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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter IX My Convalescent Home

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I inquired in which direction lay the hall. She pointed to the nearest trees, a small forest of stunted oaks, which shut in the view to the right, after quarter of a mile of a bare and rugged valley. Through this valley twisted the beck which I had heard faintly in the night. It ran through the oak plantation and so to the sea, some two or three miles further on, said my landlady; but nobody would have thought it was so near.

"T'squire was to be away to-day," observed the woman, with the broad vowel sound which I shall not attempt to reproduce in print. "He was going to Lancaster, I believe."

"So I understood," said I. "I didn't think of troubling him, if that's what you mean. I'm going to take his advice and fish the beck."

And I proceeded to do so after a hearty early dinner: the keen, chill air was doing me good already: the "perfect quiet" was finding its way into my soul. I blessed my specialist, I blessed Squire Rattray, I blessed the very villains who had brought us within each other's ken; and nowhere was my thanksgiving more fervent than in the deep cleft threaded by the beck; for here the shrewd yet gentle wind passed completely overhead, and the silence was purged of oppression by the ceaseless symphony of clear water running over clean stones.

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But it was no day for fishing, and no place for the fly, though I went through the form of throwing one for several hours. Here the stream merely rinsed its bed, there it stood so still, in pools of liquid amber, that, when the sun shone, the very pebbles showed their shadows in the deepest places. Of course I caught nothing; but, towards the close of the gold-brown afternoon, I made yet another new acquaintance, in the person of a little old clergyman who attacked me pleasantly from the rear.

"Bad day for fishing, sir," croaked the cheery voice which first informed me of his presence. "Ah, I knew it must be a stranger," he cried as I turned and he hopped down to my side with the activity of a much younger man.

"Yes," I said, "I only came down from London yesterday. I find the spot so delightful that I haven't bothered much about the sport. Still, I've had about enough of it now." And I prepared to take my rod to pieces.

"Spot and sport!" laughed the old gentleman. "Didn't mean it for a pun, I hope? Never could endure puns! So you came down yesterday, young gentleman, did you? And where may you be staying?"

I described the position of my cottage without the slightest hesitation; for this parson did not scare me; except in appearance he had so little in common with his type as I knew it. He had, however, about the shrewdest pair of eyes that I have ever seen, and my answer only served to intensify their open scrutiny.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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