The Yellow Claw HTML version
The Living Dead
The night held yet another adventure in store for Soames. His encounter with the two
Scotland Yard men had finally expelled all thoughts of pleasure from his mind. The
upper world, the free world, was beset with pitfalls; he realized that for the present, at any
rate, there could be no security for him, save in the catacombs of Ho-Pin. He came out of
the music-hall and stood for a moment just outside the foyer, glancing fearfully up and
down the rain-swept street. Then, resuming the drenched raincoat which he had taken off
in the theater, and turning up its collar about his ears, he set out to return to the garage
adjoining the warehouse of Kan-Suh Concessions.
He had fully another hour of leave if he cared to avail himself of it, but, whilst every
pedestrian assumed, in his eyes, the form of a detective, whilst every dark corner seemed
to conceal an ambush, whilst every passing instant he anticipated feeling a heavy hand
upon his shoulder, and almost heard the words:--"Luke Soames, I arrest you" . . . Whilst
this was his case, freedom had no joys for him.
No light guided him to the garage door, and he was forced to seek for the handle by
groping along the wall. Presently, his hand came in contact with it, he turned it--and the
way was open before him.
Being far from familiar with the geography of the place, he took out a box of matches,
and struck one to light him to the shelf above which the bell-push was concealed.
Its feeble light revealed, not only the big limousine near which he was standing and the
usual fixtures of a garage, but, dimly penetrating beyond into the black places, it also
revealed something else. . . .
The door in the false granite blocks was open!
Soames, who had advanced to seek the bell-push, stopped short. The match burnt down
almost to his fingers, whereupon he blew it out and carefully crushed it under his foot. A
faint reflected light rendered perceptible the stone steps below. At the top, Soames stood
looking down. Nothing stirred above, below, or around him. What did it mean? Dimly to
his ears came the hooting of some siren from the river--evidently that of a large vessel.
Still he hesitated; why he did so, he scarce knew, save that he was afraid-- vaguely afraid.
Then, he asked himself what he had to fear, and conjuring up a mental picture of his
white bedroom below, he planted his foot firmly upon the first step, and from thence,
descended to the bottom, guided by the faint light which shone out from the doorway
But the door proved to be only partly opened, and Soames knocked deferentially. No
response came to his knocking, and he so greatly ventured as to push the door fully open.
The cave of the golden dragon was empty. Half frightfully, Soames glanced about the
singular apartment, in amid the mountainous cushions of the leewans, behind the pedestal
of the dragon; to the right and to the left of the doorway wherein he stood.