The Case of the Curio Dealer
by William Hope Hodgson
I MET a rum sort of customer ashore in
'Frisco to-day. At least, I was the customer, and he, as a
matter of fact, was the shopman. It was one of those
Chinese curio shops, that have drifted down, somehow, near
to the water front. By the look of him, he was half
Chinaman, a quarter negro, and the other quarter badly
mixed. But his English was quite good, considering.
"You go to England, Cap'n?" he
"London Town, my lad," I told him.
"But you can't come. We don't carry passengers. Try
higher up. There's a passenger packet ahead of my ship;
you'll see her with the prettily painted funnel."
"I not want to come," he explained.
Then he came a step nearer to me, and spoke quieter, taking
a look quickly to right and left; but there was no one else
in the shop.
"Want to send a blox home, Cap'n a big
long blox. Long as you, Cap'n," he told me, almost in a
whisper. "How much you take him for? Send him down
to-night, when dark?"
"Who've you been murdering now?" I
said, lighting a cigarette. "I should try the bay, and
have a good heavy stone or two in the sack. I'm not in the
The man's yellow dusky face went quite grey,
and his eyes set, for an instant, in a look of complete
terror. Then some sense of comprehension came into them, and
he smiled, in rather a pallid kind of way.
"Yo mak-a joke, Cap'n," he said.
"I not murder any one. The blox contain a mummy, I have
to consign to the town of London."
But I had seen the look on his face, when I
let off my careless squib about the corpse; and I know when
a man's badly frightened. Also, why did he not consign his
box of mummy to London in the ordinary way; and why so
anxious to send it aboard after dark? In short, there were
quite a number of whys. Too many!
The man went to the door, and took a look
out, up and down the street; then came away, and went to the
inner door, which I presumed was his living-room. He drew
back and shut the door gently; then took a walk round the
backs of the counters, glancing under them. He came out, and
walked once or twice up and down the centre of the shop, in
a quick, irresolute kind of way, glancing at me earnestly. I
could see that his forehead was covered with sweat, and his
hands shook a little, as he fumbled his long coat-fixing. I
felt sorry for him.
"Now, my son," I said at last,
"what is it? You look as if you badly needed to tell
somebody. If you want to hand it on to me, I'll not swear to
help you; but I'll hold my tongue solidly afterwards."
"Cap'n, Sir," he said, and seemed
unable to get any further. He went again to the shop door
and looked out; then once more to the inner door, which he
opened quietly. He peeped in; then closed it gently, and
turned and walked straight across to me. I could see his
mind was pretty well made up. He came close up to me, and
touched a charm which I wear on my chain.
"That, Cap'n!" he said. "I
too!" And he pulled aside a flap of his coat-robe, and
showed me a similar one.
"They can be bought for a couple of
dollars, anywhere," I said, looking him slam in the
eyes. As I said so, he answered a sign I had made.
"Brother," he said. "Greatly
good is God to have send you in my distress ;" and he
answered my second sign.
"Brother," I said, as I might have
spoken to my own brother, "let us prove this thing
completely." And, in a minute, I could no longer doubt
at all. This stranger, part Chinese, part negro and part
other things, was a member of the same brotherhood to which
I belong. Those who are also my brothers will be able to
"Now," I said, "tell me all
your tale, and if it is not against common decency to help
you, you may depend on me." I smiled at him
The man simply broke down, and cried a few
moments into his loose sleeve.
"You take the blox, Cap'n Brother,"
he said, at last. "I pay you a, t'ousand dollars now
"No," I told him. "Tell me all
about it, first. If it is murder, I can't help you, unless
there are things to excuse you; for if you have murdered,
you have no longer any call on me, as a brother."
"I not done murder, Cap'n Brother,"
he said. "I tell you all. You then take blox for
"If you're clear of anything ugly in
this matter," I said, "I'll take your box into
hell and out again, if necessary, and there'll be no talk of
pay between us. Now get going."
He beckoned to me, and took me round the
counter. Here was a long box, a huge affair, very strongly
made, and with a hinged lid. He took hold of the lid, and
"The mummy!" I exclaimed; for the
thing was plain there before my eyes, in its long, painted
casing a huge man or woman it must have been, too.
"My son, Cap'n Brother," said the
"Him there," said the Chinaman.
"What! Now?" I asked again,
He nodded, and glanced round the shop,
"Dead!" I said. "Is he
"No, Cap'n Brother," he said.
"The mummy-case empty. My son under there, hiding. Him
sleep with much opium I give him. I ship him to you
to-night. First I tell you why
"I belong to the Nameless Ones, we call
them. They are a brotherhood also, an' have live for two
t'ousand years. I belong also with two other brotherhood;
for in China I have importance by family and relation. But
this have to do with the brotherhood of the Nameless Ones.
