The House Without a Key - Earl Derr Biggers - ebook

The House Without a Key ebook

Earl Derr Biggers



Charlie Chan, the first Chinese detective in literature, is modeled after Chang Apana, a real-life police detective in Honolulu. A family originally from Boston, the Winterslips, has some members living in Hawaii. You can almost feel the gentle trade winds of Hawaii during the 1920s in this classic novel by Earl Derr Biggers. One of the wealthy Winterslips living in Hawaii is murdered. A younger member of the family, John Quincy Winterslip, has been sent to Boston to check up on his Aunt Minerva and persuade her to return to Boston. He arrives in Honolulu and gets involved in the investigation and is determined to see it through to the end, before he returns to the mainland. Romantic and full of atmosphere, this is a most enjoyable read that was our first introduction to Charlie Chan.

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Miss Minerva Winterslip was a Bostonian in good standing, and long past the romantic age. Yet beauty thrilled her still, even the semi-barbaric beauty of a Pacific island. As she walked slowly along the beach she felt the little catch in her throat that sometimes she had known in Symphony Hall, Boston, when her favorite orchestra rose to some new and unexpected height of loveliness.

It was the hour at which she liked Waikiki best, the hour just preceding dinner and the quick tropic darkness. The shadows cast by the tall cocoanut palms lengthened and deepened, the light of the falling sun flamed on Diamond Head and tinted with gold the rollers sweeping in from the coral reef. A few late swimmers, reluctant to depart, dotted those waters whose touch is like the caress of a lover. On the springboard of the nearest float a slim brown girl poised for one delectable instant. What a figure! Miss Minerva, well over fifty herself, felt a mild twinge of envy–youth, youth like an arrow, straight and sure and flying. Like an arrow the slender figure rose, then fell; the perfect dive, silent and clean.

Miss Minerva glanced at the face of the man who walked beside her. But Amos Winterslip was oblivious to beauty; he had made that the first rule of his life. Born in the Islands, he had never known the mainland beyond San Francisco. Yet there could be no doubt about it, he was the New England conscience personified–the New England conscience in a white duck suit.

“Better turn back, Amos,” suggested Miss Minerva. “Your dinner’s waiting. Thank you so much.”

“I’ll walk as far as the fence,” he said. “When you get tired of Dan and his carryings-on, come to us again. We’ll be glad to have you.”

“That’s kind of you,” she answered, in her sharp crisp way. “But I really must go home. Grace is worried about me. Of course, she can’t understand. And my conduct is scandalous, I admit. I came over to Honolulu for six weeks, and I’ve been wandering about these islands for ten months.”

“As long as that?”

She nodded. “I can’t explain it. Every day I make a solemn vow I’ll start packing my trunks–to-morrow.”

“And to-morrow never comes,” said Amos. “You’ve been taken in by the tropics. Some people are.”

“Weak people, I presume you mean,” snapped Miss Minerva. “Well, I’ve never been weak. Ask anybody on Beacon Street.”

He smiled wanly. “It’s a strain in the Winterslips,” he said. “Supposed to be Puritans, but always sort of yearning toward the lazy latitudes.”

“I know,” answered Miss Minerva, her eyes on that exotic shore line. “It’s what sent so many of them adventuring out of Salem harbor. Those who stayed behind felt that the travelers were seeing things no Winterslip should look at. But they envied them just the same–or maybe for that very reason.” She nodded. “A sort of gypsy strain. It’s what sent your father over here to set up as a whaler, and got you born so far from home. You know you don’t belong here, Amos. You should be living in Milton or Roxbury, carrying a little green bag and popping into a Boston office every morning.”

“I’ve often thought it,” he admitted. “And who knows–I might have made something of my life–”

They had come to a barbed-wire fence, an unaccustomed barrier on that friendly shore. It extended well down on to the beach; a wave rushed up and lapped the final post, then receded.

Miss Minerva smiled. “Well, this is where Amos leaves off and Dan begins,” she said. “I’ll watch my chance and run around the end. Lucky you couldn’t build it so it moved with the tide.”

“You’ll find your luggage in your room at Dan’s, I guess,” Amos told her. “Remember what I said about–“ He broke off suddenly. A stocky, white-clad man had appeared in the garden beyond the barrier, and was moving rapidly toward them. Amos Winterslip stood rigid for a moment, an angry light flaming in his usually dull eyes. “Good-by,” he said, and turned.

