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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 3 of 5||
I moaned weakly.
"Smith!" I muttered, "Where are you? Smith!"
On to my knees I struggled, and the pain on the top of my skull grew all but insupportable. It was coming back to me now; how Nayland Smith and I had started for the hotel to warn Graham Guthrie; how, as we passed up the steps from the Embankment and into Essex Street, we saw the big motor standing before the door of one of the offices. I could recall coming up level with the car--a modern limousine; but my mind retained no impression of our having passed it-- only a vague memory of a rush of footsteps--a blow. Then, my vision of the hall of dragons, and now this real awakening to a worse reality.
Groping in the darkness, my hands touched a body that lay close beside me. My fingers sought and found the throat, sought and found the steel collar about it.
"Smith," I groaned; and I shook the still form. "Smith, old man-- speak to me! Smith!"
Could he be dead? Was this the end of his gallant fight with Dr. Fu-Manchu and the murder group? If so, what did the future hold for me-- what had I to face?
He stirred beneath my trembling hands.
"Thank God!" I muttered, and I cannot deny that my joy was tainted with selfishness. For, waking in that impenetrable darkness, and yet obsessed with the dream I had dreamed, I had known what fear meant, at the realization that alone, chained, I must face the dreadful Chinese doctor in the flesh. Smith began incoherent mutterings.
"Sand-bagged!. . .Look out, Petrie!. . .He has us at last!. . .Oh, Heavens!" . . .He struggled on to his knees, clutching at my hand.
"All right, old man," I said. "We are both alive! So let's be thankful."
A moment's silence, a groan, then:
"Petrie, I have dragged you into this. God forgive me--"
"Dry up, Smith," I said slowly. "I'm not a child. There is no question of being dragged into the matter. I'm here; and if I can be of any use, I'm glad I am here!"
He grasped my hand.
"There were two Chinese, in European clothes--lord, how my head throbs!-- in that office door. They sand-bagged us, Petrie--think of it!-- in broad daylight, within hail of the Strand! We were rushed into the car--and it was all over, before--" His voice grew faint. "God! they gave me an awful knock!"
"Why have we been spared, Smith? Do you think he is saving us for--"
"Don't, Petrie! If you had been in China, if you had seen what I have seen--"
Footsteps sounded on the flagged passage. A blade of light crept across the floor towards us. My brain was growing clearer. The place had a damp, earthen smell. It was slimy--some noisome cellar. A door was thrown open and a man entered, carrying a lantern. Its light showed my surmise to be accurate, showed the slime-coated walls of a dungeon some fifteen feet square-- shone upon the long yellow robe of the man who stood watching us, upon the malignant, intellectual countenance.
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