The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu
Part 3 out of 5
heart-strings. He was lying half out of bed flat upon his back, his
head at a dreadful angle with his body. As I bent over him and seized
him by the shoulders, I could see the whites of his eyes. His arms
hung limply, and his fingers touched the carpet.
"My God!" I whispered--"what has happened?"
I heaved him back onto the pillow, and looked anxiously into his face.
Habitually gaunt, the flesh so refined away by the consuming nervous
energy of the man as to reveal the cheekbones in sharp prominence, he
now looked truly ghastly. His skin was so sunbaked as to have
changed constitutionally; nothing could ever eradicate that tan. But
to-night a fearful grayness was mingled with the brown, his lips were
purple . . . and there were marks of strangulation upon the lean
throat--ever darkening weals made by clutching fingers.
He began to breathe stentoriously and convulsively, inhalation being
accompanied by a significant gurgling in the throat. But now my calm
was restored in face of a situation which called for professional
I aided my friend's labored respirations by the usual means, setting
to work vigorously; so that presently he began to clutch at his
inflamed throat which that murderous pressure had threatened to close.
I could hear sounds of movement about the house, showing that not I
alone had been awakened by those hoarse screams.
"It's all right, old man," I said, bending over him; "brace up!"
He opened his eyes--they looked bleared and bloodshot--and gave me a
quick glance of recognition.
"It's all right, Smith!"I said--"no! don't sit up; lie there for a
I ran across to the dressing-table, whereon I perceived his flask to
lie, and mixed him a weak stimulant with which I returned to the bed.
As I bent over him again, my housekeeper appeared in the doorway, pale
"There is no occasion for alarm," I said over my shoulder; "Mr.
Smith's nerves are overwrought and he was awakened by some disturbing
dream. You can return to bed, Mrs. Newsome."
Nayland Smith seemed to experience much difficulty in swallowing the
contents of the tumbler which I held to his lips; and, from the way in
which he fingered the swollen glands, I could see that his throat,
which I had vigorously massaged, was occasioning him great pain. But
the danger was past, and already that glassy look was disappearing
from his eyes, nor did they protrude so unnaturally.
"God, Petrie!" he whispered, "that was a near shave! I haven't the
strength of a kitten!"
"The weakness will pass off," I replied; "there will be no collapse,
now. A little more fresh air . . ."
I stood up, glancing at the windows, then back at Smith, who forced a
wry smile in answer to my look.
"Couldn't be done, Petrie," he said, huskily.
His words referred to the state of the windows. Although the night was
oppressively hot, these were only opened some four inches at top and
bottom. Further opening was impossible because of iron brackets
screwed firmly into the casements which prevented the windows being
raised or lowered further.
It was a precaution adopted after long experience of the servants of
Now, as I stood looking from the half-strangled man upon the bed to
those screwed-up windows, the fact came home to my mind that this
precaution had proved futile. I thought of the thing which I had
likened to a feather boa; and I looked at the swollen weals made by
clutching fingers upon the throat of Nayland Smith.
The bed stood fully four feet from the nearest window.
I suppose the question was written in my face; for, as I turned again
to Smith, who, having struggled upright, was still fingering his
injured throat ruefully:
"God only knows, Petrie! he said; "no human arm could have reached
me . . ."
For us, the night was ended so far as sleep was concerned. Arrayed in
his dressing-gown, Smith sat in the white cane chair in my study with
a glass of brandy-and-water beside him, and (despite my official
prohibition) with the cracked briar which had sent up its incense in
many strange and dark places of the East and which yet survived to
perfume these prosy rooms in suburban London, steaming between his
teeth. I stood with my elbow resting upon the mantelpiece looking down
at him where he sat.
"By God! Petrie," he said, yet again, with his fingers straying gently
over the surface of his throat, "that was a narrow shave--a damned
"Narrower than perhaps you appreciate, old man," I replied. "You were
a most unusual shade of blue when I found you . . ."
"I managed," said Smith evenly, "to tear those clutching fingers away
for a moment and to give a cry for help. It was only for a moment,
though. Petrie! they were fingers of steel--of steel!"
"The bed," I began . . .
"I know that," rapped Smith. "I shouldn't have been sleeping in it,
had it been within reach of the window; but, knowing that the doctor
avoids noisy methods, I had thought myself fairly safe so long as I
made it impossible for any one actually to enter the room . . ."
"I have always insisted, Smith," I cried, "that there was danger! What
of poisoned darts? What of the damnable reptiles and insects which
form part of the armory of Fu-Manchu?"
"Familiarity breeds contempt, I suppose," he replied. "But as it
happened none of those agents was employed. The very menace that I
sought to avoid reached me somehow. It would almost seem that Dr.
Fu-Manchu deliberately accepted the challenge of those screwed-up
windows! Hang it all, Petrie! one cannot sleep in a room hermetically
sealed, in weather like this! It's positively Burmese; and although I
can stand tropical heat, curiously enough the heat of London gets me
down almost immediately."
"The humidity; that's easily understood. But you'll have to put up
with it in the future. After nightfall our windows must be closed
Nayland Smith knocked out his pipe upon the side of the fireplace. The
bowl sizzled furiously, but without delay he stuffed broad-cut mixture
into the hot pipe, dropping a liberal quantity upon the carpet during
the process. He raised his eyes to me, and his face was very grim.
"Petrie," he said, striking a match on the heel of his slipper, "the
resources of Dr. Fu-Manchu are by no means exhausted. Before we quit
this room it is up to us to come to a decision upon a certain point."
He got his pipe well alight. "What kind of thing, what unnatural,
distorted creature, laid hands upon my throat to-night? I owe my life,
primarily, to you, old man, but, secondarily, to the fact that I was
awakened, just before the attack--by the creature's coughing--by its
vile, high-pitched coughing . . ."
I glanced around at the books upon my shelves. Often enough, following
some outrage by the brilliant Chinese doctor whose genius was directed
to the discovery of new and unique death agents, we had obtained a
clue in those works of a scientific nature which bulk largely in the
library of a medical man. There are creatures, there are drugs, which,
ordinarily innocuous, may be so employed as to become inimical to
human life; and in the distorting of nature, in the disturbing of
balances and the diverting of beneficent forces into strange and
dangerous channels, Dr. Fu-Manchu excelled. I had known him to
enlarge, by artificial culture, a minute species of fungus so as to
render it a powerful agent capable of attacking man; his knowledge of
venomous insects has probably never been paralleled in the history of
the world; whilst, in the sphere of pure toxicology, he had, and has,
no rival; the Borgias were children by comparison. But, look where I
would, think how I might, no adequate explanation of this latest
outrage seemed possible along normal lines.
"There's the clue," said Nayland Smith, pointing to a little ash-tray
upon the table near by. "Follow it if you can."
But I could not.
"As I have explained," continued my friend, "I was awakened by a sound
of coughing; then came a death grip on my throat, and instinctively my
hands shot out in search of my attacker. I could not reach him; my
hands came in contact with nothing palpable. Therefore I clutched at
the fingers which were dug into my windpipe, and found them to be
small--as the marks show--and hairy. I managed to give that first cry
for help, then with all my strength I tried to unfasten the grip that
was throttling the life out of me. At last I contrived to move one of
the hands, and I called out again, though not so loudly. Then both the
hands were back again; I was weakening; but I clawed like a madman at
the thin, hairy arms of the strangling thing, and with a blood-red
mist dancing before my eyes, I seemed to be whirling madly round and
round until all became a blank. Evidently I used my nails pretty
freely--and there's the trophy."
For the twentieth time, I should think, I carried the ash-tray in my
hand and laid it immediately under the table-lamp in order to examine
its contents. In the little brass bowl lay a blood-stained fragment of
grayish hair attached to a tatter of skin. This fragment of epidermis
had an odd bluish tinge, and the attached hair was much darker at the
roots than elsewhere. Saving its singular color, it might have been
torn from the forearm of a very hirsute human; but although my
thoughts wandered unfettered, north, south, east and west; although,
knowing the resources of Fu-Manchu, I considered all the recognized
Mongolian types, and, in quest of hirsute mankind, even roamed far
north among the blubbering Esquimo; although I glanced at Australasia,
at Central Africa, and passed in mental review the dark places of the
Congo, nowhere in the known world, nowhere in the history of the human
species, could I come upon a type of man answering to the description
suggested by our strange clue.
Nayland Smith was watching me curiously as I bent over the little
"You are puzzled," he rapped in his short way.
So am I--utterly puzzled. Fu-Manchu's gallery of monstrosities clearly
has become reinforced; for even if we identified the type, we should
not be in sight of our explanation."
"You mean," I began . . .
"Fully four feet from the window, Petrie, and that window but a few
inches open! Look"--he bent forward, resting his chest against the
table, and stretched out his hand toward me. "You have a rule there;
Setting down the ash-tray, I opened out the rule and measured the
distance from the further edge of the table to the tips of Smith's
"Twenty-eight inches--and I have a long reach!" snapped Smith,
withdrawing his arm and striking a match to relight his pipe." There's
one thing, Petrie, often proposed before, which now we must do without
delay. The ivy must be stripped from the walls at the back. It's a
pity, but we can not afford to sacrifice our lives to our sense of the
aesthetic. What do you make of the sound like the cracking of a whip?"
"I make nothing of it, Smith," I replied, wearily. "It might have been
a thick branch of ivy breaking beneath the weight of a climber."
"Did it sound like it?"
"I must confess that the explanation does not convince me, but I have
no better one."
Smith, permitting his pipe to go out, sat staring straight before him,
and tugging at the lobe of his left ear.
