was enjoying dancing with her because she was, as she had appeared, not a modern young lady and although she danced competently, she was not as accomplished as many of the other young ladies. Her perfume was a light, pleasant scent and she had not applied too much of it.
Eventually the dance ended and I escorted her off of the dance floor where to my relief, it would have been ungentlemanly of me to have simply left her, Lord Clarence appeared and asked her for the next dance. She thanked me for the dance and said how much she had enjoyed it; I thanked her and told her I too had enjoyed the dance and I watched as she took Lord Clarence's hand and let him lead her onto the dance floor.
I accepted a glass of champagne from one of the footmen and stood staring at the dancers in an attempt to ascertain if Raffles was amongst them. He wasn't. I was about to turn and leave and go and hunt for him when again he appeared as if by magic, slipped his arm through mine and said quietly, "Well, my rabbit?"
I looked up at him and knew he already had his answer. I knew how bright my eyes were, how much I was smiling, how excited I looked. "Yes," was all I said.
"Well, well, well," he murmured, as he led me a little away from the dance floor in the direction of the supper tables. "I do believe my rabbit is more excited than I am."
There were very few other guests at the tables, it was somewhat early. Nonetheless, I picked up a plate and started to help myself to some of the rather delicious looking food. "I actually believe I am, Raffles," I said.
He glanced around him, no one was paying us any attention at all, before he lowered his head, put his lips to my ear and whispered, "My corruption of you is complete."
"Raffles!" I kept my voice low and glared at him as he had the audacity to laugh softly at my indignation.
"Good evening, Mr. Raffles. Good evening, Mr. Manders."
Raffles and I turned around. "Good evening, Lady Clarence," Raffles said.
"Good evening, Lady Clarence," I echoed. Lady Clarence was actually one of my favourite hostesses, as unlike many of them she never forgot my name; she never hesitated before saying it. To many I was, as I had always been, nothing more than 'Mr. Raffles's little friend.'
"I do hope you are enjoying yourselves."
"Yes, indeed we are; are we not, Bunny?"
"Oh, yes, very much."
"Good. Now before I leave you to enjoy your supper I should like to invite both of you to join our house party at our home in Kent. It is in four weeks time, beginning on the Friday and continuing until Tuesday morning. There will be, as I am sure you both remember from previous years, a cricket match against the local men. Lord Clarence hopes you'll take to the field once again, Mr. Raffles, and that you, Mr. Manders, will again be willing to keep the score, as you do it so very well."
Raffles glanced at me and I smiled my agreement. He turned back to Lady Clarence. "We would be delighted to be your guests, Lady Clarence."
"Oh, good. I am very pleased that both of you will in attendance." That was another reason why she was one of my favourite hostesses. Not only did she remember my name, but she never once let me believe I was being invited merely because I was Raffles's intimate friend and merely because I was such a good score keeper. She always made me feel that I was being invited for myself. She smiled at us again wished up a good evening and left us.
"Well, that is something to which we can look forward, is it not, Bunny?"
"Oh, yes, Raffles. I always enjoy Lord and Lady Clarence's house party."
A FEW HOURS LATER
We thanked Lord and Lady Clarence for a lovely evening and for the invitation to their house party and left their home. Several cabs were waiting in the driveway and Raffles suggested rather than walk back to the Albany, we take a cab. I eagerly agreed; I was keen to get home for more than one reason; from the smile Raffles gave me upon my agreement, he knew what both reasons were.
Given the lateness of the hour, Parker had already locked the main front door and retired for the night, thus it fell to Raffles to unlock and open the heavy door whilst I stood and obligingly held his stick. He closed and relocked the door behind us and we made our way up the stairs and to our rooms which he once again unlocked and opened before ushering me inside.
The moment after he had closed the front door I was in his arms, being held possessively against him and his mouth was on mine. Given he was still wearing his overcoat, I did not object to the fact he had not removed his evening coat. I did not object at all. Instead I parted my mouth for him and pressed myself against him, letting him know quite how much I was enjoying his attention and quite how much I wanted more of it.
Finally, he took his mouth from mine and bent to pick both of our sticks up as I removed my overcoat and hung it up along with my hat. "And how is my fully corrupted rabbit feeling now?" he asked, taking both his overcoat and evening coat off.
I really had enjoyed the evening and the champagne had been excellent. It was possible I might have had half a glass too many, just enough to make me somewhat less reticent and slightly more daring than I normally was.
I took a step towards Raffles, pulled his evening coat from his hands and dropped it onto the chair before I took one of his hands in mine, pulled it to my mouth and took his first two fingers into my mouth and sucked them as I brushed my other hand over his arousal. His eyes widened and shone with desire as he made a soft noise of obvious pleasure and he pushed himself a little more into my hand, making it clear he wanted me to do more than just brush my hand over him.
I am a very obedient rabbit, thus as I continued to suck his fingers I cupped my hand around his hardness and began to stroke it as he gazed at me, his eyes darkening even as I watched. I continued to stroke him and suck his fingers for a minute or two before, my gaze locked with his, I unbuttoned his trousers, slipped my hand inside, unbuttoned his drawers and the next moment I had my hand around his damp, warm, arousal.
"Bunny," he murmured, now gripping my arm. "Oh, my dearest rabbit."
I sucked his fingers for a moment or two longer before letting them slip from my mouth. At the same time I carefully extracted his arousal from his drawers and trousers and gazed directly into his eyes. "Oh, I don't believe my corruption is quite complete," I murmured, and with those words I dropped to my knees in front of him and took him into my mouth.
"Bunny!" he cried, as he gripped my shoulder with one hand and slid his other into my hair which he tangled around his fingers. "Oh, my rabbit. Oh, yes, oh, Bunny, yes, that's right. That's - Oh, Bunny." Apart from moaning with pleasure he fell silent as I continued to suck him and use my mouth on him as he had taught me to do.
