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Love, War, and Cricket

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"How do you feel about Staffordshire, Bunny?"

I tried to maintain my composure, though I had dropped my cigarette.

"Be careful you don't burn yourself, my boy," Raffles laughed, picking it up and tossing it into the fire. "I can't have you out of the match for this."

"What's in Staffordshire of interest to you?" I asked, after a fortifying sip of whiskey. It was all I could do not to choke on it.

"The only things that ever interest me." His smile here could be called a wolfish leer, the one that always sent shivers down my spine and gave me a powerful need to know what he was about to do.

"So, crime and cricket?" I tried to keep my voice steady.

"Yes! If you wrote an accounting of my life, that is precisely what I should wish for you to call it." He smoked thoughtfully for a few moments. "Do you know of Lord Lewton's charity match?"

"Yes." There was no way Raffles could know how intimately familiar I was with Lord Lewton's charity match. I had never told him anything about that aspect of my life, though my presence at those matches all those years ago was something he could have learned by asking anyone, so I couldn't very well deny all knowledge of them.

"I have procured invitations for both of us—myself as a participant and for you as a keen spectator. I told Lord Lewton you very much enjoyed watching me play, and it is the exchange we had after from which my curiosity stems. Lord Lewton was quite anxious for you to attend when I asked if I might bring a plus-one, and he extended your invitation most officially. I dare even to say he wanted you there more than he wanted me. '' He sat back in his chair, blowing smoke. "You told me you had heard of Lord Lewton, Bunny, not that you knew him."

I tried to keep myself from flushing at his emphasis on the word. "I went down there once or twice when I was at university."

"Ah." His eyes seemed drawn to his whiskey glass in the firelight. "Your lost years."

"I knew where I was." And l knew how I had occupied myself in those years was far from Raffles's knowledge. Just as I liked it.

"Do I detect the hint of a secret?"

I glanced at him. He was looking into the fire, not at me, which made me relax. He wasn't genuinely curious; he was only teasing me as he did. The more I pushed back against him, the more suspicious he would grow, but I had to do something to redirect his attention. "I could call them your lost years just as well," I said, lighting a new cigarette. "We were out of touch."

"Yes." There almost seemed to be a twinge of regret in his voice, but it could not be; I knew Raffles had no particular regard for me, certainly not approaching that which I had for him. And it was my regard for Raffles that made me unable to reveal the true nature of my acquaintance with the Lewtons.

As much as I enjoyed spending my evenings with Raffles, I took my leave early. I could not stand to fret over whether he would discover this part of my life. It was not out of a sense of shame; I was already, with him, a burglar, so I did not fear his disapproval of this other flavor of criminality.

Raffles had already made his plan clear, and I needed time to prepare.

When I had known him, Lord Lewton had been an avuncular, silver-haired gentleman who had always made me feel welcome as a guest in his home. The current Lord Lewton was his son Oliver, known to me on much more intimate terms.

**

Raffles and I met at Euston Station the following Thursday.

"You needn't look so down, Bunny," Raffles said, laughing. "You won't have to actually play cricket, not this time."

I flushed, remembering the ordeal of our previous cricket adventure.

"You might write this up," he said, as we settled into a compartment. "A compelling account of the match would do well for your career."

Naturally, Raffles would think my talents best suited to documenting one of his two favorite subjects. And I could not very well write an accounting of his other pastime, no matter how compelling it would be.

"I may do that." Concentrating on the match enough to write an accounting suitable for a general audience would keep my mind off other matters and I could maybe avoid the possibility of Lord Lewton engaging me in conversation. I actually had to work (or steal) for my living. I couldn't be compelling just by being a pretty thing to look at anymore, if I had ever been. I personally thought myself rather plain, though Oliver had called me beautiful. But he had lied about so many other things, he could have been lying about that, too.

I tried not to think about it, but as we traveled northwest, my mind returned to that time when the same landscape flashing by had been received with the greatest anticipation as the distance between myself and Oliver shrunk.

I knew dwelling on the memories would only cause me pain, but I did it anyway, my book forgotten in my lap as I stared out the window, thinking of Oliver coming on foot to meet my train because the open country lanes afforded us an intimacy not found in a carriage, as well as ample opportunity to get lost among the hedgerows and in each other.

Rain splattered the windows of the train as we passed through Coventry.

"Lovely weather for a cricket weekend," Raffles said, not looking up from his magazine.

"Yes," I said distractedly.

