That part of the way which was visible in front had the appearance of a muddy cataract, through which we must force a path.
Then, as abruptly as it had commenced, the rain ceased; and at almost the same moment came an angry cry from behind.
The canvas hood made it impossible to see clearly in the car, but, turning quickly, I perceived Kennedy, with his cap off, rubbing his close-cropped skull. He was cursing volubly.
“What is it, Kennedy?
“Somebody sniping!” cried the man. “Lucky for me I had my cap on!”
“Eh, sniping?” said Barton, glancing over his shoulder. “What d’you mean? A stone, was it?”
“No, sir,” answered Kennedy. “I don’t know what it was—but it wasn’t a stone.”
“Hurt much?” I asked.
“No, sir! nothing at all.” But there was a note of fear in the man’s voice—fear of the unknown.
Something struck the hood with a dull drum-like thud.
“There’s another, sir!” cried Kennedy. “There’s some one following us!”
“Can you see any one?” came the reply. “I thought I saw something then, about twenty yards behind. It’s so dark.”
“Try a shot!” I said, passing my Browning to Kennedy.
The next moment, the crack of the little weapon sounded sharply, and I thought I detected a vague, answering cry.
“See anything?” came from Barton.
Neither Kennedy nor I made reply; for we were both looking back down the hill. Momentarily, the moon had peeped from the cloud-banks, and where, three hundreds yards behind, the bordering trees were few, a patch of dim light spread across the muddy road—and melted away as a new blackness gathered.
But, in the brief space, three figures had shown, only for an instant— but long enough for us both to see that they were those of three gaunt men, seemingly clad in scanty garments. What weapons they employed I could not conjecture; but we were pursued by three of Dr. Fu-Manchu’s dacoits!
Barton growled something savagely, and ran the car to the left of the road, as the gates of Dr. Hamilton’s house came in sight.
A servant was there, ready to throw them open; and Sir Lionel swung around on to the drive, and drove ahead, up the elm avenue to where the light streamed through the open door on to the wet gravel. The house was a blaze of lights, every window visible being illuminated; and Mrs. Hamilton stood in the porch to greet us.
“Doctor Petrie?” she asked, nervously, as we descended.
“I am he,” I said. “How is Mr. Smith?”
“Still insensible,” was the reply.
Passing a knot of servants who stood at the foot of the stairs like a little flock of frightened sheep—we made our way into the room where my poor friend lay.
Dr. Hamilton, a gray-haired man of military bearing, greeted Sir Lionel, and the latter made me known to my fellow practitioner, who grasped my hand, and then went straight to the bedside, tilting the lampshade to throw the light directly upon the patient.