The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu
Part 2 out of 5
"You will 'phone us, then?" asked my friend.
"You will hear from me to-morrow," was the reply.
Smith returned to the cane armchair, and Slattin, bowing to both of
us, made his way to the door as I rang for the girl to show him out.
"Considering the importance of his proposal," I began, as the door
closed, "you hardly received our visitor with cordiality."
"I hate to have any relations with him," answered my friend; "but we
must not be squeamish respecting our instruments in dealing with Dr.
Fu-Manchu. Slattin has a rotten reputation--even for a private inquiry
agent. He is little better than a blackmailer--"
"How do you know?"
"Because I called on our friend Weymouth at the Yard yesterday and
looked up the man's record."
"I knew that he was concerning himself, for some reason, in the case.
Beyond doubt he has established some sort of communication with the
Chinese group; I am only wondering--"
"You don't mean--"
"Yes--I do, Petrie! I tell you he is unscrupulous enough to stoop even
No doubt, Slattin knew that this gaunt, eager-eyed Burmese
commissioner was vested with ultimate authority in his quest of the
mighty Chinaman who represented things unutterable, whose
potentialities for evil were boundless as his genius, who personified
a secret danger, the extent and nature of which none of us truly
understood. And, learning of these things, with unerring Semitic
instinct he had sought an opening in this glittering Rialto. But there
were two bidders!
"You think he may have sunk so low as to become a creature of
Fu-Manchu?" I asked, aghast.
"Exactly! If it paid him well I do not doubt that he would serve that
master as readily as any other. His record is about as black as it
well could be. Slattin is of course an assumed name; he was known as
Lieutenant Pepley when he belonged to the New York Police, and he was
kicked out of the service for complicity in an unsavory Chinatown
"Yes, Petrie, it made me wonder, too; and we must not forget that he
is undeniably a clever scoundrel."
"Shall you keep any appointment which he may suggest?"
"Undoubtedly. But I shall not wait until tomorrow."
"I propose to pay a little informal visit to Mr. Abel Slattin, to-
"At his office?"
"No; at his private residence. If, as I more than suspect, his object
is to draw us into some trap, he will probably report his favorable
progress to his employer to-night!"
"Then we should have followed him!"
Nayland Smith stood up and divested himself of the old shooting-
"He has been followed, Petrie," he replied, with one of his rare
smiles. "Two C.I.D. men have been watching the house all night!"
This was entirely characteristic of my friend's farseeing methods.
"By the way," I said, "you saw Eltham this morning. He will soon be
convalescent. Where, in heaven's name, can he--"
"Don't be alarmed on his behalf, Petrie," interrupted Smith. "His life
is no longer in danger."
I stared, stupidly.
"No longer in danger!"
"He received, some time yesterday, a letter, written in Chinese, upon
Chinese paper, and enclosed in an ordinary business envelope, having a
typewritten address and bearing a London postmark."
"As nearly as I can render the message in English, it reads:
'Although, because you are a brave man, you would not betray your
correspondent in China, he has been discovered. He was a mandarin, and
as I cannot write the name of a traitor, I may not name him. He was
executed four days ago. I salute you and pray for your speedy
"Fu-Manchu! But it is almost certainly a trap."
"On the contrary, Petrie--Fu-Manchu would not have written in Chinese
unless he were sincere; and, to clear all doubt, I received a cable
this morning reporting that the Mandarin Yen-Sun-Yat was assassinated
in his own garden, in Nan-Yang, one day last week."
DR. FU-MANCHU STRIKES
Together we marched down the slope of the quiet, suburban avenue; to
take pause before a small, detached house displaying the hatchet
boards of the Estate Agent. Here we found unkempt laurel bushes and
acacias run riot, from which arboreal tangle protruded the notice--"To
be Let or Sold."
Smith, with an alert glance to right and left, pushed open the wooden
gate and drew me in upon the gravel path. Darkness mantled all; for
the nearest street lamp was fully twenty yards beyond.
From the miniature jungle bordering the path, a soft whistle sounded.
"Is that Carter?" called Smith, sharply.
A shadowy figure uprose, and vaguely I made it out for that of a man
in the unobtrusive blue serge which is the undress uniform of the
"Well?" rapped my companion.
"Mr. Slattin returned ten minutes ago, sir," reported the constable.
"He came in a cab which he dismissed--"
"He has not left again?"
"A few minutes after his return," the man continued, "another cab came
up, and a lady alighted."
"The same, sir, that has called upon him before."
"Smith!" I whispered, plucking at his arm--"is it--"
He half turned, nodding his head; and my heart began to throb
foolishly. For now the manner of Slattin's campaign suddenly was
revealed to me. In our operations against the Chinese murder-group two
years before, we had had an ally in the enemy's camp--Karamaneh the
beautiful slave, whose presence in those happenings of the past had
colored the sometimes sordid drama with the opulence of old Arabia;
who had seemed a fitting figure for the romances of Bagdad during the
Caliphate--Karamaneh, whom I had thought sincere, whose inscrutable
Eastern soul I had presumed, fatuously, to have laid bare and
Now, once again she was plying her old trade of go-between; professing
to reveal the secrets of Dr. Fu-Manchu, and all the time--I could not
doubt it--inveigling men into the net of this awful fisher.
Yesterday, I had been her dupe; yesterday, I had rejoiced in my
captivity. To-day, I was not the favored one; to-day I had not been
selected recipient of her confidences--confidences sweet, seductive,
deadly: but Abel Slattin, a plausible rogue, who, in justice, should
be immured in Sing Sing, was chosen out, was enslaved by those lovely
mysterious eyes, was taking to his soul the lies which fell from those
perfect lips, triumphant in a conquest that must end in his undoing;
deeming, poor fool, that for love of him this pearl of the Orient was
about to betray her master, to resign herself a prize to the victor!
Companioned by these bitter reflections, I had lost the remainder of
the conversation between Nayland Smith and the police officer; now,
casting off the succubus memory which threatened to obsess me, I put
forth a giant mental effort to purge my mind of this uncleanness, and
became again an active participant in the campaign against the Master
--the director of all things noxious.
Our plans being evidently complete, Smith seized my arm, and I found
myself again out upon the avenue. He led me across the road and into
the gate of a house almost opposite. From the fact that two upper
windows were illuminated, I adduced that the servants were retiring;
the other windows were in darkness, except for one on the ground floor
to the extreme left of the building, through the lowered venetian
blinds whereof streaks of light shone out.
"Slattin's study!" whispered Smith. "He does not anticipate
surveillance, and you will note that the window is wide open!"
With that my friend crossed the strip of lawn, and careless of the
fact that his silhouette must have been visible to any one passing the
gate, climbed carefully up the artificial rockery intervening, and
crouched upon the window-ledge peering into the room.
A moment I hesitated, fearful that if I followed, I should stumble or
dislodge some of the larva blocks of which the rockery was composed.
Then I heard that which summoned me to the attempt, whatever the cost.
Through the open window came the sound of a musical voice--a voice
possessing a haunting accent, possessing a quality which struck upon
my heart and set it quivering as though it were a gong hung in my
Karamaneh was speaking.
Upon hands and knees, heedless of damage to my garments, I crawled up
beside Smith. One of the laths was slightly displaced and over this my
friend was peering in. Crouching close beside him, I peered in also.
I saw the study of a business man, with its files, neatly arranged
works of reference, roll-top desk, and Milner safe. Before the desk,
in a revolving chair, sat Slattin. He sat half turned toward the
window, leaning back and smiling; so that I could note the gold crown
which preserved the lower left molar. In an armchair by the window,
close, very close, and sitting with her back to me, was Karamaneh!
She, who, in my dreams, I always saw, was ever seeing, in an Eastern
dress, with gold bands about her white ankles, with jewel-laden
fingers, with jewels in her hair, wore now a fashionable costume and a
hat that could only have been produced in Paris. Karamaneh was the one
Oriental woman I had ever known who could wear European clothes; and
as I watched that exquisite profile, I thought that Delilah must have
been just such another as this, that, excepting the Empress Poppaea,
history has record of no woman, who, looking so innocent, was yet so
"Yes, my dear," Slattin was saying, and through his monocle ogling his
beautiful visitor, "I shall be ready for you to-morrow night."
I felt Smith start at the words.
"There will be a sufficient number of men?"
Karamaneh put the question in a strangely listless way.
"My dear little girl," replied Slattin, rising and standing looking
down at her, with his gold tooth twinkling in the lamplight, "there
will be a whole division, if a whole division is necessary."
He sought to take her white gloved hand, which rested upon the chair
arm; but she evaded the attempt with seeming artlessness, and stood
up. Slattin fixed his bold gaze upon her.
"So now, give me my orders," he said.
"I am not prepared to do so, yet," replied the girl, composedly; "but
now that I know you are ready, I can make my plans."
She glided past him to the door, avoiding his outstretched arm with an
artless art which made me writhe; for once I had been the willing
victim of all these wiles.
"But--" began Slattin.
"I will ring you up in less than half an hour," said Karamaneh and
without further ceremony, she opened the door.
I still had my eyes glued to the aperture in the blind, when Smith
began tugging at my arm.
"Down! you fool!" he hissed harshly--"if she sees us, all is lost!"
