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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
The Cry Of A Nighthawk
|Page 2 of 4||
"Where's your patient?" rapped Smith.
His abrupt query diverted my thoughts into a new channel. No footstep disturbed the silence of the highroad; where was my patient?
I craned from the window. Smith grabbed my arm.
"Don't lean out," he said.
I drew back, glancing at him surprisedly.
"For Heaven's sake, why not?"
"I'll tell you presently, Petrie. Did you see him?"
"I did, and I can't make out what he is doing. He seems to have remained standing at the gate for some reason."
"He has seen it!" snapped Smith. "Watch those elms."
His hand remained upon my arm, gripping it nervously. Shall I say that I was surprised? I can say it with truth. But I shall add that I was thrilled, eerily; for this subdued excitement and alert watching of Smith could only mean one thing:
And that was enough to set me watching as keenly as he; to set me listening; not only for sounds outside the house but for sounds within. Doubts, suspicions, dreads, heaped themselves up in my mind. Why was Forsyth standing there at the gate? I had never seen him before, to my knowledge, yet there was something oddly reminiscent about the man. Could it be that his visit formed part of a plot? Yet his wound had been genuine enough. Thus my mind worked, feverishly; such was the effect of an unspoken thought--Fu-Manchu.
Nayland Smith's grip tightened on my arm.
"There it is again, Petrie!" he whispered.
His words were wholly unnecessary. I, too, had seen it; a wonderful and uncanny sight. Out of the darkness under the elms, low down upon the ground, grew a vaporous blue light. It flared up, elfinish, then began to ascend. Like an igneous phantom, a witch flame, it rose, high--higher--higher, to what I adjudged to be some twelve feet or more from the ground. Then, high in the air, it died away again as it had come!
"For God's sake, Smith, what was it?"
"Don't ask me, Petrie. I have seen it twice. We--"
He paused. Rapid footsteps sounded below. Over Smith's shoulder I saw Forsyth cross the road, climb the low rail, and set out across the common.
Smith sprang impetuously to his feet.
"We must stop him!" he said hoarsely; then, clapping a hand to my mouth as I was about to call out--"Not a sound, Petrie!"
He ran out of the room and went blundering downstairs in the dark, crying:
"Out through the garden--the side entrance!"
I overtook him as he threw wide the door of my dispensing room. Through it he ran and opened the door at the other end. I followed him out, closing it behind me. The smell from some tobacco plants in a neighboring flower-bed was faintly perceptible; no breeze stirred; and in the great silence I could hear Smith, in front of me, tugging at the bolt of the gate.
Then he had it open, and I stepped out, close on his heels, and left the door ajar.
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