Part 2 out of 5
I thrust my hands deep into the pockets of the big pea-jacket
lent to me by Inspector Ryman, leaning back in my corner.
"We shall never really excel at this business," continued Nayland Smith.
"We are far too sentimental. I knew what it meant to us, Petrie, what it
meant to the world, but I hadn't the heart. I owed her your life--
I had to square the account."
NIGHT fell on Redmoat. I glanced from the window at
the nocturne in silver and green which lay beneath me.
To the west of the shrubbery, with its broken canopy of elms
and beyond the copper beech which marked the center of its mazes,
a gap offered a glimpse of the Waverney where it swept into a broad.
Faint bird-calls floated over the water. These, with the whisper
of leaves, alone claimed the ear.
Ideal rural peace, and the music of an English summer evening;
but to my eyes, every shadow holding fantastic terrors;
to my ears, every sound a signal of dread. For the deathful
hand of Fu-Manchu was stretched over Redmoat, at any hour
to loose strange, Oriental horrors upon its inmates.
"Well," said Nayland Smith, joining me at the window, "we had dared
to hope him dead, but we know now that he lives!"
The Rev. J. D. Eltham coughed nervously, and I turned, leaning my elbow
upon the table, and studied the play of expression upon the refined,
sensitive face of the clergyman.
"You think I acted rightly in sending for you, Mr. Smith?"
Nayland Smith smoked furiously.
"Mr. Eltham," he replied, "you see in me a man groping in the dark.
I am to-day no nearer to the conclusion of my mission than
upon the day when I left Mandalay. You offer me a clew;
I am here. Your affair, I believe, stands thus:
A series of attempted burglaries, or something of the kind,
has alarmed your household. Yesterday, returning from London
with your daughter, you were both drugged in some way and,
occupying a compartment to yourselves, you both slept.
Your daughter awoke, and saw someone else in the carriage--
a yellow-faced man who held a case of instruments in his hands."
"Yes; I was, of course, unable to enter into particulars over the telephone.
The man was standing by one of the windows. Directly he observed that my
daughter was awake, he stepped towards her."
"What did he do with the case in his hands?"
"She did not notice--or did not mention having noticed.
In fact, as was natural, she was so frightened that she recalls
nothing more, beyond the fact that she strove to arouse me,
without succeeding, felt hands grasp her shoulders--and swooned."
"But someone used the emergency cord, and stopped the train."
"Greba has no recollection of having done so."
"Hm! Of course, no yellow-faced man was on the train.
When did you awake?"
"I was aroused by the guard, but only when he had repeatedly shaken me."
"Upon reaching Great Yarmouth you immediately called up Scotland Yard?
You acted very wisely, sir. How long were you in China?"
Mr. Eltham's start of surprise was almost comical.
"It is perhaps not strange that you should be aware of my residence in China,
Mr. Smith," he said; "but my not having mentioned it may seem so.
The fact is"--his sensitive face flushed in palpable embarrassment--
"I left China under what I may term an episcopal cloud.
I have lived in retirement ever since. Unwittingly--I solemnly
declare to you, Mr. Smith, unwittingly--I stirred up certain
deep-seated prejudices in my endeavors to do my duty--my duty.
I think you asked me how long I was in China? I was there from 1896
until 1900--four years."
"I recall the circumstances, Mr. Eltham," said Smith, with an odd
note in his voice. "I have been endeavoring to think where I
had come across the name, and a moment ago I remembered.
I am happy to have met you, sir."
The clergyman blushed again like a girl, and slightly inclined his head,
with its scanty fair hair.
"Has Redmoat, as its name implies, a moat round it? I was unable to see
in the dusk."
"It remains. Redmoat--a corruption of Round Moat--was formerly a
priory, disestablished by the eighth Henry in 1536." His pedantic
manner was quaint at times. "But the moat is no longer flooded. In
fact, we grow cabbages in part of it. If you refer to the strategic
strength of the place"--he smiled, but his manner was embarrassed
again--"it is considerable. I have barbed wire fencing, and--other
arrangements. You see, it is a lonely spot," he added apologetically.
"And now, if you will excuse me, we will resume these gruesome
inquiries after the more pleasant affairs of dinner."
He left us.
"Who is our host?" I asked, as the door closed.
"You are wondering what caused the `episcopal cloud?'" he suggested.
"Well, the deep-seated prejudices which our reverend friend stirred up
culminated in the Boxer Risings."
"Good heavens, Smith!" I said; for I could not reconcile the diffident
personality of the clergyman with the memories which those words awakened.
"He evidently should be on our danger list," my friend continued quickly;
"but he has so completely effaced himself of recent years that I think it
probable that someone else has only just recalled his existence to mind.
The Rev. J. D. Eltham, my dear Petrie, though he may be a poor hand
at saving souls, at any rate, has saved a score of Christian women
from death--and worse."
"J. D. Eltham--" I began.
"Is `Parson Dan'!" rapped Smith, "the `Fighting Missionary,'
the man who with a garrison of a dozen cripples and a German
doctor held the hospital at Nan-Yang against two hundred Boxers.
That's who the Rev. J. D. Eltham is! But what is he up to,
now, I have yet to find out. He is keeping something back--
something which has made him an object of interest to Young China!"
During dinner the matters responsible for our presence there did not
hold priority in the conversation. In fact, this, for the most part,
consisted in light talk of books and theaters.
Greba Eltham, the clergyman's daughter, was a charming young hostess,
and she, with Vernon Denby, Mr. Eltham's nephew, completed the party.
No doubt the girl's presence, in part, at any rate, led us to refrain
from the subject uppermost in our minds.
These little pools of calm dotted along the torrential course of
the circumstances which were bearing my friend and me onward to unknown
issues form pleasant, sunny spots in my dark recollections.
So I shall always remember, with pleasure, that dinner-party
at Redmoat, in the old-world dining-room; it was so very peaceful,
so almost grotesquely calm. For I, within my very bones, felt it
to be the calm before the storm. When, later, we men passed
to the library, we seemed to leave that atmosphere behind us.
"Redmoat," said the Rev. J. D. Eltham, "has latterly become the theater
of strange doings."
He stood on the hearth-rug. A shaded lamp upon the big table
and candles in ancient sconces upon the mantelpiece afforded
dim illumination. Mr. Eltham's nephew, Vernon Denby,
lolled smoking on the window-seat, and I sat near to him.
Nayland Smith paced restlessly up and down the room.
"Some mouths ago, almost a year," continued the clergyman,
"a burglarious attempt was made upon the house. There was an arrest,
and the man confessed that he had been tempted by my collection."
He waved his hand vaguely towards the several cabinets about
the shadowed room.
"It was shortly afterwards that I allowed my hobby for--
playing at forts to run away with me." He smiled an apology.
"I virtually fortified Redmoat--against trespassers of any kind, I mean.
You have seen that the house stands upon a kind of large mound.
This is artificial, being the buried ruins of a Roman outwork;
a portion of the ancient castrum." Again he waved indicatively,
this time toward the window.
"When it was a priory it was completely isolated and defended
by its environing moat. Today it is completely surrounded by
barbed-wire fencing. Below this fence, on the east, is a narrow stream,
a tributary of the Waverney; on the north and west, the high road,
but nearly twenty feet below, the banks being perpendicular.
On the south is the remaining part of the moat--now my kitchen garden;
but from there up to the level of the house is nearly twenty feet again,
and the barbed wire must also be counted with.
"The entrance, as you know, is by the way of a kind of cutting.
There is a gate at the foot of the steps (they are some of the original
steps of the priory, Dr. Petrie), and another gate at the head."
He paused, and smiled around upon us boyishly.
"My secret defenses remain to be mentioned," he resumed;
and, opening a cupboard, he pointed to a row of batteries,
with a number of electric bells upon the wall behind.
"The more vulnerable spots are connected at night with these bells,"
he said triumphantly. "Any attempt to scale the barbed wire
or to force either gate would set two or more of these ringing.
A stray cow raised one false alarm," he added, "and a careless
rook threw us into a perfect panic on another occasion."
He was so boyish--so nervously brisk and acutely sensitive--
that it was difficult to see in him the hero of the Nan-Yang hospital.
I could only suppose that he had treated the Boxers' raid in the same spirit
wherein he met would-be trespassers within the precincts of Redmoat.
It had been an escapade, of which he was afterwards ashamed, as, faintly,
he was ashamed of his "fortifications." "But," rapped Smith, "it was not
the visit of the burglar which prompted these elaborate precautions."
Mr. Eltham coughed nervously.
"I am aware," he said, "that having invoked official aid, I must be
perfectly frank with you, Mr. Smith. It was the burglar who was responsible
for my continuing the wire fence all round the grounds, but the electrical
contrivance followed, later, as a result of several disturbed nights.
My servants grew uneasy about someone who came, they said, after dusk.
No one could describe this nocturnal visitor, but certainly we found traces.
I must admit that.
"Then--I received what I may term a warning. My position is a peculiar one--
a peculiar one. My daughter, too, saw this prowling, person,
over by the Roman castrum, and described him as a yellow man.
It was the incident in the train following closely upon this other, which led
me to speak to the police, little as I desired to--er--court publicity."
