Part 2 out of 4
Mostyn replied. "The Professor may have taken it from Al-Madinah
- perhaps from the mysterious inner passage of the baldaquin where
the treasures of the place lie. But I can assure you that what
little we do know of its history is sufficiently unsavoury."
I fancied that the curator's tired cultured voice faltered as he
spoke; and now, without apparent reason, he moved a step to the
right and glanced oddly along the room. I followed the direction
of his glance, and saw a tall man in conventional morning dress,
irreproachable in every detail, whose head was instantly bent upon
his catalogue. But before his eyes fell I knew that their long
almond shape, as well as the peculiar burnt pallor of his
countenance, were undoubtedly those of an Oriental.
"There have been mysterious outrages committed, I believe, upon
many of those who have come in contact with the slipper?" asked one
of the savants.
"Exactly. Professor Deeping was undoubtedly among the victims.
His instructions were explicit that the relic should be brought here
by a Moslem, but for a long time we failed to discover any Moslem
who would undertake the task; and, as you are aware, while the
slipper remained at the Professor's house attempts were made to
He ceased uneasily, and glanced at the tall Eastern figure. It had
edged a little nearer; the head was still bowed and the fine yellow
waxen fingers of the hand from which he had removed his glove
fumbled with the catalogue's leaves. It may well have been that
in those days I read menace in every eye, yet I felt assured that
the yellow visitor was eavesdropping - was malignantly attentive to
The curator spoke lower than ever now; no one beyond the circle
could possibly hear him as he proceeded -
"We discovered an Alexandrian Greek who, for personal reasons, not
unconnected with matrimony, had turned Moslem! He carried the
slipper here, strongly escorted, and placed it where you now see it.
No other hand has touched it." (The speaker's voice was raised ever
so slightly.) "You will note that there is a rail around the case,
to prevent visitors from touching even the glass."
"Ah," said Dr. Nicholson quizzically, "And has anything untoward
happened to our Graeco-Moslem friend?"
"Perhaps Inspector Bristol can tell replied the curator.
The straight, military figure of the wellknown Scotland Yard man
was conspicuous among the group of distinguished - and mostly
round-shouldered - scholars.
"Sorry, gentlemen," he said, smiling. "but Mr. Acepulos has vanished
from his tobacco shop in Soho. I am not apprehensive that he had
been kidnapped or anything of that kind. I think rather that the
date of his disappearance tallies with that on which he cashed his
cheque for service rendered! His present wife is getting most
unbeautifully fat, too."
"What precautions," someone asked "are being taken to guard the
"Well," Mostyn answered, "though we have only the bare word of the
late Professor Deeping that the slipper was actually worn by
Mohammed, it has certainly an enormous value according to Moslem
ideas. There can be no doubt that a group of fanatics known as
Hashishin are in London engaged in an extraordinary endeavour to
Mostyn's voice sank to an impressive whisper. My gaze sought again
the tall Eastern visitor and was held fascinated by the baffled
straining in those velvet eyes. But the lids fell as I looked; and
the effect was that of a fire suddenly extinguished. I determined
to draw Bristol's attention to the man.
"Accordingly," Mostyn continued, "we have placed it in this room,
from which I fancy it would puzzle the most accomplished thief to
The party, myself included, stared about the place, as he went on
to explain -
"We have four large windows here; as you see. The Burton Room
occupies the end of a wing; there is only one door; it communicates
with the next room, which in turn opens into the main building by
another door on the landing. We are on the first floor; these two
east windows afford a view of the lawn before the main entrance;
those two west ones face Orpington Square; all are heavily barred
as you see. During the day there is a man always on duty in these
two rooms. At night that communicating door is locked. Short of
erecting a ladder in full view either of the Square or of Great
Orchard Street, filing through four iron bars and breaking the
window and the case, I fail to see how anybody can get at the
"If a duplicate key to the safe - " another voice struck in; I knew
it afterward for that of Professor Rhys-Jenkyns.
"Impossible to procure one, Professor," cried Mostyn, his eyes
sparkling with an almost boyish interest. "Mr. Cavanagh here holds
the keys of the case, under the will of the late Professor Deeping.
They are of foreign workmanship and more than a little complicated."
The eyes of the savants were turned now in my direction.
"I suppose you have them in a place of safety?" said Dr. Nicholson.
"They are at my bankers," I replied.
"Then I venture to predict," said the celebrated Orientalist, "that
the slipper of the Prophet will rest here undisturbed."
He linked his arm into that of a brother scholar and the little
group straggled away, Mostyn accompanying them to the main entrance.
But I saw Inspector Bristol scratching his chin; he looked very much
as if he doubted the accuracy of the doctor's prediction. He had
already had some experience of the implacable devotion of the Moslem
group to this treasure of the Faithful.
"The real danger begins," I suggested to him "when the general public
is admitted - after to-day, is it not?"
"Yes. All to-day's people are specially invited, or are using
special invitation cards," he replied. "The people who received
them often give their tickets away to those who will be likely
really to appreciate the opportunity."
I looked around for the tall Oriental. He seemed to have vanished,
and for some reason I hesitated to speak of him to Bristol; for my
gaze fell upon an excessively thin, keen-faced man whose curiously
wide-open eyes met mine smilingly, whose gray suit spoke Stein-Bloch,
whose felt was a Boss raw-edge unmistakably of a kind that only
Philadelphia can produce. At the height of the season such visitors
are not rare, but this one had an odd personality, and moreover his
keen gaze was raking the place from ceiling to floor.
Where had I met him before? To the best of my recollection I had
never set eyes upon the man prior to that moment; and since he was
so palpably an American I had no reason for assuming him to be
associated with the Hashishin. But I remembered - indeed, I could
never forget - how, in the recent past, I had met with an apparent
associate of the Moslems as evidently European as this curiously
alert visitor was American. Moreover . . . there was something
tauntingly familiar, yet elusive, about that gaunt face.
Was it not upon the eve of the death of Professor Deeping that the
girl with the violet eyes had first intruded her fascinating
personality into my tangled affairs? Patently, she had then been
seeking the holy slipper, and by craft had endeavoured to bend me
to her will. Then had I not encountered her again, meeting the
glance of her unforgettable violet eyes outside a Strand, hotel?
The encounter had presaged a, further attempt upon the slipper!
Certainly she acted on behalf of someone interested in it; and since
neither Bristol nor I could conceive of any one seeking to possess
the bloodstained thing except the mysterious leader of the
Hashishin - Hassan of Aleppo - as a creature of that awful fanatic
being I had written her down.
Why, then, if the mysterious Eastern employed a European girl,
should he not also employ an American man? It might well be that
the relic, in entering the doors of the impregnable Antiquarian
Museum, had passed where the diabolical arts of the Hashishin had
no power to reach it - where the beauty of Western women and the
craft of Eastern man were equally useless weapons. Perhaps Hassan's
campaign was entering upon a new phase.
Was it a shirking of plain duty on my part that wish - that
ever-present hope - that the murderous company of fanatics who had
pursued the stolen slipper from its ancient resting-place to London,
should succeed in recovering it? I leave you to judge.
The crescent of Islam fades to-day and grows pale, but there are yet
fierce Believers, alust for the blood of the infidel. In such as
these a faith dies the death of an adder, and is more venomous in
its death-throes than in the full pulse of life. The ghastly
indiscretion of Professor Deeping, in rifling a Moslem Sacristy, had
led to the mutilation of many who, unwittingly, had touched the
looted relic, had brought about his own end, had established a league
of fantastic assassins in the heart of the metropolis.
Only once had I seen the venerable Hassan of Aleppo - a stately,
gentle old man; but I knew that the velvet eyes could blaze into a
passionate fury that seemed to scorch whom it fell upon. I knew
that the saintly Hassan was Sheikh of the Hashishin. And
familiarity with that dreadful organization had by no means bred
contempt. I was the holder of the key, and my fear of the fanatics
grew like a magic mango, darkened the sunlight of each day, and
filled the night with indefinable dread.
You, who have not read poor Deeping's "Assyrian Mythology", cannot
picture a creature with a huge, distorted head, and a tiny, dwarfed
body - a thing inhuman, yet human - a man stunted and malformed by
the cruel arts of brother men - a thing obnoxious to life, with but
one passion, the passion to kill. You cannot conceive of the years
of agony spent by that creature strapped to a wooden frame - in
order to prevent his growth! You cannot conceive of his fierce
hatred of all humanity, inflamed to madness by the Eastern drug,
hashish, and directed against the enemies of Islam - the holders of
the slipper - by the wonderful power of Hassan of Aleppo.
But I had not only read of such beings, I had encountered one!
And he was but one of the many instruments of the Hashishin. Perhaps
the girl with the violet eyes was another. What else to be dreaded
Hassan might hold in store for us I could not conjecture.
Do you wonder that I feared? Do you wonder that I hoped (I confess
it), hoped that the slipper might be recovered without further
THE HOLE IN THE BLIND
I stepped over to the door, where a constable stood on duty.
"You observed a tall Eastern gentleman in the room a while ago,
"I did, sir."
"How long is he gone?"
The man started and began to peer about anxiously.
"That's a funny thing, sir," he said. "I was keeping my eyes
specially upon him. I noticed him hovering around while Mr.