Realizing this, and none too soon, I turned, and rather clumsily
followed my friend. I dislodged a piece of granite in my descent; but,
fortunately, Slattin had gone out into the hall and could not well
have heard it.
We were crouching around an angle of the house, when a flood of light
poured down the steps, and Karamaneh rapidly descended. I had a
glimpse of a dark-faced man who evidently had opened the door for her,
then all my thoughts were, centered upon that graceful figure receding
from me in the direction of the avenue. She wore a loose cloak, and I
saw this fluttering for a moment against the white gate posts; then
she was gone.
Yet Smith did not move. Detaining me with his hand he crouched there
against a quick-set hedge; until, from a spot lower down the hill, we
heard the start of the cab which had been waiting. Twenty seconds
elapsed, and from some other distant spot a second cab started.
"That's Weymouth!" snapped Smith. With decent luck, we should know
Fu-Manchu's hiding-place before Slattin tells us!"
"Oh! as it happens, he's apparently playing the game."--In the half-
light, Smith stared at me significantly--"Which makes it all the more
important," he concluded, "that we should not rely upon his aid!"
Those grim words were prophetic.
My companion made no attempt to communicate with the detective (or
detectives) who shared our vigil; we took up a position close under
the lighted study window and waited--waited.
Once, a taxi-cab labored hideously up the steep gradient of the avenue
. . . It was gone. The lights at the upper windows above us became
extinguished. A policeman tramped past the gateway, casually flashing
his lamp in at the opening. One by one the illuminated windows in
other houses visible to us became dull; then lived again as mirrors
for the pallid moon. In the silence, words spoken within the study
were clearly audible; and we heard someone--presumably the man who had
opened the door--inquire if his services would be wanted again that
Smith inclined his head and hung over me in a tense attitude, in order
to catch Slattin's reply.
"Yes, Burke," it came--"I want you to sit up until I return; I shall
be going out shortly."
Evidently the man withdrew at that; for a complete silence followed
which prevailed for fully half an hour. I sought cautiously to move my
cramped limbs, unlike Smith, who seeming to have sinews of piano-wire,
crouched beside me immovable, untiringly. Then loud upon the
stillness, broke the strident note of the telephone bell.
I started, nervously, clutching at Smith's arm. It felt hard as iron
to my grip.
"Hullo!" I heard Slattin call--"who is speaking? . . . Yes, yes! This
is Mr. A. S. . . . I am to come at once ? . . . I know where--yes I
. . . you will meet me there? . . . Good!--I shall be with you in half
an hour . . . . Good-by!"
Distinctly I heard the creak of the revolving office-chair as Slattin
rose; then Smith had me by the arm, and we were flying swiftly away
from the door to take up our former post around the angle of the
building. This gained:
"He's going to his death!" rapped Smith beside me; "but Carter has a
cab from the Yard waiting in the nearest rank. We shall follow to see
where he goes--for it is possible that Weymouth may have been thrown
off the scent; then, when we are sure of his destination, we can take
a hand in the game! We . . ."
The end of the sentence was lost to me--drowned in such a frightful
wave of sound as I despair to describe. It began with a high, thin
scream, which was choked off staccato fashion; upon it followed a loud
and dreadful cry uttered with all the strength of Slattin's lungs--
"Oh, God!" he cried, and again--"Oh, God!"
This in turn merged into a sort of hysterical sobbing.
I was on my feet now, and automatically making for the door. I had a
vague impression of Nayland Smith's face beside me, the eyes glassy
with a fearful apprehension. Then the door was flung open, and, in the
bright light of the hall-way, I saw Slattin standing--swaying and
seemingly fighting with the empty air.
"What is it? For God's sake, what has happened!" reached my ears dimly
--and the man Burke showed behind his master. White-faced I saw him to
be; for now Smith and I were racing up the steps.
Ere we could reach him, Slattin, uttering another choking cry, pitched
forward and lay half across the threshold.
We burst into the hall, where Burke stood with both his hands raised
dazedly to his head. I could hear the sound of running feet upon the
gravel, and knew that Carter was coming to join us.
Burke, a heavy man with a lowering, bull-dog type of face, collapsed
onto his knees beside Slattin, and began softly to laugh in little
"Drop that!" snapped Smith, and grasping him by the shoulders, he sent
him spinning along the hallway, where he sank upon the bottom step of
the stairs, to sit with his outstretched fingers extended before his
face, and peering at us grotesquely through the crevices.
There were rustlings and subdued cries from the upper part of the
house. Carter came in out of the darkness, carefully stepping over the
recumbent figure; and the three of us stood there in the lighted hall
looking down at Slattin.
"Help us to move him back," directed Smith, tensely; "far enough to
close the door."
Between us we accomplished this, and Carter fastened the door. We were
alone with the shadow of Fu-Manchu's vengeance; for as I knelt beside
the body on the floor, a look and a touch sufficed to tell me that
this was but clay from which the spirit had fled!
Smith met my glance as I raised my head, and his teeth came together
with a loud snap; the jaw muscles stood out prominently beneath the
dark skin; and his face was grimly set in that odd, half-despairful
expression which I knew so well but which boded so ill for whomsoever
"Lightning could have done the work no better. Can I turn him over?
Together we stooped and rolled the heavy body on its back. A flood of
whispers came sibilantly from the stairway. Smith spun around rapidly,
and glared upon the group of half-dressed servants.
"Return to your rooms!" he rapped, imperiously; "let no one come into
the hall without my orders."
The masterful voice had its usual result; there was a hurried retreat
to the upper landing. Burke, shaking like a man with an ague, sat on
the lower step, pathetically drumming his palms upon his uplifted
"I warned him, I warned him!" he mumbled monotonously, "I warned him,
oh, I warned him!"
"Stand up!" shouted Smith--"stand up and come here!"
The man, with his frightened eyes turning to right and left, and
seeming to search for something in the shadows about him, advanced
"Have you a flask?" demanded Smith of Carter.
The detective silently administered to Burke a stiff restorative.
"Now," continued Smith, "you, Petrie, will want to examine him, I
suppose?" He pointed to the body. "And in the meantime I have some
questions to put to you, my man."
He clapped his hand upon Burke's shoulder.
"My God!" Burke broke out, "I was ten yards from him when it
"No one is accusing you," said Smith, less harshly; but since you were
the only witness, it is by your aid that we hope to clear the matter
Exerting a gigantic effort to regain control of himself, Burke nodded,
watching my friend with a childlike eagerness. During the ensuing
conversation, I examined Slattin for marks of violence; and of what I
found, more anon.
"In the first place," said Smith, "you say that you warned him. When
did you warn him and of what?"
"I warned him, sir, that it would come to this--"
"That what would come to this?"'
"His dealings with the Chinaman!"
"He had dealings with Chinamen?"
"He accidentally met a Chinaman at an East End gaming-house, a man he
had known in Frisco--a man called Singapore Charlie--"
"What! Singapore Charlie!"
"Yes, sir, the same man that had a dope-shop, two years ago, down
"There was a fire--"
"But Singapore Charlie escaped, sir."
"And he is one of the gang?"
"He is one of what we used to call in New York, the Seven Group."
Smith began to tug at the lobe of his left ear, reflectively, as I saw
out of the corner of my eye.
"The Seven Group!" he mused. "That is significant. I always suspected
that Dr. Fu-Manchu and the notorious Seven Group were one and the
same. Go on, Burke."
"Well, sir," the man continued, more calmly, "the lieutenant--"
"The lieutenant!" began Smith; then: "Oh! of course; Slattin used to
be a police lieutenant!"
"Well, sir, he--Mr. Slattin--had a sort of hold on this Singapore
Charlie, and two years ago, when he first met him, he thought that
with his aid he was going to pull off the biggest thing of his life--"
"Forestall me, in fact?"
"Yes, sir; but you got in first, with the big raid and spoiled it."
Smith nodded grimly, glancing at the Scotland Yard man, who returned
his nod with equal grimness.
"A couple of months ago," resumed Burke, "he met Charlie again down
East, and the Chinaman introduced him to a girl--some sort of an
"Go on!" snapped Smith--"I know her."
"He saw her a good many times--and she came here once or twice. She
made out that she and Singapore Charlie were prepared to give away the
boss of the Yellow gang--"
"For a price, of course?"
"I suppose so," said Burke; "but I don't know. I only know that I
"H'm!" muttered Smith. "And now, what took place to-night?"
"He had an appointment here with the girl," began Burke
"I know all that," interrupted Smith. "I merely want to know, what
took place after the telephone call?"
"Well, he told me to wait up, and I was dozing in the next room to the
study--the dining-room--when the 'phone bell aroused me. I heard the
lieutenant--Mr. Slattin, coming out, and I ran out too, but only in
time to see him taking his hat from the rack--"
"But he wears no hat!"
"He never got it off the peg! Just as he reached up to take it, he
gave a most frightful scream, and turned around like lightning as
though some one had attacked him from behind!"
"There was no one else in the hall?"
"No one at all. I was standing down there outside the dining-room just
by the stairs, but he didn't turn in my direction, he turned and
looked right behind him--where there was no one--nothing. His cries
were frightful." Burke's voice broke, and he shuddered feverishly.
"Then he made a rush for the front door. It seemed as though he had
not seen me. He stood there screaming; but, before I could reach him,
he fell. . . ."
