“Ki-Ming spoke no word of rebuke, Petrie; he merely looked at Li, with those deceptive, gazelle-like eyes. Li, according to my acquaintance account, began to make palpable and increasingly anxious attempts to look anywhere rather than into the mild eyes of his implacable master. M. Sokoloff, who, up to that moment, had entertained similar views to your own respecting his host, regarded this unmoving stare of Ki-Ming’s as a sort of kindly, because silent, reprimand. The behavior of the unhappy Li very speedily served to disabuse his mind of that delusion.
“Petrie—the man grew livid, his whole body began to twitch and shake as though an ague had attacked him; and his eyes protruded hideously from their sockets! M. Sokoloff assured me that he felt himself turning pale—when Ki-Ming, very slowly, raised his right hand and pointed to the pond.
“Li began to pant as though engaged in a life and death struggle with a physically superior antagonist. He clutched at the posts of the loggia with frenzied hands and a bloody froth came to his lips. He began to move backward, step by step, step by step, all the time striving, with might and main, to prevent himself from doing so! His eyes were set rigidly upon Ki-Ming, like the eyes of a rabbit fascinated by a python. Ki-Ming continued to point.
“Right to the brink of the lake the man retreated, and there, for one dreadful moment, he paused and uttered a sort of groaning sob. Then, clenching his fists frenziedly, he stepped back into the water and immediately sank among the lilies. Ki-Ming continued to gaze fixedly— at the spot where bubbles were rising; and presently up came the livid face of the drowning man, still having those glazed eyes turned, immovably, upon the mandarin. For nearly five seconds that hideous, distorted face gazed from amid the mass of blooms, then it sank again ... and rose no more.”
“What!” I cried, “do you mean to tell me——”
“Ki-Ming struck a gong. Another servant appeared with a fresh bowl of water; and the mandarin calmly resumed his dinner!”
I drew a deep breath and raised my hand to my head.
“It is almost unbelievable,” I said. “But what completely passes my comprehension is his allowing me to depart unscathed, having once held me in his power. Why the long harangue and the pose of friendship?
“That point is not so difficult.”
“That does not surprise me in the least. You may recollect that Dr. Fu-Manchu entertains for you an undoubted affection, distinctly Chinese in its character, but nevertheless an affection! There is no intention of assassinating you, Petrie; I am the selected victim.”
I started up.
“Smith! what do you mean? What danger, other than that which has threatened us for over two years, threatens us to-night?”
“Now you come to the point which does puzzle me. I believe I stated awhile ago that I was afraid. You have placed your finger upon the cause of my fear. What threatens us to-night?”