Part 4 out of 5
had the heart of a child--this girl who could shoot so straight.
"We must send the police to-night," said Smith.
"Or the papers--"
"Hurry," came the girl's voice commandingly from the darkness
of the cottage.
It was a singular situation. My very soul rebelled against it.
But what could we do?
"Tell us where we can communicate," began Smith.
"Hurry. I shall be suspected. Do you want him to kill me!"
We moved away. All was very still now, and the lights glimmered
faintly ahead. Not a wisp of cloud brushed the moon's disk.
"Good-night, Karamaneh," I whispered softly.
TO pursue further the adventure on the marshes would be a task
at once useless and thankless. In its actual and in its dramatic
significance it concluded with our parting from Karamaneh.
And in that parting I learned what Shakespeare meant
by "Sweet Sorrow."
There was a world, I learned, upon the confines of which I stood,
a world whose very existence hitherto had been unsuspected.
Not the least of the mysteries which peeped from the darkness was
the mystery of the heart of Karamaneh. I sought to forget her.
I sought to remember her. Indeed, in the latter task I found
one more congenial, yet, in the direction and extent of the ideas
which it engendered, one that led me to a precipice.
East and West may not intermingle. As a student of
world-policies, as a physician, I admitted, could not deny,
that truth. Again, if Karamaneh were to be credited,
she had come to Fu-Manchu a slave; had fallen into the hands
of the raiders; had crossed the desert with the slave-drivers;
had known the house of the slave-dealer. Could it be?
With the fading of the crescent of Islam I had thought such
things to have passed.
But if it were so?
At the mere thought of a girl so deliciously beautiful in the brutal
power of slavers, I found myself grinding my teeth--closing my eyes
in a futile attempt to blot out the pictures called up.
Then, at such times, I would find myself discrediting her story.
Again, I would find myself wondering, vaguely, why such problems
persistently haunted my mind. But, always, my heart had an answer.
And I was a medical man, who sought to build up a family practice!--
who, in short, a very little time ago, had thought himself past
the hot follies of youth and entered upon that staid phase of life
wherein the daily problems of the medical profession hold absolute
sway and such seductive follies as dark eyes and red lips find--
no place--are excluded!
But it is foreign from the purpose of this plain record to
enlist sympathy for the recorder. The topic upon which, here,
I have ventured to touch was one fascinating enough to me;
I cannot hope that it holds equal charm for any other.
Let us return to that which it is my duty to narrate and let
us forget my brief digression.
It is a fact, singular, but true, that few Londoners know London.
Under the guidance of my friend, Nayland Smith, I had learned,
since his return from Burma, how there are haunts in the very heart
of the metropolis whose existence is unsuspected by all but the few;
places unknown even to the ubiquitous copy-hunting pressman.
Into a quiet thoroughfare not two minutes' walk from
the pulsing life of Leicester Square, Smith led the way.
Before a door sandwiched in between two dingy shop-fronts
he paused and turned to me.
"Whatever you see or hear," he cautioned, "express no surprise."
A cab had dropped us at the corner. We both wore dark suits and fez
caps with black silk tassels. My complexion had been artificially
reduced to a shade resembling the deep tan of my friend's. He rang
the bell beside the door.
Almost immediately it was opened by a negro woman--gross, hideously ugly.
Smith uttered something in voluble Arabic. As a linguist his
attainments were a constant source of surprise. The jargons
of the East, Far and Near, he spoke as his mother tongue.
The woman immediately displayed the utmost servility, ushering us
into an ill-lighted passage, with every evidence of profound respect.
Following this passage, and passing an inner door,
from beyond whence proceeded bursts of discordant music,
we entered a little room bare of furniture, with coarse matting
for mural decorations, and a patternless red carpet on the floor.
In a niche burned a common metal lamp.
The negress left us, and close upon her departure entered a very aged man
with a long patriarchal beard, who greeted my friend with dignified courtesy.
Following a brief conversation, the aged Arab--for such he appeared to be--
drew aside a strip of matting, revealing a dark recess. Placing his finger
upon his lips, he silently invited us to enter.
We did so, and the mat was dropped behind us. The sounds of crude
music were now much plainer, and as Smith slipped a little shutter
aside I gave a start of surprise.
Beyond lay a fairly large apartment, having divans or low seats around
three of its walls. These divans were occupied by a motley company
of Turks, Egyptians, Greeks, and others; and I noted two Chinese.
Most of them smoked cigarettes, and some were drinking.
A girl was performing a sinuous dance upon the square carpet occupying
the center of the floor, accompanied by a young negro woman upon
a guitar and by several members of the assembly who clapped their
hands to the music or hummed a low, monotonous melody.
Shortly after our entrance into the passage the dance terminated,
and the dancer fled through a curtained door at the farther end of the room.
A buzz of conversation arose.
"It is a sort of combined Wekaleh and place of entertainment for a certain
class of Oriental residents in, or visiting, London," Smith whispered.
"The old gentleman who has just left us is the proprietor or host.
I have been here before on several occasions, but have always drawn blank."
He was peering out eagerly into the strange clubroom.
"Whom do you expect to find here?" I asked.
"It is a recognized meeting-place," said Smith in my ear.
"It is almost a certainty that some of the Fu-Manchu group
use it at times."
Curiously I surveyed all these faces which were visible from the spy-hole.
My eyes rested particularly upon the two Chinamen.
"Do you recognize anyone?" I whispered.
Smith was craning his neck so as to command a sight of the doorway.
He obstructed my view, and only by his tense attitude and some
subtle wave of excitement which he communicated to me did I know
that a new arrival was entering. The hum of conversation died away,
and in the ensuing silence I heard the rustle of draperies.
The newcomer was a woman, then. Fearful of making any noise I yet
managed to get my eyes to the level of the shutter.
A woman in an elegant, flame-colored opera cloak was crossing the floor
and coming in the direction of the spot where we were concealed.
She wore a soft silk scarf about her head, a fold partly draped across
her face. A momentary view I had of her--and wildly incongruous
she looked in that place--and she had disappeared from sight,
having approached someone invisible who sat upon the divan immediately
beneath our point of vantage.
From the way in which the company gazed towards her, I divined that she
was no habitue of the place, but that her presence there was as greatly
surprising to those in the room as it was to me.
Whom could she be, this elegant lady who visited such a haunt--
who, it would seem, was so anxious to disguise her identity,
but who was dressed for a society function rather than for a
midnight expedition of so unusual a character?
I began a whispered question, but Smith tugged at my arm to silence me.
His excitement was intense. Had his keener powers enabled him
to recognize the unknown?
A faint but most peculiar perfume stole to my nostrils, a perfume
which seemed to contain the very soul of Eastern mystery.
Only one woman known to me used that perfume--Karamaneh.
Then it was she!
At last my friend's vigilance had been rewarded. Eagerly I bent forward.
Smith literally quivered in anticipation of a discovery. Again the strange
perfume was wafted to our hiding-place; and, glancing neither to right
nor left, I saw Karamaneh--for that it was she I no longer doubted--
recross the room and disappear.
"The man she spoke to," hissed Smith. "We must see him!
We must have him!"
He pulled the mat aside and stepped out into the anteroom.
It was empty. Down the passage he led, and we were almost come
to the door of the big room when it was thrown open and a man came
rapidly out, opened the street door before Smith could reach him,
and was gone, slamming it fast.
I can swear that we were not four seconds behind him, but when we gained
the street it was empty. Our quarry had disappeared as if by magic.
A big car was just turning the corner towards Leicester Square.
"That is the girl," rapped Smith; "but where in Heaven's
name is the man to whom she brought the message?
I would give a hundred pounds to know what business is afoot.
To think that we have had such an opportunity and have
thrown it away!"
Angry and nonplused he stood at the corner, looking in the direction
of the crowded thoroughfare into which the car had been driven, tugging at
the lobe of his ear, as was his habit in such moments of perplexity,
and sharply clicking his teeth together. I, too, was very thoughtful.
Clews were few enough in those days of our war with that giant antagonist.
The mere thought that our trifling error of judgment tonight in tarrying
a moment too long might mean the victory of Fu-Manchu, might mean the turning
of the balance which a wise providence had adjusted between the white
and yellow races, was appalling.
To Smith and me, who knew something of the secret influences
at work to overthrow the Indian Empire, to place, it might be,
the whole of Europe and America beneath an Eastern rule,
it seemed that a great yellow hand was stretched out over London.
Doctor Fu-Manchu was a menace to the civilized world.
Yet his very existence remained unsuspected by the millions
whose fate he sought to command.
"Into what dark scheme have we had a glimpse?" said Smith.
"What State secret is to be filched? What faithful servant
of the British Raj to be spirited away? Upon whom now has
Fu-Manchu set his death seal?"
"Karamaneh on this occasion may not have been acting as an emissary
of the Doctor's."
"I feel assured that she was, Petrie. Of the many whom this yellow
cloud may at any moment envelop, to which one did her message refer?
The man's instructions were urgent. Witness his hasty departure.
Curse it!" He dashed his right clenched fist into the palm of his
left hand. "I never had a glimpse of his face, first to last.
To think of the hours I have spent in that place, in anticipation
of just such a meeting--only to bungle the opportunity when it arose!"
