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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

"The Gates Of Hell"

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Mr. Nicol Brinn of Cincinnati, who is at present in New York, opened his heart to members of the Players' Club last night. Our prominent citizen, responding to a toast, "the distinguished visitor," said:

"I'd like to live through months of midnight frozen in among the polar ice; I'd like to cross Africa from east to west and get lost in the middle. I'd like to have a Montana sheriff's posse on my heels for horse stealing, and I've prayed to be wrecked on a desert island like Robinson Crusoe to see if I am man enough to live it out. I want to stand my trial for murder and defend my own case, and I want to be found by the eunuchs in the harem of the Shah. I want to dive for pearls and scale the Matterhorn. I want to know where the tunnel leads to--the tunnel down under the Great Pyramid of Gizeh--and I'd love to shoot Niagara Falls in a barrel."

"It sounds characteristic," murmured Harley, laying the slip on the coffee table.

"It's true!" declared Brinn. "I said it and I meant it. I'm a glutton for danger, Mr. Harley, and I'm going to tell you why. Something happened to me seven years ago--"

"In India?"

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"In India. Correct. Something happened to me, sir, which just took the sunshine out of life. At the time I didn't know all it meant. I've learned since. For seven years I have been flirting with death and hoping to fall!"

Harley stared at him uncomprehendingly. "More than ever I fail to understand."

"I can only ask you to be patient, Mr. Harley. Time is a wonderful doctor, and I don't say that in seven years the old wound hasn't healed a bit. But to-night you have, unknowingly, undone all that time had done. I'm a man that has been down into hell. I bought myself out. I thought I knew where the pit was located. I thought I was well away from it, Mr. Harley, and you have told me something tonight which makes me think that it isn't where I supposed at all, but hidden down here right under our feet in London. And we're both standing on the edge!"

That Nicol Brinn was deeply moved no student of humanity could have doubted. From beneath the stoic's cloak another than the dare-devil millionaire whose crazy exploits were notorious had looked out. Persistently the note of danger came to Paul Harley. Those luxurious Piccadilly chambers were a focus upon which some malignant will was concentrated. He became conscious of anger. It was the anger of a just man who finds himself impotent--the rage of Prometheus bound.

"Mr. Brinn!" he cried, "I accept unreservedly all that you have told me. Its real significance I do not and cannot grasp. But my theory that Sir Charles Abingdon was done to death has become a conviction. That a like fate threatens yourself and possibly myself I begin to believe." He looked almost fiercely into the other's dull eyes. "My reputation east and west is that of a white man. Mr. Brinn--I ask you for your confidence."

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