Nayland Smith fixed a piercing gaze upon Burke.
"Is that all you know?" he demanded slowly.
"As God is my judge, sir, that's all I know, and all I saw. There was
no living thing near him when he met his death."
"We shall see," muttered Smith. He turned to me--"What killed him?" he
"Apparently, a minute wound on the left wrist," I replied, and,
stooping, I raised the already cold hand in mine.
A tiny, inflamed wound showed on the wrist; and a certain puffiness
was becoming observable in the injured hand and arm. Smith bent down
and drew a quick, sibilant breath.
"You know what this is, Petrie?" he cried.
"Certainly. It was too late to employ a ligature and useless to inject
ammonia. Death was practically instantaneous. His heart . . ."
There came a loud knocking and ringing.
"Carter!" cried Smith, turning to the detective, open that door to no
one--no one. Explain who I am--"
"But if it is the inspector?--"
"I said, open the door to no one!" snapped Smith.
"Burke, stand exactly where you are! Carter, you can speak to whoever
knocks, through the letter-box. Petrie, don't move for your life! It
may be here, in the hallway!--"
Our search of the house of Abel Slattin ceased only with the coming of
the dawn, and yielded nothing but disappointment. Failure followed
upon failure; for, in the gray light of the morning, our own quest
concluded, Inspector Weymouth returned to report that the girl,
Karamaneh, had thrown him off the scent.
Again he stood before me, the big, burly friend of old and dreadful
days, a little grayer above the temples, which I set down for a record
of former horrors, but deliberate, stoical, thorough, as ever. His
blue eyes melted in the old generous way as he saw me, and he gripped
my hand in greeting.
"Once again," he said, "your dark-eyed friend has been too clever for
me, Doctor. But the track as far as I could follow, leads to the old
spot. In fact,"--he turned to Smith, who, grim-faced and haggard,
looked thoroughly ill in that gray light--"I believe Fu-Manchu's lair
is somewhere near the former opium-den of Shen-Yan--'Singapore
"We will turn our attention in that direction," he replied, "at a very
Inspector Weymouth looked down at the body of Abel Slattin.
"How was it done?" he asked softly.
"Clumsily for Fu-Manchu," I replied. "A snake was introduced into the
house by some means--"
"By Karamaneh!" rapped Smith.
"Very possibly by Karamaneh," I continued firmly. "The thing has
"My own idea," said Smith, "is that it was concealed about his
clothing. When he fell by the open door it glided out of the house. We
must have the garden searched thoroughly by daylight."
"He"--Weymouth glanced at that which lay upon the floor--"must be
moved; but otherwise we can leave the place untouched, clear out the
servants, and lock the house up."
"I have already given orders to that effect," answered Smith. He spoke
wearily and with a note of conscious defeat in his voice. "Nothing has
been disturbed;"--he swept his arm around comprehensively--"papers and
so forth you can examine at leisure."
Presently we quitted that house upon which the fateful Chinaman had
set his seal, as the suburb was awakening to a new day. The clank of
milk-cans was my final impression of the avenue to which a dreadful
minister of death had come at the bidding of the death lord. We left
Inspector Weymouth in charge and returned to my rooms, scarcely
exchanging a word upon the way.
Nayland Smith, ignoring my entreaties, composed himself for slumber in
the white cane chair in my study. About noon he retired to the
bathroom, and returning, made a pretense of breakfast; then resumed
his seat in the cane armchair. Carter reported in the afternoon, but
his report was merely formal. Returning from my round of professional
visits at half past five, I found Nayland Smith in the same position;
and so the day waned into evening, and dusk fell uneventfully.
In the corner of the big room by the empty fireplace, Nayland Smith
lay, with his long, lean frame extended in the white cane chair. A
tumbler, from which two straws protruded, stood by his right elbow,
and a perfect continent of tobacco smoke lay between us, wafted toward
the door by the draught from an open window. He had littered the
hearth with matches and tobacco ash, being the most untidy smoker I
have ever met; and save for his frequent rapping-out of his pipe bowl
and perpetual striking of matches, he had shown no sign of activity
for the past hour. Collarless and wearing an old tweed jacket, he had
spent the evening, as he had spent the day, in the cane chair, only
quitting it for some ten minutes, or less, to toy with dinner.
My several attempts at conversation had elicited nothing but growls;
therefore, as dusk descended, having dismissed my few patients, I
busied myself collating my notes upon the renewed activity of the
Yellow Doctor, and was thus engaged when the 'phone bell disturbed me.
It was Smith who was wanted, however; and he went out eagerly, leaving
me to my task.
At the end of a lengthy conversation, he returned from the 'phone and
began, restlessly, to pace the room. I made a pretense of continuing
my labors, but covertly I was watching him. He was twitching at the
lobe of his left ear, and his face was a study in perplexity. Abruptly
he burst out:
"I shall throw the thing up, Petrie! Either I am growing too old to
cope with such an adversary as Fu-Manchu, or else my intellect has
become dull. I cannot seem to think clearly or consistently. For the
Doctor, this crime, this removal of Slattin, is clumsy--unfinished.
There are two explanations. Either he, too, is losing his old cunning
or he has been interrupted!"
"Take the facts, Petrie,"--Smith clapped his hands upon my table and
bent down, peering into my eyes--"is it characteristic of Fu-Manchu to
kill a man by the direct agency of a snake and to implicate one of his
own damnable servants in this way?"
"But we have found no snake!"
"Karamaneh introduced one in some way. Do you doubt it?"
"Certainly Karamaneh visited him on the evening of his death, but you
must be perfectly well aware that even if she had been arrested, no
jury could convict her."
Smith resumed his restless pacings up and down.
"You are very useful to me, Petrie," he replied; as a counsel for the
defense you constantly rectify my errors of prejudice. Yet I am
convinced that our presence at Slattin's house last night prevented
Fu-Manchu from finishing off this little matter as he had designed to
"What has given you this idea?"
"Weymouth is responsible. He has rung me up from the Yard. The
constable on duty at the house where the murder was committed, reports
that some one, less than an hour ago, attempted to break in."
"Ah! you are interested? I thought the circumstance illuminating,
"Did the officer see this person?"
"No; he only heard him. It was some one who endeavored to enter by the
bathroom window, which, I am told, may be reached fairly easily by an
"The attempt did not succeed?"
"No; the constable interrupted, but failed to make a capture or even
to secure a glimpse of the man."
We were both silent for some moments; then:
"What do you propose to do?" I asked.
"We must not let Fu-Manchu's servants know," replied Smith, "but
to-night I shall conceal myself in Slattin's house and remain there
for a week or a day--it matters not how long--until that attempt is
repeated. Quite obviously, Petrie, we have overlooked something which
implicates the murderer with the murder! In short, either by accident,
by reason of our superior vigilance, or by the clumsiness of his plans,
Fu-Manchu for once in an otherwise blameless career, has left a clue!"
THE CLIMBER RETURNS
In utter darkness we groped our way through into the hallway of
Slattin's house, having entered, stealthily, from the rear; for Smith
had selected the study as a suitable base of operations. We reached it
without mishap, and presently I found myself seated in the very chair
which Karamaneh had occupied; my companion took up a post just within
the widely opened door.
So we commenced our ghostly business in the house of the murdered man
--a house from which, but a few hours since, his body had been
removed. This was such a vigil as I had endured once before, when,
with Nayland Smith and another, I had waited for the coming of one of
Fu-Manchu's death agents.
Of all the sounds which, one by one, now began to detach themselves
from the silence, there was a particular sound, homely enough at
another time, which spoke to me more dreadfully than the rest. It was
the ticking of the clock upon the mantelpiece; and I thought how this
sound must have been familiar to Abel Slattin, how it must have formed
part and parcel of his life, as it were, and how it went on now--tick-
tick-tick-tick--whilst he, for whom it had ticked, lay unheeding--
would never heed it more.
As I grew more accustomed to the gloom, I found myself staring at his
office chair; once I found myself expecting Abel Slattin to enter the
room and occupy it. There was a little China Buddha upon the bureau in
one corner, with a gilded cap upon its head, and as some reflection of
the moonlight sought out this little cap, my thoughts grotesquely
turned upon the murdered man's gold tooth.
Vague creakings from within the house, sounds as though of stealthy
footsteps upon the stair, set my nerves tingling; but Nayland Smith
gave no sign, and I knew that my imagination was magnifying these
ordinary night sounds out of all proportion to their actual
significance. Leaves rustled faintly outside the window at my back: I
construed their sibilant whispers into the dreaded name--Fu-Manchu-
So wore on the night; and, when the ticking clock hollowly boomed the
hour of one, I almost leaped out of my chair, so highly strung were my
nerves, and so appallingly did the sudden clangor beat upon them.
Smith, like a man of stone, showed no sign. He was capable of so
subduing his constitutionally high-strung temperament, at times, that
temporarily he became immune from human dreads. On such occasions he
would be icily cool amid universal panic; but, his object
accomplished, I have seen him in such a state of collapse, that utter
nervous exhaustion is the only term by which I can describe it.