Nayland Smith walked to a window, and looked out across
the sloping lawn to where the shadows of the shrubbery lay.
A dog was howling dismally somewhere.
"Your defenses are not impregnable, after all, then?" he jerked.
"On our way up this evening Mr. Denby was telling us about the death
of his collie a few nights ago."
The clergyman's face clouded.
"That, certainly, was alarming," he confessed.
"I had been in London for a few days, and during my absence Vernon
came down, bringing the dog with him. On the night of his arrival
it ran, barking, into the shrubbery yonder, and did not come out.
He went to look for it with a lantern, and found it lying among
the bushes, quite dead. The poor creature had been dreadfully
beaten about the head."
"The gates were locked," Denby interrupted, "and no one could
have got out of the grounds without a ladder and someone
to assist him. But there was so sign of a living thing about.
Edwards and I searched every corner."
"How long has that other dog taken to howling?" inquired Smith.
"Only since Rex's death," said Denby quickly.
"It is my mastiff," explained the clergyman, "and he is confined in the yard.
He is never allowed on this side of the house."
Nayland Smith wandered aimlessly about the library.
"I am sorry to have to press you, Mr. Eltham," he said,
"but what was the nature of the warning to which you referred,
and from whom did it come?"
Mr. Eltham hesitated for a long time.
"I have been so unfortunate," he said at last, "in my previous efforts,
that I feel assured of your hostile criticism when I tell you that I am
contemplating an immediate return to Ho-Nan!"
Smith jumped round upon him as though moved by a spring.
"Then you are going back to Nan-Yang?" he cried.
"Now I understand! Why have you not told me before?
That is the key for which I have vainly been seeking.
Your troubles date from the time of your decision to return?"
"Yes, I must admit it," confessed the clergyman diffidently.
"And your warning came from China?"
"From a Chinaman?"
"From the Mandarin, Yen-Sun-Yat."
"Yen-Sun-Yat! My good sir! He warned you to abandon your visit?
And you reject his advice? Listen to me." Smith was intensely
excited now, his eyes bright, his lean figure curiously strung up, alert.
"The Mandarin Yen-Sun-Yat is one of the seven!"
"I do not follow you, Mr. Smith."
"No, sir. China to-day is not the China of '98. It is a huge secret machine,
and Ho-Nan one of its most important wheels! But if, as I understand,
this official is a friend of yours, believe me, he has saved your life!
You would be a dead man now if it were not for your friend in China!
My dear sir, you must accept his counsel."
Then, for the first time since I had made his acquaintance, "Parson Dan"
showed through the surface of the Rev. J. D. Eltham.
"No, sir!" replied the clergyman--and the change in his voice was startling.
"I am called to Nan-Yang. Only One may deter my going."
The admixture of deep spiritual reverence with intense truculence
in his voice was dissimilar from anything I ever had heard.
"Then only One can protect you," cried Smith, "for, by Heaven,
no MAN will be able to do so! Your presence in Ho-Nan
can do no possible good at present. It must do harm.
Your experience in 1900 should be fresh in your memory."
"Hard words, Mr. Smith."
"The class of missionary work which you favor, sir, is injurious
to international peace. At the present moment, Ho-Nan is
a barrel of gunpowder; you would be the lighted match.
I do not willingly stand between any man and what he chooses
to consider his duty, but I insist that you abandon your visit
to the interior of China!"
"You insist, Mr. Smith?"
"As your guest, I regret the necessity
for reminding you that I hold authority to enforce it."
Denby fidgeted uneasily. The tone of the conversation was growing harsh
and the atmosphere of the library portentous with brewing, storms.
There was a short, silent interval.
"This is what I had feared and expected," said the clergyman.
"This was my reason for not seeking official protection."
"The phantom Yellow Peril," said Nayland Smith, "to-day materializes
under the very eyes of the Western world."
"The `Yellow Peril'!"
"You scoff, sir, and so do others. We take the proffered right
hand of friendship nor inquire if the hidden left holds a knife!
The peace of the world is at stake, Mr. Eltham. Unknowingly, you tamper
with tremendous issues."
Mr. Eltham drew a deep breath, thrusting both hands in his pockets.
"You are painfully frank, Mr. Smith," he said; "but I like you for it.
I will reconsider my position and talk this matter over again
with you to-morrow."
Thus, then, the storm blew over. Yet I had never
experienced such an overwhelming sense of imminent peril--
of a sinister presence--as oppressed me at that moment.
The very atmosphere of Redmoat was impregnated with
Eastern devilry; it loaded the air like some evil perfume.
And then, through the silence, cut a throbbing scream--
the scream of a woman in direst fear.
"My God, it's Greba!" whispered Mr. Eltham.
IN what order we dashed down to the drawing-room I cannot recall.
But none was before me when I leaped over the threshold and saw Miss
Eltham prone by the French windows.
These were closed and bolted, and she lay with hands
outstretched in the alcove which they formed. I bent over her.
Nayland Smith was at my elbow.
"Get my bag" I said. "She has swooned. It is nothing serious."
Her father, pale and wide-eyed, hovered about me, muttering incoherently;
but I managed to reassure him; and his gratitude when, I having administered
a simple restorative, the girl sighed shudderingly and opened her eyes,
was quite pathetic.
I would permit no questioning at that time, and on her father's
arm she retired to her own rooms.
It was some fifteen minutes later that her message was brought to me.
I followed the maid to a quaint little octagonal apartment, and Greba
Eltham stood before me, the candlelight caressing the soft curves
of her face and gleaming in the meshes of her rich brown hair.
When she had answered my first question she hesitated in pretty confusion.
"We are anxious to know what alarmed you, Miss Eltham."
She bit her lip and glanced with apprehension towards the window.
"I am almost afraid to tell father," she began rapidly.
"He will think me imaginative, but you have been so kind.
It was two green eyes! Oh! Dr. Petrie, they looked up at me
from the steps leading to the lawn. And they shone like the eyes
of a cat."
The words thrilled me strangely.
"Are you sure it was not a cat, Miss Eltham?"
"The eyes were too large, Dr. Petrie. There was
something dreadful, most dreadful, in their appearance.
I feel foolish and silly for having fainted, twice in two days!
But the suspense is telling upon me, I suppose.
Father thinks"--she was becoming charmingly confidential,
as a woman often will with a tactful physician--"that
shut up here we are safe from--whatever threatens us."
I noted, with concern, a repetition of the nervous shudder.
"But since our return someone else has been in Redmoat!"
"Whatever do you mean, Miss Eltham?"
"Oh! I don't quite know what I do mean, Dr. Petrie.
What does it ALL mean? Vernon has been explaining to me
that some awful Chinaman is seeking the life of Mr. Nayland Smith.
But if the same man wants to kill my father, why has
he not done so?"
"I am afraid you puzzle me."
"Of course, I must do so. But--the man in the train.
He could have killed us both quite easily! And--last night
someone was in father's room."
"In his room!"
"I could not sleep, and I heard something moving.
My room is the next one. I knocked on the wall and woke father.
There was nothing; so I said it was the howling of the dog
that had frightened me."
"How, could anyone get into his room?"
"I cannot imagine. But I am not sure it was a man."
"Miss Eltham, you alarm me. What do you suspect?"
"You must think me hysterical and silly, but whilst father and I have been
away from Redmoat perhaps the usual precautions have been neglected.
Is there any creature, any large creature, which could climb up the wall
to the window? Do you know of anything with a long, thin body?"
For a moment I offered no reply, studying the girl's pretty face,
her eager, blue-gray eyes widely opened and fixed upon mine.
She was not of the neurotic type, with her clear complexion
and sun-kissed neck; her arms, healthily toned by exposure
to the country airs, were rounded and firm, and she had the agile
shape of a young Diana with none of the anaemic languor which breeds
morbid dreams. She was frightened; yes, who would not have been?
But the mere idea of this thing which she believed to be in Redmoat,
without the apparition of the green eyes, must have prostrated
a victim of "nerves."
"Have you seen such a creature, Miss Eltham?"
She hesitated again, glancing down and pressing her finger-tips together.
"As father awoke and called out to know why I knocked,
I glanced from my window. The moonlight threw half the lawn
into shadow, and just disappearing in this shadow was something--
something of a brown color, marked with sections!"
"What size and shape?"
"It moved so quickly I could form no idea of its shape;
but I saw quite six feet of it flash across the grass!"
"Did you hear anything?"
"A swishing sound in the shrubbery, then nothing more."
She met my eyes expectantly. Her confidence in my powers of understanding
and sympathy was gratifying, though I knew that I but occupied the position
of a father-confessor.
"Have you any idea," I said, "how it came about that you awoke
in the train yesterday whilst your father did not?"
"We had coffee at a refreshment-room; it must have been drugged in some way.
I scarcely tasted mine, the flavor was so awful; but father is an old traveler
and drank the whole of his cupful!"
Mr. Eltham's voice called from below.
"Dr. Petrie," said the girl quickly, "what do you think they
want to do to him?"
"Ah!" I replied, "I wish I knew that."
"Will you think over what I have told you? For I do assure you there
is something here in Redmoat--something that comes and goes in spite
of father's `fortifications'? Caesar knows there is. Listen to him.
He drags at his chain so that I wonder he does not break it."
