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   Chapter 5 No.5

Never-Fail Blake By Arthur Stringer Characters: 4862

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

It was by wireless that Blake made what efforts he could to confirm his suspicions that Binhart had not dropped off at any port of call between San Francisco and Hong Kong. In due time the reply came back to "Bishop MacKishnie," on board the westbound Empress of China that the Reverend Caleb Simpson had safely landed from the Manchuria at Hong Kong, and was about to leave for the mission field in the interior.

The so-called bishop, sitting in the wireless-room of the Empress of China, with a lacerated black cigar between his teeth, received this much relayed message with mixed feelings. He proceeded to send out three Secret Service code-despatches to Shanghai, Amoy and Hong Kong, which, being picked up by a German cruiser, were worried over and argued over and finally referred back to an intelligence bureau for explanation.

But at Yokohama, Blake hurried ashore in a sampan, met an agent who seemed to be awaiting him, and caught a train for Kobe. He hurried on, indifferent to the beauties of the country through which he wound, unimpressed by the oddities of the civilization with which he found himself confronted. His mind, intent on one thing, seemed unable to react to the stimuli of side-issues. From Kobe he caught a Toyo Kisen Kaisha steamer for Nagasaki and Shanghai. This steamer, he found, lay over at the former port for thirteen hours, so he shifted again to an outbound boat headed for Woosung.

It was not until he was on the tender, making the hour-long run from Woosung up the Whangpoo to Shanghai itself, that he seemed to emerge from his half-cataleptic indifference to his environment. He began to realize that he was at last in the Orient.

As they wound up the river past sharp-nosed and round-hooded sampans, and archaic Chinese battle-ships and sea-going junks and gunboats flying their unknown foreign flags, Blake at last began to realize that he was in a new world. The very air smelt exotic; the very colors, the tints of the sails, the hues of clothing, the forms of things, land and sky itself-all were different. This depressed him only vaguely. He was too intent on the future, on the task before him, to give his surroundings much thought.

Blake had entirely shaken off this vague uneasiness, in fact, when twenty minutes after landing he found himself in a red-brick hotel known as The Astor, and guardedly shaking hands with an incredulously thin and sallow-faced man of

about forty. Although this man spoke with an English accent and exile seemed to have foreigneered him in both appearance and outlook, his knowledge of America was active and intimate. He passed over to the detective two despatches in cipher, handed him a confidential list of Hong Kong addresses, gave him certain information as to Macao, and an hour later conducted him down the river to the steamer which started that night for Hong Kong.

As Blake trod that steamer's deck and plowed on through strange seas, surrounded by strange faces, intent on his strange chase, no sense of vast adventure entered his soul. No appreciation of a great hazard bewildered his emotions. The kingdom of romance dwells in the heart, in the heart roomy enough to house it. And Blake's heart was taken up with more material things. He was preoccupied with his new list of addresses, with his new lines of procedure, with the men he must interview and the dives and clubs and bazars he must visit. He had his day's work to do, and he intended to do it.

The result was that of Hong Kong he carried away no immediate personal impression, beyond a vague jumble, in the background of consciousness, of Buddhist temples and British red-jackets, of stately parks and granite buildings, of mixed nationalities and native theaters, of anchored warships and a floating city of houseboats. For it was the same hour that he landed in this orderly and strangely English city that the discovery he was drawing close to Binhart again swept clean the slate of his emotions. The response had come from a consulate secretary. One wire in all his sentinel network had proved a live one. Binhart was not in Hong Kong, but he had been seen in Macao; he was known to be still there. And beyond that there was little that Never-Fail Blake cared to know.

His one side-movement in Hong Kong was to purchase an American revolver, for it began to percolate even through his indurated sensibilities that he was at last in a land where his name might not be sufficiently respected and his office sufficiently honored. For the first time in seven long years he packed a gun, he condescended to go heeled. Yet no minutest tingle of excitement spread through his lethargic body as he examined this gun, carefully loaded it, and stowed it away in his wallet-pocket. It meant no more to him than the stowing away of a sandwich against the emergency of a possible lost meal.

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