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  Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XIV In the Garden

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It so happened that I met nobody at all; but I must confess that my luck was better than my management. As I came upon the beck, a new sound reached me with the swirl. It was the jingle of bit and bridle; the beat of hoofs came after; and I had barely time to fling myself flat, when two horsemen emerged from the plantation, riding straight towards me in the moonlight. If they continued on that course they could not fail to see me as they passed along the opposite bank. However, to my unspeakable relief, they were scarce clear of the trees when they turned their horses' heads, rode them through the water a good seventy yards from where I lay, and so away at a canter across country towards the road. On my hands and knees I had a good look at them as they bobbed up and down under the moon; and my fears subsided in astonished curiosity. For I have already boasted of my eyesight, and I could have sworn that neither Rattray nor any one of his guests was of the horsemen; yet the back and shoulders of one of these seemed somehow familiar to me. Not that I wasted many moments over the coincidence, for I had other things to think about as I ran on to the hall.

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I found the rear of the building in darkness unrelieved from within; on the other hand, the climbing moon beat so full upon the garden wall, it was as though a lantern pinned me as I crept beneath it. In passing I thought I might as well try the gate; but Eva was right; it was locked; and that made me half inclined to distrust my eyes in the matter of the two horsemen, for whence could they have come, if not from the hall? In any case I was well rid of them. I now followed the wall some little distance, and then, to see over it, walked backwards until I was all but in the beck; and there, sure enough, shone my darling's candle, close as close against the diamond panes of her narrow, lofty window! It brought those ready tears back to my foolish, fevered eyes. But for sentiment there was no time, and every other emotion was either futile or premature. So I mastered my full heart, I steeled, my wretched nerves, and braced my limp muscles for the task that lay before them.

I had a garden wall to scale, nearly twice my own height, and without notch or cranny in the ancient, solid masonry. I stood against it on my toes, and I touched it with my finger-tips as high up as possible. Some four feet severed them from the coping that left only half a sky above my upturned eyes.

I do not know whether I have made it plain that the house was not surrounded by four walls, but merely filled a breach in one of the four, which nipped it (as it were) at either end. The back entrance was approachable enough, but barred or watched, I might be very sure. It is ever the vulnerable points which are most securely guarded, and it was my one comfort that the difficult way must also be the safe way, if only the difficulty could be overcome. How to overcome it was the problem. I followed the wall right round to the point at which it abutted on the tower that immured my love; the height never varied; nor could my hands or eyes discover a single foot-hole, ledge, or other means of mounting to the top.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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