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´╗┐Title: Stan Lynn - A Boy's Adventures in China
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stan Lynn - A Boy's Adventures in China" ***

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Stan Lynn, by George Manville Fenn.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
STAN LYNN, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

"CAN YOU USE A SWORD?"

"Yes!  What is it?"

"Hist, boy!  Jump up and dress."

"Oh, it's you, father!" said the newly aroused sleeper, slipping out of
bed--or, rather, off his bed, for the heat of an Eastern China night had
made him dispense with bedclothes.

He made a frantic dash at his trousers, feeling confused and strange in
the darkness, and hardly knowing whether he was dreaming or awake, as he
whispered:

"Is anything the matter?"

There was no reply, and the lad became conscious of the fact that his
father had passed out of the room after awakening him.

Dressing in the darkness is not pleasant.  Buttons have a habit of
making for the wrong holes, socks and collars and ties of slipping off
the bedside chair and hiding underneath anywhere; while if it is very
dark, elbows come in contact with pieces of furniture, and the back of
the hair-brush is liable to come rap against the skull, instead of the
yielding, bristly front.

Stanley Lynn went through divers experiences of this kind as he hurried
on his clothes, wondering what was the matter the while, and coming to
the conclusion that Uncle Jeff must have been taken ill and wanted the
doctor.

The lad had just come to this decision when a faint click told him that
the door had been reopened--proof of which came in the shape of a
whisper:

"Dressed, boy?"

"Yes, father.  Is Uncle Jeff ill?"

"Hi?  No, my boy.  But be very quiet; they don't know that we are
stirring."

"Who don't, father?"

"Bah!  Don't ask questions, boy," said his father in an impatient
whisper.  "There, there! of course you want to know.  Here, Stan, can
you fight?"

"A little, father," said the boy in a tone full of surprise.  "I had two
or three sets-to at school."

"Pooh!  Absurd!  Look here, boy; your uncle Jeff was alarmed by sounds
down by the warehouse entry, and looking out cautiously, he saw men at
work by the big doors."

"Robbers, father?" said the boy excitedly.

"Yes, robbers--river pirates."

"And you want me to go for the police?"

"No, boy; I want you to help us to keep the wretches at bay.  We shall
be only three with you, and we can't afford to reduce our numbers to
two.  Can you load and fire a pistol?"

"Yes, father; Tom Dicks and I used to go rabbit-shooting with one--"

"Then you ought to be able to hit a man if you can shoot rabbits."

The thought flashed across the boy's brain that, though he and his
fellow-pupil had gone shooting on the Clovelly cliffs times enough, they
had never once hit a rabbit; but there was no time to communicate this
fact to his father.  "And besides," he thought, "I dare say firing the
pistol will be enough; the noise will frighten the men away."

"Can you use a sword, Stan?"

"Yes, father.  You know I had fencing lessons."

"Bah!" muttered his elder impatiently.  "Poking about a square skewer
with a leather-covered button at the end!  I mean a service sword--cut
and thrust.  There! you must try.  Catch hold and come along.  Loaded,
mind."

The last words were uttered as the boy felt the butt of a revolver
thrust into one hand, the handle of a sword into the other.

"Tread softly, boy," whispered his father.  "This way."

Stanley Lynn felt more confused than ever, for he had only returned from
England two days before, after six years' absence and work at a big
school; and the home he had now come to in Hai-Hai was a very much
larger and more important place than that he had quitted at Canton years
before.  Everything had seemed strange, even by day, in the big, roomy,
lightly built place connected with the great warehouse and wharf, while
the lower part of the former building was used as offices and
sampling-rooms.  He had not half mastered the intricacies of the place
by the previous evening, while now in the darkness--woke up from a deep
sleep--everything seemed puzzling in the extreme.

"Got him?" said a familiar voice out of the darkness.

"Yes."

"That's right.  Don't be alarmed, Stan.  The rascals are breaking into
the office, but I think if we keep up a little revolver-shooting they'll
soon go back to their boats."

"Eh?" cried Stanley's father.  "Then they came in boats?"

"I've not seen them; but of course they came in boats.  Hist!"

There was no need for the warning, for all held their breath and
listened to a low, scratching, tearing noise suggestive of some tool
being used to break open a door.

"They're at the big side-entry," said Stanley's father.

"No; it's the little office door, I'm sure," said the gentleman whom
Stanley's father addressed as Jeff.  "Now then, what shall we do?  Go
down and fire through the door, or give them a dose out of one of these
windows?"

"It all comes of building a place so far from help," said Stanley's
father, ignoring his brother's question.

"Don't grumble, man," was the reply.  "Why, in another year we shall be
quite shut in."

"Will that save us now?" said Stanley's father bitterly.

"No, Noll, old fellow," said his brother cheerfully.  "We shall have to
save ourselves this time--independently.--Like fighting, Stan?" he
continued, turning to the boy.

"No, uncle; hate it," said the lad laconically.

"Ha!  I dare say this is not the only time you will be called upon to do
things you don't like.--Now, now, what is it to be--downstairs, and a
few shots through the panels?"

"I suppose so--Take care, Stan; they are savage beasts to deal with."

"Yes, the brutes!" said Uncle Jeff; "but he need not expose himself.
We'll do the work if he hands us the tools."

"That I shan't!" muttered the boy, gripping sword and pistol tightly.
"Father doesn't wish me to do that."

"Come along," said Uncle Jeff.  "Shall I lead, Noll?"

"Yes; go on.--Take care how you come, Stan.  And mind this, boy: if the
enemy do begin to fire, throw yourself flat on your face at once."

"Yes, father," was the reply; and the next minute, as Stan judged, they
were standing in a wide passage, listening to the scraping, tearing
noise, which sounded dull and smothered, till all at once, after a faint
rustling which indicated that Uncle Jeff had unlocked, unbarred,
unbolted, and thrown open a door, the cracking and tearing sounded quite
loud.

"Bless 'em!" whispered Uncle Jeff, "they mean silk.  Never mind; we'll
give them lead instead.  Be ready!  Silence!  They don't know we're
here."

As he spoke Uncle Jeff moved towards the spot from which the noise came,
and Stan felt his arm grasped above the elbow by his father and guided
in one particular direction till he touched his uncle in the dark.

In the brief moments which ensued, Stan, now fully awake not only to
what was going on but to the danger of his position, seemed to see a
group of rough-looking, semi-savage Chinese--with whose stolid,
half-cunning, half-treacherous countenances he had become acquainted
during his short sojourn in port--standing just outside the office door,
looking on while three or four were plying crowbars and trying to prise
open the stout door, which seemed to be bravely resisting their efforts,
till all at once there was a sharp crack and the falling inside of a
piece of wood.

As the wood fell with a soft, clattering sound all became silent, the
attacking party evidently listening for the occupants of the house to
raise an alarm, or at all events to make some sign.

But no one inside stirred until, after quite ten minutes--which seemed
to Stan like sixty--the cracking and breaking of wood was heard again.

Then Uncle Jeff turned to his brother and whispered:

"Hold your hand.  I'll try what a shot by way of warning will do.  If we
fire and wound the wretches they will be furious, and we are very weak."

Stanley's father whispered back two words which did not in the least
accord with the position of the listeners, for he said:

"Very well."

The next moment Stan saw a bright flash of light cut the darkness,
showing by its diagonal direction that the pistol had been fired towards
the ceiling.

The report sounded loud, and was followed once more by perfect silence.

The lad's heart gave a leap, and a feeling of profound relief and
satisfaction came over him.

"Frightened them away!" he said to himself; and the horrible thoughts
which had attacked him like a nightmare, of the atrocities of which the
marauding Chinese were reported to have been guilty, were dying slowly
away, when the lad's spirits sank again to zero, and he felt as cold,
for all at once a savage burst of yells arose, followed by a fierce
attack upon the door.  All attempt at concealment was now at an end, and
the attempt became perfectly open.

"Won't this bring help, father?" said Stan in a voice that sounded
rather choking.

"No," said Uncle Jeff shortly.  "People will think it is some Chinese
row, and by the time the right sort of help comes it will be too late if
we don't take care.--Now then, Oliver, it means business.  We must hold
the place till help does come.  Make ready, and let's give them three
shots through the door.  I don't suppose it will do any harm to them,
but it may scare them off.  Now then!--You will fire too, Stan?"

"Yes, uncle."

"Quick, then!  Aim straight at the spot where the noise is loudest.
Ready!--Fire!"

Three revolver-shots sounded almost like one, and this was followed by a
low, fierce snarl.  The beating and breaking of the woodwork ceased, and
there was an angry, passionate cry, with a deep, hurried growling as of
many voices.

"Some one hit," said Stanley's father.

"And serve the wretch right!" cried Uncle Jeff fiercely.  "Come, Oliver,
old fellow, it is no time for being squeamish; it's our lives or
theirs."

"Yes," said Stanley's father firmly.  "Forgive me if I had a few
minutes' hesitation.  We must fight, Jeff, and do our best.  Help must
come at last."

"But can't I go and fetch help, father--uncle?"

"No, boy--no," said his uncle impatiently.  "Do you want to be hacked to
pieces?"

"No, uncle.  They wouldn't see me in the dark."

"Perhaps not, boy, but they'd feel you.  There are dozens of them, and
you may rest assured that they have surrounded the place.  Help must
come from without.  All we can do is to hold out and fight as savagely
as they do."

"Hush! what's that?" said Stanley's father sharply.

"I can hear it: hammering somewhere at the back," said Stanley
excitedly.

"It's what I expected," said his uncle.  "They are trying to break in
there.  Let's give them a couple of rounds, and then get out of here and
barricade the door."

"I don't like giving up till they force a way in," said Stanley's
father; and the lad felt that he was right, until his uncle spoke.

"Are we fit to meet such an onslaught as they will make?" he said
angrily.  "They'll rush in with spear and sword--you know their reckless
way.  We should be overpowered at once.  Come, Oliver, leave all to me.
Firing is our only chance."

"Yes," said Stanley's father.  "Give the word."

It was given, and another little volley was delivered, filling the
office with light for a moment, and the dense, dank smell of burnt
gunpowder for long enough.

This volley did more mischief, for much of the woodwork of the panels
had been cut away; but the result was only to enrage the attacking party
more and more, making them hack furiously at the door, and with such
effect that the proximity of the sounds indicated that it could not be
long before it was broken right away.

"Be ready for the retreat," said Uncle Jeff.  "Can you find your way,
Stan?"

"Yes, uncle."

"Then, when I give the word, pass through first and stand aside while I
bolt and bar the inner door.--Ah! it's time to move.  Now then, fire,
and then dash through into the lobby."

It was none too soon, for all at once, after a thundering crack or two,
the remains of the door gave way.  The marauders rushed in with a yell,
but to be met with another little volley; and as they came on, yelling
savagely, and making a rush for the position occupied by the defenders,
as indicated by the flashes of the revolvers, yet another volley was
fired, checking them for the moment, and giving Uncle Jeff time to slam
the inner door in their faces, and to lock and bolt it rapidly in the
black darkness.

"There!" he said; "that will take them some time to get through, and
every minute is of value now."

Stan could hear the enemy raging round the office they had just quitted;
and then, after a little shouting, the shape of the door became visible,
marked out as it was by faint lines of light, while from the keyhole
came a vivid ray which cut through the black passage and formed a dull
spot upon the wall at the end.

"Let's go up now," said Uncle Jeff, "and do a little firing from one of
the upstair windows."

"Do you mean to come down here again?" asked Stanley's father.

"Not while these ruffians are near.--What do you say, Stan?"

"It would be like throwing our lives away, uncle."

"Quite right, my boy.  No; we will lock the door at the top of the
stairs and then barricade it.  We shall be pretty safe then from attack
made below."

"They will try to reach us by one of the first-floor windows."

"Yes; but they will only be able to come up one at a time, and so long
as the ammunition lasts I think we can keep them back.--Why, Stan, my
lad, this is a queer experience for you," continued Uncle Jeff as,
taking everything quite coolly, he helped his brother to lock and
carefully secure what was literally the front-door of their dwelling,
although it was entered by means of a flight of steps, and was on the
first floor of the newly built house.

"Yes, uncle, it is strange," said the boy quietly: "but it seems very
horrible for you and my father."

"Eh?" said Uncle Jeff dryly.  "Well, yes, it is rather horrible, but
mostly so for the Chinamen.  There! let's get to one of the windows,
and--"

"Yes, uncle--quick!  That one to the left.  Oh, pray make haste!"

"Why?" said Stan's father, impressed by his son's sudden display of
excitement.

"I saw the top of a ladder faintly showing against the sky."

As the lad finished speaking, proof of his assertion came in the shape
of a little shower of splintered glass driven out of one of the
window-sashes to fall tinkling into the dark room.

Almost at the same moment Stan obeyed the first dictates of his
common-sense as called forth by the emergency; for, without waiting to
be told, he raised the pistol he held and took a quick aim in what he
considered to be the right direction.

A loud yell was the result, and as Stan's father rushed to the window to
follow up the shot with another, he held his hand, and stood looking
down into the dimly seen group below.  He was just in time to make out
faintly the top of a ladder describing an arch above the crowd beneath,
while, clinging to it and crying for help, there, like a bundle of
clothes, was the figure of the man who had first attempted the escalade.

Stanley caught a glimpse of the figure too, and rushed to the window,
just in time to see the crowd in motion and the luckless, already
wounded Chinaman come heavily down among his friends.

"Will they try again, father?" whispered Stan, as if in fear of his
words being heard through the broken window.

"Unless help comes," was the reply, given in a tone which seemed to
Stanley to suggest that the enemy would be sure to return, and before
long.

"But if they do try to raise the ladder again, Stan, my boy," said Uncle
Jeff cheerily, "why, you must show your skill with the pistol once more.
Why, boy, I couldn't have shot like that!"

"Jeff," said Stan's father hurriedly, "I can hear them busy below."

"Trying to get up?  Well, they have got their work cut out.  But, hullo!
what's that?  Smashing up the office furniture."

"Yes; that's it, uncle.  Listen; you can hear it quite plainly."

"Poor, child-like beggars!" said Uncle Jeff contemptuously.  "How I
should like to have the lot trapped by a company of foot, and then see
them thoroughly caned like schoolboys!  Yes, they are smashing things up
pretty well.  Bad job, Oliver, for we shall have to furnish the whole
office again, and rebuild it, too, with the rest of the place."

"Oh, not so bad as that, Jeff!" said Stanley's father.

"Yes, my lad; you may make up your mind for the worst.  Don't you grasp
why they are breaking up the things?"

"Fire?" cried Stanley excitedly.

"Right, my lad.  They're going to burn us out."

Stanley's father stamped heavily upon the floor in the impotent rage he
felt.

"What's to be done, Jeff?" he said.  "They'll beat us now."

"Fire for fire, brother Oliver," said Uncle Jeff through his
teeth.--"Here, Stan, my lad, don't you begin thinking that your uncle is
a bloodthirsty wretch, because all he asks for here is to be let alone
to make his living and a bit to spare.--Do you hear, sir?"

"Yes, uncle," said Stan, who had more ears for the sounds below than for
his uncle's words.

"That's right, then.  The Chinese can run away if they like, but if they
don't they must take their chance of getting bullets through them.--Now,
Oliver, old lad, set the example.  We can't stand here to be roasted to
death, for it would be very unpleasant; so shoot as many of the wretches
as you can.--And you, Stan, my boy, help him.  Ah, look out!  They're
raising the ladder again."

Both Stan and his father saw the peril at the same moment, and they
rushed forward, Stan following his father's example and beating out a
pane of glass with the butt of his revolver so as to make room to fire.

They were invisible to the attacking party, but the noise made by the
falling glass directed the attention of the mob to their presence, and
they were saluted by a savage burst of yelling and a shower of missiles,
which did no more harm than to destroy a pane or two of glass.

