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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 5 of 8||
I looked again at the net contrivance in my hand; it had a strong spring fitted to it and a line attached. Quite obviously it was intended for snaring.
"What were you about to do?" I demanded sharply--but in my heart, poor fool that I was, I found admiration for the exquisite arch of Karamaneh's lips, and reproach because they were so tremulous.
She spoke then.
"You seem to be--angry with me, not so much because of what I do, as because I do not remember you. Yet--"
"Kindly do not revert to the matter," I interrupted. "You have chosen, very conveniently, to forget that once we were friends. Please yourself. But answer my question."
She clasped her hands with a sort of wild abandon.
"Why do you treat me so!" she cried; she had the most fascinating accent imaginable. "Throw me into prison, kill me if you like, for what I have done!" She stamped her foot. "For what I have done! But do not torture me, try to drive me mad with your reproaches--that I forget you! I tell you--again I tell you--that until you came one night, last week, to rescue some one from--" There was the old trick of hesitating before the name of Fu-Manchu--" from him, I had never, never seen you!"
The dark eyes looked into mine, afire with a positive hunger for belief--or so I was sorely tempted to suppose. But the facts were against her.
"Such a declaration is worthless," I said, as coldly as I could. "You are a traitress; you betray those who are mad enough to trust you--"
"I am no traitress!" she blazed at me; her eyes were magnificent.
"This is mere nonsense. You think that it will pay you better to serve Fu-Manchu than to remain true to your friends. Your 'slavery'--for I take it you are posing as a slave again--is evidently not very harsh. You serve Fu-Manchu, lure men to their destruction, and in return he loads you with jewels, lavishes gifts--"
She sprang forward, raising flaming eyes to mine; her lips were slightly parted. With that wild abandon which betrayed the desert blood in her veins, she wrenched open the neck of her bodice and slipped a soft shoulder free of the garment. She twisted around, so that the white skin was but inches removed from me.
"These are some of the gifts that he lavishes upon me!"
I clenched my teeth. Insane thoughts flooded my mind. For that creamy skin was red with the marks of the lash!
She turned, quickly rearranging her dress, and watching me the while. I could not trust myself to speak for a moment, then:
"If I am a stranger to you, as you claim, why do you give me your confidence?" I asked.
"I have known you long enough to trust you!" she said simply, and turned her head aside.
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