The General Died at Dawn!
Start now to read this thrilling serial of mystery, intrigue and adventure on the China Coast
The Story: Four hours out from Shanghai, the Prince of the Orient comes upon a Chinese junk, apparently abandoned. When officers of the Prince board it they find ten Chinese soldiers lying dead, five on one side and five on the other, as though each line had simultaneously fired upon the other line. Sealed in a chair as though he had given the command to fire, is a Chinese general, also dead. Cram, a member of the boarding party, is murdered on the junk but no assailant can be found. The liner sails on with the mystery unsolved.
Going back some twenty-four hours before these gruesome discoveries are made, we find Gerald 0’ Hare, soldier of fortune, stranded in Shanghai and desperately desirous of sailing on the Prince of the Orient.
He calls at the office of Mark Ramsgate, private investigator, and requests $1,500 which he claims Ramsgate owes him. Ramsgate denies the claim, they fight and 0’ Hare knocks Ramsgate unconscious as a beautiful red-headed woman enters the office.
She addresses 0’ Hare as Ramsgate, introduces herself as Mrs. Irene Mallory, and says she wants him to help her thwart the design of one Marcelles, fiscal agent for General
Yang, who is planning to abscond with Yang’s funds, incidentally taking with him, under promise of marriage aboard ship, an innocent English girl, Janice Ingram, ivhose life she claims he will ruin. 0’ Hare, masquerading as Ramsgate, promises to help Mrs. Mallory and accepts $1,500 as afee.
At Conti’s Hotel, Smallwood, a reputable young Englishman who has just inherited a small fortune and plans to return home on the Prince of the Orient, is smitten with the charms of Janice Ingram. Mrs. Mallory dare not tell Janice what sort of man Marcelles is, because she, too, has a past and she fears Marcelles would reveal it.
Mrs. Mallory meets O’ Hare at the hotel arid tells him she knew his identity in Ramsgate’s office; and 0’ Hare renews his promise to help her thwart Marcelles.
Mrs. Mallory is trapped in Marcelles’ room while searching it for the Yang funds. She is discovered by Ramsgate after the latter has knocked out Marcelles in a fight over the disposal of the funds, bid escapes.
Marcelles goes to the home of Li Feng, silvermasler. There he secures the funds—$550,000 in currency; spurns the daughter of the house, E Tsung. She is betrothed to Yang but
loves Marcelles. E Tsung commits suicide. Her father seizes Marcelles, is about to torture him by molding a silver shoe on his foot, when 0' Hare rescues him. They are escaping bid the way is blocked by a motor car—a car occupied by General Yang and his guards.
THE CAR was a limousine. Its flaring fenders barely cleared the walls as it crept down the alley. A man in a drab military uniform hung from the front of each running board.
Marcelles cried, “I’d rather shoot myself—”
“Shut up!” O’Hare said.
The limousine was still some twenty feet from where they stood. O’Hare rushed Marcelles across the alley in a diagonal direction toward a door sunk in the wall on the other side. The escort guard hanging from the window post on the left side of the limousine shouted harshly in Chinese and dropped his free hand to his hip.
As O’Hare slammed Marcelles against the opposite wall, the car swerved sharply toward them. O’Hare slid Marcelles, then himself, dear by a couple of inches. There
CHARLES G. BOOTH
were three men in the limousine—the driver, a man beside him, and the man in the rear seat. All wore military uniforms. The car had stopped. Within it, Chinese voices clashed stridently. Fire jetted from a pistol in the hand of the escort on the left, the farther side, of the limousine. The other escort had drawn his pistol. O’Hare drove his fist into the man’s belly, doubling him up.
Just then the limping man appeared at the compound door, the sword in his hand, shrieking unintelligibly. Simultaneously, the local populace attracted by the impressiveness of the equipage that had just passed along The Street of the Opal began to pour into the alley. O’Hare threw Marcelles, then himself into the door recess. A pistol flashed yellow in O’Hare’s face. The door yielded. They burst into the compound on the other side, O’Hare slamming the door shut just as a body crashed against it. O’Hare shot a bolt across.
“Pull yourself together. They’ll be over the top—” O’Hare broke off as the mob outside became ominously vocal. He jerked Marcelles clear of the wall. “This way.”
The compound was an oblong. On three sides were the rears of the two-story buildings that fronted on The Street of the Opal. As they drummed across the flagged enclosure Marcelles distinguished doors here and there in the drab walls. One of them opened and a long yellow beam fell across the compound, directly in their path.
They veered around it. Behind them figures were pouring over the wall and dropping into the compound. The roar of the mob became an avalanche of sound, appalling in its implications.
O’Hare’s objective appeared to be the inside comer of the rectangle, on their left.
“That wine shop. Rear door. I came out that way.” He laughed as if he was enjoying himself.
“We’ll get in some leg work.”
But Marcelles was in pretty bad shape.
“. . . don’t know whether I can make it—”
O’Hare slid an arm under Marcelles’ shoulders and took a good deal of his weight upon himself.
That slowed their pace. The man in the van of the mob let loose another blood-curdling howl. It flew backward like fire in a wind. Then O’Hare, trailing Marcelles after him, struck the wine-shop door and they fell into a well of light.
A wedge-shaped mass of pale brown faces, diabolically vocal, charged the oblong of light.
O’Hare slammed the door into it. The howls of pain that arose were swamped in a roar of fury.
The door was of two-inch teak and it had a six-foot bar on a pivot. O’Hare swung the bar into its sockets. The door shivered with the impact of bodies upon it.
The wine-shop was a large, oblong interior, completely empty except for themselves. A kerosene lamp hung from the low, black ceiling. Small tables littered with tiny teacups and metal teapots from which wine was poured hot occupied most of the floor space. A teak counter supported kegs, more cups and teapots, bottles, empty and full, and a warming stove.
O’Hare leaned Marcelles against the counter.
His eyes were glazed. “What ails you?”
“I’m through,” Marcelles said faintly.
“The heck you are!” O’Hare slapped his pale green cheeks. “D’you want Yang to burn the toes off you?” He knocked the neck off a bottle and slopped yellow wine into a cup. “Blast these thimbles!” he shouted, and tilted Marcelles’ head back, forced his bloody, battered lips apart.
