I have said that my every faculty was keen, and have spoken of my confidence in my own alertness. My condition, as a matter of fact, must have been otherwise, and this belief in my powers merely symptomatic of the fever which consumed me; for, as I was to learn, I had failed to take the first elementary precaution necessary in such case. I, who tracked another, had not counted upon being tracked myself! ...
A bag or sack, reeking of some sickly perfume, was dropped silently, accurately, over my head from behind; it was drawn closely about my throat. One muffled shriek, strangely compound of fear and execration, I uttered. I was stifling, choking ... I staggered—and fell....
I MEET DR. FU-MANCHU
My next impression was of a splitting headache, which, as memory remounted its throne, brought up a train of recollections. I found myself to be seated upon a heavy wooden bench set flat against a wall, which was covered with a kind of straw matting. My hands were firmly tied behind me. In the first agony of that reawakening I became aware of two things.
I was in an operating-room, for the most conspicuous item of its furniture was an operating-table! Shaded lamps were suspended above it; and instruments, antiseptics, dressings, etc., were arranged upon a glass-topped table beside it. Secondly, I had a companion.
Seated upon a similar bench on the other side of the room, was a heavily built man, his dark hair splashed with gray, as were his short, neatly trimmed beard and mustache. He, too, was pinioned; and he stared across the table with a glare in which a sort of stupefied wonderment predominated, but which was not free from terror.
It was Sir Baldwin Frazer!
“Sir Baldwin!” I muttered, moistening my parched lips with my tongue— “Sir Baldwin!—how——”
“It is Dr. Petrie, is it not?” he said, his voice husky with emotion. “Dr. Petrie!—my dear sir, in mercy tell me—what does this mean? I have been kidnaped—drugged; made the victim of an inconceivable outrage at the very door of my own house....”
I stood up unsteadily.
“Sir Baldwin,” I interrupted, “you ask me what it means. It means that we are in the hands of Dr. Fu-Manchu!”
Sir Baldwin stared at me wildly; his face was white and drawn with anxiety.
“Dr. Fu-Manchu!” he said; “but my dear sir, this name conveys nothing to me—nothing!” His manner momentarily was growing more distrait. “Since my captivity began I have been given the use of a singular suite of rooms in this place, and received, I must confess, every possible attention. I have been waited upon by the she-devil who lured me here, but not one word other than a species of coarse badinage has she spoken to me. At times I have been tempted to believe that the fate which frequently befalls the specialist had befallen me? You understand?”