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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

The Sixth Sense

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Sir Charles was staring at him in that curiously pathetic way which he had observed at their earlier interview in Chancery Large. "In any event," said his host, "let us dine: for already I have kept you waiting."

Harley merely bowed, and walking out of the library, entered the cosy dining room. A dreadful premonition had claimed him as his glance had met that of Sir Charles--a premonition that this man's days were numbered. It was uncanny, unnerving; and whereas, at first, the atmosphere of Sir Charles Abingdon's home had been laden with prosperous security, now from every side, and even penetrating to the warmly lighted dining room, came that chilling note of danger.

In crossing the lobby he had not failed to note that there were many Indian curios in the place which could not well have failed to attract the attention of a burglar. But that the person who had penetrated to the house was no common burglar he was now assured and he required no further evidence upon this point.

As he took his seat at the dining table he observed that Sir Charles's collection had overflowed even into this room. In the warm shadows about him were pictures and ornaments, all of which came from, or had been inspired by, the Far East.

In this Oriental environment lay an inspiration. The terror which had come into Sir Charles's life, the invisible menace which, swordlike, hung over him, surely belonged in its eerie quality to the land of temple bells, of silent, subtle peoples, to the secret land which has bred so many mysteries. Yes, he must look into the past, into the Indian life of Sir Charles Abingdon, for the birth of this thing which now had grown into a shadow almost tangible.

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Benson attended at table, assisted by a dark-faced and very surly-looking maid, in whom Harley thought he recognized the housekeeper's bete noire.

When presently both servants had temporarily retired. "You see, Mr. Harley," began Sir Charles, glancing about his own room in a manner almost furtive, "I realized to-day at your office that the history of this dread which has come upon me perhaps went back so far that it was almost impossible to acquaint you with it under the circumstances."

"I quite understand."

"I think perhaps I should inform you in the first place that I have a daughter. Her mother has been dead for many years, and perhaps I have not given her the attention which a motherless girl is entitled to expect from her father. I don't mean," he said, hastily, "that we are in any sense out of sympathy, but latterly in some way I must confess that we have got a little out of touch." He glanced anxiously at his guest, indeed almost apologetically. "You will of course understand, Mr. Harley, that this seeming preamble may prove to have a direct bearing upon what I propose to tell you?"

"Pray tell the story in your own way, Sir Charles," said Harley with sympathy. "I am all attention, and I shall only interrupt you in the event of any point not being quite clear."

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Sax Rohmer

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