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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

What Happened To Harley

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Some two hours after Paul Harley's examination of Jones, the ex-parlourmaid, a shabby street hawker appeared in the Strand, bearing a tray containing copies of "Old Moore's Almanac." He was an ugly-looking fellow with a split lip, and appeared to have neglected to shave for at least a week. Nobody appeared to be particularly interested, and during his slow progression from Wellington Street to the Savoy Hotel he smoked cigarettes almost continuously. Trade was far from brisk, and the vendor of prophecies filled in his spare time by opening car doors, for which menial service he collected one three-penny bit and several sixpences.

This commercial optimist was still haunting the courtyard of the hotel at a time when a very handsome limousine pulled up beside the curb and a sprucely attired Hindu stepped out. One who had been in the apartments of Ormuz Khan must have recognized his excellency's private secretary. Turning to the chauffeur, a half-caste of some kind, and ignoring the presence of the prophet who had generously opened the door, "You will return at eight o'clock," he said, speaking perfect and cultured English, "to take his excellency to High Claybury. Make a note, now, as I shall be very busy, reminding me to call at Lower Claybury station for a parcel which will be awaiting me there."

"Yes, sir," replied the chauffeur, and he touched his cap as the Hindu walked into the hotel.

The salesman reclosed the door of the car, and spat reflectively upon the pavement.

Limping wearily, he worked his way along in the direction of Chancery Lane. But, before reaching Chancery Lane, he plunged into a maze of courts with which he was evidently well acquainted. His bookselling enterprise presently terminated, as it had commenced, at The Chancery Agency.

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Once more safe in his dressing room, the pedler rapidly transformed himself into Paul Harley, and Paul Harley, laying his watch upon the table before him, lighted his pipe and indulged in half an hour's close thinking.

His again electing to focus his attention upon Ormuz Khan was this time beyond reproach. It was the course which logic dictated. Until he had attempted the task earlier in the day, he could not have supposed it so difficult to trace the country address of a well-known figure like that of the Persian.

This address he had determined to learn, and, having learned it, was also determined to inspect the premises. But for such a stroke of good luck as that which had befallen him at the Savoy, he could scarcely have hoped. His course now lay clearly before him. And presently, laying his pipe aside, he took up a telephone which stood upon the dressing table and rang up a garage with which he had an account.

"Hello, is that you, Mason?" he said. "Have the racer to meet me at seven o'clock, half-way along Pall Mall."

Never for a moment did he relax his vigilance. Observing every precaution when he left The Chancery Agency, he spent the intervening time at one of his clubs, from which, having made an early dinner, he set off for Pall Mall at ten minutes to seven. A rakish-looking gray car resembling a giant torpedo was approaching slowly from the direction of Buckingham Palace. The driver pulled up as Paul Harley stepped into the road, and following a brief conversation Harley set out westward, performing a detour before heading south for Lower Claybury, a little town with which he was only slightly acquainted. No evidence of espionage could he detect, but the note of danger spoke intimately to his inner consciousness; so that when, the metropolis left behind, he found himself in the hilly Surrey countryside, more than once he pulled up, sitting silent for a while and listening intently. He failed, always, to detect any sign of pursuit.

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