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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

At Hillside

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"In what way?" she asked, wondering why Mrs. McMurdoch had not joined them.

"In many subtle ways. The real wonder and the mystery of the East lie not upon the surface, but beneath it. And beneath the East of to-day lies the East of yesterday."

The speaker's expression grew rapt, and he spoke in the mystic manner which she knew and now dreaded. Her anxiety for the return of Paui Harley grew urgent--a positive need, as, meeting the gaze of the long, magnetic eyes, she felt again, like the touch of cold steel, all the penetrating force of this man's will. She was angrily aware of the fact that his gaze was holding hers hypnotically, that she was meeting it contrary to her wish and inclination. She wanted to look away but found herself looking steadily into the coal-black eyes of Ormuz Khan.

"The East of yesterday"--his haunting voice seemed to reach her from a great distance--"saw the birth of all human knowledge and human power; and to us the East of yesterday is the East of today."

Phil became aware that a sort of dreamy abstraction was creeping over her, when in upon this mood came a sound which stimulated her weakening powers of resistance.

Dimly, for all the windows of the room were closed, she heard a car come up and stop before the house. It aroused her from the curious condition of lethargy into which she was falling. She turned her head sharply aside, the physical reflection of a mental effort to remove her gaze from the long, magnetic eyes of Ormuz Khan. And:

"Do you think that is Mr. Harley?" she asked, and failed to recognize her own voice.

"Possibly," returned the Persian, speaking very gently.

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With one ivory hand he touched his knee for a moment, the only expression of disappointment which he allowed himself.

"May I ask you to go and enquire?" continued Phil, now wholly mistress of herself again. "I am wondering, too, what can have become of Mrs. McMurdoch."

"I will find out," said Ormuz Khan.

He rose, his every movement possessing a sort of feline grace. He bowed and walked out of the room. Phil Abingdon heard in the distance the motor restarted and the car being driven away from Hillside. She stood up restlessly.

Beneath the calm of the Persian's manner she had detected the presence of dangerous fires. The silence of the house oppressed her. She was not actually frightened yet, but intuitively she knew that all was not well. Then came a new sound arousing active fear at last.

Someone was rapping upon one of the long, masked windows! Phil Abingdon started back with a smothered exclamation.

"Quick!" came a high, cool voice, "open this window. You are in danger."

The voice was odd, peculiar, but of one thing she was certain. It was not the voice of an Oriental. Furthermore, it held a note of command, and something, too, which inspired trust.

She looked quickly about her to make sure that she was alone. And then, running swiftly to the window from which the sound had come, she moved a heavy gilded fastening which closed it, and drew open the heavy leaves.

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