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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter XX The Statement of Francis Rattray

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"And now it only remains for me to tell you why I have written all this to you, at such great length, so long after the event. My wife wished it. The fact is that she wants you to think better of me than I deserve; and I - yes - I confess that I should like you not to think quite as ill of me as you must have done all these years. I was villain enough, but do not think I am unpunished.

"I am an outlaw from my country. I am morally a transported felon. Only in this no-man's land am I a free man; let me but step across the border and I am worth a little fortune to the man who takes me. And we have had a hard time here, though not so hard as I deserved; and the hardest part of all ... "

But you must guess the hardest part: for the letter ended as it began, with sudden talk of his inner life, and tentative inquiry after mine. In its entirety, as I say, I have never shown it to a soul; there was just a little more that I read to my wife (who could not hear enough about his); then I folded up the letter, and even she has never seen the passages to which I allude.

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And yet 1 am not one of those who hold that the previous romances of married people should be taboo between them in after life. On the contrary, much mutual amusement, of an innocent character, may be derived from a fair and free interchange upon the subject; and this is why we, in our old age (or rather in mine), find a still unfailing topic in the story of which Eva Denison was wayward heroine and Frank Rattray the nearest approach to a hero. Sometimes these reminiscences lead to an argument; for it has been the fate of my life to become attached to argumentative persons. I suppose because I myself hate arguing. On the day that I received Rattray's letter we had one of our warmest discussions. I could repeat every word of it after forty years.

"A good man does not necessarily make a good husband," I innocently remarked.

"Why do you say that?" asked my wife, who never would let a generalization pass unchallenged.

"I was thinking of Rattray," said I. "The most tolerant of judges could scarcely have described him as a good man five years ago. Yet I can see that he has made an admirable husband. On the whole, and if you can't be both, it is better to be the good husband!"

It was this point that we debated with so much ardor. My wife would take the opposite side; that is her one grave fault. And I must introduce personalities; that, of course, is among the least of mine. I compared myself with Rattray, as a husband, and (with some sincerity) to my own disparagement. I pointed out that he was an infinitely more fascinating creature, which was no hard saying, for that epithet at least I have never earned. And yet it was the word to sting my wife.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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