"The old bewilderment is seizing me," I continued. "At first, when I
realized that Dr. Fu-Manchu was back in England, when I realized that
an elaborate murder-machine was set up somewhere in London, it seemed
unreal, fantastical. Then I met--Karamaneh! She, whom we thought to be
his victim, showed herself again to be his slave. Now, with Weymouth
and Scotland Yard at work, the old secret evil is established again in
our midst, unaccountably--our lives are menaced--sleep is a danger--
every shadow threatens death . . . oh! it is awful."
Smith remained silent; he did not seem to have heard my words. I knew
these moods and had learnt that it was useless to seek to interrupt
them. With his brows drawn down, and his deep-set eyes staring into
space, he sat there gripping his cold pipe so tightly that my own jaw
muscles ached sympathetically. No man was better equipped than this
gaunt British Commissioner to stand between society and the menace of
the Yellow Doctor; I respected his meditations, for, unlike my own,
they were informed by an intimate knowledge of the dark and secret
things of the East, of that mysterious East out of which Fu-Manchu
came, of that jungle of noxious things whose miasma had been wafted
Westward with the implacable Chinaman.
I walked quietly from the room, occupied with my own bitter
"You say you have two items of news for me?" said Nayland Smith,
looking across the breakfast table to where Inspector Weymouth sat
"There are two points--yes," replied the Scotland Yard man, whilst
Smith paused, egg-spoon in hand, and fixed his keen eyes upon the
speaker. "The first is this: the headquarters of the Yellow group is
no longer in the East End."
"How can you be sure of that?"
"For two reasons. In the first place, that district must now be too
hot to hold Dr. Fu-Manchu; in the second place, we have just completed
a house-to-house inquiry which has scarcely overlooked a rathole or a
rat. That place where you say Fu-Manchu was visited by some Chinese
mandarin; where you, Mr. Smith," and--glancing in my direction--"you,
Doctor, were confined for a time--"
"Yes?" snapped Smith, attacking his egg.
"Well," continued the inspector, "it is all deserted, now. There is
not the slightest doubt that the Chinaman has fled to some other
abode. I am certain of it. My second piece of news will interest you
very much, I am sure. You were taken to the establishment of the
Chinaman, Shen-Yan, by a certain ex-officer of New York Police--
Burke . . ."
"Good God!" cried Smith, looking up with a start; "I thought they had
"So did I," replied Weymouth grimly; "but they haven't! He got away in
the confusion following the raid, and has been hiding ever since with
a cousin, a nurseryman out Upminster way . . ."
"Hiding?" snapped Smith.
"Exactly--hiding. He has been afraid to stir ever since, and has
scarcely shown his nose outside the door. He says he is watched night
"Then how . . ."
"He realized that something must be done," continued the inspector,
"and made a break this morning. He is so convinced of this constant
surveillance that he came away secretly, hidden under the boxes of a
market-wagon. He landed at Covent Garden in the early hours of this
morning and came straight away to the Yard."
"What is he afraid of exactly?"
Inspector Weymouth put down his coffee cup and bent forward slightly.
"He knows something," he said in a low voice, "and they are aware that
he knows it!"
"And what is this he knows?"
Nayland Smith stared eagerly at the detective.
"Every man has his price," replied Weymouth with a smile, "and Burke
seems to think that you are a more likely market than the police
"I see," snapped Smith. "He wants to see me?"
"He wants you to go and see him," was the reply. "I think he
anticipates that you may make a capture of the person or persons
spying upon him."
"Did he give you any particulars?"
"Several. He spoke of a sort of gipsy girl with whom he had a short
conversation one day, over the fence which divides his cousin's flower
plantations from the lane adjoining."
"Gipsy girl!" I whispered, glancing rapidly at Smith.
"I think you are right, Doctor," said Weymouth with his slow smile;
"it was Karamaneh. She asked him the way to somewhere or other and got
him to write it upon a loose page of his notebook, so that she should
not forget it."
"You hear that, Petrie?" rapped Smith.
"I hear it," I replied, "but I don't see any special significance in
"I do!" rapped Smith; "I didn't sit up the greater part of last night
thrashing my weary brains for nothing! But I am going to the British
Museum to-day, to confirm a certain suspicion." He turned to Weymouth.
"Did Burke go back?" he demanded abruptly.
"He returned hidden under the empty boxes," was the reply. "Oh! you
never saw a man in such a funk in all your life!"
"He may have good reasons," I said.
"He has good reasons!" replied Nayland Smith grimly; "if that man
really possesses information inimical to the safety of Fu-Manchu, he
can only escape doom by means of a miracle similar to that which has
hitherto protected you and me."
"Burke insists," said Weymouth at this point, that something comes
almost every night after dusk, slinking about the house--it's an old
farmhouse, I understand; and on two or three occasions he has been
awakened (fortunately for him he is a light sleeper) by sounds of
coughing immediately outside his window. He is a man who sleeps with a
pistol under his pillow, and more than once, on running to the window,
he has had a vague glimpse of some creature leaping down from the
tiles of the roof, which slopes up to his room, into the flower beds
below . . ."
"Creature!" said Smith, his gray eyes ablaze now--"you said creature!"
"I used the word deliberately," replied Weymouth, "because Burke seems
to have the idea that it goes on all fours."
There was a short and rather strained silence. Then:
"In descending a sloping roof," I suggested, "a human being would
probably employ his hands as well as his feet."
"Quite so," agreed the inspector. "I am merely reporting the
impression of Burke."
"Has he heard no other sound?" rapped Smith; "one like the cracking of
dry branches, for instance?"
"He made no mention of it," replied Weymouth, staring.
"And what is the plan?"
"One of his cousin's vans," said Weymouth, with his slight smile, "has
remained behind at Covent Garden and will return late this afternoon.
I propose that you and I, Mr. Smith, imitate Burke and ride down to
Upminster under the empty boxes!"
Nayland Smith stood up, leaving his breakfast half finished, and began
to wander up and down the room, reflectively tugging at his ear. Then
he began to fumble in the pockets of his dressing-gown and finally
produced the inevitable pipe, dilapidated pouch, and box of safety
matches. He began to load the much-charred agent of reflection.
"Do I understand that Burke is actually too afraid to go out openly
even in daylight?" he asked suddenly.
"He has not hitherto left his cousin's plantations at all," replied
Weymouth. "He seems to think that openly to communicate with the
authorities, or with you, would be to seal his death warrant."
"He's right," snapped Smith.
"Therefore he came and returned secretly," continued the inspector;
"and if we are to do any good, obviously we must adopt similar
precautions. The market wagon, loaded in such a way as to leave ample
space in the interior for us, will be drawn up outside the office of
Messrs. Pike and Pike, in Covent Garden, until about five o'clock this
afternoon. At, say, half past four, I propose that we meet there and
embark upon the journey."
The speaker glanced in my direction interrogatively.
"Include me in the program," I said. "Will there be room in the
"Certainly," was the reply; "it is most commodious, but I cannot
guarantee its comfort."
Nayland Smith promenaded the room, unceasingly, and presently he
walked out altogether, only to return ere the inspector and I had had
time to exchange more than a glance of surprise, carrying a brass
ash-tray. He placed this on a corner of the breakfast table before
"Ever seen anything like that?" he inquired.
The inspector examined the gruesome relic with obvious curiosity,
turning it over with the tip of his little finger and manifesting
considerable repugnance--in touching it at all. Smith and I watched
him in silence, and, finally, placing the tray again upon the table,
he looked up in a puzzled way.
"It's something like the skin of a water rat," he said.
Nayland Smith stared at him fixedly.
"A water rat? Now that you come to mention it, I perceive a certain
resemblance--yes. But"--he had been wearing a silk scarf about his
throat and now he unwrapped it--"did you ever see a water rat that
could make marks like these?"
Weymouth started to his feet with some muttered exclamation.
"What is this?" he cried. "When did it happen, and how?"
In his own terse fashion, Nayland Smith related the happenings of the
night. At the conclusion of the story:
"By heaven!" whispered Weymouth, "the thing on the roof--the coughing
thing that goes on all fours, seen by Burke . . ."
"My own idea exactly!" cried Smith . . .
"Fu-Manchu," I said excitedly, "has brought some new, some dreadful
creature, from Burma . . ."
"No, Petrie," snapped Smith, turning upon me suddenly. "Not from
That day was destined to be an eventful one; a day never to be
forgotten by any of us concerned in those happenings which I have to
record. Early in the morning Nayland Smith set off for the British
Museum to pursue his mysterious investigations, and having performed
my brief professional round (for, as Nayland Smith had remarked on one
occasion, this was a beastly healthy district), I found, having made
the necessary arrangements, that, with over three hours to spare, I
had nothing to occupy my time until the appointment in Covent Garden
Market. My lonely lunch completed, a restless fit seized me, and I
felt unable to remain longer in the house. Inspired by this
restlessness, I attired myself for the adventure of the evening, not
neglecting to place a pistol in my pocket, and, walking to the
neighboring Tube station, I booked to Charing Cross, and presently
found myself rambling aimlessly along the crowded streets. Led on by
what link of memory I know not, I presently drifted into New Oxford
Street, and looked up with a start--to learn that I stood before the
shop of a second-hand book-seller where once two years before I had
The thoughts conjured up at that moment were almost too bitter to be
borne, and without so much as glancing at the books displayed for
sale, I crossed the roadway, entered Museum Street, and, rather in
order to distract my mind than because I contemplated any purchase,
began to examine the Oriental Pottery, Egyptian statuettes, Indian
armor, and other curios, displayed in the window of an antique dealer.
