Thubway Tham's Baggage Check can be found in

Thubway Tham's Baggage Check

by Johnston McCulley

Author of "The Black Star" series, the "Spider" series, etc.

HE sat in one comer of the smoking compartment of the Pullman car, next to the window, and watched the flying landscape closely. In one hand he held a railroad time-table, and he glanced at it, and at his watch, as each station was passed. If the limited was on time, very well and good; but, if it happened to be a couple of minutes late at any particular point, he acted as if about to go in search of the conductor and demand an immediate explanation.

For he was going home!

He was a little man, and apparently nervous to a great degree. His nostrils were thin, and his eyes furtive, and it seemed that his fingers were continually moving. Those same fingers were clever, though the other men in the smoking room did not guess it. Those fingers had been trained through the years, to explore foreign pockets quickly and without discovery.

But their owner had no intention of making them do their regular work now. The men in the smoking room with him, even had they been aware of his identity and reputation, could have continued their journeys without fear, and without keeping their hands on their wallets and watches continually. Those fingers, as a usual thing, did their nefarious work only in a certain small section of the vast country—a section toward which the limited now was rushing.

The little man who sat next the window in the smoking room had almost fought at Chicago to get an upper berth in an extra-fare train. He wanted to get to New York as quickly as possible, he had explained, hinting that it was a matter of life and death or something like that and even the extra-fare limited would be too slow. He had obtained the reservation—and now he sat at the window and watched the stations and the time-table, and fumed and fussed.

He made no attempt to hold a conversation with any of the other passengers in the smoking room, and if a man addressed him he got only a grunt by way of reply. The little man sitting next the window appeared to be occupied with his thoughts—which was exactly the case.

Down the river rushed the train, through city after city, devouring the miles with a speed that was amazing. Now it passed within a short distance of a great gray prison, whereupon the little man sitting next the window seemed to be trying to make himself yet smaller, and he almost closed his eyes. He knew that prison well—he had spent a terrible three years there some time before. He shuddered at the memory of those three years.

He watched the sparkling river through the window. He began to notice things that he recognized and knew. His heart was warming gradually. He was getting home!

He had been away with the exception of one flying visit to the city, for a little more than a year, had been to the Pacific coast, had spent the greater part of the time in southern California, where the warm sunshine and soft sea breezes had done much for him.

He had been glad to make the journey to the Western country, for the state of his health had demanded an instant change of climate—and there had been other important reasons. But recently the great city on the Hudson had been calling him again, and finally he had packed his trunk and had answered the call.

The train was entering the outskirts of the city now, and the little man sat up straighter in his seat and betrayed a sudden interest. This was New York! This was home! She had her faults, but in all the world there was no other city like her! She could be cruel, and she could be kind. She was vast in some things, and small in others.

The little man left the smoking room and went into the car. He stopped beside his seat, put on his coat and hat and picked up his traveling bag.

"You gettin' off at Hundred an' Twenty-fifth?" the porte...

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