Part 4 out of 5
upon which the remainder had evidently been built. In many respects it
was a singular room, but the feature which caused me the greatest
amazement was this:--it had no windows!
In the deep alcove formed by the tower sat Van Roon at a littered
table, upon which stood an oil reading-lamp, green shaded, of the
"Victoria" pattern, to furnish the entire illumination of the
apartment. That bookshelves lined the rectangular portion of this
strange study I divined, although that end of the place was dark as a
catacomb. The walls were wood-paneled, and the ceiling was oaken
beamed. A small bookshelf and tumble-down cabinet stood upon either
side of the table, and the celebrated American author and traveler lay
propped up in a long split-cane chair. He wore smoked glasses, and had
a clean-shaven, olive face, with a profusion of jet black hair. He was
garbed in a dirty red dressing-gown, and a perfect fog of cigar smoke
hung in the room. He did not rise to greet us, but merely extended his
right hand, between two fingers whereof he held Smith's card.
"You will excuse the seeming discourtesy of an invalid, gentlemen?" he
said; "but I am suffering from undue temerity in the interior of
He waved his hand vaguely, and I saw that two rough deal chairs stood
near the table. Smith and I seated ourselves, and my friend, leaning
his elbow upon the table, looked fixedly at the face of the man whom
we had come from London to visit. Although comparatively unfamiliar to
the British public, the name of Van Roon was well-known in American
literary circles; for he enjoyed in the United States a reputation
somewhat similar to that which had rendered the name of our mutual
friend, Sir Lionel Barton, a household word in England. It was Van
Roon who, following in the footsteps of Madame Blavatsky, had sought
out the haunts of the fabled mahatmas in the Himalayas, and Van Roon
who had essayed to explore the fever swamps of Yucatan in quest of the
secret of lost Atlantis; lastly, it was Van Roon, who, with an
overland car specially built for him by a celebrated American firm,
had undertaken the journey across China.
I studied the olive face with curiosity. Its natural impassivity was
so greatly increased by the presence of the colored spectacles that my
study was as profitless as if I had scrutinized the face of a carven
Buddha. The mulatto had withdrawn, and in an atmosphere of gloom and
tobacco smoke, Smith and I sat staring, perhaps rather rudely, at the
object of our visit to the West Country.
"Mr. Van Roon," began my friend abruptly, "you will no doubt have seen
this paragraph. It appeared in this morning's Daily Telegraph."
He stood up, and taking out the cutting from his notebook, placed it
on the table.
"I have seen this--yes," said Van Roon, revealing a row of even, white
teeth in a rapid smile. "Is it to this paragraph that I owe the
pleasure of seeing you here?"
"The paragraph appeared in this morning's issue," replied Smith. "An
hour from the time of seeing it, my friend, Dr. Petrie, and I were
entrained for Bridgewater."
"Your visit delights me, gentlemen, and I should be ungrateful to
question its cause; but frankly I am at a loss to understand why you
should have honored me thus. I am a poor host, God knows; for what
with my tortured limb, a legacy from the Chinese devils whose secrets
I surprised, and my semi-blindness, due to the same cause, I am but
Nayland Smith held up his right hand deprecatingly. Van Roon tendered
a box of cigars and clapped his hands, whereupon the mulatto entered.
"I see that you have a story to tell me, Mr. Smith," he said;
"therefore I suggest whisky-and-soda--or you might prefer tea, as it
is nearly tea time?"
Smith and I chose the former refreshment, and the soft-footed
half-breed having departed upon his errand, my companion, leaning
forward earnestly across the littered table, outlined for Van Roon the
story of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the great and malign being whose mission in
England at that moment was none other than the stoppage of just such
information as our host was preparing to give to the world.
"There is a giant conspiracy, Mr. Van Roon," he said, "which had its
birth in this very province of Ho-Nan, from which you were so
fortunate to escape alive; whatever its scope or limitations, a great
secret society is established among the yellow races. It means that
China, which has slumbered for so many generations, now stirs in that
age-long sleep. I need not tell you how much more it means, this
seething in the pot . . ."
"In a word," interrupted Van Roon, pushing Smith's glass across the
table "you would say?--"
"That your life is not worth that!" replied Smith, snapping his
fingers before the other's face.
A very impressive silence fell. I watched Van Roon curiously as he sat
propped up among his cushions, his smooth face ghastly in the green
light from the lamp-shade. He held the stump of a cigar between his
teeth, but, apparently unnoticed by him, it had long since gone out.
Smith, out of the shadows, was watching him, too. Then:
"Your information is very disturbing," said the American. "I am the
more disposed to credit your statement because I am all too painfully
aware of the existence of such a group as you mention, in China, but
that they had an agent here in England is something I had never
conjectured. In seeking out this solitary residence I have unwittingly
done much to assist their designs . . . But--my dear Mr. Smith, I am
very remiss! Of course you will remain tonight, and I trust for some
days to come?"
Smith glanced rapidly across at me, then turned again to our host.
"It seems like forcing our company upon you," he said, "but in your
own interests I think it will be best to do as you are good enough to
suggest. I hope and believe that our arrival here has not been noticed
by the enemy; therefore it will be well if we remain concealed as much
as possible for the present, until we have settled upon some plan."
"Hagar shall go to the station for your baggage," said the American
rapidly, and clapped his hands, his usual signal to the mulatto.
Whilst the latter was receiving his orders I noticed Nayland Smith
watching him closely; and when he had departed:
"How long has that man been in your service?" snapped my friend.
Van Roon peered blindly through his smoked glasses.
"For some years," he replied; "he was with me in India--and in China."
"Where did you engage him?"
"Actually, in St. Kitts."
"H'm," muttered Smith, and automatically he took out and began to fill
"I can offer you no company but my own, gentlemen," continued Van
Roon, "but unless it interferes with your plans, you may find the
surrounding district of interest and worthy of inspection, between now
and dinner time. By the way, I think I can promise you quite a
satisfactory meal, for Hagar is a model chef."
"A walk would be enjoyable," said Smith, "but dangerous."
"Ah! perhaps you are right. Evidently you apprehend some attempt upon
"At any moment!"
"To one in my crippled condition, an alarming outlook! However, I
place myself unreservedly in your hands. But really, you must not
leave this interesting district before you have made the acquaintance
of some of its historical spots. To me, steeped as I am in what I may
term the lore of the odd, it is a veritable wonderland, almost as
interesting, in its way, as the caves and jungles of Hindustan
depicted by Madame Blavatsky."
His high-pitched voice, with a certain labored intonation, not quite
so characteristically American as was his accent, rose even higher; he
spoke with the fire of the enthusiast.
"When I learned that Cragmire Tower was vacant," he continued, "I
leaped at the chance (excuse the metaphor, from a lame man!). This is
a ghost hunter's paradise. The tower itself is of unknown origin,
though probably Phoenician, and the house traditionally sheltered Dr.
Macleod, the necromancer, after his flight from the persecution of
James of Scotland. Then, to add to its interest, it borders on
Sedgemoor, the scene of the bloody battle during the Monmouth rising,
whereat a thousand were slain on the field. It is a local legend that
the unhappy Duke and his staff may be seen, on stormy nights, crossing
the path which skirts the mire, after which this building is named,
with flaming torches held aloft."
"Merely marsh-lights, I take it?" interjected Smith, gripping his pipe
hard between his teeth.
"Your practical mind naturally seeks a practical explanation," smiled
Van Roon, "but I myself have other theories. Then in addition to the
charms of Sedgemoor--haunted Sedgemoor--on a fine day it is quite
possible to see the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey from here; and
Glastonbury Abbey, as you may know, is closely bound up with the
history of alchemy. It was in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey that the
adept Kelly, companion of Dr. Dee, discovered, in the reign of
Elizabeth, the famous caskets of St. Dunstan, containing the two
tinctures . . ."
So he ran on, enumerating the odd charms of his residence, charms
which for my part I did not find appealing. Finally:
"We cannot presume further upon your kindness," said Nayland Smith,
standing up. "No doubt we can amuse ourselves in the neighborhood of
the house until the return of your servant."
"Look upon Cragmire Tower as your own, gentlemen!" cried Van Roon.
"Most of the rooms are unfurnished, and the garden is a wilderness,
but the structure of the brickwork in the tower may interest you
archaeologically, and the view across the moor is at least as fine as
any in the neighborhood."
So, with his brilliant smile and a gesture of one thin yellow hand,
the crippled traveler made us free of his odd dwelling. As I passed
out from the room close at Smith's heels, I glanced back, I cannot say
why. Van Roon already was bending over his papers, in his green
shadowed sanctuary, and the light shining down upon his smoked glasses
created the odd illusion that he was looking over the tops of the
lenses and not down at the table as his attitude suggested. However,
it was probably ascribable to the weird chiaroscuro of the scene,
although it gave the seated figure an oddly malignant appearance, and
I passed out through the utter darkness of the outer room to the front
door. Smith opening it, I was conscious of surprise to find dusk
come--to meet darkness where I had looked for sunlight.
The silver wisps which had raced along the horizon, as we came to
Cragmire Tower, had been harbingers of other and heavier banks. A
stormy sunset smeared crimson streaks across the skyline, where a
great range of clouds, like the oily smoke of a city burning, was
banked, mountain topping mountain, and lighted from below by this
angry red. As we came down the steps and out by the gate, I turned and
looked across the moor behind us. A sort of reflection from this
distant blaze encrimsoned the whole landscape. The inland bay glowed
sullenly, as if internal fires and not reflected light were at work; a
scene both wild and majestic.
Nayland Smith was staring up at the cone-like top of the ancient tower
in a curious, speculative fashion. Under the influence of our host's
conversation I had forgotten the reasonless dread which had touched me
at the moment of our arrival, but now, with the red light blazing over
Sedgemoor, as if in memory of the blood which had been shed there, and
with the tower of unknown origin looming above me, I became very
uncomfortable again, nor did I envy Van Roon his eerie residence. The
proximity of a tower of any kind, at night, makes in some inexplicable
way for awe, and to-night there were other agents, too.
