Part 5 out of 6
raven partly arose, moving his big wings, and:
"Smartest leg!" it shrieked in Kerry's ear and rattled imaginary
The Chief Inspector started, involuntarily.
"Damn the thing!" he muttered. "Come in, Bryce, and shut the door.
On a tea-chest set beside the glowing stove, the little door of which
was open, stood a highly polished squat wooden image, gilded and
colored red and green. It was that of a leering Chinaman, possibly
designed to represent Buddha, and its jade eyes seemed to blink
knowingly in the dancing rays from the stove.
"Sin Sin Wa's Joss" murmured the proprietor, as Bryce closed the outer
door. "Me shinee him up; makee Joss glad. Number one piecee Joss."
Kerry turned and stared into the pock-marked smiling face. Seen in
that dim light it was not unlike the carved face of the image, save
that the latter possessed two open eyes and the Chinaman but one. The
details of the room were indiscernible, lost in yellowish shadow, but
the eye of the raven and the eye of Sin Sin Wa glittered like strange
"H'm" said Kerry. "Sorry to interrupt your devotions. Light us."
"Allee velly proper," crooned Sin Sin Wa.
He took up the Joss tenderly and bore it across the room. Opening a
little cupboard set low down near the floor he discovered a lighted
lantern. This he took out and set upon the dirty table. Then he placed
the image on a shelf in the cupboard and turned smilingly to his
"Number one p'lice!" shrieked the raven.
"Here!" snapped Kerry. "Put that damn thing to bed!"
"Velly good," murmured Sin Sin Wa complacently.
He raised his hand to his shoulder and the raven stepped sedately from
shoulder to wrist. Sin Sin Wa stooped.
"Come, Tling-a-Ling," he said softly. "You catchee sleepee."
The raven stepped down from his wrist and walked into the cupboard.
"So fashion, lo!" said Sin Sin Wa, closing the door.
He seated himself upon a tea-chest beside the useful cupboard, resting
his hands upon his knees and smiling.
Kerry, chewing steadily, had watched the proceedings in silence, but
"Constable Bryce," he said crisply, "you recognize this man as Sin Sin
Wa, the occupier of the house?"
"Yes, sir," replied Bryce.
He was not wholly at ease, and persistently avoided the Chinaman's
oblique, beady eye.
"In the ordinary course of your duty you frequently pass along this
"It's the limit of the Limehouse beat, sir. Poplar patrols on the
"So that at this point, or hereabout, you would sometimes meet the
constable on the next beat?"
"Well, sir," Bryce hesitated, clearing his throat, "this street isn't
properly in his district."
"I didn't say it was!" snapped Kerry, glaring fiercely at the
embarrassed constable. "I said you would sometimes meet him here."
"Sometimes. Right. Did you ever come in here?"
The constable ventured a swift glance at the savage red face, and:
"Yes, sir, now and then," he confessed. "Just for a warm on a cold
"Allee velly welcome," murmured Sin Sin Wa.
Kerry never for a moment removed his fixed gaze from the face of
"Now, my lad," he said, "I'm going to ask you another question. I'm
not saying a word about the warm on a cold night. We're all human.
But--did you ever see or hear or smell anything suspicious in this
"Never," affirmed the constable earnestly.
"Did anything ever take place that suggested to your mind that Sin Sin
Wa might be concealing something--upstairs, for instance?"
"Never a thing, sir. There's never been a complaint about him."
"Allee velly proper," crooned Sin Sin Wa.
Kerry stared intently for some moments at Bryce; then, turning
suddenly to Sin Sin Wa:
"I want to see your wife," he said. "Fetch her."
Sin Sin Wa gently patted his knees.
"She velly bad woman," he declared. "She no hate topside pidgin."
"Don't talk!" shouted Kerry. "Fetch her!"
Sin Sin Wa turned his hands palms upward.
"Me no hate gotchee wifee," he murmured.
Kerry took one pace forward.
"Fetch her," he said; "or--" He drew a pair of handcuffs from the
pocket of his oilskin.
"Velly bad luck," murmured Sin Sin Wa. "Catchee trouble for wifee no
He extended his wrists, meeting the angry glare of the Chief Inspector
with a smile of resignation. Kerry bit savagely at his chewing-gum,
glancing aside at Bryce.
"Did you ever see his wife?" he snapped.
"No, sir. I didn't know he had one."
"No habgotchee," murmured Sin Sin Wa, "velly bad woman."
"For the last time," said Kerry, stooping and thrusting his face
forward so that his nose was only some six inches from that of Sin Sin
Wa, "where's Mrs. Sin?"
"Catchee lun off," replied the Chinaman blandly. "Velly bad woman.
Tlief woman. Catchee stealee alla my dollars!"
Kerry stood upright, moving his shoulders and rattling the handcuffs.
"Comee here when Sin Sin Wa hate gone for catchee shavee, liftee alla
my dollars, and-pff! chee-lo!"
He raised his hand and blew imaginary fluff into space. Kerry stared
down at him with an expression in which animal ferocity and
helplessness were oddly blended. Then:
"Bryce," he said, "stay here. I'm going to search the house."
"Very good, sir."
Kerry turned again to the Chinaman.
"Is there anyone upstairs?" he demanded.
"Nobody hate. Sin Sin Wa alla samee lonesome. Catchee shinum him
Kerry dropped the handcuffs back into the pocket of his overall and
took out an electric torch. With never another glance at Sin Sin Wa he
went out into the passage and began to mount the stairs, presently
finding himself in a room filled with all sorts of unsavory rubbish
and containing a large cupboard. He uttered an exclamation of triumph.
Crossing the littered floor, and picking his way amid broken cane
chairs, tea-chests, discarded garments and bedlaths, he threw open the
cupboard door. Before him hung a row of ragged clothes and a number of
bowler hats. Directing the ray of the torch upon the unsavory
collection, he snatched coats and hats from the hooks upon which they
depended and hurled them impatiently upon the floor.
When the cupboard was empty he stepped into it and began to bang upon
the back. The savagery of his expression grew more marked than usual,
and as he chewed his maxillary muscles protruded extraordinarily.
"If ever I sounded a brick wall," he muttered, "I'm doing it now."
Tap where he would--and he tapped with his knuckles and with the bone
ferrule of his cane--there was nothing in the resulting sound to
suggest that that part of the wall behind the cupboard was less solid
than any other part.
He examined the room rapidly, then passed into another one adjoining
it, which was evidently used as a bedroom. The latter faced towards
the court and did not come in contact with the wall of the neighboring
house. In both rooms the windows were fastened, and judging from the
state of the fasteners were never opened. In that containing the
cupboard outside shutters were also closed. Despite this sealing-up of
the apartments, traces of fog hung in the air. Kerry descended the
Snapping off the light of his torch, he stood, feet wide apart,
staring at Sin Sin Wa. The latter, smiling imperturbably, yellow hands
resting upon knees, sat quite still on the tea-chest. Constable Bryce
was seated on a corner of the table, looking curiously awkward in his
tweed overcoat and bowler hat, which garments quite failed to disguise
the policeman. He stood up as Kerry entered. Then:
"There used to be a door between this house and the next," said Kerry
succinctly. "My information is exact and given by someone who has
often used that door."
"Bloody liar," murmured Sin Sin Wa.
"What!" shouted Kerry. "What did you say, you yellow-faced mongrel!"
He clenched his fists and strode towards the Chinaman.
"Sarcee feller catchee pullee leg," explained the unmoved Sin Sin Wa.
"Velly bad man tellee lie for makee bhoberry--getchee poor Chinaman in
In the fog-bound silence Kerry could very distinctly be heard chewing.
He turned suddenly to Bryce.
"Go back and fetch two men," he directed. "I should never find my
"Very good, sir."
Bryce stepped to the door, unable to hide the relief which he
experienced, and opened it. The fog was so dense that it looked like a
yellow curtain hung in the opening.
"Phew!" said Bryce. "I may be some little time, sir."
"Quite likely. But don't stop to pick daisies."
The constable went out, closing the door. Kerry laid his cane on the
table, then stooped and tossed a cud of chewing-gum into the stove.
From his waistcoat pocket he drew out a fresh piece and placed it
between his teeth. Drawing a tea-chest closer to the stove, he seated
himself and stared intently into the glowing heart of the fire.
Sin Sin Wa extended his arm and opened the little cupboard.
"Number one p'lice," croaked the raven drowsily.
"You catchee sleepee, Tling-a-Ling," said Sin Sin Wa.
He took out the green-eyed joss, set it tenderly upon a corner of the
table, and closed the cupboard door. With a piece of chamois leather,
which he sometimes dipped into a little square tin, he began to polish
the hideous figure.
DOUBTS AND FEARS
Monte Irvin raised his head and stared dully at Margaret Halley. It
was very quiet in the library of the big old-fashioned house at
Prince's Gate. A faint crackling sound which proceeded from the fire
was clearly audible. Margaret's grey eyes were anxiously watching the
man whose pose as he sat in the deep, saddle-back chair so curiously
"Drugs," he whispered. "Drugs."
Few of his City associates would have recognized the voice; all would
have been shocked to see the change which had taken place in the man.
"You really understand why I have told you, Mr. Irvin, don't you?"
said Margaret almost pleadingly. "Dr. Burton thought you should not be
told, but then Dr. Burton did not know you were going to ask me point
blank. And I thought it better that you should know the truth, bad as
it is, rather than--"
"Rather than suspect--worse things," whispered Irvin. "Of course, you
were right, Miss Halley. I am very, very grateful to you for telling
me. I realize what courage it must have called for. Believe me, I
shall always remember--"
He broke off, staring across the room at his wife's portrait. Then:
"If only I had known," he added.