Mostyn was speaking; but although I could have sworn he hadn't
passed out, he's gone!"
"You didn't notice his departure, then?"
"I'm sorry to say I didn't, sir."
The man clearly was perplexed, but I found small matter for wonder
in the episode. I had more than suspected the stranger to be a spy
of Hassan's, and members of that strange company were elusive as
Bristol, at the far end of the room, was signalling to me. I
walked back and joined him.
"Come over here," he said, in a low voice, "and pretend to examine
He glanced significantly to his left. Following the glance, my
eyes fell upon the lean American; he was peering into the receptacle
which held the holy slipper.
Bristol led me across the room, and we both faced the wall and bent
over a glass case. Some yellow newspaper cuttings describing its
contents hung above it, and these we pretended to read.
"Did you notice that man I glanced at?"
"Well, that's Earl Dexter, the first crook in America! Ssh! Only
goes in on very big things. We had word at the Yard he was in town;
but we can't touch him - we can only keep our eyes on him. He
usually travels openly and in his own name, but this time he seems
to have slipped over quietly. He always dresses the same and has
just given me 'good day!' They call him The Stetson Man. We heard
this morning that he had booked two first-class sailings in the
Oceanic, leaving for New York three weeks hence. Now, Mr. Cavanagh,
what is his game?"
"It has occurred to me before, Bristol," I replied, "and you may
remember that I mentioned the idea to you, that there might be a
third party interested in the slipper. Why shouldn't Earl Dexter
be that third party?"
"Because he isn't a fool," rapped Bristol shortly. "Earl Dexter
isn't a man to gather up trouble for himself. More likely if his
visit has anything really to do with the slipper he's retained by
Hassan and Company. Museum-breaking may be a bit out of the line
This latter suggestion dovetailed with my own ideas, and oddly
enough there was something positively wholesome in the notion of
the straightforward crookedness of a mere swell cracksman.
Then happened a singular thing, and one that effectually concluded
our whispered colloquy. From the top end of the room, beyond the
case containing the slipper, one of the yellow blinds came down
with a run.
Bristol turned in a flash. It was not a remarkable accident, and
might portend no more than a loose cord; but when, having walked
rapidly up the room, we stood before the lowered blind, it
appeared that this was no accident at all.
Some four feet from the bottom of the blind (or five feet from the
floor) a piece of linen a foot square had been neatly slashed out!
I glanced around the room. Several fashionably dressed visitors
were looking idly in our direction, but I could fasten upon no one
of them as a likely perpetrator.
Bristol stared at me in perplexity.
"Who on earth did it," he muttered, "and what the blazes for?"
THE HASHISHIN WATCH
The American gentleman has just gone out, sir," said the sergeant
at the door.
I nodded grimly and raced down the steps. Despite my half-formed
desire that the slipper should be recovered by those to whom
properly it belonged, I experienced at times a curious interest in
its welfare. I cannot explain this. Across the hall in front of
me I saw Earl Dexter passing out of the Museum. I followed him
through into Kingsway and thence to Fleet Street. He sauntered
easily along, a nonchalant gray figure. I had begun to think that
he was bound for his hotel and that I was wasting my time when he
turned sharply into quiet Salisbury Square; it was almost deserted.
My heart leapt into my mouth with a presentiment of what was coming
as I saw an elegant and beautifully dressed woman sauntering along
in front of us on the far side.
Was it that I detected something familiar in her carriage, in the
poise of her head - something that reminded me of former
unforgettable encounters; encounters which without exception had
presaged attempts upon the slipper of the Prophet? Or was it that
I recollected how Dexter had booked two passages to America? I
cannot say, but I felt my heart leap; I knew beyond any possibility
of doubt that this meeting in Salisbury Square marked the opening
of a new chapter in the history of the slipper.
Dexter slipped his arm within that of the girl in front of him and
they paced slowly forward in earnest conversation. I suppose my
action was very amateurish and very poor detective work; but
regardless of discovery I crossed the road and passed close by
I am certain that Dexter was speaking as I came up, but, well out
of earshot, his voice was suddenly arrested. His companion turned
and looked at me.
I was prepared for it, yet was thrilled electrically by the
flashing glance of the violet eyes - for it was she - the beautiful
harbinger of calamities!
My brain was in a whirl; complication piled itself upon complication;
yet in the heart of all this bewilderment I thought I could detect
the key of the labyrinth, but at the time my ideas were in disorder,
for the violet eyes were not lowered but fixed upon me in cold scorn.
I knew myself helpless, and bending my head with conscious
embarrassment I passed on hurriedly.
I had work to do in plenty, but I could not apply my mind to it;
and now, although the obvious and sensible thing was to go about
my business, I wandered on aimlessly, my brain employed with a
hundred idle conjectures and the query, "Where have I seen The
Stetson Man?" seeming to beat, like a tattoo, in my brain. There
was something magnetic about the accursed slipper, for without
knowing by what route I had arrived there, I found myself in Great
Orchard Street and close under the walls of the British Antiquarian
Museum. Then I was effectually aroused from my reverie.
Two men, both tall, stood in the shadow of a doorway on the Opposite
side of the street, staring intently up at the Museum windows. It
was a tropically hot afternoon and they stood in deepest shadow. No
one else was in Orchard Street - that odd little backwater - at the
time, and they stood gazing upward intently and gave me not even a
But I knew one for the Oriental visitor of the morning, and despite
broad noonday and the hum of busy London about me, my blood seemed
to turn to water. I stood rooted to the spot, held there by a most
For the gray-bearded figure of the other watcher was one I could
never forget; its benignity was associated with the most horrible
hours of my life, with deeds so dreadful that recollection to this
day sometimes breaks my sleep, arousing me in the still watches,
bathed in a cold sweat of fear.
It was Hassan of Aleppo!
If he saw me, if either of them saw me, I cannot say. What I should
have done, what I might have done it is useless to speak of here
- for I did nothing. Inert, thralled by the presence of that eerie,
dreadful being, I watched them leave the shadow of the doorway and
pace slowly on with their dignified Eastern gait.
Then, knowing how I had failed in my plain duty to my fellow-men
- how, finding a serpent in my path, I had hesitated to crush it,
had weakly succumbed to its uncanny fascination - I made my way
round to the door of the Museum.
THE WHITE BEAM
That night the deviltry began. Mr. Mostyn found himself wholly
unable to sleep. Many relics have curious histories, and the
experienced archaeologist becomes callous to that uncanniness which
seems to attach to some gruesome curios. But the slipper of the
Prophet was different. No mere ghostly menace threatened its
holders; an avenging scimitar followed those who came in contact
with it; gruesome tragedies, mutilations, murders, had marked its
The night was still - as still as a London night can be; for there
is always a vague murmuring in the metropolis as though the
sleeping city breathed gently and sometimes stirred in its sleep.
Then, distinct amid these usual nocturnal noises, rose another,
unaccountable sound, a muffled crash followed by a musical tinkling.
Mostyn sprang up in bed, drew on a dressing-gown, and took from the
small safe at his bed-head the Museum keys and a loaded revolver.
A somewhat dishevelled figure, pale and wild-eyed, he made his way
through the private door and into the ghostly precincts of the
Museum. He did not hesitate, but ascended the stairs and unlocked
the door of the Assyrian gallery.
Along its ghostly aisles he passed, and before the door which gave
admittance to the Burton Room paused, fumbling a moment for the
Inside the room something was moving!
Mostyn was keenly alarmed; he knew that he must enter at once or
never. He inserted the key in the lock, swung open the heavy door,
stepped through and closed it behind him. He was a man of
tremendous moral courage, for now, - alone in the apartment which
harboured the uncanny relic, alone in the discharge of his duty,
he stood with his back to the door trembling slightly, but with
the idea of retreat finding no place in his mind.
One side of the room lay in blackest darkness; through the
furthermost window of the other a faint yellowed luminance (the
moonlight through the blind) spread upon the polished parquet
flooring. But that which held the curator spell-bound - that which
momentarily quickened into life the latent superstition, common to
all mankind, was a beam of cold light which poured its effulgence
fully upon the case containing the Prophet's slipper! Where the
other exhibits lay either in utter darkness or semi-darkness this
one it seemed was supernaturally picked out by this lunar
It was ghostly-unnerving; but, the first dread of it passed, Mostyn
recalled how during the day a hole inexplicably had been cut in
that blind; he recalled that it had not been mended, but that the
damaged blind had merely been rolled up again.
And as a dawning perception of the truth came to him, as falteringly
he advanced a step toward the mystic beam, he saw that one side of
the case had been shattered - he saw the broken glass upon the floor;
and in the dense shadow behind and under the beam of light, vaguely
he saw a dull red object.
It moved - it seemed to live! It moved away from the case and in
the direction of the eastern windows.
"My God!" whispered Mostyn; "it's the Prophet's slipper!"
And wildly, blindly, he fired down the room. Later he knew that he
had fired in panic, for nothing human was or could be in the place;
yet his shot was not without effect. In the instant of its flash,
something struck sharply against the dimly seen blind of one of the
east windows; he heard the crash of broken glass.
He leapt to the switch and flooded the room with light. A fear of
what it might hold possessed him, and he turned instantly.