It wasn't the first time I had taken him into my mouth. However, it was the first time I had done so whilst he had been fully dressed, and given we were still in our hallway and the door had not been locked, I got an extra thrill as I believed it was just a little more illicit than it normally was. The excitement of doing something that was actually illegal, something society frowned on, and doing so in the way we were doing it made me become extremely hard myself and it became quite painful pressed as it was against my trousers.
However, I had no intention of stopping; not until Raffles cried my name and his release filled my mouth. The pleasure I was clearly giving him was making me happy and pleasing me in return; his fingers were tangled tightly in my hair and his fingers dug into my shoulder, but I didn't care.
"Bunny, you should stop," he managed, tugging on my hair just a little.
I ignored him and continued to love him. I was not going to stop until his pleasure was complete. I was fairly certain the completion of his pleasure would be my undoing as well as I was becoming even harder and it was really quite, quite painful. I spent a second or two longer trying to ignore quite how painful I had become, until I decided I could not. Very daringly I took one hand from where I had been holding his hips to steady him, and fumbling more than I had done when I had unbuttoned him I undid my trouser and drawer buttons and put my hand around myself and carefully pulled my leaking hardness out.
"Oh, Bunny," he murmured, and I realised he must have seen or at least suspected what I had done. "Oh, my rabbit, will you never stop surprising me?"
I merely held myself as I knew one or two strokes was all it would take for my hand to become even wetter than it already was, and he wasn't quite close enough to the edge. I continued to use my mouth on him, speeding up just a little and I felt him become slightly harder and felt his hands grip my shoulder and hair even more and I knew.
"Bunny!" he cried. A second later his release poured into my mouth and my release made my hand very wet and sticky. I let him slip from my mouth and carefully swallowed as I gazed up at him. I sank down onto my heels and quite deliberately let him see what I had done to myself, what loving him had made me do to myself.
He seemed more than a little stunned as he pulled out his handkerchief. However, he did not hand it to me; instead he dropped down onto his heels by my side and carefully took my hand from around my now softening flesh and wiped it for me. It was he who then gently slipped my completely soft flesh back inside my drawers and he who rebuttoned my trousers before attending to himself. He wiped his hand on the handkerchief, balled it up and dropped it next to his evening coat before standing up and offering me his hand to help me.
He is far more elegant and lithe than I am, and as such given how long I had spent firstly on my knees and then sitting on my heels I was not only grateful for his hand, I needed it. I was also very glad of the way he put his arm around me and steadied me as my legs made their objection to what I had been doing clear.
Once I was able to stand unaided, he cupped my face between his hands, lowered his head and kissed me gently, lightly, sweetly with far more love than the passion we had shared before. He lifted his head, slipped his arm around my shoulders and led me into the sitting room where he sat down in the arm chair and tugged me down onto his lap.
"I believe my rabbit is quite correct," he said, as he gently encourage me to put my head down onto his shoulder. "I still have not corrupted you completely."
"And I for one hope you never do," I murmured, I was feeling more than a little sleepy and extremely relaxed.
"Do you, Bunny? Do you really hope that?"
"Mmm. Yes, Raffles, I do. Because if you corrupt me completely then how could I surprise you? And," I said, lifting my head and gazing into his eyes, "I do rather enjoy surprising you - and I believe you enjoy it too, do you not?"
He kissed me lightly again as he slid his hand into my hair. "Yes, Bunny, I do - I certainly do." He kissed me again. "Now, is my rabbit too tired or will he allow me the pleasure of giving him some pleasure?"
The sleepiness I had felt started to vanish at the thought of being naked in our bed with his lips and hands doing wondrous things to me. "Do you not wish to talk about how we are to relieve Miss Delahunt of her diamonds?"
He shook his head and kissed my nose. "Mundane matters such as that can wait." I laughed softly at his words. "I can think of far better things to be doing, can you not?"
"Well, if you put it like that . . ." I trailed off and gave him a look which, to my surprise, actually brought a flush of colour to his cheeks. "However, before you show me what those things are, I do believe you should lock the front door."
The look which crossed his face told me he had quite forgotten we hadn't done that. "I believe you are correct." He kissed me once more before letting me get off his lap. "You go into the bedroom and wait for me and I'll lock the front door. Do not remove anything."
I smiled at him. I loved it when Raffles undressed me, because it was something he did very well and he always managed to find a slightly different way to do so, thus it was always exciting and new. "Yes, Raffles," I murmured, in my school boy fag obliging tone.
He smiled and his eyes flashed with affection as he looked at me. "That's my good boy," he said, before turning on his heel and going out into the hall to lock the front door.
THE NEXT DAY
We sat at the dining table enjoying breakfast and discussing Raffles's plans to liberate Miss Delahunt's yellow diamonds from her. Raffles had discovered she was a guest of the Hamiltons, and would be returning to her home in Wales in a little over two weeks time.
I spread butter on my toast and reached for the jar of marmalade. I spooned some onto my buttered toast and passed the jar to Raffles who did the same. For a moment all talk about diamonds stopped as we both just enjoyed the splendid taste of the marmalade.
A few weeks earlier we had been in Manchester for the second test and had been taking a stroll prior to going back to our hotel for tea, when an elderly lady had stopped us. It turned out to be Raffles's parents' now retired cook - Mrs. Bailey. Raffles being Raffles had insisted on her joining us for afternoon tea, and after he had gently dismissed all of her objections he had offered her his arm and we returned to the hotel where we took tea.
It was pleasant for me to sit and listen to Raffles and Mrs. Bailey talk about the olden days, and I quickly learnt that he had been quite the favourite. To my slight amusement, not that I let it show, Mrs. Bailey still called him 'Mr. Arthur', which of course Raffles was completely unconcerned about.
