“You see nobody,” she snapped back uncompromisingly. “You go away!”
She took a step towards me, continuing to point to the door. Where had I previously encountered the glance of those splendid, savage eyes?
So engaged was I with this taunting, partial memory, and so sure, if the woman would but uncover her face, of instantly recognizing her, that still I hesitated. Whereupon, glancing rapidly over her shoulder into whatever place lay beyond the curtained doorway, she suddenly stepped back and vanished, drawing the curtains to with an angry jerk.
I heard her retiring footsteps; then came a loud bang. If her object in intercepting me had been to cover the slow retreat of some one she had succeeded.
Recognizing that I had cut a truly sorry figure in the encounter, I retraced my steps.
By what route I ultimately regained the main staircase I have no idea; for my mind was busy with that taunting memory of the two dark eyes looking out from the folds of the green embroidered shawl. Where, and when, had I met their glance before?
To that problem I sought an answer in vain.
The message despatched to New Scotland Yard, I found M. Samarkan, long famous as a maitre d’ hotel in Cairo, and now host of London’s newest and most palatial khan. Portly, and wearing a gray imperial, M. Samarkan had the manners of a courtier, and the smile of a true Greek.
I told him what was necessary, and no more, desiring him to go to suite 14a without delay and also without arousing unnecessary attention. I dropped no hint of foul play, but M. Samarkan expressed profound (and professional) regret that so distinguished, though unprofitable, a patron should have selected the New Louvre, thus early in its history, as the terminus of his career.
“By the way,” I said, “have you Oriental guests with you, at the moment?”
“No, monsieur,” he assured me.
“Not a certain Oriental lady?” I persisted.
M. Samarkan slowly shook his head.
“Possibly monsieur has seen one of the ayahs?
There are several
Anglo-Indian families resident in the New Louvre at present.”
An ayah? It was just possible, of course. Yet ...
THE FLOWER OF SILENCE
“We are dealing now,” said Nayland Smith, pacing restlessly up and down our sitting-room, “not, as of old, with Dr. Fu-Manchu, but with an entirely unknown quantity—the Si-Fan.”
“For Heaven’s sake!” I cried, “what is the Si-Fan?”
“The greatest mystery of the mysterious East, Petrie. Think. You know, as I know, that a malignant being, Dr. Fu-Manchu, was for some time in England, engaged in ‘paving the way’ (I believe those words were my own) for nothing less than a giant Yellow Empire. That dream is what millions of Europeans and Americans term ’the Yellow Peril! Very good. Such an empire needs must have——”