Irvin exhibited greater composure than Margaret had ventured to
anticipate. She was confirmed in her opinion that he should be told
"I would have told you long ago," she said, "if I had thought that any
good could result from my doing so. Frankly, I had hoped to cure Rita
of the habit, and I believe I might have succeeded in time."
"There has been no mention of drugs in connection with the case," said
Monte Irvin, speaking monotonously. "In the Press, I mean."
"Hitherto there has not," she replied. "But there is a hint of it in
one of this evening's papers, and I determined to give you the exact
facts so far as they are known to me before some garbled account came
to your ears."
"Thank you," he said, "thank you. I had felt for a long time that I
was getting out of touch with Rita, that she had other confidants.
Have you any idea who they were, Miss Halley?"
He raised his eyes, looking at her pathetically. Margaret hesitated,
"Well," she replied, "I am afraid Nina knew."
"I think she must have known."
"The police have interrogated her," he said. "Probably she is being
"Oh, I don't think she knows anything about the drug syndicate,"
declared Margaret. "She merely acted as confidential messenger. Poor
Sir Lucien Pyne, I am sure, was addicted to drugs."
"Do you think"--Irvin spoke in a very low voice--"do you think he led
her into the habit?"
Margaret bit her lip, staring down at the red carpet.
"I would hate to slander a man who can never defend himself," she
replied finally. "But--I have sometimes thought he did."
Silence fell. Both were contemplating a theory which neither dared to
express in words.
"You see," continued Margaret, "it is evident that this man Kazmah was
patronized by people so highly placed that it is hopeless to look for
information from them. Again, such people have influence. I don't
suggest that they are using it to protect Kazmah, but I have no doubt
they are doing so to protect themselves."
Monte Irvin raised his eyes to her face. A weary, sad look had come
"You mean that it may be to somebody's interest to hush up the matter
as much as possible?"
Margaret nodded her head.
"The prevalence of the drug habit in society--especially in London
society--is a secret which has remained hidden so long from the
general public," she replied, "that one cannot help looking for
bribery and corruption. The stage is made the scapegoat whenever the
voice of scandal breathes the word 'dope,' but we rarely hear the
names of the worst offenders even whispered. I have thought for a long
time that the authorities must know the names of the receivers and
distributors of cocaine, veronal, opium, and the other drugs, huge
quantities of which find their way regularly to the West End of
London. Pharmacists sometimes experience the greatest difficulty in
obtaining the drugs which they legitimately require, and the prices
have increased extraordinarily. Cocaine, for instance, has gone up
from five and sixpence an ounce to eighty-seven shillings, and heroin
from three and sixpence to over forty shillings, while opium that was
once about twenty shillings a pound is now eight times the price."
Monte Irvin listened attentively.
"In the course of my Guildhall duties," he said slowly, "I have been
brought in contact frequently with police officers of all ranks. If
influential people are really at work protecting these villains who
deal illicitly in drugs, I don't think, and I am not prepared to
believe, that they have corrupted the police."
"Neither do I believe so, Mr. Irvin!" said Margaret eagerly.
"But," Irvin pursued, exhibiting greater animation, "you inform me
that a Home office commissioner has been appointed. What does this
mean, if not that Lord Wrexborough distrusts the police?"
"Well, you see, the police seemed to be unable, or unwilling, to do
anything in the matter. Of course, this may have been due to the fact
that the traffic was so skilfully handled that it defied their
"Take, as an instance, Chief Inspector Kerry," continued Irvin. "He
has exhibited the utmost delicacy and consideration in his dealings
with me, but I'll swear that a whiter man never breathed."
"Oh, really, Mr. Irvin, I don't think for a moment that men of that
class are suspected of being concerned. Indeed, I don't believe any
active collusion is suspected at all."
"Lord Wrexborough thinks that Scotland Yard hasn't got an officer
clever enough for the dope people?"
"I take it that he has put up a secret service man?"
"I believe--that is, I know he has."
Monte Irvin was watching Margaret's face, and despite the dull misery
which deadened his usually quick perceptions, he detected a heightened
color and a faint change of expression. He did not question her
further upon the point, but:
"God knows I welcome all the help that offers," he said. "Lord
Wrexborough is your uncle, Miss Halley; but do you think this secret
commission business quite fair to Scotland Yard?"
Margaret stared for some moments at the carpet, then raised her grey
eyes and looked earnestly at the speaker. She had learned in the brief
time that had elapsed since this black sorrow had come upon him to
understand what it was in the character of Monte Irvin which had
attracted Rita. It afforded an illustration of that obscure law
governing the magnetism which subsists between diverse natures. For
not all the agony of mind which he suffered could hide or mar the
cleanness and honesty of purpose which were Monte Irvin's outstanding
"No," Margaret replied, "honestly, I don't. And I feel rather guilty
about it, too, because I have been urging uncle to take such a step
for quite a long time. You see"--she glanced at Irvin wistfully--"I am
brought in contact with so many victims of the drug habit. I believe
the police are hampered; and these people who deal in drugs manage in
some way to evade the law. The Home office agent will report to a
committee appointed by Lord Wrexborough, and then, you see, if it is
found necessary to do so, there will be special legislation."
Monte Irvin sighed wearily, and his glance strayed in the direction of
the telephone on the side-table. He seemed to be constantly listening
for something which he expected but dreaded to hear. Whenever the toy
spaniel which lay curled up on the rug before the fire moved or looked
towards the door, Irvin started and his expression changed.
"This suspense," he said jerkily, "this suspense is so hard to bear."
"Oh, Mr. Irvin, your courage is wonderful," replied Margaret
earnestly. "But he"--she hastily corrected herself--"everybody is
convinced that Rita is safe. Under some strange misapprehension
regarding this awful tragedy she has run away into hiding. Probably
she has been induced to do so by those interested in preventing her
from giving evidence."
Monte Irvin's eyes lighted up strangely. "Is that the opinion of the
Home office agent?" he asked.
"Inspector Kerry shares it," declared Irvin. "Please God they are
"It is the only possible explanation," said Margaret. "Any hour now we
may expect news of her."
"You don't think," pursued Monte Irvin, "that anybody--anybody--
suspects Rita of being concerned in the death of Sir Lucien?"
He fixed a gaze of pathetic inquiry upon her face.
"Of course not!" she cried. "How ridiculous it would be."
"Yes," he murmured, "it would be ridiculous."
Margaret stood up.
"I am quite relieved now that I have done what I conceived to be my
duty, Mr. Irvin," she said. "And, bad as the truth may be, it is
better than doubt, after all. You must look after yourself, you know.
When Rita comes back we shall have a big task before us to wean her
from her old habits." She met his glance frankly. "But we shall
"How you cheer me," whispered Monte Irvin emotionally. "You are the
truest friend that Rita ever had, Miss Halley. You will keep in touch
with me, will you not?"
"Of course. Next to yourself there is no one so sincerely interested
as I am. I love Rita as I should have loved a sister if I had had one.
Please don't stand up. Dr. Burton has told you to avoid all exertion
for a week or more, I know."
Monte Irvin grasped her outstretched hand.
"Any news which reaches me," he said, "I will communicate immediately.
Thank you. In times of trouble we learn to know our real friends."
THE FIGHT IN THE DARK
Towards eleven o'clock at night the fog began slightly to lift. As
Kerry crossed the bridge over Limehouse Canal he could vaguely discern
the dirty water below, and street lamps showed dimly, surrounded each
by a halo of yellow mist. Fog signals were booming on the railway, and
from the great docks in the neighborhood mechanical clashings and
hammerings were audible.
Turning to the right, Kerry walked on for some distance, and then
suddenly stepped into the entrance to a narrow cul-de-sac and stood
A conviction had been growing upon him during the past twelve hours
that someone was persistently and cleverly dogging his footsteps. He
had first detected the presence of this mysterious follower outside
the house of Sin Sin Wa, but the density of the fog had made it
impossible for him to obtain a glimpse of the man's face. He was
convinced, too, that he had been followed back to Leman Street, and
from there to New Scotland Yard. Now, again he became aware of this
persistent presence, and hoped at last to confront the spy.
Below footsteps, the footsteps of someone proceeding with the utmost
caution, came along the pavement. Kerry stood close to the wall of the
court, one hand in a pocket of his overall, waiting and chewing.
Nearer came the footsteps--and nearer. A shadowy figure appeared only
a yard or so away from the watchful Chief Inspector. Thereupon he
With one surprising spring he hurled himself upon the unprepared man,
grasped him by his coat collar, and shone the light of an electric
torch fully into his face.
"Hell!" he snapped. "The smart from Spinker's!"
The ray of the torch lighted up the mean, pinched face of Brisley,
blanched now by fright, gleamed upon the sharp, hooked nose and into
the cunning little brown eyes. Brisley licked his lips. In Kerry's
muscular grip he bore quite a remarkable resemblance to a rat in the
jaws of a terrier.
"Ho, ho!" continued the Chief Inspector, showing his teeth savagely.
"So we let Scotland Yard make the pie, and then we steal all the
plums, do we?"
He shook the frightened man until Brisley's broad-brimmed bowler was
shaken off, revealing the receding brow and scanty neutral-colored
"We let Scotland Yard work night and day, and then we present our rat-
faced selves to Mr. Monte Irvin and say we have 'found the lady' do
we?" Another vigorous shake followed. "We track Chief Inspectors of
the Criminal Investigation Department, do we? We do, eh? We are dirty,
skulking mongrels, aren't we? We require to be kicked from Limehouse
to Paradise, don't we?" He suddenly released Brisley. "So we shall
be!" he shouted furiously.
Hot upon the promise came the deed.
