Part 3 out of 4
clearly believes it himself; for he has released you after having
captured you, evidently in order that you may be at liberty to take
up your duty as trustee of the slipper again. If the slipper really
comes back to the Museum the fact will show Hassan to be something
little short of a magician. I shan't envy you then, Mr. Cavanagh,
considering that you hold the keys of the case!"
"No," I replied wearily. "Poor Professor Deeping thought that he
acted in my interests and that my possession of the keys would
constitute a safeguard. He was wrong. It has plunged me into the
very vortex of this ghastly affair."
"It is maddening," said Bristol, "to know that Hassan and Company
are snugly located somewhere under our very noses, and that all
Scotland Yard can find no trace of them. Then to think that Hassan
of Aleppo, apparently by means of some mystical light, has knowledge
of the whereabouts of the slipper and consequently of the
whereabouts of Earl Dexter (another badly wanted man) is extremely
discouraging! I feel like an amateur; I'm ashamed of myself!"
Bristol departed in a condition of irritable uncertainty.
My head in my hands, I sat for long after his departure, with the
phantom characters of the ghoulish drama dancing through my
brain. The distorted yellow dwarfs seemed to gibe apish before me.
Severed hands clenched and unclenched themselves in my face, and
gleaming knives flashed across the mental picture. Predominant over
all was the stately figure of Hassan of Aleppo, that benignant,
remorseless being, that terrible guardian of the holy relic who
directed the murderous operations. Earl Dexter, The Stetson Man,
with his tightly bandaged arm, his gaunt, clean-shaven face and
daredevil smile, figured, too, in my feverish daydream; nor was
that other character missing, the girl with the violet eyes whose
beautiful presence I had come to dread; for like a sybil announcing
destruction her appearances in the drama had almost invariably
presaged fresh tragedies. I recalled my previous meetings with
this woman of mystery. I recalled my many surmises regarding her
real identity and association with the case. I wondered why in the
not very distant past I had promised to keep silent respecting her;
I wondered why up to that present moment, knowing beyond doubt that
her activities were inimical to my interests, were criminal, I had
observed that foolish pledge.
And now my door-bell was ringing - as intuitively I had anticipated.
So certain was I of the identity of my visitor that as I walked
along the passage I was endeavouring to make up my mind how I should
act, how I should receive her.
I opened the door; and there, wearing European garments but a green
turban . . . stood Hassan of Aleppo!
When I say that amazement robbed me of the power to speak, to move,
almost to think, I doubt not you will credit me. Indeed, I felt
that modern London was crumbling about me and that I was become
involved in the fantastic mazes of one of those Oriental intrigues
such as figure in the Romance of Abu Zeyd, or with which most
European readers have been rendered familiar by the glowing pages
of "The Thousand and One Nights."
"Effendim," said my visitor, "do not hesitate to act as I direct!"
In his gloved hand he carried what appeared to be an ebony cane.
He raised and pointed it directly at me. I perceived that it was,
in fact, a hollow tube.
"Death is in my hand," he continued; "enter slowly and I will
Still the sense of unreality held me thralled and my brain refused
me service. Like an hypnotic subject I walked back to my study,
followed by my terrible visitor, who reclosed the door behind him.
He sat facing me across my littered table with the mysterious tube
held loosely in his grasp.
How infinitely more terrifying are perils unknown than those known
and appreciated! Had a European armed with a pistol attempted a
similar act of coercion, I cannot doubt that I should have put up
some sort of fight; had he sat before me now as Hassan of Aleppo
sat, with a comprehensible weapon thus laid upon his knees, I
should have taken my chance, should have attacked him with the lamp,
with a chair, with anything that came to my hand.
But before this awful, mysterious being who was turning my life
into channels unsuspected, before that black tube with its unknown
potentialities, I sat in a kind of passive panic which I cannot
attempt to describe, which I had never experienced before and have
never known since.
"There is one about to visit you," he said, whom you know, whom I
think you expect. For it is written that she shall come and such
events cast a shadow before them. I, too, shall be present at your
His eagle eyes opened widely; they burned with fanaticism.
"Already she is here!" he resumed suddenly, and bent as one
listening. "She comes under the archway; she crossed the courtyard
- and is upon the stair! Admit her, effendim; I shall be close
The door-bell rang.
With the consciousness that the black tube was directed toward the
back of my head, I went and opened the door. My mind was at work
again, and busy with plans to terminate this impossible situation.
On the landing stood a girl wearing a simple white frock which
fitted her graceful figure perfectly. A white straw hat, of the New
York tourist type, with a long veil draped from the back suited her
delicate beauty very well. The red mouth drooped a little at the
corners, but the big violet eyes, like lamps of the soul, seemed
afire with mystic light.
"Mr. Cavanagh," she said, very calmly and deliberately, "there is
only one way now to end all this trouble. I come from the man who
can return the slipper to where it belongs; but he wants his price!"
Her quiet speech served completely to restore my mental balance, and
I noted with admiration that her words were so chosen as to commit
her in no way. She knew quite well that thus far she might appear
in the matter with impunity, and she clearly was determined to say
nothing that could imperil her.
"Will you please come in?" I said quietly - and stood aside to
Exhibiting wonderful composure, she entered - and there, in the
badly lighted hallway came face to face with my other visitor!
It was a situation so dramatic as to seem unreal.
Away from that tall figure retreated the girl with the violet eyes
- and away - until she stood with her back to the wall. Even in
the gloom I could see that her composure was deserting her; her
beautiful face was pallid.
"Oh, God!" she whispered, all but inaudible - "You!"
Hassan, grasping the black rod in his hand, signed to her to enter
the study. She stood quite near to me, with her eyes fixed upon
him. I bent closer to her.
"My revolver - in left-hand table drawer," I breathed in her ear.
"Get it. He is watching me!"
I could not tell if my words had been understood, for, never taking
her gaze from the Sheikh of the Assassins, she sidled into the study.
I followed her; and Hassan came last of all. Just within the
doorway he stood, confronting us.
"You have come," he said, addressing the girl and speaking in
perfect English but with a marked accent, "to open your impudent
negotiations through Mr. Cavanagh for the return of the thrice holy
relic to the Museum! Your companion, the man, who is inspired by
the Evil One, has even dared to demand ransom for the slipper from
Hassan was majestic in his wrath; but his eyes were black with
"He has suffered the penalty which the Koran lays down; he has lost
his right hand. But the lord of all evil protects him, else ere
this he had lost his life! Move no closer to that table!"
I started. Either Hassan of Aleppo was omniscient or he had
overheard my whispered words!
"Easily I could slay you where you stand!" he continued. "But to
do so would profit me nothing. This meeting has been revealed to
me. Last night I witnessed it as I slept. Also it has been
revealed to me by Erroohanee, in the mirror of ink, that the slipper
of the Prophet, Salla-'llahu 'ale yhi wasellem! Shall indeed return
to that place accursed, that infidel eyes may look upon it! It is
the will of Allah, whose name be exalted, that I hold my hand, but
it is also His will that I be here, at whatever danger to my
He turned his blazing eyes upon me.
"To-morrow, ere noon," he said, "the slipper will again be in the
Museum from which the man of evil stole it. So it is written;
obscure are the ways. We met last night, you and I, but at that
time much was dark to me that now is light. The holy 'Alee spoke
to me in a vision, saying: 'There are two keys to the case in which
it will be locked. Secure one, leaving the other with him who
holds it! Let him swear to be secret. This shall be the price of
The black tube was pointed directly at my forehead.
"Effendim," concluded the speaker, "place in my hand the key of the
case in the Antiquarian Museum!"
Hands convulsively clenched, the girl was looking from me to Hassan.
My throat felt parched. but I forced speech to my lips.
"Your omniscience fails you," I said. "Both keys are at my bank!"
Blacker grew the fierce eyes - and blacker. I gave myself up for
lost; I awaited death - death by some awful, unique means - with
what courage I could muster.
>From the court below came the sound of voices, the voices of
passers-by who so little suspected what was happening near to them
that had someone told them they certainly had refused to credit it.
The noise of busy Fleet Street came drumming under the archway, too.
Then, above all, another sound became audible. To this day I find
myself unable to define it; but it resembled the note of a silver
Clearly it was a signal; for, hearing it, Hassan dropped the tube
and glanced toward the open window.
In that instant I sprang upon him!
That I had to deal with a fanatic, a dangerous madman, I knew; that
it was his life or mine, I was fully convinced. I struck out then
and caught him fairly over the heart. He reeled back, and I made
a wild clutch for the damnable tube, horrid, unreasoning fear of
which thus far had held me inert.
I heard the girl scream affrightedly, and I knew, and felt my heart
chill to know, that the tube had been wrenched from my hand! Hassan
of Aleppo, old man that he appeared, had the strength of a tiger. He
recovered himself and hurled me from him so that I came to the floor
crashingly half under my writing-table!
Something he cried back at me, furiously - and like an enraged animal,
his teeth gleaming out from his beard, he darted from the room. The
front door banged loudly.
