Japan - The Opium Fiends
( Originally Published 1915 )
Sinclair seemed to be transformed. His outing with the boys and the freedom attending his movements, since they left the ship, seemed to act like a stimulant. When they left the vicinity of the playground he hailed a fine auto-cab and insisted that the boys should be his guests for the day.
It was now past four o'clock, and the first points of interest visited were the regions south of the city, in the vicinity of Telegraph and Diamond hills, where superb views were obtained of the city, the bay, and the magnificent background to the north; while to the southeast could be seen the outlines of the peaks Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.
South of the city, and less than three miles away, was a place called Moiluli, so named from the church located there. The road to that place proved exceedingly smooth, and the machine simply glided along the way.
Neither Sinclair nor the boys knew the provisions regarding speed, and when the machine was employed the driver was informed that they must return to the ship at six o'clock. As a result he took it upon himself to far exceed the speed limit, and just as he was entering the limits of the little village two officers barred the path, and the entire party found themselves under arrest.
The officers did not pay the least attention to the pleadings of Sinclair, who averred that they were not responsible for the excessive speed. They were taken to a sort of lock-up, and within fifteen minutes the official authorized to pass on cases of this kind appeared.
Learning that the chauffeur was driving a regularly licensed car, and that the boys were merely passengers, they were discharged, but the driver was held.
"Well, this puts us in a nice box," said Sinclair, "and I suppose we shall have to find another machine."
But finding another car was a different matter. They were told that no one in the vicinity had one, and it would be impossible for their machine to go back until the next morning.
As no means of transportation was available, Winfield offered a solution by proposing to tramp back, and this was readily agreed to by Stanwood and Sinclair.
"This feels like something again," said Stan-wood, as they commenced the walk with vigor.
"We are going too fast for a start," said Winfield.
"How is that?" asked Sinclair.
"Never start off on a long journey with a run and a jump," he replied.
"I had forgotten about that," said Stanwood. "We made the same mistake several times, and had to pay for it later in the day. Sometimes we would feel so good in starting out in the morning that we just skipped along the road, but it won't do."
"I suppose that is so," said Sinclair, musing. "How I would like to be free so I could go with you," and the boys thought they saw a shade of regret pass over his features, but for some reason they did not feel like asking him why he had made that remark.
The fields on both sides were lined with cultivated vegetation, attended to by gardeners, most of whom were Chinese and Portuguese. Little shacks, the homes of these people, were to be seen all along the road.
After a tramp of a half mile they reached a little group of these cottages, and being thirsty, stopped and inquired for drinking water. They were directed to a house to the left, and while passing were attracted by a peculiar odor.
The boys looked at each other for an explanation. It was entirely unlike tobacco, much more pungent; a rather sickly smell, difficult to define. Walking around the cottage they passed a wide-open door, and within, reclining on low bunks, were a half dozen men, some lying quite still, while two were taking long, slow drafts from short, peculiar pipes.
"I wonder what is the matter with them?" asked Stanwood.
Sinclair stepped back and caught Stanwood by the shoulder. "Don't you know what they are doing?"
"No," No," he replied.
"I have never seen them myself, but I am pretty sure they are opium smokers," he answered.
The attendant turned around, and seeing the boys, was not at all perturbed, but quietly arose and moved toward the door, smiling and rubbing his hands, while he motioned the boys to come inside.
Sinclair was intensely interested now. Leaning over to Winfield, said: "Suppose we go in and see what they will do?"
Winfield stepped toward the door without hesitation, and the others followed. The suave Chinese produced a curious little pipe, or it might be termed a large stem with the smallest bowl, into which he dropped a little reddish brown pellet and offered it to Sinclair.
He looked around at the boys with a half smile, and slowly accepted the pipe. "How much?" asked Sinclair, laconically.
"Flifty centee," responded the host.
"I have a mind," said Sinclair, and the China-man turned to one of the bunks and arranged the pillow, and then reached over and grasped two more pipes.
"Yes; I'd like to know how the thing tastes," he continued, and before the other boys had an opportunity to prevent it he had taken several long draughts on the pipe.
