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strain.

When I arrived in San Francisco, it was one of those strange days when
the sea-fog comes in to visit the town. It rolled in great thick
billows down the streets from the sand dunes, obscuring everything,
damping everything, filling the air with the salt scent of the open
sea.

I went to one of the big hotels, and they gave me a bedroom and
sitting-room to myself: the rooms were adjoining and comfortable, but
oh! what a blankness fell upon me as I sat down in one of the chairs
and the bell-boy, having deposited a jug of iced water on the table,
shut the door. I had been so much with Viola that it seemed strange to
me now, hard to realise that I was alone. How many rooms such as
these, she and I had come into, shared together, and how bright and
gay her companionship had always been, how she had always laughed at
the discomforts or the difficulties of our travels! Surely we had been
made for each other! What strange wave of life was this that had
broken us apart? I looked towards my bedroom, dull and cheerless and
empty. From the open window the warm, wet, yellow fog was streaming in
its soft wreaths through both rooms. The roar from the stone-paved
streets, crowded with incessant traffic, came up to me muffled through
the fog.

After a time I rose, closed the windows, unpacked my things, and
changed my clothes. Then I went down at six to dine, as I wanted a
long evening. Some champagne cheered me, and as I sat in the long,
crowded dining-room, alone at my small table, my heart began to beat
again warmly at the thought of the new venture before me. To-night?
What would it bring forth? Should I find her? The vitalising breath of
excitement began to creep through me. I finished my dinner hurriedly,
swallowed my black coffee at a draught, and made my way down the room
and out to the hall, putting on my hat and coat as I went. I found the
guide I had asked for when I first arrived at the hotel waiting for
me. He asked me mysteriously if I had put away my watch and divested
myself of all jewellery, and I told him impatiently I had and showed
him a small revolver I always carried. When he was somewhat reassured
I took the paper that Suzee had sent me out of my pocket and showed it
to him.

"That's where I want to go," I said, "and if you know every hole and
cranny of the place as I was told, I suppose you know that one."

The guide grinned as he read the name.

"It's the worst place in the whole town," he remarked with a sort of
admiring unction. I evidently went up in his estimation as he
recognised the acumen I had shewed in my choice. I was a visitor
worthy of his guidance, and he was put upon his mettle.

"The police don't dare to go there, but they'll let me in day or
night."

We had reached the door now and stepped into the street. The fog had
had its frolic down town, it seemed and had almost disappeared,
rolling off to the sand dunes and the sea whence it had come. The
night was dark and fresh with the damp saltness of the shore; a few
stars shone above. The shops were still open, and their huge
plate-glass windows blazed with light. We walked rapidly through these
streets towards the Chinese quarter where the noise and light ceased.
The streets were quiet and empty and seemed very clean. The shops here
were closed. The lights few. There was a fever of impatience in my
veins. I felt as when one is drawing near to an unknown combat: a
conflict the nature of which and ultimate result one does not know.

My rather shambling guide seemed amused at the pace at which I walked
and giggled immoderately between remarks of his own which seemed to
him to be appropriate to the occasion. I hardly heard him. At one
moment I was lost in a bitter reflection of how many excursions and
similar wanderings Viola had shared with me; at another, my mind
seemed leaping eagerly forward, to seize this new joy in front of me.

"That's a joss-house, and that's a tea-house, and that's a silk
merchant," remarked my guide at intervals, indicating different
buildings as we passed. Some were frame houses with signs hanging out,
painted in Chinese characters and with wonderful red door-posts; some
had latticed windows with lights burning behind. But for the most
part, from this outer point of view, Chinatown was clean, orderly, and
dark.

We stopped at last before an open doorway through which we stepped and
crossed a yard, hemmed in by the crowded frame buildings round it, but
open to the sky. By the light of the stars we found a ladder at the
farther side and ascended this as it leant against the crooked wall of
a rickety and tumbledown-looking house. The ladder went as far as the
second story, where there was an open square of blackness, either
window or door, through which we scrambled from the swaying rungs and
then found ourselves in a passage. It was very low, apparently, for I
struck my head whenever I held it upright, and so narrow that our
shoulders brushed the sides. It was in fact a little tunnel, reminding
one of the rounded runways a rabbit makes in thick undergrowth. It was
quite dark, and my guide put himself in front and took one of my
hands, pulling me along after him down steps and round corners, along
different twisted, corkscrew turnings, till at last a passage a little
broader than the others opened before us, where a lamp was burning; he
drew back against the wall, pushing me forwards, and whispering some
directions in my ear.

