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Dead Men Tell No Tales
by E. W. Hornung
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"He's over the wall, I tell you! I saw him run up our ladder. After him every man of you—and spread!"

I looked in vain for Rattray and the rest; yet it seemed as if only one of them had escaped. I was still looking when the man in the porch wheeled back into the hall, and instantly caught sight of me at my door.

"Hillo! here's another of them," cried he. "Out you come, young fellow! Your mates are all dead men."

"They're not my mates."

"Never mind; come you out and let's have a look at you."

I did so, and was confronted by a short, thickset man, who recognized me with a smile, but whom I failed to recognize.

"I might have guessed it was Mr. Cole," said he. "I knew you were here somewhere, but I couldn't make head or tail of you through the smoke."

"I'm surprised that you can make head or tail of me at all," said I.

"Then you've quite forgotten the inquisitive parson you met out fishing? You see I found out your name for myself!"

"So it was a detective!"

"It was and is," said the little man, nodding. "Detective or Inspector Royds, if you're any the wiser.

"What has happened? Who has escaped?" "Your friend Rattray; but he won't get far."

"What of the Portuguese and the nigger?"

I forgot that I had crippled Jose, but remembered with my words, and wondered the more where he was.

"I'll show you," said Royds. "It was the nigger let us in. We heard him groaning round at the back—who smashed his leg? One of our men was at that cellar grating; there was some of them down there; we wanted to find our way down and corner them, but the fat got in the fire too soon. Can you stand something strong? Then come this way."

He led me out into the garden, and to a tangled heap lying in the moonlight, on the edge of the long grass. The slave had fallen on top of his master; one leg lay swathed and twisted; one black hand had but partially relaxed upon the haft of a knife (the knife) that stood up hilt-deep in a blacker heart. And in the hand of Santos was still the revolver (my Deane and Adams) which had sent its last ball through the nigger's body.

"They slipped out behind us, all but the one inside," said Royds, ruefully; "I'm hanged if I know yet how it happened—but we were on them next second. Before that the nigger had made us hide him in the grass, but the old devil ran straight into him, and the one fired as the other struck. It's the worst bit of luck in the whole business, and I'm rather disappointed on the whole. I've been nursing the job all this week; had my last look round this very evening, with one of these officers, and only rode back for more to make sure of taking our gentlemen alive. And we've lost three out of four of 'em, and have still to lay hands on the gold! I suppose you didn't know there was any aboard?" he asked abruptly.

"Not before to-night."

"Nor did we till the Devoren came in with letters last week, a hundred and thirty days out. She should have been in a month before you, but she got amongst the ice around the Horn. There was a letter of advice about the gold, saying it would probably go in the Lady Jermyn; and another about Rattray and his schooner, which had just sailed; the young gentleman was known to the police out there."

"Do you know where the schooner is?"

"Bless you, no, we've had no time to think about her; the man had been seen about town, and we've done well to lay hands on him in the time."

"You will do better still when you do lay hands on him," said I, wresting my eyes from the yellow dead face of the foreign scoundrel. The moon shone full upon his high forehead, his shrivelled lips, dank in their death agony, and on the bauble with the sacred device that he wore always in his tie. I recovered my property from the shrunken fingers, and so turned away with a harder heart than I ever had before or since for any creature of Almighty God.

Harris had expired in our absence.

"Never spoke, sir," said the constable in whose arms we had left him.

"More's the pity. Well, cut out at the back and help land the young gent, or we'll have him giving us the slip too. He may double back, but I'm watching out for that. Which way should you say he'd head, Mr. Cole?"

"Inland," said I, lying on the spur of the moment, I knew not why. "Try at the cottage where I've been staying."

"We have a man posted there already. That woman is one of the gang, and we've got her safe. But I'll take your advice, and have that side scoured whilst I hang about the place."

And he walked through the house, and out the back way, at the officer's heels; meanwhile the man with the wounded arm was swaying where he sat from loss of blood, and I had to help him into the open air before at last I was free to return to poor Eva in her place of loathsome safety.

I had been so long, however, that her patience was exhausted, and as I returned to the library by one door, she entered by the other.