"What's that?" snapped Smith suddenly, grasping my arm.
He was peering southward, toward the distant hamlet, and, starting
violently at his words and the sudden grasp of his hand, I, too,
stared in that direction.
"We were followed, Petrie," he almost whispered. "I never got a sight
of our follower, but I'll swear we were followed. Look! there's
something moving over yonder!"
Together we stood staring into the dusk; then Smith burst abruptly
into one of his rare laughs, and clapped me upon the shoulder.
"It's Hagar, the mulatto!" he cried--"and our grips. That
extraordinary American with his tales of witch-lights and haunted
abbeys has been playing the devil with our nerves."
Together we waited by the gate until the half-caste appeared on the
bend of the path with a grip in either hand. He was a great, muscular
fellow with a stoic face, and, for the purpose of visiting Saul,
presumably, he had doffed his white raiment and now wore a sort of
livery, with a peaked cap.
Smith watched him enter the house. Then:
"I wonder where Van Roon obtains his provisions and so forth," he
muttered. "It's odd they knew nothing about the new tenant of Cragmire
Tower at 'The Wagoners.'"
There came a sort of sudden expectancy into his manner for which I
found myself at a loss to account. He turned his gaze inland and stood
there tugging at his left ear and clicking his teeth together. He
stared at me, and his eyes looked very bright in the dusk, for a sort
of red glow from the sunset touched them; but he spoke no word, merely
taking my arm and leading me off on a rambling walk around and about
the house. Neither of us spoke a word until we stood at the gate of
Cragmire Tower again; then:
"I'll swear, now, that we were followed here today!" muttered Smith.
The lofty place immediately within the doorway proved, in the light of
a lamp now fixed in an iron bracket, to be a square entrance hall
meagerly furnished. The closed study door faced the entrance, and on
the left of it ascended an open staircase up which the mulatto led the
way. We found ourselves on the floor above, in a corridor traversing
the house from back to front. An apartment on the immediate left was
indicated by the mulatto as that allotted to Smith. It was a room of
fair size, furnished quite simply but boasting a wardrobe cupboard,
and Smith's grip stood beside the white enameled bed. I glanced
around, and then prepared to follow the man, who had awaited me in the
He still wore his dark livery, and as I followed the lithe,
broad-shouldered figure along the corridor, I found myself considering
critically his breadth of shoulder and the extraordinary thickness of
I have repeatedly spoken of a sort of foreboding, an elusive stirring
in the depths of my being of which I became conscious at certain times
in my dealings with Dr. Fu-Manchu and his murderous servants. This
sensation, or something akin to it, claimed me now, unaccountably, as
I stood looking into the neat bedroom, on the same side of the
corridor but at the extreme end, wherein I was to sleep.
A voiceless warning urged me to return; a kind of childish panic came
fluttering about my heart, a dread of entering the room, of allowing
the mulatto to come behind me.
Doubtless this was no more than a sub-conscious product of my
observations respecting his abnormal breadth of shoulder. But whatever
the origin of the impulse, I found myself unable to disobey it.
Therefore, I merely nodded, turned on my heel and went back to Smith's
I closed the door, then turned to face Smith, who stood regarding me.
"Smith," I said, "that man sends cold water trickling down my spine!"
Still regarding me fixedly, my friend nodded his head.
"You are curiously sensitive to this sort of thing," he replied
slowly; "I have noticed it before as a useful capacity. I don't like
the look of the man myself. The fact that he has been in Van Roon's
employ for some years goes for nothing. We are neither of us likely to
forget Kwee, the Chinese servant of Sir Lionel Barton, and it is quite
possible that Fu-Manchu has corrupted this man as he corrupted the
other. It is quite possible . . ."
His voice trailed off into silence, and he stood looking across the
room with unseeing eyes, meditating deeply. It was quite dark now
outside, as I could see through the uncurtained window, which opened
upon the dreary expanse stretching out to haunted Sedgemoor. Two
candles were burning upon the dressing table; they were but recently
lighted, and so intense was the stillness that I could distinctly hear
the spluttering of one of the wicks, which was damp. Without giving
the slightest warning of his intention, Smith suddenly made two
strides forward, stretched out his long arms, and snuffed the pair of
candles in a twinkling.
The room became plunged in impenetrable darkness.
"Not a word, Petrie!" whispered my companion.
I moved cautiously to join him, but as I did so, perceived that he was
moving too. Vaguely, against the window I perceived him silhouetted.
He was looking out across the moor, and:
"See! see!" he hissed.
With my heart thumping furiously in my breast, I bent over him; and
for the second time since our coming to Cragmire Tower, my thoughts
flew to "The Fenman."
There are shades in the fen; ghosts of women and men
Who have sinned and have died, but are living again.
O'er the waters they tread, with their lanterns of dread,
And they peer in the pools--in the pools of the dead . . .
A light was dancing out upon the moor, a witchlight that came and went
unaccountably, up and down, in and out, now clearly visible, now
masked in the darkness!
"Lock the door!" snapped my companion--"if there's a key."
I crept across the room and fumbled for a moment; then:
"There is no key," I reported.
"Then wedge the chair under the knob and let no one enter until I
return!" he said, amazingly.
With that he opened the window to its fullest extent, threw his leg
over the sill, and went creeping along a wide concrete ledge, in which
ran a leaded gutter, in the direction of the tower on the right!
Not pausing to follow his instructions respecting the chair, I craned
out of the window, watching his progress, and wondering with what
sudden madness he was bitten. Indeed, I could not credit my senses,
could not believe that I heard and saw aright. Yet there out in the
darkness on the moor moved the will-o'-the-wisp, and ten yards along
the gutter crept my friend, like a great gaunt cat. Unknown to me he
must have prospected the route by daylight, for now I saw his design.
The ledge terminated only where it met the ancient wall of the tower,
and it was possible for an agile climber to step from it to the edge
of the unglazed window some four feet below, and to scramble from that
point to the stone fence and thence on to the path by which we had
come from Saul.
This difficult operation Nayland Smith successfully performed, and, to
my unbounded amazement, went racing into the darkness toward the
dancing light, headlong, like a madman! The night swallowed him up,
and between my wonder and my fear my hands trembled so violently that
I could scarce support myself where I rested, with my full weight upon
I seemed now to be moving through the fevered phases of a nightmare.
Around and below me Cragmire Tower was profoundly silent, but a faint
odor of cookery was now perceptible. Outside, from the night, came a
faint whispering as of the distant sea, but no moon and no stars
relieved the impenetrable blackness. Only out over the moor the
mysterious light still danced and moved.
One--two--three--four--five minutes passed. The light vanished and did
not appear again. Five more age-long minutes elapsed in absolute
silence, whilst I peered into the darkness of the night and listened,
every nerve in my body tense, for the return of Nayland Smith. Yet two
more minutes, which embraced an agony of suspense, passed in the same
fashion; then a shadowy form grew, phantomesque, out of the gloom; a
moment more, and I distinctly heard the heavy breathing of a man
nearly spent, and saw my friend scrambling up toward the black
embrasure in the tower. His voice came huskily, pantingly:
"Creep along and lend me a hand, Petrie! I am nearly winded."
I crept through the window, steadied my quivering nerves by an effort
of the will, and reached the end of the ledge in time to take Smith's
extended hand and to draw him up beside me against the wall of the
tower. He was shaking with his exertions, and must have fallen, I
think, without my assistance. Inside the room again:
"Quick! light the candles!" he breathed hoarsely.
"Did any one come?"
Having expended several matches in vain, for my fingers twitched
nervously, I ultimately succeeded in relighting the candles.
"Get along to your room!" directed Smith. "Your apprehensions are
unfounded at the moment, but you may as well leave both doors wide
I looked into his face--it was very drawn and grim, and his brow was
wet with perspiration, but his eyes had the fighting glint, and I knew
that we were upon the eve of strange happenings.
A CRY ON THE MOOR
Of the events intervening between this moment and that when death
called to us out of the night, I have the haziest recollections. An
excelent dinner was served in the bleak and gloomy dining-room by the
mulatto, and the crippled author was carried to the head of the table
by this same Herculean attendant, as lightly as though he had but the
weight of a child.
Van Roon talked continuously, revealing a deep knowledge of all sorts
of obscure matters; and in the brief intervals, Nayland Smith talked
also, with almost feverish rapidity. Plans for the future were
discussed. I can recall no one of them.
I could not stifle my queer sentiments in regard to the mulatto, and
every time I found him behind my chair I was hard put to repress an
shudder. In this fashion the strange evening passed; and to the
accompaniment of distant, muttering thunder, we two guests retired to
our chambers in Cragmire Tower. Smith had contrived to give me my
instructions in a whisper, and five minutes after entering my own
room, I had snuffed the candles, slipped a wedge, which he had given
me, under the door, crept out through the window onto the guttered
ledge, and joined Smith in his room. He, too, had extinguished his
candles, and the place was in darkness. As I climbed in, he grasped my
wrist to silence me, and turned me forcibly toward the window.
"Listen!" he said.
I turned and looked out upon a prospect which had been a fit setting
for the witch scene in Macbeth. Thunder clouds hung low over the moor,
but through them ran a sort of chasm, or rift, allowing a bar of lurid
light to stretch across the drear, from east to west--a sort of lane
walled by darkness. There came a remote murmuring, as of a troubled
sea--a hushed and distant chorus; and sometimes in upon it broke the
drums of heaven. In the west lightning flickered, though but faintly,
Then came the call.
Out of the blackness of the moor it came, wild and distant--"Help!
"Smith!" I whispered--"what is it? What. . ."
"Mr. Smith!" came the agonized cry . . . "Nayland Smith, help! for
God's sake. . . ."
