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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XX The Statement of Francis Rattray

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"The night we anchored in Falmouth Bay, thinking then of taking our gold straight to the Bank of England, as eccentric lucky diggers - that night I thought would be the last for one or other of us. He locked her in her cabin. He posted himself outside on the settee. I sat watching him across the table. Each had a hand in his pocket, each had a pistol in that hand, and there we sat, with our four eyes locked, while Harris went ashore for papers. He came back in great excitement. What with stopping at Madeira, and calms, and the very few knots we could knock out of the schooner at the best of times, we had made a seven or eight weeks' voyage of it from Ascension - where, by the way, I had arrived only a couple of days before the Lady Jermyn, though I had nearly a month's start of her. Well, Harris came back in the highest state of excitement: and well he might: the papers were full of you, and of the burning of the Lady Jermyn!

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"Now mark what happened. You know, of course, as well as I do; but I wonder if you can even yet realize what it was to us! Our prisoner hears that you are alive, and she turns upon Santos and tells him he is welcome to silence her, but it will do us ne good now, as you know that the ship was wilfully burned, and with what object. It is the single blow she can strike in self-defence; but a shrewder one could scarcely be imagined. She had talked to you, at the very last; and by that time she did know the truth. What more natural than that she should confide it to you? She had had time to tell you enough to hang the lot of us; and you may imagine our consternation on hearing that she had told you all she knew! From the first we were never quite sure whether to believe it or not. That the papers breathed no suspicion of foul play was neither here nor there. Scotland Yard might have seen to that. Then we read of the morbid reserve which was said to characterize all your utterances concerning the Lady Jermyn. What were we to do? What we no longer dared to do was to take our gold-dust straight to the Bank. What we did, you know.

"We ran round to Morecambe Bay, and landed the gold as we Rattrays had landed lace and brandy from time immemorial. We left Eva in charge of Jane Braithwaite, God only knows how much against my will, but we were in a corner, it was life or death with us, and to find out how much you knew was a first plain necessity. And the means we took were the only means in our power; nor shall I say more to you on that subject than I said five years ago in my poor old house. That is still the one part of the whole conspiracy of which I myself am most ashamed.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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