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The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer

Part 5 out of 5

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the fiendish Chinaman.

I raised the white coverlet. The boy, fully dressed,
lay with his arms crossed upon his breast. I discerned the mark
of previous injections as, charging the syringe from the phial,
I made what I hoped would be the last of such experiments upon him.
I would have given half of my small worldly possessions to have
known the real nature of the drug which was now coursing through
the veins of Aziz--which was tinting the grayed face with the olive
tone of life; which, so far as my medical training bore me,
was restoring the dead to life.

But such was not the purpose of my visit. I was come to remove from
the house of Dr. Fu-Manchu the living chain which bound Karamaneh to him.
The boy alive and free, the Doctor's hold upon the slave girl would be broken.

My lovely companion, her hands convulsively clasped, knelt and devoured
with her eyes the face of the boy who was passing through the most
amazing physiological change in the history of therapeutics.
The peculiar perfume which she wore--which seemed to be a part of her--
which always I associated with her--was faintly perceptible.
Karamaneh was breathing rapidly.

"You have nothing to fear," I whispered; "see, he is reviving.
In a few moments all will be well with him."

The hanging lamp with its garishly colored shade swung gently above us,
wafted, it seemed, by some draught which passed through the apartment.
The boy's heavy lids began to quiver, and Karamaneh nervously clutched
my arm, and held me so whilst we watched for the long-lashed eyes to open.
The stillness of the place was positively unnatural; it seemed inconceivable
that all about us was the discordant activity of the commercial East End.
Indeed, this eerie silence was becoming oppressive; it began positively
to appall me.

Inspector Weymouth's wondering face peeped over my shoulder.

"Where is Dr. Fu-Manchu?" I whispered, as Nayland Smith in turn appeared
beside me. "I cannot understand the silence of the house--"

"Look about," replied Karamaneh, never taking her eyes from the face of Aziz.

I peered around the shadowy walls. Tall glass cases there were,
shelves and niches: where once, from the gallery above, I had seen the tubes
and retorts, the jars of unfamiliar organisms, the books of unfamiliar lore,
the impedimenta of the occult student and man of science--the visible
evidences of Fu-Manchu's presence. Shelves--cases--niches--were bare.
Of the complicated appliances unknown to civilized laboratories,
wherewith he pursued his strange experiments, of the tubes wherein
he isolated the bacilli of unclassified diseases, of the yellow-bound
volumes for a glimpse at which (had they known of their contents)
the great men of Harley Street would have given a fortune--no trace remained.
The silken cushions; the inlaid tables; all were gone.

The room was stripped, dismantled. Had Fu-Manchu fled?
The silence assumed a new significance. His dacoits and kindred
ministers of death all must have fled, too.

"You have let him escape us!" I said rapidly.
"You promised to aid us to capture him--to send us a message--
and you have delayed until--"

"No," she said; "no!" and clutched at my arm again.
"Oh! is he not reviving slowly? Are you sure you have
made no mistake?"

Her thoughts were all for the boy; and her solicitude touched me.
I again examined Aziz, the most remarkable patient of my
busy professional career.

As I counted the strengthening pulse, he opened his dark eyes--
which were so like the eyes of Karamaneh--and, with the girl's
eager arms tightly about him, sat up, looking wonderingly around.

Karamaneh pressed her cheek to his, whispering loving words in that softly
spoken Arabic which had first betrayed her nationality to Nayland Smith.
I handed her my flask, which I had filled with wine.

"My promise is fulfilled!" I said. "You are free!
Now for Fu-Manchu! But first let us admit the police to this house;
there is something uncanny in its stillness."

"No," she replied. "First let my brother be taken out and placed in safety.
Will you carry him?"

She raised her face to that of Inspector Weymouth, upon which was written
awe and wonder.

The burly detective lifted the boy as tenderly as a woman, passed through
the shadows to the stairway, ascended, and was swallowed up in the gloom.
Nayland Smith's eyes gleamed feverishly. He turned to Karamaneh.

"You are not playing with us?" he said harshly. "We have done our part;
it remains for you to do yours."

"Do not speak so loudly," the girl begged. "HE is near us--
and, oh, God, I fear him so!"

"Where is he?" persisted my friend.

Karamaneh's eyes were glassy with fear now.

"You must not touch him until the police are here," she said--
but from the direction of her quick, agitated glances I knew that,
her brother safe now, she feared for me, and for me alone.
Those glances sent my blood dancing; for Karamaneh was
an Eastern jewel which any man of flesh and blood must
have coveted had he known it to lie within his reach.
Her eyes were twin lakes of mystery which, more than once,
I had known the desire to explore.

"Look--beyond that curtain"--her voice was barely audible--"but do not enter.
Even as he is, I fear him."

Her voice, her palpable agitation, prepared us for something extraordinary.
Tragedy and Fu-Manchu were never far apart. Though we were two, and help
was so near, we were in the abode of the most cunning murderer who ever came
out of the East.

It was with strangely mingled emotions that I crossed the thick carpet,
Nayland Smith beside me, and drew aside the draperies concealing a door,
to which Karamaneh had pointed. Then, upon looking into the dim place beyond,
all else save what it held was forgotten.

We looked upon a small, square room, the walls draped with fantastic
Chinese tapestry, the floor strewn with cushions; and reclining
in a corner, where the faint, blue light from a lamp, placed upon
a low table, painted grotesque shadows about the cavernous face--
was Dr. Fu-Manchu!

At sight of him my heart leaped--and seemed to suspend its functions,
so intense was the horror which this man's presence inspired in me.
My hand clutching the curtain, I stood watching him. The lids
veiled the malignant green eyes, but the thin lips seemed to smile.
Then Smith silently pointed to the hand which held a little pipe.
A sickly perfume assailed my nostrils, and the explanation
of the hushed silence, and the ease with which we had thus far
executed our plan, came to me. The cunning mind was torpid--
lost in a brutish world of dreams.

Fu-Manchu was in an opium sleep!

The dim light traced out a network of tiny lines, which covered
the yellow face from the pointed chin to the top of the great domed brow,
and formed deep shadow pools in the hollows beneath his eyes.
At last we had triumphed.

I could not determine the depth of his obscene trance; and mastering
some of my repugnance, and forgetful of Karamaneh's warning, I was about
to step forward into the room, loaded with its nauseating opium fumes,
when a soft breath fanned my cheek.

"Do not go in!" came Karamaneh's warning voice--hushed--trembling.

Her little hand grasped my arm. She drew Smith and myself back
from the door.

"There is danger there!" she whispered.

"Do not enter that room! The police must reach him in some way--
and drag him out! Do not enter that room!"

The girl's voice quivered hysterically; her eyes blazed into savage flame.
The fierce resentment born of dreadful wrongs was consuming her now;
but fear of Fu-Manchu held her yet. Inspector Weymouth came down the stairs
and joined us.

"I have sent the boy to Ryman's room at the station," he said.
"The divisional surgeon will look after him until you arrive,
Dr. Petrie. All is ready now. The launch is just off
the wharf and every side of the place under observation.
Where's our man?"

He drew a pair of handcuffs from his pocket and raised
his eyebrows interrogatively. The absence of sound--
of any demonstration from the uncanny Chinaman whom he was there
to arrest--puzzled him.

Nayland Smith jerked his thumb toward the curtain.

At that, and before we could utter a word, Weymouth stepped
to the draped door. He was a man who drove straight at
his goal and saved reflections for subsequent leisure.
I think, moreover, that the atmosphere of the place
(stripped as it was it retained its heavy, voluptuous perfume)
had begun to get a hold upon him. He was anxious to shake it off;
to be up and doing.

He pulled the curtain aside and stepped into the room.
Smith and I perforce followed him. Just within the door
the three of us stood looking across at the limp thing which
had spread terror throughout the Eastern and Western world.
Helpless as Fu-Manchu was, he inspired terror now, though the giant
intellect was inert--stupefied.

In the dimly lit apartment we had quitted I heard Karamaneh utter
a stifled scream. But it came too late.

As though cast up by a volcano, the silken cushions,
the inlaid table with its blue-shaded lamp, the garish walls,
the sprawling figure with the ghastly light playing upon
its features--quivered, and shot upward!

So it seemed to me; though, in the ensuing instant I remembered,
too late, a previous experience of the floors of Fu-Manchu's
private apartments; I knew what had indeed befallen us.
A trap had been released beneath our feet.

