The Quest of the Sacred Slipper HTML version

17. The Woman With The Basket
Deep in thought respecting the inexplicable nature of this latest mystery, I turned in the
direction of the bridge, and leaving behind me an ever-swelling throng at the gate of
Wyatt's Buildings, proceeded westward.
The death of the dwarf had lifted the case into the realms of the marvellous, and I noted
nothing of the bustle about me, for mentally I was still surveying that hunched-up body
which had fallen out of empty space.
Then in upon my preoccupation burst a woman's scream!
I aroused myself from reverie, looking about to right and left. Evidently I had been
walking slowly, for I was less than a hundred yards from Wyatt's Buildings, and hard by
the entrance to an uninviting alley from which I thought the scream had proceeded.
And as I hesitated, for I had no desire to become involved in a drunken brawl, again came
the shrill scream: "Help! help!"
I cannot say if I was the only passer-by who heard the cry; certainly I was the only one
who responded to it. I ran down the narrow street, which was practically deserted, and
heard windows thrown up as I passed for the cries for help continued.
Just beyond a patch of light cast by a street lamp a scene was being enacted strange
enough at any time and in any place, but doubly singular at that hour of the night, or early
morning, in a lane off the Waterloo Road.
An old woman, from whose hand a basket of provisions had fallen, was struggling in the
grasp of a tall Oriental! He was evidently trying to stifle her screams and at the same time
to pinion her arms behind her!
I perceived that there was more in this scene than met the eye. Oriental footpads are
rarities in the purlieus of Waterloo Road. So much was evident; and since I carried a
short, sharp argument in my pocket, I hastened to advance it.
At the sight of the gleaming revolver barrel the man, who was dressed in dark clothes and
wore a turban, turned and ran swiftly off. I had scarce a glimpse of his pallid brown face
ere he was gone, nor did the thought of pursuit enter my mind. I turned to the old woman,
who was dressed in shabby black and who was rearranging her thick veil in an oddly
composed manner, considering the nature of the adventure that had befallen her.
She picked up her basket, and turned away. Needless to say I was rather shocked at her
callous ingratitude, for she offered no word of thanks, did not even glance in my
direction, but made off hurriedly toward Waterloo Road.