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As Paul Harley had prayed would be the case, his pursuers evidently
believed that he had turned in the direction of Lower Claybury. A vague,
phantom figure, Harley saw the man wave his arm, whereupon a second man
joined him - a third - and, finally, a fourth.

Harley clenched his teeth grimly, and as the ominous quartet began to
move toward the left, he resumed his slow retreat to the right - going
ever farther away, of necessity, from the only centre with which he was
acquainted and from which he could hope to summon assistance. Finally
he reached a milestone resting almost against the railings of the Manor
Park.

Drawing a deep breath, he sprang upon the milestone, succeeded in
grasping the top of the high iron railings, and hauled himself up
bodily.

Praying that the turf might be soft, he jumped. Fit though he was, and
hardened by physical exercise, the impact almost stunned him. He came
down like an acrobat - left foot, right foot, and then upon his hands,
but nevertheless he lay there for a moment breathless and temporarily
numbed by the shock.

In less than a minute he was on his feet again and looking alertly about
him. Striking into the park land, turning to the left, and paralleling
the highroad, he presently came out upon the roadway, along which under
shelter of a straggling hedge, he began to double back. In sight of the
road dipping down to Lower Claybury he crossed, forcing his way through
a second hedge thickly sown with thorns.

Badly torn, but careless of such minor injuries, he plunged heavily
through a turnip field, and, bearing always to the left, came out
finally upon the road leading to the station, and only some fifty yards
from the bottom of the declivity.

A moment he paused, questioning the silence. He was unwilling to believe
that he had outwitted his pursuers. His nerves were strung to highest
tension, and his strange gift of semi-prescience told him that danger
was at least as imminent as ever, even though he could neither see nor
hear his enemies. Therefore, pistol in hand again, he descended to the
foot of the hill.

He remembered having noticed, when he had applied to the porter for
information respecting the residence of Ormuz Khan, that upon a window
adjoining the entrance had appeared the words "Station Master." The
station master's office, therefore, was upon the distant side of the
line.

Now came the hardest blow of all. The station was closed for the night.
Nor was there any light in the signal box. Evidently no other train
was due upon that branch line until some time in the early morning.
The level crossing gate was open, but before breaking cover he paused
a while to consider what he should do. Lower Claybury was one of those
stations which have no intimate connection with any township. The
nearest house, so far as Harley could recall, was fully twenty yards
from the spot at which he stood. Furthermore, the urgency of the case
had fired the soul of the professional investigator.

He made up his mind, and, darting out into the road, he ran across
the line, turned sharply, and did not pause until he stood before the
station master's window. Then his quick wits were put to their ultimate
test.

Right, left, it seemed from all about him, came swiftly pattering
footsteps! Instantly he divined the truth. Losing his tracks upon the
highroad above, a section of his pursuers had surrounded the station,
believing that he would head for it in retreat.

Paul Harley whipped off his coat in a flash, and using it as a ram,
smashed the window. He reached up, found the catch, and opened the sash.
In ten seconds he was in the room, and a great clatter told him that he
had overturned some piece of furniture.

Disentangling his coat, he sought and found the electric torch. He
pressed the button. No light came. It was broken! He drew a hissing
breath, and began to grope about the little room. At last his hand
touched the telephone, and, taking it up:

"Hello!" he said. "Hello!"

"Yes," came the voice of the operator - "what number?"

"City 8951. Police business! Urgent!"

One, two, three seconds elapsed, four, five, six.

"Hello!" came the voice of Innes.

"That you, Innes?" said Harley. And, interrupting the other's reply: "I
am by no means safe, Innes! I am in one of the tightest corners of my
life. Listen: Get Wessex! If he's off duty, get Burton. Tell him to
bring - "

Someone leaped in at the broken window behind the speaker. Resting the
telephone upon the table, where he had found it, Harley reached into his
hip pocket and snapped out his automatic.

Dimly he could hear Innes speaking. He half-turned, raised the pistol,
and knew a sudden intense pain at the back of his skull. A thousand
lights seemed suddenly to split the darkness. He felt himself sinking
into an apparently bottomless pit.



CHAPTER XX. CONFLICTING CLUBS

"Any news, Wessex?" asked Innes, eagerly, starting up from his chair as
the inspector entered the office.

Wessex shook his head, and sitting down took out and lighted a
cigarette.

"News of a sort," he replied, slowly, "but nothing of any value, I am
afraid. My assistant, Stokes, has distinguished himself."

