He turned laboriously to Zarmi. She clapped her hands and held the curtain aside. A perfectly immobile Chinaman, whose age I was unable to guess, and who wore a white overall, entered, bowed composedly to Frazer and myself and began in a matter-of-fact way to prepare the dressings.
QUEEN OF HEARTS
“Sir Baldwin Frazer,” said Fu-Manchu, interrupting a wild outburst from the former, “your refusal is dictated by insufficient knowledge of your surroundings. You find yourself in a place strange to you, a place to which no clue can lead your friends; in the absolute power of a man—myself—who knows no law other than his own and that of those associated with him. Virtually, Sir Baldwin, you stand in China; and in China we know how to exact obedience. You will not refuse, for Dr. Petrie will tell you something of my wire-jackets and my files....”
I saw Sir Baldwin Frazer blanch. He could not know what I knew of the significance of those words—“my wire-jackets, my files”—but perhaps something of my own horror communicated itself to him.
“You will not refuse” continued Fu-Manchu softly; “my only fear for you is that the operation my prove unsuccessful! In that event not even my own great clemency could save you, for by virtue of your failure I should be powerless to intervene.” He paused for some moments, staring directly at the surgeon. “There are those within sound of my voice,” he added sibilantly, “who would flay you alive in the lamentable event of your failure, who would cast your flayed body”—he paused, waving one quivering fist above his head, “to the rats—to the rats!”
Sir Baldwin’s forehead was bathed in perspiration now. It was an incredible and a gruesome situation, a nightmare become reality. But, whatever my own case, I could see that Sir Baldwin Frazer was convinced, I could see that his consent would no longer be withheld.
“You, my dear friend,” said Fu-Manchu, turning to me and resuming his studied and painful composure of manner, “will also consent....”
Within my heart of hearts I could not doubt him; I knew that my courage was not of a quality high enough to sustain the frightful ordeals summoned up before my imagination by those words—“my files, my wire-jackets!”
“In the event, however, of any little obstinancy,” he added, “another will plead with you.”
A chill like that of death descended upon me—as, for the second time, Zarmi clapped her hands, pulled the curtain aside ... and Karamaneh was thrust into the room!
* * * * * * *
There comes a blank in my recollections. Long after Karamaneh had been plucked out again by the two muscular brown hands which clutched her shoulders from the darkness beyond the doorway, I seemed to see her standing there, in her close-fitting traveling dress. Her hair was unbound, disheveled, her lovely face pale to the lips—and her eyes, her glorious, terror-bright eyes, looked fully into mine....