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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

Phil Abingdon's Visitor

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He spoke with the deep respect of a courtier addressing his queen. His low musical voice held a note that was almost a note of adoration. Phil Abingdon withdrew her gaze from the handsome ivory face, and strove for mental composure before replying.

Subtly, insidiously, the man had cast his spell upon her. Of this she was well aware. In other words, her thoughts were not entirely her own, but in a measure were promptings from that powerful will.

Indeed, her heart was beating wildly at the mere thought that she was to see Paul Harley again that very day. She had counted the hours since their last meeting, and knew exactly how many had elapsed. Because each one had seemed like twelve, she had ceased to rebel against this sweet weakness, which, for the first time in her life, had robbed her of some of her individuality, and had taught her that she was a woman to whom mastery by man is exquisite slavery. Suddenly she spoke.

"Of course I will come, Your Excellency," she said. "I will see Mrs. McMurdoch at once, but I know she will not refuse."

"Naturally she will not refuse, Miss Abingdon," he returned In a grave voice. "The happiness of so many people is involved."

"It is so good of you," she said, standing up. "I shall never forget your kindness."

He rose, bowing deeply, from a European standpoint too deeply.

"Kindness is a spiritual investment," he said, "which returns us interest tenfold. If I can be sure of Mrs. McMurdoch's acceptance, I will request permission to take my leave now, for I have an urgent business appointment to keep, after which I will call for you. Can you be ready by noon?"

"Yes, we shall be ready."

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Phil Abingdon held out her hand in a curiously hesitant manner. The image of Paul Harley had become more real, more insistent. Her mind was in a strangely chaotic state, so that when the hand of Ormuz Khan touched her own, she repressed a start and laughed in an embarrassed way.

She knew that her heart was singing, but under the song lay something cold, and when Ormuz Khan had bowed himself from the room, she found herself thinking, not of the newly departed visitor, nor even of Paul Harley, but of her dead father. In spite of the sunshine which flooded the room, her flesh turned cold and she wondered if the uncanny Persian possessed some strange power.

Clearly as though he had stood beside her, she seemed to hear the beloved voice of her father. It was imagination, of course, she knew this; but it was uncannily real.

She thought that he was calling her, urgently, beseechingly:

"Phil.... Phil...."

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