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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

Phil Abingdon's Visitor

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On the following morning the card of His Excellency Ormuz Khan was brought to Phil Abingdon in the charming little room which Mrs. McMurdoch had allotted to her for a private sanctum during the period of her stay under this hospitable roof.

"Oh," she exclaimed, and looked at the maid in a startled way. "I suppose I must see him. Will you ask him to come in, please?"

A few moments later Ormuz Khan entered. He wore faultless morning dress, too faultless; so devoid of any flaw or crease as to have lost its masculine character. In his buttonhole was a hyacinth, and in one slender ivory hand he carried a huge bunch of pink roses, which, bowing deeply, he presented to the embarrassed girl.

"Dare I venture," he said in his musical voice, bending deeply over her extended hand, "to ask you to accept these flowers? It would honour me. Pray do not refuse."

"Your excellency is very kind," she replied, painfully conscious of acute nervousness. "It is more than good of you."

"It is good of you to grant me so much pleasure," he returned, sinking gracefully upon a settee, as Phil Abingdon resumed her seat. "Condolences are meaningless. Why should I offer them to one of your acute perceptions? But you know--" the long, magnetic eyes regarded her fixedly--"you know what is in my heart."

Phil Abingdon bit her lip, merely nodding in reply.

"Let us then try to forget, if only for a while," said Ormuz Khan. "I could show you so easily, if you would consent to allow me, that those we love never leave us."

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The spell of his haunting voice was beginning to have its effect. Phil Abingdon found herself fighting against something which at once repelled and attracted her. She had experienced this unusual attraction before, and this was not the first time that she had combated it. But whereas formerly she had more or less resigned herself to the strange magic which lay in the voice and in the eyes of Ormuz Khan, this morning there was something within her which rebelled fiercely against the Oriental seductiveness of his manner.

She recognized that a hot flush had covered her cheeks. For the image of Paul Harley, bronzed, gray-eyed, and reproachful, had appeared before her mind's eye, and she knew why her resentment of the Persian's charm of manner had suddenly grown so intense. Yet she was not wholly immune from it, for:

"Does Your Excellency really mean that?" she whispered.

A smile appeared upon his face, an alluring smile, but rather that of a beautiful woman than of a man.

"As you of the West," he said, "have advanced step by step, ever upward in the mechanical sciences, we of the East have advanced also step by step in other and greater sciences."

"Certainly," she admitted, "you have spoken of such things before."

"I speak of things which I know. From that hour when you entered upon your first Kama, back in the dawn of time, until now, those within the ever-moving cycle which bears you on through the ages have been beside you, at times unseen by the world, at times unseen by you, veiled by the mist which men call death, but which is no more than a curtain behind which we sometimes step for a while. In the East we have learned to raise that curtain; in the West are triflers who make like claims, but whose knowledge of the secret of the veil is--" And he snapped his fingers contemptuously.

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