Copyright
Sax Rohmer.

Dope online

. (page 1 of 21)
Online LibrarySax RohmerDope → online text (page 1 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by Alan Johns





DOPE

By Sax Rohmer




PART FIRST - KAZMAH THE DREAM-READER



CHAPTER I. A MESSAGE FOR IRVIN

Monte Irvin, alderman of the city and prospective Lord Mayor of London,
paced restlessly from end to end of the well-appointed library of his
house in Prince's Gate. Between his teeth he gripped the stump of a
burnt-out cigar. A tiny spaniel lay beside the fire, his beady black
eyes following the nervous movements of the master of the house.

At the age of forty-five Monte Irvin was not ill-looking, and, indeed,
was sometimes spoken of as handsome. His figure was full without being
corpulent; his well-groomed black hair and moustache and fresh if rather
coarse complexion, together with the dignity of his upright carriage,
lent him something of a military air. This he assiduously cultivated as
befitting an ex-Territorial officer, although as he had seen no active
service he modestly refrained from using any title of rank.

Some quality in his brilliant smile, an oriental expressiveness of the
dark eyes beneath their drooping lids, hinted a Semitic strain; but
it was otherwise not marked in his appearance, which was free from
vulgarity, whilst essentially that of a successful man of affairs.

In fact, Monte Irvin had made a success of every affair in life with
the lamentable exception of his marriage. Of late his forehead had
grown lined, and those business friends who had known him for a man of
abstemious habits had observed in the City chophouse at which he lunched
almost daily that whereas formerly he had been a noted trencherman, he
now ate little but drank much.

Suddenly the spaniel leapt up with that feverish, spider-like activity
of the toy species and began to bark.

Monte Irvin paused in his restless patrol and listened.

"Lie down!" he said. "Be quiet."

The spaniel ran to the door, sniffing eagerly. A muffled sound of voices
became audible, and Irvin, following a moment of hesitation, crossed
and opened the door. The dog ran out, yapping in his irritating staccato
fashion, and an expression of hope faded from Irvin's face as he saw a
tall fair girl standing in the hallway talking to Hinkes, the butler.
She wore soiled Burberry, high-legged tan boots, and a peaked cap of
distinctly military appearance. Irvin would have retired again, but
the girl glanced up and saw him where he stood by the library door. He
summoned up a smile and advanced.

"Good evening, Miss Halley," he said, striving to speak genially - for of
all of his wife's friends he liked Margaret Halley the best. "Were you
expecting to find Rita at home?"

The girl's expression was vaguely troubled. She had the clear complexion
and bright eyes of perfect health, but to-night her eyes seemed
over-bright, whilst her face was slightly pale.

"Yes," she replied; "that is, I hoped she might be at home."

"I am afraid I cannot tell you when she is likely to return. But please
come in, and I will make inquiries."

"Oh, no, I would rather you did not trouble and I won't stay, thank you
nevertheless. I expect she will ring me up when she comes in."

"Is there any message I can give her?"

"Well" - she hesitated for an instant - "you might tell her, if you would,
that I only returned home at eight o'clock, so that I could not come
around any earlier." She glanced rapidly at Irvin, biting her lip. "I
wish I could have seen her," she added in a low voice.

"She wishes to see you particularly?"

"Yes. She left a note this afternoon." Again she glanced at him in
a troubled way. "Well, I suppose it cannot be helped," she added and
smilingly extended her hand. "Good night, Mr. Irvin. Don't bother to
come to the door."

But Irvin passed Hinkes and walked out under the porch with Margaret
Halley. Humid yellow mist floated past the street lamps, and seemed to
have gathered in a moving reef around the little runabout car which was
standing outside the house, its motor chattering tremulously.

"Phew! a beastly night!" he said. "Foggy and wet."

"It's a brute isn't it?" said the girl laughingly, and turned on the
steps so that the light shining out of the hallway gleamed on her white
teeth and upraised eyes. She was pulling on big, ugly, furred gloves,
and Monte Irvin mentally contrasted her fresh, athletic type of beauty
with the delicate, exotic charm of his wife.

She opened the door of the little car, got in and drove off, waving one
hugely gloved hand to Irvin as he stood in the porch looking after her.
When the red tail-light had vanished in the mist he returned to the
house and re-entered the library. If only all his wife's friends
were like Margaret Halley, he mused, he might have been spared the
insupportable misgivings which were goading him to madness. His mind
filled with poisonous suspicions, he resumed his pacing of the library,
awaiting and dreading that which should confirm his blackest theories.
He was unaware of the fact that throughout the interview he had held the
stump of cigar between his teeth. He held it there yet, pacing, pacing
up and down the long room.