I don't quite know how the conversation turned to breakfasts and marmalade, but it did. Mrs. Bailey reminded Raffles how much he used to love her homemade marmalade; how he would sneak down to the kitchen when he really should be in bed and help himself to some. This led to Raffles commenting that her marmalade was the finest he had ever tasted and the shop bought kind we had fell woefully short of hers. At which point Mrs. Bailey promised to send us some of her homemade marmalade telling us she had recently made a batch. And a few days after we returned from Manchester, half a dozen jars had arrived.
I confess I had wondered if the marmalade could be quite as wonderful as Raffles kept telling me it had been. After all often what one thinks is superb when one is a school boy, one realises is merely nice later on. However, as soon as I tasted it I knew Raffles had not spoken falsely - it was indeed superb. It was the finest I had ever tasted, and I had believed my parents' cook to be a good marmalade maker, but her ability was nothing compared to Mrs. Bailey's.
Raffles had written to her immediately thanking her and telling her it was every bit as wonderful as he remembered. She had written back assuring him it was her pleasure and saying it was nice to make it for someone who appreciated it so much and that she would send us more.
"It really was a fortuitous day when we bumped into Mrs. Bailey, was it not, Bunny?" Raffles said, after he had eaten his piece of toast and wiped his mouth with his napkin.
I nodded. "Oh, yes, Raffles, it really was. Was everything she cooked as superb as her marmalade making?"
"Yes, it was. She was an excellent cook and very kind to a young boy. I believe I missed her and her cooking almost as much as I missed my parents and Alice when I was at school."
"Did you miss your parents?" I asked, buttering another piece of toast and taking the jar of marmalade Raffles passed to me.
He gave me a strange look. "Of course I did, Bunny. Why would you think otherwise?"
I shrugged and glanced away from him, as for a moment I felt we had been transported back to our school days when I had said many a foolish thing and he had been so kind and gentle and never laughed at me or became irritated by me. "It's just that you were always so . . . mature and self-confident, and I know quite a lot of the boys thought it was childish to miss their parents. So . . . I'm sorry," I added.
He shook his head and looked at me in his fond way. "Oh, my dear rabbit." He put his hand over mine. "I assure you that, with very few exceptions, all of the boys missed, at least to an extent, their parents and siblings; it just wasn't considered to be the done thing to say so. Everyone was too busy trying to be far more grown up than they were and ensuring they didn't do or say anything that might make them appear different. You missed your parents, did you not?"
I swallowed and nodded. "Yes, especially Mother."
"Well then," he said, and squeezed my hand and let me know in the way he looked at me that he knew I still missed them, even though they had died just after I had turned eighteen. His loving, understanding gaze let me know it was all right to still miss them and that he would be surprised if it hadn't been the case. "Now eat your toast, there's a good rabbit." He smiled at me.
I did as he bid, and once more savoured the wonderful, tangy taste of the light orange marmalade that was neither too sweet nor too sharp. It really was quite, quite perfect.
Once we had finished eating, Raffles put the plates to one side, poured more coffee for us and took out his cigarette case and offered it to me. We sat drinking coffee, smoking and once more talking about when would be the best time to gain entry to the Hamiltons' house.
"I rather fear it is going to have to be when they are all at home," Raffles said, leaning back in his chair and blowing the perfect smoke ring. "I imagine Miss Delahunt will wear her jewels whenever they go."
"Surely not if they were only going out to dinner?"
Raffles shrugged. "Possibly not, it would depend on where they were going. However, not only do we not know to where they might be invited, we could not guarantee she would not wear them. No, I really do think it has to be when they are at home."
"But isn't that far too risky?"
He shrugged. "I know it's been over a year since I used my particular skills, but I do believe I am still as competent as I was."
"Oh, I'm sure you are, Raffles, it's just -" I fell silent.
"Has my rabbit changed his mind?" Raffles spoke softly and he looked a little saddened.
I hastened to reassure him. "No, of course I haven't. Really I haven't, Raffles. I just don't want us to get caught, that is all."
Raffles shook his head. "Neither do I, Bunny. And we won't. Now, Mrs. Timpson will be here soon to clean, so let us clear the breakfast things away and get ready to go out." He put his cigarette out and stood up.
"Yes, Raffles," I said, and I too stood up.
I was a little surprised when rather than clear the table as he had been the one to suggest, Raffles instead put his arms around me and pulled me into a loose embrace. "Trust me, my rabbit." He spoke softly and kissed my forehead.
"I always do, Raffles." I tilted my head back a little and was rewarded with his mouth on mine.
FIVE DAYS LATER
Fate seemed to be on our side. We had decided over breakfast to spend an hour or so at the Turkish baths where we met David Hamilton and his good friend Paul Webster in the cooling gallery. We exchanged greetings and spoke together for a minute or two about the weather before we each pair settled into our own corners.
Now Hamilton is slightly deaf, a childhood malady I believe, and as such he speaks somewhat louder than one normally does. During their conversation we learnt that the Hamiltons and Miss Delahunt were to dine with Mrs. Hamilton's sister and her husband that very evening. Hamilton wasn't looking forward to it as his brother-in-law believed in abstinence, and at the most offered his guests a single glass of wine and nothing else. Hamilton declared it was going to be a very tedious evening, all the more so because they would be expected to stay and play bridge until well after two o'clock in the morning.
To my surprise Hamilton went on to talk about Miss Delahunt's yellow diamonds and how she had decided to have them reset in a different necklace. We learnt that she had already had them removed from the necklace we had seen them in whilst at Lady Clarence's ball, but as yet had not had them reset.
I didn't dare to look at Raffles as Hamilton talked, least I give away the fact that we could overhear him. Not that I believed for one moment he would be perturbed if he learnt we had heard what he had been saying to Webster; however, it was not polite. Thus, I kept my gaze steadily on the newspaper I had brought with me.