Brisley sent up a howl of pain as Kerry's right brogue came into
violent contact with his person. The assault almost lifted him off his
feet, and hatless as he was he set off, running as a man runs whose
life depends upon his speed. The sound of his pattering footsteps was
echoed from wall to wall of the cul-de-sac until finally it was
swallowed up in the fog.
Kerry stood listening for some moments, then, directing a furious kick
upon the bowler which lay at his feet, he snapped off the light of the
torch and pursued his way. The lesser mystery was solved, but the
greater was before him.
He had made a careful study of the geography of the neighborhood, and
although the fog was still dense enough to be confusing, he found his
way without much difficulty to the street for which he was bound. Some
fifteen paces along the narrow thoroughfare he came upon someone
standing by a closed door set in a high brick wall. The street
contained no dwelling houses, and except for the solitary figure by
the door was deserted and silent. Kerry took out his torch and shone a
white ring upon the smiling countenance of Detective-Sergeant Coombes.
"If that smile gets any worse," he said irritably, "they'll have to
move your ears back. Anything to report?"
"Sin Sin Wa went to bed an hour ago."
"Has he been out?"
"Got the ladder?"
"All quiet in the neighborhood?"
The street in which this conversation took place was one running
roughly parallel with that in which the house of Sin Sin Wa was
situated. A detailed search of the Chinaman's premises had failed to
bring to light any scrap of evidence to show that opium had ever been
smoked there. Of the door described by Mollie Gretna, and said to
communicate with the adjoining establishment, not a trace could be
found. But the fact that such a door had existed did not rest solely
upon Mollie's testimony. From one of the "beat-ups" interviewed that
day, Kerry had succeeded in extracting confirmatory evidence.
Inquiries conducted in the neighborhood of Poplar had brought to light
the fact that four of the houses in this particular street, including
that occupied by Sin Sin Wa and that adjoining it, belonged to a
certain Mr. Jacobs, said to reside abroad. Mr. Jacob's rents were
collected by an estate agent, and sent to an address in San Francisco.
For some reason not evident to this man of business, Mr. Jacobs
demanded a rental for the house next to Sin Sin Wa's, which was out of
all proportion to the value of the property. Hence it had remained
vacant for a number of years. The windows were broken and boarded up,
as was the door.
Kerry realized that the circumstance of the landlord of "The House of
a Hundred Raptures" being named Jacobs, and the lessee of the Cubanis
Cigarette Company's premises in old Bond Street being named Isaacs,
might be no more than a coincidence. Nevertheless it was odd. He had
determined to explore the place without unduly advertising his
Two modes of entrance presented themselves. There was a trap on the
roof, but in order to reach it access would have to be obtained to one
of the other houses in the row, which also possessed a roof-trap; or
there were four windows overlooking a little back yard, two upstairs
and two down.
By means of a short ladder which Coombes had brought for the purpose
Kerry climbed on to the wall and dropped into the yard.
"The jemmy!" he said softly.
Coombes, also mounting, dropped the required implement. Kerry caught
it deftly, and in a very few minutes had wrenched away the rough
planking nailed over one of the lower windows, without making very
"Shall I come down?" inquired Coombes in muffled tones from the top of
"No," rapped Kerry. "Hide the ladder again. If I want help I'll
He tossed the jemmy up to Coombes, and Coombes succeeded in catching
it. Then Kerry raised the glass-classlessless sash of the window and
stepped into a little room, which he surveyed by the light of his
electric torch. It was filthy and littered with rubbish, but showed no
sign of having been occupied for a long time. The ceiling was nearly
black, and so were the walls. He went out into a narrow passage
similar to that in the house of Sin Sin Wa and leading to a stair.
Walking quietly, he began to ascend. Mollie Gretna's description of
the opium-house had been most detailed and lurid, and he was prepared
for some extravagant scene.
He found three bare, dirty rooms, having all the windows boarded up.
"Hell!" he said succinctly.
Resting his torch upon a dust-coated ledge of the room, which
presumably was situated in the front of the house, he deposited a cud
of chewing-gum in the empty grate and lovingly selected a fresh piece
from the packet which he always carried. Once more chewing he returned
to the narrow passage, which he knew must be that in which the secret
doorway had opened.
It was uncarpeted and dirty, and the walls were covered with faded
filthy paper, the original color and design of which were quite lost.
There was not the slightest evidence that a door had ever existed in
any part of the wall. Following a detailed examination Kerry returned
his magnifying glass to the washleather bag and the bag to his
"H'm," he said, thinking aloud, "Sin Sin Wa may have only one eye, but
it's a good eye."
He raised his glance to the blackened ceiling of the passage, and saw
that the trap giving access to the roof was situated immediately above
him. He directed the ray of the torch upon it. In the next moment he
had snapped off the light and was creeping silently towards the door
of the front room.
The trap had moved slightly!
Gaining the doorway, Kerry stood just inside the room and waited. He
became conscious of a kind of joyous excitement, which claimed him at
such moments; an eagerness and a lust of action. But he stood
perfectly still, listening and waiting.
There came a faint creaking sound, and a new damp chilliness was added
to the stale atmosphere of the passage. Someone had quietly raised the
Cutting through the blackness like a scimitar shone a ray of light
from above, widening as it descended and ending in a white patch on
the floor. It was moved to and fro. Then it disappeared. Another vague
creaking sound followed--that caused by a man's weight being imposed
upon a wooden framework.
Finally came a thud on the bare boards of the floor.
Complete silence ensued. Kerry waited, muscles tense and brain alert.
He even suspended the chewing operation. A dull, padding sound reached
From the quality of the thud which had told of the intruder's drop
from the trap to the floor, Kerry had deduced that he wore rubber-
soled shoes. Now, the sound which he could hear was that of the
stranger's furtive footsteps. He was approaching the doorway in which
Kerry was standing.
Just behind the open door Kerry waited. And unheralded by any further
sound to tell of his approach, the intruder suddenly shone a ray of
light right into the room. He was on the threshold; only the door
concealed him from Kerry, and concealed Kerry from the new-comer.
The disc of light cast into the dirty room grew smaller. The man with
the torch was entering. A hand which grasped a magazine pistol
appeared beyond the edge of the door, and Kerry's period of inactivity
came to an end. Leaning back he adroitly kicked the weapon from the
hand of the man who held it!
There was a smothered cry of pain, and the pistol fell clattering on
the floor. The light went out, too. As it vanished Kerry leapt from
his hiding-place. Snapping on the light of his own pocket lamp, he ran
out into the passage.
Crack! came the report of a pistol.
Kerry dropped flat on the floor. He had not counted on the intruder
being armed with two pistols! His pocket lamp, still alight, fell
beside him, and he lay in a curiously rigid attitude on his side, one
knee drawn up and his arm thrown across his face.
Carefully avoiding the path of light cast by the fallen torch, the
unseen stranger approached silently. Pistol in hand, he bent, nearer
and nearer, striving to see the face of the prostrate man. Kerry lay
deathly still. The other dropped on one knee and bent closely over
him. . . .
Swiftly as a lash Kerry's arm was whipped around the man's neck, and
helpless he pitched over on to his head! Uttering a dull groan, he lay
heavy and still across Kerry's body.
"Flames!" muttered the Chief Inspector, extricating himself; "I didn't
mean to break his neck."
He took up the electric torch, and shone it upon the face of the man
on the floor. It was a dirty, unshaven face, unevenly tanned, as
though the man had worn a beard until quite recently and had come from
a hot climate. He was attired in a manner which suggested that he
might be a ship's fireman save that he wore canvas shoes having rubber
Kerry stood watching him for some moments. Then he groped behind him
with one foot until he found the pistol, the second pistol which the
man had dropped as he pitched on his skull. Kerry picked it up, and
resting the electric torch upon the crown of his neat bowler hat--
which lay upon the floor--he stooped, pistol in hand, and searched the
pockets of the prostrate man, who had begun to breathe stertorously.
In the breast pocket he found a leather wallet of good quality; and at
this he stared, a curious expression coming into his fierce eyes. He
opened it, and found Treasury notes, some official-looking papers, and
a number of cards. Upon one of these cards be directed the light, and
this is what he read:
Great Cumberland Place, V. 1
"To introduce 719. W."
"God's truth!" gasped Kerry. "It's the man from Whitehall!"
The stertorous breathing ceased, and a very dirty hand was thrust up
"I'm glad you spoke, Chief Inspector Kerry," drawled a vaguely
familiar voice. "I was just about to kick you in the back of the
Kerry dropped the wallet and grasped the proffered hand. "719" stood
up, smiling grimly. Footsteps were clattering on the stairs. Coombes
had heard the shot.
"Sir," said Kerry, "if ever you need a testimonial to your efficiency
at this game, my address is Sixty-seven Spenser Road, Brixton. We've
"We have, Chief Inspector," was the reply. "We met at Kazmah's, and
later at a certain gambling den in Soho."
The pseudo fireman dragged a big cigar-case from his hip-pocket.
"I'm known as Seton Pasha. Can I offer you a cheroot?"
THE STORY OF 719
In a top back room of the end house in the street which also boasted
the residence of Sin Sin Wa, Seton Pasha and Chief Inspector Kerry sat
one on either side of a dirty deal table. Seton smoked and Kerry
chewed. A smoky oil-lamp burned upon the table, and two notebooks lay
"It is certainly odd," Seton was saying, "that you failed to break my
neck. But I have made it a practice since taking up my residence here
to wear a cap heavily padded. I apprehend sandbags and pieces of
"The tube is not made," declared Kerry, "which can do the job. You're
harder to kill than a Chinese-Jew."
"Your own escape is almost equally remarkable," added Seton. "I rarely
miss at such short range. But you had nearly broken my wrist with that
"I'm sorry," said Kerry. "You should always bang a door wide open
suddenly before you enter into a suspected room. Anybody standing
behind usually stops it with his head."
