The Fan Mystery

The one-eyed Chinaman did not smile, nor did he greet Burgh in
any way, friendly or otherwise. He simply looked at the two,
with an impassive gaze and then glanced at a clock, the hands of
which pointed to thirty minutes past eleven. What a clock should
be doing in this Eastern room, the visitors could not make out.
It seemed to be out of place. Yet there it was, and there was
Hwei staring at it. He still preserved silence and brought his
one eye from the clock to Rupert with a malevolent glare.

“Major Tidman has not come,” said Hwei in English, as good as
that spoken by Tung-yu, but in a grating voice.

“No,” said Rupert who was addressed. “He received your note,–or
rather Tung-yu’s letter,–and asked me to come here on his
behalf.”

“And I guess Hwei,” drawled Clarence, “that I have come to see
the business through.”

“That will not take long,” said the Chinaman cheerfully, yet
with an unpleasant stare, “where is the fan of the Mandarin?”

“I have not got it,” replied Ainsleigh shortly.

“Major Tidman did not send it perhaps.”

“No. For the simple reason that it is not in his possession.”

“That,” said Hwei grimly, “is a lie,”

“It’s the truth,” chipped in Burgh suddenly, “old man Tidman
didn’t choke that woman!”

“You mean Miss Wharf.”

Burgh nodded. “That’s so,” said he in a curt way, but with a
watchful eye on the one-eyed Chinaman.

Hwei gnawed his long finger nails, and then slipped his hands
inside his long hanging sleeves. In his dull blue clothes with
the clumsy slippers, he looked taller than ever, and quite as
unpleasant as at first sight. His pig-tail was coiled round his
shaven head. He looked sharply at the two men with his one eye,
and appeared to be thinking, “It’s my day,” said he at length.

Ainsleigh and Burgh jumped up. “Do you intend to murder us?”
asked Rupert.

“If you have the fan,” rejoined Hwei coldly, “it is the order of
the god Kwang-ho,” and he bowed reverentially to the ugly image.

“What right’s that second hand joss to give orders in a free
country, Hwei?” asked Clarence, “and don’t you think, we’ll give
in without laying you out.”

Hwei made a clicking noise with his tongue and then smote a
small brass gong which hung near the door. The thunder had
scarcely died away before the door opened and there appeared
four or five villainous looking Chinamen with long knives.
Rupert stepped back and stood against the wall, with his
revolver levelled. But Clarence simply produced the knife, he
had picked up on the pavement. “I guess,” he said reflectively,
“you tried to knife Ainsleigh outside. The knife here’s the same
as those things yonder,” and he nodded towards the door. “Well,
sail in. We’re ready for the play.”

Hwei started at this speech, and chattered something in Chinese.
At once the door closed and the three were again alone. “I never
ordered anyone to be knifed outside,” he said, with his one eye
on Clarence, “that would be foolish. First the fan, then the
death.”

“I was certainly attacked outside,” said Rupert lowering his
revolver.

“Who attacked you, sir?”

“I can’t say. But perhaps Burgh–”

“That’s my business,” said the cheerful Clarence who had taken
his seat, and did not seem to be at all afraid of the dangerous
position in which he found himself, “what we have to do, is to
yarn about this fan. I saw you in ‘Frisco, Hwei. I reckoned the
fan was there.”

“We thought so, Mr. Burgh, but it came to the ears of Lo-Keong
that it was in England. So then I came here.”

“Ah, I saw you in China also,” said Clarence.

“You did, and learned much about the fan–too much,” growled
Hwei.

Rupert who was growing weary of all this hinted mystery sat down
again, and threw the revolver on the table. “I wish you would
make a clean breast of this,” he said calmly. “I don’t care
about the fan, but I do want to know who killed Miss Wharf.”

“Major Tidman did.”

“No. He was with me on the beach. I went out to smoke and we
strolled up and down till nearly twelve. He was with me shortly
after eleven, so he could not have killed the woman.”

Hwei pointed a long finger at the young man. “I saw Major Tidman
speaking to a boatman on the beach–the boat came from the
Stormy Petrel–”

“Your boat,” said Burgh quickly.

“No. The boat of Tung-yu. It was my day, but Tung-yu hoped to
get the fan after twelve at night and then would have had the
right to take it away in the boat. Major Tidman killed Miss
Wharf and gave the knowledge of his crime to Tung-yu. He would
not part with the fan till the money was paid. Tung-yu went away
in the boat so that the police might not get him. He was wise,”
added Hwei with a queer smile, “as he is accused of the murder.”

“Which you committed.”

“No I did not. Had I found Miss Wharf outside I should have
killed her. It was my hour, but she escaped me.”

“Then you were in Marport on that night?” asked Rupert.

Hwei nodded. “Not at the hotel. Tung-yu went to the ball, and
was to bring Miss Wharf out down the steps, so that I could kill
her. I came to the steps about twelve, and while waiting on the
beach I saw you sir, talking to the Major. But Tung-yu betrayed
me.” Hwei’s face looked fiercer then ever. “He did not bring her
to me in my hour, and so betrayed the trust of the god Kwang-ho.
He wanted her to live, so that he might buy the fan next day.”