The rest of their conversation was of no interest to me, thus I did put down the paper and turned to look at Raffles. He gave me a small smile and a half nod and suggested we take luncheon at the Savoy, even going so far as to invite Hamilton and Webster to join us. They thanked us, but said they already had a reservation to dine at their club. We made the usual 'another time' comments, and Raffles and I stood up and left the cooling gallery.
I turned to Raffles in excitement and was about to speak when he quickly shook his head and said softly, "Not here, my rabbit," and he started to walk towards the changing room.
We were the only gentlemen in the changing room when we went to get dressed. Thus I didn't bother, as I tended to do if we were not alone, to attempt to keep my towel around me as I put my drawers on. Raffles smiled at me as I dropped my towel onto the bench and blatantly stared at me which made me blush furiously as I hastily attempted to put my drawers on and managed to get them on backwards, which caused him to laugh.
"Would you like a hand, my dear Bunny?" he asked.
"Raffles! Don't and don't give me that innocent look. You know anyone could come in." I pulled my drawers off, pointedly turned my back on him, which caused him to laugh even more, and inelegantly managed this time to put my drawers on correctly.
Raffles kept his steady gaze on me the entire time we dressed; never once did he glance away to see which item of clothing he was picking up or to button his shirt up or tie his tie, which he did perfectly. I, of course, even though I dressed and undressed in front of him at least twice a day was flustered by his intense stare, and by the time I had donned my coat, he had been dressed for a few minutes and was calmly leaning against the wall smoking a Sullivan. He was standing beneath the notice that asked gentlemen not to smoke.
Once we were out onto the street, he offered me his arm which I pointedly ignored. He of course merely laughed again, before tucking his arm through mine at which point I decided to stop trying to be irritated and enjoy the simple pleasure of walking along with him, knowing that he belonged to me just as I belonged to him.
We enjoyed a long luncheon at the Savoy during which we discussed my next book, which I was about to begin writing. I liked to talk through my ideas with Raffles before I actually started to write. We also talked about his current tutees and how one in particular was annoying him. However, given his father paid three times the rate Raffles normally charged, he felt he could not refuse to teach him, even if the chances of him learning Latin were lower than the chances of me being picked to play in the third test. I felt quite sorry for the boy and said so.
"Oh, don't feel sorry for him, Bunny, he really is not worthy of your sympathy. Feel sorry for his parents and school mates if you wish to feel sorry for anyone. He is quite obnoxious as well as being ill-mannered and lacking in intelligence." He paused and picked his cigarette case up from where it laid on the table and we both took a Sullivan. "Actually," he said, gazing at me through the smoke, "I don't think that is completely true; I actually think he is more lazy than unintelligent. He simply cannot be bothered to learn or to attempt to learn. I fear he may well end up turning to crime - he's the type."
I stared at him. "How can you say that, Raffles?"
"How can I say what, my rabbit?"
I sighed, "That the boy is likely to turn to crime because he is lacking in a desire to learn and apparently an all round, if you are to be believed, and I do of course believe you, you are a very good judge of character, unpleasant boy."
He frowned. "I believe I am missing something, Bunny."
I sighed again and leant forward a little, even though there were no other diners near to us. "Well, Raffles, you excelled in all subjects at school and you were adored by many and yet you," I paused, leaned a little nearer to him and said even more softly, "have committed more than one crime. Raffles!" I said indignantly as he laughed softly.
He put his hand over mine and squeezed it. "Oh, do forgive me, my dear rabbit. I do not mean to offend or upset you, really I do not. It is just you sometimes say things which amuse me."
"I am glad to hear that, Raffles." My tone was somewhat curt as I picked up my glass and emptied it.
"Oh, dear, I really have offended my beloved rabbit, have I not?" I didn't say anything I merely shrugged. "Well, how about I make it up to you?" I stared at him and waited for him to continue. "Well," he said, as he bent his head a little towards mine. "Given we are to have a busy evening, why do we not return to the Albany and commit one of the crimes of which we are both guilty?"
The way he was looking at me as well as the tone in his voice instantly made me forget being offended in the slightest and instead wonder how quickly we could get back to our rooms. "I'll take that as a yes, shall I?" he murmured, clearly reading my look.
I smiled and nodded as I stood up. "I shall go and find a cab. After all, we don't want to exert ourselves too much, do we?" His smile made me hurry from the room and out into the street where I flagged down a hansom cab and promised the driver twice the normal fair if he got us to the Albany as quickly as he could.
THAT SAME EVENING
It was a little before midnight and Raffles and I stood in the shadows outside the Hamiltons' home. We were dressed in our evening suits, our overcoats were buttoned up to our necks and we both wore black rather than white gloves. It was a fairly windy evening, thus we both held our top hats in our hands rather than risk them being blown off as we stared at the house.
Lights shone on the ground floor, but that was not unexpected. One also shone on the first floor, and from the size of the window through which we could see the light, I believed it to be the landing light. There were no lights showing on the attic floor, indicating either the servants had yet to go to bed or were already abed. The fact that we could see a faint gleam of light coming from the basement indicated that some of them at least were still awake and about.
Raffles took my arm and led me by the rather pale light of the moon and stars across the grass and into some bushes which were planted close to the house. He put his lips to my ear and whispered, "I believe our best option would be to try the rear door."
I nodded and was about to follow him when I saw something. I caught his arm. "Raffles?"
"Look." I pointed towards one of the ground floor windows; to my surprise it was slightly open.
Raffles hesitated and I was uncertain as to why until he said, "That's Hamilton's study."
"Are you certain?"
"Quite certain. However, what I am not certain about is quite why he would leave -" He quickly put his hand over my mouth and dragged me back into the bushes where he kept my arm in his and took his hand from over my mouth. We watched as a man came to the window, threw something small out and then closed the window. We stood and waited until a flash of light showed, indicating the man had opened the door and left the room.
"Wait here," Raffles whispered to me, and carefully he slipped from my side, across the gravel and bent down to pick up what the man had dropped from the window. Through the darkness I couldn't make out anything more than his outline and his movements, thus I had no idea what it was he had picked up or what he had done with it.
