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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XV First Blood

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So I bound myself to a guilty secrecy for Eva's sake, to save her from these wretches, or if you will, to win her for myself. Nor did it strike me as very strange, after a moment's reflection, that she should intercede thus earnestly for a band headed by her own mother's widower, prime scoundrel of them all though she knew him to be. The only surprise was that she had not interceded in his name; that I should have forgotten, and she should have allowed me to forget, the very existence of so indisputable a claim upon her loyalty. This, however, made it a little difficult to understand the hysterical gratitude with which my unwilling promise was received. Poor darling! she was beside herself with sheer relief. She wept as I had never seen her weep before. She seized and even kissed my hands, as one who neither knew nor cared what she did, surprising me so much by her emotion that this expression of it passed unheeded. I was the best friend she had ever had. I was her one good friend in all the world; she would trust herself to me; and if I would but take her to the convent where she had been brought up, she would pray for me there until her death, but that would not be very long.

All of which confused me utterly; it seemed an inexplicable breakdown in one who had shown such nerve and courage hitherto, and so hearty a loathing for that damnable Santos. So completely had her presence of mind forsaken her that she looked no longer where she had been gazing hitherto. And thus it was that neither of us saw Jose until we heard him calling, "Senhora Evah! Senhora Evah!" with some rapid sentences in Portuguese.

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"Now is our time," I whispered, crouching lower and clasping a small hand gone suddenly cold. "Think of nothing now but getting out of this. I'll keep my word once we are out; and here's the toy that's going to get us out." And I produced my Deane and Adams with no small relish.

A little trustful pressure was my answer and my reward; meanwhile the black was singing out lustily in evident suspicion and alarm.

"He says they are coming back," whispered Eva; "but that's impossible."


"Because if they were he couldn't see them, and if he heard them he would be frightened of their hearing him. But here he comes!"

A shuffling quick step on the path; a running grumble of unmistakable threats; a shambling moonlit figure seen in glimpses through the leaves, very near us for an instant, then hidden by the shrubbery as he passed within a few yards of our hiding-place. A diminuendo of the shuffling steps; then a cursing, frightened savage at one end of the rhododendrons, and we two stealing out at the other, hand in hand, and bent quite double, into the long neglected grass.

"Can you run for it?" I whispered.

"Yes, but not too fast, for fear we trip.'

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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