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The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu Sax Rohmer

The Cross Bar

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It was one of the poignant moments of my life; for by that simple act all my hopes had been shattered!

Any poor lingering doubt that I may have had, left me now. Had the slightest spark of friendship animated the bosom of Karamaneh most certainly she would have overlooked the presence of the keys--of the keys which represented my one hope of escape from the clutches of the fiendish Chinaman.

There is a silence more eloquent than words. For half a minute or more, Karamaneh stood watching me--forcing herself to watch me--and I looked up at her with a concentrated gaze in which rage and reproach must have been strangely mingled. What eyes she had!--of that blackly lustrous sort nearly always associated with unusually dark complexions; but Karamaneh's complexion was peachlike, or rather of an exquisite and delicate fairness which reminded me of the petal of a rose. By some I had been accused of raving about this girl's beauty, but only by those who had not met her; for indeed she was astonishingly lovely.

At last her eyes fell, the long lashes drooped upon her cheeks. She turned and walked slowly to the chair in which Fu-Manchu had sat. Placing the keys upon the table amid the scientific litter, she rested one dimpled elbow upon the yellow page of the book, and with her chin in her palm, again directed upon me that enigmatical gaze.

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I dared not think of the past, of the past in which this beautiful, treacherous girl had played a part; yet, watching her, I could not believe, even now, that she was false! My state was truly a pitiable one; I could have cried out in sheer anguish. With her long lashes partly lowered, she watched me awhile, then spoke; and her voice was music which seemed to mock me; every inflection of that elusive accent reopened, lancet-like, the ancient wound.

"Why do you look at me so?" she said, almost in a whisper. "By what right do you reproach me?--Have you ever offered me friendship, that I should repay you with friendship? When first you came to the house where I was, by the river--came to save some one from" (there was the familiar hesitation which always preceded the name of Fu-Manchu) "from--him, you treated me as your enemy, although--I would have been your friend . . ."

There was appeal in the soft voice, but I laughed mockingly, and threw myself back upon the divan.

Karamaneh stretched out her hands toward me, and I shall never forget the expression which flashed into those glorious eyes; but, seeing me intolerant of her appeal, she drew back and quickly turned her head aside. Even in this hour of extremity, of impotent wrath, I could find no contempt in my heart for her feeble hypocrisy; with all the old wonder I watched that exquisite profile, and Karamaneh's very deceitfulness was a salve--for had she not cared she would not have attempted it!

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The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu
Sax Rohmer

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