Hard by the fragments of broken glass upon the floor and midway
between the case and the first easterly window lay the slipper. A
bell was ringing somewhere. His shot probably had aroused the
attention of the policeman. Someone was clamouring upon the door
of the Museum, too. Mostyn raced forward and raised the blind
- that toward which the slipper had seemed to move.
The lower pane of the window was smashed. Blood was trickling down
upon the floor from the jagged edges of the glass.
"Hullo there! Open the door! Open the door!"
Bells were going all over the place now; sounds of running footsteps
came from below; but Mostyn stood staring at the broken window and
at the solid iron bars which protected it without, which were intact,
substantial - which showed him that nothing human could possibly
Yet the case was shattered, the holy slipper lay close beside him
upon the floor, and from the broken window-pane blood was falling
- drip-drip-drip . . .
That was the story as I heard it half an hour later. For Inspector
Bristol, apprised of the happening, was promptly on the scene; and
knowing how keen was my interest in the matter, he rang me up
immediately. I arrived soon after Bristol and found a perplexed
group surrounding the uncanny slipper of the Prophet. No one had
dared to touch it; the dread vengeance of Hassan of Aleppo would
visit any unbeliever who ventured to lay hand upon the holy, bloody
thing. Well we knew it, and as though it had been a venomous
scorpion we, a company of up-to-date, prosaic men of affairs, stood
around that dilapidated markoob, and kept a respectful distance.
Mostyn, an odd figure in pyjamas and dressing-gown, turned his pale,
intellectual face to me as I entered.
"It will have to be put back . . . secretly," he said.
His voice was very unsteady. Bristol nodded grimly and glanced at
the two constables, who, with a plain-clothes man unknown to me,
made up that midnight company.
"I'll do it, sir," said one of the constables suddenly.
"One moment" - Mostyn raised his hand!
In the ensuing silence I could hear the heavy breathing of those
around me. We were all looking at the slipper, I think.
"Do you understand, fully," the curator continued, "the risk you
"I think so, sir," answered the constable; "but I'm prepared to
"The hands," resumed Mostyn slowly, "of those who hitherto have
ventured to touch it have been" - he hesitated - "cut off."
"Your career in the Force would be finished if it happened to you,
my lad," said Bristol shortly.
"I suppose they'd look after me," said the man, with grim humour.
"They would if you met with - an accident, in the discharge of your
duty," replied the inspector; "but I haven't ordered you to do it,
and I'm not going to."
"All right, sir," said the man, with a sort of studied truculence,
"I'll take my chance."
I tried to stop him; Mostyn, too, stepped forward, and Bristol
swore frankly. But it was all of no avail.
A sort of chill seemed to claim my very soul when I saw the
constable stoop, unconcernedly pick up the slipper, and replace it
in the broken case.
It was out of a silence cathedral-like, awesome, that he spoke.
"All you want is a new pane of glass, sir," he said - "and the
I anticipate in mentioning it here; but since Constable Hughes
has no further place in these records I may perhaps be excused for
dismissing him at this point.
He was picked up outside the section house on the following evening
with his right hand severed just above the wrist.
A SCREAM IN THE NIGHT
The day that followed was one of the hottest which we experienced
during the heat wave. It was a day crowded with happenings. The
Burton Room was closed to the public, whilst a glazier worked upon
the broken east window and a new blind was fitted to the west.
Behind the workmen, guarded by a watchful commissionaire, yawned
the shattered case containing the slipper.
I wondered if the visitors to the other rooms of the Museum realized,
as I realized, that despite the blazing sunlight of tropical
London, the shadow of Hassan of Aleppo lay starkly on that haunted
At about eleven o'clock, as I hurried along the Strand, I almost
collided with the girl of the violet eyes! She turned and ran like
the wind down Arundel Street, whilst I stood at the corner staring
after her in blank amazement, as did other passers-by; for a man
cannot with dignity race headlong after a pretty woman down a
My mystification grew hourly deeper; and Bristol wallowed in
"It's the most horrible and confusing case," he said to me when
I joined him at the Museum, "that the Yard has ever had to handle.
It bristles with outrages and murders. God knows where it will
all end. I've had London scoured for a clue to the whereabouts
of Hassan and Company and drawn absolutely blank! Then there's
Earl Dexter. Where does he come in? For once in a way he's
living in hiding. I can't find his headquarters. I've been
thinking - "
He drew me aside into the small gallery which runs parallel with
the Assyrian Room.
"Dexter has booked two passages in the Oceanic. Who is his
I wondered, I had wondered more than once, if his companion were
my beautiful violet-eyed acquaintance. A scruple - perhaps an
absurd scruple - hitherto had kept me silent respecting her, but
now I determined to take Bristol fully into my confidence. A
conviction was growing upon me that she and Earl Dexter together
represented that third party whose existence we had long suspected.
Whether they operated separately or on behalf of the Moslems (of
which arrangement I could not conceive) remained to be seen. I
was about to voice my doubts and suspicions when Bristol went on
"I have thoroughly examined the Burton Room, and considering that
the windows are thirty feet from the ground, that there is no sign
of a ladder having stood upon the lawn, and that the iron bars are
quite intact, it doesn't look humanly possible for any one to have
been in the room last night prior to Mostyn's arrival!"
"One of the dwarfs - "
"Not even one of the dwarfs," said Bristol, could have passed
between those iron bars!"
"But there was blood on the window!"
"I know there was, and human blood. It's been examined!"
He stared at me fixedly. The thing was unspeakably uncanny.
"To-night," he went on, "I am remaining in here" - nodding toward
the Assyrian Room - "and I have so arranged it that no mortal being
can possibly know I am here. Mostyn is staying, and you can stay,
too, if you care to. Owing to Professor Deeping's will you are
badly involved in the beastly business, and I have no doubt you are
keen to see it through."
"I am," I admitted, "and the end I look for and hope for is the
recovery of the slipper by its murderous owners!"
"I am with you," said Bristol. "It's just a point of honour; but
I should be glad to make them a present of it. We're ostentatiously
placing a constable on duty in the hallway to-night - largely as a
blind. It will appear that we're taking no other additional
He hurried off to make arrangements for my joining him in his watch,
and thus again I lost my opportunity of confiding in him regarding
the mysterious girl.
I half anticipated, though I cannot imagine why, that Earl Dexter
would put in an appearance, during the day. He did not do so,
however, for Bristol had put a constable on the door who was well
acquainted with the appearance of the Stetson Man. The inspector,
in the course of his investigations, had come upon what might have
been a clue, but what was at best a confusing one. Close by the
wall of the curator's house and lying on the gravel path he had
found a part of a gold cuff link. It was of American manufacture.
Upon such slender evidence we could not justly assume that it
pointed to the presence of Dexter on the night of the attempted
robbery, but it served to complicate a matter already sufficiently
In pursuance of Bristol's plan, I concealed myself that evening
just before the closing of the Museum doors, in a recess behind a
heavy piece of Babylonian sculpture. Bristol was similarly
concealed in another part of the room, and Mostyn joined us later.
The Museum was closed; and so far as evidence went the authorities
had relied again upon the bolts and bars hitherto considered
impregnable, and upon the constable in the hall. The broken window
was mended, the cut blind replaced, and within, in its shattered
case, reposed the slipper of the Prophet.
All the blinds being lowered, the Assyrian Room was a place of
gloom, yellowed on the western side by the moonlight through the
blind. The door communicating with the Burton Room was closed
but not fastened.
"They operated last night," Bristol whispered to me, "at the exact
time when the moonlight shone through the hole in the westerly
blind on to the case. If they come to-night, and I am quite
expecting them, they will have to dispense with that assistance;
but they know by experience where to reach the case."
"Despite our precautions," I said, "they will almost certainly
know that a watch is being kept."
"They may or they may not," replied Bristol. "Either way I'm
disposed to think there will be another attempt. Their mysterious
method is so rapid that they can afford to take chances."
This was not my first night vigil since I had become in a sense the
custodian of the relic, but it was quite the most dreary. Amid the
tomb-like objects about us we seemed two puny mortals toying with
stupendous things. We could not smoke and must converse only in
whispers; and so the night wore on until I began to think that our
watch would be dully uneventful.
"Our big chance," whispered Mostyn, "is in the fact that any day
may change the conditions. They can't afford to wait."
He ceased abruptly, grasping my arm. From somewhere, somewhere
outside the building, we all three had heard a soft whistle. A
moment of tense listening followed.
"If only we could have had the place surrounded," whispered Bristol
- " but it was impossible, of course."
A faint grating noise echoed through the lofty Burton Room. Bristol
slipped past me in the semi-gloom, and gently opened the
communicating door a few inches.
A-tiptoe, I joined him, and craning across his shoulder saw a strange
and wonderful thing.
The newly glazed east window again was shattered with a booming
crash! The yellow blind was thrust aside. A long something reached
out toward the broken case. There was a sort of fumbling sound, and
paralyzed with the wonder of it - for the window, remember, was
thirty feet from the ground - I stood frozen to my post.
Not so Bristol. As the weird tentacle (or more exactly it reminded
me of a gigantic crab's claw) touched the case, the Inspector leapt
forward. A white beam from his electric torch cut through to the
The thing was withdrawn . . . and with it went the slipper of the
"Raise the blinds!" cried Bristol. "Mr. Cavanagh! Mr. Mostyn!
We must not let them give us the slip!"