Shaken and quivering, I got upon my feet. On the threshold, in a
state of pitiable hesitancy, stood the pale, beautiful accomplice
of Earl Dexter. One quick glance she flashed at me, then turned
Again the door slammed. I ran to the window, looking out into the
court. The girl came hurrying down the steps, and with never a
backward glance ran on and was lost to view in one of the passages
Out under the arch, statelily passed a tall figure -and Inspector
Bristol was entering! I saw the detective glance aside as the two
all but met. He stood still, and looked back!
"Bristol!" I cried, and waved my arms frantically.
"Stop him! Stop him! It's Hassan of Aleppo!"
Bristol was not the only one to hear my wild cry - not the only one
to dash back under the arch and out into Fleet Street.
But Hassan of Aleppo was gone!
THE LIGHT OF EL-MEDINEH
Bristol and I walked slowly in the direction of the entrance of the
British Antiquarian Museum. It was the day following upon the
sensational scene in my chambers.
"There's very little doubt," said Bristol, "that Earl Dexter has
the slipper and that Hassan of Aleppo knows where Dexter is in
hiding. I don't know which of the two is more elusive. Hassan
apparently melted into thin air yesterday; and a1though The Stetson
Man has never within my experience employed disguises, no one has
set eyes upon him since the night that he vanished from his lodgings
off the Waterloo Road. It's always possible for a man to baffle
the police by remaining closely within doors, but during all the
time that has elapsed Dexter must have taken a little exercise
occasionally, and the missing hand should have betrayed him."
"The wonder to me is," I replied, "that he has escaped death at the
hands of the Hashishin. He is a supremely daring man, for I should
think that he must be carrying the slipper of the Prophet about
"I would rather he did it than I!" commented Bristol. "For sheer
audacity commend me to The Stetson Man! His idea no doubt was to
use you as intermediary in his negotiations with the Museum
authorities, but that plan failing, he has written them direct,
thoughtfully omitting his address, of course!"
We were, in fact, at that moment bound for the Museum to inspect
this latest piece of evidence.
"The crowning example of the man's audacity and cleverness," added
my companion, "is his having actually approached Hassan of Aleppo
with a similar proposition! How did he get in touch with him? All
Scotland Yard has failed to find any trace of that weird character!"
"Birds of a feather - " I suggested.
"But they are not birds of a feather!" cried Bristol. "On your own
showing, Hassan of Aleppo is simply waiting his opportunity to
balance Dexter's account forever! I always knew Dexter was a clever
man; I begin to think he's the most daring genius alive!"
We mounted the steps of the Museum. In the hallway Mostyn, the
curator, awaited us. Having greeted Bristol and myself he led the
way to his private office, and from a pigeon-hole in his desk took
out a letter typewritten upon a sheet of quarto paper.
Bristol spread it out upon the blotting pad and we bent over it
I believe I can supply information concerning the whereabouts of
the missing slipper of Mohammed. As any inquiry of this nature
must be extremely perilous to the inquirer and as the relic is a
priceless one, my fee would be I0,000 pounds. The fanatics who
seek to restore the slipper to the East must not know of any
negotiations, therefore I omit my address, but will communicate
further if you care to insert instructions in the agony column
Bristol laughed grimly.
"It's a daring game," he said; "a piece of barefaced impudence quite
He's posing as a sort of private detective now, and is prepared for
a trifling consideration to return the slipper which he stole
himself! He must know, though, that we have his severed hand at
the Yard to be used in evidence against him."
"Is the Burton Room open to the public again?" I asked Mostyn.
"It is open, yes," he replied, "and a quite unusual number of
visitors come daily to gaze at the empty case which once held the
slipper of the Prophet."
"Has the case been mended?"
"Yes; it is quite intact again; only the exhibit is missing."
We ascended the stairs, passed along the Assyrian Room, which seemed
to be unusually crowded, and entered the lofty apartment known as
the Burton Room. The sunblinds were drawn, and a sort of dim,
religious light prevailed therein. A group of visitors stood around
an empty case at the farther end of the apartment.
"You see," said Mostyn, pointing, "that empty case has a greater
attraction than all the other full ones!"
But I scarcely heeded his words, for I was intently watching the
movements of one of the group about the empty case. I have said
that the room was but dimly illuminated, and this fact, together
no doubt with some effect of reflected light, enhanced by my
imagination, perhaps produced the phenomenon which was occasioning
me so much amazement.
Remember that my mind was filled with memories of weird things,
that I often found myself thinking of that mystic light which
Hassan of Aleppo had called the light of El-Medineh - that light
whereby, undeterred by distance, he claimed to be able to trace the
whereabouts of any of the relics of the Prophet.
Bristol and Mostyn walked on then; but I stood just within the
doorway, intently, breathlessly watching an old man wearing an
out-of-date Inverness coat and a soft felt hat. He had a gray
beard and moustache, and long, untidy hair, walked with a stoop,
and in short was no unusual type of Visitor to that institution.
But it seemed to me, and the closer I watched him the more
convinced I became, that this was no optical illusion, that a faint
luminosity, a sort of elfin light, played eerily about his head!
As Bristol and Mostyn approached the case the old man began to walk
toward me and in the direction of the door. The idea flashed
through my mind that it might be Hassan of Aleppo himself, Hassan
who had predicted that the stolen slipper should that day be
returned to the Museum!
Then he came abreast of me, passed me, and I felt that my
surmise had been wrong. I saw Bristol, from farther up the room,
turn and look back. Something attracted his trained eye, I suppose,
which was not perceptible to me. But he suddenly came striding
along. Obviously he was pursuing the old man, who was just about
to leave the apartment. Seeing that the latter had reached the
doorway, Bristol began to run.
The old man turned; and amid a chorus of exclamations from the
astonished spectators, Bristol sprang upon him!
How it all came about T cannot say, cannot hope to describe; but
there was a short, sharp scuffle, the crack of a well-directed
blow . . . and Bristol was rolling on his back, the old man,
hatless, was racing up the Assyrian Room, and everyone in the place
seemed to be shouting at once!
Bristol, with blood streaming from his face, staggered to his feet,
clutching at me for support.
"After him, Mr. Cavanagh!" be cried hoarsely. "It's your turn
to-day! After him! That's Earl Dexter!"
Mostyn waited for no more, but went running quickly through the
Assyrian Room. I may mention here that at the head of the stairs
he found the caped Inverness which had served to conceal Dexter's
mutilated arm, and later, behind a piece of statuary, a wig and
a very ingenious false beard and moustache were discovered. But
of The Stetson Man there was no trace. His brief start had enabled
him to make good his escape.
As Mostyn went off, and a group of visitors flocked in our
direction, Bristol, who had been badly shaken by the blow, turned
"You will please all leave the Burton Room immediately," he said.
Looks of surprise greeted his words; but with his handkerchief
raised to his face, he peremptorily repeated them. The official
note in his voice was readily to be detected; and the wonder-stricken
group departed with many a backward glance.
As the last left the Burton Room, Bristol pointed, with a rather
shaky finger, at the soft felt hat which lay at his feet. It had
formed part of Dexter's disguise. Close beside it lay another
object which had evidently fallen from the hat - a dull red thing
lying on the polished parquet flooring.
"For God's sake don't go near it!" whispered Bristol. "The room
must be closed for the present. And now I'm off after that man.
Step clear of it."
His words were unnecessary; I shunned it as a leprous thing.
It was the slipper of the Prophet!
THE THREE MESSAGES
I stood in the foyer of the Astoria Hotel. About me was the pulsing
stir of transatlantic life, for the tourist season was now at its
height, and I counted myself fortunate in that I had been able to
secure a room at this establishment, always so popular with American
visitors. Chatting groups surrounded me and I became acquainted
with numberless projects for visiting the Tower of London, the
National Gallery, the British Museum, Windsor Castle, Kew Gardens,
and the other sights dear to the heart of our visiting cousins.
Loaded lifts ascended and descended. Bradshaws were in great
evidence everywhere; all was hustle and glad animation.
The tall military-looking man who stood beside me glanced about him
with a rather grim smile.
"You ought to be safe enough here, Mr. Cavanagh!" he said.
"I ought to be safe enough in my own chambers," I replied wearily.
"How many of these pleasure-seeking folk would believe that a man
can be as greatly in peril of his life in Fleet Street as in the
most uncivilized spot upon the world map? Do you think if I told
that prosperous New Yorker who is buying a cigar yonder, for
instance, that I had been driven from my chambers by a band of
Eastern assassins founded some time in the eleventh century, he
would believe it?"
"I am certain he wouldn't!" replied Bristol. "I should not have
credited it myself before I was put in charge of this damnable case."
My position at that hour was in truth an incredible one. The sacred
slipper of Mohammed lay once more in the glass case at the
Antiquarian Museum from which Earl Dexter had stolen it. Now, with
apish yellow faces haunting my dreams, with ghostly menaces dogging
me day and night, I was outcast from my own rooms and compelled, in
self-defence, to live amid the bustle of the Astoria. So wholly
nonplussed were the police authorities that they could afford me no
protection. They knew that a group of scientific murderers lay
hidden in or near to London; they knew that Earl Dexter, the foremost
crook of his day, was also in the metropolis-and they could make no
move, were helpless; indeed, as Bristol had confessed, were hopeless!