My son a little wild. Him drink Engleesh spirit, an' him
come home drunk an' there three of the Nameless Ones
brotherhood speak secret with me; but him drunk an' not heed
nothing. Him come in an' sit down an' laugh. The Number 7,
that is the President, order him to go out, an' him put the
thumb to his nose so I The President have a great anger;
but hold it; for I am old in the brotherhood, an' the young
man is my son; but not of the brotherhood.
"The President again order my son to go;
an' my son, in the badness of his great drunk, him"
(the man bent and literally whispered the terrible detail to
me), "him pull the hair tail of the President,
an' the tail a false one, which I not know before, an' the
tail come away in the hand of my son, an' the President
naked there before us.
"The President wish to kill my son
immediately; but I had great speech with him, an' reasoned
much, an' he consent the young man grow first sober, an'
afterward be tried by the Second Sixty of the brotherhood of
the Nameless Ones that have live two t'ousand year.
"This was yesterday, an' when they gone
away, I put my son to grow sober, an' I prepare the
mummy-case to hold him, an' when him sober, I tell him, an'
him nearly die with great fear; for they will take out his
heart, an' hang it in a gold ball over the door of our great
Hall; for memory of so great a rude to the President of the
brotherhood that is older in all China than all.
"Then I tell my son, I have escape
planned for him. I give him strong opium drink an' put him
in the mummy-case.
"This happen day before yesterday. In
the night, they come for my son; but I tell them him not
here. Him away to drink again. They say I hide him. If they
find I hide him, they dis-bowel me for a false brother. I
say I not hide him. I tell them search house. They search
house; but not think of mummy-case; for mummy long in my
shop, an' real; but I burn mummy when I prepare case for my
son; an' mummy cost five t'ousand dollars. But I care not,
for it save my son.
"They have brothers that make a search
all drink saloon in 'Frisco. They have a hundred, two
hundred to look for my son that make rude to the President
of the Nameless Ones that have live for two t'ousand year.
But they find him not.
"Then they put a brother here in my
house to keep watch, an' a brother in the street, an' how
shall I save the life of my son?
"Then you come in Cap'n Brother, an' I
see the sign upon your coat, an' you Engleesh, an' I have a
new courage an' I tell you. An' all you now know."
"Good Lord!" I said. "I've
heard of the Nameless Ones, but you don't tell me they'll
kill a lad, just for pulling the pigtail of their beastly
"Hush! Cap'n Brother!" said the
man, white with fear, and staring first at the door behind
him and then at the outer doorway. "You not speak so,
Cap'n. You go now. I not want them to see me talk to you. I
send blox down to-night, when dark."
"I'll go when I've satisfied myself on
one or two points, brother," I said. I walked straight
across the room, and gently opened the inner door and
peeped. I wished to test this extraordinary tale. It sounded
so unreasonable to my West-built brain and constitution;
though I knew there was a good chance of it being every word
Well, what I saw in there, quite satisfied
me. There was the biggest Chinaman I ever saw in my life,
sitting cross-legged on a cushion on the floor, and across
his knees he held the longest and ugliest-looking knife I've
set eyes on, before or since.
I shut the door, even quieter than I opened
it; and when I turned to my new friend, his face was like a
gray mask, and he couldn't speak for nearly a minute.
"It's all right, brother," I said;
"he never saw me. I'd got to double-prove that tale of
yours, before I got mixed up with it. I believe it now,
right enough; only it's hard to understand there's a live
devil, and this kind of devilry going on, not twenty fathoms
away from my own ship."
"You you take him, Cap'n Brother, you
promise true?" he managed to get out, at last; his one
thought for that son of his.
"Yes," I said; "but you've not
got to bring him aboard to-night. Why, if what you say is
right, they'd guess in half a tick; and then it would be too
late, except to bury him. You leave it to me, I'll think out
a way. I'll send my Second Mate up later to buy one of those
bamboo curio sticks of yours. He'll give you a note, telling
you what I want you to do. You can read English?"
He nodded, and pointed to the open doorway,
at the same time, staring in a stiff sort of terror over his
shoulder at the closed door.
The handle of the closed door was being
revolved slowly and noiselessly; and I thought it best to
get outside at once; for if that big devil inside had grown
suspicious, it would increase my difficulties, if he got a
sufficient sight of my face to be able to recognize me
Later, same day.
My ship is almost across the road, as you
might say, from the Chinaman's shop. I'm not eighty yards
away, in a direct line; but there's the puffing billy tracks
in between an amusing little way they have here of running
their railway lines along the open street!
