Dead Men Tell No Tales
7. I Find A Friend
The night after I consulted the specialist I was quite determined to sleep. I had
laid in a bundle of the daily papers. No country cottage was advertised to let but I
knew of it by evening, and about all the likely ones I had already written. The
scheme occupied my thoughts. Trout-fishing was a desideratum. I would take my
rod and plenty of books, would live simply and frugally, and it should make a new
man of me by Christmas. It was now October. I went to sleep thinking of autumn
tints against an autumn sunset. It must have been very early, certainly not later
than ten o'clock; the previous night I had not slept at all.
Now, this private hotel of mine was a very old fashioned house, dark and dingy
all day long, with heavy old chandeliers and black old oak, and dead flowers in
broken flower-pots surrounding a grimy grass-plot in the rear. On this latter my
bedroom window looked; and never am I likely to forget the vile music of the cats
throughout my first long wakeful night there. The second night they actually woke
me; doubtless they had been busy long enough, but it was all of a sudden that I
heard them, and lay listening for more, wide awake in an instant. My window had
been very softly opened, and the draught fanned my forehead as I held my
A faint light glimmered through a ground-glass pane over the door; and was
dimly reflected by the toilet mirror, in its usual place against the window. This
mirror I saw moved, and next moment I had bounded from bed.
The mirror fell with a horrid clatter: the toilet-table followed it with a worse: the
thief had gone as he had come ere my toes halted aching amid the debris.
A useless little balcony - stone slab and iron railing - jutted out from my window. I
thought I saw a hand on the railing, another on the slab, then both together on
the lower level for one instant before they disappeared. There was a dull yet
springy thud on the grass below. Then no more noise but the distant thunder of
the traffic, and the one that woke me, until the window next mine was thrown up.
"What the devil's up?"
The voice was rich, cheery, light-hearted, agreeable; all that my own was not as I
answered "Nothing!" for this was not the first time my next-door neighbor had
tried to scrape acquaintance with me.
"But surely, sir, I heard the very dickens of a row?"
"You may have done."
"I was afraid some one had broken into your room!"
"As a matter of fact," said I, put to shame by the undiminished good-humor of my
neighbor, "some one did; but he's gone now, so let him be."
"Gone? Not he! He's getting over that wall. After him - after him!" And the head
disappeared from the window next mine.
I rushed into the corridor, and was just in time to intercept a singularly handsome
young fellow, at whom I had hardly taken the trouble to look until now. He was in
full evening dress, and his face was radiant with the spirit of mischief and