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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 2 of 2||
He sat glancing impatiently from the window and twitching at the lobe of his ear.
"I know you will forgive me, old man," he said, "but there is a little problem which I am trying to work out in my mind. Did you bring the things I mentioned?"
Conversation lapsed, until, just as the cab turned into the station, Smith said: "Should you consider Lord Southery to have been the first constructive engineer of his time, Petrie?"
"Undoubtedly," I replied.
"Greater than Von Homber, of Berlin?"
"Possibly not. But Von Homber has been dead for three years."
"Three years, is it?"
We reached the station in time to secure a non-corridor compartment to ourselves, and to allow Smith leisure carefully to inspect the occupants of all the others, from the engine to the guard's van. He was muffled up to the eyes, and he warned me to keep out of sight in the corner of the compartment. In fact, his behavior had me bursting with curiosity. The train having started:
"Don't imagine, Petrie," said Smith "that I am trying to lead you blindfolded in order later to dazzle you with my perspicacity. I am simply afraid that this may be a wild-goose chase. The idea upon which I am acting does not seem to have struck you. I wish it had. The fact would argue in favor of its being, sound."
"At present I am hopelessly mystified."
"Well, then, I will not bias you towards my view. But just study the situation, and see if you can arrive at the reason for this sudden journey. I shall be distinctly encouraged if you succeed."
But I did not succeed, and since Smith obviously was unwilling to enlighten me, I pressed him no more. The train stopped at Rugby, where he was engaged with the stationmaster in making some mysterious arrangements. At L--, however, their object became plain, for a high-power car was awaiting us, and into this we hurried and ere the greater number of passengers had reached the platform were being driven off at headlong speed along the moon-bathed roads.
Twenty minutes' rapid traveling, and a white mansion leaped into the line of sight, standing out vividly against its woody backing.
"Stradwick Hall," said Smith. "The home of Lord Southery. We are first--but Dr. Fu-Manchu was on the train."
Then the truth dawned upon the gloom of my perplexity.
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