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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 4 of 5||
Someone was descending the steps.
In my right hand I held my revolver, and with my left arm about Lord Southery, I waited through ten such seconds of suspense as I have rarely known.
The spear of light plunged into the well of darkness again.
Lord Southery, Smith and myself were hidden by the angle of the wall; but full upon the purplish face of Mr. Henderson the beam shone. In some way it penetrated to the murk in his mind; and he awakened from his swoon with a hoarse cry, struggled to his feet, and stood looking up the stair in a sort of frozen horror.
Smith was past him at a bound. Something flashed towards him as the light was extinguished. I saw him duck, and heard the knife ring upon the floor.
I managed to move sufficiently to see at the top, as I fired up the stairs, the yellow face of Dr. Fu-Manchu, to see the gleaming, chatoyant eyes, greenly terrible, as they sought to pierce the gloom. A flying figure was racing up, three steps at a time (that of a brown man scantily clad). He stumbled and fell, by which I knew that he was hit; but went on again, Smith hard on his heels.
"Mr. Henderson!" I cried, "relight the lantern and take charge of Lord Southery. Here is my flask on the floor. I rely upon you."
Smith's revolver spoke again as I went bounding up the stair. Black against the square of moonlight I saw him stagger, I saw him fall. As he fell, for the third time, I heard the crack of his revolver.
Instantly I was at his side. Somewhere along the black aisle beneath the trees receding footsteps pattered.
"Are you hurt, Smith?" I cried anxiously.
He got upon his feet.
"He has a dacoit with him," he replied, and showed me the long curved knife which he held in his hand, a full inch of the blade bloodstained. "A near thing for me, Petrie."
I heard the whir of a restarted motor.
"We have lost him," said Smith.
"But we have saved Lord Southery," I said. "Fu-Manchu will credit us with a skill as great as his own."
"We must get to the car," Smith muttered, "and try to overtake them. Ugh! my left arm is useless."
"It would be mere waste of time to attempt to overtake them," I argued, "for we have no idea in which direction they will proceed."
"I have a very good idea," snapped Smith. "Stradwick Hall is less than ten miles from the coast. There is only one practicable means of conveying an unconscious man secretly from here to London."
"You think he meant to take him from here to London?"
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