Dead Men Tell No Tales
8. A Small Precaution
My delight in the society of this young Squire Rattray (as I soon was to hear him
styled) had been such as to make me almost forget the sinister incident which
had brought us together. When I returned to my room, however, there were the
open window and the litter on the floor to remind me of what had happened
earlier in the night. Yet I was less disconcerted than you might suppose. A
common housebreaker can have few terrors for one who has braved those of
mid-ocean single-handed; my would-be visitor had no longer any for me; for it
had not yet occurred to me to connect him with the voices and the footsteps to
which, indeed, I had been unable to swear before the doctor. On the other hand,
these morbid imaginings (as I was far from unwilling to consider them) had one
and all deserted me in the sane, clean company of the capital young fellow in the
I have confessed my condition up to the time of this queer meeting. I have tried
to bring young Rattray before you with some hint of his freshness and his boyish
charm; and though the sense of failure is heavy upon me there, I who knew the
man knew also that I must fail to do him justice. Enough may have been said,
however, to impart some faint idea of what this youth was to me in the bitter and
embittering anti-climax of my life. Conventional figures spring to my pen, but
every one of them is true; he was flowers in spring, he was sunshine after rain,
he was rain following long months of drought. I slept admirably after all; and I
awoke to see the overturned toilet-table, and to thrill as I remembered there was
one fellow-creature with whom I could fraternize without fear of a rude reopening
of my every wound.
I hurried my dressing in the hope of our breakfasting together. I knocked at the
next door, and, receiving no answer, even ventured to enter, with the same idea.
He was not there. He was not in the coffee-room. He was not in the hotel.
I broke my fast in disappointed solitude, and I hung about disconsolate all the
morning, looking wistfully for my new-made friend. Towards mid-day he drove up
in a cab which he kept waiting at the curb.
"It's all right!" he cried out in his hearty way. "I sent my telegram first thing, and
I've had the answer at my club. The rooms are vacant, and I'll see that Jane
Braithwaite has all ready for you by to-morrow night."
I thanked him from my heart. "You seem in a hurry!" I added, as I followed him up
"I am," said he. "It's a near thing for the train. I've just time to stick in my things."
"Then I'll stick in mine," said I impulsively, "and I'll come with you, and doss down
in any corner for the night."
He stopped and turned on the stairs.
"You mustn't do that," said he; "they won't have anything ready. I'm going to
make it my privilege to see that everything is as cosey as possible when you
arrive. I simply can't allow you to come to-day, Mr. Cole!" He smiled, but I saw
that he was in earnest, and of course I gave in.
"All right," said I; "then I must content myself with seeing you off at the station."