Marcelles gagged and gulped. O’Hare then spilled wine upon Marcelles’ head and massaged
his face roughly with his hands. “Show some ambition, you barley-faced ape!” he roared. “I didn't jump into this to carry a stiff out.”
Marcelles shuddered. Some of his color came back.
“Grab one of those bottles.” O’Hare took one himself. “Come on.”
Steaming up the wine-shop with his straw-colored hair on end, O’Hare was yet ten feet short of the front door when
six Chinese tore into the place, chattering excitedly. They stopped short. O'Hare didn’t give them time to think it over, but charged them with tire bottle cutting an upward arc above his head. The Chinese met him, yelling at tire top of their voices.
Marcelles leaned against one of the tables, nauseated.
But O’Hare was something to behold.
“May your souls transmigrate into pigs,” he roared in the dialect, and smashed the bottle over the nearest head.
The man buckled and dropped.
The others trampled him and threw themselves upon O’Hare in that berserk rage which occasionally shatters the Confucian tranquillity of the Chinese.
O’Hare bellowed laughter at them. The bottle had shattered to its neck. He slashed a pale yellow face with its ragged edge. The man screamed, his flesh gushing blood. O’Hare dropped what was left of the bottle. He shot a terrific left to a grinning mouth, sank a right into the leathery neck of a man with a knife in his hand. His kneecap took another in the groin. Two of the Chinese were down. O’Hare drove his fists with the measured regularity of pistol rods. His eye-thatch bristled like wheat stubble. His movements were as swift and evasive as a skilfully wielded sword. He fought as if he had recently rediscovered the ancient taith that it was good for men to fight.
O’Hare had a man by the windpipe when three more Chinese barged into the shop. He threw the man in his hands at them, but the next moment half a dozen were on top of him.
He roared, “Put out that light, you fool. Beat it—” Marcelles came out of his stupor and swung the bottle in his hand up at the ceiling lamp. The lamp shattered as O’Hare dropped. A little light seeped in from the outside. Marcelles distinguished a thrashing huddle of human forms as vocal as wolves mauling a deer. Shrieks and groans contended with exclamations in the dialect.
“We shall roast him over a fire.”
“His Excellency will have his bones broken with an axe.”
“He is not a man: he is a devil.”
“Alas! we cannot kill him.”
“Take your fingers from my throat.”
“My thumbs are devouring his eyeballs.”
“They are mine, yellow dog—”
Marcelles bestirred himself. O’Hare was done with. He remembered a door that had been on their left as they had run up the shop. After a minute or so of desperate fumbling about, in the total darkness at the rear he located it. He leaned against the door, his cheek and palms on the smoke-scented wood, his breath coming gustily. The commotion outside the compound door had ceased, but the hullabaloo up front was making the building tremble. The mob, he realized, had rolled back on itself into The Street of the Opal. Another minute and the wine-shop would be a shambles.
npHE DOOR swung into a pitch-black interior. Marcelles shut it behind him. The place was stifling. He extended his hands, touching first a wall, then another door. He appeared to be in a short passage-way. On his left he discovered a stair. The second door yielded to his pressure, revealing an inch or so of yellow light and letting in a sickly, sweetish odor.
He pushed cautiously into the opium shop.
There was no one in view. He shut the door behind him and leaned against it. The shop had a long, narrow interior with two tiers of curtained bunks running down either side, like a Pullman sleeper. Most of the curtains were drawn. The front door was shut. Opposite the door through which Marcelles had entered stood a counter, smooth and polished by time and usage. On it were opium kits, reed pipes, a measuring rod. The dark, thick, semi-fluid smoking mixture commonly used was not visible.
A tarnished brass lamp hung from the dirt-smudged ceiling.
The curtains of the two bunks nearest him were not drawn. As Marcelles had assumed, the lower bunk was unoccupied; but when he hoisted himself stiff-legged up to look into the top bunk he beheld the blissfully idiotic face of a Chinese under the influence of the drug.
Marcelles waited a moment.
The Chinese did not move.
He was a thin, old man with a face like a walnut. A dirty padded quilt covered his legs. His relaxed fingers were hooked round the stem of his pipe. The opium lamp on the ledge beside the bunk was out.
Marcelles heard voices then.
He drew himself up into the bunk and jerked the curtain across. The curtains of the bunks opposite were drawn. He scrambled over the figure of the stupefied Chinese and placed himself close behind it. The drawn curtain had darkened the bunk considerably. He pulled the quilt up to the neck of the Chinese and let the end of it fall casually over his own head.
Men were swarming in from the rear, their voices clashing.
“I tell you he is not a man: he is a devil—”
“We shall know that when we put his flesh to the fire.” “He is not here. He is gone—”
Then a harsh, military voice, “You chatter like old women. Upstairs some of you. His Excellency will bestow silver on him who finds the dog.”
Marcelles felt the bunk shake as a man hoisted himself up. The man hung there, silent and motionless, and Marcelles, stifling under the stinking quilt, united with his nerve terminals become points of fire.
The harsh voice muttered, “Dream on, fool.”
Men were going from bunk to bunk. Others drummed up the stair and tramped around on the upper floor. Their
voices and the voices that poured in from the street fell upon Marcelles’ ears in stunning masses of sound. The men in the shop and those upstairs presently departed, but Marcelles did not stir.
The better part of an hour passed.
Meanwhile, the hullabaloo outside receded. The Native City always has a day’s work ahead of it. Sleep lost over a foreign devil who has fled has little to recommend it. Another hour went by.
The street had become quiet except for a spirited argument in the wine-shop next door. Cramped and sick, Marcelles pulled the quilt away from his face, drew in a lungful of the warm, sweetish air and stretched his aching body. The old Chinese groaned and straightened himself out. Marcelles jerked himself up on to his elbow, his free hand moving toward the other’s throat. The Chinese only stared at him vaguely, half smiling.
Marcelles took off his one shoe; then he climbed cautiously over the Chinese and lifted the corner of the curtain. The bunks opposite were no longer occupied. Behind the counter at the rear of the shop an elderly Chinese nodded behind his spectacles. Marcelles saw no one else.
