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|The Quest of the Sacred Slipper||Sax Rohmer|
Second Attempt On The Safe
|Page 4 of 5||
"It must have been Morris! - "
Bristol was half standing, one hand upon the arm of the chair, the other concealed, but grasping his revolver as I well knew. I, too, had my revolver in my hand, and as I twisted in my seat, preparatory to rising, in sheer nervousness I dropped the weapon upon the carpet.
With an exclamation of dismay, I stooped quickly to recover it.
As I did so something whistled past my ear, so closely as almost to touch it-and struck with a dull thud upon the wall beyond!
"Bristol!" I whispered.
But as I raised my eyes to him he seemed to crumple up, and fell loosely forward into the patch of moonlight spread upon the floor! "God in heaven!" I said aloud.
In a cold sweat of fear I crouched there, for it had become evident to me that, as I bent, I was entirely in shadow.
There was a rustling in the bushes on the left; but before I could turn in that direction, my attention was claimed elsewhere. Over into the loggia leapt an almost naked brown figure!
It was that of a small but strongly built man, who carried a short, exceedingly thick bamboo rod in his hand. My fear was too great to admit of my accurately observing anything at that time, but I noticed that some kind of leather thong or loop was attached to the end of the squat cane.
The panic fear of the supernatural was strongly upon me, and I was unable to realize that this Eastern apparition was a creature of flesh and blood. With my nerves strung up to snapping point, I crouched watching him. He entered the room, bending over the body of Bristol.
A hot breath fanned my cheek!
At that my overwrought nerves betrayed me. I uttered a stifled cry, looking upward . . . and into a pair of gleaming eyes which looked down into mine!
A second brown man (who must have entered by one of the windows overlooking the shrubbery) was bending over me!
Scarce knowing what I did, I raised my revolver and blazed straight into the dimly-seen face. Down upon me silently dropped a naked body, and something warm came flowing over my hand. But, knowing my foes to be of flesh and blood, feeling myself at handgrips now with a palpable enemy, I threw off the body, leapt up and fired, though blindly, at the flying shape that flashed across the loggia - and was lost in the shadow pools under the elms.
Upon the din of my shooting fell silence like a cloak. A moment I listened, tense, still; then I turned to the table and lighted the lamp.
In its light I saw Bristol lying like a dead man. Close beside him was a big and heavy lump of clay. It had been shaped as a ball, but now it was flattened out curiously. Bending over my unfortunate companion and learning that, though unconscious, he lived, I learnt, too, how the Hashishin contrived to strike men insensible without approaching them; I learnt that the one whom I had shot, who lay in his blood almost on the spot where Professor Deeping once had lain, was an expert slinger.
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