The Quest of the Sacred Slipper HTML version

3. Hassan Of Aleppo
Professor Deeping's number was in the telephone directory, therefore, on returning to my
room, where there still lingered the faint perfume of my late visitor s presence, I asked for
his number. He proved to be at home.
"Strange you should ring me up, Cavanagh," he said; "for I was about to ring you up."
"First," I replied, "listen to the contents of an anonymous letter which I have received."
(I remembered, and only just in time, my promise to the veiled messenger.)
"To me," I added, having read him the note, "it seems to mean nothing. I take it that you
understand better than I do."
"I understand very well, Cavanagh!" he replied. "You will recall my story of the scimitar
which flashed before me in the darkness of my stateroom on the Mandalay? Well, I have
seen it again! I am not an imaginative man: I had always believed myself to possess the
scientific mind; but I can no longer doubt that I am the object of a pursuit which
commenced in Mecca! The happenings on the steamer prepared me for this, in a degree.
When the man lost his hand at Port Said I doubted. I had supposed the days of such
things past. The attempt to break into my stateroom even left me still uncertain. But the
outrage upon the steward at the docks removed all further doubt. I perceived that the
contents of a certain brown leather case were the objective of the crimes.
I listened in growing wonder.
"It was not necessary in order to further the plan of stealing the bag that the hands were
severed," resumed the Professor. "In fact, as was rendered evident by the case of the
steward, this was a penalty visited upon any one who touched it! You are thinking of my
own immunity?"
"I am!"
"This is attributable to two things. Those who sought to recover what I had in the case
feared that my death en route might result in its being lost to them for ever. They awaited
a suitable opportunity. They had designed to take it at Port Said certainly, I think; but the
bag was too large to be readily concealed, and, after the outrage, might have led to the
discovery of the culprit. In the second place, they are uncertain of my faith. I have long
passed for a true Believer in the East! As a Moslem I visited Mecca - "
"You visited Mecca!"
"I had just returned from the hadj when I joined the Mandalay at Port Said! My death,
however, has been determined upon, whether I be Moslem or Christian!"