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CORKS AND THE COMMODORE

BY HARRY D. COUZENS.

A Tale of Bold Deception, Double-Dyed Intrigue,
and Thrilling Adventure in Honolulu Harbor.

"WHITE schooner off Koko Head; looks like a yacht," said the Diamond Head lookout over the telephone, and a yacht she proved to he as she rounded to her anchorage in Honolulu Harbor two hours later. Moreover, there fluttered from her foremast-head the signal of a well-known yacht-club on the Atlantic coast and from her main the commodore's flag. The anchor slid into the bay to the accompaniment of a sharp explosion from a long brass gun.

As the great white sails came flowing downward a small but select party met in the cabin to partake of champagne with the commodore, whose papers declared him to be also owner, captain, and sailing-master. They were the marine doctor, two customs officials, and the brown old pilot. The commodore was large, athletic, and darkly handsome. To his official guests his manner was full of charm and courtesy, but the doctor, who knew more of men than of ships, noted a certain grimness in the set of the square, bony jaw and a glint of steel in the cold blue eyes. " A strong man and a hard one," was his mental comment. I'll wager that he's a driver."

"This is a fine, tight little ship you have here, captain," said the pilot, sneezing a trifle over the unaccustomed wine. "A craft that's good for sore eyes."

"You may well say so," replied the commodore. "The Hermione is a witch. There is no finer schooner-yacht afloat. I have been three years on this cruise, in some of the roughest water on the globe, and with all her speed she is as sound and able as a clipper-ship. The more I sail her the better I love her."

"I should imagine that being your own captain and sailing-master would lessen the charm of cruising somewhat, does it not?" asked the doctor.

"That depends on the way you look at it. Some owners like cruising along shore. Deep water scares them. They like to sit under the awning with the ladies and listen to the guitars while a paid man runs the ship and takes the responsibility. I sail because I'm a sailor, and I prefer to be boss on my own boat. I don't want any one on my ship who can tell me to mind my own business and clap me in irons if I don't do it."

The old pilot nodded his head approvingly as he finished his wine, but later, as he sat in the stern-sheets of the whaleboat that took him to the landing, he glanced hack at the club signal and the commodore's flag. In the far-off days of his youth he, too, had been a yachtsman and he slowly wagged his grizzled head. "I did suppose," he murmured, "that John Hildegraves was commodore of that club. I may be getting old and behind the times in Eastern affairs, but I must look the matter up!"

Now a beautiful white schooner flying the flag of a commodore is not a common visitor in the South Seas. Besides, those were "flush" times in Honolulu, for the free and easy system of the defunct monarchy still prevailed and sugar stocks were active. Therefore, the commodore was well entertained. His engaging personality won him many friends, to whom he extended the hospitality of his yacht, and after night-fall the Hermione, ablaze with lights, was the scene of many a merry gathering. The quiet harbor echoed the strains of sweet music and the laughter of guests of both sexes. Not infrequently the fag-end of these gatherings came ashore in the gray light of dawn, having sat long at poker about the cabin table, and no one shared the old pilot's suspicious thoughts of the genial commodore.

And yet there were gatherings aboard the Hermione when no strains of guitars, taro-patch fiddles, and sweet blending voices disturbed the peaceful harbor, and shore-boats glided darkly to her side. There were conferences in the cabin when the voices were scarcely audible above the wavelets scuffling against the vessel. Ah Chuck, the head of a powerful and unscrupulous syndicate of Chinese, one William Englehart, an ex-trader and adventurer, and others of various classes and nationalities paid the tribute of a visit to the popular commodore.

For a month the Hermione lay at anchor, and the commodore as guest and host fulfilled the duties of both offices in faultless style. Then, wreathed in flowers, as is the custom in Hawaii, he sailed away to extend his cruise to China seas, escorted from the harbor by many friends on a tug-boat who sang "Aloha Oe" and other touching songs of farewell.

