The Dream Of Sin Sin Wa
For a habitual opium-smoker to abstain when the fumes of chandu actually reach
his nostrils is a feat of will-power difficult adequately to appraise. An ordinary
tobacco smoker cannot remain for long among those who are enjoying the fragrant
weed without catching the infection and beginning to smoke also. Twice to
redouble the lure of my lady Nicotine would be but loosely to estimate the
seductiveness of the Spirit of the Poppy; yet Sir Lucien Pyne smoked one pipe with
Mrs. Sin, and perceiving her to be already in a state of dreamy abstraction, loaded
a second, but in his own case with a fragment of cigarette stump which
smouldered in a tray upon the table. His was that rare type of character whose
possessor remains master of his vices.
Following the fourth pipe--Pyne, after the second, had ceased to trouble to repeat
his feat of legerdemain, "The sleep" claimed Mrs. Sin. Her languorous eyes closed,
and her face assumed that rapt expression of Buddha-like beatitude which Rita
had observed at Kilfane's flat. According to some scientific works on the subject,
sleep is not invariably induced in the case of Europeans by the use of chandu.
Loosely, this is true. But this type of European never becomes an habitue; the
habitue always sleeps. That dream-world to which opium alone holds the key
becomes the real world "for the delights of which the smoker gladly resigns all
mundane interests." The exiled Chinaman returns again to the sampan of his
boyhood, floating joyously on the waters of some willow-lined canal; the Malay
hears once more the mystic whispering in the mangrove swamps, or scents the
fragrance of nutmeg and cinnamon in the far-off golden Chersonese. Mrs. Sin
doubtless lived anew the triumphs of earlier days in Buenos Ayres, when she had
been La Belle Lola, the greatly beloved, and before she had met and married Sin
Sin Wa. Gives much, but claims all, and he who would open the poppy-gates must
close the door of ambition and bid farewell to manhood.
Sir Lucien stood looking at the woman, and although one pipe had affected him but
slightly, his imagination momentarily ran riot and a pageant of his life swept before
him, so that his jaw grew hard and grim and he clenched his hands convulsively.
An unbroken stillness prevailed in the opium-house of Sin Sin Wa.
Recovering from his fit of abstraction, Pyne, casting a final keen glance at the
sleeper, walked out of the room. He looked along the carpeted corridor in the
direction of the cubicles, paused, and then opened the heavy door masking the
recess behind the cupboard. Next opening the false back of the cupboard, he
passed through to the lumber-room beyond, and partly closed the second door.
He descended the stair and went along the passage; but ere he reached the door
of the room on the ground floor:
"Hello! hello! Sin Sin! Sin Sin Wa!" croaked the raven. "Number one p'lice chop,
lo!" The note of a police whistle followed, rendered with uncanny fidelity.
Pyne entered the room. It presented the same aspect as when he had left it. The
ship's lantern stood upon the table, and Sin Sin Wa sat upon the tea-chest, the
great black bird perched on his shoulder. The fire in the stove had burned lower,