Tick-tick-tick-tick went the clock, and, with my heart still thumping
noisily in my breast, I began to count the tickings; one, two, three,
four, five, and so on to a hundred, and from one hundred to many
Then, out from the confusion of minor noises, a new, arresting sound
detached itself. I ceased my counting; no longer I noted the tick-tick
of the clock, nor the vague creakings, rustlings and whispers. I saw
Smith, shadowly, raise his hand in warning--in needless warning, for I
was almost holding my breath in an effort of acute listening.
From high up in the house this new sound came from above the topmost
room, it seemed, up under the roof; a regular squeaking, oddly
familiar, yet elusive. Upon it followed a very soft and muffled thud;
then a metallic sound as of a rusty hinge in motion; then a new
silence, pregnant with a thousand possibilities more eerie than any
My mind was rapidly at work. Lighting the topmost landing of the house
was a sort of glazed trap, evidently set in the floor of a loft-like
place extending over the entire building. Somewhere in the red-tiled
roof above, there presumably existed a corresponding skylight or
So I argued; and, ere I had come to any proper decision, another
sound, more intimate, came to interrupt me.
This time I could be in no doubt; some one was lifting the trap above
the stairhead--slowly, cautiously, and all but silently. Yet to my
ears, attuned to trifling disturbances, the trap creaked and groaned
Nayland Smith waved to me to take a stand on the other side of the
opened door--behind it, in fact, where I should be concealed from the
view of any one descending the stair.
I stood up and crossed the floor to my new post.
A dull thud told of the trap fully raised and resting upon some
supporting joist. A faint rustling (of discarded garments, I told
myself) spoke to my newly awakened, acute perceptions, of the visitor
preparing to lower himself to the landing. Followed a groan of
woodwork submitted to sudden strain--and the unmistakable pad of bare
feet upon the linoleum of the top corridor.
I knew now that one of Dr. Fu-Manchu's uncanny servants had gained the
roof of the house by some means, had broken through the skylight and
had descended by means of the trap beneath on to the landing.
In such a tensed-up state as I cannot describe, nor, at this hour
mentally reconstruct, I waited for the creaking of the stairs which
should tell of the creature's descent.
I was disappointed. Removed scarce a yard from me as he was, I could
hear Nayland Smith's soft, staccato breathing; but my eyes were all
for the darkened hallway, for the smudgy outline of the stair-rail
with the faint patterning in the background which, alone, indicated
It was amid an utter silence, unheralded by even so slight a sound as
those which I had acquired the power of detecting--that I saw the
continuity of the smudgy line of stair-rail to be interrupted.
A dark patch showed upon it, just within my line of sight, invisible
to Smith on the other side of the doorway, and some ten or twelve
No sound reached me, but the dark patch vanished and reappeared three
feet lower down.
Still I knew that this phantom approach must be unknown to my
companion--and I knew that it was impossible for me to advise him of
it unseen by the dreaded visitor.
A third time the dark patch--the hand of one who, ghostly, silent, was
creeping down into the hallway--vanished and reappeared on a level
with my eyes. Then a vague shape became visible; no more than a blur
upon the dim design of the wall-paper . . . and Nayland Smith got his
first sight of the stranger.
The clock on the mantelpiece boomed out the halfhour.
At that, such was my state (I blush to relate it) I uttered a faint
It ended all secrecy--that hysterical weakness of mine. It might have
frustrated our hopes; that it did not do so was in no measure due to
me. But in a sort of passionate whirl, the ensuing events moved
Smith hesitated not one instant. With a panther-like leap he hurled
himself into the hall.
"The lights, Petrie!" he cried--"the lights! The switch is near the
I clenched my fists in a swift effort to regain control of my
treacherous nerves, and, bounding past Smith, and past the foot of the
stair, I reached out my hand to the switch, the situation of which,
fortunately, I knew.
Around I came, in response to a shrill cry from behind me--an inhuman
cry, less a cry than the shriek of some enraged animal. . . .
With his left foot upon the first stair, Nayland Smith stood, his lean
body bent perilously backward, his arms rigidly thrust out, and his
sinewy fingers gripping the throat of an almost naked man--a man whose
brown body glistened unctuously, whose shaven head was apish low,
whose bloodshot eyes were the eyes of a mad dog! His teeth, upper and
lower, were bared; they glistened, they gnashed, and a froth was on
his lips. With both his hands, he clutched a heavy stick, and once--
twice, he brought it down upon Nayland Smith's head!
I leaped forward to my friend's aid; but as though the blows had been
those of a feather, he stood like some figure of archaic statuary, nor
for an instant relaxed the death grip which he had upon his
Thrusting my way up the stairs, I wrenched the stick from the hand of
the dacoit--for in this glistening brown man, I recognized one of that
deadly brotherhood who hailed Dr. Fu-Manchu their Lord and Master.
* * * * *
I cannot dwell upon the end of that encounter; I cannot hope to make
acceptable to my readers an account of how Nayland Smith, glassy-eyed,
and with consciousness ebbing from him instant by instant, stood
there, a realization of Leighton's "Athlete," his arms rigid as iron
bars even after Fu-Manchu's servant hung limply in that frightful
In his last moments of consciousness, with the blood from his wounded
head trickling down into his eyes, he pointed to the stick which I had
torn from the grip of the dacoit, and which I still held in my hand.
"Not Aaron's rod, Petrie!" he gasped hoarsely--"the rod of Moses!--
Even in upon my anxiety for my friend, amazement intruded.
"But," I began--and turned to the rack in which Slattin's favorite
cane at that moment reposed--had reposed at the time of his death.
Yes!-- there stood Slattin's cane; we had not moved it; we had
disturbed nothing in that stricken house; there it stood, in company
with an umbrella and a malacca.
I glanced at the cane in my hand. Surely there could not be two such
in the world?
Smith collapsed on the floor at my feet.
"Examine the one in the rack, Petrie," he whispered, almost inaudibly,
"but do not touch it. It may not be yet. . . ."
I propped him up against the foot of the stairs, and as the constable
began knocking violently at the street door, crossed to the rack and
lifted out the replica of the cane which I held in my hand.
A faint cry from Smith--and as if it had been a leprous thing, I
dropped the cane instantly.
"Merciful God!" I groaned.
Although, in every other particular, it corresponded with that which I
held--which I had taken from the dacoit--which he had come to
substitute for the cane now lying upon the floor--in one dreadful
particular it differed.
Up to the snake's head it was an accurate copy; but the head lived!
Either from pain, fear or starvation, the thing confined in the hollow
tube of this awful duplicate was become torpid. Otherwise, no power on
earth could have saved me from the fate of Abel Slattin; for the
creature was an Australian death-adder.
THE WHITE PEACOCK
Nayland Smith wasted no time in pursuing the plan of campaign which he
had mentioned to Inspector Weymouth. Less than forty-eight hours after
quitting the house of the murdered Slattin, I found myself bound along
Whitechapel Road upon strange enough business.
A very fine rain was falling, which rendered it difficult to see
clearly from the windows; but the weather apparently had little effect
upon the commercial activities of the district. The cab was threading
a hazardous way through the cosmopolitan throng crowding the street.
On either side of me extended a row of stalls, seemingly established
in opposition to the more legitimate shops upon the inner side of the
Jewish hawkers, many of them in their shirt-sleeves, acclaimed the
rarity of the bargains which they had to offer; and, allowing for the
difference of costume, these tireless Israelites, heedless of climatic
conditions, sweating at their mongery, might well have stood, not in a
squalid London thoroughfare, but in an equally squalid market-street
of the Orient.
They offered linen and fine raiment; from footgear to hair-oil their
wares ranged. They enlivened their auctioneering with conjuring tricks
and witty stories, selling watches by the aid of legerdemain, and
fancy vests by grace of a seasonable anecdote.
Poles, Russians, Serbs, Roumanians, Jews of Hungary, and Italians of
Whitechapel mingled in the throng. Near East and Far East rubbed
shoulders. Pidgin English contested with Yiddish for the ownership of
some tawdry article offered by an auctioneer whose nationality defied
conjecture, save that always some branch of his ancestry had drawn
nourishment from the soil of Eternal Judea.
Some wearing mens' caps, some with shawls thrown over their oily
locks, and some, more true to primitive instincts, defying, bare-
headed, the unkindly elements, bedraggled women--more often than not
burdened with muffled infants--crowded the pavements and the roadway,
thronged about the stalls like white ants about some choicer carrion.
And the fine drizzling rain fell upon all alike, pattering upon the
hood of the taxi-cab, trickling down the front windows; glistening
upon the unctuous hair of those in the street who were hatless; dewing
the bare arms of the auctioneers, and dripping, melancholy, from the
tarpaulin coverings of the stalls. Heedless of the rain above and of
the mud beneath, North, South, East, and West mingled their cries,
their bids, their blandishments, their raillery, mingled their persons
in that joyless throng.
Sometimes a yellow face showed close to one of the streaming windows;
sometimes a black-eyed, pallid face, but never a face wholly sane and
healthy. This was an underworld where squalor and vice went hand in
hand through the beautiless streets, a melting-pot of the world's
outcasts; this was the shadowland, which last night had swallowed up
Ceaselessly I peered to right and left, searching amid that rain-
soaked company for any face known to me. Whom I expected to find
there, I know not, but I should have counted it no matter for surprise
had I detected amid that ungracious ugliness the beautiful face of
Karamaneh the Eastern slave-girl, the leering yellow face of a Burmese
dacoit, the gaunt, bronzed features of Nayland Smith; a hundred times
I almost believed that I had seen the ruddy countenance of Inspector
Weymouth, and once (at which instant my heart seemed to stand still) I
suffered from the singular delusion that the oblique green eyes of Dr.
