The Quest of the Sacred Slipper
4. The Oblong Box
You had better wait for us," said Bristol to the taxi-man.
"Very good, sir. But I shan't be able to take you further back than the Brixton Garage.
You can get another cab there, though."
A clock chimed out - an old-world chime in keeping with the loneliness, the curiously
remote loneliness, of the locality. Less than five miles from St. Paul's are spots whereto,
with the persistence of Damascus attar, clings the aroma of former days. This iron
gateway fronting the old chapel was such a spot.
Just within stood a plain-clothes man, who saluted my companion respectfully.
"Professor Deeping," I began.
The man, with a simple gesture, conveyed the dreadful news.
"Dead! dead!" I cried incredulously.
He glanced at Bristol.
"The most mysterious case I have ever had anything to do with, sir," he said.
The power of speech seemed to desert me. It was unthinkable that Deeping, with whom I
had been speaking less than an hour ago, should now be no more; that some malign
agency should thus murderously have thrust him into the great borderland.
In that kind of silence which seems to be peopled with whispering spirits we strode
forward along the elm avenue. It was very dark where the moon failed to penetrate. The
house, low and rambling, came into view, its facade bathed in silver light. Two of the
visible windows were illuminated. A sort of loggia ran along one side.
On our left, as we made for this, lay a black ocean of shrubbery. It intruded, raggedly,
upon the weed-grown path, for neglect was the keynote of the place.
We entered the cottage, crossed the tiny lobby, and came to the study. A man, evidently
Deeping's servant, was sitting in a chair by the door, his head sunken in his hands. He
looked up, haggard-faced.
"My God! my God!" he groaned. "He was locked in, gentlemen! He was locked in; and
yet something murdered him!"
"What do you mean?" said Bristol. "Where were you?"