“But so long as he got the fan–”

Hwei flung out a long arm. “No,” said he austerely, “if Tung-yu
gets the fan it goes with its secret into the hands of Mandarin
Hop Sing, who is the enemy of my master.”

“And who is your master?” asked Clarence.

“Lo-Keong. Listen.” Hwei took a seat and talked, with his one
eye on the visitors. “The fan is my master’s, and holds a secret
which means much to him. It was lost. We invoked the god
Kwang-ho. By the mouth of his priest the gods said that two men
should search for it. I was to search for Lo-Keong, and Tung-yu
for Hop Sing the enemy of my master. Hop Sing’s emissary was to
buy the fan at a large price, I was to kill the person who held
it. Thus, said the god, justice would be done. The person who
held the fan would be rewarded for virtue or slain for evil. One
day is mine and the next day is Tung-yu’s. At the ball I had my
hour, and had I found Miss Wharf I would have slain her for the
fan. But Tung-yu betrayed me, as he wished to buy the fan next
day. But the god Kwang-ho interfered, and the woman who held the
fan wrongfully, met with her doom. Great is the justice of the
god Kwang-ho,” and he bowed again to the ugly image which was
half veiled by the curling smoke.

Rupert stared at the man who talked such good English, yet who
used it, to utter such extraordinary things. He was not
acquainted with the Chinese character, and could not understand
the affair. But on reflection he concluded that the alternate
killing and rewarding was adopted as giving a chance of treating
the person, who secured the fan in the way he or she deserved.
“I see what you mean,” said he, “if the person got the fan
wrongfully, it would come into your possession in your way, if
rightfully, it would go to Tung-yu, therefore the holder of the
fan would be rewarded according to his or her deeds.”

Hwei bowed. “Great is the wisdom of the god Kwang-ho,” said he.

“Then I guess you’re wrong and the god also,” said Clarence,
“old Miss Wharf got the fan squarely enough from me.”

“She had it wrongfully,” said Hwei obstinately “else she would
not have been slain.”

“Who slew her?” asked Rupert seeing the uselessness of argument.

“Major Tidman.”

“No. I tell you he was on the beach. Tung-yu killed her.”

Hwei shook his head, “Tung-yu dare not,” said he, “the god would
slay him if he disobeyed.”

“The god didn’t slay him when he played low down on you in
keeping Miss Wharf back from your knife,” said Clarence.

“Tung-yu has done penance. He has made amends. He wrote to Major
Tidman telling him to come here on my night, so that he might
meet with his doom.”

“But he hasn’t come.”

“He is afraid.”

“No,” said Rupert decisively, “the Major has not the fan. Who
has, I know no more than I do who killed Miss Wharf.”

Hwei wavered, and his keen face grew troubled. The persistence
of Rupert was having its effect. “Are you sure?”

“Quite sure,” said Ainsleigh promptly.

“Will you swear this before the god Kwang-ho.”

“Certainly–but remember I am a Christian.”

Hwei went to the shrine and brought forth a joss stick. “The god
Kwang-ho is all powerful,” said he solemnly, “if you lie, he
will not spare you. Burn this joss before him and swear.”

“No,” said Rupert drawing back. “I am a Christian.”

Hwei’s eye flashed with fury. “You are lying,” said he, “you
will never leave this place alive.”

“Oh I guess so,” said Clarence easily, “neither I nor Ainsleigh
has the fan, and you can’t kill either of us unless the god
grows angry. You’ve got to climb down before him.”

“That is true,” said Hwei dropping the joss-stick, and sat in
his chair with a puzzled face. He then pointed to the clock, the
long hand of which was drawing to twelve. “When that strikes, my
hour is over,” he said, “but I may kill you before then.”

“You’ve got ten minutes to do it in,” said Burgh cheerfully,
“and Ainsleigh and I intend to fight for it. You’ll be hanged
too.”

“No,” said Hwei. “I’ll be on my way to China with the fan. I
have a boat waiting near, to take me to a special steamer. I
intended to kill Major Tidman, take the fan and go. Then all the
police in the country would not have caught me.”

“And your nice little plan has been defeated by the Major not
coming up,” said Rupert calmly, “just as well he didn’t. And I
have not got the fan.”

“Who has–who has,” said Hwei biting his nails, and evidently
quite at a loss. “I made sure–” he looked at Clarence.

“Oh it wasn’t me,” said that gentleman promptly, “but I may know
who killed the old woman and has the fan.”

Hwei flung himself forward. “Tell–tell–tell,” he grasped, and
he laid his long fingers on Burgh’s throat. The young man threw
him over with a great effort and slipped back to the wall, where
he stood beside Rupert. The two had out their revolvers. “You
wait,” said Clarence in a breathless voice, for the struggle
though brief had been violent, “tell me the secret of the fan,
and I’ll give you the name of the person who has it.”

“What,” cried Hwei furiously, “betray my master, you foreign
devil. I will kill you first.”

