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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter VI The Sole Survivor

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This speech had the effect of really interesting the doctor in my present condition, which was indeed one of chronic irritation and extreme excitability, alternating with fits of the very blackest despair. Instead of offending my gentleman I had put him on his mettle, and for half an hour he honored me with the most exhaustive inquisition ever elicited from a medical man. His panacea was somewhat in the nature of an anti-climax, but at least it had the merits of simplicity and of common sense. A change of air - perfect quiet - say a cottage in the country - not too near the sea. And he shook my hand kindly when I left.

"Keep up your heart, my dear sir," said he. "Keep up your courage and your heart."

"My heart!" I cried. "It's at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean."

He was the first to whom I had said as much. He was a stranger. What did it matter? And, oh, it was so true - so true.

Every day and all day I was thinking of my love; every hour and all hours she was before me with her sunny hair and young, young face. Her wistful eyes were gazing into mine continually. Their wistfulness I had never realized at the time; but now I did; and I saw it for what it seemed always to have been, the soft, sad, yearning look of one fated to die young. So young - so young! And I might live to be an old man, mourning her.

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That I should never love again I knew full well. This time there was no mistake. I have implied, I believe, that it was for another woman I fled originally to the diggings. Well, that one was still unmarried, and when the papers were full of me she wrote me a letter which I now believe to have been merely kind. At the time I was all uncharitableness; but words of mine would fail to tell you how cold this letter left me; it was as a candle lighted in the full blaze of the sun.

With all my bitterness, however, you must not suppose that I had quite lost the feelings which had inspired me at sunset on the lonely ocean, while my mind still held good. I had been too near my Maker ever to lose those feelings altogether. They were with me in the better moments of these my worst days. I trusted His wisdom still. There was a reason for everything; there were reasons for all this. I alone had been saved out of all those souls who sailed from Melbourne in the Lady Jermyn. Why should I have been the favored one; I with my broken heart and now lonely life? Some great inscrutable reason there must be; at my worst I did not deny that. But neither did I puzzle my sick brain with the reason. I just waited for it to be revealed to me, if it were God's will ever to reveal it. And that I conceive to be the one spirit in which a man may contemplate, with equal sanity and reverence, the mysteries and the miseries of his life.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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