Then came the expected summons. The telephone bell rang. Monte Irvin
clenched his hands and inhaled deeply. His color changed in a
manner that would have aroused a physician's interest. Regaining his
self-possession by a visible effort, he crossed to a small side-table
upon which the instrument rested. Rolling the cigar stump into the left
corner of his mouth, he took up the receiver.

"Hallo!" he said.

"Someone named Brisley, sir, wishes - "

"Put him through to me here."

"Very good, sir."

A short interval, then:

"Yes?" said Monte Irvin.

"My name is Brisley. I have a message for Mr. Monte Irvin."

"Monte Irvin speaking. Anything to report, Brisley?"

Irvin's deep, rich voice was not entirely under control.

"Yes, sir. The lady drove by taxicab from Prince's Gate to Albemarle
Street."

"Ah!"

"Went up to chambers of Sir Lucien Pyne and was admitted."

"Well?"

"Twenty minutes later came out. Lady was with Sir Lucien. Both walked
around to old Bond Street. The Honorable Quentin Gray - "

"Ah!" breathed Irvin.

" - Overtook them there. He got out of a cab. He joined them. All three
up to apartments of a professional crystal-gazer styling himself Kazmah
'the dream-reader.'"

A puzzled expression began to steal over the face of Monte Irvin. At
the sound of the telephone bell he had paled somewhat. Now he began to
recover his habitual florid coloring.

"Go on," he directed, for the speaker had paused.

"Seven to ten minutes later," resumed the nasal voice, "Mr. Gray came
down. He hailed a passing cab, but man refused to stop. Mr. Gray seemed
to be very irritable."

The fact that the invisible speaker was reading from a notebook he
betrayed by his monotonous intonation and abbreviated sentences, which
resembled those of a constable giving evidence in a police court.

"He walked off rapidly in direction of Piccadilly. Colleague followed.
Near the Ritz he obtained a cab. He returned in same to old Bond Street.
He ran upstairs and was gone from four-and-a-half to five minutes. He
then came down again. He was very pale and agitated. He discharged cab
and walked away. Colleague followed. He saw Mr. Gray enter Prince's
Restaurant. In the hall Mr. Gray met a gent unknown by sight to
colleague. Following some conversation both gents went in to dinner.
They are there now. Speaking from Dover Street Tube."

"Yes, yes. But the lady?"

"A native, possibly Egyptian, apparently servant of Kazmah, came out a
few minutes after Mr. Gray had gone for cab, and went away. Sir Lucien
Pyne and lady are still in Kazmah's rooms."

"What!" cried Irvin, pulling out his watch and glancing at the disk.
"But it's after eight o'clock!"

"Yes, sir. The place is all shut up, and other offices in block closed
at six. Door of Kazmah's is locked. I knocked and got no reply."

"Damn it! You're talking nonsense! There must be another exit."

"No, sir. Colleague has just relieved me. Left two gents over their wine
at Prince's."

Monte Irvin's color began to fade slowly.

"Then it's Pyne!" he whispered. The hand which held the receiver shook.
"Brisley - meet me at the Piccadilly end of Bond Street. I am coming
now."

He put down the telephone, crossed to the wall and pressed a button. The
cigar stump held firmly between his teeth, he stood on the rug before
the hearth, facing the door. Presently it opened and Hinkes came in.

"The car is ready, Hinkes?"

"Yes, sir, as you ordered. Shall Pattison come round to the door?"

"At once."

"Very good, sir."

He withdrew, closing the door quietly, and Monte Irvin stood staring
across the library at the full-length portrait in oils of his wife in
the pierrot dress which she had worn in the third act of The Maid of the
Masque.

The clock in the hall struck half-past eight.



CHAPTER II. THE APARTMENTS OF KAZMAH

It was rather less than two hours earlier on the same evening that
Quentin Gray came out of the confectioner's shop in old Bond Street
carrying a neat parcel. Yellow dusk was closing down upon this bazaar
of the New Babylon, and many of the dealers in precious gems, vendors
of rich stuffs, and makers of modes had already deserted their shops.
Smartly dressed show-girls, saleswomen, girl clerks and others crowded
the pavements, which at high noon had been thronged with ladies of
fashion. Here a tailor's staff, there a hatter's lingered awhile as iron
shutters and gratings were secured, and bidding one another good night,
separated and made off towards Tube and bus. The working day was ended.
Society was dressing for dinner.