“Amos!” cried Miss Minerva sharply. He moved on, and she followed. “Amos, what nonsense! How long has it been since you spoke to Dan?”

He paused under an algaroba tree. “Thirty-one years,” he said. “Thirty-one years the tenth of last August.”

“That’s long enough,” she told him. “Now, come around that foolish fence of yours, and hold out your hand to him.”

“Not me,” said Amos. “I guess you don’t know Dan, Minerva, and the sort of life he’s led. Time and again he’s dishonored us all–”

“Why, Dan’s regarded as a big man,” she protested. “He’s respected–”

“And rich,” added Amos bitterly. “And I’m poor. Yes, that’s the way it often goes in this world. But there’s a world to come, and over there I reckon Dan’s going to get his.”

Hardy soul though she was, Miss Minerva was somewhat frightened by the look of hate on his thin face. She saw the uselessness of further argument. “Good-by, Amos,” she said. “I wish I might persuade you to come East some day–“ He gave no sign of hearing, but hurried along the white stretch of sand.

When Miss Minerva turned, Dan Winterslip was smiling at her from beyond the fence. “Hello, there,” he cried. “Come this side of the wire and enjoy life again. You’re mighty welcome.”

“How are you, Dan?” She watched her chance with the waves and joined him. He took both her hands in his.

“Glad to see you,” he said, and his eyes backed him up. Yes, he did have a way with women. “It’s a bit lonely at the old homestead these days. Need a young girl about to brighten things up.”

Miss Minerva sniffed. “I’ve tramped Boston in galoshes too many winters,” she reminded him, “to lose my head over talk like that.”

“Forget Boston,” he urged. “We’re all young in Hawaii. Look at me.”

She did look at him, wonderingly. He was sixty-three, she knew, but only the mass of wavy white hair overhanging his temples betrayed his age. His face, burned to the deepest bronze by long years of wandering under the Polynesian sun, was without a line or wrinkle. Deep-chested and muscular, he could have passed on the mainland for a man of forty.

“I see my precious brother brought you as far as the dead-line,” he remarked as they moved on through the garden. “Sent me his love, I presume?”

“I tried to get him to come round and shake hands,” Miss Minerva said.

Dan Winterslip laughed. “Don’t deprive poor Amos of his hate for me,” he urged. “It’s about all he lives for now. Comes over every night and stands under that algaroba tree of his, smoking cigarettes and staring at my house. Know what he’s waiting for? He’s waiting for the Lord to strike me down for my sins. Well, he’s a patient waiter, I’ll say that for him.”

Miss Minerva did not reply. Dan’s great rambling house of many rooms was set in beauty almost too poignant to be borne. She stood, drinking it all in again, the poinciana trees like big crimson umbrellas, the stately golden glow, the gigantic banyans casting purple shadows, her favorite hau tree, seemingly old as time itself, covered with a profusion of yellow blossoms. Loveliest of all were the flowering vines, the bougainvillea burying everything it touched in brick-red splendor. Miss Minerva wondered what her friends who every spring went into sedate ecstasies over the Boston Public Gardens would say if they could see what she saw now. They would be a bit shocked, perhaps, for this was too lurid to be quite respectable. A scarlet background–and a fitting one, no doubt, for Cousin Dan.

They reached the door at the side of the house that led directly into the living-room. Glancing to her right, Miss Minerva caught through the lush foliage glimpses of the iron fence and tall gates that fronted on Kalia Road. Dan opened the door for her, and she stepped inside. Like most apartments of its sort in the Islands, the living-room was walled on but three sides, the fourth was a vast expanse of wire screening. They crossed the polished floor and entered the big hall beyond. Near the front door a Hawaiian woman of uncertain age rose slowly from her chair. She was a huge, high-breasted, dignified specimen of that vanishing race.

“Well, Kamaikui, I’m back,” Miss Minerva smiled.

“I make you welcome,” the woman said. She was only a servant, but she spoke with the gracious manner of a hostess.

“Same room you had when you first came over, Minerva,” Dan Winterslip announced. “Your luggage is there–and a bit of mail that came in on the boat this morning. I didn’t trouble to send it up to Amos’s. We dine when you’re ready.”