It was some six months later when the commodore stepped ashore from the deck of a prosaic Pacific mail liner to find Honolulu shuddering at a mild epidemic of cholera. Amusements were suspended, for the town was genuinely alarmed, and over all hung the stern interdict of the quarantine. It seemed as though the plague's black hand had swept all mirth from the land. People spoke in awestruck tones and scanned fearfully the list of dead, for a serious outbreak of the scourge might sweep the islands bare of life. As for the commodore, he had returned strictly on a matter of business, leaving the Hermione on the ways at Hong-kong to sail later and join him at San Francisco. Meanwhile, having come ashore, he was held fast by the quarantine, not to leave till the last death was recorded and the city purified of its last germ.

II.

HE sat in his cottage on the Royal Hawaiian Hotel grounds, figuring on a small pad with a dainty gold pencil. It was a warm night in November and the air was stagnant and sultry, poisoned by the sickly Kona wind from the south, but it was still more oppressive within, for the door was shut and the shades closely drawn. The commodore perspired freely, though in his shirt-sleeves, but the fat Celestial seated opposite, whose beady eyes never left the commodore's face, seemed unaffected by the stifling atmosphere, though he wore a blouse of heavy brocaded cloth. A bucket of iced champagne with glasses stood on the table.

"You are well aware, Ah Chuck," the commodore was saying, "that trade is regulated by the balance of supply and demand. In this case there is an excessive demand and no competition as to the supply. Therefore, you and I have what they call a corner on the market. Now about the price; it is true, as you say, that we agreed some months ago on a fixed rate, but there was no cholera then and no quarantine. Please do not insist upon the terms of a purely verbal and wholly illegal contract. The present figure is fifty dollars a pound."

The Chinaman's face wore its habitual meaningless grin, but his eyes narrowed to oblique slits in his fat, sallow face. Ah Chuck knew all there was to know of the law of supply and demand. He drummed on the table and his long nails made an ugly, scratching sound. "I give you thutty-five dollah!" said he, at last.

"I believe I said fifty," said the commodore mildly. "Look here, Ah Chuck, I expect Englehart at any moment. I'll give you five minutes to decide whether you accept or refuse my terms. At the end of that time" (he looked at his watch) "the price will be sixty dollars!"

"Spose I no buy," said Ah Chuck. "What you do then? No can bling ashore; no can bling ship inside; no can sellem San Flancisco. Mebbe you sailem ship back to Hong-kong!"

"No," said the commodore; he still spoke quietly, but his jaw was set hard and the steely glint shot from his eyes. I don't contemplate wandering about the high seas with a hold full of contraband. I expect to sell to you and on the terms I've stated. There's a fortune in it for you and your partners at that, but I thought you might prove tricky and threaten to throw me over. so I came back prepared." He opened a morocco wallet and took therefrom a folded paper which he spread on the table before the Chinaman. " Here is a document I picked up in Hong-kong. It cost me a good deal of trouble and some money. The proper authorities might be glad to see this, eh? Take your hand out of that sleeve: Quick. do you hear!"

Ah Chuck withdrew his taloned hand from the voluminous sleeve, where he had a revolver. and sat back, white and staring. His fat smile was gone. "People who buy and sell slave-women are in a risky business," the commodore continued, in hard, even tones, " particularly when they add murder and convenient disappearances to the game. The time is up, Ah Chuck. Do we trade?"

"All light, I buy!" said Ah Chuck.

The commodore drew a cork and filled two glasses with champagne, first, however, returning the document to his wallet. Ah Chuck followed this movement with his eyes. "When you give me that paper?" he asked.

"When you hand over the money tomorrow night," said the commodore. Get drafts on San Francisco and split them up among all the banks or some one will smell a rat. Well, here's fortune Ah Chuck I hope we'll both be richer to-morrow night. He extinguished the lights and opened the door and the Chinaman glided into a waiting vehicle whose steed seemed to have wings, so swiftly and silently did it vanish.

