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Dorus Noel




"I DON'T know," Dorus Noel spoke softly into the telephone, addressing his police superior out on Park Avenue, the man who had taken on the titanic task of ridding New York's Chinatown of criminals, "whether the death of Chu Chul ends the reign of terror in Chinatown. I hope so. Knowing China and the Chinese, and that Chu Chul had all the nine lives of a cat, I'm inclined to doubt it, despite the urge of reason. I saw Chu Chul, dead, with my own eyes. But I'm not forgetting that I saw him dead once before, sinking in the Pei Ho near Tientsin."

"There is danger for you in Chinatown, Noel?" asked his superior softly.

Dorus Noel, from the depths of his many years of experience with Chinese evildoers, laughed casually.

"In Chinatown, in Timbuctu, in Kamchatka, there is danger for the man who caused the death of Chu Chul," he said. "Chu Chul headed a vast organization. That organization had multitudinous roots. When the head of such an organization is lopped off, a fresh one grows. To destroy such an organization is to harvest the stars with a carving knife."

"Then what is the use?"

"There's always use. We can, you know, keep lopping off heads."

"I leave it to you, Noel," said the unknown.

"Thanks. Then I'll stay in Chinatown, but remember what I said about Chinese organizations. I could tell you many tales of the Society of the White Lily, or the Red Spears and the Hung Hu Tze. But never mind. I'll let you know what happens."

Dorus Noel clicked up the receiver. He was calling from a pay phone on Lafayette Street. Now he hurried back to Pell and Mott Streets, near the intersection of which he had a home. It was a strange home. It was like stepping out of New York City into China with a single stride.

There were many clocks in the room, and always they were synchronized.

One had a group of figures inside it which came forth and danced a minuet when the hour struck. Another rolled a gold ball down a flight of steps to count the hours.

There were dragon screens in the corners and paintings on the walls—paintings of dead and gone men and women.

There were feather screens and lacquer screens. The place was China, and to Dorus Noel, China was home. In color he was white, in inclination he was a yellow man, because his many years in the far East had inoculated him with the virus of the ancient land. So was he fitted for the strange part he was to play in the criminal annals of Chinatown. Sometimes, even, in the solitude of his sleeping room, he dressed in the splendor of China in the days of the Empire, and then even his eyes seemed to take on an almond shape.

He went to his study. Above his head hung a wooden fish, a hollow piece of wood shaped like a fish, and used as a gong. He smote the gong three times with a wooden mallet and his "boy" entered. This was his second boy. The first had died in his service, trying to save his life from the vengeance of Chu Chul The Cricket. This new one he scarcely knew, but that didn't matter. If he could win the confidence of the boy the latter would be faithful during his lifetime.

"Bring me tea, Wang," he said.

The boy bowed, hands in sleeves, and vanished.

Even as he moved away Dorus Noel was conscious of an irritating buzzing sound in the room. There was something strange about the sound. He had heard it before, at times, but for the moment he could not place it. It merely irritated him. But it chilled him, too, and he shivered.

"Pshaw!" he said to himself. "I'm shivery. Chu Chul hasn't cooled long enough yet on a slab for my nerves to settle."

BUT what made the buzzing sound? He squinted his eyes and searched the air above him. It wasn't a mosquito's buzzing. it was stronger, harsher, somehow more malevolent. He couldn't rid himself of the idea that there was menace in it.

"Wang!" he yelled, wasting no time on the wooden fish. "Come here!"

Almost instantly, so fast it seemed he could scarcely have left the room, Wang returned.

"Yes, master?"

"There's a bee or something in the room, Wang," said Dorus Noel, "and I can't locate the thing. Bee stings bloat me up all over like a poisoned pup. Find the blasted buzzer."

"Yes, master," said Wang. His yellow face was impassive. He was larger than the usual Cantonese, and Noel suspected that his ancestry might be traced to some place further north. Tientsin or Peking, for example.

