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  Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

His Excellency Ormuz Khan

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The city clocks were chiming the hour of ten on the following morning when a page from the Savoy approached the shop of Mr. Jarvis, bootmaker, which is situated at no great distance from the hotel. The impudent face of the small boy wore an expression of serio-comic fright as he pushed open the door and entered the shop.

Jarvis, the bootmaker, belonged to a rapidly disappearing class of British tradesmen. He buckled to no one, but took an artistic pride in his own handiwork, criticism from a layman merely provoking a scornful anger which had lost Jarvis many good customers.

He was engaged, at the moment of the page's entrance, in a little fitting room at the back of his cramped premises, but through the doorway the boy could see the red, bespectacled face with its fringe of bristling white beard, in which he detected all the tokens of brewing storm. He whistled softly in self-sympathy.

"Yes, sir," Jarvis was saying to an invisible patron, "it's a welcome sight to see a real Englishman walk into my shop nowadays. London isn't London, sir, since the war, and the Strand will never be the Strand again." He turned to his assistant, who stood beside him, bootjack in hand. "If he sends them back again," he directed, "tell him to go to one of the French firms in Regent Street who cater to dainty ladies." He positively snorted with indignation, while the page, listening, whistled again and looked down at the parcel which he carried.

"An unwelcome customer, Jarvis?" inquired the voice of the man in the fitting room.

"Quite unwelcome," said Jarvis. "I don't want him. I have more work than I know how to turn out. I wish he would go elsewhere. I wish--"

He paused. He had seen the page boy. The latter, having undone his parcel, was holding out a pair of elegant, fawn-coloured shoes.

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"Great Moses!" breathed Jarvis. "He's had the cheek to send them back again!"

"His excellency--" began the page, when Jarvis snatched the shoes from his hand and hurled them to the other end of the shop. His white beard positively bristled.

"Tell his excellency," he shouted, "to go to the devil, with my compliments!"

So positively ferocious was his aspect that the boy, with upraised arm, backed hastily out into the street. Safety won: "Blimey!" exclaimed the youth. "He's the warm goods, he is!"

He paused for several moments, staring in a kind of stupefied admiration at the closed door of Mr. Jarvis's establishment. He whistled again, softly, and then began to run--for the formidable Mr. Jarvis suddenly opened the door. "Hi, boy!" he called to the page. The page hesitated, glancing back doubtfully. "Tell his excellency that I will send round in about half an hour to remeasure his foot."

"D'you mean it?" inquired the boy, impudently--"or is there a catch in it?"

"I'll tan your hide, my lad!" cried the bootmaker--"and I mean that! Take my message and keep your mouth shut."

The boy departed, grinning, and little more than half an hour later a respectable-looking man presented himself at Savoy Court, inquiring of the attendant near the elevator for the apartments of "his excellency," followed by an unintelligible word which presumably represented "Ormuz Khan." The visitor wore a well-brushed but threadbare tweed suit, although his soft collar was by no means clean. He had a short, reddish-brown beard, and very thick, curling hair of the same hue protruded from beneath a bowler hat which had seen long service.

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