We had been occupying seats opposite each other, as we had had the compartment to ourselves all the way from London. Presently, he sprang up and sat beside me, so close that his hip touched mine. I leaned subconsciously away. "Bunny, you haven't even asked me what my quarry is."

I swore inwardly. This had been my most suspiciously glaring blunder. In a typical instance, I would have asked about this right away. Now I knew how unsuccessful I had been at keeping Oliver away from my thoughts. "What are you after, Raffles?"

"Anything I can get my hands on, you know. But your journalistic mind craves details it can set to print."

"I won't set these details to print!"

"And no one would believe you if you did! A gripping adventure yarn is what perhaps you should be writing."

"I will submit an accounting of the match," I said. "And for you, if you like, a private accounting of your crimes."

"That will be jolly good to read and burn! So, to prepare you for your futile efforts, I will tell you what I most hope to come away with this week. Or." A wicked smile spread across his face. "I will make you guess. You are familiar with the house and its contents, it seems. Tell me what is the best target."

I could not suppress the force of my reaction then. "Oh, Raffles, you must not! You cannot!"

"Can't I?" he asked, his eyebrows raised. "If I can't, then you must tell me why. If your reasons are good enough, we will have cricket and cricket alone, but if my assessment is correct, then this weekend will be devoted to those three things that divert me the most."

We had established cricket and crime, but what, I wondered, was the third? There was no time to put my mind to this, however, because my thoughts were now racing over the greatest treasures boasted by Lewton Castle. Shame warred with affection. Old Lord Lewton was gone; he was the one who had been my truest friend. Oliver... Even after all that had happened, could I let Raffles steal from Oliver? Could I stop him?

"I don't think there is much of true value," I said, my eyes on the rain-soaked fens outside. The city had given way to villages which became fewer and farther between as the sky darkened. "Old Lord Lewton liked to collect things, but I'm not sure. And besides, you can't steal from your host, Raffles. You are a gentleman!"

Raffles sat back on his side of the compartment. "Forgive me, Bunny, if you can. We will see what plunder is made available by the guests."

He said nothing more until we arrived at the dark little station to be met by a carriage. It was fully chucking it down, now. I had hoped to get up to my room to change before seeing Oliver, but he met us in the hall.

"Harry," he said, "I'm so glad you could make it." He was clasping my upper arm almost uncomfortably tightly. I tried not to squirm as was my instinct. Raffles was staring at us, and I was only glad Oliver couldn't see his face. I twisted and threw his hand off.

"Thank you for inviting us," I said stiffly. "I know Raffles is keen to match bats with you."

"Very keen," Raffles said. He was staring at Oliver with unsettling intent. "What can you tell me of this fearsome fellow?" He crossed the hall quickly, pretending to be completely entranced by a vicious-looking gargoyle I had never seen before.

"I say! Where did you get that?" I blurted before I remembered I had been trying to pretend to Raffles that I wasn't overly familiar with the house.

Oliver laughed. "Dug him up on the estate a few years back. I dare say he's from the original iteration of the castle. Sorry to only give you a two-day match, but if you'd like to stay on Sunday, the Royal Stafford Archaeological Society is coming for a lecture."

"Fascinating," Raffles said. "Castle architecture is of my chief interests, so I'll stay if you wouldn't mind."

"Are we terribly late?" I asked, not wanting to prolong this any further, though I had to goggle at Raffles for this revelation of his interest in medieval architecture. He'd never mentioned it to me before, though I was very familiar with Oliver's interest in the long history of his family's estate.

"No, no, hurry and get changed; you've missed nothing at all." Oliver touched my elbow again. It was all I could do not to flinch away.

"Knows you well, does he?" Raffles asked we climbed the stairs.

"We were at university together," I said before shutting my door practically in his face. Under normal circumstances, it wouldn't be unusual for us to wait in one or the other's room before going down, but I didn't want him to ask me any more questions about Oliver.

I lingered long enough alone after dressing that he couldn't pull me into his room, and we went down without incident. In the drawing room, I was introduced to Lady Lewton, who was a new addition since I'd last seen Oliver. I wasn't jealous, but I was glad that it was Raffles who took her in to dinner. I successfully avoided Oliver, though I was aware of his eyes on me, and those of Raffles as well.

I spent the after-dinner conversation prodding a very elderly neighboring colonel for every story he had of the old days so I wouldn't have to deal with either Oliver or Raffles. They seemed content to talk to each other, though I knew Raffles must have had other reasons for keeping him engaged.

