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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XVIII A Man of Many Murders

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I know now that the battle in the hall was a very brief affair; while it lasted I had no sense of time; minutes or moments, they were (God forgive me!) some of the very happiest in all my life. My joy was as profound as it was also selfish and incongruous. The villains were being routed; of that there could be no doubt or question. I hoped Rattray might escape, but for the others no pity stirred in my heart, and even my sneaking sympathy with the squire could take nothing from the joy that was in my heart. Eva Denison was free. I was free. Our oppressors would trouble us no more. We were both lonely; we were both young; we had suffered together and for each other. And here she lay in my arms, her head upon my shoulder, her soft bosom heaving on my own! My blood ran hot and cold by turns. I forgot everything but our freedom and my love. I forgot my sufferings, as I would have you all forget them. I am not to be pitied. I have been in heaven on earth. I was there that night, in my great bodily weakness, and in the midst of blood-shed, death, and crime.

"They have stopped!" cried Eva suddenly. "It is over! Oh, if he is dead!"

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And she sat upright, with bright eyes starting from a deathly face. I do not think she knew that she had been in my arms at all: any more than I knew that the firing had ceased before she told me. Excited voices were still raised overhead; but some sounded distant, yet more distinct, coming through the grating from the garden; and none were voices that we knew. One poor wretch, on the other hand, we heard plainly groaning to his death; and we looked in each other's eyes with the same thought.

"That's Harris," said I, with, I fear, but little compassion in my tone or in my heart just then.

"Where are the others ?" cried Eva piteously.

"God knows," said I; "they may be done for, too."

"If they are!"

"It's better than the death they would have lived to die."

"But only one of them was a wilful murderer! Oh, Mr. Cole - Mr. Cole - go and see what has happened; come back and tell me! I dare not come. I will stay here and pray for strength to bear whatever news you may bring me. Go quickly. I will - wait - and pray!"

So I left the poor child on her knees in that vile cellar, white face and straining hands uplifted to the foul ceiling, sweet lips quivering with prayer, eyelids reverently lowered, and the swift tears flowing from beneath them, all in the yellow light of the lantern that stood burning by her side. How different a picture from that which awaited me overhead!

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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