The commodore stood looking after it, whistling softly; then he turned on the light and with a grim smile went back to his figuring. It was a simple computation, the result of which showed that a certain quantity of merchandise at fifty dollars a pound would yield a net profit of something over one hundred thousand dollars. The commodore laid the pencil aside and mopped his brow. Presently there was a light step on the veranda. The man who entered was stockily built. his face tanned a deep brown. His sandy hair and stubby mustache were bleached to a still more tawny hue by tropic suns. There was about him, despite his bulk of chest and shoulders, something of the lithe agility of a jungle creature, a suppleness as of life in the open, the muscles trained to a hair, the eye alert and inquisitive. He wore riding boots and had a binocular case suspended from his shoulder.

Billy Englehart was known from end to end of Polynesia. He had turned a more or less honest penny at various occupations from pearl-poaching to "blackobirding." He had been a trader, had sailed with Bully Hayes, and tradition said had once thrashed that rugged pirate of many seas. Billy lived by choice a life of action and adventure and was generally credited with being a trifle to windward of the existing statutes, but in personal dealings was known as a "square man."

"Well, Billy," said the commodore genially; "what news?"

"Good. Schooner's off Waimanalo. Burnt a blue flare in answer to mine on shore. Didn't dare risk going aboard. She's standing off and on now, I reckon. Your mate's a good man. Now, give me a drink and a cigar. I've ridden like the devil and most likely foundered a good horse."

The commodore poured a glass of wine, but Englehart waved it aside. "No bilge-water, thanks: I want a man's drink!" He went to the sideboard, poured a liberal portion of Scotch into a tall glass, added ice from the champagne bucket, and sent a hissing stream over all from a siphon. Then he lit a cigar and discussed his drink with great relish.

"By thunder!" said he, as he pushed the empty glass aside, "I needed that. I've ridden thirty-five miles, and I haven't navigated a horse for a good while, either. Commodore, I suppose you have some plan of action. You may not be in this business for your health, but if you can beat out the custom-house and the quarantine both, my hat's off to you. According to my way of thinking you're taking a mighty long chance. I don't like it! Another thing: don't think you're above suspicion. Old Cap Sylvester has you spotted as a counterfeit. lie wrote to the South Shore Yacht Club that you flew their commodore's flag and I guess their reply wasn't favorable, so there's a general belief in certain circles that you're not all wool and a yard wide. Plain talk, but this is a dirty business any way you look at it, and my advice is to look out for squalls. You stand to lose that fancy schooner of yours, flag and all, and land high and dry on the Reef (Oahu Prison) and I don't propose to join you there. If you have a good scheme in mind, you've got to show me."

"I've heard a good deal off and on about Billy Englehart around the islands," said the commodore, "and I've never yet heard of his refusing to take a chance. I've got to pull this thing through, Billy, and you've got to help me. Every dollar I have in the world is on board that schooner, and as long as you've got some inkling as to the true state of affairs I may as well tell you that the schooner don't belong to me and never did. I stole her right out of New York Harbor!"

Englehart puffed briskly at his cigar. "Proceed," said he, "I'm interested."

"Well, about three years ago I needed a schooner-yacht to carry through certain schemes I had in mind, and I chose the handsomest and ablest one I knew of. Being without a dollar, I approached a syndicate of - of gentlemen, with a proposal full of romantic and pecuniary possibilities. It was no less than a venture to the South Seas to loot shell-beds. You see, I had cruised with some of the syndicate before and knew my men. The syndicate was to charter the schooner and take me along as sailing-master and captain. Sounds fishy to you, of course, but this syndicate had lots of money and was full of romance. Besides, I had cruised in the South Seas and told a pretty plausible yarn, not mentioning the gunboats and cruisers that hang around the charted shell-beds. What was the use?"

"Well, once I had my fingers on the master's papers, the rest was easy. I dropped part of the syndicate at Kingston, Jamaica, and the rest at Rio. The cruise thus far was full of romance and adventure, but-anyhow, they went ashore. Billy, for three years I've knocked about the world in that yacht. I have been an honored guest - at the clubs in all the ports of the world. I've flown commodore and vice-commodore flags and, actually, I've been disgusted myself, at times, to see how shockingly ignorant people are of the yacht register."