"Quick, Smith!" I cried, "quick, man! It's Van Roon--he's been dragged
out . . . they are murdering him . . ."
Nayland Smith held me in a vise-like grip, silent, unmoved!
Louder and more agonized came the cry for aid, and I became more than
ever certain that it was poor Van Roon who uttered it.
"Mr. Smith! Dr. Petrie! for God's sake come . . . or . . . it will be
. . . too . . . late . . ."
"Smith!" I said, turning furiously upon my friend, "if you are going
to remain here whilst murder is done, I am not!"
My blood boiled now with hot resentment. It was incredible, inhuman,
that we should remain there inert whilst a fellow man, and our host to
boot, was being done to death out there in the darkness. I exerted all
my strength to break away; but although my efforts told upon him, as
his loud breathing revealed, Nayland Smith clung to me tenaciously.
Had my hands been free, in my fury, I could have struck him, for the
pitiable cries, growing fainter, now, told their own tale. Then Smith
spoke shortly and angrily--breathing hard between the words.
"Be quiet, you fool!" he snapped; "it's little less than an insult,
Petrie, to think me capable of refusing help where help is needed!"
Like a cold douche his words acted; in that instant I knew myself a
"You remember the Call of Siva?" he said, thrusting me away irritably,
"--two years ago, and what it meant to those who obeyed it?"
"You might have told me . . ."
"Told you! You would have been through the window before I had uttered
I realized the truth of his assertion, and the justness of his anger.
"Forgive me, old man," I said, very crestfallen, "but my impulse was a
natural one, you'll admit. You must remember that I have been trained
never to refuse aid when aid is asked."
"Shut up, Petrie!" he growled; "forget it."
The cries had ceased now, entirely, and a peal of thunder, louder than
any yet, echoed over distant Sedgemoor. The chasm of light splitting
the heavens closed in, leaving the night wholly black.
"Don't talk!" rapped Smith; "act! You wedged your door?"
"Good. Get into that cupboard, have your Browning ready, and keep the
door very slightly ajar."
He was in that mood of repressed fever which I knew and which always
communicated itself to me. I spoke no further word, but stepped into
the wardrobe indicated and drew the door nearly shut. The recess just
accommodated me, and through the aperture I could see the bed,
vaguely, the open window, and part of the opposite wall. I saw Smith
cross the floor, as a mighty clap of thunder boomed over the house.
A gleam of lightning flickered through the gloom.
I saw the bed for a moment, distinctly, and it appeared to me that
Smith lay therein, with the sheets pulled up over his head. The light
was gone, and I could hear big drops of rain pattering upon the leaden
gutter below the open window.
My mood was strange, detached, and characterized by vagueness. That
Van Roon lay dead upon the moor I was convinced; and--although I
recognized that it must be a sufficient one--I could not even dimly
divine the reason why we had refrained from lending him aid. To have
failed to save him, knowing his peril, would have been bad enough; to
have refused, I thought was shameful. Better to have shared his
fate--yet . . .
The downpour was increasing, and beating now a regular tattoo upon the
gutterway. Then, splitting the oblong of greater blackness which
marked the casement, quivered dazzlingly another flash of lightning in
which I saw the bed again, with that impression of Smith curled up in
it. The blinding light died out; came the crash of thunder, harsh and
fearsome, more imminently above the tower than ever. The building
seemed to shake.
Coming as they did, horror and the wrath of heaven together, suddenly,
crashingly, black and angry after the fairness of the day, these
happenings and their setting must have terrorized the stoutest heart;
but somehow I seemed detached, as I have said, and set apart from the
whirl of events; a spectator. Even when a vague yellow light crept
across the room from the direction of the door, and flickered
unsteadily on the bed, I remained unmoved to a certain degree,
although passively alive to the significance of the incident. I
realized that the ultimate issue was at hand, but either because I was
emotionally exhausted, or from some other cause, the pending climax
failed to disturb me.
Going on tiptoe, in stockinged feet, across my field of vision, passed
Kegan Van Roon! He was in his shirt-sleeves and held a lighted candle
in one hand whilst with the other he shaded it against the draught
from the window. He was a cripple no longer, and the smoked glasses
were discarded; most of the light, at the moment when first I saw him,
shone upon his thin, olive face, and at sight of his eyes much of the
mystery of Cragmire Tower was resolved. For they were oblique, very
slightly, but nevertheless unmistakably oblique. Though highly
educated, and possibly an American citizen, Van Roon was a Chinaman!
Upon the picture of his face as I saw it then, I do not care to dwell.
It lacked the unique horror of Dr. Fu-Manchu's unforgettable
countenance, but possessed a sort of animal malignancy which the
latter lacked . . . He approached within three or four feet of the
bed, peering--peering. Then, with a timidity which spoke well for
Nayland Smith's reputation, paused and beckoned to some one who
evidently stood in the doorway behind him. As he did so I noted that
the legs of his trousers were caked with greenish brown mud nearly up
to the knees.
The huge mulatto, silent-footed, crossed to the bed in three strides.
He was stripped to the waist, and, excepting some few professional
athletes, I had never seen a torso to compare with that which, brown
and glistening, now bent over Nayland Smith. The muscular development
was simply enormous; the man had a neck like a column, and the thews
around his back and shoulders were like ivy tentacles wreathing some
Whilst Van Roon, his evil gaze upon the bed, held the candle aloft,
the mulatto, with a curious preparatory writhing movement of the
mighty shoulders, lowered his outstretched fingers to the disordered
bed linen . . .
I pushed open the cupboard door and thrust out the Browning. As I did
so a dramatic thing happened. A tall, gaunt figure shot suddenly
upright from beyond the bed. It was Nayland Smith!
Upraised in his hand he held a heavy walking cane. I knew the handle
to be leaded, and I could judge of the force with which he wielded it
by the fact that it cut the air with a keen swishing sound. It
descended upon the back of the mulatto's skull with a sickening thud,
and the great brown body dropped inert upon the padded bed--in which
not Smith, but his grip, reposed. There was no word, no cry. Then:
"Shoot, Petrie! Shoot the fiend! Shoot . . ."
Van Roon, dropping the candle, in the falling gleam of which I saw the
whites of the oblique eyes turned and leaped from the room with the
agility of a wild cat. The ensuing darkness was split by a streak of
lightning . . . and there was Nayland Smith scrambling around the foot
of the bed and making for the door in hot pursuit.
We gained it almost together. Smith had dropped the cane, and now held
his pistol in his hand. Together we fired into the chasm of the
corridor, and in the flash, saw Van Roon hurling himself down the
stairs. He went silently in his stockinged feet, and our own clatter
was drowned by the awful booming of the thunder which now burst over
Crack!--crack!--crack! Three times our pistols spat venomously after
the flying figure . . . then we had crossed the hall below and were in
the wilderness of the night with the rain descending upon us in
sheets. Vaguely I saw the white shirt-sleeves of the fugitive near the
corner of the stone fence. A moment he hesitated, then darted away
inland, not toward Saul, but toward the moor and the cup of the inland
"Steady, Petrie! steady!" cried Nayland Smith. He ran, panting, beside
me. "It is the path to the mire." He breathed sibilantly between every
few words. It was out there . . . that he hoped to lure us . . . with
the cry for help."
A great blaze of lightning illuminated the landscape as far as the eye
could see. Ahead of us a flying shape, hair lank and glistening in the
downpour, followed a faint path skirting that green tongue of morass
which we had noted from the upland. It was Kegan Van Roon. He glanced
over his shoulder, showing a yellow, terror-stricken face. We were
gaining upon him. Darkness fell, and the thunder cracked and boomed as
though the very moor were splitting about us.
"Another fifty yards, Petrie," breathed Nayland Smith, "and after that
it's unchartered ground."
On we went through the rain and the darkness; then:
"Slow up! slow up!" cried Smith. "It feels soft!"
Indeed, already I had made one false step--and the hungry mire had
fastened upon my foot, almost tripping me.
"Lost the path!"
We stopped dead. The falling rain walled us in. I dared not move, for
I knew that the mire, the devouring mire, stretched, eager, close
about my feet. We were both waiting for the next flash of lightning, I
think, but, before it came, out of the darkness ahead of us rose a cry
that sometimes rings in my ears to this hour. Yet it was no more than
a repetition of that which had called to us, deathfully, awhile
"Help! help! for God's sake help! Quick! I am sinking . . ."
Nayland Smith grasped my arm furiously.
"We dare not move, Petrie--we dare not move!" he breathed. "It's God's
justice--visible for once."
Then came the lightning; and--ignoring a splitting crash behind us--we
both looked ahead, over the mire.
Just on the edge of the venomous green path, not thirty yards away, I
saw the head and shoulders and upstretched, appealing arms of Van
Roon. Even as the lightning flickered and we saw him, he was gone;
with one last, long, drawn-out cry, horribly like the mournful wail of
a sea gull, he was gone!
That eerie light died, and in the instant before the sound of the
thunder came shatteringly, we turned about . . . in time to see
Cragmire Tower, a blacker silhouette against the night, topple and
fall! A red glow began to be perceptible above the building. The
thunder came booming through the caverns of space. Nayland Smith
lowered his wet face close to mine and shouted in my ear:
"Kegan Van Roon never returned from China. It was a trap. Those were
two creatures of Dr. Fu-Manchu . . ."
The thunder died away, hollowly, echoing over the distant sea . . .
"That light on the moor to-night?"
"You have not learned the Morse Code, Petrie. It was a signal, and it
read:--S M I T H . . . SOS."
"I took the chance, as you know. And it was Karamaneh! She knew of the
plot to bury us in the mire. She had followed from London, but could
do nothing until dusk. God forgive me if I've misjudged her--for we
owe her our lives to-night."
Flames were bursting up from the building beside the ruin of the
ancient tower which had faced the storms of countless ages only to
succumb at last. The lightning literally had cloven it in twain.
