Over it was suspended what looked like a lampshade, but on inspection it proved to contain no lamp, but to communicate, by a sort of funnel, with the ceiling above.
At this contrivance Durham stared long and curiously, but without coming to any conclusion respecting its purpose. He might have investigated further, but he became aware of a dull and regular sound in the room behind him.
He turned in a flash, staring in the direction of two curtains draped before what he supposed to be a door.
On tiptoe he crossed and gently drew the curtains aside.
He looked into a small, cell-like room, lighted by one window, where upon a low bed Huang Chow lay sleeping peacefully!
Durham almost held his breath; then, withdrawing as quietly as he had approached, he descended the stair. At the foot his attention was again arrested by the faint scuffling sound. It ceased as suddenly as it had begun, leaving him wondering and conscious anew of a chill of apprehension.
He had already made his plans for departure, but knew that they must leave evidence, when discovered, of his visit.
A large and solid table stood near the divan, and he moved this immediately under the trap. Upon it he laid a leopard-skin to deaden any noise he might make, and then upon the leopard-skin he set a massive chair: he replaced his torch in his pocket and drew himself up on to the roof again. Reclosing the trap by means of the awl which he had screwed into it, he removed the awl and placed it in his pocket.
Then, sliding gently down the sloping roof, he dropped back into the deserted court.
A CAGE OF BIRDS
“No,” said Lala, “we have never had robbers in the house.” She looked up at Durham naively. “You are not a thief, are you?” she asked.
“No, I assure you I am not,” he answered, and felt himself flushing to the roots of his hair.
They were seated in a teashop patronized by the workers of the district; and as Durham, his elbows resting on the marble-topped table, looked into the dark eyes of his companion, he told himself again that whatever might be the secrets of old Huang Chow, his daughter did not share them.
The Chinaman had made no report to the authorities, although the piled up furniture beneath the skylight must have afforded conclusive evidence that a burglarious entry had been made into the premises.
“I should feel very nervous,” Durham declared, “with all those valuables in the house.”
“I feel nervous about my father,” the girl answered in a low voice. “His room opens out of the warehouse, but mine is shut away in another part of the building. And Ah Fu sleeps behind the office.”
“Were you not afraid when you suspected that Cohen was a burglar? You told me yourself that you did suspect him.”
“Yes, I spoke to my father about it.”