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Fire-Tongue

11. The Purple Stain
For more than an hour Harley sat alone, smoking, neglectful of the routine duties
which should have claimed his attention. His face was set and grim, and his
expression one of total abstraction. In spirit he stood again in that superheated
room at the Savoy. Sometimes, as he mused, he would smoke with unconscious
vigour, surrounding himself with veritable fog banks. An imaginary breath of
hyacinths would have reached him, to conjure up vividly the hateful, perfumed
environment of Ormuz Khan.
He was savagely aware of a great mental disorderliness. He recognized that his
brain remained a mere whirlpool from which Phyllis Abingdon, the deceased Sir
Charles, Nicol Brinn, and another, alternately arose to claim supremacy. He
clenched his teeth upon the mouthpiece of his pipe.
But after some time, although rebelliously, his thoughts began to marshal
themselves in a certain definite formation. And outstanding, alone, removed from
the ordinary, almost from the real, was the bizarre personality of Ormuz Khan.
The data concerning the Oriental visitor, as supplied by Inspector Wessex, had
led him to expect quite a different type of character. Inured as Paul Harley was to
surprise, his first sentiment as he had set eyes upon the man had been one of
sheer amazement.
"Something of a dandy," inadequately described the repellent sensuousness of
this veritable potentate, who could contrive to invest a sitting room in a modern
hotel with the atmosphere of a secret Eastern household. To consider Ormuz
Khan in connection with matters of international finance was wildly incongruous,
while the manicurist incident indicated an inherent cruelty only possible in one of
Oriental race.
In a mood of complete mental detachment Paul Harley found himself looking
again into those black, inscrutable eyes and trying to analyze the elusive quality
of their regard. They were unlike any eyes that he had met with. It were folly to
count their possessor a negligible quantity. Nevertheless, it was difficult, because
of the fellow's scented effeminacy, to believe that women could find him
 
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