Bristol, on the previous day, had unearthed the Greek cigar merchant,
Acepulos, who had replaced the slipper in its case (for a monetary
consideration). He had performed a similar service when the
bloodstained thing had first been put upon exhibition at the Museum,
and for a considerable period had disappeared. We had feared that
his religious pretensions had not saved him from the avenging
scimitar of Hassan; but quite recently he had returned again to his
Soho shop, and in time thus to earn a second cheque.
As Bristol and I stood glancing about the foyer of the hotel, a
plain-clothes officer whom I knew by sight came in and approached
my companion. I could not divine the fact, of course, but I was
about to hear news of the money-loving and greatly daring
The detective whispered something to Bristol, and the latter started,
and paled. He turned to me.
"They haven't overlooked him this time, Mr. Cavanagh," he said.
"Acepulos has been found dead in his room, nearly decapitated!"
I shuddered involuntarily. Even there, amid the chatter and laughter
of those light-hearted tourists, the shadow of Hassan of Aleppo was
falling upon me.
Bristol started immediately for Soho and I parted from him in the
Strand, he proceeding west and I eastward, for I had occasion that
morning to call at my bank. It was the time of the year when London
is full of' foreigners, and as I proceeded in the direction of Fleet
Street I encountered more than one Oriental. To my excited
imagination they all seemed to glance at me furtively, with menacing
eyes, but in any event I knew that I had little to fear whilst I
contrived to keep to the crowded thoroughfares. Solitude I dreaded
and with good reason.
Then at the door of the bank I found fresh mater for reflection.
The assistant manager, Mr. Colby, was escorting a lady to the door.
As I stood aside, he walked with her to a handsome car which waited,
and handed her in with marks of great deference. She was heavily
veiled and I had no more than a glimpse of her, but she appeared to
be of middle age and had gray hair and a very stately manner.
I told myself that I was unduly suspicious, suspicious of everyone
and of everything; yet as I entered the bank I found myself wondering
where I had seen that dignified, grayhaired figure before. I even
thought of asking the manager the name of his distinguished customer,
but did not do so, for in the circumstances such an inquiry must
have appeared impertinent.
My business transacted, I came out again by the side entrance which
opens on the little courtyard, for this branch of the London County
and Provincial Bank occupies a corner site.
A ragged urchin who was apparently waiting for me handed me a note.
I looked at him inquiringly.
"For me?" I said.
"Yes, sir. A dark gentleman pointed you out as you was goin' into
The note was written upon a half sheet of paper and, doubting if it
was really intended for me, I unfolded it and read the following -
Mr. Cavanagh, take the keys of the case containing the holy slipper
to your hotel this evening without fail.
"Who gave you this, boy?" I asked sharply.
"A foreign gentleman, sir, very dark - like an Indian."
"Where is he?"
"He went off in a cab, sir, after he give me the note."
I handed the boy sixpence and slowly pursued my way. An idea was
forming in my mind to trap the enemy by seeming acquiescent. I
wondered if my movements were being watched at that moment. Since
it was more than probable, I returned to the bank, entered, and
made some trivial inquiry of a cashier, and then came out again and
walked on as far as the Report office.
I had not been in the office more than five minutes before I
received a telegram from Inspector Bristol. It had been handed in
at Soho, and the message was an odd one.
CAVANAGH, Report, London.
Plot afoot to steal keys. Get them from bank and join me 11 o'clock
at Astoria. Have planned trap.
This was very mysterious in view of the note so recently received by
me, but I concluded that Bristol had hit upon a similar plan to that
which was forming in my own mind. It seemed unnecessarily hazardous,
though, actually to withdraw the keys from their place of safety.
Pondering deeply upon the perplexities of this maddening case, I
shortly afterward found myself again at the bank. With the manager
I descended to the strong-room, and the safe was unlocked which
contained the much-sought-for keys of the case at the Antiquarian
"There are the keys, quite safe! - and by the way, this is my second
visit here this morning, Mr. Cavanagh," said the manager, with whom
I was upon rather intimate terms. "A foreign lady who has recently
become a customer of the bank deposited some valuable jewels here
this morning - less than an hour ago, in fact."
"Indeed," I said, and my mind was working rapidly. "The lady who
came in the large blue car, a gray-haired lady?"
"Yes," was the reply, "did you notice her, then?"
I nodded and said no more, for in truth I had no more to say. I
had good reason to respect the uncanny powers of Hassan of Aleppo,
but I doubted if even his omniscience could tell him (since I had
actually gone down into the strong-room) whether when I emerged I
had the keys, or whether my visit and seeming acceptance of his
orders had been no more than a subterfuge!
That the Hashishin had some means of communicating with me at the
Astoria was evident from the contents of the note which I had
received, and as I walked in the direction of the hotel my mind
was filled with all sorts of misgivings. I was playing with fire!
Had I done rightly or should I have acted otherwise? I sighed
wearily. The dark future would resolve all my doubts.
When I reached the Astoria, Bristol had not arrived. I lighted a
cigarette and sat down in the lounge to await his coming. Presently
a boy approached, handing me a message which had been taken down
from the telephone by the clerk. It was as follows -
Tell Mr. Cavanagh, who is waiting in the hotel, to take what I am
expecting to his chambers, and say that I will join him there in
Again I doubted the wisdom of Bristol's plan. Had I not fled to
the Astoria to escape from the dangerous solitude of my rooms? That
he was laying some trap for the Hashishin was sufficiently evident,
and whilst I could not justly suspect him of making a pawn of me
I was quite unable to find any other explanation of this latest move.
I was torn between conflicting doubts. I glanced at my watch. Yes!
There was just time for me to revisit the bank ere joining Bristol
at my chambers! I hesitated. After all, in what possible way could
it jeopardize his plans for me merely to pretend to bring the keys?
"Hang it all!" I said, and jumped to my feet. "These maddening
conjectures will turn my brain! I'll let matters stand as they
are, and risk the consequences!"
I hesitated no longer, but passed out from the hotel and once more
directed my steps in the direction of Fleet Street.
As I passed in under the arch through which streamed many busy
workers, I told myself that to dread entering my own chambers at
high noon was utterly childish. Yet I did dread doing so! And as
I mounted the stair and came to the landing, which was always more
or less dark, I paused for quite a long time before putting the
key in the lock.
The affair of the accursed slipper was playing havoc with my nerves,
and I laughed dryly to note that my hand was not quite steady as I
turned the key, opened my door, and slipped into the dim hallway.
As I closed it behind me, something, probably a slight noise, but
possibly something more subtle - an instinct - made me turn rapidly.
There facing me stood Hassan of Aleppo.
I KEEP THE APPOINTMENT
That moment was pungent with drama. In the intense hush of the
next five seconds I could fancy that the world had slipped away
from me and that I was become an unsubstantial thing of dreams.
I was in no sense master of myself; the effect of the presence of
this white-bearded fanatic was of a kind which I am entirely unable
to describe. About Hassan of Aleppo was an aroma of evil, yet of
majesty, which marked him strangely different from other men - from
any other that I have ever known. In his venerable presence,
remembering how he was Sheikh of the Assassins, and recalling his
bloody history, I was always conscious of a weakness, physical and
mental. He appalled me; and now, with my back to the door, I stood
watching him and watching the ominous black tube which he held in
his hand. It was a weapon unknown to Europe and therefore more
fearful than the most up-to-date of death-dealing instruments.
Hassan of Aleppo pointed it toward me.
"The keys, effendim," he said; "hand me the keys!"
He advanced a step; his manner was imperious. The black tube was
less than a foot removed from my face. That I had my revolver in
my pocket could avail me nothing, for in my pocket it must remain,
since I dared to make no move to reach it under cover of that
unfamiliar, terrible weapon.
The black eyes of Hassan glared insanely into mine.
"You will have placed them in your pocketcase," he said. "Take it
out; hand it to me!"
I obeyed, for what else could I do? Taking the case from my pocket,
I placed it in his lean brown hand.
An expression of wild exultation crossed his features; the eagle
eyes seemed to be burning into my brain. A puff of hot vapour
struck me in the face - something which was expelled from the
mysterious black tube. And with memories crowding to my mind of
similar experiences at the hands of the Hashishin, I fell back,
clutching at my throat, fighting for my life against the deadly,
vaporous thing that like a palpable cloud surrounded me. I tried
to cry out, but the words died upon my tongue. Hassan of Aleppo
seemed to grow huge before my eyes like some ginn of Eastern lore.
Then a curtain of darkness descended. I experienced a violent blow
upon the forehead (I suppose I had pitched forward), and for the
time resigned my part in the drama of the sacred slipper.
THE WATCHER IN BANK CHAMBERS
At about five o'clock that afternoon Inspector Bristol, who had
spent several hours in Soho upon the scene of the murder of the
Greek, was walking along Fleet Street, bound for the offices of the
Report. As he passed the court, on the corner of which stands a
branch of the London County and Provincial Bank, his eye was
attracted by a curious phenomenon.
