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expectancy faded from his eager face almost in the moment that it
appeared there. "No luck, Innes," he said, gloomily. "Merton reports
that there is no trace of any dangerous foreign body in the liquids
analyzed."

He dropped the analyst's report into a wastebasket and resumed his
restless promenade. Innes, who could see that his principal wanted
to talk, waited. For it was Paul Harley's custom, when the clue to a
labyrinth evaded him, to outline his difficulties to his confidential
secretary, and by the mere exercise of verbal construction Harley would
often detect the weak spot in his reasoning. This stage come to, he
would dictate a carefully worded statement of the case to date and thus
familiarize himself with its complexities.

"You see, Innes," he began, suddenly, "Sir Charles had taken no
refreshment of any kind at Mr. Wilson's house nor before leaving his
own. Neither had he smoked. No one had approached him. Therefore, if he
was poisoned, he was poisoned at his own table. Since he was never out
of my observation from the moment of entering the library up to that of
his death, we are reduced to the only two possible mediums - the soup or
the water. He had touched nothing else."

"No wine?"

"Wine was on the table but none had been poured out. Let us see what
evidence, capable of being put into writing, exists to support my theory
that Sir Charles was poisoned. In the first place, he clearly went in
fear of some such death. It was because of this that he consulted me.
What was the origin of his fear? Something associated with the term
Fire-Tongue. So much is clear from Sir Charles's dying words, and his
questioning Nicol Brinn on the point some weeks earlier.

"He was afraid, then, of something or someone linked in his mind with
the word Fire-Tongue. What do we know about Fire-Tongue? One thing only:
that it had to do with some episode which took place in India. This item
we owe to Nicol Brinn.

"Very well. Sir Charles believed himself to be in danger from some thing
or person unknown, associated with India and with the term Fire-Tongue.
What else? His house was entered during the night under circumstances
suggesting that burglary was not the object of the entrance. And next?
He was assaulted, with murderous intent. Thirdly, he believed himself to
be subjected to constant surveillance. Was this a delusion? It was
not. After failing several times I myself detected someone dogging my
movements last night at the moment I entered Nicol Brinn's chambers.
Nicol Brinn also saw this person.

"In short, Sir Charles was, beyond doubt, at the time of his death,
receiving close attention from some mysterious person or persons
the object of which he believed to be his death. Have I gone beyond
established facts, Innes, thus far?"

"No, Mr. Harley. So far you are on solid ground."

"Good. Leaving out of the question those points which we hope to clear
up when the evidence of Miss Abingdon becomes available - how did Sir
Charles learn that Nicol Brinn knew the meaning of Fire-Tongue?"

"He may have heard something to that effect in India."

"If this were so he would scarcely have awaited a chance encounter to
prosecute his inquiries, since Nicol Brinn is a well-known figure in
London and Sir Charles had been home for several years."

"Mr. Brinn may have said something after the accident and before he was
in full possession of his senses which gave Sir Charles a clue."

"He did not, Innes. I called at the druggist's establishment this
morning. They recalled the incident, of course. Mr. Brinn never uttered
a word until, opening his eyes, he said: 'Hello! Am I much damaged?'"

Innes smiled discreetly. "A remarkable character, Mr. Harley," he said.
"Your biggest difficulty at the moment is to fit Mr. Nicol Brinn into
the scheme."

"He won't fit at all, Innes! We come to the final and conclusive item of
evidence substantiating my theory of Sir Charles's murder: Nicol Brinn
believes he was murdered. Nicol Brinn has known others, in his own
words, 'to go the same way.' Yet Nicol Brinn, a millionaire, a scholar,
a sportsman, and a gentleman, refuses to open his mouth."

"He is afraid of something."

"He is afraid of Fire-Tongue - whatever Fire-Tongue may be! I never saw a
man of proved courage more afraid in my life. He prefers to court arrest
for complicity in a murder rather than tell what he knows!"

"It's unbelievable."

"It would be, Innes, if Nicol Brinn's fears were personal."

Paul Harley checked his steps in front of the watchful secretary and
gazed keenly into his eyes.

"Death has no terrors for Nicol Brinn," he said slowly. "All his life
he has toyed with danger. He admitted to me that during the past seven
years he had courted death. Isn't it plain enough, Innes? If ever a man
possessed all that the world had to offer, Nicol Brinn is that man. In
such a case and in such circumstances what do we look for?"

Innes shook his head.

"We look for the woman!" snapped Paul Harley.

