“Watch those French windows, Weymouth! I can hold the door!”
Like a lightning flash it came to me that the tall Hindu had been none other than Smith disguised. From the square outside came a sudden turmoil, a sound of racing feet, of smashing glass, of doors burst forcibly open. Palpably, the place was surrounded; this was an organized raid.
Irresolute, I stood there in the semi-gloom—inactive from amaze of it all—whilst sounds of a tremendous struggle proceeded from the square gap in the partition.
“Lights!” rose a cry, in Smith’s voice again—“they have cut the wires!”
At that I came to my senses. Plunging my hand into my pocket, I snatched out the electric lamp ... and stepped back quickly into the utter gloom of the room behind me.
Some one was crawling through the aperture into the conservatory!
As I watched I saw him, in the dim light, stoop to replace the movable panel. Then, tapping upon the tiled floor as he walked, the fugitive approached me. He was but three paces from the French window when I pressed the button of my lamp and directed its ray fully upon his face.
“Hands up!” I said breathlessly. “I have you covered, Dr. Fu-Manchu!”
One hour later I stood in the entrance hall of our chambers in the court adjoining Fleet Street. Some one who had come racing up the stairs, now had inserted a key in the lock. Open swung the door—and Nayland Smith entered, in a perfect whirl of excitement.
“Petrie! Petrie!” he cried, and seized both my hands—“you have missed a night of nights! Man alive! we have the whole gang—the great Ki-Ming included!” His eyes were blazing. “Weymouth has made no fewer than twenty-five arrests, some of the prisoners being well-known Orientals. It will be the devil’s own work to keep it all quiet, but Scotland Yard has already advised the Press.”
“Congratulations, old man,” I said, and looked him squarely in the eyes.
Something there must have been in my glance at variance with the spoken words. His expression changed; he grasped my shoulder.
“She was not there,” he said, “but please God, we’ll find her now. It’s only a question of time.”
But, even as he spoke, the old, haunted look was creeping back into the lean face. He gave me a rapid glance; then:—
“I might as well make a clean breast of it,” he rapped. “Fu-Manchu escaped! Furthermore, when we got lights, the woman had vanished, too.”
“There was a woman at this strange gathering, Petrie. Heaven only knows who she really is. According to Fu-Manchu she is that woman of mystery concerning whose existence strange stories are current in the East; the future Empress of a universal empire! But of course I decline to accept the story, Petrie! if ever the Yellow races overran Europe, I am in no doubt respecting the identity of the person who would ascend the throne of the world!”