A moment or two later he was back by my side. "It was the end of a cigar," he said quietly. "I would venture to guess Hamilton's butler or valet was taking advantage of his master's absence."
"But why drop the end out of the window? Isn't he worried Hamilton might see it?"
"Obviously not. Tomorrow the gardener or some other servant will see it and pick it up believing it to have been dropped by the master of the house."
"Did he close the window completely?"
"I believe he intended to. However, it appears something has become lodged at the bottom and thus it prevented the window from being closed completely."
"Can you open it?"
"I am not certain. It is very nearly closed and there isn't a great deal of light. I'm not certain I have anything in my tool case which will help me get a proper grip on the window. However, I believe I shall try."
"What do you want me to do?"
"Come with me, hold my tool case and hat and keep watch."
"Just as I have always done."
"Just as you have always done so well."
Ten minutes later Raffles admitted defeat. "It is no good, Bunny, I can't quite get a true purchase beneath it and with the third test coming up, I dare not risk the window falling onto my fingers. I believe we shall have to try to rear door after all."
"Would you like me to try? My fingers are a little smaller than yours and I don't have to worry about it crushing them."
Raffles shook his head. "No, Bunny, it's kind of you to offer. However, I would rather my rabbit's fingers were not damaged in any way. I am quite certain I shall have other needs for them later." And with that, he slipped his arm through mine and led me silently over the gravel towards the rear door which he tried. It was locked, which led him to suggest those servants who were still up, would shortly be going to bed, thus we should wait a little longer.
Therefore, we stood side by side, arms touching, against the wall for another twenty minutes until through a chink in the door Raffles saw lights being extinguished. "Wait here," he said, and before I could object he had vanished into the darkness.
Without him by my side I became more nervous and my sometime over-active imagination began to take over. Hence by the time he put his hand on my shoulder, I was convinced that not only would the Hamiltons and Miss Delahunt suddenly appear, but also the police. I was so convinced of this that I started, and would have cried aloud had he not have the foresight to once again put his hand over my mouth, as he put his arm through mine.
"It is only I, Bunny," he whispered, his lips on my ear. "There are now no lights showing in the basement and the only ground floor lights still shining are the ones in the hall and dining room. Now, hold my case again and let me open this door. It looks a terribly simple lock; I believe we shall be inside in less than a minute."
We were. We stood together in the near total darkness; it was actually darker inside than outside. Raffles had one hand on my shoulder and I was waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, which would happen before mine did. My heart rate had, as it always had done when we had ventured in to places we should not be, increased and in the complete silence I feared I could hear it beating.
I guessed about a minute had gone by before Raffles's lips were on my ear and he had taken my hand. "Come along, Bunny, keep close to me and try to be silent."
"Yes, Raffles," I murmured; I was more than happy to stay close to him. "Where are we going first?"
"Miss Delahunt's bedroom."
"How do you know where it is?"
My eyes must have adjusted to the darkness somewhat as I saw him turn around. "I don't. However, I do know where the main guestroom is; thus I am assuming Mrs. Hamilton would have given her that room."
"How do you know?"
He sighed. "I make a point of learning such things, Bunny. It does occasionally come in useful. Now do you wish to continue to discuss the, what is no doubt to you, fascinating subject or shall we actually get on with what we are meant to be doing?"
This time he did not wait for me to reply, instead he tightened the grip he had on my hand and led me along the darkened back hall, up the back stairs and through a door onto the main landing where a light still glowed.
As we stood there, my hand still in his, there was a noise from above us. I started and grabbed Raffles's arm; I did, however, manage to prevent myself, by virtue of biting my lip, from crying out. Raffles pulled us back around the corner and we waited for a minute or two before he once again led me out onto the landing, where we stood for a moment before he led me to a room.
He let go of my hand and pressed his ear against the door as I held my breath and willed my heart to beat less loudly and less quickly. After listening for a while, he dropped to his heels and put his eye against the keyhole. Again, I just stood and waited and held my breath.
After a short time he stood up, looked at me and nodded. He then put his hand on the doorknob and turned it. I was ready; ready to run if needs be, ready to defend Raffles, ready to do anything.
Ready to do almost anything except calmly follow Raffles into the room when he smiled at me, nodded and whispered, "No one is here." He actually had to take my arm and tug me away from the wall and guide me into the room. He closed the door and, as the curtains had already been drawn, he turned the gas up a little on the nearby wall light.
He stood and slowly looked around the room as I rested against the door and concentrated on listening for possible sounds outside of the door. That was all I could do now; he was the one who knew where to look and he was the one who would, should it become necessary, use his tools to open a safe or jewellery case or whatever needed opening.
"Would she really keep them in her room?" I heard him murmur. "Surely it would be more natural for her to give them to Hamilton to put in his safe. What do you think, Bunny?"
I stared at him. Why was he asking me? I wasn't the cracksman; I knew nothing about such things. He was the expert; if he didn't know, then I certainly wouldn't. However, he appeared to be waiting for my answer, thus I shrugged and said, "Well as we are here, I think you should search Miss Delahunt's room first."
I had clearly said the correct thing as he smiled at me in the way he used to smile at me during our school days when I had done or said something of which he approved. He didn't go as far as actually calling me his good boy; he didn't need to, his look said it.
Silently he moved to the dressing table and slowly opened one drawer after another and methodically searched them. The diamonds were not there. Nor were they in the jewellery case which stood atop of the dressing table. He moved to the bedside table and checked the drawer; again nothing.
As he moved to the chest of drawers I was starting to get concerned. I know Hamilton had said they wouldn't leave the home of Mrs. Hamilton's sister until at least two and it couldn't yet be one, but even so I wished we could find the diamonds and leave or at least get out of Miss Delahunt's bedroom and go down to the relative safety of Hamilton's study.