"The mulatto? . . ."
Again the lightning flashed, and we saw the path and began to retrace
our steps. Nayland Smith turned to me; his face was very grim in that
unearthly light, and his eyes shone like steel.
"I killed him, Petrie . . . as I meant to do."
From out over Sedgemoor it came, cracking and rolling and booming
toward us, swelling in volume to a stupendous climax, that awful
laughter of Jove the destroyer of Cragmire Tower.
STORY OF THE GABLES
In looking over my notes dealing with the second phase of Dr.
Fu-Manchu's activities in England, I find that one of the worst hours
of my life was associated with the singular and seemingly inconsequent
adventure of the fiery hand. I shall deal with it in this place,
begging you to bear with me if I seem to digress.
Inspector Weymouth called one morning, shortly after the Van Roon
episode, and entered upon a surprising account of a visit to a house
at Hampstead which enjoyed the sinister reputation of being
"But in what way does the case enter into your province?" inquired
Nayland Smith, idly tapping out his pipe on a bar of the grate.
We had not long finished breakfast, but from an early hour Smith had
been at his eternal smoking, which only the advent of the meal had
"Well," replied the inspector, who occupied a big armchair near the
window, "I was sent to look into it, I suppose, because I had nothing
better to do at the moment."
"Ah!" jerked Smith, glancing over his shoulder.
The ejaculation had a veiled significance; for our quest of Dr.
Fu-Manchu had come to an abrupt termination by reason of the fact that
all trace of that malignant genius, and of the group surrounding him,
had vanished with the destruction of Cragmire Tower.
"The house is called the Gables," continued the Scotland Yard man,
"and I knew I was on a wild goose chase from the first--"
"Why?" snapped Smith.
"Because I was there before, six months ago or so--just before your
present return to England--and I knew what to expect."
Smith looked up with some faint dawning of interest perceptible in his
"I was unaware," he said with a slight smile, "that the cleaning-up of
haunted houses came within the jurisdiction of Scotland Yard. I am
"In the ordinary way," replied the big man good-humoredly, "it
doesn't. But a sudden death always excites suspicion, and--"
"A sudden death?" I said, glancing up; "you didn't explain that the
ghost had killed any one!"
"I'm afraid I'm a poor hand at yarn-spinning, Doctor," said Weymouth,
turning his blue, twinkling eyes in my direction. "Two people have
died at the Gables within the last six months."
"You begin to interest me," declared Smith, and there came something
of the old, eager look into his gaunt face, as, having lighted his
pipe, he tossed the match-end into the hearth.
"I had hoped for some little excitement, myself," confessed the
inspector. "This dead-end, with not a ghost of a clue to the
whereabouts of the yellow fiend, has been getting on my nerves--"
Nayland Smith grunted sympathetically.
"Although Dr. Fu-Manchu has been in England for some months, now,"
continued Weymouth, "I have never set eyes upon him; the house we
raided in Museum Street proved to be empty; in a word, I am wasting my
time. So that I volunteered to run up to Hampstead and look into the
matter of the Gables, principally as a distraction. It's a queer
business, but more in the Psychical Research Society's line than mine,
I'm afraid. Still, if there were no Dr. Fu-Manchu it might be of
interest to you--and to you, Dr. Petrie, because it illustrates the
fact, that, given the right sort of subject, death can be brought
about without any elaborate mechanism--such as our Chinese friends
"You interest me more and more," declared Smith, stretching himself in
the long, white cane rest-chair.
"Two men, both fairly sound, except that the first one had an
asthmatic heart, have died at the Gable without any one laying a
little finger upon them. Oh! there was no jugglery! They weren't
poisoned, or bitten by venomous insects, or suffocated, or anything
like that. They just died of fear--stark fear."
With my elbows resting upon the table cover, and my chin in my hands,
I was listening attentively, now, and Nayland Smith, a big cushion
behind his head, was watching the speaker with a keen and speculative
look in those steely eyes of his.
"You imply that Dr. Fu-Manchu has something to learn from the Gables?"
Weymouth nodded stolidly.
"I can't work up anything like amazement in these days," continued the
latter; "every other case seems stale and hackneyed alongside the
case. But I must confess that when the Gables came on the books of the
Yard the second time, I began to wonder. I thought there might be some
tangible clue, some link connecting the two victims; perhaps some
evidence of robbery or of revenge--of some sort of motive. In short, I
hoped to find evidence of human agency at work, but, as before, I was
"It's a legitimate case of a haunted house, then?" said Smith.
"Yes; we find them occasionally, these uninhabitable places, where
there is something, something malignant and harmful to human life, but
something that you cannot arrest, that you cannot hope to bring into
"Ah," replied Smith slowly; "I suppose you are right. There are
historic instances, of course: Glamys Castle and Spedlins Tower in
Scotland, Peel Castle, Isle of Man, with its Maudhe Dhug, the gray
lady of Rainham Hall, the headless horses of Caistor, the Wesley ghost
of Epworth Rectory, and others. But I have never come in personal
contact with such a case, and if I did I should feel very humiliated
to have to confess that there was any agency which could produce a
physical result--death--but which was immune from physical
Weymouth nodded his head again.
"I might feel a bit sour about it, too," he replied, "if it were not
that I haven't much pride left in these days, considering the show of
physical retaliation I have made against Dr. Fu-Manchu."
"A home thrust, Weymouth!" snapped Nayland Smith, with one of those
rare, boyish laughs of his. "We're children to that Chinese doctor,
Inspector, to that weird product of a weird people who are as old in
evil as the pyramids are old in mystery. But about the Gables?"
"Well, it's an uncanny place. You mentioned Glamys Castle a moment
ago, and it's possible to understand an old stronghold like that being
haunted, but the Gables was only built about 1870; it's quite a modern
house. It was built for a wealthy Quaker family, and they occupied it,
uninterruptedly and apparently without anything unusual occurring, for
over forty years. Then it was sold to a Mr. Maddison--and Mr. Maddison
died there six months ago."
"Maddison?" said Smith sharply, staring across at Weymouth. "What was
he? Where did he come from?"
"He was a retired tea-planter from Colombo," replied the inspector.
"There was a link with the East, certainly, if that's what you are
thinking; and it was this fact which interested me at the time, and
which led me to waste precious days and nights on the case. But there
was no mortal connection between this liverish individual and the
schemes of Dr. Fu-Manchu. I'm certain of that."
"And how did he die?" I asked, interestedly.
"He just died in his chair one evening, in the room which he used as a
library. It was his custom to sit there every night, when there were
no visitors, reading, until twelve o'clock--or later. He was a
bachelor, and his household consisted of a cook, a housemaid, and a
man who had been with him for thirty years, I believe. At the time of
Mr. Maddison's death, his household had recently been deprived of two
of its members. The cook and housemaid both resigned one morning,
giving as their reason the fact that the place was haunted."
"In what way?"
"I interviewed the precious pair at the time, and they told me absurd
and various tales about dark figures wandering along the corridors and
bending over them in bed at night, whispering; but their chief trouble
was a continuous ringing of bells about the house."
"They said that it became unbearable. Night and day there were bells
ringing all over the house. At any rate, they went, and for three or
four days the Gables was occupied only by Mr. Maddison and his man,
whose name was Stevens. I interviewed the latter also, and he was an
altogether more reliable witness; a decent, steady sort of man whose
story impressed me very much at the time."
"Did he confirm the ringing?"
"He swore to it--a sort of jangle, sometimes up in the air, near the
ceilings, and sometimes under the floor, like the shaking of silver
Nayland Smith stood up abruptly and began to pace the room, leaving
great trails of blue-gray smoke behind him.
"Your story is sufficiently interesting, Inspector," he declared,
"even to divert my mind from the eternal contemplation of the
Fu-Manchu problem. This would appear to be distinctly a case of an
'astral bell' such as we sometimes hear of in India."
"It was Stevens," continued Weymouth, "who found Mr. Maddison. He
(Stevens) had been out on business connected with the household
arrangements, and at about eleven o'clock he returned, letting himself
in with a key. There was a light in the library, and getting no
response to his knocking, Stevens entered. He found his master sitting
bolt upright in a chair, clutching the arms with rigid fingers and
staring straight before him with a look of such frightful horror on
his face, that Stevens positively ran from the room and out of the
house. Mr. Maddison was stone dead. When a doctor, who lives at no
great distance away, came and examined him, he could find no trace of
violence whatever; he had apparently died of fright, to judge from the
expression on his face."
"Only this: I learnt, indirectly, that the last member of the Quaker
family to occupy the house had apparently witnessed the apparition,
which had led to his vacating the place. I got the story from the wife
of a man who had been employed as gardener there at that time. The
apparition--which he witnessed in the hallway, if I remember rightly--
took the form of a sort of luminous hand clutching a long, curved
"Oh, Heavens!" cried Smith, and laughed shortly; "that's quite in
"This gentleman told no one of the occurrence until after he had left
the house, no doubt in order that the place should not acquire an evil
reputation. Most of the original furniture remained, and Mr. Maddison
took the house furnished. I don't think there can be any doubt that
what killed him was fear at seeing a repetition--"
"Of the fiery hand?" concluded Smith.
"Quite so. Well, I examined the Gables pretty closely, and, with
another Scotland Yard man, spent a night in the empty house. We saw
nothing; but once, very faintly, we heard the ringing of bells."
Smith spun around upon him rapidly.
"You can swear to that?" he snapped.
"I can swear to it," declared Weymouth stolidly. "It seemed to be over
our heads. We were sitting in the dining-room. Then it was gone, and
we heard nothing more whatever of an unusual nature. Following the
death of Mr. Maddison, the Gables remained empty until a while ago,
when a French gentleman, name Lejay, leased it--"
"Yes; nothing was removed--"
"Who kept the place in order?"
"A married couple living in the neighborhood undertook to do so. The
man attended to the lawn and so forth, and the woman came once a week,
I believe, to clean up the house."