As we passed downstairs the howling of the mastiff sounded eerily
through the house, as did the clank-clank of the tightening chain
as he threw the weight of his big body upon it.
I sat in Smith's room that night for some time, he pacing the floor
smoking and talking.
"Eltham has influential Chinese friends," he said;
"but they dare not have him in Nan-Yang at present.
He knows the country as he knows Norfolk; he would see things!
"His precautions here have baffled the enemy, I think.
The attempt in the train points to an anxiety to waste no opportunity.
But whilst Eltham was absent (he was getting his outfit in London,
by the way) they have been fixing some second string to their fiddle here.
In case no opportunity offered before he returned, they provided
for getting at him here!"
"But how, Smith?"
"That's the mystery. But the dead dog in the shrubbery is significant."
"Do you think some emissary of Fu-Manchu is actually inside the moat?"
"It's impossible, Petrie. You are thinking of secret passages,
and so forth. There are none. Eltham has measured up every
foot of the place. There isn't a rathole left unaccounted for;
and as for a tunnel under the moat, the house stands on a solid
mass of Roman masonry, a former camp of Hadrian's time.
I have seen a very old plan of the Round Moat Priory as it
was called. There is no entrance and no exit save by the steps.
So how was the dog killed?"
I knocked out my pipe on a bar of the grate.
"We are in the thick of it here," I said.
"We are always in the thick of it," replied Smith. "Our danger is
no greater in Norfolk than in London. But what do they want to do?
That man in the train with the case of instruments--WHAT instruments?
Then the apparition of the green eyes to-night. Can they have been
the eyes of Fu-Manchu? Is some peculiarly unique outrage contemplated--
something calling for the presence of the master?"
"He may have to prevent Eltham's leaving England without killing him."
"Quite so. He probably has instructions to be merciful.
But God help the victim of Chinese mercy!"
I went to my own room then. But I did not even undress,
refilling my pipe and seating myself at the open window.
Having looked upon the awful Chinese doctor, the memory of
his face, with its filmed green eyes, could never leave me.
The idea that he might be near at that moment was a poor narcotic.
The howling and baying of the mastiff was almost continuous.
When all else in Redmoat was still the dog's mournful note yet rose on
the night with something menacing in it. I sat looking out across the sloping
turf to where the shrubbery showed as a black island in a green sea.
The moon swam in a cloudless sky, and the air was warm and fragrant
with country scents.
It was in the shrubbery that Denby's collie had met his mysterious death--
that the thing seen by Miss Eltham had disappeared. What uncanny secret
did it hold?
Caesar became silent.
As the stopping of a clock will sometimes awaken a sleeper, the abrupt
cessation of that distant howling, to which I had grown accustomed,
now recalled me from a world of gloomy imaginings.
I glanced at my watch in the moonlight. It was twelve minutes past midnight.
As I replaced it the dog suddenly burst out afresh, but now in a tone
of sheer anger. He was alternately howling and snarling in a way
that sounded new to me. The crashes, as he leapt to the end
of his chain, shook the building in which he was confined.
It was as I stood up to lean from the window and commanded a view
of the corner of the house that he broke loose.
With a hoarse bay he took that decisive leap, and I
heard his heavy body fall against the wooden wall.
There followed a strange, guttural cry. . .and the growling
of the dog died away at the rear of the house. He was out!
But that guttural note had not come from the throat of a dog.
Of what was he in pursuit?
At which point his mysterious quarry entered the shrubbery I do not know.
I only know that I saw absolutely nothing, until Caesar's lithe shape
was streaked across the lawn, and the great creature went crashing
into the undergrowth.
Then a faint sound above and to my right told me that I was not the only
spectator of the scene. I leaned farther from the window.
"Is that you, Miss Eltham?" I asked.
"Oh, Dr. Petrie!" she said. "I am so glad you are awake.
Can we do nothing to help? Caesar will be killed."
"Did you see what he went after?"
"No," she called back, and drew her breath sharply.
For a strange figure went racing across the grass.
It was that of a man in a blue dressing-gown, who held
a lantern high before him, and a revolver in his right hand.
Coincident with my recognition of Mr. Eltham he leaped,
plunging into the shrubbery in the wake of the dog.
But the night held yet another surprise; for Nayland Smith's voice came:
"Come back! Come back, Eltham!"
I ran out into the passage and downstairs. The front door was open.
A terrible conflict waged in the shrubbery, between the mastiff and
something else. Passing round to the lawn, I met Smith fully dressed.
He just had dropped from a first-floor window.
"The man is mad!" he snapped. "Heaven knows what lurks there!
He should not have gone alone!"
Together we ran towards the dancing light of Eltham's lantern.
The sounds of conflict ceased suddenly. Stumbling over
stumps and lashed by low-sweeping branches, we struggled
forward to where the clergyman knelt amongst the bushes.
He glanced up with tears in his eyes, as was revealed by
the dim light.
"Look!" he cried.
The body of the dog lay at his feet.
It was pitiable to think that the fearless brute should have met
his death in such a fashion, and when I bent and examined him I
was glad to find traces of life.
"Drag him out. He is not dead," I said.
"And hurry," rapped Smith, peering about him right and left.
So we three hurried from that haunted place, dragging the dog with us.
We were not molested. No sound disturbed the now perfect stillness.
By the lawn edge we came upon Denby, half dressed;
and almost immediately Edwards the gardener also appeared.
The white faces of the house servants showed at one window,
and Miss Eltham called to me from her room:
"Is he dead?"
"No," I replied; "only stunned."
We carried the dog round to the yard, and I examined his head.
It had been struck by some heavy blunt instrument, but the skull
was not broken. It is hard to kill a mastiff.
"Will you attend to him, Doctor?" asked Eltham.
"We must see that the villain does not escape."
His face was grim and set. This was a different man from the diffident
clergyman we knew: this was "Parson Dan" again.
I accepted the care of the canine patient, and Eltham with
the others went off for more lights to search the shrubbery.
As I was washing a bad wound between the mastiff's ears,
Miss Eltham joined me. It was the sound of her voice,
I think, rather than my more scientific ministration,
which recalled Caesar to life. For, as she entered, his tail
wagged feebly, and a moment later he struggled to his feet--
one of which was injured.
Having provided for his immediate needs, I left him in
charge of his young mistress and joined the search party.
They had entered the shrubbery from four points and drawn blank.
"There is absolutely nothing there, and no one can possibly have left
the grounds," said Eltham amazedly.
We stood on the lawn looking at one another, Nayland Smith,
angry but thoughtful, tugging at the lobe of his left ear,
as was his habit in moments of perplexity.
WITH the first coming of light, Eltham, Smith and I tested the electrical
contrivances from every point. They were in perfect order.
It became more and more incomprehensible how anyone could have entered
and quitted Redmoat during the night. The barbed-wire fencing was intact,
and bore no signs of having been tampered with.
Smith and I undertook an exhaustive examination of the shrubbery.
At the spot where we had found the dog, some five paces to the west
of the copper beech, the grass and weeds were trampled and the
surrounding laurels and rhododendrons bore evidence of a struggle,
but no human footprint could be found.
"The ground is dry," said Smith. "We cannot expect much."
"In my opinion," I said, "someone tried to get at Caesar;
his presence is dangerous. And in his rage he broke loose."
"I think so, too," agreed Smith. "But why did this person make
for here? And how, having mastered the dog, get out of Redmoat?
I am open to admit the possibility of someone's getting in during
the day whilst the gates are open, and hiding until dusk.
But how in the name of all that's wonderful does he GET OUT?
He must possess the attributes of a bird."
I thought of Greba Eltham's statements, reminding my friend
of her description of the thing which she had seen passing
into this strangely haunted shrubbery.
"That line of speculation soon takes us out of our depth, Petrie," he said.
"Let us stick to what we can understand, and that may help us
to a clearer idea of what, at present, is incomprehensible.
My view of the case to date stands thus:
"(1) Eltham, having rashly decided to return to the interior of China,
is warned by an official whose friendship he has won in some way
to stay in England.
"(2) I know this official for one of the Yellow group represented
in England by Dr. Fu-Manchu.
"(3) Several attempts, of which we know but little, to get at
Eltham are frustrated, presumably by his curious `defenses.'
An attempt in a train fails owing to Miss Eltham's distaste
for refreshment-room coffee. An attempt here fails owing
to her insomnia.
"(4) During Eltham's absence from Redmoat certain preparations
are made for his return. These lead to:
"(a) The death of Denby's collie;
"(b) The things heard and seen by Miss Eltham;
"(c) The things heard and seen by us all last night.
"So that the clearing up of my fourth point--id est, the discovery
of the nature of these preparations--becomes our immediate concern.
The prime object of these preparations, Petrie, was to enable someone
to gain access to Eltham's room. The other events are incidental.
The dogs HAD to be got rid of, for instance; and there is no doubt
that Miss Eltham's wakefulness saved her father a second time."
"But from what? For Heaven's sake, from what?"
Smith glanced about into the light-patched shadows.
"From a visit by someone--perhaps by Fu-Manchu himself," he said in a
hushed voice. "The object of that visit I hope we may never learn;
for that would mean that it had been achieved."