I recall falling--but have no recollection of the end of my fall--
of the shock marking the drop. I only remember fighting for my
life against a stifling something which had me by the throat.
I knew that I was being suffocated, but my hands met only
the deathly emptiness.

Into a poisonous well of darkness I sank. I could not cry out.
I was helpless. Of the fate of my companions I knew nothing--
could surmise nothing. Then. . .all consciousness ended.

CHAPTER XXV

I WAS being carried along a dimly lighted, tunnel-like place, slung, sackwise,
across the shoulder of a Burman. He was not a big man, but he supported
my considerable weight with apparent ease. A deadly nausea held me,
but the rough handling had served to restore me to consciousness.
My hands and feet were closely lashed. I hung limply as a wet towel:
I felt that this spark of tortured life which had flickered up in me must
ere long finally become extinguished.

A fancy possessed me, in these the first moments of my restoration
to the world of realities, that I had been smuggled into China;
and as I swung head downward I told myself that the huge,
puffy things which strewed the path were a species of giant toadstool,
unfamiliar to me and possibly peculiar to whatever district of China
I now was in.

The air was hot, steamy, and loaded with a smell as of rotting vegetation.
I wondered why my bearer so scrupulously avoided touching any of the
unwholesome-looking growths in passing through what seemed a succession
of cellars, but steered a tortuous course among the bloated, unnatural shapes,
lifting his bare brown feet with a catlike delicacy.

He passed under a low arch, dropped me roughly to the ground and ran back.
Half stunned, I lay watching the agile brown body melt into
the distances of the cellars. Their walls and roof seemed to emit
a faint, phosphorescent light.

"Petrie!" came a weak voice from somewhere ahead. . . .
"Is that you, Petrie?"

It was Nayland Smith!

"Smith!" I said, and strove to sit up. But the intense nausea overcame me,
so that I all but swooned.

I heard his voice again, but could attach no meaning to the words
which he uttered. A sound of terrific blows reached my ears, too.
The Burman reappeared, bending under the heavy load which he bore.
For, as he picked his way through the bloated things which grew
upon the floors of the cellars, I realized that he was carrying
the inert body of Inspector Weymouth. And I found time to compare
the strength of the little brown man with that of a Nile beetle,
which can raise many times its own weight. Then, behind him,
appeared a second figure, which immediately claimed the whole
of my errant attention.

"Fu-Manchu!" hissed my friend, from the darkness which concealed him.

It was indeed none other than Fu-Manchu--the Fu-Manchu whom we
had thought to be helpless. The deeps of the Chinaman's cunning--
the fine quality of his courage, were forced upon me as amazing facts.

He had assumed the appearance of a drugged opium-smoker so well
as to dupe me--a medical man; so well as to dupe Karamaneh--
whose experience of the noxious habit probably was greater than
my own. And, with the gallows dangling before him, he had waited--
played the part of a lure--whilst a body of police actually
surrounded the place!

I have since thought that the room probably was one which he actually used
for opium debauches, and the device of the trap was intended to protect him
during the comatose period.

Now, holding a lantern above his head, the deviser of the trap
whereinto we, mouselike, had blindly entered, came through
the cellars, following the brown man who carried Weymouth.
The faint rays of the lantern (it apparently contained a candle)
revealed a veritable forest of the gigantic fungi--poisonously colored--
hideously swollen--climbing from the floor up the slimy walls--
climbing like horrid parasites to such part of the arched roof
as was visible to me.

Fu-Manchu picked his way through the fungi ranks as daintily
as though the distorted, tumid things had been viper-headed.

The resounding blows which I had noted before, and which had never ceased,
culminated in a splintering crash. Dr. Fu-Manchu and his servant,
who carried the apparently insensible detective, passed in under
the arch, Fu-Manchu glancing back once along the passages.
The lantern he extinguished, or concealed; and whilst I waited,
my mind dully surveying, memories of all the threats which this
uncanny being had uttered, a distant clamor came to my ears.

Then, abruptly, it ceased. Dr. Fu-Manchu had closed a heavy door;
and to my surprise I perceived that the greater part of it was of glass.
The will-o'-the-wisp glow which played around the fungi rendered the vista
of the cellars faintly luminous, and visible to me from where I lay.
Fu-Manchu spoke softly. His voice, its guttural note alternating
with a sibilance on certain words, betrayed no traces of agitation.
The man's unbroken calm had in it something inhuman. For he had just
perpetrated an act of daring unparalleled in my experience, and,
in the clamor now shut out by the glass door I tardily recognized
the entrance of the police into some barricaded part of the house--
the coming of those who would save us--who would hold the Chinese
doctor for the hangman!

"I have decided," he said deliberately, "that you are more worthy
of my attention than I had formerly supposed. A man who can solve
the secret of the Golden Elixir (I had not solved it; I had merely
stolen some) should be a valuable acquisition to my Council.
The extent of the plans of Mr. Commissioner Nayland Smith and
of the English Scotland Yard it is incumbent upon me to learn.
Therefore, gentlemen, you live--for the present!"

"And you'll swing," came Weymouth's hoarse voice, "in the near future!
You and all your yellow gang!"

"I trust not," was the placid reply. "Most of my people are safe:
some are shipped as lascars upon the liners; others have departed
by different means. Ah!"

That last word was the only one indicative of excitement
which had yet escaped him. A disk of light danced among
the brilliant poison hues of the passages--but no sound reached us;
by which I knew that the glass door must fit almost hermetically.
It was much cooler here than in the place through which we had passed,
and the nausea began to leave me, my brain to grow more clear.
Had I known what was to follow I should have cursed the lucidity
of mind which now came to me; I should have prayed for oblivion--
to be spared the sight of that which ensued.

"It's Logan!" cried Inspector Weymouth; and I could tell
that he was struggling to free himself of his bonds.
From his voice it was evident that he, too, was recovering
from the effects of the narcotic which had been administered
to us all.

"Logan!" he cried. "Logan! This way--HELP!"

But the cry beat back upon us in that enclosed space and seemed
to carry no farther than the invisible walls of our prison.

"The door fits well," came Fu-Manchu's mocking voice.
"It is fortunate for us all that it is so. This is my
observation window, Dr. Petrie, and you are about to enjoy
an unique opportunity of studying fungology. I have already
drawn your attention to the anaesthetic properties of the
lycoperdon, or common puff-ball. You may have recognized the fumes?
The chamber into which you rashly precipitated yourselves
was charged with them. By a process of my own I have greatly
enhanced the value of the puff-ball in this respect.
Your friend, Mr. Weymouth, proved the most obstinate subject;
but he succumbed in fifteen seconds."

"Logan! Help! HELP! This way, man!"

Something very like fear sounded in Weymouth's voice now.
Indeed, the situation was so uncanny that it almost seemed unreal.
A group of men had entered the farthermost cellars, led by one who bore
an electric pocket-lamp. The hard, white ray danced from bloated gray
fungi to others of nightmare shape, of dazzling, venomous brilliance.
The mocking, lecture-room voice continued:

"Note the snowy growth upon the roof, Doctor. Do not be deceived by
its size. It is a giant variety of my own culture and is of the order
empusa. You, in England, are familiar with the death of the common house-fly--
which is found attached to the window-pane by a coating of white mold.
I have developed the spores of this mold and have produced a giant species.
Observe the interesting effect of the strong light upon my orange and blue
amanita fungus!"

Hard beside me I heard Nayland Smith groan, Weymouth had become
suddenly silent. For my own part, I could have shrieked in pure horror.
FOR I KNEW WHAT WAS COMING. I realized in one agonized instant
the significance of the dim lantern, of the careful progress
through the subterranean fungi grove, of the care with which
Fu-Manchu and his servant had avoided touching any of the growths.
I knew, now, that Dr. Fu-Manchu was the greatest fungologist
the world had ever known; was a poisoner to whom the Borgias were
as children--and I knew that the detectives blindly were walking
into a valley of death.

Then it began--the unnatural scene--the saturnalia of murder.

Like so many bombs the brilliantly colored caps of the huge toadstool-like
things alluded to by the Chinaman exploded, as the white ray sought
them out in the darkness which alone preserved their existence.
A brownish cloud--I could not determine whether liquid or powdery--
arose in the cellar.

I tried to close my eyes--or to turn them away from the reeling forms
of the men who were trapped in that poison-hole. It was useless:

I must look.

