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A Thief in the Night

The Chest of Silver
Like all the tribe of which I held him head, Raffles professed the liveliest disdain
for unwieldy plunder of any description; it might be old Sheffield, or it might be
solid silver or gold, but if the thing was not to be concealed about the person, he
would none whatever of it. Unlike the rest of us, however, in this as in all else,
Raffles would not infrequently allow the acquisitive spirit of the mere collector to
silence the dictates of professional prudence. The old oak chests, and even the
mahogany wine-cooler, for which he had doubtless paid like an honest citizen,
were thus immovable with pieces of crested plate, which he had neither the
temerity to use nor the hardihood to melt or sell. He could but gloat over them
behind locked doors, as I used to tell him, and at last one afternoon I caught him
at it. It was in the year after that of my novitiate, a halcyon period at the Albany,
when Raffles left no crib uncracked, and I played second-murderer every time. I
had called in response to a telegram in which he stated that he was going out of
town, and must say good-by to me before he went. And I could only think that he
was inspired by the same impulse toward the bronzed salvers and the tarnished
teapots with which I found him surrounded, until my eyes lit upon the enormous
silver-chest into which he was fitting them one by one.
"Allow me, Bunny! I shall take the liberty of locking both doors behind you and
putting the key in my pocket," said Raffles, when he had let me in. "Not that I
mean to take you prisoner, my dear fellow; but there are those of us who can turn
keys from the outside, though it was never an accomplishment of mine."
"Not Crawshay again?" I cried, standing still in my hat.
Raffles regarded me with that tantalizing smile of his which might mean nothing,
yet which often meant so much; and in a flash I was convinced that our most
jealous enemy and dangerous rival, the doyen of an older school, had paid him
yet another visit.
"That remains to be seen," was the measured reply; "and I for one have not set
naked eye on the fellow since I saw him off through that window and left myself
for dead on this very spot. In fact, I imagined him comfortably back in jail."
"Not old Crawshay!" said I. "He's far too good a man to be taken twice. I should
call him the very prince of professional cracksmen."
"Should you?" said Raffles coldly, with as cold an eye looking into mine. "Then
you had better prepare to repel princes when I'm gone."
"But gone where?" I asked, finding a corner for my hat and coat, and helping
myself to the comforts of the venerable dresser which was one of our friend's
greatest treasures. "Where is it you are off to, and why are you taking this herd of
white elephants with you?"
Raffles bestowed the cachet of his smile on my description of his motley plate.
He joined me in one of his favorite cigarettes, only shaking a superior head at his
own decanter.
 
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