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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

A Wreath Of Hyacinths

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"Then you are keeping something from me," she said, softly. "I knew you were."

"Miss Abingdon," replied Harley, "when the worst trials of this affair are over, I want to have a long talk with you. Until then, won't you believe that I am acting for the best?"

But Phil Abingdon's glance was unrelenting.

"In your opinion it may be so, but you won't do me the honour of consulting mine."

Harley had half anticipated this attitude, but had hoped that she would not adopt it. She possessed in a high degree the feminine art of provoking a quarrel. But he found much consolation in the fact that she had thus shifted the discussion from the abstract to the personal. He smiled slightly, and Phil Abingdon's expression relaxed in response and she lowered her eyes quickly. "Why do you persistently treat me like a child?" she said.

"I don't know," replied Harley, delighted but bewildered by her sudden change of mood. "Perhaps because I want to."

She did not answer him, but stared abstractedly out of the cab window; and Harley did not break this silence, much as he would have liked to do so. He was mentally reviewing his labours of the preceding day when, in the character of a Colonial visitor with much time on his hands, he had haunted the Savoy for hours in the hope of obtaining a glimpse of Ormuz Khan. His vigil had been fruitless, and on returning by a roundabout route to his office he had bitterly charged himself with wasting valuable time upon a side issue. Yet when, later, he had sat in his study endeavouring to arrange his ideas in order, he had discovered many points in his own defence.

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If his ineffective surveillance of Ormuz Khan had been dictated by interest in Phil Abingdon rather than by strictly professional motives, it was, nevertheless, an ordinary part of the conduct of such a case. But while he had personally undertaken the matter of his excellency he had left the work of studying the activities of Nicol Brinn to an assistant. He could not succeed in convincing himself that, on the evidence available, the movements of the Oriental gentleman were more important than those of the American.

"Here we are," said Phil Abingdon.

She alighted, and Harley dismissed the caLman and followed the girl into Doctor McMurdoch's house. Here he made the acquaintance of Mrs. McMurdoch, who, as experience had taught him to anticipate, was as plump and merry and vivacious as her husband was lean, gloomy, and taciturn. But she was a perfect well of sympathy, as her treatment of the bereaved girl showed. She took her in her arms and hugged her in a way that was good to see.

"We were waiting for you, dear," she said when the formality of presenting Harley was over. "Are you quite sure that you want to go?"

Phil Abingdon nodded pathetically. She had raised her veil, and Harley could see that her eyes were full of tears. "I should like to see the flowers," she answered.

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