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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XVIII A Man of Many Murders

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"Not a bit," said I, neither truly nor untruly; "you interest me." And that he did.

"You see," he continued, "I have not the respect of you Engleesh for 'uman life. We will not argue it. I have at least some respect for prejudice. In my youth I had myself such prejudices; but one loses them on the Zambesi. You cannot expect one to set any value upon the life of a black nigger; and when you have keeled a great many Kaffirs, by the lash, with the crocodiles, or what-not, then a white man or two makes less deeference. I acknowledge there were too many on board that sheep; but what was one to do? You have your Engleesh proverb about the dead men and the stories; it was necessary to make clin swip. You see the result."

He shrugged again towards the boxes; but this time, being reminded of them (I supposed), he rose and went over to see how Harris was progressing. The captain had never looked round; neither did he look at Santos. "A leetle dipper," I heard the latter say, "and, perhaps, a few eenches - " but I lost the last epithet. It followed a glance over the shoulder in my direction, and immediately preceded the return of Santos to his camp-stool.

"Yes, it is always better to bury treasure," said he once more; but his tone was altered; it was more contemplative; and many smoke-rings came from the shrunk lips before another word; but through them all, his dark eyes, dull with age, were fixed upon me.

"You are a treasure!" he exclaimed at last, softly enough, but quickly and emphatically for him, and with a sudden and most diabolical smile.

"So you are going to bury me?"

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I had suspected it when first I saw the spade; then not; but since the visit to the hole I had made up my mind to it.

"Bury you? No, not alive," said Santos, in his playfully reproving tone. "It would be necessary to deeg so dip!" he added through his few remaining teeth.

"WeIl," I said, "you'll swing for it. That's something."

Santos smiled again, benignantly enough this time: in contemplation also: as an artist smiles upon his work. I was his!

"You live town," said he; "no one knows where you go. You come down here; no one knows who you are. Your dear friend squire locks you up for the night, but dreenks too much and goes to slip with the key in his pocket; it is there when he wakes; but the preesoner, where is he? He is gone, vanished, escaped in the night, and, like the base fabreec of your own poet's veesion, he lives no trace - is it trace? - be'ind! A leetle earth is so easily bitten down; a leetle more is so easily carried up into the garden; and a beet of nice strong wire might so easily be found in a cellar, and afterwards in the lock! No, Senhor Cole, I do not expect to 'ang. My schims have seldom one seengle flaw. There was just one in the Lady Jermyn; there was - Senhor Cole! If there is one this time, and you will be so kind as to point it out, I will - I will run the reesk of shooting you instead of - "

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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