It was different with the fire the enemy drew: for, feeling that they
were regularly fighting for their lives, and growing desperate, Stan and
his father watched the moving ladder, whose end came with a sharp rap
against the sill of the window.  As soon as the upper part was darkened
by the figure of a man, Oliver Lynn fired, there was a yell, and the man
stood fast.  But another rushed up to his support, and this time Stanley
fired.  The new arrival let go his hold of the ladder-sides, jerked
himself back, and fell headlong on to the people watching his progress.

But the sight of their falling friends only enraged the attacking party,
and another man or two rushed up the ladder, just as Uncle Jeff seized
and threw the window wide-open, waited his time, and feeling more than
seeing that the men were crowding up, stepped out on the sill, seized
the top of the ladder, and raising it up a little, made one tremendous
heave and thrust, forcing it outward till it was perfectly
perpendicular.  Then he gave a final thrust and sent it outwards, the
mob below yelling, and some of those on the rungs of the ladder
beginning to leap off before it went over backwards with a loud crash,
but unfortunately taking Uncle Jeff with it, for he found it impossible
to recover his balance.



CHAPTER TWO.

"KEEP UP THE FIRING."

"Gone!" gasped Stan as he looked down into the seething darkness.

"Don't stand talking, boy!" cried his father angrily.  "Fire--fire to
keep the enemy off.  Be careful--be quick!"

He set the example, keeping up a steady delivery of shots from his
revolver, Stan giving shot for shot, but with his hand trembling so that
he could not take aim.  Then all at once, to his intense delight, the
firing seemed to be answered from out of the darkness below, but against
the enemy, it being plain after the first shot that Uncle Jeff had
regained his feet and had joined in the pistol practice with such effect
that for the moment the enemy took to flight.

"Keep up the firing," shouted Uncle Jeff from out of the darkness; and
his order was obeyed, while the speaker seized the ladder lying upon the
ground and succeeded in raising it erect and then letting the top lean
against the window.

In another minute the sill was reached; and this time, being more upon
his guard, Uncle Jeff succeeded in maintaining his balance as he thrust
the ladder away again, for it to fall with a heavy, splintering crash
which broke it quite in two, just as the mob of assailants came rushing
back again, ready to attack the besieged with all their might.

"Howl away, you ruffians!" cried Uncle Jeff as he climbed in again, for
just then a yell of disappointment arose from the enemy as they found
the ladder broken.  But directly after they had seized the longer piece
and reared that up, to begin mounting afresh; but, to the great relief
of the attacked, it was too short, and the first man could only hold on
by the window-sill and try to drag himself up.

He managed to get a good hold with one hand, while with the other, from
which a great knife hung by means of a piece of cord, he, after gripping
his weapon, smashed in the lower panes of glass, and then began hacking
at the window-bars.

"Stand back, Stan," cried Uncle Jeff, "or he'll get a cut at you with
that knife.  Do you hear?"

Stan heard, but too late, for in his excitement he had seized his
revolver by the muzzle so as to use the butt like a club, and rushed
forward to the rugged opening.

He could see the big Chinaman as he hacked away, but for the moment the
man did not see him.  Then, with an angry snarl, he threw back the blade
of his heavy knife till the top of it touched his shoulder, and struck
with all his might at the lad's unguarded head.

For the moment it seemed as if Stan's career was at an end.  But first
blow in fighting means a great deal, and certainly it did here, for the
butt of the pistol came down with a crash on the fingers of the
Chinaman's left hand, which was snatched away completely numbed.  The
cut from the knife fell short, its deliverer dropping sharply downward
on to the man close below him, making him give way in turn, and sending
the weight of two men upon the third, who involuntarily joined in
loading the fourth, who in turn helped to sweep the fifth from the
ladder, which the next moment was quite clear.

"Bravo, Stan!" cried Uncle Jeff.--"Now, Oliver, old lad, let's get the
dining-table up edgeways against the window and fire from behind it--
Quick!--That's the way; let it rest with its legs sideways on the
floor."

The heavy wood table made a splendid breastwork, though as soon as it
was reared up across the window it shut out half the dim light, which
was just enough to enable the defenders to see their way.  And now, in
obedience to Uncle Jeff's hurriedly issued command, exhausted
cartridge-cases were withdrawn, and the barrels rested upon the edge of
the table so as to steady the aim the next time a head appeared.

"What's to be the next thing?" said Uncle Jeff.

"Fire," said his brother grimly.

"I hope not," whispered Stan; "but they're chopping again below.  Hark!
you can hear them plainly."

"Yes, it sounds bad, my boy; but help must come soon.  I say, Stan."

"Yes, uncle."

"I thought you were done for, and I hardly know now how you managed to
escape."

"It was close, uncle; but I'm afraid I must have crushed the man's
fingers horribly."

"Poor fellow!" said Uncle Jeff dryly.

"Here, Jeff," said his brother hoarsely; "do you smell that?"

"Oh yes, I can smell it; I did a minute ago.  Look! that's smoke rising
past the window."

"Yes, I thought it was," said Stan huskily; "but I was in hopes that it
was from our firing."

"No," said Uncle Jeff; "it's from their firing, my lad; and with such an
ally we shall be done for.--Oliver, old fellow, we must beat a retreat."

"How can we?  The wretches are at back and front."

"Yes, it is awkward, Oliver, but we shall not be able to stay here
long."

"We must make for the next floor."

"All the farther to jump when the bad time comes."

"Look out, father!--They're coming up again, uncle."

The table proved invaluable now, for as the enemy made a fresh attack,
swarming up the broken ladder, shots were delivered steadily, and the
blows struck by the savage wretches fell vainly upon the stout, hard
wood.

Three men fell headlong, but their places were taken directly by others,
who were maddened by disappointment, and made the table quiver with the
blows they managed to strike with the clumsy axes and swords they bore,
till the sharp crack of one of the revolvers tumbled the savage wretches
back upon their comrades below, who uttered a chorus of savage yells and
threats at every fresh mishap.

But still they came on, till after four final discharges there was a
sharp, cracking sound below; glass had evidently been shivered in one of
the lower windows, and a rush of flame illumined the smoke that now
floated up thickly, while for the first time the besieged had a view of
their fierce enemies who paused from their attack and stood back
watching the progress of the mischief they had done.

"Don't show yourselves in the light, either of you," said Uncle Jeff,
doing at once that which he had forbidden.

"Then don't you!" cried Stan's father.  "Keep back, man--keep back!"

"Directly, old fellow," said his brother.  "I only want to see what they
are about to do next.  They're busy about something."

"I can see," cried Stan excitedly from where he crouched with one eye
over the edge of the table.  "They're carrying the men who have fallen
away out of the light."

"What!" cried Uncle Jeff.  "Why, so they are--thirty of them at least,
hard at work.  Well, they have some humanity in them after all."

"It's almost too good to be true, Jeff," said Stan's father, "but I
believe they are giving us up for a bad job."

"You're right, Oliver," was the excited reply.  "That's it; they find us
too hard nuts to crack."

"They feel that the fire will bring help, and that it is time to be off.
Come and help to remove the barricade; we must escape before the fire
takes a firmer hold."

"Wait a moment, both of you," cried Uncle Jeff.  "Yes.  Hurrah in a
whisper.  Don't shout.  It's all right; they are making off, and we are
saved."

"You forget the fire, Jeff," said Stanley's father sadly.

"Not I.  Let's hurry down and see what mischief has been done."

"No, no," cried Stan excitedly as the glow from beneath increased; "they
are coming back again."

"What!" cried Uncle Jeff.  "No, you are wrong this time; it is a fresh
mob from the busy part of the town, coming to see what plunder they can
get from the fire."

"Yes, I think you're right," said Stanley's father--"come to see our
ruin."

"Who's that talking about ruin?" said Uncle Jeff scornfully as, with
Stan's help, he took down the barricade and unfastened bar and bolt.
"Let's see what mischief the fire has done before we talk of that."

"Think of saving our lives," said Stan's father excitedly.  "Never mind
the rest."

"But I do mind the rest," cried Uncle Jeff.  "Come along, Stan.  Never
say die!  I don't believe the fire has had time to take much hold."

"What are you going to do?" cried Stan's father.

"Make a dash for the outer office, where the buckets hang.  They're all
full."

"For heaven's sake take care!  Don't run any risks."

Uncle Jeff did not seem to hear him, but ran down the stairs, to find
the lobby full of smoke.  His first act was to dash out the panes of
glass in a fanlight to admit the fresh air, while directly after he
threw open the door, whose fastenings Stan had by his instructions
loosened.

"Keep back," cried Stan's father; "it is madness."

"Bah!" said Uncle Jeff, who had a better view of the state of affairs.
"Take a long breath and follow me."

In his excitement Stan had just one glimpse of the office interior,
where towards the window a great bonfire-like heap was blazing away,
licking the side about the opening, and forming a column of fire and
smoke which went wreathing and darting out, many-tongued, to rise high
in the night air, spreading out towards the wharf, and making the water
of the river beyond gleam, while a busy hum of many voices greeted them
from beyond the flame and smoke.

"We can do nothing, Jeff," cried Stan's father; "only escape for our
lives.  It is madness to try and do anything."

"Then let's be mad, old fellow.--Bah!  Nonsense!  The draught carries
all the fire from us, and we can breathe easily.  Rouse up, man!"

"I am roused up," cried Stan's father angrily; "but I must think of my
boy."

"Don't!" roared Uncle Jeff; "he's big enough to think for himself.--Now,
Stan, out through this door and get a bucket of water.  Do as I do.--
Come on, Oliver."

"But the ceiling's catching.  The place will be all in flames directly."

"Of course it will if we stand still and watch it.  Come on."

He led the way through the door before him, making a sudden rush past
the blazing heap, and the other two followed, each lifting down a bucket
of water from the dozen hanging in a row on the pegs where Uncle Jeff's
foresight had had them placed ready for such an emergency.  As soon as
he had seized his pair of buckets he stepped back through the brightly
illuminated door; and as Stan quickly followed him, the two stood
together, the boy feeling the scorching glow of the flames upon his
face.

"Let me do the throwing, Stan," said Uncle Jeff calmly, as he set one
bucket on the floor.  "Stand back, and look out for the choking steam."

Then, with a clever whirl of the bucket, he sent its contents in a
curve, spreading as it were so much golden liquid metal over the flames,
a good sprinkling striking the woodwork on both sides of the window; and
in an instant the sharp hissing of the encounter between fire and water
was accompanied by a change, the fire still blaring furiously, but a
great cloud of steam being formed, the odour of which struck Stan as
abominable.

"Bravo!" cried Uncle Jeff.  "Smell the hydrogen, my lad?"

As he spoke he set down his empty bucket, took up the full one at his
feet, and scattered its contents in the same way and with a similar
effect to that which had preceded it.

"Now," he cried, "set down your two buckets, my lad; take back my empty
ones, and bring two more.--Set yours down too, Oliver," he continued
coolly, "and do as the boy does--unless you want to play fireman."

"No, no; go on," said Stan's father.  "Splendid, my dear boy!  Go on."

"Yes, I'll go on," said Uncle Jeff coolly; "only one mustn't waste a
drop."

As he spoke he scattered the contents of both Stan's buckets, and then
those of his brother, so deftly over the blazing woodwork that by the
time the first six had been emptied the heart of Stan's father rose with
relief, for the change was wonderful.  Then, as the second six
bucketfuls were being thrown, the first two right upward to the ceiling,
whence they began to drip in a steady shower whose drops hissed and
crackled where they fell, it became evident that very little further
effort would be needed to master the flames.  In fact, now that the
twelve buckets were nearly all exhausted, Stan found himself able to
throw out the empty ones to some of the men who had gathered outside,
plenty of willing hands being ready to catch them; and under the
directions given in English by a loud voice outside, the men--coolies,
most of them--hurried down to the edge of the wharf where the river ran
muddily, and a second dozen buckets nearly finished the task.

"Stitch in time saves nine--eh, Stan?" cried Uncle Jeff merrily; "and a
tumblerful of water at the beginning of a fire is better than a hogshead
at the end.--H'm! there's plenty of help now, Oliver.  We're not ruined
yet, old man."

"Thank heaven, no, Jeff!" said his brother.  "I wish I had your coolness
and nerve."

"And I wish I had your nous, old fellow," replied his brother quietly.
"But there! we won't have the place flooded.  I'll scatter about a
couple of dozen more buckets over the smoking and charred wood; and
then, as the mob gathering out there must be thirsty, we will distribute
a few strings of copper money among them to make up for the chance of
plunder that they have missed."

Friendly voices by the score were now heard making inquiries; the help
was plentiful, and in less than an hour clever carpenters were hammering
away, replacing the broken and burned windows with a lattice-work of
bamboo.  Soon after a late-arriving party of the city guard were
pursuing the marauders, while a certain number were posted about the
offices and warehouse to protect the rich stores within from "friendly"
and unfriendly attack.

But there was no sleep for the Lynns that night, and daylight made such
a display of the effects of the night's business that Stan's first
disposition was to burst out laughing in his uncle's face.

"Eh?  What is it?  Why are you grinning at me, sir?" said the object of
Stan's mirth.

"I couldn't help it, uncle," said the lad apologetically.  "Go and have
a wash, and just look at your face."

"Blackened a bit?  Well, it does smart."

"Why, Jeff," cried Stan's father, "your eyebrows, eyelashes, and beard
are completely burned away."

"What!" cried Uncle Jeff angrily.  "My beautiful great beard?  Oh! that
comes of trying to save this wretched old house and store.--Why, you
heartless young ruffian," he roared as he met his nephew's mirthful
eyes, "you are laughing at my misfortune.  Do you know what a loss like
this means to me?"

"Yes, uncle," replied Stan: "waiting until it grows again."

Uncle Jeff's countenance was a study as he stood staring at his nephew,
his forehead all in wrinkles, eyes screwed up, and lips compressed, till
all at once the muscles relaxed, his eyes opened widely, and a frank,
pleasant smile of satisfaction began to make him look genial and sunny.

"Why, of course!" he cried.  "I was going to put it down as a dead loss.
I never thought of that, Stan.  To be sure, it's only a bit of waiting
for it to grow again.  Here, I can't go out in this state.  Call Sin the
Wicked, Stan."

"Yes, uncle," was the reply, and Stan hurried out.



CHAPTER THREE.

"A BLOODTHIRSTY YOUNG RUFFIAN."

Stan had been long enough in the great port to know something of the
habits of the people, and he was in nowise surprised to find that not
one of the employees had put in an appearance that morning; nor yet that
Pi Sin, the general man-of-all-work of the household, who slept in the
house, was nowhere to be found, for the simple reason that he had
dropped from one of the windows and made off at the first alarm.

The lad was balked, then, at the offset, and had to return to his uncle
for instructions.

"Gone--eh?" said Uncle Jeff.  "Of course he would go.  It doesn't take
much to scare one of his kind.  You'll have to fetch the barber for me,
Stan.  Know where he lives?"

"No," said Stan.

"Keep along the wharf-side till you come to the big pagoda half and mile
along the river, and then go down the narrow lane under the pagoda walls
till you come to his place, just opposite the gate.  You'll see his
shop.  Tell him to come at once."

"Can he speak English?"

"After a fashion; and half-a-dozen other languages too.  Tell him he
must come back with you.  He'll say he can't leave home, but you say the
one word `Dollar' and he'll come at once."

"I understand, uncle," was the reply; and the boy started off, feeling
as if all the previous night's experience had been a dream, and as if he
were still only half-awake.

He was glad to escape from the dwelling over the offices, with their
black, dismantled look, where all was charred wood, wet with the little
deluge of water that had been poured thereon.