"Smith," I said, "I do not altogether understand you; but do you
think he has some incredible creature hidden here somewhere?
It would be like him."
"I begin to suspect the most formidable creature in the known world
to be hidden here. I believe Fu-Manchu is somewhere inside Redmoat!"
Our conversation was interrupted at this point by Denby,
who came to report that he had examined the moat, the roadside,
and the bank of the stream, but found no footprints or clew
of any kind.
"No one left the grounds of Redmoat last night, I think," he said.
And his voice had awe in it.
That day dragged slowly on. A party of us scoured the neighborhood
for traces of strangers, examining every foot of the Roman ruin
hard by; but vainly.
"May not your presence here induce Fu-Manchu to abandon his plans?"
I asked Smith.
"I think not," he replied. "You see, unless we can prevail upon him,
Eltham sails in a fortnight. So the Doctor has no time to waste.
Furthermore, I have an idea that his arrangements are of such a character
that they MUST go forward. He might turn aside, of course,
to assassinate me, if opportunity arose! But we know, from experience,
that he permits nothing to interfere with his schemes."
There are few states, I suppose, which exact so severe a toll from one's
nervous system as the ANTICIPATION of calamity.
All anticipation is keener, be it of joy or pain, than the reality
whereof it is a mental forecast; but that inactive waiting at Redmoat,
for the blow which we knew full well to be pending exceeded in its
nerve taxation, anything, I hitherto had experienced.
I felt as one bound upon an Aztec altar, with the priest's obsidian
knife raised above my breast!
Secret and malign forces throbbed about us; forces against which
we had no armor. Dreadful as it was, I count it a mercy that
the climax was reached so quickly. And it came suddenly enough;
for there in that quiet Norfolk home we found ourselves at hand
grips with one of the mysterious horrors which characterized
the operations of Dr. Fu-Manchu. It was upon us before we realized it.
There is no incidental music to the dramas of real life.
As we sat on the little terrace in the creeping twilight,
I remember thinking how the peace of the scene gave the lie
to my fears that we bordered upon tragic things. Then Caesar,
who had been a docile patient all day, began howling again;
and I saw Greba Eltham shudder.
I caught Smith's eye, and was about to propose our retirement indoors,
when the party was broken up in more turbulent fashion. I suppose it
was the presence of the girl which prompted Denby to the rash act,
a desire personally to distinguish himself. But, as I recalled afterwards,
his gaze had rarely left the shrubbery since dusk, save to seek her face,
and now he leaped wildly to his feet, overturning his chair, and dashed
across the grass to the trees.
"Did you see it?" he yelled. "Did you see it?"
He evidently carried a revolver. For from the edge of the shrubbery
a shot sounded, and in the flash we saw Denby with the weapon raised.
"Greba, go in and fasten the windows," cried Eltham.
"Mr. Smith, will you enter the bushes from the west.
Dr. Petrie, east. Edwards, Edwards--" And he was off across
the lawn with the nervous activity of a cat.
As I made off in an opposite direction I heard the gardener's
voice from the lower gate, and I saw Eltham's plan.
It was to surround the shrubbery.
Two more shots and two flashes from the dense heart of greenwood.
Then a loud cry--I thought, from Denby--and a second, muffled one.
Following--silence, only broken by the howling of the mastiff.
I sprinted through the rose garden, leaped heedlessly over a bed of geranium
and heliotrope, and plunged in among the bushes and under the elms.
Away on the left I heard Edwards shouting, and Eltham's answering voice.
"Denby!" I cried, and yet louder: "Denby!"
But the silence fell again.
Dusk was upon Redmoat now, but from sitting in the twilight my eyes had
grown accustomed to gloom, and I could see fairly well what lay before me.
Not daring to think what might lurk above, below, around me, I pressed
on into the midst of the thicket.
"Vernon!" came Eltham's voice from one side.
"Bear more to the right, Edwards," I heard Nayland Smith cry
directly ahead of me.
With an eerie and indescribable sensation of impending disaster upon me,
I thrust my way through to a gray patch which marked a break in the
elmen roof. At the foot of the copper beech I almost fell over Eltham.
Then Smith plunged into view. Lastly, Edwards the gardener rounded a big
rhododendron and completed the party.
We stood quite still for a moment.
A faint breeze whispered through the beech leaves.
"Where is he?"
I cannot remember who put it into words; I was too dazed with amazement
to notice. Then Eltham began shouting:
"Vernon! Vernon! VERNON!"
His voice pitched higher upon each repetition. There was something
horrible about that vain calling, under the whispering beech,
with shrubs banked about us cloaking God alone could know what.
From the back of the house came Caesar's faint reply.
"Quick! Lights!" rapped Smith. "Every lamp you have!"
Off we went, dodging laurels and privets, and poured out on to the lawn,
a disordered company. Eltham's face was deathly pale, and his jaw set hard.
He met my eye.
"God forgive me!" he said. "I could do murder to-night!"
He was a man composed of strange perplexities.
It seemed an age before the lights were found. But at last we returned
to the bushes, really after a very brief delay; and ten minutes
sufficed us to explore the entire shrubbery, for it was not extensive.
We found his revolver, but there was no one there--nothing.
When we all stood again on the lawn, I thought that I had never seen
Smith so haggard.
"What in Heaven's name can we do?" he muttered.
"What does it mean?"
He expected no answer; for there was none to offer one.
"Search! Everywhere," said Eltham hoarsely.
He ran off into the rose garden, and began beating about among
the flowers like a madman, muttering: "Vernon! Vernon!" For close
upon an hour we all searched. We searched every square yard, I think,
within the wire fencing, and found no trace. Miss Eltham slipped out
in the confusion, and joined with the rest of us in that frantic hunt.
Some of the servants assisted too.
It was a group terrified and awestricken which came together
again on the terrace. One and then another would give up,
until only Eltham and Smith were missing. Then they came back
together from examining the steps to the lower gate.
Eltham dropped on to a rustic seat, and sank his head in his hands.
Nayland Smith paced up and down like a newly caged animal,
snapping his teeth together and tugging at his ear.
Possessed by some sudden idea, or pressed to action by his
tumultuous thoughts, he snatched up a lantern and strode silently off
across the grass and to the shrubbery once more. I followed him.
I think his idea was that he might surprise anyone who lurked there.
He surprised himself, and all of us.
For right at the margin he tripped and fell flat.
I ran to him.
He had fallen over the body of Denby, which lay there!
Denby had not been there a few moments before, and how he came
to be there now we dared not conjecture. Mr. Eltham joined us,
uttered one short, dry sob, and dropped upon his knees.
Then we were carrying Denby back to the house, with the mastiff
howling a marche funebre.
We laid him on the grass where it sloped down from the terrace.
Nayland Smith's haggard face was terrible. But the stark horror of
the thing inspired him to that, which conceived earlier, had saved Denby.
Twisting suddenly to Eltham, he roared in a voice audible beyond the river:
"Heavens! we are fools! LOOSE THE DOG!"
"But the dog--" I began.
Smith clapped his hand over my mouth.
"I know he's crippled," he whispered. "But if anything human lurks there,
the dog will lead us to it. If a MAN is there, he will fly! Why did
we not think of it before. Fools, fools!" He raised his voice again.
"Keep him on leash, Edwards. He will lead us."
The scheme succeeded.
Edwards barely had started on his errand when bells began ridging
inside the house.
"Wait!" snapped Eltham, and rushed indoors.
A moment later he was out again, his eyes gleaming madly.
"Above the moat," he panted. And we were off en masse
round the edge of the trees.
It was dark above the moat; but not so dark as to prevent our
seeing a narrow ladder of thin bamboo joints and silken cord
hanging by two hooks from the top of the twelve-foot wire fence.
There was no sound.
"He's out!" screamed Eltham. "Down the steps!"
We all ran our best and swiftest. But Eltham outran us. Like a fury
he tore at bolts and bars, and like a fury sprang out into the road.
Straight and white it showed to the acclivity by the Roman ruin.
But no living thing moved upon it. The distant baying of the dog
was borne to our ears.
"Curse it! he's crippled," hissed Smith. "Without him,
as well pursue a shadow!"
A few hours later the shrubbery yielded up its secret, a simple one enough:
A big cask sunk in a pit, with a laurel shrub cunningly affixed
to its movable lid, which was further disguised with tufts of grass.
A slender bamboo-jointed rod lay near the fence. It had a hook on the top,
and was evidently used for attaching the ladder.
"It was the end of this ladder which Miss Eltham saw," said Smith,
"as he trailed it behind him into the shrubbery when she interrupted
him in her fathers room. He and whomever he had with him doubtless
slipped in during the daytime--whilst Eltham was absent in London--
bringing the prepared cask and all necessary implements with them.
They concealed themselves somewhere--probably in the shrubbery--
and during the night made the cache. The excavated earth would be
disposed of on the flower-beds; the dummy bush they probably had ready.
You see, the problem of getting IN was never a big one.
But owing to the `defenses' it was impossible (whilst Eltham
was in residence at any rate) to get OUT after dark.
For Fu-Manchu's purposes, then, a working-base INSIDE
Redmoat was essential. His servant--for he needed assistance--
must have been in hiding somewhere outside; Heaven knows where!
During the day they could come or go by the gates, as we
have already noted."
