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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XX The Statement of Francis Rattray

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"It was an extraordinary life that we led in the bungalow, I the guest, he the host, and Eva the unsuspecting hostess and innocent daughter of the house. Santos had failed on the fields, but he had succeeded in making valuable friends in Melbourne. Men of position and of influence spent their evenings on our veranda, among others the Melbourne agent for the Lady Jermyn, the likeliest vessel then lying in the harbor, and the one to which the first consignment of gold-dust would be entrusted if only a skipper could be found to replace the deserter who took you out. Santos made up his mind to find one., It took him weeks, but eventually he found Captain Harris on Bendigo, and Captain Harris was his man. More than that he was the man for the agent; and the Lady Jermyn was once more made ready for sea.

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Now began the complications. Quite openly, Santos had bought the schooner Spindrift, freighted her with wool, given me the command, and vowed that he would go home in her rather than wait any longer for the Lady Jermyn. At the last moment he appeared to change his mind, and I sailed alone as many days as possible in advance of the ship, as had been intended from the first; but it went sorely against the grain when the time came. I would have given anything to have backed out of the enterprise. Honest I might be no longer; I was honestly in love with Eva Denison. Yet to have backed out would have been one way of losing her for ever. Besides, it was not the first time I had run counter to the law, I who came of a lawless stock; but it would be the first time I had deserted a comrade or broken faith with one. I would do neither. In for a penny, in for a pound.

"But before my God I never meant it to turn out as it did; though I admit and have always admitted that my moral responsibility is but little if any the less on that account. Yet I was never a consenting party to wholesale murder, whatever else I was. The night before I sailed, Santos and the captain were aboard with me till the small hours. They promised me that every soul should have every chance; that nothing but unforeseen accident could prevent the boats from making Ascension again in a matter of hours; that as long as the gig was supposed to be lost with all hands, nothing else mattered. So they promised, and that Harris meant to keep his promise I fully believe. That was not a wanton ruffian; but the other would spill blood like water, as I told you at the hall, and as no man now knows better than yourself. He was notorious even in Portuguese Africa on account of his atrocious treatment of the blacks. It was a favorite boast of his that he once poisoned a whole village; and that he himself tampered with the Lady Jermyn's boats you can take my word, for I have heard him describe how he left it to the last night, and struck the blows during the applause at the concert on the quarter-deck. He said it might have come out about the gold in the gig, during the fire. It was safer to run no risks.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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