Scarce heeding what course we followed, we had come now to Piccadilly
Circus, and had walked out into the heart of the night's traffic.
I just dragged Smith aside in time to save him from the off-front
wheel of a big Mercedes. Then the traffic was blocked, and we found
ourselves dangerously penned in amidst the press of vehicles.
Somehow we extricated ourselves, jeered at by taxi-drivers,
who naturally took us for two simple Oriental visitors,
and just before that impassable barrier the arm of a London
policeman was lowered and the stream moved on a faint breath
of perfume became perceptible to me.
The cabs and cars about us were actually beginning to move again,
and there was nothing for it but a hasty retreat to the curb.
I could not pause to glance behind, but instinctively I knew
that someone--someone who used that rare, fragrant essence--
was leaning from the window of the car.
"ANDAMAN--SECOND!" floated a soft whisper.
We gained the pavement as the pent-up traffic roared upon its way.
Smith had not noticed the perfume worn by the unseen
occupant of the car, had not detected the whispered words.
But I had no reason to doubt my senses, and I knew beyond
question that Fu-Manchu's lovely slave, Karamaneh, had been
within a yard of us, had recognized us, and had uttered
those words for our guidance.
On regaining my rooms, we devoted a whole hour to considering
what "ANDAMAN--SECOND" could possibly mean.
"Hang it all!" cried Smith, "it might mean anything--
the result of a race, for instance."
He burst into one of his rare laughs, and began to stuff broadcut mixture
into his briar. I could see that he had no intention of turning in.
"I can think of no one--no one of note--in London at present
upon whom it is likely that Fu-Manchu would make an attempt,"
he said, "except ourselves."
We began methodically to go through the long list of names
which we had compiled and to review our elaborate notes.
When, at last, I turned in, the night had given place to a new day.
But sleep evaded me, and "ANDAMAN--SECOND" danced like a
mocking phantom through my brain.
Then I heard the telephone bell. I heard Smith speaking.
A minute afterwards he was in my room, his face very grim.
"I knew as well as if I'd seen it with my own eyes that some
black business was afoot last night," he said. "And it was.
Within pistol-shot of us! Someone has got at Frank Norris West.
Inspector Weymouth has just been on the 'phone."
"Norris West!" I cried, "the American aviator--and inventor--"
"Of the West aero-torpedo--yes. He's been offering it to the English
War Office, and they have delayed too long."
I got out of bed.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that the potentialities have attracted the attention
of Dr. Fu-Manchu!"
Those words operated electrically. I do not know how long I was in dressing,
how long a time elapsed ere the cab for which Smith had 'phoned arrived,
how many precious minutes were lost upon the journey; but, in a nervous whirl,
these things slipped into the past, like the telegraph poles seen from
the window of an express, and, still in that tense state, we came upon
the scene of this newest outrage.
Mr. Norris West, whose lean, stoic face had latterly figured so often
in the daily press, lay upon the floor in the little entrance hall
of his chambers, flat upon his back, with the telephone receiver
in his hand.
The outer door had been forced by the police. They had
had to remove a piece of the paneling to get at the bolt.
A medical man was leaning over the recumbent figure in the striped
pajama suit, and Detective-Inspector Weymouth stood watching
him as Smith and I entered.
"He has been heavily drugged," said the Doctor, sniffing at
West's lips, "but I cannot say what drug has been used.
It isn't chloroform or anything of that nature.
He can safely be left to sleep it off, I think."
I agreed, after a brief examination.
"It's most extraordinary," said Weymouth. "He rang up the Yard
about an hour ago and said his chambers had been invaded by Chinamen.
Then the man at the 'phone plainly heard him fall. When we got here his
front door was bolted, as you've seen, and the windows are three floors up.
Nothing is disturbed."
"The plans of the aero-torpedo?" rapped Smith.
"I take it they are in the safe in his bedroom,"
replied the detective, "and that is locked all right. I think
he must have taken an overdose of something and had illusions.
But in case there was anything in what he mumbled (you could
hardly understand him) I thought it as well to send for you."
"Quite right," said Smith rapidly. His eyes shone like steel.
"Lay him on the bed, Inspector."
It was done, and my friend walked into the bedroom.
Save that the bed was disordered, showing that West had been
sleeping in it, there were no evidences of the extraordinary
invasion mentioned by the drugged man. It was a small room--
the chambers were of that kind which are let furnished--and very neat.
A safe with a combination lock stood in a corner. The window was open
about a foot at the top. Smith tried the safe and found it fast.
He stood for a moment clicking his teeth together, by which I knew
him to be perplexed. He walked over to the window and threw it up.
We both looked out.
"You see," came Weymouth's voice, "it is altogether too far from
the court below for our cunning Chinese friends to have fixed a ladder
with one of their bamboo rod arrangements. And, even if they could
get up there, it's too far down from the roof--two more stories--
for them to have fixed it from there."
Smith nodded thoughtfully, at the same time trying the strength of an iron
bar which ran from side to side of the window-sill. Suddenly he stooped,
with a sharp exclamation. Bending over his shoulder I saw what it was
that had attracted his attention.
Clearly imprinted upon the dust-coated gray stone of the sill was a confused
series of marks--tracks call them what you will.
Smith straightened himself and turned a wondering look upon me.
"What is it, Petrie?" he said amazedly. "Some kind of bird has been here,
and recently." Inspector Weymouth in turn examined the marks.
"I never saw bird tracks like these, Mr. Smith," he muttered.
Smith was tugging at the lobe of his ear.
"No," he returned reflectively; "come to think of it, neither did I."
He twisted around, looking at the man on the bed.
"Do you think it was all an illusion?" asked the detective.
"What about those marks on the window-sill?" jerked Smith.
He began restlessly pacing about the room, sometimes stopping
before the locked safe and frequently glancing at Norris West.
Suddenly he walked out and briefly examined the other apartments,
only to return again to the bedroom.
"Petrie," he said, "we are losing valuable time.
West must be aroused."
Inspector Weymouth stared.
Smith turned to me impatiently. The doctor summoned by the police had gone.
"Is there no means of arousing him, Petrie?" he said.
"Doubtless," I replied, "he could be revived if one but knew
what drug he had taken."
My friend began his restless pacing again, and suddenly pounced upon
a little phial of tabloids which had been hidden behind some books
on a shelf near the bed. He uttered a triumphant exclamation.
"See what we have here, Petrie!" he directed, handing the phial to me.
"It bears no label."
I crushed one of the tabloids in my palm and applied my tongue
to the powder.
"Some preparation of chloral hydrate," I pronounced.
"A sleeping draught?" suggested Smith eagerly.
"We might try," I said, and scribbled a formula upon a leaf of my notebook.
I asked Weymouth to send the man who accompanied him to call up the nearest
chemist and procure the antidote.
During the man's absence Smith stood contemplating the unconscious inventor,
a peculiar expression upon his bronzed face.
"ANDAMAN--SECOND," he muttered. "Shall we find the key
to the riddle here, I wonder?"
Inspector Weymouth, who had concluded, I think, that the mysterious
telephone call was due to mental aberration on the part of Norris West,
was gnawing at his mustache impatiently when his assistant returned.
I administered the powerful restorative, and although,
as later transpired, chloral was not responsible for West's condition,
the antidote operated successfully.
Norris West struggled into a sitting position, and looked about him
with haggard eyes.
"The Chinamen! The Chinamen!" he muttered.
He sprang to his feet, glaring wildly at Smith and me, reeled,
and almost fell.
"It is all right," I said, supporting him. "I'm a doctor.
You have been unwell."
"Have the police come?" he burst out. "The safe--try the safe!"
"It's all right," said Inspector Weymouth. "The safe is locked--
unless someone else knows the combination, there's nothing
to worry about."
"No one else knows it," said West, and staggered unsteadily to the safe.
Clearly his mind was in a dazed condition, but, setting his jaw with
a curious expression of grim determination, he collected his thoughts
and opened the safe.
He bent down, looking in.
In some way the knowledge came to me that the curtain was about to rise
on a new and surprising act in the Fu-Manchu drama.
"God!" he whispered--we could scarcely hear him--"the plans are gone!"
I HAVE never seen a man quite so surprised as Inspector Weymouth.
"This is absolutely incredible!" he said. "There's only one door
to your chambers. We found it bolted from the inside."
"Yes," groaned West, pressing his hand to his forehead.
"I bolted it myself at eleven o'clock, when I came in."
"No human being could climb up or down to your windows.
The plans of the aero-torpedo were inside a safe."
"I put them there myself," said West, "on returning from the War Office,
and I had occasion to consult them after I had come in and bolted the door.
I returned them to the safe and locked it. That it was still locked you
saw for yourselves, and no one else in the world knows the combination."
"But the plans have gone," said Weymouth. "It's magic! How was it done?
What happened last night, sir? What did you mean when you rang us up?"
Smith during this colloquy was pacing rapidly up and down the room.
He turned abruptly to the aviator.
"Every fact you can remember, Mr. West, please," he said tersely;
"and be as brief as you possibly can."
"I came in, as I said," explained West "about eleven o'clock and having
made some notes relating to an interview arranged for this morning,
I locked the plans in the safe and turned in."
"There was no one hidden anywhere in your chambers?" snapped Smith.