I passed along, as I was bid, went down two small steps, and knocked
at the door I found before me. The door seemed a very stout one,
securely fastened, and had a small aperture, at the height of one's
face from the ground. It was only about five inches square and set
with thick vertical iron bars. Behind these was an iron flap now
closed.

I knocked and waited. Presently the iron flap behind the bars was
cautiously opened and I saw a face peering through at me. Before I
could speak the iron flap was shut to with a clank.

"That's because Nanine sees you're a stranger," whispered my guide.
"They're a real bad lot here, and they're precious afraid of any 'tecs
getting in. Just let me pass, sir."

I drew back, and he went up and gave the most extraordinary squawk
that I ever heard. It was a pretty good password to have, for I should
think no stranger could imitate it. The flap flew open again, and then
some conversation ensued through the bars.

"It's all right now, sir," said the guide after a minute; "you walk
right in." The door was now ajar. I went forwards and pushed it; it
gave way easily. I stepped inside, and it swung to behind me. Inside
the light was red - scarlet. A lamp was standing somewhere at the side
of the room, behind thin, red curtains. As I entered, another door at
the end of the room swung to on a retreating form. Some one had gone
out. The room seemed empty. It was very small, and an enormous bed
took up nearly the whole of it. There seemed no window at all
anywhere: the low ceiling almost touched my head. I stopped still. A
very slight movement somewhere near me seemed to speak of another's
presence.

"Suzee," I said under my breath.

At the sound of my voice there was a delighted cry, and the next
moment a little form in scarlet drapery threw itself at my feet.

"Treevor, Treevor," came in Suzee's voice; and I bent over the little
scarlet bundle, lifted her up, and pressed my lips on her hair. It
smelt of roses, just as it had done in the tea-shop at Sitka, and
carried me back there on the wings of its fragrance, as scents alone
can do.

She clung to me in a wild fervour of emotion. I felt her little hands
dutch me desperately. She kissed my arm and wrist passionately,
seeming not to dare to lift her face to mine. This wild abandonment,
this frenzy of hungered, starving love, what a sharp contrast to the
cool, slow surrender of Viola, if surrender it could be called, that
lending of the beautiful body, with total reserve of the spirit! Even
in that moment of this wild lavishing of love from another, as the
little breast leapt wildly against my own, a fierce pulse of jealous
longing went through me as I thought of that unconquered something
that _she_ had never yielded to me.

Suzee hardly seemed to expect my caresses in return, she only seemed
to wish to pour her own upon me in the wildest, most lavish excess.
At last, when she grew a little calmer, I held her at arm's length
from me and looked at her.

"Now, Suzee, I want you to tell me what you are doing in this awful
place. How did you get here, to begin with?"

"Oh, Mister Treevor, I have had such trouble, such awful trouble, you
will never believe; but when I ran - when I came to Mrs. Hackett she
was very good to me, only she wanted to sell me for two hundred and
fifty dollars to Chinaman. I said, 'No, I belong to rich Englishman.
He send you more if you wait. He send you three hundred!' And I wrote
you, you remember?"

"Yes," I answered. "Did you get the money all right that I cabled to
you?"

"Oh yes, Treevor, thank you; and Nanine had it and so she was willing
to keep me."

"But what have you been doing while you have been here?" I said
glancing round. The whole place, with its hidden entrance, secret
passages, and barred doors seemed to speak of the lowest and worst
forms of vice.

"Oh, Treevor, I have been very good, so good. I would not have any
visitors at all. I was so afraid you would find out and not have me if
you knew, and, besides, I loved you too much." (But this was
evidently an after-thought, and I noted it as such. Her true reason
was given first.) "And I knew Nanine would take all my money, whatever
I got. She is good to the girls here, but she takes all their money,
all, they never have any. So I said to myself, 'What is the use?
Besides, he will come soon and take you away.' And to Nanine I
said - 'Englishman will be so angry with you and with me, perhaps he
will kill you or tell the police if you do not keep me for him.' And
when the money came Nanine was quite pleased and said perhaps you
would pay more when you came, so she did not worry me with Chinamen or
any one, and I've had this room all to myself since I've been here.
And I was very much afraid of you, Treevor, if I did anything at all,
so I really, really have not."

