The Quest of the Sacred Slipper HTML version

13. The White Beam
That night the deviltry began. Mr. Mostyn found himself wholly unable to sleep. Many
relics have curious histories, and the experienced archaeologist becomes callous to that
uncanniness which seems to attach to some gruesome curios. But the slipper of the
Prophet was different. No mere ghostly menace threatened its holders; an avenging
scimitar followed those who came in contact with it; gruesome tragedies, mutilations,
murders, had marked its progress throughout.
The night was still - as still as a London night can be; for there is always a vague
murmuring in the metropolis as though the sleeping city breathed gently and sometimes
stirred in its sleep.
Then, distinct amid these usual nocturnal noises, rose another, unaccountable sound, a
muffled crash followed by a musical tinkling.
Mostyn sprang up in bed, drew on a dressing-gown, and took from the small safe at his
bed-head the Museum keys and a loaded revolver. A somewhat dishevelled figure, pale
and wild-eyed, he made his way through the private door and into the ghostly precincts of
the Museum. He did not hesitate, but ascended the stairs and unlocked the door of the
Assyrian gallery.
Along its ghostly aisles he passed, and before the door which gave admittance to the
Burton Room paused, fumbling a moment for the key.
Inside the room something was moving!
Mostyn was keenly alarmed; he knew that he must enter at once or never. He inserted the
key in the lock, swung open the heavy door, stepped through and closed it behind him.
He was a man of tremendous moral courage, for now, - alone in the apartment which
harboured the uncanny relic, alone in the discharge of his duty, he stood with his back to
the door trembling slightly, but with the idea of retreat finding no place in his mind.
One side of the room lay in blackest darkness; through the furthermost window of the
other a faint yellowed luminance (the moonlight through the blind) spread upon the
polished parquet flooring. But that which held the curator spell-bound - that which
momentarily quickened into life the latent superstition, common to all mankind, was a
beam of cold light which poured its effulgence fully upon the case containing the
Prophet's slipper! Where the other exhibits lay either in utter darkness or semi-darkness
this one it seemed was supernaturally picked out by this lunar searchlight!
It was ghostly-unnerving; but, the first dread of it passed, Mostyn recalled how during the
day a hole inexplicably had been cut in that blind; he recalled that it had not been
mended, but that the damaged blind had merely been rolled up again.