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0100_005E The Quest of the Sacred Slipper Sax Rohmer

Six Gray Patches

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This person was olive-skinned, clean-shaven, fine featured, and perfectly groomed. His age might have been anything from twenty-five to forty-five, but his hair and brows were jet black. His eyes, too, were nearer to real black than any human eyes I had ever seen before - excepting the awful eyes of Hassan of Aleppo. Hassan of Aleppo! It was, to that hour, a mystery how his group of trained assassins - the Hashishin - had quitted England. Since none of them were known to the police, it was no insoluble mystery, I admit; but nevertheless it was singular that the careful watching of the ports had yielded no result. Could it be that some of them had not yet left the country? Could it be--

I looked intently into the black eyes. They were caressing, smiling eyes, and looked boldly into mine. I picked up a magazine, pretending to read. But I supported it with my left hand; my right was in my coat pocket - and it rested upon my Smith and Wesson!

So much had the slipper of Mohammed done for me: I went in hourly dread of murderous attack!

My travelling companion watched me; of that I was certain. I could feel his gaze. But he made no move and no word passed between us. This was the situation when the train slowed into Northampton. At Northampton, to my indescribable relief (frankly, I was as nervous in those days as a woman), the Oriental traveller stepped out on to the platform.

Having reclosed the door, he turned and leaned in through the open window.

"Evidently you are not concerned, Mr. Cavanagh," he said. "Be warned. Do not interfere with those that are!"

The night swallowed him up.

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My fears had been justified; the man was one of the Hashishin - a spy of Hassan of Aleppo! What did it mean?

I craned from the window, searching the platform right and left. But there was no sign of him.

When the train left Northampton I found myself alone, and I should only weary you were I to attempt to recount the troubled conjectures that bore me company to Birmingham.

The train reached New Street at nine, with the result that having gulped a badly needed brandy and soda in the buffet, I grabbed my bag, raced across - and just missed the connection! More than an hour later I found myself standing at ten minutes to eleven upon the H-- platform, watching the red taillight of the "local" disappear into the night. Then I realized to the full that with four miles of lonely England before me there hung above my head a mysterious threat - a vague menace. The solitary official, who but waited my departure to lock up the station, was the last representative of civilization I could hope to encounter until the gates of "Uplands" should be opened to me!

What was the matter with which I was warned not to interfere? Might I not, by my mere presence in that place, unwittingly be interfering now?

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The Quest of the Sacred Slipper
Sax Rohmer

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