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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 7 of 8||
The path that I had chosen led me around the border of the Mound Pond --a small pool having an islet in the center. Lying at the margin of the pond I was amazed to see the plate and jug which Nayland Smith had borrowed recently!
Dropping my burden, I walked down to the edge of the water. I was filled with a sudden apprehension. Then, as I bent to pick up the now empty jug, came a hail:
"All right, Petrie! Shall join you in a moment!"
I started up, looked to right and left; but, although the voice had been that of Nayland Smith, no sign could I discern of his presence!
"Smith!" I cried--"Smith!"
Seriously doubting my senses, I looked in the direction from which the voice had seemed to proceed--and there was Nayland Smith.
He stood on the islet in the center of the pond, and, as I perceived him, he walked down into the shallow water and waded across to me!
"Good heavens!" I began--
One of his rare laughs interrupted me.
"You must think me mad this morning, Petrie!" he said. "But I have made several discoveries. Do you know what that islet in the pond really is?"
"Merely an islet, I suppose--"
"Nothing of the kind; it is a burial mound, Petrie! It marks the site of one of the Plague Pits where victims were buried during the Great Plague of London. You will observe that, although you have seen it every morning for some years, it remains for a British Commissioner resident in Burma to acquaint you with its history! Hullo!"--the laughter was gone from his eyes, and they were steely hard again-- "what the blazes have we here!"
He picked up the net. "What! a bird trap!"
"Exactly!" I said.
Smith turned his searching gaze upon me. "Where did you find it, Petrie?"
"I did not exactly find it," I replied; and I related to him the circumstances of my meeting with Karamaneh.
He directed that cold stare upon me throughout the narrative, and when, with some embarrassment, I had told him of the girl's escape--
"Petrie," he said succinctly, "you are an imbecile!"
I flushed with anger, for not even from Nayland Smith, whom I esteemed above all other men, could I accept such words uttered as he had uttered them. We glared at one another.
"Karamaneh," he continued coldly, "is a beautiful toy, I grant you; but so is a cobra. Neither is suitable for playful purposes."
"Smith!" I cried hotly--"drop that! Adopt another tone or I cannot listen to you!"
"You must listen," he said, squaring his lean jaw truculently. "You are playing, not only with a pretty girl who is the favorite of a Chinese Nero, but with my life! And I object, Petrie, on purely personal grounds!"
I felt my anger oozing from me; for this was strictly just. I had nothing to say, and Smith continued:
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