"I could bear it no longer. Tell me—the worst!"

"Three of them are dead."

"Which three?"

She had crossed to the other door, and would not have me shut it. So I stood between her and the hearth, on which lay the captain's corpse, with the hearthrug turned up on either side to cover it.

"Harris for one," said I. "Outside lie Jose and—"

"Quick! Quick!"

"Senhor Santos."

Her face was as though the name meant nothing to her.

"And Mr. Rattray?" she cried. "And Mr. Rattray—"

"Has escaped for the present. He seems to have cut his way through the police and got over the wall by a ladder they left behind them. They are scouring the country—Miss Denison! Eva! My poor love!"

She had broken down utterly in a second fit of violent weeping; and a second time I took her in my arms, and stood trying in my clumsy way to comfort her, as though she were a little child. A lamp was burning in the library, and I recognized the arm-chair which Rattray had drawn thence for me on the night of our dinner—the very night before! I led Eva back into the room, and I closed both doors. I supported my poor girl to the chair, and once more I knelt before her and took her hands in mine. My great hour was come at last: surely a happy omen that it was also the hour before the dawn.

"Cry your fill, my darling," I whispered, with the tears in my own voice. "You shall never have anything more to cry for in this world! God has been very good to us. He brought you to me, and me to you. He has rescued us for each other. All our troubles are over; cry your fill; you will never have another chance so long as I live, if only you will let me live for you. Will you, Eva? Will you? Will you?"

She drew her hands from mine, and sat upright in the chair, looking at me with round eyes; but mine were dim; astonishment was all that I could read in her look, and on I went headlong, with growing impetus and passion.

"I know I am not much, my darling; but you know I was not always what my luck, good and bad, has left me now, and you will make a new man of me so soon! Besides, God must mean it, or He would not have thrown us together amid such horrors, and brought us through them together still. And you have no one else to take care of you in the world! Won't you let me try, Eva? Say that you will!"

"Then—you—owe me?" she said slowly, in a low, awe-struck voice that might have told me my fate at once; but I was shaking all over in the intensity of my passion, and for the moment it was joy enough to be able at last to tell her all.

"Love you?" I echoed. "With every fibre of my being! With every atom of my heart and soul and body! I love you well enough to live to a hundred for you, or to die for you to-night!"

"Well enough to—give me up?" she whispered.

I felt as though a cold hand had checked my heart at its hottest, but I mastered myself sufficiently to face her question and to answer it as honestly as I might.

"Yes!" I cried; "well enough even to do that, if it was for your happiness; but I might be rather difficult to convince about that."

"You are very strong and true," she murmured. "Yes, I can trust you as I have never trusted anybody else! But—how long have you been so foolish?" And she tried very hard to smile.

"Since I first saw you; but I only knew it on the night of the fire. Till that night I resisted it like an idiot. Do you remember how we used to argue? I rebelled so against my love! I imagined that I had loved once already and once for all. But on the night of the fire I knew that my love for you was different from all that had gone before or would ever come again. I gave in to it at last, and oh! the joy of giving in! I had fought against the greatest blessing of my life, and I never knew it till I had given up fighting. What did I care about the fire? I was never happier—until now! You sang through my heart like the wind through the rigging; my one fear was that I might go to the bottom without telling you my love. When I asked to say a few last words to you on the poop, it was to tell you my love before we parted, that you might know I loved you whatever came. I didn't do so, because you seemed so frightened, poor darling! I hadn't it in my heart to add to your distress. So I left you without a word. But I fought the sea for days together simply to tell you what I couldn't die without telling you. When they picked me up, it was your name that brought back my senses after days of delirium. When I heard that you were dead, I longed to die myself. And when I found you lived after all, the horror of your surroundings was nothing to be compared with the mere fact that you lived; that you were unhappy and in danger was my only grief, but it was nothing to the thought of your death; and that I had to wait twenty-four hours without coming to you drove me nearer to madness than ever I was on the hen-coop. That's how I love you, Eva," I concluded; "that's how I love and will love you, for ever and ever, no matter what happens."

