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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 3 of 6||
I turned and bounded back to the river's brink. I heard a faint cry behind me, which could only have come from the gypsy woman. Nothing disturbed the calm surface of the water. The reach was lonely of rowers. Out by the farther bank a girl was poling a punt along, and her white-clad figure was the only living thing that moved upon the river within the range of the most expert knife-thrower.
To say that I was nonplused is to say less than the truth; I was amazed. That it was the dacoit who had shown me this murderous attention I could not doubt. But where in Heaven's name WAS he? He could not humanly have remained below water for so long; yet he certainly was not above, was not upon the surface, concealed amongst the reeds, nor hidden upon the bank.
There, in the bright sunshine, a consciousness of the eerie possessed me. It was with an uncomfortable feeling that my phantom foe might be aiming a second knife at my back that I turned away and hastened towards Smith. My fearful expectations were not realized, and I picked up the little weapon which had so narrowly missed me, and with it in my hand rejoined my friend.
He was standing with one arm closely clasped about the apparently exhausted woman, and her dark eyes were fixed upon him with an extraordinary expression.
"What does it mean, Smith?" I began.
But he interrupted me.
"Where is the dacoit?" he demanded rapidly.
"Since he seemingly possesses the attributes of a fish," I replied, "I cannot pretend to say."
The gypsy woman lifted her eyes to mine and laughed. Her laughter was musical, not that of such an old hag as Smith held captive; it was familiar, too.
I started and looked closely into the wizened face.
"He's tricked you," said Smith, an angry note in his voice. "What is that you have in your hand?"
I showed him the knife, and told him how it had come into my possession.
"I know," he rapped. "I saw it. He was in the water not three yards from where you stood. You must have seen him. Was there nothing visible?"
The woman laughed again, and again I wondered.
"A wild-fowl," I added; "nothing else."
"A wild-fowl," snapped Smith. "If you will consult your recollections of the habits of wild-fowl you will see that this particular specimen was a RARA AVIS. It's an old trick, Petrie, but a good one, for it is used in decoying. A dacoit's head was concealed in that wild-fowl! It's useless. He has certainly made good his escape by now."
"Smith," I said, somewhat crestfallen, "why are you detaining this gypsy woman?"
"Gypsy woman!" he laughed, hugging her tightly as she made an impatient movement. "Use your eyes, old man."
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