The Canton Adventure

Major Tidman who was standing at the foot of the terrace stared
at the man before him. “How do you know my name?” he asked, and
looked towards Rupert for a reply.

Mr. Rodgers produced a red silk handkerchief and wiped his face
for it was noon and very warm. “A guess on my part,” he
answered, “Mr. Ainsleigh said you might come here, to tell him
of your Canton adventure, and I fancied it might be you, Major
Tidman.”

“I am not aware,” said the Major loftily, “why you should
interest yourself in my private affairs.”

“I interest myself in everybody’s private affairs, when they
have to do with murder,” said Rodgers quietly.

Tidman stared and gasped. “Then you are?”–

“The detective in charge of the Wharf murder case. I am glad to
see you, sir,” he laid a finger on Tidman’s chest, “you have
something to tell me no doubt?”

“No,” said the Major gasping again, “I have not.”

Rupert looked at him suddenly and the Major’s small eyes fell
before that direct gaze. “Let us go, into the library,” said
Ainsleigh tranquilly, “we may as well have a long talk before I
am arrested.”

Tidman jumped. “Arrested,” he cried staring.

Something in his looks, made Rodgers take the cue thus offered,
“I may have to arrest Mr. Ainsleigh for the murder,” he said
significantly.

“But that’s rubbish, why should he murder Miss Wharf?”

“On account of the fan,” put in Rupert grimly.

“I’ll never believe that–never,” said Tidman vigorously.

Rodgers looked at him sideways. “Well you see,” said he in a
cheerful voice. “Miss Wharf was strangled with a red and yellow
silk tie, belonging to Mr. Ainsleigh.”

“I know, and I saw him place that tie in his overcoat pocket.”

“You say that. Quite so. Mr. Ainsleigh might have taken it out
again.”

“No. He couldn’t have done that. The attendant came back, and
remained in the room all the rest of the evening.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I returned to the cloak-room to see if Mr. Ainsleigh
was there. I learned from the attendant,” said the Major
volubly, “that Mr. Ainsleigh and Mr. Burgh had been fighting–”

“Oh,” said the detective, “so Mr. Burgh knew of the tie also?”

“He did not,” put in young Ainsleigh rapidly, “he came in, after
I put the tie away. He insulted me, about–about a lady,” said
Rupert hesitating, “and I knocked him down twice.”

“Didn’t the attendant interfere?”

“No. Burgh threw him a shilling and told him to cut. I ordered
the man to stay, but he obeyed Burgh. Then we had a row, and I
went away.”

“Leaving Mr. Burgh in the cloak-room?” asked Rodgers shrewdly.

“Yes. But he knew nothing about the tie. He could not have taken
it. I am sure he didn’t.”

The detective smiled in a puzzled manner. “Upon my word Mr.
Ainsleigh, you defend everyone. First Tung-yu, now Mr. Burgh,
who is your enemy.”

“I have so many enemies,” said Rupert with a shrug, “Tung-yu
told me that Burgh and Forge and Major Tidman were my enemies.”

“That’s a lie on Tung-yu’s part,” chimed in the Major angrily.
“I am not your enemy.”

Rupert turned on him quickly. “Prove it then,” he said, sharply,
“by stating that I was with you on the beach last night after
eleven.”

“Oh, oh,” cried Rodgers smiling, “so you can prove an alibi
after all, Mr. Ainsleigh.”

“Yes,” said Rupert shortly. “But I did not wish to speak, until
I heard what Major Tidman had to say.”

Rodgers shook his head. “You have too nice a sense of honour,”
was his remark, “or else you are very deep.”

Rupert did not reply. His eyes were fixed on the Major’s face,
which changed to various colours. “You knew my father well
Tidman?”

“Yes. We were old friends–good friends,” faltered the other.

“Do you know how he died?”

“No I do not.” The Major wiped his face, “I can safely say I do
not.”

“But you know he was murdered.”

The Major started. “Who told you that?”

“Tung-yu, and you know Tung-yu, who might have explained the
circumstances of my father’s death to you.”

“He did not,” said Tidman earnestly, “but I heard that Mr.
Ainsleigh did die by violence. I don’t know under what circumstances.”

“This is all very well gentlemen,” said the detective, “but it
does not help me.”

“It may help you, Mr. Rodgers. The murder of Miss Wharf is connected
with this fan, and the Major can tell you about his Canton adventure
which has to do with it also.”

Major Tidman turned grey and his face looked fearful, “I came to
tell you, Rupert,” he said trying to be calm, “but it won’t help
this man,” he nodded towards Rodgers, “to find the assassin.”