"He came in only last week, having leased the house for six months.
His family were to have joined him in a day or two, and he, with the
aid of the pair I have just mentioned, and assisted by a French
servant he brought over with him, was putting the place in order. At
about twelve o'clock on Friday night this servant ran into a
neighboring house screaming 'the fiery hand!' and when at last a
constable arrived and a frightened group went up the avenue of the
Gables, they found M. Lejay, dead in the avenue, near the steps just
outside the hall door! He had the same face of horror . . ."
"What a tale for the press!" snapped Smith.
The owner has managed to keep it quiet so far, but this time I think
it will leak into the press--yes."
There was a short silence; then:
"And you have been down to the Gables again?"
"I was there on Saturday, but there's not a scrap of evidence. The man
undoubtedly died of fright in the same way as Maddison. The place
ought to be pulled down; it's unholy."
"Unholy is the word," I said. "I never heard anything like it. This M.
Lejay had no enemies?--there could be no possible motive?"
"None whatever. He was a business man from Marseilles, and his affairs
necessitated his remaining in or near London for some considerable
time; therefore, he decided to make his headquarters here,
temporarily, and leased the Gables with that intention."
Nayland Smith was pacing the floor with increasing rapidity; he was
tugging at the lobe of his left ear and his pipe had long since gone
I started to my feet as a tall, bearded man swung open the door and
hurled himself impetuously into the room. He wore a silk hat, which
fitted him very ill, and a black frock coat which did not fit him at
"It's all right, Petrie!" cried the apparition; "I've leased the
It was Nayland Smith! I stared at him in amazement
"The first time I have employed a disguise," continued my friend
rapidly, "since the memorable episode of the false pigtail." He threw
a small brown leather grip upon the floor. "In case you should care to
visit the house, Petrie, I have brought these things. My tenancy
Two days had elapsed, and I had entirely forgotten the strange story
of the Gables which Inspector Weymouth had related to us; evidently it
was otherwise with my friend, and utterly at a loss for an explanation
of his singular behavior, I stooped mechanically and opened the grip.
It contained an odd assortment of garments, and amongst other things
several gray wigs and a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles.
Kneeling there with this strange litter about me, I looked up
amazedly. Nayland Smith, with the unsuitable silk hat set right upon
the back of his head, was pacing the room excitedly, his fuming pipe
protruding from the tangle of factitious beard.
"You see, Petrie," he began again, rapidly, "I did not entirely
trust the agent. I've leased the house in the name of Professor
Maxton . . ."
"But, Smith," I cried, "what possible reason can there be for
"There's every reason," he snapped.
"Why should you interest yourself in the Gables?"
"Does no explanation occur to you?"
"None whatever; to me the whole thing smacks of stark lunacy."
"Then you won't come?"
"I've never stuck at anything, Smith," I replied, "however
undignified, when it has seemed that my presence could be of the
As I rose to my feet, Smith stepped in front of me, and the steely
gray eyes shone out strangely from the altered face. He clapped his
hands upon my shoulders.
"If I assure you that your presence is necessary to my safety," he
said--"that if you fail me I must seek another companion--will you
Intuitively, I knew that he was keeping something back, and I was
conscious of some resentment, but nevertheless my reply was a foregone
conclusion, and--with the borrowed appearance of an extremely untidy
old man--I crept guiltily out of my house that evening and into the
cab which Smith had waiting.
The Gables was a roomy and rambling place lying back a considerable
distance from the road. A semicircular drive gave access to the door,
and so densely wooded was the ground, that for the most part the drive
was practically a tunnel--a verdant tunnel. A high brick wall
concealed the building from the point of view of any one on the
roadway, but either horn of the crescent drive terminated at a heavy,
Smith discharged the cab at the corner of the narrow and winding road
upon which the Gables fronted. It was walled in on both sides; on the
left the wall being broken by tradesmen's entrances to the houses
fronting upon another street, and on the right following,
uninterruptedly, the grounds of the Gables. As we came to the gate:
"Nothing now," said Smith, pointing into the darkness of the road
before us, "except a couple of studios, until one comes to the Heath."
He inserted the key in the lock of the gate and swung it creakingly
open. I looked into the black arch of the avenue, thought of the
haunted residence that lay hidden somewhere beyond, of those who had
died in it--especially of the one who had died there under the trees--
and found myself out of love with the business of the night.
"Come on!" said Nayland Smith briskly, holding the gate open; "there
should be a fire in the library and refreshments, if the charwoman has
I heard the great gate clang to behind us. Even had there been any
moon (and there was none) I doubted if more than a patch or two of
light could have penetrated there. The darkness was extraordinary.
Nothing broke it, and I think Smith must have found his way by the aid
of some sixth sense. At any rate, I saw nothing of the house until I
stood some five paces from the steps leading up to the porch. A light
was burning in the hallway, but dimly and inhospitably; of the facade
of the building I could perceive little.
When we entered the hall and the door was closed behind us, I began
wondering anew what purpose my friend hoped to serve by a vigil in
this haunted place. There was a light in the library, the door of
which was ajar, and on the large table were decanters, a siphon, and
some biscuits and sandwiches. A large grip stood upon the floor, also.
For some reason which was a mystery to me, Smith had decided that we
must assume false names whilst under the roof of the Gables; and:
"Now, Pearce," he said, "a whisky-and-soda before we look around?"
The proposal was welcome enough, for I felt strangely dispirited, and,
to tell the truth, in my strange disguise, not a little ridiculous.
All my nerves, no doubt, were highly strung, and my sense of hearing
unusually acute, for I went in momentary expectation of some uncanny
happening. I had not long to wait. As I raised the glass to my lips
and glanced across the table at my friend, I heard the first faint
sound heralding the coming of the bells.
It did not seem to proceed from anywhere within the library, but from
some distant room, far away overhead. A musical sound it was, but
breaking in upon the silence of that ill-omened house, its music was
the music of terror. In a faint and very sweet cascade it rippled; a
ringing as of tiny silver bells.
I set down my glass upon the table, and rising slowly from the chair
in which I had been seated, stared fixedly at my companion, who was
staring with equal fixity at me. I could see that I had not been
deluded; Nayland Smith had heard the ringing, too.
"The ghosts waste no time!" he said softly. "This is not new to me; I
spent an hour here last night and heard the same sound . . ."
I glanced hastily around the room. It was furnished as a library, and
contained a considerable collection of works, principally novels. I
was unable to judge of the outlook, for the two lofty windows were
draped with heavy purple curtains which were drawn close. A silk
shaded lamp swung from the center of the ceiling, and immediately over
the table by which I stood. There was much shadow about the room; and
now I glanced apprehensively about me, but especially toward the open
In that breathless suspense of listening we stood awhile; then:
"There it is again!" whispered Smith, tensely.
The ringing of bells was repeated, and seemingly much nearer to us; in
fact it appeared to come from somewhere above, up near the ceiling of
the room in which we stood. Simultaneously, we looked up, then Smith
"Instinctive, I suppose," he snapped; "but what do we expect to see in
The musical sound now grew in volume; the first tiny peal seemed to be
reinforced by others and by others again, until the air around about
us was filled with the pealings of these invisible bell-ringers.
Although, as I have said, the sound was rather musical than horrible,
it was, on the other hand, so utterly unaccountable as to touch the
supreme heights of the uncanny. I could not doubt that our presence
had attracted these unseen ringers to the room in which we stood, and
I knew quite well that I was growing pale. This was the room in which
at least one unhappy occupant of the Gables had died of fear. I
recognized the fact that if this mere overture were going to affect my
nerves to such an extent, I could not hope to survive the ordeal of
the night; a great effort was called for. I emptied my glass at a
gulp, and stared across the table at Nayland Smith with a sort of
defiance. He was standing very upright and motionless, but his eyes
were turning right and left, searching every visible corner of the big
"Good!" he said in a very low voice. "The terrorizing power of the
Unknown is boundless, but we must not get in the grip of panic, or we
could not hope to remain in this house ten minutes."
I nodded without speaking. Then Smith, to my amazement, suddenly began
to speak in a loud voice, a marked contrast to that, almost a whisper,
in which he had spoken formerly.
"My dear Pearce," he cried, "do you hear the ringing of bells?"
Clearly the latter words were spoken for the benefit of the unseen
intelligence controlling these manifestations; and although I regarded
such finesse as somewhat wasted, I followed my friend's lead and
replied in a voice as loud as his own:
Silence followed my words, a silence in which both stood watchful and
listening. Then, very faintly, I seemed to detect the silvern ringing
receding away through distant rooms. Finally it became inaudible, and
in the stillness of the Gables I could distinctly hear my companion
breathing. For fully ten minutes we two remained thus, each
momentarily expecting a repetition of the ringing, or the coming of
some new and more sinister manifestation. But we heard nothing and saw
"Hand me that grip, and don't stir until I come back!" hissed Smith in
He turned and walked out of the library, his boots creaking very
loudly in that awe-inspiring silence.
Standing beside the table, I watched the open door for his return,
crushing down a dread that another form than his might suddenly appear
I could hear him moving from room to room, and presently, as I waited
in hushed, tense watchfulness, he came in, depositing the grip upon
the table. His eyes were gleaming feverishly.
"The house is haunted, Pearce!" he cried. "But no ghost ever
frightened me! Come, I will show you your room."
THE FIERY HAND
Smith walked ahead of me upstairs; he had snapped up the light in the
hallway, and now he turned and cried back loudly:
"I fear we should never get servants to stay here."
Again I detected the appeal to a hidden Audience; and there was
something very uncanny in the idea. The house now was deathly still;
the ringing had entirely subsided. In the upper corridor my companion,
who seemed to be well acquainted with the position of the switches,
again turned up all the lights, and in pursuit of the strange comedy
which he saw fit to enact, addressed me continuously in the loud and
unnatural voice which he had adopted as part of his disguise.
