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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 4 of 7||
"You supposed that I was alone?" suggested Fu-Manchu. "So I was."
Yet no trace of fear had broken through the impassive yellow mask when we had entered.
"But my faithful servant followed you," he added. "I thank him. The honors, Mr. Smith, are mine, I think?"
Smith made no reply. I divined that he was thinking furiously. Fu-Manchu moved his hand to caress the marmoset, which had leaped playfully upon his shoulder, and crouched there gibing at us in a whistling voice.
"Don't stir!" said Smith savagely. "I warn you!"
Fu-Manchu kept his hand raised.
"May I ask you how you discovered my retreat?" he asked.
"This hulk has been watched since dawn," lied Smith brazenly.
"So?" The Doctor's filmed eyes cleared for a moment. "And to-day you compelled me to burn a house, and you have captured one of my people, too. I congratulate you. She would not betray me though lashed with scorpions."
The great gleaming knife was so near to my neck that a sheet of notepaper could scarcely have been slipped between blade and vein, I think; but my heart throbbed even more wildly when I heard those words.
"An impasse," said Fu-Manchu. "I have a proposal to make. I assume that you would not accept my word for anything?"
"I would not," replied Smith promptly.
"Therefore," pursued the Chinaman, and the occasional guttural alone marred his perfect English, "I must accept yours. Of your resources outside this cabin I know nothing. You, I take it, know as little of mine. My Burmese friend and Doctor Petrie will lead the way, then; you and I will follow. We will strike out across the marsh for, say, three hundred yards. You will then place your pistol on the ground, pledging me your word to leave it there. I shall further require your assurance that you will make no attempt upon me until I have retraced my steps. I and my good servant will withdraw, leaving you, at the expiration of the specified period, to act as you see fit. Is it agreed?"
Smith hesitated. Then:
"The dacoit must leave his knife also," he stipulated. Fu-Manchu smiled his evil smile again.
"Agreed. Shall I lead the way?"
"No!" rapped Smith. "Petrie and the dacoit first; then you; I last."
A guttural word of command from Fu-Manchu, and we left the cabin, with its evil odors, its mortuary specimens, and its strange instruments, and in the order arranged mounted to the deck.
"It will be awkward on the ladder," said Fu-Manchu. "Dr. Petrie, I will accept your word to adhere to the terms."
"I promise," I said, the words almost choking me.
We mounted the rising and dipping ladder, all reached the pier, and strode out across the flats, the Chinaman always under close cover of Smith's revolver. Round about our feet, now leaping ahead, now gamboling back, came and went the marmoset. The dacoit, dressed solely in a dark loin-cloth, walked beside me, carrying his huge knife, and sometimes glancing at me with his blood-lustful eyes. Never before, I venture to say, had an autumn moon lighted such a scene in that place.
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