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"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."
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