"You think it was the Doctor himself?"
"It seems possible. Whom else has eyes like the eyes Miss Eltham
saw from the window last night?"
Then remains to tell the nature of the outrage whereby Fu-Manchu had planned
to prevent Eltham's leaving England for China. This we learned from Denby.
For Denby was not dead.
It was easy to divine that he had stumbled upon the fiendish
visitor at the very entrance to his burrow; had been stunned
(judging from the evidence, with a sand-bag), and dragged down into
the cache--to which he must have lain in such dangerous proximity
as to render detection of the dummy bush possible in removing him.
The quickest expedient, then, had been to draw him beneath.
When the search of the shrubbery was concluded, his body had been
borne to the edge of the bushes and laid where we found it.
Why his life had been spared, I cannot conjecture, but provision
had been made against his recovering consciousness and revealing
the secret of the shrubbery. The ruse of releasing the mastiff alone
had terminated the visit of the unbidden guest within Redmoat.
Denby made a very slow recovery; and, even when convalescent,
consciously added not one fact to those we already had collated;
his memory had completely deserted him!
This, in my opinion, as in those of the several specialists consulted,
was due, not to the blow on the head, but to the presence,
slightly below and to the right of the first cervical curve of the spine,
of a minute puncture--undoubtedly caused by a hypodermic syringe.
Then, unconsciously, poor Denby furnished the last link in the chain;
for undoubtedly, by means of this operation, Fu-Manchu had designed
to efface from Eltham's mind his plans of return to Ho-Nan.
The nature of the fluid which could produce such mental symptoms
was a mystery--a mystery which defied Western science:
one of the many strange secrets of Dr. Fu-Manchu.
SINCE Nayland Smith's return from Burma I had rarely taken up a paper
without coming upon evidences of that seething which had cast up
Dr. Fu-Manchu. Whether, hitherto, such items had escaped my attention
or had seemed to demand no particular notice, or whether they now became
increasingly numerous, I was unable to determine.
One evening, some little time after our sojourn in Norfolk,
in glancing through a number of papers which I had brought in with me,
I chanced upon no fewer than four items of news bearing more or less
directly upon the grim business which engaged my friend and I.
No white man, I honestly believe, appreciates the unemotional cruelty
of the Chinese. Throughout the time that Dr. Fu-Manchu remained in England,
the press preserved a uniform silence upon the subject of his existence.
This was due to Nayland Smith. But, as a result, I feel assured
that my account of the Chinaman's deeds will, in many quarters,
meet with an incredulous reception.
I had been at work, earlier in the evening, upon the opening
chapters of this chronicle, and I had realized how difficult
it would be for my reader, amid secure and cozy surroundings,
to credit any human being, with a callous villainy great enough
to conceive and to put into execution such a death pest
as that directed against Sir Crichton Davey.
One would expect God's worst man to shrink from employing--
against however vile an enemy--such an instrument as the Zayat Kiss.
So thinking, my eye was caught by the following:--
"Secret service men of the United States Government are searching
the South Sea Islands for a certain Hawaiian from the island
of Maui, who, it is believed, has been selling poisonous scorpions
to Chinese in Honolulu anxious to get rid of their children.
"Infanticide, by scorpion and otherwise, among the Chinese,
has increased so terribly that the authorities have started
a searching inquiry, which has led to the hunt for the scorpion
dealer of Maui.
"Practically all the babies that die mysteriously are unwanted girls,
and in nearly every case the parents promptly ascribe the death to the bite
of a scorpion, and are ready to produce some more or less poisonous insect
in support of the statement.
"The authorities have no doubt that infanticide by scorpion
bite is a growing practice, and orders have been given to hunt
down the scorpion dealer at any cost."
Is it any matter for wonder that such a people had produced a
Fu-Manchu? I pasted the cutting into a scrap-book, determined that,
if I lived to publish my account of those days, I would quote it
therein as casting a sidelight upon Chinese character.
A Reuter message to The Globe and a paragraph in The
Star also furnished work for my scissors. Here were evidences
of the deep-seated unrest, the secret turmoil, which manifested
itself so far from its center as peaceful England in the person
of the sinister Doctor.
"HONG KONG, Friday.
"Li Hon Hung, the Chinaman who fired at the Governor yesterday,
was charged before the magistrate with shooting at him with
intent to kill, which is equivalent to attempted murder.
The prisoner, who was not defended, pleaded guilty.
The Assistant Crown Solicitor, who prosecuted, asked for a remand
until Monday, which was granted.
"Snapshots taken by the spectators of the outrage yesterday disclosed
the presence of an accomplice, also armed with a revolver.
It is reported that this man, who was arrested last night,
was in possession of incriminating documentary evidence."
"Examination of the documents found on Li Hon Hung's accomplice
has disclosed the fact that both men were well financed by
the Canton Triad Society, the directors of which had enjoined
the assassination of Sir F. M. or Mr. C. S., the Colonial Secretary.
In a report prepared by the accomplice for dispatch to Canton,
also found on his person, he expressed regret that the attempt
"It is officially reported in St. Petersburg that a force of Chinese soldiers
and villagers surrounded the house of a Russian subject named Said Effendi,
near Khotan, in Chinese Turkestan.
"They fired at the house and set it in flames. There were in the house
about 100 Russians, many of whom were killed.
"The Russian Government has instructed its Minister at Peking to make
the most vigorous representations on the subject."--Reuter.
Finally, in a Personal Column, I found the following:--
"HO-NAN. Have abandoned visit.--ELTHAM."
I had just pasted it into my book when Nayland Smith came in and
threw himself into an arm-chair, facing me across the table.
I showed him the cutting.
"I am glad, for Eltham's sake--and for the girl's," was his comment.
"But it marks another victory for Fu-Manchu! Just Heaven! Why is
Smith's darkly tanned face had grown leaner than ever since he had
begun his fight with the most uncanny opponent, I suppose, against
whom a man ever had pitted himself. He stood up and began restlessly
to pace the room, furiously stuffing tobacco into his briar.
"I have seen Sir Lionel Barton," he said abruptly; "and, to put the whole
thing in a nutshell, he has laughed at me! During the months that I
have been wondering where he had gone to he has been somewhere in Egypt.
He certainly bears a charmed life, for on the evidence of his letter
to The Times he has seen things in Tibet which Fu-Manchu would
have the West blind to; in fact, I think he has found a new keyhole
to the gate of the Indian Empire!"
Long ago we had placed the name of Sir Lionel Barton upon the list of
those whose lives stood between Fu-Manchu and the attainment of his end.
Orientalist and explorer, the fearless traveler who first had penetrated
to Lhassa, who thrice, as a pilgrim, had entered forbidden Mecca,
he now had turned his attention again to Tibet--thereby signing
his own death-warrant.
"That he has reached England alive is a hopeful sign?" I suggested.
Smith shook his head, and lighted the blackened briar.
"England at present is the web," he replied. "The spider will be waiting.
Petrie, I sometimes despair. Sir Lionel is an impossible man to shepherd.
You ought to see his house at Finchley. A low, squat place completely
hemmed in by trees. Damp as a swamp; smells like a jungle.
Everything topsy-turvy. He only arrived to-day, and he is working and eating
(and sleeping I expect), in a study that looks like an earthquake at Sotheby's
auction-rooms. The rest of the house is half a menagerie and half a circus.
He has a Bedouin groom, a Chinese body-servant, and Heaven only knows
what other strange people!"
"Yes, I saw him; a squinting Cantonese he calls Kwee. I don't like him.
Also, there is a secretary known as Strozza, who has an unpleasant face.
He is a fine linguist, I understand, and is engaged upon the Spanish
notes for Barton's forthcoming book on the Mayapan temples.
By the way, all Sir Lionel's baggage disappeared from the landing-stage--
including his Tibetan notes."
"Of course. But he argues that he has crossed Tibet from the Kuen-Lun
to the Himalayas without being assassinated, and therefore
that it is unlikely he will meet with that fate in London.
I left him dictating the book from memory, at the rate of about
two hundred words a minute."
"He is wasting no time."
"Wasting time! In addition to the Yucatan book and the work on Tibet,
he has to read a paper at the Institute next week about some tomb he has
unearthed in Egypt. As I came away, a van drove up from the docks
and a couple of fellows delivered a sarcophagus as big as a boat.
It is unique, according to Sir Lionel, and will go to the British Museum
after he has examined it. The man crams six months' work into six weeks;
then he is off again."
"What do you propose to do?"
"What CAN I do? I know that Fu-Manchu will make an attempt upon him.
I cannot doubt it. Ugh! that house gave me the shudders.
No sunlight, I'll swear, Petrie, can ever penetrate to the rooms,
and when I arrived this afternoon clouds of gnats floated like motes
wherever a stray beam filtered through the trees of the avenue.
There's a steamy smell about the place that is almost malarious,
and the whole of the west front is covered with a sort of
monkey-creeper, which he has imported at some time or other.
It has a close, exotic perfume that is quite in the picture.
I tell you, the place was made for murder."
"Have you taken any precautions?"
"I called at Scotland Yard and sent a man down to watch the house, but--"
He shrugged his shoulders helplessly.
"What is Sir Lionel like?"