Those sweet gray eyes of hers had been fixed very steadily upon me all through this outburst; as I finished they filled with tears, and my poor love sat wringing her slender fingers, and upbraiding herself as though she were the most heartless coquette in the country.

"How wicked I am!" she moaned. "How ungrateful I must be! You offer me the unselfish love of a strong, brave man. I cannot take it. I have no love to give you in return."

"But some day you may," I urged, quite happily in my ignorance. "It will come. Oh, surely it will come, after all that we have gone through together!"

She looked at me very steadily and kindly through her tears.

"It has come, in a way," said she; "but it is not your way, Mr. Cole. I do love you for your bravery and your—love—but that will not quite do for either of us."

"Why not?" I cried in an ecstasy. "My darling, it will do for me! It is more than I dared to hope for; thank God, thank God, that you should care for me at all!"

She shook her head.

"You do not understand," she whispered.

"I do. I do. You do not love me as you want to love."

"As I could love—"

"And as you will! It will come. It will come. I'll bother you no more about it now. God knows I can afford to leave well alone! I am only too happy—too thankful—as it is!"

And indeed I rose to my feet every whit as joyful as though she had accepted me on the spot. At least she had not rejected me; nay, she confessed to loving me in a way. What more could a lover want? Yet there was a dejection in her drooping attitude which disconcerted me in the hour of my reward. And her eyes followed me with a kind of stony remorse which struck a chill to my bleeding heart.

I went to the door; the hall was still empty, and I shut it again with a shudder at what I saw before the hearth, at all that I had forgotten in the little library. As I turned, another door opened—the door made invisible by the multitude of books around and upon it—and young Squire Rattray stood between my love and me.

His clear, smooth skin was almost as pale as Eva's own, but pale brown, the tint of rich ivory. His eyes were preternaturally bright. And they never glanced my way, but flew straight to Eva, and rested on her very humbly and sadly, as her two hands gripped the arms of the chair, and she leant forward in horror and alarm.

"How could you come back?" she cried. "I was told you had escaped!"

"Yes, I got away on one of their horses."

"I pictured you safe on board!"

"I very nearly was."

"Then why are you here?"

"To get your forgiveness before I go."

He took a step forward; her eyes and mine were riveted upon him; and I still wonder which of us admired him the more, as he stood there in his pride and his humility, gallant and young, and yet shamefaced and sad.

"You risk your life—for my forgiveness?" whispered Eva at last. "Risk it? I'll give myself up if you'll take back some of the things you said to me—last night—and before."

There was a short pause.

"Well, you are not a coward, at all events!"

"Nor a murderer, Eva!"

"God forbid."

"Then forgive me for everything else that I have been—to you!"

And he was on his knees where I had knelt scarce a minute before; nor could I bear to watch them any longer. I believed that he loved her in his own way as sincerely as I did in mine. I believed that she detested him for the detestable crime in which he had been concerned. I believed that the opinion of him which she had expressed to his face, in my hearing, was her true opinion, and I longed to hear her mitigate it ever so little before he went. He won my sympathy as a gallant who valued a kind word from his mistress more than life itself. I hoped earnestly that that kind word would be spoken. But I had no desire to wait to hear it. I felt an intruder. I would leave them alone together for the last time. So I walked to the door, but, seeing a key in it, I changed my mind, and locked it on the inside. In the hall I might become the unintentional instrument of the squire's capture, though, so far as my ears served me, it was still empty as we had left it. I preferred to run no risks, and would have a look at the subterranean passage instead.

"I advise you to speak low," I said, "and not to be long. The place is alive with the police. If they hear you all will be up."

Whether he heard me I do not know. I left him on his knees still, and Eva with her face hidden in her hands.

The cellar was a strange scene to revisit within an hour of my deliverance from that very torture-chamber. It had been something more before I left it, but in it I could think only of the first occupant of the camp-stool. The lantern still burned upon the floor. There was the mattress, still depressed where I had lain face to face with insolent death. The bullet was in the plaster; it could not have missed by the breadth of many hairs. In the corner was the shallow grave, dug by Harris for my elements. And Harris was dead. And Santos was dead. But life and love were mine.