Fu-Manchu peered out from the shadows between two stalls.
It was mere phantasy, of course, the sick imaginings of a mind
overwrought. I had not slept and had scarcely tasted food for more
than thirty hours; for, following up a faint clue supplied by Burke,
Slattin's man, and, like his master, an ex-officer of New York Police,
my friend, Nayland Smith, on the previous evening had set out in quest
of some obscene den where the man called Shen-Yan--former keeper of an
opium-shop--was now said to be in hiding.
Shen-Yan we knew to be a creature of the Chinese doctor, and only a
most urgent call had prevented me from joining Smith upon this
promising, though hazardous expedition.
At any rate, Fate willing it so, he had gone without me; and
now--although Inspector Weymouth, assisted by a number of C. I. D.
men, was sweeping the district about me--to the time of my departure
nothing whatever had been heard of Smith. The ordeal of waiting
finally had proved too great to be borne. With no definite idea of
what I proposed to do, I had thrown myself into the search, filled
with such dreadful apprehensions as I hope never again to experience.
I did not know the exact situation of the place to which Smith was
gone, for owing to the urgent case which I have mentioned, I had been
absent at the time of his departure; nor could Scotland Yard enlighten
me upon this point. Weymouth was in charge of the case--under Smith's
direction--and since the inspector had left the Yard, early that
morning, he had disappeared as completely as Smith, no report having
been received from him.
As my driver turned into the black mouth of a narrow, ill-lighted
street, and the glare and clamor of the greater thoroughfare died
behind me, I sank into the corner of the cab burdened with such a
sense of desolation as mercifully comes but rarely.
We were heading now for that strange settlement off the West India
Dock Road, which, bounded by Limehouse Causeway and Pennyfields, and
narrowly confined within four streets, composes an unique Chinatown, a
miniature of that at Liverpool, and of the greater one in San
Francisco. Inspired with an idea which promised hopefully, I raised
the speaking tube.
"Take me first to the River Police Station," I directed; "along
The man turned and nodded comprehendingly, as I could see through the
Presently we swerved to the right and into an even narrower street.
This inclined in an easterly direction, and proved to communicate with
a wide thoroughfare along which passed brilliantly lighted electric
trams. I had lost all sense of direction, and when, swinging to the
left and to the right again, I looked through the window and perceived
that we were before the door of the Police Station, I was dully
In quite mechanical fashion I entered the depot. Inspector Ryman, our
associate in one of the darkest episodes of the campaign with the
Yellow Doctor two years before, received me in his office.
By a negative shake of the head, he answered my unspoken question.
"The ten o'clock boat is lying off the Stone Stairs, Doctor," he said,
"and co-operating with some of the Scotland Yard men who are dragging
I shuddered at the word "dragging"; Ryman had not used it literally,
but nevertheless it had conjured up a dread possibility--a possibility
in accordance with the methods of Dr. Fu-Manchu. All within space of
an instant I saw the tide of Limehouse Reach, the Thames lapping about
the green-coated timbers of a dock pier; and rising--falling--
sometimes disclosing to the pallid light a rigid hand, sometimes a
horribly bloated face--I saw the body of Nayland Smith at the mercy of
those oily waters. Ryman continued:
"There is a launch out, too, patrolling the riverside from here to
Tilbury. Another lies at the breakwater"--he jerked his thumb over his
shoulder. "Should you care to take a run down and see for yourself ?"
"No, thanks," I replied, shaking my head. "You are doing all that can
be done. Can you give me the address of the place to which Mr. Smith
went last night?"
"Certainly," said Ryman; "I thought you knew it. You remember
Shen-Yan's place--by Limehouse Basin? Well, further east--east of the
Causeway, between Gill Street and Three Colt Street--is a block of
wooden buildings. You recall them?"
"Yes," I replied. "Is the man established there again, then?"
"It appears so, but, although you have evidently not been informed of
the fact, Weymouth raided the establishment in the early hours of this
"Well?" I cried.
"Unfortunately with no result," continued the inspector. "The
notorious Shen-Yan was missing, and although there is no real doubt
that the place is used as a gaming-house, not a particle of evidence
to that effect could be obtained. Also--there was no sign of Mr.
Nayland Smith, and no sign of the American, Burke, who had led him to
"Is it certain that they went there?"
"Two C. I. D. men who were shadowing, actually saw the pair of them
enter. A signal had been arranged, but it was never given; and at
about half past four, the place was raided."
"Surely some arrests were made?"
"But there was no evidence!" cried Ryman. "Every inch of the rat-
burrow was searched. The Chinese gentleman who posed as the proprietor
of what he claimed to be a respectable lodging-house offered every
facility to the police. What could we do?"
"I take it that the place is being watched?
"Certainly," said Ryman. "Both from the river and from the shore. Oh!
they are not there! God knows where they are, but they are not there!"
I stood for a moment in silence, endeavoring to determine my course;
then, telling Ryman that I hoped to see him later, I walked out slowly
into the rain and mist, and nodding to the taxi-driver to proceed to
our original destination, I re-entered the cab.
As we moved off, the lights of the River Police depot were swallowed
up in the humid murk, and again I found myself being carried through
the darkness of those narrow streets, which, like a maze, hold secret
within their labyrinth mysteries as great, and at least as foul, as
that of Pasiphae.
The marketing centers I had left far behind me; to my right stretched
the broken range of riverside buildings, and beyond them flowed the
Thames, a stream more heavily burdened with secrets than ever was
Tiber or Tigris. On my left, occasional flickering lights broke
through the mist, for the most part the lights of taverns; and saving
these rents in the veil, the darkness was punctuated with nothing but
the faint and yellow luminance of the street lamps.
Ahead was a black mouth, which promised to swallow me up as it had
swallowed up my friend.
In short, what with my lowered condition and consequent frame of mind,
and what with the traditions, for me inseparable from that gloomy
quarter of London, I was in the grip of a shadowy menace which at any
moment might become tangible--I perceived, in the most commonplace
objects, the yellow hand of Dr. Fu-Manchu.
When the cab stopped in a place of utter darkness, I aroused myself
with an effort, opened the door, and stepped out into the mud of a
narrow lane. A high brick wall frowned upon me from one side, and,
dimly perceptible, there towered a smoke stack, beyond. On my right
uprose the side of a wharf building, shadowly, and some distance
ahead, almost obscured by the drizzling rain, a solitary lamp
flickered, I turned up the collar of my raincoat, shivering, as much
at the prospect as from physical chill.
"You will wait here," I said to the man; and, feeling in my
breast-pocket, I added: "If you hear the note of a whistle, drive on
and rejoin me."
He listened attentively and with a certain eagerness. I had selected
him that night for the reason that he had driven Smith and myself on
previous occasions and had proved himself a man of intelligence.
Transferring a Browning pistol from my hip-pocket to that of my
raincoat, I trudged on into the mist.
The headlights of the taxi were swallowed up behind me, and just
abreast of the street lamp I stood listening.
Save for the dismal sound of rain, and the trickling of water along
the gutters, all about me was silent. Sometimes this silence would be
broken by the distant, muffled note of a steam siren; and always,
forming a sort of background to the near stillness, was the remote din
of riverside activity.
I walked on to the corner just beyond the lamp. This was the street in
which the wooden buildings were situated. I had expected to detect
some evidences of surveillances, but if any were indeed being
observed, the fact was effectively masked. Not a living creature was
visible, peer as I could.
Plans, I had none, and perceiving that the street was empty, and that
no lights showed in any of the windows, I passed on, only to find that
I had entered a cul-de-sac.
A rickety gate gave access to a descending flight of stone steps, the
bottom invisible in the denser shadows of an archway, beyond which, I
doubted not, lay the river.
Still uninspired by any definite design, I tried the gate and found
that it was unlocked. Like some wandering soul, as it has since seemed
to me, I descended. There was a lamp over the archway, but the glass
was broken, and the rain apparently had extinguished the light; as I
passed under it, I could hear the gas whistling from the burner.
Continuing my way, I found myself upon a narrow wharf with the Thames
flowing gloomily beneath me. A sort of fog hung over the river,
shutting me in. Then came an incident.
Suddenly, quite near, there arose a weird and mournful cry--a cry
indescribable, and inexpressibly uncanny!
I started back so violently that how I escaped falling into the river
I do not know to this day. That cry, so eerie and so wholly
unexpected, had unnerved me; and realizing the nature of my
surroundings, and the folly of my presence alone in such a place, I
began to edge back toward the foot of the steps, away from the thing
that cried; when--a great white shape uprose like a phantom before
me! . . .
There are few men, I suppose, whose lives have been crowded with so
many eerie happenings as mine, but this phantom thing which grew out
of the darkness, which seemed about to envelope me, takes rank in my
memory amongst the most fearsome apparitions which I have witnessed.
I knew that I was frozen with a sort of supernatural terror. I stood
there with hands clenched, staring--staring at that white shape, which
seemed to float.
