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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XIII The Longest Day of My Life

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It must have been about mid-day when Rattray reappeared, ruddy, spurred, and splashed with mud; a comfort to sick eyes, I declare, in spite of all. He brought me two little vials, put one on the chimney-piece, poured the other into my tumbler, and added a little water.

"There, old fellow," said he; "swallow that, and if you don't get some sleep the chemist who made it up is the greatest liar unhung."

"What is it?' I asked, the glass in my hand, and my eyes on those of my companion.

"I don't know," said he. "I just told them to make up the strongest sleeping-draught that was safe, and I mentioned something about your case. Toss it off, man; it's sure to be all right."

Yes, I could trust him; he was not that sort of villain, for all that Eva Denison had said. I liked his face as well as ever. I liked his eye, and could have sworn to its honesty as I drained the glass. Even had it been otherwise, I must have taken my chance or shown him all; as it was, when he had pulled down my blind, and shaken my pillow, and he gave me his hand once more, I took it with involuntary cordiality. I only grieved that so fine a young fellow should have involved himself in so villainous a business; yet for Eva's sake I was glad that he had; for my mind failed (rather than refused) to believe him so black as she had painted him.

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The long, long afternoon that followed I never shall forget. The opiate racked my head; it did not do its work; and I longed to sleep till evening with a longing I have never known before or since. Everything seemed to depend upon it; I should be a man again, if only I could first be a log for a few hours. But no; my troubles never left me for an instant; and there I must lie, pretending that they had! For the other draught was for the night; and if they but thought the first one had taken due effect, so much the less would they trouble their heads about me when they believed that I had swallowed the second.

Oh, but it was cruel! I lay and wept with weakness and want of sleep; ere night fell I knew that it would find me useless, if indeed my reason lingered on. To lie there helpless when Eva was expecting me, that would be the finishing touch. I should rise a maniac if ever I rose at all. More probably I would put one of my five big bullets into my own splitting head; it was no small temptation, lying there in a double agony, with the loaded weapon by my side.

Then sometimes I thought it was coming; and perhaps for an instant would be tossing in my hen-coop; then back once more. And I swear that my physical and mental torments, here in my bed, would have been incomparably greater than anything I had endured on the sea, but for the saving grace of one sweet thought. She lived! She lived! And the God who had taken care o me, a castaway, would surely deliver her also from the hands of murderers and thieves. But not through me - I lay weak and helpless - and my tears ran again and yet again as I felt myself growing hourly weaker.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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