Even as the picture of her lovely, pale face presented itself to my mind, the cab was held up by a temporary block in the traffic—and my imagination played me a strange trick.
Another taxi ran close alongside, almost at the moment that the press of vehicles moved on again. Certainly, I had no more than a passing glimpse of the occupants; but I could have sworn that violet eyes looked suddenly into mine, and with equal conviction I could have sworn to the gaunt face of the man who sat beside the violet-eyed girl for that of Earl Dexter!
The travellers, however, were immediately lost to sight in the rear, and I was left to conjecture whether this had been a not uncommon form of optical delusion or whether I had seen a ghost.
At any rate, as I passed in between the big pillars, “The gateway of the North,” I scrutinized, and closely, the numerous hurrying figures about me. None of them, by any stretch of the imagination, could have been set down for that of Dexter, The Stetson Man. No doubt, I concluded, I had been tricked by a chance resemblance.
Having dispatched my telegram, I boarded the 6:55. I thought I should have the compartment to myself, and so deep in reverie was I that the train was actually clear of the platforms ere I learned that I had a companion. He must have joined me at the moment that the train started. Certainly, I had not seen him enter. But, suddenly looking up, I met the eyes of this man who occupied the corner seat facing me.
This person was olive-skinned, clean-shaven, fine featured, and perfectly groomed. His age might have been anything from twenty-five to forty-five, but his hair and brows were jet black. His eyes, too, were nearer to real black than any human eyes I had ever seen before—excepting the awful eyes of Hassan of Aleppo. Hassan of Aleppo! It was, to that hour, a mystery how his group of trained assassins—the Hashishin—had quitted England. Since none of them were known to the police, it was no insoluble mystery, I admit; but nevertheless it was singular that the careful watching of the ports had yielded no result. Could it be that some of them had not yet left the country? Could it be—
I looked intently into the black eyes. They were caressing, smiling eyes, and looked boldly into mine. I picked up a magazine, pretending to read. But I supported it with my left hand; my right was in my coat pocket—and it rested upon my Smith and Wesson!
So much had the slipper of Mohammed done for me: I went in hourly dread of murderous attack!
My travelling companion watched me; of that I was certain. I could feel his gaze. But he made no move and no word passed between us. This was the situation when the train slowed into Northampton. At Northampton, to my indescribable relief (frankly, I was as nervous in those days as a woman), the Oriental traveller stepped out on to the platform.