As I stared, every nerve in my body thrilling, I distinguished the
outline of the phantom. With a subdued cry, I stepped forward. A new
sensation claimed me. In that one stride I passed from the horrible to
I found myself confronted with something tangible, certainly, but
something whose presence in that place was utterly extravagant--could
only be reconcilable in the dreams of an opium slave.
Was I awake, was I sane? Awake and sane beyond doubt, but surely
moving, not in the purlieus of Limehouse, but in the fantastic realms
Swooping, with open arms, I rounded up in an angle against the
building and gathered in this screaming thing which had inspired in me
so keen a terror.
The great, ghostly fan was closed as I did so, and I stumbled back
toward the stair with my struggling captive tucked under my arm; I
mounted into one of London's darkest slums, carrying a beautiful white
DARK EYES LOOKED INTO MINE
My adventure had done nothing to relieve the feeling of unreality
which held me enthralled. Grasping the struggling bird firmly by the
body, and having the long white tail fluttering a yard or so behind
me, I returned to where the taxi waited.
"Open the door!" I said to the man--who greeted me with such a stare
of amazement that I laughed outright, though my mirth was but hollow.
He jumped into the road and did as I directed. Making sure that both
windows were closed, I thrust the peacock into the cab and shut the
door upon it.
"For God's sake, sir!" began the driver--
"It has probably escaped from some collector's place on the
riverside," I explained, "but one never knows. See that it does not
escape again, and if at the end of an hour, as arranged, you do not
hear from me, take it back with you to the River Police Station."
"Right you are, sir," said the man, remounting his seat. "It's the
first time I ever saw a peacock in Limehouse!"
It was the first time I had seen one, and the incident struck me as
being more than odd; it gave me an idea, and a new, faint hope. I
returned to the head of the steps, at the foot of which I had met with
this singular experience, and gazed up at the dark building beneath
which they led. Three windows were visible, but they were broken and
neglected. One, immediately above the arch, had been pasted up with
brown paper, and this was now peeling off in the rain, a little stream
of which trickled down from the detached corner to drop, drearily,
upon the stone stairs beneath.
Where were the detectives? I could only assume that they had directed
their attention elsewhere, for had the place not been utterly
deserted, surely I had been challenged.
In pursuit of my new idea, I again descended the steps. The persuasion
(shortly to be verified) that I was close upon the secret hold of the
Chinaman, grew stronger, unaccountably. I had descended some eight
steps, and was at the darkest part of the archway or tunnel, when
confirmation of my theories came to me.
A noose settled accurately upon my shoulders, was snatched tightly
about my throat, and with a feeling of insupportable agony at the base
of my skull, and a sudden supreme knowledge that I was being
strangled--hanged--I lost consciousness!
How long I remained unconscious, I was unable to determine at the
time, but I learned later, that it was for no more than half an hour;
at any rate, recovery was slow.
The first sensation to return to me was a sort of repetition of the
asphyxia. The blood seemed to be forcing itself into my eyes--I choked
--I felt that my end was come. And, raising my hands to my throat, I
found it to be swollen and inflamed. Then the floor upon which I lay
seemed to be rocking like the deck of a ship, and I glided back again
into a place of darkness and forgetfulness.
My second awakening was heralded by a returning sense of smell; for I
became conscious of a faint, exquisite perfume.
It brought me to my senses as nothing else could have done, and I sat
upright with a hoarse cry. I could have distinguished that perfume
amid a thousand others, could have marked it apart from the rest in a
scent bazaar. For me it had one meaning, and one meaning only--
She was near to me, or had been near to me!
And in the first moments of my awakening, I groped about in the
darkness blindly seeking her.
Then my swollen throat and throbbing head, together with my utter
inability to move my neck even slightly, reminded me of the facts as
they were. I knew in that bitter moment that Karamaneh was no longer
my friend; but, for all her beauty and charm, was the most heartless,
the most fiendish creature in the service of Dr. Fu-Manchu. I groaned
aloud in my despair and misery.
Something stirred, near to me in the room, and set my nerves creeping
with a new apprehension. I became fully alive to the possibilities of
To my certain knowledge, Dr. Fu-Manchu at this time had been in
England for fully three months, which meant that by now he must be
equipped with all the instruments of destruction, animate and
inanimate, which dread experience had taught me to associate with him.
Now, as I crouched there in that dark apartment listening for a
repetition of the sound, I scarcely dared to conjecture what might
have occasioned it, but my imagination peopled the place with reptiles
which writhed upon the floor, with tarantulas and other deadly insects
which crept upon the walls, which might drop upon me from the ceiling
at any moment.
Then, since nothing stirred about me, I ventured to move, turning my
shoulders, for I was unable to move my aching head; and I looked in
the direction from which a faint, very faint, light proceeded.
A regular tapping sound now began to attract my attention, and, having
turned about, I perceived that behind me was a broken window, in
places patched with brown paper; the corner of one sheet of paper was
detached, and the rain trickled down upon it with a rhythmical sound.
In a flash I realized that I lay in the room immediately above the
archway; and listening intently, I perceived above the other faint
sounds of the night, or thought that I perceived, the hissing of the
gas from the extinguished lamp-burner.
Unsteadily I rose to my feet, but found myself swaying like a drunken
man. I reached out for support, stumbling in the direction of the
wall. My foot came in contact with something that lay there, and I
pitched forward and fell. . . .
I anticipated a crash which would put an end to my hopes of escape,
but my fall was comparatively noiseless--for I fell upon the body of a
man who lay bound up with rope close against the wall!
A moment I stayed as I fell, the chest of my fellow captive rising and
falling beneath me as he breathed. Knowing that my life depended upon
retaining a firm hold upon myself, I succeeded in overcoming the
dizziness and nausea which threatened to drown my senses, and, moving
back so that I knelt upon the floor, I fumbled in my pocket for the
electric lamp which I had placed there. My raincoat had been removed
whilst I was unconscious, and with it my pistol, but the lamp was
I took it out, pressed the button, and directed the ray upon the face
of the man beside me.
It was Nayland Smith!
Trussed up and fastened to a ring in the wall he lay, having a cork
gag strapped so tightly between his teeth that I wondered how he had
But, although a grayish pallor showed through the tan of his skin, his
eyes were feverishly bright, and there, as I knelt beside him, I
thanked heaven, silently but fervently.
Then, in furious haste, I set to work to remove the gag. It was most
ingeniously secured by means of leather straps buckled at the back of
his head, but I unfastened these without much difficulty, and he spat
out the gag, uttering an exclamation of disgust.
"Thank God, old man!" he said, huskily. "Thank God that you are alive!
I saw them drag you in, and I thought . . ."
"I have been thinking the same about you for more than twenty-four
hours," I said, reproachfully. "Why did you start without--"
"I did not want you to come, Petrie," he replied. "I had a sort of
premonition. You see it was realized; and instead of being as helpless
as I, Fate has made you the instrument of my release. Quick! You have
a knife? Good!" The old, feverish energy was by no means extinguished
in him. "Cut the ropes about my wrists and ankles, but don't otherwise
I set to work eagerly.
"Now," Smith continued, "put that filthy gag in place again--but you
need not strap it so tightly! Directly they find that you are alive,
they will treat you the same--you understand? She has been here three
"Karamaneh?" . . .
I heard a sound like the opening of a distant door.
"Quick! the straps of the gag!" whispered Smith, "and pretend to
recover consciousness just as they enter--"
Clumsily I followed his directions, for my fingers were none too
steady, replaced the lamp in my pocket, and threw myself upon the
Through half-shut eyes, I saw the door open and obtained a glimpse of
a desolate, empty passage beyond. On the threshold stood Karamaneh.
She held in her hand a common tin oil lamp which smoked and flickered
with every movement, filling the already none too cleanly air with an
odor of burning paraffin. She personified the outre; nothing so
incongruous as her presence in that place could well be imagined. She
was dressed as I remembered once to have seen her two years before, in
the gauzy silks of the harem. There were pearls glittering like great
tears amid the cloud of her wonderful hair. She wore broad gold
bangles upon her bare arms, and her fingers were laden with jewelry. A
heavy girdle swung from her hips, defining the lines of her slim
shape, and about one white ankle was a gold band.
As she appeared in the doorway I almost entirely closed my eyes, but
my gaze rested fascinatedly upon the little red slippers which she
Again I detected the exquisite, elusive perfume, which, like a breath
of musk, spoke of the Orient; and, as always, it played havoc with my
reason, seeming to intoxicate me as though it were the very essence of
But I had a part to play, and throwing out one clenched hand so that
my fist struck upon the floor, I uttered a loud groan, and made as if
to rise upon my knees.
One quick glimpse I had of her wonderful eyes, widely opened and
turned upon me with such an enigmatical expression as set my heart
leaping wildly--then, stepping back, Karamaneh placed the lamp upon
the boards of the passage and clapped her hands.
As I sank upon the floor in assumed exhaustion, a Chinaman with a
perfectly impassive face, and a Burman, whose pock-marked, evil
countenance was set in an apparently habitual leer, came running into
the room past the girl.
With a hand which trembled violently, she held the lamp whilst the two
yellow ruffians tied me. I groaned and struggled feebly, fixing my
gaze upon the lamp-bearer in a silent reproach which was by no means
without its effect.
