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The Last Laugh
As I have had occasion to remark elsewhere, the pick of our exploits, from a
frankly criminal point of view, are of least use for the comparatively pure
purposes of these papers. They might be appreciated in a trade journal (if only
that want could be supplied), by skilled manipulators of the jemmy and the large
light bunch; but, as records of unbroken yet insignificant success, they would be
found at once too trivial and too technical, if not sordid and unprofitable into the
bargain. The latter epithets, and worse, have indeed already been applied, if not
to Raffles and all his works, at least to mine upon Raffles, by more than one
worthy wielder of a virtuous pen. I need not say how heartily I disagree with that
truly pious opinion. So far from admitting a single word of it, I maintain it is the
liveliest warning that I am giving to the world. Raffles was a genius, and he could
not make it pay! Raffles had invention, resource, incomparable audacity, and a
nerve in ten thousand. He was both strategian and tactician, and we all now
know the difference between the two. Yet for months he had been hiding like a
rat in a hole, unable to show even his altered face by night or day without risk,
unless another risk were courted by three inches of conspicuous crepe. Then
thus far our rewards had oftener than not been no reward at all. Altogether it was
a very different story from the old festive, unsuspected, club and cricket days,
with their noctes ambrosianae at the Albany.
And now, in addition to the eternal peril of recognition, there was yet another
menace of which I knew nothing. I thought no more of our Neapolitan organ-
grinders, though I did often think of the moving page that they had torn for me out
of my friend's strange life in Italy. Raffles never alluded to the subject again, and
for my part I had entirely forgotten his wild ideas connecting the organ-grinders
with the Camorra, and imagining them upon his own tracks. I heard no more of it,
and thought as little, as I say. Then one night in the autumn--I shrink from
shocking the susceptible for nothing--but there was a certain house in Palace