“Listen—I’m away in the old Seahawk in the mornin’, but I’ll tell you somethink. That yellow bastard killed his daughter last night! Beat ’er to death. I see it plain. The sweetest, prettiest bit of ivory as Gawd ever put breath into. If ’er body ain’t in the river, it’s in the ’ouse. Drunk or sober, I never could stand the splits, but mates”—he stood up, and grasping me by the arm, he drew me across the room where he also seized Harley in his muscular grip—“mates,” he went on earnestly, “she was the sweetest, prettiest little gal as a man ever clapped eyes on. One of yer walk into Limehouse Station an’ put the koppers wise. I’d sleep easier at sea if I knew old Kwen Lung ’ad gone west on a bloody rope’s end.”
AT KWEN LUNG’S
For fully ten minutes after the fireman had departed Paul Harley sat staring abstractedly in front of him, his cold pipe between his teeth, and knowing his moods I intruded no words upon this reverie, until:
“Come on, Knox,” he said, standing up suddenly, “I think this matter calls for speedy action.”
“What! Do you think the man’s story was true?”
“I think nothing. I am going to look at Kwen Lung’s joss.”
Without another word he led the way downstairs and out into the deserted street. The first gray halftones of dawn were creeping into the sky, so that the outlines of Limehouse loomed like dim silhouettes about us. There was abundant evidence in the form of noises, strange and discordant, that many workers were busy on dock and riverside, but the streets through which our course lay were almost empty. Sometimes a furtive shadow would move out of some black gully and fade into a dimly seen doorway in a manner peculiarly unpleasant and Asiatic. But we met no palpable pedestrian throughout the journey.
Before the door of a house in Pennyfields which closely resembled that which we had left in Wade Street, in that it was flatly uninteresting, dirty and commonplace, we paused. There was no sign of life about the place and no lights showed at any of the windows, which appeared as dim cavities—eyeless sockets in the gray face of the building, as dawn proclaimed the birth of a new day.
Harley seized the knocker and knocked sharply. There was no response, and he repeated the summons, but again without effect. Thereupon, with a muttered exclamation, he grasped the knocker a third time and executed a veritable tattoo upon the door. When this had proceeded for about half a minute or more:
“All right, all right!” came a shaky voice from within. “I’m coming.”
Harley released the knocker, and, turning to me:
“Ma Lorenzo,” he whispered. “Don’t make any mistakes.”
Indeed, even as he warned me, heralded by a creaking of bolts and the rattling of a chain, the door was opened by a fat, shapeless, half-caste woman of indefinite age; in whose dark eyes, now sunken in bloated cheeks, in whose full though drooping lips, and even in the whole overlaid contour of whose face and figure it was possible to recognize the traces of former beauty. This was Ma Lorenzo, who for many years had lived at that address with old Kwen Lung, of whom strange stories were told in Chinatown.