The lad sniffed two or three times involuntarily as he made his way out
to pass through a crowd of staring idlers of all sorts and sizes,
dressed in blue cotton jackets and trousers, save those whose costume
half-way down was a pigtail only, the other half to the ground
consisting of a pair of baggy, much-washed cotton trousers, tight at the
ankles, and tucked into clumsy shoes with thick white soles.  They were
all staring vacantly at the damaged office and shattered windows; while
the broken ladder, propped up in two pieces, was placed against the
front of the house, and formed the greatest attraction of all, till Stan
appeared, when about two hundred and fifty pairs of beady, piggish eyes
were turned upon him, and there was a quiver of pigtails of all lengths,
from a few inches to those of the finest growth, which tapped against
the owners' heels as they walked.

"I suppose I shall get to know one face from another in time," thought
Stan as the crowd made way for him, "but at present they all seem to be
alike.  My word!  I do feel glad to get out.  The place smelt like a
school bonfire put out for fear of risk, or as the kitchen did when the
cook upset part of the soup into the fire and made the rest taste just
the same as this smells.--Oh, do get out of the way, some of you!" he
said aloud impatiently.  "Can't you see that I'm in a hurry?"

"You wantee Sin?" said a high-pitched voice close behind; and
Stan stopped short to face a particularly meek-looking,
full-moon-countenanced Chinaman in the cleanest of cotton clothes, and
without a wrinkle of trouble in his placid face.

"Wantee you?  Yes," said Stan angrily, for wakefulness, over-exertion,
and hunger combined had put his nerves in a state of compound
irritation.  The sight of the man, too, brought up ideas of breakfast,
as well as bitter annoyance against him for his desertion of them in
their time of peril.  "Why did you run away last night?"

"Lun away?  Sin no lun away.  Dlop down flat and clawl away so lobbee
man not see."

"Well, it's all the same," cried Stan.  "Oh, you were a coward to desert
us like that!"

The Chinaman smiled feebly, and there was a look of apology in his eyes
as he said meekly:

"Plentee bad man makee Sin all aflaid.  One man enough one man fight.
One man can'tee fight gleat many.  Only one Sin takee big knife and chop
off head."

"But you went away instead," growled Stan sourly.  "Look here, sir, I've
a good mind to kick you."

"What good?  Stan-lee kick Sin, Sin go 'way and cly.  No good cookee
bleakfast."

"Then I won't kick you," said the boy, who felt mollified by the
suggestion of hot tea and cake contained in the man's speech.  "Here!
run off and fetch the barber.  Bring here."

"No come.  Shavee many man."

"You say `Dollar,' and bring him along."

The Chinaman grinned and nodded.

"Come now," he said, and turned to go, but stopped short directly to
look curiously at his young master.

"Well," said Stan, "why don't you go?"

"Wantee go?  Stan-lee wan tee man to shave him?"

"To shave me?  Nonsense!  To shave my uncle."

"What good shave uncle?  Uncle killee.  All loasted 'way in big fi'."

"Nonsense!  He wasn't hurt."

"Not killee?"

"No."

"Not Mistee Lynn killee?"

"What!  My father?"

The man nodded quickly.

"No; we fought the enemy and beat them off."

"Sin velly glad," said the man, smiling.  "All say Mistee Jefflee and
Mistee Lynn allee kill dead and loast black.  Velly good job fo' Sin.
No go find new mastee.  Sin lun fas' now."

He set off at a very slow dog-trot, and the lad looked after him for a
few moments before walking back through the staring crowd, who had
caught from Sin the refutation of their news, and were chattering
eagerly, and, as it seemed to Stan, looking disappointed at the fact
that neither of the English merchants had been killed.  In fact, the
information just received had reduced a serious catastrophe into nothing
better than a pitiful fire and the breaking of a few windows; but the
crowd stopped and stared all the same, just as persistently as a London
gathering would round a house where something or another had happened.

"You've been pretty quick, Stan," said his father as the lad entered the
room where the brothers were discussing the night's proceedings, with
their loaded revolvers lying upon the table.

Uncle Jeff turned sharply and stared.

"You haven't been?" he said as he passed his hand slowly over his singed
face.

Stan told of his meeting with their Chinese cook and general man.

"The cowardly ruffian!" cried Uncle Jeff angrily.  "Did he say anything
about leaving us in the lurch last night?"

Stan told him.

"Of course.  Velly much aflaid.  Just like a Chinaman; but they're brave
enough when they're fifty to one, as they were last night.  He ought to
have stood by us, Stan.  We've behaved well to him."

"He's a very good servant, Jeff," said Stan's father, "and works well
for us.  Don't bully the man for what he cannot help."

"I'm not going to, Oliver.  I know, and I'll forgive him if he'll only
make haste back, bring that precious barber, and get us some breakfast.
I'm starving."

As it happened, the unhappily named man came hurrying back with the
razor-wielder; and soon after the latter had performed his task, turning
Uncle Jeff into a bluff-looking middle-aged man with closely cut hair,
smooth chin, and a short, fierce moustache, Sin made his appearance at
the door, to smilingly announce that "bleakfast" was "leady," and then
stood fast, wide-open of eyes, extended of lips, and shaking gently.

"You scoundrel!" cried Uncle Jeff.  "If you dare to laugh at my
misfortunes I'll kick you downstairs."

"Pi Sin no laugh at Mistee Jeff's misfoltunes," said the man piteously.
"Him laugh see mast' look so 'live and well when Sin tink um dead and
bellied.  Gleat pity didn't make shave all head and weah long tail."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" said Uncle Jeff, who was mollified by the man's
words, "Well, what's for breakfast?"

"Coffee, hot cake--"

"What!" cried Uncle Jeff.  "You've had no time to make hot cakes."

"Pi Sin buy um all leady at bakee when he go fetch shave-man."

"Oh, that's how you managed--eh?" said Uncle Jeff Sin smiled.

"Make poke-pie yes'day.  Nice cold."

"That'll about do--eh, Stan?" said Uncle Jeff.

"Capitally, uncle."

"Got any appetite after your fighting?"

"Oh yes, uncle; it has made me terribly hungry."

"Then come along."

"Hah!" said Uncle Jeff, about a quarter of an hour later, as he wiped
his lips with a paper napkin.  "Who'd ever have thought we should be
having such a breakfast as this in the old place--eh, Oliver?"

"I for one fully expected that we should be buried in its ashes," said
Stan's father.

"Humph!" said Uncle Jeff; "then next time you think such dolorous things
keep them to yourself, and don't say them to spoil your son's
breakfast."

"They don't spoil my breakfast a bit, Uncle Jeff.  More pie, please."

"You're right, Stan.  Sin is a good cook, even if he is no use as a
fighting-man."

"Splendid, uncle."

"And we'll forgive him--eh?"

"Certainly, uncle."

Five minutes later the object of these remarks appeared, to say that a
party of gentlemen had arrived.

It was a deputation from the foreign merchants of the port, to offer
condolences and help to their brethren; and on finding how little the
Lynns had suffered, they did not hesitate to tell them that they might
have expected the fate that befell them, which was like a judgment upon
them for erecting their warehouse and stores so far away from their
brother-merchants, and prophesied more evil to them if they failed now
to remove to a safer position.

"Likely!" said Uncle Jeff.  "Who's going to pull a great place like this
down and build another?"

This after their friends had gone.

"It is impossible, of course, Jeff," said Stan's father sadly.  "We must
content ourselves with strengthening this a little more, and hope to
escape by being more ready for an attack."

By this time clerks and warehousemen--the latter Chinese--were busy at
work over their daily avocations, just as if nothing had happened,
though the remarks among themselves were many.  The native craftsmen,
too--carpenters, painters, and glaziers--were busy repairing damages,
just as if, Stan thought, it was a town in old England, instead of in
the far east of Asia, when a Chinese messenger arrived, a round-faced,
carefully dressed, middle-aged man, who had come in charge of a
consignment of silk from the collecting _hong_ of Lynn Brothers' house
down south on the Mour River; and one of the passages in the letter the
man brought from their manager was the cause of a good deal of
perplexity at such a time.

Stan entered the room after a quiet inspection of the messenger, who
smiled at him blandly and then began to carefully trim and polish the
nails of his forefingers, each of which was long and sharp and kept in a
thimble-like sheath of silver; while, to indicate his higher position in
life than the cook, the new arrival's dark-blue frock was of silk.

"It's very, very awkward," said Stan's father.

"Very," said his brother.  "Quite impossible for me to go now."

"It is not so much help he asks for as a companion," said Stan's father.

"Some one trustworthy whom he can leave in charge for a short time while
he is away buying or visiting at one or other of the _hongs_ up the
river."

"Yes, that is the sort of man; but how are we to get such a person
without sending to England?"

"But he wants him now, by return boat," said Uncle Jeff testily.  "The
fellow must be mad.  Here, I have it," he whispered, leaning across the
table.

"You are busy, father.  Shall I go?" said Stan, who noticed the
movement.

"No," cried Uncle Jeff sharply, answering for his brother.  "Sit down a
bit.  Perhaps we shall want you.--Here, Oliver," he whispered; "why not
send Stan?"

"What!  Oh, he's too young and inexperienced."

"Not a bit too young, and the experience will come."

"But it's so far away, and there may be risks."

"Risks?  Do you think it's going to be half so risky as staying here?
Because if you do, I don't."

"There is something in that," said his brother.

"Of course there is; and we can't slave Blunt to death.  I meant to have
stayed with him a couple of months to lighten his work; but, as we have
said, it is quite impossible.  Stan would be the very fellow."

The lad's father tapped the table with the tips of his fingers and
frowned.

"Very well," he said suddenly.  "He proved that he could play the man
last night.--Here, Stan."

"Yes, father."

"Your uncle and I want you to go south to the Mour River--to our branch
collecting-house there, under the charge of our Mr Blunt."

"Very well, father," said the lad, the news coming like a shock after
the events of the past night.

"You'll find Blunt rather rough--such a man as ought to be named Blunt--
but a good fellow at bottom," said Uncle Jeff.

"I'm afraid you'll find it rather solitary, my boy," said Stan's father;
"but it will be a fine lesson in business, and you'll learn a great
deal."

"Very well, father," said the lad again coldly.

"Hullo, young man!" cried his uncle.  "What's the meaning of this?  You
ought to be jumping for joy at the thought of going to a new place, and
you look as if you don't want to go," said Uncle Jeff.

"I don't, uncle," said the lad.

"And pray why?" said his father.

"Because you are going to send me away, father, as you don't think it is
safe for me here; and I don't want to leave you both in trouble."

There was a dead silence, and the brothers exchanged glances, the eyes
of both looking dark, before the senior spoke, holding out his hand to
grasp that of his son.

"On my word of honour, no, Stan," he said in a voice slightly affected
by the emotion he felt.  "Indeed, it is because we are--your uncle and
I--in a difficulty about responding to our Mour manager's demand.  Your
uncle was to go, but after last night's attack it would be impossible
for him to leave me here alone."

Stan gazed sharply from his father to his uncle and back again, with
doubt shining out of his eyes; then he said in an eager, excited way:

"Then it isn't because I seemed cowardly last night, father?"

"Cowardly!" cried the brothers in a breath.

"And because you want to send me where I shall be safe?"

"No, my dear boy--no," cried his father warmly.

"Not a bit of it, Stan, old chap," cried Uncle Jeff.  "Why, we'd give
anything to keep such a proved soldier with us.  It's because we can't
help ourselves that we want to send you."

"Yes, Stan; your uncle is speaking the simple truth.  But we will not
press you if you feel that you would rather stay here with us."

"Yes, father," said the boy.  "I know it is dangerous, but I would
rather stay here with you."

"Hark at the bloodthirsty young ruffian!" cried Uncle Jeff, with
something like a tremble in his voice.  "He wants to stop here and shoot
down pirates by the score."

"I don't, uncle!" cried the boy angrily.--"I want to be of use to you
now, father, and not to think only of myself.  I'm going to this place
on that river, wherever it is, but I'm afraid I shan't be of so much use
as you expect.  I haven't learnt to be business-like at school, and I
don't think classics and mathematics will do much good where you want me
to go."

"Don't you be too sure of that, my lad," said Uncle Jeff.  "Your school
studies have made you more business-like than you think, boy, and a chap
who is good at mathematics can't help being good and exact over a
merchant's books.  Then you mean to go for us, sir?"

"Of course, uncle.  When does the boat start?"

"Just hark at him!" cried Uncle Jeff.  "He's ready to be off at once."

"But he isn't going so soon as that," said Stan's father, wringing the
boy's hand warmly, and seeming loath to let it go.--"I dare say you'll
not start for three or four days.  There are plenty of vessels sailing,
but it isn't every one that touches at the port from which you must go
up the river in a trading-junk.  But Wing will see to all that, and get
you both passages in the first steamer that suits.  Wing is a very good
man for arrangements of that kind.  In the meantime you must pack a
portmanteau with just the necessaries you require--the simpler the
better."

"And before you go, my young pepper-pod, we'll try if we can arrange for
another piratical display with fireworks on the same scale as last
night's.  Will that do you?"

"Now you're beginning to laugh at me again, uncle," said Stan in a
reproachful tone.

"No, no, no, my dear boy," cried Uncle Jeff warmly; "if I talk lightly
it is only to hide what I feel.  I'd been looking forward to all kinds
of expeditions up-country with you, whenever your father would let two
such idlers go out for a run; but now we must wait till you come back
with one of our boatloads of silk and tea and dyewoods.--Here, Oliver,
we're in luck to have such a representative.--But I say, Stan, don't
take any notice of my face being so bare, but set to work and grow a
respectable beard of your own."

"I shan't do that for years yet, uncle," replied Stan, laughing.

"What!  You don't know, boy.  It's a wonderful climate out here for
making your hair grow.  Look at the Chinamen's tails!"

"Oh, but a lot of that's false, isn't it?"

"In some cases, my boy, but generally it is all real; and if it were
unplaited it would be longer.  But don't you imitate John Chinaman.  You
don't want a long tail.  You turn the hair-current from the back of your
head on to your chin and let it grow there, so as to make you look big
and fierce, ready for dealing with the Chinese merchants."

"But I shall seem boyish for years to come, I'm afraid," said Stan
sadly.  "I look very young."

"And a splendid thing, too," said Uncle Jeff.  "Who wouldn't be you, to
look young and feel young?--Eh, Oliver?--Oh, you young masculine geese
who are always wishing that you were men, if you only knew what you are
treating with contempt, how much better it would be for you!  Why, I'd
give--That'll do; I've done.  Here, I'm coming with you to your room to
go over your togs and odds and ends with you.  I think I can give you a
bit of advice as to what to take and what to leave behind.  Perhaps,
too, I can give you two or three useful things.  Haven't got a revolver
of your own, I suppose?"

"No, uncle."

"Then I'll give you that one--mine.  It hits anything, to a dead
certainty, if you hold it straight.  Got any fishing-tackle?"

"Yes, uncle; hooks and lines with leads."

"That's right.  You may like to catch a few fish to make a change in
your diet when it grows too regular.  Wing cooks a little, but nothing
like so well as Sin.--I suppose we can't spare him to go with Stan here,
can we, Oliver?"

"No; it would not be possible," said the latter, smiling; but his voice
had a suggestion of sternness in its tones as he added, "And I'm sure
that Stan will be quite content to rough it for a while with Mr Blunt,
and as long as he gets plain, wholesome food, will not worry himself
about the cook."

"Hear him, Stan?" cried Uncle Jeff.  "That's the way your father snubs
me because I like nice things, and refuse to insult my inside by giving
it any kind of hugger-mugger mess that is put before me.--Well, I
confess I do like a good dinner, Oliver, and I don't see much harm in
it.  Well, of course Stan will do his best for us.  The Lynns always try
to do their best--they can't help it.  There I come along and let's see
to your kit."

"Don't be in a hurry, Jeff," said Stan's father.  "Let's have in Wing
and ask him about the return boat.  He's a very methodical fellow, and I
dare say his plans are already made."