But, strive as I would to concentrate my mind upon the objects in the
window, my memories persistently haunted me, and haunted me to the
exclusion even of the actualities. The crowds thronging the Pavement,
the traffic in New Oxford Street, swept past unheeded; my eyes saw
nothing of pot nor statuette, but only met, in a misty imaginative
world, the glance of two other eyes--the dark and beautiful eyes of
Karamaneh. In the exquisite tinting of a Chinese vase dimly
perceptible in the background of the shop, I perceived only the
blushing cheeks of Karamaneh; her face rose up, a taunting phantom,
from out of the darkness between a hideous, gilded idol and an Indian
I strove to dispel this obsessing thought, resolutely fixing my
attention upon a tall Etruscan vase in the corner of the window, near
to the shop door. Was I losing my senses indeed? A doubt of my own
sanity momentarily possessed me. For, struggle as I would to dispel
the illusion--there, looking out at me over that ancient piece of
pottery, was the bewitching face of the slave-girl!
Probably I was glaring madly, and possibly I attracted the notice of
the passers-by; but of this I cannot be certain, for all my attention
was centered upon that phantasmal face, with the cloudy hair, slightly
parted red lips, and the brilliant dark eyes which looked into mine
out of the shadows of the shop.
It was bewildering--it was uncanny; for, delusion or verity, the
glamour prevailed. I exerted a great mental effort, stepped to the
door, turned the handle, and entered the shop with as great a show of
composure as I could muster.
A curtain draped in a little door at the back of one counter swayed
slightly, with no greater violence than may have been occasioned by
the draught. But I fixed my eyes upon this swaying curtain almost
fiercely . . . as an impassive half-caste of some kind who appeared to
be a strange cross between a Graeco-Hebrew and a Japanese, entered and
quite unemotionally faced me, with a slight bow.
So wholly unexpected was this apparition that I started back.
"Can I show you anything, sir?" inquired the new arrival, with a
second slight inclination of the head.
I looked at him for a moment in silence. Then:
"I thought I saw a lady of my acquaintance here a moment ago," I said.
"Was I mistaken?"
"Quite mistaken, sir," replied the shopman, raising his black eyebrows
ever so slightly; "a mistake possibly due to a reflection in the
window. Will you take a look around now that you are here?"
"Thank you," I replied, staring him hard in the face; "at some other
I turned and quitted the shop abruptly. Either I was mad, or Karamaneh
was concealed somewhere therein.
However, realizing my helplessness in the matter, I contented myself
with making a mental note of the name which appeared above the
establishment--J. Salaman--and walked on, my mind in a chaotic
condition and my heart beating with unusual rapidity.
THE QUESTING HANDS
Within my view, from the corner of the room where I sat in deepest
shadow, through the partly opened window (it was screwed, like our
own) were rows of glass-houses gleaming in the moonlight, and, beyond
them, orderly ranks of flower-beds extending into a blue haze of
distance. By reason of the moon's position, no light entered the room,
but my eyes, from long watching, were grown familiar with the
darkness, and I could see Burke quite clearly as he lay in the bed
between my post and the window. I seemed to be back again in those
days of the troubled past when first Nayland Smith and I had come to
grips with the servants of Dr. Fu-Manchu. A more peaceful scene than
this flower-planted corner of Essex it would be difficult to imagine;
but, either because of my knowledge that its peace was chimerical, or
because of that outflung consciousness of danger which, actually, or
in my imagination, preceded the coming of the Chinaman's agents, to my
seeming the silence throbbed electrically and the night was laden with
Already cramped by my journey in the market-cart, I found it difficult
to remain very long in any one position. What information had Burke to
sell? He had refused, for some reason, to discuss the matter that
evening, and now, enacting the part allotted him by Nayland Smith, he
feigned sleep consistently, although at intervals he would whisper to
me his doubts and fears.
All the chances were in our favor to-night; for whilst I could not
doubt that Dr. Fu-Manchu was set upon the removal of the ex-officer of
New York police, neither could I doubt that our presence in the farm
was unknown to the agents of the Chinaman. According to Burke,
constant attempts had been made to achieve Fu-Manchu's purpose, and
had only been frustrated by his (Burke's) wakefulness.
There was every probability that another attempt would be made to-
Any one who has been forced by circumstance to undertake such a vigil
as this will be familiar with the marked changes (corresponding with
phases of the earth's movement) which take place in the atmosphere, at
midnight, at two o'clock, and again at four o'clock. During those
fours hours falls a period wherein all life is at its lowest ebb, and
every Physician is aware that there is a greater likelihood of a
patient's passing between midnight and four A. M., than at any other
period during the cycle of the hours.
To-night I became specially aware of this lowering of vitality, and
now, with the night at that darkest phase which precedes the dawn, an
indescribable dread, such as I had known before in my dealings with
the Chinaman, assailed me, when I was least prepared to combat it. The
stillness was intense. Then:
"Here it is!" whispered Burke from the bed.
The chill at the very center of my being, which but corresponded with
the chill of all surrounding nature at that hour, became intensified,
keener, at the whispered words.
I rose stealthily out of my chair, and from my nest of shadows watched
--watched intently, the bright oblong of the window . . .
Without the slightest heralding sound--a black silhouette crept up
against the pane . . . the silhouette of a small, malformed head, a
dog-like head, deep-set in square shoulders. Malignant eyes peered
intently in. Higher it arose--that wicked head--against the window,
then crouched down on the sill and became less sharply defined as the
creature stooped to the opening below. There was a faint sound of
Judging from the stark horror which I experienced, myself, I doubted,
now, if Burke could sustain the role allotted him. In beneath the
slightly raised window came a hand, perceptible to me despite the
darkness of the room. It seemed to project from the black silhouette
outside the pane, to be thrust forward--and forward--and forward . . .
that small hand with the outstretched fingers.
The unknown possesses unique terrors; and since I was unable to
conceive what manner of thing this could be, which, extending its
incredibly long arms, now sought the throat of the man upon the bed, I
tasted of that sort of terror which ordinarily one knows only in
"Quick, sir--quick!" screamed Burke, starting up from the pillow.
The questing hands had reached his throat!
Choking down an urgent dread that I had of touching the thing which
reached through the window to kill the sleeper, I sprang across the
room and grasped the rigid, hairy forearms.
Heavens! Never have I felt such muscles, such tendons, as those
beneath the hirsute skin! They seemed to be of steel wire, and with a
sudden frightful sense of impotence, I realized that I was as
powerless as a child to relax that strangle-hold. Burke was making the
most frightful sounds and quite obviously was being asphyxiated before
"Smith!" I cried, "Smith! Help! help! for God's sake!"
Despite the confusion of my mind I became aware of sounds outside and
below me. Twice the thing at the window coughed; there was an
incessant, lash-like cracking, then some shouted words which I was
unable to make out; and finally the staccato report of a pistol.
Snarling like that of a wild beast came from the creature with the
hairy arms, together with renewed coughing. But the steel grip relaxed
not one iota.
I realized two things: the first, that in my terror at the suddenness
of the attack I had omitted to act as pre-arranged: the second, that I
had discredited the strength of the visitant, whilst Smith had
Desisting in my vain endeavor to pit my strength against that of the
nameless thing, I sprang back across the room and took up the weapon
which had been left in my charge earlier in the night, but which I had
been unable to believe it would be necessary to employ. This was a
sharp and heavy axe, which Nayland Smith, when I had met him in Covent
Garden, had brought with him, to the great amazement of Weymouth and
As I leaped back to the window and uplifted this primitive weapon, a
second shot sounded from below, and more fierce snarling, coughing,
and guttural mutterings assailed my ears from beyond the pane.
Lifting the heavy blade, I brought it down with all my strength upon
the nearer of those hairy arms where it crossed the window-ledge,
severing muscle, tendon and bone as easily as a knife might cut
cheese. . . .
A shriek--a shriek neither human nor animal, but gruesomely compounded
of both--followed . . . and merged into a choking cough. Like a flash
the other shaggy arm was withdrawn, and some vaguely-seen body went
rolling down the sloping red tiles and crashed on to the ground
With a second piercing shriek, louder than that recently uttered by
Burke, wailing through the night from somewhere below, I turned
desperately to the man on the bed, who now was become significantly
silent. A candle, with matches, stood upon a table hard by, and, my
fingers far from steady, I set about obtaining a light. This
accomplished, I stood the candle upon the little chest-of-drawers and
returned to Burke's side.
"Merciful God!" I cried.
Of all the pictures which remain in my memory, some of them dark
enough, I can find none more horrible than that which now confronted
me in the dim candle-light. Burke lay crosswise on the bed, his head
thrown back and sagging; one rigid hand he held in the air, and with
the other grasped the hairy forearm which I had severed with the ax;
for, in a death-grip, the dead fingers were still fastened, vise-like,
at his throat.
His face was nearly black, and his eyes projected from their sockets
horribly. Mastering my repugnance, I seized the hideous piece of
bleeding anatomy and strove to release it. It defied all my efforts;
in death it was as implacable as in life. I took a knife from my
pocket, and, tendon by tendon, cut away that uncanny grip from Burke's
throat . . .
But my labor was in vain. Burke was dead!
I think I failed to realize this for some time. My clothes were
sticking clammily to my body; I was bathed in perspiration, and,
shaking furiously, I clutched at the edge of the window, avoiding the
bloody patch upon the ledge, and looked out over the roofs to where,
in the more distant plantations, I could hear excited voices. What had
been the meaning of that scream which I had heard but to which in my
frantic state of mind I had paid comparatively little attention?
There was a great stirring all about me.
