They were locked!
Without a moment’s hesitation I hurled my grip over the top and clambered up the bars! As I got astride, from the blackness of the lane came the ominous hum, and my hat went spinning away across the lawn!—the black cloud veiled the moon and complete darkness fell.
Then I dropped and ran for the house—shouting, though all but winded—“Hilton! Hilton! Open the door!”
Sinking exhausted on the steps, I looked toward the gates—but they showed only dimly in the dense shadows of the trees.
I dropped flat in the portico as something struck the metal knob of the door and rebounded over me. A shower of gravel told of another misdirected projectile.
Crack! Crack! Crack! The revolver spoke its short reply into the mysterious darkness; but the night gave up no sound to tell of a shot gone home.
“Hilton! Hilton!” I cried, banging on the panels with the butt of the weapon. “Open the door! Open the door!”
And now I heard the coming footsteps along the hall within; heavy bolts were withdrawn—the door swung open—and Hilton, pale-faced, appeared. His hand shot out, grabbed my coat collar; and weak, exhausted, I found myself snatched into safety, and the door rebolted.
“Thank God!” I whispered. “Thank God! Hilton, look to all your bolts and fastenings. Hell is outside!”
HOW WE WERE REINFORCED
Hilton, I learned, was living the simple life at “Uplands.” The place was not yet decorated and was only partly furnished. But with his man, Soar, he had been in solitary occupation for a week.
“Feel better now?” he asked anxiously.
I reached for my tumbler and blew a cloud of smoke into the air. I could hear Soar’s footsteps as he made the round of bolts and bars, testing each anxiously.
“Thanks, Hilton,” I said. “I’m quite all right. You are naturally wondering what the devil it all means? Well, then, I wired you from Euston that I was coming by the 6:55.”
“H— Post Office shuts at 7. I shall get your wire in the morning!”
“That explains your failing to meet me. Now for my explanation!”
“Surrounding this house at the present moment,” I continued, “are members of an Eastern organization—the Hashishin, founded in Khorassan in the eleventh century and flourishing to-day!”
“Do you mean it, Cavanagh?”
“I do! One Hassan of Aleppo is the present Sheikh of the order, and he has come to England, bringing a fiendish company in his train, in pursuit of the sacred slipper of Mohammed, which was stolen by the late Professor Deeping—–”
“Surely I have read something about this?”
“Probably. Deeping was murdered by Hassan! The slipper was placed in the Antiquarian Museum—”