E. W. Hornung: Dead Men Tell No Tales


Scribbled in sore haste, by a very tremulous little hand, with a pencil, on the flyleaf of some book, my darling's message is still difficult to read; it was doubly so in the moonlight, five-and-forty autumns ago. My eyesight, however, was then perhaps the soundest thing about me, and in a little I had deciphered enough to guess correctly (as it proved) at the whole: -

"You say you heard everything just now, and there is no time for further explanations. I am in the hands of villains, but not ill-treated, though they are one as bad as the other. You will not find it easy to rescue me. I don't see how it is to be done. You have promised not to do anything I ask you not to do, and I implore you not to tell a soul until you have seen me again and heard more. You might just as well kill me as come back now with help.

"You see you know nothing, though I told them you knew all. And so you shall as soon as I can see you for five minutes face to face. In the meantime do nothing - know nothing when you see Mr. Rattray - unless you wish to be my death.

"It would have been possible last night, and it may be again to-morrow night. They all go out every night when they can, except Jose, who is left in charge. They are out from nine or ten till two or three; if they are out to-morrow night my candle will be close to the window as I shall put it when I have finished this. You can see my window from over the wall. If the light is in front you must climb the wall, for they will leave the gate locked. I shall see you and will bribe Jose to let me out for a turn. He has done it before for a bottle of wine. I can manage him. Can I trust to you? If you break your promise - but you will not? One of them would as soon kill me as smoke a cigarette, and the rest are under his thumb. I dare not write more. But my life is in your hands.

"Oh! beware of the woman Braithwaite; she is about the worst of the gang."

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