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|The Quest of the Sacred Slipper||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 2 of 4||
"You are possibly about to ask me," I suggested, "to assist Earl Dexter to escape the police?"
She shook her head. Her voice trembled as she replied -
"That would not have induced me to run the risk of coming here. I came because I wanted to find a man who was brave enough to help me. We have no friends in London, and so it became a question of terms. I can repay you by helping you to trace Hassan."
"What is it, then, that Dexter asks me to do?"
"He asks nothing. I, Carneta, am asking!"
"Then you are not come from him?"
At my question, all her self-possession left her. She abruptly dropped her face into her hands and was shaken with sobs! It was more than I could bear, unmoved. I forgot the shady past, forgot that she was the associate of a daring felon, and could only realize that she was a weeping woman, who had appealed to my pity and who asked my aid.
I stood up and stared out of the window, for I experienced a not unnatural embarrassment. Without looking at her I said -
"Don't be afraid to tell me your troubles. I don't say I should go out of my way to be kind to Mr. Dexter, but I have no wish whatever to be instrumental in" - I hesitated - "in making you responsible for his misdeeds. If you can tell me where to find Hassan of Aleppo, I won't even ask you where Dexter is - "
"God help me! I don't know where he is!"
There was real, poignant anguish in her cry. I turned and confronted her. Her lashes were all wet with tears.
"What! has he disappeared?"
She nodded, fought with her emotion a moment, and went on unsteadily,
"I want you to help me to find him for in finding him we shall find Hassan!"
Her gaze avoided me now.
"Mr. Cavanagh, he has staked everything upon securing the slipper - and the Hashishin were too clever for him. His hand - those Eastern fiends cut off his hand! But he would not give in. He made another bid - and lost again. It left him almost penniless."
She spoke of Earl Dexter's felonious plans as another woman might have spoken of her husband's unwise investments! It was fantastic hearing that confession of The Stetson Man's beautiful partner, and I counted the interview one of the strangest I had ever known.
A sudden idea came to me. "When did Dexter first conceive the plan to steal the slipper?" I asked.
"In Egypt!" answered Carneta. "Yes! You may as well know! He is thoroughly familiar with the East, and he learned of the robbery of Professor Deeping almost as soon as it became known to Hassan. I know what you are going to ask - "
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