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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
Story Of The Gables
|Page 1 of 5||
In looking over my notes dealing with the second phase of Dr. Fu-Manchu's activities in England, I find that one of the worst hours of my life was associated with the singular and seemingly inconsequent adventure of the fiery hand. I shall deal with it in this place, begging you to bear with me if I seem to digress.
Inspector Weymouth called one morning, shortly after the Van Roon episode, and entered upon a surprising account of a visit to a house at Hampstead which enjoyed the sinister reputation of being uninhabitable.
"But in what way does the case enter into your province?" inquired Nayland Smith, idly tapping out his pipe on a bar of the grate.
We had not long finished breakfast, but from an early hour Smith had been at his eternal smoking, which only the advent of the meal had interrupted.
"Well," replied the inspector, who occupied a big armchair near the window, "I was sent to look into it, I suppose, because I had nothing better to do at the moment."
"Ah!" jerked Smith, glancing over his shoulder.
The ejaculation had a veiled significance; for our quest of Dr. Fu-Manchu had come to an abrupt termination by reason of the fact that all trace of that malignant genius, and of the group surrounding him, had vanished with the destruction of Cragmire Tower.
"The house is called the Gables," continued the Scotland Yard man, "and I knew I was on a wild goose chase from the first--"
"Why?" snapped Smith.
"Because I was there before, six months ago or so--just before your present return to England--and I knew what to expect."
Smith looked up with some faint dawning of interest perceptible in his manner.
"I was unaware," he said with a slight smile, "that the cleaning-up of haunted houses came within the jurisdiction of Scotland Yard. I am learning something."
"In the ordinary way," replied the big man good-humoredly, "it doesn't. But a sudden death always excites suspicion, and--"
"A sudden death?" I said, glancing up; "you didn't explain that the ghost had killed any one!"
"I'm afraid I'm a poor hand at yarn-spinning, Doctor," said Weymouth, turning his blue, twinkling eyes in my direction. "Two people have died at the Gables within the last six months."
"You begin to interest me," declared Smith, and there came something of the old, eager look into his gaunt face, as, having lighted his pipe, he tossed the match-end into the hearth.
"I had hoped for some little excitement, myself," confessed the inspector. "This dead-end, with not a ghost of a clue to the whereabouts of the yellow fiend, has been getting on my nerves--"
Nayland Smith grunted sympathetically.
"Although Dr. Fu-Manchu has been in England for some months, now," continued Weymouth, "I have never set eyes upon him; the house we raided in Museum Street proved to be empty; in a word, I am wasting my time. So that I volunteered to run up to Hampstead and look into the matter of the Gables, principally as a distraction. It's a queer business, but more in the Psychical Research Society's line than mine, I'm afraid. Still, if there were no Dr. Fu-Manchu it might be of interest to you--and to you, Dr. Petrie, because it illustrates the fact, that, given the right sort of subject, death can be brought about without any elaborate mechanism--such as our Chinese friends employ."
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