"Smith!" I cried from the window; "Smith, for mercy's sake where are
Footsteps came racing up the stairs. Behind me the door burst open and
Nayland Smith stumbled into the room.
"God!" he said, and started back in the doorway.
"Have you got it, Smith?" I demanded hoarsely. "In sanity's name what
is it--what is it?"
"Come downstairs," replied Smith quietly, "and see for yourself." He
turned his head aside from the bed.
Very unsteadily I followed him down the stairs and through the
rambling old house out into the stone-paved courtyard. There were
figures moving at the end of a long alleyway between the glass houses,
and one, carrying a lantern, stooped over something which lay upon the
"That's Burke's cousin with the lantern," whispered Smith in my ear;
"don't tell him yet."
I nodded, and we hurried up to join the group. I found myself looking
down at one of those thick-set Burmans whom I always associated with
Fu-Manchu's activities. He lay quite flat, face downward; but the back
of his head was a shapeless blood-dotted mass, and a heavy stock-whip,
the butt end ghastly because of the blood and hair which clung to it,
lay beside him. I started back appalled as Smith caught my arm.
"It turned on its keeper!" he hissed in my ear. "I wounded it twice
from below, and you severed one arm; in its insensate fury, its
unreasoning malignity, it returned--and there lies its second
victim . . ."
"Then . . ."
"It's gone, Petrie! It has the strength of four men even now. Look!"
He stooped, and from the clenched left hand of the dead Burman,
extracted a piece of paper and opened it.
"Hold the lantern a moment," he said.
In the yellow light he glanced at the scrap of paper.
"As I expected--a leaf of Burke's notebook; it worked by scent." He
turned to me with an odd expression in his gray eyes. "I wonder what
piece of my personal property Fu-Manchu has pilfered," he said, "in
order to enable it to sleuth me?"
He met the gaze of the man holding the lantern.
"Perhaps you had better return to the house," he said, looking him
squarely in the eyes.
The other's face blanched.
"You don't mean, sir--you don't mean . . ."
"Brace up!" said Smith, laying his hand upon his shoulder. "Remember--
he chose to play with fire!"
One wild look the man cast from Smith to me, then went off,
staggering, toward the farm.
"Smith," I began . . .
He turned to me with an impatient gesture.
"Weymouth has driven into Upminster," he snapped; "and the whole
district will be scoured before morning. They probably motored here,
but the sounds of the shots will have enabled whoever was with the car
to make good his escape. And exhausted from loss of blood, its capture
is only a matter of time, Petrie."
ONE DAY IN RANGOON
Nayland Smith returned from the telephone. Nearly twenty-four hours
had elapsed since the awful death of Burke.
"No news, Petrie," he said, shortly. "It must have crept into some
inaccessible hole to die."
I glanced up from my notes. Smith settled into the white cane
armchair, and began to surround himself with clouds of aromatic smoke.
I took up a half-sheet of foolscap covered with penciled writing in my
friend's cramped characters, and transcribed the following, in order
to complete my account of the latest Fu-Manchu outrage:
"The Amharun, a Semitic tribe allied to the Falashas, who have been
settled for many generations in the southern province of Shoa
(Abyssinia) have been regarded as unclean and outcast, apparently
since the days of Menelek--son of Suleyman and the Queen of
Sheba--from whom they claim descent. Apart from their custom of eating
meat cut from living beasts, they are accursed because of their
alleged association with the Cynocephalus hamadryas (Sacred Baboon).
I, myself, was taken to a hut on the banks of the Hawash and shown a
creature . . . whose predominant trait was an unreasoning malignity
toward . . . and a ferocious tenderness for the society of its furry
brethren. Its powers of scent were fully equal to those of a
bloodhound, whilst its abnormally long forearms possessed incredible
strength . . . a Cynocephalyte such as this, contracts phthisis even
in the more northern provinces of Abyssinia . . ."
"You have not explained to me, Smith," I said, having completed this
note, "how you got in touch with Fu-Manchu; how you learnt that he was
not dead, as we had supposed, but living--active."
Nayland Smith stood up and fixed his steely eyes upon me with an
indefinable expression in them. Then:
"No," he replied; "I haven't. Do you wish to know?"
"Certainly," I said with surprise; "is there any reason why I should
"There is no real reason," said Smith; "or"--staring at me very hard--
"I hope there is no real reason."
"What do you mean?"
"Well"--he grabbed up his pipe from the table and began furiously to
load it--"I blundered upon the truth one day in Rangoon. I was walking
out of a house which I occupied there for a time, and as I swung
around the corner into the main street, I ran into--literally ran
into . . ."
Again he hesitated oddly; then closed up his pouch and tossed it into
the cane chair. He struck a match.
"I ran into Karamaneh," he continued abruptly, and began to puff away
at his pipe, filling the air with clouds of tobacco smoke.
I caught my breath. This was the reason why he had kept me so long in
ignorance of the story. He knew of my hopeless, uncrushable sentiments
toward the gloriously beautiful but utterly hypocritical and evil
Eastern girl who was perhaps the most dangerous of all Dr. Fu-Manchu's
servants; for the power of her loveliness was magical, as I knew to my
"What did you do?" I asked quietly, my fingers drumming upon the
"Naturally enough," continued Smith, "with a cry of recognition I held
out both my hands to her, gladly. I welcomed her as a dear friend
regained; I thought of the joy with which you would learn that I had
found the missing one; I thought how you would be in Rangoon just as
quickly as the fastest steamer could get you there . . ."
"Karamaneh started back and treated me to a glance of absolute
animosity. No recognition was there, and no friendliness--only a sort
of scornful anger."
He shrugged his shoulders and began to walk up and down the room.
"I do not know what you would have done in the circumstances, Petrie,
"I dealt with the situation rather promptly, I think. I simply picked
her up without another word, right there in the public street, and
raced back into the house, with her kicking and fighting like a little
demon! She did not shriek or do anything of that kind, but fought
silently like a vicious wild animal. Oh! I had some scars, I assure
you; but I carried her up into my office, which fortunately was empty
at the time, plumped her down in a chair, and stood looking at her."
"Go on," I said rather hollowly; "what next?"
"She glared at me with those wonderful eyes, an expression of
implacable hatred in them! Remembering all that we had done for her;
remembering our former friendship; above all, remembering you--this
look of hers almost made me shiver. She was dressed very smartly in
European fashion, and the whole thing had been so sudden that as I
stood looking at her I half expected to wake up presently and find it
all a day-dream. But it was real--as real as her enmity. I felt the
need for reflection, and having vainly endeavored to draw her into
conversation, and elicited no other answer than this glare of
hatred--I left her there, going out and locking the door behind me."
"A commissioner has certain privileges, Petrie, and any action I might
choose to take was not likely to be questioned. There was only one
window to the office, and it was fully twenty feet above the level; it
overlooked a narrow street off the main thoroughfare (I think I have
explained that the house stood on a corner) so I did not fear her
escaping. I had an important engagement which I had been on my way to
fulfil when the encounter took place, and now, with a word to my
native servant--who chanced to be downstairs--I hurried off."
Smith's pipe had gone out as usual, and he proceeded to relight it,
whilst, with my eyes lowered, I continued to drum upon the table.
"This boy took her some tea later in the afternoon," he continued,
"and apparently found her in a more placid frame of mind. I returned
immediately after dusk, and he reported that when last he had looked
in, about half an hour earlier, she had been seated in an armchair
reading a newspaper (I may mention that everything of value in the
office was securely locked up!) I was determined upon a certain course
by this time, and I went slowly upstairs, unlocked the door, and
walked into the darkened office. I turned up the light . . . the place
"The window was open, and the bird flown! Oh! it was not so simple a
flight--as you would realize if you knew the place. The street, which
the window overlooked, was bounded by a blank wall, on the opposite
side, for thirty or forty yards along; and as we had been having heavy
rains, it was full of glutinous mud. Furthermore, the boy whom I had
left in charge had been sitting in the doorway immediately below the
office window watching for my return ever since his last visit to the
room above . . ."
"She must have bribed him," I said bitterly--"or corrupted him with
her infernal blandishments."
"I'll swear she did not," rapped Smith decisively. "I know my man, and
I'll swear she did not. There were no marks in the mud of the road to
show that a ladder had been placed there; moreover, nothing of the
kind could have been attempted whilst the boy was sitting in the
doorway; that was evident. In short, she did not descend into the
roadway and did not come out by the door . . ."
"Was there a gallery outside the window?"
"No; it was impossible to climb to right or left of the window or up
on to the roof. I convinced myself of that."
"But, my dear man!" I cried, "you are eliminating every natural mode
of egress! Nothing remains but flight."
"I am aware, Petrie, that nothing remains but flight; in other words I
have never to this day understood how she quitted the room. I only
know that she did."
"I saw in this incredible escape the cunning hand of Dr. Fu-Manchu--
saw it at once. Peace was ended; and I set to work along certain
channels without delay. In this manner I got on the track at last, and
learned, beyond the possibility of doubt, that the Chinese doctor
lived--nay! was actually on his way to Europe again!"
There followed a short silence. Then:
"I suppose it's a mystery that will be cleared up some day," concluded
Smith; "but to date the riddle remains intact." He glanced at the
clock. "I have an appointment with Weymouth; therefore, leaving you to
the task of solving this problem which thus far has defied my own
efforts, I will get along."
He read a query in my glance.
"Oh! I shall not be late," he added; "I think I may venture out alone
on this occasion without personal danger."
Nayland Smith went upstairs to dress, leaving me seated at my writing
table, deep in thought. My notes upon the renewed activity of Dr.
