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The Quest of the Sacred Slipper Sax Rohmer

The Dwarf

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"Have you no theory?" I asked. "The incident to my mind points directly to one thing. We know that this uncanny creature belonged to the organization of Hassan of Aleppo. We know that Hassan implacably pursues one object - the slipper. In pursuit of the slipper, then, the dwarf came here. Bristol!" - I laid my hand upon his arm, glancing about me with a very real apprehension - "the slipper must be somewhere near!"

Bristol turned to the constable standing hard by.

"Remain here," he ordered. Then to me: "I should like you to come up on to the roof. From there we can survey the ground and perhaps arrive at some explanation of how the dwarf came to fall upon that spot."

Passing the constable on duty at one of the doorways and making our way through the group of loiterers there, we ascended amid conflicting odours to the topmost floor. A ladder was fixed against the wall communicating with a trap in the ceiling. Several individuals in their shirt sleeves and all smoking clay pipes had followed us up. Bristol turned upon them.

"Get downstairs," he said - "all the lot of you, and stop there!"

With muttered imprecations our audience dispersed, slowly returning by the way they had come. Bristol mounted the ladder and opened the trap. Through the square opening showed a velvet patch spangled with starry points. As he passed up on to the roof and I followed him, the comparative cleanness of the air was most refreshing after the varied fumes of the staircase.

Side by side we leaned upon the parapet looking down into the dirty courtyard which was the theatre of this weird mystery; looking down upon the stage, sordidly Western, where a mystic Eastern tragedy had been enacted.

I could see the constable standing beside the crushed thing upon the stones.

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"Now," said Bristol, with a sort of awe in his voice, "where did he fall from?"

And at his words, looking down at the spot where the dwarf lay, and noting that he could not possibly have fallen there from any of the buildings surrounding the courtyard, an eerie sensation crept over me; for I was convinced that the happening was susceptible of no natural explanation.

I had heard - who has not heard? - of the Indian rope trick, where a fakir throws a rope into the air which remains magically suspended whilst a boy climbs upward and upward until he disappears into space. I had never credited accounts of the performance; but now I began seriously to wonder if the arts of Hassan of Aleppo were not as great or greater than the arts of fakir. But the crowning mystery to my mind was that of the Hashishin's death. It would seem that as he had hung suspended in space he had been shot!

"You say that someone heard the sound of the shot?" I asked suddenly.

"Several people," replied Bristol; "but no one knows, or no one will say, from what direction it came. I shall go on with the inquiry, of course, and cross-examine every soul in Wyatt's Buildings. Meanwhile, I'm open to confess that I am beaten."

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The Quest of the Sacred Slipper
Sax Rohmer

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