When I came aboard, I went into my chart
house, on the bridge, and reached down a pair of decent
glasses, that I got from the Board of Trade for a little
life-saving stunt I was once mixed up in. I'll say this for
them, they're good glasses, and I suppose I couldn't match
them under sixteen guineas. Anyway, they showed me what I
wanted; for I unscrewed a couple of the port lights on the
shore side of the chart house, and a couple forrard and aft;
and I kept a watch on that curiosity shop the whole blessed
afternoon, into the evening, from two to eight.
Standing inside there, I was able to stare
all I wanted, without being seen; and here is what my
afternoon's work told me.
First of all, Mr. Hual Miggett was the name
above the door of my new-found brother of mixed
nationalities. Second, Mr. Hual Miggett had evidently no
idea of the elaborateness of the watch that was being kept
upon his premises. Apparently there was no doubt at all, but
that the famous brotherhood of the Nameless Ones deprecated
strongly the tonsorial attentions of Master Hual Miggett;
for they were out in force. Through my glasses, I counted
more than a dozen Chinamen in the street, some lounging
about, others walking at the normal Chinese patter pace, and
crossing and recrossing one another.
There were two private cars also in the
street, drawn up, each with a Chinese driver. (There are
some rich men in this affair, I can see that.)
I was easily able to test that these men were
there on watch; for they never left the street; also, from
time to time, I caught odd vague signs, passing between this
one and that. There was obviously purpose behind it
At five o'clock, I rang down to the steward
to send me up my tea; and I ate it there in the chart-house,
while I watched.
It came on dusk before seven-thirty; and I
noticed that there were more Chinamen in the street, and
also there were now three open cars, all driven by Chinamen.
I still could not see the need for all this fuss over the
President's false pigtail; but, as I explained to myself,
there's no accounting for a Chinaman's way of looking at
The electrics had been turned on at 7 p.m.
and the street was pretty light; though there were plenty of
shadows in places, and wherever there was a shadow there
seemed to be a Chinaman.
A devil of a lot of chance there would have
been to cart that box out of the shop and aboard, I thought
to myself I The man must have been made foolish with terror
to think it could be done that way. Why, it is
evident these men will keep watch all night, for a week of
Sundays, until they get what they're after.
At a quarter to eight, I sent the Second Mate
ashore, with a note to Hual Miggett. I told the Chinaman
that if he watched the street for a bit, he'd find there was
a round score of the "Nameless" devils eyeing his
house; and that if he wanted to bury his son without delay,
he had only to send him across in the mummy-case, whenever
he liked! I suggested, though, that if he wished to save the
life of his amateur barber, he had better keep his son
comfortably in the shop, drugged according to need, and wait
for me in the morning, when I would come along in, and
propose a plan by which he might be gotten safely aboard.
I explained sufficient to my Second Mate to
insure his not making a mess of things. I told him that he
had better take a cut up into the city first, and come down
on the shop from another direction. Then hand over the note,
buy a curio stick, and come out at once. After which he had
better put in an hour or two at one of the music halls,
before returning to the ship, for I do not want that crowd
of Chinks in the street to connect me with the shop over the
way, as the pork butcher said.
I watched the street last night again, from
nine up to one o'clock this morning; and there were Chinamen
there, either walking past each other or standing about. And
every once in a while a car would drive up and stop for an
hour at a time, by the corner of the next block, where they
could see Hual Miggett's shop.
The Second Mate got aboard, just before I
turned in. I had seen him enter and leave the shop, a little
after nine, and through my glasses I had traced a couple of
Chinamen follow him right up the street, after he came out
of the shop; but they had turned back, at last, evidently
satisfied that he was simply a normal customer.
I asked the Second Mate whether anyone had
been in the shop when he delivered the note. He said no; but
that the biggest Chinaman in the world had suddenly shoved
his head in through a doorway at the back of the shop, while
he was buying the stick, and stared steadily at him for
nearly a minute.
"I could have thought he wasn't right in
his head!" the Second Mate told me. "If he'd been
a bit smaller I should have asked him what the devil he
wanted. But he was such an almighty great brute that I took
no notice. Do you reckon he'd be the man you saw in the back
parlour with the big knife on his lap?"
"I shouldn't be surprised," I said.
"Just what I thought," remarked the
Second. "If I were you, Sir, I'd drop the whole
business. They're a murdering lot of devils, are Chinamen!
Think nothing at all of cutting a throat!"
"I agree with your reading of 'em,"
I said. "But I'll see this difficulty through."
Later on to-day, I went up into the city,
where I arranged one or two things; then I went into Jell's,
the costumiers, and got them to fix me up with dye and a
little careful face paint. Also, they lent me a suit of
clothes to match. I'm getting pretty earnest now in this
particular bit of business.