"I am indebted for the hint, Chief Inspector. We all have something to
"Well, sir, we've laid our cards on the table, and you'll admit we've
both got a lot to learn before we see daylight. I'll be obliged if
you'll put me wise to your game. I take it you began work on the very
night of the murder?"
"I did. By a pure accident--the finding of an opiated cigarette in Mr.
Gray's rooms--I perceived that the business which had led to my recall
from the East was involved in the Bond Street mystery. Frankly, Chief
Inspector, I doubted at that time if it were possible for you and me
to work together. I decided to work alone. A beard which I had worn in
the East, for purposes of disguise, I shaved off; and because the skin
was whiter where the hair had grown than elsewhere, I found it
necessary after shaving to powder my face heavily. This accounts for
the description given to you of a man with a pale face. Even now the
coloring is irregular, as you may notice.
"Deciding to work anonymously, I went post haste to Lord Wrexhorough
and made certain arrangements whereby I became known to the
responsible authorities as 719. The explanation of these figures is a
simple one. My name is Greville Seton. G is the seventh letter in the
alphabet, and S the nineteenth; hence--'seven-nineteen.'
"The increase of the drug traffic and the failure of the police to
cope with it had led to the institution of a Home office inquiry, you
see. It was suspected that the traffic was in the hands of orientals,
and in looking about for a confidential agent to make certain
inquiries my name cropped up. I was at that time employed by the
Foreign office, but Lord Wrexborough borrowed me." Seton smiled at his
own expression. "Every facility was offered to me, as you know. And
that my investigations led me to the same conclusion as your own, my
presence as lessee of this room, in the person of John Smiles, seaman,
"H'm," said Kerry, "and I take it your investigations have also led
you to the conclusion that our hands are clean?"
Seton Pasha fixed his cool regard upon the speaker.
"Personally, I never doubted this, Chief Inspector," he declared. "I
believed, and I still believe, that the people who traffic in drugs
are clever enough to keep in the good books of the local police. It is
a case of clever camouflage, rather than corruption."
"Ah," snapped Kerry. "I was waiting to hear you mention it. So long as
we know. I'm not a man that stands for being pointed at. I've got a
boy at a good public school, but if ever he said he was ashamed of his
father, the day he said it would be a day he'd never forget!"
Seton Pasha smiled grimly and changed the topic.
"Let us see," he said, "if we are any nearer to the heart of the
mystery of Kazmah. You were at the Regent Street bank today, I
understand, at which the late Sir Lucien Pyne had an account?"
"I was," replied Kerry. "Next to his theatrical enterprises his chief
source of income seems to have been a certain Jose Santos Company, of
Buenos Ayres. We've traced Kazmah's account, too. But no one at the
bank has ever seen him. The missing Rashid always paid in. Checks were
signed 'Mohammed el-Kazmah,' in which name the account had been
opened. From the amount standing to his credit there it's evident that
the proceeds of the dope business went elsewhere."
"Where do you think they went?" asked Seton quietly, watching Kerry.
"Well," rapped Kerry, "I think the same as you. I've got two eyes and
I can see out of both of them."
"And you think?"
"I think they went to the Jose Santos Company, of Buenos Ayres!"
"Right!" cried Seton. "I feel sure of it. We may never know how it was
all arranged or who was concerned, but I am convinced that Mr. Isaacs,
lessee of the Cubanis Cigarette Company offices, Mr. Jacobs (my
landlord!), Mohammed el-Kazmah--whoever he may be--the untraceable
Mrs. Sin Sin Wa, and another, were all shareholders of the Jose Santos
"I'm with you. By 'another' you mean?"
"Sir Lucien! It's horrible, but I'm afraid it's true."
They became silent for a while. Kerry chewed and Seton smoked. Then:
"The significance of the fact that Sir Lucien's study window was no
more than forty paces across the leads from a well-oiled window of the
Cubanis Company will not have escaped you," said Seton. "I performed
the journey just ahead of you, I believe. Then Sir Lucien had lived in
Buenos Ayres; that was before he came into the title, and at a time, I
am told, when he was not overburdened with wealth. His man, Mareno, is
indisputably some kind of a South American, and he can give no
satisfactory account of his movements on the night of the murder.
"That we have to deal with a powerful drug syndicate there can be no
doubt. The late Sir Lucien may not have been a director, but I feel
sure he was financially interested. Kazmah's was the distributing
office, and the importer--"
"Was Sin Sin Wa!" cried Kerry, his eyes gleaming savagely. "He's as
clever and cunning as all the rest of Chinatown put together.
Somewhere not a hundred miles from this spot where we are now there's
a store of stuff big enough to dope all Europe!"
"And there's something else," said Seton quietly, knocking a cone of
grey ash from his cheroot on to the dirty floor. "Kazmah is hiding
there in all probability, if he hasn't got clear away--and Mrs. Monte
Irvin is being held a prisoner!"
"If they haven't--"
"For Irvin's sake I hope not, Chief Inspector. There are two very
curious points in the case--apart from the mystery which surrounds the
man Kazmah: the fact that Mareno, palpably an accomplice, stayed to
face the music, and the fact that Sin Sin Wa likewise has made no
effort to escape. Do you see what it means? They are covering the big
man--Kazmah. Once he and Mrs. Irvin are out of the way, we can prove
nothing against Mareno and Sin Sin Wa! And the most we could do for
Mrs. Sin would be to convict her of selling opium."
"To do even that we should have to take a witness to court," said
Kerry gloomily; "and all the satisfaction we'd get would be to see her
charged ten pounds!"
Silence fell between them again. It was that kind of sympathetic
silence which is only possible where harmony exists; and, indeed, of
all the things strange and bizarre which characterized the inquiry,
this sudden amity between Kerry and Seton Pasha was not the least
remarkable. It represented the fruit of a mutual respect.
There was something about the lean, unshaven face of Seton Pasha, and
something, too, in his bright grey eyes which, allowing for difference
of coloring, might have reminded a close observer of Kerry's fierce
countenance. The tokens of iron determination and utter indifference
to danger were perceptible in both. And although Seton was dark and
turning slightly grey, while Kerry was as red as a man well could be,
that they possessed several common traits of character was a fact
which the dissimilarity of their complexions wholly failed to conceal.
But while Seton Pasha hid the grimness of his nature beneath a sort of
humorous reserve, the dangerous side of Kerry was displayed in his
Seated there in that Limehouse attic, a smoky lamp burning on the
table between them, and one gripping the stump of a cheroot between
his teeth, while the other chewed steadily, they presented a
combination which none but a fool would have lightly challenged.
"Sin Sin Wa is cunning," said Seton suddenly. "He is a very clever
man. Watch him as closely as you like, he will never lead you to the
'store.' In the character of John Smiles I had some conversation with
him this morning, and I formed the same opinion as yourself. He is
waiting for something; and he is certain of his ground. I have a
premonition, Chief Inspector, that whoever else may fall into the net,
Sin Sin Wa will slip out. We have one big chance."
"What's that?" rapped Kerry.
"The dope syndicate can only have got control of 'the traffic' in one
way--by paying big prices and buying out competitors. If they cease to
carry on for even a week they lose their control. The people who bring
the stuff over from Japan, South America, India, Holland, and so forth
will sell somewhere else if they can't sell to Kazmah and Company.
Therefore we want to watch the ships from likely ports, or, better
still, get among the men who do the smuggling. There must be resorts
along the riverside used by people of that class. We might pick up
Kerry smiled savagely.
"I've got half a dozen good men doing every dive from Wapping to
Gravesend," he answered. "But if you think it worth looking into
personally, say the word."
"Well, my dear sir,"--Seton Pasha tossed the end of his cheroot into
the empty grate--"what else can we do?"
Kerry banged his fist on the table.
"You're right!" he snapped. "We're stuck! But anything's better than
nothing. We'll start here and now; and the first joint we'll make for
"Dougal's?" echoed Seton Pasha.
"That's it--Dougal's. A danger spot on the Isle of Dogs used by the
lowest type of sea-faring men and not barred to Arabs, Chinks, and
other gaily-colored fowl. If there's any chat going on about dope,
we'll hear it in Dougal's."
Seton Pasha stood up, smiling grimly. "Dougal's it shall be," he said.
ON THE ISLE OF DOGS
As the police beat left Limehouse Pier, a clammy south-easterly breeze
blowing up-stream lifted the fog in clearly defined layers, an effect
very singular to behold. At one moment a great arc-lamp burning above
the Lavender Pond of the Surrey Commercial Dock shot out a yellowish
light across the Thames. Then, as suddenly as it had come, the light
vanished again as a stratum of mist floated before it.
The creaking of the oars sounded muffled and ghostly, and none of the
men in the boat seemed to be inclined to converse. Heading across
stream they made for the unseen promontory of the Isle of Dogs.
Navigation was suspended, and they reached midstream without seeing a
ship's light. Then came the damp wind again to lift the fog, and ahead
of them they discerned one of the General Steam Navigation Company's
boats awaiting an opportunity to make her dock at the head of Deptford
Creek. The clamor of an ironworks on the Millwall shore burst loudly
upon their ears, and away astern the lights of the Surrey Dock shone
out once more. Hugging the bank they pursued a southerly course, and
from Limehouse Reach crept down to Greenwich Reach.
Fog closed in upon them, a curtain obscuring both light and sound.
When the breeze came again it had gathered force, and it drove the
mist before it in wreathing banks, and brought to their ears a dull
lowing and to their nostrils a farmyard odor from the cattle pens.
Ghostly flames, leaping and falling, leaping and falling, showed where
a gasworks lay on the Greenwich bank ahead.
