The Yellow Claw HTML version
Soames' character was of a pliable sort, and ere many days had passed he had grown
accustomed to this unnatural existence among the living corpses in the catacombs of Ho-
He rarely saw Ho-Pin, and desired not to see him at all; as for Mr. King, he even
endeavored to banish from his memory the name of that shadowy being. The memory of
the Eurasian he could not banish, and was ever listening for the silvery voice, but in vain.
He had no particular duties, apart from the care of the six rooms known as Block A, and
situated in the corridor to the left of the cave of the golden dragon; this, and the valeting
of departing occupants. But the hours at which he was called upon to perform these duties
varied very greatly. Sometimes he would attend to four human wrecks in the same
morning; whilst, perhaps on the following day, he would not be called upon to officiate
until late in the evening. One fact early became evident to him. There was a ceaseless
stream of these living dead men pouring into the catacombs of Ho-Pin, coming he knew
not whence, and issuing forth again, he knew not whither.
Twice in the first week of his new and strange service he recognized the occupants of the
rooms as men whom he had seen in the upper world. On entering the room of one of
these (at ten o'clock at night) he almost cried out in his surprise; for the limp, sallow-
faced creature extended upon the bed before him was none other than Sir Brian Malpas--
the brilliant politician whom his leaders had earmarked for office in the next Cabinet!
As Soames stood contemplating him stretched there in his stupor, he found it hard to
credit the fact that this was the same man whom political rivals feared for his hard
brilliance, whom society courted, and whose engagement to the daughter of a peer had
been announced only a few months before.
Throughout this time, Soames had made no attempt to seek the light of day: he had not
seen a newspaper; he knew nothing of the hue and cry raised throughout England, of the
hunt for the murderer of Mrs. Vernon. He suffered principally from lack of
companionship. The only human being with whom he ever came in contact was Said, the
Egyptian; and Said, at best, was uncommunicative. A man of very limited intellect, Luke
Soames had been at a loss for many days to reconcile Block A and its temporary
occupants with any comprehensible scheme of things. Whereas some of the rooms would
be laden with nauseating fumes, others would be free of these; the occupants, again,
exhibited various symptoms.
That he was a servant of an opium-den de luxe did not for some time become apparent to
him; then, when first the theory presented itself, he was staggered by a discovery so
But it satisfied his mind only partially. Some men whom he valeted might have been
doped with opium, certainly, but all did not exhibit those indications which, from
hearsay, he associated with the resin of the white poppy.
Knowing nothing of the numerous and exotic vices which have sprung from the soil of
the Orient, he was at a loss for a full explanation of the facts as he saw them.