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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
Dark Eyes Looked Into Mine
|Page 3 of 5||
A moment I stayed as I fell, the chest of my fellow captive rising and falling beneath me as he breathed. Knowing that my life depended upon retaining a firm hold upon myself, I succeeded in overcoming the dizziness and nausea which threatened to drown my senses, and, moving back so that I knelt upon the floor, I fumbled in my pocket for the electric lamp which I had placed there. My raincoat had been removed whilst I was unconscious, and with it my pistol, but the lamp was untouched.
I took it out, pressed the button, and directed the ray upon the face of the man beside me.
It was Nayland Smith!
Trussed up and fastened to a ring in the wall he lay, having a cork gag strapped so tightly between his teeth that I wondered how he had escaped suffocation.
But, although a grayish pallor showed through the tan of his skin, his eyes were feverishly bright, and there, as I knelt beside him, I thanked heaven, silently but fervently.
Then, in furious haste, I set to work to remove the gag. It was most ingeniously secured by means of leather straps buckled at the back of his head, but I unfastened these without much difficulty, and he spat out the gag, uttering an exclamation of disgust.
"Thank God, old man!" he said, huskily. "Thank God that you are alive! I saw them drag you in, and I thought . . ."
"I have been thinking the same about you for more than twenty-four hours," I said, reproachfully. "Why did you start without--"
"I did not want you to come, Petrie," he replied. "I had a sort of premonition. You see it was realized; and instead of being as helpless as I, Fate has made you the instrument of my release. Quick! You have a knife? Good!" The old, feverish energy was by no means extinguished in him. "Cut the ropes about my wrists and ankles, but don't otherwise disturb them--"
I set to work eagerly.
"Now," Smith continued, "put that filthy gag in place again--but you need not strap it so tightly! Directly they find that you are alive, they will treat you the same--you understand? She has been here three times--"
"Karamaneh?" . . .
I heard a sound like the opening of a distant door.
"Quick! the straps of the gag!" whispered Smith, "and pretend to recover consciousness just as they enter--"
Clumsily I followed his directions, for my fingers were none too steady, replaced the lamp in my pocket, and threw myself upon the floor.
Through half-shut eyes, I saw the door open and obtained a glimpse of a desolate, empty passage beyond. On the threshold stood Karamaneh. She held in her hand a common tin oil lamp which smoked and flickered with every movement, filling the already none too cleanly air with an odor of burning paraffin. She personified the outre; nothing so incongruous as her presence in that place could well be imagined. She was dressed as I remembered once to have seen her two years before, in the gauzy silks of the harem. There were pearls glittering like great tears amid the cloud of her wonderful hair. She wore broad gold bangles upon her bare arms, and her fingers were laden with jewelry. A heavy girdle swung from her hips, defining the lines of her slim shape, and about one white ankle was a gold band.
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