"There was not," replied West. "I looked. I invariably do.
Almost immediately, I went to sleep."
"How many chloral tabloids did you take?" I interrupted.
Norris West turned to me with a slow smile.
"You're cute, Doctor," he said. "I took two. It's a bad habit,
but I can't sleep without. They are specially made up for me
by a firm in Philadelphia."
"How long sleep lasted, when it became filled with uncanny dreams,
and when those dreams merged into reality, I do not know--
shall never know, I suppose. But out of the dreamless void
a face came to me--closer--closer--and peered into mine.
"I was in that curious condition wherein one knows
that one is dreaming and seeks to awaken--to escape.
But a nightmare-like oppression held me. So I must lie
and gaze into the seared yellow face that hung over me,
for it would drop so close that I could trace the cicatrized
scar running from the left ear to the corner of the mouth,
and drawing up the lip like the lip of a snarling cur.
I could look into the malignant, jaundiced eyes;
I could hear the dim whispering of the distorted mouth--
whispering that seemed to counsel something--something evil.
That whispering intimacy was indescribably repulsive.
Then the wicked yellow face would be withdrawn, and would recede
until it became as a pin's head in the darkness far above me--
almost like a glutinous, liquid thing.
"Somehow I got upon my feet, or dreamed I did--God knows where dreaming ended
and reality began. Gentlemen maybe you'll conclude I went mad last night,
but as I stood holding on to the bedrail I heard the blood throbbing through
my arteries with a noise like a screw-propeller. I started laughing.
The laughter issued from my lips with a shrill whistling sound that pierced
me with physical pain and seemed to wake the echoes of the whole block.
I thought myself I was going mad, and I tried to command my will--
to break the power of the chloral--for I concluded that I had accidentally
taken an overdose.
"Then the walls of my bedroom started to recede, till at last I
stood holding on to a bed which had shrunk to the size of a
doll's cot, in the middle of a room like Trafalgar Square!
That window yonder was such a long way off I could scarcely see it,
but I could just detect a Chinaman--the owner of the evil
yellow face--creeping through it. He was followed by another,
who was enormously tall--so tall that, as they came towards me
(and it seemed to take them something like half-an-hour to cross
this incredible apartment in my dream), the second Chinaman
seemed to tower over me like a cypress-tree.
"I looked up to his face--his wicked, hairless face.
Mr. Smith, whatever age I live to, I'll never forget
that face I saw last night--or did I see it? God knows!
The pointed chin, the great dome of a forehead, and the eyes--
heavens above, the huge green eyes!"
He shook like a sick man, and I glanced at Smith significantly.
Inspector Weymouth was stroking his mustache, and his mingled
expression of incredulity and curiosity was singular to behold.
"The pumping of my blood," continued West, "seemed to be
bursting my body; the room kept expanding and contracting.
One time the ceiling would be pressing down on my head,
and the Chinamen--sometimes I thought there were two of them,
sometimes twenty--became dwarfs; the next instant it shot up
like the roof of a cathedral.
"`Can I be awake,' I whispered, `or am I dreaming?'
"My whisper went sweeping in windy echoes about the walls,
and was lost in the shadowy distances up under the invisible roof.
"`You are dreaming--yes.' It was the Chinaman with the green
eyes who was addressing me, and the words that he uttered
appeared to occupy an immeasurable time in the utterance.
'But at will I can render the subjective objective.'
I don't think I can have dreamed those singular words, gentlemen.
"And then he fixed the green eyes upon me--the blazing green eyes.
I made no attempt to move. They seemed to be draining me
of something vital--bleeding me of every drop of mental power.
The whole nightmare room grew green, and I felt that I was being
absorbed into its greenness.
"I can see what you think. And even in my delirium--
if it was delirium--I thought the same. Now comes the climax
of my experience--my vision--I don't know what to call it.
I SAW some WORDS issuing from my own mouth!"
Inspector Weymouth coughed discreetly. Smith whisked round upon him.
"This will be outside your experience, Inspector, I know," he said,
"but Mr. Norris West's statement does not surprise me in the least.
I know to what the experience was due."
Weymouth stared incredulously, but a dawning perception of the truth
was come to me, too.
"How I SAW a SOUND I just won't attempt to explain;
I simply tell you I saw it. Somehow I knew I had betrayed myself--
given something away."
"You gave away the secret of the lock combination!" rapped Smith.
"Eh!" grunted Weymouth.
But West went on hoarsely:
"Just before the blank came a name flashed before my eyes.
It was `Bayard Taylor.'"
At that I interrupted West.
"I understand!" I cried. "I understand! Another name has just occurred
to me, Mr. West--that of the Frenchman, Moreau."
"You have solved the mystery," said Smith. "It was natural
Mr. West should have thought of the American traveler,
Bayard Taylor, though. Moreau's book is purely scientific.
He has probably never read it."
"I fought with the stupor that was overcoming me," continued West,
"striving to associate that vaguely familiar name with the fantastic things
through which I moved. It seemed to me that the room was empty again.
I made for the hall, for the telephone. I could scarcely drag my feet along.
It seemed to take me half-an-hour to get there. I remember calling up
Scotland Yard, and I remember no more."
There was a short, tense interval.
In some respects I was nonplused; but, frankly, I think Inspector Weymouth
considered West insane. Smith, his hands locked behind his back,
stared out of the window.
"ANDAMAN--SECOND" he said suddenly. "Weymouth, when is the first
train to Tilbury?"
"Five twenty-two from Fenchurch Street," replied the Scotland
Yard man promptly.
"Too late!" rapped my friend. "Jump in a taxi and pick up
two good men to leave for China at once! Then go and charter
a special to Tilbury to leave in twenty-five minutes.
Order another cab to wait outside for me."
Weymouth was palpably amazed, but Smith's tone was imperative.
The Inspector departed hastily.
I stared at Smith, not comprehending what prompted this singular course.
"Now that you can think clearly, Mr. West," he said, "of what
does your experience remind you? The errors of perception
regarding time; the idea of SEEING A SOUND; the illusion
that the room alternately increased and diminished in size;
your fit of laughter, and the recollection of the name Bayard Taylor.
Since evidently you are familiar with that author's work--
'The Land of the Saracen,' is it not?--these symptoms of the attack
should be familiar, I think."
Norris West pressed his hands to his evidently aching head.
"Bayard Taylor's book," he said dully. "Yes! . . . I know of what my
brain sought to remind me--Taylor's account of his experience under
hashish. Mr. Smith, someone doped me with hashish!"
Smith nodded grimly.
"Cannabis indica," I said--"Indian hemp. That is what you were drugged
with. I have no doubt that now you experience a feeling of nausea and
intense thirst, with aching in the muscles, particularly the deltoid.
I think you must have taken at least fifteen grains."
Smith stopped his perambulations immediately in front of West,
looking into his dulled eyes.
"Someone visited your chambers last night," he said slowly,
"and for your chloral tabloids substituted some containing hashish,
or perhaps not pure hashish. Fu-Manchu is a profound chemist."
Norris West started.
"Someone substituted--" he began.
"Exactly," said Smith, looking at him keenly; "someone who was
here yesterday. Have you any idea whom it could have been?"
West hesitated. "I had a visitor in the afternoon," he said,
seemingly speaking the words unwillingly, "but--"
"A lady?" jerked Smith. "I suggest that it was a lady."
"You're quite right," he admitted. "I don't know how you arrived
at the conclusion, but a lady whose acquaintance I made recently--
a foreign lady."
"Karamaneh!" snapped Smith.
"I don't know what you mean in the least, but she came here--
knowing this to be my present address--to ask me to protect her from
a mysterious man who had followed her right from Charing Cross.
She said he was down in the lobby, and naturally, I asked her to wait
here whilst I went and sent him about his business."
He laughed shortly.
"I am over-old," he said, "to be guyed by a woman.
You spoke just now of someone called Fu-Manchu. Is
that the crook I'm indebted to for the loss of my plans?
I've had attempts made by agents of two European governments,
but a Chinaman is a novelty."
"This Chinaman," Smith assured him, "is the greatest novelty of his age.
You recognize your symptoms now from Bayard Taylor's account?"
"Mr. West's statement," I said, "ran closely parallel
with portions of Moreau's book on `Hashish Hallucinations.'
Only Fu-Manchu, I think, would have thought of employing Indian hemp.
I doubt, though, if it was pure Cannabis indica. At any rate,
it acted as an opiate--"
"And drugged Mr. West," interrupted Smith, "sufficiently to enable
Fu-Manchu to enter unobserved."
"Whilst it produced symptoms which rendered him an easy subject
for the Doctor's influence. It is difficult in this case to separate
hallucination from reality, but I think, Mr. West, that Fu-Manchu
must have exercised an hypnotic influence upon your drugged brain.
We have evidence that he dragged from you the secret of the combination."
"God knows we have!" said West. "But who is this Fu-Manchu, and how--
how in the name of wonder did he get into my chambers?"
Smith pulled out his watch. "That," he said rapidly, "I cannot
delay to explain if I'm to intercept the man who has the plans.
Come along, Petrie; we must be at Tilbury within the hour.
There is just a bare chance."
IT was with my mind in a condition of unique perplexity that I hurried
with Nayland Smith into the cab which waited and dashed off through
the streets in which the busy life of London just stirred into being.