I would have gone through it all again!

And all at once I was on fire to be back in the library; so much so, that half a minute at the manhole, lantern in hand, was enough for me; and a mere funnel of moist brown earth—a terribly low arch propped with beams—as much as I myself ever saw of the subterranean conduit between Kirby House and the sea. But I understood that the curious may traverse it for themselves to this day on payment of a very modest fee.

As for me, I returned as I had come after (say) five minutes' absence; my head full once more of Eva, and of impatient anxiety for the wild young squire's final flight; and my heart still singing with the joy of which my beloved's kindness seemed a sufficient warranty. Poor egotist! Am I to tell you what I found when I came up those steep stairs to the chamber where I had left him on his knees to her? Or can you guess?

He was on his knees no more, but he held her in his arms, and as I entered he was kissing the tears from her wet, flushed cheek. Her eyelids drooped; she was pale as the dead without, so pale that her eyebrows looked abnormally and dreadfully dark. She did not cling to him. Neither did she resist his caresses, but lay passive in his arms as though her proper paradise was there. And neither heard me enter; it was as though they had forgotten all the world but one another.

"So this is it," said I very calmly. I can hear my voice as I write.

They fell apart on the instant. Rattray glared at me, yet I saw that his eyes were dim. Eva clasped her hands before her, and looked me steadily in the face. But never a word.

"You love him?" I said sternly.

The silence of consent remained unbroken.

"Villain as he is?" I burst out.

And at last Eva spoke.

"I loved him before he was one," said she. "We were engaged."

She looked at him standing by, his head bowed, his arms folded; next moment she was very close to me, and fresh tears were in her eyes. But I stepped backward, for I had had enough.

"Can you not forgive me?"

"Oh, dear, yes."

"Can't you understand?"

"Perfectly," said I.

"You know you said—"

"I have said so many things!"

"But this was that you—you loved me well enough to—give me up."

And the silly ego in me—the endless and incorrigible I—imagined her pouting for a withdrawal of those brave words.

"I not only said it," I declared, "but I meant every word of it."

None the less had I to turn from her to hide my anguish. I leaned my elbows on the narrow stone chimney-piece, which, with the grate below and a small mirror above, formed an almost solitary oasis in the four walls of books. In the mirror I saw my face; it was wizened, drawn, old before its time, and merely ugly in its sore distress, merely repulsive in its bloody bandages. And in the mirror also I saw Rattray, handsome, romantic, audacious, all that I was not, nor ever would be, and I "understood" more than ever, and loathed my rival in my heart.

I wheeled round on Eva. I was not going to give her up—to him. I would tell her so before him—tell him so to his face. But she had turned away; she was listening to some one else. Her white forehead glistened. There were voices in the hall.

"Mr. Cole! Mr. Cole! Where are you, Mr. Cole?"

I moved over to the locked door. My hand found the key. I turned round with evil triumph in my heart, and God knows what upon my face. Rattray did not move. With lifted hands the girl was merely begging him to go by the door that was open, down the stair. He shook his head grimly. With an oath I was upon them.

"Go, both of you!" I whispered hoarsely. "Now—while you can—and I can let you. Now! Now!"

Still Rattray hung back.

I saw him glancing wistfully at my great revolver lying on the table under the lamp. I thrust it upon him, and pushed him towards the door.

"You go first. She shall follow. You will not grudge me one last word? Yes, I will take your hand. If you escape—be good to her!"

He was gone. Without, there was a voice still calling me; but now it sounded overhead.

"Good-by, Eva," I said. "You have not a moment to lose."

Yet those divine eyes lingered on my ugliness.

"You are in a very great hurry," said she, in the sharp little voice of her bitter moments.

"You love him; that is enough."

"And you, too!" she cried. "And you, too!"

And her pure, warm arms were round my neck; another instant, and she would have kissed me, she! I know it. I knew it then. But it was more than I would bear. As a brother! I had heard that tale before. Back I stepped again, all the man in me rebelling.

"That's impossible," said I rudely.

"It isn't. It's true. I do love you—for this!"

