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Dead Men Tell No Tales

20.
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
 
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