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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XIV In the Garden

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Doubly desolate it looked in the rays of that bright October moon. Skulking in the shadow of the wall which had so long baffled me, I looked across a sharp border of shade upon a chaos, the more striking for its lingering trim design. The long, straight paths were barnacled with weeds; the dense, fine hedges, once prim and angular, had fattened out of all shape or form; and on the velvet sward of other days you might have waded waist high in rotten hay. Towards the garden end this rank jungle merged into a worse wilderness of rhododendrons, the tallest I have ever seen. On all this the white moon smiled, and the grim house glowered, to the eternal swirl and rattle of the beck beyond its walls.

Long enough I stood where I had dropped, listening with all my being for some other sound; but at last that great studded door creaked and shivered on its ancient hinges, and I heard voices arguing in the Portuguese tongue. It was poor Eva wheedling that black rascal Jose. I saw her in the lighted porch; the nigger I saw also, shrugging and gesticulating for all the world like his hateful master; yet giving in, I felt certain, though I could not understand a word that reached me.

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And indeed my little mistress very soon sailed calmly out, followed by final warnings and expostulations hurled from the step: for the black stood watching her as she came steadily my way, now raising her head to sniff the air, now stooping to pluck up a weed, the very picture of a prisoner seeking the open air for its own sake solely. I had a keen eye apiece for them as I cowered closer to the wall, revolver in hand. But ere my love was very near me (for she would stand long moments gazing ever so innocently at the moon), her jailer had held a bottle to the light, and had beaten a retreat so sudden and so hasty that I expected him back every moment, and so durst not stir. Eva saw me, however, and contrived to tell me so without interrupting the air that she was humming as she walked.

"Follow me," she sang, "only keep as you are, keep as you are, close to the wall, close to the wall."

And on she strolled to her own tune, and came abreast of me without turning her head; so I crept in the shadow (my ugly weapon tucked out of sight), and she sauntered in the shine, until we came to the end of the garden, where the path turned at right angles, running behind the rhododendrons; once in their shelter, she halted and beckoned me, and next instant I had her hands in mine.

"At last!" was all that I could say for many a moment, as I stood there gazing into her dear eyes, no hero in my heroic hour, but the bigger love-sick fool than ever. "But quick - quick - quick!" I added, as she brought me to my senses by withdrawing her hands. "We've no time to lose." And I looked wildly from wall to wall, only to find them as barren and inaccessible on this side as on the other.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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