I kept my eyes fixed on hers all the time she was speaking, and I felt
as the words came eagerly from her lips that they were the truth. Her
exquisite, untouched beauty, her ardour of passionate welcome to me
helped to illustrate it.

I smiled at her.

"Well, I am quite satisfied," I said; "I believe you have been 'good,'
as you call it, because you were afraid to be otherwise. I want to
hear a lot more about your husband and how you came here, but I think
we had better get out of this place as soon as we can. Have you any
things you want to take with you?"

"Only this," she said, pointing to an odd, little, hide-covered trunk
beside her. "That has my silk clothes in it and my jewellery. If you
want me to come away I can come now."

I sat silent for a moment, thinking. Where should I take her? Back to
my own hotel perhaps for this one night. It might be managed. It was
getting late, most of the people in the hotel would be in bed when we
got there. To-morrow or the next day we could start for Mexico, where
I had made up my mind to go with her.

"Very well," I said aloud; "shut up your trunk and put something round
you, and we'll go now."

"You will see Nanine? You will speak to her? Let me call her," said
Suzee rather anxiously. And as I assented she slipped out of the room
and reappeared with a fat, coarse-looking woman who grinned amiably as
she saw me. She agreed to let Suzee go with me then and there for
another hundred dollars, and said her little trunk should be sent
downstairs and put on a cab which the guide could get for us.

While this was being done, she chatted to me, thanked me for the money
I had cabled over, and hoped I was satisfied with Suzee, her
appearance, and the treatment she had received. I said I was, and
asked how it was the girl had come to her at all. She seemed a little
confused at that, and began to explain volubly that she had had
nothing to do with it. Suzee had come there one night and begged to be
taken in, and as she had known some of the girl's people who had
formerly lived in Chinatown, she had done so out of pure pity and
charity and love of humanity.

I listened to all this with a smile, and, as I felt I was not getting
the truth, did not prolong the conversation. When the guide came back
and said he was ready for us I paid the one hundred dollars and wished
her good-night.

She opened the outer door of the room for us, and we went down a
staircase this time which eventually led us to a door in another yard
from which we gained the street. The ladder way, I take it, was used
chiefly as a convenient exit in case of a raid by the police. I put
Suzee into the cab and jumped in myself, the guide went on the box,
and we drove back to the hotel.

It needed a certain amount of moral courage to drive up to the hotel
with the scarlet-clad Suzee beside me, but I think possibly artists
have a larger share of that useful quality than other men. Always
having been different from others since his childhood, the artist is
accustomed to the gaping wonder, the ridicule as well as the
admiration, the misunderstanding, of those about him, and it ceases to
affect him; while viewing as he does his companions with a certain
contempt, knowing them to be less gifted than himself, he sets no
store by their opinion.

So I paid and dismissed my guide, also the driver, pushed open the
swinging glass doors, and entered the lounge, Suzee beside me.

We were not late enough; in another hour the hall would have been
deserted. As it was, the band had ceased playing, but there were
numbers of men lounging about and smoking, and groups of women still
sitting in the rocking-chairs under the palms.

Through the hall we went, straight to the lift, but every eye was
turned upon us and I felt rather than heard the gasp of horror that
our entry caused. The elevator boy almost collapsed on the ground as I
motioned Suzee to go in and sit down, which she did - on the floor.

However, no actual force was used to restrain our movements, and we
reached my rooms without any hindrance.

It was decidedly an improvement to have her there; the rooms looked
better, more comfortable, more as my rooms were accustomed to look.

Suzee herself was extravagantly delighted, and shewed it in every look
and gesture. Gay and radiant in her brilliant scarlet silk, she moved
about under the electric light like a glowing animated picture.

"What will you have to eat or drink?" I asked as I saw her look
curiously into the jug of iced water that adorned my table. "I'll
order some supper."

"Anything, Treevor, anything you eat; I don't mind, and I never drink
anything but tea. May I get out my own tea-things and make it?"