The man beside him stirred again, lifted his head, muttered a question. Marcelles quietly drew the curtain back. He waited a moment, then let himself down into the aisle. The shopkeeper still dozed behind his spectacles. The forty odd feet he had to cover were interminable. He reached the door. It creaked a little as he opened it.
The Street of the Opal was dark and quiet. The wind off the Whangpoo had turned bitter. Marcelles braced himself, felt at the belt round his waist and took off down the street at a casual gait. The flags numbed his shoeless feet. He plunged into the maze of twisting alleys by which his runner had brought him. The silence, the shuttered darkness bedevilled him badly. He became feverish and began to run light-headedly. But he had got hold of himself again by the time he reached French Town, a few minutes short of four o’clock. He proceeded through the oppressive stillness of the pre-dawn hour to a small third-rate hotel with which he was familiar on a street of Rue Cardinal Mercier. The night clerk, a little middleaged Frenchman with a spade beard, stared at him in consternation.
“Monsieur ! your mouth—your shoes—”
Marcelles evoked a ghastly grin. “I have had an adventure.”
“Will you make some purchases for me as soon as the shops open? I shall need a shirt, some shoes, a necktie, a hat. The shirt should have a 15J^ neckband. The hat
should be a dark brown felt—a seven. The shoes should be dark tan Oxfords, 8F2. medium width. And send up a bottle of brandy and some adhesive plaster.”
The bath was next door. Marcelles lay in it up to his neck, swabbing his face with a hot towel, for half an hour. The brandy and the adhesive plaster were on the dressing table when he returned to his room. He doctored himself
and lay down on the bed half dressed, the quilt pulled up over him.
His eyeballs burned. His brain had become a core of fire that threw off waves of pain. He fell asleep, but wakened a few minutes later dripping wet from a nightmare haunted by a demoniac Yang. He brought his mind back into focus and co-ordinated his thoughts.
He regretted E Tsung. She had been a nice little thing, but after all her life had been her own. As for Li Feng, the silvermaster had done his best to exact the sort of payment he wanted for his loss of face. As for O’Hare, Marcelles strongly doubted now if he were dead. He must be the O’Hare who had run rice into Puchang under Yang’s guns. Not one man in ten thousand could have done that; but as the Chinese in the wine-shop had said, O’Hare was not a man but a devil . . . and devils were hard to kill. O’Hare had followed him to Li’s. That meant O’Hare also was after the Yang funds.
Until Ramsgate had appeared, his plan had been beautifully simple. Yang was in Shensi and certain to stay there, Marcelles had supposed. Once he was aboard the Orient Yang would have no sort of effective recourse. Then Irene Mallory had turned up. Then Ramsgate. Then O’Hare. Then Yang himself. Should he surrender the funds to Yang? No. E Tsung was an unforeseen complication. He had made Yang lose face. Nothing short of his death would appease Yang.
But if he sailed on the Orient with the funds strapped round his waist, could he under the present circumstances expect to reach Marseilles alive?
Irene Mallory. Ramsgate. O’Hare. Yang. Yang most of all. The name clanged in his brain and Marcelles shivered under the quilt.
Around nine-thirty, tolerably well outfitted by the French clerk, he went downstairs and out. The keen morning air did him good. He got a shave, then walked over to Avenue Edouard VII, his destination an American café that served decent coffee.
TT WAS on Avenue Edouard VII that Marcelles made
the discovery and the decision which were to start reverberations both tragic and profound, and of a scope quite beyond his power to have anticipated; yet at the same time were to leave the hurrying current of his own life undiverted by a hairbreadth.
The name on the window of a leather goods shop roused an echo in his brain: Chang, Lee id Company. Importers.
Of course !
From the Hong Kong shop of Chang, Lee had come Smallwood’s crocodile skin club bag.
Marcelles had a curious sensation then.
On a pedestal in the window stood a club bag that was the duplicate of Smallwood’s in every particular.
Marcelles felt as if he were being lifted up from within.
He recognized the sensation as one of those inspirations that sometimes come to a man in moments of extremity. The ingenuous Smallwood, Marseilles-bound like Janice and himself, was manna from heaven. He would cultivate Smallwood. To switch bags at the Marseilles end would be a simple matter for one of his resourcefulness. The device was as nearly perfect as any bit of finesse he had ever conceived. So enthusiastic did he become over his own cleverness that for the time being even his dread of Yang was eclipsed. Laughing to himself, Marcelles went into the shop. He was shown the bag. He inspected it carefully, especially the flexible yellow leather lining. Then he bought it and told the clerk to wrap it up and send it to the Pierre Conti immediately.
Marcelles enjoyed an excellent breakfast.
When he got back to the Pierre Conti the bag was in his room, waiting for him. Marcelles locked the door and set about doing what was to be done. He spent a couple of hours over it. The thing finished, his vanity expanded. He became jubilant. Then he bethought him of Janice, put on his coat, looked at himself in the mirror, and let himself out.
Halfway down the stair he brought up abruptly.
Sitting in a chair in the lobby with his mahogany-bleach façade and gem-blue stare as immobile as stone was the impressively proportioned O’Hare.
Marcelles felt the blood drain out of his face.
Just then one of the house boys appeared with an envelope in his hand.
“Teleglam for Genelal Yang,” he called shrilly. “Teleglam for Genelal Yang.”
Marcelles had to cling to the banister to keep himself from pitching headlong down the stair. His breath came in gusts that rasped his throat. Yang’s name reverberated again and again in his stunned brain like the beat of drums. He managed after a moment to turn round, only to fall over the step above. He got up. He fell again. He went up the stair bent double like an infirm old man. He stumbled along the corridor and into the south wing with his eyes hot copper balls. He managed finally to get his door unlocked. The weight of his body threw it open.
Marcelles shut the door and locked it. He fell into a chair and pressed his hands against the sides of his heacL
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Continued from page 20
20—Slarts on page 18
/"VHARE sat down at a small round ^ table near a window that looked out upon the compound and ordered brandy and soda.