"A madman, Petrie. A tall, massive man, wearing a dirty
dressing-gown of neutral color; a man with untidy gray hair
and a bristling mustache, keen blue eyes, and a brown skin;
who wears a short beard or rarely shaves--I don't know which.
I left him striding about among the thousand and one curiosities
of that incredible room, picking his way through his antique
furniture, works of reference, manuscripts, mummies, spears,
pottery and what not--sometimes kicking a book from his course,
or stumbling over a stuffed crocodile or a Mexican mask--
alternately dictating and conversing. Phew!"
For some time we were silent.
"Smith" I said, "we are making no headway in this business.
With all the forces arrayed against him, Fu-Manchu still eludes us,
still pursues his devilish, inscrutable way."
Nayland Smith nodded.
"And we don't know all," he said. "We mark such and such a man
as one alive to the Yellow Peril, and we warn him--if we have time.
Perhaps he escapes; perhaps he does not. But what do we know, Petrie,
of those others who may die every week by his murderous agency?
We cannot know EVERYONE who has read the riddle of China.
I never see a report of someone found drowned, of an apparent suicide,
of a sudden, though seemingly natural death, without wondering.
I tell you, Fu-Manchu is omnipresent; his tentacles embrace everything.
I said that Sir Lionel must bear a charmed life. The fact that
WE are alive is a miracle."
He glanced at his watch.
"Nearly eleven," he said. "But sleep seems a waste of time--
apart from its dangers."
We heard a bell ring. A few moments later followed a knock
at the room door.
"Come in!" I cried.
A girl entered with a telegram addressed to Smith.
His jaw looked very square in the lamplight, and his eyes shone
like steel as he took it from her and opened the envelope.
He glanced at the form, stood up and passed it to me,
reaching for his hat, which lay upon my writing-table.
"God help us, Petrie!" he said.
This was the message:
"Sir Lionel Barton murdered. Meet me at his house
at once.--WEYMOUTH, INSPECTOR."
ALTHOUGH we avoided all unnecessary delay, it was close upon
midnight when our cab swung round into a darkly shadowed avenue,
at the farther end of which, as seen through a tunnel,
the moonlight glittered upon the windows of Rowan House,
Sir Lionel Barton's home.
Stepping out before the porch of the long, squat building, I saw
that it was banked in, as Smith had said, by trees and shrubs.
The facade showed mantled in the strange exotic creeper
which he had mentioned, and the air was pungent with an odor
of decaying vegetation, with which mingled the heavy perfume
of the little nocturnal red flowers which bloomed luxuriantly
upon the creeper.
The place looked a veritable wilderness, and when we were admitted
to the hall by Inspector Weymouth I saw that the interior was in keeping
with the exterior, for the hall was constructed from the model of some
apartment in an Assyrian temple, and the squat columns, the low seats,
the hangings, all were eloquent of neglect, being thickly dust-coated.
The musty smell, too, was almost as pronounced here as outside,
beneath the trees.
To a library, whose contents overflowed in many literary torrents
upon the floor, the detective conducted us.
"Good heavens!" I cried, "what's that?"
Something leaped from the top of the bookcase, ambled silently
across the littered carpet, and passed from the library like a
golden streak. I stood looking after it with startled eyes.
Inspector Weymouth laughed dryly.
"It's a young puma, or a civet-cat, or something, Doctor," he said.
"This house is full of surprises--and mysteries."
His voice was not quite steady, I thought, and he carefully closed
the door ere proceeding further.
"Where is he?" asked Nayland Smith harshly. "How was it done?"
Weymouth sat down and lighted a cigar which I offered him.
"I thought you would like to hear what led up to it--so far as we know--
before seeing him?"
"Well," continued the Inspector, "the man you arranged to send
down from the Yard got here all right and took up a post in the
road outside, where he could command a good view of the gates.
He saw and heard nothing, until going on for half-past ten,
when a young lady turned up and went in."
"A young lady?"
"Miss Edmonds, Sir Lionel's shorthand typist. She had found,
after getting home, that her bag, with her purse in,
was missing, and she came back to see if she had left it here.
She gave the alarm. My man heard the row from the road and came in.
Then he ran out and rang us up. I immediately wired for you."
"He heard the row, you say. What row?"
"Miss Edmonds went into violent hysterics!"
Smith was pacing the room now in tense excitement.
"Describe what he saw when he came in."
"He saw a negro footman--there isn't an Englishman in the house--
trying to pacify the girl out in the hall yonder, and a Malay
and another colored man beating their foreheads and howling.
There was no sense to be got out of any of them, so he started
to investigate for himself. He had taken the bearings of the place
earlier in the evening, and from the light in a window on the ground
floor had located the study; so he set out to look for the door.
When he found it, it was locked from the inside."
"He went out and round to the window. There's no blind, and from
the shrubbery you can see into the lumber-room known as the study.
He looked in, as apparently Miss Edmonds had done before him.
What he saw accounted for her hysterics."
Both Smith and I were hanging upon his words.
"All amongst the rubbish on the floor a big Egyptian mummy case was
lying on its side, and face downwards, with his arms thrown across it,
lay Sir Lionel Barton."
"My God! Yes. Go on."
"There was only a shaded reading-lamp alight, and it stood on a chair,
shining right down on him; it made a patch of light on the floor,
you understand." The Inspector indicated its extent with his bands.
"Well, as the man smashed the glass and got the window open,
and was just climbing in, he saw something else, so he says."
"What did he see?" demanded Smith shortly.
"A sort of GREEN MIST, sir. He says it seemed to be alive.
It moved over the floor, about a foot from the ground, going away
from him and towards a curtain at the other end of the study."
Nayland Smith fixed his eyes upon the speaker.
"Where did he first see this green mist?"
"He says, Mr. Smith, that he thinks it came from the mummy case."
"Yes; go on."
"It is to his credit that he climbed into the room after
seeing a thing like that. He did. He turned the body over,
and Sir Lionel looked horrible. He was quite dead.
Then Croxted--that's the man's name--went over to this curtain.
There was a glass door--shut. He opened it, and it gave on
a conservatory--a place stacked from the tiled floor to the glass
roof with more rubbish. It was dark inside, but enough light
came from the study--it's really a drawing-room, by the way--
as he'd turned all the lamps on, to give him another glimpse
of this green, crawling mist. There are three steps to go down.
On the steps lay a dead Chinaman."
"A dead Chinaman!"
"A dead CHINAMAN."
"Doctor seen them?" rapped Smith.
"Yes; a local man. He was out of his depth, I could see.
Contradicted himself three times. But there's no need for
another opinion--until we get the coroner's."
"Croxted was taken ill, Mr. Smith, and had to be sent home in a cab."
"What ails him?"
Detective-Inspector Weymouth raised his eyebrows and carefully
knocked the ash from his cigar.
"He held out until I came, gave me the story, and then fainted right away.
He said that something in the conservatory seemed to get him by the throat."
"Did he mean that literally?"
"I couldn't say. We had to send the girl home, too, of course."
Nayland Smith was pulling thoughtfully at the lobe of his left ear.
"Got any theory?" he jerked.
Weymouth shrugged his shoulders.
"Not one that includes the green mist," he said.
"Shall we go in now?"
We crossed the Assyrian hall, where the members of that strange
household were gathered in a panic-stricken group. They numbered four.
Two of them were negroes, and two Easterns of some kind. I missed
the Chinaman, Kwee, of whom Smith had spoken, and the Italian secretary;
and from the way in which my friend peered about the shadows
of the hall I divined that he, too, wondered at their absence.
We entered Sir Lionel's study--an apartment which I despair of describing.
Nayland Smith's words, "an earthquake at Sotheby's auction-rooms,"
leaped to my mind at once; for the place was simply stacked
with curious litter--loot of Africa, Mexico and Persia.
In a clearing by the hearth a gas stove stood upon a packing-case,
and about it lay a number of utensils for camp cookery.
The odor of rotting vegetation, mingled with the insistent
perfume of the strange night-blooming flowers, was borne
in through the open window.
In the center of the floor, beside an overturned sarcophagus,
lay a figure in a neutral-colored dressing-gown, face downwards,
and arms thrust forward and over the side of the ancient
Egyptian mummy case.
My friend advanced and knelt beside the dead man.
Smith sprang upright and turned with an extraordinary expression
to Inspector Weymouth.
"You do not know Sir Lionel Barton by sight?" he rapped.
"No," began Weymouth, "but--"
"This is not Sir Lionel. This is Strozza, the secretary."
"What!" shouted Weymouth.
"Where is the other--the Chinaman--quick!" cried Smith.
"I have had him left where he was found--on the conservatory steps,"
said the Inspector.
Smith ran across the room to where, beyond the open door,
a glimpse might be obtained of stacked-up curiosities.
Holding back the curtain to allow more light to penetrate,
he bent forward over a crumpled-up figure which lay upon
the steps below.
"It is!" he cried aloud. "It is Sir Lionel's servant, Kwee."
Weymouth and I looked at one another across the body of the Italian;
then our eyes turned together to where my friend, grim-faced, stood
over the dead Chinaman. A breeze whispered through the leaves;
a great wave of exotic perfume swept from the open window towards
the curtained doorway.