When I went in, I was my ordinary self hair
and beard a little brightish; not red. I'm not really what
an unprejudiced man would call red. My eyebrows are a couple
of shades lighter; and skin fair, reddish. I was dressed in
serge, with uniform buttons, and a peak hat. When I came
out, my beard, moustache, and eyebrows were dyed black
(washable dye, of course). My skin was a good tawny brown,
and I had on a check suit that was a chess-knut in every
sense of the word; also a crush hat, and spats on my boots.
I was the American conception of a certain type of English
tourist. God help the type. They would need it.
I called in at a book-shop, and bought a
'Frisco guide, one of those pretty little flip-flap things
that ripple out a fathom long, all pictures of Telegraph
Hill and the water front and the ferry boats, with glimpses
of the bay and a "peep at Oakland"; not forgetting
even the mud flats across the bay, where the wind-jammers
used to lie up by the dozen and wait for a rise in the grain
Then I made a line for the water front, with
my "guide" draped over my hands, staring at it
like a five year old laddie.
Presently, as I went along, I stopped outside
the Chinaman's shop. I stared in at the lacquer boxes; the
bamboo walking sticks, the josses, .... Birmingham
delightful variations of certain heathen deities. I was
profoundly impressed. At least, I hope I looked like it.
Secretly, I was even more amused; for I know just sufficient
about what I might call "godology" to recognize
the fantastic impossibilities that Ignorance had produced,
and inflicted daily upon the unwary. There were gods there,
whose every "line" should have told a tale, or
made a hidden (often obscene) suggestion to the less
Ignorant; but the "lines" or gagules were
meaningless and confused; exactly as an ignorant negro's
attempts to reproduce the handwriting of a letter written in
English would probably seem to our comprehending eyes. Yet
not all was Brummagem.
I have mentioned my staring at the gods;
because it was while doing so that I got the first clear
idea of how to deal with a certain phase of the situation in
which Hual Miggett found himself.
I walked into the shop, and Hual Miggett came
forward to serve me. He looked a bilious, dusky yellow, and
as if he were at the end of his tether of endurance.
"I would like to look at some of those
gods in your window," I said, in a rather high-pitched
voice. "I'm always interested in things of that
The mixed-breed crossed to the window,
without a word, and drew back the glass partition. I could
see that, temporarily at any rate, he had lost all the
money-craving of the salesman, and was, for the time being,
little more than a living automaton.
As he pulled back the partition, he made a
gesture with his hand, inviting me to look at the gods, and
take my choice. He appeared still too stupefied and weary
and stonily depressed to use any sort of art to make a sale.
I followed his invitation, and picked up
first one god and then another, looking curiously at their
Birmingham craftsmanship. Finally, I lifted a bronze Goat
god that had first attracted me. It is rare, and should be
worth something. I glanced up at Hual Miggett; but he was
not even looking at me. He seemed to be listening, with a
frightened, half-desperate look on his flattish face. Then,
with a muttered excuse, he stepped across the shop and went
behind the counter. I guessed he had heard, or fancied he
had heard, a sound from his son in the mummy-case.
While he was away, I studied the gagules, or
"lines," on the Goat god. They told me many
decidedly unprintable things, which were extremely
interesting, though repellent to the more restrained
individuality of the modern and balanced person.
I examined the "lines" round the
base of the figure, and found the old secret sign "to
open," with a chased diminishing device of double
lessening circles, leading the eye towards the locations of
the concealed catches. I concluded that the boss of the
bone, above the Goat's foot, and the significant
inturned thumb of the third hand, might be worth
investigating. I pressed on the boss of the protruding
ankle-bone, and pulled the thumb, first to me, then pressed
it away. As I did so, the bottom of the figure fell away
into my hand, and showed an opening into the god, easily big
enough to contain my head; for the god is nearly three feet
high, and quite two in breadth.
There was nothing in the cavity, and I
pressed back the "lid" into place, where it
snapped home with a faint double click. As I did so, Hual
Miggett came round the counter again into sight, looking a
little less anxious. As he walked towards me, I made a
certain sign to him, and he stopped and shivered a little,
in bewilderment and doubt. Then he answered the sign.
"Brother," I said, speaking quietly
in my natural voice; and I gave him a further sign. And so,
in a moment, he knew me.
I said nothing to him about the secret
opening into the Goat god. If Hual Miggett did not know his
business well enough to read the gagules, it was to no
interest of mine to teach him. I continued to turn the god
about, as if examining it; but all the time I did so, I was
speaking, telling him my plan.