Raffles was checking the contents of the drawers and I felt my cheeks warm as I realised he was moving his hands through Miss Delahunt's under clothing; her drawers to be precise. Raffles being Raffles was completely unconcerned by such things, but I felt it simply wasn't right for him to be handling such intimate items.
I had turned my back on him as soon as I had seen what he was touching. Thus I only heard his whispered, "Yes."
I turned back round, suddenly no longer concerned by the fact that in one hand he held a pair of white lace decked, fine cotton drawers and in the other the yellow diamonds. "You have them?" I whispered, ignoring how foolish I was being.
He smiled at me and kindly ignored my comment. "I have them," he said. "Here, hold these," he said, and before I could object he had pushed the drawers into my hand as he put his hand into the inner breast pocket of his evening coat pocket and pulled out a box into which he tipped the diamonds before he returned the box to the safety of his pocket.
I stood rigid holding the drawers staring at them in horror as if they might suddenly become alive and attack me. He must have seen how uneasy I was because as he took the drawers from me and began to neatly refold him he smiled reassuringly at me and said softly, "Don't look so afeared, my rabbit, they really aren't going to bite." He spoke lightly, and although he was in effect teasing me, his words made me feel somewhat better and I told myself I was being foolish.
"I know," I said. "It's just . . . Well, I've never . . . I haven't even seen such things, Raffles, let alone - Well, you know."
He closed the drawer as silently as he had closed and opened all of the other drawers and put his hands on my shoulders. "My poor, little rabbit," he murmured. "Still so very innocent, despite my best attempts to corrupt you." I smiled at him, again untroubled by his words; they were, after all, only the truth. "Now come along, let us get out of here and return to our rooms where I shall do my best, once more, to complete your corruption."
Before he turned the gas off he glanced around the room and I knew he was checking to see if everything was exactly as it had been when we had entered the room. He went to the dressing table where he moved the jewellery case an inch or two and pulled the left hand drawer very slightly open. He then nodded, put his finger on his lips, turned the gas down and as he had done before we had gone into the room he pressed his ear against the door and listened.
As I had done when we had stood outside the room, I simply stood still and silent and waited. Once he was certain no one was outside, he took my hand, quietly opened the door and led me out.
The return journey along the landing, through the door, down the back stairs, along the back hall and out of the rear door, was as uneventful as the journey in the opposite direction had been. It took him a little longer to relock the door than it had taken him to open it, but within five minutes we had left the grounds of the Hamiltons' house and were walking arm-in-arm along the street, just as any two gentlemen would walk.
We walked back to the Albany and bid Parker goodnight before going up to our rooms. I left Raffles to put the diamonds in a safe place whilst I paid a visit to the bathroom after which he did as he had promised when we had stood in Miss Delahunt's bedroom: he tried once more to complete his corruption of me.
THE FOLLOWING MORNING
We were breakfasting somewhat later than we usually did due to a rather late night - well, early morning. Once again we were enjoying toast and marmalade and coffee; one jar of marmalade was almost empty, thus we had a second jar on the table, which Raffles had already opened. Also on the table were the yellow diamonds which we were admiring.
"I do believe they are even more beautiful than I first thought," Raffles said, picking one up and holding it between his thumb and finger as he gazed at it. "We shall not of course be parting with these. I simply couldn't forgive myself if I handed them over to my old fence. No, we shall keep them to admire." He once more gazed at the jewel.
For a moment I was almost jealous of the way he was looking at it, but as I too picked one up and appraised it I couldn't find it in me to begrudge him his look. "They really are splendid, Raffles. I have never seen stones quite as beautiful as these are." I was rather pleased to hear he did not intend to part with them; like he, I would not have wished to merely sell them. It would have been far too sordid for something so perfect.
"Nor, my rabbit, have I. The question is -" The sound of our front door knocker interrupted him. Raffles frowned, glanced at his watch, put down the diamond and his napkin and stood up. "I wonder who that could be." He strode out of the room and I turned my attention from the diamonds to spreading marmalade on my toast.
A moment or two later I nearly choked on the piece of toast I was eating as I heard Raffles cry, "Inspector Mackenzie! How nice to see you and it has been quite some time, has it not?" For a second I sat frozen as my gaze fell on the diamonds. I had to do something, but what? Where could I put them? I was quite certain that was why Mackenzie was knocking on our door; something told me he hadn't come to ask for donations to the Police Widows And Orphans Fund.
I didn't hear Mackenzie's reply as such; I could hear his voice but I couldn't make out the words. Then Raffles said, again in a louder voice than he needed to use given the inspector was in front of him, "Chief Inspector? Well, well, well, congratulations Chief Inspector; it is very well deserved."
I looked around me; I simply had to do something as any second now Mackenzie would ask to come in and - Suddenly it came to me.
"Come in? Yes, of course my dear Chief Inspector. Of course you may come in." I had been correct. "This way, Chief Inspector. Mr. Manders is in the dining room, we were having breakfast." Still Raffles spoke in a louder than necessary tone. "Bunny!" he cried, "We have a visitor."
I took a sip from my coffee cup, stood up and put down my napkin and hurried across the room. "Good morning, Inspector Mackenzie," I said, surprising him by holding out my hand to him. He recovered quickly and took my hand and shook it for a moment or two.
"It's now Chief Inspector Mackenzie, Bunny. The good inspector has been promoted." Although Raffles appeared to be looking directly at me, I could actually see his gaze was flicking around the room. I smiled in what I hoped was a reassuring way. After a moment or two of continuing to look around the room, he gave me a minute nod and turned his attention fully onto me.
"Is it? Oh, congratulations, Chief Inspector. I'm so very pleased for you."
"Aye; that it is. And thank you, Mr. Manders."
