Upchurned in bloody foam became the water of that dreadful place . . . . As one recalls the incidents of a fevered dream, I recall dragging Carneta away from the contorted body of the death-stricken reptile. A nightmare chaos of horrid, revolting sights and sounds forms my only recollection of quitting the dungeon of the slipper.
I succeeded in carrying her up the stairs and out through the empty rooms on to the verandah; but there, from sheer exhaustion, I laid her down. I had no means of reviving her and I lacked the strength to carry her farther. Having recharged my revolver, I stood watching her where she lay, wanly beautiful in the dim light.
There was no doubt in my mind respecting the fate of Earl Dexter, nor could I doubt that the slipper in the dungeon below was a duplicate of the real one. It was a death-trap into which he had lured Dexter and which he had left baited for whomsoever might trace the cracksman to the Gate House. Why Hassan should have remained behind, unless from fanatic lust of killing, I could not imagine.
When at last the fresher night air had its effect, and Carneta opened her eyes, I led her to the gates, nor did she offer the slightest resistance, but looked dully before her, muttering over and over again, “Earl, Earl!”
The gates were open; we passed out on to the open road. No man pursued us, and the night was gravely still.
SIX GRAY PATCHES
When the invitation came from my old friend Hilton to spend a week “roughing it” with him in Warwickshire I accepted with alacrity. If ever a man needed a holiday I was that man. Nervous breakdown threatened me at any moment; the ghastly experience at the Gate House together with Carneta’s grief-stricken face when I had parted from her were obsessing memories which I sought in vain to shake off.
A brief wire had contained the welcome invitation, and up to the time when I had received it I had been unaware that Hilton was back in England. Moreover, beyond the fact that his house, “Uplands,” was near H—, for which I was instructed to change at New Street Station, Birmingham, I had little idea of its location. But he added “Wire train and will meet at H—“; so that I had no uneasiness on that score.
I had contemplated catching the 2:45 from Euston, but by the time I had got my work into something like order, I decided that the 6:55 would be more suitable and decided to dine on the train.
Altogether, there was something of a rush and hustle attendant upon getting away, and when at last I found myself in the cab, bound for Euston, I sat back with a long-drawn sigh. The quest of the Prophet’s slipper was ended; in all probability that blood-stained relic was already Eastward bound. Hassan of Aleppo, its awful guardian, had triumphed and had escaped retribution. Earl Dexter was dead. I could not doubt that; for the memory of his beautiful accomplice, Carneta, as I last had seen her, broken-hearted, with her great violet eyes dulled in tearless agony—have I not said that it lived with me?