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A Thief in the Night (By Candlelight)

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In those days, it was not so often that Raffles went about a robbery with no involvement from myself, but on this particular night I had been left in his rooms at the Albany without a word said. I will admit that I had drunk rather too much that afternoon. It had been the day of the boat race. Raffles and I had found a perfect spot by the river from which to watch events and from there the festivities unfolded. I recalled, with a dim memory, him striking up conversation with a couple of fellows nearby, once the winning team had passed the finishing line. Their talk had alluded me. The noise of the crowd had been intense. It seemed, however, not long after that that I had been bundled off to the Albany and deposited on a sofa where I was, I supposed, intended to sleep off my excesses. And sleep I had. When I awoke it was pitch dark.

I rubbed my head, winced, and lifted myself from the sofa. I felt along the wall to find a lamp. However, when I attempted to light it, no light appeared.

“Damn,” thought I, “A pipe must have broken.”

Despite the desirability of an establishment like the Albany, this was not the rare occasion one might think.

I took a book of matches from my pocket and lit one. Then I took my pocket watch and checked the time. It was nearly a quarter past one.

“Raffles?” I spoke in hushed tones.

There came no answer.

“Raffles!” This slightly louder, followed by an even louder oath as the match’s flame met my fingers.

Neither provoked a response. I shuffled back towards my seat. I could think of nothing else to do but go back to sleep. I got so far as shutting my eyes, but my mind would not rest. Where was Raffles? It seemed late. Surely he should have returned home by now? Raffles was certainly equal to looking after himself, I knew. Yet, half an hour later, when I at last heard a key in the lock, having slept not a wink in the meantime, I was mad with agitation. I had spent so long simply staring across the room, lost in thought after thought of what could have become of my friend, that my eyes had become quite accustomed to the darkness. I saw him walk the length of the flat, and I couldn’t help but admire this display of his art, for he stepped as effortlessly and lightly as if it had been broad daylight. All this being so, what I said to him was:

“Where the hell have you been all this while?”

At first he affected not to have noticed me and let out a pleasant, “Aha! Bunny! You needn’t have waited up for me.”

“I didn’t,” I informed him with dignity. It was not exactly a lie or a truth so I felt secure in uttering it.

“What a cross rabbit it is. You shouldn’t wrinkle your nose so, Bunny. Hold on a moment, let’s shed some light on the subject.”

He had his own matches and easily took hold of the two candles on the mantelpiece. He placed them on the coffee table in the middle of the room.

“Much better,” said he, having lit them.

I nodded stiffly and moved along the sofa to give him room.

“I suppose you’ve got a terrible head from all that champagne?”

I didn’t deign to answer.

“Never mind, never mind,” said he, quite cheerful, “I have something that will make all well in the world.”

And with that he took a handkerchief from his pocket and opened it on to the table. String upon string of a diamond and silver necklace to spill out, sparkling in the candlelight like the ocean on a clear noon.

I let out a gasp despite myself. This seemed to please Raffles a great deal, for he grinned and took the necklace, placing it over my head. But of course the catch had not been undone, it just hung comically over me like a veil. I told myself not to laugh. When he came toward me, determined to have me wearing it properly, I could not stop myself. I batted him away as best I could but it made him more determined. When he lunged to give me a swift bite on the neck I could fight no more and dissolved into fits of laughter beneath him.

“To the bedroom then?”

I pushed him away, though without much conviction. I remembered that I had matters to raise with him and I was not going to allow myself to be charmed out of raising them.

“You could have let me know what you were about,” I said.

For a moment, he looked as though he would ignore me completely, but seeing how serious I was in this, he put on a solemn face.

“My dear rabbit,” said he, “I could hardly have gotten my plan through to you when you were comatose with drink.”

I owned that this was indeed a problem but that a note might have been written, some time might have been suggested when I could expect his return. He promised to think it over more carefully in the future.

“Bedroom?”

“Do you have any idea how worried I was about you?” I persisted, “Do you realise how I was kept up?”

He looked me straight in the eye and, for a moment, I was worried that he was about to ask me: “How long were you kept up, Bunny?” In which case I would have had to reply, “Around half an hour.”

Instead he turned his attention to the light. He said, with a pensive tone, “It’s not often we have nothing to see by but candlelight,” and then, seeming to ponder the situation more closely, he added, “What shall we do to make the most of it?”

I sniffed, and eyed him warily. I felt as though he might be leading me into something. “On winter nights in the nursery,” I said, hesitantly, “We used to pass the candle back and forth and tell stories.”

Raffles laughed.

“Very well,” said he, “We used to try and cheat each other at cards. I picked up a few neat tricks in that nursery, I can tell you. I may very well show you some later on tonight. For now, however, pass me that candle and lay your head down here on my lap. For it just so happens that I have a story to tell.”