"It's my pleasure, Chief Inspector. Would you like to join us for breakfast?" I saw Raffles widen his eyes in surprise. "The marmalade is homemade," I added. "I doubt you will have tasted a better type. We were just about to open a fresh jar, weren't we, Raffles?" I picked the jar up.
Before Raffles could reply, Mackenzie said, "It's kind of you to offer, Mr. Manders, but I've already had my breakfast."
"Have you?" Raffles pulled out his watch and glanced at it. "Well, I suppose it is rather late. You see Mr. Manders and I had rather a late night last night, Chief Inspector."
"Did you, sir?" Raffles nodded. "What time did you and Mr. Manders get to your bed?"
I saw Raffles's eyes narrow just a little at Mackenzie's use of the singular. However, I found myself, somewhat to my surprise, untroubled. I had long since decided that Mackenzie had figured out that Raffles and I were somewhat more than intimate friends. However, for some reason he had decided, even though we were breaking the law, it really was none of his business.
"It was around three o'clock, I believe. Is that correct, Bunny?"
I nodded. "Yes, Raffles. It was about that time."
"If I might ask, gentlemen, what were you doing until three o'clock?"
"Let me see; we dined at our club; then walked home, we went the longer way as it was such a fine evening; we then sat and drank and smoked and talked. Nothing exciting, I'm afraid."
"You dinna happen to pay a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton's house, did you, Mr. Raffles?"
"No, Chief Inspector. I have told you what we did. May we ask why you wish to know?"
"The Hamiltons have a Miss Delahunt visiting them and -"
"Oh, yes, so they do. We met her at the home of Lord and Lady Clarence Thistlewood; at Lady Clarence's ball a few days ago. Do you remember, Bunny?"
"Oh, yes, Raffles. We both danced with her." I beamed.
"During your dances did either of you gentlemen happen to notice the necklace Miss Delahunt was wearing?" Mackenzie asked, looking directly at Raffles.
I remained silent and left it to Raffles to reply. Raffles took out his cigarette case, "Yes, Chief Inspector, now that you mention it, I do remember a rather pretty necklace. Do you, Bunny?" as he spoke he offered his cigarette case to me.
I took one and nodded. "Yes, I do, Raffles. It was rather unusual, if I recall correctly."
"Yellow diamonds, I believe. Would you like a Sullivan, Chief Inspector?" Raffles held his cigarette case out towards Mackenzie.
"Thank you, but no, Mr. Raffles. Aye, they were yellow diamonds and they were stolen last night."
"Stolen? Bunny, did you hear that?" Raffles turned to look at me.
Raffles put his cigarette case down onto the table and struck a match. "Ah, and you, Chief Inspector, have come here to accuse Mr. Manders and me of stealing them. Am I correct?" Raffles's tone had lost just a little of the friendliness it had had as he stared at Mackenzie.
"And did you?"
Raffles laughed. "My dear Chief Inspector, of course we did not steal Miss Delahunt's necklace."
"It wasna her necklace that was stolen, Mr. Raffles, just the diamonds. Miss Delahunt was to have them reset. She canna do that now."
"That is a great shame, for they really were rather splendid, we both said as much, did we not, Bunny?"
I nodded. "Oh, yes, Raffles, we did."
"Mr. Raffles, Mr. Manders, will you give me permission to search you and your rooms?"
Raffles shrugged. "Of course, Chief Inspector. I have no objections, do you, Bunny?"
I shook my head. "None at all."
"Thank you, gentlemen. I must ask that one or both of you accompany me."
"It will be my pleasure. Bunny, why do you not stay here and finish your breakfast whilst I accompany the good Chief Inspector?"
"I believe I shall come with you, Raffles. The coffee has gone cold now and I had almost finished."
"Splendid. There you are, Chief Inspector, both Mr. Manders and I will accompany you." Raffles beamed at Mackenzie.
We went into our bedroom first and Mackenzie began a thorough search. He ignored the obvious fact that the room was occupied by two people rather than by just one. In the bedroom which was technically mine, he also ignored the fact that given the bed had several books on it, no one could have slept in it. We moved next to the bathroom before going into the sitting room.
Mackenzie was frowning as he searched each room and found nothing. Raffles kept giving me enquiring glances, but I merely smiled at him and hoped my look reassured him. Mackenzie looked in the various vases; turned all the ornaments over and looked at the bases; he looked in the coal scuttle; he even put his hands up the chimneys - which had fortunately been swept only a week earlier. He went though all the drawers in all the rooms; looked in the coffee pot, glasses, cups and emptied Raffles's cricket bag.
Finally, we returned to the dining room where Raffles and I sat down at the dining table and watched him search the room. After about half an hour he shook his head and turned to us. "Empty your pockets, please, gentlemen." Raffles glanced at me; his look was a little apprehensive. However, as I emptied my pockets and he saw no sign of the diamonds he relaxed.
Mackenzie searched through everything we put on the table and then turned to us and raised an eyebrow. Raffles sighed, but nodded and Mackenzie began to pat Raffles, his hands moving over Raffles's body, arms and legs. Of course he found nothing, thus he turned to me. I swallowed hard and glanced at Raffles who gave me a sympathetic look. I then succumbed to the intimate search - once again Mackenzie found nothing.
"I owe you both an apology," he said, after just staring at us in silence for quite some time.
Raffles stood up. "Think nothing of it, Chief Inspector. Mr. Manders and I had no plans for today."
Mackenzie stared at him. "Aye, I'm also sorry for wasting your time, gentlemen." He had been in our rooms for a good three hours.
"It's been rather enlightening really, watching a professional search as you did. I really rather enjoyed myself, did you not, Bunny?"
"Oh, yes!" I cried brightly, as Mackenzie shot Raffles a look of displeasure and pressed his lips tightly together.
"Well, I'll say good afternoon to you, Mr. Raffles; Mr. Manders." He nodded to each of us.
"Good afternoon to you too, Chief Inspector Mackenzie. Do come again, any time you wish to."