I got up the blind of the nearer window as Bristol raised the other.
Not a living thing was in sight from either!
Mostyn was beside me, his hand resting on my shoulder. I noted how
he trembled. Bristol turned and looked back at us. The light from
his pocket torch flashed upon the curator's face; and I have never
seen such an expression of horrified amazement as that which it
wore. Faintly, I could hear the constable racing up the steps from
Ideas of the supernatural came to us all, I know; when, with a
scuffling sound not unlike that of a rat in a ceiling, something moved
"Damn my thick head!" roared Bristol, furiously. "He's on the roof!
It's flat as a floor and there's enough ivy alongside the water-spout
on your house adjoining, Mr. Mostyn, to afford foothold to an
He plunged off toward the open door, and I heard him racing down
the Assyrian Room.
"He had a short rope ladder fixed from the gutter!" he cried back
at us. "Graham! Graham!" (the constable on duty in the hall) -
"Get the front door open! Get . . . His voice died away as he
leapt down the stairs.
>From the direction of Orpington Square came a horrid, choking
scream. It rose hideously; it fell, rose again - and died.
The thief escaped. We saw the traces upon the ivy where he had
hastened down. Bristol ascended by the same route, and found where
the ladder-hooks had twice been attached to the gutterway. Constable
Graham, who was first actually to leave the building, declared that
he heard the whirr of a re-started motor lower down Great Orchard
Bristol's theory, later to be dreadfully substantiated, was that
the thief had broken the glass and reached into the case with an
arrangement similar to that employed for pruning trees, having a
clutch at the end, worked with a cord.
"Hassan has been too clever for us!" said the inspector. "But -
what in God's name did that awful screaming mean?"
I had a theory, but I did not advance it then.
It was not until nearly dawn that my theory, and Bristol's, regarding
the clutch arrangement, both were confirmed. For close under the
railings which abut on Orpington Square, in a pool of blood we found
just such an instrument as Bristol had described.
And still clutching it was a pallid and ghastly shrunken hand that
had been severed from above the wrist!
"Merciful God!" whispered the inspector -"look at the opal ring on
the finger! Look at the bandage where he cut himself on the
broken window-glass that first night, when Mr. Mostyn disturbed him.
It wasn't the Hashishin who stole the thing . . . . It's Earl
No one spoke for a moment. Then -
"Which of them has - " began Mostyn huskily.
"The slipper of the Prophet?" interrupted Bristol. "I wonder if we
shall ever know?"
A SHRIVELLED HAND
Around a large square table in a room at New Scotland Yard stood a
group of men, all of whom looked more or less continuously at
something that lay upon the polished deal. One of the party, none
other than the Commissioner himself, had just finished speaking,
and in silence now we stood about the gruesome object which had
furnished him with the text of his very terse address.
I knew myself privileged in being admitted to such a conference at
the C.I.D. headquarters and owed my admission partly to Inspector
Bristol, and partly to the fact that under the will of the late
Professor Deeping I was concerned in the uncanny business we were
met to discuss.
Novelty has a charm for every one; and to find oneself immersed in
a maelstrom of Eastern devilry, with a group of scientific murderers
in pursuit of a holy Moslem relic, and unexpectedly to be made a
trustee of that dangerous curiosity, makes a certain appeal to the
adventurous. But to read of such things and to participate in them
are widely different matters. The slipper of the Prophet and the
dreadful crimes connected with it, the mutilations, murders, the
uncanny mysteries which made up its history, were filling my world
Now, in silence we stood around that table at New Scotland Yard
and watched, as though we expected it to move, the ghastly "clue"
which lay there. It was a shrivelled human hand, and about the
thumb and forefinger there still dryly hung a fragment of lint
which had bandaged a jagged wound. On one of the shrunken fingers
was a ring set with a large opal.
Inspector Bristol broke the oppressive silence.
"You see, sir," he said, addressing the Commissioner, "this marks
a new complication in the case. Up to this week although,
unfortunately, we had made next to no progress, the thing was
straightforward enough. A band of Eastern murderers, working along
lines quite novel to Europe, were concea1ed somewhere in London.
We knew that much. They murdered Professor Deeping, but failed to
recover the slipper. They mutilated everyone who touched it
mysteriously. The best men in the department, working night and
day, failed to effect a single arrest. In spite of the mysterious
activity of Hassan of Aleppo the slipper was safely lodged in the
British Antiquarian Museum."
The Commissioner nodded thoughtfully.
"There is no doubt," continued Bristol, "that the Hashishin were
watching the Museum. Mr. Cavanagh, here" - he nodded in my
direction - " saw Hassan himself lurking in the neighbourhood. We
took every precaution, observed the greatest secrecy; but in
spite of it all a constable who touched the accursed thing lost
his right hand. Then the slipper was taken."
He stopped, and all eyes again were turned to the table.
"The Yard," resumed Bristol slowly, "had information that Earl
Dexter, the cleverest crook in America, was in England. He was
seen in the Museum, and the night following the slipper was stolen.
Then outside the place I found - that!"
He pointed to the severed hand. No one spoke for a moment. Then -
"The new problem," said the Commissioner, "is this: who took the
slipper, Dexter or Hassan of Aleppo?"
"That's it, sir," agreed Bristol. "Dexter had two passages booked
in the Oceanic: but he didn't sail with her, and - that's his hand!"
"You say he has not been traced?" asked the Commissioner.
"No doctor known to the Medical Association," replied Bristol, "is
attending him! He's not in any of the hospitals. He has completely
vanished. The conclusion is obvious!"
"The evident deduction," I said, "is that Dexter stole the slipper
from the Museum - God knows with what purpose - and that Hassan of
Aleppo recovered it from him."
"You think we shall next hear of Earl Dexter from the river police?"
"Personally," replied the Commissioner, "I agree with Mr. Cavanagh.
I think Dexter is dead, and it is very probable that Hassan and
Company are already homeward bound with the slipper of the Prophet."
With all my heart I hoped that he might be right, but an intuition
was with me crying that he was wrong, that many bloody deeds would
be, ere the sacred slipper should return to the East.
The manner in which we next heard of the whereabouts of the Prophet's
slipper was utterly unforeseen, wildly dramatic. That the Hashishin
were aware that I, though its legal trustee, no longer had charge
of the relic nor knowledge of its resting-place, was sufficiently
evident from the immunity which I enjoyed at this time from that
ceaseless haunting by members of the uncanny organization ruled by
Hassan. I had begun to feel more secure in my chambers, and no
longer worked with a loaded revolver upon the table beside me. But
the slightest unusual noise in the night still sufficed to arouse
me and set me listening intently, to chill me with dread of what
it might portend. In short, my nerves were by no means recovered
from the ceaseless strain of the events connected with and arising
out of the death of my poor friend, Professor Deeping.
One evening as I sat at work in my chambers, with the throb of busy
Fleet Street and its thousand familiar sounds floating in to me
through the open windows, my phone bell rang.
Even as I turned to take up the receiver a foreboding possessed me
that my trusteeship was no longer to be a sinecure. It was
Bristol who had rung me up, and upon very strange business.
"A development at last!" he said; "but at present I don't know what
to make of it. Can you come down now?"
"Where are you speaking from?"
"From the Waterloo Road - a delightful neighbourhood. I shall be
glad if you can meet me at the entrance to Wyatt's Buildings in
half an hour."
"What is it? Have you found Dexter?"
"No, unfortunately. But it's murder!"
I knew as I hung up the receiver that my brief period of peace was
ended; that the lists of assassination were reopened. I hurried
out through the court into Fleet Street, thinking of the key of the
now empty case at the Museum which reposed at my bankers, thinking
of the devils who pursued the slipper, thinking of the hundred and
one things, strange and terrible, which went to make up the history
of that gruesome relic.
Wyatt's Buildings, Waterloo Road, are a gloomy and forbidding block
of dwellings which seem to frown sullenly upon the high road, from
which they are divided by a dark and dirty courtyard. Passing an
iron gateway, you enter, by way of an arch, into this sinister place
of uncleanness. Male residents in their shirt sleeves lounge
against the several entrances. Bedraggled women nurse dirty infants
and sit in groups upon the stone steps, rendering them almost
impassable. But to-night a thing had happened in Wyatt's Buildings
which had awakened in the inhabitants, hardened to sordid crime, a
sort of torpid interest.
Faces peered from most of the windows which commanded a view of the
courtyard, looking like pallid blotches against the darkness; but
a number of police confined the loungers within their several
doorways, so that the yard itself was comparatively clear.
I had had some difficulty in forcing a way through the crowd which
thronged the entrance, but finally I found myself standing beside
Inspector Bristol and looking down upon that which had brought us
both to Wyatt's Buildings.
There was no moon that night, and only the light of the lamp in the
archway, with some faint glimmers from the stairways surrounding the
court, reached the dirty paving. Bristol directed the light of a
pocket-lamp upon the hunched-up figure which lay in the dust, and I
saw it to be that of a dwarfish creature, yellow skinned and wearing
only a dark loin cloth. He had a malformed and disproportionate
head, a head that had been too large even for a big man. I knew
after first glance that this was one of the horrible dwarfs employed
by the Hashishin in their murderous business. It might even be the
one who had killed Deeping; but this was impossible to determine
by reason of the fact that the hideous, swollen head, together with
the features, was completely crushed. I shall not describe the
creature's appearance in further detail.
