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4. LE PREMIER PAS
That night he told me the story of his earliest crime. Not since the fateful morning of the Ides of March, when he had just mentioned it as an unreported incident of a certain cricket tour, had I succeeded in getting a word out of Raffles on the subject. It was not for want of trying; he would shake his head, and watch his cigarette smoke thoughtfully; a subtle look in his eyes, half cynical, half wistful, as though the decent honest days that were no more had had their merits after all. Raffles would plan a fresh enormity, or glory in the last, with the unmitigated enthusiasm of the artist. It was impossible to imagine one throb or twitter of compunction beneath those frankly egotistic and infectious transports. And yet the ghost of a dead remorse seemed still to visit him with the memory of his first felony, so that I had given the story up long before the night of our return from Milchester. Cricket, however, was in the air, and Raffles's cricket-bag back where he sometimes kept it, in the fender, with the remains of an Orient label still adhering to the leather. My eyes had been on this label for some time, and I suppose his eyes had been on mine, for all at once he asked me if I still burned to hear that yarn.
"It's no use," I replied. "You won't spin it. I must imagine it for myself."
"How can you?"
"Oh, I begin to know your methods."
"You take it I went in with my eyes open, as I do now, eh?"
"I can't imagine your doing otherwise."
"My dear Bunny, it was the most unpremeditated thing I ever did in my life!"
His chair wheeled back into the books as he sprang up with sudden energy. There was quite an indignant glitter in his eyes.
"I can't believe that," said I craftily. "I can't pay you such a poor compliment!"
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