The bar at the Pierre Conti was a longish, sombre interior with nothing about it that even remotely resembled the dash and glitter of the buffets along the Bund. Its peculiar quality of aloof disinterestedness essentially was that of the Pierre Conti itself, and to enter it was to become subject to its tradition. One minded one’s own business. One never drank too much. Indeed, Henri, who grand-marshalled it behind the bar, had been known to refuse a Russian Grand Duke who had had an absinthe too many—receiving afterward the compliments of Conti, who bragged that the blood of Marat ran in his veins. The bar at Conti’s was a place of rendezvous. Pledges that had to do with oil or rubber or Burma rubies or guns for General So-and-so were made or renewed over its tables: two men chatting casually over whisky-sodas; later, some talk of the Derby winner or the Comédie Française —or perhaps of bluebells in Devon then a handshake, and each to his own hemisphere.
The fat man, Ramsgate, detached himself from the bar, came toward O’Hare’s table, and eased himself down into the chair on the other side of it. His left temple was strapped with adhesive plaster.
“Do you mind if 1 join you, Mr. O’Hare?”
“I don’t believe 1 know you,” O’Hare said coldly.
The fat man laughed jovially. “Serve me right.”
He took a wallet out of his pocket, opened it, and from the sheaf of currency which it contained peeled off fifteen 100dollar bills. These he laid on the table in front of O’Hare with a ceremonious inclination of his head. O’Hare picked up the money, counted it, and put it away with his expression unchanged.
“So you decided to remember me.”
“You are a hard man to forget, Mr. O’Hare.” The fat man stroked his chin tenderly and laughed in his quiet way. “But we needed a point of contact.” He looked at O’Hare’s mouth with his eyebrows raised. “You’ve been in a rumpus yourself, I see.”
“What do you want, Ramsgate?”
“Half a million dollars is a good deal of money—”
O’Hare cut in dryly: “I haven’t even paid my hotel bill.”
“—and it would be a pity to see it slip through our fingers because one of us chose to be obstinate. My understanding of the situation is this: When Marcelles went for the Yang funds last night you followed him. Probably he put up a bit of a scrap: I don’t know. At the present moment either Marcelles or you has the money. Marcelles’
I should imagine, since I doubt if Yang is registered at this hotel. That is to say, there is no ‘telegram for General Yang.’ A nice piece of flimflam, Mr. O’Hare.”
“So what?” O’Hare said.
“A syndicate of four.” The fat man laid his elbows on the table, his red-lipped smile faintly malevolent. “You, Marcelles, Mrs. Mallory—a very capable woman, isn’t she? —and myself?”
“I’m something of an individualist,” O’Hare said mildly.
Ramsgate shook his head worriedly. “It’s too big for one person, Mr. O’Hare. You are familiar with the character of Yang. You should know that if you do get your hands on that money you’ll never leave Shanghai alive. But the four of us could manage it very nicely, if we put our wits together. No bother. No fuss. A gentleman’s agreement, and the thing is done. A hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars each isn’t to be sneezed at nowadays.”
O’Hare pushed his chair back, stood up and threw the contents of his glass into the fat man’s face.
In the bar at Conti’s such a thing was beyond belief, and Ramsgate, for a moment, appeared to find it so. He sat like a
stone man, his white face shining with drops of moisture, Then he wiped his face with his handkerchief and wiped its spurious piety away at the same time, so that what was left would have given anyone but O’Hare something to think about.
“I wish you hadn’t done that, Mr. O’Hare,” he said thickly.
“Better keep out of it, Ramsgate,” O’Hare said with melodious intonations, and went away.
In the lobby Conti was at the desk. O’Hare asked him for his bill.
“Monsieur, this is not necessary.”
“I’ve just collected an old debt,” O’Hare said dryly.
"Bien!” Conti said. He reached for a statement pad. “I like my bills to be paid, oui. Those Italian counts, those Russian princesthere is no end to them ! I will have my just due if it is their last franc. But to be the creditor of such as you, monsieur—that is something else.” “You’ve been very decent about it, Conti.”
"Non, non.” Conti wrote out the statement. “You are sailing on the Orient. But yes. At 1.30 a.m., is it not? Precisely. Mon dieu! Am I to lose all my guests to that navire? . . . Merci, monsieur.”
O’Hare took his receipt and his change and went upstairs.
He knocked on Marcelles’ door. There was no response and he knocked again.
“This is O’Hare,” he said. “Open the door.” The door remained shut, and O’Hare said sharply: “Unless you open
the door, Marcelles, I ’ll find means to have it opened.”
Marcelles’ voice came faintly then, “What do you want?”
“Open the door. I’m alone.”
A key rattled and the door yielded an inch or two, revealing Marcelles’ face oddly haggard against the room’s sombre interior. O’Hare swung it inward, and Marcelles went with it, dropping into the chair with which he had collided. Marcelles covered his face with his hands and sat without moving. O’Hare shut the door and locked it and placed his back against it. Marcelles shuddered and lifted his head.
"Anyone been here?” O’Hare asked him. “Miss Ingram,” Marcelles said dully. “A few minutes ago. I told her I was ill— had to get some rest.”
“What became of you last night?”
“I hid in one of the bunks in that opium shop.”
“That wasn’t a bad idea. I hopped into a coffin in the coffin shop.” O’Hare felt for a cigarette, adding retrospectively, “Li Feng killed himself.”
Marcelles leaped to his feet. “Don’t stand there Matting about this and that. I want to know about Yang—that telegram. Is he here—in this hotel?Does he know—?” Marcelles strode over to the window, stood there a moment, then faced O’Hare again. “Did you pay that chit boy to call Yang’s name?”
O’Hare smiled whimsically. “Let me ask one. What do you think your chances of getting out of Shanghai are worth—with Yang’s girl and Li Feng both suicides, and you with his half million gold strapped round your waist.” O’Hare threw back his head and laughed. “Do you suppose he hasn’t got every private detective agency, white and yellow, in the city looking for you? Do you suppose every outgoing ship in the harbor, every means of egress from the Settlement aren’t covered? You know the extent of the Yang organization in Shanghai. Do you suppose he hasn’t turned it loose on you? Do you suppose there’s a plugged nickel less than fifty thousand Mex. on your head? Mr. Marcelles—” O’Hare’s gem-blue eyes had begun to blaze a little— “I wouldn't pay a dime a dozen for your chances of reaching tiie Orient alive. Try it, and you’ll turn up
in the river with your fingers and toes missing and a pair of holes where your eyes were.”