Wang was busy searching in dark corners, behind screens, under clocks, putting into his work all that attentive concentration which was the mark of value of the good Chinese servant. From the reception room came a low voice, a feminine voice.

"Is there anyone here?"

Noel knew he had never heard the voice before, even as he asked himself why anyone should enter his house in this fashion. There was an odd quality in the voice. It was rich. The English was excellent and the voice pulled at him. He rose from his place. Wang did not seem to have heard. Dorus Noel, pulling his face into a mask of imperturbability, prepared to suspect anyone and everyone, entered his reception room, where a door gave onto Pell Street.

He gasped at what he saw.

It was a woman, a girl rather. She appeared to be no more than eighteen or nineteen years of age. Her back was toward him. The back was one that would have delighted an artist or a sculptor, or anyone else who enjoyed grace and beauty of line. The fact that the girl wore a coat of white fur which reached to midway between knees and ankles did not rob her symmetry of its beauty. Her dress was light, too.

But there was a quaint touch in her white shoes. They had light red heels. It gave the whole effect a touch of the bizarre.

He could tell by the motion of the girl's shoulders that she was using makeup, holding her compact mirror up even with her shoulders. But that sort of warned him, fanned his suspicions. He was an oldtimer in crime and criminals. More than one lady crook had learned how to study prospective enemies in a mirror. But he might be wrong.

Then the girl turned.

Dorus Noel gasped.

He had expected to see an American girl of refinement, a girl of allurement and beauty. What he saw was a Chinese girl, whose face was like peaches and cream. Her eyes were but slightly slanted. Her lips were like cherries, her teeth like little white pearls. And her eyes, so perfectly matching the black hair which peeped from under a tip-tilted toque, were as deep and black and unreadable as the wells of Shallajai.

"I wish to look at some jade," said the girl imperiously.

Dorus Noel understood then. She had mistaken his home for a store. If he told her it was no store, she would merely draw her cloak about her and leave. He couldn't stand that. There was something indefinable about the appeal of this girl, even though down inside him there sounded a tocsin of warning—like a light tapping of a slender wand against the wooden fish. He must hold this girl here, know her better, know more about her. He didn't believe any Chinese girl would enter his home by chance. Chinese girls didn't make mistakes like that.

Dorus Noel, unsmiling, but knowing that his eyes expressed pleasure and surprise, strode up to the girl and bowed, conscious that she stared at him as though he had been her footman.

"Hurry!" she said. "Must Lao Ye be kept waiting?"

IN spite of himself Noel started, but suppressed the motion instantly. More than ever he was sure that this was not a visit of chance. "Lao Ye" was no girl's name, that he knew. "Lao Ye" might refer to an Empress, and this girl was too young for that, even if Chinatown went in for Empresses. Usually the two words referred to Buddha. But why?

"Lao Ye?" said Dorus Noel politely. "I do not understand."

Instantly then the girl dropped into swift Mandarin. Noel understood her perfectly, but it was no part of his plan, wholly on guard now, to let her know anything of himself.

"I desire the jade for a god in the Temple down the street," she said. "It is an offering to the household gods for the safety of a departed soul."

"I do not understand," said Noel, though he hadn't missed an intonation of the singsong Mandarin. The girl switched back into English, perfect in enunciation, and repeated her words.

"And who," asked Noel, "is the departed soul?"

"What business is it of yours?" she snapped at him. "Get me the jade?"

p "I have," he said, staring her straight in the eyes, "some Chu Chul jade. It is carved in the form of crickets."

But if she understood his allusion to the dead master of crime she gave no hint whatever. Her black eyes were still the wells of Shallajai. Noel was convinced then that his suspicions were groundless.

"I'll get you the jade," he said. "On second thought I'm not sure that the Chu Chul jade would serve."