Eastward swept the river now, and fresher blew the breeze. As they
rounded the blunt point of the "Isle" the fog banks went swirling past
them astern, and the lights on either shore showed clearly ahead. A
ship's siren began to roar somewhere behind them. The steamer which
they had passed was about to pursue her course.
Closer in-shore drew the boat, passing a series of wharves, and beyond
these a tract of waste, desolate bank very gloomy in the half light
and apparently boasting no habitation of man. The activities of the
Greenwich bank seemed remote, and the desolation of the Isle of Dogs
very near, touching them intimately with its peculiar gloom.
A light sprang into view some little distance inland, notable because
it shone lonely in an expanse of utter blackness. Kerry broke the long
"Dougal's," he said. "Put us ashore here."
The police boat was pulled in under a rickety wooden structure,
beneath which the Thames water whispered eerily; and Kerry and Seton
disembarked, mounting a short flight of slimy wooden steps and
crossing a roughly planked place on to a shingly slope. Climbing this,
they were on damp waste ground, pathless and uninviting.
"Dougal's is being watched," said Kerry. "I think I told you?"
"Yes," replied Seton. "But I have formed the opinion that the dope
gang is too clever for the ordinary type of man. Sin Sin Wa is an
instance of what I mean. Neither you nor I doubt that he is a receiver
of drugs--perhaps the receiver; but where is our case? The only real
link connecting him with the West-End habitue is his wife. And she has
conveniently deserted him! We cannot possibly prove that she hasn't
while he chooses to maintain that she has."
"H'm," grunted Kerry, abruptly changing the subject. "I hope I'm not
"Have you visited the place before?"
"Some years ago. Unless there are any old hands on view tonight, I
don't think I shall be spotted."
He wore a heavy and threadbare overcoat, which was several sizes too
large for him, a muffler, and a weed cap--the outfit supplied by Seton
Pasha; and he had a very vivid and unpleasant recollection of his
appearance as viewed in his little pocket-mirror before leaving
Seton's room. As they proceeded across the muddy wilderness towards
the light which marked the site of Dougal's, they presented a picture
of a sufficiently villainous pair.
The ground was irregular, and the path wound sinuously about mounds of
rubbish; so that often the guiding light was lost, and they stumbled
blindly among nondescript litter, which apparently represented the
accumulation of centuries. But finally they turned a corner formed by
a stack of rusty scrap iron, and found a long, low building before
them. From a ground-floor window light streamed out upon the fragments
of rubbish strewing the ground, from amid which sickly weeds uprose as
if in defiance of nature's laws. Seton paused, and:
"What is Dougal's exactly?" he asked; "a public house?"
"No," rapped Kerry. "It's a coffee-shop used by the dockers. You'll
see when we get inside. The place never closes so far as I know, and
if we made 'em close there would be a dock strike."
He crossed and pushed open the swing door. As Seton entered at his
heels, a babel of coarse voices struck upon his ears and he found
himself in a superheated atmosphere suggestive of shag, stale spirits,
and imperfectly washed humanity.
Dougal's proved to be a kind of hut of wood and corrugated iron, not
unlike an army canteen. There were two counters, one at either end,
and two large American stoves. Oil lamps hung from the beams, and the
furniture was made up of trestle tables, rough wooden chairs, and
empty barrels. Coarse, thick curtains covered all the windows but one.
The counter further from the entrance was laden with articles of food,
such as pies, tins of bully-beef, and "saveloys," while the other was
devoted to liquid refreshment in the form of ginger-beer and cider (or
so the casks were conspicuously labelled), tea, coffee, and cocoa.
The place was uncomfortably crowded; the patrons congregating more
especially around the two stoves. There were men who looked like dock
laborers, seamen, and riverside loafers; lascars, Chinese, Arabs, and
dagoes; and at the "solid" counter there presided a red-armed, brawny
woman, fierce of mien and ready of tongue, while a huge Irishman,
possessing a broken nose and deficient teeth, ruled the "liquid"
department with a rod of iron and a flow of language which shocked
even Kerry. This formidable ruffian, a retired warrior of the ring,
was Dougal, said to be the strongest man from Tower Hill to the River
As they entered, several of the patrons glanced at them curiously, but
no one seemed to be particularly interested. Kerry wore his cap pulled
well down over his fierce eyes, and had the collar of his topcoat
He looked about him, as if expecting to recognize someone; and as they
made their way to Dougal's counter, a big fellow dressed in the manner
of a dock laborer stepped up to the Chief Inspector and clapped him on
"Have one with me, Mike," he said, winking. "The coffee's good."
Kerry bent towards him swiftly, and:
"Anybody here, Jervis?" he whispered.
"George Martin is at the bar. I've had the tip that he 'traffics.'
You'll remember he figured in my last report, sir."
Kerry nodded, and the trio elbowed their way to the counter. The
pseudo-dock hand was a detective attached to Leman Street, and one who
knew the night birds of East End London as few men outside their own
circles knew them.
"Three coffees, Pat," he cried, leaning across the shoulder of a
heavy, red-headed fellow who lolled against the counter. "And two
lumps of sugar in each."
"To hell wid yer sugar!" roared Dougal, grasping three cups deftly in
one hairy hand and filling them from a steaming urn. "There's no more
"Not any brown sugar?" asked the customer.
"Yez can have one tayspoon of brown, and no more tonight," cried
He stooped rapidly below the counter, then pushed the three cups of
coffee towards the detective. The latter tossed a shilling down, at
which Dougal glared ferociously.
"'Twas wid sugar ye said!" he roared.
A second shilling followed. Dougal swept both coins into a drawer and
turned to another customer, who was also clamoring for coffee.
Securing their cups with difficulty, for the red-headed man surlily
refused to budge, they retired to a comparatively quiet spot, and
Seton tasted the hot beverage.
"H'm," he said. "Rum! Good rum, too!"
"It's a nice position for me," snapped Kerry. "I don't think I would
remind you that there's a police station actually on this blessed
island. If there was a dive like Dougal's anywhere West it would be
raided as a matter of course. But to shut Dougal's would be to raise
hell. There are two laws in England, sir; one for Piccadilly and the
other for the Isle of Dogs!" He sipped his coffee with appreciation.
Jervis looked about him cautiously, and:
"That's George--the red-headed hooligan against the counter," he said.
"He's been liquoring up pretty freely, and I shouldn't be surprised to
find that he's got a job on tonight. He has a skiff beached below
here, and I think he's waiting for the tide."
"Good!" rapped Kerry. "Where can we find a boat?"
"Well," Jervis smiled. "There are several lying there if you didn't
come in an R.P. boat."
"We did. But I'll dismiss it. We want a small boat."
"Very good, sir. We shall have to pinch one!"
"That doesn't matter," declared Kerry glancing at Seton with a sudden
twinkle discernible in his steely eyes. "What do you say, sir?"
"I agree with you entirely," replied Seton quietly. "We must find a
boat, and lie off somewhere to watch for George. He should be worth
"We'll be moving, then," said the Leman Street detective. "It will be
high tide in an hour."
They finished their coffee as quickly as possible; the stuff was not
far below boiling-point. Then Jervis returned the cups to the counter.
"Good night, Pat!" he cried, and rejoined Seton and Kerry.
As they came out into the desolation of the scrap heaps, the last
traces of fog had disappeared and a steady breeze came up the river,
fresh and salty from the Nore. Jervis led them in a north-easterly
direction, threading a way through pyramids of rubbish, until with the
wind in their teeth they came out upon the river bank at a point where
the shore shelved steeply downwards. A number of boats lay on the
"We're pretty well opposite Greenwich Marshes," said Jervis. "You can
just see one of the big gasometers. The end boat is George's."
"Have you searched it?" rapped Kerry, placing a fresh piece of
chewing-gum between his teeth.
"I have, sir. Oh, he's too wise for that!"
"I propose," said Seton briskly, "that we borrow one of the other
boats and pull down stream to where that short pier juts out. We can
hide behind it and watch for our man. I take it he'll be bound up-
stream, and the tide will help us to follow him quietly."
"Right," said Kerry. "We'll take the small dinghy. It's big enough."
He turned to Jervis.
"Nip across to the wooden stairs," he directed, "and tell Inspector
White to stand by, but to keep out of sight. If we've started before
you return, go back and join him."
"Very good, sir."
Jervis turned and disappeared into the mazes of rubbish, as Seton and
Kerry grasped the boat and ran it down into the rising tide. Kerry
boarding, Seton thrust it out into the river and climbed in over the
"Phew! The current drags like a tow-boat!" said Kerry.
They were being drawn rapidly up-stream. But as Kerry seized the oars
and began to pull steadily, this progress was checked. He could make
little actual headway, however.
"The tide races round this bend like fury," he said. "Bear on the
Seton thereupon came to Kerry's assistance, and gradually the dinghy
crept upon its course, until, below the little pier, they found a
sheltered spot, where it was possible to run in and lie hidden. As
they won this haven:
"Quiet!" said Seton. "Don't move the oars. Look! We were only just in
Immediately above them, where the boats were beached, a man was coming
down the slope, carrying a hurricane lantern. As Kerry and Seton
watched, the man raised the lantern and swung it to and fro.
"Watch!" whispered Seton. "He's signalling to the Greenwich bank!"
Kerry's teeth snapped savagely together, and he chewed but made no
"There it is!" he said rapidly. "on the marshes!"
A speck of light in the darkness it showed, a distant moving lantern
on the curtain of the night. Although few would have credited Kerry
with the virtue, he was a man of cultured imagination, and it seemed
to him, as it seemed to Seton Pasha, that the dim light symbolized the
life of the missing woman, of the woman who hovered between the gay
world from which tragically she had vanished and some Chinese hell
upon whose brink she hovered. Neither of the watchers was thinking of
the crime and the criminal, of Sir Lucien Pyne or Kazmah, but of Mrs.