Gray was about to enter the cab which awaited him, and his
fresh-colored, boyish face wore an expression of eager expectancy,
which must have betrayed the fact to an experienced beholder that he was
hurrying to keep an agreeable appointment. Then, his hand resting on the
handle of the cab-door, this expression suddenly changed to one of alert
suspicion.

A tall, dark man, accompanied by a woman muffled in grey furs and
wearing a silk scarf over her hair, had passed on foot along the
opposite side of the street. Gray had seen them through the cab windows.

His smooth brow wrinkled and his mouth tightened to a thin straight line
beneath the fair "regulation" moustache. He fumbled under his overcoat
for loose silver, drew out a handful and paid off the taximan.

Sometimes walking in the gutter in order to avoid the throngs upon
the pavement, regardless of the fact that his glossy dress-boots were
becoming spattered with mud, Gray hurried off in pursuit of the pair.
Twenty yards ahead he overtook them, as they were on the point of
passing a picture dealer's window, from which yellow light streamed
forth into the humid dusk. They were walking slowly, and Gray stopped in
front of them.

"Hello, you two!" he cried. "Where are you off to? I was on my way to
call for you, Rita."

Flushed and boyish he stood before them, and his annoyance was
increased by their failure to conceal the fact that his appearance was
embarrassing if not unwelcome. Mrs. Monte Irvin was a petite, pretty
woman, although some of the more wonderful bronzed tints of her hair
suggested the employment of henna, and her naturally lovely complexion
was delicately and artistically enhanced by art. Nevertheless, the
flower-like face peeping out from the folds of a gauzy scarf, like a
rose from a mist, whilst her soft little chin nestled into the fur,
might have explained even in the case of an older man the infatuation
which Quentin Gray was at no pains to hide.

She glanced up at her companion, Sir Lucien Pyne, a swarthy, cynical
type of aristocrat, imperturbably. Then: "I had left a note for
you, Quentin," she said hurriedly. She seemed to be in a dangerously
high-strung condition.

"But I have booked a table and a box," cried Gray, with a hint of
juvenile petulance.

"My dear Gray," said Sir Lucien coolly, "we are men of the world - and
we do not look for consistency in womenfolk. Mrs. Irvin has decided to
consult a palmist or a hypnotist or some such occult authority before
dining with you this evening. Doubtless she seeks to learn if the play
to which you propose to take her is an amusing one."

His smile of sardonic amusement Gray found to be almost insupportable,
and although Sir Lucien refrained from looking at Mrs. Irvin whilst
he spoke, it was evident enough that his words held some covert
significance, for:

"You know perfectly well that I have a particular reason for seeing
him," she said.

"A woman's particular reason is a man's feeble excuse," murmured Sir
Lucien rudely. "At least, according to a learned Arabian philosopher."

"I was going to meet you at Prince's," said Mrs. Irvin hurriedly, and
again glancing at Gray. There was a pathetic hesitancy in her manner,
the hesitancy of a weak woman who adheres to a purpose only by supreme
effort.

"Might I ask," said Gray, "the name of the pervert you are going to
consult?"

Again she hesitated and glanced rapidly at Sir Lucien, but he was
staring coolly in another direction.

"Kazmah," she replied in a low voice.

"Kazmah!" cried Gray. "The man who sells perfume and pretends to read
dreams? What an extraordinary notion. Wouldn't tomorrow do? He will
surely have shut up shop!"

"I have been at pains to ascertain," replied Sir Lucien, "at Mrs.
Irvin's express desire, that the man of mystery is still in session and
will receive her."

Beneath the mask of nonchalance which he wore it might have been
possible to detect excitement repressed with difficulty; and had Gray
been more composed and not obsessed with the idea that Sir Lucien had
deliberately intruded upon his plans for the evening, he could not have
failed to perceive that Mrs. Monte Irvin was feverishly preoccupied with
matters having no relation to dinner and the theatre. But his private
suspicions grew only the more acute.

"Then if the dinner is not off," he said, "may I come along and wait for
you?"

"At Kazmah's?" asked Mrs. Irvin. "Certainly." She turned to Sir Lucien.
"Shall you wait? It isn't much use as I'm dining with Quentin."

"If I do not intrude," replied the baronet, "I will accompany you as far
as the cave of the oracle, and then bid you good night."

The trio proceeded along old Bond Street. Quentin Gray regarded the
story of Kazmah as a very poor lie devised on the spur of the moment.
If he had been less infatuated, his natural sense of dignity must
have dictated an offer to release Mrs. Irvin from her engagement. But
jealousy stimulates the worst instincts and destroys the best. He
was determined to attach himself as closely as the old Man of the
Sea attached himself to Es-Sindibad, in order that the lie might
be unmasked. Mrs. Irvin's palpable embarrassment and nervousness he
ascribed to her perception of his design.