We looked into a number of rooms all well and comfortably furnished,
but although my imagination may have been responsible for the idea,
they all seemed to possess a chilly and repellent atmosphere. I felt
that to essay sleep in any one of them would be the merest farce, that
the place to all intents and purposes was uninhabitable, that
something incalculably evil presided over the house.
And through it all, so obtuse was I, that no glimmer of the truth
entered my mind. Outside again in the long, brightly lighted corridor,
we stood for a moment as if a mutual anticipation of some new event
pending had come to us. It was curious that sudden pulling up and
silent questioning of one another; because, although we acted thus, no
sound had reached us. A few seconds later our anticipation was
realized. From the direction of the stairs it came--a low wailing in a
woman's voice; and the sweetness of the tones added to the terror of
the sound. I clutched at Smith's arm convulsively whilst that uncanny
cry rose and fell--rose and fell--and died away.
Neither of us moved immediately. My mind was working with feverish
rapidity and seeking to run down a memory which the sound had stirred
into faint quickness. My heart was still leaping wildly when the
wailing began again, rising and falling in regular cadence. At that
instant I identified it.
During the time Smith and I had spent together in Egypt, two years
before, searching for Karamaneh, I had found myself on one occasion in
the neighborhood of a native cemetery near to Bedrasheen. Now, the
scene which I had witnessed there rose up again vividly before me, and
I seemed to see a little group of black-robed women clustered together
about a native grave; for the wailing which now was dying away again
in the Gables was the same, or almost the same, as the wailing of
those Egyptian mourners.
The house was very silent again, now. My forehead was damp with
perspiration, and I became more and more convinced that the uncanny
ordeal must prove too much for my nerves. Hitherto, I had accorded
little credence to tales of the supernatural, but face to face with
such manifestations as these, I realized that I would have faced
rather a group of armed dacoits, nay! Dr. Fu-Manchu himself, than have
remained another hour in that ill-omened house.
My companion must have read as much in my face. But he kept up the
strange, and to me, purposeless comedy, when presently he spoke.
"I feel it to be incumbent upon me to suggest," he said, "that we
spend the night at a hotel after all."
He walked rapidly downstairs and into the library and began to strap
up the grip.
"After all," he said, "there may be a natural explanation of what
we've heard; for it is noteworthy that we have actually seen nothing.
It might even be possible to get used to the ringing and the wailing
after a time. Frankly, I am loath to go back on my bargain!"
Whilst I stared at him in amazement, he stood there indeterminate as
it seemed, Then:
"Come, Pearce!" he cried loudly, "I can see that you do not share my
views; but for my own part I shall return to-morrow and devote further
attention to the phenomena."
Extinguishing the light, he walked out into the hallway, carrying the
grip in his hand. I was not far behind him. We walked toward the door
"Turn the light out, Pearce," directed Smith; the switch is at your
elbow. We can see our way to the door well enough, now."
In order to carry out these instructions, it became necessary for me
to remain a few paces in the rear of my companion, and I think I have
never experienced such a pang of nameless terror as pierced me at the
moment of extinguishing the light; for Smith had not yet opened the
door, and the utter darkness of the Gables was horrible beyond
expression. Surely darkness is the most potent weapon of the Unknown.
I know that at the moment my hand left the switch, I made for the door
as though the hosts of hell pursued me. I collided violently with
Smith. He was evidently facing toward me in the darkness, for at the
moment of our collision, he grasped my shoulder as in a vise.
"My God, Petrie! look behind you!" he whispered.
I was enabled to judge of the extent and reality of his fear by the
fact that the strange subterfuge of addressing me always as Pearce was
forgotten. I turned, in a flash. . . .
Never can I forget what I saw. Many strange and terrible memories are
mine, memories stranger and more terrible than those of the average
man; but this thing which now moved slowly down upon us through the
impenetrable gloom of that haunted place, was (if the term be
understood) almost absurdly horrible. It was a medieval legend come to
life in modern London; it was as though some horrible chimera of the
black and ignorant past was become create and potent in the present.
A luminous hand--a hand in the veins of which fire seemed to run so
that the texture of the skin and the shape of the bones within were
perceptible--in short a hand of glowing, fiery flesh clutching a short
knife or dagger which also glowed with the same hellish, internal
luminance, was advancing upon us where we stood--was not three paces
What I did or how I came to do it, I can never recall. In all my years
I have experienced nothing to equal the stark panic which seized upon
me then. I know that I uttered a loud and frenzied cry; I know that I
tore myself like a madman from Smith's restraining grip . . .
"Don't touch it! Keep away, for your life!" I heard . . .
But, dimly I recollect that, finding the thing approaching yet nearer,
I lashed out with my fists--madly, blindly--and struck something
palpable . . .
What was the result, I cannot say. At that point my recollections
merge into confusion. Something or some one (Smith, as I afterwards
discovered) was hauling me by main force through the darkness; I fell
a considerable distance onto gravel which lacerated my hands and
gashed my knees. Then, with the cool night air fanning my brow, I was
running, running--my breath coming in hysterical sobs. Beside me fled
another figure. . . . And my definite recollections commence again at
that point. For this companion of my flight from the Gables threw
himself roughly against me to alter my course.
"Not that way! not that way!" came pantingly.
"Not on to the Heath . . . we must keep to the roads . . ."
It was Nayland Smith. That healing realization came to me, bringing
such a gladness as no words of mine can express nor convey. Still we
"There's a policeman's lantern," panted my companion. "They'll attempt
* * * * *
I gulped down the stiff brandy-and-soda, then glanced across to where
Nayland Smith lay extended in the long, cane chair.
"Perhaps you will explain," I said, "for what purpose you submitted me
to that ordeal. If you proposed to correct my skepticism concerning
supernatural manifestations, you have succeeded."
"Yes," said my companion, musingly, "they are devilishly clever; but
we knew that already."
I stared at him, fatuously.
"Have you ever known me to waste my time when there was important work
to do?" he continued. "Do you seriously believe that my ghost-hunting
was undertaken for amusement? Really, Petrie, although you are very
fond of assuring me that I need a holiday, I think the shoe is on the
From the pocket of his dressing-gown, he took out a piece of silk
fringe which had apparently been torn from a scarf, and rolling it
into a ball, tossed it across to me.
"Smell!" he snapped.
I did as he directed--and gave a great start. The silk exhaled a faint
perfume, but its effect upon me was as though some one had cried
Beyond doubt the silken fragment had belonged to the beautiful servant
of Dr. Fu-Manchu, to the dark-eyed, seductive Karamaneh. Nayland Smith
was watching me keenly.
"You recognize it--yes?"
I placed the piece of silk upon the table, slightly shrugging my
"It was sufficient evidence in itself," continued my friend, "but I
thought it better to seek confirmation, and the obvious way was to
pose as a new lessee of the Gables . . ."
"But, Smith," I began . . .
"Let me explain, Petrie. The history of the Gables seemed to be
susceptible of only one explanation; in short it was fairly evident to
me that the object of the manifestations was to insure the place being
kept empty. This idea suggested another, and with them both in mind, I
set out to make my inquiries, first taking the precaution to disguise
my identity, to which end Weymouth gave me the freedom of Scotland
Yard's fancy wardrobe. I did not take the agent into my confidence,
but posed as a stranger who had heard that the house was to let
furnished and thought it might suit his purpose. My inquiries were
directed to a particular end, but I failed to achieve it at the time.
I had theories, as I have said, and when, having paid the deposit and
secured possession of the keys, I was enabled to visit the place
alone, I was fortunate enough to obtain evidence to show that my
imagination had not misled me.
"You were very curious the other morning, I recall, respecting my
object in borrowing a large brace and bit. My object, Petrie, was to
bore a series of holes in the wainscoating of various rooms at the
Gables--in inconspicuous positions, of course . . ."
"But, my dear Smith!" I cried, "you are merely adding to my
He stood up and began to pace the room in his restless fashion.
"I had cross-examined Weymouth closely regarding the phenomenon of the
bell-ringing, and an exhaustive search of the premises led to the
discovery that the house was in such excellent condition that, from
ground-floor to attic, there was not a solitary crevice large enough
to admit of the passage of a mouse."
I suppose I must have been staring very foolishly indeed, for Nayland
Smith burst into one of his sudden laughs.
"A mouse, I said, Petrie!'' he cried. "With the brace-and-bit I
rectified that matter. I made the holes I have mentioned, and before
each set a trap baited with a piece of succulent, toasted cheese. Just
open that grip!"
The light at last was dawning upon my mental darkness, and I pounced
upon the grip, which stood upon a chair near the window, and opened
it. A sickly smell of cooked cheese assailed my nostrils.
"Mind your fingers!" cried Smith; "some of them are still set,
Out from the grip I began to take mouse-traps! Two or three of them
were still set but in the case of the greater number the catches had
slipped. Nine I took out and placed upon the table, and all were
empty. In the tenth there crouched, panting, its soft furry body dank
with perspiration, a little white mouse!
"Only one capture!" cried my companion, "showing how well-fed the
creatures were. Examine his tail!"
But already I had perceived that to which Smith would draw my
attention, and the mystery of the "astral bells" was a mystery no
longer. Bound to the little creature's tail, close to the root, with
fine soft wire such as is used for making up bouquets, were three tiny
silver bells. I looked across at my companion in speechless surprise.
"Almost childish, is it not?" he said; "yet by means of this simple
device the Gables has been emptied of occupant after occupant. There
was small chance of the trick being detected, for, as I have said,
there was absolutely no aperture from roof to basement by means of
which one of them could have escaped into the building."
"Then . . ."
"They were admitted into the wall cavities and the rafters, from some
cellar underneath, Petrie, to which, after a brief scamper under the
floors and over the ceilings, they instinctively returned for the food
they were accustomed to receive, and for which, even had it been
possible (which it was not) they had no occasion to forage."
