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The Quest of the Sacred Slipper Sax Rohmer

Six Gray Patches

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With the station-master's directions humming like a refrain in my ears, I passed through the sleeping village and out on to the road. The moon was exceptionally bright and unobscured, although a dense bank of cloud crept slowly from the west, and before me the path stretched as an unbroken thread of silvery white twining a sinuous way up the bracken-covered slope, to where, sharply defined against the moonlight sky, a coppice in grotesque silhouette marked the summit.

The month had been dry and tropically hot, and my footsteps rang crisply upon the hard ground. There is nothing more deceptive than a straight road up a hill; and half an hour's steady tramping but saw me approaching the trees.

I had so far resolutely endeavoured to keep my mind away from the idea of surveillance. Now, as I paused to light my pipe - a never-failing friend in loneliness - I perceived something move in the shadows of a neighbouring bush.

This object was not unlike a bladder, and the very incongruity of its appearance served to revive all my apprehensions. Taking up my grip, as though I had noticed nothing of an alarming nature, I pursued my way up the slope, leaving a trail of tobacco smoke in my wake; and having my revolver secreted up my right coat-sleeve.

Successfully resisting a temptation to glance behind, I entered the cover of the coppice, and, now invisible to any one who might be dogging me, stood and looked back upon the moon-bright road.

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There was no living thing in sight, the road was empty as far as the eye could see. The coppice now remained to be negotiated, and then, if the station-master's directions were not at fault, "Uplands" should be visible beyond. Taking, therefore, what I had designed to be a final glance back down the hillside, I was preparing to resume my way when I saw something - something that arrested me.

It was a long way behind - so far that, had the moon been less bright, I could never have discerned it. What it was I could not even conjecture; but it had the appearance of a vague gray patch, moving - not along the road, but through the undergrowth - in my direction.

For a second my eye rested upon it. Then I saw a second patch - a third - a fourth!


There were six gray patches creeping up the slope toward me!

The sight was unnerving. What were these things that approached, silently, stealthily - like snakes in the grass?

A fear, unlike anything I had known before the quest of the Prophet's slipper had brought fantastic horror into my life, came upon me. Revolver in hand I ran - ran for my life toward the gap in the trees that marked the coppice end. And as I went something hummed through the darkness beside my headsome projectile, some venomous thing that missed its mark by a bare inch!

Painfully conversant with the uncanny weapons employed by the Hashishin, I knew now, beyond any possibility of doubt, that death was behind me.

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The Quest of the Sacred Slipper
Sax Rohmer

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