The form stirred, seeming to raise phantom arms in execration, and a stray moonbeam pierced the darkness shrouding it. For a fleeting instant something flashed venomously.
The sounds grew nearer. I could tell that the newcomers had found Morris lying at the gate. Yet still I stood, frozen with uncanny fear, and watching—watching the spot to which that stray beam had pierced; the spot where I had seen the moon gleam upon the ring of the Prophet!
AT THE BRITISH ANTIQUARIAN MUSEUM
A little group of interested spectators stood at the head of the square glass case in the centre of the lofty apartment in the British Antiquarian Museum known as the Burton Room (by reason of the fact that a fine painting of Sir Richard Burton faces you as you enter). A few other people looked on curiously from the lower end of the case. It contained but one exhibit—a dirty and dilapidated markoob—or slipper of morocco leather that had once been red.
“Our latest acquisition, gentlemen,” said Mr. Mostyn, the curator, speaking in a low tone to the distinguished Oriental scholars around him. “It has been left to the Institution by the late Professor Deeping. He describes it in a document furnished by his solicitor as one of the slippers worn by the Prophet Mohammed, but gives us no further particulars. I myself cannot quite place the relic.”
“Nor I,” interrupted one of the group. “It is not mentioned by any of the Arabian historians to my knowledge—that is, if it comes from Mecca, as I understand it does.”
“I cannot possibly assert that it comes from Mecca, Dr. Nicholson,” 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 steal it.”