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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XVIII A Man of Many Murders

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"The house is surrounded," says the squire, very quick and quiet; "is this your doing, Cole?"

"I wish it was," said I; "but I can't complain; it's saved my life." And I looked at Santos, standing dignified and alert, my still smoking pistol in his hand.

"Two things to do," says Rattray - "I don't care which." He strode across the cellar and pulled at the one full bin; something slid out, it was a binful of empty bottles, and this time they were allowed to crash upon the floor; the squire stood pointing to a manhole at the back of the bin. "That's one alternative," said he; "but it will mean leaving this much stuff at least," pointing to the boxes, "and probably all the rest at the other end. The other thing's to stop and fight!"

"I fight," said Santos, stalking to the door. "Have you no more ammunition for me, friend Cole? Then I must live you alive; adios, senhor!"

Harris cast a wistful look towards the manhole, not in cowardice, I fancy, but in sudden longing for the sea, the longing of a poor devil of a sailor-man doomed to die ashore. I am still sorry to remember that Rattray judged him differently. "Come on, skipper," said he; "it's all or none aboard the lugger, and I think it will be none. Up you go; wait a second in the room above, and I'll find you an old cutlass. I shan't be longer." He turned to me with a wry smile. "We're not half-armed," he said; "they've caught us fairly on the hop; it should be fun! Good-by, Cole; I wish you'd had another round for that revolver. Good-by, Eva!"

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And he held out his hand to our love, who had been watching him all this time with eyes of stone; but now she turned her back upon him without a word. His face changed; the stormlight of passion and remorse played upon it for an instant; he made a step towards her, wheeled abruptly, and took me by the shoulder instead.

"Take care of her, Cole," said he. "Whatever happens - take care of her."

I caught him at the foot of the stairs. I do not defend what I did. But I had more ammunition; a few wadded bullets, caps, and powder-charges, loose in a jacket pocket; and I thrust them into one of his, upon a sudden impulse, not (as I think) altogether unaccountable, albeit (as I have said) so indefensible.

My back was hardly turned an instant. I had left a statue of unforgiving coldness. I started round to catch in my arms a half-fainting, grief-stricken form, shaken with sobs that it broke my heart to hear. I placed her on the camp-stool. I knelt down and comforted her as well as I could, stroking her hands, my arm about her heaving shoulders, with the gold-brown hair streaming over them. Such hair as it was! So much longer than I had dreamt. So soft - so fine - my soul swam with the sight and touch of it. Well for me that there broke upon us from above such a sudden din as turned my hot blood cold! A wild shout of surprise; an ensuing roar of defiance; shrieks and curses; yells of rage and pain; and pistol-shot after pistol-shot as loud as cannon in the confined space.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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