The bearer of the lamp had dropped it, but the dim,
eerily illuminated gloom endured scarce a second.
A bright light sprang up--doubtless at the touch of the fiendish
being who now resumed speech:

"Observe the symptoms of delirium, Doctor!" Out there,
beyond the glass door, the unhappy victims were laughing--
tearing their garments from their bodies--leaping--waving their arms--
were become MANIACS!

"We will now release the ripe spores of giant entpusa,"
continued the wicked voice. "The air of the second cellar
being super-charged with oxygen, they immediately germinate.
Ah! it is a triumph! That process is the scientific triumph
of my life!"

Like powdered snow the white spores fell from the roof,
frosting the writhing shapes of the already poisoned men.
Before my horrified gaze, THE FUNGUS GREW; it spread
from the head to the, feet of those it touched; it enveloped
them as in glittering shrouds. . . .

"They die like flies!" screamed Fu-Manchu, with a sudden febrile excitement;
and I felt assured of something I had long suspected: that that magnificent,
perverted brain was the brain of a homicidal maniac--though Smith would
never accept the theory.

"It is my fly-trap!" shrieked the Chinaman. "And I am
the god of destruction!"

CHAPTER XXVI

THE clammy touch of the mist revived me. The culmination of the scene
in the poison cellars, together with the effects of the fumes
which I had inhaled again, had deprived me of consciousness.
Now I knew that I was afloat on the river. I still was bound:
furthermore, a cloth was wrapped tightly about my mouth,
and I was secured to a ring in the deck.

By moving my aching head to the left I could look down into the oily water;
by moving it to the right I could catch a glimpse of the empurpled
face of Inspector Weymouth, who, similarly bound and gagged,
lay beside me, but only of the feet and legs of Nayland Smith.
For I could not turn my head sufficiently far to see more.

We were aboard an electric launch. I heard the hated guttural
voice of Fu-Manchu, subdued now to its habitual calm,
and my heart leaped to hear the voice that answered him.
It was that of Karamaneh. His triumph was complete.
Clearly his plans for departure were complete; his slaughter
of the police in the underground passages had been a final
reckless demonstration of which the Chinaman's subtle cunning
would have been incapable had he not known his escape from
the country to be assured.

What fate was in store for us? How would he avenge himself upon the girl
who had betrayed him to his enemies? What portion awaited those enemies?
He seemed to have formed the singular determination to smuggle me into China--
but what did he purpose in the case of Weymouth, and in the case
of Nayland Smith?

All but silently we were feeling our way through the mist.
Astern died the clangor of dock and wharf into a remote discord.
Ahead hung the foggy curtain veiling the traffic of the great waterway;
but through it broke the calling of sirens, the tinkling of bells.

The gentle movement of the screw ceased altogether.
The launch lay heaving slightly upon the swells.

A distant throbbing grew louder--and something advanced upon
us through the haze.

A bell rang and muffled by the fog a voice proclaimed itself--
a voice which I knew. I felt Weymouth writhing impotently
beside me; heard him mumbling incoherently; and I knew
that he, too, had recognized the voice.

It was that of Inspector Ryman of the river police and their launch
was within biscuit-throw of that upon which we lay!

"'Hoy! 'Hoy!"

I trembled. A feverish excitement claimed me. They were hailing us.
We carried no lights; but now--and ignoring the pain which shot from
my spine to my skull I craned my neck to the left--the port light
of the police launch glowed angrily through the mist.

I was unable to utter any save mumbling sounds, and my
companions were equally helpless. It was a desperate position.
Had the police seen us or had they hailed at random?
The light drew nearer.

"Launch, 'hoy!"

They had seen us! Fu-Manchu's guttural voice spoke shortly--
and our screw began to revolve again; we leaped ahead into the bank
of darkness. Faint grew the light of the police launch--and was gone.
But I heard Ryman's voice shouting.

"Full speed!" came faintly through the darkness. "Port! Port!"

Then the murk closed down, and with our friends far astern of us
we were racing deeper into the fog banks--speeding seaward;
though of this I was unable to judge at the time.

On we raced, and on, sweeping over growing swells.
Once, a black, towering shape dropped down upon us.
Far above, lights blazed, bells rang, vague cries pierced the fog.
The launch pitched and rolled perilously, but weathered the wash
of the liner which so nearly had concluded this episode.
It was such a journey as I had taken once before,
early in our pursuit of the genius of the Yellow Peril;
but this was infinitely more terrible; for now we were utterly
in Fu-Manchu's power.

A voice mumbled in my ear. I turned my bound-up face;
and Inspector Weymouth raised his hands in the dimness and partly
slipped the bandage from his mouth.

"I've been working at the cords since we left those filthy cellars,"
he whispered. "My wrists are all cut, but when I've got out a knife
and freed my ankles--"

Smith had kicked him with his bound feet. The detective slipped
the bandage back to position and placed his hands behind him again.
Dr. Fu-Manchu, wearing a heavy overcoat but no hat, came aft.
He was dragging Karamaneh by the wrists. He seated himself
on the cushions near to us, pulling the girl down beside him.
Now, I could see her face--and the expression in her beautiful
eyes made me writhe.

Fu-Manchu was watching us, his discolored teeth faintly visible
in the dim light, to which my eyes were becoming accustomed.

"Dr. Petrie," he said, "you shall be my honored guest at my home in China.
You shall assist me to revolutionize chemistry. Mr. Smith, I fear
you know more of my plans than I had deemed it possible for you
to have learned, and I am anxious to know if you have a confidant.
Where your memory fails you, and my files and wire jackets prove ineffectual,
Inspector Weymouth's recollections may prove more accurate."

He turned to the cowering girl--who shrank away from him
in pitiful, abject terror.

"In my hands, Doctor," he continued, "I hold a needle charged
with a rare culture. It is the link between the bacilli
and the fungi. You have seemed to display an undue interest
in the peach and pearl which render my Karamaneh so delightful,
In the supple grace of her movements and the sparkle of her eyes.
You can never devote your whole mind to those studies which I
have planned for you whilst such distractions exist.
A touch of this keen point, and the laughing Karamaneh becomes
the shrieking hag--the maniacal, mowing--"

Then, with an ox-like rush, Weymouth was upon him!

Karamaneh, wrought upon past endurance, with a sobbing cry, sank to the deck--
and lay still. I managed to writhe into a half-sitting posture, and Smith
rolled aside as the detective and the Chinaman crashed down together.

Weymouth had one big hand at the Doctor's yellow throat;
with his left he grasped the Chinaman's right.
It held the needle.

Now, I could look along, the length of the little craft, and, so far
as it was possible to make out in the fog, only one other was aboard--
the half-clad brown man who navigated her--and who had carried us through
the cellars. The murk had grown denser and now shut us in like a box.
The throb of the motor--the hissing breath of the two who fought--
with so much at issue--these sounds and the wash of the water alone
broke the eerie stillness.

By slow degrees, and with a reptilian agility horrible to watch,
Fu-Manchu was neutralizing the advantage gained by Weymouth.
His clawish fingers were fast in the big man's throat; the right hand
with its deadly needle was forcing down the left of his opponent.
He had been underneath, but now he was gaining the upper place.
His powers of physical endurance must have been truly marvelous.
His breath was whistling through his nostrils significantly,
but Weymouth was palpably tiring.

The latter suddenly changed his tactics. By a supreme effort,
to which he was spurred, I think, by the growing proximity
of the needle, he raised Fu-Manchu--by the throat and arm--
and pitched him sideways.

The Chinaman's grip did not relax, and the two wrestlers dropped,
a writhing mass, upon the port cushions. The launch heeled over,
and my cry of horror was crushed back into my throat by the bandage.
For, as Fu-Manchu sought to extricate himself, he overbalanced--
fell back--and, bearing Weymouth with him--slid into the river!

The mist swallowed them up.

There are moments of which no man can recall his mental impressions,
moments so acutely horrible that, mercifully, our memory retains
nothing of the emotions they occasioned. This was one of them.
A chaos ruled in my mind. I had a vague belief that the Burman,
forward, glanced back. Then the course of the launch was changed.
How long intervened between the tragic end of that Gargantuan struggle
and the time when a black wall leaped suddenly up before us I cannot
pretend to state.

With a sickening jerk we ran aground. A loud explosion ensued,
and I clearly remember seeing the brown man leap out into the fog--
which was the last I saw of him.

Water began to wash aboard.

