Fire-Tongue HTML version

15. Naida
Dusk was falling that evening. Gaily lighted cars offering glimpses of women in
elaborate toilets and of their black-coated and white-shirted cavaliers thronged
Piccadilly, bound for theatre or restaurant. The workaday shutters were pulled
down, and the night life of London had commenced. The West End was in
possession of an army of pleasure seekers, but Nicol Brinn was not among their
ranks. Wearing his tightly-buttoned dinner jacket, he stood, hands clasped
behind him, staring out of the window as Detective Inspector Wessex had found
him at noon. Only one who knew him very well could have detected the fact that
anxiety was written upon that Sioux-like face. His gaze seemed to be directed,
not so much upon the fading prospect of the park, as downward, upon the
moving multitude in the street below. Came a subdued knocking at the door.
"In," said Nicol Brinn.
Hoskins, the neat manservant, entered. "A lady to see you, sir."
Nicol Brinn turned in a flash. For one fleeting instant the dynamic force beneath
the placid surface exhibited itself in every line of his gaunt face. He was
transfigured; he was a man of monstrous energy, of tremendous enthusiasm.
Then the enthusiasm vanished. He was a creature of stone again; the familiar
and taciturn Nicol Brinn, known and puzzled over in the club lands of the world.
"She gave none."
"No, sir, a foreign lady."
Hoskins having retired, and having silently closed the door, Nicol Brinn did an
extraordinary thing, a thing which none of his friends in London, Paris, or New
York would ever have supposed him capable of doing. He raised his clenched