“We’ll see about that,” replied Rodgers briskly, “let us go in
and sit down. The fan is at the bottom of this business, and
when I learn all about it, I may know how to act.”

The Major shrugged his plump shoulders and walked towards the
open French window. When he passed through to the library, the
detective and Ainsleigh followed. In a few minutes, they were
comfortably seated. Rupert asked the two if they would have some
refreshments, and receiving a reply in the affirmative, rang the
bell. “Though mind you, Mr. Ainsleigh,” said Rodgers, “this
drinking a glass of wine doesn’t stop me from arresting you, if
I see fit.”

“You can set your mind at rest,” said Rupert coldly, “I have no
wish to tie you down to a bread and salt treaty. Some wine, Mrs.
Petley.”

The housekeeper, who had entered, was as plump as ever, but her
face looked yellow, and old, and haggard, and there was a
terrified look in her eyes. In strange contrast to her usual
volubility, she did not speak a word, but dropping a curtsey,
went out.

“That woman looks scared,” said the detective,

“She _is_ scared,” assented Rupert, “we have a ghost here, Mr.
Rodgers–the ghost of a monk, and Mrs. Petley thought she saw it
last night.”

“Really,” said the detective with good-humoured contempt, “she
_thought_ she saw a ghost. What nonsense.”

“No, sir. It ain’t nonsense.”

It was the housekeeper who spoke. Having seen the Major coming up the
avenue, she knew that he would require his usual glass of port, and
therefore had prepared the tray, while the conversation was taking place
on the terrace. This accounted for her quick return, and she set down
the tray with the jingling glasses and decanter as she spoke. “It was
a ghost, sure enough,” said Mrs. Petley, when the small table was
placed before the three gentlemen, “the ghost of Abbot Raoul. I’ve seen
him times and again, but never so plainly as last night. It was between
eleven and twelve,” added Mrs. Petley without waiting for permission to
speak, “and I sat up for Master Rupert here. I took a walk outside, it
being fine and dry, and like a fool, I went in to the abbey.”

“Why shouldn’t you go there?” asked Rodgers.

“Because Abbot Raoul always walks where he was burnt,” replied
Mrs. Petley, “and there he was sure enough. No moonlight could I
see, but the stars gave a faint light, and he was near the
square–the accursed square where they burnt the poor soul. I
gave one screech as he swept past in his long robes and a cowl,
and when I come to myself on the damp grass, he was gone. I
hurried in and told Petley, who came out and searched, but bless
you,” went on the housekeeper with contempt, “he couldn’t find a
thing that had gone back to the other world–not he.”

“It was a dream, Mrs. Petley,” said Rupert soothingly.

“No, sir. Trouble is coming to the Ainsleighs, as always does
when the Abbot walks. And this morning I went out and found
this,” and Mrs. Petley, fishing in her capacious pocket,
produced a small stick which smelt like cinnamon. Round it was a
roll of scarlet paper inscribed with queer characters. Rupert
stretched out his hand to take it, but the detective anticipated
him.

“It’s a joss-stick,” said Rodgers. “I’ve seen them in the
Whitechapel opium dens. Humph! Why should the ghost of an old
monk use a joss-stick, like the Chinese?”

Before anyone could reply, Mrs. Petley gave a cry, “I told you
trouble was coming, Master Rupert, dear,” she said with the
tears streaming from her fat face, “and anything to do with that
weary Chiner where your poor pa lost his life always do bring
trouble. Oh, dear me,” she put her silk apron to her eyes and
walked slowly out of the room. “I must tell my John. He may be
able to say what’s coming, as he have a gift of prophecy, that
he have.”

When Mrs. Petley closed the door after her, the three men looked
at one another. “Do you believe in this ghost, Mr. Ainsleigh?”
asked the detective, examining the joss-stick.

Rupert did not give a direct answer. “I don’t know what to
believe, Mr. Rodgers. Our family traditions have always pointed
to the walking of of Abbot Raoul before trouble, and it might be
so. I have never seen the ghost myself, though.”

“Your ghost is a Chinaman,” said the detective, tapping the
stick.

“But what would a Chinaman be doing in the cloisters?”

“Ah. That’s what we’ve got to find out. There was a yacht in
Marport Harbour last night, which came at midday, and departed
in a hurry after midnight. Burgh says he believes Tung-yu went
away in her, after committing the murder.”

“Even if he did,” said Rupert, calmly, “that does not show how
the joss-stick came here, or why a Chinaman should be masquerading as
a monk, for that, I take it, is your meaning.”

“It is. I believe there were other Chinamen on board that boat,”
was the detective’s reply. “Perhaps this man Hwei came to the
Abbey.”

