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  Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

Nicol Brinn's Story -- concluded

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"The incidents of the next seven years do not concern you, gentlemen. I had one aim in life--to forget. I earned an unenviable reputation for foolhardy enterprises. Until this very hour, no man has known why I did the things that I did do. From the time that I left India until the moment when fate literally threw me in the way of the late Sir Charles Abingdon, I had heard nothing of the cult of Fire-Tongue; and in spite of Naida's assurance that its membership was not confined to Orientals, I had long ago supposed it to be a manifestation of local fanaticism, having no political or international significance.

"Then, lunching with the late Sir Charles after my accident in the Haymarket, he put to me a question which literally made me hold my breath.

"'Do you know anything of the significance of the term Fire-Tongue?' he asked.

"I am not accustomed to any display of feeling in public, and I replied in what I think was an ordinary tone:

"'In what connection, Sir Charles?'

"'Well,' said he, watching me oddly, 'I know you have travelled in India, and I wondered if you had ever come in contact with the legend which prevails there, that a second Zoroaster has arisen, to preach the doctrine of eternal fire.'

"'I have heard it,' I replied, guardedly.

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"'I thought it possible,' continued Sir Charles, 'and I am tempted to tell you of a curious experience which once befell me during the time that I was a guest of my late friend Colonel Banfield in Delhi. My reputation as an osteologist was not at that time so fully established as it later became, but I already had some reputation in this branch of surgery; and one evening a very dignified Hindu gentleman sought an interview with me, saying that a distinguished native noble, who was a guest of his, had met with a serious accident, and offering me a fee equivalent to nearly five hundred pounds to perform an operation which he believed to be necessary.

"'I assured him that my services were at his disposal, and blankly declined to accept so large a fee. He thereupon explained that the circumstances were peculiar. His friend belonged to a religious cult of an extremely high order. He would lose caste if it became known that he had been attended by a Christian surgeon; therefore my visit must be a secret one.

"'It made no difference,' I replied. 'I quite understood; and he might rely upon my discretion.

"'Accordingly I was driven in a car which was waiting to some house upon the outskirts of the city and conducted to a room where the patient had been carried. I saw him to be a singularly handsome young man, apparently about twenty-three years of age. His features were flawless, and he possessed light ivory skin and wavy jet-black hair. His eyes, which were very dark and almond-shaped, had a strange and arresting beauty. But there was something effeminate about him which repelled me, I cannot say in what way; nor did I approve of the presence of many bowls of hyacinths in the room.

"'However, I performed the operation, which, although slight, demanded some skill, and with the nature of which I will not trouble you. Intense anxiety was manifested by the young man's attendants, and one of these, a strikingly beautiful woman, insisted on remaining while the operation was performed.

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Sax Rohmer

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