But one evening, a fortnight later, he came upon Roberts in the hall. “Well,” said Breeze, with abrupt directness, “did he get away?”
Roberts started, uttered an oath which it is possible the Recording Angel passed to his credit, and said, “Yes, he got away all right!”
“Why, hasn’t his wife joined him?”
“No. Never, in this world, I reckon; and if anywhere in the next, I don’t want to go there!” said Roberts furiously.
“Is he dead?”
“Dead? That kind don’t die!”
“What do you mean?”
Roberts’s lips writhed, and then, with a strong effort, he said with deliberate distinctness, “I mean—that the hound went off with another woman—that—was—in—that schooner, and left that fool Shuckster adrift in the plunger.”
“And the wife and children?”
“Shuckster sold his shanty at Petaluma to pay their passage to the States. Good-night!”
The junior partner of the firm of Sparlow & Kane, “Druggists and Apothecaries,” of San Francisco, was gazing meditatively out of the corner of the window of their little shop in Dupont Street. He could see the dimly lit perspective of the narrow thoroughfare fade off into the level sand wastes of Market Street on the one side, and plunge into the half-excavated bulk of Telegraph Hill on the other. He could see the glow and hear the rumble of Montgomery Street—the great central avenue farther down the hill. Above the housetops was spread the warm blanket of sea-fog under which the city was regularly laid to sleep every summer night to the cool lullaby of the Northwest Trades. It was already half-past eleven; footsteps on the wooden pavement were getting rarer and more remote; the last cart had rumbled by; the shutters were up along the street; the glare of his own red and blue jars was the only beacon left to guide the wayfarers. Ordinarily he would have been going home at this hour, when his partner, who occupied the surgery and a small bedroom at the rear of the shop, always returned to relieve him. That night, however, a professional visit would detain the “Doctor” until half-past twelve. There was still an hour to wait. He felt drowsy; the mysterious incense of the shop, that combined essence of drugs, spice, scented soap, and orris root—which always reminded him of the Arabian Nights—was affecting him. He yawned, and then, turning away, passed behind the counter, took down a jar labeled “Glycyrr. Glabra,” selected a piece of Spanish licorice, and meditatively sucked it. Not receiving from it that diversion and sustenance he apparently was seeking, he also visited, in an equally familiar manner, a jar marked “Jujubes,” and returned ruminatingly to his previous position.