There are reflectors above the bank windows which face the court,
and it appeared to Bristol that there was a hole in one of these,
the furthermost from the corner. A tiny beam of light shone from
the bank window on to the reflector, or from the reflector on to
the window, which circumstance in itself was not curious. But
above the reflector, at an acute angle, this mysterious beam was
seemingly projected upward. Walking a little way up the court he
saw that it shone through, and cast a disc of light upon the
ceiling of an office on the first floor of Bank Chambers above.
It is every detective's business to be observant, and although
many thousands of passersby must have cast their eyes in the same
direction that day, there is small matter for wonder in the fact
that Bristol alone took the trouble to inquire into the mystery
- for his trained eye told him that there was a mystery here.
Possibly he was in that passive frame of mind when the brain is
particularly receptive of trivial impressions; for after a futile
search of the Soho cigar store for anything resembling a clue, he
was quite resigned to the idea of failure in the case of Hassan and
Company. He walked down the court and into the entrance of Bank
Chambers. An Inspection of the board upon the wall showed him that
the first floor apparently was occupied by three firms, two of them
legal, for this is the neighbourhood of the law courts, and the
third a press agency. He stepped up to the first floor. Past the
doors bearing the names of the solicitors and past that belonging
to the press agent he proceeded to a fourth suite of offices.
Here, pinned upon the door frame, appeared a card which bore the
THE CONGO FIBRE COMPANY
Evidently the Congo Fibre Company had so recently taken possession
of the offices that there had been no time to inscribe their title
either upon the doors or upon the board in the hall.
Inspector Bristol was much impressed, for into one of the rooms
occupied by the Fibre Company shone that curious disc of light
which first had drawn his attention to Bank Chambers. He rapped
on the door, turned the handle, and entered. The sole furniture
of the office in which he found himself apparently consisted of
one desk and an office stool, which stool was occupied by an office
boy. The windows opened on the court, and a door marked "Private"
evidently communicated with an inner office whose windows likewise
must open on the court. It was the ceiling of this inner office,
unless the detective's calculation erred, which he was anxious to
"Yes, sir?" said the boy tentatively.
Bristol produced a card which bore the uncompromising legend: John
"Take my card to Mr. Boulter, boy," he said tersely. The boy
"Mr. Boulter, sir? There isn't any one of that name here."
"Oh!" said Bristol, looking around him in apparent surprise: "how
long is he gone?"
"I don't know, sir. I've only been here three weeks, and Mr.
Knowlson only took the offices a month ago."
"Oh" commented Bristol, "then take my card to Mr. Knowlson; he
will probably be able to give me Mr. Boulter's present address."
The boy hesitated. The detective had that authoritative manner
which awes the youthful mind.
"He's out, sir," he said, but without conviction.
"Is he?" rapped Bristol "Well, I'll leave my card."
He turned and quitted the office, carefully closing the door behind
him. Three seconds later he reopened it, and peering in, was in
time to see the boy knock upon the private door. A little wicket,
or movable panel, was let down, the card of John Henry Smith was
passed through to someone unseen, and the wicket was reclosed!
The boy turned and met the wrathful eye of the detective. Bristol
reentered, closing the door behind him.
"See here, young fellow," said he, "I don't stand for those tricks!
Why didn't you tell me Mr. Knowlson was in?"
"I'm very sorry, sir!" - the boy quailed beneath his glance - "but
he won't see any one who hasn't an appointment."
"Is there someone with him, then?"
"Well, what's he doing?"
"I don't know, sir; I've never been in to see!"
"What! never been in that room?"
"Never!" declared the boy solemnly. "And I don't mind telling
you," he added, recovering something of his natural confidence,
"that I am leaving on the 31st. This job ain't any use to me!"
"Too much work?" suggested Bristol.
"No work at all !" returned the boy indignantly. "I'm just here
for a blessed buffer, that's what I'm here for, a buffer!"
"What do you mean?"
"I just have to sit here and see that nobody gets into that
office. Lively, ain't it? Where's the prospects?"
Bristol surveyed him thoughtfully.
"Look here, my lad," he said quietly; "is that door locked?"
"Always," replied the boy.
"Does Mr. Knowlson come to that shutter when you knock?"
"Then go and knock!"
The boy obeyed with alacrity. He rapped loudly on the door, not
noticing or not caring that the visitor was standing directly
behind him. The shutter was lowered and a grizzled, bearded face
showed for a moment through the opening.
Bristol leant over the boy and pushed a card through into the hand
of the man beyond. On this occasion it did not bear the legend
"John Henry Smith," but the following -
CHIEF INSPECTOR BRISTOL
NEW SCOTLAND YARD
"Good afternoon, Mr. Knowlson," said the detective dryly. "I want
to come in!"
There followed a moment of silence, from which Bristol divined that
he had blundered upon some mystery, possibly upon a big case; then
a key was turned in the lock and the door thrown open.
"Come right in, Inspector," invited a strident voice. Carter, you
can go home."
Bristol entered warily, but not warily enough. For as the door
was banged upon his entrance he faced around only in time to
find himself looking down the barrel of a Colt automatic.
With his back to the door which contained the wicket, now reclosed,
stood the man with the bearded face. The revolver was held in his
left hand; his right arm terminated in a bandaged stump. But
without that his steel-gray eyes would have betrayed him to the
"Good God!" whispered Bristol. "It's Earl Dexter!"
"It is!" replied the cracksman, "and you've looked in at a real
inconvenient time! My visitors mostly seem to have that knack.
I'll have to ask you to stay, Inspector. Sit down in that chair
Bristol knew his man too well to think of opening any argument at
that time. He sat down as directed, and ignoring the revolver
which covered him all the time, began coolly to survey the room
in which he found himself. In several respects it was an
The only bright patch in the room was the shining disc upon the
ceiling; and the detective noted with interest that this marked
the position of an arrangement of mirrors. A white-covered table,
entirely bare, stood upon the floor immediately beneath this
mysterious apparatus. With the exception of one or two ordinary
items of furniture and a small hand lathe, the office otherwise
was unfurnished. Bristol turned his eyes again upon the daring
man who so audaciously had trapped him - the man who had stolen the
slipper of the Prophet and suffered the loss of his hand by the
scimitar of an Hashishin as a result. When he had least expected
to find one, Fate had thrown a clue in Bristol's way. He reflected
grimly that it was like to prove of little use to him.
"Now," said Dexter, "you can do as you please, of course, but you
know me pretty well and I advise you to sit quiet.
"I am sitting quiet!" was the reply.
"I am sorry," continued Dexter, with a quick glance at his maimed
arm, "that I can't tie you up, but I am expecting a friend any
He suddenly raised the wicket with a twitch of his elbow and,
without removing his gaze from the watchful detective, cried
But there was no reply.
"Good; he's gone!"
Dexter sat down facing Bristol.
"I have lost my hand in this game, Mr. Bristol," he said genially,
"and had some narrow squeaks of losing my head; but having gone so
far and lost so much I'm going through, if I don't meet a funeral!
You see I'm up against two tough propositions."
Bristol nodded sympathetically.
"The first," continued Dexter, "is you and Cavanagh, and English
law generally. My idea - if I can get hold of the slipper again -
oh! you needn't stare; I'm out for it! - is to get the Antiquarian
Institution to ransom it. It's a line of commercial speculation I
have worked successfully before. There's a dozen rich highbrows,
cranks to a man, connected with it, and they are my likeliest
buyers-sure. But to keep the tone of the market healthy there's
Hassan of Aleppo, rot him! He's a dangerous customer to approach,
but you'll note I've been in negotiation with him already and am
still, if not booming, not much below par!"
"Quite so," said Bristol. "But you've cut off a pretty hefty chew
nevertheless. They used to call you The Stetson Man, you used to
dress like a fashion plate and stop at the big hotels. Those days
are past, Dexter, I'm sorry to note. You're down to the skulking
game now and you're nearer an advert for Clarkson than Stein-Bloch!"
"Yep," said Dexter sadly, "I plead guilty, but I think here's
Bristol heard the door of the outer office open, and a moment later
that upon which his gaze was set opened in turn, to admit a girl
who was heavily veiled, and who started and stood still in the
doorway, on perceiving the situation. Never for one unguarded
moment did the American glance aside from his prisoner.
"The Inspector's dropped in, Carneta!" he drawled in his strident
way. "You're handy with a ball of twine; see if you can induce
him to stay the night!"
The girl, immediately recovering her composure, took off her hat
in a businesslike way and began to look around her, evidently in
search of a suitable length of rope with which to fasten up Bristol.
"Might I suggest," said the detective, "that if you are shortly
quitting these offices a couple of the window-cords neatly joined
would serve admirably?"
"Thanks," drawled Dexter, nodding to his companion, who went into
the outer office, where she might be heard lowering the windows.