O’Hare?” he said huskily.
“I got you out of it last night.”
“How much do you want?”
“To begin with—the Yang funds.” O’Hare studied the end of his cigarette with a slightly humorous expression. “I’m in it for the good of my soul.”
Marcelles laughed harshly. “Your soul’ll have to seek its salvation elsewhere. There aren’t any Yang funds.”
“What did you say?” O’Hare had made the room vibrate.
“There aren’t any,” Marcelles said bitterly. “As you understand them, I mean.”
O’Hare strode toward him. “Are you trying to tell me that your purpose in going to Li’s last night was to see that child who killed herself on your account?” Marcelles shivered, “Not exactly.” He took a sheaf of new currency out of his inside [x>cket and tossed it on to the table, keeping his eyes fixed on a bit of carved jade on O’Hare’s watch chain, as he did so. “There’s a hundred thousand francs there,” he said. “That’s what I went for. Help yourself. There’s no more.”
“No more—” O’Hare’s voice thickened. “Six thousand dollars gold-—you have the gall to tell me—” He caught Marcelles by the shirt front. “Where’s the rest of it gone?”*
“Stocks and the ponies.” Marcelles’ eyes had become expressionless. “I shot the last ten thousand at the racecourse Saturday—aside from that,” indicating the notes on the table.
“You are lying,” O’Hare said coldly. “You brought half a million gold away with you last night. It’s in this room.” “Search the place, if you like,” Marcelles said quietly.
Marcelles shrugged, and began to undress. O’Hare gave each garment Marcelles handed him a contemptuous glance and tossed it on the bed. Presently, Marcelles stood naked.
“Dress,” O’Hare said briefly.
His search of the place, which he began in the dressing room, was made with that impetuosity, that riotous absorption in the project of the moment that had characterized O’Hare’s headlong course through the years. It was this lust for life that made his least act something to behold. The pause it had taken in its stride prior to the events of the night before had sharpened its edge and brightened its flame now that it was on the loose again.
Some twenty minutes later O’Hare had satisfied himself that the funds were not in the room. Indeed, he was inclined to doubt that they existed as such, for although he realized that Marcelles had had plenty of opportunity to dispose of them between his escape from the wineshop and his return to the Pierre Conti, it was O’Hare’s belief that if the funds had been intact and on Marcelles’ person w’hen he left Li’s, he would, in view of the threat of Yang and the imminence of his own departure on the Orient, have kept them there. The sheaf of hundred-franc notes and the empty money belt—O’Hare had found it in the trunk—supported Marcelles statement that the bulk of the Yang funds was gone.
O’Hare was surprised to find himself not especially disappointed. As a matter of fact, it was not the Yang funds, but the romantic necessity of breaking up the affair between Marcelles and the Ingram girl that had fired his imagination and re-energized him with Ills old lust for life.
He took a mischievous delight in that sort of thing. Money was all very well, but the fun a man had along the way was what counted.
His attitude toward the Yang funds was still further complicated by his feelings about the red-headed woman. He had done some discreditable things during his life, but he now found himself peculiarly reluctant to involve her in a piece of business that promised to be shadier than anything he had ever touched. He didn’t know why. He refused to accept the explanation of a sentimental attachment. He had been around pretty thoroughly and was done with that sort of thing, although he admitted that she was extremely goodlooking and that he liked to be with her. A man whose ways were questionable, he reflected grimly, eventually had to decide whether they were to become more so or less so. He strongly suspected that the present was to be his own moment of decision. If the Yang funds existed, he proposed to have them. But he did not want them to exist. He was prepared to believe that they did not exist.
Marcelles had dressed. “Are you satisfied?”
“The money isn’t here.”
“If you think it’s anywhere else you can go down to the boat with me,” Marcelles said agitatedly. “You can stay with me until it sails.” He leaned forward and pounded his knee with his fist. “Do you think I’d be pulling out like this, if I had it to turn over to Yang?”
“Are you sure you are pulling out?” O’Hare said dryly.
“You said you’d help me.” Marcelles’ lips began to tremble. “That hundred thousand francs is all I’ve got left, but it’s yours if you want it. You aren’t going to let me down, are you?”
“You aren’t sailing on the Orient,” O’Hare said.
“What do you mean?”
“They’d spot you the minute you set foot on the dock,” O’Hare said. “Do I have to tell you that all over again? If I undertake to ease you out of this jam I’ll handle it in my own way. There’s a freighter San Francisco bound at the French Bund. She sails in the morning same time as the Orient. I can put you aboard her as a fireman. You’ll be drunk.
A couple of your buddies’ll pick you up in a place on Scott Road—”
“That’s out of the question, O’Hare. Miss Ingram, my fiancée—we have our reservations. We are to be married at sea—”
“Miss Ingram is not sailing with you,” O’Hare drawled.
“What are you talking about?”
O’Hare squinted at Marcelles through a drift of cigarette smoke. “Marcelles, I went into this thing for the Yang funds. At any rate, I think I did. But I’m staying in it for another reason. Miss Ingram is sailing on the Orient. You are not. You are sailing on that freighter I’ve just told you about—the Mary B. Olsen—if you sail at all. And you are going aboard her as a fireman who’s been on a bat. If you sail at all—is that dear?”
“You’re crazy,” Marcelles said thickly. He threw himself forward in his chair. “Miss Ingram and I—you and that redheaded woman are trying to separate us—” “Exactly, Mr. Marcelles.”
“You shan’t. No, by heaven! I’ll get Janice. I’m the only man that ever lived, so far as she’s concerned. She’ll tell you whether you are going to break it up.” He tried to hoist himself erect, but O’Hare forced him back into his chair. “Take your hands off me, O’Hare, You’re not going to monkey with my affairs—”
“You and Miss Ingram are through.”