Fully alive to our imminent peril, I fought with the cords
that bound me; but I lacked poor Weymouth's strength of wrist,
and I began to accept as a horrible and imminent possibility,
a death from drowning, within six feet of the bank.

Beside me, Nayland Smith was straining and twisting. I think
his object was to touch Karamaneh, in the hope of arousing her.
Where he failed in his project, the inflowing water succeeded.
A silent prayer of thankfulness came from my very soul when I
saw her stir--when I saw her raise her hands to her head--
and saw the big, horror-bright eyes gleam through the mist veil.

CHAPTER XXVII

WE quitted the wrecked launch but a few seconds before her
stern settled down into the river. Where the mud-bank upon
which we found ourselves was situated we had no idea.
But at least it was terra firma and we were free from Dr. Fu-Manchu.

Smith stood looking out towards the river.

"My God!" he groaned. "My God!"

He was thinking, as I was, of Weymouth.

And when, an hour later, the police boat located us (on the mud-flats
below Greenwich) and we heard that the toll of the poison cellars
was eight men, we also heard news of our brave companion.

"Back there in the fog, sir," reported Inspector Ryman, who was in charge,
and his voice was under poor command, "there was an uncanny howling,
and peals of laughter that I'm going to dream about for weeks--"

Karamaneh, who nestled beside me like a frightened child, shivered; and I
knew that the needle had done its work, despite Weymouth's giant strength.

Smith swallowed noisily.

"Pray God the river has that yellow Satan," he said.
"I would sacrifice a year of my life to see his rat's body
on the end of a grappling-iron!"

We were a sad party that steamed through the fog homeward that night.
It seemed almost like deserting a staunch comrade to leave the spot--so nearly
as we could locate it--where Weymouth had put up that last gallant fight.
Our helplessness was pathetic, and although, had the night been clear
as crystal, I doubt if we could have acted otherwise, it came to me that this
stinking murk was a new enemy which drove us back in coward retreat.

But so many were the calls upon our activity, and so numerous
the stimulants to our initiative in those times, that soon we
had matter to relieve our minds from this stress of sorrow.

There was Karamaneh to be considered--Karamaneh and her brother.
A brief counsel was held, whereat it was decided that for the present
they should be lodged at a hotel.

"I shall arrange," Smith whispered to me, for the girl was watching us,
"to have the place patrolled night and day."

"You cannot suppose--"

"Petrie! I cannot and dare not suppose Fu-Manchu dead until with my own
eyes I have seen him so!"

Accordingly we conveyed the beautiful Oriental girl and her
brother away from that luxurious abode in its sordid setting.
I will not dwell upon the final scene in the poison cellars
lest I be accused of accumulating horror for horror's sake.
Members of the fire brigade, helmed against contagion, brought out
the bodies of the victims wrapped in their living shrouds. . . .

From Karamaneh we learned much of Fu-Manchu, little of herself.

"What am I? Does my poor history matter--to anyone?"
was her answer to questions respecting herself.

And she would droop her lashes over her dark eyes.

The dacoits whom the Chinaman had brought to England originally
numbered seven, we learned. As you, having followed me thus far,
will be aware, we had thinned the ranks of the Burmans.
Probably only one now remained in England. They had
lived in a camp in the grounds of the house near Windsor
(which, as we had learned at the time of its destruction,
the Doctor had bought outright). The Thames had been his highway.

Other members of the group had occupied quarters in various parts
of the East End, where sailormen of all nationalities congregate.
Shen-Yan's had been the East End headquarters. He had employed the hulk
from the time of his arrival, as a laboratory for a certain class
of experiments undesirable in proximity to a place of residence.

Nayland Smith asked the girl on one occasion if the Chinaman had had
a private sea-going vessel, and she replied in the affirmative.
She had never been on board, however, had never even set eyes upon it,
and could give us no information respecting its character.
It had sailed for China.

"You are sure," asked Smith keenly, "that it has actually left?"

"I understood so, and that we were to follow by another route."

"It would have been difficult for Fu-Manchu to travel by a passenger boat?"

"I cannot say what were his plans."

In a state of singular uncertainty, then, readily to be understood,
we passed the days following the tragedy which had deprived us
of our fellow-worker.

Vividly I recall the scene at poor Weymouth's home, on the day that we
visited it. I then made the acquaintance of the Inspector's brother.
Nayland Smith gave him a detailed account of the last scene.

"Out there in the mist," he concluded wearily, "it all seemed very unreal."

"I wish to God it had been!"

"Amen to that, Mr. Weymouth. But your brother made a gallant finish.
If ridding the world of Fu-Manchu were the only good deed to his credit,
his life had been well spent."

James Weymouth smoked awhile in thoughtful silence.
Though but four and a half miles S.S.E. of St. Paul's the quaint
little cottage, with its rustic garden, shadowed by the tall trees
which had so lined the village street before motor 'buses were,
was a spot as peaceful and secluded as any in broad England.
But another shadow lay upon it to-day--chilling, fearful.
An incarnate evil had come out of the dim East and in its dying
malevolence had touched this home.

"There are two things I don't understand about it, sir," continued Weymouth.
"What was the meaning of the horrible laughter which the river police heard
in the fog? And where are the bodies?"

Karamaneh, seated beside me, shuddered at the words.
Smith, whose restless spirit granted him little repose,
paused in his aimless wanderings about the room and looked at her.

In these latter days of his Augean labors to purge England
of the unclean thing which had fastened upon her, my friend
was more lean and nervous-looking than I had ever known him.
His long residence in Burma had rendered him spare
and had burned his naturally dark skin to a coppery hue;
but now his gray eyes had grown feverishly bright and his
face so lean as at times to appear positively emaciated.
But I knew that he was as fit as ever.

"This lady may be able to answer your first question," he said.
"She and her brother were for some time in the household of
Dr. Fu-Manchu. In fact, Mr. Weymouth, Karamaneh, as her name implies,
was a slave."

Weymouth glanced at the beautiful, troubled face with scarcely
veiled distrust. "You don't look as though you had come
from China, miss," he said, with a sort of unwilling admiration.

"I do not come from China," replied Karamaneh. "My father
was a pure Bedawee. But my history does not matter."
(At times there was something imperious in her manner; and to this
her musical accent added force.) "When your brave brother,
Inspector Weymouth, and Dr. Fu-Manchu, were swallowed up
by the river, Fu-Manchu held a poisoned needle in his hand.
The laughter meant that the needle had done its work.
Your brother had become mad!"

Weymouth turned aside to hide his emotion. "What was on the needle?"
he asked huskily.

"It was something which he prepared from the venom of a kind of swamp adder,"
she answered. "It produces madness, but not always death."

"He would have had a poor chance," said Smith, "even had he been in complete
possession of his senses. At the time of the encounter we must have been
some considerable distance from shore, and the fog was impenetrable."

"But how do you account for the fact that neither of the bodies
have been recovered?"

"Ryman of the river police tells me that persons lost at that point
are not always recovered--or not until a considerable time later."

There was a faint sound from the room above. The news of that
tragic happening out in the mist upon the Thames had prostrated
poor Mrs. Weymouth.

"She hasn't been told half the truth," said her brother-in-law. "She doesn't
know about--the poisoned needle. What kind of fiend was this Dr. Fu-Manchu?"
He burst out into a sudden blaze of furious resentment. "John never told
me much, and you have let mighty little leak into the papers. What was he?
Who was he?"

Half he addressed the words to Smith, half to Karamaneh.

"Dr. Fu-Manchu," replied the former, "was the ultimate expression of
Chinese cunning; a phenomenon such as occurs but once in many generations.
He was a superman of incredible genius, who, had he willed,
could have revolutionized science. There is a superstition in some
parts of China according to which, under certain peculiar conditions
(one of which is proximity to a deserted burial-ground) an evil spirit
of incredible age may enter unto the body of a new-born infant.
All my efforts thus far have not availed me to trace the genealogy
of the man called Dr. Fu-Manchu. Even Karamaneh cannot help me in this.
But I have sometimes thought that he was a member of a certain very old
Kiangsu family--and that the peculiar conditions I have mentioned
prevailed at his birth!"

Smith, observing our looks of amazement, laughed shortly,
and quite mirthlessly.

"Poor old Weymouth!" he jerked. "I suppose my labors are finished;
but I am far from triumphant. Is there any improvement in
Mrs. Weymouth's condition?"

"Very little," was the reply; "she has lain in a semi-conscious
state since the news came. No one had any idea she would
take it so. At one time we were afraid her brain was going.
She seemed to have delusions."