"I see," said Englehart, "that Hayes and Ben Pease were only a couple of rough nigger-stealers compared with you. How did you live all this time and pay your crew and port fees? I've seen you put up some pretty gaudy entertainments right here in this town, and it wasn't done on wind."

"Well," said the commodore, "I know something about various games of skill, for one thing, and I have promoted several enterprises that have paid fairly well. You will observe that I am a man of resource and-and there are a lot of people like that syndicate. Now, here's the point: I need this money as badly as I needed the Hermione three years ago. Her term of usefulness is over, for the syndicate is closing in on me and the jig's about up. There is hardly a port I can put into where there isn't an injunction or a detective. If this don't go through I'm b-u-s-t bust! With your help and Ah Chuck's it will go through. The little things you have heard I have allowed to leak out discreetly. It is part of the scheme. There is so much stuff aboard the Hermione that no one will bother about you or me or the ship. They will want the stuff and, Billy, I've just squeezed that slippery old Chinaman for fifty dollars a pound!"

"What!" cried Englehart. "Well, in that case -"

"Exactly!" said the commodore. "I thought you would listen to reason, and now pay attention!"

For the space of half an hour the two held close converse. Then Englehart spat dryly, though there was a gleam of inward excitement in his eye. "I'll see you through," said he. "I'll tell you plain that I'm pretty rough myself, but you're mighty shady company even for Billy Englehart. I'm sticking by you just because I admire your nerve."

III.

HANAMA BAY is a small, obscure inlet on the eastern coast of Oahu. It is of oval contour and walled about with steep cliffs that form a natural amphitheater. On either side tower the loftier headlands of Koko Head and Kamookane. The bay is choked with coral and affords no anchorage, though a small boat may thread its way among the channels in the reef to the narrow strip of beach. It is a wild and desolate spot. The cross-sea running athwart the Molokai Channel roars continually upon the reef and the clouds break free from the pointed peaks like bubbles from a pipe to pour their moisture into the bay. A few plover piping cheerlessly among the weedy rocks and the bos'n-birds wheeling overhead are the only permanent inhabitants of the neighborhood, which bears a dark reputation for unlawful traffic. Much illicit merchandise has been landed hereabouts, and many a gallon of fiery liquor distilled from juicy roots over a fire of guava wood to animate the forbidden hula.

Late in the afternoon of a November day four Hawaiians stood waist-deep in the waters of the bay, holding with some labor to the gunwales of a whaleboat in the endeavor to keep her bow-on to the great, hissing combers pouring in. The wind was strong from the south and the coming Kona storm was sending forward its advance guard. The sea was leaden of hue and the breeze had a dead, stale odor.

At the summit of the ridge overlooking the sea to the south Billy Englehart stood watching a small speck rapidly enlarging over the horizon. This soon resolved itself into a schooner running before the wind, her course being laid for the near vicinity of Hanama. She showed a remarkable turn of speed and as she approached there might be perceived a certain jauntiness in the lines of her hull which belied her rusty coat of black and the wear and tear of her canvas, which was old and dirty. With the exception of a large sampan peacefully tossing to a sea-anchor in the swell no other vessel was to be seen.

Englehart closed his glasses with a snap and scrambled down the cliff, slipping over the rotten tufa and tearing clothes and cuticle with the roughly thorned lantana, until he reached the beach and the waiting whale-boat. Into the stern-sheets he leaped and ran out the long steering-oar. The Hawaiians, needing no word of command, shoved off through the surf, sprang aboard over the gunwales, and, bending to their oars, shot the boat through the angry sea at the mouth of the bay with all the skill and precision of the finest small-boatmen in the world.