I went to bed early, claiming headache from the long journey and the need to be ready in the morning to observe the match with a clear head for writing, though there was little chance of my concentrating on it well enough to produce a gripping account. Thus, I found myself walking out to the field early, ostensibly so I could watch the players practicing at the nets. I would write such a detailed account of every one of them that its composition would engage all my time for the rest of the weekend.

Instead, Oliver met me at the back of the temporary stands, which were so far empty of people, with the majority of guests and locals not set to come until the match began in earnest.

"You don't want to play, Harry?"

His hand landed on my back, high up, nearly at my neck and rested there. His fingertips were in my hair. I stepped back and at last met his eyes. I was reluctant to speak of it aloud and acknowledge him, but I also wanted to make it clear that things between us were over.

"When have you ever known me as a cricketer?" I asked him.

He laughed. "Never, but I had hoped to see you on my side."

"No," I said, holding up my notebook. "I'll be writing an article."

"Yes, I've seen your byline a few times. I'm glad you're finding some success as a writer. Harry, I cannot say how I miss you." He leaned in as though he was going to kiss me.

"No," I said fiercely, brandishing my pen at him. In that moment, it did not feel mightier than the sword, but there was no telling what I would have done with one of those. "You are married."

"Yes," he said, as though this posed no obstacle to his kissing me. "One has to, Harry, you understand that, don't you? But I still want you."

"I understand what fellows do," I said angrily. "But I won't—for God's sake, Oliver." I strode toward the front of the stands. He followed me and grabbed my elbow rather hard. I wrenched myself free and gave him a withering look. "Stop," I hissed.

He at last looked cowed, or at least, afraid of causing a scene, and I marched to my seat, face burning. I saw Raffles standing in the net, his gaze boring into me. I ducked my head and sat, turning my attention toward my blank notebook, as though it contained information of the utmost importance.

Oliver had invited Raffles to captain the other side, and I watched as they walked out for the toss. There was a steely look in Raffles's eyes for someone only competing in a charity match and who professed to be unexcited by cricket anymore.

He lost the toss, and Oliver elected to field. He bowled the first over and it was hard to watch him and his bared forearms without thinking back to another time now long over. Instead I watched Raffles, who paced like a caged tiger, his eyes never leaving Oliver. I thought he might sit and conserve his strength, as he had appointed himself the fourth batsman, but he walked back and forth until one of his teammates called out something about obstructing the view. After this he sat, arms crossed over his chest, watching Oliver from under his cap, even when Oliver wasn't bowling.

Not having watched the other bowlers didn't seem to put a damper on Raffles's own ability to bat; he hit without fear or caution, making runs aggressively. He was still not out even as five more wickets fell, and it didn't escape my notice that he seemed to chase Oliver's balls especially ferociously, seeming to take great pleasure in hitting him to the boundary.

At lunch, Raffles had amassed forty runs of his own, with no sign of flagging.

"You're serious about this," Oliver told Raffles as we sat around the lunch table.

"It's for charity, isn't it?" Raffles was beaming, face flushed under his sweaty curls. I pulled my gaze away, keenly aware of his presence next to me. My heart was racing. "We are only giving Mr. Manders something to write about."

And he squeezed my knee. It was a friendly gesture, but his hand lingered a fraction of a moment too long. Combined with the way his gaze never left Oliver's face, it was, to me, at least, a clear challenge, and the beat of my heart grew faster still. The world seemed to tip slightly as the sun disappeared behind clouds.

I had assumed Raffles's aggression was purely because he couldn't stand to lose, however much he maintained crime interested him far more than cricket. But the warmth of his hand on my knee, his dazzling smile turned on me made my heart pound as though about to leap from my chest. I was surely blushing. I was glad for the sudden cloud cover; Harris, one of the cricketers on Raffles's side exclaimed, "I say, I do hope it doesn't rain."

Raffles removed his hand from my knee and resumed eating calmly. "It won't."

Harris laughed. "Because the great Raffles repels rain?"

"Ah, you've figured out my secret," Raffles said, with mock dismay.

At the head of the table, Oliver's smile was tight. "That sounds like it would be cheating to me."

"I think someone once said all is fair in cricket." Raffles was staring at Oliver with the sort of look I knew well; I was glad I wasn't on the receiving end of it now. It meant Raffles had accepted a challenge, whether his opponent knew it or not.

"I believe that was love and war, old chap," Harris said.