The moment he did so his eyes opened wide, and he stared at the boys with a peculiar look, which frightened them. Then he dropped the pipe and leaned forward with a look of untold disgust.
Without a word he turned toward the door and sprang for the open. His face became ashy pale in hue, and Stanwood and Winfield were now thoroughly frightened.
The boys followed, while the Chinaman stared in surprise at the result of his enterprise, as he held the two pipes in his extended hands.
Sinclair staggered toward the road, nauseated and trying to balance himself as he stumbled along. Winfield was the first to recover himself and put his arms about Sinclair, and Stanwood followed. Together they led him along the side of the house, where Stanwood espied a cup hanging on the side of the pump stock.
In a moment he had filled the cup and offered it to Sinclair, who waved it away. After reaching the road, they walked along to clear the cabins, and Sinclair was directed to the side of the road-way, where he lay down on the sod with his head resting against the fence.
He was very quiet now, except for the slight convulsive heaving of the stomach, which gradually subsided, and within a half hour his eyes opened, and he looked at the boys with a half frightened mind.
"Well, wasn't that peculiar?" were the first words he uttered.
"Do you think you'll ever try it again?" asked Stanwood.
He shook his head vigorously as he replied: "Never, never again. Oh, but that made me sick ! I have been sick many times ; but there was nothing like that. But after the sickness, it was fine."
"What do you mean?" asked Winfield.
"Well, everything seemed to be swimming about, and I moved without trying, and every article I touched seemed to be as light as a feather."
But Sinclair shuddered as he recalled even the supposed pleasures of his journey into the realm of the opium fiend's Paradise.
Sinclair was a very sick, boy when he finally sat up and gazed about him. "What is it that makes people delight in such a practice? I have heard so much about it and often wondered what the sensation must be like, to make them slaves to it; but I am satisfied. I wouldn't take another puff for the world."
Slowly they wended their way toward the city, after Sinclair was sufficiently recovered. It was now growing dark, and the condition of Sinclair would not permit them to move along rapidly. Twice the inevitable opium joints were passed, as was evidenced by the odor, which they had now learned to distinguish.
Each time Sinclair paled when the first sniff came to his nostrils, and he shook his head sadly. "Never again!" he muttered.
The experience that afternoon was a striking lesson to the boys. Many times thereafter, when in foreign lands, they saw the devotees of this curious habit, and the thought of Sinclair ever came back to them and served as a mighty warning.
When the lower environs of the city were reached Sinclair insisted on taking a taxi-cab, which landed them at the dock shortly after seven o'clock, in ample time for the evening meal, but poor Sinclair was far too ill to relish food, so the boys saw no more of him that evening.
Early in the morning the ship sailed out of port, and when the islands were cleared Sinclair came on deck bright and smiling, with no trace of the previous day's experience visible on his countenance, but he held up a warning finger as he saw the boys.
Stanwood informed Mr. Munroe of the experience the night before, knowing he would not divulge the matter, his object in relating the occurrence being to obtain some idea of the peculiar habit.
"It is a remarkable thing," Mr. Munroe in-formed him, "to see how the habit will grow on those who indulge; and the deplorable thing is that when they become accustomed to its use, it is almost impossible to break away from its influence. The victim is slowly poisoned to death, without the will or the power to resist."
"What is opium?"
"It is a gum which exudes from the poppy and one or two other species of that plant. Morphine is one of the products. All of the extracts have the power to destroy pain, and owing to the knowledge that it will relieve suffering many men re-sort to it, not knowing or caring that it is a far greater enemy than the pangs which have tormented them."
Passengers on shipboard who have nothing to do but lounge about, eat and sleep, grow tired of the monotony, hence they resort to different forms of amusement. The most universal game is shuffle-board, the implements being a round disk of wood or iron about an inch and a quarter thick, and six inches in diameter.
These disks are propelled forwardly by a crutch-shaped cue, and the deck is marked off into squares, so that the player's aim is to place the disks into these squares, which are numbered to indicate certain values.