Smith spun round upon Weymouth.

"Of what nature?" he asked rapidly.

The other pulled nervously at his mustache.

"My wife has been staying with her," he explained, "since--it happened;
and for the last three nights poor John's widow has cried out at
the same time--half-past two--that someone was knocking on the door."

"What door?"

"That door yonder--the street door."

All our eyes turned in the direction indicated.

"John often came home at half-past two from the Yard," continued Weymouth;
"so we naturally thought poor Mary was wandering in her mind.
But last night--and it's not to be wondered at--my wife couldn't sleep,
and she was wide awake at half-past two."

"Well?"

Nayland Smith was standing before him, alert, bright-eyed.

"She heard it, too!"

The sun was streaming into the cozy little sitting-room;
but I will confess that Weymouth's words chilled me uncannily.
Karamaneh laid her hand upon mine, in a quaint, childish fashion
peculiarly her own. Her hand was cold, but its touch thrilled me.
For Karamaneh was not a child, but a rarely beautiful girl--
a pearl of the East such as many a monarch has fought for.

"What then?" asked Smith.

"She was afraid to move--afraid to look from the window!"

My friend turned and stared hard at me.

"A subjective hallucination, Petrie?"

"In all probability," I replied. "You should arrange that
your wife be relieved in her trying duties, Mr. Weymouth.
It is too great a strain for an inexperienced nurse."

CHAPTER XXVIII

OF all that we had hoped for in our pursuit of Fu-Manchu how
little had we accomplished. Excepting Karamaneh and her brother
(who were victims and not creatures of the Chinese doctor's)
not one of the formidable group had fallen alive into our hands.
Dreadful crimes had marked Fu-Manchu's passage through the land.
Not one-half of the truth (and nothing of the later developments)
had been made public. Nayland Smith's authority was sufficient
to control the press.

In the absence of such a veto a veritable panic must have seized upon
the entire country; for a monster--a thing more than humanly evil--
existed in our midst.

Always Fu-Manchu's secret activities had centered about the great waterway.
There was much of poetic justice in his end; for the Thames had claimed him,
who so long had used the stream as a highway for the passage to and fro for
his secret forces. Gone now were the yellow men who had been the instruments
of his evil will; gone was the giant intellect which had controlled
the complex murder machine. Karamaneh, whose beauty he had used as a lure,
at last was free, and no more with her smile would tempt men to death--
that her brother might live.

Many there are, I doubt not, who will regard the Eastern girl with horror.
I ask their forgiveness in that I regarded her quite differently.
No man having seen her could have condemned her unheard. Many, having looked
into her lovely eyes, had they found there what I found, must have forgiven
her almost any crime.

That she valued human life but little was no matter for wonder.
Her nationality--her history--furnished adequate excuse for an attitude
not condonable in a European equally cultured.

But indeed let me confess that hers was a nature incomprehensible to me
in some respects. The soul of Karamaneh was a closed book to my short-sighted
Western eyes. But the body of Karamaneh was exquisite; her beauty of a kind
that was a key to the most extravagant rhapsodies of Eastern poets.
Her eyes held a challenge wholly Oriental in its appeal; her lips,
even in repose, were a taunt. And, herein, East is West and West is East.

Finally, despite her lurid history, despite the scornful self-possession
of which I knew her capable, she was an unprotected girl--
in years, I believe, a mere child--whom Fate had cast in my way.
At her request, we had booked passages for her brother and herself
to Egypt. The boat sailed in three days. But Karamaneh's beautiful
eyes were sad; often I detected tears on the black lashes.
Shall I endeavor to describe my own tumultuous, conflicting emotions?
It would be useless, since I know it to be impossible.
For in those dark eyes burned a fire I might not see; those silken
lashes veiled a message I dared not read.

Nayland Smith was not blind to the facts of the complicated situation.
I can truthfully assert that he was the only man of my acquaintance who,
having come in contact with Karamaneh, had kept his head.

We endeavored to divert her mind from the recent tragedies by a round
of amusements, though with poor Weymouth's body still at the mercy
of unknown waters Smith and I made but a poor show of gayety;
and I took a gloomy pride in the admiration which our lovely
companion everywhere excited. I learned, in those days, how rare
a thing in nature is a really beautiful woman.

One afternoon we found ourselves at an exhibition of water
colors in Bond Street. Karamaneh was intensely interested
in the subjects of the drawings--which were entirely Egyptian.
As usual, she furnished matter for comment amongst the other visitors,
as did the boy, Aziz, her brother, anew upon the world from his
living grave in the house of Dr. Fu-Manchu.

Suddenly Aziz clutched at his sister's arm, whispering rapidly in Arabic.
I saw her peachlike color fade; saw her become pale and wild-eyed--
the haunted Karamaneh of the old days.

She turned to me.

"Dr. Petrie--he says that Fu-Manchu is here!"

"Where?"

Nayland Smith rapped out the question violently, turning in a flash
from the picture which he was examining.

"In this room!" she whispered glancing furtively, affrightedly about her.
"Something tells Aziz when HE is near--and I, too, feel strangely afraid.
Oh, can it be that he is not dead!"

She held my arm tightly. Her brother was searching the room with big,
velvet black eyes. I studied the faces of the several visitors;
and Smith was staring about him with the old alert look, and tugging
nervously at the lobe of his ear. The name of the giant foe of the white
race instantaneously had strung him up to a pitch of supreme intensity.

Our united scrutinies discovered no figure which could have been
that of the Chinese doctor. Who could mistake that long, gaunt shape,
with the high, mummy-like shoulders, and the indescribable gait,
which I can only liken to that of an awkward cat?

Then, over the heads of a group of people who stood by the doorway, I saw
Smith peering at someone--at someone who passed across the outer room.
Stepping aside, I, too, obtained a glimpse of this person.

As I saw him, he was a tall, old man, wearing a black Inverness
coat and a rather shabby silk hat. He had long white hair
and a patriarchal beard, wore smoked glasses and walked slowly,
leaning upon a stick.

Smith's gaunt face paled. With a rapid glance at Karamaneh,
he made off across the room.

Could it be Dr. Fu-Manchu?

Many days had passed since, already half-choked by Inspector Weymouth's iron
grip, Fu-Manchu, before our own eyes, had been swallowed up by the Thames.
Even now men were seeking his body, and that of his last victim.
Nor had we left any stone unturned. Acting upon information furnished
by Karamaneh, the police had searched every known haunt of the murder group.
But everything pointed to the fact that the group was disbanded and dispersed;
that the lord of strange deaths who had ruled it was no more.

Yet Smith was not satisfied. Neither, let me confess,
was I. Every port was watched; and in suspected districts
a kind of house-to-house patrol had been instituted.
Unknown to the great public, in those days a secret war waged--
a war in which all the available forces of the authorities
took the field against one man! But that one man was the evil
of the East incarnate.

When we rejoined him, Nayland Smith was talking to the commissionaire
at the door. He turned to me.

"That is Professor Jenner Monde," he said. "The sergeant, here,
knows him well."

The name of the celebrated Orientalist of course was familiar to me,
although I had never before set eyes upon him.

"The Professor was out East the last time I was there, sir,"
stated the commissionaire. "I often used to see him. But he's
an eccentric old gentleman. Seems to live in a world of his own.
He's recently back from China, I think."

Nayland Smith stood clicking his teeth together in irritable hesitation.
I heard Karamaneh sigh, and, looking at her, I saw that her cheeks were
regaining their natural color.

She smiled in pathetic apology.

"If he was here he is gone," she said. "I am not afraid now."

Smith thanked the commissionaire for his information and we
quitted the gallery.

"Professor Jenner Monde," muttered my friend, "has lived so long
in China as almost to be a Chinaman. I have never met him--
never seen him, before; but I wonder--"

"You wonder what, Smith?"

"I wonder if he could possibly be an ally, of the Doctor's!"

I stared at him in amazement.

"If we are to attach any importance to the incident at all,"
I said, "we must remember that the boy's impression--and Karamaneh's--
was that Fu-Manchu was present in person."

"I DO attach importance to the incident, Petrie; they are naturally
sensitive to such impressions. But I doubt if even the abnormal
organization of Aziz could distinguish between the hidden presence
of a creature of the Doctor's and that of the Doctor himself.
I shall make a point of calling upon Professor Jenner Monde."