Having given me an opportunity of examine the dead dwarf, Bristol
returned the electric lamp to his pocket and stood looking at me in
the semi-gloom. A constable stood on duty quite near to us, and
others guarded the archway and the doors to the dwellings. The
murmur of subdued voices echoed hollowly in the wells of the
staircases, and a constant excited murmur proceeded from the crowd
at the entrance. No pressmen had yet been admitted, though numbers
of them were at the gates.
"It happened less than an hour ago," said Bristol. "The place was
much as you see it now, and from what I can gather there came the
sound of a shot and several people saw the dwarf fall through the
air and drop where he lies!"
The light was insufficient to show the expression upon the speaker's
face, but his voice told of a great wonder.
"It is a bit like an Indian conjuring trick," I said, looking up to
the sky above us; "who fired the shot?"
"So far," replied Bristol, "I have failed to find out; but there's
a bullet in the thing's head. He was dead before he reached the
"Did no one see the flash of the pistol?"
"No one that I have got hold of yet. Of course this kind of
evidence is very unreliable; these people regularly go out of their
way to mislead the police."
"You think the body may have been carried here from somewhere else?"
"Oh, no; this is where it fell, right enough. You can see where
his head struck the stones."
"He has not been moved at all?"
"No; I shall not move him until I've worked out where in heaven's
name he can have fallen from! You and I have seen some mysterious
things happen, Mr. Cavanagh, since the slipper of the Prophet came
to England and brought these people" - he nodded toward the thing
at our feet - "in its train; but this is the most inexplicable
incident to date. I don't know what to make of it at all. Quite
apart from the question of where the dwarf fell from, who shot at
him and why?"
"Have you no theory?" I asked. "The incident to my mind points
directly to one thing. We know that this uncanny creature belonged
to the organization of Hassan of Aleppo. We know that Hassan
implacably pursues one object - the slipper. In pursuit of the
slipper, then, the dwarf came here. Bristol!" - I laid my hand upon
his arm, glancing about me with a very real apprehension - "the
slipper must be somewhere near!"
Bristol turned to the constable standing hard by.
"Remain here," he ordered. Then to me: "I should like you to come
up on to the roof. From there we can survey the ground and perhaps
arrive at some explanation of how the dwarf came to fall upon that
Passing the constable on duty at one of the doorways and making our
way through the group of loiterers there, we ascended amid
conflicting odours to the topmost floor. A ladder was fixed against
the wall communicating with a trap in the ceiling. Several
individuals in their shirt sleeves and all smoking clay pipes had
followed us up. Bristol turned upon them.
"Get downstairs," he said - "all the lot of you, and stop there!"
With muttered imprecations our audience dispersed, slowly returning
by the way they had come. Bristol mounted the ladder and opened the
trap. Through the square opening showed a velvet patch spangled
with starry points. As he passed up on to the roof and I followed
him, the comparative cleanness of the air was most refreshing after
the varied fumes of the staircase.
Side by side we leaned upon the parapet looking down into the dirty
courtyard which was the theatre of this weird mystery; looking down
upon the stage, sordidly Western, where a mystic Eastern tragedy
had been enacted.
I could see the constable standing beside the crushed thing upon
"Now," said Bristol, with a sort of awe in his voice, "where did he
And at his words, looking down at the spot where the dwarf lay, and
noting that he could not possibly have fallen there from any of the
buildings surrounding the courtyard, an eerie sensation crept over
me; for I was convinced that the happening was susceptible of no
I had heard - who has not heard? - of the Indian rope trick, where
a fakir throws a rope into the air which remains magically suspended
whilst a boy climbs upward and upward until he disappears into space.
I had never credited accounts of the performance; but now I began
seriously to wonder if the arts of Hassan of Aleppo were not as
great or greater than the arts of fakir. But the crowning mystery
to my mind was that of the Hashishin's death. It would seem that
as he had hung suspended in space he had been shot!
"You say that someone heard the sound of the shot?" I asked suddenly.
"Several people," replied Bristol; "but no one knows, or no one
will say, from what direction it came. I shall go on with the
inquiry, of course, and cross-examine every soul in Wyatt's
Buildings. Meanwhile, I'm open to confess that I am beaten."
In the velvet sky countless points blazed tropically. The hum of
the traffic in Waterloo Road reached us only in a muffled way.
Sordidness lay beneath us, but up there under the heavens we seemed
removed from it as any Babylonian astronomer communing with the
When, some ten minutes later, I passed out into the noise of
Waterloo Road, I left behind me an unsolved mystery and took with
me a great dread; for I knew that the quest of the sacred slipper
was not ended, I knew that another tragedy was added to its history
- and I feared to surmise what the future might hold for all of us.
THE WOMAN WITH THE BASKET
Deep in thought respecting the inexplicable nature of this latest
mystery, I turned in the direction of the bridge, and leaving behind
me an ever-swelling throng at the gate of Wyatt's Buildings,
The death of the dwarf had lifted the case into the realms of the
marvellous, and I noted nothing of the bustle about me, for mentally
I was still surveying that hunched-up body which had fallen out of
Then in upon my preoccupation burst a woman's scream!
I aroused myself from reverie, looking about to right and left.
Evidently I had been walking slowly, for I was less than a hundred
yards from Wyatt's Buildings, and hard by the entrance to an
uninviting alley from which I thought the scream had proceeded.
And as I hesitated, for I had no desire to become involved in a
drunken brawl, again came the shrill scream: "Help! help!"
I cannot say if I was the only passer-by who heard the cry;
certainly I was the only one who responded to it. I ran down the
narrow street, which was practically deserted, and heard windows
thrown up as I passed for the cries for help continued.
Just beyond a patch of light cast by a street lamp a scene was being
enacted strange enough at any time and in any place, but doubly
singular at that hour of the night, or early morning, in a lane off
the Waterloo Road.
An old woman, from whose hand a basket of provisions had fallen,
was struggling in the grasp of a tall Oriental! He was evidently
trying to stifle her screams and at the same time to pinion her
arms behind her!
I perceived that there was more in this scene than met the eye.
Oriental footpads are rarities in the purlieus of Waterloo Road.
So much was evident; and since I carried a short, sharp argument in
my pocket, I hastened to advance it.
At the sight of the gleaming revolver barrel the man, who was
dressed in dark clothes and wore a turban, turned and ran swiftly
off. I had scarce a glimpse of his pallid brown face ere he was
gone, nor did the thought of pursuit enter my mind. I turned to
the old woman, who was dressed in shabby black and who was
rearranging her thick veil in an oddly composed manner, considering
the nature of the adventure that had befallen her.
She picked up her basket, and turned away. Needless to say I was
rather shocked at her callous ingratitude, for she offered no word of
thanks, did not even glance in my direction, but made off hurriedly
toward Waterloo Road.
I had been on the point of inquiring if she had sustained any injury,
but I checked the words and stood looking after her in blank
wonderment. Then my ideas were diverted into a new channel. I
perceived, as she passed under an adjacent lamp, that her basket
contained provisions such as a woman of her appearance would scarcely
be expected to purchase. I noted a bottle of wine, a chicken, and a
The nationality of the assailant from the first had marked the affair
for no ordinary one, and now a hazy notion of what lay behind all
this began to come to me.
Keeping well in the shadows on the opposite side of the way, I
followed the woman with the basket. The lane was quite deserted;
for, the disturbance over, those few residents who had raised their
windows had promptly lowered them again. She came out into
Waterloo Road, crossed over, and stood waiting by a stopping-place
for electric cars. I saw her arranging a cloth over her basket in
such a way as effectually to conceal the contents. A strong mental
excitement possessed me. The detective fever claims us all at one
time or another, I think, and I had good reason for pursuing any
inquiry that promised to lead to the elucidation of the slipper
mystery. A theory, covering all the facts of the assault incident,
now presented itself, and I stood back in the shadow, watchful; in
a degree, exultant.
A Greenwich-bound car was hailed by the woman with the basket. I
could not be mistaken, I felt sure, in my belief that she cast
furtive glances about her as she mounted the steps. But, having
seen her actually aboard, my attention became elsewhere engaged.
All now depended upon securing a cab before the tram car had
passed from view!
I counted it an act of Providence that a disengaged taxi appeared
at that moment, evidently bound for Waterloo Station. I ran out
into the road with cane upraised.
As the man drew up -
"Quick!" I cried. "You see that Greenwich car-nearly at the
Ophthalmic Hospital? Follow it. Don't get too near. I will give
you further instructions through the tube." I leapt in. We were
The rocking car ahead was rounding the bend now toward St. George's
Circus. As it passed the clock and entered South London Road it
stopped. I raised the tube.
"Pass it slowly!"
We skirted the clock tower, and bore around to the right. Then I
drew well back in the corner of the cab.
The woman with the basket was descending! "Pull up a few yards
beyond!" I directed. As the car re-started, and passed us, the
taxi became stationary. I peered out of the little window at the
The woman was returning in the direction of Waterloo Road!
"Drive slowly back along Waterloo Road," was my next order.
"Pretend you are looking for a fare; I will keep out of sight."
The man nodded. It was unlikely that any one would notice the
fact that the cab was engaged.
