Nayland Smith turned and looked me squarely in the eyes. Words trembled on his tongue; but those words were never spoken ... for a brass helmet appeared suddenly out of the smoke banks, followed almost immediately by a second....
“Quick, sir! this way! Jump! I’ll catch you!”
Exactly what followed I never knew; but there was a mighty burst of cheering, a sense of tension released, and it became a task less agonizing to breathe.
Feeling very dazed, I found myself in the heart of a huge, excited crowd, with Weymouth beside me, and Nayland Smith holding my arm. Vaguely, I heard;—
“They have the man Ismail, but ...”
A hollow crash drowned the end of the sentence. A shower of sparks shot up into the night’s darkness high above our heads.
“That’s the platform gone!”
ROOM WITH THE GOLDEN DOOR
One night early in the following week I sat at work upon my notes dealing with our almost miraculous escape from the blazing hashish house when the clock of St. Paul’s began to strike midnight.
I paused in my work, leaning back wearily and wondering what detained Nayland Smith so late. Some friends from Burma had carried him off to a theater, and in their good company I had thought him safe enough; yet, with the omnipresent menace of Fu-Manchu hanging over our heads, always I doubted, always I feared, if my friend should chance to be delayed abroad at night.
What a world of unreality was mine, in those days! Jostling, as I did, commonplace folk in commonplace surroundings, I yet knew myself removed from them, knew myself all but alone in my knowledge of the great and evil man, whose presence in England had diverted my life into these strange channels.
But, despite of all my knowledge, and despite the infinitely greater knowledge and wider experience of Nayland Smith, what did I know, what did he know, of the strange organization called the Si-Fan, and of its most formidable member, Dr. Fu-Manchu?
Where did the dreadful Chinaman hide, with his murderers, his poisons, and his nameless death agents? What roof in broad England sheltered Karamaneh, the companion of my dreams, the desire of every waking hour?
I uttered a sigh of despair, when, to my unbounded astonishment, there came a loud rap upon the window pane!
Leaping up, I crossed to the window, threw it widely open and leant out, looking down into the court below. It was deserted. In no other window visible to me was any light to be seen, and no living thing moved in the shadows beneath. The clamor of Fleet Street’s diminishing traffic came dimly to my ears; the last stroke from St. Paul’s quivered through the night.
What was the meaning of the sound which had disturbed me? Surely I could not have imagined it? Yet, right, left, above and below, from the cloisteresque shadows on the east of the court to the blank wall of the building on the west, no living thing stirred.