She lowered her eyes, and I could see her biting her lip, whilst the
color gradually faded from her cheeks. Then, glancing up again
quickly, and still meeting that reproachful stare, she turned her head
aside altogether, and rested one hand upon the wall, swaying slightly
as she did so.
It was a singular ordeal for more than one of that incongruous group;
but in order that I may not be charged with hypocrisy or with seeking
to hide my own folly, I confess, here, that when again I found myself
in darkness, my heart was leaping not because of the success of my
strategy, but because of the success of that reproachful glance which
I had directed toward the lovely, dark-eyed Karamaneh, toward the
faithless, evil Karamaneh! So much for myself.
The door had not been closed ten seconds, ere Smith again was spitting
out the gag, swearing under his breath, and stretching his cramped
limbs free from their binding. Within a minute from the time of my
trussing, I was a free man again; save that look where I would--to
right, to left, or inward, to my own conscience--two dark eyes met
"What now?" I whispered.
"Let me think," replied Smith. A false move would destroy us."
"How long have you been here?"
"Since last night."
"Fu-Manchu is here!" replied Smith, grimly--and not only Fu-Manchu,
"A higher than Fu-Manchu, apparently. I have an idea of the identity
of this person, but no more than an idea. Something unusual is going
on, Petrie; otherwise I should have been a dead man twenty-four hours
ago. Something even more important than my death engages Fu-Manchu's
attention--and this can only be the presence of the mysterious
visitor. Your seductive friend, Karamaneh, is arrayed in her very
becoming national costume in his honor, I presume." He stopped
abruptly; then added: "I would give five hundred pounds for a glimpse
of that visitor's face!"
"God knows what has become of Burke, Petrie! We were both caught
napping in the establishment of the amiable Shen-Yan, where, amid a
very mixed company of poker players, we were losing our money like
"Burke and I had both been neatly sand-bagged, my dear Petrie, and
removed elsewhere, some hours before Weymouth raided the gaming-house.
Oh! I don't know how they smuggled us away with the police watching
the place; but my presence here is sufficient evidence of the fact.
Are you armed?"
"No; my pistol was in my raincoat, which is missing."
In the dim light from the broken window, I could see Smith tugging
reflectively at the lobe of his left ear.
"I am without arms, too," he mused. "We might escape from the
"It's a long drop!"
"Ah! I imagined so. If only I had a pistol, or a revolver--"
"What should you do?"
"I should present myself before the important meeting, which, I am
assured, is being held somewhere in this building; and to-night would
see the end of my struggle with the Fu-Manchu group--the end of the
whole Yellow menace! For not only is Fu-Manchu here, Petrie, with all
his gang of assassins, but he whom I believe to be the real head of
the group--a certain mandarin--is here also!"
THE SACRED ORDER
Smith stepped quietly across the room and tried the door. It proved to
be unlocked, and an instant later, we were both outside in the
passage. Coincident with our arrival there, arose a sudden outcry from
some place at the westward end. A high-pitched, grating voice, in
which guttural notes alternated with a serpent-like hissing, was
raised in anger.
"Dr. Fu-Manchu!" whispered Smith, grasping my arm.
Indeed, it was the unmistakable voice of the Chinaman, raised
hysterically in one of those outbursts which in the past I had
diagnosed as symptomatic of dangerous mania.
The voice rose to a scream, the scream of some angry animal rather
than anything human. Then, chokingly, it ceased. Another short sharp
cry followed--but not in the voice of Fu-Manchu--a dull groan, and the
sound of a fall.
With Smith still grasping my wrist, I shrank back into the doorway, as
something that looked in the darkness like a great ball of fluff came
rapidly along the passage toward me. Just at my feet the thing stopped
and I made it out for a small animal. The tiny, gleaming eyes looked
up at me, and, chattering wickedly, the creature bounded past and was
lost from view.
It was Dr. Fu-Manchu's marmoset.
Smith dragged me back into the room which we had just left. As he
partly reclosed the door, I heard the clapping of hands. In a
condition of most dreadful suspense, we waited; until a new, ominous
sound proclaimed itself. Some heavy body was being dragged into the
passage. I heard the opening of a trap. Exclamations in guttural
voices told of a heavy task in progress; there was a great straining
and creaking--whereupon the trap was softly reclosed.
Smith bent to my ear.
"Fu-Manchu has chastised one of his servants," he whispered. "There
will be food for the grappling-irons to-night!"
I shuddered violently, for, without Smith's words, I knew that a
bloody deed had been done in that house within a few yards of where we
In the new silence, I could hear the drip, drip, drip of the rain
outside the window; then a steam siren hooted dismally upon the river,
and I thought how the screw of that very vessel, even as we listened,
might be tearing the body of Fu-Manchu's servant!
"Have you some one waiting?" whispered Smith, eagerly.
"How long was I insensible?"
"About half an hour."
"Then the cabman will be waiting."
"Have you a whistle with you?"
I felt in my coat pocket.
"Yes," I reported.
"Good! Then we will take a chance."
Again we slipped out into the passage and began a stealthy progress to
the west. Ten paces amid absolute darkness, and we found ourselves
abreast of a branch corridor. At the further end, through a kind of
little window, a dim light shone.
"See if you can find the trap," whispered Smith; "light your lamp."
I directed the ray of the pocket-lamp upon the floor, and there at my
feet was a square wooden trap. As I stooped to examine it, I glanced
back, painfully, over my shoulder--and saw Nayland Smith tiptoeing
away from me along the passage toward the light!
Inwardly I cursed his folly, but the temptation to peep in at that
little window proved too strong for me, as it had proved too strong
Fearful that some board would creak beneath my tread, I followed; and
side by side we two crouched, looking into a small rectangular room.
It was a bare and cheerless apartment with unpapered walls and
carpetless floor. A table and a chair constituted the sole furniture.
Seated in the chair, with his back toward us, was a portly Chinaman
who wore a yellow, silken robe. His face, it was impossible to see;
but he was beating his fist upon the table, and pouring out a torrent
of words in a thin, piping voice. So much I perceived at a glance;
then, into view at the distant end of the room, paced a tall, high-
shouldered figure--a figure unforgettable, at once imposing and
dreadful, stately and sinister.
With the long, bony hands behind him, fingers twining and intertwining
serpentinely about the handle of a little fan, and with the pointed
chin resting on the breast of the yellow robe, so that the light from
the lamp swinging in the center of the ceiling gleamed upon the great,
dome-like brow, this tall man paced somberly from left to right.
He cast a sidelong, venomous glance at the voluble speaker out of
half-shut eyes; in the act they seemed to light up as with an internal
luminance; momentarily they sparkled like emeralds; then their
brilliance was filmed over as in the eyes of a bird when the membrane
My blood seemed to chill, and my heart to double its pulsations;
beside me Smith was breathing more rapidly than usual. I knew now the
explanation of the feeling which had claimed me when first I had
descended the stone stairs. I knew what it was that hung like a miasma
over that house. It was the aura, the glamour, which radiated from
this wonderful and evil man as light radiates from radium. It was the
vril, the force, of Dr. Fu-Manchu.
I began to move away from the window. But Smith held my wrist as in a
vise. He was listening raptly to the torrential speech of the Chinaman
who sat in the chair; and I perceived in his eyes the light of a
As the tall figure of the Chinese doctor came pacing into view again,
Smith, his head below the level of the window, pushed me gently along
Regaining the site of the trap, he whispered to me: "We owe our lives,
Petrie, to the national childishness of the Chinese! A race of
ancestor worshipers is capable of anything, and Dr. Fu-Manchu, the
dreadful being who has rained terror upon Europe stands in imminent
peril of disgrace for having lost a decoration."
"What do you mean, Smith?"
"I mean that this is no time for delay, Petrie! Here, unless I am
greatly mistaken, lies the rope by means of which you made your
entrance. It shall be the means of your exit. Open the trap!"
Handling the lamp to Smith, I stooped and carefully raised the
trap-door. At which moment, a singular and dramatic thing happened.
A softly musical voice--the voice of my dreams!--spoke.
"Not that way! O God, not that way!"
In my surprise and confusion I all but let the trap fall, but I
retained sufficient presence of mind to replace it gently. Standing
upright, I turned . . . and there, with her little jeweled hand
resting upon Smith's arm, stood Karamaneh!
In all my experience of him, I had never seen Nayland Smith so utterly
perplexed. Between anger, distrust and dismay, he wavered; and each
passing emotion was written legibly upon the lean bronzed features.
Rigid with surprise, he stared at the beautiful face of the girl. She,
although her hand still rested upon Smith's arm, had her dark eyes
turned upon me with that same enigmatical expression. Her lips were
slightly parted, and her breast heaved tumultuously.
This ten seconds of silence in which we three stood looking at one
another encompassed the whole gamut of human emotion. The silence was
broken by Karamaneh.
"They will be coming back that way!" she whispered, bending eagerly
toward me. (How, in the most desperate moments, I loved to listen to
that odd, musical accent!) "Please, if you would save your life, and
spare mine, trust me!"--She suddenly clasped her hands together and
looked up into my face, passionately-- "Trust me--just for once--and I
will show you the way!"
Nayland Smith never removed his gaze from her for a moment, nor did he
"Oh!" she whispered, tremulously, and stamped one little red slipper
upon the floor. "Won't you heed me? Come, or it will be too late!"