Meanwhile the schooner had run close to the rocky shore and with a great snapping of canvas rounded into the wind, her broad wings folding like a settling sea-bird. The moment her way was checked a number of bales lying forward on her flush-deck were heaved, one by one, over the side. As she made stern-way they strung out forward like a line of corks, tossing playfully about in the swell. The moment the bales were jettisoned the sheets were trimmed with a purring of blocks, the sails filled, and with no hail or sign to the whale-boat the schooner fled away southward. The sampan, far out to sea, was a mere speck on the leaden waters.

While these events were happening three men rode furiously down the beach road leading to Hanama and a tug-boat, hidden by the intervening promontory, crept stealthily along just clear of the shoal of sand and coral. Each rider had a silver star upon his breast, and the men aboard the tug wore caps, upon which devices were worked in gold cord. There was a tension of deadly earnestness about both of these expeditions which were approaching a common focus from different points of sea and land.

The cavaliers rode to the top of the ridge, their winded horses laboring in distress. Here they dismounted and, concealed by the low bushes, stole forward to the margin of the cliff, below which lay the bay spread out like a highly colored map. The whale-boat was nosing the heavy channel sea in which a less able craft would have capsized, but her crew were men bred to the surf and, now poising on the crest, now sliding down the long seas, tactfully urged forward while Englehart wielded the steering-oar, she drew nearer to the tossing bales. The man in the bow now laid aside his oar and with a boat-hook drew the bales alongside, whence they were carefully lifted aboard.

The horsemen, meanwhile, had descended the cliff by the steep and narrow trail to the beach. The whale-boat was about a quarter of a mile from shore and perilously sunken with her load, for at least half the floating merchandise was stowed between the thwarts. As she headed for the beach the tugboat, wheezing and puffing, the black smoke pouring from her stack and the seas leaping from her bows, came suddenly into view from round the point. Twice her whistle screeched as she made for the laboring whale-boat.

"That means 'hands up!'" said Englehart cheerfully. "Now, boys, pull like the very blazes!" He swung the long oar and the rowers put forth all their strength, but the cargo was stowed high between the thwarts, the craft was over-laden and unmanageable, and the men were hampered at their oars. The tug bade fair to overhaul them before they had made half the distance and as a tottering ba1e overbalanced and wedged in a rower Englehart gave a sharp order and it was heaved overboard; then another and another of the dearly won parcels were consigned to the deep, all thought of salvage being apparently lost in the race to escape the tug-boat.

"By George!" said one of the three on the beach, who was watching from behind a fantana-bush. "Do you see that? That ain't like Billy Englehart. There's a heap of stuff there and it's never his way to quit in a pinch!"

The tug, a few hundred yards away, tooted hoarsely, and Englehart bent forward, urging on his oarsmen as a huge wave formed and came rushing on behind. The natives, however, needed no urging. They bent to their oars till the stanch whale-boat, lightened of her last bale, was picked up by the great wave. Her stern rose and the oars were at once shipped, for there was no need of further effort except by the helmsman. This was the South Sea art of "surfing in" and with the crest of the wave beneath her stern the boat was borne at tremendous speed clear to the strip of beach. The tug gave up pursuit and sheered seaward, where her crew devoted themselves to the matting-covered bales still aimlessly tossing about, though barely visible in the waning daylight. The schooner, unheeded by the actors in this stirring chase, was speeding far away to the south.

As the Hawaiians stepped ashore and made the whale-boat fast, the three men came forward. Englehart, still seated in the stern-sheets, looked at them sourly but without apparent surprise. With some embarrassment he produced an ancient briar-pipe and blew tentatively through the stem.

"Come ashore, Billy," said one of the men politely. "We want you mighty bad."

"What for?"

"Nothing much," replied the deputy marshal. "We want you, that's all. Come ashore, Billy. Where's your friend, the commodore?"

"Don't know the gentleman," said Englehart. "Well," he continued dryly, as he stepped ashore, "I guess the game's up, deputy. Sorry to put you to so much trouble. Now, how much am I in for? What's the fine for breaking quarantine and the duty on corks?"

"Corks?"

