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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XVIII A Man of Many Murders

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A pinch of his baggy throat, between the fingers and thumbs of both hands, foreshadowed a cleaner end; and yet I could look at him; nay, it was more than I could do not to look upon that bloodless face, with the two dry blots upon the parchment, that were never withdrawn from mine.

"No you won't, messmate! If it's him or us for it, let a bullet do it, and let it do it quick, you bloody Spaniard! You can't do the other without me, and my part's done."

Harris was my only hope. I had seen this from the first, but my appeal I had been keeping to the very end. And now he was leaving me before a word would come! Santos had gone over to my grave, and there was Harris at the door!

"It is not dip enough," said the Portuguese.

"It's as deep as I mean to make it, with you sittin' there talkin' about it."

And the door stood open.

"Captain!" I screamed. "For Christ's sake, captain!"

He stood there, trembling, yet even now not looking my way.

"Did you ever see a man hanged ?" asked Santos, with a vile eye for each of us. "I once hanged fifteen in a row; abominable thifs. And I once poisoned nearly a hundred at one banquet; an untrustworthy tribe; but the hanging was the worse sight and the worse death. Heugh! There was one man - he was no stouter than you are captain -"

But the door slammed; we heard the captain on the stairs; there was a rustle from the leaves outside., and then a silence that I shall not attempt to describe.

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And, indeed, I am done with this description: as I live to tell the tale (or spoil it, if I choose) I will make shorter work of this particular business than I found it at the time. Perverse I may be in old age as in my youth; but on that my agony - my humiliating agony - I decline to dwell. I suffer it afresh as I write. There are the cobwebs on the ceiling, a bloated spider crawling in one: a worse monster is gloating over me: those dull eyes of his, and my own pistol-barrel, cover me in the lamp-light. The crucifix pin is awry in his cravat; that is because he has offered it me to kiss. As a refinement (I feel sure) my revolver is not cocked; and the hammer goes up - up -

He missed me because a lantern was flashed into his eyes through the grating. He wasted the next ball in firing wildly at the light. And the last chamber's load became suddenly too precious for my person; for there were many voices overhead; there were many feet upon the stairs.

Harris came first - head-first - saw me still living as he reeled
    - hurled himself upon the boxes and one of these into the hole
    - all far quicker than my pen can write it. The manoeuvre, being
the captain's, explained itself: on his heels trod Rattray, with
one who brought me to my feet like the call of silver trumpets.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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