A very commonplace Swiss waiter took our orders for coffee, and we began discreetly to survey our surroundings. The only touch of Oriental color thus far perceptible in the cafe de l’Egypte was provided by a red-capped Egyptian behind a narrow counter, who presided over the coffee pots. The patrons of the establishment were in every way typical of Soho, and in the bulk differed not at all from those of the better known cafe restaurants.
There were several Easterns present; but Smith, having given each of them a searching glance, turned to me with a slight shrug of disappointment. Coffee being placed before us, we sat sipping the thick, sugary beverage, smoking cigarettes and vainly seeking for some clue to guide us to the inner sanctuary consecrated to hashish. It was maddening to think that Karamaneh might be somewhere concealed in the building, whilst I sat there, inert amongst this gathering whose conversation was of abnormalities in art, music, and literature.
Then, suddenly, the pale young man seated opposite paid his bill, and with a word of farewell to his companion, went out of the cafe. He did not make his exit by the door through which we entered, but passed up the crowded room to the counter whereat the Egyptian presided. From some place hidden in the rear, emerged a black-haired, swarthy man, with whom the other exchanged a few words. The pale young artist raised his wide-brimmed hat, and was gone—through a curtained doorway on the left of the counter.
As he opened it, I had a glimpse of a narrow court beyond; then the door was closed again ... and I found myself thinking of the peculiar eyes of the departed visitor. Even through the thick pebbles of his spectacles, although for some reason I had thought little of the matter at the time, his oddly contracted pupils were noticeable. As the girl, in turn, rose and left the cafe—but by the ordinary door—I turned to Smith.
“That man ...” I began, and paused.
Smith was watching covertly, a Hindu seated at a neighboring table, who was about to settle his bill. Standing up, the Hindu made for the coffee counter, the swarthy man appeared out of the background—and the Asiatic visitor went out by the door opening into the court.
One quick glance Smith gave me, and raised his hand for the waiter. A few minutes later we were out in the street again.
“We must find our way to that court!” snapped my friend. “Let us try back, I noted a sort of alley-way which we passed just before reaching the cafe.”
“You think the hashish den is in some adjoining building?”
“I don’t know where it is, Petrie, but I know the way to it!”
Into a narrow, gloomy court we plunged, hemmed in by high walls, and followed it for ten yards or more. An even narrower and less inviting turning revealed itself on the left. We pursued our way, and presently found ourselves at the back of the Cafe de l’Egypte.