"To be sure; let's have him," replied Uncle Jeff, who rose, went to the
door, and called to one of the clerks to send the Chinaman in.  "I dare
say that he has something up his sleeve about starting.  Plenty of room
there for any amount of plans--eh, Stan?" he added; with the result that
when the man entered, bowing and smiling in his apologetic way, Stan's
eyes immediately sought and searched the long, soft, blue silk
appendages which hung well over the hands, revealing just the tips
of the fingers, while from one hung out the corner of a
pocket-handkerchief, and from the other the end of a fan.

A little conversation ensued, in which the Chinaman announced that he
had arranged for two berths in the steamer on its return journey--either
on its first, which would be in three days' time, or, if Stan were not
able to go then, on the second, which would be in a month--allowing for
its sailing to the Mour River, loading up, and returning again.

"It is a very short time," said Stan's father, with a sigh; "but he must
not wait for a month, Jeff."

"Certainly not," was the reply, followed by an echo of the brother's
sigh.--"You'll have to be off, Stan, short as the time is.--As for you,
Wing, your people say they hate us foreign devils, as they call us."

"Wing no fool, Mistee Jefflee," said the Chinaman coolly.

"I know that, Wing.  You are more of a rogue than fool, as the old
saying goes.  But what do you mean?"

"Wing no fool 'nuff call good mastee foleign devil.  That what fool
say."

"That's true, Wing.  We have always behaved well to you and paid you
honestly."

"Why Wing stay.  Mastee Olivey, Mastee Jefflee good man.  Topside
mastee.  Wing stop long time.  You wantee Wing takee plop' ca'e young
Lynn?"

"Yes; help him, and fight for him if it is necessary," said Stan's
father.

"Light.  Wing bling him back some day.  Mind nobody bleak him."

"There, Stan!" cried Uncle Jeff bluffly, as he roared with laughter.
"Wing's going to take as much care of you as if you were a piece of
choice china."

"Yes; takee gleat ca'e young Lynn, young mastee.  Bling him back some
day."

"Yes," said Uncle Jeff; "but mind this, my fine fellow: if you come back
some day without him, and say you couldn't bring him because you've got
him broken, why, then--"

He stopped short as if to think out what punishment he would award,
while the Chinaman's face expanded in a broad grin.

"Wing not fool, Mastee Jefflee," he said.  "No come back no young Lynn,
fo' mastee killee Wing."  Then, turning very serious: "Young Lynn
bloken, Wing bloken allee same.  Young Lynn killee, bad man killee Wing
too."

"I see what you mean, my man," said Stan's father gravely.  "You will
fight for my son to the end."

"No," said the Chinaman, shaking his head and frowning; "Wing can'tee
fightee.  Wing tly helpee young Lynn lun away.  Pl'aps bad man killee
both.  Plentee bad man on Mou' Livah.  Wing takee gleat ca'e young
Lynn."

"Yes; that's all right, Wing.  We always trust you."

The Chinaman nodded, smiled, and then approached Stan, taking his hand,
bending down, and holding the back against his forehead.

"There, Stan," said his father; "you will find Wing a faithful servant,
and you can trust him to help you out of difficulties, for his knowledge
of his fellow-countrymen will enable him to give you warning of things
which would be hidden from you.--Do you fully understand, Wing, what I
am saying to my son?"

The Chinaman bowed, and was soon afterwards dismissed.

The next three days were pretty well taken up in watching the repairs of
the lower part of the great warehouse, and in making the final
preparations for the start to Mour River; and during that time Stan had
the satisfaction of learning that the principal merchants of Hai-Hai had
joined in asking for better protection of their property in the great
port--a demand which was responded to by those in authority arranging
for a section of the military police force being stationed nightly
within easy reach of the hitherto unprotected up-river part where the
Lynns' warehouse was situated.  And this was talked over on the morning
when Stan and his Chinese attendant and guide stood on the deck of the
steamer talking to the brothers Lynn, Uncle Jeff telling the lad that he
was to take care of himself and not fidget about them, for they would be
safe enough now, a pistol-shot out of a window being warning enough to
bring armed assistance in a very few minutes.

"We shall be all right, Stan," said Uncle Jeff heartily; "it is we who
will have to fidget about you."

"Yes, he is quite right, Stan, my boy," said the lad's father, grasping
his hand warmly.  "Send us a line as often as a boat loads up at the
_hong_."

"And you will write to me, father?" said Stan, whose heart was sinking
now that the time of parting was so near.

"Of course--regularly, my boy."

"And you too, Uncle Jeff?"

"I mean to keep a journal, Stan, and post it up regularly like a
day-book, all for your benefit.  There! the time will soon slip by, and
you'll be coming home again.  Ah! there goes the last bell."

"So soon?" said Stan excitedly.

His words were almost rendered inaudible by the shouts of "All for the
shore!"

It was a hurried scene of confusion then for a few minutes, with
repeated warm pressures of the hand in silence, and then Stan's eyes
were being strained after a boat that had suddenly seemed to glide away
when the steamer quivered and throbbed and threw up a chaos of foaming
water astern.  In that boat the brothers Lynn were standing up waving
their hats, and the little craft seemed to go faster and faster though
the two rowers had not yet lowered their oars.

Stan leant over the rail of the steamer, waving his hat in return, while
the boat grew less and less, his father's features blurred and
indistinct, and the great wharf seemed to be flying now while the
steamer stood still.  Then the boats that had taken people to the shore
were all mixed up together in one patch, and the lad felt that his
hat-wavings were all in vain, and that it was impossible for them to be
seen.

There was something like a solid sigh in Stan's throat, but he choked it
down as he turned his head and looked inboard, to find that Wing the
Chinaman, dressed now in blue cotton, was squatted down on the deck
close behind him; and apparently he had been watching his actions all
the time, for he nodded now and smiled compassionately in his young
master's face.

"Young Lynn velly solly go 'way?" he said.

"Of course I don't like it--at first," said Stan hurriedly, and feeling
ready to resent the compassion of the man who was to be his servant.

"Wing not likee leave him fadee, modee, one time long time off.  Don'tee
mind now.  Young Lynn, Wing mastee, not mind soon.  You likee eatee
dlinkee?"

"Not now," said Stan shortly.

"No?" said the Chinaman, as the steamer began to rise and fall steadily.
"Young Lynn go velly sickee?  You likee lie down?  Wing fetch bundle
put undee head."

"No, no," said Stan quickly.  "I'm not going to be ill if it keeps like
this.  I don't think I should be bad if it were to come on rough."

"No?" said Wing.  "Young Lynn velly good sailor.  Good like Wing.  Wing
velly glad.  Not nicee be velly sick when steamship go up, and velly
much baddee when steamship go down.  Wait see."

Wing did "wait see," and as the steamer passed well out of the estuary,
and began to run down the coast, they had a little of the vile Chinese
weather that takes the form of a gale which piles the water well up and
hurls it in cascades over a vessel's bows, making her quiver through and
through, and putting her officers' seamanship well to the test.  But
even at the very worst, during the following day, Stan displayed no
disposition to keep below, but went about the deck, holding on, and
rather enjoying the grandeur of the scene; while Wing was always close
at hand watching him, ready to smile in his face from time to time, and
more than once gave vent to his satisfaction by saying:

"Young Lynn velly fine sailoh; 'most good as Wing.  You feel leady to go
down eatee big dinnee?"

"Yes," said Stan eagerly; "this cool wind gives me a good appetite;" and
he made for the cabin stairs, closely followed by his attendant, who had
seen a little, careful procession going on from the galley, a sign that
the midday meal was ready for such of the passengers as were ready for
it.



CHAPTER FOUR.

"HERE!  YOU'D BETTER COME ASHORE."

Foul weather extended the voyage of the steamer to a length of five days
before she reached the little port of destination, where, in the midst
of a glorious change, Stan followed his conductor into a great clumsy
junk, which was sailed when the windings of the fine, broad Mour River
made the wind favourable, and tracked by coolies hauling upon a huge
twisted bamboo cable when the breeze was adverse for a couple of days
more.

The up-river trip was most enjoyable, through a highly cultivated
country teeming with an industrious population and glowing with abundant
crops; while the scenery was so glorious, and the novelty of the
continuous panorama so great, that Stan felt a chill of disappointment
at sunset one glowing evening when Wing, who had crept quietly up behind
him, touched his shoulder, and stood pointing towards a village at the
foot of a grand stretch of cliff, the houses rising up the beautiful
terraced slope, while at the foot was a group of new-looking buildings,
at the back of a wharf to which some half-dozen trading-boats were
moored.

"Nang Ti," said Wing, with a broad smile.  "Young Lynn big _hong_ full
silk, full tea, full nicee piecee chop chop all along young Lynn.  See
big Blunt soon.  Young Lynn savee big managee Blunt?"

"No, I have never seen him," said Stan as he sheltered his eyes from the
ruddy orange sunlight and scanned the place.

"Velly big stlong man.  Velly good man.  Velly big shoutee tongue say
`Ho!' and `Ha!'  Flighten stlong coolie man; makee wuck.  Coolie go
dlink much _samshu_, lie down, go sleepee; Blunt come behind, takee
pigtail, pullee up, and kickee velly much.  Makee coolie cly `Oh!'
Makee loll ovey and ovey, and say leady to go wuck and nevey dlink
_samshu_, no mo'."

"Indeed!" said Stan, who began to picture in his own mind what sort of a
personage the manager in charge might be.  "And then, I suppose, after
being kicked for getting tipsy on _samshu_, the men never drink any
more?"

"No," said Wing, grinning more widely.  "Velly much flighten.  Nevey
dlink any mo' till next time.  Poh!  Gleat big silly boy, coolie.  Gleat
stlong man up to head--head like big baby chile.  Much flighten when big
Blunt come shout `Ho! ha!'  Big piecee man, big Blunt.  Mastee managee.
Young Lynn mastee managee now.  Flighten big Blunt."

"Indeed!" said Stan, smiling.  "Well, we shall see."

"Yes, young Lynn see soon.  Lookee!  Big Blunt."

Wing pointed again, and following the direction of the extended
index-finger, Stan saw a tall figure in white step out of one of the
buildings, make its way to where a crane stretched out its diagonal arm,
from which a chain with heavy ball and hooks was suspended over the
river, and then stop to gaze at the junk upon whose high stern Stan and
his companion were on the lookout.

Just then the _tindal_, or master of the junk, began to shout to his
men, one of whom ran forward and began to thump a gong hanging in the
bows, sending forth a booming roar whose effect was to bring a little
crowd of half-naked coolies out of the buildings ashore, and three or
four Europeans in white, while the crew of the junk began to swarm about
the great clumsy vessel like bees.

The wind was favourable, and the great matting sails creaked and
rustled, while their yards groaned as they rubbed against the bamboo
masts as their sheets were tightened and pulled home, sending the heavy
boat gliding up-river at an increased pace, soon getting abreast of the
wharf, and then gliding along up-stream and leaving it behind.

"What does this mean?" said Stan excitedly.  "Doesn't the captain know
we are to stop there?"

"Young Lynn soon see," replied Wing.  "Velly fast lun watey big stleam.
Young Lynn wait.  Go 'long bit way.  Captain know."

He did know perfectly how to manage his clumsy craft, which, in
obedience to his signs to the steersman, was run on in a diagonal course
which took it in nearer to the bank from which the cliff ran up.  Then,
as a few yells were uttered, some of the men seized the ropes, others
got out great sweeps, there was a bang on the gong, the two great sails
came rattling down upon the deck, the long sweeps began to dip as the
junk's pace grew slower and slower, till she finally stopped and began
to go back, but so slowly and well-directed that she glided close
alongside the wharf, whence men threw ropes; and in a wonderfully short
time, considering the clumsiness of the craft and equipage, the junk was
moored alongside so closely that it was possible to run a gangway aboard
for the occupants to go ashore.

Stan was making ready to approach the gangway, when the figure in white
approached the side, and without taking any notice of him, nodded to the
Chinese captain shortly, and then turned to Wing.

"Hullo, you, sir!" he shouted in a big, vigorous voice, as if he meant
himself to be heard back at the stern.

"Yes.  Come back again," said Wing.

"What made you so long?"

"Velly bad wind blow velly much indeed.  Steamship no get 'long fast."

"Humph!  Bring me any letters?"

"Yes, bling big pack letteys.  Got lot."

"Come along, then, ashore; I've no time to waste."

"I shall never like you," thought Stan to himself as he waited patiently
for the manager to address him in turn.  But the big, keen,
masterful-looking fellow did not seem even to glance in the lad's
direction, keeping his eyes fixed upon Wing, who seemed to be quite
afraid of him, and did not venture to speak till the manager said loudly
and sharply, as if to annoy the stranger:

"Who's that boy you've got on board there?"

Wing looked troubled, and glanced first at Stan and then at the speaker.

"Well, sir, why don't you answer?" continued the manager.

"Young Lynn.  Come 'long flom Hai-Hai."

"Oh!" said the manager gruffly.  "Whose son is he--Mr Oliver's or Mr
Jeffrey's?  Oh, I remember; Mr Jeffrey isn't married."  Then turning
his eyes full upon Stan with a searching stare, he said shortly, "How
do?  Here! you'd better come ashore."



CHAPTER FIVE.

"HE'S A REGULAR BRICK."

"This is pleasant!" thought Stan as he stepped on to the gangway.  "If
this man is our servant he oughtn't to speak to me like that.  Here!  I
shall have a to go back by the next boat.  Father and Uncle Jeff don't
want me to be treated like this."

It was a cheerless welcome to the place that was to be his new home for
the time, and a feeling of resentment began to grow up within him as he
stepped on to the wharf, meeting the manager's eyes boldly, and
gradually feeling more and more determined to maintain his position and
not allow himself to be, as he termed it, "sat upon" by this bullying
sort of individual.

A fierce stare was exchanged for some moments before the manager spoke
again, more gruffly than ever, just as Wing handed him the packet of
letters he had brought.

"Better come in here," he said.--"You, Wing, tell the skipper to make
all fast.  I won't have any unloading till the morning."

He led the way to what seemed to be the office of the great warehouse,
for there were desks, stools, and writing implements, while maps hung
from the wall, and bills of lading in files decorated the place in a way
which made it look more grim and showed up its bareness.

As soon as they were inside, the manager perched himself on a high
stool, took a big ebony ruler off the desk, and began rolling it to and
fro upon his knees, before opening the principal letter of the batch,
one which Stan could see plainly had been written by his uncle.

This missive the manager read through twice before laying it flat upon
the table and giving it a bang with his open hand.

"Bah!" he growled.  "Stan Lynn--Stan Lynn.  What a name for a boy!  Why
did your people christen you that?"

"They didn't," said Stan coolly, though he could feel a peculiar
twitching going on along his nerves.

"What!" cried the manager fiercely--quite in the tone he would have used
to a contradictory coolie.  "Why, look here," he continued, bringing his
hand down on the packet of letters with another heavy bang which made
the ink start out of the well.  "Why, I have it here, in your father's
handwriting.  Um--um--um!  Where is it?  Oh, here: `my son Stan'."

"Nonsense!  Let's look," said the boy sharply, and quickly stepping
forward to look at the writing.  "'Tisn't; it's `Stanley,' only my
father has contracted the `ley' into a dash.  It's a way he has."

"Then it's time he began to write plainly.  Who's to know what he
means?"

"Any one," said Stan quite as fiercely.  "And look here; you wouldn't
speak of my father's writing like that if he were here."

"What!" roared the manager, giving the desk a tremendous bang with the
big ebony ruler to frighten Stan, who began to perspire profusely, but
not from alarm.  His temper, that had been fast asleep, was aroused by
the reception he was having, and feeling at once that life with this man
would be unbearable, he spoke out at once boldly and defiantly.

