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|Dead Men Tell No Tales||E. W. Hornung|
Chapter VII I Find a Friend
|Page 4 of 6||
"By the way," he said, "I ought to give you my name. It's Rattray, of one of the many Kirby Halls in this country. My one's down in Lancashire."
"I suppose there's no need to tell my name?" said I, less sadly, I daresay, than I had ever yet alluded to the tragedy which I alone survived. It was an unnecessary allusion, too, as a reference to the foregoing conversation will show.
"Well, no!" said he, in his frank fashion; "I can't honestly say there is."
We took a few puffs, he watching the fire, and I his firelit face.
"It must seem strange to you to be sitting with the only man who lived to tell the tale!"
The egotism of this speech was not wholly gratuitous. I thought it did seem strange to him: that a needless constraint was put upon him by excessive consideration for my feelings. I desired to set him at his ease as he had set me at mine. On the contrary, he seemed quite startled by my remark.
"It is strange," he said, with a shudder, followed by the biggest sip of brandy-and-water he had taken yet. "It must have been horrible - horrible!" he added to himself, his dark eyes staring into the fire.
"Ah!" said I, "it was even more horrible than you suppose or can ever imagine."
I was not thinking of myself, nor of my love, nor of any particular incident of the fire that still went on burning in my brain. My tone was doubtless confidential, but I was meditating no special confidence when my companion drew one with his next words. These, however, came after a pause, in which my eyes had fallen from his face, but in which I heard him emptying his glass.
"What do you mean?" he whispered. "That there were other circumstances - things which haven't got into the papers?"
"God knows there were," I answered, my face in my hands; and, my grief brought home to me, there I sat with it in the presence of that stranger, without compunction and without shame.
He sprang up and paced the room. His tact made me realize my weakness, and I was struggling to overcome it when he surprised me by suddenly stopping and laying a rather tremulous hand upon my shoulder.
"You - It wouldn't do you any good to speak of those circumstances, I suppose?" he faltered.
"No: not now: no good at all."
"Forgive me," he said, resuming his walk. "I had no business - I felt so sorry - I cannot tell you how I sympathize! And yet - I wonder if you will always feel so?"
"No saying how I shall feel when I am a man again," said I. "You see what I am at present." And, pulling myself together, I rose to find my new friend quite agitated in his turn.
"I wish we had some more brandy," he sighed. "I'm afraid it's too late to get any now."
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|Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung
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