Fu-Manchu were stacked at my left hand, and, opening a new writing
block, I commenced to add to them particulars of this surprising event
in Rangoon which properly marked the opening of the Chinaman's second
campaign. Smith looked in at the door on his way out, but seeing me
thus engaged, did not disturb me.
I think I have made it sufficiently evident in these records that my
practice was not an extensive one, and my hour for receiving patients
arrived and passed with only two professional interruptions.
My task concluded, I glanced at the clock, and determined to devote
the remainder of the evening to a little private investigation of my
own. From Nayland Smith I had preserved the matter a secret, largely
because I feared his ridicule; but I had by no means forgotten that I
had seen, or had strongly imagined that I had seen, Karamaneh--that
beautiful anomaly, who (in modern London) asserted herself to be a
slave--in the shop of an antique dealer not a hundred yards from the
A theory was forming in my brain, which I was burningly anxious to put
to the test. I remembered how, two years before, I had met Karamaneh
near to this same spot; and I had heard Inspector Weymouth assert
positively that Fu-Manchu's headquarters were no longer in the East
End, as of yore. There seemed to me to be a distinct probability that
a suitable center had been established for his reception in this
place, so much less likely to be suspected by the authorities. Perhaps
I attached too great a value to what may have been a delusion; perhaps
my theory rested upon no more solid foundation than the belief that I
had seen Karamaneh in the shop of the curio dealer. If her appearance
there should prove to have been phantasmal, the structure of my theory
would be shattered at its base. To-night I should test my premises,
and upon the result of my investigations determine my future action.
THE SILVER BUDDHA
Museum Street certainly did not seem a likely spot for Dr. Fu-Manchu
to establish himself, yet, unless my imagination had strangely
deceived me, from the window of the antique dealer who traded under
the name of J. Salaman, those wonderful eyes of Karamaneh like the
velvet midnight of the Orient, had looked out at me.
As I paced slowly along the pavement toward that lighted window, my
heart was beating far from normally, and I cursed the folly which, in
spite of all, refused to die, but lingered on, poisoning my life.
Comparative quiet reigned in Museum Street, at no time a busy
thoroughfare, and, excepting another shop at the Museum end,
commercial activities had ceased there. The door of a block of
residential chambers almost immediately opposite to the shop which was
my objective, threw out a beam of light across the pavement, but not
more than two or three people were visible upon either side of the
I turned the knob of the door and entered the shop.
The same dark and immobile individual whom I had seen before, and
whose nationality defied conjecture, came out from the curtained
doorway at the back to greet me.
"Good evening, sir," he said monotonously, with a slight inclination
of the head; "is there anything which you desire to inspect?"
"I merely wish to take a look around," I replied. "I have no
particular item in view."
The shop man inclined his head again, swept a yellow hand
comprehensively about, as if to include the entire stock, and seated
himself on a chair behind the counter.
I lighted a cigarette with such an air of nonchalance as I could
summon to the operation, and began casually to inspect the varied
objects of interest loading the shelves and tables about me. I am
bound to confess that I retain no one definite impression of this
tour. Vases I handled, statuettes, Egyptian scarabs, bead necklaces,
illuminated missals, portfolios of old prints, jade ornaments,
bronzes, fragments of rare lace, early printed books, Assyrian
tablets, daggers, Roman rings, and a hundred other curiosities,
leisurely, and I trust with apparent interest, yet without forming the
slightest impression respecting any one of them.
Probably I employed myself in this way for half an hour or more, and
whilst my hands busied themselves among the stock of J. Salaman, my
mind was occupied entirely elsewhere. Furtively I was studying the
shopman himself, a human presentment of a Chinese idol; I was
listening and watching; especially I was watching the curtained
doorway at the back of the shop.
"We close at about this time, sir," the man interrupted me, speaking
in the emotionless, monotonous voice which I had noted before.
I replaced upon the glass counter a little Sekhet boat, carved in wood
and highly colored, and glanced up with a start. Truly my methods were
amateurish; I had learnt nothing; I was unlikely to learn anything. I
wondered how Nayland Smith would have conducted such an inquiry, and I
racked my brains for some means of penetrating into the recesses of
the establishment. Indeed, I had been seeking such a plan for the past
half an hour, but my mind had proved incapable of suggesting one.
Why I did not admit failure I cannot imagine, but, instead, I began to
tax my brains anew for some means of gaining further time; and, as I
looked about the place, the shopman very patiently awaiting my
departure, I observed an open case at the back of the counter. The
three lower shelves were empty, but upon the fourth shelf squatted a
"I should like to examine the silver image yonder," I said; "what
price are you asking for it?"
"It is not for sale, sir," replied the man, with a greater show of
animation than he had yet exhibited.
"Not for sale!" I said, my eyes ever seeking the curtained doorway;
"It is sold."
"Well, even so, there can be no objection to my examining it?"
"It is not for sale, sir."
Such a rebuff from a tradesman would have been more than sufficient to
call for a sharp retort at any other time, but now it excited the
strangest suspicions. The street outside looked comparatively
deserted, and prompted, primarily, by an emotion which I did not pause
to analyze, I adopted a singular measure; without doubt I relied upon
the unusual powers vested in Nayland Smith to absolve me in the event
of error. I made as if to go out into the street, then turned, leaped
past the shopman, ran behind the counter, and grasped at the silver
That I was likely to be arrested for attempted larceny I cared not;
the idea that Karamaneh was concealed somewhere in the building ruled
absolutely, and a theory respecting this silver image had taken
possession of my mind. Exactly what I expected to happen at that
moment I cannot say, but what actually happened was far more startling
than anything I could have imagined.
At the instant that I grasped the figure I realized that it was
attached to the woodwork; in the next I knew that it was a handle
. . . as I tried to pull it toward me I became aware that this handle
was the handle of a door. For that door swung open before me, and I
found myself at the foot of a flight of heavily carpeted stairs.
Anxious as I had been to proceed a moment before, I was now trebly
anxious to retire, and for this reason: on the bottom step of the
stair, facing me, stood Dr. Fu-Manchu!
DR. FU-MANCHU'S LABORATORY
I cannot conceive that any ordinary mortal ever attained to anything
like an intimacy with Dr. Fu-Manchu; I cannot believe that any man
could ever grow used to his presence, could ever cease to fear him. I
suppose I had set eyes upon Fu-Manchu some five or six times prior to
this occasion, and now he was dressed in the manner which I always
associated with him, probably because it was thus I first saw him. He
wore a plain yellow robe, and, with his pointed chin resting upon his
bosom, he looked down at me, revealing a great expanse of the
marvelous brow with its sparse, neutral-colored hair.
Never in my experience have I known such force to dwell in the glance
of any human eye as dwelt in that of this uncanny being. His singular
affliction (if affliction it were), the film or slight membrane which
sometimes obscured the oblique eyes, was particularly evident at the
moment that I crossed the threshold, but now, as I looked up at Dr.
Fu-Manchu, it lifted--revealing the eyes in all their emerald
The idea of physical attack upon this incredible being seemed childish
--inadequate. But, following that first instant of stupefaction, I
forced myself to advance upon him.
A dull, crushing blow descended on the top of my skull, and I became
oblivious of all things.
My return to consciousness was accompanied by tremendous pains in my
head, whereby, from previous experience, I knew that a sandbag had
been used against me by some one in the shop, presumably by the
immobile shopman. This awakening was accompanied by none of those hazy
doubts respecting previous events and present surroundings which are
the usual symptoms of revival from sudden unconsciousness; even before
I opened my eyes, before I had more than a partial command of my
senses, I knew that, with my wrists handcuffed behind me, I lay in a
room which was also occupied by Dr. Fu-Manchu. This absolute certainty
of the Chinaman's presence was evidenced, not by my senses, but only
by an inner consciousness, and the same that always awoke into life at
the approach not only of Fu-Manchu in person but of certain of his
A faint perfume hung in the air about me; I do not mean that of any
essence or of any incense, but rather the smell which is suffused by
Oriental furniture, by Oriental draperies; the indefinable but
unmistakable perfume of the East.
Thus, London has a distinct smell of its own, and so has Paris, whilst
the difference between Marseilles and Suez, for instance, is even more
Now, the atmosphere surrounding me was Eastern, but not of the East
that I knew; rather it was Far Eastern. Perhaps I do not make myself
very clear, but to me there was a mysterious significance in that
perfumed atmosphere. I opened my eyes.
I lay upon a long low settee, in a fairly large room which was
furnished as I had anticipated in an absolutely Oriental fashion. The
two windows were so screened as to have lost, from the interior point
of view, all resemblance to European windows, and the whole structure
of the room had been altered in conformity, bearing out my idea that
the place had been prepared for Fu-Manchu's reception some time before
his actual return. I doubt if, East or West, a duplicate of that
singular apartment could be found.
The end in which I lay, was, as I have said, typical of an Eastern
house, and a large, ornate lantern hung from the ceiling almost
directly above me. The further end of the room was occupied by tall
cases, some of them containing books, but the majority filled with
scientific paraphernalia; rows of flasks and jars, frames of test-
tubes, retorts, scales, and other objects of the laboratory. At a
large and very finely carved table sat Dr. Fu-Manchu, a yellow and
faded volume open before him, and some dark red fluid, almost like
blood, bubbling in a test-tube which he held over the flame of a
The enormously long nail of his right index finger rested upon the
opened page of the book to which he seemed constantly to refer,
dividing his attention between the volume, the contents of the test-
tube, and the progress of a second experiment, or possibly a part of
the same, which was taking place upon another corner of the littered
A huge glass retort (the bulb was fully two feet in diameter), fitted
with a Liebig's Condenser, rested in a metal frame, and within the
bulb, floating in an oily substance, was a fungus some six inches
high, shaped like a toadstool, but of a brilliant and venomous orange
color. Three flat tubes of light were so arranged as to cast violet
rays upward into the retort, and the receiver, wherein condensed the
product of this strange experiment, contained some drops of a red
fluid which may have been identical with that boiling in the test-
These things I perceived at a glance: then the filmy eyes of Dr.