“He might have come,” said Ainsleigh, carelessly.

“Or Tung-yu,” went on Rodgers.

“No,” said the Major who had kept silent all this time, but had
observed everything, “it was not Tung-yu’s day.”

Rodgers turned on him. “What do you mean by that?”

The Major settled himself more comfortably in his chair. “I’ll
tell you my adventure at Canton first,” he said, “and then you
may understand. I can’t get to the bottom of the matter myself,
for why Lo-Keong should have a private god of good luck is more
than I can tell.”

The others looked at him, amazed at this queer speech. “What is
this private god?” asked the detective.

“I don’t know, save that it is called Kwang-ho.”

Rupert started. “That was the god mentioned in the
advertisement.”

“Yes, so it was,” replied the Major, quietly, “but just you wait
and hear my story. It may lead to something being discovered.”

“One moment, Mr. Ainsleigh. Show me the advertisement.”

Rupert rose, and going to the writing-desk took therefrom the
slip he had cut from the paper. Rodgers read it, quietly. “I
see. Here is mentioned the doom of the god, Kwang-ho.”

“Lo-Keong’s private god of good luck,” said the Major.

“Are there private as well as public gods in China?”

Tidman looked perplexed. “I can’t say. I know nothing. Wait and
hear what I can tell,” he settled himself again and began to
speak rapidly. “I was in Canton seven years ago,” said he, “I
had made my money here, and didn’t intend to travel again. But
Miss Wharf persuaded me to go to China, to see if I could find
out why Markham Ainsleigh had been killed.”

Rupert looked astonished. “Why? she hated my father.”

“She loved him first and hated him later,” said Tidman, quietly,
“a fine woman was poor Miss Wharf. I was in love with her–”

“I never knew that Tidman.”

“I was though,” said the Major, “and Miss Pewsey hated me for
being in love with her. I spoke badly of Miss Wharf to you
Ainsleigh because I was angered with her–”

“You called her a mass of granite.”

“And so she is,” said the Major angrily, “she promised to marry
me if I went to China and learned how your father came by his
death. I did go, but I came back without learning more, than
that he was murdered, so Miss Wharf refused to keep her promise.
I believe it was that Pewsey cat’s fault.”

“Well–well–go on,” said Rodgers looking at his watch, “all this
business is very round-about. I want to get on with my work.”

“This may have to do with it,” said the Major smartly. “Well, I
was in Canton, and intended to go up to the Kan-su province to
make enquiries. I met Forge in Canton. He had just come from
Pekin, and showed me round. He laughed at the idea that Markham
had died by violence, and said it was dysentery.”

“So he always said,” murmured Rupert, who listened intently.

“And told a lie,” retorted Tidman, “however I believed him, but
all the same I intended to make enquiries at the mine of the
Hwei River in the Kan-su province. But I stopped in Canton with
Forge for a time, as he said he would go up with me. In some
way, the fact of my trying to learn the truth about Markam’s
death got about.”

“No doubt Forge told it to others,” suggested Rupert.

“I don’t know. I never got to the bottom of the business. But
one day a half-starved Chinaman stopped me in the street, and
told me he could explain, if I came with him. I went to a
miserable house in a low part of the city. The man closed the
door, and then drew a fan from his breast–”

“The fan in question?” asked Rodgers making a note.

“Yes–the very article. He told me that this fan would reveal
the truth, and offered it to me.”

“For money?”

“No. He refused to take a penny. He seemed anxious to get rid of
the fan, and kept looking round everywhere as though he thought
someone might be listening. I asked him how the fan could tell
about the death, but all he said, was, that it could.”

“But in what way?” asked Ainsleigh, puzzled.

“I really don’t know,” said the Major, with an air of fatigue.
“I am telling you all I know. I took the fan and cleared, and
got home safely enough. Then I hid away the fan–where it
doesn’t matter; but I have travelled so much that I always keep
a secret place for money and valuables. I placed the fan there,
though I really didn’t know what to make of the matter. After a
few days I came to my rooms to find that everything had been
ripped open and smashed and searched–”

“And the fan was gone,” said Rodgers.

“Not it. They–whosoever they were who searched, could not find
my hiding place. Well, a day or two later, as I was walking
along the street at night, I was seized up and gagged, and
carried to some low Chinese house. There a Chinaman examined me,
and asked me what I had done with the fan–”

“What sort of a man was he?” asked Rupert, “would you know him
again?”

