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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 6 of 6||
Thus--I suppose--her seductive beauty argued against my sense of right. The jeweled fingers grasped my shoulders nervously, and her slim body quivered against mine as she watched me, with all her soul in her eyes, in an abandonment of pleading despair. Then I remembered the fate of the man in whose room we stood.
"You lured Cadby to his death," I said, and shook her off.
"No, no!" she cried wildly, clutching at me. "No, I swear by the holy name I did not! I did not! I watched him, spied upon him--yes! But, listen: it was because he would not be warned that he met his death. I could not save him! Ah, I am not so bad as that. I will tell you. I have taken his notebook and torn out the last pages and burnt them. Look! in the grate. The book was too big to steal away. I came twice and could not find it. There, will you let me go?"
"If you will tell me where and how to seize Dr. Fu-Manchu--yes."
Her hands dropped and she took a backward step. A new terror was to be read in her face.
"I dare not! I dare not!"
"Then you would--if you dared?"
She was watching me intently.
"Not if YOU would go to find him," she said.
And, with all that I thought her to be, the stern servant of justice that I would have had myself, I felt the hot blood leap to my cheek at all which the words implied. She grasped my arm.
Could you hide me from him if I came to you, and told you all I know?
"Ah!" Her expression changed. "They can put me on the rack if they choose, but never one word would I speak--never one little word."
She threw up her head scornfully. Then the proud glance softened again.
"But I will speak for you."
Closer she came, and closer, until she could whisper in my ear.
"Hide me from your police, from HIM, from everybody, and I will no longer be his slave."
My heart was beating with painful rapidity. I had not counted on this warring with a woman; moreover, it was harder than I could have dreamt of. For some time I had been aware that by the charm of her personality and the art of her pleading she bad brought me down from my judgment seat-- had made it all but impossible for me to give her up to justice. Now, I was disarmed--but in a quandary. What should I do? What COULD I do? I turned away from her and walked to the hearth, in which some paper ash lay and yet emitted a faint smell.
Not more than ten seconds elapsed, I am confident, from the time that I stepped across the room until I glanced back. But she had gone!
As I leapt to the door the key turned gently from the outside.
"Ma 'alesh!" came her soft whisper; "but I am afraid to trust you--yet. Be comforted, for there is one near who would have killed you had I wished it. Remember, I will come to you whenever you will take me and hide me."
Light footsteps pattered down the stairs. I heard a stifled cry from Mrs. Dolan as the mysterious visitor ran past her. The front door opened and closed.
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