She was gone but a few moments ere she returned again, carrying a
length of knotted rope. Under cover of Dexter's revolver, Bristol
stoically submitted to having his wrists tied behind him. The end
of the line was then thrown through the ventilator above the door
which communicated with the outer office and Bristol was triced up
in such a way that, his wrists being raised behind him to an
uncomfortable degree, he was almost forced to stand upon tiptoe.
The line was then secured.
"Very workmanlike!" commented the victim. "You'll find a large
handkerchief in my inside breast pocket. It's a clean one, and
I can recommend it as a gag!"
Very promptly it was employed for the purpose, and Inspector
Bristol found himself helpless and constrained in a very painful
position. Dexter laid down his revolver.
"We will now give you a free show, Inspector," he said, genially,
"of our camera obscura!"
He pulled down the blinds, which Bristol noted with interest to be
black, but through an opening in one of them a mysterious ray of
light - the same that he had noticed from Fleet Street - shone upon
that point in the ceiling where the arrangement of mirrors was
attached. Dexter made some alteration, apparently in the focus of
the lens (for Bristol had divined that in some way a lens had been
fixed in the reflector above the bank window below) and the disc
of light became concentrated. The white-covered table was moved
slightly, and in the darkness some further manipulation was
"Observe," came the strident voice - "we now have upon the screen
here a minute moving picture. This little device, which is not
protected in any way, is of my own invention, and proved extremely
useful in the Arkwright jewel case, which startled Chicago. It has
proved useful now. I know almost as much concerning the
arrangements below as the manager himself. In confidence, Inspector,
this is my last bid for the slipper! I have plunged on it. Madame
Sforza, the distinguished Italian lady who recently opened an
account below, opened it for 500 pounds cash. She has drawn a
portion, but a balance remains which I am resigned to lose. Her
motor-car (hired), her references (forged), the case of jewels which
she deposited this morning (duds!) - all represent a considerable
outlay. It's a nerve-racking line of operation, too. Any hour of
the day may bring such a visitor as yourself, for example. In short,
I am at the end of my tether."
Bristol, ignoring the increasing pain in his arms and wrists, turned
his eyes upon the white-covered table and there saw a minute and
clear-cut picture, such as one sees in a focussing screen, of the
interior of the manager's office of the London County and Provincial
I wonder how often a sense of humour has saved a man from
desperation? Perhaps only the Easterns have thoroughly appreciated
that divine gift. I have interpolated the adventure of Inspector
Bristol in order that the sequence of my story be not broken;
actually I did not learn it until later, but when, on the following
day, the whole of the facts came into my possession, I laughed and
was glad that I could laugh, for laughter has saved many a man from
Certainly the Fates were playing with us, for at a time very nearly
corresponding with that when Bristol found himself bound and
helpless in Bank Chambers I awoke to find myself tied hand and foot
to my own bed! Nothing but the haziest recollections came to me at
first, nothing but dim memories of the awful being who had lured me
there; for I perceived now that all the messages proceeded, not from
Bristol, but from Hassan of Aleppo! I had been a fool, and I was
reaping the fruits of my folly. Could I have known that almost
within pistol shot of me the Inspector was trussed up as helpless as
I, then indeed my situation must have become unbearable, since upon
him I relied for my speedy release.
My ankles were firmly lashed to the rails at the foot of my bed;
each of my wrists was tied back to a bedpost. I ached in every limb
and my head burned feverishly, which latter symptom I ascribed to
the powerful drug which had been expelled into my face by the
uncanny weapon carried by Hassan of Aleppo. I reflected bitterly
how, having transferred my quarters to the Astoria, I could not well
hope for any visitor to my chambers; and even the event of such a
visitor had been foreseen and provided against by the cunning lord
of the Hashishin. A gag, of the type which Dumas has described in
"Twenty Years After," the poire d'angoisse, was wedged firmly into
my mouth. so that only by preserving the utmost composure could I
breathe. I was bathed in cold perspiration. So I lay listening to
the familiar sounds without and reflecting that it was quite
possible so to lie, undisturbed, and to die alone, my presence there
Once, toward dusk, my phone bell rang, and my state of mind became
agonizing. It was maddening to think that someone, a friend, was
virtually within reach of me, yet actually as far removed as if an
ocean divided us! I tasted the hellish torments of Tantalus. I
cursed fate, heaven, everything; I prayed; I sank into bottomless
depths of despair and rose to dizzy pinnacles of hope, when a
footstep sounded on the landing and a thousand wild possibilities,
vague possibilities of rescue, poured into my mind.
The visitor hesitated, apparently outside my door; and a change, as
sudden as lightning out of a cloud, transformed my errant fancies.
A gruesome conviction seized me, as irrational as the hope which it
displayed, that this was one of the Hashishin - an apish yellow
dwarf, a strangler, the awful Hassan himself!
The footsteps receded down the stairs. And my thoughts reverted
into the old channels of dull despair.
I weighed the chances of Bristol's seeking me there; and, eager as
I was to give them substance, found them but airy - ultimately was
forced to admit them to be nil.
So I lay, whilst only a few hundred yards from me a singular scene
was being enacted. Bristol, a prisoner as helpless as myself,
watched the concluding business of the day being conducted in the
bank beneath him; he watched the lift descend to the strongroom
- the spying apparatus being slightly adjusted in some way; he saw
the clerks hastening to finish their work in the outer office, and
as he watched, absorbed by the novelty of the situation, he almost
forgot the pain and discomfort which he suffered . . .
"This little peep-show of ours has been real useful," Dexter
confided out of the darkness. "I got an impression of the key of
the strongroom door a week ago, and Carneta got one of the keys of
the safe only this morning, when she lodged her box of jewellery
with the bank! I was at work on that key when you interrupted me,
and as by means of this useful apparatus I have learnt the
combination, you ought to see some fun in the next few hours!"
Bristol repressed a groan, for the prospect of remaining in that
position was thus brought keenly home to him.
The bank staff left the premises one by one until only a solitary
clerk worked on at a back desk. His task completed, he, too, took
his departure and the bank messenger commenced his nightly duty of
sweeping up the offices. It was then that excitement like an
anaesthetic dulled the detective's pain - indeed, he forgot his
aching body and became merely a watchful intelligence.
So intent had he become upon the picture before him that he had not
noticed the fact that he was alone in the office of the Congo Fibre
Company. Now he realized it from the absolute silence about him,
and from another circumstance.
The spying apparatus had been left focussed, and on to the screen
beneath his eyes, bending low behind the desks and creeping,
Indian-like, around, toward the head of the stair which communicated
with the strongroom and the apartment used by the messenger, came the
alert figure of Earl Dexter!
It may be a surprise to some people to learn that at any time in
the day the door of a bank, unguarded, should be left open, when
only a solitary messenger is within the premises; yet for a few
minutes at least each evening this happens at more than one City
bank, where one of the duties of the resident messenger is to clean
the outer steps. Dexter had taken advantage of the man's absence
below in quest of scrubbing material to enter the bank through the
Watching, breathless, and utterly forgetful of his own position,
Bristol saw the messenger, all unconscious of danger, come up the
stairs carrying a pail and broom. As his head reached the level
of the railings The Stetson Man neatly sand-bagged him, rushed
across to the outer door, and closed it!
Given duplicate keys and the private information which Dexter so
ingeniously had obtained, there are many London banks vulnerable to
similar attack. Certainly, bullion is rarely kept in a branch
storeroom, but the detective was well aware that the keys of the
case containing the slipper were kept in this particular safe!
He was convinced, and could entertain no shadowy doubt, that at
last Dexter had triumphed. He wondered if it had ever hitherto
fallen to the lot of a representative of the law thus to be made
an accessory to a daring felony!
But human endurance has well-defined limits. The fading light
rendered the ingenious picture dim and more dim. The pain
occasioned by his position became agonizing, and uttering a stifled
groan he ceased to take an interest in the robbery of the London
County and Provincial Bank.
Fate is a comedian; and when later I learned how I had lain strapped
to my bed, and, so near to me, Bristol had hung helpless as a
butchered carcass in the office of the Congo Fibre Company, whilst,
in our absence from the stage, the drama of the slipper marched
feverish to its final curtain, I accorded Fate her well-earned
applause. I laughed; not altogether mirthfully.
Someone was breaking in at the door of my chambers!
I aroused myself from a state of coma almost death-like and listened
to the blows. The sun was streaming in at my windows.
A splintering crash told of a panel broken. Then a moment later I
heard the grating of the lock, and a rush of footsteps along the
"Try the study!" came a voice that sounded like Bristol's, save that
it was strangely weak and shaky.
Almost simultaneously the Inspector himself threw open the bedroom
door - and, very pale and haggard-eyed, stood there looking across at
me. It was a scene unforgettable.
"Mr. Cavanagh!" he said huskily - "Mr. Cavanagh! Thank God you're
alive! But" - he turned - "this way, Marden!" he cried, "Untie him
quickly! I've got no strength in my arms!".
Marden, a C.I.D. man, came running, and in a minute, or less, I was
sitting up gulping brandy.
"I've had the most awful experience of my life," said Bristol.
"You've fared badly enough, but I've been hanging by my wrists - you
know Dexter's trick! - for close upon sixteen hours! I wasn't
released until Carter, an office boy, came on the scene this morning!"
