In a pool of blood was stretched the Eurasian girl, Zarmi. Her picturesque finery was reft into tatters and her bare throat and arms were covered with weals and bruises occasioned by ruthless, clutching fingers. Of her face, which had been notable for a sort of devilish beauty, I cannot write; it was the awful face of one who had did from strangulation.
Beside her, with a Malay kris in his heart—a little, jeweled weapon that I had often seen in Zarmi’s hand—sprawled the obese Greek, Samarkan, a member of the Si-Fan group and sometime manager of a great London hotel!
It was ghastly, it was infinitely horrible, that tragedy of which the story can never be known, never be written; that fiendish fight to the death in the black chapel of Asmodeus.
“We are too late!” said Nayland Smith. “The stair behind the altar!”
He snatched up the lantern. Directly behind the stone altar was a narrow, pointed doorway. From the depths with which it communicated proceeded vague, awesome sounds, as of waves breaking in some vast cavern....
We were more than half-way down the stair when, above the muffled roaring of the thunder, I distinctly heard the voice of Dr. Fu-Manchu!
“My God!” shouted Smith, “perhaps they are trapped! The cave is only navigable at low tide and in calm weather!”
We literally fell down the remaining steps ... and were almost precipitated into the water!
The light of the lantern showed a lofty cavern tapering away to a point at its remote end, pear-fashion. The throbbing of an engine and churning of a screw became audible. There was a faint smell of petrol.
“Shoot! shoot!”—the frenzied voice was that of Sir Lionel—“Look! they can just get through! ...”
Crack! Crack! Crack!
Nayland Smith’s Browning spat death across the cave. Then followed the report of Barton’s pistol; then those of mine and Kennedy’s.
A small motor-boat was creeping cautiously out under a low, natural archway which evidently gave access to the sea! Since the tide was incoming, a few minutes more of delay had rendered the passage of the cavern impossible....
The boat disappeared.
“We are not beaten!” snapped Nayland Smith. “The Chanak-Kampo will be seized in the Channel!”
* * * * * * *
“There were formerly steps, in the side of the well from which this place takes its name,” declared Nayland Smith dully. “This was the means of access to the secret chapel employed by the devil-worshipers.”
“The top of the well (alleged to be the deepest in England),” said Sir Lionel, “is among a tangle of weeds close by the ruined tower.”
Smith, ascending three stone steps, swung the lantern out over the yawning pit below; then he stared long and fixedly upwards.
Both thunder and rain had ceased; but even in those gloomy depths we could hear the coming of the tempest which followed upon that memorable storm.