AT THE GATE HOUSE
From sunset to dusk I lurked about the neighbourhood of the Gate House with my beautiful accomplice—watching and waiting: a man bound upon stranger business, I dare swear, than any other in the county of Kent that night.
Our endeavour now was to avoid observation by any one, and in this, I think, we succeeded. At the same time, Carneta, upon whose experience I relied implicitly, regarded it as most important that we should observe (from a safe distance) any one who entered or quitted the gates.
But none entered, and none came out. When, finally, we made along the narrow footpath skirting the west of the grounds, the night was silent—most strangely still.
The trees met overhead, but no rustle disturbed their leaves and of animal life no indication showed itself. There was no moon.
A full appreciation of my mad folly came to me, and with it a sense of heavy depression. This stillness that ruled all about the house which sheltered the awful Sheikh of the Assassins was ominous, I thought. In short, my nerves were playing me tricks.
“We have little to fear,” said my companion, speaking in a hushed and quivering voice. “The whole of the party left England some days ago.”
“Are you sure?”
“Certain! We learned that before Earl made his attempt. Hassan remains, for some reason; Hassan and one other—the one who drives the car.”
“But the slipper?”
“If Hassan remains, so does the slipper!” From the knapsack, which, as you will have divined, did not contain a camera, she took out an electric pocket lamp, and directed its beam upon the hedge above us.
“There is a gap somewhere here!” she said. “See if you can find it. I dare not show the light too long.”
Darkness followed. I clambered up the bank and sought for the opening of which Carneta had spoken.
“The light here a moment,” I whispered. “I think I have it!”
Out shone the white beam, and momentarily fell upon a black hole in the thickset hedge. The light disappeared, and as I extended my hand to Carneta she grasped it and climbed up beside me.
“Put on your rubber shoes,” she directed. “Leave the others here.”
There in the darkness I did as she directed, for I was provided with a pair of tennis shoes. Carneta already was suitably shod.
“I will go first,” I said. “What is the ground like beyond?”
“Just unkempt bushes and weeds.”
Upon hands and knees I crawled through, saw dimly that there was a short descent, corresponding with the ascent from the lane, and turned, whispering to my fellow conspirator to follow.
The grounds proved even more extensive than I had anticipated. We pressed on, dodging low-sweeping branches and keeping our arms up to guard our faces from outshoots of thorn bushes. Our progress necessarily was slow, but even so quite a long time seemed to have elapsed ere we came in sight of the house.