"In what way?" asked Innes, dully, dropping back into his chair.

These were trying days for the indefatigable secretary. Believing that
some clue of importance might come to light at any hour of the day or
night he remained at the chambers in Chancery Lane, sleeping nightly in
the spare room.

"Well," continued the inspector, "I had detailed him to watch Nicol
Brinn, but my explicit instructions were that Nicol Brinn was not to be
molested in any way."

"What happened?"

"To-night Nicol Brinn had a visitor - possibly a valuable witness.
Stokes, like an idiot, allowed her to slip through his fingers and tried
to arrest Brinn!"

"What? Arrest him!" cried Innes.

"Precisely. But I rather fancy," added the inspector, grimly, "that
Mr. Stokes will think twice before taking leaps like that in the dark
again."

"You say he tried to arrest him. What do you mean by that?"

"I mean that Nicol Brinn, leaving Stokes locked in his chambers, went
out and has completely disappeared!"

"But the woman?"

"Ah, the woman! There's the rub. If he had lain low and followed the
woman, all might have been well. But who she was, where she came from,
and where she has gone, we have no idea."

"Nicol Brinn must have been desperate to adopt such measures?"

Detective Inspector Wessex nodded.

"I quite agree with you."

"He evidently had an appointment of such urgency that he could permit
nothing to stand in his way."

"He is a very clever man, Mr. Innes. He removed the telephone from the
room in which he had locked Stokes, so that my blundering assistant was
detained for nearly fifteen minutes - detained, in fact, until his cries
from the window attracted the attention of a passing constable!"

"Nicol Brinn's man did not release him?"

"No, he said he had no key."

"What happened?"

"Stokes wanted to detain the servant, whose name is Hoskins, but I
simply wouldn't hear of it. I am a poor man, but I would cheerfully give
fifty pounds to know where Nicol Brinn is at this moment."

Innes stood up restlessly and began to drum his fingers upon the table
edge. Presently he looked up, and:

"There's a shadow of hope," he said. "Rector - you know Rector? - had been
detailed by the chief to cover the activities of Nicol Brinn. He has not
reported to me so far to-night."

"You mean that he may be following him?" cried Wessex.

"It is quite possible - following either Nicol Brinn or the woman."

"My God, I hope you're right! - even though it makes the Criminal
Investigation Department look a bit silly."

"Then," continued Innes, "there is something else which you should know.
I heard to-day from a garage, with which Mr. Harley does business, that
he hired a racing car last night. He has often used it before. It met
him half-way along Pall Mall at seven o'clock, and he drove away in it
in the direction of Trafalgar Square."

"Alone?"

"Yes, unfortunately."

"Toward Trafalgar Square," murmured Wessex.

"Ah," said Innes, shaking his head, "that clue is of no importance.
Under the circumstances the chief would be much more likely to head away
from his objective than toward it."

"Quite," murmured Wessex. "I agree with you. But what's this?"

The telephone bell was ringing, and as Innes eagerly took up the
receiver:

"Yes, yes, Mr. Innes speaking," he said, quickly. "Is that you, Rector?"

The voice of Rector, one of Paul Harley's assistants, answered him over
the wire:

"I am speaking from Victoria Station, Mr. Innes."

"Yes!" said Innes. "Go ahead."

"A very odd-looking woman visited Mr. Nicol Brinn's chambers this
evening. She was beautifully dressed, but wore the collar of her fur
coat turned up about her face, so that it was difficult to see her. But
somehow I think she was an Oriental."

"An Oriental!" exclaimed Innes.

"I waited for her to come out," Rector continued. "She had arrived in
a cab, which was waiting, and I learned from the man that he had picked
her up at Victoria Station."

"Yes?"

"She came out some time later in rather a hurry. In fact, I think there
was no doubt that she was frightened. By this time I had another cab
waiting."

"And where did she go?" asked Innes.

"Back to Victoria Station."

"Yes! Go on!"

"Unfortunately, Mr. Innes, my story does not go much further. I wasted
very little time, you may be sure. But although no train had left from
the South Eastern station, which she had entered, there was no sign of
her anywhere. So that I can only suppose she ran through to the Brighton
side, or possibly out to a car, which may have been waiting for her
somewhere."

"Is that all?" asked Innes, gloomily.

"That's all, Mr. Innes. But I thought I would report it."