But Fate had ordained that much should happen ere Smith made
his proposed call upon the Professor.

Karamaneh and her brother safely lodged in their hotel
(which was watched night and day by four men under Smith's
orders), we returned to my quiet suburban rooms.

"First," said Smith, "let us see what we can find out
respecting Professor Monde."

He went to the telephone and called up New Scotland Yard.
There followed some little delay before the requisite information
was obtained. Finally, however, we learned that the Professor
was something of a recluse, having few acquaintances,
and fewer friends.

He lived alone in chambers in New Inn Court, Carey Street.
A charwoman did such cleaning as was considered necessary
by the Professor, who employed no regular domestic.
When he was in London he might be seen fairly frequently
at the British Museum, where his shabby figure was familiar
to the officials. When he was not in London--that is,
during the greater part of each year--no one knew where he went.
He never left any address to which letters might be forwarded.

"How long has he been in London now?" asked Smith.

So far as could be ascertained from New Inn Court (replied Scotland Yard)
roughly a week.

My friend left the telephone and began restlessly to pace the room.
The charred briar was produced and stuffed with that broad cut Latakia
mixture of which Nayland Smith consumed close upon a pound a week.
He was one of those untidy smokers who leave tangled tufts
hanging from the pipe-bowl and when they light up strew the floor
with smoldering fragments.

A ringing came, and shortly afterwards a girl entered.

"Mr. James Weymouth to see you, sir."

"Hullo!" rapped Smith. "What's this?"

Weymouth entered, big and florid, and in some respects
singularly like his brother, in others as singularly unlike.
Now, in his black suit, he was a somber figure; and in the blue
eyes I read a fear suppressed.

"Mr. Smith," he began, "there's something uncanny going on at Maple Cottage."

Smith wheeled the big arm-chair forward.

"Sit down, Mr. Weymouth," he said. "I am not entirely surprised.
But you have my attention. What has occurred?"

Weymouth took a cigarette from the box which I proffered and poured
out a peg of whisky. His hand was not quite steady.

"That knocking," he explained. "It came again the night
after you were there, and Mrs. Weymouth--my wife, I mean--
felt that she couldn't spend another night there, alone."

"Did she look out of the window?" I asked.

"No, Doctor; she was afraid. But I spent last night downstairs
in the sitting-room--and _I_ looked out!"

He took a gulp from his glass. Nayland Smith, seated on
the edge of the table, his extinguished pipe in his hand,
was watching him keenly.

"I'll admit I didn't look out at once," Weymouth resumed.
"There was something so uncanny, gentlemen, in that knocking--
knocking--in the dead of the night. I thought"--his voice
shook--"of poor Jack, lying somewhere amongst the slime
of the river--and, oh, my God! it came to me that it was Jack
who was knocking--and I dare not think what he--what it--
would look like!"

He leaned forward, his chin in his hand. For a few moments we
were all silent.

"I know I funked," he continued huskily. "But when the wife came
to the head of the stairs and whispered to me: `There it is again.
What in heaven's name can it be'--I started to unbolt the door.
The knocking had stopped. Everything was very still.
I heard Mary--HIS widow--sobbing, upstairs; that was all.
I opened the door, a little bit at a time."

Pausing again, he cleared his throat, and went on:

"It was a bright night, and there was no one there--not a soul.
But somewhere down the lane, as I looked out into the porch, I heard
most awful groans! They got fainter and fainter. Then--I could
have sworn I heard SOMEONE LAUGHING! My nerves cracked up at that;
and I shut the door again."

The narration of his weird experience revived something of the natural
fear which it had occasioned. He raised his glass, with unsteady hand,
and drained it.

Smith struck a match and relighted his pipe. He began to pace
the room again. His eyes were literally on fire.

"Would it be possible to get Mrs. Weymouth out of the house
before to-night? Remove her to your place, for instance?"
he asked abruptly.

Weymouth looked up in surprise.

"She seems to be in a very low state," he replied. He glanced at me.
"Perhaps Dr. Petrie would give us an opinion?"

"I will come and see her," I said. "But what is your idea, Smith?"

"I want to hear that knocking!" he rapped. "But in what I may see fit
to do I must not be handicapped by the presence of a sick woman."

"Her condition at any rate will admit of our administering an opiate,"
I suggested. "That would meet the situation?"

"Good!" cried Smith. He was intensely excited now.
"I rely upon you to arrange something, Petrie. Mr. Weymouth"--
he turned to our visitor--"I shall be with you this evening
not later than twelve o'clock."

Weymouth appeared to be greatly relieved. I asked him
to wait whilst I prepared a drought for the patient.
When he was gone:

"What do you think this knocking means, Smith?" I asked.

He tapped out his pipe on the side of the grate and began with nervous
energy to refill it again from the dilapidated pouch.

"I dare not tell you what I hope, Petrie," he replied--
"nor what I fear."

CHAPTER XXIX

DUSK was falling when we made our way in the direction of Maple Cottage.
Nayland Smith appeared to be keenly interested in the character
of the district. A high and ancient wall bordered the road along
which we walked for a considerable distance. Later it gave place
to a rickety fence.

My friend peered through a gap in the latter.

"There is quite an extensive estate here," he said, "not yet
cut up by the builder. It is well wooded on one side,
and there appears to be a pool lower down."

The road was a quiet one, and we plainly heard the tread--
quite unmistakable--of an approaching policeman.
Smith continued to peer through the hole in the fence,
until the officer drew up level with us. Then:

"Does this piece of ground extend down to the village,
constable?" he inquired.

Quite willing for a chat, the man stopped, and stood with his thumbs
thrust in his belt.

"Yes, sir. They tell me three new roads will be made through it
between here and the hill."

"It must be a happy hunting ground for tramps?"

"I've seen some suspicious-looking coves about at times.
But after dusk an army might be inside there and nobody would
ever be the wiser."

"Burglaries frequent in the houses backing on to it?"

"Oh, no. A favorite game in these parts is snatching
loaves and bottles of milk from the doors, first thing,
as they're delivered. There's been an extra lot of it lately.
My mate who relieves me has got special instructions
to keep his eye open in the mornings!" The man grinned.
"It wouldn't be a very big case even if he caught anybody!"
"No," said Smith absently; "perhaps not. Your business must
be a dry one this warm weather. Good-night."

"Good-night, sir," replied the constable, richer by
half-a-crown--"and thank you."

Smith stared after him for a moment, tugging reflectively at the lobe
of his ear.

"I don't know that it wouldn't be a big case, after all," he murmured.
"Come on, Petrie."

Not another word did he speak, until we stood at the gate of Maple Cottage.
There a plain-clothes man was standing, evidently awaiting Smith.
He touched his hat.

"Have you found a suitable hiding-place?" asked my companion rapidly.

"Yes, sir," was the reply. "Kent--my mate--is there now.
You'll notice that he can't be seen from here."

"No," agreed Smith, peering all about him. "He can't. Where is he?"

"Behind the broken wall," explained the man, pointing.
"Through that ivy there's a clear view of the cottage door."

"Good. Keep your eyes open. If a messenger comes for me, he is to
be intercepted, you understand. No one must be allowed to disturb us.
You will recognize the messenger. He will be one of your fellows.
Should he come--hoot three times, as much like an owl as you can."

We walked up to the porch of the cottage. In response to Smith's ringing
came James Weymouth, who seemed greatly relieved by our arrival.

"First," said my friend briskly, "you had better run up and see the patient."

Accordingly, I followed Weymouth upstairs and was admitted by his
wife to a neat little bedroom where the grief-stricken woman lay,
a wanly pathetic sight.

"Did you administer the draught, as directed?" I asked.

Mrs. James Weymouth nodded. She was a kindly looking woman,
with the same dread haunting her hazel eyes as that which lurked
in her husband's blue ones.

The patient was sleeping soundly. Some whispered instructions I gave to
the faithful nurse and descended to the sitting-room. It was a warm night,
and Weymouth sat by the open window, smoking. The dim light from the lamp
on the table lent him an almost startling likeness to his brother; and for
a moment I stood at the foot of the stairs scarce able to trust my reason.
Then he turned his face fully towards me, and the illusion was lost.

"Do you think she is likely to wake, Doctor?" he asked.

"I think not," I replied.

Nayland Smith stood upon the rug before the hearth, swinging from one
foot to the other, in his nervously restless way. The room was foggy
with the fumes of tobacco, for he, too, was smoking.

