THE SHIFTING SCENE I97
of coming in without a word, drifting here and there, opening cupboards
and prying into this corner and that while the banker stood by his
chair with folded arms letting them have their way. Then one of the
Englishmen addressed me rather rudely, I thought, and asked me what
business I had there. I remained calmly seated on my barrel-shaped
stool and told him to go to blazes and mind his own business, unless he
could show reason why I should answer.
He showed me his authority. He was, it seemed, a detective. So I gave him my card.
"Oh," he said, "I've heard of you all right. I'm sorry to worry you, but we're not here for fun."
"It doesn't look like it," I replied, and turned my back on him.
a while the three detectives left, and when they had gone all the
banker's clerks came into the boss's room. There was a hullabaloo of
jabbering in Chinese, which of course I couldn't understand; but a
gleeful rubbing of hands all round told me that somehow the banker had
scored and not the police. But what it was all about I had not the
faintest idea. And I went away still in the dark.
day, however, true to my habit, I called on my banker friend again. I
sat in my usual seat on the high barrel-shaped stool. But I didn't ask
any questions, although my mind was seething with them, for having
lived among Chinese for so many years I had learned not to be
inquisitive and to mind my own business. I was given a big cigar and a
drink; then after a moment I was bidden by my host to come off my
perch. Wondering, I did so.
touched a button on the upper edge of the stool and gave the top a
twist, lifting the lid. Then pointing into the capacious hollow in the
wood he said smilingly, "Opium! And yesterday you sat on it—good
man!—all the time those bad Englishmen sniffed around."
if yesterday the stool had been full of opium, to-day it was all gone.
The banking business in China is a paying game. With all his
astuteness, however, my banker friend lost out