"To-night," I said, "you must
give no more than a little opium to your son. In the
morning, I will enter with a lady on my arm. The lady and I
will examine your curios. Presently, she will throw off her
dress, and hat and veil. Underneath, she, or rather he, for
it will be a man, will appear dressed in a suit of your
son's, which you must get for me now. When all is ready, we
will make sufficient noise in the shop to bring out the big
Chinaman with the knife, who keeps watch in your inner room.
Before, however, he can reach this man, who will seem to him
your son, the man (who is an athlete) will race out of your
shop; run straight across to the water-side, and jump into a
racing launch which will be there, with her engine running.
The big man will be sure to follow him, and every one of the
watchers in the street will do the same. The man, however,
will be already on his way to Oakland, across the water,
and, barring accidents, should be over long before any of
them are able to get another launch.
"Meanwhile, we shall have pulled your
son out of the mummy-case, and while he is behind the
counter, we will get him into the woman's dress, and put the
hat and veil on him. I will then take him out of the shop,
on my arm, and across to my vessel, while every one's
attention is taken up by the escape of the trained runner
they imagine to be your son.
"Your son will be weak, with the
drugging he has undergone; but he will have my arm; and the
distance to my ship is not great. Am I clear?"
"Clear as the moon, Cap'n Brother, when
there are no clouds," said the Chinaman. "Truly "
"One moment," I said. "Perhaps
your ecstasy may be calmed a little by learning that this
business will cost you not one cent less than a thousand
dollars, plus the price of your son's passage to England.
The man who takes the risk will not do it for less. I have
already paid him five hundred on account, and the second
five hundred I am to pay him to-morrow, if all goes
Hual Miggett made no bones about the money.
He pulled a wad of bills out of his coat-robe; and counted
me out one thousand dollars.
"His passage money will run a hundred
and fifty," I said. "That's what the Company
charged last trip to a German hoodoo, who took the voyage
home with us."
He paid me this also, while I continued to
revolve the Goat god in my hands, as if I were really in
doubts whether to buy it, or not. This was in case we were
watched. Finally, I asked him seriously what he wanted for
it, as I have a weakness for that kind of thing.
As I spoke, I saw the money greed show
momentarily in his eyes.
"One t'ousand dollars," he said.
It was worth, perhaps, five or six hundred,
and as much more as he could get for it, as per Curio
Dealers' Creed; but I did not bother to argue with him. His
sudden touch of meanness, considering the trouble and risk I
was taking for his sake, sickened me a bit; and I simply put
the god back on the shelf, without a word.
"The suit of clothes," I said; and
Hual Miggett went out of the shop. As he did so, I slipped
across and looked into the box at the mummy-case. It
belonged evidently to the 18th Dynasty. It was black, with
crossed hands carved in relief upon the breast, and the mask
was a dull red.
I lifted the upper half quickly, and looked
inside; and in that moment, I believed that Hual Miggett's
son was not hidden in the mummy-case at all; for instead of
the living body of a young Chinaman, I found, apparently,
the thoroughly dead body of a mummy, all wound round and
round eternally with age-browned bandages. The head and face
of the mummy were wrapped tightly with the same brown
bandages, in a way that precluded any idea of a living,
breathing being within.
And then, as I stared, I realized that the
thing was alive. The breast was stirred ever so faintly
under its swathings. It gave me a simply beastly feeling,
for a moment, to watch it. Then, suddenly, I saw how the
whole thing had been worked and I stooped and caught at one
of the tightly stretched, age-stiffened folds of the
encircling bandages. I lifted, and the whole of the bandages
came away, in a life-size half model of the human body.
Cunning Hual Miggett! I saw how he had
managed this most clever method of suggesting that the
figure below the bandages was really wrapped in
them. You see, if you take a mummy, and, with a sharp knife,
very carefully cut through the bandages, down each side,
working right round the mummy, from head to feet, it is
possible sometimes, to work the brown, ancient bandages free
from the mummy, so that they come away in two half shells
(back and front) which, having become stiffened by age and
olden spices, are a veritable and exact model of the mummy
they have so long enwrapped.
Clever Hual Miggett! He had cut the, bandages
free from what I might term their original owner, in two
full length halves, then, having, as he had informed me,
destroyed the mummy, he had laid his son in the lower half
of the hardened shape of wrappings, and placed the other
half upon the top of him, so that it appeared to any one
looking into the mummy-case that it enclosed only an
incredibly olden figure, wrapped in bandages untouched for
many and many a forgotten century.