I, too, stood up; for excitement was growing within me. I took up the
piece of silk from the table.
"Where did you find this?" I asked, my eyes upon Smith's keen face.
"In a sort of wine cellar, Petrie," he replied, "under the stair.
There is no cellar proper to the Gables--at least no such cellar
appears in the plans."
"But . . ."
"But there is one beyond doubt--yes! It must be part of some older
building which occupied the site before the Gables was built. One can
only surmise that it exists, although such a surmise is a fairly safe
one, and the entrance to the subterranean portion of the building is
situated beyond doubt in the wine cellar. Of this we have at least two
evidences:--the finding of the fragment of silk there, and the fact
that in one case at least--as I learned--the light was extinguished in
the library unaccountably. This could only have been done in one way:
by manipulating the main switch, which is also in the wine cellar."
"But Smith!" I cried, "do you mean that Fu-Manchu . . ."
Nayland Smith turned in his promenade of the floor, and stared into my
"I mean that Dr. Fu-Manchu has had a hiding-place under the Gables for
an indefinite period!" he replied. "I always suspected that a man of
his genius would have a second retreat prepared for him, anticipating
the event of the first being discovered. Oh! I don't doubt it! The
place probably is extensive, and I am almost certain--though the point
has to be confirmed--that there is another entrance from the studio
further along the road. We know, now, why our recent searchings in the
East End have proved futile; why the house in Museum Street was
deserted; he has been lying low in this burrow at Hampstead!"
"But the hand, Smith, the luminous hand . . ."
Nayland Smith laughed shortly.
"Your superstitious fears overcame you to such an extent, Petrie--and
I don't wonder at it; the sight was a ghastly one--that probably you
don't remember what occurred when you struck out at that same ghostly
"I seemed to hit something."
"That was why we ran. But I think our retreat had all the appearance
of a rout, as I intended that it should. Pardon my playing upon your
very natural fears, old man, but you could not have simulated panic
half so naturally! And if they had suspected that the device was
discovered, we might never have quitted the Gables alive. It was
touch-and-go for a moment."
"But . . ."
"Turn out the light!" snapped my companion.
Wondering greatly, I did as he desired. I turned out the light . . .
and in the darkness of my own study I saw a fiery fist being shaken at
me threateningly! . . . The bones were distinctly visible, and the
luminosity of the flesh was truly ghastly.
"Turn on the light, again!" cried Smith.
Deeply mystified, I did so . . . and my friend tossed a little
electric pocket-lamp on to the writing-table.
"They used merely a small electric lamp fitted into the handle of a
glass dagger," he said with a sort of contempt. "It was very
effective, but the luminous hand is a phenomenon producible by any one
who possesses an electric torch."
"The Gables--will be watched?"
"At last, Petrie, I think we have Fu-Manchu--in his own trap!"
THE NIGHT OF THE RAID
"Dash it all, Petrie!" cried Smith, "this is most annoying!"
The bell was ringing furiously, although midnight was long past. Whom
could my late visitor be? Almost certainly this ringing portended an
urgent case. In other words, I was not fated to take part in what I
anticipated would prove to be the closing scene of the Fu-Manchu
"Every one is in bed," I said, ruefully; "and how can I possibly see a
patient--in this costume?"
Smith and I were both arrayed in rough tweeds, and anticipating the
labors before us, had dispensed with collars and wore soft mufflers.
It was hard to be called upon to face a professional interview dressed
thus, and having a big tweed cap pulled down over my eyes.
Across the writing-table we confronted one another in dismayed
silence, whilst, below, the bell sent up its ceaseless clangor.
"It has to be done, Smith," I said, regretfully. "Almost certainly it
means a journey and probably an absence of some hours."
I threw my cap upon the table, turned up my coat to hide the absence
of collar, and started for the door. My last sight of Smith showed him
standing looking after me, tugging at the lobe of his ear and clicking
his teeth together with suppressed irritability. I stumbled down the
dark stairs, along the hall, and opened the front door. Vaguely
visible in the light of a street lamp which stood at no great distance
away, I saw a slender man of medium height confronting me. From the
shadowed face two large and luminous eyes looked out into mine. My
visitor, who, despite the warmth of the evening, wore a heavy
greatcoat, was an Oriental!
I drew back, apprehensively; then:
"Ah! Dr. Petrie!" he said in a softly musical voice which made me
start again, "to God be all praise that I have found you!"
Some emotion, which at present I could not define, was stirring within
me. Where had I seen this graceful Eastern youth before? Where had I
heard that soft voice?
"Do you wish to see me professionally?" I asked--yet even as I put the
question, I seemed to know it unnecessary.
"So you know me no more?" said the stranger--and his teeth gleamed in
a slight smile.
Heavens! I knew now what had struck that vibrant chord within me! The
voice, though infinitely deeper, yet had an unmistakable resemblance
to the dulcet tones of Karamaneh--of Karamaneh whose eyes haunted my
dreams, whose beauty had done much to embitter my years.
The Oriental youth stepped forward, with outstretched hand.
"So you know me no more?" he repeated; "but I know you, and give
praise to Allah that I have found you!"
I stepped back, pressed the electric switch, and turned, with leaping
heart, to look into the face of my visitor. It was a face of the
purest Greek beauty, a face that might have served as a model for
Praxiteles; the skin had a golden pallor, which, with the crisp black
hair and magnetic yet velvety eyes, suggested to my fancy that this
was the young Antinious risen from the Nile, whose wraith now appeared
to me out of the night. I stifled a cry of surprise, not unmingled
It was Aziz - the brother of Karamaneh!
Never could the entrance of a figure upon the stage of a drama have
been more dramatic than the coming of Aziz upon this night of all
nights. I seized the outstretched hand and drew him forward, then
reclosed the door and stood before him a moment in doubt.
A vaguely troubled look momentarily crossed the handsome face; with
the Oriental's unerring instinct, he had detected the reserve of my
greeting. Yet, when I thought of the treachery of Karamaneh, when I
remember how she, whom we had befriended, whom we had rescued from the
house of Fu-Manchu, now had turned like the beautiful viper that she
was to strike at the hand that caressed her; when I thought how
to-night we were set upon raiding the place where the evil Chinese
doctor lurked in hiding, were set upon the arrest of that malignant
genius and of all his creatures, Karamaneh amongst them, is it strange
that I hesitated? Yet, again, when I thought of my last meeting with
her, and of how, twice, she had risked her life to save me . . .
So, avoiding the gaze of the lad, I took his arm, and in silence we
two ascended the stairs and entered my study . . . where Nayland Smith
stood bolt upright beside the table, his steely eyes fixed upon the
face of the new arrival.
No look of recognition crossed the bronzed features, and Aziz who had
started forward with outstretched hands, fell back a step and looked
pathetically from me to Nayland Smith, and from the grim commissioner
back again to me. The appeal in the velvet eyes was more than I could
"Smith," I said shortly, "you remember Aziz?"
Not a muscle visibly moved in Smith's face, as he snapped back:
"I remember him perfectly."
"He has come, I think, to seek our assistance."
"Yes, yes!" cried Aziz laying his hand upon my arm with a gesture
painfully reminiscent of Karamaneh--"I came only to-night to London.
Oh, my gentlemen! I have searched, and searched, and searched, until I
am weary. Often I have wished to die. And then at last I come to
Rangoon . . ."
"To Rangoon!" snapped Smith, still with the gray eyes fixed almost
fiercely upon the lad's face.
"To Rangoon--yes; and there I heard news at last. I hear that you have
seen her--have seen Karamaneh--that you are back in London." He was
not entirely at home with his English. "I know then that she must be
here, too. I ask them everywhere, and they answer 'yes.' Oh, Smith
Pasha!"--he stepped forward and impulsively seized both Smith's hands
--"You know where she is--take me to her!"
Smith's face was a study in perplexity, now. In the past we had
befriended the young Aziz, and it was hard to look upon him in the
light of an enemy. Yet had we not equally befriended his sister?--and
she . . .
At last Smith glanced across at me where I stood just within the
"What do you make of it, Petrie?" he said harshly. "Personally I take
it to mean that our plans have leaked out." He sprang suddenly back
from Aziz and I saw his glance traveling rapidly over the slight
figure as if in quest of concealed arms. "I take it to be a trap!"
A moment he stood so, regarding him, and despite my well-grounded
distrust of the Oriental character, I could have sworn that the
expression of pained surprise upon the youth's face was not simulated
but real. Even Smith, I think, began to share my view; for suddenly he
threw himself into the white cane rest-chair, and, still fixedly
"Perhaps I have wronged you," he said. "If I have, you shall know the
reason presently. Tell your own story!"
There was a pathetic humidity in the velvet eyes of Aziz--eyes so like
those others that were ever looking into mine in dreams--as glancing
from Smith to me he began, hands outstretched, characteristically,
palms upward and fingers curling, to tell in broken English the story
of his search for Karamaneh . . .
"It was Fu-Manchu, my kind gentlemen - it was the hakim who is really
not a man at all, but an efreet. He found us again less than four days
after you had left us, Smith Pasha! . . . He found us in Cairo, and to
Karamaneh he made the forgetting of all things--even of me--even of
me . . ."
Nayland Smith snapped his teeth together sharply; then:
"What do you mean by that?" he demanded.
For my own part I understood well enough, remembering how the
brilliant Chinese doctor once had performed such an operation as this
upon poor Inspector Weymouth; how, by means of an injection of some
serum prepared (as Karamaneh afterwards told us) from the venom of a
swamp adder or similar reptile, he had induced amnesia, or complete
loss of memory. I felt every drop of blood recede from my cheeks.
"Smith!" I began . . .
"Let him speak for himself," interrupted my friend sharply.