Fu-Manchu were raised from the book, turned in my direction, and all
else was forgotten.
"I regret," came the sibilant voice, "that unpleasant measures were
necessary, but hesitation would have been fatal. I trust, Dr. Petrie,
that you suffer no inconvenience?"
To this speech no reply was possible, and I attempted none.
"You have long been aware of my esteem for your acquirements,"
continued the Chinaman, his voice occasionally touching deep guttural
notes, "and you will appreciate the pleasure which this visit affords
me. I kneel at the feet of my silver Buddha. I look to you, when you
shall have overcome your prejudices--due to ignorance of my true
motives--to assist me in establishing that intellectual control which
is destined to be the new World Force. I bear you no malice for your
ancient enmity, and even now"--he waved one yellow hand toward the
retort--"I am conducting an experiment designed to convert you from
your misunderstanding, and to adjust your perspective."
Quite unemotionally he spoke, then turned again to his book, his test-
tube and retort, in the most matter-of-fact way imaginable. I do not
think the most frenzied outburst on his part, the most fiendish
threats, could have produced such effect upon me as those cold and
carefully calculated words, spoken in that unique voice which rang
about the room sibilantly. In its tones, in the glance of the green
eyes, in the very pose of the gaunt, high-shouldered body, there was
I counted myself lost, and in view of the doctor's words, studied the
progress of the experiment with frightful interest. But a few moments
sufficed in which to realize that, for all my training, I knew as
little of chemistry--of chemistry as understood by this man's genius--
as a junior student in surgery knows of trephining. The process in
operation was a complete mystery to me; the means and the end alike
Thus, in the heavy silence of that room, a silence only broken by the
regular bubbling from the test tube, I found my attention straying
from the table to the other objects surrounding it; and at one of them
my gaze stopped and remained chained with horror.
It was a glass jar, some five feet in height and filled with viscous
fluid of a light amber color. Out from this peered a hideous, dog-like
face, low browed, with pointed ears and a nose almost hoggishly flat.
By the death-grin of the face the gleaming fangs were revealed; and
the body, the long yellow-gray body, rested, or seemed to rest, upon
short, malformed legs, whilst one long limp arm, the right, hung down
straightly in the preservative. The left arm had been severed above
Fu-Manchu, finding his experiment to be proceeding favorably, lifted
his eyes to me again.
"You are interested in my poor Cynocephalyte?" he said; and his eyes
were filmed like the eyes of one afflicted with cataract. "He was a
devoted servant, Dr. Petrie, but the lower influences in his
genealogy, sometimes conquered. Then he got out of hand; and at last
he was so ungrateful toward those who had educated him, that, in one
of those paroxysms of his, he attacked and killed a most faithful
Burman, one of my oldest followers."
Fu-Manchu returned to his experiment.
Not the slightest emotion had he exhibited thus far, but had chatted
with me as any other scientist might chat with a friend who casually
visits his laboratory. The horror of the thing was playing havoc with
my own composure, however. There I lay, fettered, in the same room
with this man whose existence was a menace to the entire white race,
whilst placidly he pursued an experiment designed, if his own words
were believable, to cut me off from my kind--to wreak some change,
psychological or physiological I knew not; to place me, it might be,
upon a level with such brute-things as that which now hung, half
floating, in the glass jar!
Something I knew of the history of that ghastly specimen, that thing
neither man nor ape; for within my own knowledge had it not attempted
the life of Nayland Smith, and was it not I who, with an ax, had
maimed it in the instant of one of its last slayings?
Of these things Dr. Fu-Manchu was well aware, so that his placid
speech was doubly, trebly horrible to my ears. I sought, furtively, to
move my arms, only to realize that, as I had anticipated, the
handcuffs were chained to a ring in the wall behind me. The
establishments of Dr. Fu-Manchu were always well provided with such
contrivances as these.
I uttered a short, harsh laugh. Fu-Manchu stood up slowly from the
table, and, placing the test-tube in a rack, stood the latter
carefully upon a shelf at his side.
"I am happy to find you in such good humor," he said softly. "Other
affairs call me; and, in my absence, that profound knowledge of
chemistry, of which I have had evidence in the past, will enable you
to follow with intelligent interest the action of these violet rays
upon this exceptionally fine specimen of Siberian amanita muscaria. At
some future time, possibly when you are my guest in China--which
country I am now making arrangements for you to visit--I shall discuss
with you some lesser-known properties of this species; and I may say
that one of your first tasks when you commence your duties as
assistant in my laboratory in Kiang-su, will be to conduct a series of
twelve experiments, which I have outlined, into other potentialities
of this unique fungus."
He walked quietly to a curtained doorway, with his cat-like yet
awkward gait, lifted the drapery, and, with a slight nod in my
direction, went out of the room.
THE CROSS BAR
How long I lay there alone I had no means of computing. My mind was
busy with many matters, but principally concerned with my fate in the
immediate future. That Dr. Fu-Manchu entertained for me a singular
kind of regard, I had had evidence before. He had formed the erroneous
opinion that I was an advanced scientist who could be of use to him in
his experiments and I was aware that he cherished a project of
transporting me to some place in China where his principal laboratory
was situated. Respecting the means which he proposed to employ, I was
unlikely to forget that this man, who had penetrated further along
certain byways of science than seemed humanly possible, undoubtedly
was master of a process for producing artificial catalepsy. It was my
lot, then, to be packed in a chest (to all intents and purposes a dead
man for the time being) and despatched to the interior of China!
What a fool I had been. To think that I had learned nothing from my
long and dreadful experience of the methods of Dr. Fu-Manchu; to think
that I had come alone in quest of him; that, leaving no trace behind
me, I had deliberately penetrated to his secret abode!
I have said that my wrists were manacled behind me, the manacles being
attached to a chain fastened in the wall. I now contrived, with
extreme difficulty, to reverse the position of my hands; that is to
say, I climbed backward through the loop formed by my fettered arms,
so that instead of their being locked behind me, they now were locked
Then I began to examine the fetters, learning, as I had anticipated,
that they fastened with a lock. I sat gazing at the steel bracelets in
the light of the lamp which swung over my head, and it became apparent
to me that I had gained little by my contortion.
A slight noise disturbed these unpleasant reveries. It was nothing
less than the rattling of keys!
For a moment I wondered if I had heard aright, or if the sound
portended the coming of some servant of the doctor, who was locking up
the establishment for the night. The jangling sound was repeated, and
in such a way that I could not suppose it to be accidental. Some one
was deliberately rattling a small bunch of keys in an adjoining room.
And now my heart leaped wildly--then seemed to stand still.
With a low whistling cry a little gray shape shot through the doorway
by which Fu-Manchu had retired, and rolled, like a ball of fluff blown
by the wind, completely under the table which bore the weird
scientific appliances of the Chinaman; the advent of the gray object
was accompanied by a further rattling of keys.
My fear left me, and a mighty anxiety took its place. This creature
which now crouched chattering at me from beneath the big table was
Fu-Manchu's marmoset, and in the intervals of its chattering and
grimacing, it nibbled, speculatively, at the keys upon the ring which
it clutched in its tiny hands. Key after key it sampled in this
manner, evincing a growing dissatisfaction with the uncrackable nature
of its find.
One of those keys might be that of the handcuffs!
I could not believe that the tortures of Tantulus were greater than
were mine at this moment. In all my hopes of rescue or release, I had
included nothing so strange, so improbable as this. A sort of awe
possessed me; for if by this means the key which should release me
should come into my possession, how, ever again, could I doubt a
But they were not yet in my possession; moreover, the key of the
handcuffs might not be amongst the bunch.
Were there no means whereby I could induce the marmoset to approach
Whilst I racked my brains for some scheme, the little animal took the
matter out of my hands. Tossing the ring with its jangling contents a
yard or so across the carpet in my direction, it leaped in pursuit,
picked up the ring, whirled it over its head, and then threw a
complete somersault around it. Now it snatched up the keys again, and
holding them close to its ear, rattled them furiously. Finally, with
an incredible spring, it leaped onto the chain supporting the lamp
above my head, and with the garish shade swinging and spinning wildly,
clung there looking down at me like an acrobat on a trapeze. The tiny,
bluish face, completely framed in grotesque whiskers, enhanced the
illusion of an acrobatic comedian. Never for a moment did it release
its hold upon the key-ring.
My suspense now was intolerable. I feared to move, lest, alarming the
marmoset, it should run off again, taking the keys with it. So as I
lay there, looking up at the little creature swinging above me, the
second wonder of the night came to pass.
A voice that I could never forget, strive how I would, a voice that
haunted my dreams by night, and for which by day I was ever listening,
cried out from some adjoining room.
"Ta'ala hina!" it called. "Ta'ala hina, Peko!"
It was Karamaneh!
The effect upon the marmoset was instantaneous. Down came the bunch of
keys upon one side of the shade, almost falling on my head, and down
leaped the ape upon the other. In two leaps it had traversed the room
and had vanished through the curtained doorway.
If ever I had need of coolness it was now; the slightest mistake would
be fatal. The keys had slipped from the mattress of the divan, and now
lay just beyond reach of my fingers. Rapidly I changed my position,
and sought, without undue noise, to move the keys with my foot.
