Once—twice—thrice—he fired into the blackness of the lane.
“Take that, you swine!” he shouted. “Take that!”
As quickly as we could, bearing the insensible man, we hurried back to the door. On the step the woman was waiting for us, with her veil raised. A blinding flash of lightning came as we mounted the step—and I looked into the violet eyes of Carneta! I turned and stared at the man behind me.
It was Earl Dexter.
Three of the mysterious missiles fell amongst us, but miraculously no one was struck. Amid the mighty booming of the thunder we reentered the houses and got the door barred. In the hall we laid down the unconscious man and stood, a strangely met company, peering at one another in the dim lamplight.
“We’ve got to bury the hatchet, Mr. Cavanagh!” said Dexter. “It’s a case of the common enemy. I’ve brought you your bag!” and he pointed to the brown grip upon the floor.
“My bag!” I cried. “My bag is upstairs in my room.”
“Wrong, sir!” snapped The Stetson Man. “They are like as two peas in a pod, I’ll grant you, but the bag you snatched off the platform at New Street was mine! That’s what I’m after; I ought to be on the way to Liverpool. That’s what Hassan’s after!”
“You don’t need to ask what’s in the bag?” suggested Dexter.
“What is in the bag?” ask Hilton hoarsely.
“The slipper of the Prophet, sir!” was the reply.
MY LAST MEETING WITH HASSAN OF ALEPPO
I felt dazed, as a man must feel who has just heard the death sentence pronounced upon him. Hilton seemed to have become incapable of speech or action; and in silence we stood watching Carneta tending the unconscious man. She forced brandy from a flask between his teeth, kneeling there beside him with her face very pale and dark rings around her eyes. Presently she looked up.
“Will you please get me a bowl of water and a sponge?” she said quietly.
Soar departed without a word, and no one spoke until he returned, bringing the sponge and the water, when the girl set to work in a businesslike way to cleanse a wound which showed upon the man’s head.
“She’s a good nurse is Carneta,” said Dexter coolly. “She was the only doctor I had through this”—indicating his maimed wrist. “If you will fetch my bag down, there’s some lint in it.”
“You needn’t worry,” said Dexter; “as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. You’ve handled the bag, and I’m not asking you to do any more.”
I went up to my room and lifted the grip from the chair upon which I had put it. Even now I found it difficult to perceive any difference between this and mine. Both were of identical appearance and both new. In fact, I had bought mine only that morning, my old one being past use, and being in a hurry, I had not left it to be initialled.