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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 3 of 7||
As we were leaving the house, hushed awesomely in deference to the unseen visitor who had touched Lord Southery with gray, cold fingers, Smith paused, detaining a black-coated man who passed us on the stairs.
"You were Lord Southery's valet?"
The man bowed.
"Were you in the room at the moment of his fatal seizure?"
"I was, sir."
"Did you see or hear anything unusual--anything unaccountable?"
"No strange sounds outside the house, for instance?"
The man shook his head, and Smith, taking my arm, passed out into the street.
"Perhaps this business is making me imaginative," he said; "but there seems to be something tainting the air in yonder-- something peculiar to houses whose doors bear the invisible death-mark of Fu-Manchu."
"You are right, Smith!" I cried. "I hesitated to mention the matter, but I, too, have developed some other sense which warns me of the Doctor's presence. Although there is not a scrap of confirmatory evidence, I am as sure that he has brought about Lord Southery's death as if I had seen him strike the blow."
It was in that torturing frame of mind--chained, helpless, in our ignorance, or by reason of the Chinaman's supernormal genius--that we lived throughout the ensuing days. My friend began to look like a man consumed by a burning fever. Yet, we could not act.
In the growing dark of an evening shortly following I stood idly turning over some of the works exposed for sale outside a second-hand bookseller's in New Oxford Street. One dealing with the secret societies of China struck me as being likely to prove instructive, and I was about to call the shopman when I was startled to feel a hand clutch my arm.
I turned around rapidly--and was looking into the darkly beautiful eyes of Karamaneh! She--whom I had seen in so many guises-- was dressed in a perfectly fitting walking habit, and had much of her wonderful hair concealed beneath a fashionable hat.
She glanced about her apprehensively.
"Quick! Come round the corner. I must speak to you," she said, her musical voice thrilling with excitement.
I never was quite master of myself in her presence. He must have been a man of ice who could have been, I think for her beauty had all the bouquet of rarity; she was a mystery--and mystery adds charm to a woman. Probably she should have been under arrest, but I know I would have risked much to save her from it.
As we turned into a quiet thoroughfare she stopped and said:
"I am in distress. You have often asked me to enable you to capture Dr. Fu-Manchu. I am prepared to do so."
I could scarcely believe that I heard right.
"Your brother--" I began.
She seized my arm entreatingly, looking into my eyes.
"You are a doctor," she said. "I want you to come and see him now."
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