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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
"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
"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.