“You understand,” said he, “that you bought it from a gentleman who had purchased it abroad.”
I said I quite understood. He bowed me out very politely, and presently I found myself back in the office with Lala Huang.
She seemed quite disposed to talk, and I chatted with her while the box was being packed for me to take away. I knew I must make good use of my time, but you have never given me a job I liked less. I mean, there is something very appealing about her, and I hated to think that I was playing a double game. However, without actually agreeing to see me again, she told me enough to enable me to meet her “accidentally,” if I wanted to. Therefore, I am going to look out for her this evening, and probably take her to a picture palace, or somewhere where we can have a quiet talk. She seems to be fancy free, and for some reason I feel sorry for the girl. I don’t altogether like the job, but I hope to justify your faith in me, Chief.
I will prepare my official report this evening when I return.
Yours obediently,—John Durham.
“No,” said Lala Huang, “I don’t like London—not this part of London.”
“Where would you rather be?” asked Durham. “In China?”
Dusk had dropped its merciful curtain over Limehouse, and as the two paced slowly along West India Dock Road it seemed to the detective that a sort of glamour had crept into the scene.
He was a clever man within his limitations, and cultured up to a point; but he was not philosopher enough to know that he viewed the purlieus of Limehouse through a haze of Oriental mystery conjured up by the conversation of his companion. Temple bells there were in the clangour of the road cars. The smoke-stacks had a semblance of pagodas. Burma she had conjured up before him, and China, and the soft islands where she had first seen the light. For as well as a streak of European, there was Kanaka blood in Lala, which lent her an appeal quite new to Durham, insidious and therefore dangerous.
“Not China,” she replied. “Somehow I don’t think I shall ever see China again. But my father is rich, and it is dreadful to think that we live here when there are so many more beautiful places to live in.”
“Then why does he stay?” asked Durham with curiosity.
“For money, always for money,” answered Lala, shrugging her shoulders. “Yet if it is not to bring happiness, what good is it?”
“What good indeed?” murmured Durham.
“There is no fun for me,” said the girl pathetically. “Sometimes someone nice comes to do business, but mostly they are Jews, Jews, always Jews, and------” Again she shrugged eloquently.
Durham perceived the very opening for which he had been seeking..
“You evidently don’t like Jews,” he said endeavouring to speak lightly.