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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 2 of 7||
Silently Smith stared out at the distant moving lights.
"Karamaneh merely means a slave," he said irrelevantly.
I made no comment.
"There's the hulk," he added.
The bank upon which we stood dipped in mud slopes to the level of the running tide. Seaward it rose higher, and by a narrow inlet-- for we perceived that we were upon a kind of promontory-- a rough pier showed. Beneath it was a shadowy shape in the patch of gloom which the moon threw far out upon the softly eddying water. Only one dim light was visible amid this darkness.
"That will be the cabin," said Smith.
Acting upon our prearranged plan, we turned and walked up on to the staging above the hulk. A wooden ladder led out and down to the deck below, and was loosely lashed to a ring on the pier. With every motion of the tidal waters the ladder rose and fell, its rings creaking harshly, against the crazy railing.
"How are we going to get down without being detected?" whispered Smith.
"We've got to risk it," I said grimly.
Without further words my friend climbed around on to the ladder and commenced to descend. I waited until his head disappeared below the level, and, clumsily enough, prepared to follow him.
The hulk at that moment giving an unusually heavy heave, I stumbled, and for one breathless moment looked down upon the glittering surface streaking the darkness beneath me. My foot had slipped, and but that I had a firm grip upon the top rung, that instant, most probably, had marked the end of my share in the fight with Fu-Manchu. As it was I had a narrow escape. I felt something slip from my hip pocket, but the weird creaking of the ladder, the groans of the laboring hulk, and the lapping of the waves about the staging drowned the sound of the splash as my revolver dropped into the river.
Rather, white-faced, I think, I joined Smith on the deck. He had witnessed my accident, but--
"We must risk it," he whispered in my ear. "We dare not turn back now."
He plunged into the semi-darkness, making for the cabin, I perforce following.
At the bottom of the ladder we came fully into the light streaming out from the singular apartments at the entrance to which we found ourselves. It was fitted up as a laboratory. A glimpse I had of shelves loaded with jars and bottles, of a table strewn with scientific paraphernalia, with retorts, with tubes of extraordinary shapes, holding living organisms, and with instruments--some of them of a form unknown to my experience. I saw too that books, papers and rolls of parchment littered the bare wooden floor. Then Smith's voice rose above the confused sounds about me, incisive, commanding:
"I have you covered, Dr. Fu-Manchu!"
For Fu-Manchu sat at the table.
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