Very feebly I nodded; I could not talk.
"The strong-room of your bank was rifled under my very eyes last
evening!" he continued, with something of his old vigour; "and five
minutes after the Antiquarian Museum was opened to the public this
morning quite an unusual number of visitors appeared.
"I saw the bank manager the moment he arrived, and learned a piece
of news that positively took my breath away! I was at the Museum
seven minutes later and got another shock! There in the case was
the red slipper!"
"Then," I whispered-"it hadn't been stolen?"
"Wrong! It had! This was a duplicate, as Mostyn, the curator, saw
at a glance! Some of the early visitors - they were Easterns - had
quite surrounded the case. They were watched, of course, but any
number of Orientals come to see the thing; and, short of smashing
the glass, which would immediately attract attention, the authorities
were unprepared, of course, for any attempt. Anyway, they were
tricked. Somebody opened the case. The real slipper of the Prophet
"They told you at the bank - "
"That you had withdrawn the keys! If Dexter had known that!"
"Hassan of Aleppo took them from me last night! At last the
Hashishin have triumphed.
Bristol sank into the armchair.
"Every port is watched," he said. "But - "
I am entirely at your mercy; you can do as you please with me. But
before you do anything I should like you to listen to what I have
Her beautiful face was pale and troubled. Violet eyes looked sadly
"For nearly an hour I have been waiting for this chance - until I
knew you were alone," she continued. "If you are thinking of giving
me up to the police, at least remember that I came here of my own
free will. Of course, I know you are quite entitled to take
advantage of that; but please let me say what I came to say!"
She pleaded so hard, with that musical voice, with her evident
helplessness, most of all with her wonderful eyes, that I quite
abandoned any project I might have entertained to secure her arrest.
I think she divined this masculine weakness, for she said, with
greater confidence -
"Your friend, Professor Deeping, was murdered by the man called
Hassan of Aleppo. Are you content to remain idle while his murderer
God knows I was not. My idleness in the matter was none of my
choosing. Since poor Deeping's murder I had come to handgrips
with the assassins more than once, but Hassan had proved too clever
for me, too clever for Scotland Yard. The sacred slipper was once
more in the hands of its fanatic guardian.
One man there was who might have helped the search, Earl Dexter.
But Earl Dexter was himself wanted by Scotland Yard!
>From the time of the bank affair up to the moment when this
beautiful visitor had come to my chambers I had thought Dexter, as
well as Hassan, to have fled secretly from England. But the moment
that I saw Carneta at my door I divined that The Stetson Man must
still be in London.
She sat watching me and awaiting my answer.
"I cannot avenge my friend unless I can find his murderer."
Eagerly she bent forward.
"But if I can find him?"
That made me think, and I hesitated before speaking again.
"Say what you name to say," I replied slowly. "You must know that
I distrust you. Indeed, my plain duty is to detain you. But I will
listen to anything you may care to tell me, particularly if it
enables me to trap Hassan of Aleppo."
"Very well," she said, and rested her elbows upon the table before
her. "I have come to you in desperation. I can help you to find
the man who murdered Professor Deeping, but in return I want you to
I watched her closely. She was very plainly, almost poorly, dressed.
Her face was pale and there were dark marks around her eyes. This
but served to render their strange beauty more startling; yet I
could see that my visitor was in real trouble. The situation was an
"You are possibly about to ask me," I suggested, "to assist Earl
Dexter to escape the police?"
She shook her head. Her voice trembled as she replied -
"That would not have induced me to run the risk of coming here. I
came because I wanted to find a man who was brave enough to help me.
We have no friends in London, and so it became a question of terms.
I can repay you by helping you to trace Hassan."
"What is it, then, that Dexter asks me to do?"
"He asks nothing. I, Carneta, am asking!"
"Then you are not come from him?"
At my question, all her self-possession left her. She abruptly
dropped her face into her hands and was shaken with sobs! It was
more than I could bear, unmoved. I forgot the shady past, forgot
that she was the associate of a daring felon, and could only realize
that she was a weeping woman, who had appealed to my pity and who
asked my aid.
I stood up and stared out of the window, for I experienced a not
unnatural embarrassment. Without looking at her I said -
"Don't be afraid to tell me your troubles. I don't say I should go
out of my way to be kind to Mr. Dexter, but I have no wish whatever
to be instrumental in" - I hesitated - "in making you responsible
for his misdeeds. If you can tell me where to find Hassan of
Aleppo, I won't even ask you where Dexter is - "
"God help me! I don't know where he is!"
There was real, poignant anguish in her cry. I turned and
confronted her. Her lashes were all wet with tears.
"What! has he disappeared?"
She nodded, fought with her emotion a moment, and went on unsteadily,
"I want you to help me to find him for in finding him we shall find
Her gaze avoided me now.
"Mr. Cavanagh, he has staked everything upon securing the slipper
- and the Hashishin were too clever for him. His hand - those
Eastern fiends cut off his hand! But he would not give in. He
made another bid - and lost again. It left him almost penniless."
She spoke of Earl Dexter's felonious plans as another woman might
have spoken of her husband's unwise investments! It was fantastic
hearing that confession of The Stetson Man's beautiful partner, and
I counted the interview one of the strangest I had ever known.
A sudden idea came to me. "When did Dexter first conceive the plan
to steal the slipper?" I asked.
"In Egypt!" answered Carneta. "Yes! You may as well know! He is
thoroughly familiar with the East, and he learned of the robbery of
Professor Deeping almost as soon as it became known to Hassan. I
know what you are going to ask - "
"Yes! He travelled home as Ahmadeen - the only time he ever used
a disguise. Oh! the thing is accursed!" she cried. "I begged him,
implored him, to abandon his attempts upon it. Day and night we
were watched by those ghastly yellow men! But it was all in vain.
He knew, had known for a long time, where Hassan of Aleppo was in
And I reflected that the best men at New Scotland Yard had failed
to pick up the slightest clue!
"The Hashishin, of whom that dreadful man is leader, are rich, or
have supporters who are rich. The plan was to make them pay for
"My God! it was playing with fire!"
She sat silent awhile. Emotion threatened to get the upper hand.
"Two days ago," she almost whispered, "he set out-to . . . get the
"To steal it?"
"To steal it!"
"From Hassan of Aleppo?"
I could scarcely believe that any man, single-handed, could have
had the hardihood to attempt such a thing.
"From Hassan, yes!"
I faced her, amazed, incredulous.
"Dexter had suffered mutilation, he knew that the Hashishin sought
his life for his previous attempts upon the relic of the Prophet,
and yet he dared to venture again into the very lions' den?"
"He did, Mr. Cavanagh, two days ago. And - "
"Yes?" I urged, as gently as I could, for she was shaking pitifully.
"He never came back!"
The words were spoken almost in a whisper. She clenched her hands
and leapt from the chair, fighting down her grief and with such a
stark horror in her beautiful eyes that from my very soul I longed
to be able to help her.
"Mr. Cavanagh" (she had courage, this bewildering accomplice of a
cracksman), "I know the house he went to! I cannot hope to make you
understand what I have suffered since then. A thousand times I have
been on the point of going to the police, confessing all I knew, and
leading them to that house! O God! if only he is alive, this shall
be his last crooked deal - and mine! I dared not go to the police,
for his sake! I waited, and watched, and hoped, through two such
nights and days . . . then I ventured. I should have gone mad if I
had not come here. I knew you had good cause to hate, to detest me,
but I remembered that you had a great grievance against Hassan. Not
as great, 0 heaven! not as great as mine, but yet a great one. I
remembered, too, that you were the kind of man - a woman can come
to . . . "
She sank back into the chair, and with her fingers twining and
untwining, sat looking dully before her.
"In brief," I said, "what do you propose?"
"I propose that we endeavour to obtain admittance to the house of
Hassan of Aleppo - secretly, of course, and all I ask of you in
return for revealing the secret of its situation is - "
"That I let Dexter go free?"
Almost inaudibly she whispered: "If he lives!"
Surely no stranger proposition ever had been submitted to a
law-abiding citizen. I was asked to connive in the escape of a
notorious criminal, and at one and the same time to embark upon an
expedition patently burglarious! As though this were not enough,
I was invited to beard Hassan of Aleppo, the most dreadful being I
had ever encountered East or West, in his mysterious stronghold!
I wondered what my friend, Inspector Bristol, would have thought of
the project; I wondered if I should ever live to see Hassan meet his
just deserts as a result of this enterprise, which I was forced to
admit a foolhardy one. But a man who has selected the career of a
war correspondent from amongst those which Fleet Street offers, is
the victim of a certain craving for fresh experiences; I suppose,
has in his character something of an adventurous turn.
For a while I stood staring from the window, then faced about and
looked into the violet eyes of my visitor.
"I agree, Carneta!" I said.
WE MEET MR. ISAACS
Quitting the wayside station, and walking down a short lane, we came
out upon Watling Street, white and dusty beneath the afternoon sun.