"Good afternoon, Chief Inspector," I said and smiled. Mackenzie nodded again and moved towards the door; Raffles followed him. "Chief Inspector," I called.
They both stopped and turned around. "Aye, Mr. Manders?"
"Do take a jar of marmalade," I said, hurrying towards him with the jar which had been on the table when he had arrived. "It really is very good. Mr. Raffles's family cook made it for us."
Raffles looked at me and raised an eyebrow as he said, "Oh, yes, Chief Inspector, do take it."
Mackenzie hesitated and then shook his head. "It's kind of you, gentlemen. But I really canna accept it."
"Oh, come now, Chief Inspector, surely no one could consider a jar of marmalade to be a bribe, could they?"
Mackenzie glanced at Raffles. "Well," he looked back at the jar I was still holding out to him. "I confess I am rather partial to marmalade and it's homemade you say?"
I nodded. "Yes."
Mackenzie hesitated again and then came to a decision. "Very well. I'll take it. Thank you, Mr. Raffles; thank you, Mr. Manders." He took the jar from me and put it into his overcoat pocket.
"You are very welcome, Chief Inspector. Now do allow me to show you out and remember, you are welcome in our rooms at any time - day or night. Night or day."
Mackenzie sighed. "Aye, Mr. Raffles, I'll remember." He nodded to me once more and followed Raffles out of the room.
Once they had gone, I sank back down into my chair and rested my head in my hands. I groaned quietly as I tried to will my heart rate, which had increased the moment I had heard Raffles cry 'Inspector Mackenzie', to decrease again.
I was still sitting with my head in my hands when Raffles strode back into the room; I heard him turn on his heel and hurry back out of the room. I lifted my head as he hurried back into the room with two glasses of brandy in his hands.
"Here," he handed one to me and put his arm around my shoulders. "Drink some, Bunny."
"Thank you." I took a deep swallow of the fine brandy and accepted the Sullivan he had lit for me and watched as he sat down and took my hand in his.
"Well, my rabbit," he said, after just sitting and gazing at me for a few seconds. "Do tell me, where are they? What did you do with them? You didn't swallow them, did you?"
I shook my head, "No, Raffles. I didn't."
"Well, what did my rabbit do with them?"
I smiled at him, took another sip of brandy before standing up and hurrying to the cupboard where we kept the jars of marmalade and took one out. I took it back to the table where Raffles just sat staring at me and swiftly opened it.
"Bunny?" he whispered. "You didn't?"
I nodded as I picked up a spoon and began to spoon marmalade out onto a plate. "I did. Look," and I picked up one of the diamonds.
"Bunny! You are a genius!" Raffles cried, standing up, putting his arms around me and kissing me soundly. "You really are a very clever rabbit." He gazed down at me.
I felt myself flush a little at the fulsome praise; it wasn't just his words, but also the tone in which he had said them and way in which he was looking at me. "Thank you, Raffles," I said. "I confess I nearly panicked when I heard you call Mackenzie's name. And then suddenly I saw the jar of marmalade and knew what I would do. Even had he looked at the jar they wouldn't have been seen, they blend in too easily."
"And you even thought to change the jar with one from the cupboard so that the one with the diamonds in wouldn't be on the table."
"Yes. I'm sorry if you were confused when I spoke about opening a new jar."
"I confess I did wonder." I merely thought the shock of Mackenzie's arrival had made you forget I had already opened the jar.
"Did you not suspect at all?"
He shook his head. "No, my rabbit," he said, his tone very serious. "I did not. Truly, Bunny, I do not believe I would have thought of such an ingenious hiding place." He still held me in his arms and was still gazing down at me with so much affection and pride that I felt unworthy.
"I'm sure you would have done, Raffles. If I thought of it you would have done."
He shook his head. "No, Bunny. Truly I would not have done so. We are both still free men because of my beloved, clever rabbit."
I swallowed hard as I felt my cheeks become more flushed. "Let's get the rest of the diamonds out of the marmalade," I said hastily.
He kissed me again. "Very well, Bunny."
I continued to spoon the marmalade out onto a plate and he searched through it with another spoon until we had them all. Raffles went off to fetch a bowl of water and turned back his cuffs and carefully cleaned and polished each diamond as I spooned the marmalade back into the jar and put it back into the cupboard.
Once the diamonds were clean and polished, Raffles fetched a silver box which was lined with black velvet and placed the diamonds on the velvet and we both stared at them. He then put it down, took my hand and led me into our sitting room where he sat down in the arm chair and pulled me down onto his lap, putting his arms around me and gathering me towards him.
He kissed me lightly before staring at me as he brushed my hair from my forehead. "Anything, Bunny," he said quietly. "Anything my rabbit wants, he can have. Tell me what you would like, Bunny?"
That was easy. "For this to truly be out last burglary, Raffles."
He gave me a gentle smile. "I had already decided that it would be, Bunny."
He nodded. "Yes. You see I found I didn't feel the same pleasure, the same thrill as I used to feel when we broke into a house, even searching for, finding and taking the diamonds wasn't the same. And then when I opened the door to Mackenzie and realised that you could be taken away from me; that I would be responsible for you being gaoled and apart from me - well, I knew then that this was it. Never again, my dear, sweet Bunny. I give you my word: never again. We have cracked our last crib"
"Oh, Raffles." I put my mouth on his and kissed him before saying, "Thank you."
He shook his head. "No, my rabbit, thank you. Now, come along, tell me what you want. What can I give you or do for you, Bunny?"
I looked at him. "At the risk of sounding like a romantic heroine, I have everything I want. I have you, Raffles," I said simply. "I don't need or want anything else. I have you."
He swallowed hard. "And I give you my word, Bunny, you will always have me. I will be yours and only yours until death parts us."
"And beyond?" I whispered.
"And beyond." And with those words he pulled me nearer to him and claimed my mouth with his as he held me possessively.
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