Monte Irvin, mysterious victim of a mysterious tragedy. "Oh, Dan! ye
must find her! ye must find her! Puir weak hairt--dinna ye ken how she
is suffering!" Clairvoyantly, to Kerry's ears was borne an echo of his
"The traffic!" he whispered. "If we lose George Martin tonight we
deserve to lose the case!"
"I agree, Chief Inspector," said Seton quietly.
The grating sound made by a boat thrust out from a shingle beach came
to their ears above the whispering of the tide. A ghostly figure in
the dim light, George Martin clambered into his craft and took to the
"If he's for the Greenwich bank," said Seton grimly, "he has a stiff
But for the Greenwich bank the boat was headed; and pulling mightily
against the current, the man struck out into mid-stream. They watched
him for some time, silently, noting how he fought against the tide,
sturdily heading for the point at which the signal had shown. Then:
"What do you suggest?" asked Seton. "He may follow the Surrey bank up-
"I suggest," said Kerry, "that we drift. Once in Limehouse Reach we'll
hear him. There are no pleasure parties punting about that stretch."
"Let us pull out, then. I propose that we wait for him at some
convenient point between the West India Dock and Limehouse Basin."
"Good," rapped Kerry, thrusting the boat out into the fierce current.
"You may have spent a long time in the East, sir, but you're fairly
wise on the geography of the lower Thames.
Gripped in the strongly running tide they were borne smoothly up-
stream, using the oars merely for the purpose of steering. The gloomy
mystery of the London river claimed them and imposed silence upon
them, until familiar landmarks told of the northern bend of the
Thames, and the light above the Lavender Pond shone out upon the
unctuously moving water.
Each pulling a scull they headed in for the left bank.
"There's a wharf ahead," said Seton, looking back over his shoulder.
"If we put in beside it we can wait there unobserved."
"Good enough," said Kerry.
They bent to the oars, stealing stroke by stroke out of the grip of
the tide, and presently came to a tiny pool above the wharf structure,
where it was possible to lie undisturbed by the eager current.
Those limitations which are common to all humanity and that guile
which is peculiar to the Chinese veiled the fact from their ken that
the deserted wharf, in whose shelter they lay, was at once the roof
and the gateway of Sin Sin Wa's receiving office!
As the boat drew in to the bank, a Chinese boy who was standing on the
wharf retired into the shadows. From a spot visible down-stream but
invisible to the men in the boat, he signalled constantly with a
Three men from New Scotland Yard were watching the house of Sin Sin
Wa, and Sin Sin Wa had given no sign of animation since, some hours
earlier, he had extinguished his bedroom light. Yet George, drifting
noiselessly up-stream, received a signal to the effect "police" while
Seton Pasha and Chief Inspector Kerry lay below the biggest dope cache
in London. Seton sometimes swore under his breath. Kerry chewed
incessantly. But George never came.
At that eerie hour of the night when all things living, from the
lowest to the highest, nor excepting Mother Earth herself, grow
chilled, when all Nature's perishable handiwork feels the touch of
death--a wild, sudden cry rang out, a wailing, sorrowful cry, that
seemed to come from nowhere, from everywhere, from the bank, from the
stream; that rose and fell and died sobbing into the hushed whisper of
Seton's hand fastened like a vise on to Kerry's shoulder, and:
"Merciful God!" he whispered; "what was it? Who was it?"
"If it wasn't a spirit it was a woman," replied Kerry hoarsely; "and a
woman very near to her end."
"Kerry!"--Seton Pasha had dropped all formality--"Kerry--if it calls
for all the men that Scotland Yard can muster, we must search every
building, down to the smallest rathole in the floor, on this bank--and
do it by dawn!"
"We'll do it," rapped Kerry.
THE EYE OF SIN SIN WA
Detective-Sergeant Coombes and three assistants watched the house of
Sin Sin Wa, and any one of the three would have been prepared to swear
"on the Book" that Sin Sin Wa was sleeping. But he who watches a
Chinaman watches an illusionist. He must approach his task in the
spirit of a psychical inquirer who seeks to trap a bogus medium. The
great Robert Houdin, one of the master wizards of modern times,
quitted Petrograd by two gates at the same hour according to credible
witnesses; but his performance sinks into insignificance beside that
of a Chinese predecessor who flourished under one of the Ming
emperors. The palace of this potentate was approached by gates, each
having twelve locks, and each being watched by twelve guards.
Nevertheless a distinguished member of the wizard family not only
gained access to the imperial presence but also departed again unseen
by any of the guards, and leaving all the gates locked behind him! If
Detective-Sergeant Coombes had known this story he might not have
experienced such complete confidence.
That door of Sin Sin Wa's establishment which gave upon a little
backyard was oiled both lock and hinge so that it opened noiselessly.
Like a shadow, like a ghost, Sin Sin Wa crept forth, closing the door
behind him. He carried a sort of canvas kit-bag, so that one observing
him might have concluded that he was "moving."
Resting his bag against the end wall, he climbed up by means of holes
in the neglected brickwork until he could peer over the top. A faint
smell of tobacco smoke greeted him: a detective was standing in the
lane below. Soundlessly, Sin Sin Wa descended again. Raising his bag
he lifted it lovingly until it rested upright upon the top of the wall
and against the side of the house. The night was dark and still. Only
a confused beating sound on the Surrey bank rose above the murmur of
From the rubbish amid which he stood, Sin Sin Wa selected a piece of
rusty barrel-hoop. Cautiously he mounted upon a wooden structure built
against the end wall and raised himself upright, surveying the
prospect. Then he hurled the fragment of iron far along the lane, so
that it bounded upon a strip of corrugated roofing in a yard twice
removed from his own, and fell clattering among a neighbor's rubbish.
A short exclamation came from the detective in the lane. He could be
heard walking swiftly away in the direction of the disturbance. And
ere he had gone six paces, Sin Sin Wa was bending like an inverted U
over the wall and was lowering his precious bag to the ground. Like a
cat he sprang across and dropped noiselessly beside it.
"Hello! Who's there?" cried the detective, standing by the wall of the
house which Sin Sin Wa had selected as a target.
Sin Sin Wa, bag in hand, trotted, soft of foot, across the lane and
into the shadow of the dock-building. By the time that the C.I.D. man
had decided to climb up and investigate the mysterious noise, Sin Sin
Wa was on the other side of the canal and rapping gently upon the door
of Sam Tuk's hairdressing establishment.
The door was opened so quickly as to suggest that someone had been
posted there for the purpose. Sin Sin Wa entered and the door was
"Light, Ah Fung," he said in Chinese. "What news?"
The boy who had admitted him took a lamp from under a sort of rough
counter and turned to Sin Sin Wa.
"George came with the boat, master, but I signalled to him that the
red policeman and the agent who has hired the end room were watching."
"They are gone?"
"They gather men at the head depot and are searching house from house.
She who sleeps below awoke and cried out. They heard her cry."
"He waits, master. He will wait long if the gain is great."
Sin Sin Wa shuffled across to the cellar stairs, followed by Ah Fung
with the lamp. He descended, and, brushing away the carefully spread
coal dust, inserted the piece of bent wire into the crevice and raised
the secret trap. Bearing his bag upon his shoulder he went down into
"Reclose the door, Ah Fung," he said softly; "and be watchful."
As the boy replaced the stone trap, Sin Sin Wa struck a match. Then,
having the lighted match held in one hand and carrying the bag in the
other, he crept along the low passage to the door of the cache.
Dropping the smouldering match-end, he opened the door and entered
that secret warehouse for which so many people were seeking.
Seated in a cane chair by the oil-stove was the shrivelled figure of
Sam Tuk, his bald head lolling sideways so that his big horn-rimmed
spectacles resembled a figure 8. On the counter was set a ship's
lantern. As Sin Sin Wa came in Sam Tuk slowly raised his head.
No greetings were exchanged, but Sin Sin Wa untied the neck of his
kit-bag and drew out a large wicker cage. Thereupon: "Hello! hello!"
remarked the occupant drowsily. "Number one p'lice chop lo! Sin Sin
Wa--Sin Sin. . . ."
"Come, my Tling-a-Ling," crooned Sin Sin Wa.
He opened the front of the cage and out stepped the raven onto his
wrist. Sin Sin Wa raised his arm and Tling-a-Ling settled himself
contentedly upon his master's shoulder.
Placing the empty cage on the counter. Sin Sin Wa plunged his hand
down into the bag and drew out the gleaming wooden joss. This he set
beside the cage. With never a glance at the mummy figure of Sam Tuk,
he walked around the counter, raven on shoulder, and grasping the end
of the laden shelves, he pulled the last section smoothly to the left,
showing that it was attached to a sliding door. The establishments of
Sin Sin Wa were as full of surprises as a Sicilian trinketbox.
The double purpose of the timbering which had been added to this old
storage vault was now revealed. It not only served to enlarge the
store-room, but also shut off from view a second portion of the
cellar, smaller than the first, and containing appointments which
indicated that it was sometimes inhabited.
There was an oil-stove in the room, which, like that adjoining it, was
evidently unprovided with any proper means of ventilation. A paper-
shaded lamp hung from the low roof. The floor was covered with
matting, and there were arm-chairs, a divan and other items of
furniture, which had been removed from Mrs. Sin's sanctum in the
dismantled House of a Hundred Raptures. In a recess a bed was placed,
and as Sin Sin Wa came in Mrs. Sin was standing by the bed looking
down at a woman who lay there.
