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The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu Sax Rohmer

Chapter XXI

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"What! Is he in London?"

"He is at the house of Dr. Fu-Manchu."

"And you would have me ---"

"Accompany me there, yes."

Nayland Smith, I doubted not, would have counseled me against trusting my life in the hands of this girl with the pleading eyes. Yet I did so, and with little hesitation; shortly we were traveling eastward in a closed cab. Karamaneh was very silent, but always when I turned to her I found her big eyes fixed upon me with an expression in which there was pleading, in which there was sorrow, in which there was something else--something indefinable, yet strangely disturbing. The cabman she had directed to drive to the lower end of the Commercial Road, the neighborhood of the new docks, and the scene of one of our early adventures with Dr. Fu-Manchu. The mantle of dusk had closed about the squalid activity of the East End streets as we neared our destination. Aliens of every shade of color were about us now, emerging from burrow-like alleys into the glare of the lamps upon the main road. In the short space of the drive we had passed from the bright world of the West into the dubious underworld of the East.

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I do not know that Karamaneh moved; but in sympathy, as we neared the abode of the sinister Chinaman, she crept nearer to me, and when the cab was discharged, and together we walked down a narrow turning leading riverward, she clung to me fearfully, hesitated, and even seemed upon the point of turning back. But, overcoming her fear or repugnance, she led on, through a maze of alleyways and courts, wherein I hopelessly lost my bearings, so that it came home to me how wholly I was in the hands of this girl whose history was so full of shadows, whose real character was so inscrutable, whose beauty, whose charm truly might mask the cunning of a serpent.

I spoke to her.

"S-SH!" She laid her hand upon my arm, enjoining me to silence.

The high, drab brick wall of what looked like some part of a dock building loomed above us in the darkness, and the indescribable stenches of the lower Thames were borne to my nostrils through a gloomy, tunnel-like opening, beyond which whispered the river. The muffled clangor of waterside activity was about us. I heard a key grate in a lock, and Karamaneh drew me into the shadow of an open door, entered, and closed it behind her.

For the first time I perceived, in contrast to the odors of the court without, the fragrance of the peculiar perfume which now I had come to associate with her. Absolute darkness was about us, and by this perfume alone I knew that she, was near to me, until her hand touched mine, and I was led along an uncarpeted passage and up an uncarpeted stair. A second door was unlocked, and I found myself in an exquisitely furnished room, illuminated by the soft light of a shaded lamp which stood upon a low, inlaid table amidst a perfect ocean of silken cushions, strewn upon a Persian carpet, whose yellow richness was lost in the shadows beyond the circle of light.

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The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu
Sax Rohmer

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