A Thief in the Night
The Spoils of Sacrilege
There was one deed of those days which deserved a place in our original annals.
It is the deed of which I am personally most ashamed. I have traced the course of
a score of felonies, from their source in the brain of Raffles to their issue in his
hands. I have omitted all. mention of the one which emanated from my own
miserable mind. But in these supplementary memoirs, wherein I pledged myself
to extenuate nothing more that I might have to tell of Raffles, it is only fair that I
should make as clean a breast of my own baseness. It was I, then, and I alone,
who outraged natural sentiment, and trampled the expiring embers of elementary
decency, by proposing and planning the raid upon my own old home.
I would not accuse myself the more vehemently by making excuses at this point.
Yet I feel bound to state that it was already many years since the place had
passed from our possession into that of an utter alien, against whom I harbored a
prejudice which was some excuse in itself. He had enlarged and altered the dear
old place out of knowledge; nothing had been good enough for him as it stood in
our day. The man was a hunting maniac, and where my dear father used to grow
prize peaches under glass, this vandal was soon stabling his hothouse
thoroughbreds, which took prizes in their turn at all. the country shows. It was a
southern county, and I never went down there without missing another
greenhouse and noting a corresponding extension to the stables. Not that I ever
set foot in the grounds from the day we left; but for some years I used to visit old
friends in the neighborhood, and could never resist the temptation to reconnoiter
the scenes of my childhood. And so far as could be seen from the road - which it
stood too near - the house itself appeared to be the one thing that the horsey
purchaser had left much as he found it.
My only other excuse may be none at all. in any eyes but mine. It was my
passionate desire at this period to "keep up my end" with Raffles in every
department of the game felonious. He would insist upon an equal division of all.
proceeds; it was for me to earn my share. So far I had been useful only at a
pinch; the whole credit of any real success belonged invariably to Raffles. It had
always been his idea. That was the tradition which I sought to end, and no
means could compare with that of my unscrupulous choice. There was the one
house in England of which I knew every inch, and Raffles only what I told him.
For once I must lead, and Raffles follow, whether he liked it or not. He saw that
himself; and I think he liked it better than he liked me for the desecration in view;
but I had hardened my heart, and his feelings were too fine for actual
remonstrance on such a point.
I, in my obduracy, went to foul extremes. I drew plans of all. the floors from
memory. I actually descended upon my friends in the neighborhood, with the sole
object of obtaining snap-shots over our own old garden wall. Even Raffles could
not keep his eyebrows down when I showed him the prints one morning in the
Albany. But he confined his open criticisms to the house.
"Built in the late 'sixties, I see," said Raffles, "or else very early in the 'seventies."