Mrs. Sin wore her kimona of embroidered green silk and made a striking
picture in that sordid setting. Her black hair she had dyed a
fashionable shade of red. She glanced rapidly across her shoulder at
Sin Sin Wa--a glance of contempt with which was mingled faint
"So," she said, in Chinese, "you have come at last." Sin Sin Wa
smiled. "They watched the old fox," he replied. "But their eyes were
as the eyes of the mole."
Still aside, contemptuously, the woman regarded him, and:
"Suppose they are keener than you think?" she said. "Are you sure you
have not led them--here?"
"The snail may not pursue the hawk," murmured Sin Sin Wa; "nor the eye
of the bat follow his flight."
"Smartest leg," remarked the raven.
"Yes, yes, my little friend," crooned Sin Sin Wa, "very soon now you
shall see the paddy-fields of Ho-Nan and watch the great Yellow River
sweeping eastward to the sea."
"Pah!" said Mrs. Sin. "Much--very much--you care about the paddy-
fields of Ho-Nan, and little, oh, very little, about the dollars and
the traffic! You have my papers?"
"All are complete. With those dollars for which I care not, a man
might buy the world--if he had but enough of the dollars. You are well
known in Poplar as 'Mrs. Jacobs,' and your identity is easily
established--as 'Mrs. Jacobs.' You join the Mahratta at the Albert
Dock. I have bought you a post as stewardess."
Mrs. Sin tossed her head. "And Juan?"
"What can they prove against your Juan if you are missing?"
Mrs. Sin nodded towards the bed.
With slow and shuffling steps Sin Sin Wa approached. He continued to
smile, but his glittering eye held even less of mirth than usual.
Tucking his hands into his sleeves, he stood and looked down--at Rita
Her face had acquired a waxen quality, but some of her delicate
coloring still lingered, lending her a ghastly and mask-like aspect.
Her nostrils and lips were blanched, however, and possessed a
curiously pinched appearance. It was impossible to detect the fact
that she breathed, and her long lashes lay motionless upon her cheeks.
Sin Sin Wa studied her silently for some time, then:
"Yes," he murmured, "she is beautiful. But women are like adder's
eggs. He is a fool who warms them in his bosom." He turned his slow
regard upon Mrs. Sin. "You have stained your hair to look even as
hers. It was discreet, my wife. But one is beautiful and many-shadowed
like a copper vase, and the other is like a winter sunset on the
poppy-fields. You remind me of the angry red policeman, and I
"Tremble as much as you like," said Mrs. Sin scornfully, "but do
something, think; don't leave everything to me. She screamed tonight--
and someone heard her. They are searching the river bank from door to
"Lo!" murmured Sin Sin Wa, "even this I had learned, nor failed to
heed the beating of a distant drum. And why did she scream?"
"I was--keeping her asleep; and the prick of the needle woke her."
"Tchee, tchee," crooned Sin Sin Wa, his voice sinking lower and lower
and his eye nearly closing. "But still she lives--and is beautiful."
"Beautiful!" mocked Mrs. Sin. "A doll-woman, bloodless and nerveless!"
"So--so. Yet she, so bloodless and nerveless, unmasked the secret of
Kazmah, and she, so bloodless and nerveless, struck down--"
Mrs. Sin ground her teeth together audibly.
"Yes, yes!" she said in sibilant Chinese. "She is a robber, a thief, a
murderess." She bent over the unconscious woman, her jewel-laden
fingers crooked and menacing. "With my bare hands I would strangle
"There must be no marks of violence when she is found in the river.
Tchee, chee--it is a pity."
"Number one p'lice chop, lo!" croaked the raven, following this remark
with the police-whistle imitation.
Mrs. Sin turned and stared fiercely at the one-eyed bird.
"Why do you bring that evil, croaking thing here?" she demanded. "Have
we not enough risks?"
Sin Sin Wa smiled patiently.
"Too many," he murmured. "For failure is nothing but the taking of
seven risks when six were enough. Come--let us settle our affairs. The
'Jacobs' account is closed, but it is only a question of hours or days
before the police learn that the wharf as well as the house belongs to
someone of that name. We have drawn our last dollar from the traffic,
my wife. Our stock we are resigned to lose. So let us settle our
"Smartest--smartest," croaked Tling-a-Ling, and rattled ghostly
ABOVE AND BELOW
"Thank the guid God I see ye alive, Dan," said Mary Kerry.
Having her husband's dressing-gown over her night attire, and her
usually neat hair in great disorder, she stood just within the doorway
of the little dining-room at Spenser Road, her face haggard and the
fey light in her eyes. Kerry, seated in the armchair dressed as he had
come in from the street, a parody of his neat self with mud on his
shoes and streaks of green slime on his overall, raised his face from
his hands and stared at her wearily.
"I awakened wi' a cry at some hour afore the dawn," she whispered
stretching out her hands and looking like a wild-eyed prophetess of
old. "My hairt beat sair fast and then grew caud. I droppit on my
knees and prayed as I ha' ne'er prayed afore. Dan, Dan, I thought ye
were gene from me."
"I nearly was," said Kerry, a faint spark of his old truculency
lighting up the weary eyes. "The man from Whitehall only missed me by
"'Twas the miracle o' prayer, Dan," declared his wife in a low, awe-
stricken voice. "For as I prayed, a great comfort came to me an' a
great peace. The second sight was wi' me, Dan, and I saw, no' yersel'
--whereby I seemed to ken that ye were safe--but a puir dying soul
stretched on a bed o' sorrow. At the fuit o' the bed was standing a
fearsome figure o' a man--yellow and wicked, wi' his hands tuckit in
his sleeves. I thought 'twas a veesion that was opening up tee me and
that a' was about to be made clear, when as though a curtain had been
droppit before my een, it went awe' an' I kenned it nae more; but
plain--plain, I heerd the howling o' a dog."
Kerry started and clutched the arms of the chair.
"A dog!" he said. "A dog!"
"The howling o' a sma' dog," declared his wife; "and I thought 'twas a
portent, an' the great fear came o'er me again. But as I prayed 'twas
unfolder to me that the portent was no' for yersel' but for her--the
puir weak hairt ye ha' tee save."
She ceased speaking and the strange fey light left her eyes. She
dropped upon her knees beside Kerry, bending her head and throwing her
arms about him. He glanced down at her tenderly and laid his hands
upon her shoulders; but he was preoccupied, and the next moment, his
jaws moving mechanically, he was staring straight before him.
"A dog," he muttered, "a dog!"
Mary Kerry did not move; until, a light of understanding coming into
Kerry's fierce eyes, he slowly raised her and stood upright himself.
"I have it!" he said. "Mary, the case is won! Twenty men have spent
the night and early morning beating the river bank so that the very
rats have been driven from their holes. Twenty men have failed where a
dog would have succeeded. Mary, I must be off."
"Ye're no goin' out again, Dan. Ye're weary tee death."
"I must, my dear, and it's you who send me."
"But, Dan, where are ye goin'?"
Kerry grabbed his hat and cane from the sideboard upon which they lay,
"I'm going for the dog!" he rapped.
Weary as he was and travel-stained, for once neglectful of that
neatness upon which he prided himself, he set out, hope reborn in his
heart. His assertion that the very rats had been driven from their
holes was scarce an exaggeration. A search-party of twenty men,
hastily mustered and conducted by Kerry and Seton Pasha, had explored
every house, every shop, every wharf, and, as Kerry believed, every
cellar adjoining the bank, between Limehouse Basin and the dock gates.
Where access had been denied them or where no one had resided they had
never hesitated to force an entrance. But no trace had they found of
those whom they sought.
For the first time within Kerry's memory, or, indeed, within the
memory of any member of the Criminal Investigation Department,
Detective-Sergeant Coombes had ceased to smile when the appalling
truth was revealed to him that Sin Sin Wa had vanished--that Sin Sin
Wa had mysteriously joined that invisible company which included
Kazmah, Mrs. Sin and Mrs. Monte Irvin. Not a word of reprimand did the
Chief Inspector utter, but his eyes seemed to emit sparks. Hands
plunged deeply in his pockets he had turned away, and not even Seton
Pasha had dared to speak to him for fully five minutes.
Kerry began to regard the one-eyed Chinaman with a superstitious fear
which he strove in vain to stifle. That any man could have succeeded
in converting a chandu-khan such as that described by Mollie Gretna
into a filthy deserted dwelling such as that visited by Kerry, within
the space of some thirty-six hours, was well nigh incredible. But the
Chief Inspector had deduced (correctly) that the exotic appointments
depicted by Mollie were all of a detachable nature--merely masking the
filthiness beneath; so that at the shortest notice the House of a
Hundred Raptures could be dismantled. The communicating door was a
larger proposition, but that it was one within the compass of Sin Sin
Wa its effectual disappearance sufficiently demonstrated.
Doubtless (Kerry mused savagely) the appointments of the opium-house
had been smuggled into that magically hidden cache which now concealed
the conjurer Sin Sin Wa as well as the other members of the Kazmah
company. How any man of flesh and blood could have escaped from a
six-roomed house surrounded by detectives surpassed Kerry's powers of
imagination. How any apartment large enough to contain a mouse, much
less half a dozen human beings, could exist anywhere within the area
covered by the search-party he failed to understand, nor was he
prepared to admit it humanly possible.
Kerry chartered a taxicab by Brixton Town Hall and directed the man to
drive to Princes Gate. To the curious glances of certain of his
neighbors who had never before seen the Chief Inspector otherwise than
a model of cleanliness and spruceness he was indifferent. But the
manner in which the taxi-driver looked him up and down penetrated
through the veil of abstraction which hitherto had rendered Kerry
impervious to all external impressions, and:
"Give me another look like that, my lad," he snapped furiously, "and
I'll bash your head through your blasted wind-screen."
