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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer


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Dusk was falling that evening. Gaily lighted cars offering glimpses of women in elaborate toilets and of their black-coated and white-shirted cavaliers thronged Piccadilly, bound for theatre or restaurant. The workaday shutters were pulled down, and the night life of London had commenced. The West End was in possession of an army of pleasure seekers, but Nicol Brinn was not among their ranks. Wearing his tightly-buttoned dinner jacket, he stood, hands clasped behind him, staring out of the window as Detective Inspector Wessex had found him at noon. Only one who knew him very well could have detected the fact that anxiety was written upon that Sioux-like face. His gaze seemed to be directed, not so much upon the fading prospect of the park, as downward, upon the moving multitude in the street below. Came a subdued knocking at the door.

"In," said Nicol Brinn.

Hoskins, the neat manservant, entered. "A lady to see you, sir."

Nicol Brinn turned in a flash. For one fleeting instant the dynamic force beneath the placid surface exhibited itself in every line of his gaunt face. He was transfigured; he was a man of monstrous energy, of tremendous enthusiasm. Then the enthusiasm vanished. He was a creature of stone again; the familiar and taciturn Nicol Brinn, known and puzzled over in the club lands of the world.


"She gave none."


"No, sir, a foreign lady."


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Hoskins having retired, and having silently closed the door, Nicol Brinn did an extraordinary thing, a thing which none of his friends in London, Paris, or New York would ever have supposed him capable of doing. He raised his clenched hands. "Please God she has come," he whispered. "Dare I believe it? Dare I believe it?"

The door was opened again, and Hoskins, standing just inside, announced: "The lady to see you, sir."

He stepped aside and bowed as a tall, slender woman entered the room. She wore a long wrap trimmed with fur, the collar turned up about her face. Three steps forward she took and stopped. Hoskins withdrew and closed the door.

At that, while Nicol Brinn watched her with completely transfigured features, the woman allowed the cloak to slip from her shoulders, and, raising her head, extended both her hands, uttering a subdued cry of greeting that was almost a sob. She was dark, with the darkness of the East, but beautiful with a beauty that was tragic. Her eyes were glorious wells of sadness, seeming to mirror a soul that had known a hundred ages. Withal she had the figure of a girl, slender and supple, possessing the poetic grace and poetry of movement born only in the Orient.

"Naida!" breathed Nicol Brinn, huskily. "Naida!"

His high voice had softened, had grown tremulous. He extended his hands with a groping movement The woman laughed shudderingly.

Her cloak lying forgotten upon the carpet, she advanced toward him.

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