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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 3 of 6||
"Did you see it?" he yelled. "Did you see it?"
He evidently carried a revolver. For from the edge of the shrubbery a shot sounded, and in the flash we saw Denby with the weapon raised.
"Greba, go in and fasten the windows," cried Eltham. "Mr. Smith, will you enter the bushes from the west. Dr. Petrie, east. Edwards, Edwards--" And he was off across the lawn with the nervous activity of a cat.
As I made off in an opposite direction I heard the gardener's voice from the lower gate, and I saw Eltham's plan. It was to surround the shrubbery.
Two more shots and two flashes from the dense heart of greenwood. Then a loud cry--I thought, from Denby--and a second, muffled one.
Following--silence, only broken by the howling of the mastiff.
I sprinted through the rose garden, leaped heedlessly over a bed of geranium and heliotrope, and plunged in among the bushes and under the elms. Away on the left I heard Edwards shouting, and Eltham's answering voice.
"Denby!" I cried, and yet louder: "Denby!"
But the silence fell again.
Dusk was upon Redmoat now, but from sitting in the twilight my eyes had grown accustomed to gloom, and I could see fairly well what lay before me. Not daring to think what might lurk above, below, around me, I pressed on into the midst of the thicket.
"Vernon!" came Eltham's voice from one side.
"Bear more to the right, Edwards," I heard Nayland Smith cry directly ahead of me.
With an eerie and indescribable sensation of impending disaster upon me, I thrust my way through to a gray patch which marked a break in the elmen roof. At the foot of the copper beech I almost fell over Eltham. Then Smith plunged into view. Lastly, Edwards the gardener rounded a big rhododendron and completed the party.
We stood quite still for a moment.
A faint breeze whispered through the beech leaves.
"Where is he?"
I cannot remember who put it into words; I was too dazed with amazement to notice. Then Eltham began shouting:
"Vernon! Vernon! VERNON!"
His voice pitched higher upon each repetition. There was something horrible about that vain calling, under the whispering beech, with shrubs banked about us cloaking God alone could know what.
From the back of the house came Caesar's faint reply.
"Quick! Lights!" rapped Smith. "Every lamp you have!"
Off we went, dodging laurels and privets, and poured out on to the lawn, a disordered company. Eltham's face was deathly pale, and his jaw set hard. He met my eye.
"God forgive me!" he said. "I could do murder to-night!"
He was a man composed of strange perplexities.
It seemed an age before the lights were found. But at last we returned to the bushes, really after a very brief delay; and ten minutes sufficed us to explore the entire shrubbery, for it was not extensive. We found his revolver, but there was no one there--nothing.
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