I suppose I need not say that I could penetrate no farther into this,
Fu-Manchu's latest plot, than the drugging of Norris West with hashish?
Of his having been so drugged with Indian hemp--that is,
converted temporarily into a maniac--would have been evident to any
medical man who had heard his statement and noted the distressing
after-effects which conclusively pointed to Indian hemp poisoning.
Knowing something of the Chinese doctor's powers, I could understand that
he might have extracted from West the secret of the combination by sheer
force of will whilst the American was under the influence of the drug.
But I could not understand how Fu-Manchu had gained access to locked
chambers on the third story of a building.
"Smith," I said, "those bird tracks on the window-sill--
they furnish the key to a mystery which is puzzling me."
"They do," said Smith, glancing impatiently at his watch.
"Consult your memories of Dr. Fu-Manchu's habits--especially your
memories of his pets."
I reviewed in my mind the creatures gruesome and terrible which
surrounded the Chinaman--the scorpions, the bacteria, the noxious
things which were the weapons wherewith he visited death upon
whomsoever opposed the establishment of a potential Yellow Empire.
But no one of them could account for the imprints upon the dust
of West's window-sill.
"You puzzle me, Smith," I confessed. "There is much in this extraordinary
case that puzzles me. I can think of nothing to account for the marks."
"Have you thought of Fu-Manchu's marmoset?" asked Smith.
"The monkey!" I cried.
"They were the footprints of a small ape," my friend continued.
"For a moment I was deceived as you were, and believed them
to be the tracks of a large bird; but I have seen the footprints
of apes before now, and a marmoset, though an American variety,
I believe, is not unlike some of the apes of Burma."
"I am still in the dark," I said.
"It is pure hypothesis," continued Smith, "but here is the theory--
in lieu of a better one it covers the facts. The marmoset--
and it is contrary from the character of Fu-Manchu to keep any
creature for mere amusement--is trained to perform certain duties.
"You observed the waterspout running up beside the window; you observed
the iron bar intended to prevent a window-cleaner from falling out?
For an ape the climb from the court below to the sill above was
a simple one. He carried a cord, probably attached to his body.
He climbed on to the sill, over the bar, and climbed down again.
By means of this cord a rope was pulled up over the bar,
by means of the rope one of those ladders of silk and bamboo.
One of the Doctor's servants ascended--probably to
ascertain if the hashish had acted successfully.
That was the yellow dream-face which West saw bending over him.
Then followed the Doctor, and to his giant will the drugged brain
of West was a pliant instrument which he bent to his own ends.
The court would be deserted at that hour of the night, and,
in any event, directly after the ascent the ladder probably
was pulled up, only to be lowered again when West had revealed
the secret of his own safe and Fu-Manchu had secured the plans.
The reclosing of the safe and the removing of the hashish tabloids,
leaving no clew beyond the delirious ravings of a drug slave--
for so anyone unacquainted with the East must have construed
West's story--is particularly characteristic. His own tabloids
were returned, of course. The sparing of his life alone is
a refinement of art which points to a past master."
"Karamaneh was the decoy again?" I said shortly.
"Certainly. Hers was the task to ascertain West's habits and to
substitute the tabloids. She it was who waited in the luxurious car--
infinitely less likely to attract attention at that hour in
that place than a modest taxi--and received the stolen plans.
She did her work well.
"Poor Karamaneh; she had no alternative! I said I would have given a hundred
pounds for a sight of the messenger's face--the man to whom she handed them.
I would give a thousand now!"
"ANDAMAN--SECOND," I said. "What did she mean?"
"Then it has not dawned upon you?" cried Smith excitedly, as the cab
turned into the station. "The ANDAMAN, of the Oriental Navigation
Company's line, leaves Tilbury with the next tide for China ports.
Our man is a second-class passenger. I am wiring to delay her departure,
and the special should get us to the docks inside of forty minutes."
Very vividly I can reconstruct in my mind that dash to the docks
through the early autumn morning. My friend being invested
with extraordinary powers from the highest authorities,
by Inspector Weymouth's instructions the line had been cleared
all the way.
Something of the tremendous importance of Nayland Smith's mission came home
to me as we hurried on to the platform, escorted by the station-master,
and the five of us--for Weymouth had two other C.I.D. men with him--
took our seats in the special.
Off we went on top speed, roaring through stations,
where a glimpse might be had of wondering officials upon
the platforms, for a special train was a novelty on the line.
All ordinary traffic arrangements were held up until we had
passed through, and we reached Tilbury in time which I doubt
not constituted a record.
There at the docks was the great liner, delayed in her passage
to the Far East by the will of my royally empowered companion.
It was novel, and infinitely exciting.
"Mr. Commissioner Nayland Smith?" said the captain interrogatively,
when we were shown into his room, and looked from one to another and back
to the telegraph form which he held in his hand.
"The same, Captain," said my friend briskly. "I shall not detain
you a moment. I am instructing the authorities at all ports
east of Suez to apprehend one of your second-class passengers,
should he leave the ship. He is in possession of plans
which practically belong to the British Government!"
"Why not arrest him now?" asked the seaman bluntly.
"Because I don't know him. All second-class passengers'
baggage will be searched as they land. I am hoping something from that,
if all else fails. But I want you privately to instruct your stewards
to watch any passenger of Oriental nationality, and to cooperate
with the two Scotland Yard men who are joining you for the voyage.
I look to you to recover these plans, Captain."
"I will do my best," the captain assured him.
Then, from amid the heterogeneous group on the dockside, we were watching
the liner depart, and Nayland Smith's expression was a very singular one.
Inspector Weymouth stood with us, a badly puzzled man. Then occurred
the extraordinary incident which to this day remains inexplicable, for,
clearly heard by all three of us, a guttural voice said:
"Another victory for China, Mr. Nayland Smith!"
I turned as though I had been stung. Smith turned also.
My eyes passed from face to face of the group about us.
None was familiar. No one apparently had moved away.
But the voice was the voice of DOCTOR FU-MANCHU.
As I write of it, now, I can appreciate the difference
between that happening, as it appealed to us, and as it must
appeal to you who merely read of it. It is beyond my powers
to convey the sense of the uncanny which the episode created.
Yet, even as I think of it, I feel again, though in lesser degree,
the chill which seemed to creep through my veins that day.
From my brief history of the wonderful and evil man who once walked,
by the way unsuspected, in the midst of the people of England--
near whom you, personally, may at some time unwittingly, have been--
I am aware that much must be omitted. I have no space for lengthy
examinations of the many points but ill illuminated with which it is dotted.
This incident at the docks is but one such point.
Another is the singular vision which appeared to me whilst I lay in
the cellar of the house near Windsor. It has since struck me that it
possessed peculiarities akin to those of a hashish hallucination.
Can it be that we were drugged on that occasion with Indian hemp? Cannabis
indica is a treacherous narcotic, as every medical man knows full well;
but Fu-Manchu's knowledge of the drug was far in advance of our slow science.
West's experience proved so much.
I may have neglected opportunities--later, you shall judge if I did so--
opportunities to glean for the West some of the strange knowledge of
the secret East. Perhaps, at a future time, I may rectify my errors.
Perhaps that wisdom--the wisdom stored up by Fu-Manchu--is lost forever.
There is, however, at least a bare possibility of its survival, in part;
and I do not wholly despair of one day publishing a scientific sequel
to this record of our dealings with the Chinese doctor.
TIME wore on and seemingly brought us no nearer, or very little nearer,
to our goal. So carefully had my friend Nayland Smith excluded
the matter from the press that, whilst public interest was much engaged
with some of the events in the skein of mystery which he had come from
Burma to unravel, outside the Secret Service and the special department
of Scotland Yard few people recognized that the several murders,
robberies and disappearances formed each a link in a chain; fewer still
were aware that a baneful presence was in our midst, that a past
master of the evil arts lay concealed somewhere in the metropolis;
searched for by the keenest wits which the authorities could direct
to the task, but eluding all-triumphant, contemptuous.
One link in that chain Smith himself for long failed to recognize.
Yet it was a big and important link.
"Petrie," he said to me one morning, "listen to this:
"`. . .In sight of Shanghai--a clear, dark night. On board the deck of a junk
passing close to seaward of the Andaman a blue flare started up.
A minute later there was a cry of "Man overboard!"
"`Mr. Lewin, the chief officer, who was in charge, stopped the engines.
A boat was put out. But no one was recovered. There are sharks
in these waters. A fairly heavy sea was running.
"`Inquiry showed the missing man to be a James Edwards,
second class, booked to Shanghai. I think the name was assumed.
The man was some sort of Oriental, and we had had him
under close observation. . . .'"
"That's the end of their report," exclaimed Smith.
He referred to the two C.I.D. men who had joined the Andaman
at the moment of her departure from Tilbury.
He carefully lighted his pipe.
"IS it a victory for China, Petrie?" he said softly.
"Until the great war reveals her secret resources--and I pray that the day
be not in my time--we shall never know," I replied.
Smith began striding up and down the room,
"Whose name," he jerked abruptly, "stands now at the head
of our danger list?"
He referred to a list which we had compiled of the notable men intervening
between the evil genius who secretly had invaded London and the triumph
of his cause--the triumph of the yellow races.
