“The divine afflatus should never be neglected,” announced Nayland Smith didactically, “wild though its promptings may seem.”
THE NOTE ON THE DOOR
I saw little of Nayland Smith for the remainder of that day. Presumably he was following those “promptings” to which he had referred, though I was unable to conjecture whither they were leading him. Then, towards dusk he arrived in a perfect whirl, figuratively sweeping me off my feet.
“Get your coat on, Petrie!” he cried; “you forget that we have a most urgent appointment!”
Beyond doubt I had forgotten that we had any appointment whatever that evening, and some surprise must have shown upon my face, for—
“Really you are becoming very forgetful!” my friend continued. “You know we can no longer trust the ’phone. I have to leave certain instructions for Weymouth at the rendezvous!”
There was a hidden significance in his manner, and, my memory harking back to an adventure which we had shared in the past, I suddenly glimpsed the depths of my own stupidity.
He suspected the presence of an eavesdropper! Yes! incredible though it might appear, we were spied upon in the New Louvre; agents of the Si-Fan, of Dr. Fu-Manchu, were actually within the walls of the great hotel!
We hurried out into the corridor, and descended by the lift to the lobby. M. Samarkan, long famous as maitre d’hotel of one of Cairo’s fashionable khans, and now principal of the New Louvre, greeted us with true Greek courtesy. He trusted that we should be present at some charitable function or other to be held at the hotel on the following evening.
“If possible, M. Samarkan—if possible,” said Smith. “We have many demands upon our time.” Then, abruptly, to me: “Come, Petrie, we will walk as far as Charing Cross and take a cab from the rank there.”
“The hall-porter can call you a cab,” said M. Samarkan, solicitous for the comfort of his guests.
“Thanks,” snapped Smith; “we prefer to walk a little way.”
Passing along the Strand, he took my arm, and speaking close to my ear—
“That place is alive with spies, Petrie,” he said; “or if there are only a few of them they are remarkably efficient!”
Not another word could I get from him, although I was eager enough to talk; since one dearer to me than all else in the world was in the hands of the damnable organization we knew as the Si-Fan; until, arrived at Charing Cross, he walked out to the cab rank, and—
“Jump in!” he snapped.
He opened the door of the first cab on the rank.
“Drive to J—— Street, Kennington,” he directed the man.
In something of a mental stupor I entered and found myself seated beside Smith. The cab made off towards Trafalgar Square, then swung around into Whitehall.