"Yes, corks. There's cork in those bales, and I'd have brought it in and paid duty all ship-shape and Bristol fashion, if it hadn't been for this damned quarantine. I tried to force matters this way because I needed the cork, but you seem to have spoiled my game. Still, I'm only foul of the quarantine regulations, after all. I suppose a small fine will settle it."

The three officers looked at one another knowingly. "Looks to me," said one, "as if you fired them bundles over the side mighty lively when you saw the Elen was after you. Corks, eh?"

"I think I said corks!" said Englehart snappishly, with an ugly look at the speaker. "And now if you are through with your damned jaw, let's get out of here!"

IV.

MEANWHILE, the swift schooner, whose advent had precipitated these events, had made her escape, with small remark from the crew of the revenue boat. In the wheel-house the captain, it is true, conned her with his glass, as is the seaman's habit.

"Might be a trader from the look of her," said he to his mate at the wheel, "but she's too much brass-work on her decks. Looks like one of them Frisco pilots. I reckon she's a yacht badly in need of overhauling." Then his attention was wholly occupied with the whale-boat and the rescue of the bales, a task involving seamanship of a high order in the heavy seas. He received no orders to follow the schooner, for which he was duly thankful, for the breaking Kona was imminent and a stern-chase is a long one, even with steam, against a fast schooner.

As the miles curled from the vessel's forefoot the crew busied themselves at the fore-hatch with a watch-tackle. Bale after bale, strikingly similar to those cast over at Hanama, was hoisted to the canting deck, and to each was affixed a small cylindrical device of brass with a fuse attached. When this fuse was lighted the cylinder gave off a blue flare. Blue is not a striking color at night, but a flame can be seen for a mile or so. The bales were then carefully hoisted overboard, each one bearing its tiny signal-light, which was not quenched, for the sea did not break as it did near shore, but rolled in long, moaning swells.

The tug, far inshore, was invisible save for a pinpoint spark from her lights. The sampan, a mile to leeward, could still be seen from the yacht's deck, but the crew apparently took no heed of it, and as the last bale was cast off the schooner filled away on her course and was soon lost in the dusk.

Fishing, said the regulations, was forbidden during the epidemic, and the crew of the large sampan seemed content to abide by the law, for they had cast no nets and the deep-sea lines were not uncoiled. Three of the crew sat in the lee of the high bow smoking queer, conical cigarettes of Chinese tobacco in brown paper. The fourth, a very tall, powerful Chinaman, who wore the common, paper-muslin tunic of a coolie, stood in the stern watching the tug-boat through a small glass. He was smoking a long, black cigar.

The tug steamed with all speed around Koko Head point, and the moment her white light was lost to view behind the headland the tall Chinaman issued a number of rapid orders. The sea-anchor was got aboard by the blundering crew, the rag of sail was set, and slowly the unwieldy craft made headway and bore down toward the blue flares which burned brighter as the darkness grew. Although his crew was lubberly and the sampan a mere log, the tall Chinaman had knowledge of seamanship beyond the ordinary. The wind had risen as the tropic night shut down like a pall and the chase of the blue fantoms was long and difficult, yet the last bale was stored in the fish-well as the Kona broke in a driving roar of rain and spume.

In the small hours of the morning the storm had spent its force, but the great, crashing combers were still roaring across the mouth of Honolulu Harbor. The black clouds were breaking into scud and as the moon shone momentarily through a rift the watchman on the quarantine wharf was surprised and startled to see what appeared to be a huge sampan poised high on the crest of a prodigious wave on which it rode to the quieter waters within. A tall Chinaman seemed to stand high in the stern, frantically clinging to the long sweep by which the craft was steered. It was but a fleeting glimpse, for the moon quickly vanished, and might have been a trick of the vision. At any rate, despite the edict prohibiting vessels entering the harbor, the watchman made no official report of the matter and to put forth in a small boat to investigate would have been to court destruction.