There came a rap at the door and Miss Smith, the typist, entered. "Miss
Phil Abingdon and Doctor McMurdoch," she said.

"Good heavens!" muttered Harley. "So soon? Why, she can only just - " He
checked himself. "Show them in, Miss Smith," he directed.

As the typist went out, followed by Innes, Paul Harley found himself
thinking of the photograph in Sir Charles Abingdon's library and waiting
with an almost feverish expectancy for the appearance of the original.

Almost immediately Phil Abingdon came in, accompanied by the sepulchral
Doctor McMurdoch. And Harley found himself wondering whether her eyes
were really violet-coloured or whether intense emotion heroically
repressed had temporarily lent them that appearance.

Surprise was the predominant quality of his first impression. Sir
Charles Abingdon's daughter was so exceedingly vital - petite and
slender, yet instinct with force. The seeming repose of the photograph
was misleading. That her glance could be naive he realized - as it could
also be gay - and now her eyes were sad with a sadness so deep as to
dispel the impression of lightness created by her dainty form, her
alluring, mobile lips, and the fascinating, wavy, red-brown hair.

She did not wear mourning. He recalled that there had been no time to
procure it. She was exquisitely and fashionably dressed, and even the
pallor of grief could not rob her cheeks of the bloom born of Devon
sunshine. He had expected her to be pretty. He was surprised to find her
lovely.

Doctor McMurdoch stood silent in the doorway, saying nothing by way
of introduction. But nothing was necessary. Phil Abingdon came forward
quite naturally - and quite naturally Paul Harley discovered her little
gloved hand to lie clasped between both his own. It was more like a
reunion than a first meeting and was so laden with perfect understanding
that, even yet, speech seemed scarcely worth while.

Thinking over that moment, in later days, Paul Harley remembered that
he had been prompted by some small inner voice to say: "So you have come
back?" It was recognition. Of the hundreds of men and women who came
into his life for a while, and ere long went out of it again, he knew,
by virtue of that sixth sense of his, that Phil Abingdon had come to
stay - whether for joy or sorrow he could not divine.

It was really quite brief - that interval of silence - although perhaps
long enough to bridge the ages.

"How brave of you, Miss Abingdon!" said Harley. "How wonderfully brave
of you!"

"She's an Abingdon," came the deep tones of Doctor McMurdoch. "She
arrived only two hours ago and here she is."

"There can be no rest for me, Doctor," said the girl, and strove
valiantly to control her voice, "until this dreadful doubt is removed.
Mr. Harley" - she turned to him appealingly - "please don't study my
feelings in the least; I can bear anything - now; just tell me what
happened. Oh! I had to come. I felt that I had to come."

As Paul Harley placed an armchair for his visitor, his glance met that
of Doctor McMurdoch, and in the gloomy eyes he read admiration of this
girl who could thus conquer the inherent weakness of her sex and at such
an hour and after a dreadful ordeal set her hand to the task which fate
had laid upon her.

Doctor McMurdoch sat down on a chair beside the door, setting his silk
hat upon the floor and clasping his massive chin with his hand.

"I will endeavour to do as you wish, Miss Abingdon," said Harley,
glancing anxiously at the physician.

But Doctor McMurdoch returned only a dull stare. It was evident
that this man of stone was as clay in the hands of Phil Abingdon. He
deprecated the strain which she was imposing upon her nervous system,
already overwrought to the danger point, but he was helpless for all his
dour obstinacy. Harley, looking down at the girl's profile, read a new
meaning into the firm line of her chin. He was conscious of an insane
desire to put his arms around this new acquaintance who seemed in some
indefinable yet definite way to belong to him and to whisper the tragic
story he had to tell, comforting her the while.

He began to relate what had taken place at the first interview, when Sir
Charles had told him of the menace which he had believed to hang over
his life. He spoke slowly, deliberately, choosing his words with a view
to sparing Phil Abingdon's feelings as far as possible.

She made no comment throughout, but her fingers alternately tightened
and relaxed their hold upon the arms of the chair in which she was
seated. Once, at some reference to words spoken by her father, her
sensitive lips began to quiver and Harley, watching her, paused. She
held the chair arms more tightly. "Please go on, Mr. Harley," she said.

