The Clue of the New Pin
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The Clue of the New Pin
MR. TRASMERE walked steadily and at one pace, keeping to the more populous streets. Then at exactly 8.21; he turned into Peak Avenue, that wide and pleasant thoroughfare where his house was situated. A man who had been idling away a wasted half-hour saw him and crossed the road.
"Excuse me, Mr. Trasmere."
Jesse shot a scowling glance at the interrupter of his reveries. The stranger was young and a head taller than the old man, well dressed, remarkably confident.
"You don't remember me-Holland? I called upon you about a year ago over the trouble you had with the municipality."
Jesse's face cleared.
"The reporter? Yes, I remember you. You had an article in your rag that was all wrong, sir-all wrong! You made me say that I had a respect for municipal laws, and that's a lie! I have no respect for municipal laws or lawyers. They're thieves and grafters!"
He thumped the ferrule of his umbrella on the ground to emphasize his disapproval.
"I shouldn't be surprised," said the young man, with a cheerful smile; "and if I made you toss around a few bouquets, that was faire bonne mine. I'd forgotten anyway, but it is the job of an interviewer to make his subject look good."
"Well, what do you want?"
"Our correspondent in Pekin has sent us the original proclamation of the insurgent, General Wing Su-or Sing Wu, I'm not sure which. These Chinese names get me rattled."
Tab Holland produced from his pocket a sheet of yellow paper covered with strange characters.
"We can't get in touch with our interpreters, and knowing that you are a whale-an authority on the language, the news-editor wondered if you would be so kind."
Jesse took the sheet reluctantly, gripped his bag between his knees, and put on his glasses.
"'Wing Su Shi, by the favour of heaven, humbly before his ancestors, speaks to all men of the Middle Kingdom... '" he began.
Tab, note-book in hand, wrote rapidly as the old man translated.
"Thank you, sir," he said when the other had finished.
There was an odd smirk of satisfaction on the old man's face, a strange, childlike pride in his accomplishment. "You have a remarkable knowledge of the language," said Tab politely.
"Born there," replied Jesse Trasmere complacently: "born in a go-down on the Amur River and could speak the three dialects before I was six. Beat the whole lot of 'em at their own books when I was so high! That all, mister?"
"That is all, and thank you," said Tab gravely, and lifted his hat.
He stood looking after the old man as he continued his walk. So that was Rex Lander's miserly uncle? He did not look like a millionaire, and yet, when he came to consider the matter, millionaires seldom looked their wealth.
He had settled the matter of the Wing Su proclamation and was immersed in a new Prison Report which had been published that day when he remembered an item of news which had come his way, and duly reported.
"Sorry, Tab," said the night-editor, "the theatre man has 'flu. Won't you go along and see the lady?"
Tab snorted, but went.
The dresser, hesitating, thought that Miss Ardfern was rather tired, and wouldn't to-morrow do?
"I'm tired, too," said Tab Holland wearily; "and tell Miss Ardfern that I haven't come to this darned theatre at eleven p.m. because I'm an autograph hunter, or because I'm collecting pictures of actresses I'm crazy about; I'm here in the sacred cause of publicity."
To the dresser, he was as a man who spoke a foreign language. Surveying him dubiously she turned the handle of the stained yellow door, and standing in the opening, talked to somebody invisible.
Tab had a glimpse of cretonne hangings, yawned, and scratched his head. He was not without elegance, except in moments of utter tiredness.