"I spoke plainly enough," he said haughtily, "and you know what I said."

"Well," cried the manager, "of all the insolent young coxcombs I ever
encountered, you take the prize.  Do you know who I am?"

"Yes," said Stan; "my father's manager."

"Yes, sir, I am," he roared; "and I know how to manage men, let alone
cocky, conceited boys.  Don't you think you are coming here to lord it
and set up your feathers, and crow and grow scarlet in the comb.  I
shall soon cut that for you, so just get ready to take your proper place
at once.  I'd have you to know that I have as much authority and am as
much master in this solitary, out-of-the-way place as if I were a king."

"Over the Chinese coolies, perhaps," said Stan firmly, "but not over
me."

"What I--Why, the boy's mad with conceit."

"No, I'm not," said Stan--"not conceited at all; and if you behave
properly to me you'll find that I shall help you in every way I can."

"Behave properly!  Oh, come! this is rich.  Here's a boy who ought to be
at school, where he would get the cane if he did not behave himself,
vapouring about as if he had come to be master here.  There! the sooner
we understand each other the better--Mr Stanley--sir."

There was a mocking sarcasm in the delivery of these last words that
made the boy writhe.  But he mastered his temper bravely enough, and
said coolly:

"I don't want to be called `Mr Stanley' and `sir.'  I was christened
Stanley, but my friends looked upon it as being too pretentious.  They
always call me Stan."

"Oh, I see!  Thank you for the kind explanation," said the manager
sarcastically.  "Well, here you are; and now you are here, what do you
want?  I see you've brought a gun.  Come snipe and duck shooting?"

"My father has fully explained in his letter, I believe."

"Explained?  Perhaps so; but I have not had time to read it yet, so
perhaps you will speak."

"That is easily done.  You wrote to the firm asking for help and
companionship."

"Of course I did; and I took it for granted that Mr Jeffrey Lynn would
come and share the burden of my enormously increasing work."

"It is all explained in the letters, as I told you," said Stan.  "Uncle
was coming, but the Chinese made an attack on the place."

"Eh?  What's that?" cried the manager excitedly; and Stan gave him a
brief account of what had passed, while every word was listened to
eagerly.

"It was quite out of the question for my father to be left," ended Stan
at last, "and so I am sent to help instead."

"Humph!" said the manager, looking grave.  "It has come to that, has it?
Restless, uncontrolled savages.  Well," he added, changing his tone
again, "so they've sent a boy like you?"

"Yes."

"And for want of decent help and companionship, I'm to make the best of
you?"

"I suppose so," said Stan coldly, and wishing the while that he was back
at Hai-Hai, home, or anywhere but at this solitary _hong_.

"But I don't think you'll like the life here, young fellow," said the
manager, with an unpleasant smile.  "There's a very savage, piratical
lot of Chinese about on this river.  It has an awful character.  If
you'll take my advice--Will you?"

"Of course," said Stan quietly.  "You must know better, from your
experience here, than I do."

"That's right; I do.  Well, then, you take it: go back by the next boat.
It doesn't look as if things are very safe at Hai-Hai, but it's a
paradise to this place here."

"I'm sorry to hear that," said Stan, "but I certainly can't go back; I
have come to stay."

"Oh, very well!" said the manager.  "I've warned you.  I wash my hands
of the whole affair.  But I'll promise you this: I'll get your remains
together."

"My remains?" said Stan, aghast.

"Of course; they are sure to hack you to pieces--it's a way they have.
And there'll be some difficulty, perhaps, in recovering your head.  They
generally carry that off as a trophy; but I'll do my best to get you
back to the old folks in a cask of Chinese palm-spirit.  Will that do?"

During the past few moments Stan had felt a sensation as if cold steel
of wondrously sharp edge were at work upon his back and across his neck;
but the tone of the question brought him back to himself, and he replied
calmly:

"Capitally.  But, by the way, if the savage pirates come and treat me
like that, where will you be?"

"Eh?" said the manager, staring.  "Where shall I be?"

"Yes.  Isn't it just as likely that I should have to do this duty for
you?"

"Oh, I see!  Yes, of course; but--Ha, ha, ha!  Come! you have got
something in you after all.  You are pretty sharp."

"Just sharp enough to see that you are trying to frighten me."

"Humph!" ejaculated the manager, with a dry smile.  "But you've had a
sample of what these people can do, and I won't answer for it that they
don't try some of their capers here.  Then you mean to risk it?"

"Of course," said Stan.  "My father and uncle sent me to help you."

"Well, don't blame me if you get your head taken off."

"No," said Stan coolly, and with a peculiar smile; "I don't think I
shall do that--then."

"More do I," said the manager grimly.  "Well, here you are, and I
suppose I must make the best of you."

"I suppose so," said Stan.

"You'll have to work pretty hard--make entries and keep the day-book.  I
suppose you can do that?"

"I suppose so," said the lad, "but I can't say for certain till I try."

"All right; then the sooner you try the better, because I've got enough
to do here in keeping things straight; and if you find that you can't, I
shall just pack you off back to your father and uncle.  You're too
young, and not the sort of chap I should have chosen for the job."

"Indeed!  What sort of a lad would you have chosen?"

"Oh, not a dandified, pomatumed fellow like you, who is so very
particular about his collar and cuffs, and looks as if he'd be afraid to
dirty his hands."

"I don't see that because a fellow is clean he is not so good for work,"
said Stan.

"Oh, don't you?  Well, I've had some experience, my lad.  I want here a
fellow who knows how to rough it.  You don't."

"But I suppose I can learn."

"Learn?  Of course you can, but you won't.  There! you've come, and I
suppose, as I said before, I must make the best of you; but next time
you see the heads of the firm, perhaps you'll tell them that I don't
consider it part of my business as manager of this out-of-the-way place
to lick their cubs into shape."

"Hadn't you better write and tell them so?" said the lad warmly.

"What!" roared the man.  "Now just look here, young fellow; you and I
had better come to an understanding at once.  Whether it's clerk,
warehouseman, or Chinese coolie, I put up with no insolence.  It's a
word and a blow with me, as sure as my name's Sam Blunt."

"Sam!" said the lad quietly.  "What a name!  Why did your people
christen you that?"

The manager tilted his stool back till he could balance himself on two
of its legs and let his head rest against the whitewashed wall of the
bare-looking office, staring in astonishment at his visitor.  Then
leaning forward again, he came down on all four legs of his tall stool,
caught up the big ebony ruler, and brought it down with a fresh bang
upon the desk, which made the ink this time jump out of the little well
in a fountain, as he stared fiercely at the lad, who returned his gaze
perfectly unmoved.

"Well, of all,"--he said; he did not say what, but kept on staring.

"What sort of a fellow do you call yourself?" he cried at last.

"I don't know," was the cool reply.

"No; I don't suppose you do.  But look here; I'm going to look over that
and set it down to ignorance, as you are quite a stranger; and so let me
tell you there's only one man whom I allow to call me Sam Blunt, and I'm
that man.  Understand?"

The lad nodded.

"There! as you're the son of one of the principals, and don't know any
better, I won't quarrel with you."

"That's right," said the lad coolly; and the man stared again.

"Because," he continued, "I'm thinking that we shall have plenty of
quarrelling to do with John Chinaman."

"Is there any likelihood of our going to war?" said the lad quickly.

"Every likelihood," said the man, watching his visitor keenly; "and if I
were you I'd have a bad attack of fever while my shoes were good."

"I didn't know one could have, or not have, fever just as one liked."

"I suppose not," said his companion.  "But you take my advice: you catch
a bad fever at once.  And then, as there is no doctor anywhere here, and
I'm a horribly bad nurse, I'll send you back to Hai-Hai at once for your
people to set you right."

"You mean sham illness?" said Stan sharply.

"What!  Why, hang me if you're not a smarter fellow than I took you for!
Yes, that's it; and then you'll go back and be safe."

"Safe from what?"

"Being made into mincemeat by the first party of Chinese pirates who
come this way.  They're splendid for that, as I hinted to you before.
Nothing they love better than chopping up a foreign devil like you."

"Hadn't you better have a fever too?" said the lad quietly.

"Oh, come!  Better and better!" cried the other.  "You're not such a
fool as you look, young fellow!  No: I've got too much to do to go away
from this go-down, and your people know it.  That's why they've sent you
to get in my way and put me out of temper.  I say, though; you've heard
nothing about the breaking out of war?"

"Not a word since I've been in China.  I heard something on my voyage."

"Of course you haven't, or your father and uncle wouldn't have sent you
down here.  But you may take my word for it, there's trouble coming--and
that, too, before long.  Did you see many piratical-looking war-junks as
you came up the river?"

"N-no," said Stan.  "I saw several big mat-sailed barges with high
sterns, and great eyes painted in their bows; but I thought they were
trading-boats."

"So they are, my lad--one day; they're pirates the next.  And perhaps on
the very next they're men-o'-war.  Anything, according to circumstances,
for I've found out that _artful_ is the best word for describing a
Chinaman.  But there! you'll soon know.  Look here; after what I've told
you, do you mean to stay?"

"Certainly," said Stan.

"Very well, then.  Come and have a look at my quarters.  They're a bit
rough, but you say you won't mind roughing it."

"No," said Stan; "I've come here to do the best I can."

"Oh!" said the manager in a tone full of surprise; "that's what you've
come for, is it?"

"Of course," said Stan, wondering at the tone the man had taken.

"Very well, then, we may as well shake hands.  I was just thinking of
sitting down to dinner when the junk came in sight, so you'll come and
join me--eh?"

"Yes," said Stan; "I am getting hungry."

"That's right.  I say, though, squire; you think me a regular ruffian,
don't you?"

"Yes," said the lad quietly.

"Oh, come!  That's frank, anyhow."

"It makes you rough and disposed to bully, living a solitary life like
this, I suppose."

"Humph!" said the manager, frowning; "but I don't know what you mean by
solitary.  I have English clerks and checking-men, and a whole gang of
coolies.  Do you call that solitary?"

"But they are under you.  I suppose you live a good deal by yourself."

"Humph!  Yes," said the manager.

"And that, of course, makes you rough."

"P'raps so.  But you won't find me so rough when you get used to me.
There! come along and let's see what my cook has got for us this
evening.  You'll have to take pot-luck.  Wing will contrive something
better.  Come on."

There was a grim, satisfied smile in the manager's countenance as he
rose, took a great stride such as his long legs enabled him to do with
ease, and clapping Stan on the shoulder, swung him round and looked him
straight in the face.

"Why, youngster," he said, "your father must have been wonderfully like
you in the phiz when he was your age; but in downright style of speaking
and ways you put me wonderfully in mind of your uncle Jeffrey."

"Do I?" said Stan quietly.

"You do; but he's a regular brick of a man."

"That he is," cried Stan warmly; "but that means I'm not a bit like him
there."

"Oh, I don't know," said the manager slowly.  "One can't say at the end
of half-an-hour, but I'm beginning to think you will not be so very bad
after all."

"I hope not," said Stan, smiling.

"I thought at first that you would be a regular stuck-up cub.  But I
don't think so now.  Look here, youngster; can you be honest?"

"I hope so."

"Then tell me what you thought of me."

"That you were a disagreeable bully."

"Hah!  That's pretty blunt," said the manager, frowning.  "So that's
what you think of me, is it?"

"You asked me what I thought of you, not what I think."

"Right; so I did.  Then what do you think of me?"

"That you're going to prove not so bad as I thought."

"Dinnee all getting velly cold, cookee say, Mistee Blunt," said Wing in
a deprecating voice; and they both started to see that the Chinaman had
entered quietly upon his thick, soft boot-soles.

"All right, Wing; coming," cried the manager shortly.--"Come along,
captain; you and I are going to be great friends."



CHAPTER SIX.

"HE'S JUST LIKE A CHESTNUT."

"Don't think we are going to be great friends," said Stan to himself as
he sat down that night upon the edge of his clean, comfortable-looking
Chinese bed, in a perfectly plain but very clean little room adjoining
that occupied by the manager.  "He was very civil, though, and took
great care that I had a good dinner.  He didn't seem to mind in the
least my having spoken as I did.

"Perhaps I oughtn't to have spoken so," he continued after a few
minutes' thought about his position.  "I don't know, though; I didn't
come here as a servant, and he was awfully bullying and rude.  Phew!
How hot it is!"

He rose and opened the window a little wider, to look out on the swiftly
flowing river, across which the moon made a beautiful path of light,
that glittered and danced and set him thinking about the home he had
left, wondering the while whether father and uncle were thinking about
him and how they were getting on.

"I shall write and tell them exactly how Mr Blunt treated me; but
perhaps it would be only fair to wait and see how he behaves to-morrow
and next day.  I couldn't complain about how he went on to-night.  `Be
great friends,' he said half-aloud after a pause.  Perhaps we may; but
oh, how sleepy I am!  Better leave the window as it is.  I'll lie down
at once.  I can think just as well when I'm in bed."

This was not true, for the only thing Stan Lynn thought was that the
pillow felt quite hot.  Then he was fast asleep, without so much as a
dream to deal with; and the next time he was conscious, he opened his
eyes in wonder and stared at the open window and the sunshiny sky,
fancying he heard a sound.

"Do you hear there, squire?" came, with a sharp rapping at the boarded
walls of the room.  "Time to get up.  There's a tub in the next room,
and plenty of cold water."

"Yes.  Thank you.  All right I won't be long."

"Don't," came back, in company with the sound of gurgling and splashing.
"Breakfast early.  Busy day for us."  _Bur-r-r_!

"What did he mean by that?" said Stan.

The _bur-r-r_! was repeated, and then there was a rattle which explained
the meaning of the peculiar noise.

"Cleaning his teeth," muttered Stan as he sprang out of bed.  He sought
and found the tub and other arrangements which proved that the manager
had surrounded himself with the necessaries for living like a civilised
Englishman, even if he was stationed in a lonely place in a foreign
land, and he was just putting the finishing touches to his dress when
there was a heavy thump from a big fist on the door.

"Look sharp, Squire Lynn!  I'm going to tell them to bring in the
coffee."

"Nearly ready," cried Stan; and a few minutes later he descended the
plain board stairs, which were scrubbed to the whitest of tints.

There was a white cloth on the table, with a very English-looking
breakfast spread; and plain and bare as the place was, with nothing
better than Chinese mats to act as a carpet, curtain, and blind, there
was the appearance of scrupulous cleanliness; and rested by a good
night's sleep, and elastic of spirit in the fresh air of a beautiful
morning, Stan felt ready to make the best of things if his host proved
to be only bearable.

There he sat--his host--reading hard at a letter, and he made no sign
for a few moments, and paid no heed to Stan's "Good-morning!" but read
on, till he suddenly exclaimed, "`Very faithfully yours, Jeffrey Lynn,'"
and doubled the letter up and thrust it in his pocket.

"Morning, squire," he continued.  "Rested?  I read all the
correspondence before I turned in, and I've just run through your
uncle's letter again.  I say, he gives you an awfully good character."

"Does he?" said Stan.

"Splendid.  Ah! here's old Wing.  I'm peckish; aren't you?"

"Yes; I'm ready for my breakfast," replied the boy as Wing entered,
smiling, with a big, round lacquer tray loaded with the necessaries for
a good morning meal.

"That's right.  We'll have it, then, and afterwards see to the
unloading.  There isn't much consigned to me this time.  After that
you'd like to see the warehouses and what we've got there, and learn who
the different fellows are, before we have an hour or two in the
counting-house--eh?"

"Yes; I'm ready," said Stan, smiling, and having hard work to keep from
looking wonderingly at the man who had given him so unpleasant a
reception the previous evening.

"Is he a two-faced fellow," thought Stan, "and doing all this to put me
off my guard?  Why, he's as mild as--"

Stan was going to say "mild" again, but at that moment a wild hubbub of
angry voices in fierce altercation burst out, the noise coming through
the open window from the direction of the wharf beyond which the junk
was moored.