“I’ll not keep you long,” she answered, and hurried up the stairs.

Dan Winterslip strolled back to his living-room. He sat down in a rattan chair that had been made especially for him in Hong-Kong, and glanced complacently about at the many evidences of his prosperity. His butler entered, bearing a tray with cocktails.

“Two, Haku?” smiled Winterslip. “The lady is from Boston.”

“Yes-s,” hissed Haku, and retired soundlessly.

In a moment Miss Minerva came again into the room. She carried a letter in her hand, and she was laughing.

“Dan, this is too absurd,” she said.

“What is?”

“I may have told you that they are getting worried about me at home. Because I haven’t been able to tear myself away from Honolulu, I mean. Well, they’re sending a policeman for me.”

“A policeman?” He lifted his bushy eyebrows.

“Yes, it amounts to that. It’s not being done openly, of course. Grace writes that John Quincy has six weeks’ vacation from the banking house, and has decided to make the trip out here. ‘It will give you some one to come home with, my dear,’ says Grace. Isn’t she subtle?”

“John Quincy Winterslip? That would be Grace’s son.”

Miss Minerva nodded. “You never met him, did you, Dan? Well, you will, shortly. And he certainly won’t approve of you.”

“Why not?” Dan Winterslip bristled.

“Because he’s proper. He’s a dear boy, but oh, so proper. This journey is going to be a great cross for him. He’ll start disapproving as he passes Albany, and think of the long weary miles of disapproval he’ll have to endure after that.”

“Oh, I don’t know. He’s a Winterslip, isn’t he?”

“He is. But the gypsy strain missed him completely. He’s a Puritan.”

“Poor boy.” Dan Winterslip moved toward the tray on which stood the amber-colored drinks. “I suppose he’ll stop with Roger in San Francisco. Write him there and tell him I want him to make this house his home while he’s in Honolulu.”

“That’s kind of you, Dan.”

“Not at all. I like youth around me–even the Puritan brand. Now that you’re going to be apprehended and taken back to civilization, you’d better have one of these cocktails.”

“Well,” said his guest, “I’m about to exhibit what my brother used to call true Harvard indifference.”

“What do you mean?” asked Winterslip.

“I don’t mind if I do,” twinkled Miss Minerva, lifting a cocktail glass.

Dan Winterslip beamed upon her. “You’re a good sport, Minerva,” he remarked, as he escorted her across the hall.

“When in Rome,” she answered, “I make it a point not to do as the Bostonians do. I fear it would prove a rather thorny path to popularity.”


“Besides, I shall be back in Boston soon. Tramping about to art exhibits and Lowell Lectures, and gradually congealing into senility.”

But she was not in Boston now, she reflected, as she sat down at the gleaming table in the dining-room. Before her, properly iced, was a generous slice of papaia, golden yellow and inviting. Somewhere beyond the foliage outside the screens, the ocean murmured restlessly. The dinner would be perfect, she knew, the Island beef dry and stringy, perhaps, but the fruits and the salad more than atoning.

“Do you expect Barbara soon?” she inquired presently.

Dan Winterslip’s face lighted like the beach at sunrise. “Yes, Barbara has graduated. She’ll be along any day now. Nice if she and your perfect nephew should hit on the same boat.”

“Nice for John Quincy, at any rate,” Miss Minerva replied. “We thought Barbara a lively, charming girl when she visited us in the East.”

“She’s all of that,” he agreed proudly. His daughter was his dearest possession. “I tell you, I’ve missed her. I’ve been mighty lonesome.”

Miss Minerva gave him a shrewd look. “Yes, I’ve heard rumors,” she remarked, “about how lonesome you’ve been.”

He flushed under his tan. “Amos, I suppose?”

“Oh, not only Amos. A great deal of talk, Dan. Really, at your age–”

“What do you mean, my age? I told you we’re all young out here.” He ate in silence for a moment. “You’re a good sport–I said it and I meant it. You must understand that here in the Islands a man may behave a–a bit differently than he would in the Back Bay.”

“At that,” she smiled, “all men in the Back Bay are not to be trusted. I’m not presuming to rebuke you, Dan. But–for Barbara’s sake–why not select as the object of your devotion a woman you could marry?”

“I could marry this one–if we’re talking about the same woman.”

“The one I refer to,” Miss Minerva replied, “is known, rather widely, as the Widow of Waikiki.”