“So you said. Let me out of this.” O’Hare remained as he was, and Marcelles threw himself backward in his chair, his face dark with blood. “You’ve fixed up a sweet little racket, haven’t you? Janice has some money, and you and that redheaded tramp—”
The impact of O’Hare’s open hand on
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his cheek sounded like the popping of a toy baloon. A livid welt appeared on the pallid flesh, and Marcelles touched it with his fingertips.
“Now listen to me, Marcelles,” O’Hare said harshly. “If I were to take you out and shoot you I’d be doing the world a favor. Someone will, eventually. The Ingram girl's as virgin as an English primrose, and she thinks you are the loveliest miracle of all. Sacre nom! as Conti would say. Well, you and she are through.” Marcelles whispered: “This is the real thing, O’Hare—”
“I’m thinking of E Tsung with a dagger in her throat.”
“But this is different.” Marcelles shook his head with something of agony in his face. “I’m going to settle down. A man wants to, eventually. He wants a home and children—permanence. You know
that as well as I do. I’m crazy about her. I’ll make her happy. I’m the only man that ever lived, so far as she—”
“If you say that again I’ll snap your windpipe,” O’Hare said dangerously. “You are going to write a letter I shall dictate, to the Ingram girl—”
“I’ll be damned if I will!”
“You’ll either write it,” O’Hare said leisurely, “or I’ll turn you over to Yang. You have three minutes to make up your mind.”
Marcelles said faintly, “You wouldn’t do that, O’Hare.”
“I’d rather enjoy doing it.”
“You’ll break my girl’s heart.”
“Better now than six months from now.” O’Hare had his watch in his hand. “You have two minutes.”
Marcelles collapsed. “All right,” he said in a stifled voice.
O’Hare found writing materials in the chiffonnier. He laid them on the table in front of Marcelles who had buried his head in his arms, added a fountain pen, his own, filled with green ink, and waited. Marcelles groaned and lifted his head. A little blood had spurted from beneath the strip of plaster on his lower lip. He picked up the pen.
“Janice:” O’Hare began. He proceeded slowly, barbing each word with a biting emphasis. “This thing simply cannot be. I lost my head over you—” the point of the pen in Marcelles’ hand impaled the paper, then leaped erratically on—“I shouldn’t be faithful to you six months. It isn’t in me to be. I am
going away and I shall not see you again. When you get this I shall have left the city. Don’t take it too hard. Better go back to your people-—” Marcelles had to stop to wipe his eyes. He blotted what he had written. Then, “Mrs. Mallory is leaving on the Orient, and I know she will do what she can to help you over the next week or two. Good luck.”
“Sign it and write ‘Janice’ on the envelope.”
O’Hare blotted the note, enclosed it in the envelope and put it inside his jacket. “How long have you been at the Conti?” “Since last Friday.”
“Why did you come here?”
“Janice wrote me that her father knew Conti. I have an apartment in the Belle Isle.”
“Who know's you are here?”
“Li Feng knew. I mentioned it to Thaley, of the Chinese-Continental Bank, and to French, of the Asia-Pacific line. My cook and my houseboy know.”
“Marcelles,” O’Hare said, “I’m going to
lock you in your room and take the key with me. I’d advise you to slip that bolt on the door and not to admit anyone but me.” He picked up the 100-franc notes. “I don’t know what this is going to cost you. I’ll make the best deal I can with the skipper of the MaryB. Olsen. I’ll give him what’s left and tell him to hand it to you when you dock at San Francisco. Get some sleep. You need it.”
O’HARE locked the door behind him and dropped the key into his jacket pocket. As he did so. it was his impression that a door a couple of rooms down had just closed softly. He waited a moment. He heard Marcelles slide the bolt into its socket.
Downstairs, O’Hare looked into the music room which had a Louis Sixteenth frivolity, a minuet-in-bastile delicacy that was M. Conti’s only departure from his sound republican principles. Irene Mallory and Janice Ingram were taking coffee in an alcove that looked out upon the compound. It was O’Hare’s thought as he approached them that the red-headed woman met his eyes a little apprehensively, although something warm and alive in them leaped disturbingly up at him and made him reflect that she looked extremely well in her russet-brown frock.
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‘T was wondering if I could beg some coffee,” O’Hare said.
“I don’t believe you’ve had any lunch,” Irene said.
"It must have been terribly important —whatever detained you.”
"And successful?” The gold lights in her eyes stood still.
“Quite.” O’Hare smiled,
“Yet you are running off—”
“As soon as I’ve had my coffee.”
“Sugar, Mr, O’Hare?" Janice asked, O’Hare sipped his coffee standing. The girl’s eyes were clouded, he noticed. She seemed to have lost a little of her English color, a little of that note of wonder that had characterized her voice, and a little of that radiant glow that; lived in her like a light.
“I understood you were going to the races, young lady?”
“To bet on Rangoon,” Irene Mallory smiled.
‘I was,” Janice said. “George is unwell.” “And you are disappointed?”
“Oh, a little.”
“You must go anyhow,” O’Hare said. “To leave Shanghai without seeing the races is lèse majesté,” O'Hare frowned into Iris coffee cup, the red-headed woman watching him meanwhile through her eyelashes. “1 propose Smallwood as an escort. Isn't lie around? Or perhaps you don’t care for him?”
“Oh, I do. 1 think he’s charming—” Janice stopped, her cheeks scarlet. “But so are all of you.”
Irene said quickly, “Janice is one of those loyal souls. Mr. Marcelles is ill, and she feels she ought to remain in. Mr. Smallwood and I have tried our best to change her mind.”
“You must manage to,” O’Hare said; then he added whimsically, “and insist that she bets on Rangoon. ”
When O’Hare had gone, Janice turned abruptly to the red-headed woman : “What is it that I am afraid of?”
“My dear child !” Irene tapped down a cigarette with elaborate casualness. “What on earth are you talking about?”
Janice was staring at the tip of her shoe. “I shouldn’t mind it—at least, not so much—if I knew what it was. But I don’t.” She shut her eyes for a moment. “Something has happened. Or is going to happen. And I am a part of it.” She took a long breath. “If I knew what it was I could face it.”