I had actually succeeded in sliding them back on to the mattress,
when, unheralded by any audible footstep, Karamaneh came through the
doorway, holding the marmoset in her arms. She wore a dress of fragile
muslin material, and out from its folds protruded one silk-stockinged
foot, resting in a highheeled red shoe. . . .
For a moment she stood watching me, with a sort of enforced composure;
then her glance strayed to the keys lying upon the floor. Slowly, and
with her eyes fixed again upon my face, she crossed the room, stooped,
and took up the key-ring.
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
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
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.
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
Suddenly she stood up, taking the keys in her hands, and approached
"Not by word, nor by look," she said, quietly, "have you asked for my
friendship, but because I cannot bear you to think of me as you do, I
will prove that I am not the hypocrite and the liar you think me. You
will not trust me, but I will trust you."
I looked up into her eyes, and knew a pagan joy when they faltered
before my searching gaze. She threw herself upon her knees beside me,
and the faint exquisite perfume inseparable from my memories of her,
became perceptible, and seemed as of old to intoxicate me. The lock
clicked . . . and I was free.
Karamaneh rose swiftly to her feet as I stood upright and outstretched
my cramped arms. For one delirious moment her bewitching face was
close to mine, and the dictates of madness almost ruled; but I
clenched my teeth and turned sharply aside. I could not trust myself
With Fu-Manchu's marmoset again gamboling before us, she walked
through the curtained doorway into the room beyond. It was in
darkness, but I could see the slave-girl in front of me, a slim
silhouette, as she walked to a screened window, and, opening the
screen in the manner of a folding door, also threw up the window.
"Look!" she whispered.
I crept forward and stood beside her. I found myself looking down into
Museum Street from a first-floor window! Belated traffic still passed
along New Oxford Street on the left, but not a solitary figure was
visible to the right, as far as I could see, and that was nearly to
the railings of the Museum. Immediately opposite, in one of the flats
which I had noticed earlier in the evening, another window was opened.
I turned, and in the reflected light saw that Karamaneh held a cord in
her hand. Our eyes met in the semi-darkness.
She began to haul the cord into the window, and, looking upward, I
perceived that is was looped in some way over the telegraph cables
which crossed the street at that point. It was a slender cord, and it
appeared to be passed across a joint in the cables almost immediately
above the center of the roadway. As it was hauled in, a second and
stronger line attached to it was pulled, in turn, over the cables, and
thence in by the window. Karamaneh twisted a length of it around a
metal bracket fastened in the wall, and placed a light wooden crossbar
in my hand.
"Make sure that there is no one in the street," she said, craning out
and looking to right and left, "then swing across. The length of the
rope is just sufficient to enable you to swing through the open window
opposite, and there is a mattress inside to drop upon. But release the
bar immediately, or you may be dragged back. The door of the room in
which you will find yourself is unlocked, and you have only to walk
down the stairs and out into the street."
I peered at the crossbar in my hand, then looked hard at the girl
beside me. I missed something of the old fire of her nature; she was
very subdued, tonight.
"Thank you, Karamaneh," I said, softly.
She suppressed a little cry as I spoke her name, and drew back into
"I believe you are my friend," I said, "but I cannot understand. Won't
you help me to understand?"
I took her unresisting hand, and drew her toward me. My very soul
seemed to thrill at the contact of her lithe body . . .
She was trembling wildly and seemed to be trying to speak, but
although her lips framed the words no sound followed. Suddenly
comprehension came to me. I looked down into the street, hitherto
deserted . . . and into the upturned face of Fu-Manchu.
Wearing a heavy fur-collared coat, and with his yellow, malignant
countenance grotesquely horrible beneath the shade of a large tweed
motor cap, he stood motionless, looking up at me. That he had seen me,
I could not doubt; but had he seen my companion?
In a choking whisper Karamaneh answered my unspoken question.
"He has not seen me! I have done much for you; do in return a small
thing for me. Save my life!"
She dragged me back from the window and fled across the room to the
weird laboratory where I had lain captive. Throwing herself upon the
divan, she held out her white wrists and glanced significantly at the
"Lock them upon me!" she said, rapidly. "Quick! quick!"
Great as was my mental disturbance, I managed to grasp the purpose of
this device. The very extremity of my danger found me cool. I fastened
the manacles, which so recently had confined my own wrists, upon the
slim wrists of Karamaneh. A faint and muffled disturbance, doubly
ominous because there was nothing to proclaim its nature, reached me
from some place below, on the ground floor.
"Tie something around my mouth!" directed Karamaneh with nervous
rapidity. As I began to look about me:--"Tear a strip from my dress,
"she said; "do not hesitate--be quick! be quick!"
I seized the flimsy muslin and tore off half a yard or so from the hem
of the skirt. The voice of Dr Fu-Manchu became audible. He was
speaking rapidly, sibilantly, and evidently was approaching--would be
upon me in a matter of moments. I fastened the strip of fabric over
the girl's mouth and tied it behind, experiencing a pang half
pleasurable and half fearful as I found my hands in contact with the
foamy luxuriance of her hair.
Dr. Fu-Manchu was entering the room immediately beyond.
Snatching up the bunch of keys, I turned and ran, for in another
instant my retreat would be cut off. As I burst once more into the
darkened room I became aware that a door on the further side of it was
open; and framed in the opening was the tall, high-shouldered figure
of the Chinaman, still enveloped in his fur coat and wearing the
grotesque cap. As I saw him, so he perceived me; and as I sprang to
the window, he advanced.
I turned desperately and hurled the bunch of keys with all my force
into the dimly-seen face . . .
Either because they possessed a chatoyant quality of their own (as I
had often suspected), or by reason of the light reflected through the
open window, the green eyes gleamed upon me vividly like those of a
giant cat. One short guttural exclamation paid tribute to the accuracy
of my aim; then I had the crossbar in my hand. I threw one leg across
the sill, and dire as was my extremity, hesitated for an instant ere
trusting myself to the flight . . .
A vise-like grip fastened upon my left ankle.
Hazily I became aware that the dark room was flooded with figures. The
whole yellow gang were upon me--the entire murder-group composed of
units recruited from the darkest place of the East!
I have never counted myself a man of resource, and have always envied
Nayland Smith his possession of that quality, in him extraordinarily
developed; but on this occasion the gods were kind to me, and I
resorted to the only device, perhaps, which could have saved me.
Without releasing my hold upon the crossbar, I clutched at the ledge
with the fingers of both hands and swung back into the room my right
leg, which was already across the sill. With all my strength I kicked
out. My heel came in contact, in sickening contact, with a human head;
beyond doubt that I had split the skull of the man who held me.
The grip upon my ankle was released automatically; and now consigning
all my weight to the rope I slipped forward, as a diver, across the
broad ledge and found myself sweeping through the night like a winged
thing . . .
The line, as Karamaneh had assured me, was of well-judged length. Down
I swept to within six or seven feet of the street level, then up, at
ever decreasing speed, toward the vague oblong of the open window
I hope I have been successful, in some measure, in portraying the
varied emotions which it was my lot to experience that night, and it
may well seem that nothing more exquisite could remain for me. Yet it
was written otherwise; for as I swept up to my goal, describing the
inevitable arc which I had no power to check, I saw that one awaited
Crouching forward half out of the open window was a Burmese dacoit, a
cross-eyed, leering being whom I well remembered to have encountered
two years before in my dealings with Dr. Fu-Manchu. One bare, sinewy
arm held rigidly at right angles before his breast, he clutched a long
curved knife and waited--waited--for the critical moment when my
throat should be at his mercy!
I have said that a strange coolness had come to my aid; even now it
did not fail me, and so incalculably rapid are the workings of the
human mind that I remember complimenting myself upon an achievement
which Smith himself could not have bettered, and this in the
immeasurable interval which intervened between the commencement of my
upward swing and my arrival on a level with the window.
I threw my body back and thrust my feet forward. As my legs went
through the opening, an acute pain in one calf told me that I was not
to escape scatheless from the night's melee. But the dacoit went
rolling over in the darkness of the room, as helpless in face of that
ramrod stroke as the veriest infant . . .
Back I swept upon my trapeze, a sight to have induced any passing
citizen to question his sanity. With might and main I sought to check
the swing of the pendulum, for if I should come within reach of the
window behind I doubted not that other knives awaited me. It was no
difficult feat, and I succeeded in checking my flight. Swinging there
above Museum Street I could even appreciate, so lucid was my mind, the
ludicrous element of the situation.
I dropped. My wounded leg almost failed me; and greatly shaken, but
with no other serious damage, I picked myself up from the dust of the
roadway. It was a mockery of Fate that the problem which Nayland Smith
had set me to solve, should have been solved thus; for I could not
doubt that by means of the branch of a tall tree or some other
suitable object situated opposite to Smith's house in Rangoon,
Karamaneh had made her escape as tonight I had made mine.
Apart from the acute pain in my calf I knew that the dacoit's knive
had bitten deeply, by reason of the fact that a warm liquid was
trickling down into my boot. Like any drunkard I stood there in the
middle of the road looking up at the vacant window where the dacoit
had been, and up at the window above the shop of J. Salaman where I
knew Fu-Manchu to be. But for some reason the latter window had been
closed or almost closed, and as I stood there this reason became
apparent to me.
The sound of running footsteps came from the direction of New Oxford
Street. I turned--to see two policemen bearing down upon me!