Breathing had been arranged for by a few
hidden slits, and the mummy-case and outer box had been
No wonder the searching Chinese had never
"tumbled" to his hiding-place, when they searched
I lifted the body-shaped skin of brown
bandages right out of the case and looked in. There was a
sallow young Chinese-looking man inside, lying in a heavily
drugged and extremely unwashed condition. The shaped shell
of bandages was long, much longer than the young Chinaman,
and in the space at his feet, under a piece of fancy
sacking, there was the most magnificent carving I could ever
have dreamed of, in old amber, of the nameless god, Kuch, of
the Blood Lust.
There is no actual name for this Monstrosity;
which is, indeed, indicated only by a curious ugly guttural.
It is known literally as the Nameless One. There is no real
equivalent in the letter sounds of any nation for the
guttural which indicates this embodiment of the most
dreadful of the Desires the elemental appeal of the Blood
Lust a lust that has been atrophying through weary
centuries, under the effects of the Codes of Restraint,
which are more popularly termed Religion.
As I have said, there is no symbol, or
written equivalent, in any language for the indicating
guttural of this truly terrible deifying of the most
monstrous of the primitive Desires; so that the crudely
phonetic "Kuch" has become, literally, the name by
which Western writers have alluded to it, in dealing with
the frightful lore which concerns this embodiment of all
that is behind every brutish Impulse of man.
And here, before my eyes, was a marvelously
wonderful representation of the Blood Monster, carved from
one enormous lump of yellow amber; with every last detail of
typified vileness, reproduced with an amazingly wonderful
and horrible skill of workmanship.
* * * *
I replaced the various covers quickly, and
hurried outside the counter again; for I had heard a sound
that might have been the big brute of a Chinaman moving in
the inner room.
I resumed my broken inspection of the big,
bronze Goat god; and presently, as I turned it this way and
that, I was aware that the handle of the door of the inner
room was turning quietly. Then the door slowly opened, and
the enormous head of the big Chinaman came forward into the
shop, staring around. He stared like a great animal; and
moved his monstrous, ugly head and flat, brutish face from
side to side, just as I have seen a dangerous bull swing his
head, before charging.
I had a feeling that the man reminded me of
something; and suddenly I realized that his face, in some
uncomfortable, unnatural way, suggested that of the god I
had discovered at the feet of the man in the mummy-case.
And it was just then, in that instant, that I comprehended
the full extent, shape and quality of the dangerous business
into which I was poking my Western nose.
"Oh, you rotten liar, Hual
Miggett!" I said to myself. "You rotten = liar,
to have let me in for all this!"
It had come like a flash; but I had been
pretty sure, since discovering the abnormal excitement among
the Chinamen (made evident in the number and type of those
who watched the house), that there was something more
troubling them than what I might term pulled pigtail.
It was this suspicion which had made me step
across to the mummy-case as soon as Hual Miggett had gone
for a suit of his son's Chinese garments. The god, the
Nameless One, was the real hub about which the chief
excitement was twiddling; I wondered I had not seen it on
the instant; but it was plain enough now the brotherhood of
the Nameless Ones; and the Nameless god! It was, at once, so
obvious what the brotherhood was named after! And the
Representation of the "Kuch" in yellow amber was
undoubtedly the amazingly valued possession of the
The pulling of the President's pigtail was
all a clever but outrageous lie (oh, you liar, Hual
Miggett!). The young Miggett had evidently displayed no such
tonsorial leanings as his father had suggested. Burglary
(preferably of valuable "godlike" curios) was
evidently his forte! Being so confoundedly mixed of
birth, I presume he had no especial fears of a god so
essentially Chinese in conception!
And I had been hauled into the business as a
sort of édition de luxe of the Cat's Paw. . .
Not much! I can understand Hual Miggett, senior, being so
eager to send mummy-case, and all, abroad. But if I save his
son to-morrow, the god shall certainly not come with us. I
guess he deserves the worry of it!
At this point, much to my relief, the
considerably overgrown member of the brotherhood withdrew
himself as noiselessly as he had intruded. I wondered what
dreadful things the brute could tell of untellable Rites;
and while I was wondering this, Hual Miggett returned.
I took the two garments and the funny little
cap from him, and nodded towards the inner door.
"Monsieur the High Chief Executioner of
the brotherhood has just stuck his ugly head into the
shop," I told him.
The man went ghastly in color, and stared at
me, as if I were something superhuman. I began to think my
shot must have got a bulls-eye.
"I don't know what you're doing, mixed
up with people of that kind," I told him. Then I
stuffed the garments (they were very thin material) into my
inside pockets, and the cap I folded small, and slipped
under my belt; for I was not going out of that shop,
carrying any parcel of a size sufficiently large to make the
watchers suspect me of being used as a vehicle for the
conveying of their beastly god to some other place. I
guessed I should have a bad accident, before I had gone the
length of the street, if any of them got thinking that!