"Certainly," I answered, and I watched her interestedly as she went
down on her knees before her little trunk and opened it, turning out
beautiful coloured silks of all shades on to the floor.

While we were thus innocently engaged the hotel manager burst suddenly
into the room. He looked very perturbed, and his face was a deep
purple.

"Now, sir, will you tell me what you mean by behaving like this in a
respectable hotel?"

He caught sight of Suzee sitting on the ground and started; the girl
stared up at him with a look of astonishment in which I thought
recognition blended.

"Come outside," I said mildly, "and take a turn in the corridor with
me." And we both went out and shut the door.

I talked with him for fifteen minutes and explained it was unwise and
unnecessary to make a great fuss and turn a good customer into the
streets at this late hour. We were going in any case as soon as we
could get off; in the mean time, the engagement of the next room to
mine at seven dollars a day for Suzee would satisfy the proprieties.
An artist must have models for his pictures and must put them up
somewhere. Besides, I pointed out that he could put all my
transgressions down at full length in the bill.

This seemed to soothe him very much, and our interview ended by his
unlocking the door of the next room, turning on the lights, and saying
what a fine one it was. I promised Suzee should occupy it, and told
him we wanted supper and some champagne he could recommend. This
completely softened him, and he left me promising to send the waiter
for orders.

In a few minutes the same bell-boy appeared with another of the
inevitable jugs of iced water, and a waiter came immediately after and
took my orders. All this being temporarily arranged, I went back to
Suzee. She had changed in that short time from her scarlet dress into
one of the palest blue, the most exquisite soft tone of colour
conceivable. It was all embroidered round the edge of the little
jacket and the wide falling sleeves in mauve and silver, and she had
twisted some mauve flowers and heavy silver ornaments into her shining
hair. Her great dark eyes flashed and sparkled, the pure tint of her
skin shewed the most faultless cream against the soft blue silk, her
little mouth curved redly in gay smiles as she looked at me for
admiration.

I was sad and heart-sick really in my inner self, but the senses count
for much in this life and they were pleased and told me I had done
well.

"I am quite, quite happy, Treevor," she said, as I told her she was
beautiful, a vision to dazzle one. "Now see me make tea. All Chinese
make it this way."

On a little side table she had rigged up a sort of spirit stand, and
on this a kettle steamed merrily. Set out on the table was a queer
little silver box of tea and four delicate, transparent cups or
basins, for they had no handles, of the most fairy-like egg-shell
china, each standing in a shell-like saucer.

"Where is your teapot?" I asked, coming up to the table and putting my
hand on the blue silk-clad shoulder.

"Chinese never have teapot. That's all an English mistake. Chinese
always make tea in a cup."

She took as she spoke a pinch of tea between her tiny fingers and
dropped it into one of the cups, immediately filling it up with
boiling water. Then she took the saucer from underneath and set it on
the top, its rim exactly enclosed the edge of the cup. Raising the
saucer a trifle at one side, she poured the infusion into one of the
other little bowls, keeping her finger on the saucer to hold it in
place. The tea leaves, kept back by the saucer, remained in the first
cup. The tea, a clear, pale-amber liquid, filled the second.

"Now it is ready to drink," she said, lifting the tiny egg-shell bowl
and handing it to me.

"Don't you have any milk or sugar?" I said, taking the hot basin in my
hand and holding it by a little rim at the bottom, the only place one
could hold it for the heat.

"No, anything else spoil it. You drink that and I make you another."

She threw away the first leaves, put a fresh pinch of tea in, filled
up the bowl and strained it off into another as before, then picked up
the second by the bottom rim, drained it, and repeated the process
with marvellous rapidity. I watched her, sipping my own.

"Do you like it?" she asked. "It is real gold-tipped Orange Pekoe.
Very good tea, indeed!"

I drank it. It had a wonderful flavour. I told her so and took another
cup, to her great delight.

The waiter came in, laid our supper on the table, put the champagne in
ice, and departed. I offered Suzee the wine, but she said she had all
the tea she could drink. She was willing to eat, however, and we sat
down to the table.

"I want you to tell me all about what happened at Sitka," I said. "How
did poor old Hop Lee die?"

