The Quest of the Sacred Slipper HTML version

32. Six Gray Patches
When the invitation came from my old friend Hilton to spend a week "roughing it" with
him in Warwickshire I accepted with alacrity. If ever a man needed a holiday I was that
man. Nervous breakdown threatened me at any moment; the ghastly experience at the
Gate House together with Carneta's grief-stricken face when I had parted from her were
obsessing memories which I sought in vain to shake off.
A brief wire had contained the welcome invitation, and up to the time when I had
received it I had been unaware that Hilton was back in England. Moreover, beyond the
fact that his house, "Uplands," was near H--, for which I was instructed to change at New
Street Station, Birmingham, I had little idea of its location. But he added "Wire train and
will meet at H--"; so that I had no uneasiness on that score.
I had contemplated catching the 2:45 from Euston, but by the time I had got my work into
something like order, I decided that the 6:55 would be more suitable and decided to dine
on the train.
Altogether, there was something of a rush and hustle attendant upon getting away, and
when at last I found myself in the cab, bound for Euston, I sat back with a long-drawn
sigh. The quest of the Prophet's slipper was ended; in all probability that blood-stained
relic was already Eastward bound. Hassan of Aleppo, its awful guardian, had triumphed
and had escaped retribution. Earl Dexter was dead. I could not doubt that; for the memory
of his beautiful accomplice, Carneta, as I last had seen her, broken-hearted, with her great
violet eyes dulled in tearless agony - have I not said that it lived with me?
Even as the picture of her lovely, pale face presented itself to my mind, the cab was held
up by a temporary block in the traffic - and my imagination played me a strange trick.
Another taxi ran close alongside, almost at the moment that the press of vehicles moved
on again. Certainly, I had no more than a passing glimpse of the occupants; but I could
have sworn that violet eyes looked suddenly into mine, and with equal conviction I could
have sworn to the gaunt face of the man who sat beside the violet-eyed girl for that of
Earl Dexter!
The travellers, however, were immediately lost to sight in the rear, and I was left to
conjecture whether this had been a not uncommon form of optical delusion or whether I
had seen a ghost.
At any rate, as I passed in between the big pillars, "The gateway of the North," I
scrutinized, and closely, the numerous hurrying figures about me. None of them, by any
stretch of the imagination, could have been set down for that of Dexter, The Stetson Man.
No doubt, I concluded, I had been tricked by a chance resemblance.