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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

An Englishman's Honour

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"You have been guilty of a series of unfortunate mistakes, Mr. Harley," continued the speaker. "Notably, you have relied upon the clumsy device of disguise. To the organization in which you have chosen to interest yourself, this has provided some mild amusement. Your pedlar of almanacs was a clever impersonation, but fortunately your appearance at the Savoy had been anticipated, and no one was deceived."

Paul Harley did not reply. He concluded, quite correctly, that the organization had failed to detect himself in the person of the nervous cobbler. He drew courage from this deduction. Fire-Tongue was not omniscient.

"It is possible," continued the unseen speaker, in whom Harley had now definitely recognized Ormuz Khan's secretary, "that you recently overheard a resolution respecting yourself. Your death, in fact, had been determined upon. Life and death being synonymous, the philosopher contemplates either with equanimity."

"I am contemplating the latter with equanimity at the moment," said Harley, dryly.

"The brave man does so," the Hindu continued, smoothly. "The world only seems to grow older; its youth is really eternal, but as age succeeds age, new creeds must take the place of the old ones which are burned out. Fire, Mr. Harley, sweeps everything from its path irresistibly. You have dared to stand in the path of a fiery dawn; therefore, like all specks of dust which clog the wheels of progress, you must be brushed aside."

Harley nodded grimly, watching a ring of smoke floating slowly upward.

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"It is a little thing to those who know the truth," the speaker resumed. "To the purblind laws of the West it may seem a great thing. We seek in Rome to do as Rome does. We judge every man as we find him. Therefore, recognizing that your total disappearance might compromise our movements in the near future, we have decided to offer you an alternative. This offer is based upon the British character. Where the oath of some men is a thing of smoke, the word of honour of an Englishman we are prepared to accept."

"Many thanks," murmured Harley. "On behalf of Great Britain I accept the compliment."

"We have such faith in the completeness of our plans, and in the nearness of the hour of triumph, that if you will pledge yourself to silence, in writing, you will not be molested in any way. You occupy at the moment the apartment reserved for neophytes of a certain order. But we do not ask you to become a neophyte. Disciples must seek us, we do not seek disciples. We only ask for your word that you will be silent."

"It is impossible," said Harley, tersely.

"Think well of the matter. It may not seem so impossible to-morrow."

"I decline definitely."

"You are sustaining yourself with false hopes, Mr. Harley. You think you have clues which will enable you to destroy a system rooted in the remote past. Also you forget that you have lost your freedom."

Paul Harley offered no further answer to the speaker concealed behind the violet curtain.

"Do not misunderstand us," the voice continued. "We bind you to nothing but silence."

"I refuse," said Harley, sharply. "Dismiss the matter."

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