"Yah!" roared the manager, springing from his seat and rushing to the
open window, his face completely transformed, as he roared out a whole
string of expletives in the Chinese tongue.  He literally raged at the
disputants, whose angry shouts died out rapidly, to be succeeded by
perfect silence; and then the manager turned from the window, with his
face looking very red and hot, and took his place again.

"That's the only way to deal with them," he cried, "when you're not near
enough to knock a few heads together.  You'll have to learn."

"What was the matter?" said Stan, who felt in doubt about acquiring the
accomplishment, and whose better spirits were somewhat damped by this
sudden return to the previous evening's manner.

"Matter?  Nothing at all.  There! peg away, my lad.  Make a good
breakfast.  I always do.  Splendid beginning for a good day's work.--
What!" he roared, as there was the merest suggestion of a fresh
outburst, which calmed down directly, "Yes, you'd better tear me away
from my bones!  You do, and I'll turn tiger.  Ah! you've thought better
of it.  Lucky for you!--Nice row that; just as I said, about nothing.
Divide themselves into two parties; my coolies on one side, the junk's
crew on the other.  If I hadn't gone and yelled horrid Chinese threats
at them there would have been a fight, and half the men unfit to work
for the rest of the day.  You'll get used to them, though, I dare say.
Not bad fellows, after all, when they've got some one over them who
won't let them bite, kick, and scratch like naughty children.  Well, how
did you leave the governors?"

"Oh, very well, considering what a scare we had the other night.  I
thought the villains would kill us."

"Yes, but you wouldn't let them.  I told your uncle the last time I saw
him that he didn't take precautions enough, but he said he didn't
believe any one would dare to attack a place so near the city.
Revolvers are all very well at close quarters, but not heavy enough for
a horde of savages who think nothing of fighting to the death.  Got a
revolver?"

"Yes," said Stan; "and a gun."

"That's right.  And after what you said, I suppose you know how to use
the pistol?"

"I can shoot with it a little," said Stan, colouring slightly.  "I
suppose you have one?"

"What!  Living out in this unprotected place?  Well, rather!  I'll show
you my little armoury after breakfast."

"Have you ever been attacked?"

"Not yet; but it's safe to come some time or other, so I hold myself
ready.  It's not quite so bad as I said last night."

"No; I didn't think it was," replied Stan coolly; and he was conscious
that his host was watching him keenly.

"But without any nonsense, you may have to fight, my lad, if you stay
here."

"I hope not," said Stan, breaking the top of an egg.

"So do I," said the manager.  "I don't want my people scared, and the
place knocked to pieces or burned.  That's the worst of a wooden
building like this.  Ah! it's a risky trade, and your people deserve to
make plenty of profit for their venture."

Little more was said till the breakfast was at an end, when the _ting_
of a table-gong brought Wing into the room.

"Take away," said the manager sharply; "and as soon as you have done, I
want you to hire a boat and go up-river to stop at all the villages that
were not touched at before you went away.  We must do more business with
the places higher up.  You go and see the headmen of some of the
tea-plantations there who have never dealt with us yet.  Understand?"

The man nodded sharply, and the manager turned to Stan.

"Now then," he said; "let's look at the tools."

He led the way into a warehouse-like place, one end of which was
furnished with an arms-rack holding a dozen rifles, bayonets, and
bandoliers.  In a chest beside them were a dozen revolvers; and after
displaying these, every weapon being kept in beautiful order, a
trap-door in the floor was pointed out, regularly furnished with keyhole
and loose ring for lifting.

"Key hangs in my room, if you want it when I'm out," said the manager
meaningly.

"I'm not likely to want the key of the cellar," said Stan, smiling.

"Cellar?  Nonsense!  That's the little magazine.  Oh no! the cases down
there are not cases of wine, but of cartridges for rifle and revolver."

"Oh!" said Stan thoughtfully, for the announcement was of a very
suggestive nature--one which brought up the night of the attack in
Hai-Hai.

"There we are, then, if we have to fight," said Blunt.

"With whom?" asked Stan sharply.

"Ah! who knows?" said Blunt, laughing.  "River pirates; wandering bands
of Chinese robbers; disbanded soldiers of the Government; anybody.
China's a big country, my lad, and abominably governed, but a splendid
land all the same, teeming with a most hard-working, industrious
population, eager to engage in trade, and on the whole good, honest folk
who like dealing with us, and are free from prejudices, excepting that
they look upon us as a set of ignorant barbarians--foreign devils, as
they call us.  But it doesn't matter much.  We know better--eh?"

"Of course," said Stan, laughing.  "But you have a good many Chinese at
work for you here; don't you ever feel afraid of them rising against you
and the English clerks?"

"One way and another, there are about ten of them to one of us; and as
in the case of a row the whole countryside would take part with them,
you might say they would be a hundred or a thousand to one against us
and still be within bounds."

"It seems very risky," said Stan thoughtfully; "and of course you and
the clerks dread a rising against you."

"Against us, you ought to say now, my lad," said Blunt, smiling.  "But
we are not a bit afraid, and when you have been here a few months you
won't be either."

Stan flushed a little, and said hurriedly:

"Of course, it is excusable for me to feel a bit nervous at first.  You
see, I had such a nasty experience the other night."

"To be sure," said Blunt.  "And mind, I don't say but what we live in a
constant state of alarm about an attack like that, but not of our own
people.  They wouldn't go against us."

"Why?" said Stan.

"Because the round, smooth-faced beggars like me."

The thought of what he had heard from Wing, and learnt from his own
observation of the manager, had such a perplexing effect upon the lad
that his countenance assumed an aspect of so ludicrous a nature that
Blunt burst into a roar of laughter.

"I see," he cried; "you can't digest that.  It doesn't fit with my
roaring and shouting at them just now?  Well, it doesn't seem to, but it
does.  You'll see.  You'll soon find out that the men all like me very
much, and I believe that if we were in great trouble they'd fight to the
death for me--to a man.  Like to know why?"

"Of course," said Stan.

"Well, then, I'll tell you.  I'm master, king, magistrate, doctor,
everything to them.  They come to me about their quarrels and their
ailments; to get their money, and then bank it with me; and the reason I
believe in them and they believe in me is because I am just as fair as
in me lies.  If I find a man skulking and kick him, do you think the
others side with him?"

"I should expect them to," said Stan.

"Then you're wrong.  They roar with laughter, and enjoy seeing their
fellow punished.  They're shrewd enough, and know that the idler is
putting his share of work upon them.  If there's a quarrel amongst them
they come to me to settle it.  If a man's sick he comes to me, and I try
to set him right.  Nurse him up sometimes.  When they want a treat they
come to me to draw out part of their earnings that I have banked for
them.  Bah!  I'm not going to preach a sermon about what I do.  I'm just
to them, I tell you, and they know it.  I trust them, and they trust me.
Come along; let's go and see how they're getting on with the unloading.
Let's go in here, though, first."

He led the way by stacks of bales and piles of tea-chests, all neatly
arranged like a wall--a great cube built up from floor to ceiling--and
passing through an opening, went down a narrow alley in the great
store-room, with a wall of half-chests built up on either side, and
entered an open doorway to where half-a-dozen clerks and warehousemen
were busy.  The former were making out bills of lading and entries in
books, the latter sampling teas--one with little piles of the dried
leaves in cardboard trays, which he was testing in rotation; while
another sat at a table upon which was a copper contrivance standing upon
a slab of granite, with a glowing charcoal fire burning beneath a bright
urn, the fumes and steam being carried off by a little metal tube funnel
which passed out through the top of an open chimney.

Right and left of this employee was a row of little earthenware Chinese
teapots, and as many cups and saucers; the pots being labelled as they
were used with cards attached to the handles, and marked with letters
and numbers corresponding with those on the little cardboard trays
containing the dried tea.

"Mr Stanley Lynn, gentlemen," said the manager sharply.  "He has come
in his uncle's place to stay with us for a time."

The introduction was brief, and then the lad was hurried out on to the
wharf, where the manager made his appearance suddenly.  His presence
acted like a stimulus, setting every one working at a double rate of
speed, in spite of the scorching sun, which was beginning to glow with
so much fervour that the strange gum used to caulk the seams of the
great junk in process of being unloaded began to ooze out and form brown
globules like little tadpoles with tails.

Everything was new and interesting to Stan, and the day passed very
quickly, the manager seeming eager to explain everything to his new
colleague; and, saving when now and then he burst out into fierce
invectives against offending coolies and the _tindal_ of the junk, he
was mildness itself.

Stan could hardly believe it when closing-time came and the men ceased
work.

"Didn't think it was so late?" said Blunt, laughing.

"No; the time has gone like lightning."

"But don't you want your dinner?"

"No," said Stan promptly; "I don't feel--Yes, I do," he cried.  "I
didn't till you mentioned it."

"Shows that you have been interested, my lad.  There! come along; let's
have a wash and brush up, and then we'll see what the cook has for us.
I'm afraid you'll have to put up with a makeshift meal again, as Wing is
on the wing, as one may say, and I don't expect him back till to-morrow
night, for he has a good way to go, and the boat will sail slowly
against stream.  When he comes back with his report, I expect it will be
necessary for me to go up and see some of the little native growers.  We
might take our guns and get a bit of sport among the snipes in the
paddy-fields; what do you say?"

"I shall be delighted," cried Stan eagerly.

"Like big-game shooting?" said the manager carelessly, but with a
twinkle in his observant eye.

"I never had the chance to try," replied Stan; "and I'm no hand at all
with a gun.  I had two days' rabbit-shooting in England just before I
came away; that's all."

"Hit any of the rabbits?"

"Five."

"Out of how many shots?"

"About twenty," said the lad, colouring; "but, you see, I've had no
practice."

"You'll get plenty here, and I'll teach you the knack of bringing down
snipe."

"But you said something about big game," said Stan hesitatingly.  "What
did you mean--pheasants--turkeys?"

"Pheasants--turkeys!" cried the manager scornfully.  "There are plenty
of pheasants in the woods, but I mean tigers."

"Tigers?"

"Yes, my lad, tigers; hungry savages who carry off a poor Chinese
labourer working in the fields now and then.  There! wait a bit, and
we'll mix up a bit of sport with our work."

That night Stan went to his bedroom and stood looking at the moon
silvering the river, thinking that perhaps after all he might end by
being good friends with the manager.

"He's just like a chestnut," thought the boy--"all sharp, prickly husk
outside; good, rich brown skin under the husk; and inside all hard,
firm, sweet nut.  I say, it doesn't do to judge any one at first sight.
I wonder what he thinks of me.  I hope he likes me, but I'm afraid not,
for he seems disposed to sneer at me now and then."



CHAPTER SEVEN.

"YOU'LL SOON LEARN YOUR LESSON."

It seemed to be directly after he had lain down that the thumping at the
wooden partition-wall came again, and Stan leapt out of bed to hurry to
his bath.

Then came a friendly meeting and breakfast, with quite a procession of
boats, _nagas_ and _sampans_, with an occasional junk, going up and down
the river heavily laden with produce, or returning to the plantations
bordering the river-bight.

Breakfast ended, Blunt proposed another walk through the warehouses to
begin marking off the stock that was to form part of the return cargo in
the loading up of the vessel by which Stan had come.

"I want you to get to be at home with all these things," said the
manager quietly, "so that I can leave you in charge while I run up the
river now and then on such a journey as I have sent Wing upon this time.
By the way, I wonder whether he'll be back to-day?"

Stan shook his head.

"What makes you think not?"

"I did not mean that," said Stan quickly.  "I was thinking that it will
be some time before I am fit to trust with such an important charge as
you say."

"Oh, I don't know, Mr Modesty.  It all depends upon whether you take an
interest in the work," replied Blunt.  "There! come along; you'll soon
learn your lesson, I dare say."

"I shall try hard," said Stan gravely.  "Everything here is so
interesting!"

"Glad you find it so, youngster.  For my part, it took a precious lot of
resolution to make me stick to the work as I have done.  My word! it has
been dull and lonely sometimes.  It has quite spoiled my temper.  I
might tell you that I was a nice, pleasant, mild-speaking young fellow
like you when I was your age, but you wouldn't believe it," said the
manager, with a laugh.

"No, I don't think I should," said Stan as they crossed an open
enclosure and entered the warehouse, where the men were busy arranging
the packages brought up the river by the _tindal's_ boat.

The manager began giving his orders for a fresh arrangement of certain
of the packages, while Stan stood looking on, an opening just in front
giving him a good view of all that was being done.

That day went like magic, and the following one too; everything was so
fresh and animated, so full of interest; while when Blunt was not
falling foul of some of the men, or, as one of his principal
overlookers--a bluff, straightforward, manly fellow, who informed the
new-comer that his name was Lawrence and his duties that of a
Jack-of-all-trades--expressed it to Stan, in a state of eruption, the
lad found him most agreeable, and always willing to explain anything.

Stan thanked Blunt in the evening for the trouble he was taking to make
him fully acquainted with the routine of the business.

"Humph!" he grunted, with a curiously grim smile; "that's just like me.
I always was an idiot."

Stan stared.

"I don't understand you," he said.

"I thought I talked plainly enough," was the reply.  "I say that's just
like me, to be such an idiot as to tell you everything."

"Why?" said Stan quietly.

"Because I'm showing you all about the management of the men that it has
taken me much study and patience to acquire."

"I'm sure it must have," said Stan eagerly.

"Well, then, am I not a donkey to teach you till you know as much as I
do?"

"Certainly not," said Stan warmly.

"Then I think I am, my fine fellow; but we will not quarrel about it."

"No; for one can't," said Stan, laughing, "and I shall not."

"Nor I, my lad, but I shall think a great deal; but it's weak all the
same.  As soon as I have made you fit to manage here, I shall be packed
off and you'll be pitchforked into my post."

"I don't think it is likely that my father would put an inexperienced
boy to perform the duties of one like you," said Stan quietly; "and I'm
sure neither father nor uncle would behave unfairly to any one."

"Good boy!" said the manager sharply, and with one of his half-mocking
smiles.  "Always stick up for your own people.  But, to be fair, I think
just the same as yourself.  They wouldn't, and I know them better than
you do.  But to change the conversation.  Look here; as soon as old Wing
comes back, I'm going to send him right up the country among our trading
people upon another expedition.  You have to learn, and I've been
thinking that you may as well begin to pick up business and the
knowledge of the people at once.  What do you say to going up the river
lands and gardens along with him?"

"I should like it," said Stan.  "But I'm afraid that I should be no use
to him.  What should I have to do?"

"Nothing," said the manager, laughing.  "Only keep your eyes open.  You
could do that?"

"Oh yes, I could do that," replied Stan.

"Wing would do the judging of the crops.  One does not want to buy tea
blindfold."

"I thought you bought it by tasting."

"Yes; but we look at it first.  That's settled, then.  I tell you what
you shall do: sail up the river to the extreme of your journey, and come
back overland so as to visit some of the plantations right away from the
stream."

"And stop at hotels of a night?"

"Certainly.  Capital plan," said the manager dryly, "if you can find
them."

"I meant inns, of course," said Stan, flushing.

"And I shouldn't advise that.  They would not be comfortable.  No, no,"
added the manager, with a laugh; "you made a mistake, and I began to
banter.  You will find some of our customers hospitable enough.  It is
only the ignorant common people who are objectionable."

"And the pirates," cried Stan, smiling.

"Oh yes, they're bad enough," said Blunt.  "The difficulty is to tell
which are pirates and which are not.  You see, there are so many
unemployed or discharged soldiers about.  They get no pay, they've no
fighting to do, and they must live, so a great number of them become
regular banditti, ready to rob and murder."

"This seems a pleasant country," said Stan.

"Very, if you don't know your way about.  But you are not nervous, are
you?"