The word comes from the old name shovel-board, the cue, or shovel, taking its name from the ordinary implement commonly known as a spade. Winfield soon became expert at lining out the squares, and in attending the players, and at odd times Stanwood was permitted to assist.
One of the evils of ocean traveling, also due to the monotony, is gambling. Most of the steam-ship companies have put a ban on the practice, but it is obvious that they cannot prevent card playing, and where men determine to pass their time in this way it is comparatively easy to make side bets without its being generally known.
All employees on board the ships of this line were instructed to keep a sharp outlook for in-fractions of the rules against gambling and to warn passengers against professional gamblers, and the same warning was given to the boys when they shipped at San Francisco.
The third day out from Honolulu, Winfield mentioned to Stanwood that he had seen Sinclair on deck only twice during the two previous days, and was worried about his appearance. While speaking they caught a glimpse of him passing hurriedly along the quarter deck.
His face was drawn and he looked so unlike the Sinclair they had known, that they were really startled. "I am sure something must be the mat-ter with him," said Winfield. "I must talk with his mother, and see if he has been ill."
During the day Winfield approached Mrs. Sinclair, and cautiously referred to Sinclair, inquiring whether he was ill or not.
"I have noticed him with some alarm since we left Honolulu," she said. "He was not well when he came back from the afternoon visit, the time you went to the ball game. Was he all right during the time he was with you'?" and Mrs. Sinclair glanced at Winfield with an appealing eye.
How sorry he was that she had asked him the question. He must either tell her the truth, or confess to what occurred, and when his face changed its color, and he shifted about, she, with a motherly instinct, knew that he was trying to avoid the answer.
She leaned forward in an attitude of extreme earnestness, while continuing: "Don't hesitate to tell me what you know. Sinclair has been a good boy always, probably a little wild sometimes, but he is incapable of doing a real wrong."
"I believe that," said Winfield, and then, in spite of himself, he told her what happened. "But he did it just for fun, and we didn't have sense enough to stop him."
"I thank you for the confidence you have imposed in me, and for telling the truth without hesitation. I shall not tell him that you related the circumstance to me."
While this interview was taking place, Stan-wood, in the course of his duties, was going for-ward on the second deck, and while passing a cabin plainly heard the voice of Sinclair, apparently, who was remonstrating with some one.
He lingered near enough to learn that those within were engaged in a game. Then he recalled what Winfield had said about Sinclair, and his continual absence from the deck. He rushed to the upper deck in order to find Winfield, but the latter was too busily engaged in attending the players of a match game of shuffle-board to heed his beckonings, but as he was returning he fortunately met Mr. Munroe, to whom he confided what he had seen.
Stanwood was requested to go to the Purser's office at once, after Mr. Munroe had heard his story.
"They are swindling that boy," said Mr. Munroe, "and have also taken in several more to my knowledge, but we can do nothing unless we have some direct proof. Now, it will be dependent on you to get the information so we can act. Are you willing to undertake it ?"
"Yes; but tell me what I must do."
"You must take the place of the boy who is serving them. I will have the steward substitute you for the boy who is taking refreshments to their cabin," said the Purser.
The boy who acted in that capacity was called in, and the change in uniforms having been effected, the latter quickly told Stanwood of the nature of his duties.
Stanwood went down, almost trembling with excitement. A call on the annunciator indicated 127. "Now is your chance," said the steward.
He walked forward briskly and entered. There, seated around a table, were three men, and Sinclair.
Gold, silver and paper money littered the center of the table, while at the four places were bills and coins. One of the men undoubtedly was intoxicated, an array of glasses, most of them empty, on a side table conveying the reason for his condition.
Sinclair was flushed and eager, and had eyes for nothing but the great stake before him, so that he did not recognize Stanwood. The order was given for a round of drinks, and Stanwood vas gratified to notice that Sinclair refused to take anything intoxicating.
He rushed out and quickly brought back the order, and as he entered the excitement was at its height. Two of the men were leaning back, while Sinclair, on one side, and one of the men, directly opposite, were looking at each other, and spasmodically, first one and then the other, pushed money toward the center of the table.
