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Dead Men Tell No Tales E. W. Hornung

Chapter X Wine and Weakness

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"So that was all!"

I turned and met a face I could not read.

"Was it not enough?" cried I. "What more would you have?"

"I expected some more-foul play!"

"Ah!" I exclaimed bitterly. "So that was all that interested you! No, there was no more foul play that I know of; and if there was, I don't care. Nothing matters to me but one thing. Now that you know what that is, I hope you're satisfied."

It was no way to speak to one's host. Yet I felt that he had pressed me unduly. I hated myself for my final confidence, and his want of sympathy made me hate him too. In my weakness, however, I was the natural prey of violent extremes. His hand flew out to me. He was about to speak. A moment more and I had doubtless forgiven him. But another sound came instead and made the pair of us start and stare. It was the soft shutting of some upstairs door.

"I thought we had the house to ourselves?" cried I, my miserable nerves on edge in an instant.

"So did I," he answered, very pale. "My servants must have come back. By the Lord Harry, they shall hear of this!"

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He sprang to a door, I heard his feet clattering up some stone stairs, and in a trice he was running along the gallery overhead; in another I heard him railing behind some upper door that he had flung open and banged behind him; then his voice dropped, and finally died away. I was left some minutes in the oppressively silent hall, shaken, startled, ashamed of my garrulity, aching to get away. When he returned it was by another of the many closed doors, and he found me awaiting him, hat in hand. He was wearing his happiest look until he saw my hat.

"Not going?" he cried. "My dear Cole, I can't apologize sufficiently for my abrupt desertion of you, much less for the cause. It was my man, just come in from the show, and gone up the back way. I accused him of listening to our conversation. Of course he denies it; but it really doesn't matter, as I'm sorry to say he's much too 'fresh' (as they call it down here) to remember anything to-morrow morning. I let him have it, I can tell you. Varlet! Caitiff! But if you bolt off on the head of it, I shall go back and sack him into the bargain!"

I assured him I had my own reasons for wishing to retire early. He could have no conception of my weakness, my low and nervous condition of body and mind; much as I had enjoyed myself, he must really let me go. Another glass of wine, then? Just one more? No, I had drunk too much already. I was in no state to stand it. And I held out my hand with decision.

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Dead Men Tell No Tales
E. W. Hornung

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