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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XVI A Deadlock

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"I won't hold it for money, at all events," said I. "But that's what I was coming to."

"Very well!" he interrupted. "You shall only pretend to touch it. All I want is to convince the others that it's against your interest to split. Self-interest is the one motive they understand. Your bare word would be good enough for me."

"Suppose I won't give my bare word?" said I, in a gentle manner which I did not mean to be as irritating as it doubtless was. Yet his proposals and his assumptions were between them making me irritable in my turn.

"For Heaven's sake don't be such an idiot, Cole!" he burst out in a passion. "You know I'm against the others, and you know what they want, yet you do your best to put me on their side! You know what they are, and yet you hesitate! For the love of God be sensible; at least give me your word that you'll hold your tongue for ever about all you know."

"All right," I said. "I'll give you my word - my sacred promise, Rattray - on one condition."

"What's that?"

"That you let me take Miss Denison away from you, for good and all!"

His face was transformed with fury: honest passion faded from it and left it bloodless, deadly, sinister.

"Away from me?" said Rattray, through his teeth.

"From the lot of you."

"I remember! You told me that night. Ha, ha, ha! You were in love with her - you - you!"

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"That has nothing to do with it," said I, shaking the bed with my anger and my agitation.

"I should hope not! You, indeed, to look at her!"

"Well," I cried, "she may never love me; but at least she doesn't loathe me as she loathes you - yes, and the sight of you, and your very name!"

So I drew blood for blood; and for an instant I thought he was going to make an end of it by incontinently killing me himself. His fists flew out. Had I been a whole man on my legs, he took care to tell me what he would have done, and to drive it home with a mouthful of the oaths which were conspicuously absent from his ordinary talk.

"You take advantage of your weakness, like any cur," he wound up.

"And you of your strength - like the young bully you are!" I retorted.

"You do your best to make me one," he answered bitterly. "I try to stand by you at all costs. I want to make amends to you, I want to prevent a crime. Yet there you lie and set your face against a compromise; and there you lie and taunt me with the thing that's gall and wormwood to me already. I know I gave you provocation. And I know I'm rightly served. Why do you suppose I went into this accursed thing at all? Not for the gold, my boy, but for the girl! So she won't look at me. And it serves me right. But - I say - do you really think she loathes me, Cole?"

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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