He turned his back on the girl and again that buzzing sound impinged upon his ears. It was quite close. It made his flesh crawl. The tocsin of warning inside him was sounding loudly, imperiously, as though the wooden fish had been beaten by a hollow piece of heavy, hard bamboo.

But another sound took the buzzing sound out of his mind.

It was a wild, unearthly scream from his study. He knew without thinking that the scream came from Wang, his servant. He was running the instant he left the vicinity of the girl and the buzzing sound died away behind him. He heard the girl gasp and say something in Mandarin that surprised him. It was a Chinese swear word such as he had often heard on the lips of rickshaw coolies, but never from those of a girl like this. He was inclined to believe that he had been mistaken.

He entered his study. Wang, his face a tortured mask, with eyes popping from their sockets, his teeth exposed as though he snarled, was swaying beside the clock upon which were the figures that danced the minuet when the clock struck. Wang was falling, falling toward the clock. Noel prided himself on that clock, so he thought most of it and its imminent destruction when he saw that Wang was falling.

"Look out!" he cried. "Be careful!"

He noticed that the boy held his right hand aloft, tight clenched into a fist, or as though he gripped a dagger in it and aimed a blow at the figures on the clock. Then Wang fell. He fell with a clatter. His body crashed down upon the clock which fell from its pedestal, breaking into a thousand pieces. Bits of spring, tiny wheels, scattered over the floor. Glass splattered over the carpet. The tiny figures rolled and rocked as they broke away and spun from their places, and two of them walked, as though they had lived, a little way together. It was very odd. The two figures almost clasped hands as they walked. Then they angled away from each other and fell on their faces, tiny feet kicking.

In the midst of the wreckage was Wang, stiffening. The cords on his neck stood out. His lips drew further back from his teeth, as though he fought for speech and could not find it.

"Great God!" said Dorus Noel. And again, "Great God! The boy's dead! What in the devil's name killed him?"

IN the same instant Dorus Noel knew something else. Another boy had died in his service, saving his life. But how had Wang been killed? Dorus Noel tried to remember what had preceded the falling of Wang, and all he could remember was that strange buzzing sound. Now he listened carefully. One of the springs of the clock was buzzing, but it died as he listened. And the bee- buzzing was finished, too. He wondered whether its cessation had anything to do with...

Then he noted that clenched hand again and extended his own hands to grasp at the dead hand of Wang.

"Don't touch it! " said a taut voice behind him. "Don't touch it!"

He whirled, spinning on one knee. The girl who had asked for the jade, the girl in white, stood just behind him. Her hat was off and her wealth of black hair formed a ruff for her shoulders. Her thin, almost white hand, grasped her vanity case. Her eyes told him nothing, save that they were squinted in concentration.

"Don't touch it!" she said. "There's death in the boy's hand!"

"I'll wear gloves," he said. "I've got to know. Why should you warn me?"

"I've seen men die like this before—Dorus Noel!"

"You know my name then?"

"And many other things; and that you understand Mandarin perfectly."

"Who are you?"

"Put me down merely as the girl who didn't run away when death stalked into your home."

And that seemed an odd thing to say.

"I'll get the coroner," he said. "Run and get a doctor."

THE girl whirled and was away. Shortly, so shortly she might almost have had a doctor waiting, she returned. Noel's eyes narrowed as he studied the man. It was a Chinese doctor.

He looked a question at the girl.

"No American doctor would know," she said. And to the doctor, "Be careful, my friend, when you examine that clenched hand."

The doctor, his face working strangely, his eyes popping from his head—and such a look of fear on his face that Noel knew the man had seen this death before—reached for the hand of Wang, hesitated, drew back. Then he thrust his hands into his black leather bag and brought out some smooth surgical instruments. Using these as levers, he pried open the hand of Wang. And in the palm reposed a strange, pulpy mass.

The doctor said something in Cantonese, explosively.

The girl said something in Mandarin and Noel knew that she interpreted the words of the doctor.

