“Say what you came 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 help me!”
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 odd one.
“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 Hassan!”
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.