Dead Men Tell No Tales
Thieves Fall Out
The door slammed. It was invisibly locked and the key taken out. I listened for the
last of an angry stride. It never even began. But after a pause the door was
unlocked again, and Rattray re-entered.
Without looking at me, he snatched the candle from the table on which it stood by
the bedside, and carried it to a bureau at the opposite side of the room. There he
stood a minute with his back turned, the candle, I fancy, on the floor. I saw him
putting something in either jacket pocket. Then I heard a dull little snap, as
though he had shut some small morocco case; whatever it was, he tossed it
carelessly back into the bureau; and next minute he was really gone, leaving the
candle burning on the floor.
I lay and heard his steps out of earshot, and they were angry enough now, nor
had he given me a single glance. I listened until there was no more to be heard,
and then in an instant I was off the bed and on my feet. I reeled a little, and my
head gave me great pain, but greater still was my excitement. I caught up the
candle, opened the unlocked bureau, and then the empty case which I found in
the very front.
My heart leapt; there was no mistaking the depressions in the case. It was a
brace of tiny pistols that Rattray had slipped into his jacket pockets.
Mere toys they must have been in comparison with my dear Deane and Adams;
that mattered nothing. I went no longer in dire terror of my life; indeed, there was
that in Rattray which had left me feeling fairly safe, in spite of his last words to
me, albeit I felt his fears on my behalf to be genuine enough. His taking these
little pistols (of course, there were but three chambers left loaded in mine)
confirmed my confidence in him.
He would stick at nothing to defend me from the violence of his bloodthirsty
accomplices. But it should not come to that. My legs were growing firmer under
me. I was not going to lie there meekly without making at least an effort at self-
deliverance. If it succeeded - the idea came to me in a flash - I would send
Rattray an ultimatum from the nearest town; and either Eva should be set
instantly and unconditionally free, or the whole matter be put unreservedly in the
hands of the local police.
There were two lattice windows, both in the same immensely thick wall; to my
joy, I discovered that they overlooked the open premises at the back of the hall,
with the oak-plantation beyond; nor was the distance to the ground very great. It
was the work of a moment to tear the sheets from the bed, to tie the two ends
together and a third round the mullion by which the larger window was bisected. I
had done this, and had let down my sheets, when a movement below turned my
heart to ice. The night had clouded over. I could see nobody; so much the
greater was my alarm.
I withdrew from the window, leaving the sheets hanging, in the hope that they
also might be invisible in the darkness. I put out the candle, and returned to the
window in great perplexity. Next moment I stood aghast ---between the devil and
the deep sea. I still heard a something down below, but a worse sound came to