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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XIX My Great Hour

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"They slipped out behind us, all but the one inside," said Royds, ruefully; "I'm hanged if I know yet how it happened - but we were on them next second. Before that the nigger had made us hide him in the grass, but the old devil ran straight into him, and the one fired as the other struck. It's the worst bit of luck in the whole business, and I'm rather disappointed on the whole. I've been nursing the job all this week; had my last look round this very evening, with one of these officers, and only rode back for more to make sure of taking our gentlemen alive. And we've lost three out of four of 'em, and have still to lay hands on the gold! I suppose you didn't know there was any aboard ?" he asked abruptly.

"Not before to-night."

"Nor did we till the Devoren came in with letters last week, a hundred and thirty days out. She should have been in a month before you, but she got amongst the ice around the Horn. There was a letter of advice about the gold, saying it would probably go in the Lady Jermyn; and another about Rattray and his schooner, which had just sailed; the young gentleman was known to the police out there."

"Do you know where the schooner is ?"

"Bless you, no, we've had no time to think about her; the man had been seen about town, and we've done well to lay hands on him in the time."

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"You will do better still when you do lay hands on him," said I, wresting my eyes from the yellow dead face of the foreign scoundrel. The moon shone full upon his high forehead, his shrivelled lips, dank in their death agony, and on the bauble with the sacred device that he wore always in his tie. I recovered my property from the shrunken fingers, and so turned away with a harder heart than I ever had before or since for any creature of Almighty God.

Harris had expired in our absence.

"Never spoke, sir," said the constable in whose arms we had left him.

"More's the pity. Well, cut out at the back and help land the young gent, or we'll have him giving us the slip too. He may double back, but I'm watching out for that. Which way should you say he'd head, Mr. Cole?"

"Inland," said I, lying on the spur of the moment, I knew not why. "Try at the cottage where I've been staying."

"We have a man posted there already. That woman is one of the gang, and we've got her safe. But I'll take your advice, and have that side scoured whilst I hang about the place."

And he walked through the house, and out the back way, at the officer's heels; meanwhile the man with the wounded arm was swaying where he sat from loss of blood, and I had to help him into the open air before at last I was free to return to poor Eva in her place of loathsome safety.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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