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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XVI A Deadlock

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"And where have you got this gold?" I asked him, in a low voice so promising that he instantly lowered his, and his eyes twinkled naughtily into mine.

"In the old tunnel that runs from this place nearly to the sea," said he. "We Rattrays have always been a pretty warm lot, Cole, and in the old days we were the most festive smugglers on the coast; this tunnel's a relic of 'em, although it was only a tradition till I came into the property. I swore I'd find it, and when I'd done so I made the new connection which you shall see. I'm rather proud of it. And I won't say I haven't used the old drain once or twice after the fashion of my rude forefathers; but never was it such a godsend as it's been this time. By Jove, it would be a sin if you didn't come in with us, Cole; but for the lives these blackguards lost the thing's gone splendidly; it would be a sin if you went and lost yours, whereas, if you come in, the two of us would be able to shake off those devils: we should be too strong for 'em."

"Seven thousand pounds!" I murmured. "Forty-eight thousand between us!"

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"Yes, and nearly all of it down below, at this end of the tunnel, and the rest where we dropped it when we heard you were trying to bolt. We'd got it all at the other end, ready to pop aboard the schooner that's lying there still, if you turned out to know anything and to have told what you knew to the police. There was always the possibility of that, you see; we simply daren't show our noses at the bank until we knew how much you knew, and what you'd done or were thinking of doing. As it is, we can take 'em the whole twelve thousand ounces, or rather I can, as soon as I like, in broad daylight. I'm a lucky digger. It's all right. Everybody knows I've been out there. They'll have to pay me over the counter; and if you wait in the cab, by the Lord Harry, I'll pay you your seven thousand first! You don't deserve it, Cole, but you shall have it, and between us we'll see the others to blazes!"

He jumped up all excitement, and was at the door next instant.

"Stop!" I cried. "Where are you going?"

"Downstairs to tell them."

"Tell them what?"

"That you're going in with me, and it's all right."

"And do you really think I am?"

He had unlocked the door; after a pause I heard him lock it again. But I did not see his face until he returned to the bedside. And then it frightened me. It was distorted and discolored with rage and chagrin.

"You've been making a fool of me!" he cried fiercely.

"No, I have been considering the matter, Rattray."

"And you won't accept my offer?"

"Of course I won't. I didn't say I'd been considering that."

He stood over me with clenched fists and starting eyes.

"Don't you see that I want to save your life?" he cried. "Don't you see that this is the only way? Do you suppose a murder more or less makes any difference to that lot downstairs? Are you really such a fool as to die rather than hold your tongue?"

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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