We were less than an hour's train journey from London but found
ourselves amid the Kentish hop gardens, amid a rural peace unbroken.
My companion carried a camera case slung across her shoulder, but
its contents were less innocent than one might have supposed. In
fact, it contained a neat set of those instruments of the burglar's
art with whose use she appeared to be quite familiar.
"There is an inn," she said, "about a mile ahead, where we can
obtain some vital information. He last wrote to me from there."
Side by side we tramped along the dusty road. We both were silent,
occupied with our own thoughts. Respecting the nature of my
companion's I could entertain little doubt, and my own turned upon
the foolhardy nature of the undertaking upon which I was embarked.
No other word passed between us then, until upon rounding a bend
and passing a cluster of picturesque cottages, the yard of the
Vinepole came into view.
"Do they know you by sight here?" I asked abruptly.
"No, of course not; we never made strategic mistakes of that kind.
If we have tea here, no doubt we can learn all we require."
1 entered the little parlour of the inn, and suggested that tea
should be served in the pretty garden which opened out of it upon
The host, who himself laid the table, viewed the camera case
"We get a lot of photographers down here," he remarked tentatively.
"No doubt," said my companion. "There is some very pretty scenery
in the neighbourhood."
The landlord rested his hands upon the table.
"There was a gentleman here on Wednesday last," he said; "an old
gentleman who had met with an accident, and was staying somewhere
hereabouts for his health. But he'd got his camera with him, and
it was wonderful the way he could use it, considering he hadn't got
the use of his right hand."
"He must have been a very keen photographer," I said, glancing at
the girl beside me.
"He took three or four pictures of the Vinepole," replied the
landlord (which I doubted, since probably his camera was a dummy);
"and he wanted to know if there were any other old houses in the
neighbourhood. I told him he ought to take Cadham Hall, and he said
he had heard that the Gate House, which is about a mile from here,
was one of the oldest buildings about.")
A girl appeared with a tea tray, and for a moment I almost feared
that the landlord was about to retire; but he lingered, whilst the
girl distributed the things about the table, and Carneta asked
casually, "Would there be time for me to photograph the Gate House
"There might be time," was the reply, "but that's not the difficulty.
Mr. Isaacs is the difficulty."
"Who is Mr. Isaacs?" I asked.
"He's the Jewish gentleman who bought the Gate House recently. Lots
of money he's got and a big motor car. He's up and down to London
almost every day in the week, but he won't let anybody take
photographs of the house. I know several who've asked."
"But I thought," said Carneta, innocently, "you said the old
gentleman who was here on Wednesday went to take some?"
"He went, yes, miss; but I don't know if he succeeded."
Carneta poured out some tea.
"Now that you speak of it," she said, "I too have heard that the
Gate House is very picturesque. What objection can Mr. Isaacs
have to photographers?"
"Well, you see, miss, to get a picture of the house, you have to
pass right through the grounds."
"I should walk right up to the house and ask permission. Is Mr.
Isaacs at home, I wonder?"
"I couldn't say. - He hasn't passed this way to-day."
"We might meet him on the way," said I. "What is he like?"
"A Jewish gentleman sir, very dark, with a white beard. Wears
gold glasses. Keeps himself very much to himself. I don't know
anything about his household; none of them ever come here."
Carneta inquired the direction of Cadham Hall and of the Gate House,
and the landlord left us to ourselves. My companion exhibited
signs of growing agitation, and it seemed to me that she had much
ado to restrain herself from setting out without a moment's delay
for the Gate House, which, I readily perceived, was the place to
which our strange venture was leading us.
I found something very stimulating in the reflection that, rash
though the expedition might be, and, viewed from whatever standpoint,
undeniably perilous, it promised to bring me to that secret
stronghold of deviltry where the sinister Hassan of Aleppo so
successfully had concealed himself.
The work of the modern journalist had many points of contact with
that of the detective; and since the murder of Professor Deeping I
had succumbed to the man-hunting fever more than once. I knew that
Scotland Yard had failed to locate the hiding-place of the
remarkable and evil man who, like an efreet of Oriental lore, obeyed
the talisman of the stolen slipper, striking down whomsoever laid
hand upon its sacredness. It was a novel sensation to know that,
aided by this beautiful accomplice of a rogue, I had succeeded where
the experts had failed!
Misgivings I had and shall not deny. If our scheme succeeded it
would mean that Deeping's murderer should be brought to justice.
If it failed-well, frankly, upon that possibility I did not dare to
It must be needless for me to say that we two strangely met allies
were ill at ease, sometimes to the point of embarrassment. We
proceeded on our way in almost unbroken silence, and, save for a
couple of farm hands, without meeting any wayfarer, up to the time
that we reached the brow of the hill and had our first sight of the
Gate House lying in a little valley beneath. It was a small Tudor
mansion, very compact in plan and its roof glowed redly in the
rays of the now setting sun.
>From the directions given by the host of the Vine pole it was
impossible to mistake the way or to mistake the house. Amid
well-wooded grounds it stood, a place quite isolated, but so
typically English that, as I stood looking down upon it, I found
myself unable to believe that any other than a substantial country
gentleman could be its proprietor.
I glanced at Carneta. Her violet eyes were burning feverishly, but
her lips twitched in a bravely pitiful way.
Clearly now my adventure lay before me; that red-roofed homestead
seemed to have rendered it all substantial which hitherto had been
shadowy; and I stood there studying the Gate House gravely, for it
might yet swallow me up, as apparently it had swallowed Earl Dexter.
There, amid that peaceful Kentish landscape, fantasy danced and
horrors unknown lurked in waiting. . .
The eminence upon which we were commanded an extensive prospect,
and eastward showed a tower and flagstaff which marked the site of
Cadham Hall. There were homeward-bound labourers to be seen in the
lanes now, and where like a white ribbon the Watling Street lay
across the verdant carpet moved an insect shape, speedily.
It was a car, and I watched it with vague interest. At a point
where a dense coppice spread down to the roadway and a lane crossed
west to east, the car became invisible. Then I saw it again, nearer
to us and nearer to the Gate House. Finally it disappeared among
I turned to Carneta. She, too, had been watching. Now her gaze met
"Mr. Isaacs!" she said; and her voice was less musical than usual.
"His chauffeur, who learned his business in Cairo, is probably the
only one of his servants who remains in England."
"What!" I began - and said no more.
Where the road upon which we stood wound down into the valley and
lost itself amid the trees surrounding the Gate House, the car
suddenly appeared again, and began to mount the slope toward us!
"Heavens!" whispered Carneta. "He may have seen us - with glasses!
Quick! Let us walk back until the hill-top conceals us; then we
must hide somewhere!"
I shared her excitement. Without a moment's hesitation we both
turned and retraced our steps. Twenty paces brought us to a
spot where a stack of mangel wurzels stood at the roadside.
"This will do!" I said.
We ran around into the field, and crouched where we could peer out
on the road without ourselves being seen. Nor had we taken up this
position a moment too soon.
Topping the slope came a light-weight electric, driven by a man who,
in his spruce uniform, might have passed at a glance for a very
dusky European. The car had a limousine back, and as the chauffeur
slowed down, out from the open windows right and left peered the
He had the cast of countenance which is associated with the best
type of Jew, with clear-cut aquiline features wholly destitute of
grossness. His white beard was patriarchal and he wore gold-rimmed
pince-nez and a glossy silk hat. Such figures may often be met
with in the great money-markets of the world, and Mr. Isaacs would
have passed for a successful financier in even more discerning
communities than that of Cadham.
But I scarcely breathed until the car was past; and, beside me, my
companion, crouching to the ground, was trembling wildly. Fifty
yards toward the village Mr. Isaacs evidently directed the man to
The car was put about, and flashed past us at high speed down into
the valley. When the sound of the humming motor had died to
something no louder than the buzz of a sleepy wasp, I held out my
hand to Carneta and she rose, pale, but with blazing eyes, and
picked up her camera case.
"If he had detected us, everything would have been lost!" she
"Not everything!" I replied grimly - and showed her the revolver
which I had held in my hand whilst those eagle eyes had been
seeking us. "If he had made a sign to show that he had seen us, in
fact, if he had once offered a safe mark by leaning from the car, I
should have shot him dead without hesitation!"
"We must not show ourselves again, but wait" for dusk. He must have
seen us, then, on the hilltop, but I hope without recognizing us.
He has the sight and instincts of a vulture!"
I nodded, slipping the revolver into my pocket, but I wondered if I
should not have been better advised to have risked a shot at the
moment that I had recognized "Mr. Isaacs" for Hassan of Aleppo.
AT THE GATE HOUSE
>From sunset to dusk I lurked about the neighbourhood of the Gate
House with my beautiful accomplice - watching and waiting: a man
bound upon stranger business, I dare swear, than any other in the
county of Kent that night.
Our endeavour now was to avoid observation by any one, and in this,
I think, we succeeded. At the same time, Carneta, upon whose
experience I relied implicitly, regarded it as most important that
we should observe (from a safe distance) any one who entered or
quitted the gates.
But none entered, and none came out. When, finally, we made along
the narrow footpath skirting the west of the grounds, the night was
silent - most strangely still.