"Bei Tu! Bei Tu!"

It didn't make sense to Noel. Oh, he knew that the words meant "white arsenic", but that didn't make sense, either.

"There are no English words for it," said the girl. "But it means instant death."

"What's that in the hand?" asked Noel in a dead voice. Back across the grave came a warning to the depths of his soul. This death had been meant for him. He was again marked for a horrible passing. But by whom? Chu Chul was dead. Who could so quickly come from nowhere to take the place of the arch fiend?

The doctor bent over the hand. In the midst of what seemed to be a dusting of fine white powder was the pulpy mass, exuding a greenish liquid. Near one end of the area of white and green was a dash of red, a thin crimson smear. It was a tiny drop of blood, and it oozed from the hand of Wang.

But what was the pulpy mass?

"I'll get the coroner," said Noel deadly. "It's murder—police business!"

"And you are in danger?" asked the girl. Noel's heart jumped as he felt the concern in her voice. All his half-formed suspicions about anything and everything Chinese, flew out the window.

He shrugged.

"I don't worry. I've been in danger before," he said. "You'd better go, Miss—"

"Miss—Ghi," she said, oddly hesitant before she pronounced the name, and then she was gone before he could ask where she lived. However, she would be easy to find. She stood out in murky Chinatown like an orchid in a swamp. Everybody in the place would know of her. The doctor, his eyes bulging, stared after the girl. Then he looked back at Dorus Noel. Their eyes locked, and the doctor visibly recoiled, drawing away from Dorus Noel. He even, to Noel's amazement, lifted his hand as though to ward off a blow, or to avert the evil eye.

"What the devil?" began Noel.

"It means death," gasped the doctor. "Death to anyone who aids in any fashion the man or woman upon who is set the mark of the white wasp!"

"The white wasp! What are you talking about?"


THE doctor pointed again at the hand of Wang. He prodded at the pulpy mass with a scalpel. Then Dorus Noel saw that part of the mass was a pair of tiny, lacy wings, badly torn.

"The thing was originally a wasp," said the doctor. "It was still a wasp when your boy found it. But its body was covered with that fine white powder which Miss Ghi called Bei Tu. Your boy tried to kill the wasp with a sweep of his hand. It stung him. He is dead. It might have been you, or anyone."

Noel bent over Wang, studying those telltale wings. He heard footsteps and whirled. The doctor was departing, running, undignified, fear in the set of his shoulders and the speed of his legs.

And through the mind of Dorus Noel went a singsong of words:

"The white wasp! The white wasp!"

Even as the words ran through his mind he kept seeing Miss Ghi, dressed all in white. The white of her was the white of what? What was its meaning? Chinese girls didn't ordinarily go in for white except as mourning. And her red heels! Why should they make him think of the red spot of blood in the hand of Wang?

Two hours later the body was gone and a charge of murder had been placed against a person or persons unknown. Method, poison. But New York police knew nothing of the white wasp or Bei Tu, or how the poison had been administered, or about Miss Ghi. The hand of Wang had been carefully cleansed by Dorus Noel. This was his business, all of it.

Then he went out, seeking Miss Ghi.

For one reason Dorus Noel sighed with relief. There had been blunders made in the attempt to slay him. Chu Chul would never have been so crude. He knew himself better than a match for whoever was trying now to destroy him. Already he felt he could see the end. It came to him as it sometimes comes to men to see the future clearly and certainly. This time he was not destined to die. But someone was. Whom? His heart was saddened as he gave himself the answer. Yet, inexorably, he must be carried on to the final grim denouement.

Every step he took seemed to be charted in advance.

Poor devil, whoever had marked him. That one should have been more careful, more orientally clever. There was a dash of the Occident in the would-be slayer's clumsiness. He started as the thought came to him, and he remembered the unnatural whiteness of the cheeks of Miss Ghi. She was, he decided, an Eurasian.

