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Dead Men Tell No Tales

13.
The Longest Day Of My Life
The boy looked so blithe and buoyant, so gallant and still so frank, that even now
I could not think as meanly of him as poor Eva did. A rogue he must be, but
surely not the petty rogue that she had made him out. Yet it was dirty work that
he had done by me; and there I had to lie and take his kind, false, felon's hand in
mine.
"My poor dear fellow," he cried, "I'm most sorry to find you like this. But I was
afraid of it last night. It's all this infernally strong air!"
How I longed to tell him what it was, and to see his face! The thought of Eva
alone restrained me, and I retorted as before, in a tone I strove to make as
friendly, that it was his admirable wine and nothing else.
"But you took hardly any."
"I shouldn't have touched a drop. I can't stand it. Instead of soothing me it excites
me to the verge of madness. I'm almost over the verge - for want of sleep - my
trouble ever since the trouble."
Again I was speaking the literal truth, and again congratulating myself as though
it were a lie: the fellow looked so distressed at my state; indeed I believe that his
distress was as genuine as mine, and his sentiments as involved. He took my
hand again, and his brow wrinkled at its heat. He asked for the other hand to feel
my pulse. I had to drop my letter to comply.
"I wish to goodness there was something I could do for you," he said. "Would you
- would you care to see a doctor?"
I shook my head, and could have smiled at his visible relief.
"Then I'm going to prescribe for you," he said with decision. "It's the place that
doesn't agree with you, and it was I who brought you to the place; therefore it's
for me to get you out of it as quick as possible. Up you get, and I'll drive you to
the station myself!"
I had another work to keep from smiling: he was so ingenuously disingenuous.
There was less to smile at in his really nervous anxiety to get me away. I lay
there reading him like a book: it was not my health that concerned him, of course:
was it my safety? I told him he little knew how ill I was - an inglorious speech that
came hard, though not by any means untrue. "Move me with this fever on me?"
said I; "it would be as much as my miserable life is worth."
"I'm afraid," said he, "that it may be as much as your life's worth to stay on here!"
And there was such real fear, in his voice and eyes, that it reconciled me there
and then to the discomfort of a big revolyer between the mattress and the small
of my back. "We must get you out of it," he continued, "the moment you feel fit to
stir. Shall we say to-morrow?"
"If you like," I said, advisedly; "and if I can get some sleep to-day."
"Then to-morrow it is! You see I know it's the climate," he added, jumping from
tone to tone; "it couldn't have been those two or three glasses of sound wine."
"Shall I tell you what it is?" I said, looking him full in the face, with eyes that I dare
say were wild enough with fever and insomnia. "It's the burning of the Lady
Jermyn!" I cried. "It's the faces and the shrieks of the women; it's the cursing and
 
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