"Quite right, Rector; you could do no more. Did you see anything of
Detective Sergeant Stokes before you left Piccadilly?"

"I did," replied the other. "He also was intensely interested in Nicol
Brinn's visitor. And about five minutes before she came out he went
upstairs."

"Oh, I see. She came out almost immediately after Stokes had gone up?"

"Yes."

"Very well, Rector. Return to Piccadilly, and report to me as soon as
possible." Innes hung up the receiver.

"Did you follow, Wessex?" he said. "Stokes was on the right track, but
made a bad blunder. You see, his appearance led to the woman's retreat."

"He explained that to me," returned the inspector, gloomily. "She got
out by another door as he came in. Oh! a pretty mess he has made of
it. If he and Rector had been cooperating, they could have covered her
movements perfectly."

"There is no use crying over spilt milk," returned Innes. He glanced
significantly in the inspector's direction. "Miss Abingdon has rung up
practically every hour all day," he said.

Wessex nodded his head.

"I'm a married man myself," he replied, "and happily married, too. But
if you had seen the look in her eyes when I told her that Mr. Harley had
disappeared, I believe you would have envied him."

"Yes," murmured Innes. "They haven't known each other long, but I should
say from what little I have seen of them that she cares too much for her
peace of mind." He stared hard at the inspector. "I think it will break
her heart if anything has happened to the chief. The sound of her voice
over the telephone brings a lump into my throat, Wessex. She rang up an
hour ago. She will ring up again."

"Yet I never thought he was a marrying man," muttered the inspector.

"Neither did I," returned Innes, smiling sadly. "But even he can be
forgiven for changing his mind in the case of Phil Abingdon."

"Ah," said the inspector. "I am not sorry to know that he is human like
the rest of us." His expression grew retrospective, and: "I can't make
out how the garage you were speaking about didn't report that matter
before," he added.

"Well, you see," explained Innes, "they were used to the chief making
long journeys."

"Long journeys," muttered the inspector. "Did he make a long journey? I
wonder - I wonder."



CHAPTER XXI. THE SEVENTH KAMA

As Nicol Brinn strolled out from the door below his chambers in
Piccadilly, a hoarse voice made itself audible above his head.

"Police!" he heard over the roar of the traffic. "Help! Police!"

Detective Sergeant Stokes had come out upon the balcony. But up to the
time that Nicol Brinn turned and proceeded in leisurely fashion in
the direction of the Cavalry Club, the sergeant had not succeeded in
attracting any attention.

Nicol Brinn did not hurry. Having his hands thrust in the pockets of his
light overcoat, he sauntered along Piccadilly as an idle man might do.
He knew that he had ample time to keep his appointment, and recognizing
the vital urgency of the situation, he was grateful for some little
leisure to reflect.

One who had obtained a glimpse of his face in the light of the shop
windows which he passed must have failed to discern any evidence of
anxiety. Yet Nicol Brinn knew that death was beckoning to him. He knew
that his keen wit was the only weapon which could avail him to-night;
and he knew that he must show himself a master of defence.

A lonely man, of few but enduring friendships, he had admitted but one
love to his life, except the love of his mother. This one love for seven
years he had sought to kill. But anything forceful enough to penetrate
to the stronghold of Nicol Brinn's soul was indestructible, even by
Nicol Brinn himself.

So, now, at the end of a mighty struggle, he had philosophically
accepted this hopeless passion which Fate had thrust upon him. Yet he
whose world was a chaos outwardly remained unmoved.

Perhaps even that evil presence whose name was Fire-Tongue might have
paused, might have hesitated, might even have changed his plans, which,
in a certain part of the world, were counted immutable, had he known the
manner of man whom he had summoned to him that night.

Just outside the Cavalry Club a limousine was waiting, driven by a
chauffeur who looked like some kind of Oriental. Nicol Brinn walked up
to the man, and bending forward:

"Fire-Tongue," he said, in a low voice.

The chauffeur immediately descended and opened the door of the car.
The interior was unlighted, but Nicol Brinn cast a comprehensive glance
around ere entering. As he settled himself upon the cushions, the door
was closed again, and he found himself in absolute darkness.

"Ah," he muttered. "Might have foreseen it." All the windows were
curtained, or rather, as a rough investigation revealed, were closed
with aluminium shutters which were immovable.

A moment later, as the car moved off, a lamp became lighted above him.
Then he saw that several current periodicals were placed invitingly in
the rack, as well as a box of very choice Egyptian cigarettes.