A group of shop girls and others waiting for buses rendered it
impossible for the three to keep abreast, and Gray, falling to the rear,
stepped upon the foot of a little man who was walking close behind them.

"Sorry, sir," said the man, suppressing an exclamation of pain - for the
fault had been Gray's.

Gray muttered an ungenerous acknowledgment, all anxiety to regain the
side of Mrs. Irvin; for she seemed to be speaking rapidly and excitedly
to Sir Lucien.

He recovered his place as the two turned in at a lighted doorway. Upon
the wall was a bronze plate bearing the inscription:

KAZMAH
Second Floor

Gray fully expected Mrs. Irvin to suggest that he should return later.
But without a word she began to ascend the stairs. Gray followed, Sir
Lucien standing aside to give him precedence. On the second floor was a
door painted in Oriental fashion. It possessed neither bell nor knocker,
but as one stepped upon the threshold this door opened noiselessly as
if dumbly inviting the visitor to enter the square apartment discovered.
This apartment was richly furnished in the Arab manner, and lighted by
a fine brass lamp swung upon chains from the painted ceiling. The
intricate perforations of the lamp were inset with colored glass, and
the result was a subdued and warm illumination. Odd-looking oriental
vessels, long-necked jars, jugs with tenuous spouts and squat bowls
possessing engraved and figured covers emerged from the shadows of
niches. A low divan with gaily colored mattresses extended from the
door around one corner of the room where it terminated beside a kind
of mushrabiyeh cabinet or cupboard. Beyond this cabinet was a long, low
counter laden with statuettes of Nile gods, amulets, mummy-beads and
little stoppered flasks of blue enamel ware. There were two glass cases
filled with other strange-looking antiquities. A faint perfume was
perceptible.

Sir Lucien entering last of the party, the door closed behind him, and
from the cabinet on the right of the divan a young Egyptian stepped
out. He wore the customary white robe, red sash and red slippers, and a
tarbush, the little scarlet cap commonly called a fez, was set upon
his head. He walked to a door on the left of the counter, and slid it
noiselessly open. Bowing gravely, "The Sheikh el Kazmah awaits," he
said, speaking with the soft intonation of a native of Upper Egypt.

It now became evident, even to the infatuated Gray, that Mrs. Irvin was
laboring under the influence of tremendous excitement. She turned to him
quickly, and he thought that her face looked almost haggard, whilst her
eyes seemed to have changed color - become lighter, although he could
not be certain that this latter effect was not due to the peculiar
illumination of the room. But when she spoke her voice was unsteady.

"Will you see if you can find a cab," she said. "It is so difficult at
night, and my shoes will get frightfully muddy crossing Piccadilly. I
shall not be more than a few minutes." She walked through the doorway,
the Egyptian standing aside as she passed. He followed her, but came
out again almost immediately, reclosed the door, and retired into the
cabinet, which was evidently his private cubicle.

Silence claimed the apartment. Sir Lucien threw himself nonchalantly
upon the divan, and took out his cigarette-case.

"Will you have a cigarette, Gray?" he asked.

"No thanks," replied the other, in tones of smothered hostility. He
was ill at ease, and paced the apartment nervously. Pyne lighted a
cigarette, and tossed the extinguished match into a brass bowl.

"I think," said Gray jerkily, "I shall go for a cab. Are you remaining?"

"I am dining at the club," answered Pyne, "but I can wait until you
return."

"As you wish," jerked Gray. "I don't expect to be long."

He walked rapidly to the outer door, which opened at his approach and
closed noiselessly behind him as he made his exit.



CHAPTER III. KAZMAH

Mrs. Monte Irvin entered the inner room. The air was heavy with the
perfume of frankincense which smouldered in a brass vessel set upon a
tray. This was the audience chamber of Kazmah. In marked contrast to the
overcrowded appointments, divans and cupboards of the first room, it
was sparsely furnished. The floor was thickly carpeted, but save for an
ornate inlaid table upon which stood the tray and incense-burner, and
a long, low-cushioned seat placed immediately beneath a hanging lamp
burning dimly in a globular green shade, it was devoid of decoration.
The walls were draped with green curtains, so that except for the
presence of the painted door, the four sides of the apartment appeared
to be uniform.

Having conducted Mrs. Irvin to the seat, the Egyptian bowed and retired
again through the doorway by which they had entered. The visitor found
herself alone.