I was borne back again upon my course. The woman kept to the right,
and, once we were entered into the straight road which leads to the
bridge, I again raised the speakingtube.
"Pull up," I said. "On the right-hand side is an old woman carrying
a basket, fifty yards ahead. Do you see her? Keep well behind, but
don't lose sight of her."
The man drew up again and sat watching the figure with the basket
until it was almost lost from sight. Then slowly we resumed our
way. I would have continued the pursuit afoot now, but I feared
that my quarry might again enter a vehicle. She did not do so,
however, but coming abreast of the turning in which the mysterious
assault had taken place, she crossed the road and disappeared from
I leapt out of the cab, thrust half a crown into the man's hand,
and ran on to the corner. The night was now far advanced, and I
knew that the chances of detection were thereby increased. But
the woman seemed to have abandoned her fears, and I saw her just
ahead of me walking resolutely past the lamp beyond which a short
time earlier she had met with a dangerous adventure.
Since the opposite side of the street was comparatively in darkness,
I slipped across, and in a state of high nervous tension pursued
this strange work of espionage. I was convinced that I had
forestalled Bristol and that I was hot upon the track of those who
could explain the mystery of the dead dwarf.
The woman entered the gate of the block of dwellings even more
forbidding in appearance than those which that night had staged
a dreadful drama.
As the figure with the basket was lost from view I crept on, and
in turn entered the evil-smelling hallway. I stepped cautiously,
and standing beneath a gaslight protected by a wire frame, I
congratulated myself upon having reached that point of vantage as
silently as any Sioux stalker.
Footsteps were receding up the stone stairs. Craning my neck, I
peered up the well of the staircase. I could not see the woman,
but from the sound of her tread it was possible to count the
landings which she passed. When she had reached the fourth, and I
heard her step upon yet another flight, I knew that she must be
bound for the topmost floor; and observing every precaution, almost
holding my breath in a nervous endeavour to make not the slightest
sound, rapidly I mounted the stairs.
I was come to the third landing in this secret fashion when quite
distinctly I heard the grating of a key in a lock!
Since four doors opened upon each of the landings, at all costs,
I thought, I must learn by which door she entered.
Throwing caution to the winds I raced up the remaining flights . . .
and there at the top the woman confronted me, with blazing eyes! -
with eyes that thrilled every nerve; for they were violet eyes, the
only truly violet eyes I have ever seen! They were the eyes of the
woman who like a charming, mocking will-o'-the-wisp had danced
through this tragic scene from the time that poor Professor Deeping
had brought the Prophet's slipper to London up to this present hour!
There at the head of those stone steps in that common dwelling-house
I knew her - and in the violet eyes it was written that she knew,
and feared, me!
"What do you want? Why are you following me?"
She made no endeavour to disguise her voice. Almost, I think, she
spoke the words involuntarily.
I stood beside her. Quickly as she had turned from the door at my
ascent, I had noted that it was that numbered forty-eight which she
had been about to open.
"You waste words," I said grimly. "Who lives there?"
I nodded in the direction of the doorway. The violet eyes watched
me with an expression in their depths which I find myself wholly
unable to describe. Fear predominated, but there was anger, too,
and with it a sort of entreaty which almost made me regret that I
had taken this task upon myself. From beneath the shabby black hat
escaped an errant lock of wavy hair wholly inconsistent with the
assumed appearance of the woman. The flickering gaslight on the
landing sought out in that wonderful hair shades which seemed to
glow with the soft light seen in the heart of a rose. The thick
veil was raised now and all attempts at deception abandoned. At
bay she faced me, this secret woman whom I knew to hold the key to
some of the darkest places which we sought to explore.
"I live there," she said slowly. "What do you want with me?"
"I want to know," I replied, "for whom are those provisions in
She watched me fixedly.
"And I want to know," I continued, "something that only you can
tell me. We have met before, madam, but you have always eluded me.
This time you shall not do so. There's much I have to ask of you,
but particularly I want to know who killed the Hashishin who lies
dead at no great distance from here!"
"How can I tell you that? Of what are you speaking?"
Her voice was low and musical; that of a cultured woman. She
evidently recognized the futility of further subterfuge in this
"You know quite well of what I am speaking! You know that you
can tell me if any one can! The fact that you go disguised alone
condemns you! Why should I remind you of our previous meetings - of
the links which bind you to the history of the Prophet's slipper?"
She shuddered and closed her eyes. "Your present attitude is a
She stood silent before me, with something pitiful in her pose - a
wonderfully pretty woman, whose disarranged hair and dilapidated hat
could not mar her beauty; whose clumsy, ill-fitting garments could
not conceal her lithe grace.
Our altercation had not thus far served to arouse any of the
inhabitants and on that stuffy landing, beneath the flickering
gaslight, we stood alone, a group of two which epitomized strange
Then, with that quietly dramatic note which marks real life entrances
and differentiates them from the loudly acclaimed episodes of the
stage, a third actor took up his cue.
"Both hands, Mr. Cavanagh!" directed an American voice.
Nerves atwitch, I started around in its direction.
>From behind the slightly opened door of No. 48 protruded a steel
barrel, pointed accurately at my head!
I hesitated, glancing from the woman toward the open door.
"Do it quick!" continued the voice incisively. "You are up against
a desperate man, Mr. Cavanagh. Raise your hands. Carneta, relieve
Mr. Cavanagh of his gun!"
Instantly the girl, with deft fingers, had obtained possession of
"Step inside," said the crisp, strident voice. Knowing myself
helpless and quite convinced that I was indeed in the clutches of
desperate people, I entered the doorway, the door being held open
from within. She whom I had heard called Carneta followed. The
door was reclosed; and I found myself in a perfectly bare and dim
passageway. From behind me came the order -
"Go right ahead!"
Into a practically unfurnished room, lighted by one gas jet, I
walked. Some coarse matting hung before the two windows and a
fairly large grip stood on the floor against one wall. A gas-ring
was in the hearth, together with a few cheap cooking utensils.
I turned and faced the door. First entered Carneta, carrying the
basket; then came a man with a revolver in his left hand and his
right arm strapped across his chest and swathed in bandages. One
glance revealed the fact that his right hand had been severed -
revealed the fact, though I knew it already, that my captor was
He looked even leaner than when I had last seen him. I had no doubt
that his ghastly wound had occasioned a tremendous loss of blood.
His gaunt face was positively emaciated, but the steely gray eyes
had lost nothing of their brightness. There was a good deal about
Mr. Earl Dexter, the cracksman, that any man must have admired.
"Shut the door, Carneta," he said quietly. His companion closed
the door and Dexter sat down on the grip, regarding me with his
oddly humorous smile.
"You're a visitor I did not expect, Mr. Cavanagh," he said. "I
expected someone worse. You've interfered a bit with my plans but
I don't know that I can't rearrange things satisfactorily. I don't
think I'll stop for supper, though - " He glanced at the girl, who
stood silent by the door.
"Just pack up the provisions," he directed, nodding toward the
basket - "in the next room."
She departed without a word.
"That's a noticeable dust coat you're wearing, Mr. Cavanagh," said
the American; "it gives me a great notion. I'm afraid I'll have to
He glanced, smiling, at the revolver in his left hand and back again
to me. There was nothing of the bully about him, nothing
melodramatic; but I took off the coat without demur and threw it
across to him.
"It will hide this stump," he said grimly; "and any of the Hashishin
gentlemen who may be on the look-out - though I rather fancy the
road is clear at the moment - will mistake me for you. See the idea?
Carneta will be in a cab and I'll be in after her and away before
they've got time to so much as whistle."
Very awkwardly he got into the coat.
"She's a clever girl, Carneta," he said. "She's doctored me all
along since those devils cut my hand off."
As he finished speaking Carneta returned.
She had discarded her rags and wore a large travelling coat and a
"Ready?" asked Dexter. "We'll make a rush for it. We meant to go
to-night anyway. It's getting too hot here!" He turned to me.
"Sorry to say," he drawled, "I'll have to tie you up and gag you.
Apologize; but it can't be helped."
Carneta nodded and went out of the room again, to return almost
immediately with a line that looked as though it might have been
employed for drying washing.
"Hands behind you," rapped Dexter, toying with the revolver - "and
think yourself lucky you've got two!"
There was no mistaking the manner of man with whom I had to deal,
and I obeyed; but my mind was busy with a hundred projects. Very
neatly the girl bound my wrists, and in respose to a slight nod
from Dexter threw the end of the line up over a beam in the sloping
ceiling, for the room was right under the roof, and drew it up in
such a way that, my wrists being raised behind me, I became utterly
helpless. It was an ingenious device indicating considerable
"Just tie his handkerchief around his mouth," directed Dexter:
"that will keep him quiet long enough for our purpose. I hope you
will be released soon, Mr. Cavanagh," he added. "Greatly regret
Carneta bound the handkerchief over my mouth.
Dexter extinguished the gas.
"Mr. Cavanagh," he said, "I've gone through hell and I've lost the
most useful four fingers and a thumb in the United States to get
hold of the Prophet's slipper. Any one can have it that's open to
pay for it - but I've got to retire on the deal, so I'll drive a
hard bargain! Good-night!"
There was a sound of retreating footsteps, and I heard the entrance
door close quietly.
