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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
The Sacred Order
|Page 1 of 6||
Smith stepped quietly across the room and tried the door. It proved to be unlocked, and an instant later, we were both outside in the passage. Coincident with our arrival there, arose a sudden outcry from some place at the westward end. A high-pitched, grating voice, in which guttural notes alternated with a serpent-like hissing, was raised in anger.
"Dr. Fu-Manchu!" whispered Smith, grasping my arm.
Indeed, it was the unmistakable voice of the Chinaman, raised hysterically in one of those outbursts which in the past I had diagnosed as symptomatic of dangerous mania.
The voice rose to a scream, the scream of some angry animal rather than anything human. Then, chokingly, it ceased. Another short sharp cry followed--but not in the voice of Fu-Manchu--a dull groan, and the sound of a fall.
With Smith still grasping my wrist, I shrank back into the doorway, as something that looked in the darkness like a great ball of fluff came rapidly along the passage toward me. Just at my feet the thing stopped and I made it out for a small animal. The tiny, gleaming eyes looked up at me, and, chattering wickedly, the creature bounded past and was lost from view.
It was Dr. Fu-Manchu's marmoset.
Smith dragged me back into the room which we had just left. As he partly reclosed the door, I heard the clapping of hands. In a condition of most dreadful suspense, we waited; until a new, ominous sound proclaimed itself. Some heavy body was being dragged into the passage. I heard the opening of a trap. Exclamations in guttural voices told of a heavy task in progress; there was a great straining and creaking--whereupon the trap was softly reclosed.
Smith bent to my ear.
"Fu-Manchu has chastised one of his servants," he whispered. "There will be food for the grappling-irons to-night!"
I shuddered violently, for, without Smith's words, I knew that a bloody deed had been done in that house within a few yards of where we stood.
In the new silence, I could hear the drip, drip, drip of the rain outside the window; then a steam siren hooted dismally upon the river, and I thought how the screw of that very vessel, even as we listened, might be tearing the body of Fu-Manchu's servant!
"Have you some one waiting?" whispered Smith, eagerly.
"How long was I insensible?"
"About half an hour."
"Then the cabman will be waiting."
"Have you a whistle with you?"
I felt in my coat pocket.
"Yes," I reported.
"Good! Then we will take a chance."
Again we slipped out into the passage and began a stealthy progress to the west. Ten paces amid absolute darkness, and we found ourselves abreast of a branch corridor. At the further end, through a kind of little window, a dim light shone.
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