“This place is a hotbed of gossip. Arlene Compton is perfectly respectable.”

“A former chorus girl I believe.”

“Not precisely. An actress–small parts–before she married Lieutenant Compton.”

“And a self-made widow.”

“Just what do you mean by that?” he flared. His gray eyes glittered.

“I understand that when her husband’s aeroplane crashed on Diamond Head, it was because he preferred it that way. She had driven him to it.”

“Lies, all lies!” Dan Winterslip cried. “Pardon me, Minerva, but you mustn’t believe all you hear on the beach.” He was silent for a moment. “What would you say if I told you I proposed to marry this woman?”

“I’m afraid I’d become rather bromidic,” she answered gently, “and remind you that there’s no fool like an old fool.” He did not speak. “Forgive me, Dan. I’m your first cousin, but a distant relative for all that. It’s really none of my business. I wouldn’t care–but I like you. And I’m thinking of Barbara–”

He bowed his head. “I know,” he said, “Barbara. Well, there’s no need to get excited. I haven’t said anything to Arlene about marriage. Not yet.”

Miss Minerva smiled. “You know, as I get on in years,” she remarked, “so many wise old saws begin to strike me as utter nonsense. Particularly that one I just quoted.” He looked at her, his eyes friendly again. “This is the best avocado I ever tasted,” she added. “But tell me, Dan, are you sure the mango is a food? Seems more like a spring tonic to me.”

By the time they finished dinner the topic of Arlene Compton was forgotten and Dan had completely regained his good nature. They had coffee on his veranda–or, in Island parlance, lanai–which opened off one end of the living-room. This was of generous size, screened on three sides and stretching far down on to the white beach. Outside the brief tropic dusk dimmed the bright colors of Waikiki.

“No breeze stirring,” said Miss Minerva.

“The trades have died,” Dan answered. He referred to the beneficent winds which–save at rare, uncomfortable intervals–blow across the Islands out of the cool northeast. “I’m afraid we’re in for a stretch of Kona weather.”

“I hope not,” Miss Minerva said.

“It saps the life right out of me nowadays,” he told her, and sank into a chair. “That about being young, Minerva–it’s a little bluff I’m fond of.”

She smiled gently. “Even youth finds the Kona hard to endure,” she comforted. “I remember when I was here before–in the ‘eighties. I was only nineteen, but the memory of the sick wind lingers still.”

“I missed you then, Minerva.”

“Yes. You were off somewhere in the South Seas.”

“But I heard about you when I came back. That you were tall and blonde and lovely, and nowhere near so prim as they feared you were going to be. A wonderful figure, they said–but you’ve got that yet.”

She flushed, but smiled still. “Hush, Dan. We don’t talk that way where I come from.”

“The ‘eighties,” he sighed. “Hawaii was Hawaii then. Unspoiled, a land of opera bouffe, with old Kalakaua sitting on his golden throne.”

“I remember him,” Miss Minerva said. “Grand parties at the palace. And the afternoons when he sat with his disreputable friends on the royal lanai, and the Royal Hawaiian Band played at his feet, and he haughtily tossed them royal pennies. It was such a colorful, naive spot then, Dan.”

“It’s been ruined,” he complained sadly. “Too much aping of the mainland. Too much of your damned mechanical civilization–automobiles, phonographs, radios–bah! And yet–and yet, Minerva–away down underneath there are deep dark waters flowing still.”

She nodded, and they sat for a moment busy with their memories. Presently Dan Winterslip snapped on a small reading light at his side. “I’ll just glance at the evening paper, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh, do,” urged Miss Minerva.

She was glad of a moment without talk. For this, after all, was the time she loved Waikiki best. So brief, this tropic dusk, so quick the coming of the soft alluring night. The carpet of the waters, apple-green by day, crimson and gold at sunset, was a deep purple now. On top of that extinct volcano called Diamond Head a yellow eye was winking, as though to hint there might still be fire beneath. Three miles down, the harbor lights began to twinkle, and out toward the reef the lanterns of Japanese sampans glowed intermittently. Beyond, in the roadstead, loomed the battered hulk of an old brig slowly moving toward the channel entrance. Always, out there, a ship or two, in from the East with a cargo of spice or tea or ivory, or eastward bound with a load of tractor salesmen. Ships of all sorts, the spic and span liner and the rakish tramp, ships from Melbourne and Seattle, New York and Yokohama, Tahiti and Rio, any port on the seven seas. For this was Honolulu, the Crossroads of the Pacific–the glamorous crossroads where, they said, in time all paths crossed again. Miss Minerva sighed.