"H'm," he murmured.

He made a close investigation upon every side, but he knew enough of the
organization with which he was dealing to be prepared for failure.

He failed. There was no cranny through which he could look out.
Palpably, it would be impossible to learn where he was being taken. The
journey might be a direct one, or might be a detour. He wished that he
could have foreseen this device. Above all, he wished that Detective
Sergeant Stokes had been a more clever man.

It would have been good to know that he was followed. His only hope was
that someone detailed by Paul Harley might be in pursuit.

Lighting a fresh cigar, Nicol Brinn drew a copy of the Sketch from the
rack, and studied the photographs of more or less pretty actresses with
apparent contentment. He had finished the Sketch, and was perusing the
Bystander, when, the car having climbed a steep hill and swerved sharply
to the right, he heard the rustling of leaves, and divined that they
were proceeding along a drive.

He replaced the paper in the rack, and took out his watch. Consulting
it, he returned it to his pocket as the car stopped and the light went
out.

The door, which, with its fellow, Nicol Brinn had discovered to be
locked, was opened by the Oriental chauffeur, and Brinn descended upon
the steps of a shadowed porch. The house door was open, and although
there was no light within:

"Come this way," said a voice, speaking out of the darkness.

Nicol Brinn entered a hallway the atmosphere of which seemed to be very
hot.

"Allow me to take your hat and coat," continued the voice.

He was relieved of these, guided along a dark passage; and presently, an
inner door being opened, he found himself in a small, barely furnished
room where one shaded lamp burned upon a large writing table.

His conductor, who did not enter, closed the door quietly, and Nicol
Brinn found himself looking into the smiling face of a Hindu gentleman
who sat at the table.

The room was decorated with queer-looking Indian carvings, pictures upon
silk, and other products of Eastern craftsmanship. The table and the
several chairs were Oriental in character, but the articles upon the
table were very European and businesslike in appearance. Furthermore,
the Hindu gentleman, who wore correct evening dress, might have been the
representative of an Eastern banking house, as indeed he happened to be,
amongst other things.

"Good evening," he said, speaking perfect English "won't you sit down?"

He pointed with a pen which he was holding in the direction of a heavily
carved chair which stood near the table. Nicol Brinn sat down, regarding
the speaker with lack-lustre eyes.

"A query has arisen respecting your fraternal rights," continued the
Hindu. "Am I to understand that you claim to belong to the Seventh
Kama?"

"Certainly," replied Brinn in a toneless voice.

The Hindu drew his cuff back from a slender yellow wrist, revealing a
curious mark which appeared to be branded upon the flesh. It was in the
form of a torch or flambeau surmounted by a tongue of flame. He raised
his black brows, smiling significantly.

Nicol Brinn stood up, removing his tight dinner jacket. Then, rolling
back his sleeve from a lean, sinuous forearm, he extended the powerful
member, having his fist tightly clenched.

Upon the inside of his arm, just above the elbow, an identical mark had
been branded!

The Hindu stood up and saluted Nicol Brinn in a peculiar manner. That is
to say, he touched the second finger of his right hand with the tip of
his tongue, and then laid the finger upon his forehead, at the same time
bowing deeply.

Nicol Brinn repeated the salutation, and quietly put his coat on.

"We greet you," said the Hindu. "I am Rama Dass of the Bengal Lodge.
Have you Hindustani?"

"No."

"Where were you initiated?"

"At Moon Ali Lane."

"Ah!" exclaimed the Hindu. "I see it all. In Bombay?"

"In Bombay."

"When, and by whom, may I ask?"

"By Ruhmani, November 23, 1913."

"Strange," murmured Rama Dass. "Brother Ruhmani died in that year; which
accounts for our having lost touch with you. What is your grade?"

"The fifth."

"You have not proceeded far, brother. How do you come to be unacquainted
with our presence in England?"

"I cannot say."

"What work has been allotted to you?"

"None."

"Never?"

"Never."

"More and more strange," murmured the Hindu, watching Nicol Brinn
through the gold-rimmed spectacles which he wore. "I have only known one
other case. Such cases are dangerous, brother."

"No blame attaches to me," replied Nicol Brinn.

"I have not said so," returned Rama Dass. "But in the Seventh Kama all
brothers must work. A thousand lives are as nothing so the Fire lives.
We had thought our information perfect, but only by accident did we
learn of your existence."

