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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 1 of 4||
WE quitted the wrecked launch but a few seconds before her stern settled down into the river. Where the mud-bank upon which we found ourselves was situated we had no idea. But at least it was terra firma and we were free from Dr. Fu-Manchu.
Smith stood looking out towards the river.
"My God!" he groaned. "My God!"
He was thinking, as I was, of Weymouth.
And when, an hour later, the police boat located us (on the mud-flats below Greenwich) and we heard that the toll of the poison cellars was eight men, we also heard news of our brave companion.
"Back there in the fog, sir," reported Inspector Ryman, who was in charge, and his voice was under poor command, "there was an uncanny howling, and peals of laughter that I'm going to dream about for weeks--"
Karamaneh, who nestled beside me like a frightened child, shivered; and I knew that the needle had done its work, despite Weymouth's giant strength.
Smith swallowed noisily.
"Pray God the river has that yellow Satan," he said. "I would sacrifice a year of my life to see his rat's body on the end of a grappling-iron!"
We were a sad party that steamed through the fog homeward that night. It seemed almost like deserting a staunch comrade to leave the spot--so nearly as we could locate it--where Weymouth had put up that last gallant fight. Our helplessness was pathetic, and although, had the night been clear as crystal, I doubt if we could have acted otherwise, it came to me that this stinking murk was a new enemy which drove us back in coward retreat.
But so many were the calls upon our activity, and so numerous the stimulants to our initiative in those times, that soon we had matter to relieve our minds from this stress of sorrow.
There was Karamaneh to be considered--Karamaneh and her brother. A brief counsel was held, whereat it was decided that for the present they should be lodged at a hotel.
"I shall arrange," Smith whispered to me, for the girl was watching us, "to have the place patrolled night and day."
"You cannot suppose--"
"Petrie! I cannot and dare not suppose Fu-Manchu dead until with my own eyes I have seen him so!"
Accordingly we conveyed the beautiful Oriental girl and her brother away from that luxurious abode in its sordid setting. I will not dwell upon the final scene in the poison cellars lest I be accused of accumulating horror for horror's sake. Members of the fire brigade, helmed against contagion, brought out the bodies of the victims wrapped in their living shrouds. . . .
From Karamaneh we learned much of Fu-Manchu, little of herself.
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