She was conscious of a quick movement on Dan’s part. She turned and looked at him. He had laid the paper on his knee, and was staring straight ahead. That bluff about being young–no good now. For his face was old, old.

“Why, Dan–“ she said.

“I–I’m wondering, Minerva,” he began slowly. “Tell me again about that nephew of yours.”

She was surprised, but hid it. “John Quincy?” she said. “He’s just the usual thing, for Boston. Conventional. His whole life has been planned for him, from the cradle to the grave. So far he’s walked the line. The inevitable preparatory school, Harvard, the proper clubs, the family banking house–even gone and got himself engaged to the very girl his mother would have picked for him. There have been times when I hoped he might kick over–the war–but no, he came back and got meekly into the old rut.”

“Then he’s reliable–steady?”

Miss Minerva smiled. “Dan, compared with that boy, Gibraltar wobbles occasionally.”

“Discreet, I take it?”

“He invented discretion. That’s what I’m telling you. I love him–but a little bit of recklessness now and then–However, I’m afraid it’s too late now. John Quincy is nearly thirty.”

Dan Winterslip was on his feet, his manner that of a man who had made an important decision. Beyond the bamboo curtain that hung in the door leading to the living-room a light appeared. “Haku!” Winterslip called. The Japanese servant came swiftly.

“Haku, tell the chauffeur–quick–the big car! I must get to the dock before the President Tyler sails for San Francisco. Wikiwiki!”

The servant disappeared into the living-room, and Winterslip followed. Somewhat puzzled, Miss Minerva sat for a moment, then rose and pushed aside the curtain. “Are you sailing, Dan?” she asked.

He was seated at his desk, writing hurriedly. “No, no–just a note–I must get it off on that boat–”

There was an air of suppressed excitement about him. Miss Minerva stepped over the threshold into the living-room. In another moment Haku appeared with an announcement that was unnecessary, for the engine of an automobile was humming in the drive. Dan Winterslip took his hat from Haku. “Make yourself at home, Minerva–I’ll be back shortly,” he cried, and rushed out.

Some business matter, no doubt. Miss Minerva strolled aimlessly about the big airy room, pausing finally before the portrait of Jedediah Winterslip, the father of Dan and Amos, and her uncle. Dan had had it painted from a photograph after the old man’s death; it was the work of an artist whose forte was reputed to be landscapes–oh it must assuredly have been landscapes, Miss Minerva thought. But even so there was no mistaking the power and personality of this New Englander who had set up in Honolulu as a whaler. The only time she had seen him, in the ‘eighties, he had been broken and old, mourning his lost fortune, which had gone with his ships in an Arctic disaster a short time before.

Well, Dan had brought the family back, Miss Minerva reflected. Won again that lost fortune and much more. There were queer rumors about his methods–but so there were about the methods of Bostonians who had never strayed from home. A charming fellow, whatever his past. Miss Minerva sat down at the grand piano and played a few old familiar bars–The Beautiful Blue Danube. Her thoughts went back to the ‘eighties.

Dan Winterslip was thinking of the ‘eighties too as his car sped townward along Kalakaua Avenue. But it was the present that concerned him when they reached the dock and he ran, panting a little, through a dim pier-shed toward the gangplank of the President Tyler. He had no time to spare, the ship was on the point of sailing. Since it was a through boat from the Orient it left without the ceremonies that attend the departure of a liner plying only between Honolulu and the mainland. Even so, there were cries of “Aloha,” some hearty and some tremulous, most of the travelers were bedecked with leis, and a confused little crowd milled about the foot of the plank.

Dan Winterslip pushed his way forward and ran up the sharp incline. As he reached the dock he encountered an old acquaintance, Hepworth, the second officer.

“You’re the man I’m looking for,” he cried.

“How are you, sir,” Hepworth said. “I didn’t see your name on the list.”

“No, I’m not sailing. I’m here to ask a favor.”

“Glad to oblige, Mr. Winterslip.”