V

THE customs officials seated in the station-house were in rare good-humor as the deputy marshal walked in with his prisoner after a hard ride from Hanama. A number of square bales covered with coarse matting were stacked against the wall, still dripping pools upon the floor from their recent immersion. It made a goodly heap, containing vast financial possibilities, for thus is opium wrapped for commercial export. The contraband drug was sold in the open market in San Francisco, and he who made the lawful seizure received half the proceeds.

"How are you, Englehart," said the inspector. "Sorry to see you in this fix. It's the old story, though, of the pitcher that goes oft to the well. Now, boys, get those bales open!"

Englehart sat down and lit a cigar. If he was annoyed, as well he might be, it was hardly perceptible. His face bore an expression of bored resignation. The inspector slit the matting and disclosed a number of dirty tin boxes wrapped with soiled paper covered with Chinese characters. The inspector, his fingers trembling slightly, cut the paper of one and pried the cover off with his knife. As the box flew open a look of blank amazement overspread his countenance. He probed in the box with his fingers, then turned it over and scattered its contents on the floor. It had been filled with coarse bits of cork.

"Hell," he said explosively. "Englehart, what the devil's all this?"

"Cork," said Billy, smoking placidly. "That's what I said it was. The deputy here wouldn't believe me."

Viciously the inspector attacked a fresh tin. Helping hands joined in the labor. Matting was ripped off and tin after tin opened and its contents scattered, and the result in each case was the same. All were filled with cork shavings. And yet from each tin came tantalizingly the subtle, weed-like odor of poppy-juice.

The deputy marshal viewed Englehart with hanging jaws. He was wise enough to know that he was beaten. "Billy," said he, "I guess you've run in a cold deck on us. I'll he blessed if I can see how or why. It is too elaborate for a mere joke, but I'm ready to cry quits if you'll tell us what you and that commodore are up to."

"Nothing to tell," said Englehart soberly, though there were suspicious wrinkles about the corners of his eyes and mouth. "I told you it was cork plain enough. That's what I ordered and paid for, and it's what I received, apparently, and a pretty mess you've made of my investment. How much bail do you want me to put up? I think I can find it about me somewhere."

"Oh, thunder! Clear out if you want to. I'll find you if I need you later."

"All right," said Englehart. At the threshold he turned to lodge a final shaft.

"By the way, you fellows can keep that cork. I don't want it now. You - you might smoke it! Good night!"

And Billy Englehart, trader, "recruiter," and gentleman of leisure, turned and walked out of the station-house.

VI.

It was a large room with a private joss in one corner, before which punk-sticks were burning. A vault was built into a side wall and its door stood open. The floor was littered with bales covered with matting, many of which had been opened and the contents, a vast number of small dirty tins, lay about and were being carried into the vault by a Chinese boy and piled neatly on the shelves. Ah Chuck sat by a table inlaid with mother-of-pearl, nibbling candied watermelon rind. A tall Chinaman stood before a mirror, rubbing his face with a towel saturated with witchhazel. As he rubbed, the racial lineaments seemed to melt away and when, with a final movement, he removed a bald wig with a long cue attached, there were revealed the swarthy, handsome features of the pseudo commodore.

"Well, Chuck." said he from the depths of a wash-bowl, "all's well that ends well. I thought for a while your old tub was never going to weather that blow outside. It was a good thing though, that storm, for it shut out the moon. Otherwise we might have been seen in the harbor. How's Englehart?"

"All light," said Ah Chuck. "He 'lested, but he no stop long. He wait you now, your cottage. He laugh!"

"Good old Billy. Have you got those drafts?"

Ah Chuck went to the vault, and from a drawer took several drafts of large denomination. He looked inquiringly at the commodore. "You give me paper," he said.

The commodore had removed the coolie's tunic and from his own clothing took the paper which Ah Chuck desired. He handed it to him, with a mocking bow. "Keep it, Ah Chuck. I have no further use for it. It may interest you, however, to know that I made it myself. We're quits. Good night!" A moment later a belated hack was bearing him swiftly toward the hotel.

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