5. The Gates Of Hell
If Paul Harley had counted upon the word "Fire-Tongue" to have a dramatic
effect upon Nicol Brinn, he was not disappointed. It was a word which must have
conveyed little or nothing to the multitude and which might have been
pronounced without perceptible effect at any public meeting in the land. But Mr.
Brinn, impassive though his expression remained, could not conceal the emotion
which he experienced at the sound of it. His gaunt face seemed to grow more
angular and his eyes to become even less lustrous.
"Fire-Tongue!" he said, tensely, following a short silence. "For God's sake, when
did you hear that word?"
"I heard it," replied Harley, slowly, "to-night." He fixed his gaze intently upon the
sallow face of the American. "It was spoken by Sir Charles Abingdon."
Closely as he watched Nicol Brinn while pronouncing this name he could not
detect the slightest change of expression in the stoic features.
"Sir Charles Abingdon," echoed Brinn; "and in what way is it connected with your
"In this way," answered Harley. "It was spoken by Sir Charles a few moments
before he died."
Nicol Brinn's drooping lids flickered rapidly. "Before he died! Then Sir Charles
Abingdon is dead! When did he die?"
"He died to-night and the last words that he uttered were 'Fire-Tongue'--" He
paused, never for a moment removing that fixed gaze from the other's face.
"Go on," prompted Mr. Brinn.
"And 'Nicol Brinn.'"
Nicol Brinn stood still as a carven man. Indeed, only by an added rigidity in his
pose did he reward Paul Harley's intense scrutiny. A silence charged with drama
was finally broken by the American. "Mr. Harley," he said, "you told me that you
were up against the big proposition of your career. You are right."