"What! about going up the country?  Not at all."

"That's right.  Make your preparations, then, just as slight as you can,
and it will make a pleasant trip, in which you will have a good view of
a beautiful land, and learn a good deal about the people."

The next morning, to Stan's surprise, he found that a fresh boat was
moored to the wharf--one that resembled a miniature junk--a boat manned
by three or four men, and just large enough to display a good cabin aft,
with windows and sleeping accommodation, while the crew had an enclosure
forward to themselves.

"The boss's boat," said the chief warehouseman, Lawrence, as he saw the
lad examining the outside.  "Nice, comfortable boat for up-river work.
Mr Blunt goes up in her sometimes to visit the plantations.  Our man
Wing came back in her during the night."

"Oh, has he come back?" cried Stan eagerly.

The words had hardly passed his lips before the pleasant, smiling face
of Wing appeared, as he slid back a window and came out of the cabin,
looking particularly neat and clean in his blue frock and white
trousers, and ready to salute his young master most deferentially.

"Morning, Mr Lynn," came the next minute in the manager's harsh voice.
"So you're beforehand with me.  Have you arranged with Wing?"

"No; of course not," was the reply.  "I have not said a word."

"That's right.--Here, Wing!"

The Chinaman stepped on to the wharf, and a short conversation ensued,
during which Stan stepped forward with Lawrence, who chatted with him
about the boat and its capabilities.

"Very little room," he said; "but there are arrangements for cooking,
and any one could spend a month in her up the river very comfortably."

"Wing," shouted the manager, "we've done our business, so we may as well
chat over the arrangements for your start."

"Yes.  When will it be?" asked Stan.

"The sooner the better.  Wing here is always ready.  I should suggest an
early dinner, and then making a start so as to get as high up the river
as you can before night."

Wing smiled assent, and then played the part of captain by leading the
way on board and doing the honours of the boat.

After this there was a little discussion about stores, which the
Chinaman was ordered to obtain, and in half-an-hour Stan found himself
within measurable distance of making a start.  That afternoon there was
a hearty send-off, and Stan was waving his cap in answer to the cheers
of the party gathered upon the wharf, while the light boat glided along
in obedience to the action of its tall, narrow matting sail, the big
building rapidly beginning to look dwarfed; while as soon as the Chinese
boatmen had got their sails to draw well they squatted down in the
forepart of the boat, one keeping a lookout, and their chief, aft behind
the cabin, holding the long steering-oar.

Stan had the main deck (if a portion of the boat in front of the cabin
door that had no deck could be so called) all to himself, for Wing was
inside, evidently intent upon making his arrangements for his young
chief perfect before it was time for the evening meal.

The space was very small, but there was plenty to be seen, and a
movement or two on the part of one of the boatmen squatting forward with
an earthen pot between his knees taught the lad that he was looking down
at the kitchen, and also that the earthen pot was the range--the man,
who was arranging some scraps of charcoal in a little basket, being
evidently the cook--while soon after the men were doing feats with
chopsticks in getting rice into their mouths.

Stan had had some experience of Wing's catering while on the up-river
journey coming from the port, and had seen the man play what seemed to
be conjuring tricks with a melon-shaped piece of chinaware which was
plaited all over with bamboo basket-work.

This came out of its basket jacket, and disgorged cups, saucers, and a
sugar-basin, before turning into a teapot; and a glance at another
squarish box with rounded angles was very suggestive of its being fitted
up for dinner use, as was afterwards proved.

All in good time, as they glided onward to the glowing west, Stan saw as
if in rapid succession, so great was the novelty, his own tea made
ready, the men forward seated round a steaming heap of rice, his own
supper prepared, and then the night coming on as they made for a wooded
part of the bank, off which the sails were lowered and the boat moored;
and soon after all was painfully still, only the faint gurgling of the
water breaking the silence as it rippled beneath the bows.  Then, almost
before the lad could realise his position, all was dark beneath the
glistening stars, and he felt ready to ask himself whether it was true
that he, who used to watch the stars out of the dormitory windows of his
school in far-away England, could be now in such a helpless position,
right away there on the swift waters of one of the great rivers of the
mighty Chinese Empire.

"It doesn't seem real," he said.  "I could almost fancy that it was all
a dream."

He felt the same soon after, when, for want of something to relieve the
monotony of his position, he went into the cabin and lay down on the
stuffed bamboo shelf which formed his bed.

"Suppose one of the great dragon-eyed junks coming down the river should
run us down," he thought, after lying awake for some time.

And then he began to think of the consequences, and whether he could
manage to reach the surface and strike out for the shore.

Next he began to think of his father and Uncle Jeff; then of the
manager, who did not seem such a bad fellow after all; then of himself
and his lonely position; and then of Wing, who gave him a broad hint
that he was sharing his cabin.  Lastly, the lad began to think of
nothing at all, not even the huge forces of the mighty river, for a
listener would have come to the conclusion that he was trying to mock
the remarks made by Wing.

Then it seemed to the lad that it was only a few minutes since he lay
down in the darkness.

But it could not have been, for all at once something in a great
reed-bed cried "Quack, quack!"

And Stan knew that it was once more morning, with the sun shining
brightly, and the boat gliding swiftly up the stream; the men being
clever enough in their management, in spite of their stupid looks, and
steering close inshore where the current was slack.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

"COME CUTTEE HEAD OFF."

The night's rest had chased away all the dull feelings that had troubled
Stan, and he woke up bright, elastic, and eager for the adventures of
the day.  Look where he would on either shore, everything was
attractive.  The country was highly cultivated, and dotted with farms
and dwellings belonging to what seemed to be a large and peaceable
population.

But his wondering gaze was soon checked by Wing, who came out of the
cabin smiling, with the announcement that "bleakfas'" was ready--an
announcement as pleasant in the confines of Asia as in homely Britain;
and, to the lad's delight, he found everything quite as civilised and
good.

Wing played the part of body-servant as ably as that of agent at the
_hong_; and after the meal was over, and the lad had returned outside to
watch the glorious panorama spread on either side of the river, his
guide came deprecatingly behind him rubbing his hands.

"Young Lynn wantee Wing?" he asked.

"Yes; tell me," said Stan, "how far have we to go up the river?"

"Velly long way," replied the Chinaman, holding up his left hand with
the digits spread out, and using his right index-finger for a pointer as
he counted, "One, two, flee, fow, fi'.  Plap sick if wind no blow."

"And is it all beautiful?"

"Yes; allee velly beautiful.  Wing countly velly fine place."

"But are we going to sail right on up the river like this?" asked Stan.

"Yes.  'Top many time.  Buy cake--buy egg--buy fluit--buy duck--buy
chicken--buy lil pig.  Plenty good to eat.  Got lice, tea, suga'.  You
likee have gun shoot duck?"

"No," said Stan; "there's too much to look at without bothering about a
gun."

"You likee ketchee fishee?  Boy get line leady, put bait hook, young
Lynn ketchee fish?  Velly good eat."

"Not to-day," replied Stan.  "I want to use my eyes."

"Yes; velly good.  Young Lynn use long eyes."

And before the lad had half-grasped the man's meaning, Wing had shuffled
back into the cabin, to return directly with his young master's black
leather binocular-case.

"Wing load long eyes--nocklah--leady to shoot?"

"Not yet," said Stan, smiling, as he took the case, and then seated
himself in a squeaking cane chair placed ready for his use, and sat back
to continue watching what at times looked to him like so much
beautifully painted china on a large scale.

Finding that his services were not required, Wing settled himself down
upon a stool just inside the cabin entrance, and at once became busy
without attracting his young master's notice, till the boat came abreast
of a beautifully shaped pagoda, evidently built with blue and white
tiles, and having a marvellously striking effect in the bright sunshine,
as it rose from a verdant gorge half-way up a rugged mountain-side whose
slope ran steeply down to the river, which bathed its rocky foot.

"What a landmark!" thought Stan.  "If one were lost, how easy it would
be to look out for that tall temple and make for it!"

The glittering tiers of glazed earthenware rose one above the other,
each with its wavy, puckered eaves and points bearing little bells, the
topmost stories looking as if the builders had possessed ambitious ideas
of making the highest pinnacle pierce the soft blue sky; and as the
new-comer kept his admiring eyes fixed upon the beautiful work, the boat
glided on, forcing him to turn his head a little more and a little more,
till it was wrenched round so much that Wing began to appear at the
left-hand corners of his eyes, and interested the lad so much by the
busy interest he took in his work that Stan's gaze became gradually
transferred from the temple to the man, who went on with what he was
about in profound ignorance of being observed.

It was something fresh to Stan, who more than ever realised the fact
that, in spite of being heavy and plain of feature, Wing was a bit of a
buck in his way, and one who took great pains to impress upon the common
coolies with whom he came in contact that he belonged to a higher grade
of native--one of a class who never dreamed of defiling their hands with
hard work, and kept up at great trouble by many signs, in the shape of
finger-nails, of their being head and not hand craftsmen.

When Stan first caught sight of him, Wing was very carefully taking off
what looked like a wooden thimble, which had been formed by scraping and
filing down a suitable portion of a joint of bamboo; and as this
thimble-like piece was removed, the man again laid bare a long, curved
finger-nail, whose point, carefully polished and smoothed, was quite an
inch above the quick, and evidently "still growing."

"What silly nonsense!" thought Stan.  "What an absurd idea!  Why, if he
caught that nail in anything it would break down and become a painful
hang-nail."

But it soon became evident that Wing did not mean to break down that
nail, for after a certain amount of scraping and polishing it was
carefully covered with its thimble-like sheath, before the index-finger
on his left hand was uncovered to go through the same process as its
fellow.

As Stan watched he became aware of the fact that the left middle
finger-nail had met with a mishap, having in all probability been broken
right down, and was now being nursed up again to an aristocratic height.

All at once the man raised his eyes as if to see how his young master
was getting on, and started as he saw that he was being watched.

"Are we likely to see any pirates up the river here?" said Stan quietly.

The man shook his head.

"Wing no tell," he said gravely as he began to cover up his much-petted
nails.  "Plaps many bad man--plaps not none 'tall.  Plenty pilate
evely-wheah.  Plenty bad soljee.  Wing hope nevah see none no mo'.
Velly glad leave boat and begin walk back.  Plenty pilate on livah;
plenty bad soljee way flom livah."

"Then the discharged soldiers are worse than the pirates, Wing?" said
Stan, smiling.

"Not laugh at," said the man solemnly.  "Allee dleadful bad man.  Killee
people and takee evely-thing away.  Lun fass?"

"What do you mean--can I run fast?"

"Yes; lun velly fass?"

"Yes; I think so.  Do you think we shall have to run away from some of
these men?"

"Yes.  Lun away and hide."

"Oh, I suppose I could run well enough," replied Stan; "but of course I
don't want to."

"No; Wing don't want lun away, but pilate--soljee makee him.  Velly
fass; come cuttee head off."

"This is pleasant!" thought Stan.  "It sounds like jumping out of the
frying-pan into the fire."

The consequence of this conversation was that whenever Stan could tear
his eyes from the beauty and novelty of the shore on either side he was
narrowly scanning the various vessels which came into sight, the greater
part being small sailing-boats.  But every now and then in the course of
the day the tall matting sails of some towering junk would come gliding
round a bend, partially hidden, perhaps, by the trees which fringed the
banks; and as soon as this was seen, Stan noted that there was a little
stir among the quiet, placid-looking boatmen, who began to whisper among
themselves.  Then, if Wing had not seen the stranger, one of them moved
to where he stood and drew his attention to the distant object.

The guide seemed to be gifted with wonderfully powerful sight, which he
generally used with the result that every man was placed at his ease at
once.  But not always.  To use a nautical phrase, Wing was not upon
every occasion satisfied with the cut of the stranger's jib, and upon
these occasions he turned to his young master.

"Young Lynn lettee Wing look flou' double eyeglass?"

The binocular was handed at once, and after a great deal of focussing,
handed back.

"No pilate.  Tea-boat.  Allee good man."

Or he might speak with a greater tone of reverence as he shaded his
eyes:

"Big junk muchee fullee silk.  Wing think junk go down whalf see Misteh
Blunt."

"Not enemies, then?" said Stan.

"No; velly good fliend."

"But there are the big eyes painted on each side of the bows."

"Yes," said Wing, smiling; "but good boat.  No cally stink-pot to flow
on boat and set fi'.  No big bang gong and lot fighting-man all ovah.
No.  That velly good boat, and not hu't people.  Wing tell when he sees
bad boat.  Lun away then."

"On shore?"

"Tly go down livah get away.  Pilate come too fass.  Lun to side and go
light away."

"But what will become of the boat?" asked Stan.

"Pilate send man.  Take allee good thing.  Set fi'."

"Mr Blunt would not like that."

"No.  Velly angly.  Kick up big low and say Wing gleat fool."

"And what would you say?" asked Stan.  "Say velly solly.  Gleat pity
lose nice topside boat b'long Blunt."

"Of course."

"But much gleat pity let pilate man choppee off Wing head and all men
head.  Can makee nicee boat again; can'tee makee velly good boatman."

Stan agreed that this was a perfectly sound argument, and during the
rest of the little voyage up the river he always felt greatly relieved
when his guide was able to announce that the boats they passed were men
of peace and not men-o'-war.

But as day succeeded day in lovely weather, and the journey continued
through a glorious country, the bugbear pirates died out of the lad's
thoughts; and on the last evening, when Wing announced that they would
land at a big city in the morning, and leave the boat to go back to the
_hong_, Stan was ready to believe that his guide had been playing
alarmist a great deal more than was necessary, and told him so.  But
Wing shook his head.  "No," he said; "pilate velly bad sometime."

"But we shall find the land journey no worse--there will be no
discharged soldiers wandering about ready to interfere with us?"

"Wing hope allee gone, but can'tee tell.  Plenty fliend people heah.
Tell Wing when soljee come.  Young Lynn and Wing lun away."



CHAPTER NINE.

"A FIERCE STRUGGLE ENSUED."

Stan altered his opinion the next day when they reached a busy city
built on both sides of the river, for Wing gave him a quiet hint to
look, and upon turning, the lad found that they were gliding by a
towering junk whose deck swarmed with villainous-looking men all well
armed, while at intervals they passed four more.

"Allee bad," whispered Wing.  "No lookee; pletend can't see pilate
ship."

Five more were passed, all of which were given a bad character; but
their occupants were lying about, smoking and sleeping, eating and
drinking; and being close up to the quays and warehouses of the teeming
city, the men were upon their best behaviour, and not disposed to seize
and plunder such small fry as the little boat from the _hong_.

Hence it was that Stan's _sampan_ remained untouched, and reached the
disembarking place in safety.

Here, evidently so as not to draw attention to his young chief, Wing
slung a few necessaries, scale fashion, at either end of a bamboo,
balanced his load across his left shoulder, and after giving the boatmen
a few instructions which led to their setting off at once on the return
journey, he led Stan away from the riverside, right into the busy part
of the city, where no notice was taken of them.  A short time after the
lad found himself at the house of one of the Chinese merchants, who gave
him a warm welcome, and talked with him in pidgin-English about his
father and uncle.

Stan noticed that he exhibited no little inquisitiveness about his
further proceedings, shaking his head and looking very solemn as he
hinted that the country was in a very disturbed state.

"But Mr Wing will know how to take care," he said.  "He will know, too,
that the farther you keep from the river the less likely you are to meet
with pirates or wandering bands of soldiers.  You must take care."

Wing evidently meant to take care, for that evening, after dark, he laid
his hand upon Stan's shoulder and drew him away from the window.

"Too many bad man," he said, directing the lad's attention to the
rough-looking armed people lounging about the street.  "See young Lynn
and say, `Foleign devil.  What want heah?'  No look out window.  Go to
bed.  Sleep."