Winterslip thrust a letter into his hand. “You know my cousin Roger in ‘Frisco. Please give him that–him and no one else–as soon after you land as you possibly can. I’m too late for the mail–and I prefer this way anyhow. I’ll be mighty grateful.”

“Don’t mention it–you’ve been very kind to me and I’ll be only too happy–I’m afraid you’ll have to go ashore, sir. Just a minute, there–“ He took Winterslip’s arm and gently urged him back on to the plank. The instant Dan’s feet touched the dock, the plank was drawn up behind him.

For a moment he stood, held by the fascination an Islander always feels at sight of a ship outward bound. Then he turned and walked slowly through the pier-shed. Ahead of him he caught a glimpse of a slender lithe figure which he recognized at once as that of Dick Kaohla, the grandson of Kamaikui. He quickened his pace and joined the boy.

“Hello, Dick,” he said.

“Hello.” The brown face was sullen, unfriendly.

“You haven’t been to see me for a long time,” Dan Winterslip said. “Everything all right?”

“Sure,” replied Kaohla. “Sure it’s all right.” They reached the street, and the boy turned quickly away. “Good night,” he muttered.

Dan Winterslip stood for a moment, thoughtfully looking after him. Then he got into the car. “No hurry now,” he remarked to the chauffeur.

When he reappeared in his living-room, Miss Minerva glanced up from the book she was reading. “Were you in time, Dan?” she asked.

“Just made it,” he told her.

“Good,” she said, rising. “I’ll take my book and go up-stairs. Pleasant dreams.”

He waited until she reached the door before he spoke. “Ah–Minerva–don’t trouble to write your nephew about stopping here.”

“No, Dan?” she said, puzzled again.

“No. I’ve attended to the invitation myself. Good night.”

“Oh–good night,” she answered, and left him.

Alone in the great room, he paced restlessly back and forth over the polished floor. In a moment he went out on to the lanai, and found the newspaper he had been reading earlier in the evening. He brought it back to the living-room and tried to finish it, but something seemed to trouble him. His eyes kept straying–straying–with a sharp exclamation he tore one corner from the shipping page, savagely ripped the fragment to bits.

Again he got up and wandered about. He had intended paying a call down the beach, but that quiet presence in the room above–Boston in its more tolerant guise but Boston still–gave him pause.

He returned to the lanai. There, under a mosquito netting, was the cot where he preferred to sleep; his dressing-room was near at hand. However, it was too early for bed. He stepped through the door on to the beach. Unmistakable, the soft treacherous breath of the Kona fanned his cheek–the “sick wind” that would pile the breakers high along the coast and blight temporarily this Island paradise. There was no moon, the stars that usually seemed so friendly and so close were now obscured. The black water rolled in like a threat. He stood staring out into the dark–out there to the crossroads where paths always crossed again. If you gave them time–if you only gave them time–

As he turned back, his eyes went to the algaroba tree beyond the wire, and he saw the yellow flare of a match. His brother Amos. He had a sudden friendly feeling for Amos, he wanted to go over and talk to him, talk of the far days when they played together on this beach. No use, he knew. He sighed, and the screen door of the lanai banged behind him–the screen door without a lock in a land where locks are few.

Tired, he sat in the dark to think. His face was turned toward the curtain of bamboo between him and the living-room. On that curtain a shadow appeared, was motionless a second, then vanished. He caught his breath–again the shadow. “Who’s there?” he called.

A huge brown arm was thrust through the bamboo. A friendly brown face was framed there.

“Your fruit I put on the table,” said Kamaikui. “I go to bed now.”

“Of course. Go ahead. Good night.”

The woman withdrew. Dan Winterslip was furious with himself. What was the matter with him, anyhow? He who had fought his way through unspeakable terrors in the early days–nervous–on edge–

“Getting old,” he muttered. “No, by heaven–it’s the Kona. That’s it. The Kona. I’ll be all right when the trades blow again.”

When the trades blew again! He wondered. Here at the crossroads one could not be sure.


John Quincy Winterslip walked aboard the ferry at Oakland feeling rather limp and weary. For more than six days he had been marooned on sleepers–his pause at Chicago had been but a flitting from one train to another–and he was fed up. Seeing America first–that was what he had been doing. And what an appalling lot of it there was! He felt that for an eternity he had been staring at endless plains, dotted here and there by unesthetic houses the inmates of which had unquestionably never heard a symphony concert.