I glanced at our notes. "Lord Southery," I replied.
Smith tossed the morning paper across to me.
"Look," he said shortly. "He's dead."
I read the account of the peer's death, and glanced at
the long obituary notice; but no more than glanced at it.
He had but recently returned from the East, and now, after a
short illness, had died from some affection of the heart.
There had been no intimation that his illness was of a
serious nature, and even Smith, who watched over his flock--
the flock threatened by the wolf, Fu-Manchu--with jealous zeal,
had not suspected that the end was so near.
"Do you think he died a natural death, Smith?" I asked.
My friend reached across the table and rested the tip of a long
ringer upon one of the sub-headings to the account:
"SIR FRANK NARCOMBE SUMMONED TOO LATE."
"You see," said Smith, "Southery died during the night,
but Sir Frank Narcombe, arriving a few minutes later,
unhesitatingly pronounced death to be due to syncope,
and seems to have noticed nothing suspicious."
I looked at him thoughtfully.
"Sir Frank is a great physician," I said slowly; "but we must
remember he would be looking for nothing suspicious."
"We must remember," rapped Smith, "that, if Dr. Fu-Manchu
is responsible for Southery's death, except to the eye
of an expert there would be nothing suspicious to see.
Fu-Manchu leaves no clews."
"Are you going around?" I asked.
Smith shrugged his shoulders.
"I think not," he replied. "Either a greater One than Fu-Manchu
has taken Lord Southery, or the yellow doctor has done his work
so well that no trace remains of his presence in the matter."
Leaving his breakfast untasted, he wandered aimlessly about the room,
littering the hearth with matches as he constantly relighted his pipe,
which went out every few minutes.
"It's no good, Petrie," he burst out suddenly; "it cannot be a coincidence.
We must go around and see him."
An hour later we stood in the silent room, with its drawn blinds and
its deathful atmosphere, looking down at the pale, intellectual face
of Henry Stradwick, Lord Southery, the greatest engineer of his day.
The mind that lay behind that splendid brow had planned the construction
of the railway for which Russia had paid so great a price, had conceived
the scheme for the canal which, in the near future, was to bring
two great continents, a full week's journey nearer one to the other.
But now it would plan no more.
"He had latterly developed symptoms of angina pectoris,"
explained the family physician; "but I had not anticipated a fatal
termination so soon. I was called about two o'clock this morning,
and found Lord Southery in a dangerously exhausted condition.
I did all that was possible, and Sir Frank Narcombe was sent for.
But shortly before his arrival the patient expired."
"I understand, Doctor, that you had been treating Lord Southery
for angina pectoris?" I said.
"Yes," was the reply, "for some months."
"You regard the circumstances of his end as entirely consistent
with a death from that cause?"
"Certainly. Do you observe anything unusual yourself?
Sir Frank Narcombe quite agrees with me. There is surely
no room for doubt?"
"No," said Smith, tugging reflectively at the lobe of his left ear.
"We do not question the accuracy of your diagnosis in any way, sir."
The physician seemed puzzled.
"But am I not right in supposing that you are connected with the police?"
asked the physician.
"Neither Dr. Petrie nor myself are in any way connected with the police,"
answered Smith. "But, nevertheless, I look to you to regard our recent
questions as confidential."
As we were leaving the house, hushed awesomely in deference to the unseen
visitor who had touched Lord Southery with gray, cold fingers, Smith paused,
detaining a black-coated man who passed us on the stairs.
"You were Lord Southery's valet?"
The man bowed.
"Were you in the room at the moment of his fatal seizure?"
"I was, sir."
"Did you see or hear anything unusual--anything unaccountable?"
"No strange sounds outside the house, for instance?"
The man shook his head, and Smith, taking my arm, passed out into the street.
"Perhaps this business is making me imaginative," he said;
"but there seems to be something tainting the air in yonder--
something peculiar to houses whose doors bear the invisible
death-mark of Fu-Manchu."
"You are right, Smith!" I cried. "I hesitated to mention the matter, but I,
too, have developed some other sense which warns me of the Doctor's presence.
Although there is not a scrap of confirmatory evidence, I am as sure that he
has brought about Lord Southery's death as if I had seen him strike the blow."
It was in that torturing frame of mind--chained, helpless,
in our ignorance, or by reason of the Chinaman's
supernormal genius--that we lived throughout the ensuing days.
My friend began to look like a man consumed by a burning fever.
Yet, we could not act.
In the growing dark of an evening shortly following I
stood idly turning over some of the works exposed for sale
outside a second-hand bookseller's in New Oxford Street.
One dealing with the secret societies of China struck me
as being likely to prove instructive, and I was about to call
the shopman when I was startled to feel a hand clutch my arm.
I turned around rapidly--and was looking into the darkly beautiful
eyes of Karamaneh! She--whom I had seen in so many guises--
was dressed in a perfectly fitting walking habit, and had much
of her wonderful hair concealed beneath a fashionable hat.
She glanced about her apprehensively.
"Quick! Come round the corner. I must speak to you," she said,
her musical voice thrilling with excitement.
I never was quite master of myself in her presence.
He must have been a man of ice who could have been,
I think for her beauty had all the bouquet of rarity;
she was a mystery--and mystery adds charm to a woman.
Probably she should have been under arrest, but I know I would
have risked much to save her from it.
As we turned into a quiet thoroughfare she stopped and said:
"I am in distress. You have often asked me to enable you to capture
Dr. Fu-Manchu. I am prepared to do so."
I could scarcely believe that I heard right.
"Your brother--" I began.
She seized my arm entreatingly, looking into my eyes.
"You are a doctor," she said. "I want you to come and see him now."
"What! Is he in London?"
"He is at the house of Dr. Fu-Manchu."
"And you would have me--"
"Accompany me there, yes."
Nayland Smith, I doubted not, would have counseled me against
trusting my life in the hands of this girl with the pleading eyes.
Yet I did so, and with little hesitation; shortly we were traveling
eastward in a closed cab. Karamaneh was very silent, but always when I
turned to her I found her big eyes fixed upon me with an expression
in which there was pleading, in which there was sorrow, in which there
was something else--something indefinable, yet strangely disturbing.
The cabman she had directed to drive to the lower end of the Commercial Road,
the neighborhood of the new docks, and the scene of one of our early
adventures with Dr. Fu-Manchu. The mantle of dusk had closed about
the squalid activity of the East End streets as we neared our destination.
Aliens of every shade of color were about us now, emerging from
burrow-like alleys into the glare of the lamps upon the main road.
In the short space of the drive we had passed from the bright world
of the West into the dubious underworld of the East.
I do not know that Karamaneh moved; but in sympathy, as we neared
the abode of the sinister Chinaman, she crept nearer to me,
and when the cab was discharged, and together we walked down
a narrow turning leading riverward, she clung to me fearfully,
hesitated, and even seemed upon the point of turning back.
But, overcoming her fear or repugnance, she led on, through a maze
of alleyways and courts, wherein I hopelessly lost my bearings,
so that it came home to me how wholly I was in the hands of this
girl whose history was so full of shadows, whose real character
was so inscrutable, whose beauty, whose charm truly might mask
the cunning of a serpent.
I spoke to her.
"S-SH!" She laid her hand upon my arm, enjoining me to silence.
The high, drab brick wall of what looked like some part of a dock
building loomed above us in the darkness, and the indescribable
stenches of the lower Thames were borne to my nostrils through
a gloomy, tunnel-like opening, beyond which whispered the river.
The muffled clangor of waterside activity was about us.
I heard a key grate in a lock, and Karamaneh drew me into the shadow
of an open door, entered, and closed it behind her.
For the first time I perceived, in contrast to the odors
of the court without, the fragrance of the peculiar perfume
which now I had come to associate with her. Absolute darkness
was about us, and by this perfume alone I knew that she,
was near to me, until her hand touched mine, and I was led
along an uncarpeted passage and up an uncarpeted stair.
A second door was unlocked, and I found myself in an exquisitely
furnished room, illuminated by the soft light of a shaded lamp
which stood upon a low, inlaid table amidst a perfect ocean
of silken cushions, strewn upon a Persian carpet, whose yellow
richness was lost in the shadows beyond the circle of light.
Karamaneh raised a curtain draped before a doorway, and stood
listening intently for a moment.
The silence was unbroken.
Then something stirred amid the wilderness of cushions, and two
tiny bright eyes looked up at me. Peering closely, I succeeded
in distinguishing, crouched in that soft luxuriance, a little ape.
It was Dr. Fu-Manchu's marmoset. "This way," whispered Karamaneh.
Never, I thought, was a staid medical man committed to a more
unwise enterprise, but so far I had gone, and no consideration
of prudence could now be of avail.
The corridor beyond was thickly carpeted. Following the direction
of a faint light which gleamed ahead, it proved to extend
as a balcony across one end of a spacious apartment.
Together we stood high up there in the shadows, and looked
down upon such a scene as I never could have imagined to exist
within many a mile of that district.
The place below was even more richly appointed than the room into
which first we had come. Here, as there, piles of cushions formed
splashes of gaudy color about the floor. Three lamps hung by chains
from the ceiling, their light softened by rich silk shades.
