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The dog, like the horse, abases the base. Being base, Waiter Merritt Emory was abased by his desire for the possession of Michael. Had there been no Michael, his conduct would have been quite different. He would have dealt with Daughtry as Daughtry had described, as between white men. He would have warned Daughtry of his disease and enabled him to take ship to the South Seas or to Japan, or to other countries where lepers are not segregated. This would have worked no hardship on those countries, since such was their law and procedure, while it would have enabled Daughtry and Kwaque to escape the hell of the San Francisco pest-house, to which, because of his baseness, he condemned them for the rest of their lives.
Furthermore, when the expense of the maintenance of armed guards over the pest-house, day and night, throughout the years, is considered, Walter Merritt Emory could have saved many thousands of dollars to the tax-payers of the city and county of San Francisco, which thousands of dollars, had they been spent otherwise, could have been diverted to the reduction of the notorious crowding in school-rooms, to purer milk for the babies of the poor, or to an increase of breathing-space in the park system for the people of the stifling ghetto. But had Walter Merritt Emory been thus considerate, not only would Daughtry and Kwaque have sailed out and away over the sea, but with them would have sailed Michael.
Never was a reception-roomful of patients rushed through more expeditiously than was Doctor Emory's the moment the door had closed upon the two policemen who brought up Daughtry's rear. And before he went to his late lunch, Doctor Emory was away in his machine and down into the Barbary Coast to the door of the Bowhead Lodging House. On the way, by virtue of his political affiliations, he had been able to pick up a captain of detectives. The addition of the captain proved necessary, for the landlady put up a stout argument against the taking of the dog of her lodger. But Milliken, captain of detectives, was too well known to her, and she yielded to the law of which he was the symbol and of which she was credulously ignorant.
As Michael started out of the room on the end of a rope, a plaintive call of reminder came from the window-sill, where perched a tiny, snow-white cockatoo.
"Cocky," he called. "Cocky."
Walter Merritt Emory glanced back and for no more than a moment hesitated. "We'll send for the bird later," he told the landlady, who, still mildly expostulating as she followed them downstairs, failed to notice that the captain of the detectives had carelessly left the door to Daughtry's rooms ajar.
* * * * *
But Walter Merritt Emory was not the only base one abased by desire of possession of Michael. In a deep leather chair, his feet resting in another deep leather chair, at the Indoor Yacht Club, Harry Del Mar yielded to the somniferous digestion of lunch, which was for him breakfast as well, and glanced through the first of the early editions of the afternoon papers. His eyes lighted on a big headline, with a brief five lines under it. His feet were instantly drawn down off the chair and under him as he stood up erect upon them. On swift second thought, he sat down again, pressed the electric button, and, while waiting for the club steward, reread the headline and the brief five lines.