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The Yellow Claw eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 260 pages of information about The Yellow Claw.

He heard the muffled report, saw the flash of the little weapon, saw the two holes in the carven woodwork, and gained a greater, hysterical courage—­the courage of a coward’s desperation.

Immediately before him was a little ebony table, bearing a silver bowl, laden to the brim with sulphur-colored roses.  He overturned the table with his foot, laughing wildly.  In three strides he leapt across the room, grasped the sandalwood screen, and hurled it to the floor....

In the instant of its fall, he became as Lot’s wife.  The pistol dropped from his nerveless grasp, thudding gently on the carpet, and, with his fingers crooked paralytically, he stood swaying... and looking into the face of Mr. King!

Soames’ body already was as rigid as it would be in death; his mind was numbed—­useless.  But his outraged soul forced utterance from the lips of the man.

A scream, a scream to have made the angels shudder, to have inspired pity in the devils of Hell, burst from him.  Two yellow hands leaped at his throat....

XXXVIII

THE SECRET TRAPS

Gaston Max, from his silken bed in the catacombs of Ho-Pin, watched the hand of his watch which lay upon the little table beside him.  Already it was past two o’clock, and no sign had come from Soames; a hundred times his imagination had almost tricked him into believing that the door was opening; but always the idea had been illusory and due to the purple shadow of the lamp-shade which overcast that side of the room and the door.

He had experienced no difficulty in arranging with Gianapolis to occupy the same room as formerly; and, close student of human nature though he was, he had been unable to detect in the Greek’s manner, when they had met that night, the slightest restraint, the slightest evidence of uneasiness.  His reception by Ho-Pin had varied scarce one iota from that accorded him on his first visit to the cave of the golden dragon.  The immobile Egyptian had brought him the opium, and had departed silently as before.  On this occasion, the trap above the bed had not been opened.  But hour after hour had passed, uneventfully, silently, in that still, suffocating room....

A key in the lock!—­yes, a key was being inserted in the lock!  He must take no unnecessary risks; it might be another than Soames.  He waited—­the faint sound of fumbling ceased.  Still, he waited, listening intently.

Half-past-two.  If it had been Soames, why had he withdrawn?  M. Max arose noiselessly and looked about him.  He was undecided what to do, when...

Two shots, followed by a most appalling shriek—­the more frightful because it was muffled; the shriek of a man in extremis, of one who stands upon the brink of Eternity, brought him up rigid, tense, with fists clenched, with eyes glaring; wrought within this fearless investigator an emotion akin to terror.

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