E. W. Hornung: Dead Men Tell No Tales


Squire Rattray, as I say, was seated at the head of his table, where the broken meats still lay as he and I had left them; his fingers, I remember, were playing with a crust, and his eyes fixed upon a distant door, as he leant back in his chair. Behind him hovered the nigger of the Lady Jermyn, whom I had been the slower to recognize, had not her skipper sat facing me on the squire's right. Yes, there was Captain Harris in the flesh, eating heartily between great gulps of wine, instead of feeding the fishes as all the world supposed. And nearer still, nearer me than any, with his back to my window but his chair slued round a little, so that he also could see that door, and I his profile, sat Joaquin Santos with his cigarette!

None spoke; all seemed waiting; and all were silent but the captain, whose vulgar champing reached me through the crazy lattice, as I stood spellbound and petrified without.

They say that a drowning man lives his life again before the last; but my own fight with the sea provided me with no such moments of vivid and rapid retrospect as those during which I stood breathless outside the lighted windows of Kirby Hall. I landed again. I was dogged day and night. I set it down to nerves and notoriety; but took refuge in a private hotel. One followed me, engaged the next room, set a watch on all my movements; another came in by the window to murder me in my bed; no party to that, the first one nevertheless turned the outrage to account, wormed himself into my friendship on the strength of it, and lured me hither, an easy prey. And here was the gang of them, to meet me! No wonder Rattray had not let me see him off at the station; no wonder I had not been followed that night. Every link I saw in its right light instantly. Only the motive remained obscure. Suspicious circumstances swarmed upon my slow perception: how innocent I had been! Less innocent, however, than wilfully and wholly reckless: what had it mattered with whom I made friends? What had anything mattered to me? What did anything matter -

I thought my heart had snapped!

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