E. W. Hornung: Raffles: Further Adventures of the Amateur Cracksman

8. THE KNEES OF THE GODS (continued)

"What on earth," said I, "are you going to do with this?"

"Dye for my country," he cried, swelling. "Dulce et decorum est, Bunny, my boy!"

"Do you mean that you are going to the front?"

"If I can without coming to it."

I looked at him as he stood in the firelight, straight as a dart, spare but wiry, alert, laughing, flushed from his wintry walk; and as I looked, all the years that I had known him, and more besides, slipped from him in my eyes. I saw him captain of the eleven at school. I saw him running with the muddy ball on days like this, running round the other fifteen as a sheep-dog round a flock of sheep. He had his cap on still, and but for the gray hairs underneath--but here I lost him in a sudden mist. It was not sorrow at his going, for I did not mean to let him go alone. It was enthusiasm, admiration, affection, and also, I believe, a sudden regret that he had not always appealed to that part of my nature to which he was appealing now. It was a little thrill of penitence. Enough of it.

"I think it great of you," I said, and at first that was all.

How he laughed at me. He had had his innings; there was no better way of getting out. He had scored off an African millionaire, the Players, a Queensland Legislator, the Camorra, the late Lord Ernest Belville, and again and again off Scotland Yard. What more could one man do in one lifetime? And at the worst it was the death to die: no bed, no doctor, no temperature--and Raffles stopped himself.

"No pinioning, no white cap," he added, "if you like that better."

"I don't like any of it," I cried, cordially; "you've simply got to come back."

"To what?" he asked, a strange look on him.

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