There was no living thing in sight, the road was empty as far as the eye could see. The coppice now remained to be negotiated, and then, if the station-master’s directions were not at fault, “Uplands” should be visible beyond. Taking, therefore, what I had designed to be a final glance back down the hillside, I was preparing to resume my way when I saw something—something that arrested me.
It was a long way behind—so far that, had the moon been less bright, I could never have discerned it. What it was I could not even conjecture; but it had the appearance of a vague gray patch, moving—not along the road, but through the undergrowth—in my direction.
For a second my eye rested upon it. Then I saw a second patch—a third—a fourth!
There were six gray patches creeping up the slope toward me!
The sight was unnerving. What were these things that approached, silently, stealthily—like snakes in the grass?
A fear, unlike anything I had known before the quest of the Prophet’s slipper had brought fantastic horror into my life, came upon me. Revolver in hand I ran—ran for my life toward the gap in the trees that marked the coppice end. And as I went something hummed through the darkness beside my head, some projectile, some venomous thing that missed its mark by a bare inch!
Painfully conversant with the uncanny weapons employed by the Hashishin, I knew now, beyond any possibility of doubt, that death was behind me.
A pattering like naked feet sounded on the road, and, without pausing in my headlong career, I sent a random shot into the blackness.
The crack of the Smith and Wesson reassured me. I pulled up short, turned, and looked back toward the trees.
Breathing heavily, I crammed my extinguished briar into my pocket —re-charged the empty chamber of the revolver—and started to run again toward a light that showed over the treetops to my left.
That, if the man’s directions were right, was “Uplands”—if his directions were wrong—then . . .
A shrill whistle—minor, eerie, in rising cadence—sounded on the dead silence with piercing clearness! Six whistles—seemingly from all around me—replied!
Some object came humming through the air, and I ducked wildly.
On and on I ran—flying from an unknown, but, as a warning instinct told me, deadly peril—ran as a man runs pursued by devils.
The road bent sharply to the left then forked. Overhanging trees concealed the house, and the light, though high up under the eaves, was no longer visible. Trusting to Providence to guide me, I plunged down the lane that turned to the left, and, almost exhausted, saw the gates before me—saw the sweep of the drive, and the moonlight, gleaming on the windows!
None of the windows were illuminated.
Straight up to the iron gates I raced.