Ahead of him ambled a porter, bearing his two suitcases, his golf clubs and his hat-box. One of the man’s hands was gone–chewed off, no doubt, in some amiable frontier scuffle. In its place he wore a steel hook. Well, no one could question the value of a steel hook to a man in the porter’s profession. But how quaint–and western!

The boy indicated a spot by the rail on the forward deck, and the porter began to unload. Carefully selecting the man’s good hand, John Quincy dropped into it a tip so generous as to result in a touching of hook to cap in a weird salute. The object of this attention sank down amid his elaborate trappings, removed the straw hat from his perspiring head, and tried to figure out just what had happened to him.

Three thousand miles from Beacon Street, and two thousand miles still to go! Why, he inquired sourly of his usually pleasant self, had he ever agreed to make this absurd expedition into heathen country? Here it was late June, Boston was at its best. Tennis at Longwood, long mild evenings in a single shell on the Charles, weekends and golf with Agatha Parker at Magnolia. And if one must travel, there was Paris. He hadn’t seen Paris in two years and had been rather planning a quick run over, when his mother had put this preposterous notion into his head.

Preposterous–it was all of that. Traveling five thousand miles just as a gentle hint to Aunt Minerva to return to her calm, well-ordered life behind purple window-panes on Beacon Street. And was there any chance that his strong-minded relative would take the hint? Not one in a thousand. Aunt Minerva was accustomed to do as she pleased–he had an uncomfortable, shocked recollection of one occasion when she had said she would do as she damn well pleased.

John Quincy wished he was back. He wished he was crossing Boston Common to his office on State Street, there to put out a new issue of bonds. He was not yet a member of the firm–that was an honor accorded only to Winterslips who were bald and a little stooped–but his heart was in his work. He put out a bond issue with loving apprehension, waiting for the verdict as a playwright waits behind the scenes on a first night. Would those First Mortgage Sixes go over big, or would they flop at his feet?

The hoarse boom of a ferry whistle recalled John Quincy to his present unbelievable location on the map. The boat began to move. He was dimly conscious of a young person of feminine gender who came and sat at his side. Away from the slip and out into the harbor the ferry carried John Quincy, and he suddenly sat up and took notice, for he was never blind to beauty, no matter where he encountered it.

And he was encountering beauty now. The morning air was keen and dry and bright. Spread out before him was that harbor which is like a tired navigator’s dream come true. They passed Goat Island, and he heard the faint echo of a bugle; he saw Tamalpais lifting its proud head toward the sparkling sky, he turned, and there was San Francisco scattered blithely over its many hills.

The ferry plowed on, and John Quincy sat very still. A forest of masts and steam funnels–here was the water-front that had supplied the atmosphere for those romantic tales that held him spellbound when he was a boy at school–a quiet young Winterslip whom the gypsy strain had missed. Now he could distinguish a bark from Antwerp, a great liner from the Orient, a five-masted schooner that was reminiscent of those supposedly forgotten stories. Ships from the Treaty Ports, ships from cocoanut islands in southern seas. A picture as intriguing and colorful as a back drop in a theater–but far more real.

Suddenly John Quincy stood up. A puzzled look had come into his calm gray eyes. “I–I don’t understand,” he murmured.

He was startled by the sound of his own voice. He hadn’t intended to speak aloud. In order not to appear too utterly silly, he looked around for some one to whom he might pretend he had addressed that remark. There was no one about–except the young person who was obviously feminine and therefore not to be informally accosted.

John Quincy looked down at her. Spanish or something like that, blue-black hair, dark eyes that were alight now with the amusement she was striving to hide, a delicate oval face tanned a deep brown. He looked again at the harbor–beauty all about the boat, and beauty on it. Much better than traveling on trains!

The girl looked up at John Quincy. She saw a big, broad-shouldered young man with a face as innocent as a child’s. A bit of friendliness, she decided instantly, would not be misunderstood.

“I beg your pardon,” she said.

“Oh–I–I’m sorry,” he stammered. “I didn’t mean–I spoke without intending–I said I didn’t understand–”

“You didn’t understand what?”

“A most amazing thing has happened,” he continued. He sat down, and waved his hand toward the harbor. “I’ve been here before.”

She looked perplexed. “Lots of people have,” she admitted.

