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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
The Coughing Horror
|Page 2 of 5||
He began to breathe stentoriously and convulsively, inhalation being accompanied by a significant gurgling in the throat. But now my calm was restored in face of a situation which called for professional attention.
I aided my friend's labored respirations by the usual means, setting to work vigorously; so that presently he began to clutch at his inflamed throat which that murderous pressure had threatened to close.
I could hear sounds of movement about the house, showing that not I alone had been awakened by those hoarse screams.
"It's all right, old man," I said, bending over him; "brace up!"
He opened his eyes--they looked bleared and bloodshot--and gave me a quick glance of recognition.
"It's all right, Smith!"I said--"no! don't sit up; lie there for a moment."
I ran across to the dressing-table, whereon I perceived his flask to lie, and mixed him a weak stimulant with which I returned to the bed.
As I bent over him again, my housekeeper appeared in the doorway, pale and wide-eyed.
"There is no occasion for alarm," I said over my shoulder; "Mr. Smith's nerves are overwrought and he was awakened by some disturbing dream. You can return to bed, Mrs. Newsome."
Nayland Smith seemed to experience much difficulty in swallowing the contents of the tumbler which I held to his lips; and, from the way in which he fingered the swollen glands, I could see that his throat, which I had vigorously massaged, was occasioning him great pain. But the danger was past, and already that glassy look was disappearing from his eyes, nor did they protrude so unnaturally.
"God, Petrie!" he whispered, "that was a near shave! I haven't the strength of a kitten!"
"The weakness will pass off," I replied; "there will be no collapse, now. A little more fresh air . . ."
I stood up, glancing at the windows, then back at Smith, who forced a wry smile in answer to my look.
"Couldn't be done, Petrie," he said, huskily.
His words referred to the state of the windows. Although the night was oppressively hot, these were only opened some four inches at top and bottom. Further opening was impossible because of iron brackets screwed firmly into the casements which prevented the windows being raised or lowered further.
It was a precaution adopted after long experience of the servants of Dr. Fu-Manchu.
Now, as I stood looking from the half-strangled man upon the bed to those screwed-up windows, the fact came home to my mind that this precaution had proved futile. I thought of the thing which I had likened to a feather boa; and I looked at the swollen weals made by clutching fingers upon the throat of Nayland Smith.
The bed stood fully four feet from the nearest window.
I suppose the question was written in my face; for, as I turned again to Smith, who, having struggled upright, was still fingering his injured throat ruefully:
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