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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XV First Blood

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"Come on, then! "

The lighted open doorway grew greater at every stride.

"He hasn't seen us yet - "

"No, I hear him threatening me still."

"Now he has, though! "

A wild whoop proclaimed the fact, and upright we tore at top speed through the last ten yards of grass, while the black rushed down one of the side paths, gaining audibly on us over the better ground. But our start had saved us, and we flew up the steps as his feet ceased to clatter on the path; he had plunged into the grass to cut off the corner.

"Thank God!" cried Eva. "Now shut it quick."

The great door swung home with a mighty clatter, and Eva seized the key in both hands.

"I can't turn it! "

To lose a second was to take a life, and unconsciously I was sticking at that, perhaps from no higher instinct than distrust of my aim. Our pursuer, however, was on the steps when I clapped my free hand on top of those little white straining ones, and by a timely effort bent both them and the key round together; the ward shot home as Jose hurled himself against the door. Eva bolted it. But the thud was not repeated, and I gathered myself together between the door and the nearest window, for by now I saw there was but one thing for us. The nigger must be disabled, if I could manage such a nicety; if not, the devil take his own.

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Well, I was not one tick too soon for him. My pistol was not cocked before the crash came that I was counting on, and with it a shower of small glass driving across the six-foot sill and tinkling on the flags. Next came a black and bloody face, at which I could not fire. I had to wait till I saw his legs, when I promptly shattered one of them at disgracefully short range. The report was as deafening as one upon the stage; the hall filled with white smoke, and remained hideous with the bellowing of my victim. I searched him without a qualm, but threats of annihilation instead, and found him unarmed but for that very knife which Rattray had induced me to hand over to him in town. I had a grim satisfaction in depriving him of this, and but small compunction in turning my back upon his pain.

"Come," I said to poor Eva, "don't pity him, though I daresay he's the most pitiable of the lot; show me the way through, and I'll follow with this lamp."

One was burning on the old oak table. I carried it along a narrow passage, through a great low kitchen where I bumped my head against the black oak beams; and I held it on high at a door almost as massive as the one which we had succeeded in shutting in the nigger's face.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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