It was a breath of the East--that stretched out a yellow hand to the West.
It was symbolic of the subtle, intangible power manifested in Dr. Fu-Manchu,
as Nayland Smith--lean, agile, bronzed with the suns of Burma, was symbolic
of the clean British efficiency which sought to combat the insidious enemy.
"One thing is evident," said Smith: "no one in the house, Strozza excepted,
knew that Sir Lionel was absent."
"How do you arrive at that?" asked Weymouth.
"The servants, in the hall, are bewailing him as dead.
If they had seen him go out they would know that it must
be someone else who lies here."
"What about the Chinaman?"
"Since there is no other means of entrance to the conservatory save
through the study, Kwee must have hidden himself there at some time
when his master was absent from the room."
"Croxted found the communicating door closed. What killed the Chinaman?"
"Both Miss Edmonds and Croxted found the study door locked from the inside.
What killed Strozza?" retorted Smith.
"You will have noted," continued the Inspector, "that the secretary is
wearing Sir Lionel's dressing-gown. It was seeing him in that, as she looked
in at the window, which led Miss Edmonds to mistake him for her employer--
and consequently to put us on the wrong scent."
"He wore it in order that anybody looking in at the window would
be sure to make that mistake," rapped Smith.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because he came here for a felonious purpose. See." Smith stooped
and took up several tools from the litter on the floor.
"There lies the lid. He came to open the sarcophagus.
It contained the mummy of some notable person who flourished
under Meneptah II; and Sir Lionel told me that a number of valuable
ornaments and jewels probably were secreted amongst the wrappings.
He proposed to open the thing and to submit the entire contents
to examination to-night. He evidently changed his mind--
fortunately for himself."
I ran my fingers through my hair in perplexity.
"Then what has become of the mummy?"
Nayland Smith laughed dryly.
"It has vanished in the form of a green vapor apparently," he said.
"Look at Strozza's face."
He turned the body over, and, used as I was to such spectacles,
the contorted features of the Italian filled me with horror, so--
suggestive were they of a death more than ordinarily violent. I pulled aside
the dressing-gown and searched the body for marks, but failed to find any.
Nayland Smith crossed the room, and, assisted by the detective,
carried Kwee, the Chinaman, into the study and laid him fully in the light.
His puckered yellow face presented a sight even more awful than the other,
and his blue lips were drawn back, exposing both upper and lower teeth.
There were no marks of violence, but his limbs, like Strozza's, had been
tortured during his mortal struggles into unnatural postures.
The breeze was growing higher, and pungent odor-waves from
the damp shrubbery, bearing, too, the oppressive sweetness of
the creeping, plant, swept constantly through the open window.
Inspector Weymouth carefully relighted his cigar.
"I'm with you this far, Mr. Smith," he said. "Strozza, knowing Sir
Lionel to be absent, locked himself in here to rifle the mummy case,
for Croxted, entering by way of the window, found the key on the inside.
Strozza didn't know that the Chinaman was hidden in the conservatory--"
"And Kwee did not dare to show himself, because he too was there
for some mysterious reason of his own," interrupted Smith.
"Having got the lid off, something,--somebody--"
"Suppose we say the mummy?"
Weymouth laughed uneasily.
"Well, sir, something that vanished from a locked room without
opening the door or the window killed Strozza."
"And something which, having killed Strozza, next killed the Chinaman,
apparently without troubling to open the door behind which he lay concealed,"
Smith continued. "For once in a way, Inspector, Dr. Fu-Manchu has employed
an ally which even his giant will was incapable entirely to subjugate.
What blind force--what terrific agent of death--had he confined
in that sarcophagus!"
"You think this is the work of Fu-Manchu?" I said.
"If you are correct, his power indeed is more than human."
Something in my voice, I suppose, brought Smith right about.
He surveyed me curiously.
"Can you doubt it? The presence of a concealed Chinaman surely
is sufficient. Kwee, I feel assured, was one of the murder group,
though probably he had only recently entered that mysterious service.
He is unarmed, or I should feel disposed to think that his part
was to assassinate Sir Lionel whilst, unsuspecting the presence of a
hidden enemy, he was at work here. Strozza's opening the sarcophagus
clearly spoiled the scheme."
"And led to the death--"
"Of a servant of Fu-Manchu. Yes. I am at a loss to account for that."
"Do you think that the sarcophagus entered into the scheme, Smith?"
My friend looked at me in evident perplexity.
"You mean that its arrival at the time when a creature of the Doctor--
Kwee--was concealed here, may have been a coincidence?"
I nodded; and Smith bent over the sarcophagus, curiously examining
the garish paintings with which it was decorated inside and out.
It lay sideways upon the floor, and seizing it by its edge,
he turned it over.
"Heavy," he muttered; "but Strozza must have capsized it as he fell.
He would not have laid it on its side to remove the lid. Hallo!"
He bent farther forward, catching at a piece of twine,
and out of the mummy case pulled a rubber stopper or "cork."
"This was stuck in a hole level with the floor of the thing," he said.
"Ugh! it has a disgusting smell."
I took it from his hands, and was about to examine it, when a loud
voice sounded outside in the hall. The door was thrown open,
and a big man, who, despite the warmth of the weather,
wore a fur-lined overcoat, rushed impetuously into the room.
"Sir Lionel!" cried Smith eagerly. "I warned you!
And see, you have had a very narrow escape."
Sir Lionel Barton glanced at what lay upon the floor,
then from Smith to myself, and from me to Inspector Weymouth.
He dropped into one of the few chairs unstacked with books.
"Mr. Smith," he said, with emotion, "what does this mean?
In brief terms Smith detailed the happenings of the night--
or so much as he knew of them. Sir Lionel Barton listened,
sitting quite still the while--an unusual repose in a man
of such evidently tremendous nervous activity.
"He came for the jewels," he said slowly, when Smith was finished;
and his eyes turned to the body of the dead Italian.
"I was wrong to submit him to the temptation. God knows what
Kwee was doing in hiding. Perhaps he had come to murder me,
as you surmise, Mr. Smith, though I find it hard to believe.
But--I don't think this is the handiwork of your Chinese doctor."
He fixed his gaze upon the sarcophagus.
Smith stared at him in surprise. "What do you mean, Sir Lionel?"
The famous traveler continued to look towards the sarcophagus
with something in his blue eyes that might have been dread.
"I received a wire from Professor Rembold to-night," he continued.
"You were correct in supposing that no one but Strozza knew
of my absence. I dressed hurriedly and met the professor at
the Traveler's. He knew that I was to read a paper next week upon"--
again he looked toward the mummy case--"the tomb of Mekara;
and he knew that the sarcophagus had been brought, untouched, to England.
He begged me not to open it."
Nayland Smith was studying the speaker's face.
"What reason did he give for so extraordinary a request?" he asked.
Sir Lionel Barton hesitated.
"One," he replied at last, "which amused me--at the time. I must inform
you that Mekara--whose tomb my agent had discovered during my absence
in Tibet, and to enter which I broke my return journey to Alexandria--
was a high priest and first prophet of Amen--under the Pharaoh of the Exodus;
in short, one of the magicians who contested in magic arts with Moses.
I thought the discovery unique, until Professor Rembold furnished me
with some curious particulars respecting the death of M. Page le Roi,
the French Egyptologist--particulars new to me."
We listened in growing surprise, scarcely knowing to what this tended.
"M. le Roi," continued Barton, "discovered, but kept secret,
the tomb of Amenti--another of this particular brotherhood.
It appears that he opened the mummy case on the spot--
these priests were of royal line, and are buried in the valley
of Biban-le-Moluk. His Fellah and Arab servants deserted him
for some reason--on seeing the mummy case--and he was found dead,
apparently strangled, beside it. The matter was hushed up
by the Egyptian Government. Rembold could not explain why.
But he begged of me not to open the sarcophagus of Mekara."
A silence fell.
The strange facts regarding the sudden death of Page le Roi,
which I now heard for the first time, had impressed me unpleasantly,
coming from a man of Sir Lionel Barton's experience and reputation.
"How long had it lain in the docks?" jerked Smith.
"For two days, I believe. I am not a superstitious man, Mr. Smith,
but neither is Professor Rembold, and now that I know the facts
respecting Page le Roi, I can find it in my heart to thank God
that I did not see . . . whatever came out of that sarcophagus."
Nayland Smith stared him hard in the face. "I am glad you
did not, Sir Lionel," he said; "for whatever the priest Mekara
has to do with the matter, by means of his sarcophagus,
Dr. Fu-Manchu has made his first attempt upon your life.
He has failed, but I hope you will accompany me from here to a hotel.
He will not fail twice."
IT was the night following that of the double tragedy at Rowan House.
Nayland Smith, with Inspector Weymouth, was engaged in some mysterious inquiry
at the docks, and I had remained at home to resume my strange chronicle.
And--why should I not confess it?--my memories had frightened me.
I was arranging my notes respecting the case of Sir Lionel Barton.
They were hopelessly incomplete. For instance, I had jotted down
the following queries:--(1) Did any true parallel exist between the death
of M. Page le Roi and the death of Kwee, the Chinaman, and of Strozza?
(2) What had become of the mummy of Mekara? (3) How had the murderer
escaped from a locked room? (4) What was the purpose of the rubber stopper?
