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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

Story Of The City Of Fire -- continued

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"How I managed to think of any defense against such an attack, and especially in the circumstances, is a matter I have often wondered about since. How, having thought of it, I succeeded in putting it into execution, is probably more wondertul still. But I will just state what happened.

"You may observe that I have large hands. Their size and strength served me well on this occasion At the moment that the rope tightened about my throat I reached up and grasped the Brahmin's left thumb. Desperation gave me additional strength, and I snapped it like a stick of candy.

"Just in the nick of time I felt the cord relax, and, although the veins in my head seemed to be bursting, I managed to get my fingers under that damnable rope. To this very hour I can hear Vadi's shriek of pain as I broke his thumb, and it brings the whole scene back to me.

"Clutching the rope with my left hand, I groaned and lay still. The Brahmin slightly shifted his position, which was what I wanted him to do. The brief respite had been sufficient. As he moved, I managed to draw my knees up, very slightly, for he was a big, heavy man, but sufficiently to enable me to throw him off and roll over.

"Then, gentlemen, I dealt with him as he had meant to deal with me; only I used my bare hands and made a job of it.

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"I stood up, breathing heavily, and looked down at him where he lay in the shadows at my feet. Dusk had come with a million stars, and almost above my head were flowering creepers festooned from bough to bough. The two campfires danced up and cast their red light upon the jagged rocks of the hillock, which started up from the very heart of the thicket, to stand out like some giant pyramid against the newly risen moon.

"There were night things on the wing, and strange whispering sounds came from the forests clothing the hills. Then came a distant, hollow booming like the sound of artillery, which echoed down the mountain gorges and seemed to roll away over the lowland swamps and die, inaudible, by the remote river. Yet I stood still, looking down at the dead man at my feet. For this strange, mysterious artillery was a phenomenon I had already met with on this fateful march--weird enough and inexplicable, but no novelty to me, for I had previously met with it in the Shan Hills of Burma.

"I was thinking rapidly. It was clear enough now why I had hitherto been unmolested. To Vadi the task had been allotted by the mysterious organization of which he was a member, of removing me quietly and decently, under circumstances which would lead to no official inquiry. Although only animals, insects, and reptiles seemed to be awake about me, yet I could not get rid of the idea that I was watched.

"I remembered the phantom light, and that memory was an unpleasant one. For ten minutes or more I stood there watching and listening, but nothing molested me, nothing human approached. With a rifle resting across my knees, I sat down in the entrance to my tent to await the dawn.

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