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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 1 of 5||
"YOUR extraordinary proposal fills me with horror, Mr. Smith!"
The sleek little man in the dress suit, who looked like a head waiter (but was the trusted legal adviser of the house of Southery) puffed at his cigar indignantly. Nayland Smith, whose restless pacing had led him to the far end of the library, turned, a remote but virile figure, and looked back to where I stood by the open hearth with the solicitor.
"I am in your hands, Mr. Henderson," he said, and advanced upon the latter, his gray eyes ablaze. "Save for the heir, who is abroad on foreign service, you say there is no kin of Lord Southery to consider. The word rests with you. If I am wrong, and you agree to my proposal, there is none whose susceptibilities will suffer--"
"My own, sir!"
"If I am right, and you prevent me from acting, you become a murderer, Mr. Henderson."
The lawyer started, staring nervously up at Smith, who now towered over him menacingly.
"Lord Southery was a lonely man," continued my friend. "If I could have placed my proposition before one of his blood, I do not doubt what my answer had been. Why do you hesitate? Why do you experience this feeling of horror?"
Mr. Henderson stared down into the fire. His constitutionally ruddy face was pale.
"It is entirely irregular, Mr. Smith. We have not the necessary powers--"
Smith snapped his teeth together impatiently, snatching his watch from his pocket and glancing at it.
"I am vested with the necessary powers. I will give you a written order, sir."
"The proceeding savors of paganism. Such a course might be admissible in China, in Burma--"
"Do you weigh a life against such quibbles? Do you suppose that, granting MY irresponsibility, Dr. Petrie would countenance such a thing if be doubted the necessity?"
Mr. Henderson looked at me with pathetic hesitance.
"There are guests in the house--mourners who attended the ceremony to-day. They--"
"Will never know, if we are in error," interrupted Smith. "Good God! why do you delay?"
"You wish it to be kept secret?"
"You and I, Mr. Henderson, and Dr. Petrie will go now. We require no other witnesses. We are answerable only to our consciences."
The lawyer passed his hand across his damp brow.
"I have never in my life been called upon to come to so momentous a decision in so short a time," he confessed. But, aided by Smith's indomitable will, he made his decision. As its result, we three, looking and feeling like conspirators, hurried across the park beneath a moon whose placidity was a rebuke to the turbulent passions which reared their strangle-growth in the garden of England. Not a breath of wind stirred amid the leaves. The calm of perfect night soothed everything to slumber. Yet, if Smith were right (and I did not doubt him), the green eyes of Dr. Fu-Manchu had looked upon the scene; and I found myself marveling that its beauty had not wilted up. Even now the dread Chinaman must be near to us.
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