“Here!” said the stranger, a high note of command in his voice. “Drop that! Sit down at once.”
Even as the other obeyed him, the cloaked stranger, stepping to the mantelpiece, opened a small box which lay there beside the glass case. He turned to me; and I tried to shrink away from him. For I knew—I knew—yet I loathed to look upon—what was in the box. Muffled as though reaching me through fog, I heard the words:
“A perfect human body . . .in miniature. . . every organ intact by means of. . . process. . . rendered indestructible. Tcheriapin as he was in life may be seen by the curious ten thousand years hence. Incomplete. . . one respect. . . here in this box. . .”
The spell was broken by a horrifying shriek from the man whom my companion had addressed as Colquhoun, and whom I could only suppose to be the painter of the celebrated picture which rested upon the mantelshelf.
“Take him awa’, Kreener! He is reaching for the violin!”
Animation returned to me, and I fell rather than ran down the darkened stair. How I opened the street door I know not, but even as I stepped out into the squalid alleys of Pennyfields the cloaked figure was beside me. A hand was laid upon my shoulder.
“Listen!” commanded a deep voice.
Clearly, with an eerie sweetness, an evil, hellish beauty indescribable, the wailing of a Stradivarius violin crept to my ears from the room above. Slowly—slowly the music began, and my soul rose up in revolt.
“Listen!” repeated the voice. “Listen! It is ’The Black Mass’!”
THE HOUSE OF THE AGAPOULOS
Hassan came in and began very deliberately to light the four lamps. He muttered to himself and often smiled in the childish manner which characterizes some Egyptians. Hassan wore a red cap, and a white robe confined at the waist by a red sash. On his brown feet he wore loose slippers, also of red. He had good features and made a very picturesque figure moving slowly about his work.
As he lighted lamp after lamp and soft illumination crept about the big room, because of the heavy shadows created the place seemed to become mysteriously enlarged. That it was an Eastern apartment cunningly devised to appeal to the Western eye, one familiar with Arab households must have seen at once. It was a traditional Oriental interior, a stage setting rather than the nondescript and generally uninteresting environment of the modern Egyptian at home.
Brightly coloured divans there were and many silken cushions of strange pattern and design. The hanging lamps were of perforated brass with little coloured glass panels. In carved wooden cabinets stood beautiful porcelain jars, trays, and vessels of silver and copper ware. Rich carpets were spread about the floor, and the draperies were elegant and costly, while two deep windows projecting over the court represented the best period of Arab architecture. Their intricate carven woodwork had once adorned the palace of a Grand Wazir. Agapoulos had bought them in Cairo and had had them fitted to his house in Chinatown. A smaller brass lamp of very delicate workmanship was suspended in each of the recesses.