God knows how I looked!

"And I mayn't say good-by to you," she whispered. "And—and I love you—for that!"

"Then you had better choose between us," said I.



CHAPTER XX. THE STATEMENT OF FRANCIS RATTRAY

In the year 1858 I received a bulky packet bearing the stamp of the Argentine Republic, a realm in which, to the best of my belief, I had not a solitary acquaintance. The superscription told me nothing. In my relations with Rattray his handwriting had never come under my observation. Judge then of my feelings when the first thing I read was his signature at the foot of the last page.

For five years I had been uncertain whether he was alive or dead. I had heard nothing of him from the night we parted in Kirby Hall. All I knew was that he had escaped from England and the English police; his letter gave no details of the incident. It was an astonishing letter; my breath was taken on the first close page; at the foot of it the tears were in my eyes. And all that part I must pass over without a word. I have never shown it to man or woman. It is sacred between man and man.

But the letter possessed other points of interest—of almost universal interest—to which no such scruples need apply; for it cleared up certain features of the foregoing narrative which had long been mysteries to all the world; and it gave me what I had tried in vain to fathom all these years, some explanation, or rather history, of the young Lancastrian's complicity with Joaquin Santos in the foul enterprise of the Lady Jermyn. And these passages I shall reproduce word for word; partly because of their intrinsic interest; partly for such new light as they day throw on this or that phase of the foregoing narrative; and, lastly, out of fairness to (I hope) the most gallant and most generous youth who ever slipped upon the lower slopes of Avemus.

Wrote Rattray:

"You wondered how I could have thrown in my lot with such a man. You may wonder still, for I never yet told living soul. I pretended I had joined him of my own free will. That was not quite the case. The facts were as follows:

"In my teens (as I think you know) I was at sea. I took my second mate's certificate at twenty, and from that to twenty-four my voyages were far between and on my own account. I had given way to our hereditary passion for smuggling. I kept a 'yacht' in Morecambe Bay, and more French brandy than I knew what to do with in my cellars. It was exciting for a time, but the excitement did not last. In 1851 the gold fever broke out in Australia. I shipped to Melbourne as third mate on a barque, and I deserted for the diggings in the usual course. But I was never a successful digger. I had little luck and less patience, and I have no doubt that many a good haul has been taken out of claims previously abandoned by me; for of one or two I had the mortification of hearing while still in the Colony. I suppose I had not the temperament for the work. Dust would not do for me—I must have nuggets. So from Bendigo I drifted to the Ovens, and from the Ovens to Ballarat. But I did no more good on one field than on another, and eventually, early in 1853, I cast up in Melbourne again with the intention of shipping home in the first vessel. But there were no crews for the homeward-bounders, and while waiting for a ship my little stock of gold dust gave out. I became destitute first—then desperate. Unluckily for me, the beginning of '53 was the hey-day of Captain Melville, the notorious bushranger. He was a young fellow of my own age. I determined to imitate his exploits. I could make nothing out there from an honest life; rather than starve I would lead a dishonest one. I had been born with lawless tendencies; from smuggling to bushranging was an easy transition, and about the latter there seemed to be a gallantry and romantic swagger which put it on the higher plane of the two. But I was not born to be a bushranger either. I failed at the very first attempt. I was outwitted by my first victim, a thin old gentleman riding a cob at night on the Geelong road.

"'Why rob me?' said he. 'I have only ten pounds in my pocket, and the punishment will be the same as though it were ten thousand.'

"'I want your cob,' said I (for I was on foot); 'I'm a starving Jack, and as I can't get a ship I'm going to take to the bush.'

"He shrugged his shoulders.

"'To starve there?' said he. 'My friend, it is a poor sport, this bushranging. I have looked into the matter on my own account. You not only die like a dog, but you live like one too. It is not worth while. No crime is worth while under five figures, my friend. A starving Jack, eh? Instead of robbing me of ten pounds, why not join me and take ten thousand as your share of our first robbery? A sailor is the very man I want!'

