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Chapter 19

  • Meanwhile the doctor, upon returning to his office, found Ah Cum in th_aiting room. "Why, hello, Ah Cum! What's the trouble?"
  • Ah Cum took his hands from his sleeves. "I should like to know where Mr.
  • Spurlock has gone."
  • "Did he owe you money?"
  • "Oh, no!"
  • "Then why do you wish to know?"
  • Ah Cum pondered. "I have a client who is very much interested in Mr. Spurlock.
  • He was here shortly after the young man was taken ill."
  • "Ah. What was this man?"
  • "A detective from the States."
  • "Why didn't he arrest Mr. Spurlock then?"
  • "I imagine that Mr. O'Higgins is rather a kindly man. He couldn't have take_r. Spurlock back to Hong-Kong with him, so he considered it would be needles_o give an additional shock. He asked me to watch Mr. Spurlock's movements an_eport progress. He admitted that it would bore him to dally here in Canton, with the pleasures of Hong-Kong so close."
  • The doctor caught the irony, and he warmed a little. "I'm afraid I mus_ecline to tell you. Do you know what Spurlock has done?"
  • "Mr. O'Higgins did not confide in me. But he told me this much, that no matte_ow far Mr. Spurlock went, it would not be far enough."
  • A detective. The doctor paced the room half a dozen times. How easily an evi_hought could penetrate a normally decent mind! All he had to do was t_isclose Spurlock's destination, and in a few months Ruth would be free. Fo_t was but logical that she would seek a divorce on the ground that she ha_nknowingly married a fugitive from justice. McClintock would be on hand t_ell her how and where to obtain this freedom. He stopped abruptly before th_pparently incurious Chinaman.
  • "Your detective has been remiss in his duty; let him suffer for it."
  • "Personally, I am neutral," said Ah Cum. "I wish merely to come out of thi_argain honourably. It would make the young wife unhappy."
  • "Very."
  • "There was a yacht in the river?"
  • "I have nothing to say."
  • "By the name of _The Tigress_?"
  • The doctor smiled, but shook his head. He sent a speculative glance at th_mmobile yellow face. Was Ah Cum offering him an opportunity to warn Spurlock?
  • But should he warn the boy? Why not let him imagine himself secure? Th_hunderbolt would be launched soon enough.
  • "I haven't a word to say, Ah Cum, not a word."
  • "Then I wish you good night."
  • Ah Cum went directly to the telegraph office, and his message was devote_articularly to a description of _The Tigress_. Spurlock had been taken aboar_hat yacht with the Kanaka crew, because _The Tigress_ was the only shi_arked for departure that night. Ah Cum was not a sailor, but he knew hi_ater-front. One of his chair coolies had witnessed the transportation o_purlock by stretcher to the sampan in the canal. There were three other ship_t anchor; but as two would be making Shanghai and one rounding to Singapor_wo days hence, it was logically certain that no fugitive would seek haven i_ne of these.
  • But whither _The Tigress_ was bound or who the owner was lay beyond the reac_f Ah Cum's deductions. He did not particularly care. It was enough tha_purlock had been taken aboard _The Tigress_.
  • He wisely refrained from questioning the manager of the Victoria. He feared t_ntagonize that distinguished person. The Victoria was Ah Cum's bread an_utter.
  • The telegram dispatched, his obligation cancelled, Ah Cum proceeded homeward, chuckling occasionally. The Yale spirit!
  • James Boyle O'Higgins was, as the saying goes, somewhat out of luck. Ah Cum'_ire reached the Hong-Kong Hotel promptly enough; but O'Higgins was on board _nited States cruiser, witnessing a bout between a British sailor and _ergeant in the U.S. Marines. It was a capital diversion; and as usual th_eatherneck bested the Britisher, in seven rounds. O'Higgins returned to tow_nd made a night of it, nothing very wild, nothing very desperate. A modes_rinking bout which had its windup in a fan-tan house over in Kowloon, wher_'Higgins tussled with varying fortune until five in the morning.
  • When he was given the telegram he flew to the Praya, engaged the fast motor- boat he had previously bespoken against the need, and started for the Maca_assage, with the vague hope of speaking _The Tigress_. He hung round thos_road waters from noon until three and realized that he had embarked upon _ild-goose chase. Still, his conscience was partly satisfied. He made Hong- Kong at dusk: wet, hungry, and a bit groggy for the want of sleep; but he wa_n no wise discouraged. The girl was in the game now, and that narrowed th_ircle.
  • The following morning found him in the doctor's waiting room, a black ciga_urning unlighted in his teeth. When the doctor came in—he had just finishe_is breakfast—O'Higgins rose and presented his card. Upon reading the name, the doctor's eyebrows went up.
  • "I rather fancy, as you Britishers say, that you know the nature of my visit?"
  • "I'm an American."
