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0100_005E Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

The Screen Of Gold

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That it was fairly desperate was a fact he was unable to hide from himself, but at least he was still alive, which was a matter at once for congratulation and surprise.

He had noticed before, in raising his hand to his head, that his forehead felt cold and wet, and now, considering the matter closely, he came to the conclusion that an attempt had been made to aid his recovery, by some person or persons who must have retired at the moment that he had shown signs of returning consciousness.

His salvation, then, was not accidental but deliberate. He wondered what awaited him and why his life had been spared. That he had walked blindly into a trap prepared for him by that mysterious personality known as Fire-Tongue, he no longer could doubt. Intense anxiety and an egotistical faith in his own acumen had led him to underestimate the cleverness of his enemies, a vice from which ordinarily he was free.

From what hour they had taken a leading interest in his movements, he would probably never know, but that they had detected Paul Harley beneath the vendor of "Old Moore's Almanac" was certain enough. What a fool he had been!

He reproached himself bitterly. Ordinary common sense should have told him that the Hindu secretary had given those instructions to the chauffeur in the courtyard of the Savoy Hotel for his, Paul Harley's, special benefit. It was palpable enough now. He wondered how he had ever fallen into such a trap, and biting savagely upon his pipe, he strove to imagine what ordeal lay ahead of him.

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So his thoughts ran, drifting from his personal danger, which he knew to be great, to other matters, which he dreaded to consider, because they meant far more to him than his own life. Upon these bitter reflections a slight sound intruded, the first which had disturbed the stillness about him since the moment of his awakening.

Someone had entered the room beyond the gilded screen, and now a faint light showed beneath the fringe of the curtain. Paul Harley sat quite still, smoking and watching.

He had learned to face the inevitable with composure, and now, apprehending the worst, he waited, puffing at his pipe. Presently he detected the sound of someone crossing the room toward him, or rather toward the screen. He lay back against the mattress which formed the back of the divan, and watched the gap below the curtain.

Suddenly he perceived a pair of glossy black boots. Their wearer was evidently standing quite near the screen, possibly listening. Harley had an idea that some second person stood immediately behind the first. Of this idea he presently had confirmation. He was gripping the stem of his pipe very tightly and any one who could have seen him sitting there must have perceived that although his face wore an unusual pallor, he was composed and entirely master of himself.

A voice uttered his name:

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Sax Rohmer

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