A block from his own door a hand touched him on the sleeve. He looked into the face of a Chinese man of around thirty. He studied the yellow face, seeking the marks on it which he had learned to identify as the marks of servitude to Chu Chul, The Cricket.

He didn't find them, but this man might well have been recruited after the death of The Cricket.

"What do you wish?" demanded Noel.

"I have been told that the master requires a new manservant."

"Who told you?" snapped Noel.

"The lady in white!"

"Ah, and which way did she go?"

The man pointed down the street in the opposite direction to that in which Dorus Noel had been traveling. Noel smiled inwardly. The fellow had been coming from the other way. Obviously then he either hadn't been sent by Miss Ghi, or he was lying about the direction she had taken. Either way, the man was suspicious, and suspicious looking Chinese at this juncture were from the camp of the mysterious enemy.

This man was an emissary from their camp, decided Noel, come to complete the task another had failed at.

Noel always adopted one method in such cases. He went on the assumption that if you shoved your head far enough into a lion's mouth the creature couldn't bite you. This man was an enemy, but in Noel's own house, Noel could watch him. Outside, he might never have known he existed, might have died at his hand without knowing the identity of his slayer.

"What is your name?" he asked abruptly.

The man hesitated, then used the two words Miss Ghi had used.

"Lao Ye."

THE man was a coolie, and used the venerable name of the god. Again Dorus Noel smiled inside himself, nodded to the "boy."

"There is my house," he said, pointing. "Go in. I will have Chinese food for dinner. Peking duck, bird's nest soup, rice wine; and it must be served promptly at eight o'clock."

"Yes, master. There is a key to the house?"

"Of what use is a key in Chinatown?" asked Noel. "One cannot close one's house against clever enemies, and others fear to enter. Go on in."

Noel watched until "Lao Ye" had entered his house. He knew that the "boy" would be able to find everything. He looked capable enough. In other circumstances, serving no evil master, he might be an excellent servant. He had even cast down his eyes when he spoke with Noel, the signal of a perfect servant.

Noel, satisfied that the boy was not watching him, continued on down the street. He stared ahead, hard, seeking the girl in white. But the crooked streets were packed with Chinese. They met and passed him, furtive and silent. Their almond eyes stared at him, then were quickly averted as he looked hurriedly into each face. He wondered which were friends, which enemies. There were plenty of honest Chinese who would abhor methods which used murder and theft.

Then he started.

Far ahead, almost at the intersection of the street with the Bowery, he saw a white figure. It came swiftly. out of a joss house which he knew, turned toward the Bowery and hurried along. It was the girl.

"Maybe she spoke the truth after all," thought Noel, for the first time in doubt. "She may actually have wanted to say prayers and burn papers for a departed soul. But suppose it were the soul of Chu Chul, The Cricket?"

There came a ghastly scream and a man came dashing into the street from a store. Noel recognized the doctor even before he reached the falling man who had dashed forth. There were the same protruding eyes, the taut muscular rigidity, in the face and neck of the doctor he had seen on the face of Wang. The doctor saw Noel at the same time and called to him.

"I told you...white wasp...."

By a distinct effort of will Noel kept his eyes on the girl. He must know where she went. But from the tail of his eyes he watched the doctor crash to the pavement. The girl entered a door. Noel marked it in his mind, dropped down beside the doctor.

Chinese came running up excitedly, chattering.

"Keep back," said Noel. "Keep back! There is death and danger."

"It must," came in agonized gasps from the Chinese doctor, "have been under the collar of my coat. I just turned up the collar, intending to come back out on the street--—"

Noel carefully turned the dying man on his side...and his flesh crawled as he saw the thing. It seemed to be nesting in the hair at the base of the doctor's skull. It was a wasp, whitely powdered. A tiny spot of blood showed on the doctor's neck, just below the hairline.