"I told him that what I wanted was his cob, and that it was no use his trying to hoodwink me by pretending he was one of my sort, because I knew very well that he was not; at which he shrugged again, and slowly dismounted, after offering me his money, of which I took half. He shook his head, telling me I was very foolish, and I was coolly mounting (for he had never offered me the least resistance), with my pistols in my belt, when suddenly I heard one cocked behind me.

"'Stop!' said he. 'It's my turn! Stop, or I shoot you dead!' The tables were turned, and he had me at his mercy as completely as he had been at mine. I made up my mind to being marched to the nearest police-station. But nothing of the kind. I had misjudged my man as utterly as you misjudged him a few months later aboard the Lady Jermyn. He took me to his house on the outskirts of Melbourne, a weather-board bungalow, scantily furnished, but comfortable enough. And there he seriously repeated the proposal he had made me off-hand in the road. Only he put it a little differently. Would I go to the hulks for attempting to rob him of five pounds, or would I stay and help him commit a robbery, of which my share alone would be ten or fifteen thousand? You know which I chose. You know who this man was. I said I would join him. He made me swear it. And then he told me what his enterprise was: there is no need for me to tell you; nor indeed had it taken definite shape at this time. Suffice it that Santos had wind that big consignments of Austrailian gold were shortly to be shipped home to England; that he, like myself, had done nothing on the diggings, where he had looked to make his fortune, and out of which he meant to make it still.

"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.

"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.

"The same thing came into play aboard the schooner. Never shall I forget the horror of that voyage after Santos came aboard! I had a crew of eight hands all told, and two he brought with him in the gig. Of course they began talking about the gold; they would have their share or split when they got ashore; and there was mutiny in the air, with the steward and the quarter-master of the Lady Jermyn for ring-leaders. Santos nipped it in the bud with a vengeance! He and Harris shot every man of them dead, and two who were shot through the heart they washed and dressed and set adrift to rot in the gig with false papers! God knows how we made Madeira; we painted the old name out and a new name in, on the way; and we shipped a Portuguese crew, not a man of whom could speak English. We shipped them aboard the Duque de Mondejo's yacht Braganza; the schooner Spindrift had disappeared from the face of the waters for ever. And with the men we took in plenty of sour claret and cigarettes; and we paid them well; and the Portuguese sailor is not inquisitive under such conditions.

"And now, honestly, I wished I had put a bullet through my head before joining in this murderous conspiracy; but retreat was impossible, even if I had been the man to draw back after going so far; and I had a still stronger reason for standing by the others to the bitter end. I could not leave our lady to these ruffians. On the other hand, neither could I take her from them, for (as you know) she justly regarded me as the most flagrant ruffian of them all. It was in me and through me that she was deceived, insulted, humbled, and contaminated; that she should ever have forgiven me for a moment is more than I can credit or fathom to this hour... So there we were. She would not look at me. And I would not leave her until death removed me. Santos had been kind enough to her hitherto; he had been kind enough (I understand) to her mother before her. It was only in the execution of his plans that he showed his Napoleonic disregard for human life; and it was precisely herein that I began to fear for the girl I still dared to love. She took up an attitude as dangerous to her safety as to our own. She demanded to be set free when we came to land. Her demand was refused. God forgive me, it had no bitterer opponent than myself! And all we did was to harden her resolution; that mere child threatened us to our faces, never shall I forget the scene! You know her spirit: if we would not set her free, she would tell all when we landed. And you remember how Santos used to shrug? That was all he did then. It was enough for me who knew him. For days I never left them alone together. Night after night I watched her cabin door. And she hated me the more for never leaving her alone! I had to resign myself to that.

"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!

"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.

"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.

And yet I 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.

"Fascinating, perhaps!" said she. "Yes, that is the very word; but—fascination is not love!"

And then I went to her, and stroked her hair (for she had hung her head in deep distress), and kissed the tears from her eyes. And I swore that her eyes were as lovely as Eva Denison's, that there seemed even more gold in her glossy brown hair, that she was even younger to look at. And at the last and craftiest compliment my own love looked at me through her tears, as though some day or other she might forgive me.

"Then why did you want to give me up to him?" said she.

THE END

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