  • "Fine!" said O'Higgins, jovially. "We won't have any trouble understandin_ach other; same language. There's nothing on the card to indicate it, but I'_ detective."
  • O'Higgins threw out his chest, gave it a pat, and smiled. This smile warne_he doctor not to underestimate the man. O'Higgins was all that the doctor ha_magined a detective to be: a bulky policeman in civilian clothes. The blu_owl, the fat-lidded eyes—now merry, now alert, now tungsten hard—the bulle_ead, the pudgy fingers and the square-toed shoes were all in conformatio_ith the doctor's olden mental picture.
  • "Yes; I know I look it," said O'Higgins, amiably.
  • The doctor laughed. But he sobered instantly as he recollected that O'Higgin_ad found Spurlock once. Journeying blindly half way across the world, thi_an had found his quarry.
  • "I never wear false whiskers," went on O'Higgins. "The only disguise I eve_ut on is a dress-suit, and I look as natural as a pig at a Mahomedan dinner."
  • O'Higgins was disarming the doctor. "Won't you sit down?"
  • "I beg your pardon! Come into the consultation office"; and the doctor led th_ay. "What is it you want of me?"
  • "All you know about this young fellow Spurlock."
  • "What has he done?"
  • "He has just naturally peeved his Uncle Sam. Now, you know where he is bound."
  • "Did Ah Cum advise you?"
  • "He did pretty well for a Chinaman. But that's his American education. Now, i_on't do a bit of good to warn Spurlock. He carries with him something tha_ill mark him anywhere—the girl. Say, that girl fooled me at first glance. Yo_ee, we guys bump up against so much of the seamy side that we look upo_verybody as guilty until proved innocent, which is hind-side-to. The secon_ook told me I was wrong."
  • "I'm going to put one question," interrupted the doctor. "Was there any othe_oman back there in the States?"
  • "Nary a female. Oh, they are married fast. What are you going to tell me?"
  • "Nothing." But the doctor softened the refusal by smiling.
  • "For the sake of the girl. Well, I don't blame you on that ground. If the bo_as legging it alone…."
  • "I'm a doctor. I took him out of the hands of death. Unless he has kille_omeone. I sha'n't utter a word."
  • "Killed someone?" O'Higgins laughed. "He wouldn't hurt a rabbit."
  • "You won't tell me what he has done?"
  • "If you'll tell me where he's heading."
  • "You can give me a little of his history, can't you? Something about hi_eople?"
  • "Oh, his folks were all right. His father and mother are gone now. Rich folks, once. The boy had all kinds of opportunity; but it's the old story of fathe_aking it too easy. It's always hard work for a rich man's son to stand alone.
  • Then you won't tell me where he's going?"
  • "I will tell you six months from now."
  • "Prolonging the misery. Unless he deserts the girl, he won't be so hard t_ind as formerly. You see, it's like this. The boss says to me: 'Higg, here'_ guy we want back. He's down in Patagonia somewhere.' So I go to Patagonia. _now South America and Canada like the lines in my hand. This is my firs_enture over here. The point is, I know all the tricks in finding a man. Sure, I lose one occasionally—if he stays in New York. But if he starts a long jog, his name is Dennis. You may not know it, but it's easier to find a guy that'_one far than it is when he lays dogo in little old New York."
  • "You had Spurlock once."
  • O'Higgins grinned. "Women are always balling up and muddling clean cases. I_his girl hadn't busted into the game, Spurlock would still be at the hotel."
  • The doctor was forced to admit the truth of this. Ruth out of the picture, h_ouldn't have concerned himself so eagerly in regard to Spurlock's departure.
  • "I'm sorry, Mr. O'Higgins, but I decline to give you the least information."
  • The detective ruefully inspected the scarlet band on his perfecto. "And I'l_et a doughnut that boy in his soul is crazy to have it over with. Well-born, well-educated; those are the lads that pay in full."
  • "You're a philosopher, too. I'll tell you something. One of the reasons why _ecline to talk is this: that boy's punishment will be enough."
  • "That's not my game. They order me to get my man, and I get him. There ends m_uty. What they do with him afterward is off my ticket, no concern of Jame_oyle; they can lock him up or let him go. Say, how about this Ah Cum: is h_onest?"
  • "As the day is long."
  • "Didn't know but what I'd been out-bid. I offered him a hundred to watc_purlock. Fifty in advance. This morning I met him at the dock, and h_ouldn't take the other fifty. A queer nut. Imagine any one on this sid_efusing fifty bucks! Well, I'll be toddling along. Don't feel fussed upon m_ccount. I get your side all right. H'm!"
  • Over the desk, on the wall, was a map of the South Pacific archipelagoes, embossed by a number of little circles drawn in red ink. O'Higgins eyed i_houghtfully.
  • "That's your hunting ground," said the doctor.
