“As long as I live, I’ll never forget that dress of hers,” Prudence declared.
“Out of a family album, you said,” Angelina reminded her sister.
O’Higgins struck a match and lit his Henry Clay, thereby drawing upon himself the mutual disapproval of the spinsters.
“Beg pardon,” he said, “but isn’t smoking allowed in the dining room?”
“It probably is,” answered Prudence, “but that in no wise mitigates the odiousness of the procedure.”
“Plumb in the eye!” said O’Higgins, rising. “I’ll tote the odiousness outside.”
He was delighted to find the office deserted. He inspected the formidable array of rifles and at length walked over to the register. Howard Taber. From his wallet he brought forth a yellow letter. Quickly he compared the Hs. They were so nearly alike that the difference would be due to a shaky hand. But for perfect satisfaction, he must take a peek into the bedroom. Humph. A crisis of some kind was toward. It might be that the boy had taken one drink too many, or someone had given him knock-out drops. The Oriental waterfronts were rank with the stuff.
But that Chink, Ah Cum! O’Higgins chuckled as he passed into the hall and rested his hand on the newel-post of the staircase. He’d have some fun with that Chinaman before the morning was out.
O’Higgins mounted the stairs, his step extraordinarily light for one so heavy. In the upper hall he paused to listen. There was absolute quiet. Boldly he turned the knob of a certain door and entered. The mock astonishment of his face immediately became genuine.
The brilliant sunshine poured through the window, effecting an oblong block of mote-swimming light. In the midst of this light stood a young woman. To O’Higgins—for all his sordid business he was not insensible to beauty—to O’Higgins she appeared to have entered the room with the light. Above her head was an aura of white fire. The sunshine broke across each shoulder, one lance striking the yellow face of a Chinaman, queueless and dressed in European clothes, the other lance falling squarely upon the face of the man he had journeyed thirteen thousand miles to find. He recognized the face instantly.
There came to O’Higgins the discouraging knowledge that upon the heels of a wonderful chase—blindman’s buff in the dark—would come a stretch of dull inaction. He would have to sit down here in Canton and wait, perhaps for weeks. Certainly he could not move now other than to announce the fact that he had found his man.
“I beg pardon,” he said. “Got the rooms mixed.”
The young woman laid a finger on her lips, cautioning O’Higgins to silence. The detective backed out slowly and closed the door without sound.