At intervals of some five to ten minutes, his blackened briar
(which I never knew him to clean or scrape) would go out.
I think Smith used more matches than any other smoker I have
ever met, and he invariably carried three boxes in various
pockets of his garments.

The tobacco habit is infectious, and, seating myself in an arm-chair,
I lighted a cigarette. For this dreary vigil I had come prepared
with a bunch of rough notes, a writing-block, and a fountain pen.
I settled down to work upon my record of the Fu-Manchu case.

Silence fell upon Maple Cottage. Save for the shuddering sigh
which whispered through the over-hanging cedars and Smith's eternal
match-striking, nothing was there to disturb me in my task.
Yet I could make little progress. Between my mind and the chapter upon
which I was at work a certain sentence persistently intruded itself.
It was as though an unseen hand held the written page closely before my eyes.
This was the sentence:

"Imagine a person, tall, lean, and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow
like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long,
magnetic eyes of the true cat-green: invest him with all the cruel cunning
of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect. . ."

Dr. Fu-Manchu! Fu-Manchu as Smith had described him to me on that night
which now seemed so remotely distant--the night upon which I had learned
of the existence of the wonderful and evil being born of that secret
quickening which stirred in the womb of the yellow races.

As Smith, for the ninth or tenth time, knocked out his pipe on a bar
of the grate, the cuckoo clock in the kitchen proclaimed the hour.

"Two," said James Weymouth.

I abandoned my task, replacing notes and writing-block in the bag that I
had with me. Weymouth adjusted the lamp which had begun to smoke.

I tiptoed to the stairs and, stepping softly, ascended to the sick room.
All was quiet, and Mrs. Weymouth whispered to me that the patient still
slept soundly. I returned to find Nayland Smith pacing about the room
in that state of suppressed excitement habitual with him in the approach
of any crisis. At a quarter past two the breeze dropped entirely,
and such a stillness reigned all about us as I could not have supposed
possible so near to the ever-throbbing heart of the great metropolis.
Plainly I could hear Weymouth's heavy breathing. He sat at the window
and looked out into the black shadows under the cedars. Smith ceased
his pacing and stood again on the rug very still. He was listening!
I doubt not we were all listening.

Some faint sound broke the impressive stillness, coming from the direction
of the village street. It was a vague, indefinite disturbance,
brief, and upon it ensued a silence more marked than ever.
Some minutes before, Smith had extinguished the lamp.
In the darkness I heard his teeth snap sharply together.

The call of an owl sounded very clearly three times.

I knew that to mean that a messenger had come; but from whence or bearing
what tidings I knew not. My friend's plans were incomprehensible to me,
nor had I pressed him for any explanation of their nature, knowing him
to be in that high-strung and somewhat irritable mood which claimed him
at times of uncertainty--when he doubted the wisdom of his actions,
the accuracy of his surmises. He gave no sign.

Very faintly I heard a clock strike the half-hour. A soft breeze
stole again through the branches above. The wind I thought must
be in a new quarter since I had not heard the clock before.
In so lonely a spot it was difficult to believe that the bell
was that of St. Paul's. Yet such was the fact.

And hard upon the ringing followed another sound--a sound we all had expected,
had waited for; but at whose coming no one of us, I think, retained complete
mastery of himself.

Breaking up the silence in a manner that set my heart wildly leaping it came--
an imperative knocking on the door!

"My God!" groaned Weymouth--but he did not move from his position
at the window.

"Stand by, Petrie!" said Smith.

He strode to the door--and threw it widely open.

I know I was very pale. I think I cried out as I fell back--
retreated with clenched hands from before THAT which stood
on the threshold.

It was a wild, unkempt figure, with straggling beard, hideously staring eyes.
With its hands it clutched at its hair--at its chin; plucked at its mouth.
No moonlight touched the features of this unearthly visitant,
but scanty as was the illumination we could see the gleaming teeth--
and the wildly glaring eyes.

It began to laugh--peal after peal--hideous and shrill.

Nothing so terrifying had ever smote upon my ears.
I was palsied by the horror of the sound.

Then Nayland Smith pressed the button of an electric torch which he carried.
He directed the disk of white light fully upon the face in the doorway.

"Oh, God!" cried Weymouth. "It's John!"--and again and again:
"Oh, God! Oh, God!"

Perhaps for the first time in my life I really believed (nay, I
could not doubt) that a thing of another world stood before me.
I am ashamed to confess the extent of the horror that came upon me.
James Weymouth raised his hands, as if to thrust away from him
that awful thing in the door. He was babbling--prayers, I think,
but wholly incoherent.

"Hold him, Petrie!"

Smith's voice was low. (When we were past thought or intelligent action,
he, dominant and cool, with that forced calm for which, a crisis over,
he always paid so dearly, was thinking of the woman who slept above.)

He leaped forward; and in the instant that he grappled with
the one who had knocked I knew the visitant for a man of flesh
and blood--a man who shrieked and fought like a savage animal,
foamed at the mouth and gnashed his teeth in horrid frenzy;
knew him for a madman--knew him for the victim of Fu-Manchu--
not dead, but living--for Inspector Weymouth--a maniac!

In a flash I realized all this and sprang to Smith's assistance.
There was a sound of racing footsteps and the men who had been
watching outside came running into the porch. A third was with them;
and the five of us (for Weymouth's brother had not yet grasped
the fact that a man and not a spirit shrieked and howled in our midst)
clung to the infuriated madman, yet barely held our own with him.

"The syringe, Petrie!" gasped Smith. "Quick! You must manage
to make an injection!"

I extricated myself and raced into the cottage for my bag.
A hypodermic syringe ready charged I had brought with me
at Smith's request. Even in that thrilling moment I could
find time to admire the wonderful foresight of my friend,
who had divined what would befall--isolated the strange,
pitiful truth from the chaotic circumstances which saw us
at Maple Cottage that night.

Let me not enlarge upon the end of the awful struggle.
At one time I despaired (we all despaired) of quieting the poor,
demented creature. But at last it was done; and the gaunt,
blood-stained savage whom we had known as Detective-Inspector
Weymouth lay passive upon the couch in his own sitting-room. A
great wonder possessed my mind for the genius of the uncanny
being who with the scratch of a needle had made a brave
and kindly man into this unclean, brutish thing.

Nayland Smith, gaunt and wild-eyed, and trembling yet with his
tremendous exertions, turned to the man whom I knew to be
the messenger from Scotland Yard.

"Well?" he rapped.

"He is arrested, sir," the detective reported. "They have kept
him at his chambers as you ordered."

"Has she slept through it?" said Smith to me.
(I had just returned from a visit to the room above.) I nodded.

"Is HE safe for an hour or two?"--indicating the figure on the couch.
"For eight or ten," I replied grimly.

"Come, then. Our night's labors are not nearly complete."

CHAPTER XXX

LATER was forthcoming evidence to show that poor Weymouth had lived
a wild life, in hiding among the thick bushes of the tract of land
which lay between the village and the suburb on the neighboring hill.
Literally, he had returned to primitive savagery and some of his food
had been that of the lower animals, though he had not scrupled to steal,
as we learned when his lair was discovered.

He had hidden himself cunningly; but witnesses appeared who had seen him,
in the dusk, and fled from him. They never learned that the object
of their fear was Inspector John Weymouth. How, having escaped death
in the Thames, he had crossed London unobserved, we never knew;
but his trick of knocking upon his own door at half-past two each morning
(a sort of dawning of sanity mysteriously linked with old custom)
will be a familiar class of symptom to all students of alienation.

I revert to the night when Smith solved the mystery of the knocking.

In a car which he had in waiting at the end of the village we sped
through the deserted streets to New Inn Court. I, who had followed
Nayland Smith through the failures and successes of his mission,
knew that to-night he had surpassed himself; had justified the confidence
placed in him by the highest authorities.

We were admitted to an untidy room--that of a student,
a traveler and a crank--by a plain-clothes officer.
Amid picturesque and disordered fragments of a hundred ages,
in a great carven chair placed before a towering statue
of the Buddha, sat a hand-cuffed man. His white hair
and beard were patriarchal; his pose had great dignity.
But his expression was entirely masked by the smoked glasses
which he wore.

Two other detectives were guarding the prisoner.

"We arrested Professor Jenner Monde as he came in, sir,"
reported the man who had opened the door. "He has made no statement.
I hope there isn't a mistake."

"I hope not," rapped Smith.

