“We must stick together to-night!” he said. “Now, Cavanagh, let us see if we can find any explanation of this amazing business. I can understand that at one period of the slipper’s history you were an object of interest to those who sought to recover it; but if, as you say, the Hashishin have the slipper now, what do they want with you? If you have never touched it, they cannot be prompted by desire for vengeance.”
“I have never touched it,” I replied grimly; “nor even any receptacle containing it.”
As I ceased speaking came a distant muffled rumbling.
“That’s the thunder,” said Hilton. “There’s a tremendous storm brewing.”
He poured out three glasses of whisky, and was about to speak when Soar held up a warning finger.
“Listen!” he said.
At his words, with tropical suddenness down came the rain.
Hilton, his pipe in his hand, stood listening intently.
“What?” he asked.
“I don’t know, sir; the sound of the rain has drowned it.”
Indeed, the rain was descending in a perfect deluge, its continuous roar drowning all other sounds; but as we three listened tensely we detected a noise which hitherto had seemed like the overflowing of some spout.
But louder and clearer it grew, until at last I knew it for what it was.
“It’s a motor-car!” I cried.
“And coming here!” added Soar. “Listen! it’s in the lane!”
“It certainly isn’t a taxicab,” declared Hilton. “None of the men will come beyond the village.”
“That’s the gate!” said Soar, in an awed voice, and stood up, looking at Hilton.
“Come on,” said the latter abruptly, making for the door.
“Be careful, Hilton!” I cried; “it may be a trick!”
Soar unbolted the front door, threw it open, and looked out. In the darkness of the storm it was almost impossible to see anything in the lane outside. But at that moment a great sheet of lightning split the gloom, and we saw a taxicab standing close up to the gateway!
“Help! Open the gate!” came a high-pitched voice; “open the gate!”
Out into the rain we ran and down the gravel path. Soar had the gate open in a twinkling, and a woman carrying a brown leather grip, but who was so closely veiled that I had no glimpse of her features, leapt through on to the drive.
“Lend a hand, two of you!” cried a vaguely familiar voice—“this way!”
Hilton and Soar stepped out into the road. The driver of the cab was lying forward across the wheel, apparently insensible, but as Hilton seized his arm he moved and spoke feebly.
“For God’s sake be quick, sir!” he said. “They’re after us! They’re on the other side of the lane, there!”
With that he dropped limply into Hilton’s arms!
He was dragged in on to the drive—and something whizzed over our heads and went sputtering into the gravel away up toward the house. The last to enter was the man who had come in the cab. As he barred the gate behind him he suddenly reached out through the bars and I saw a pistol in his hand.