The trees met overhead, but no rustle disturbed their leaves and of
animal life no indication showed itself. There was no moon.
A full appreciation of my mad folly came to me, and with it a sense
of heavy depression. This stillness that ruled all about the house
which sheltered the awful Sheikh of the Assassins was ominous, I
thought. In short, my nerves were playing me tricks.
"We have little to fear," said my companion, speaking in a hushed
and quivering voice. "The whole of the party left England some
"Are you sure?"
"Certain! We learned that before Earl made his attempt. Hassan
remains, for some reason; Hassan and one other - the one who drives
"But the slipper?"
"If Hassan remains, so does the slipper!" From the knapsack, which,
as you will have divined, did not contain a camera, she took out an
electric pocket lamp, and directed its beam upon the hedge above us.
"There is a gap somewhere here!" she said. "See if you can find it.
I dare not show the light too long."
Darkness followed. I clambered up the bank and sought for the
opening of which Carneta had spoken.
"The light here a moment," I whispered. "I think I have it!"
Out shone the white beam, and momentarily fell upon a black hole in
the thickset hedge. The light disappeared, and as I extended my
hand to Carneta she grasped it and climbed up beside me.
"Put on your rubber shoes," she directed. "Leave the others here."
There in the darkness I did as she directed, for I was provided with
a pair of tennis shoes. Carneta already was suitably shod.
"I will go first," I said. "What is the ground like beyond?"
"Just unkempt bushes and weeds."
Upon hands and knees I crawled through, saw dimly that there was a
short descent, corresponding with the ascent from the lane, and
turned, whispering to my fellow conspirator to follow.
The grounds proved even more extensive than I had anticipated. We
pressed on, dodging low-sweeping branches and keeping our arms up to
guard our faces from outshoots of thorn bushes. Our progress
necessarily was slow, but even so quite a long time seemed to have
elapsed ere we came in sight of the house.
This was my first expedition of the kind; and now that my goal was
actually in sight I became conscious of a sort of exultation hard
to describe. My companion, on the contrary, seemed to have become
icily cool. When next she spoke, her voice had a businesslike ring,
which revealed the fact that she was no amateur at this class o
"Wait here," she directed. "I am going to pass all around the
house, and I will rejoin you."
I could see her but dimly, and she moved off as silent as an Indian
deer-stalker, leaving me alone there crouching at the extreme edge
of the thicket. I looked out over a small wilderness of unkempt
flower-beds; so much it was just possible to perceive. The plants
in many instances had spread on to the pathways and contested
survival with the flourishing weeds. All was wild - deserted - eerie.
A sense of dampness assailed me, and I raised my eyes to the
low-lying building wherein no light showed, no sign of life was
evident. The nearer wing presented a verandah apparently overgrown
by some climbing plant, the nature of which it was impossible to
determine in the darkness.
The zest for the nocturnal operation which temporarily had thrilled
me succumbed now to loneliness. With keen anxiety I awaited the
return of my more experienced accomplice. The situation was
grotesque, utterly bizarre; but even my sense of humour could not
save me from the growing dread which this seemingly deserted place
poured into my heart.
When upon the right I heard a faint rustling I started, and grasped
the revolver in my pocket.
"Not a sound!" came in Carneta's voice. "Keep just inside the
bushes and come this way. There is something I want to show you."
The various profuse growths rendered concealment simple enough - if
indeed any other concealment were necessary than that which the
strangely black night afforded. Just within the evil-smelling
thicket we made a half circuit of the building, and stopped.
"Look!" whispered Carneta.
The word was unnecessary, for I was staring fixedly in the direction
of that which evidently had occasioned her uneasiness.
It was a small square window, so low-set that I assumed it to be
that of a cellar, and heavily cross-barred.
>From it, out upon a tangled patch of vegetation, shone a dull red
"There's no other light in the place," my companion whispered.
"For God's sake, what can it be?"
My mind supplied no explanation. The idea that it might be a dark
room no doubt was suggested by the assumed role of Carneta; but I
knew that idea to be absurd. The red light meant something else.
Evidently the commencing of operations before all lights were out
was irregular, for Carneta said slowly -
"We must wait and watch the light. There was formerly a moat
around the Gate House; that must be the window of a dungeon."
I little relished the prospect of waiting in that swamp-like spot,
but since no alternative presented itself I accepted the inevitable.
For close upon an hour we stood watching the red window. No sound
of bird, beast, or man disturbed our vigil; in fact, it would
appear that the very insects shunned the neighbourhood of Hassan of
Aleppo. But the red light still shone out.
"We must risk it!" said Carneta steadily. "There are French windows
opening on to that verandah. Ten yards farther around the bushes
come right up to the wall of the house. We'll go that way and
around by the other wing on to the verandah."
Any action was preferable to this nerve-sapping delay, and with a
determination to shoot, and shoot to kill, any one who opposed
our entrance, I passed through the bushes and, with Carneta, rounded
the southern border of that silent house and slipped quietly on to
Kneeling, Carneta opened the knapsack. My eyes were growing
accustomed to the darkness, and I was just able to see her deft
hands at work upon the fastenings. She made no noise, and I
watched her with an ever-growing wonder. A female burglar is a
personage difficult to imagine. Certainly, no one ever could have
suspected this girl with the violet eyes of being an expert
crackswoman; but of her efficiency there could be no question. I
think I had never witnessed a more amazing spectacle than that of
this cultured girl manipulating the tools of the house breaker with
her slim white fingers.
Suddenly she turned and clutched my arm.
"The windows are not fastened!" she whispered.
A strange courage came to me - perhaps that of desperation. For,
ignoring the ominous circumstance, I pushed open the nearest
window and stepped into the room beyond! A hissing breath from
Carneta acknowledged my performance, and she entered close behind
me, silent in her rubber-soled shoes.
For one thrilling moment we stood listening. Then came the white
beam from the electric lamp to cut through the surrounding blackness.
The room was totally unfurnished!
THE POOL OF DEATH
Not a sound broke the stillness of the Gate House. It was the most
eerily silent place in which I had ever found myself. Out into the
corridor we went, noiselessly. It was stripped, uncarpeted.
Three doors we passed, two upon the left and one upon the right.
We tried them all. All were unfastened, and the rooms into which
they opened bare and deserted. Then we came upon a short, descending
stair, at its foot a massive oaken door.
Carneta glided down, noiseless as a ghost, and to one of the
blackened panels applied an ingenious little instrument which she
carried in her knapsack. It was not unlike a stethoscope; and as I
watched her listening, by means of this arrangement, for any sound
beyond the oaken door, I reflected how almost every advance made by
science places a new tool in the hand of the criminal.
No word had been spoken since we had discovered this door; none had
been necessary. For we both knew that the place beyond was that
from which proceeded the mysterious red light.
I directed the ray of the electric torch upon Carneta, as she stood
there listening, and against that sombre oaken background her face
and profile stood out with startling beauty. She seemed half
perplexed and half fearful. Then she abruptly removed the apparatus,
and, stooping to the knapsack, replaced it and took out a bunch of
wire keys, signing to me to hand her the lamp.
As I crept down the steps I saw her pause, glancing back over her
shoulder toward the door. The expression upon her face induced
me to direct the light in the same direction.
Why neither of us had observed the fact before I cannot conjecture;
but a key was in the lock!
Perhaps the traffic of the night afforded no more dramatic moment
than this. The house which we were come prepared burglariously
to enter was thrown open, it would seem, to us, inviting our
Looking back upon that moment, it seems almost incredible that the
sight of a key in a lock should have so thrilled me. But at the
time I perceived something sinister in this failure of the Lord of
the Hashishin to close his doors to intruders. That Carneta shared
my doubts and fears was to be read in her face; but her training
had been peculiar, I learned, and such as establishes a surprising
resoluteness of character.
Quite noiselessly she turned the key, and holding a dainty pocket
revolver in her hand, pushed the door open slowly!
An odour, sickly sweet and vaguely familiar, was borne to my
nostrils. Carneta became outlined in dim, reddish light. Bending
forward slightly, she entered the room, and I, with muscles tensed
nervously, advanced and stood beside her.
I perceived that this was a cellar; indeed, I doubt not that in
some past age it had served as a dungeon. From the stone roof hung
the first evidence of Eastern occupation which the Gate House had
yielded; in the form of an Oriental lantern, or fanoos, of
rose-coloured waxed paper upon a copper frame. Its vague light
revealed the interior of the hideous place upon whose threshold we
Straight before us, deep set in the stone wall, was the tiny square
window, iron-barred without, and glazed with red glass, the light
from which had so deeply mystified us. Within a niche in the wall,
a little to the left of the window, rested an object which, at that
moment, claimed our undivided attention the sight of which so
wrought upon us that temporarily all else was forgotten.
It was the red slipper of the Prophet!
"My God!" whispered Carneta - "my God!" - and clutched at me,
A few inches from our feet the floor became depressed, how deeply
I could not determine, for it was filled with water, water filthy
and slimy! The strange, nauseating odour had grown all but