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|The Quest of the Sacred Slipper||Sax Rohmer|
My Last Meeting With Hassan Of Aleppo
|Page 4 of 5||
"Excuse me, sir," Soar interrupted. "I believe there's some coal in the coal-box, but I shall have to break up a packing-case for firewood - or go out into the yard!"
"Let it be the packing-case," replied Hilton hastily.
Accordingly a fire was kindled, whilst we all stood about the room in a sort of fearful uncertainty; and before long a big blaze was roaring up the chimney. Dexter turned to me.
"Mr. Cavanagh," said he, "I want you to go right upstairs, open a first-floor window - I would suggest that of your bedroom - and invite Hassan of Aleppo to come and discuss terms!"
Silence followed his words; we were all amazed. Then -
"Why do you ask me to do this?" I inquired.
"Because," replied Dexter, "I happen to know that Hassan has some queer kind of respect for you - I don't know why."
"Which is probably the reason why he tried to kill me to-night!"
"That's beside the question, Mr. Cavanagh. He will believe you - which is the important point."
"Very well. I have no idea what you have in mind but I am prepared to adopt any plan since I have none of my own. What shall I say?"
"Say that we are prepared to return the slipper - on conditions."
"He will probably try to shoot me as stand at the window."
Dexter shrugged his shoulders.
"Got to risk it," he drawled.
"And what are the conditions?"
"He must come right in here and discuss them! Guarantee him safe conduct and I don't think he'll hesitate. Anyway, if he does, just tell him that the slipper will be destroyed immediately!"
Without a word I turned on my heel and ascended the stairs.
I entered my room, crossed to the window, and threw it widely open. Hovering over the distant hills I could see the ominous thunder cloud, but the storm seemed to have passed from "Uplands," and only a distant muttering with the faint dripping of water from the pipes broke the silence of the night. A great darkness reigned, however, and I was entirely unable to see if any one was in the orchard.
Like some mueddin of fantastic fable I stood there.
"Hassan!" I cried - "Hassan of Aleppo!"
The name rang out strangely upon the stillness - the name which for me had a dreadful significance; but the whole episode seemed unreal, the voice that had cried unlike my voice.
Instantly as any magician summoning an efreet I was answered.
Out from the trees strode a tall figure, a figure I could not mistake. It was that of Hassan of Aleppo!
"I hear, effendim, and obey," he said. "I am ready. Open the door!"
"We are prepared to discuss terms. You may come and go safely" - still my voice sounded unfamiliar in my ears.
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