He walked slowly away, silent in his rubber-soled shoes.
THE PICTURE ON THE PAD
Lala Huang lay listening to the vague sounds which disturbed the silence of the night. Presently her thoughts made her sigh wearily. During the lifetime of her mother, who had died while Lala was yet a little girl, life had been different and so much brighter.
She imagined that in the mingled sounds of dock and river which came to her she could hear the roar of surf upon a golden beach. The stuffy air of Limehouse took on the hot fragrance of a tropic island, and she sighed again, but this time rapturously, for in spirit she was a child once more, lulled by the voice of the great Pacific.
Young as she was, the death of her mother had been a blow from which it had taken her several years to recover. Then had commenced those long travels with her father, from port to port, from ocean to ocean, sometimes settling awhile, but ever moving onward, onward.
He had had her educated after a fashion, and his love for her she did not doubt. But her mother’s blood spoke more strongly than that part of her which was Chinese, and there was softness and a delicious languor in her nature which her father did not seem to understand, and of which he did not appear to approve.
She knew that he was wealthy. She knew that his ways were not straight ways, although that part of his business to which he had admitted her as an assistant, and an able one, was legitimate enough, or so it seemed.
Consignments of goods arrived at strange hours of the night at the establishment in Limehouse, and from this side of her father’s transactions she was barred. The big double doors opening on the little courtyard would be opened by Ah Fu, and packing cases of varying sizes be taken in. Sometimes the sounds of these activities would reach her in her room in a distant part of the house; but only in the morning would she recognize their significance, when in the warehouse she would discover that some new and choice pieces had arrived.
She wondered with what object her father accumulated wealth, and hoped, against the promptings of her common sense, that he designed to return East, there to seek a retirement amidst the familiar and the beautiful things of the Orient which belonged to Lala’s dream of heaven.
Stories about her father often reached her ears. She knew that he had held high rank in China before she had been born; but that he had sacrificed his rights in some way had always been her theory. She had been too young to understand the stories which her mother had told her sometimes; but that there were traits in the character of Huang Chow which it was not good for his daughter to know she appreciated and accepted as a secret sorrow.
He allowed her all the freedom to which her education entitled her. Her life was that of a European and not of an Oriental woman. She loved him in a way, but also feared him. She feared the dark and cruel side of his character, of which, at various periods during their life together, she had had terrifying glimpses.