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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 2 of 5||
"Gipsy girl!" I whispered, glancing rapidly at Smith.
"I think you are right, Doctor," said Weymouth with his slow smile; "it was Karamaneh. She asked him the way to somewhere or other and got him to write it upon a loose page of his notebook, so that she should not forget it."
"You hear that, Petrie?" rapped Smith.
"I hear it," I replied, "but I don't see any special significance in the fact."
"I do!" rapped Smith; "I didn't sit up the greater part of last night thrashing my weary brains for nothing! But I am going to the British Museum to-day, to confirm a certain suspicion." He turned to Weymouth. "Did Burke go back?" he demanded abruptly.
"He returned hidden under the empty boxes," was the reply. "Oh! you never saw a man in such a funk in all your life!"
"He may have good reasons," I said.
"He has good reasons!" replied Nayland Smith grimly; "if that man really possesses information inimical to the safety of Fu-Manchu, he can only escape doom by means of a miracle similar to that which has hitherto protected you and me."
"Burke insists," said Weymouth at this point, that something comes almost every night after dusk, slinking about the house--it's an old farmhouse, I understand; and on two or three occasions he has been awakened (fortunately for him he is a light sleeper) by sounds of coughing immediately outside his window. He is a man who sleeps with a pistol under his pillow, and more than once, on running to the window, he has had a vague glimpse of some creature leaping down from the tiles of the roof, which slopes up to his room, into the flower beds below . . ."
"Creature!" said Smith, his gray eyes ablaze now--"you said creature!"
"I used the word deliberately," replied Weymouth, "because Burke seems to have the idea that it goes on all fours."
There was a short and rather strained silence. Then:
"In descending a sloping roof," I suggested, "a human being would probably employ his hands as well as his feet."
"Quite so," agreed the inspector. "I am merely reporting the impression of Burke."
"Has he heard no other sound?" rapped Smith; "one like the cracking of dry branches, for instance?"
"He made no mention of it," replied Weymouth, staring.
"And what is the plan?"
"One of his cousin's vans," said Weymouth, with his slight smile, "has remained behind at Covent Garden and will return late this afternoon. I propose that you and I, Mr. Smith, imitate Burke and ride down to Upminster under the empty boxes!"
Nayland Smith stood up, leaving his breakfast half finished, and began to wander up and down the room, reflectively tugging at his ear. Then he began to fumble in the pockets of his dressing-gown and finally produced the inevitable pipe, dilapidated pouch, and box of safety matches. He began to load the much-charred agent of reflection.
"Do I understand that Burke is actually too afraid to go out openly even in daylight?" he asked suddenly.
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