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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter IV The Silent Sea

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She was saved in the gig. Sweet Jesus, thanks for that! But I - I was dying a lingering death in mid-ocean; she would never know how I loved her, I, who could only lecture her when I had her at my side.

Dying? No - no - not yet! I must live - live - live - to tell my darling how I had loved her all the time. So I forced myself from my lethargy of despair and grief; and this thought, the sweetest thought of all my life, may or may not have been my unrealized stimulus ere now; it was in very deed my most conscious and perpetual spur henceforth until the end.

>From this onward, while my sense stood by me, I was practical, resourceful, alert. It was now high-noon, and I had eaten nothing since dinner the night before. How clearly I saw the long saloon table, only laid, however, abaft the mast; the glittering glass, the cool white napery, the poor old dried dessert in the green dishes! Earlier, this had occupied my mind an hour; now I dismissed it in a moment; there was Eva, I must live for her; there must be ways of living at least a day or two without sustenance, and I must think of them.

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So I undid that belt of mine which fastened me to my gridiron, and I straddled my craft with a sudden keen eye for sharks, of which I never once had thought until now. Then I tightened the belt about my hollow body, and just sat there with the problem. The past hour I had been wholly unobservant; the inner eye had had its turn; but that was over now, and I sat as upright as possible, seeking greedily for a sail. Of course I saw none. Had we indeed been off our course before the fire broke out? Had we burned to cinders aside and apart from the regular track of ships? Then, though my present valiant mood might ignore the adverse chances, they were as one hundred to a single chance of deliverance. Our burning had brought no ship to our succor; and how should I, a mere speck amid the waves, bring one to mine?

Moreover, I was all but motionless; I was barely drifting at all. This I saw from a few objects which were floating around me now at noon; they had been with me when the high sun rose. One was, I think, the very oar which had been my first support; another was a sailor's cap; but another, which floated nearer, was new to me, as though it had come to the surface while my eyes were turned inwards. And this was clearly the case; for the thing was a drowned and bloated corpse.

It fascinated me, though not with extraordinary horror; it came too late to do that. I thought I recognized the man's back. I fancied it was the mate who had taken charge of the long-boat. Was I then the single survivor of those thirty souls? I was still watching my poor lost com rade, when that happened to him against which even I was not proof. Through the deep translucent blue beneath me a slim shape glided; three smaller fish led the way; they dallied an instant a fathom under my feet, which were snatched up, with what haste you may imagine; then on they went to surer prey.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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