Wearing the borrowed garments, I was led from the room, along a passage, down a flight of thickly carpeted stairs, and so out of the house into the street. Faint evidences of remote traffic reached my ears as I was assisted into a car and placed in a cushioned corner. The car moved off, proceeded for some distance; then—
“Allow me to help you to descend,” said the soft voice. “You may open your eyes in thirty seconds.”
I was assisted from the step on to the pavement—and I heard the car being driven back. Having slowly counted thirty I opened my eyes, and looked about me. This, and not the fevered moment when first I had looked upon the room with the golden door, seemed to be my true awakening, for about me was comprehensible world, the homely streets of London, with deserted Portland Place stretching away on the one hand and a glimpse of midnight Regent Street obtainable on the other! The clock of the neighboring church struck one.
My mind yet dull with wonder of it all, I walked on to Oxford Circus and there obtained a taxicab, in which I drove to Fleet Street. Discharging the man, I passed quickly under the time worn archway into the court and approached our stair. Indeed, I was about to ascend when some one came racing down and almost knocked me over.
“Petrie! Petrie! Thank God you’re safe!”
It was Nayland Smith, his eyes blazing with excitement, as I could see by the dim light of the lamp near the archway, and his hands, as he clapped them upon my shoulders, quivering tensely.
“Petrie!” he ran on impulsively, and speaking with extraordinary rapidly, “I was detained by a most ingenious trick and arrived only five minutes ago, to find you missing, the window wide open, and signs of hooks, evidently to support a rope ladder, having been attached to the ledge.”
“But where were you going?”
“Weymouth has just rung up. We have indisputable proof that the mandarin Ki-Ming, whom I had believed to be dead, and whom I know for a high official of the Si-Fan, is actually in London! It’s neck or nothing this time, Petrie! I’m going straight to Portland Place!”
“To the Chinese Legation?”
“Perhaps I can save you a journey,” I said slowly. “I have just come from there!”
THE MANDARIN KI-MING
Nayland Smith strode up and down the little sitting-room, tugging almost savagely at the lobe of his left ear. To-night his increasing grayness was very perceptible, and with his feverishly bright eyes staring straightly before him, he looked haggard and ill, despite the deceptive tan of his skin.
“Petrie,” he began in his abrupt fashion, “I am losing confidence in myself.”
“Why?” I asked in surprise.
“I hardly know; but for some occult reason I feel afraid.”