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|The Quest of the Sacred Slipper||Sax Rohmer|
The White Beam
|Page 2 of 3||
"My God!" whispered Mostyn; "it's the Prophet's slipper!"
And wildly, blindly, he fired down the room. Later he knew that he had fired in panic, for nothing human was or could be in the place; yet his shot was not without effect. In the instant of its flash, something struck sharply against the dimly seen blind of one of the east windows; he heard the crash of broken glass.
He leapt to the switch and flooded the room with light. A fear of what it might hold possessed him, and he turned instantly.
Hard by the fragments of broken glass upon the floor and midway between the case and the first easterly window lay the slipper. A bell was ringing somewhere. His shot probably had aroused the attention of the policeman. Someone was clamouring upon the door of the Museum, too. Mostyn raced forward and raised the blind - that toward which the slipper had seemed to move.
The lower pane of the window was smashed. Blood was trickling down upon the floor from the jagged edges of the glass.
"Hullo there! Open the door! Open the door!"
Bells were going all over the place now; sounds of running footsteps came from below; but Mostyn stood staring at the broken window and at the solid iron bars which protected it without, which were intact, substantial - which showed him that nothing human could possibly have entered.
Yet the case was shattered, the holy slipper lay close beside him upon the floor, and from the broken window-pane blood was falling - drip-drip-drip . . .
That was the story as I heard it half an hour later. For Inspector Bristol, apprised of the happening, was promptly on the scene; and knowing how keen was my interest in the matter, he rang me up immediately. I arrived soon after Bristol and found a perplexed group surrounding the uncanny slipper of the Prophet. No one had dared to touch it; the dread vengeance of Hassan of Aleppo would visit any unbeliever who ventured to lay hand upon the holy, bloody thing. Well we knew it, and as though it had been a venomous scorpion we, a company of up-to-date, prosaic men of affairs, stood around that dilapidated markoob, and kept a respectful distance.
Mostyn, an odd figure in pyjamas and dressing-gown, turned his pale, intellectual face to me as I entered.
"It will have to be put back . . . secretly," he said.
His voice was very unsteady. Bristol nodded grimly and glanced at the two constables, who, with a plain-clothes man unknown to me, made up that midnight company.
"I'll do it, sir," said one of the constables suddenly.
"One moment" - Mostyn raised his hand!
In the ensuing silence I could hear the heavy breathing of those around me. We were all looking at the slipper, I think.
"Do you understand, fully," the curator continued, "the risk you run?"
"I think so, sir," answered the constable; "but I'm prepared to chance it.
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