WHAT CAME THROUGH THE WINDOW
I HAD not been in my unnatural position for many minutes before I
began to suffer agonies, agonies not only physical but mental; for
standing there like some prisoner of the Inquisition, it came to me
how this dismantled apartment must be the focus of the dreadful
forces of Hassan of Aleppo!
That Earl Dexter had the slipper of the Prophet I no longer doubted,
and that he had sustained, in this dwelling beneath the roof, an
uncanny siege during the days which had passed since the theft from
the Antiquarian Museum, was equally certain. Helpless, gagged, I
pictured those hideous creatures, evil products of the secret East,
who might, nay, who must surround that place! I thought of the
horrible little yellow man who lay dead in Wyatt's Buildings; and
it became evident to me that the house in which I was now imprisoned
must overlook the back of those unsavoury tenements. The windows,
sack-covered now, no doubt commanded a view of the roofs of the
buildings. One of the mysteries that had puzzled us was solved. It
was Earl Dexter who had shot the yellow dwarf as he was bound for
this very room! But how humanly the Hashishin had proposed to gain
his goal, how he had travelled through empty space - for from empty
space the shot had brought him down - I could not imagine.
I knew something of the almost supernatural attributes of these
people. From Professor Deeping's book I knew of the incredible
feats which they could perform when under the influence of the drug
hashish. From personal experience also I knew that they had powers
The pain in my arms and back momentarily increased. An awesome
silence ruled. I tortured myself with pictures of murderous
yellow men possessed of the power claimed by the Mahatmas, of
levitation. Mentally I could see a distorted half-animal creature
carrying a great gleaming knife and floating supernaturally toward
me through the night!
A soft pattering sound became perceptible on the sloping roof above!
I think I have never known such intense and numbing fear as that
which now descended upon me. Perhaps I may be forgiven it. A more
dreadful situation it would be hard to devise. Knowing that I was
on the fifth story of a house, bound, helpless, I knew, too, that a
second mystic guardian of the slipper was come to accomplish the
task in which the first had failed!
I began to pray fervently.
Neither of the windows were closed; and now through the intense
darkness I heard one of them being raised up-up-up . . .
The sacking was pulled aside inch by inch.
Silhouetted against the faintly luminous background I saw a hunched,
unnatural figure. The real was more dreadful even than the
imaginary - for some stray beam of light touched into cold radiance
a huge curved knife which the visitant held between his teeth!
My fear became a madness, and I twisted my body violently in a wild
endeavour to free myself. A dreadful pain shot through my left
shoulder, and the whole nightmare scene - the thing with the knife
at the window - the low-ceiled room-began to fade away from me. I
seemed to be falling into deep water.
A splintering crash and the sound of shouting formed my last
recollections ere unconsciousness came.
I found myself lying in an armchair with Bristol forcing brandy
between my lips. My left arm hung limply at my side and the pain
in my dislocated shoulder was excruciating.
"Thank God you are all right, Mr. Cavanagh!" said the inspector.
"I got the surprise of my life when we smashed the door in and
found you tied up here!"
"You came none too soon," I said feebly. "God knows how Providence
directed you here."
"Providence it was," replied Bristol. "From the roof of Wyatt's
Buildings - you know the spot? - I saw the second yellow devil
coming. By God! They meant to have it to-night! They don't value
their lives a brass farthing against that damned slipper!"
"But how - "
"Along the telegraph-wires, Mr. Cavanagh! They cross Wyatt's
Buildings and cross this house. It was a moonless night or we
should have seen it at once! I watched him, saw him drop to this
roof - and brought the men around to the front."
"Did he, that awful thing, escape?"
"He dropped full forty feet into a tree - from the tree to the
ground, and went off like a cat!"
"Earl Dexter has escaped us," I said, "and he has the slipper!"
"God help him!" replied Bristol. "For by now he has that hell-pack
at his heels! What a case! Heavens above, it will drive me mad!"
A RAPPING AT MIDNIGHT
Inspector Bristol finished his whisky at a gulp and stood up, a tall,
massive figure, stretching himself and yawning.
"The detective of fiction would be hard at work on this case, now,"
he said, smiling, "but I don't even pretend to be. I am at a
standstill and I don't care who knows it."
"You have absolutely no clue to the whereabouts of Earl Dexter?"
"Not the slightest, Mr. Cavanagh. You hear a lot about the machinery
of the law, but as a matter of fact, looking for a clever man hidden
in London is a good deal like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Then, he may have been bluffing when he told you he had the Prophet's
slipper. He's already had his hand cut off through interfering with
the beastly thing, and I really can't believe he would take further
chances by keeping it in his possession. Nevertheless, I should like
to find him."
He leaned back against the mantelpiece, scratching his head
perplexedly. In this perplexity he had my sympathy. No such
pursuit, I venture to say, had ever before been required of Scotland
Yard as this of the slipper of the Prophet. An organization founded
in 1090, which has made a science of assassination, which through
the centuries has perfected the malign arts, which, lingering on in
a dark spot in Syria, has suddenly migrated and established itself
in London, is a proposition almost unthinkable.
It was hard to believe that even the daring American cracksman
should have ventured to touch that blood-stained relic of the
Prophet, that he should have snatched it away from beneath the very
eyes of the fanatics who fiercely guarded it. What he hoped to
gain by his possession of the slipper was not evident, but the fact
remained that if he could be believed, he had it, and provided
Scotland Yard's information was accurate, he still lurked in hiding
somewhere in London.
Meanwhile, no clue offered to his hiding-place, and despite the
ceaseless vigilance of the men acting under Bristol's orders, no
trace could be found of Hassan of Aleppo nor of his fiendish
"My theory is," said Bristol, lighting a cigarette, "that even
Dexter's cleverness has failed to save him. He's probably a dead
man by now, which accounts for our failing to find him; and Hassan
of Aleppo has recovered the slipper and returned to the East, taking
his gruesome company with him - God knows how! But that accounts
for our failing to find him."
I stood up rather wearily. Although poor Deeping had appointed me
legal guardian of the relic, and although I could render but a poor
account of my stewardship, let me confess that I was anxious to
take that comforting theory to my bosom. I would have given much
to have known beyond any possibility of doubt that the accursed
slipper and its blood-lustful guardian were far away from England.
Had I known so much, life would again have had something to offer
me besides ceaseless fear, endless watchings. I could have slept
again, perhaps; without awaking, clammy, peering into every shadow,
listening, nerves atwitch to each slightest sound disturbing the
night; without groping beneath the pillow for my revolver.
"Then you think," I said, "that the English phase of the slipper's
history is closed? You think that Dexter, minus his right hand,
has eluded British law - that Hassan and Company have evaded
"I do!" said Bristol grimly, "and although that means the biggest
failure in my professional career, I am glad - damned glad!"
Shortly afterward he took his departure; and I leaned from the
window, watching him pass along the court below and out under the
arch into Fleet Street. He was a man whose opinions I valued, and
in all sincerity I prayed now that he might be right; that the
surcease of horror which we had recently experienced after the
ghastly tragedies which had clustered thick about the haunted
slipper, might mean what he surmised it to mean.
The heat to-night was very oppressive. A sort of steaming mist
seemed to rise from the court, and no cooling breeze entered my
opened windows. The clamour of the traffic in Fleet Street came
to me but remotely. Big Ben began to strike midnight. So far
as I could see, residents on the other stairs were all abed and
a velvet shadow carpet lay unbroken across three parts of the
court. The sky was tropically perfect, cloudless, and jewelled
lavishly. Indeed, we were in the midst of an Indian summer; it
seemed that the uncanny visitants had brought, together with an
atmosphere of black Eastern deviltry, something, too, of the
The last stroke of the Cathedral bell died away. Other more
distant bells still were sounding dimly, but save for the
ceaseless hum of the traffic, no unusual sound now disturbed the
archaic peace of the court.
I returned to my table, for during the time that had passed I had
badly neglected my work and now must often labour far into the
night. I was just reseated when there came a very soft rapping
at the outer door!
No doubt my mood was in part responsible, but I found myself
thinking of Poe's weird poem, "The Raven"; and like the character
therein I found myself hesitating.
I stole quietly into the passage. It was in darkness. How odd it
is that in moments of doubt instinctively one shuns the dark and
seeks the light. I pressed the switch lighting the hall lamp, and
stood looking at the closed door.
Why should this late visitor have rapped in so uncanny a fashion
in preference to ringing the bell?
I stepped back to my table and slipped a revolver into my pocket.
The muffled rapping was repeated. As I stood in the study doorway
I saw the flap of the letter-box slowly raised!
Instantly I extinguished both lights. You may brand me as
childishly timid, but incidents were fresh in my memory which
justified all my fears.
A faintly luminous slit in the door showed me that the flap was now
fully raised. It was the dim light on the stairway shining through.
Then quite silently the flap was lowered. Came the soft rapping
"Who's there?" I cried.
No one answered.
Wondering if I were unduly alarming myself, yet, I confess, strung
up tensely in anticipation that this was some device of the phantom
enemy, I stood in doubt.
The silence remained unbroken for thirty seconds or more. Then yet
again it was disturbed by that ghostly, muffled rapping.
I advanced a step nearer to the door.
"Who's there?' I cried loudly. "What do you want?"
