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0100_005E Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

A Wreath Of Hyacinths

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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; something, I mean, other than the mere words which have puzzled us all so much. Won't you tell me?"

Now, Paul Harley had determined, since the girl was unacquainted with Nicol Brinn, to conceal from her all that he had learned from that extraordinary man. In this determination he had been actuated, too, by the promptings of the note of danger which, once seemingly attuned to the movements of Sir Charles Abingdon, had, after the surgeon's death, apparently become centred upon himself and upon Nicol Brinn. He dreaded the thought that the cloud might stretch out over the life of this girl who sat beside him and whom he felt so urgently called upon to protect from such a menace.

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The cloud? What was this cloud, whence did it emanate, and by whom had it been called into being? He looked into the violet eyes, and as a while before he had moved alone through the wilderness of London now he seemed to be alone with Phil Abingdon on the border of a spirit world which had no existence for the multitudes around. Psychically, he was very close to her at that moment; and when he replied he replied evasively: "I have absolutely no scrap of evidence, Miss Abingdon, pointing to foul play. The circumstances were peculiar, of course, but I have every confidence in Doctor McMurdoch's efficiency. Since he is satisfied, it would be mere imppertinence on my part to question his verdict."

Phil Abingdon repeated the weary sigh and turned her head aside, glancing down to where with one small shoe she was restlessly tapping the floor of the cab. They were both silent for some moments.

"Don't you trust me?" she asked, suddenly. "Or don't you think I am clever enough to share your confidence?"

As she spoke she looked at him challengingly, and he felt all the force of personality which underlay her outward lightness of manner.

"I both trust you and respect your intelligence," he answered, quietly. "If I withhold anything from you, I am prompted by a very different motive from the one you suggest."

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