One wall was almost entirely occupied by glass cases containing
chemical apparatus, tubes, retorts and other less orthodox indications
of Dr. Fu-Manchu's pursuits, whilst close against another lay
the most extraordinary object of a sufficiently extraordinary room--
a low couch, upon which was extended the motionless form of a boy.
In the light of a lamp which hung directly above him, his olive
face showed an almost startling resemblance to that of Karamaneh--
save that the girl's coloring was more delicate. He had black,
curly hair, which stood out prominently against the white covering
upon which he lay, his hands crossed upon his breast.
Transfixed with astonishment, I stood looking down upon him.
The wonders of the "Arabian Nights" were wonders no longer,
for here, in East-End London, was a true magician's palace,
lacking not its beautiful slave lacking not its enchanted prince!
"It is Aziz, my brother," said Karamaneh.
We passed down a stairway on to the floor of the apartment.
Karamaneh knelt and bent over the boy, stroking his hair
and whispering to him lovingly. I, too, bent over him;
and I shall never forget the anxiety in the girl's eyes as she
watched me eagerly whilst I made a brief examination.
Brief, indeed, for even ere I had touched him I knew that the comely
shell held no spark of life. But Karamaneh fondled the cold hands,
and spoke softly in that Arabic tongue which long before I had divined
must be her native language.
Then, as I remained silent, she turned and looked at me,
read the truth in my eyes, and rose from her knees,
stood rigidly upright, and clutched me tremblingly.
"He is not dead--he is NOT dead!" she whispered, and shook me
as a child might, seeking to arouse me to a proper understanding.
"Oh, tell me he is not--"
"I cannot," I replied gently, "for indeed he is."
"No!" she said, wild-eyed, and raising her hands to her face as though
half distraught. "You do not understand--yet you are a doctor.
You do not understand ---"
She stopped, moaning to herself and looking from the handsome
face of the boy to me. It was pitiful; it was uncanny.
But sorrow for the girl predominated in my mind.
Then from somewhere I heard a sound which I had heard before in houses
occupied by Dr. Fu-Manchu--that of a muffled gong.
"Quick!" Karamaneh had me by the arm. "Up! He has returned!"
She fled up the stairs to the balcony, I close at her heels.
The shadows veiled us, the thick carpet deadened the sound
of our tread, or certainly we must have been detected by the man
who entered the room we had just quitted.
It was Dr. Fu-Manchu!
Yellow-robed, immobile, the inhuman green eyes glittering catlike even,
it seemed, before the light struck them, he threaded his way through
the archipelago of cushions and bent over the couch of Aziz.
Karamaneh dragged me down on to my knees.
"Watch!" she whispered. "Watch!"
Dr. Fu-Manchu felt for the pulse of the boy whom a moment since I
had pronounced dead, and, stepping to the tall glass case,
took out a long-necked flask of chased gold, and from it,
into a graduated glass, he poured some drops of an amber liquid
wholly unfamiliar to me. I watched him with all my eyes,
and noted how high the liquid rose in the measure.
He charged a needle-syringe, and, bending again over Aziz,
made an injection.
Then all the wonders I had heard of this man became possible,
and with an awe which any other physician who had examined
Aziz must have felt, I admitted him a miracle-worker. For
as I watched, all but breathless, the dead came to life!
The glow of health crept upon the olive cheek--the boy moved--
he raised his hands above his head--he sat up, supported by
the Chinese doctor!
Fu-Manchu touched some hidden bell. A hideous yellow man with a scarred
face entered, carrying a tray upon which were a bowl containing
some steaming fluid, apparently soup, what looked like oaten cakes,
and a flask of red wine.
As the boy, exhibiting no more unusual symptoms than if he had just
awakened from a normal sleep, commenced his repast, Karamaneh drew me
gently along the passage into the room which we had first entered.
My heart leaped wildly as the marmoset bounded past us to drop hand
over hand to the lower apartment in search of its master.
"You see," said Karamaneh, her voice quivering, "he is not dead!
But without Fu-Manchu he is dead to me. How can I leave him
when he holds the life of Aziz in his hand?"
"You must get me that flask, or some of its contents," I directed.
"But tell me, how does he produce the appearance of death?"
"I cannot tell you," she replied. "I do not know. It is something
in the wine. In another hour Aziz will be again as you saw him.
But see." And, opening a little ebony box, she produced a phial
half filled with the amber liquid.
"Good!" I said, and slipped it into my pocket. "When will be the best
time to seize Fu-Manchu and to restore your brother?"
"I will let you know," she whispered, and, opening the door, pushed me
hurriedly from the room. "He is going away to-night to the north;
but you must not come to-night. Quick! Quick! Along the passage.
He may call me at any moment."
So, with the phial in my pocket containing a potent preparation unknown
to Western science, and with a last long look into the eyes of Karamaneh,
I passed out into the narrow alley, out from the fragrant perfumes
of that mystery house into the place of Thames-side stenches.
"WE must arrange for the house to be raided without delay," said Smith.
"This time we are sure of our ally--"
"But we must keep our promise to her," I interrupted.
"You can look after that, Petrie," my friend said.
"I will devote the whole of my attention to Dr. Fu-Manchu!"
he added grimly.
Up and down the room he paced, gripping the blackened briar between
his teeth, so that the muscles stood out squarely upon his lean jaws.
The bronze which spoke of the Burmese sun enhanced the brightness
of his gray eyes.
"What have I all along maintained?" he jerked, looking back at me across
his shoulder--"that, although Karamaneh was one of the strongest weapons in
the Doctor's armory, she was one which some day would be turned against him.
That day has dawned."
"We must await word from her."
He knocked out his pipe on the grate. Then:
"Have you any idea of the nature of the fluid in the phial?"
"Not the slightest. And I have none to spare for analytical purposes."
Nayland Smith began stuffing mixture into the hot pipe-bowl,
and dropping an almost equal quantity on the floor.
"I cannot rest, Petrie," he said. "I am itching to get to work.
Yet, a false move, and--" He lighted his pipe, and stood staring
from the window.
"I shall, of course, take a needle-syringe with me," I explained.
Smith made no reply.
"If I but knew the composition of the drug which produced the semblance
of death," I continued, "my fame would long survive my ashes."
My friend did not turn. But:
"She said it was something he put in the wine?" he jerked.
"In the wine, yes."
Silence fell. My thoughts reverted to Karamaneh, whom Dr. Fu-Manchu held
in bonds stronger than any slave-chains. For, with Aziz, her brother,
suspended between life and death, what could she do save obey
the mandates of the cunning Chinaman? What perverted genius was his!
If that treasury of obscure wisdom which he, perhaps alone of living men,
had rifled, could but be thrown open to the sick and suffering, the name
of Dr. Fu-Manchu would rank with the golden ones in the history of healing.
Nayland Smith suddenly turned, and the expression upon his face amazed me.
"Look up the next train to L--!" he rapped.
"To L--? What--?"
"There's the Bradshaw. We haven't a minute to waste."
In his voice was the imperative note I knew so well; in his
eyes was the light which told of an urgent need for action--
a portentous truth suddenly grasped.
"One in half-an-hour--the last."
"We must catch it."
No further word of explanation he vouchsafed, but darted off to dress;
for he had spent the afternoon pacing the room in his dressing-gown
and smoking without intermission.
Out and to the corner we hurried, and leaped into the first taxi
upon the rank. Smith enjoined the man to hasten, and we were off--
all in that whirl of feverish activity which characterized my friend's
movements in times of important action.
He sat glancing impatiently from the window and twitching at the lobe
of his ear.
"I know you will forgive me, old man," he said, "but there
is a little problem which I am trying to work out in my mind.
Did you bring the things I mentioned?"
Conversation lapsed, until, just as the cab turned into the station,
Smith said: "Should you consider Lord Southery to have been the first
constructive engineer of his time, Petrie?"
"Undoubtedly," I replied.
"Greater than Von Homber, of Berlin?"
"Possibly not. But Von Homber has been dead for three years."
"Three years, is it?"
We reached the station in time to secure a non-corridor
compartment to ourselves, and to allow Smith leisure carefully
to inspect the occupants of all the others, from the engine
to the guard's van. He was muffled up to the eyes, and he warned
me to keep out of sight in the corner of the compartment.
In fact, his behavior had me bursting with curiosity.
The train having started:
"Don't imagine, Petrie," said Smith "that I am trying to lead you
blindfolded in order later to dazzle you with my perspicacity.
I am simply afraid that this may be a wild-goose chase.
The idea upon which I am acting does not seem to have struck you.
I wish it had. The fact would argue in favor of its being, sound."
"At present I am hopelessly mystified."
"Well, then, I will not bias you towards my view.
But just study the situation, and see if you can arrive at
the reason for this sudden journey. I shall be distinctly
encouraged if you succeed."
But I did not succeed, and since Smith obviously was
unwilling to enlighten me, I pressed him no more.
The train stopped at Rugby, where he was engaged with
the stationmaster in making some mysterious arrangements.
At L--, however, their object became plain, for a high-power car
was awaiting us, and into this we hurried and ere the greater
number of passengers had reached the platform were being driven
off at headlong speed along the moon-bathed roads.
Twenty minutes' rapid traveling, and a white mansion leaped into the line
of sight, standing out vividly against its woody backing.