The words were spoken in a very low voice, but the speaker looked up
bravely, and Harley, reassured, proceeded uninterruptedly to the end of
the story. Then:

"At some future time, Miss Abingdon," he concluded, "I hope you will
allow me to call upon you. There is so much to be discussed - "

Again Phil Abingdon looked up into his face. "I have forced myself
to come to see you to-day," she said, "because I realize there is no
service I can do poor dad so important as finding out - "

"I understand," Harley interrupted, gently. "But - "

"No, no." Phil Abingdon shook her head rebelliously. "Please ask me what
you want to know. I came for that."

He met the glance of violet eyes, and understood something of Doctor
McMurdoch's helplessness. He found his thoughts again wandering into
strange, wild byways and was only recalled to the realities by the
dry, gloomy voice of the physician. "Go on, Mr. Harley," said Doctor
McMurdoch. "She has grand courage."



CHAPTER VII. CONFESSIONS

Paul Harley crossed the room and stood in front of the tall Burmese
cabinet. He experienced the utmost difficulty in adopting a judicial
attitude toward his beautiful visitor. Proximity increased his mental
confusion. Therefore he stood on the opposite side of the office ere
beginning to question her.

"In the first place, Miss Abingdon," he said, speaking very
deliberately, "do you attach any particular significance to the term
'Fire-Tongue'?"

Phil Abingdon glanced rapidly at Doctor McMurdoch. "None at all, Mr.
Harley," she replied. "The doctor has already told me of - "

"You know why I ask?" She inclined her head.

"And Mr. Nicol Brinn? Have you met this gentleman?"

"Never. I know that Dad had met him and was very much interested in
him."

"In what way?"

"I have no idea. He told me that he thought Mr. Brinn one of the most
singular characters he had ever known. But beyond describing his rooms
in Piccadilly, which had impressed him as extraordinary, he said very
little about Mr. Brinn. He sounded interesting and " - she hesitated and
her eyes filled with tears - "I asked Dad to invite him home." Again she
paused. This retrospection, by making the dead seem to live again, added
to the horror of her sudden bereavement, and Harley would most gladly
have spared her more. "Dad seemed strangely disinclined to do so," she
added.

At that the keen investigator came to life within Harley. "Your father
did not appear anxious to bring Mr. Brinn to his home?" he asked,
eagerly.

"Not at all anxious. This was all the more strange because Dad invited
Mr. Brinn to his club."

"He gave no reason for his refusal?"

"Oh, there was no refusal, Mr. Harley. He merely evaded the matter. I
never knew why."

"H'm," muttered Harley. "And now, Miss Abingdon, can you enlighten
me respecting the identity of the Oriental gentleman with whom he had
latterly become acquainted?"

Phil Abingdon glanced rapidly at Doctor McMurdoch and then lowered
her head. She did not answer at once. "I know to whom you refer, Mr.
Harley," she said, finally. "But it was I who had made this gentleman's
acquaintance. My father did not know him."

"Then I wonder why he mentioned him?" murmured Harley.

"That I cannot imagine. I have been wondering ever since Doctor
McMurdoch told me."

"You recognize the person to whom Sir Charles referred?"

"Yes. He could only have meant Ormuz Khan."

"Ormuz Khan - " echoed Harley. "Where have I heard that name?"

"He visits England periodically, I believe. In fact, he has a house
somewhere near London. I met him at Lady Vail's."

"Lady Vail's? His excellency moves, then, in diplomatic circles? Odd
that I cannot place him."

"I have a vague idea, Mr. Harley, that he is a financier. I seem to have
heard that he had something to do with the Imperial Bank of Iran." She
glanced naively at Harley. "Is there such a bank?" she asked.

"There is," he replied. "Am I to understand that Ormuz Khan is a
Persian?"

"I believe he is a Persian," said Phil Abingdon, rather confusedly. "To
be quite frank, I know very little about him."

Paul Harley gazed steadily at the speaker for a moment. "Can you think
of any reason why Sir Charles should have worried about this gentleman?"
he asked.

The girl lowered her head again. "He paid me a lot of attention," she
finally confessed.

"This meeting at Lady Vail's, then, was the first of many?"

"Oh, no - not of many! I saw him two or three times. But he began to
send me most extravagant presents. I suppose it was his Oriental way of
paying a compliment, but Dad objected."

"Of course he would. He knew his Orient and his Oriental. I assume, Miss
Abingdon, that you were in England during the years that your father
lived in the East?"

"Yes. I was at school. I have never been in the East."

Paul Harley hesitated. He found himself upon dangerously delicate ground
and was temporarily at a loss as to how to proceed. Unexpected aid came
from the taciturn Doctor McMurdoch.