Police were coming. Whistles sounded. Noel caught the destroyer in his handkerchief. He noted that one of its wings was broken off. Confinement under the collar had done that. Then he remembered that second buzzing sound, when first he had turned his back on Miss Ghi. And he knew that if Wang hadn't screamed and sent him, Noel, racing away, he might himself have been dead at this moment.

But why hadn't it stung the girl?

The answer was simple. She knew it was there and could avoid it. Noel hadn't known, exactly.

He raced down the street and stopped before the door by which she had vanished. He entered. A Chinese, bland of face, met him.

"I wish to see Miss Ghi," said Noel.

As he put the request, knowing it would not be granted, he looked around. The place was Chinese enough, except for a French telephone on a small stand. He bent his neck, reading the number on the card, memorizing it.

"Don't know any Miss Ghi," said the Chinese sullenly.

"The girl in white then."

"No girl in white."

"The white wasp?"

THERE was a brief hesitation. He wasn't looking at the man, but he could sense a quick tension, a deadly danger. There was a quick intake of breath.

"Don't understand," said the Chinese, but Noel knew he did. There must be some other way to go about this.

Noel stepped outside, beckoned a copper.

"Watch this place for a girl in white," he said quickly. "Police business. If she comes out, tail her. I'll be responsible."

Before the man could frame an answer Noel was gone, grimly chuckling. He had no authority to issue such an order, and he daren't stop to explain. If he were known his usefulness would be at an end. But he knew the copper, out of sheer curiosity, would keep his eyes glued to the store called Beautiful Fragrance.

Noel returned to his home at exactly eight. Lao Ye bowed to him. He was dressed in careful Chinese livery, the perfect servant.

"Supper leady," he said softly. "Bird's nest soup."

Noel washed and entered his dining room, wondering exactly how the next attempt would be made. He loved bird's nest soup. He dipped his spoon into it and the spoon touched something, something small and round and hard. There should be nothing small and round and hard in bird's nest soup. He bent forward, smelling the steam from the soup. It had an oddly vinegary smell, as though the soup were ever so slightly sour. Had he not been suspicious he never would have noticed it, so slight was the odor.

"I never heard of 'em using a dash of vinegar in bird's nest soup," he thought.

He was still holding his spoon in the bottom of the soup bowl, and his flesh tingled as he felt something strange happening, down there through the gray green of the soup, which was too thick to see deeply into. Those little hard round things in the soup were bumping against his spoon, darting back, bumping in again. Noel whirled.

"Lao Ye! Come here!"

The boy came quietly.

"Take a spoonful of this soup and drink it!" commanded Noel.

With no expression of surprise the boy brought a spoon, dipped it full of soup, drained it—audibly, as Chinese coolies did, with great gusto.

"It's gleat soup," said Lao Ye, backing away.

Noel, watching the boy, who appeared totally unconcerned, was puzzled deeply. The boy stood there, eyes lowered, and nothing happened. Yet Noel felt sure of something. There was death in that bowl of soup. But if there were, why wasn't Lao Ye writhing on the floor?

Noel almost persuaded himself, as seconds passed and Lao Ye suffered no ill effects, that he was being overly suspicious. Yet he couldn't get over the belief that if he drank that soup he would die, almost instantly.

Well, he would take no chances.

He rose, stepped to the telephone, called a number. He saw the Chinese boy jerk a little as he called that number. Someone answered it, in Chinese.

"I wish to speak to the white wasp," said Noel in English.

"Not here!"

"Tell her Beautiful Fragrance is surrounded by police, that even a beautiful woman may be compelled to sit in the electric chair for double murder! Tell her to come immediately to the house of Dorus Noel, where proper explanations may save her from execution! I give her ten minutes to reach me."

He clicked up the receiver, looked at Lao Ye and found that the ghost of a smile twisted the boy's yellow lips. But he may have been wrong, for when he looked again there was no smile.