I glanced anxiously at my friend; the voice of Dr. Fu-Manchu, now
raised in anger, was audible above the piping tones of the other
Chinaman. And as I caught Smith's eye, in silent query--the trap at my
feet began slowly to lift!
Karamaneh stifled a little sobbing cry; but the warning came too late.
A hideous yellow face with oblique squinting eyes, appeared in the
I found myself inert, useless; I could neither think nor act. Nayland
Smith, however, as if instinctively, delivered a pitiless kick at the
head protruding above the trap.
A sickening crushing sound, with a sort of muffled snap, spoke of a
broken jaw-bone; and with no word or cry, the Chinaman fell. As the
trap descended with a bang, I heard the thud of his body on the stone
But we were lost. Karamaneh fled along one of the passages lightly as
a bird, and disappeared as Dr. Fu-Manchu, his top lip drawn up above
his teeth in the manner of an angry jackal, appeared from the other.
"This way!" cried Smith, in a voice that rose almost to a shriek--
"this way!"--and he led toward the room overhanging the steps.
Off we dashed with panic swiftness, only to find that this retreat
also was cut off. Dimly visible in the darkness was a group of yellow
men, and despite the gloom, the curved blades of the knives which they
carried glittered menacingly. The passage was full of dacoits!
Smith and I turned, together, The trap was raised again, and the
Burman, who had helped to tie me, was just scrambling up beside Dr.
Fu-Manchu, who stood there watching us, a shadowy, sinister figure.
"The game's up, Petrie!" muttered Smith. "It has been a long fight,
but Fu-Manchu wins!"
"Not entirely!" I cried. I whipped the police whistle from my pocket,
and raised it to my lips; but brief as the interval had been, the
dacoits were upon me.
A sinewy brown arm shot over my shoulder and the whistle was dashed
from my grasp. Then came a whirl of maelstrom fighting with Smith and
myself ever sinking lower amid a whirlpool, as it seemed, of blood-
lustful eyes, yellow fangs, and gleaming blades.
I had some vague idea that the rasping voice of Fu-Manchu broke once
through the turmoil, and when, with my wrists tied behind me, I
emerged from the strife to find myself lying beside Smith in the
passage, I could only assume that the Chinaman had ordered his bloody
servants to take us alive; for saving numerous bruises and a few
superficial cuts, I was unwounded.
The place was utterly deserted again, and we two panting captives
found ourselves alone with Dr. Fu-Manchu. The scene was unforgettable;
that dimly lighted passage, its extremities masked in shadow, and the
tall, yellow-robed figure of the Satanic Chinaman towering over us
where we lay.
He had recovered his habitual calm, and as I peered at him through the
gloom I was impressed anew with the tremendous intellectual force of
the man. He had the brow of a genius, the features of a born ruler;
and even in that moment I could find time to search my memory, and to
discover that the face, saving the indescribable evil of its
expression, was identical with that of Seti, the mighty Pharaoh who
lies in the Cairo Museum.
Down the passage came leaping and gamboling the doctor's marmoset.
Uttering its shrill, whistling cry, it leaped onto his shoulder,
clutched with its tiny fingers at the scanty, neutral-colored hair
upon his crown, and bent forward, peering grotesquely into that still,
Dr. Fu-Manchu stroked the little creature; and crooned to it, as a
mother to her infant. Only this crooning, and the labored breathing of
Smith and myself, broke that impressive stillness.
Suddenly the guttural voice began:
"You come at an opportune time, Mr. Commissioner Nayland Smith, and
Dr. Petrie; at a time when the greatest man in China flatters me with
a visit. In my absence from home, a tremendous honor has been
conferred upon me, and, in the hour of this supreme honor, dishonor
and calamity have befallen! For my services to China--the New China,
the China of the future--I have been admitted by the Sublime Prince to
the Sacred Order of the White Peacock."
Warming to his discourse, he threw wide his arms, hurling the
chattering marmoset fully five yards along the corridor.
"O god of Cathay!" he cried, sibilantly, "in what have I sinned that
this catastrophe has been visited upon my head! Learn, my two dear
friends, that the sacred white peacock brought to these misty shores
for my undying glory, has been lost to me! Death is the penalty of
such a sacrilege; death shall be my lot, since death I deserve."
Covertly Smith nudged me with his elbow. I knew what the nudge was
designed to convey; he would remind me of his words--anent the
childish trifles which sway the life of intellectual China.
Personally, I was amazed. That Fu-Manchu's anger, grief, sorrow and
resignation were real, no one watching him, and hearing his voice,
"By one deed, and one deed alone, may I win a lighter punishment. By
one deed, and the resignation of all my titles, all my lands, and all
my honors, may I merit to be spared to my work--which has only begun."
I knew now that we were lost, indeed; these were confidences which our
graves should hold inviolate! He suddenly opened fully those blazing
green eyes and directed their baneful glare upon Nayland Smith.
"The Director of the Universe," he continued, softly, "has relented
toward me. To-night, you die! To-night, the arch-enemy of our caste
shall be no more. This is my offering--the price of redemption . . ."
My mind was working again, and actively. I managed to grasp the
stupendous truth--and the stupendous possibility.
Dr. Fu-Manchu was in the act of clapping his hands, when I spoke.
"Stop!" I cried.
He paused, and the weird film, which sometimes became visible in his
eyes, now obscured their greenness, and lent him the appearance of a
"Dr. Petrie," he said, softly, "I shall always listen to you with
"I have an offer to make," I continued, seeking to steady my voice.
"Give us our freedom, and I will restore your shattered honor--I will
restore the sacred peacock!"
Dr. Fu-Manchu bent forward until his face was so close to mine that I
could see the innumerable lines which, an intricate network, covered
his yellow skin.
"Speak!" he hissed. "You lift up my heart from a dark pit!"
"I can restore your white peacock," I said; "I and I alone, know where
it is!"--and I strove not to shrink from the face so close to mine.
Upright shot the tall figure; high above his head Fu-Manchu threw his
arms--and a light of exaltation gleamed in the now widely opened,
"O god!" he screamed, frenziedly--"O god of the Golden Age! like a
phoenix I arise from the ashes of myself!" He turned to me. "Quick!
Quick! make your bargain! End my suspense!"
Smith stared at me like a man dazed; but, ignoring him, I went on:
"You will release me, now, immediately. In another ten minutes it will
be too late; my friend will remain. One of your--servants--can
accompany me, and give the signal when I return with the peacock. Mr.
Nayland Smith and yourself, or another, will join me at the corner of
the street where the raid took place last night. We shall then give
you ten minutes grace, after which we shall take whatever steps we
"Agreed!" cried Fu-Manchu. "I ask but one thing from an Englishman;
your word of honor?"
"I give it."
"I, also," said Smith, hoarsely.
* * * * *
Ten minutes later, Nayland Smith and I, standing beside the cab, whose
lights gleamed yellowly through the mist, exchanged a struggling,
frightened bird for our lives--capitulated with the enemy of the white
With characteristic audacity--and characteristic trust in the British
sense of honor--Dr. Fu-Manchu came in person with Nayland Smith, in
response to the wailing signal of the dacoit who had accompanied me.
No word was spoken, save that the cabman suppressed a curse of
amazement; and the Chinaman, his sinister servant at his elbow, bowed
low--and left us, surely to the mocking laughter of the gods!
THE COUGHING HORROR
I leaped up in bed with a great start.
My sleep was troubled often enough in these days, which immediately
followed our almost miraculous escape, from the den of Fu-Manchu; and
now as I crouched there, nerves aquiver--listening--listening--I could
not be sure if this dank panic which possessed me had its origin in
nightmare or in something else.
Surely a scream, a choking cry for help, had reached my ears; but now,
almost holding my breath in that sort of nervous tensity peculiar to
one aroused thus, I listened, and the silence seemed complete. Perhaps
I had been dreaming . . .
"Help! Petrie! Help! . . ."
It was Nayland Smith in the room above me!
My doubts were dissolved; this was no trick of an imagination
disordered. Some dreadful menace threatened my friend. Not delaying
even to snatch my dressing-gown, I rushed out on to the landing, up
the stairs, bare-footed as I was, threw open the door of Smith's room
and literally hurled myself in.
Those cries had been the cries of one assailed, had been uttered, I
judged, in the brief interval of a life and death struggle; had been
choked off . . .
A certain amount of moonlight found access to the room, without
spreading so far as the bed in which my friend lay. But at the moment
of my headlong entrance, and before I had switched on the light, my
gaze automatically was directed to the pale moonbeam streaming through
the window and down on to one corner of the sheep-skin rug beside the
There came a sound of faint and muffled coughing.
What with my recent awakening and the panic at my heart, I could not
claim that my vision was true; but across this moonbeam passed a sort
of gray streak, for all the world as though some long thin shape
had been withdrawn, snakelike, from the room, through the open
window . . . From somewhere outside the house, and below, I heard the
cough again, followed by a sharp cracking sound like the lashing of a
I depressed the switch, flooding the room with light, and as I leaped
forward to the bed a word picture of what I had seen formed in my
mind; and I found that I was thinking of a gray feather boa.
"Smith!" I cried (my voice seemed to pitch itself, unwilled, in a very
high key), "Smith, old man!"
He made no reply, and a sudden, sorrowful fear clutched at my
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