"He never breathed a word of this to me, Phil," he said, gloomily. "The
impudence of the man! Small wonder Abingdon objected."

Phil Abingdon tilted her chin forward rebelliously.

"Ormuz Khan was merely unfamiliar with English customs," she retorted.
"There was nothing otherwise in his behaviour to which any one could
have taken exception."

"What's that!" demanded the physician. "If a man of colour paid his
heathen attentions to my daughter - "

"But you have no daughter, Doctor."

"No. But if I had - "

"If you had," echoed Phil Abingdon, and was about to carry on this wordy
warfare which, Harley divined, was of old standing between the two, when
sudden realization of the purpose of the visit came to her. She paused,
and he saw her biting her lips desperately. Almost at random he began to
speak again.

"So far as you are aware, then, Miss Abingdon, Sir Charles never met
Ormuz Khan?"

"He never even saw him, Mr. Harley, that I know of."

"It is most extraordinary that he should have given me the impression
that this man - for I can only suppose that he referred to Ormuz
Khan - was in some way associated with his fears."

"I must remind you, Mr. Harley," Doctor McMurdoch interrupted, "that
poor Abingdon was a free talker. His pride, I take it, which was
strong, had kept him silent on this matter with me, but he welcomed an
opportunity of easing his mind to one discreet and outside the family
circle. His words to you may have had no bearing upon the thing he
wished to consult you about."

"H'm," mused Harley. "That's possible. But such was not my impression."

He turned again to Phil Abingdon. "This Ormuz Khan, I understood you to
say, actually resides in or near London?"

"He is at present living at the Savoy, I believe. He also has a house
somewhere outside London."

There were a hundred other questions Paul Harley was anxious to ask:
some that were professional but more that were personal. He found
himself resenting the intrusion of this wealthy Oriental into the
life of the girl who sat there before him. And because he could read a
kindred resentment in the gloomy eye of Doctor McMurdoch, he was drawn
spiritually closer to that dour character.

By virtue of his training he was a keen psychologist, and he perceived
clearly enough that Phil Abingdon was one of those women in whom a
certain latent perversity is fanned to life by opposition. Whether
she was really attracted by Ormuz Khan or whether she suffered his
attentions merely because she knew them to be distasteful to others, he
could not yet decide.

Anger threatened him - as it had threatened him when he had realized that
Nicol Brinn meant to remain silent. He combated it, for it had no place
in the judicial mind of the investigator. But he recognized its presence
with dismay. Where Phil Abingdon was concerned he could not trust
himself. In her glance, too, and in the manner of her answers to
questions concerning the Oriental, there was a provoking femininity - a
deliberate and baffling intrusion of the eternal Eve.

He stared questioningly across at Doctor McMurdoch and perceived a
sudden look of anxiety in the physician's face. Quick as the thought
which the look inspired, he turned to Phil Abingdon.

She was sitting quite motionless in the big armchair, and her face had
grown very pale. Even as he sprang forward he saw her head droop.

"She has fainted," said Doctor McMurdoch. "I'm not surprised."

"Nor I," replied Harley. "She should not have come."

He opened the door communicating with his private apartments and
ran out. But, quick as he was, Phil Abingdon had recovered before he
returned with the water for which he had gone. Her reassuring smile was
somewhat wan. "How perfectly silly of me!" she said. "I shall begin to
despise myself."

Presently he went down to the street with his visitors.

"There must be so much more you want to know, Mr. Harley," said Phil
Abingdon. "Will you come and see me?"

He promised to do so. His sentiments were so strangely complex that
he experienced a desire for solitude in order that he might strive to
understand them. As he stood at the door watching the car move toward
the Strand he knew that to-day he could not count upon his intuitive
powers to warn him of sudden danger. But he keenly examined the faces of
passers-by and stared at the occupants of those cabs and cars which
were proceeding in the same direction as the late Sir Charles Abingdon's
limousine.

No discovery rewarded him, however, and he returned upstairs to his
office deep in thought. "I am in to nobody," he said as he passed the
desk at which Innes was at work.

"Very good, Mr. Harley."

Paul Harley walked through to the private office and, seating himself at
the big, orderly table, reached over to a cupboard beside him and took
out a tin of smoking mixture. He began very slowly to load his pipe,
gazing abstractedly across the room at the tall Burmese cabinet.

