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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
A Cry On The Moor
|Page 2 of 5||
"Be quiet, you fool!" he snapped; "it's little less than an insult, Petrie, to think me capable of refusing help where help is needed!"
Like a cold douche his words acted; in that instant I knew myself a fool.
"You remember the Call of Siva?" he said, thrusting me away irritably, "--two years ago, and what it meant to those who obeyed it?"
"You might have told me . . ."
"Told you! You would have been through the window before I had uttered two words!"
I realized the truth of his assertion, and the justness of his anger.
"Forgive me, old man," I said, very crestfallen, "but my impulse was a natural one, you'll admit. You must remember that I have been trained never to refuse aid when aid is asked."
"Shut up, Petrie!" he growled; "forget it."
The cries had ceased now, entirely, and a peal of thunder, louder than any yet, echoed over distant Sedgemoor. The chasm of light splitting the heavens closed in, leaving the night wholly black.
"Don't talk!" rapped Smith; "act! You wedged your door?"
"Good. Get into that cupboard, have your Browning ready, and keep the door very slightly ajar."
He was in that mood of repressed fever which I knew and which always communicated itself to me. I spoke no further word, but stepped into the wardrobe indicated and drew the door nearly shut. The recess just accommodated me, and through the aperture I could see the bed, vaguely, the open window, and part of the opposite wall. I saw Smith cross the floor, as a mighty clap of thunder boomed over the house.
A gleam of lightning flickered through the gloom.
I saw the bed for a moment, distinctly, and it appeared to me that Smith lay therein, with the sheets pulled up over his head. The light was gone, and I could hear big drops of rain pattering upon the leaden gutter below the open window.
My mood was strange, detached, and characterized by vagueness. That Van Roon lay dead upon the moor I was convinced; and--although I recognized that it must be a sufficient one--I could not even dimly divine the reason why we had refrained from lending him aid. To have failed to save him, knowing his peril, would have been bad enough; to have refused, I thought was shameful. Better to have shared his fate--yet . . .
The downpour was increasing, and beating now a regular tattoo upon the gutterway. Then, splitting the oblong of greater blackness which marked the casement, quivered dazzlingly another flash of lightning in which I saw the bed again, with that impression of Smith curled up in it. The blinding light died out; came the crash of thunder, harsh and fearsome, more imminently above the tower than ever. The building seemed to shake.
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