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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

The Sixth Sense

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"Thank you," said Sir Charles. "I find it so much easier to explain the matter now. To continue, there is a certain distinguished Oriental gentleman "

He paused as Benson appeared to remove the soup plates.

"It is always delightful to chat with one who knows India so well as you do," he continued, glancing significantly at his guest.

Paul Harley, who fully appreciated the purpose of this abrupt change in the conversation, nodded in agreement. "The call of the East," he replied, "is a very real thing. Only one who has heard it can understand and appreciate all it means."

The butler, an excellently trained servant, went about his work with quiet efficiency, and once Harley heard him mutter rapid instructions to the surly parlourmaid, who hovered disdainfully in the background. When again host and guest found themselves alone: "I don't in any way distrust the servants," explained Sir Charles, "but one cannot hope to prevent gossip." He raised his serviette to his lips and almost immediately resumed: "I was about to tell you, Mr. Harley, about my daughter's--"

He paused and cleared his throat, then, hastily pouring out a glass of water, he drank a sip or two and Paul Harley noticed that his hand was shaking nervously. He thought of the photograph in the library, and now, in this reference to a distinguished Oriental gentleman, he suddenly perceived the possible drift of the conversation.

This was the point to which Sir Charles evidently experienced such difficulty in coming. It was something which concerned his daughter; and, mentally visualizing the pure oval face and taunting eyes of the library photograph, Harley found it impossible to believe that the evil which threatened Sir Charles could possibly be associated in any way with Phyllis Abingdon.

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Yet, if the revelation which he had to make must be held responsible for his present condition, then truly it was a dreadful one. No longer able to conceal his concern, Harley stood up. "If the story distresses you so keenly, Sir Charles," he said, "I beg--"

Sir Charles waved his hand reassuringly. "A mere nothing. It will pass," he whispered.

"But I fear," continued Harley, "that--"

He ceased abruptly, and ran to his host's assistance, for the latter, evidently enough, was in the throes of some sudden illness or seizure. His fresh-coloured face was growing positively livid, and he plucked at the edge of the table with twitching fingers. As Harley reached his side he made a sudden effort to stand up, throwing out his arm to grasp the other's shoulder.

"Benson!" cried Harley, loudly. "Quick! Your master is ill!"

There came a sound of swift footsteps and the door was thrown open.

"Too late," whispered Sir Charles in a choking voice. He began to clutch his throat as Benson hurried into the room.

"My God!" whispered Harley. "He is dying!"

Indeed, the truth was all too apparent. Sir Charles Abingdon was almost past speech. He was glaring across the table as though he saw some ghastly apparition there. And now with appalling suddenness he became as a dead weight in Harley's supporting grasp. Raspingly, as if forced in agony from his lips:

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