"They tried to take us both," continued Aziz still speaking in that
soft, melodious manner, but with deep seriousness. "I escaped, I, who
am swift of foot, hoping to bring help."--He shook his head sadly--
"But, except the All Powerful, who is so powerful as the Hakim
Fu-Manchu? I hid, my gentlemen, and watched and waited, one--two--
three weeks. At last I saw her again, my sister, Karamaneh; but ah!
she did not know me, did not know me, Aziz her brother! She was in an
arabeeyeh, and passed me quickly along the Sharia en-Nahhasin. I ran,
and ran, and ran, crying her name, but although she looked back, she
did not know me--she did not know me! I felt that I was dying, and
presently I fell--upon the steps of the Mosque of Abu."
He dropped the expressive hands wearily to his sides and sank his chin
upon his breast.
"And then?" I said, huskily--for my heart was fluttering like a
"Alas! from that day to this I see her no more, my gentlemen. I
travel, not only in Egypt, but near and far, and still I see her no
more until in Rangoon I hear that which brings me to England
again"--he extended his palms naively--"and here I am--Smith Pasha."
Smith sprang upright again and turned to me.
"Either I am growing over-credulous," he said, or Aziz speaks the
truth. But"--he held up his hand--"you can tell me all that at some
other time, Petrie! We must take no chances. Sergeant Carter is
downstairs with the cab; you might ask him to step up. He and Aziz can
remain here until our return."
THE SAMURAI'S SWORD
The muffled drumming of sleepless London seemed very remote from us,
as side by side we crept up the narrow path to the studio. This was a
starry but moonless night, and the little dingy white building with a
solitary tree peeping, in silhouette, above the glazed roof, bore an
odd resemblance to one of those tombs which form a city of the dead so
near to the city of feverish life on the slopes of the Mokattam Hills.
This line of reflection proved unpleasant, and I dismissed it sternly
from my mind.
The shriek of a train-whistle reached me, a sound which breaks the
stillness of the most silent London night, telling of the ceaseless,
febrile life of the great world-capital whose activity ceases not with
the coming of darkness. Around and about us a very great stillness
reigned, however, and the velvet dusk which, with the star-jeweled
sky, was strongly suggestive of an Eastern night--gave up no sign to
show that it masked the presence of more than twenty men. Some
distance away on our right was the Gables, that sinister and deserted
mansion which we assumed, and with good reason, to be nothing less
than the gateway to the subterranean abode of Dr. Fu-Manchu; before us
was the studio, which, if Nayland Smith's deductions were accurate,
concealed a second entrance to the same mysterious dwelling.
As my friend, glancing cautiously all about him, inserted the key in
the lock, an owl hooted dismally almost immediately above our heads. I
caught my breath sharply, for it might be a signal; but, looking
upward, I saw a great black shape float slantingly from the tree
beyond the studio into the coppice on the right which hemmed in the
Gables. Silently the owl winged its uncanny flight into the greater
darkness of the trees, and was gone. Smith opened the door and we
stepped into the studio. Our plans had been well considered, and in
accordance with these, I now moved up beside my friend, who was dimly
perceptible to me in the starlight which found access through the
glass roof, and pressed the catch of my electric pocket-lamp . . .
I suppose that by virtue of my self-imposed duty as chronicler of the
deeds of Dr. Fu-Manchu--the greatest and most evil genius whom the
later centuries have produced, the man who dreamt of an universal
Yellow Empire--I should have acquired a certain facility in describing
bizarre happenings. But I confess that it fails me now as I attempt in
cold English to portray my emotions when the white beam from the
little lamp cut through the darkness of the studio, and shone fully
upon the beautiful face of Karamaneh!
Less than six feet away from me she stood, arrayed in the gauzy dress
of the harem, her fingers and slim white arms laden with barbaric
jewelry! The light wavered in my suddenly nerveless hand, gleaming
momentarily upon bare ankles and golden anklets, upon little red
I spoke no word, and Smith was as silent as I; both of us, I think,
were speechless rather from amazement than in obedience to the evident
wishes of Fu-Manchu's slave-girl. Yet I have only to close my eyes at
this moment to see her as she stood, one finger raised to her lips,
enjoining us to silence. She looked ghastly pale in the light of the
lamp, but so lovely that my rebellious heart threatened already, to
make a fool of me.
So we stood in that untidy studio, with canvases and easels heaped
against the wall and with all sorts of litter about us, a trio
strangely met, and one to have amused the high gods watching through
the windows of the stars.
"Go back!" came in a whisper from Karamaneh.
I saw the red lips moving and read a dreadful horror in the widely
opened eyes, in those eyes like pools of mystery to taunt the thirsty
soul. The world of realities was slipping past me; I seemed to be
losing my hold on things actual; I had built up an Eastern palace
about myself and Karamaneh wherein, the world shut out, I might pass
the hours in reading the mystery of those dark eyes. Nayland Smith
brought me sharply to my senses.
"Steady with the light, Petrie!" he hissed in my, ear. "My skepticism
has been shaken, to-night, but I am taking no chances."
He moved from my side and forward toward that lovely, unreal figure
which stood immediately before the model's throne and its background
of plush curtains. Karamaneh started forward to meet him, suppressing
a little cry, whose real anguish could not have been simulated.
"Go back! go back!" she whispered urgently, and thrust out her hands
against Smith's breast. "For God's sake, go back! I have risked my
life to come here to-night. He knows, and is ready!". . .
The words were spoken with passionate intensity, and Nayland Smith
hesitated. To my nostrils was wafted that faint, delightful perfume
which, since one night, two years ago, it had come to disturb my
senses, had taunted me many times as the mirage taunts the parched
Sahara traveler. I took a step forward.
"Don't move!" snapped Smith.
Karamaneh clutched frenziedly at the lapels of his coat.
"Listen to me!" she said, beseechingly and stamped one little foot
upon the floor--"listen to me! You are a clever man, but you know
nothing of a woman's heart--nothing--nothing--if seeing me, hearing
me, knowing, as you do know, I risk, you can doubt that I speak the
truth. And I tell you that it is death to go behind those curtains--
that he . . ."
"That's what I wanted to know!" snapped Smith. His voice quivered with
Suddenly grasping Karamaneh by the waist, he lifted her and set her
aside; then in three bounds he was on to the model's throne and had
torn the Plush curtains bodily from their fastenings.
How it occurred I cannot hope to make dear, for here my recollections
merge into a chaos. I know that Smith seemed to topple forward amid
the purple billows of velvet, and his muffled cry came to me:
"Petrie! My God, Petrie!" . . .
The pale face of Karamaneh looked up into mine and her hands were
clutching me, but the glamour of her personality had lost its hold,
for I knew--heavens, how poignantly it struck home to me!--that
Nayland Smith was gone to his death. What I hoped to achieve, I know
not, but hurling the trembling girl aside, I snatched the Browning
pistol from my coat pocket, and with the ray of the lamp directed upon
the purple mound of velvet, I leaped forward.
I think I realized that the curtains had masked a collapsible trap, a
sheer pit of blackness, an instant before I was precipitated into it,
but certainly the knowlege came too late. With the sound of a soft,
shuddering cry in my ears, I fell, dropping lamp and pistol, and
clutching at the fallen hangings. But they offered me no support. My
head seemed to be bursting; I could utter only a hoarse groan, as I
fell--fell--fell . . .
When my mind began to work again, in returning consciousness, I found
it to be laden with reproach. How often in the past had we blindly
hurled ourselves into just such a trap as this? Should we never learn
that where Fu-Manchu was, impetuosity must prove fatal? On two
distinct occasions in the past we had been made the victims of this
device, yet even although we had had practically conclusive evidence
that this studio was used by Dr. Fu-Manchu, we had relied upon its
floor being as secure as that of any other studio, we had failed to
sound every foot of it ere trusting our weight to its support. . . .
"There is such a divine simplicity in the English mind that one may
lay one's plans with mathematical precision, and rely upon the Nayland
Smiths and Dr. Petries to play their allotted parts. Excepting two
faithful followers, my friends are long since departed. But here, in
these vaults which time has overlooked and which are as secret and as
serviceable to-day as they were two hundred years ago, I wait
patiently, with my trap set, like the spider for the fly! . . ."
To the sound of that taunting voice, I opened my eyes. As I did so I
strove to spring upright--only to realize that I was tied fast to a
heavy ebony chair inlaid with ivory, and attached by means of two iron
brackets to the floor.
"Even children learn from experience," continued the unforgettable
voice, alternately guttural and sibilant, but always as deliberate as
though the speaker were choosing with care words which should
perfectly clothe his thoughts. "For 'a burnt child fears the fire,'
says your English adage. But Mr. Commissioner Nayland Smith, who
enjoys the confidence of the India Office, and who is empowered to
control the movements of the Criminal Investigation Department, learns
nothing from experience. He is less than a child, since he has twice
rashly precipitated himself into a chamber charged with an anesthetic
prepared, by a process of my own, from the lycoperdon or Common
I became fully master of my senses, and I became fully alive to a
stupendous fact. At last it was ended; we were utterly in the power of
Dr. Fu-Manchu; our race was run.
I sat in a low vaulted room. The roof was of ancient brickwork, but
the walls were draped with exquisite Chinese fabric having a green
ground whereon was a design representing a grotesque procession of
white peacocks. A green carpet covered the floor, and the whole of the
furniture was of the same material as the chair to which I was
strapped, viz:--ebony inlaid with ivory. This furniture was scanty.
There was a heavy table in one corner of the dungeonesque place, on
which were a number of books and papers. Before this table was a
high-backed, heavily carven chair. A smaller table stood upon the
right of the only visible opening, a low door partially draped with
bead work curtains, above which hung a silver lamp. On this smaller
table, a stick of incense, in a silver holder, sent up a pencil of
vapor into the air, and the chamber was loaded with the sickly sweet
fumes. A faint haze from the incense-stick hovered up under the roof.
In the high-backed chair sat Dr. Fu-Manchu, wearing a green robe upon
which was embroidered a design, the subject of which at first glance