He strode across the room. He was consumed by a fever of excitement.
Almost savagely, he tore away the beard, tore off the snowy wig dashed
the smoked glasses upon the floor.

A great, high brow was revealed, and green, malignant eyes, which fixed
themselves upon him with an expression I never can forget.

IT WAS DR. FU-MANCHU!

One intense moment of silence ensued--of silence which seemed
to throb. Then:

"What have you done with Professor Monde?" demanded Smith.

Dr. Fu-Manchu showed his even, yellow teeth in the singularly evil
smile which I knew so well. A manacled prisoner he sat as unruffled
as a judge upon the bench. In truth and in justice I am compelled
to say that Fu-Manchu was absolutely fearless.

"He has been detained in China," he replied, in smooth,
sibilant tones--"by affairs of great urgency. His well-known
personality and ungregarious habits have served me well, here!"

Smith, I could see, was undetermined how to act; he stood tugging at his ear
and glancing from the impassive Chinaman to the wondering detectives.

"What are we to do, sir?" one of them asked.

"Leave Dr. Petrie and myself alone with the prisoner, until I call you."

The three withdrew. I divined now what was coming.

"Can you restore Weymouth's sanity?" rapped Smith abruptly.
"I cannot save you from the hangman, nor"--his fists clenched
convulsively--"would I if I could; but--"

Fu-Manchu fixed his brilliant eyes upon him.

"Say no more, Mr. Smith," he interrupted; "you misunderstand me.
I do not quarrel with that, but what I have done from conviction
and what I have done of necessity are separated--are seas apart.
The brave Inspector Weymouth I wounded with a poisoned needle,
in self-defense; but I regret his condition as greatly as you do.
I respect such a man. There is an antidote to the poison
of the needle."

"Name it," said Smith.

Fu-Manchu smiled again.

"Useless," he replied. "I alone can prepare it. My secrets
shall die with me. I will make a sane man of Inspector Weymouth,
but no one else shall be in the house but he and I."

"It will be surrounded by police," interrupted Smith grimly.

"As you please," said Fu-Manchu. "Make your arrangements.
In that ebony case upon the table are the instruments for the cure.
Arrange for me to visit him where and when you will--"

"I distrust you utterly. It is some trick," jerked Smith.

Dr. Fu-Manchu rose slowly and drew himself up to his great height.
His manacled hands could not rob him of the uncanny dignity which was his.
He raised them above his head with a tragic gesture and fixed his piercing
gaze upon Nayland Smith.

"The God of Cathay hear me," he said, with a deep, guttural note
in his voice--"I swear--"

The most awful visitor who ever threatened the peace of England, the end
of the visit of Fu-Manchu was characteristic--terrible--inexplicable.

Strange to relate, I did not doubt that this weird
being had conceived some kind of admiration or respect
for the man to whom he had wrought so terrible an injury.
He was capable of such sentiments, for he entertained some
similar one in regard to myself.

A cottage farther down the village street than Weymouth's was vacant, and in
the early dawn of that morning became the scene of outre happenings.
Poor Weymouth, still in a comatose condition, we removed there (Smith having
secured the key from the astonished agent). I suppose so strange a specialist
never visited a patient before--certainly not under such conditions.

For into the cottage, which had been entirely surrounded by a ring
of police, Dr. Fu-Manchu was admitted from the closed car in which,
his work of healing complete, he was to be borne to prison--to death!

Law and justice were suspended by my royally empowered friend that the enemy
of the white race might heal one of those who had hunted him down!

No curious audience was present, for sunrise was not yet come;
no concourse of excited students followed the hand of the Master;
but within that surrounded cottage was performed one of those
miracles of science which in other circumstances had made the fame
of Dr. Fu-Manchu to live forever.

Inspector Weymouth, dazed, disheveled, clutching his head
as a man who has passed through the Valley of the Shadow--
but sane--sane!--walked out into the porch!

He looked towards us--his eyes wild, but not with the fearsome
wildness of insanity.

"Mr. Smith!" he cried--and staggered down the path--"Dr. Petrie! What--"

There came a deafening explosion. From EVERY visible window
of the deserted cottage flames burst forth!

"QUICK!" Smith's voice rose almost to a scream--"into the house!"

He raced up the path, past Inspector Weymouth, who stood
swaying there like a drunken man. I was close upon his heels.
Behind me came the police.

The door was impassable! Already, it vomited a deathly heat,
borne upon stifling fumes like those of the mouth of the Pit.
We burst a window. The room within was a furnace!

"My God!" cried someone. "This is supernatural!"

"Listen!" cried another. "Listen!"

The crowd which a fire can conjure up at any hour of day
or night, out of the void of nowhere, was gathering already.
But upon all descended a pall of silence.

From the heat of the holocaust a voice proclaimed itself--a voice raised,
not in anguish but in TRIUMPH! It chanted barbarically--and was still.

The abnormal flames rose higher--leaping forth from every window.

"The alarm!" said Smith hoarsely. "Call up the brigade!"

I come to the close of my chronicle, and feel that I betray a trust--
the trust of my reader. For having limned in the colors at my
command the fiendish Chinese doctor, I am unable to conclude my task
as I should desire, unable, with any consciousness of finality,
to write Finis to the end of my narrative.

It seems to me sometimes that my pen is but temporarily idle--that I
have but dealt with a single phase of a movement having a hundred phases.
One sequel I hope for, and against all the promptings of logic and
Western bias. If my hope shall be realized I cannot, at this time,
pretend to state.

The future, 'mid its many secrets, holds this precious one from me.

I ask you then, to absolve me from the charge of ill completing my work;
for any curiosity with which this narrative may leave the reader burdened
is shared by the writer.

With intent, I have rushed you from the chambers of Professor
Jenner Monde to that closing episode at the deserted cottage;
I have made the pace hot in order to impart to these last
pages of my account something of the breathless scurry which
characterized those happenings.

My canvas may seem sketchy: it is my impression of the reality.
No hard details remain in my mind of the dealings of that night.
Fu-Manchu arrested--Fu-Manchu, manacled, entering the cottage on his
mission of healing; Weymouth, miraculously rendered sane, coming forth;
the place in flames.

And then?

To a shell the cottage burned, with an incredible rapidity
which pointed to some hidden agency; to a shell about ashes
which held NO TRACE OF HUMAN BONES!

It has been asked of me: Was there no possibility of
Fu-Manchu's having eluded us in the ensuing confusion?
Was there no loophole of escape?

I reply, that so far as I was able to judge, a rat could scarce
have quitted the building undetected. Yet that Fu-Manchu had,
in some incomprehensible manner and by some mysterious agency,
produced those abnormal flames, I cannot doubt.
Did he voluntarily ignite his own funeral pyre?

As I write, there lies before me a soiled and creased sheet of vellum.
It bears some lines traced in a cramped, peculiar, and all but
illegible hand. This fragment was found by Inspector Weymouth
(to this day a man mentally sound) in a pocket of his ragged garments.

When it was written I leave you to judge. How it came to be where Weymouth
found it calls for no explanation:

"To Mr. Commissioner NAYLAND SMITH and Dr. PETRIE--

"Greeting! I am recalled home by One who may not be denied.
In much that I came to do I have failed. Much that I
have done I would undo; some little I have undone.
Out of fire I came--the smoldering fire of a thing one day
to be a consuming flame; in fire I go. Seek not my ashes.
I am the lord of the fires! Farewell.

"FU-MANCHU."

Who has been with me in my several meetings with the man
who penned that message I leave to adjudge if it be the letter
of a madman bent upon self-destruction by strange means,
or the gibe of a preternaturally clever scientist and the most
elusive being ever born of the land of mystery--China.

For the present, I can aid you no more in the forming of your verdict.
A day may come though I pray it do not--when I shall be able to throw
new light upon much that is dark in this matter. That day, so far as I
can judge, could only dawn in the event of the Chinaman's survival;
therefore I pray that the veil be never lifted.

But, as I have said, there is another sequel to this story
which I can contemplate with a different countenance.
How, then, shall I conclude this very unsatisfactory account?

Shall I tell you, finally, of my parting with lovely, dark-eyed Karamaneh,
on board the liner which was to bear her to Egypt?

No, let me, instead, conclude with the words of Nayland Smith:

"_I_ sail for Burma in a fortnight, Petrie. I have leave to break my
journey at the Ditch. How would a run up the Nile fit your programme?
Bit early for the season, but you might find something to amuse you!"

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