"To-morrow, about ten in the
morning," I said, and went out of the shop, without
saying another word.
They're rum hogs, some of these mixed breeds,
I thought to myself; and walked comfortably up into the
city, quite pleasantly aware that a couple of the watching
Chinamen were following me. They dropped back, however, near
the end of the street, apparently satisfied that I was no
one they were looking for.
At ten o'clock this morning, I entered Hual
Miggett's shop, with a lanky looking "female" upon
Hual Miggett came forward; and, for a time,
the "lady" and I looked at this thing and that,
and bought one or two trifles. I observed that the Mixed
Breed seemed enormously depressed, and scarcely spoke. He
appeared to be pondering something, to the exclusion of
everything else. Well, he certainly had enough of troubles
to make a man think!
After a few minutes, I beckoned Hual Miggett
to take a look up and down the street. Then I told him to
see what the big Chinaman was doing. He opened the inner
door boldly, and went in, as if to fetch something. When he
came back, he told me that the man with the knife was
sleeping on the floor.
"Strip off smart now, Billy!" I
said to the "woman" I had brought in.
The hat and veil came off instantly, and the
very ample dress followed. The result was a typical seeming
young Chinese, but lean and exceedingly muscular.
"Over there, behind the counter!" I
said. "Smart now, before you're seen. Keep your gun
handy; but for the Lord's sake don't use it unless you're
I had a brace of heavy Colts in my own
pockets; for I was taking quite some risks myself, during
the next couple of minutes.
"Now, Miggett," I said, "get
moving, if you want any of us to come through this with a
whole skin. Out with that son of yours!"
I had the dress up, ready in my hands, and
Hual Miggett literally dragged the dazed lad out of the
mummy-shell. Before he was firmly on his feet, I was pulling
the dress over his head. Without waiting to fasten it, I
dived for the hat and veil, to get his give-away head and
face hidden. In a moment, I had crammed the hat on to him,
and dragged the veil over and round his face; then I hurried
to fasten the dress. I made my fingers fly! If we had been
caught in that minute by the big Chinaman, I should
certainly have had to shoot; and then there would have been
fifty of the brutes into the shop in no time; and the
results would have puzzled our greatest friends to identify;
for the beggars have an extraordinary penchant, as I
might term it, for knife-work.
About a minute later, I was outside the
counter again, still with a female-seeming creature upon my
arm. A dress and a veil may cover a multitude, well not
exactly a multitude; but certainly they make most things
"Are you ready there, Billy?" I
called softly to the sporting runner, crouching behind the
"Sure," he said.
"Then look out now," I told him.
"I'm going to bring out that big brute. Just let him
see you, and then get away smart; or there'll be murder done
right here. Ready?"
"I guess so," was the confident
kind of answer that pleased me. "The bigger the guy is
the better. It's not him I'm botherin' about; it's the
devils in the street."
I turned to the counter, and picked up a
porcelain Mallet vase, which I looked at with great
interest, and suddenly let slip, with an enormous crash on
to the floor, where it broke into quite some pieces. I hoped
it was valuable. Anyway, it did what I meant it to do; for
the inner door opened swiftly, and the great bulk of the big
Chinaman filled the doorway, as he stared into the shop.
At the exact instant Billy Johnson, the
runner, glided out from below the end of the counter nearest
to the street, and tip-toed noiselessly towards the door, in
full view of the big Chinaman.
There was a hideous, inarticulate bull roar
from the inner doorway, and I glanced towards the great,
flat swaying face. The eyes were glaring, like two greenish
slits; and a little froth had blown out over the coarse,
walrus-like moustache. There was a crashing of falling gear,
as he leaped forward; for he had literally ripped one of the
projecting counters clean over on to its side as he made his
rush. Then the huge bulk of the great Chinaman dashed past
me at a speed that was amazing, considering his size. As he
thundered by me, I saw that he had in his hand a great
four-foot-long knife. The dull blue glint of the steel shone
just for one fraction on my eye; then man and knife were out
of the door, with a second crash; for his great shoulder had
struck and burst one of the wooden door-posts clean off.
But Billy Johnson was away, thirty yards
ahead, running like a deer, with a swift, beautiful, strong
pat, pat, pat, of entirely capable feet.
From all sides, as we crowded in the doorway
and stared, there were converging upon him ever increasing
numbers of Chinamen, seeming to come literally out of
nowhere. The huge Chinaman was still, however, nearer to
Johnson than any one else, and running with a grim
intentness; his great head held curiously low.