A ready retort trembled upon the cabman's tongue, but a glance into
the savage blue eyes reduced him to fearful silence. Kerry entered the
cab and banged the door; and the man drove off positively trembling
Deep in reflection the Chief Inspector was driven westward through the
early morning traffic. Fine rain was falling, and the streets
presented that curiously drab appearance which only London streets can
present in all its dreary perfection. Workers bound Cityward fought
for places inside trams and buses. A hundred human comedies and
tragedies were to be witnessed upon the highways; but to all of them
Kerry was blind as he was deaf to the din of workaday Babylon. In
spirit he was roaming the bank of old Father Thames where the river
sweeps eastward below Limehouse Causeway--wonder-stricken before the
magic of the one-eyed wizard who could at will efface himself as an
artist rubs out a drawing, who could camouflage a drug warehouse so
successfully that human skill, however closely addressed to the task,
failed utterly to detect its whereabouts. Above the discord of the
busy streets he heard again and again that cry in the night which had
come from a hapless prisoner whom they were powerless to succor. He
beat his cane upon the floor of the cab and swore savagely and loudly.
The intimidated cabman, believing these demonstrations designed to
urge him to a greater speed, performed feats of driving calculated to
jeopardize his license. But still the savage passenger stamped and
cursed, so that the cabby began to believe that a madman was seated
At the corner of Kennington Oval Kerry was effectually aroused to the
realities. A little runabout car passed his cab, coming from a
southerly direction. Proceeding at a rapid speed it was lost in the
traffic ahead. Unconsciously Kerry had glanced at the occupants and
had recognized Margaret Halley and Seton Pasha. The old spirit of
rivalry between himself and the man from Whitehall leapt up hotly
within Kerry's breast.
"Now where the hell has he been!" he muttered.
As a matter of fact, Seton Pasha, acting upon a suggestion of
Margaret's had been to Brixton Prison to interview Juan Mareno who lay
there under arrest. Contents bills announcing this arrest as the
latest public development in the Bond Street murder case were to be
seen upon every newstand; yet the problem of that which had brought
Seton to the south of London was one with which Kerry grappled in
vain. He had parted from the Home office agent in the early hours of
the morning, and their parting had been one of mutual despair which
neither had sought to disguise.
It was a coincidence which a student of human nature might have
regarded as significant, that whereas Kerry had taken his troubles
home to his wife, Seton Pasha had sought inspiration from Margaret
Halley; and whereas the guidance of Mary Kerry had led the Chief
Inspector to hurry in quest of Rita Irvin's spaniel, the result of
Seton's interview with Margaret had been an equally hurried journey to
the big jail.
Unhappily Seton had failed to elicit the slightest information from
the saturnine Mareno. Unmoved alike by promises or threats, he had
coolly adhered to his original evidence.
So, while the authorities worked feverishly and all England reading of
the arrest of Mareno inquired indignantly, "But who is Kazmah, and
where is Mrs. Monte Irvin?" Sin Sin Wa placidly pursued his
arrangements for immediate departure to the paddyfields of Ho-Nan, and
sometimes in the weird crooning voice with which he addressed the
raven he would sing a monotonous chant dealing with the valley of the
Yellow River where the opium-poppy grows. Hidden in the cunning vault,
the search had passed above him; and watchful on a quay on the Surrey
shore whereto his dinghy was fastened, George Martin awaited the
signal which should tell him that Kazmah and Company were ready to
leave. Any time after dark he expected to see the waving lantern and
to collect his last payment from the traffic.
At the very hour that Kerry was hastening to Princes Gate, Sin Sin Wa
sat before the stove in the drug cache, the green-eyed joss upon his
knee. With a fragment of chamois leather he lovingly polished the
leering idol, crooning softly to himself and smiling his mirthless
smile. Perched upon his shoulder the raven studied this operation with
apparent interest, his solitary eye glittering bead-like. Upon the
opposite side of the stove sat the ancient Sam Tuk and at intervals of
five minutes or more he would slowly nod his hairless head.
The sliding door which concealed the inner room was partly open, and
from the opening there shone forth a dim red light, cast by the paper-
shaded lamp which illuminated the place. The coarse voice of the
Cuban-Jewess rose and fell in a ceaseless half-muttered soliloquy,
indescribably unpleasant but to which Sin Sin Wa was evidently
Propped up amid cushions on the divan which once had formed part of
the furniture of the House of a Hundred Raptures, Mrs. Sin was smoking
opium. The long bamboo pipe had fallen from her listless fingers, and
her dark eyes were partly glazed. Buddha-like immobility was claiming
her, but it had not yet effaced that expression of murderous malice
with which the smoker contemplated the unconscious woman who lay upon
the bed at the other end of the room.
As the moments passed the eyes of Mrs. Sin grew more and more glazed.
Her harsh voice became softened, and presently: "Ah!" she whispered;
"so you wait to smoke with me?"
Immobile she sat propped up amid the cushions, and only her full lips
"Two pipes are nothing to Cy," she murmured. "He smokes five. But you
are not going to smoke?"
Again she paused, then:
"Ah, my Lucy. You smoke with me?" she whispered coaxingly.
Chandu had opened the poppy gates. Mrs. Sin was conversing with her
"Something has changed you," she sighed. "You are different--lately.
You have lots of money now. Your investments have been good. You want
to become--respectable, eh?"
Slightly--ever so slightly--the red lips curled upwards. No sound of
life came from the woman lying white and still in the bed. But through
the partly open door crept snatches of Sin Sin Wa's crooning melody.
"Yet once," she murmured, "yet once I seemed beautiful to you, Lucy.
For La Belle Lola you forgot that English pride." She laughed softly.
"You forgot Sin Sin Wa. If there had been no Lola you would never have
escaped from Buenos Ayres with your life, my Lucy. You forgot that
English pride, and did not ask me where I got them from--the ten
thousand dollars to buy your 'honor' back."
She became silent, as if listening to the dead man's reply. Finally:
"No--I do not reproach you, my dear," she whispered. "You have paid me
back a thousand fold, and Sin Sin Wa, the old fox, grows rich and fat.
Today we hold the traffic in our hands, Lucy. The old fox cares only
for his money. Before it is too late let us go--you and I. Do you
remember Havana, and the two months of heaven we spent there? Oh, let
us go back to Havana, Lucy. Kazmah has made us rich. Let Kazmah
die. . . . You smoke with me?"
Again she became silent, then:
"Very likely," she murmured; "very likely I know why you don't smoke.
You have promised your pretty little friend that you will stay awake
and see that nobody tries to cut her sweet white throat."
She paused momentarily, then muttered something rapidly in Spanish,
followed by a short, guttural phrase in Chinese.
"Why do you bring her to the house?" she whispered hoarsely. "And you
brought her to Kazmah's. Ah! I see. Now everybody says you are
changed. Yes. She is a charming friend."
The Buddha-like face became suddenly contorted, and as suddenly grew
"I know! I know!" Mrs. Sin muttered harshly. "Do you think I am blind!
If she had been like any of the others, do you suppose it would have
mattered to me? But you respect her--you respect. . . ." Her voice
died away to an almost inaudible whisper: "I don't believe you. You
are telling me lies. But you have always told me lies; one more does
not matter, I suppose. . . . How strong you are. You have hurt my
wrists. You will smoke with me now?"
She ceased speaking abruptly, and abruptly resumed again:
"And I do as you wish--I do as you wish. How can I keep her from it
except by making the price so high that she cannot afford to buy it? I
tell you I do it. I bargain for the pink and white boy, Quentin,
because I want her to be indebted to him--because I want her to be so
sorry for him that she lets him take her away from you! Why should you
Silence fell upon the drugged speaker. Sin Sin Wa could be heard
crooning softly about the Yellow River and the mountain gods who sent
it sweeping down through the valleys where the opium-poppy grows.
"Go, Juan," hissed Mrs. Sin. "I say--go!"
Her voice changed eerily to a deep, mocking bass; and Rita Irvin
lying, a pallid wraith of her once lovely self, upon the untidy bed,
stirred slightly--her lashes quivering. Her eyes opened and stared
straightly upward at the low, dirty ceiling, horror growing in their
BEYOND THE VEIL
Rita Irvin's awakening was no awakening in the usually accepted sense
of the word; it did not even represent a lifting of the veil which cut
her off from the world, but no more than a momentary perception of the
existence of such a veil and of the existence of something behind it.
Upon the veil, in grey smoke, the name "Kazmah" was written in moving
characters. Beyond the veil, dimly divined, was life.
As of old the victims of the Inquisition, waking or dreaming, beheld
ever before them the instrument of their torture, so before this
woman's racked and half-numbed mind panoramically passed, an endless
pageant, the incidents of the night which had cut her off from living
men and women. She tottered on the border-line which divides sanity
from madness. She was learning what Sir Lucien had meant when, once,
long long ago, in some remote time when she was young and happy and
had belonged to a living world, he had said "a day is sure to come."
It had come, that "day." It had dawned when she had torn the veil
before Kazmah--and that veil had enveloped her ever since. All that
had preceded the fatal act was blotted out, blurred and indistinct;
all that had succeeded it lived eternally, passing, an endless
pageant, before her tortured mind.
The horror of the moment when she had touched the hands of the man
seated in the big ebony chair was of such kind that no subsequent
terrors had supplanted it. For those long, slim hands of the color of
old ivory were cold, rigid, lifeless--the hands of a corpse! Thus the
pageant began, and it continued as hereafter, memory and delusion
taking the stage in turn.
* * * * *
Complete darkness came.
Rita uttered a wild cry of horror and loathing, shrinking back from
the thing which sat in the ebony chair. She felt that consciousness
Back to Full Books