“You’ve just got five minutes to do it in,” cried Burgh
jeeringly.

The Chinaman put his fingers to his lips and blew a shrill
whistle. In a moment the room was filled with Chinamen,
chattering and screaming like so many infuriated parrots. Hwei
threw himself on the young men. “Die–Die–” he said thickly.

“Fire–fire,” cried Clarence, kicking Hwei back.

For the next few minutes Rupert had no very clear idea of what
was happening. He fired into the mass of Chinamen pushing
forward, and heard a cry as a man dropped. The others fell over
him, and in the struggle upset the shrine. The ugly joss rolled
on to the floor and caught fire. There were shrill screams from
the Chinese, who began to jab with their knives. Clarence was
rolling on the floor in close grips with Hwei, and the draperies
of the joss flared away in a brilliant manner. It seemed as
though the two rash men would be either burnt or stabbed, and
the end was coming rapidly.

All at once the silvery chime of the clock sounded and then came
the rapid striking of the hour. The door opened and the boy in
red, appeared. He said something in a screaming voice, and then,
almost as by magic, the room emptied. The rolling mass of
Chinamen had extinguished the flaming joss, and Hwei, suddenly
disengaging himself from the buccaneer, darted through the door.
The boy followed with the rest of the assailants, and when
Rupert and Burgh got their breath they found themselves facing
the still smoking joss, with Tung-yu blandly smiling at them.

“Ho,” said Clarence rising and shaking himself. “I guess the
row’s over. Hurt Ainsleigh?”

“Got a flesh wound,” said Rupert, winding his handkerchief round
his left arm, “and you?”

“I’m as right as a pie. So here’s Tung-yu. Your hour I guess.”

The Chinaman bowed, and picking up the god restored him to his
shrine, which was considerably damaged. “It is lucky the red boy
cried that Hwei’s hour was over,” he said coolly, “or you would
both have been killed.”

“You wouldn’t have got the fan though,” said Rupert throwing
himself down on his seat, “but you don’t intend to kill us I
suppose.”

“No. The god Kwang-ho is merciful now. I make you rich.”

“Humph,” said Burgh crossly, “I wish I had that fan with me.”

“You have, or Mr. Ainsleigh here, has it,” said Tung-yu, “I will
give you five thousand for the fan.”

“I haven’t got it.”

“Think–ten thousand.”

“Great Scot!” cried Clarence avariciously, “wish I could trade.”

“Fifteen thousand,” said Tung-yu his eyes glittering, “come
gentlemen it’s better to be rich than dead. For the next
twenty-four hours I can give you money. Then comes Hewi’s hour
and he will kill you.”

“Not much,” said Burgh, “I’m going to cut.”

“You shall be kept here, till you give up the fan.”

Rupert shrugged his shoulders. “You won’t believe,” he said,
“why not search us. Then you can see we have not the fan. Do you
believe that Major Tidman has it?”

“Yes. He gave it to you. He killed–”

“He did not. Can you swear that he did?”

“No. But I thought–”

“Oh shucks,” said Clarence shoving himself forward, “see here
Mr. Tung-yu. I’m sick of this business. We haven’t got that
durned fan. But I can tell you who has.”

“Tell then and I give you a thousand pounds.”

“Not good enough,” said Burgh coolly, “see here, you let us go
free and tell us the fan’s secret, and I’ll tell you.”

“Yes, and get the fan, and learn the secret,” cried Tung-yu
excited, “but you cannot make use of the secret.”

“Don’t want to. And as to the fan, you can get it from the
person I tell you of. Then you can fork out fifteen thousand.”

The Chinaman deliberated. “We have been wrong about Major
Tidman, I think,” said he politely. “It seems someone else has
it. I suppose—-”

“I didn’t kill the old girl myself if that’s what you mean.”

“Quite so,” said Tung-yu, after another pause. “Well, as you
can’t make any use of the secret I’ll tell you of it. Then you
can go free, after you have told me who killed Miss Wharf.”

“Eight oh,” said Clarence, and Rupert listened breathlessly.

“The fan,” said Tung-yu, “is jade on one side, and enamel on the
other. The enamelled side is painted with a picture invisibly.
To bring out the picture, this fan has to be waved in certain
smoke–”

“What sort of smoke?”

“I won’t tell you that,” said Tung-yu politely, “I have told
enough.”

“Well, then,” said Rupert, “when the picture is visible what
happens?”

“It will show a hiding place which contains certain things we
want to get, in order to ruin Lo-Keong with the Empress.”

“Oh, I see, a plan of a secret hiding-place.”

“Now you know,” said Tung-yu to Clarence, “tell me—-”

“Not till I know of the smoke.”

“I refuse. But I give you fifteen thousand to get that fan. One
thousand now if you tell me who killed the woman and who has
it.”

“Good,” said Clarence, “I’ll trade. Dr. Forge strangled Miss
Wharf.”

“Ah,” said Tung-yu leaping up, “he has the fan. Thanks
Kwang-ho,” and he bowed to the half-destroyed image.