Nayland Smith lay with his arms outside the coverlet and his fists tightly clenched. His thin, tanned face wore a grayish hue, and a white bandage was about his head. He breathed stentoriously.
“We can only wait,” said Dr. Hamilton, “and trust that there will be no complications.”
I clenched my fists involuntarily, but, speaking no word, turned and passed from the room.
Downstairs in Dr. Hamilton’s study was the man who had found Nayland Smith.
“We don’t know when it was done, sir,” he said, answering my first question. “Staples and me stumbled on him in the dusk, just by the big beech—a good quarter-mile from the village. I don’t know how long he’d laid there, but it must have been for some time, as the last rain arrived an hour earlier. No, sir, he hadn’t been robbed; his money and watch were on him but his pocketbook lay open beside him;— though, funny as it seems, there were three five-pound notes in it!”
“Do you understand, Petrie?” cried Sir Lionel. “Smith evidently obtained a copy of the old plan of the secret passages of Graywater and Monkswell, sooner than he expected, and determined to return to-night. They left him for dead, having robbed him of the plans!”
“But the attack on Dr. Hamilton’s man?”
“Fu-Manchu clearly tried to prevent communication with us to-night! He is playing for time. Depend on it, Petrie, the hour of his departure draws near and he is afraid of being trapped at the last moment.”
He began taking huge strides up and down the room, forcibly reminding me of a caged lion.
“To think,” I said bitterly, “that all our efforts have failed to discover the secret——”
“The secret of my own property!” roared Barton—“and one known to that damned, cunning Chinese devil!”
“And in all probability now known also to Smith——”
“And he cannot speak! ...”
“Who cannot speak?” demanded a hoarse voice.
I turned in a flash, unable to credit my senses—and there, holding weakly to the doorpost, stood Nayland Smith!
“Smith!” I cried reproachfully—“you should not have left your room!”
He sank into an arm-chair, assisted by Dr. Hamilton.
“My skull is fortunately thick!” he replied, a ghostly smile playing around the corners of his mouth—“and it was a physical impossibility for me to remain inert considering that Dr. Fu-Manchu proposes to leave England to-night!”
THE MONK’S PLAN
“My inquiries in the Manuscript Room of the British Museum,” said Nayland Smith, his voice momentarily growing stronger and some of the old fire creeping back into his eyes, “have proved entirely successful.”
Sir Lionel Barton, Dr. Hamilton, and myself hung upon every word; and often I fond myself glancing at the old-fashioned clock on the doctor’s mantel-piece.