  • "It's a whale of a place. Ten thousand islands, and each one good for _ight's rest. Why, that boy could hide for thirty years—without the girl.
  • She's my meal-ticket. What are those little red circles?" O'Higgins asked, rising and inspecting the map. A film of dust lay upon it; the ink marks wer_ncient. For a moment O'Higgins had hoped that the ink applications would b_ecent. "Been to those places?"
  • "No. Years ago I marked out an intinerary for myself; but the trip neve_aterialized. Too busy."
  • "That's the way it goes. Well, I'll take myself off. But if I were you, _houldn't warn Spurlock. Let him have his honeymoon. So long."
  • For a long time after O'Higgins had gone the doctor rocked in his swive_hair, his glance directed at the map. In all his life he had never realized _ream; but the thought had never before hurt him. The Dawn Pearl. It did no_eem quite fair. He had plugged along, if not happy, at least with soun_hilosophy. And then this girl had to sweep into and out of his life! H_ecalled McClintock's comment about Spurlock being the kind that fell soft.
  • Even this man-hunting machine was willing to grant the boy his honeymoon.
  • Meantime, O'Higgins wended his way to the Victoria, mulling over this and tha_hase, all matters little and big that bore upon the chase. Mac's. In one o_he little red circles the doctor had traced that abbreviation. That coul_ignify nothing except that the doctor had a friend down there somewhere, o_n island in one of those archipelagoes. But the sheer immensity of the tract!
  • James Boyle was certainly up against it, hard. One chance in a thousand, an_hat would be the girl. She wouldn't be able to pass by anywhere without folk_urning their heads.
  • Of course he hadn't played the game wisely. But what the deuce! He was human; he was a machine only when on the hunt. He had found Spurlock. In hi_ondition the boy apparently had been as safe as in the lock-up. Why shouldn'_ames Boyle pinch out a little fun while waiting? How was he to anticipate th_irl and the sea-tramp called _The Tigress_? Something that wasn't in the pla_t all but had walked out of the scenery like the historical black cat?
  • "I'll have to punish a lot of tobacco to get the kinks out of this. Sur_ike!"
  • At the hotel he wrote a long letter to his chief, explaining every detail o_he fizzle. Later he dispatched a cable announcing the escape and the sendin_f the letter. When he returned to Hong-Kong, there was a reply to his cable:
  • "Hang on. Find that boy."
  • Some order. South America was big; but ten thousand islands, scattered al_ver the biggest ocean on the map! Nearly all of them clear of the ship lane_nd beaten tracks! The best thing he could do would be to call up the Qua_'Orsay and turn over the job to Lecocq. Only a book detective could dope thi_ut.
  • What he needed most in this hour was a bottle of American rye-whisky and _riendly American bar-keep to talk to. He regretted now that in his idle hour_e hadn't hunted up one against the rainy day. The barmaids had too strongl_ppealed to his sense of novelty. So he marched into the street, primaril_ent upon making the favourable discovery. If there was a Yankee bar-keep i_ong-Kong, James Boyle would soon locate him. No blowzy barmaids for him to- day: an American bar-keep to whom he could tell his troubles and receive th_roper meed of sympathy.
  • The sunshine was brilliant, the air mild. The hotel on the Peak had the aspec_f a fairy castle. The streets were full of colour. O'Higgins wandered int_his street and that, studying the signs and resenting the Britisher'_ariness in using too much tin and paint. This niggardliness compelled him t_ross and recross streets.
  • Suddenly he came to a stop, his mouth agape.
  • "Solid ivory!" he said aloud; "solid from dome to neck! That's James Boyle i_he family group. And if I hadn't been thirsty, that poor boob would have mad_ sure getaway and left James Boyle high and dry among the moth-balls! Oh, th_ld dome works once every so often. Fancy, as they say hereabouts!"
  • What had aroused this open-air monologue was a small tin sign in a window.
  • Marine Insurance. Here was a hole as wide as a church-door. What could b_impler than, with a set of inquiries relative to a South Sea tramp registere_s _The Tigress_ , to make a tour of all the marine insurance companies i_ong-Kong? O'Higgins proceeded to put the idea into action; and by noon he ha_n his possession a good working history of the owner of _The Tigress_ and th_xact latitude and longitude of his island.
  • He cabled to New York: "Probable destination known."
  • "Make it positive," was the brisk reply.
  • O'Higgins made it positive; but it required five weeks of broken voyages: wit_ilapidated hotels, poor food, poor tobacco, and evil-smelling tramps. It too_ deal of thought to cast a comprehensive cable, for it had to include wher_purlock was, what he was doing, and the fact that O'Higgins's letter o_redit would not now carry him and Spurlock to San Francisco. The reply h_eceived this time put him into a state of continuous bewilderment.
  • "Good work. Come home alone."