“But–you see–I mean–I’ve never been here before.”

She moved away from him. “Lots of people haven’t.” She admitted that, too.

John Quincy took a deep breath. What was this discussion he had got into, anyhow? He had a quick impulse to lift his hat gallantly and walk away, letting the whole matter drop. But no, he came of a race that sees things through.

“I’m from Boston,” he said.

“Oh,” said the girl. That explained everything.

“And what I’m trying to make clear–although of course there’s no reason why I should have dragged you into it–”

“None whatever,” she smiled. “But go on.”

“Until a few days ago I was never west of New York, never in my whole life, you understand. Been about New England a bit, and abroad a few times, but the West–”

“I know. It didn’t interest you.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” protested John Quincy with careful politeness. “But there was such a lot of it–exploring it seemed a hopeless undertaking. And then–the family thought I ought to go, you see–so I rode and rode on trains and was–you’ll pardon me–a bit bored. Now–I come into this harbor, I look around me, and I get the oddest feeling. I feel that I’ve been here before.”

The girl’s face was sympathetic. “Other people have had that experience,” she told him. “Choice souls, they are. You’ve been a long time coming, but you’re home at last.” She held out a slim brown hand. “Welcome to your city,” she said.

John Quincy solemnly shook hands. “Oh, no,” he corrected gently. “Boston’s my city. I belong there, naturally. But this–this is familiar.” He glanced northward at the low hills sheltering the Valley of the Moon, then back at San Francisco. “Yes, I seem to have known my way about here once. Astonishing, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps–some of your ancestors–”

“That’s true. My grandfather came out here when he was a young man. He went home again–but his brothers stayed. It’s the son of one of them I’m going to visit in Honolulu.”

“Oh–you’re going on to Honolulu?”

“To-morrow morning. Have you ever been there?”

“Ye–es.” Her dark eyes were serious. “See–there are the locks–that’s where the East begins. The real East. And Telegraph Hill–” she pointed; no one in Boston ever points, but she was so lovely John Quincy overlooked it–“and Russian Hill and the Fairmont on Nob Hill.”

“Life must be full of ups and downs,” he ventured lightly. “Tell me about Honolulu. Sort of a wild place, I imagine?”

She laughed. “I’ll let you discover for yourself how wild it is,” she told him. “Practically all the leading families came originally from your beloved New England. ‘Puritans with a touch of sun,’ my father calls them. He’s clever, my father,” she added, in an odd childish tone that was wistful and at the same time challenging.

“I’m sure of it,” said John Quincy heartily. They were approaching the Ferry Building and other passengers crowded about them. “I’d help you with that suitcase of yours, but I’ve got all this truck. If we could find a porter–”

“Don’t bother,” she answered. “I can manage very well.” She was staring down at John Quincy’s hat box. “I–I suppose there’s a silk hat in there?” she inquired.

“Naturally,” replied John Quincy.

She laughed–a rich, deep-throated laugh. John Quincy stiffened slightly. “Oh, forgive me,” she cried. “But–a silk hat in Hawaii!”

John Quincy stood erect. The girl had laughed at a Winterslip. He filled his lungs with the air sweeping in from the open spaces, the broad open spaces where men are men. A weird reckless feeling came over him. He stooped, picked up the hat box, and tossed it calmly over the rail. It bobbed indignantly away. The crowd closed in, not wishing to miss any further exhibition of madness.

“That’s that,” said John Quincy quietly.

“Oh,” gasped the girl, “you shouldn’t have done it!”

And indeed, he shouldn’t. The box was an expensive one, the gift of his admiring mother at Christmas. And the topper inside, worn in the gloaming along the water side of Beacon Street, had been known to add a touch of distinction even to that distinguished scene.

“Why not?” asked John Quincy. “The confounded thing’s been a nuisance ever since I left home. And besides we do look ridiculous at times, don’t we? We easterners? A silk hat in the tropics! I might have been mistaken for a missionary.” He began to gather up his luggage. “Shan’t need a porter any more,” he announced gaily. “I say–it was awfully kind of you–letting me talk to you like that.”

“It was fun,” she told him. “I hope you’re going to like us out here. We’re so eager to be liked, you know. It’s almost pathetic.”

“Well,” smiled John Quincy, “I’ve met only one Californian to date. But–”


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