"Was it?" Raffles said, eyes still on Oliver. "Love and war, then."

**

Raffles managed to last long enough for seventy runs, his wicket finally falling to Oliver's bowling.

Oliver's gaze flicked toward me immediately; I pretended to be jotting down notes until I looked up to find they were both watching me. I had the unsettling feeling of being the prize to be won at a joust of old.

How, I wondered, had Raffles figured me out so easily?

And did this mean he really had some feelings for me? The very thought of it sent heat coursing through me. Nothing could be done about it now, though. I tried to fix my attention on the match.

I watched Raffles as he sat with the rest of his side, looking casual to all the world, tilted back in his chair, his hands joined behind his head. I knew he was irritated to have been bowled so easily, and when the last wicket fell, he took up the ball with a ferocity that almost made me worry.

He bowled aggressively after the tea break, taking the first batsman's wicket in three balls; when not bowling, he ran for the ball with a zealousness uncharacteristic of him. It actually made him miss as many catches as he made, sliding on the dew as the clouds grew heavier. A light rain was falling and play was stopped; it was an angry, muddy Raffles that made his way back to the stands.

I climbed down to meet him and give him his blazer, which he refused.

"How did I get so filthy?" he spat, as though he hadn't realized a wet ground created mud.

When I pointed this out, he scoffed.

"You played well," I added as we climbed back to the house. I was barely conscious of still carrying his blazer; if he wouldn't wear it for fear of getting it dirty, he surely wouldn't have carried it. All the same, Oliver gave Raffles a look of loathing as we passed him.

"I allowed myself to be rattled, Bunny," Raffles said when we were out of earshot. "I quailed in the presence of the enemy."

"You're confusing cricket with war again," I said as we walked down the bachelors' corridor. We weren't particularly alone, with cricketers popping in and out of doors down here, so I hoped he wouldn't do anything that could be termed flirting.

"It's not war I'm confusing it with," he said, his hand on the knob of his door. "It is crucial that you understand that, Bunny."

I ducked quickly into my room so he would not see my blush.

**

Our rooms shared a bathroom and all I could do was sit by the window and listen to the sound of Raffles in the bath through the closed door. Were I a bolder man, I might have let myself in, but I knew I never would. I did a hundred times in my own head before the dressing gong, though, and I was quite shaken when I went down. If I was honest, I had been rattled since arriving, first by Oliver and now by Raffles. I had made my choice, of course; there was no contest between the two of them. The only question was what game was being contested.

"Bunny, you must make up your mind."

We were in my room, and it was very late. We had lingered long in the drawing room; I attributed it to Raffles wanting to unsettle Oliver again before he batted tomorrow. This had been the conclusion of several of the cricketers on Oliver's side who had turned in early; I barely remembered which man in evening dress was on which team when he was in whites. The captains alone were figures of consequence in the match.

"Raffles, I can't… I can't tell you what to steal from Oliver!"

"Oliver," he spat, eyes narrowed. "I didn't realize you were still on such intimate terms."

Suddenly, the boldness came over me that had abandoned me before. "Then you are blind, Raffles, not to have noticed that something… something had once passed between us. Why else can you possibly think—"

Raffles laughed. We had left the gas off and the moonlight cast his face in shadow. "I think you may be the blind one, Bunny. If you cannot see why I am so keen to take my revenge."

My eyebrows flew up. "Your revenge?"

He pushed himself out of his chair. "My revenge, because I am silly for you."

I felt dizzy then and had to sit down on the end of the bed. To have the speculation of the afternoon and evening confirmed! I wanted to run to him right then but my legs refused to work.

"Anything in this house that you want you shall have," Raffles went on, eyes blazing. "Name it and it is yours."

"Raffles, he is our host!"

"And he relinquished all his rights when he laid his hand on you," he said coldly.

My mouth was dry; I found myself robbed of the power of motion and speech. Luckily, Raffles was not similarly afflicted; he crossed the room quickly and knelt before me, taking my hand. This was my champion, I thought vaguely, if I was to have one.

"I'm not—" I said.

He stopped me by kissing my hand. "You needn't tell me what he did to you. I have an inkling. I ought not to have questioned you like I did that night in my rooms, but I confess I was curious what you would say." His thumb moved gently over my palm which he kissed next. "I knew there was some trouble for you when you were at university."

The shame unfelt in years came crawling back over me. "Yes."

"And he abandoned you when you needed him most?" His fingers moved on my wrist and this was where his mouth landed next and lingered there.