"Indeed," murmured Nicol Brinn, coldly.

Not even this smiling Hindu gentleman, whose smile concealed so much,
could read any meaning in those lack-lustre eyes, nor detect any emotion
in that high, cool voice.

"A document was found, and in this it was recorded that you bore upon
your arm the sign of the Seventh Kama."

"'Tis Fire that moves the grains of dust," murmured Nicol Brinn,
tonelessly, "which one day make a mountain for the gods."

Rama Dass stood up at once and repeated his strange gesture of
salutation, which Nicol Brinn returned ceremoniously; and resumed his
seat at the table.

"You are advanced beyond your grade, brother," he said. "You are worthy
the next step. Do you wish to take it?"

"Every little drop swells the ocean," returned Nicol Brinn.

"You speak well," the Hindu said. "We have here your complete record. It
shall not be consulted. To do so were unnecessary. We are satisfied. We
regret only that one so happily circumstanced to promote the coming of
the Fire should have been lost sight of. Last night there were three
promotions and several rejections. You were expected."

"But I was not summoned."

"No," murmured Rama Dass. "We had learned of you as I have said.
However, great honour results. You will be received alone. Do you desire
to advance?"

"No. Give me time."

Rama Dass again performed the strange salutation, and again Nicol Brinn
returned it.

"Wisdom is a potent wine," said the latter, gravely.

"We respect your decision."

The Hindu rang a little silver bell upon his table, and the double doors
which occupied one end of the small room opened silently, revealing a
large shadowy apartment beyond.

Rama Dass stood up, crossed the room, and standing just outside the open
doors, beckoned to Nicol Brinn to advance.

"There is no fear," he said, in a queer, chanting tone.

"There is no fear," repeated Nicol Brinn.

"There is no love."

"There is no love."

"There is no death."

"There is no death."

"Fire alone is eternal."

"Fire alone is eternal."

As he pronounced those words Nicol Brinn crossed the threshold of the
dark room, and the double doors closed silently behind him.



CHAPTER XXII. FIRE-TONGUE SPEAKS

Absolute darkness surrounded Nicol Brinn. Darkness, unpleasant heat, and
a stifling odour of hyacinths. He had been well coached, and thus far
his memory had served him admirably. But now he knew not what to expect.
Therefore inwardly on fire but outwardly composed, muscles taut and
nerves strung highly, he waited for the next development.

It took the form, first, of the tinkling of a silver bell, and then
of the coming of a dim light at the end of what was evidently a long
apartment. The light grew brighter, assuming the form of a bluish flame
burning in a little flambeau. Nicol Brinn watched it fascinatedly.

Absolutely no sound was discernible, until a voice began to speak, a
musical voice of curiously arresting quality.

"You are welcome," said the voice. "You are of the Bombay Lodge,
although a citizen of the United States. Because of some strange error,
no work has been allotted to you hitherto. This shall be remedied."

Of the weird impressiveness of the scene there could be no doubt. It
even touched some unfamiliar chord in the soul of Nicol Brinn.
The effect of such an interview upon an imaginative, highly strung
temperament, could be well imagined. It was perhaps theatrical, but that
by such means great ends had already been achieved he knew to his cost.

The introduction of Maskelyne illusions into an English country house
must ordinarily have touched his sense of humour, but knowing something
of the invisible presence in which he stood in that darkened chamber,
there was no laughter in the heart of Nicol Brinn, but rather an
unfamiliar coldness, the nearest approach to fear of which this
steel-nerved man was capable.

"Temporarily," the sweet voice continued, "you will be affiliated with
the London Lodge, to whom you will look for instructions. These will
reach you almost immediately. There is great work to be done in England.
It has been decided, however, that you shall be transferred as quickly
as possible in our New York Lodge. You will await orders. Only Fire is
eternal."

Again the voice ceased. But, Nicol Brinn remained silent:

"Your reply is awaited."

"Fire is life," replied Nicol Brinn.

The blue tongue of flame subsided, lower and lower, and finally
disappeared, so that the apartment became enwrapped in absolute
darkness. A faint rustling sound suggested that a heavy curtain had been
lowered, and almost immediately the doors behind Nicol Brinn were opened
again by Rama Dass.

"We congratulate you, brother," he said, extending his hand. "Yet the
ordeal was no light one, for all the force of the Fire was focussed upon
you."

Nicol Brinn reentered the room where the shaded lamp stood upon the


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