The Quest of the Sacred Slipper eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 149 pages of information about The Quest of the Sacred Slipper.

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.

CHAPTER XXIV

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.

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The Quest of the Sacred Slipper from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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