The Quest of the Sacred Slipper HTML version

24. I Keep The Appointment
That moment was pungent with drama. In the intense hush of the next five seconds I
could fancy that the world had slipped away from me and that I was become an
unsubstantial thing of dreams. I was in no sense master of myself; the effect of the
presence of this white-bearded fanatic was of a kind which I am entirely unable to
describe. About Hassan of Aleppo was an aroma of evil, yet of majesty, which marked
him strangely different from other men - from any other that I have ever known. In his
venerable presence, remembering how he was Sheikh of the Assassins, and recalling his
bloody history, I was always conscious of a weakness, physical and mental. He appalled
me; and now, with my back to the door, I stood watching him and watching the ominous
black tube which he held in his hand. It was a weapon unknown to Europe and therefore
more fearful than the most up-to-date of death-dealing instruments.
Hassan of Aleppo pointed it toward me.
"The keys, effendim," he said; "hand me the keys!"
He advanced a step; his manner was imperious. The black tube was less than a foot
removed from my face. That I had my revolver in my pocket could avail me nothing, for
in my pocket it must remain, since I dared to make no move to reach it under cover of
that unfamiliar, terrible weapon.
The black eyes of Hassan glared insanely into mine.
"You will have placed them in your pocketcase," he said. "Take it out; hand it to me!"
I obeyed, for what else could I do? Taking the case from my pocket, I placed it in his lean
brown hand.
An expression of wild exultation crossed his features; the eagle eyes seemed to be
burning into my brain. A puff of hot vapour struck me in the face - something which was
expelled from the mysterious black tube. And with memories crowding to my mind of
similar experiences at the hands of the Hashishin, I fell back, clutching at my throat,
fighting for my life against the deadly, vaporous thing that like a palpable cloud
surrounded me. I tried to cry out, but the words died upon my tongue. Hassan of Aleppo
seemed to grow huge before my eyes like some ginn of Eastern lore. Then a curtain of
darkness descended. I experienced a violent blow upon the forehead (I suppose I had
pitched forward), and for the time resigned my part in the drama of the sacred slipper.