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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
The Fiery Hand
|Page 3 of 6||
What I did or how I came to do it, I can never recall. In all my years I have experienced nothing to equal the stark panic which seized upon me then. I know that I uttered a loud and frenzied cry; I know that I tore myself like a madman from Smith's restraining grip . . .
"Don't touch it! Keep away, for your life!" I heard . . .
But, dimly I recollect that, finding the thing approaching yet nearer, I lashed out with my fists--madly, blindly--and struck something palpable . . .
What was the result, I cannot say. At that point my recollections merge into confusion. Something or some one (Smith, as I afterwards discovered) was hauling me by main force through the darkness; I fell a considerable distance onto gravel which lacerated my hands and gashed my knees. Then, with the cool night air fanning my brow, I was running, running--my breath coming in hysterical sobs. Beside me fled another figure. . . . And my definite recollections commence again at that point. For this companion of my flight from the Gables threw himself roughly against me to alter my course.
"Not that way! not that way!" came pantingly.
"Not on to the Heath . . . we must keep to the roads . . ."
It was Nayland Smith. That healing realization came to me, bringing such a gladness as no words of mine can express nor convey. Still we ran on.
"There's a policeman's lantern," panted my companion. "They'll attempt nothing, now!"
* * * * *
I gulped down the stiff brandy-and-soda, then glanced across to where Nayland Smith lay extended in the long, cane chair.
"Perhaps you will explain," I said, "for what purpose you submitted me to that ordeal. If you proposed to correct my skepticism concerning supernatural manifestations, you have succeeded."
"Yes," said my companion, musingly, "they are devilishly clever; but we knew that already."
I stared at him, fatuously.
"Have you ever known me to waste my time when there was important work to do?" he continued. "Do you seriously believe that my ghost-hunting was undertaken for amusement? Really, Petrie, although you are very fond of assuring me that I need a holiday, I think the shoe is on the other foot!"
From the pocket of his dressing-gown, he took out a piece of silk fringe which had apparently been torn from a scarf, and rolling it into a ball, tossed it across to me.
"Smell!" he snapped.
I did as he directed--and gave a great start. The silk exhaled a faint perfume, but its effect upon me was as though some one had cried aloud:--
Beyond doubt the silken fragment had belonged to the beautiful servant of Dr. Fu-Manchu, to the dark-eyed, seductive Karamaneh. Nayland Smith was watching me keenly.
"You recognize it--yes?"
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