"Yes." To admit it in those words even without details was a relief. Raffles knew the details, or he would not have asked, and I thanked him for not making me dwell on them. I tried not to linger on the knowledge that if Raffles knew, he must have heard it discussed. The intervention of my father had saved me from being publicly shamed, but I was certain that my indiscretion was known among our circle

"Then that decides it for me." He rose to sit next to me on the bed. "With your permission, Bunny, I will avenge you."

I shook my head. "There's no need. It's over now." I slid my hand in his. And then I kissed him. I didn't know why I was so nervous to do so, but I could tell he had been waiting for me to be the one to kiss him. I moved my hand to his neck, drawing him nearer. He seemed to be holding himself back, allowing me to take the lead. I was glad for him, and thoughts of anyone but Raffles now absented themselves from my mind. He carefully coaxed my lips apart. Raffles was cautious and gentle, trailing kisses down my jaw and neck before returning to my lips. The moon was high in the sky before we parted; I nearly asked him to spend the night with me, but he seemed to know before I even said anything that it would not be wise.

"Good night, Bunny," he said, kissing my forehead, which made me shiver even though we had shared much more intimate kisses.

"Good night," I said, feeling strangely shy.

"Tomorrow the match concludes," Raffles said, before vanishing into his own room. It sounded so final I wondered what he had planned.

**

I didn't consciously decide to wear Raffles's blazer the next morning. It was simply still there in my room from when I had carried it back the evening before. I tucked my notebook into it and headed down to the field. Raffles had had his side in the nets since early morning; I had missed him at breakfast. I settled myself in my seat and opened my notebook. I had only made minimal notes yesterday, just what the score had been at each interval so I could spin a story from it. The other contest had demanded more of my attention, but that was now all but resolved; my face burned when I remembered Raffles's kisses and thought of more to come.

Oliver had placed himself near the end of the batting order, so he had yet to appear. Raffles's side boasted competent bowlers aside from him, but I knew he was itching to face Oliver, especially the more runs his side got.

Raffles seemed to have calmed from his agitation of the previous day. He himself bagged two wickets as a bowler before lunch and made a fine catch as a fielder. I had to consciously make notes so I would be able to reference other players.

Oliver seemed as keen to hit Raffles as Raffles had been to hit him the day before. I could see Raffles's irritation grow as the run total approached the one his side had made yesterday. When Oliver came in, eight wickets had fallen. Raffles caught his partner out, then took the ball to begin his own over.

Oliver got into position, tapping the ground with his bat. I could see the greedy sneer on his face, and if I could see it, I knew Raffles could, too.

None but me saw the true nature of this matchup, so when the bails clattered to the ground on the first ball of the over, a sharp intake of breath went through the crowd. I applauded, gradually, the rest of the spectators joined in.

Oliver looked flummoxed even as the players shook hands. Everyone seemed pleased that both innings had been completed before tea.

"Was that a dramatic enough finish for your story, Bunny?" Raffles asked when I had joined him.

"Quite," I assured him.

He clapped my shoulder, fingers moving over the fabric of his blazer. "And thank you for finding this. I don't know what I would do without it!"

I smiled. I felt very silly but we went in for tea as close as schoolboys.

**

I was nervous for the rest of the afternoon and evening, and it wasn't until dinner that I realized I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Raffles was perfectly charming at dinner and after; he was putting Oliver at ease. Raffles had not truly had his innings.

Indeed, I had just gotten in bed with a book (but not undressed) when Raffles let himself into my room.

"Bunny," he said, "have you given any further thought to what you would like?"

"Nothing," I said as he climbed into bed beside me. "Aside from you." I kissed him; he seemed glad that I was taking the liberty and opened his mouth to me.

He settled his arm around my waist without breaking our kiss. "You already have that."

I snuggled back against him, debating suggesting we change into our pajamas and simply go to sleep. I was already halfway there with Raffles rubbing my back.

"I have a plan which involves no theft," he said, lips against the back of my head. "It involves merely bringing a fraudster to justice. I will carry it out with your permission."

I thought for a moment. What I really wanted was for him to stay beside me and for us to go home in the morning.

He kissed the back of my neck. "I will return to you as soon as I have completed my evening's work. Unless you would like to assist me?"

I sighed. "Tonight, Raffles, I would prefer not to."

