She was dressed, head-to-toe, in a richly embroidered abaya, which hid everything but her eyes (and even those were behind a veil). “That’s a fine…garment…you have there,” said Johns.

“Oh, this old thing?” Ms. Walker said. “It was a gift from an admirer in Trucial Oman many years ago.”

Johns made a thoughtful note on his pad. “I didn’t know you’d converted.”

“Oh, I haven’t, Mr. Johns,” Ms. Walker replied. “One should not go out of one’s way to call attention to oneself. That’s the maxim I’ve lived by since your grandfather was in diapers. I know that I can trust members of my household not to spread malicious rumors, gossip, or photographs. I do not, Mr. Johns, know the same of you. Hence the abaya.”

“Oh, I assure you, Ms. Walker, you’ve nothing to fear from me,” said Johns, flashing his most disarming smile.”

“Mr. Johns,” said Ms. Walker. “I’ve been on this earth for one hundred and two years, and I’ve heard that excuse more times than I care to remember. The last time I believed it, the very next day there was an atrocious picture of me next to Ellen Borden on the cover of the Times.”

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