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Chapter 35 - Ordered Home

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« on: January 04, 2023, 07:13:11 am »

ON THE following night Ramin returned to Cairo. I remember, as Sir Lionel and I sat in the lounge waiting for him to join us for dinner, that my mind was more nearly at ease than it had been for many days. When presently Ramin appeared, although he looked perhaps rather more than normally pale, he had nevertheless contrived to efface any signs of her recent ordeal.

“In the absence of Dr. Petrie,” I said, “I prescribe a champagne cocktail.”

The patient approved of the prescription.

“What about you, Chief?”

“Whisky and soda,” Sir Lionel growled, staring towards the entrance door. “Where the devil’s Petrie?”

“A busy medical man,” I replied, summoning a waiter, “is always excused social appointments. Isn’t he, Chief?”

“Has to be, I suppose.”

As I gave the order I found myself thinking about the doctor’s earlier days, when, a struggling suburban practitioner in London, he had first found himself involved in the web of Dr. Fu Manchu. His published journals of those singular experiences which he had shared with Sir Denis, had created such world-wide interest that to-day, as I knew, he was independent of the proceeds of his profession. But he was, as someone had said of him, a born healer; and he had the most extensive practice of any English physician in Cairo. Evidently my thoughts were reflected upon my face; for—

“What are you grinning about?” the chief demanded.

“I was wondering,” I replied, “if Sir Denis will allow me to publish an account of the story of the Masked Prophet.”

“You published an account, as you term it,” Ramin interrupted, “of what happened in the Tomb of the Black Ape and afterwards. I didn’t think it was too flattering to me, but I know you made a lot of money out of it. I don’t really think, Uncle—” turning to Sir Lionel—“that it’s quite fair, do you? Shouldn’t we have a share?”

“Yes.” The chief stared at me with smothered ferocity. “You’ve written me up in a painfully frank way, Greville, now I come to think about it . . . Ah! Here’s Petrie!”

As he spoke, I saw the doctor come in from the terrace at a brisk pace. There was urgency in his manner, and when, sighting us, he hurried forward I realized that he was ill at ease.

His first thought, however, was for his patient; and dropping into a chair beside him, he looked at him in that encompassing manner which comes to a man who for many years has practised as a physician.

“Quite restored, I see,” he said, and glanced critically at the cocktail. “Only one, Ramin. Excitants are not desirable . . . yet.”

Seeing me about to call a waiter: “As I’m rather late, Greville,” he went on, “let’s go in to dinner; if possible, find a quiet table, as there’s something I have to tell you.”

“Knew it!” said the chief loudly, watching the speaker. “Got something on your mind, Petrie. What is it?”

“You’re right,” Petrie admitted, smiling slightly. “I don’t quite know what to make of it.”

“Nor do I,” Sir Lionel replied, “unless you tell me what it is.”

“A long message from Smith in Damascus. It was relayed over the telephone. That’s what detained me. But don’t let us talk about it now.”

We stood up and walked along the corridor, which is a miniature jewel bazaar, to the dining room. I had arranged for a quiet table at the farther end, and presently, when we were all seated and the chief, who was host, had given his orders:

“This message is disturbing, in a way,” said Petrie. “There’s a Dutch steamer of the Rotterdam Lloyd Line, the Indramatra, leaving Port Said to-morrow night for Southampton; and Smith insists that, baggage or no baggage, you must all leave in her!”

“What!” Sir Lionel cried so loudly that many heads were turned in our direction. “He must be mad. I won’t budge an inch—not one inch—until Ali Mahmoud arrives with the gear.”

Dr. Petrie looked grave.

“I have the message here,” he continued; “and when I have read it to you, possibly you may change your mind. . . . Dr. Fu Manchu has been in Damascus. He has disappeared. Smith has every reason to believe that he is on his way here—to Cairo. His mission, Barton, is to see you!

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