He kissed me again. "I promise you will find this satisfactory." He rose and went to the door of my room. "Oh, and Bunny, I did lie to you before. This will involve some slight theft: a miniscule quantity of the housekeeper's stock of cleaning chemicals. To retrieve the key is for me as easy as tying my shoes. Are you certain you will not join me?"

I pushed myself out of bed.

"In fact, I have already borrowed the key." He held it up on its chain. "Come downstairs."

I followed him wordlessly and kept watch as he rummaged through the cabinet. What was normally so mundane a task for us, barely saved from being beneath all notice by the mystery of what he planned to do, had suddenly taken on a giddy excitement. I let out a suppressed giggle as we made our way up the servants' stairs to the ground floor.

"Calm yourself, my dear man," Raffles said with mock sternness. "You cannot give us up when we are on an errand for your benefit."

"But, Raffles," I whispered, "what are you going to do with spirit of salts?"

"This," he said. We had stopped before the gargoyle in the hall. He handed me the bottle. "Good—you are wearing gloves. Take care not to let any get on any part of your clothes, much less your bare skin. That will be very difficult to explain indeed."

He had taken from his tools which he brought with him everywhere a small drill which he began to use to bore holes in the gargoyle.

"But that's—"

"Not authentic at all.. A very convincing replica, but a replica all the same. He has been in collusion with a very talented artist. I should think he might have found something if he put half the thought into his digging."

"He can't mean to fool the archaeologists with this!" I said as I saw the thin "stone" covering easily bored through to reveal what looked like mere plaster.

"He certainly won't be able to now." Raffles laid his drill aside and took the bottle from me. As soon as the solution had been dropped into the holes, there was a low hissing. The outer layer cracked as more of the inside was burned away.

"A pity about the floor," he said, taking a step back. "I hope you will not fault me for collateral damage, Bunny."

"No," I said faintly. Raffles carefully capped the bottle again and we returned it to its proper place, along with the key.

Once we were clean and dressed for bed, he did lie down with me again.

"I would have done far worse for you, Bunny, you know that," he said against my neck.

"I know." I squeezed his hand which lay on my hip. "Thank you, Raffles."

I slept soundly that night, secure in his arms.

**

We rose early in case there should be a hue and cry over the sabotaged gargoyle. It would not do to be discovered cuddled up so cozily when all we had to do was leave quietly and have all the privacy we wanted back at the Albany.

By the time we got downstairs, there was a cluster of cricketers standing around Oliver, looking at the ruined remains of the gargoyle. The parquet was dusted with plaster, the fake now unmistakable to even the least archaeologically minded of onlookers.

"I say, old man, I think you've been had," Raffles said casually.

Oliver's immediate response was to grab Raffles and slam him into the wall. "You."

"Oliver!" Lady Lewton exclaimed. "What on Earth has gotten into you?"

Raffles said nothing, his eyes never leaving Oliver's. He calmly removed Oliver's hands from his shoulders. "Someone has duped you," he said, not breaking eye contact. "That is what you will want to tell the archaeologists. I'm sure they'll be arriving soon."

Oliver stepped back. "Mr. Raffles was just going, my dear."

"Yes," Raffles agreed. "And Mr. Manders with me. We thank you for your hospitality."

**

We took the nine-fifteen. I had thought Raffles might have wanted to see the rest of the fallout of Oliver's duplicity, but he was remarkably unconcerned, even for having been hurried off with only tea and buns at the station for breakfast.

I was glad we had a compartment to ourselves; I don't think I could have stood not to touch him. We sat next to each other, arms entwined.

"Oh, I have something for you, Bunny," Raffles said presently.

And he dropped a pair of cufflinks into my hand.

"Raffles, I told you not to—!"

"Look more closely, Bunny. Is that not our school's seal and your initials?"

My face burned with shame again; they indeed were identical to the ones Raffles himself wore.

"You must have lost them," he said. I appreciated his trying to preserve my dignity, but I could not let him.

"I gave them to him. Years ago."

"Naturally. I didn't think it would have been recently." He kissed my temple. "I have one more question and then we will never speak of this again. What did you do with what he gave you? I assume it was that sort of transaction."

My face reddened again, though this time it was not entirely from shame. I risked dropping my arm about his shoulders; he seemed to like that. "I pawned his ring. It was the first thing I pawned, actually, in that period when I was in difficulties."

"I remember it very well, for it brought us together again." He was smiling a silly smile I had never seen on his face before.

"Yes."

"When we get home, you must write your article."

"No," I said firmly, kissing him. "When we get home, we are going to bed."

This seemed to please him immensely.