Never while my mind serves me can I forget that yellow, grinning face and those canine fangs—the tigerish, blazing eyes—set in the great, misshapen head upon the tiny, agile body.
Wildly, I fired again. I hurled myself forward and dashed into the room.
Like nothing so much as a cat, the gleaming body (the dwarf was but scantily clothed) streaked through the open window!
Certain death, I thought, must be his lot upon the stones of the court far below. I ran and looked down, shaking in every limb, my mind filled with a loathing terror unlike anything I had ever known.
Brilliant moonlight flooded the pavement beneath; for twenty yards to left and right every stone was visible.
The court was empty!
Human, homely London moved and wrought intimately about me; but there, at sight of the empty court below, a great loneliness swept down like a mantle—a clammy mantle of the fabric of dread. I stood remote from my fellows, in an evil world peopled with the creatures of Hassan of Aleppo.
Moved by some instinct, as that of a frightened child, I dropped to my knees and buried my face in trembling hands.
THE RING OF THE PROPHET
“There is no doubt,” said Mr. Rawson, “that great personal danger attaches to any contact with this relic. It is the first time I have been concerned with anything of the kind.”
Mr. Bristol, of Scotland Yard, standing stiffly military by the window, looked across at the gray-haired solicitor. We were all silent for a few moments.
“My late client’s wishes,” continued Mr. Rawson, “are explicit. His last instructions, evidently written but a short time prior to his death, advise me that the holy slipper of the Prophet is contained in the locked safe at his house in Dulwich. He was clearly of opinion that you, Mr. Cavanagh, would incur risk—great risk—from your possession of the key. Since attempts have been made upon you, murderous attempts, the late Professor Deeping, my unfortunate client, evidently was not in error.”
“Mysterious outrages,” said Bristol, “have marked the progress of the stolen slipper from Mecca almost to London.”
“I understand,” interrupted the solicitor, “that a fanatic known as Hassan of Aleppo seeks to restore the relic to its former resting-place.”
“That is so.”
“Exactly; and it accounts for the Professor’s wish that the safe should not be touched by any one but a Believer—and for his instructions that its removal to the Antiquarian Museum and the placing of the slipper within that institution be undertaken by a Moslem or Moslems.”
“Any one who has touched the receptacle containing the thing,” he said, “has either been mutilated or murdered. I want to apprehend the authors of those outrages, but I fail to see why the slipper should be put on exhibition. Other crimes are sure to follow.”