“You are upset, dear.”
“Upset!” the girl laughed queerly, her lovely eyes wide open. “I feel as if something within me was turning to ice. Sometimes I think—” She broke off, her face pinched and tragic.
“Have you spoken to George?”
“Twice. When we got back from the French Club, that unspeakable Mr. Ramsgate was waiting for him in the lobby. They went up to George’s room together. I didn’t see him again until just before lunch today. Something had happened—a fight, I suppose. Elis face was all battered and bruised and he looked terrible. But he seemed different, toobroken in spirit; it affected me dreadfully. He wouldn’t let me do a thing for him.” Janice’s lips began to tremble. “Is love only an illusion, Mrs. Mallory?”
Irene said gently: “Are you sure about George and yourself?”
“I—I don’t know. Were you ever in love with a mask? Only you didn’t know it was a mask until afterward? And when you found out, you—”
A voice cut in then—Smallwood’s. “Oh, here you are. Miss Ingram. This is splendid.” The Englishman was striding toward them with his thin face flushed. “Luckily, I ran into that chap O’Hare— he was just going out. He said Miss Ingram had changed her mind. It’s rather late, but we should manage a race or two.” It took Janice a moment to readjust: herself,
“I didn’t know—” She threw a bright-
cheeked glance at the red-headed woman. And then, “Did Mr. O’EIare—”
“I say, you are coming, aren’t you?” “Of course she is,” Irene said with a quick laugh. “And see that she bets on Rangoon.”
Janice’s eyes suddenly became as bright as her cheeks.
“I believe I will,” she said.
’HARE got back around six.
His opinion that Marcelles had spoken the truth was not yet positive, and if his doubt should become active again he would, he knew, bedevil Marcelles until he got the money away from him; not because he especially wanted it, but because its existence would constitute a challenge to his vanity. Truly, those whose ways were questionable eventually had to decide whether they were to become more so or less so.
O’EIare knocked on Irene Mallory’s door. She oi>ened it and stood looking at him. Ele noticed that the light within the room filled her hair with a sort of smouldering glow and that she wore small emerald earrings. He was struck by the tranquillity of her expression. Or by his own conviction of the unrealness of its tranquillity, rather. She had put. it on to conceal herself. He was not looking at Irene Mallory at all.
She smiled then, and said, “Come in, Mr. O’Hare.”
He did so with a sense of unrest.
She occupied a suite of two rooms. She was packing, he saw. She sat down and clasped her hands over lier knees. The smile she had brought into the room hung a little askew against the blank wall of her tranquillity. O’Hare sensed the beat of wings behind it.
“I had an idea you’d be wondering how I was getting along.”
“I saw Marcelles.”
“Since you returned?”
“No.” She seemed to be holding her breath. “No,” he said again, and began to light a cigarette. “Before I saw' you in the music room. I couldn't say much in front of the girl.”
“I got your meaning perfectly.”
“I saw that you did.” Ele read her the note Marcelles had written at his dictation. “How does that sound?”
“It sounds like George Marcelles,” she answered in a small voice, and began to twist a ring on her finger. “He must have been in a dreadful state of mind to have written that.”
“That ‘telegram for General Yang’ took the steam out of him,” O’Hare said dryly. “I don’t think he believed in it for more than a minute, either. By the way—” O’Hare examined the end of his cigarette —“there are no Yang funds. Marcelles fed them to the ponies and the stock market. He dropped the last ten thousand —aside from a hundred thousand francs he picked up at Li’s last night, on Rangoon, Saturday.”
“Is that true?” Before he could reply, Irene said again, “Is that true?” She was staring at him oddly. “Is it. Mr. O’EIare?” Ele was puzzled. “You don’t mind?” “Mind!” She shut her eyes with an expression of pain. “I wish I’d never heard of the money. When I think of little E Tsung—” Quietly, she added, “There are some things one can’t get away from.” O’Hare brooded over his cigarette. “The Mary B. Olsen sails tomorrow morning about the same time as the Orient. She’s San Francisco bound; I told you that. I’ve arranged Marcelles' passage. He goes aboard her as a stoker on a binge. My responsibility ends when I get him there.” O’Hare smiled introspectively. “The chief of the Mary B. has promised to ride the devil out of him.”
Irene did not reply and O’EIare, frowning, began to prowl about the room. A copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass lay on the table. He picked it up, leafed moodily through it, put it down, and without any exact sense of what was in his mind, hauled a chair up in front of the red-headed woman and seated himself upon it.
“What’s wrong, Irene?” he said gently. “I’m tired.”
“Of what, specifically?”
“Oh,” she laughed sharply, “vagabondage.”
“We are sailing tomorrow.”
She looked at him oddly. “Are we?” “Are you going to tell me what you mean by that?”
She said coldly, “You must answer that question for yourself.” His left eyebrow humorously elevated, he stood up, rubbing out his cigarette. He was moving toward the door when she stopped him: “Where
are you going?”
“To Marcelles. I’ve got to get him started.”
She sprang to her feet and placed herself in front of him.
“Don't go, Gerald.”
“What’s all this, Irene?”
O’EIare felt her body trembling as he caught her by the shoulders. He saw her forehead become moist and the blood drain out of her lips and terror dilate her eyes. O'EIare’s chilling premonition of disaster was overwhelmed by a rush of tenderness, and the next thing he knew she was in his arms and his mouth was on hers. He held her like that for at least a minute with his ears drumming and thunder in his temples; then he tilted her head back and closed her eyes with his lips.
Presently, he said: “You’d better tell me about it, Irene.”
“Don’t go near him, Gerry—” her voice was muffled, a little remote. “Drop the thing now. This minute. Let things go as they will. There’s something else more important. To us, I mean. We’ve always missed the thing that was important, you and I.” She touched his cheek with her hand. “It doesn’t matter what it is that one wants, so long as one wants it more than anything else in the world. For Smallwood it’s going back to muffins and tea with his sense of having wings on. For me, it’s a cottage in Normandy. What is it for you, Gerry?”
O’Hare tilted her head up, but she had shut her eyes before he could make anything of them. The scent of lilacs filled his nostrils and the drumming in his ears was deafening him.
