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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
The Wire Jacket
|Page 3 of 6||
"You have the pistol," added Smith--"follow closely, and quietly."
He walked across the tops of the casks and leaped down, pointing to that nearest to the closed door of the house. I helped him place it under the open window. A second we set beside it, and, not without some noise, got a third on top.
His jaw muscles were very prominent and his eyes shone like steel; but he was as cool as though he were about to enter a theater and not the den of the most stupendous genius who ever worked for evil. I would forgive any man who, knowing Dr. Fu-Manchu, feared him; I feared him myself--feared him as one fears a scorpion; but when Nayland Smith hauled himself up on the wooden ledge above the door and swung thence into the darkened room, I followed and was in close upon his heels. But I admired him, for he had every ampere of his self-possession in hand; my own case was different.
He spoke close to my ear.
"Is your hand steady? We may have to shoot."
I thought of Karamaneh, of lovely dark-eyed Karamaneh whom this wonderful, evil product of secret China had stolen from me--for so I now adjudged it.
"Rely upon me!" I said grimly. "I . . ."
The words ceased--frozen on my tongue.
There are things that one seeks to forget, but it is my lot often to remember the sound which at that moment literally struck me rigid with horror. Yet it was only a groan; but, merciful God! I pray that it may never be my lot to listen to such a groan again.
Smith drew a sibilant breath.
"It's Eltham!" he whispered hoarsely --"they're torturing--"
"No, no!" screamed a woman's voice--a voice that thrilled me anew, but with another emotion--
"Not that, not--"
I distinctly heard the sound of a blow. Followed a sort of vague scuffling. A door somewhere at the back of the house opened--and shut again. Some one was coming along the passage toward us!
"Stand back!" Smith's voice was low, but perfectly steady. "Leave it to me!"
Nearer came the footsteps and nearer. I could hear suppressed sobs. The door opened, admitting again the faint light--and Karamaneh came in. The place was quite unfurnished, offering no possibility of hiding; but to hide was unnecessary.
Her slim figure had not crossed the threshold ere Smith had his arm about the girl's waist and one hand clapped to her mouth. A stifled gasp she uttered, and he lifted her into the room.
I stepped forward and closed the door. A faint perfume stole to my nostrils--a vague, elusive breath of the East, reminiscent of strange days that, now, seemed to belong to a remote past. Karamaneh! that faint, indefinable perfume was part of her dainty personality; it may appear absurd--impossible--but many and many a time I had dreamt of it.
"In my breast pocket," rapped Smith; "the light."
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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu
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