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A Client For Paul Harley
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"Well," replied Innes, laying a card upon the table, "I was just coming in with it when you rang."
Paul Harley glanced at the card.
"Sir Charles Abingdon," he read aloud, staring reflectively at his secretary. "That is the osteologist?"
"Yes," answered Innes, "but I fancy he has retired from practice."
"Ah," murmured Harley, "I wonder what he wants. I suppose I had better see him, as I fancy that he and I met casually some years ago in India. Ask him to come in, will you?"
Innes retiring, there presently entered a distinguished-looking, elderly gentleman upon whose florid face rested an expression not unlike that of embarrassment.
"Mr. Harley," he began, "I feel somewhat ill at ease in encroaching upon your time, for I am by no means sure that my case comes within your particular province."
"Sit down, Sir Charles," said Harley with quiet geniality. "Officially, my working day is ended; but if nothing comes of your visit beyond a chat it will have been very welcome. Calcutta, was it not, where we last met?"
"It was," replied Sir Charles, placing his hat and cane upon the table and sitting down rather wearily in a big leather armchair which Harley had pushed forward. "If I presume upon so slight an acquaintance, I am sorry, but I must confess that only the fact of having met you socially encouraged me to make this visit."
He raised his eyes to Harley's face and gazed at him with that peculiarly searching look which belongs to members of his profession; but mingled with it was an expression of almost pathetic appeal, of appeal for understanding, for sympathy of some kind.
"Go on, Sir Charles," said Harley. He pushed forward a box of cigars. "Will you smoke?"
"Thanks, no," was the answer.
Slr Charles evidently was oppressed by some secret trouble, thus Harley mused silently, as, taking out a tin of tobacco from a cabinet beside him, he began in leisurely manner to load a briar. In this he desired to convey that he treated the visit as that of a friend, and also, since business was over, that Sir Charles might without scruple speak at length and at leisure of whatever matters had brought him there.
"Very well, then," began the surgeon; "I am painfully conscious that the facts which I am in a position to lay before you are very scanty and unsatisfactory."
Paul Harley nodded encouragingly.
"If this were not so," he explained, "you would have no occasion to apply to me, Sir Charles. It is my business to look for facts. Naturally, I do not expect my clients to supply them."
Sir Charles slowly nodded his head, and seemed in some measure to recover confidence.
"Briefly, then," he said, "I believe my life is in danger."
"You mean that there is someone who desires your death?"
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