“That same cottage in Normandy,” he said roughly, “with you in it. And perhaps a touch of Paris in the springtime.”
She opened her eyes and searched his face. “It’s a beautiful picture, Gerry. And that’s what I’m afraid of—that it’s only a picture. It’s difficult for people of our sort to get away from what they have made of themselves. Shanghai is a beginning and an end of things. I suppose it’s the hardest, the most cynically calculating city in the world. It isn’t lovely like Paris, or mellow like London, or youthful like New York. It’s-—well, it’s the place where you and I lost our sense of having wings on.”
“There’s something in the Bible,” O’EIare said huskily, “about finding the thing you lost where you lost it.”
“That’s what I mean.” Her face had become eager. “If we are to find it, we must find it here. Now. This very minute, perhaps. Don’t you see? It’s our moment of decision—”
O’Hare kissed the smooth curve of her throat.
“Give me half a chance, dear, and we’ll have our cottage in Normandy. But I’ve got to finish up this piece of business.” She became tense in his arms. “Gerry, if you love me you won’t go to George Marcelles’ room. We don’t need that money. If we take it, it’ll kill the other, the important thing—”
“I told you there was no money, Irene.” “Yes, you told me that.”
“So you don’t believe me?”
Her voice was hard as she said, “Last night you told me you intended to do as you pleased about the Yang funds.”
“But I’ve just told you—” He stood her back from himself. “Suppose you tell me what you are driving at.”
“I had the quaint idea that something might be recaptured”—her intonation was
tragic in its bitterness—“and held in spite of everything.”
CHE CROSSED to a table on the other side of the room, O’Hare staring after her from where he stood, and was opening a drawer when someone rapped on the door. She shut the drawer sharply, turned, and stood with her back against it.
Her voice low, she said: “See who it is, will you?”
O’Hare opened the door, and Janice and Smallwood bounded into the room as boisterously as a pair of collie pups. Smallwood’s color was feverishly high. Janice hung upon his arm. Her eyes were as bright as washed aquamarines. An enormous bouquet of cornflowers wrapped in a green tissue occupied Smallwood’s other arm.
Janice proceeded to enmesh Irene. O’EIare, Smallwood and herself in a breathless web of words.
“We’ve had a perfectly gorgeous time. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. We had no idea the difference it makes when one puts even the tiniest bet on the horse one wants to win. Had we, Henry?”
“Oh, rather,” Smallwood said.
“When I think how nearly we missed going—if you hadn’t met Elenry in the lobby, Mr. O’Hare, and told him. The friendliest little man introduced himself to us and offered to help us place our bets, but Henry said no, we’d do it for ourselves, and the little man went away looking hurt. Henry thought he was an American. We had programmes; only they didn’t call them that, and Henry picked a horse called Rex . . . because of The Family, Elenry said . . . and I chose a little black one—what was his name, Henry?”
“Hussy, I believe,” Smallwood said, a trifle diffidently.
“Oh, yes. The jockey looked so stunning in his blue shirt—that lovely cornflower blue, Mrs. Mallory. Elenry said we shouldn’t risk more than three dollars each. I simply couldn’t move while they were running. Rex was leading for a minute, and the man next to us got up and waved his stick and shouted ‘Bravo!’ Elenry got up, too, but he remembered himself and sat down again. But Rex didn’t win, Mrs. Mallory.” Janice shut her eyes and clasped her hands ecstatically. “Hussy won. I couldn’t breathe. Then Elenry liad to hold me down. And do you know”—Janice opened her eyes again —“when we went to see about my bet I’d won eighteen dollars.”
“The odds were six to one,” Smallwood explained. “If I’d had any idea—” He colored and looked at O’Hare a little anxiously. “You must think me a bit of a simpleton. The truth of the matter is I never cared much about the races in Ningpo.” His eyes ranged toward Janice again with something of hunger and much of adoration in them. “I suppose there never was a man of my age who had so much to learn.”
“You don’t know how lucky you are. Mr. Smallwood.” The poignant note in Irene's voice disturbed O’Hare. She added lightly, “The cornflowers are to celebrate Janice’s victory in cornflower blue, I suppose,”
“Not at all,” Janice hastened to say. “Henry insisted they were divine and exactly the color of my eyes. We’d stopped for cocktails at the Astor House to celebrate Elussy’s victory. We had two each. And when we came out there was a vendor with cornflowers. I said I had to have them —all of them. Elenry was going to pay for them, but I said no. I was going to buy them myself,” Janice took the cornflowers from Smallwood and placed them in Irene’s arms. “I bought them for you, Mrs. Mallory, out of my eighteen dollars. They’re all there, except one I tucked into Papa Conti’s buttonhole on our way up.”
“Why, how dear of you,” Irene said “They are the color of your eyes. They are lovely. 1 shall take them aboard with me.”
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“And not a word yet about Rangoon,” O’Hare said.
“Oh, Rangoon.” Janice turned to Smallwood. “What was that about Rangoon, Henry? The American told us, you remember.”
“Ah, yes,” Smallwood said. “Rangoon hasn’t run for a fortnight, O’Hare. He’s had a bowed tendon—I believe that was what the American chap called it. But he’s expected to be back on the card—I say, O’Hare, what’s wrong?”
O’Hare’s glacial stare froze the room. Janice turned white. The red-headed woman’s delight in the blooms in her arms withered and she laid them on the table and leaned against it with her hands clenched.
“Two weeks, you said, Smallwood?” “Why, yes, O’Hare. Is anything wrong— ?”
O’Hare’s expression became ugly in its swift concentration of purpose. Striding toward the door he said “Excuse me.” and left the room.
O’Hare reached Marcelles’ door with the key in his hand, but he did not need it, for when he twisted the handle the door opened. The room was dark. He waited a moment, his rage fanning his cheeks like a hot wind; then he pushed into the room and shut the door and set his back against it.
“Marcelles,” he said, in a thick voice.
He felt for the wall switch and the light came on.
Marcelles sat at the table with his head in his arms much as he had when O’Hare left him, except that a bit of steel with an ebony handle was thrust upward into the back of his head at the base of the skull.
To be Continued