I saw Johnson take the tracks in half a dozen
swift steps, and then he was heading straight for the
water-side. I heard the sudden, deep, brrp! brrp! of the
racing launch's exhaust, distinct above the roar of the
Suddenly the big Chinaman flung up his right
hand, and I saw the dull gleam of the yard-long blade. Then,
still running, he threw, and I could not help shouting;
though, of course, no one could have heard me in the din
that was now going on.
"Missed him!" I yelled; for the big
knife had gone slap over Johnson's shoulder, missing him by
no more than an inch or two. Evidently the big Chinaman had
understood suddenly the plan by which the runner hoped to
escape. A number of the other pursuers must also have
discovered it on the instant; for there came an irregular
ripple of revolver firing; but gun practice is apt to be off
the target, when both parties are running.
Then Johnson was at the quay side.
"Safe!" I yelled again, as I saw
him jump. "Good man, Johnson! Good man!"
"I guess, Miggett, that's cheap at a
thousand dollars," I told him.
There was firing from the dense and
increasing bunch of men at the water-side; and from all down
the street there was a sound of running feet, as hundreds of
American citizens ran up to discover the whereforeness of so
much powder and noise.
A City Marshal (a big Irishman by the looks
of him) raced up limberly, white-helmeted and superb in
summer uniform. I saw him laying about him, cheerfully, on
the heads and shoulders (chiefly the heads) of a number of
interested and unoffending citizens, who appeared, however,
to consider his attentions as the natural order of things.
There was a deal of further gunfiring from
the quay front; but already I could see the racing launch,
away out in the bay, half a mile or more from the quay.
Up the street, there was a crash of horses'
hoofs, as a squad of mounted Marshals swept bang round a
corner. They roared down past the shop big Irishmen, most
of them, joyous and holding their guns with a pleasurable
"Great sport, Hual Miggett," I
said, "over one solitary pigtail!"
The crowd on the water front was
fading literally vanishing; for the mounted Marshals are so
inexpressibly and cheerfully effective. And, after all, a
bullet fired with a smile . . . almost as one might say, as
a jest, is quite as deadly as those dispatched in a more
I glanced at Hual Miggett, and wondered what
he was thinking. Possibly quite as much of the yellow god,
which had caused all this trouble, as the torpid, cheerless
"female" at my side.
"I guess we'd better depart in the
confusion," I said. "Come along, sweet maid."
We moved out of the shop, pleasingly
unobserved, and reached my ship within the space of two
We sail to-night, and I went across to see
Hual Miggett this morning. I thought that I deserved the
reward of virtue; for I had a genuine hankering for that
Goat god. But hear the essential meanness of the Mixed
I found him very glum; but I wasted no pity
"How much for this?" I asked,
slapping the Goat god on its capable, bronze shoulder.
"A t'ousand dollars, Cap'n
Brother," he said.
"A thousand cents," I answered, and
walked towards the door.
"Eight hundred dollars, Cap'n
Brother," he called out. "I lose many dollars to
you, gladly, for your great goodness to me, Cap'n
"I don't want you to lose," I said.
"We'll drop all talk of what I've done, or haven't
done. You're not able to pay me, anyway, even if I'd let
you. I'll give you your thousand for the thing, simply
because I want it, and I won't have you patting yourself on
that weevily mean back of yours, and thinking you've done
me a favor. This thing is worth not a cent more
than five or six hundred. Here are the notes. Give me a
receipt, or you'll be swearing I've not paid you, next. Oh,
don't talk. I'm just a bit sick of you!" I told him.
He tried to excuse himself; but I simply held
out the notes, and waited for the receipt. Then, without
bothering to fall on his neck and say good-bye, I walked out
of the shop, with the old bronze Goat god tucked under my
Anyway, I thought to myself, it will be
something to remember this little affair by.
Down in my cabin, however, having locked the
door, I worked the secret opening in the base of the god,
and then, gently and tenderly, I slid from the hollow
interior the amber god (the Kuch) which I had taken from the
mummy-case, and hidden inside the Goat god, when I sent Hual
Miggett for a suit of his son's clothing.
I keep wondering, rather pleasantly, what the
mean-souled Mixture thought, when he found the yellow god
had vanished. Possibly superstition (being no longer
deadened by the drug of Greed) has helped him to some
impossible explanation. In any case, he could not very well
(after his gorgeous yarn of the President's pigtail) enlarge
upon his loss to me. His glumness yesterday and to-day is,
perhaps, understandable. The stealing of the amber god
cannot have proved a profitable investment of time or labor,
not to mention money.
As I look at the wonderful carving of the
amber atrocity, I cannot help feeling enormously satisfied
with my course of action in this matter. Hual Miggett
deserves punishment for a number of undesirable things.
Moreover, like Hual Midget, I also know a collector who will
pay a good hefty price for the little yellow monster.