"Stradwick Hall," said Smith. "The home of Lord Southery.
We are first--but Dr. Fu-Manchu was on the train."
Then the truth dawned upon the gloom of my perplexity.
"YOUR extraordinary proposal fills me with horror, Mr. Smith!"
The sleek little man in the dress suit, who looked like a head waiter
(but was the trusted legal adviser of the house of Southery)
puffed at his cigar indignantly. Nayland Smith, whose restless
pacing had led him to the far end of the library, turned, a remote
but virile figure, and looked back to where I stood by the open
hearth with the solicitor.
"I am in your hands, Mr. Henderson," he said, and advanced
upon the latter, his gray eyes ablaze. "Save for the heir,
who is abroad on foreign service, you say there is no kin
of Lord Southery to consider. The word rests with you.
If I am wrong, and you agree to my proposal, there is none
whose susceptibilities will suffer--"
"My own, sir!"
"If I am right, and you prevent me from acting, you become
a murderer, Mr. Henderson."
The lawyer started, staring nervously up at Smith, who now towered
over him menacingly.
"Lord Southery was a lonely man," continued my friend.
"If I could have placed my proposition before one of his blood,
I do not doubt what my answer had been. Why do you hesitate?
Why do you experience this feeling of horror?"
Mr. Henderson stared down into the fire. His constitutionally
ruddy face was pale.
"It is entirely irregular, Mr. Smith. We have not the necessary powers--"
Smith snapped his teeth together impatiently, snatching his watch
from his pocket and glancing at it.
"I am vested with the necessary powers. I will give you
a written order, sir."
"The proceeding savors of paganism. Such a course might be admissible
in China, in Burma--"
"Do you weigh a life against such quibbles? Do you suppose that,
granting MY irresponsibility, Dr. Petrie would countenance
such a thing if he doubted the necessity?"
Mr. Henderson looked at me with pathetic hesitance.
"There are guests in the house--mourners who attended
the ceremony to-day. They--"
"Will never know, if we are in error," interrupted Smith.
"Good God! why do you delay?"
"You wish it to be kept secret?"
"You and I, Mr. Henderson, and Dr. Petrie will go now.
We require no other witnesses. We are answerable only
to our consciences."
The lawyer passed his hand across his damp brow.
"I have never in my life been called upon to come to so
momentous a decision in so short a time," he confessed.
But, aided by Smith's indomitable will, he made his decision.
As its result, we three, looking and feeling like conspirators,
hurried across the park beneath a moon whose placidity was a rebuke
to the turbulent passions which reared their strangle-growth in
the garden of England. Not a breath of wind stirred amid the leaves.
The calm of perfect night soothed everything to slumber.
Yet, if Smith were right (and I did not doubt him),
the green eyes of Dr. Fu-Manchu had looked upon the scene;
and I found myself marveling that its beauty had not wilted up.
Even now the dread Chinaman must be near to us.
As Mr. Henderson unlocked the ancient iron gates he turned to Nayland Smith.
His face twitched oddly.
"Witness that I do this unwillingly," he said--"most unwillingly."
"Mine be the responsibility," was the reply.
Smith's voice quivered, responsive to the nervous vitality pent
up within that lean frame. He stood motionless, listening--and I
knew for whom he listened. He peered about him to right and left--
and I knew whom he expected but dreaded to see.
Above us now the trees looked down with a solemnity different from
the aspect of the monarchs of the park, and the nearer we came to our
journey's end the more somber and lowering bent the verdant arch--
or so it seemed.
By that path, patched now with pools of moonlight, Lord Southery
had passed upon his bier, with the sun to light his going;
by that path several generations of Stradwicks had gone
to their last resting-place.
To the doors of the vault the moon rays found free access.
No branch, no leaf, intervened. Mr. Henderson's face looked ghastly.
The keys which he carried rattled in his hand.
"Light the lantern," he said unsteadily.
Nayland Smith, who again had been peering suspiciously about into
the shadows, struck a match and lighted the lantern which he carried.
He turned to the solicitor.
"Be calm, Mr. Henderson," he said sternly. "It is your plain
duty to your client."
"God be my witness that I doubt it," replied Henderson,
and opened the door.
We descended the steps. The air beneath was damp and chill.
It touched us as with clammy fingers; and the sensation was
not wholly physical.
Before the narrow mansion which now sufficed Lord Southery, the great engineer
whom kings had honored, Henderson reeled and clutched at me for support.
Smith and I had looked to him for no aid in our uncanny task, and rightly.
With averted eyes he stood over by the steps of the tomb, whilst my friend
and myself set to work. In the pursuit of my profession I had undertaken
labors as unpleasant, but never amid an environment such as this.
It seemed that generations of Stradwicks listened to each turn of every screw.
At last it was done, and the pallid face of Lord Southery questioned
the intruding light. Nayland Smith's hand was as steady as a rigid bar
when he raised the lantern. Later, I knew, there would be a sudden
releasing of the tension of will--a reaction physical and mental--
but not until his work was finished.
That my own hand was steady I ascribed to one thing solely--
professional zeal. For, under conditions which, in the event
of failure and exposure, must have led to an unpleasant
inquiry by the British Medical Association, I was about
to attempt an experiment never before essayed by a physician
of the white races.
Though I failed, though I succeeded, that it ever came before the B.M.A., or
any other council, was improbable; in the former event, all but impossible.
But the knowledge that I was about to practice charlatanry, or what any one
of my fellow-practitioners must have designated as such, was with me. Yet so
profound had my belief become in the extraordinary being whose existence was
a danger to the world that I reveled in my immunity from official censure.
I was glad that it had fallen to my lot to take at least one step--
though blindly--into the FUTURE of medical science.
So far as my skill bore me, Lord Southery was dead. Unhesitatingly, I
would have given a death certificate, save for two considerations.
The first, although his latest scheme ran contrary from the interests
of Dr. Fu-Manchu, his genius, diverted into other channels,
would serve the yellow group better than his death. The second,
I had seen the boy Aziz raised from a state as like death as this.
From the phial of amber-hued liquid which I had with me,
I charged the needle syringe. I made the injection, and waited.
"If he is really dead!" whispered Smith. "It seems incredible
that he can have survived for three days without food.
Yet I have known a fakir to go for a week."
Mr. Henderson groaned.
Watch in hand, I stood observing the gray face.
A second passed; another; a third. In the fourth the miracle began.
Over the seemingly cold clay crept the hue of pulsing life.
It came in waves--in waves which corresponded with the throbbing
of the awakened heart; which swept fuller and stronger;
which filled and quickened the chilled body.
As we rapidly freed the living man from the trappings of
the dead one, Southery, uttering a stifled scream, sat up,
looked about him with half-glazed eyes, and fell back.
"My God!" cried Smith.
"It is all right," I said, and had time to note how my voice
had assumed a professional tone. "A little brandy from my flask
is all that is necessary now."
"You have two patients, Doctor," rapped my friend.
Mr. Henderson had fallen in a swoon to the floor of the vault.
"Quiet," whispered Smith; "HE is here."
He extinguished the light.
I supported Lord Southery. "What has happened?" he kept moaning.
"Where am I? Oh, God! what has happened?"
I strove to reassure him in a whisper, and placed my traveling
coat about him. The door at the top of the mausoleum steps we
had reclosed but not relocked. Now, as I upheld the man whom
literally we had rescued from the grave, I heard the door reopen.
To aid Henderson I could make no move. Smith was breathing hard beside me.
I dared not think what was about to happen, nor what its effects
might be upon Lord Southery in his exhausted condition.
Through the Memphian dark of the tomb cut a spear of light,
touching the last stone of the stairway.
A guttural voice spoke some words rapidly, and I knew that Dr. Fu-Manchu
stood at the head of the stairs. Although I could not see my friend,
I became aware that Nayland Smith had his revolver in his hand,
and I reached into my pocket for mine.
At last the cunning Chinaman was about to fall into a trap.
It would require all his genius, I thought, to save him to-night.
Unless his suspicions were aroused by the unlocked door,
his capture was imminent.
Someone was descending the steps.
In my right hand I held my revolver, and with my left arm about Lord Southery,
I waited through ten such seconds of suspense as I have rarely known.
The spear of light plunged into the well of darkness again.
Lord Southery, Smith and myself were hidden by the angle of the wall;
but full upon the purplish face of Mr. Henderson the beam shone.
In some way it penetrated to the murk in his mind; and he awakened
from his swoon with a hoarse cry, struggled to his feet, and stood
looking up the stair in a sort of frozen horror.
Smith was past him at a bound. Something flashed towards him as the light
was extinguished. I saw him duck, and heard the knife ring upon the floor.
I managed to move sufficiently to see at the top, as I fired up
the stairs, the yellow face of Dr. Fu-Manchu, to see the gleaming,
chatoyant eyes, greenly terrible, as they sought to pierce the gloom.
A flying figure was racing up, three steps at a time (that of a brown man
scantily clad). He stumbled and fell, by which I knew that he was hit;
but went on again, Smith hard on his heels.
"Mr. Henderson!" I cried, "relight the lantern and take
charge of Lord Southery. Here is my flask on the floor.
I rely upon you."
Smith's revolver spoke again as I went bounding up the stair.
Black against the square of moonlight I saw him stagger, I saw him fall.