This was a time for quick decisions and prompt action. I weighed all
the circumstances in the balance, and made the last vital choice of
the night; I turned and ran toward the British Museum as though the
worst of Fu-Manchu's creatures, and not my allies the police, were at
No one else was in sight, but, as I whirled into the Square, the red
lamp of a slowly retreating taxi became visible some hundred yards to
the left. My leg was paining me greatly, but the nature of the wound
did not interfere with my progress; therefore I continued my headlong
career, and ere the police had reached the end of Museum Street I had
my hand upon the door handle of the cab--for, the Fates being
persistently kind to me, the vehicle was for hire.
"Dr. Cleeve's, Harley Street!" I shouted at the man. "Drive like hell!
It's an urgent case."
I leaped into the cab.
Within five seconds from the time that I slammed the door and dropped
back panting upon the cushions, we were speeding westward toward the
house of the famous pathologist, thereby throwing the police
hopelessly off the track.
Faintly to my ears came the purr of a police whistle. The taxi-man
evidently did not hear the significant sound. Merciful Providence had
rung down the curtain; for to-night my role in the yellow drama was
Less than two hours later, Inspector Weymouth and a party of men from
Scotland Yard raided the house in Museum Street. They found the stock
of J. Salaman practically intact, and, in the strangely appointed
rooms above, every evidence of a hasty outgoing. But of the
instruments, drugs and other laboratory paraphernalia not one item
remained. I would gladly have given my income for a year, to have
gained possession of the books, alone; for, beyond all shadow of
doubt, I knew them to contain formula calculated to revolutionize the
science of medicine.
Exhausted, physically and mentally, and with my mind a whispering-
gallery of conjectures (it were needless for me to mention whom
respecting) I turned in, gratefully, having patched up the slight
wound in my calf.
I seemed scarcely to have closed my eyes, when Nayland Smith was
shaking me into wakefulness.
"You are probably tired out," he said; "but your crazy expedition of
last night entitles you to no sympathy. Read this; there is a train in
an hour. We will reserve a compartment and you can resume your
interrupted slumbers in a corner seat."
As I struggled upright in bed, rubbing my eyes sleepily, Smith handed
me the Daily Telegraph, pointing to the following paragraph upon the
Messrs. M---- announce that they will publish shortly the long delayed
work of Kegan Van Roon, the celebrated American traveler, Orientalist
and psychic investigator, dealing with his recent inquiries in China.
It will be remembered that Mr. Van Roon undertook to motor from Canton
to Siberia last winter, but met with unforeseen difficulties in the
province of Ho-Nan. He fell into the hands of a body of fanatics and
was fortunate to escape with his life. His book will deal in
particular with his experiences in Ho-Nan, and some sensational
revelations regarding the awakening of that most mysterious race, the
Chinese, are promised. For reasons of his own he has decided to remain
in England until the completion of his book (which will be published
simultaneously in New York and London) and has leased Cragmire Tower,
Somersetshire, in which romantic and historical residence he will
collate his notes and prepare for the world a work ear-marked as a
classic even before it is published.
I glanced up from the paper, to find Smith's eyes fixed upon me,
"From what I have been able to learn," he said, evenly, "we should
reach Saul, with decent luck, just before dusk."
As he turned, and quitted the room without another word, I realized,
in a flash, the purport of our mission; I understood my friend's
ominous calm, betokening suppressed excitement.
The Fates were with us (or so it seemed); and whereas we had not hoped
to gain Saul before sunset, as a matter of fact, the autumn afternoon
was in its most glorious phase as we left the little village with its
oldtime hostelry behind us and set out in an easterly direction, with
the Bristol Channel far away on our left and a gently sloping upland
on our right.
The crooked high-street practically constituted the entire hamlet of
Saul, and the inn, "The Wagoners," was the last house in the street.
Now, as we followed the ribbon of moor-path to the top of the rise, we
could stand and look back upon the way we had come; and although we
had covered fully a mile of ground, it was possible to detect the
sunlight gleaming now and then upon the gilt lettering of the inn sign
as it swayed in the breeze. The day had been unpleasantly warm, but
was relieved by this same sea breeze, which, although but slight, had
in it the tang of the broad Atlantic. Behind us, then, the foot-path
sloped down to Saul, unpeopled by any living thing; east and northeast
swelled the monotony of the moor right out to the hazy distance where
the sky began and the sea remotely lay hidden; west fell the gentle
gradient from the top of the slope which we had mounted, and here, as
far as the eye could reach, the country had an appearance suggestive
of a huge and dried-up lake. This idea was borne out by an odd
blotchiness, for sometimes there would be half a mile or more of
seeming moorland, then a sharply defined change (or it seemed sharply
defined from that bird's-eye point of view). A vivid greenness marked
these changes, which merged into a dun-colored smudge and again into
the brilliant green; then the moor would begin once more.
"That will be the Tor of Glastonbury, I suppose," said Smith, suddenly
peering through his field-glasses in an easterly direction; "and
yonder, unless I am greatly mistaken, is Cragmire Tower."
Shading my eyes with my hand, I also looked ahead, and saw the place
for which we were bound; one of those round towers, more common in
Ireland, which some authorities have declared to be of Phoenician
origin. Ramshackle buildings clustered untidily about its base, and to
it a sort of tongue of that oddly venomous green which patched the
lowlands, shot out and seemed almost to reach the towerbase. The land
for miles around was as flat as the palm of my hand, saving certain
hummocks, lesser tors, and irregular piles of boulders which dotted
its expanse. Hills and uplands there were in the hazy distance,
forming a sort of mighty inland bay which I doubted not in some past
age had been covered by the sea. Even in the brilliant sunlight the
place had something of a mournful aspect, looking like a great dried-
up pool into which the children of giants had carelessly cast stones.
We met no living soul upon the moor. With Cragmire Tower but a quarter
of a mile off, Smith paused again, and raising his powerful glasses
swept the visible landscape.
"Not a sign. Petrie," he said, softly; "yet . . ."
Dropping the glasses back into their case, my companion began to tug
at his left ear.
"Have we been over-confident?" he said, narrowing his eyes in
speculative fashion. "No less than three times I have had the idea
that something, or some one, has just dropped out of sight, behind me,
as I focused . . ."
"What do you mean, Smith?"
"Are we"--he glanced about him as though the vastness were peopled
with listening Chinamen--"followed?"
Silently we looked into one another's eyes, each seeking for the dread
which neither had named. Then:
"Come on Petrie!" said Smith, grasping my arm; and at quick march we
were off again.
Cragmire Tower stood upon a very slight eminence, and what had looked
like a green tongue, from the moorland slopes above, was in fact a
creek, flanked by lush land, which here found its way to the sea. The
house which we were come to visit consisted in a low, two-story
building, joining the ancient tower on the east with two smaller
outbuildings. There was a miniature kitchen-garden, and a few stunted
fruit trees in the northwest corner; the whole being surrounded by a
gray stone wall.
The shadow of the tower fell sharply across the path, which ran up
almost alongside of it. We were both extremely warm by reason of our
long and rapid walk on that hot day, and this shade should have been
grateful to us, In short, I find it difficult to account for the
unwelcome chill which I experienced at the moment that I found myself
at the foot of the time-worn monument. I know that we both pulled up
sharply and looked at one another as though acted upon by some mutual
But not a sound broke the stillness save a remote murmuring, until a
solitary sea gull rose in the air and circled directly over the tower,
uttering its mournful and unmusical cry. Automatically to my mind
sprang the lines of the poem:
Far from all brother-men, in the weird of the fen,
With God's creatures I bide, 'mid the birds that I ken;
Where the winds ever dree, where the hymn of the sea
Brings a message of peace from the ocean to me.
Not a soul was visible about the premises; there was no sound of human
activity and no dog barked. Nayland Smith drew a long breath, glanced
back along the way we had come, then went on, following the wall, I
beside him, until we came to the gate. It was unfastened, and we
walked up the stone path through a wilderness of weeds. Four windows
of the house were visible, two on the ground floor and two above.
Those on the ground floor were heavily boarded up, those above, though
glazed, boasted neither blinds nor curtains. Cragmire Tower showed not
the slightest evidence of tenancy.
We mounted three steps and stood before a tremendously massive oaken
door. An iron bell-pull, ancient and rusty, hung on the right of the
door, and Smith, giving me an odd glance, seized the ring and tugged
From somewhere within the building answered a mournful clangor, a
cracked and toneless jangle, which, seeming to echo through empty
apartments, sought and found an exit apparently by way of one of the
openings in the round tower; for it was from above our heads that the
noise came to us.
It died away, that eerie ringing--that clanging so dismal that it
could chill my heart even then with the bright sunlight streaming down
out of the blue; it awoke no other response than the mournful cry of
the sea gull circling over our heads. Silence fell. We looked at one
another, and we were both about to express a mutual doubt when,
unheralded by any unfastening of bolts or bars, the oaken door was
opened, and a huge mulatto, dressed in white, stood there regarding
I started nervously, for the apparition was so unexpected, but Nayland
Smith, without evidence of surprise, thrust a card into the man's
"Take my card to Mr. Van Roon, and say that I wish to see him on
important business," he directed, authoritatively.
The mulatto bowed and retired. His white figure seemed to be swallowed
up by the darkness within, for beyond the patch of uncarpeted floor
revealed by the peeping sunlight, was a barn-like place of densest
shadow. I was about to speak, but Smith laid his hand upon my arm
warningly, as, out from the shadows the mulatto returned. He stood on
the right of the door and bowed again.
"Be pleased to enter," he said, in his harsh, negro voice. "Mr. Van
Roon will see you."
The gladness of the sun could no longer stir me; a chill and sense of
foreboding bore me company, as beside Nayland Smith I entered Cragmire
The room in which Van Roon received us was roughly of the shape of an
old-fashioned keyhole; one end of it occupied the base of the tower,
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