The flap of the letter box began to move, and I formed a sudden
determination. Making no sound in my heelless Turkish slippers
I crept close up to the door and dropped upon my knees.
Thereupon the flap became fully lifted, but from where I crouched
beneath it I was unable to see who or what was looking in; yet I
hesitated no longer. I suddenly raised myself and thrust the
revolver barrel through the opening!
"Who are you?" I cried. "Answer or I fire!" - and along the barrel
I peered out on to the landing.
Still no one answered. But something impalpable - a powder - a
vapour - to this hour I do not know what - enveloped me with its
nauseating fumes; was puffed fully into my face! My eyes, my
mouth, my nostrils became choked up, it seemed, with a deadly
Wildly, feeling that everything about me was slipping away, that I
was sinking into a void, for ought I knew that of dissolution, I
pulled the trigger once, twice, thrice ...
"My God!" - the words choked in my throat and I reeled back into
the passage - "it's not loaded!"
I threw up my arms to save myself, lurched, and fell forward into
what seemed a bottomless pit.
THE GOLDEN PAVILION
When I opened my eyes it was to a conviction that I dreamed. I
lay upon a cushioned divan in a small apartment which I find myself
at a loss adequately to describe.
It was a yellow room, then, its four walls being hung with yellow
silk, its floor being entirely covered by a yellow Persian carpet.
One lamp, burning in a frame of some lemon coloured wood and having
its openings filled with green glass, flooded the place with a
ghastly illumination. The lamp hung by gold chains from the ceiling,
which was yellow. Several low tables of the same lemon-hued wood
as the lamp-frame stood around; they were inlaid in fanciful designs
with gleaming green stones. Turn my eyes where I would, clutch my
aching head as I might, this dream chamber would not disperse, but
remained palpable before me - yellow and green and gold.
There was a niche behind the divan upon which I lay framed about
with yellow wood. In it stood a golden bowl and a tall pot of
yellow porcelain; I lay amid yellow cushions having golden tassels.
Some of them were figured with vivid green devices.
To contemplate my surroundings assuredly must be to court madness.
No door was visible, no window; nothing but silk and luxury, yellow
and green and gold.
To crown all, the air was heavy with a perfume wholly unmistakable
by one acquainted with Egypt's ruling vice. It was the reek of
smouldering hashish - a stench that seemed to take me by the throat,
a vapour damnable and unclean. I saw that a little censer, golden
in colour and inset with emeralds, stood upon the furthermost corner
of the yellow carpet. From it rose a faint streak of vapour; and I
followed the course of the sickly scented smoke upward through the
still air until in oily spirals it lost itself near to the yellow
ceiling. As a sick man will study the veriest trifle I studied
that wisp of smoke, pencilled grayly against the silken draperies,
the carven tables, against the almost terrifying persistency of the
yellow and green and gold.
I strove to rise, but was overcome by vertigo and sank back again
upon the yellow cushions. I closed my eyes, which throbbed and
burned, and rested my head upon my hands. I ceased to conjecture
if I dreamed or was awake. I knew that I felt weak and ill, that
my head throbbed agonizingly, that my eyes smarted so as to render
it almost impossible to keep them open, that a ceaseless humming
was in my ears.
For some time I lay endeavouring to regain command of myself, to
prepare to face again that scene which had something horrifying
in its yellowness, touched with the green and gold.
And when finally I reopened my eyes, I sat up with a suppressed cry.
For a tall figure in a yellow robe from beneath which peeped yellow
slippers, a figure crowned with a green turban, stood in the centre
of the apartment!
It was that of a majestic old man, white bearded, with aquiline
nose, and the fierce eagle eyes of a fanatic set upon me sternly,
With folded arms he stood watching me, and I drew a sharp breath and
rose slowly to my feet.
There amid the yellow and green and gold, amid the abominable reek
of burning hashish I stood and faced Hassan of Aleppo!
No words came to me; I was confounded.
Hassan spoke in that gentle voice which I had heard only once before.
"Mr. Cavanagh," he said, "I have brought you here that I might warn
you. Your police are seeking me night and day, and I am fully alive
to my danger whilst I stay in your midst. But for close upon a
thousand years the Sheikh-al-jebal, Lord of the Hashishin, has
guarded the traditions and the relics of the Prophet, Salla-'llahu
'ale yhi wasdlem! I, Hassan of Aleppo, am Sheikh of the Order
to-day, and my sacred duty has brought me here."
The piercing gaze never left my face. I was not yet by any means
my own man and still I made no reply.
"You have been wise," continued Hassan, "in that you have never
touched the sacred slipper. Had you lain hands upon it, no secrecy
could have availed you. The eye of the Hashishin sees all. There
is a shaft of light which the true Believer perceives at night as
he travels toward El-Medineh. It is the light which uprises, a
spiritual fire, from the tomb of the Prophet (Salla-'llahu 'aleyhi
wasellem!). The relics also are radiant, though in a lesser degree."
He took a step toward me, spreading out his lean brown hands, palms
"A shaft of light," he said impressively, "shines upward now from
London. It is the light of the holy slipper." He gazed intently
at the yellow drapery at the left of the divan, but as though he
were looking not at the wall but through it. His features worked
convulsively; he was a man inspired. "I see it now!" he almost
whispered - "that white light by which the guardians of the relic
may always know its resting place!"
I managed to force words to my lips.
"If you know where the slipper is," I said, more for the sake of
talking than for anything else, "why do you not recover it?"
Hassan turned his eyes upon me again.
"Because the infidel dog," he cried loudly, "who has soiled it with
his unclean touch, defies us - mocks us! He has suffered the loss
of the offending hand, but the evil ginn protect him; he is inspired
by efreets! But God is great and Mohammed is His only Prophet! We
shall triumph; but it is written, oh, daring infidel, that you again
shall become the guardian of the slipper!"
He spoke like some prophet of old and I stared at him fascinated.
I was loth to believe his words.
"When again," he continued, "the slipper shall be in the receptacle
of which you hold the key, that key must be given to me!"
I thought I saw the drift of his words now; I thought I perceived
with what object I had been trapped and borne to this mysterious
abode for whose whereabouts the police vainly were seeking. By the
exercise of the gift of divination it would seem that Hassan of
Aleppo had forecast the future history of the accursed slipper or
believed that he had done so. According to his own words I was
doomed once more to become trustee of the relic. The key of the
case at the Antiquarian Museum, to which he had prophesied the
slipper's return, would be the price of my life! But -
"In order that these things may be fulfilled," he continued, "I must
permit you to return to your house. So it is written, so it shall
be. Your life is in my hands; beware when it is demanded of you
that you hesitate not in yielding up the key!"
He raised his hands before him, making a sort of obeisance, I doubt
not in the direction of Mecca, drew aside one of the yellow hangings
behind him and disappeared, leaving me alone again in that nightmare
apartment of yellow and green and gold. A moment I stood watching
the swaying curtain. Utter silence reigned, and a sort of panic
seized me infinitely greater than that occasioned by the presence
of the weird Sheikh. I felt that I must escape from the place or
that I should become raving mad.
I leapt forward to the curtain which Hassan had raised and jerked
it aside; it had concealed a door. In this door and about level
with my eyes was a kind of little barred window through which shone
a dim green light. I bent forward, peering into the place beyond,
but was unable to perceive anything save a vague greenness.
And as I peered, half believing that the whole episode was a
dreadful, fevered dream, the abominable fumes of hashish grew, or
seemed to grow, quite suddenly insupportable. Through the square
opening, from the green void beyond, a cloud of oily vapour, pungent,
stifling, resembling that of burning Indian hemp, poured out and
With a gasping cry I fell back, fighting for breath, for a breath
of clean air unpolluted with hashish. But every inhalation drew
down into my lungs the fumes that I sought to escape from. I
experienced a deathly sickness; I seemed to be sinking into a sea
of hashish, amid bubbles of yellow and green and gold, and I knew
no more until, struggling again to my feet, surrounded by utter
darkness - I struck my head on the corner of my writing-table . . .
for I lay in my own study!
My revolver, unloaded, was upon the table beside me. The night was
very still. I think it must have been near to dawn.
"My God!" I whispered, "did I dream it all? Did I dream it all?"
THE BLACK TUBE
There's no doubt in my mind," said Inspector Bristol, "that your
experience was real enough."
The sun was shining into my room now, but could not wholly disperse
the cloud of horror which lay upon it. That I had been drugged was
sufficiently evident from my present condition, and that I had been
taken away from my chambers Inspector Bristol had satisfactorily
proved by an examination of the soles of my slippers.
"It was a clever trick," he said. "God knows what it was they
puffed into your face through the letter box, but the devilish arts
of ten centuries, we must remember, are at the command of Hassan of
Aleppo! The repetition of the trick at the mysterious place you
were taken to is particularly interesting. I should say you won't
be in a hurry to peer through letter boxes and so forth in the
I shook my aching head.
"That accursed yellow room," I replied, "stank with the fumes of
hashish. It may have been some preparation of hashish that was
used to drug me."
Bristol stood looking thoughtfully from the window.
"It was a nightmare business, Mr. Cavanagh," he said; "but it
doesn't advance our inquiry a little bit. The prophecy of the old
man with the white beard - whom you assure me to be none other than
Hassan of Aleppo - is something we cannot very well act upon. He