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Girl of the Golden Gate

201 pages
Library of Alexandria
The general steamship agency on The Bund was a hive of bustling travelers, their faces alight with the eagerness with which they desired to be gone their many ways up and down the world. A stranger might have imagined that most of Yokohama's European or "white" population had been possessed of a sudden desire to flee beyond the seas. It was a scene common enough, however, for that season in the gateways of the Far East. Spring, with its heart call to distant homelands, had come again to break the spell of the Orient for many and to stir an unutterable longing in the breasts of others—the men and women who dream always of the day they will "go back," but who never do. The crowd was a conglomerate, as crowds go, and not lacking in picturesque touches—here where a Chinese of mandarin rank went with a silky retinue; there where a pair of turbaned Sikhs stood near two begoggled Korean priests, muttering in gutturals over their tickets for the South. The placidity and impenetrable calm of these few Oriental faces served but to accentuate the mobile expressiveness of the dominant Caucasian countenance. Still there was one white man whose features betrayed no expression of interest in the scene. He stood head and shoulders over those around him in a line of applicants at a booking desk toward the rear. There was an air of detachment about him. Apparently he was untouched of the spirit of mystic restlessness and excitement which pervaded the place—that resistless, undeniable spirit which takes hold of even the most unimaginative and lackadaisical in railway depots or wherever else men in numbers set out upon journeys. There was no gleam of the homeward-bounder in his eye—that gleam which is more like the light of love than anything else; there was no expectancy; no sign of eagerness. At a first glance this man's face seemed no more than a mask. At a second one realized that the features were those of one who must have won unto the priceless possession of self-control. The nose was large and yet as sensitively formed as the freshly shaven lips and chin. The ears were perfectly lobed—the ears of a thoroughbred. The jaw was that of the natural fighter, not heavy and jowly, but cut in a sharp, straight line from the hinge to the point. Tiny wrinkles in the outer corners of the eyelids, which come from facing long distances on sea or land, kept forming and reforming as his gray eyes wandered idly over the heads of the crowd. It is thus that the tribes of the earth's big spaces are marked. Several times he pushed his small gray felt hat back from his brow and then as absently pulled it down again. When he did this one saw the seam of a jagged scar, still pink from recent healing, which traversed the left temple and disappeared in the dark-brown hair over the ear. Although the forelock and the temples were quite gray, he was not more than thirty-five years old. His blue serge suit fitted well and the trimness of his setting-up—his whole hearing, in fact—spoke of one of military training. Perhaps it was this suggestion of the soldier that made the Sikhs turn and look back at him as they passed out on The Bund. Yet it was not as a soldier that the port of Yokohama knew him, but by the name of Whitridge and as the captain of the sorriest-looking piece of sea grist that had ever made Tokyo Bay. A brute of a Chinese tramp she was, and men who knew deep waters were still marveling how he had brought her through the vitals of a typhoon—the worst in their memory—which had swept the coast in a fury of destruction.