"Oh, it was all such a dreadful thing, Treevor," she returned,
spreading out both hands, on the wrists of which heavy silver bangles
set with amethysts shone and tinkled. "He went down one day to Fort
Wrangle on business and when he came back one day after, he had a
fearful cough, and then he got very ill and went to bed, and I sat
beside him and he got worse and worse. Oh, so bad, and the doctor came
and he had very much medicine, and then his chest began to bleed, and
he coughed very much blood for days and days and weeks, and I nursed
him all that time, Treevor, all night long. I got no sleep at all; oh,
it was very, very bad."

I looked at her curiously. I could not somehow picture Suzee as the
devoted nurse passing sleepless nights and never absent from the
pillow of the suffering Hop Lee.

As I looked at her, I noticed the strange thickening of the features
and darkening of the skin I had noted before at Sitka, and knew the
blood was mounting into the face, though she could not blush, as the
English girl blushes, red.

"It is really true, Treevor," she said, in an aggrieved tone.

"I am not contradicting you," I replied calmly, "go on."

"At last he died," she continued, though in rather a sulky tone, "and
doctor said I might die too, I had made myself so ill, so thin with
waiting on him. My bones stuck out so," she put her hands edgeways to
her sides to indicate how her ribs, now remarkably well covered, had
stood out from her sufferings; but remembering the fictitious blows
she had recounted to me when I first met her, I was not so much
stirred by her recital as I might otherwise have been.

"And what about the child?" I asked.

"The boy? Oh, Treevor, he died very soon after. He caught cold from
his father, I think."

"Did he die of cold and cough, too, then?" I asked.

"Yes, he coughed till he died. Oh, I cried so much when he died. My
baby boy, my very big baby, I did love him so."

She blinked her glorious eyes very much as if they were full of tears
at the recollection, but I did not see any fall, and she pursued her
supper without any interruption of appetite.

I sat back in my chair, watching her and musing. Poor old Hop Lee! I
wondered what his last moments had been like, and whether those dainty
fingers had really been employed smoothing his brow, or counting his
effects, at the last?

"And then what came after?" I asked. "How did it come that you were to
be sold, as you said?"

"We were very poor when he died; so poor, and we owed a lot, and his
brother came up from Juneau and took over the tea-shop and everything.
Then he said he had offer from big Chinaman who would buy me, and he
said my husband owe him lot of money, he sell me, get it back, and he
sent me down to Nanine in 'Frisco to give to big Chinaman; but I told
Nanine you would give more, so Nanine kept me for you."

"But how will your husband's brother get the money for you in that
case?" I said.

"What a lot of questions you do ask, Treevor!" she returned sulkily.
"I don't know how he will get the money. He will make Nanine give him
some, I suppose. Let us forget it all, I don't want to think of that
any more."

I laughed.

"Very well. If you have finished your supper, come over here and sit
on my knee and we will forget it all, as you say."

She rose willingly and came over to me, a lovely, shimmering, Oriental
vision, dainty and perfect.

"I must paint you, Suzee, some day just as you appear now and call you
The Beauty of China, or something like that. You seem the joy of the
East incarnate."

Suzee frowned and then smiled.

"I do not like such long words. I do not understand you when you talk
like that; but I love you, Treevor, so, so much."

The misty light of dawn was rolling over 'Frisco when I shewed Suzee
her own room, where according to the pact with the manager, she was to
sleep.

She shivered as we went into it.

"Oh, Treevor, what a great big room," she said; "I am frightened at
it. Won't you stay with me? Or let me be in yours?"

"I said you should sleep here," I answered; "so you must. Jump into
bed quick and go to sleep; you will soon forget the size of the room.
I am dead tired now, I must go and get some sleep myself. Good-night,
dear."

I kissed her and went back to the sitting-room. The morning light
struggling with the artificial fell on the table with its scattered
plates and glasses, and on her little trunk and the unpacked silken
clothes.

I turned out the lights and drew up the blinds, and stood looking out.
The waves of soft white fog filled the empty streets. All was quiet,
white, in the dawn.

I had said I was tired, yet now sleep seemed far from my eyes, and my
mind flew out over intervening space to Viola, longing to find her,
wherever she was.

Where would she be? I could imagine her waking with this same dawn in


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