When the last money before Sinclair had vanished, his opponent said: "I call you."
Sinclair quickly laid down his cards, and peered across the table. The man drew his hand up from the side of the table, and Stanwood saw a card fall to the floor alongside his chair.
When the man laid down his cards on the table face up, he quietly put both hands around the huge pile of money and slowly drew it toward him, while the face of Sinclair grew white and purple, and his eyes seemed to be immovably fixed.
Stanwood stooped down, picked up the fallen card and laid it on the table. "You have dropped this," he said.
What happened after this he hardly knew. The only thing he remembered distinctly was the form of the man sitting beside Sinclair, who seemed to raise up and swing forward toward the gambler opposite the young man.
The terrific scramble, and the shouts, soon brought a deck officer to the scene. Stanwood had recovered sufficiently, after the first onslaught, to see that Sinclair was safe and that an officer was pointing a revolver at the gambler who had raked in the money.
Sinclair peered at Stanwood, for a moment, and then shouted: "What, you here?"
"Yes," said Stanwood. "But what has happened? My head feels so funny."
"I should think it would after that blow," answered Sinclair.
"Blow? What blow?"
"That swindler over there,—" but Sinclair had no opportunity for further explanations. The officer conducted them to the Captain's office, where the man seated by the side of Sinclair made his statement.
"This man," said he, indicating the gambler, "and this other fellow, have worked the game together. A friend of mine was swindled by them a day ago, and they worked this young man up to the proper point yesterday, so he was eager to continue the game to-day.
"They permitted him to win a thousand dollars, and the expose came much sooner than I expected. It came about in this way. The young man had gone to the limit of his stakes, and when that swindler saw that he had bet all his money, called his hand.
"Then, as Mr. Sinclair had a better hand, he played the trick of substitution, and he would have gotten away with it, too, if this young man, who had just brought in our last order, had not, innocently, picked up the card, which he discarded when he performed the substitution."
News of this kind will filter through a ship, how-ever much the officers as well as the principals try to hide it, and when Winfield, an hour after-wards, was called to Mrs. Sinclair's cabin, he was dumbfounded at the news which she gave him of the affair, because his duties had kept him from seeing Stanwood in the meantime.
The boys then learned that Sinclair had an in-dependent fortune, and that in the past he bad been petted and kept within bounds by his mother, and this was the first time he had found freedom to spread his wings and attempt to fly alone.
His gratitude to Stanwood was beyond expression. Mrs. Sinclair put her arms around the boy and thanked him, and showered her congratulations on him, until he was considerably affected. "I am very glad, and feel almost as happy about it as you do," he said, "and I know Sinclair will never do that again; will you?" he inquired, as he looked him full in the face.
"Never!" said Sinclair; adding: "Well, you two are the greatest pair of fellows I ever saw. Do you know, mother, these boys had a great deal of experience. They were detectives before they left the United States?"
Mrs. Sinclair started back in amazement. "Oh, no," said Winfield, "not enough to hurt us. We were in that business because it was the only thing we could get to do, but that isn't our occupation," and Mrs. Sinclair was all smiles again.
The gambler was not locked up, but the story made him a very unpopular individual, and he was shunned by all on board, while Stanwood came in for a full share of praise for his part in the affair. The Captain commended him for detecting the cheat, but it must be said that at the time he picked up the card he had no idea that the gambler had purposely dropped it, although he had noted that the gambler's hand was under the table shortly before the card fell.
Later, when it was definitely learned that the man was a professional sharp, who lived on the sea, he and his companion were compelled to disgorge the gains so unscrupulously taken in during the trip. One of the victims, an elderly man named Horton, made it a point to thank Stanwood for his services, because of the money restored to him. Reference is made to this man, because later on, in their travels, our young heroes met him again, and found in him a friend at a time when a friend was needed.
But they were nearing Japan. Another day and they would steam into the great harbor of Yokohama, the gateway to Tokio, capital of Japan. The steamer was scheduled to remain there for a day, and thus afford ample opportunity to visit some of the wonders of the place.