As he fell, for the third time, I heard the crack of his revolver.
Instantly I was at his side. Somewhere along the black aisle
beneath the trees receding footsteps pattered.
"Are you hurt, Smith?" I cried anxiously.
He got upon his feet.
"He has a dacoit with him," he replied, and showed me the long curved
knife which he held in his hand, a full inch of the blade bloodstained.
"A near thing for me, Petrie."
I heard the whir of a restarted motor.
"We have lost him," said Smith.
"But we have saved Lord Southery," I said. "Fu-Manchu will credit
us with a skill as great as his own."
"We must get to the car," Smith muttered, "and try to overtake them.
Ugh! my left arm is useless."
"It would be mere waste of time to attempt to overtake them," I argued,
"for we have no idea in which direction they will proceed."
"I have a very good idea," snapped Smith. "Stradwick Hall is less
than ten miles from the coast. There is only one practicable means
of conveying an unconscious man secretly from here to London."
"You think he meant to take him from here to London?"
"Prior to shipping him to China; I think so. His clearing-house
is probably on the Thames."
"A yacht, presumably, is lying off the coast in readiness.
Fu-Manchu may even have designed to ship him direct to China."
Lord Southery, a bizarre figure, my traveling coat wrapped about him,
and supported by his solicitor, who was almost as pale as himself,
emerged from the vault into the moonlight.
"This is a triumph for you, Smith," I said.
The throb of Fu-Manchu's car died into faintness and was lost
in the night's silence.
"Only half a triumph," he replied. "But we still have another chance--
the raid on his house. When will the word come from Karamaneh?"
Southery spoke in a weak voice.
"Gentlemen," he said, "it seems I am raised from the dead."
It was the weirdest moment of the night wherein we heard that newly
buried man speak from the mold of his tomb.
"Yes," replied Smith slowly, "and spared from the fate of Heaven
alone knows how many men of genius. The yellow society lacks
a Southery, but that Dr. Fu-Manchu was in Germany three years
ago I have reason to believe; so that, even without visiting
the grave of your great Teutonic rival, who suddenly died at about
that time, I venture to predict that they have a Von Homber.
And the futurist group in China knows how to MAKE men work!"
FROM the rescue of Lord Southery my story bears me mercilessly
on to other things. I may not tarry, as more leisurely penmen,
to round my incidents; they were not of my choosing.
I may not pause to make you better acquainted with the figure
of my drama; its scheme is none of mine. Often enough,
in those days, I found a fitness in the lines of Omar:
We are no other than a moving show
Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go
Round with the Sun-illumined Lantern held
In Midnight by the Master of the Show.
But "the Master of the Show," in this case, was Dr. Fu-Manchu!
I have been asked many times since the days with which these records deal:
Who WAS Dr. Fu-Manchu? Let me confess here that my final answer must
be postponed. I can only indicate, at this place, the trend of my reasoning,
and leave my reader to form whatever conclusion he pleases.
What group can we isolate and label as responsible for the overthrow
of the Manchus? The casual student of modern Chinese history will reply:
"Young China." This is unsatisfactory. What do we mean by Young China?
In my own hearing Fu-Manchu had disclaimed, with scorn, association with the
whole of that movement; and assuming that the name were not an assumed one,
he clearly can have been no anti-Manchu, no Republican.
The Chinese Republican is of the mandarin class, but of a new
generation which veneers its Confucianism with Western polish.
These youthful and unbalanced reformers, in conjunction
with older but no less ill-balanced provincial politicians,
may be said to represent Young China. Amid such turmoils as this
we invariably look for, and invariably find, a Third Party.
In my opinion, Dr. Fu-Manchu was one of the leaders of such a party.
Another question often put to me was: Where did the Doctor
hide during the time that he pursued his operations in London?
This is more susceptible of explanation. For a time Nayland
Smith supposed, as I did myself, that the opium den adjacent
to the old Ratcliff Highway was the Chinaman's base of operations;
later we came to believe that the mansion near Windsor was his
hiding-place, and later still, the hulk lying off the downstream flats.
But I think I can state with confidence that the spot which he had
chosen for his home was neither of these, but the East End riverside
building which I was the first to enter. Of this I am all but sure;
for the reason that it not only was the home of Fu-Manchu, of Karamaneh,
and of her brother, Aziz, but the home of something else--
of something which I shall speak of later.
The dreadful tragedy (or series of tragedies) which attended the raid upon the
place will always mark in my memory the supreme horror of a horrible case.
Let me endeavor to explain what occurred.
By the aid of Karamaneh, you have seen how we had located
the whilom warehouse, which, from the exterior, was so drab
and dreary, but which within was a place of wondrous luxury.
At the moment selected by our beautiful accomplice,
Inspector Weymouth and a body of detectives entirely surrounded it;
a river police launch lay off the wharf which opened from it
on the river-side; and this upon a singularly black night,
than which a better could not have been chosen.
"You will fulfill your promise to me?" said Karamaneh,
and looked up into my face.
She was enveloped in a big, loose cloak, and from the shadow
of the hood her wonderful eyes gleamed out like stars.
"What do you wish us to do?" asked Nayland Smith.
"You--and Dr. Petrie," she replied swiftly, "must enter first,
and bring out Aziz. Until he is safe--until he is out of that place--
you are to make no attempt upon--"
"Upon Dr. Fu-Manchu?" interrupted Weymouth; for Karamaneh
hesitated to pronounce the dreaded name, as she always did.
"But how can we be sure that there is no trap laid for us?"
The Scotland Yard man did not entirely share my confidence in the integrity
of this Eastern girl whom he knew to have been a creature of the Chinaman's.
"Aziz lies in the private room," she explained eagerly, her old accent more
noticeable than usual. "There is only one of the Burmese men in the house,
and he--he dare not enter without orders!"
"We have nothing to fear from him. He will be your prisoner
within ten minutes from now! I have no time for words--
you must believe!" She stamped her foot impatiently.
"And the dacoit?" snapped Smith.
"I think perhaps I'd better come in, too," said Weymouth slowly.
Karamaneh shrugged her shoulders with quick impatience,
and unlocked the door in the high brick wall which divided
the gloomy, evil-smelling court from the luxurious apartments
of Dr. Fu-Manchu.
"Make no noise," she warned. And Smith and myself followed her along
the uncarpeted passage beyond.
Inspector Weymouth, with a final word of instruction to his
second in command, brought up the rear. The door was reclosed;
a few paces farther on a second was unlocked. Passing through
a small room, unfurnished, a farther passage led us to a balcony.
The transition was startling.
Darkness was about us now, and silence: a perfumed, slumberous darkness--
a silence full of mystery. For, beyond the walls of the apartment whereon
we looked down waged the unceasing battle of sounds that is the hymn
of the great industrial river. About the scented confines which bounded
us now floated the smoke-laden vapors of the Lower Thames.
From the metallic but infinitely human clangor of dock-side life,
from the unpleasant but homely odors which prevail where ships swallow
in and belch out the concrete evidences of commercial prosperity,
we had come into this incensed stillness, where one shaded lamp
painted dim enlargements of its Chinese silk upon the nearer walls,
and left the greater part of the room the darker for its contrast.
Nothing of the Thames-side activity--of the riveting and scraping--
the bumping of bales--the bawling of orders--the hiss of steam--
penetrated to this perfumed place. In the pool of tinted light
lay the deathlike figure of a dark-haired boy, Karamaneh's muffled
form bending over him.
"At last I stand in the house of Dr. Fu-Manchu!" whispered Smith.
Despite the girl's assurance, we knew that proximity
to the sinister Chinaman must be fraught with danger.
We stood, not in the lion's den, but in the serpent's lair.
From the time when Nayland Smith had come from Burma in pursuit
of this advance-guard of a cogent Yellow Peril, the face of
Dr. Fu-Manchu rarely had been absent from my dreams day or night.
The millions might sleep in peace--the millions in whose
cause we labored!--but we who knew the reality of the danger
knew that a veritable octopus had fastened upon England--
a yellow octopus whose head was that of Dr. Fu-Manchu,
whose tentacles were dacoity, thuggee, modes of death,
secret and swift, which in the darkness plucked men from life
and left no clew behind.
"Karamaneh!" I called softly.
The muffled form beneath the lamp turned so that the soft
light fell upon the lovely face of the slave girl.
She who had been a pliant instrument in the hands of Fu-Manchu
now was to be the means whereby society should be rid of him.
She raised her finger warningly; then beckoned me to approach.
My feet sinking in the rich pile of the carpet, I came through
the gloom of the great apartment in to the patch of light,
and, Karamaneh beside me, stood looking down upon the boy.
It was Aziz, her brother; dead so far as Western lore had power
to judge, but kept alive in that deathlike trance by the uncanny
power of the Chinese doctor.
"Be quick," she said; "be quick! Awaken him! I am afraid."
From the case which I carried I took out a needle-syringe
and a phial containing a small quantity of amber-hued liquid.
It was a drug not to be found in the British Pharmacopoeia.
Of its constitution I knew nothing. Although I had had
the phial in my possession for some days I had not dared
to devote any of its precious contents to analytical purposes.
The amber drops spelled life for the boy Aziz, spelled success
for the mission of Nayland Smith, spelled ruin for