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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 1 of 7||
ALTHOUGH we avoided all unnecessary delay, it was close upon midnight when our cab swung round into a darkly shadowed avenue, at the farther end of which, as seen through a tunnel, the moonlight glittered upon the windows of Rowan House, Sir Lionel Barton's home.
Stepping out before the porch of the long, squat building, I saw that it was banked in, as Smith had said, by trees and shrubs. The facade showed mantled in the strange exotic creeper which he had mentioned, and the air was pungent with an odor of decaying vegetation, with which mingled the heavy perfume of the little nocturnal red flowers which bloomed luxuriantly upon the creeper.
The place looked a veritable wilderness, and when we were admitted to the hall by Inspector Weymouth I saw that the interior was in keeping with the exterior, for the hall was constructed from the model of some apartment in an Assyrian temple, and the squat columns, the low seats, the hangings, all were eloquent of neglect, being thickly dust-coated. The musty smell, too, was almost as pronounced here as outside, beneath the trees.
To a library, whose contents overflowed in many literary torrents upon the floor, the detective conducted us.
"Good heavens!" I cried, "what's that?"
Something leaped from the top of the bookcase, ambled silently across the littered carpet, and passed from the library like a golden streak. I stood looking after it with startled eyes. Inspector Weymouth laughed dryly.
"It's a young puma, or a civet-cat, or something, Doctor," he said. "This house is full of surprises--and mysteries."
His voice was not quite steady, I thought, and he carefully closed the door ere proceeding further.
"Where is he?" asked Nayland Smith harshly. "How was it done?"
Weymouth sat down and lighted a cigar which I offered him.
"I thought you would like to hear what led up to it--so far as we know-- before seeing him?"
"Well," continued the Inspector, "the man you arranged to send down from the Yard got here all right and took up a post in the road outside, where he could command a good view of the gates. He saw and heard nothing, until going on for half-past ten, when a young lady turned up and went in."
"A young lady?"
"Miss Edmonds, Sir Lionel's shorthand typist. She had found, after getting home, that her bag, with her purse in, was missing, and she came back to see if she had left it here. She gave the alarm. My man heard the row from the road and came in. Then he ran out and rang us up. I immediately wired for you."
"He heard the row, you say. What row?"
"Miss Edmonds went into violent hysterics!"
Smith was pacing the room now in tense excitement.
"Describe what he saw when he came in."
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