The Major looked doubtful. “Chinamen are all so alike,” he said,
“but this chap had only one eye, and was a villainous looking
beast. He declared that he knew the first Celestial had given me
the fan, and that he wanted it. I refused to give it up. He took
out a knife, and said he would slice me up. Oh,” broke off the
Major looking grey and old, “however shall I forget that
terrible moment, Ainsleigh. Do you wonder that I shudder to
relate this adventure, and that I refuse to speak of it. I was
in that miserable place, in the midst of a horde of Chinamen,
bound and helpless, with a knife at my throat. I never did care
for death,” said Tidman boldly, “but to be cut slowly into
slices, was more than I could stand.”

“Why didn’t you give up the fan then?” asked Rodgers.

“Because I made up my mind that slicing or no slicing, I wasn’t
going to be bullied by a lot of heathen devils. The position was
awful, but I’m an Englishman, and I resolved to hold off to the
last moment, I dare say I would have given up the fan after all,
as the one-eyed brute began to cut me up, I lost a big toe–”

“Oh,” said Rupert, while Rodgers shook his head, “did this man
cut a toe off?”

“Yes–my big toe. I was about to give in, when suddenly a small
Chinese boy dressed in red–queerly enough, as the Chinese don’t
go in much for that colour–appeared and said something. The
one-eyed Chinaman scowled, and put his knife away. Then he
cleared out with the boy and his other friends and I was left
alone. Then with the loss of blood, and the pain of my toe I
fainted.”

“No wonder,” said Ainsleigh, “I don’t blame you. Well?”

“Well, then I came to my senses in my own room. Forge was with
me and said that he had traced me to the hovel and had rescued
me with the aid of the Canton police. He declared that I would
have to leave Canton at once, or this one-eyed Chinaman would be
after me. I agreed, and with Forge I went that very day on board
a homeward-bound steamer. I thanked Forge for having helped me,
and he asked if I would give him the fan as a reward. I refused,
as I wanted to know how it could tell about Markham’s death.
Forge said that if I kept possession of the fan, the one-eyed
Chinaman would track me to England and kill me. But I held out,
till I got to Marport. Then I grew weary of Forge worrying me,
particularly as he promised to do what he could to learn the
secret of the fan, and help me to marry Miss Wharf. So he took
the fan, and then, as you know, Ainsleigh, he took it out to
China again, where it fell into the hands of a pirate from whom
Clarence Burgh received it.”

“But how did it get from Dr. Forge’s hands into those of the
pirate?” asked Rodgers curiously.

“I don’t know; you can ask Forge. He lives here?”

The detective took a note of the doctor’s address. “That’s all
right,” he said, “there’s no doubt the poor lady was killed to
procure this fan. Did you tell her of your adventure?”

“No,” said the Major with a shudder. “I merely said that I could
not learn how Markham was killed and she refused to marry me. I
did not care about speaking of the adventure. You know how the
fan came into Miss Wharf’s possession Mr. Rodgers?”

“Yes,” the detective nodded, “Mr. Burgh told me, but I’ll have
another talk with him. Humph. It seems to me that one of these
Chinamen killed Miss Wharf, and that the tie was used to lay the
blame on Mr. Ainsleigh here.”

“Well,” said Ainsleigh drawing a breath, “I am glad to hear that
you don’t suspect me, but I can’t think that Tung-yu stole the
tie, even though he did see me place it in the coat.”

“I’ll look after that cloak-room attendant,” said Rodgers,
making another note, “and he’ll have to give an account of
himself. But I don’t see what this private god Kwang-ho has to
do with the matter.”

“I can only tell you this,” said Major Tidman, “I had a cold
last night and stopped in my room. But I heard that Tung-yu was
down the stairs, and, as I knew him in Canton, I went to have a
look for him. He was a pleasant companion in Canton.”

“Did you tell him about the fan and your adventure?”

“No, Ainsleigh, and I was annoyed that you should have let slip
that I had such an adventure, I don’t want to be mixed up in the
matter. Tung-yu is nice enough, but if he has to do with the fan
he is quite capable of turning nasty and making things unpleasant for
me. But I mentioned about his advertisement, and how I came to know of
it through you. He confessed that Lo-Keong had lost the fan and wished
it back again, as it had to do with some family business. The finding
of it was referred to the god Kwang-ho, and the priest of the god, said
that two men were to search for the fan.”

“Hwei and Tung-yu.”

“Yes. They were to search on alternate days. If Hwei found it he
was to kill the person from whom he got it. If it was Tung-yu’s
day he was to give the fortunate person five thousand pounds.”

“And whose day was it on the night of the crime?”

“Hwei’s,” said the Major, “that was why Tung-yu could not buy
the fan when Miss Wharf offered it to him.”