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A Rogue's Life

He looked at me reflectively; then said, in low, thoughtful tones, speaking, not to
me, but entirely to himself:
"Suppose I shoot him?"
I saw in his eye, that if I flinched, he would draw the trigger.
"Suppose you trust me?" I said, without moving a muscle.
"I trusted you, as an honest man, downstairs, and I find you, like a thief, up here,"
returned the doctor, with a self-satisfied smile at the neatness of his own retort.
"No," he continued, relapsing into soliloquy: "there is risk every way; but the least
risk perhaps is to shoot him."
"Wrong," said I. "There are relations of mine who have a pecuniary interest in my
life. I am the main condition of a contingent reversion in their favor. If I am
missed, I shall be inquired after." I have wondered since at my own coolness in
the face of the doctor's pistol; but my life depended on my keeping my self-
possession, and the desperate nature of the situation lent me a desperate
courage.
"How do I know you are not lying?" he asked.
"Have I not spoken the truth, hitherto?"
Those words made him hesitate. He lowered the pistol slowly to his side. I began
to breathe freely.
"Trust me," I repeated. "If you don't believe I would hold my tongue about what I
have seen here, for your sake, you may be certain that I would for--"
"For my daughter's," he interposed, with a sarcastic smile.
I bowed with all imaginable cordiality. The doctor waved his pistol in the air
contemptuously.
"There are two ways of making you hold your tongue," he said. "The first is
shooting you; the second is making a felon of you. On consideration, after what
you have said, the risk in either case seems about equal. I am naturally a
humane man; your family have done me no injury; I will not be the cause of their
losing money; I won't take your life, I'll have your character. We are all felons on
this floor of the house. You have come among us--you shall be one of us. Ring
that bell."
He pointed with the pistol to a bell-handle behind me. I pulled it in silence.
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