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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer


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He seated himself beside her on the settee, and held her close. "My Naida!" he breathed softly.

"Ah, no, no!" she entreated. "Do you want to break my heart?"

He suddenly released her, clenched his big hands, and stared down at the carpet. "You have broken mine."

Impulsively Naida threw her arms around his neck, coiling herself up lithely and characteristically beside him.

"My big sweetheart," she whispered, crooningly. "Don't say it--don't say it."

"I have said it. It is true."

Turning, fiercely he seized her. "I won't let you go!" he cried, and there was a strange light in his eyes. "Before I was helpless, now I am not. This time you have come to me, and you shall stay."

She shrank away from him terrified, wild-eyed. "Oh, you forget, you forget!"

"For seven years I have tried to forget. I have been mad, but to-night I am sane."

"I trusted you, I trusted you!" she moaned.

Nicol Brinn clenched his teeth grimly for a moment, and then, holding her averted face very close to his own, he began to speak in a low, monotonous voice. "For seven years," he said, "I have tried to die, because without you I did not care to live. I have gone into the bad lands of the world and into the worst spots of those bad lands. Night and day your eyes have watched me, and I have wakened from dreams of your kisses and gone out to court murder. I have earned the reputation of being something more than human, but I am not. I had everything that life could give me except you. Now I have got you, and I am going to keep you."

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Naida began to weep silently. The low, even voice of Nicol Brinn ceased. He could feel her quivering in his grasp; and, as she sobbed, slowly, slowly the fierce light faded from his eyes.

"Naida, my Naida, forgive me," he whispered.

She raised her face, looking up to him pathetically. "I came to you, I came to you," she moaned. "I promised long ago that I would come. What use is it, all this? You know, you know! Kill me if you like. How often have I asked you to kill me. It would be sweet to die in your arms. But what use to talk so? You are in great danger or you would not have asked me to come. If you don't know it, I tell you--you are in great danger."

Nicol Brinn released her, stood up, and began slowly to pace about the room. He deliberately averted his gaze from the settee. "Something has happened," he began, "which has changed everything. Because you are here I know that--someone else is here."

He was answered by a shuddering sigh, but he did not glance in the direction of the settee.

"In India I respected what you told me. Because you were strong, I loved you the more. Here in England I can no longer respect the accomplice of assassins."

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