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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 5 of 5||
"No, sir. China to-day is not the China of '98. It is a huge secret machine, and Ho-Nan one of its most important wheels! But if, as I understand, this official is a friend of yours, believe me, he has saved your life! You would be a dead man now if it were not for your friend in China! My dear sir, you must accept his counsel."
Then, for the first time since I had made his acquaintance, "Parson Dan" showed through the surface of the Rev. J. D. Eltham.
"No, sir!" replied the clergyman--and the change in his voice was startling. "I am called to Nan-Yang. Only One may deter my going."
The admixture of deep spiritual reverence with intense truculence in his voice was dissimilar from anything I ever had heard.
"Then only One can protect you," cried Smith, "for, by Heaven, no MAN will be able to do so! Your presence in Ho-Nan can do no possible good at present. It must do harm. Your experience in 1900 should be fresh in your memory."
"Hard words, Mr. Smith."
"The class of missionary work which you favor, sir, is injurious to international peace. At the present moment, Ho-Nan is a barrel of gunpowder; you would be the lighted match. I do not willingly stand between any man and what he chooses to consider his duty, but I insist that you abandon your visit to the interior of China!"
"You insist, Mr. Smith?"
"As your guest, I regret the necessity for reminding you that I hold authority to enforce it."
Denby fidgeted uneasily. The tone of the conversation was growing harsh and the atmosphere of the library portentous with brewing, storms.
There was a short, silent interval.
"This is what I had feared and expected," said the clergyman. "This was my reason for not seeking official protection."
"The phantom Yellow Peril," said Nayland Smith, "to-day materializes under the very eyes of the Western world."
"The `Yellow Peril'!"
"You scoff, sir, and so do others. We take the proffered right hand of friendship nor inquire if the hidden left holds a knife! The peace of the world is at stake, Mr. Eltham. Unknowingly, you tamper with tremendous issues."
Mr. Eltham drew a deep breath, thrusting both hands in his pockets.
"You are painfully frank, Mr. Smith," he said; "but I like you for it. I will reconsider my position and talk this matter over again with you to-morrow."
Thus, then, the storm blew over. Yet I had never experienced such an overwhelming sense of imminent peril-- of a sinister presence--as oppressed me at that moment. The very atmosphere of Redmoat was impregnated with Eastern devilry; it loaded the air like some evil perfume. And then, through the silence, cut a throbbing scream-- the scream of a woman in direst fear.
"My God, it's Greba!" whispered Mr. Eltham.
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