He realized that, excepting the extraordinary behaviour and the veiled
but significant statements of Nicol Brinn, his theory that Sir Charles
Abingdon had not died from natural causes rested upon data of the most
flimsy description. From Phil Abingdon he had learned nothing whatever.
Her evidence merely tended to confuse the case more hopelessly.

It was sheer nonsense to suppose that Ormuz Khan, who was evidently
interested in the girl, could be in any way concerned in the death of
her father. Nevertheless, as an ordinary matter of routine, Paul Harley,
having lighted his pipe, made a note on a little block:

Cover activities of Ormuz Khan.

He smoked reflectively for a while and then added another note:

Watch Nicol Brinn.

For ten minutes or more he sat smoking and thinking, his unseeing gaze
set upon the gleaming lacquer of the cabinet; and presently, as he
smoked, he became aware of an abrupt and momentary chill. His sixth
sense was awake again. Taking up a pencil, he added a third note:

Watch yourself. You are in danger.



CHAPTER VIII. A WREATH OF HYACINTHS

Deep in reflection and oblivious of the busy London life around him,
Paul Harley walked slowly along the Strand. Outwardly he was still the
keen-eyed investigator who could pry more deeply into a mystery than
any other in England; but to-day his mood was introspective. He was in a
brown study.

The one figure which had power to recall him to the actual world
suddenly intruded itself upon his field of vision. From dreams which he
recognized in the moment of awakening to have been of Phil Abingdon, he
was suddenly aroused to the fact that Phil Abingdon herself was present.
Perhaps, half subconsciously, he had been looking for her.

Veiled and dressed in black, he saw her slim figure moving through the
throng. He conceived the idea that there was something furtive in her
movements. She seemed to be hurrying along as if desirous of avoiding
recognition. Every now and again she glanced back, evidently in search
of a cab, and a dormant suspicion which had lain in Harley's mind now
became animate. Phil Abingdon was coming from the direction of the Savoy
Hotel. Was it possible that she had been to visit Ormuz Khan?

Harley crossed the Strand and paused just in front of the hurrying,
black-clad figure. "Miss Abingdon," he said, "a sort of instinct told me
that I should meet you to-day."

She stopped suddenly, and through the black veil which she wore he saw
her eyes grow larger - or such was the effect as she opened them widely.
Perhaps he misread their message. To him Phil Abingdon's expression was
that of detected guilt. More than ever he was convinced of the truth of
his suspicions. "Perhaps you were looking for a cab?" he suggested.

Overcoming her surprise, or whatever emotion had claimed her at
the moment of this unexpected meeting, Phil Abingdon took Harley's
outstretched hand and held it for a moment before replying. "I had
almost despaired of finding one," she said, "and I am late already."

"The porter at the Savoy would get you one."

"I have tried there and got tired of waiting," she answered quite
simply.

For a moment Harley's suspicions were almost dispelled, and, observing
an empty cab approaching, he signalled to the man to pull up.

"Where do you want to go to?" he inquired, opening the door.

"I am due at Doctor McMurdoch's," she replied, stepping in.

Paul Harley hesitated, glancing from the speaker to the driver.

"I wonder if you have time to come with me," said Phil Abingdon. "I know
the doctor wants to see you."

"I will come with pleasure," replied Harley, a statement which was no
more than true.

Accordingly he gave the necessary directions to the taxi man and seated
himself beside the girl in the cab.

"I am awfully glad of an opportunity of a chat with you, Mr. Harley,"
said Phil Abingdon. "The last few days have seemed like one long
nightmare to me." She sighed pathetically. "Surely Doctor McMurdoch is
right, and all the horrible doubts which troubled us were idle ones,
after all?"

She turned to Harley, looking almost eagerly into his face. "Poor daddy
hadn't an enemy in the world, I am sure," she said. "His extraordinary
words to you no doubt have some simple explanation. Oh, it would be such
a relief to know that his end was a natural one. At least it would dull
the misery of it all a little bit."

The appeal in her eyes was of a kind which Harley found much difficulty
in resisting. It would have been happiness to offer consolation to this
sorrowing girl. But, although he could not honestly assure her that
he had abandoned his theories, he realized that the horror of her
suspicions was having a dreadful effect upon Phil Abingdon's mind.

"You may quite possibly be right," he said, gently. "In any event, I
hope you will think as little as possible about the morbid side of this
unhappy business."

"I try to," she assured him, earnestly, "but you can imagine how hard
the task is. I know that you must have some good reason for your idea;


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