(5) Why was Kwee hiding in the conservatory? (6) Was the green mist
a mere subjective hallucination--a figment of Croxted's imagination--
or had he actually seen it?
Until these questions were satisfactorily answered, further progress
was impossible. Nayland Smith frankly admitted that he was out of his depth.
"It looks, on the face of it, more like a case for the Psychical
Research people than for a plain Civil Servant, lately of Mandalay,"
he had said only that morning.
"Sir Lionel Barton really believes that supernatural agencies were
brought into operation by the opening of the high priest's coffin.
For my part, even if I believed the same, I should still maintain
that Dr. Fu-Manchu controlled those manifestations. But reason
it out for yourself and see if we arrive at any common center.
Don't work so much upon the datum of the green mist, but keep
to the FACTS which are established."
I commenced to knock out my pipe in the ash-tray; then paused,
pipe in hand. The house was quite still, for my landlady
and all the small household were out.
Above the noise of the passing tramcar I thought I had heard the hall
door open. In the ensuing silence I sat and listened.
Not a sound. Stay! I slipped my hand into the table drawer,
took out my revolver, and stood up.
There WAS a sound. Someone or something was creeping upstairs
in the dark!
Familiar with the ghastly media employed by the Chinaman, I was seized
with an impulse to leap to the door, shut and lock it. But the rustling
sound proceeded, now, from immediately outside my partially opened door.
I had not the time to close it; knowing somewhat of the horrors
at the command of Fu-Manchu, I had not the courage to open it.
My heart leaping wildly, and my eyes upon that bar of darkness with its
gruesome potentialities, I waited--waited for whatever was to come.
Perhaps twelve seconds passed in silence.
"Who's there?" I cried. "Answer, or I fire!"
"Ah! no," came a soft voice, thrillingly musical. "Put it down--
that pistol. Quick! I must speak to you."
The door was pushed open, and there entered a slim figure wrapped
in a hooded cloak. My hand fell, and I stood, stricken to silence,
looking into the beautiful dark eyes of Dr. Fu-Manchu's messenger--
if her own statement could be credited, slave. On two occasions
this girl, whose association with the Doctor was one of the most
profound mysteries of the case, had risked--I cannot say what;
unnameable punishment, perhaps--to save me from death; in both cases
from a terrible death. For what was she come now?
Her lips slightly parted, she stood, holding her cloak about her,
and watching me with great passionate eyes.
"How--" I began.
But she shook her head impatiently.
"HE has a duplicate key of the house door," was her amazing statement.
"I have never betrayed a secret of my master before, but you must arrange
to replace the lock."
She came forward and rested her slim hands confidingly upon my shoulders.
"I have come again to ask you to take me away from him," she said simply.
And she lifted her face to me.
Her words struck a chord in my heart which sang with strange music,
with music so barbaric that, frankly, I blushed to find it harmony.
Have I said that she was beautiful? It can convey no faint
conception of her. With her pure, fair skin, eyes like the velvet
darkness of the East, and red lips so tremulously near to mine,
she was the most seductively lovely creature I ever had looked upon.
In that electric moment my heart went out in sympathy to every man
who had bartered honor, country, all for a woman's kiss.
"I will see that you are placed under proper protection,"
I said firmly, but my voice was not quite my own.
"It is quite absurd to talk of slavery here in England.
You are a free agent, or you could not be here now.
Dr. Fu-Manchu cannot control your actions."
"Ah!" she cried, casting back her head scornfully, and releasing a cloud
of hair, through whose softness gleamed a jeweled head-dress. "No?
He cannot? Do you know what it means to have been a slave?
Here, in your free England, do you know what it means--the razzia,
the desert journey, the whips of the drivers, the house of the dealer,
the shame. Bah!"
How beautiful she was in her indignation!
"Slavery is put down, you imagine, perhaps? You do not believe that
to-day--TO-DAY--twenty-five English sovereigns will buy a Galla girl,
who is brown, and"--whisper--"two hundred and fifty a Circassian,
who is white. No, there is no slavery! So! Then what am I?"
She threw open her cloak, and it is a literal fact that I rubbed my eyes,
half believing that I dreamed. For beneath, she was arrayed in gossamer
silk which more than indicated the perfect lines of her slim shape;
wore a jeweled girdle and barbaric ornaments; was a figure fit for the walled
gardens of Stamboul--a figure amazing, incomprehensible, in the prosaic
setting of my rooms.
"To-night I had no time to make myself an English miss,"
she said, wrapping her cloak quickly about her.
"You see me as I am." Her garments exhaled a faint perfume,
and it reminded me of another meeting I had had with her.
I looked into the challenging eyes.
"Your request is but a pretense," I said. "Why do you keep the secrets
of that man, when they mean death to so many?"
"Death! I have seen my own sister die of fever in the desert--
seen her thrown like carrion into a hole in the sand.
I have seen men flogged until they prayed for death as a boon.
I have known the lash myself. Death! What does it matter?"
She shocked me inexpressibly. Enveloped in her cloak again,
and with only her slight accent to betray her, it was dreadful
to hear such words from a girl who, save for her singular type
of beauty, might have been a cultured European.
"Prove, then, that you really wish to leave this man's service.
Tell me what killed Strozza and the Chinaman," I said.
She shrugged her shoulders.
"I do not know that. But if you will carry me off"--she clutched me
nervously--"so that I am helpless, lock me up so that I cannot escape,
beat me, if you like, I will tell you all I do know. While he is
my master I will never betray him. Tear me from him--by force,
do you understand, BY FORCE, and my lips will be sealed no longer.
Ah! but you do not understand, with your `proper authorities'--
your police. Police! Ah, I have said enough."
A clock across the common began to strike. The girl
started and laid her hands upon my shoulders again.
There were tears glittering among the curved black lashes.
"You do not understand," she whispered. "Oh, will you
never understand and release me from him! I must go.
Already I have remained too long. Listen. Go out without delay.
Remain out--at a hotel, where you will, but do not stay here."
"And Nayland Smith?"
"What is he to me, this Nayland Smith? Ah, why will you not unseal my lips?
You are in danger--you hear me, in danger! Go away from here to-night."
She dropped her hands and ran from the room. In the open doorway she turned,
stamping her foot passionately.
"You have hands and arms," she cried, "and yet you let me go.
Be warned, then; fly from here--" She broke off with something
that sounded like a sob.
I made no move to stay her--this beautiful accomplice of the arch-murderer,
Fu-Manchu. I heard her light footsteps paltering down the stairs, I heard
her open and close the door--the door of which Dr. Fu-Manchu held the key.
Still I stood where she had parted from me, and was so standing when a key
grated in the lock and Nayland Smith came running up.
"Did you see her?" I began.
But his face showed that he had not done so, and rapidly I told
him of my strange visitor, of her words, of her warning.
"How can she have passed through London in that costume?"
I cried in bewilderment. "Where can she have come from?"
Smith shrugged his shoulders and began to stuff broad-cut mixture
into the familiar cracked briar.
"She might have traveled in a car or in a cab," he said;
"and undoubtedly she came direct from the house of Dr. Fu-Manchu.
You should have detained her, Petrie. It is the third time we
have had that woman in our power, the third time we have let
her go free."
"Smith," I replied, "I couldn't. She came of her own free will to give
me a warning. She disarms me."
"Because you can see she is in love with you?" he suggested, and burst
into one of his rare laughs when the angry flush rose to my cheek.
"She is, Petrie why pretend to be blind to it? You don't know
the Oriental mind as I do; but I quite understand the girl's position.
She fears the English authorities, but would submit to capture by you!
If you would only seize her by the hair, drag her to some cellar,
hurl her down and stand over her with a whip, she would tell you
everything she knows, and salve her strange Eastern conscience with
the reflection that speech was forced from her. I am not joking;
it is so, I assure you. And she would adore you for your savagery,
deeming you forceful and strong!"
"Smith," I said, "be serious. You know what her warning meant before."
"I can guess what it means now," he rapped. "Hallo!"
Someone was furiously ringing the bell.
"No one at home?" said my friend. "I will go. I think I know
what it is."
A few minutes later he returned, carrying a large square package.
"From Weymouth," he explained, "by district messenger.
I left him behind at the docks, and he arranged to forward any
evidence which subsequently he found. This will be fragments
of the mummy."
"What! You think the mummy was abstracted?"
"Yes, at the docks. I am sure of it; and somebody else
was in the sarcophagus when it reached Rowan House.
A sarcophagus, I find, is practically airtight, so that the use
of the rubber stopper becomes evident--ventilation. How this
person killed Strozza I have yet to learn."
"Also, how he escaped from a locked room. And what about the green mist?"
Nayland Smith spread his hands in a characteristic gesture.
"The green mist, Petrie, can be explained in several ways.
Remember, we have only one man's word that it existed.
It is at best a confusing datum to which we must not attach
a fictitious importance."
He threw the wrappings on the floor and tugged at a twine loop
in the lid of the square box, which now stood upon the table.
Suddenly the lid came away, bringing with it a lead lining,
such as is usual in tea-chests. This lining was partially attached
to one side of the box, so that the action of removing the lid
at once raised and tilted it.
Then happened a singular thing.