She moved nervously, staring across at the blank wall before her. With
her little satin shoe she tapped the carpet, biting her under lip and
seeming to be listening. Nothing stirred. Not even an echo of busy Bond
Street penetrated to the place. Mrs. Irvin unfastened her cloak and
allowed it to fall back upon the settee. Her bare shoulders looked waxen
and unnatural in the weird light which shone down upon them. She was
breathing rapidly.

The minutes passed by in unbroken silence. So still was the room that
Mrs. Irvin could hear the faint crackling sound made by the burning
charcoal in the brass vessel near her. Wisps of blue-grey smoke arose
through the perforated lid and she began to watch them fascinatedly,
so lithe they seemed, like wraiths of serpents creeping up the green
draperies.

So she was seated, her foot still restlessly tapping, but her gaze
arrested by the hypnotic movements of the smoke, when at last a sound
from the outer world, penetrated to the room. A church clock struck the
hour of seven, its clangor intruding upon the silence only as a muffled
boom. Almost coincident with the last stroke came the sweeter note of a
silver gong from somewhere close at hand.

Mrs. Irvin started, and her eyes turned instantly in the direction
of the greenly draped wall before her. Her pupils had grown suddenly
dilated, and she clenched her hands tightly.

The light above her head went out.

Now that the moment was come to which she had looked forward with
mingled hope and terror, long pent-up emotion threatened to overcome
her, and she trembled wildly.

Out of the darkness dawned a vague light and in it a shape seemed to
take form. As the light increased the effect was as though part of the
wall had become transparent so as to reveal the interior of an inner
room where a figure was seated in a massive ebony chair. The figure was
that of an oriental, richly robed and wearing a white turban. His long
slim hands, of the color of old ivory, rested upon the arms of
the chair, and on the first finger of the right hand gleamed a big
talismanic ring. The face of the seated man was lowered, but from under
heavy brows his abnormally large eyes regarded her fixedly.

So dim the light remained that it was impossible to discern the details
with anything like clearness, but that the clean-shaven face of the man
with those wonderful eyes was strikingly and intellectually handsome
there could be no doubt.

This was Kazmah, "the dream reader," and although Mrs. Irvin had seen
him before, his statuesque repose and the weirdness of his unfaltering
gaze thrilled her uncannily.

Kazmah slightly raised his hand in greeting: the big ring glittered in
the subdued light.

"Tell me your dream," came a curious mocking voice; "and I will read its
portent."

Such was the set formula with which Kazmah opened all interviews. He
spoke with a slight and not unmusical accent. He lowered his hand again.
The gaze of those brilliant eyes remained fixed upon the woman's face.
Moistening her lips, Mrs. Irvin spoke.

"Dreams! What I have to say does not belong to dreams, but to reality!"
She laughed unmirthfully. "You know well enough why I am here."

She paused.

"Why are you here?"

"You know! You know!" Suddenly into her voice had come the unmistakable
note of hysteria. "Your theatrical tricks do not impress me. I know what
you are! A spy - an eavesdropper who watches - watches, and listens! But
you may go too far! I am nearly desperate - do you understand? - nearly
desperate. Speak! Move! Answer me!"

But Kazmah preserved his uncanny repose.

"You are distracted," he said. "I am sorry for you. But why do you come
to me with your stories of desperation? You have insisted upon seeing
me. I am here."

"And you play with me - taunt me!"

"The remedy is in your hands."

"For the last time, I tell you I will never do it! Never, never, never!"

"Then why do you complain? If you cannot afford to pay for your
amusements, and you refuse to compromise in a simple manner, why do you
approach me?"

"Oh, my God!" She moaned and swayed dizzily - "have pity on me! Who are
you, what are you, that you can bring ruin on a woman because - " She
uttered a choking sound, but continued hoarsely, "Raise your head. Let
me see your face. As heaven is my witness, I am ruined - ruined!"

"Tomorrow - "

"I cannot wait for tomorrow - "

That quivering, hoarse cry betrayed a condition of desperate febrile
excitement. Mrs. Irvin was capable of proceeding to the wildest
extremities. Clearly the mysterious Egyptian recognized this to be the
case, for slowly raising his hand:

"I will communicate with you," he said, and the words were spoken almost
hurriedly. "Depart in peace - "; a formula wherewith he terminated every
seance. He lowered his hand.

The silver gong sounded again - and the dim light began to fade.

Thereupon the unhappy woman acted; the long suppressed outburst came at


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibrarySax RohmerDope → online text (page 1 of 21)