A Thief in the Night
The Raffles Relics
It was in one of the magazines for December, 1899, that an article appeared
which afforded our minds a brief respite from the then consuming excitement of
the war in South Africa. These were the days when Raffles really had white hair,
and when he and I were nearing the end of our surreptitious second innings, as
professional cracksmen of the deadliest dye. Piccadilly and the Albany knew us
no more. But we still operated, as the spirit tempted us, from our latest and most
idyllic base, on the borders of Ham Common. Recreation was our greatest want;
and though we had both descended to the humble bicycle, a lot of reading was
forced upon us in the winter evenings. Thus the war came as a boon to us both.
It not only provided us with an honest interest in life, but gave point and zest to
innumerable spins across Richmond Park, to the nearest paper shop; and it was
from such an expedition that I returned with inflammatory matter unconnected
with the war. The magazine was one of those that are read (and sold) by the
million; the article was rudely illustrated on every other page. Its subject was the
so-called Black Museum at Scotland Yard; and from the catchpenny text we first
learned that the gruesome show was now enriched by a special and elaborate
exhibit known as the Raffles Relics.
"Bunny," said Raffles, "this is fame at last! It is no longer notoriety; it lifts one out
of the ruck of robbers into the society of the big brass gods, whose little
delinquencies are written in water by the finger of time. The Napoleon Relics we
know, the Nelson Relics we've heard about, and here are mine!"
"Which I wish to goodness we could see," I added, longingly. Next moment I was
sorry I had spoken. Raffles was looking at me across the magazine. There was a
smile on his lips that I knew too well, a light in his eyes that I had kindled.
"What an excellent idea? he exclaimed, quite softly, as though working it out
already in his brain.
"I didn't mean it for one," I answered, "and no more do you."
"Certainly I do," said Raffles. "I was never more serious in my life."
"You would march into Scotland Yard in broad daylight?"
"In broad lime-light," he answered, studying the magazine again, "to set eyes on
my own once more. Why here they all. are, Bunny - you never told me there was
an illustration. That's the chest you took to your bank with me inside, and those
must be my own rope-ladder and things on top. They produce so badly in the
baser magazines that it's impossible to swear to them; there's nothing for it but a
visit of inspection."
"Then you can pay it alone," said I grimly. "You may have altered, but they'd
know me at a glance."
"By all. means, Bunny, if you'll get me the pass."