The man was thick set, with a bright roving eye. The blue jaws suggested courage and tenacity. It was not a hard face, but it was resolute. As he balanced the photograph, a humorous twinkle came into his eyes.
Pure luck! If the boy had grown a moustache or a beard, a needle in the haystack would have been soft work. To stumble upon the trail through the agency of a bottle of whisky! Drank queer; so his bottle had rendered him conspicuous. And now, only twenty-four hours behind him ... that is, if he wasn’t paddling by on the return route to Hong-Kong or had dropped down to Macao. But that possibility had been anticipated. He would have to return to Hong-Kong; and his trail would be picked up the moment he set foot on the Praya.
Pure luck! But for that bottle of whisky, nobody in the Hong-Kong Hotel would have been able to identify the photograph; and at this hour James Boyle O’Higgins would have been on the way to Yokohama, and the trail lost for ever.
The Hong-Kong packet lay alongside the warehouse frontage. Ah Cum patrolled the length of the boat innumerable times, but never letting his glance stray far from the gangplank. This was automatically rather than thoughtfully done; habit. His mind was busy with a resume of yesterday’s unusual events.
The young man desperately ill and the girl taking care of him! Of course, there could be only one ending to such a bout with liquor, and that ending had come perhaps suddenly but not surprisingly. But the girl stood outside the circle of Ah Cum’s knowledge—rather profound—of human impulses. Somehow logic could not explain her. Why should she trouble herself over that young fool, who was nothing to her; who, when he eventually sobered up, would not be able to recognize her, or if he did, as something phantasmagorical?
Perhaps he should not apply the term “fool”; “unfortunate” might be the more accurate application. Besides, he was a Yale man. He might be unfortunate, but he would scarcely be a fool. The Yale spirit! Ah Cum smiled whimsically. After fifteen years, to find that peculiarly Occidental attribute—college loyalty—still alive in his heart! A Western idea that had survived; an idea that was merely the flower of youthful enthusiasm!
With his hands still in his sleeves, his chin down in speculation over this phenomenon, he continued his patrol.
Ah Cum stopped and turned. Framed in one of the square ports of the packet was a face which reminded Ah Cum of a Japanese theatrical mask. One side of the face was white with foamy lather and the other ruddy-cheeked and blue-jawed.
“Speak English?” boomed the voice.
“Yes; I speak English.”
“Fine! I’ll be wanting a guide. Where can I get one?” asked O’Higgins.
“I am one.”
“All right. I’ll be with you in a jiffy.” Quarter of an hour later O’Higgins stepped off the gangplank. He carried a small bag. “This your regular business?”