Eight minutes later by his wrist-watch, the girl in white, her face whiter still, entered his place. His heart was heavy as he noted the proud lift of her head, the squareness of her shoulders, the gallant beauty of her.

"Sit down," he told her softly. "I am sorry to be so brutal, but two men have died. It would be well for you to tell the truth."

"I am here," she said.

There was drama, stark, terrible, oriental, in it.

"What relation were you to Chu Chul, The Cricket?" asked Noel.

She hesitated. Her chin lifted.

"His daughter," she said at last, "by a French wife. Yes, I'm responsible for what happened today. I meant to punish you for slaying my father. Whatever he was to the world, he was my father. He loved me. No one else ever has, except in an evil way, if I would let them. Yes, I brought the wasps, in my vanity case. My powder was not powder, but Bei Tu...."

"But since you warned me not to touch Wang's hand, I don't understand," said Noel.

She looked straight into his eyes.

HE shifted, uncomfortably. She could do things with those eyes. She could melt a man. It would be so easy to give way to her, to love her, to go to the ends of the world for her.

"I found I couldn't," she said.

But she had sent a servant to him, Noel told himself fiercely, trying to hate her, knowing she was playing, using all her woman's wiles, to keep him from turning her over to the police. She even was capable of pretending a sudden love for him.

"It would be ghastly," he told her, "to send one so beautiful, to prison, or to the electric chair."

"Must you?"

"If only I were sure—" he began. Was Lao Ye her minion?

"Who is, or was, Lao Ye?" he asked abruptly.

"My father's name, to his people, and to me," she said in a dead voice.

Noel whirled to stare at his new "boy", but the boy kept his eyes cast down. There still was a test, despite her almost-confession. He suddenly pushed the rapidly cooling bird's nest soup toward her.

"Won't you try it?" he asked. "It's very good."

Grimly he watched her. Would she know of the little bean-like things in the soup, which, acted upon by vinegar, moved in the soup as though alive? Her black eyes met his. Her hand went out, touched the spoon. Distinctly Noel heard the invisible things in the bowl, beating against the spoon.

Her lips moved, then there came audible words in Mandarin:

"Du mo tzu!"

And before he could stop her she had seized the bowl and drained it, risen from the table, swaying.

"Lao Ye!" he called.

The boy darted forward, gathered her in his arms.

"I didn't really drink," said the boy. "But the soup does contain the little poison beans called du mo tzu, from the Province of Szechuan. She will die. Let her die among her own. Do not keep me. I'll come to you when it is finished."

Lao Ye vanished through a side door, into darkness. Noel sighed. It was better this way. It would have been hell to send one so beautiful to the chair. After all, he hadn't tried to make her drink the poison. He tilted the bowl, poured off soup until he could see the little poison beans on the bottom. They required vinegar to make them active. A little had been poured in his soup. Surely fate had been kind to give him an acute sense of smell. But his heart was heavy.

The girl was so gorgeously beautiful.

Now he would wait for news. Would the American press chronicle the passing of a Chinese beauty? Perhaps not, but the Chinese bulletin boards would show it.

But ten days passed and he received no word. He was beginning to suspect that he had been fooled, outwitted. But the girl must be dead, for there had been no word from her, no sign of sinister activity.

Then, literally out of a clear sky, he received a wireless from a vessel at sea, somewhere in the Pacific.

"Du mo tzu by itself is deadly poison," said the wireless. "But it is an antidote for many other poisons, notably the slow poison called tu yao. Lao Ye knew he would be asked to drink of the soup, so he first took a dose of tu yao. I took tu yao also, before entering your house. So when I drained the bowl du mo tzu did not slay me, but prevented my dying slowly from the effects of tu yao. I shall not trouble you again my friend because, perhaps, a little of what my eyes must have told you was true."

The radiogram was not signed. No signature was needed. Somehow Dorus Noel, in spite of two dead men, was glad.

He crumpled the radiogram in his hand and stared for a long time at the wall of his study.