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||The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
A Midnight Summons
|Page 5 of 5||
I remembered (as, knowing the district, I should have remembered before) that there was no number 280 in Rectory Grove.
Pulling up sharply I stood looking about me. Not a living soul was in sight; not even a policeman. Where the lamps marked the main paths across the common nothing moved; in the shadows about me nothing stirred. But something stirred within me--a warning voice which for long had lain dormant.
What was afoot?
A breeze caressed the leaves overhead, breaking the silence with mysterious whisperings. Some portentous truth was seeking for admittance to my brain. I strove to reassure myself, but the sense of impending evil and of mystery became heavier. At last I could combat my strange fears no longer. I turned and began to run toward the south side of the common--toward my rooms--and after Eltham.
I had hoped to head him off, but came upon no sign of him. An all-night tramcar passed at the moment that I reached the high road, and as I ran around behind it I saw that my windows were lighted and that there was a light in the hall.
My key was yet in the lock when my housekeeper opened the door.
"There's a gentleman just come, Doctor," she began--
I thrust past her and raced up the stairs into my study.
Standing by the writing-table was a tall, thin man, his gaunt face brown as a coffee-berry and his steely gray eyes fixed upon me. My heart gave a great leap--and seemed to stand still.
It was Nayland Smith!
"Smith," I cried. "Smith, old man, by God, I'm glad to see you!"
He wrung my hand hard, looking at me with his searching eyes; but there was little enough of gladness in his face. He was altogether grayer than when last I had seen him--grayer and sterner.
"Where is Eltham?" I asked.
Smith started back as though I had struck him.
"Eltham!" he whispered--"Eltham! is Eltham here?"
"I left him ten minutes ago on the common--"
Smith dashed his right fist into the palm of his left hand and his eyes gleamed almost wildly.
"My God, Petrie!" he said, "am I fated always to come too late?"
My dreadful fears in that instant were confirmed. I seemed to feel my legs totter beneath me.
"Smith, you don't mean--"
"I do, Petrie!" His voice sounded very far away. "Fu-Manchu is here; and Eltham, God help him . . . is his first victim!"
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