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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer


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"None ever came to his home," replied Doctor McMurdoch. "He had all the Anglo-Indian's prejudice against men of colour." He rested his massive chin in his hand and stared down reflectively at the carpet.

"Then you have no suggestion to offer in regard to this person?"

"None. Did he tell you nothing further about him?"

"Unfortunately, nothing. In the next place, Doctor McMurdoch, are you aware of any difference of opinion which had arisen latterly between Sir Charles and his daughter?"

"Difference of opinion!" replied Doctor McMur doch, raising his brows ironically. "There would always be difference of opinion between little Phil and any man who cared for her. But out-and-out quarrel--no!"

Again Harley found himself at a deadlock, and it was with scanty hope of success that he put his third question to the gloomy Scot. "Was Sir Charles a friend of Mr. Nicol Brinn?" he asked.

"Nicol Brinn?" echoed the physician. He looked perplexed. "You mean the American millionaire? I believe they were acquainted. Abingdon knew most of the extraordinary people in London; and if half one hears is true Nicol Brinn is as mad as a hatter. But they were not in any sense friends as far as I know." He was watching Harley curiously. "Why do you ask that question?"

"I will tell you in a moment," said Harley, rapidly, "but I have one more question to put to you first. Does the term Fire-Tongue convey anything to your mind?"

Doctor McMurdoch's eyebrows shot upward most amazingly. "I won't insult you by supposing that you have chosen such a time for joking," he said, dourly. "But if your third question surprised me, I must say that your fourth sounds simply daft."

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"It must," agreed Harley, and his manner was almost fierce; "but when I tell you why I ask these two questions--and I only do so on the understand ing that my words are to be treated in the strictest confidence--you may regard the matter in a new light. 'Nicol Brinn' and 'Fire-Tongue' were the last words which Sir Charles Abingdon uttered."

"What!" cried Doctor McMurdoch, displaying a sudden surprising energy. "What?"

"I solemnly assure you," declared Harley, "that such is the case. Benson, the butler, also overheard them."

Doctor McMurdoch relapsed once more into gloom, gazing at the whiskey in the glass which he held in his hand and slowly shaking his head. "Poor old Charley Abingdon," he murmured. "It's plain to me, Mr. Harley, that his mind was wandering. May not we find here an explanation, too, of this idea of his that some danger overhung Phil? You didn't chance to notice, I suppose, whether he had a temperature?"

"I did not," replied Harley, smiling slightly. But the smile quickly left his face, which became again grim and stern.

A short silence ensued, during which Doctor McMurdoch sat staring moodily down at the carpet and. Harley slowly paced up and down the room; then:

"In view of the fact," he said, suddenly, "that Sir Charles clearly apprehended an attempt upon his life, are you satisfied professionally that death was due to natural causes?"

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