Tales of Chinatown HTML version

The Pigtail Of Hi Wing Ho
Leaving the dock gates behind me I tramped through the steady drizzle, going
parallel with the river and making for the Chinese quarter. The hour was about
half-past eleven on one of those September nights when, in such a locality as
this, a stifling quality seems to enter the atmosphere, rendering it all but
unbreathable. A mist floated over the river, and it was difficult to say if the rain
was still falling, indeed, or if the ample moisture upon my garments was traceable
only to the fog. Sounds were muffled, lights dimmed, and the frequent hooting of
sirens from the river added another touch of weirdness to the scene.
Even when the peculiar duties of my friend, Paul Harley, called him away from
England, the lure of this miniature Orient which I had first explored under his
guidance, often called me from my chambers. In the house with the two doors in
Wade Street, Limehouse, I would discard the armour of respectability, and,
dressed in a manner unlikely to provoke comment in dockland, would haunt
those dreary ways sometimes from midnight until close upon dawn. Yet, well as I
knew the district and the strange and often dangerous creatures lurking in its
many burrows, I experienced a chill partly physical and partly of apprehension to-
night; indeed, strange though it may sound, I hastened my footsteps in order the
sooner to reach the low den for which I was bound--Malay Jack's--a spot marked
plainly on the crimes-map and which few respectable travellers would have
regarded as a haven of refuge.
But the chill of the adjacent river, and some quality of utter desolation which
seemed to emanate from the deserted wharves and ramshackle buildings about
me, were driving me thither now; for I knew that human companionship, of a sort,