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?"
"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."
"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.