Stan laughed at the ultra-precautions taken, but obeyed, and for want of
something to occupy himself, lay down quite early, to listen to the
shuffling of feet and the loud conversation going on below his window,
thinking the while that he would most likely lie awake all night.  But
before he could make an effort to combat the drowsiness that had seized
upon him he was fast asleep, and the next thing he knew was that Wing
was shaking his arm.

"What is it?" he cried.  "Coming to bed?"

"Get-up time," replied the Chinaman.  "Mollow molning.  Come 'long."

"But,"--began Stan.  He said no more, his mouth stretching wide in a
portentous yawn; and, still half-asleep, he suffered himself to be led
out of the house and along a dark, uneven street, the air of which felt
chilly, as if the morning was close at hand.

Twice over he began to question Wing, but received a hurried whisper to
be silent, and by degrees it dawned upon him that their land journey had
commenced, and that Wing was nervously anxious lest their departure
should become known.

"Soljees," he whispered, and put his hand to his lips.

"Why, there's not a soul about," said Stan to himself, feeling sleepy,
and out of temper to a degree that made him ready to quarrel with his
guide for taking such unnecessary precautions.

But he remained silent, and trudged on close behind his companion,
stumbling every now and then in the darkness, and longing the while for
the coming of broad daylight, so that he could avoid the rough stones
and mud-holes which seemed to be always in his way.

He was surprised, too, at the extent of the city, for no sooner was one
devious street passed than they plunged into another, their wanderings
lasting for what must have been close upon half-an-hour, before they
plunged into a narrower passage than ever--one where the overhanging
eaves on either side seemed to nearly touch--while right in front a huge
wall towered up, looking jetty black, all but a square patch on a level
with their feet.

"Why, this must be a big house into which we are going," he thought.

But the idea had no sooner crossed his mind than he felt his arm
gripped, and Wing checked him so suddenly that he came heavily against
his guide's chest.

"What's the matter?" whispered Stan.

"St!  Big gate.  Plentee soljee fass sleepee," whispered Wing.  "Now
come 'long, quick, quick."

He slipped his hand down to the lad's waist as he spoke, and drew him
along past where Stan dimly made out a group of men sitting and lying
upon a big bench beneath a great shadowy house.

There was no time to see more before they were out on the other side,
with the great building reared up in the gloom behind them, and a
feeling of freedom as of an open space in front.

So great a sense of relief came over the lad that he felt bound to
speak; but certain sounds behind checked him once more, and he turned
cold at the proximity of the danger they had escaped.

For a deep, gruff voice growled out something he could not interpret,
and this was replied to by another voice, evidently that of a man newly
aroused from sleep.

The brief conversation was carried on angrily, and interrupted again and
again as if the speakers kept listening.

This was proved to Stan by the firm pressure of Wing's hand, and the
twitches it kept on giving as he stood otherwise quite motionless.

Stan's heart beat till a feeling of suffocation began to oppress him,
while with straining eyes he tried to penetrate the dark shadows behind.
At last, however, the talking ceased, and he felt the hand which Wing
had at liberty pressing upon the top of his head as if to make him stoop
down.  Grasping his guide's wishes, he bent low, and immediately felt
himself drawn onward, the pair stealing along softly in the darkness as
silently as possible, and as quickly, for before they had gone many
yards Stan was conscious of the fact that there was a long, pale line of
light right ahead, and that it was not so dark; for on glancing over his
shoulder he could dimly see the gate through which they had come, a huge
structure with curving roof and vast eaves, dominating a high wall which
went off into the darkness right and left.

"Velly neah ketchee ketchee," said Wing, with a sigh of relief.

"But suppose they had caught us," said Stan; "I am an English subject,
and you are my attendant.  They dared not have kept us."

Wing uttered a funny little squeak.

"Eh?" he cried.  "Wheah Englis' sailoh?  No Englis' man-o'-wha, and big
gun go bang two time.  Chinaman velly much aflaid when Englis' soljee--
sailoh heah.  Not heah now; Chinaman laugh; say, `Don't ca'e mandalin
button.'  Chinese soljee ketchee young Lynn--Wing.  Say, `Don't ca'e
nobody.'  Puttee in plison.  P'l'aps nevah come out again.  Velly bad."

"Ah, well! they didn't see us," said Stan, "so let's go on faster."

"Yes; go fastee now.  Go long way, have bleakfast.  Don'tee want see
soljee.  Plentee don't ca'e lobbah.  Steal dollah.  Takee young Lynn
gold watch.  Velly bad, wicked man."

"We shan't meet any of them now, I suppose?" said Stan as he gave an
uneasy look round at the fast-broadening dawn.

"Wing no know.  Velly likely bad soljee come.  Velly likely no bad
soljee come.  Allee same pilate on livah.  Don't know quite safe till
get home.  Wing velly glad get home to _hong_.  S'pose get home and no
young Lynn.  Misteh Blunt say, `Where young Lynn?' and Wing say been
gone lose young Lynn.  Misteh Blunt call Wing dleadful name.  Nea'ly
kill Wing."

"Then you must not lose me, Wing."

"No; no must lose young Lynn.  Takee gleat ca'e young Lynn."

He nodded and smiled as he hurried his companion along, till the great
gateway began to grow small in the distance, and the glazed tiles of the
roof glittered and flashed and grew confused; while in the distance, far
down the rough track, a temple seemed to rise out of a clump of trees,
at whose edge a few humble-looking houses appeared beyond where the
regularity of the enclosures told of cultivation.

A short time later Wing's next words sent a thrill of satisfaction
through Stan, for he laughed, chuckled, and rubbed his hands.

"Good bleakfast," he said.  "Plenty eat, plenty tea.  Wing know allee
people."

Before they had gone much farther Stan was in possession of the
information that the place they were approaching was a large tea-farm,
with its warehouses, and sheds where tea-chests were made; and that for
a long time past the produce of this farm had been sent down regularly
to the _hong_ by one or other of the trading-junks that bore the
up-country produce to the stores of the foreign merchants.

This was interesting enough, and suggestive of the journey now becoming
perfectly peaceful.  But Stan's main ideas at this time were in
connection with the expected meal, so that plenty of energy was brought
to bear to get over the intervening distance; while, to make matters
better, it soon became evident that they were seen.  People came out to
stand in the sunshine, shading their eyes and watching the coming
visitors.  Wing's signals were answered, and a couple of young men came
running and recognised the guide, when the visitors were eagerly
welcomed to join the morning meal that had been prepared.

The troubles of the early morning were soon forgotten, while, but for
the strangeness of his surroundings, there were moments when Stan could
have fancied that he was enjoying the hospitality of some farmer's
family thousands of miles away in old Devon.  But the satisfaction was
only short-lived, for the meal was hardly at an end before the door and
windows were darkened prior to being thrown open by a crowd of
rough-looking men bearing clumsy weapons.

Wing was seated with his back to the door, and at first saw nothing, for
Stan, who had the fresh-comers in full view, felt that the best plan
would be to sit perfectly calm and unconcerned.

And this he did till Wing, startled by the darkening of the window,
looked quickly round and sprang to his feet.

"Lun! lun!" he whispered sharply to his young charge; and catching at
his wrist, he tried to drag him towards the door in the back of the
place.

He was too late.

A rush was made by the rough-looking soldiers, several of whom literally
pounced upon Stan, hurling him down to the floor; and as he, naturally
enough, made a brave dash for liberty, a fierce struggle ensued, in
which the lad had ample proof of the futility of a half-grown boy trying
to resist the united efforts of half-a-dozen heavily built men.

Of course, the struggle did not last many minutes before Stan found
himself upon the earthen floor of the Chinese house, with four men
seated upon him, leaving him hard work to get his breath, as he stared
wildly round to see how his companion had fared.

But he looked in vain, for in the noise and confusion Wing had managed
to get behind some of the people of the house, who willingly helped him
to pass outside, leaving Stan to his fate.

"A coward!" muttered the boy as soon as he had satisfied himself that
Wing had gone.

"No," he added after a few moments' thought; "he couldn't help it, poor
fellow!  I know: he has escaped.  He'll go down the river to warn Mr
Blunt, and he'll get help from the port.  They'll send men up from one
of the ships to get me set at liberty.  For these people will not dare
to hurt me.  I'll be bound to say that Mr Blunt will soon get to know,
and if these scoundrels are not punished severely for this it is strange
to me."



CHAPTER TEN.

"COWARDLY BRUTES!"

Stan had the stout old tea-farmer who owned the place to thank for the
rescue from his extremely awkward position.  For, making tremendous use
of his tongue, in words which, if interpreted, undoubtedly would have
proved to mean, "Let the lad get up, you brutes; can't you see that you
are nearly stifling him?" the farmer supplemented his fierce verbal
abuse with blows and thrusts which, in spite of being armed, the
invaders made no attempt to resist.  They gave way good-humouredly
enough, evidently being quite satisfied with their capture; and after
taking the precaution to station a spearman at each door and window,
they allowed Stan to rise, and then bound him hand and foot to the
framework of a cane chair, which they planted full in sight in the
middle of the room, before crowding to the well-spread table and making
a raid upon the food.

This evoked another torrent of abuse, in which the farmer was stoutly
aided by two sturdy young fellows--apparently his sons--his fat wife,
and a couple of men.

The farmer seemed to be blessed with a grand vocabulary, and to be well
skilled in giving volleys of abuse; but he might have spared his breath
for all the effect his words had upon Stan's captors.  They listened
calmly enough, and as the boy looked on it seemed to him that all the
bullying did was to give the rough party of soldiers an excellent
appetite.  In fact, the more the farmer raved the more they ate and gave
orders for the big teapot to be filled; while, when the farmer ceased
shouting, the visitors ceased eating and took out their pipes to a man.

A few minutes later the table had been cleared by the tea-farmer's
people, and a couple of the biggest soldiers rose at an order from their
leader, seized the chair by its two sides, and then heaved together,
lifting it on high and dropping it upon the table, where Stan had the
misery of finding himself the observed of all observers; being treated
as a newly captured foreign devil planted there for inspection, every
man staring hard after precisely the stupid, open-mouthed fashion of
some of our own country louts.

Now and then a remark would be passed by some smoker which brought the
angry blood to the lad's cheeks; for, though not to be exactly
interpreted, its meaning was evidently derisive, and afforded amusement
to the lookers-on at Stan's expense.

"Cowardly brutes!" he muttered; and that was the only satisfaction he
could get, save that of indulging in hopes that Wing was well on his way
to the big city, where he would be sure to get into communication with
some one or other of the principal traders, and from them obtain an
audience with the chief mandarin, who, as a Government official, would
feel himself bound to interfere on behalf of the young Englishman who
had been seized.

And so a couple of hours dragged slowly along, at the end of which time
the prisoner began to come to the conclusion that he had allowed Wing
time to get to the river city, and that when he had patiently waited
another two hours Wing would have fulfilled his mission and be on his
way back with some of the mandarin's guards.

But, to his dismay, Stan found that he was not to wait there till Wing
returned; for all at once the man in command of the rough soldiery
growled out an order, which resulted in a clumsy tumbling together of
the party and the production of two very large, thick bamboo poles.

These were laid right in front of the farmhouse, and then the chair was
seized and lifted down, to be carried out to where the bamboos lay,
these being passed between the legs and there lashed.

"Am I to be turned into a Guy Fawkes?" muttered Stan angrily, as he gave
himself a wrench in his seat to try and loosen his bandages.

But the result was vile.  The captain of the party uttered a furious
growl and made-believe to draw his sword, while a couple of his men
seized the prisoner, holding him down fast, and a third dropped upon his
knees and proceeded to tighten the thongs with such savage violence that
the pain turned the lad faint, making him hang back quite lax, with the
great drops of perspiration gathering on his forehead.

It was while everything seemed to be sailing round him that he became
conscious of a peculiar, shaking motion which sharpened the pain he
suffered.  But the sickening sensation passed off, and he became fully
conscious, to his great disgust, that he was being made the principal
figure--carried shoulder-high as he was--in a triumphal procession on
its way, so far as he could judge, back towards the great gate, which he
could dimly see towering up in the distance.

They were right out in the country, with rice-fields and plantations in
all directions, so that the inhabitants were scarce; but the people of
the farm closed up as near as his captors would allow, and as they
tramped slowly along, Stan from his elevated, swaying perch could see
men at a distance throwing down the tools with which they were working,
and trotting along with their tails bobbing between their shoulders,
some to overtake, others to meet, and all to join in the procession.

"Why, they treat it as if it were some show--the wretches!" said Stan to
himself.  "Ugh!  How I should like to give it to some of them!  Grinning
at me!  Yes, actually grinning at me!  Why, I believe they look upon me
as a newly caught foreign devil, and they're following to see me
executed, or--Oh, surely they won't do that!"

A sudden thought had flashed across his brain--an echo or reflection of
something he had read or seen in connection with some poor wretch being
kept as a captive by the Chinese and exhibited in a great bamboo cage.

The first effect of the thought was to send a shiver through him,
chilling him to the bone; the following minute a sensation of heat made
him flush to the temples, and he ground his teeth.

"Yes," he said to himself, "they'd better!  No, they daren't.  They're
pig-headed enough, but they must know that I'm an Englishman--well, an
English boy, then," he added correctively.  "Oh, they daren't!  I'm only
my father's son--plain Stanley Lynn--but as soon as they knew at
headquarters they'd send a gunboat to demand me; and--of course--yes,
it's a fine thing to be a British subject, for even if I am only a boy,
our English Minister wouldn't have a hair of my head injured--if he
could help it."

Stan thought this addition to his musings in a very different spirit to
that which had preceded it.  One minute he was proud and elated at the
idea that he was an Englishman, with a general touch-me-if-you-dare sort
of sensation making his eyes flash and sparkle and his cheeks glow; the
next he was fully awake to the fact that he was a tightly bound
prisoner, having a most abominable ride to some cage, alone and helpless
among an inimical race of ignorant people who were delighted to see the
predicament he was in--so much alone that, failing Wing, not one would
raise a hand in his behalf.  He was quite right about Consul and
Minister and the stupendous machinery that would be set in motion to
rescue his insignificant self, but there was the setting it in motion.
All depended upon Wing.

"But where is Wing?" he said half-aloud, and he wrenched his head round
to look back along the procession, half-expecting to see the poor fellow
aloft in another chair, a prisoner, bound as well.

There was a savage growl at his movement, which made the chair sway, and
_bang_! one of the soldiers brought the spear he shouldered heavily
against the cane frame, making Stan start and then dart an angry glance
at the man.

_Bang_! came the shaft again, and Stan winced once more, but bit his
lips with annoyance, for his captors yelled with laughter, and others
struck at the chair.

They struck in vain now.

"Its to make me squirm--to make the foreign devil squirm," muttered
Stan; "but I'm not going to now.  I'd die first."

Whether Stan would have gone as far as he mentally asserted is open to
question, but he was able to maintain sufficient control over himself to
sit fast; not even flinching when, after several heavy blows had been
given, without result, to the chair, one of the most facetious of the
guards--a big, broad-faced, smooth-headed fellow--lowered his spear and
gave the young prisoner a prog with it in the back.

It hurt, for Stan's white flannels were thin; but the poke was not given
with sufficient force to go through the material, and further
manifestations of the kind were put a stop to by a fierce shout from the
captain, though the men all joined in a hearty laugh.

"Brutes!" muttered Stan; and he sat forward, sweeping the country before
him, as he devoted himself to wondering what had become of Wing.

It was evident that he had not been made a prisoner, for he was nowhere
to be seen; and now, as the chair went on, jig, jog--jig, jog, Stan's
brain was agitated by the terrible thought that his poor attendant might
have been struck down badly wounded, if not killed, in the sharp
struggle, for he had no reason to hope that he had escaped.

"If I could only ask!" thought Stan.  But he could not.  He had picked
up a few words and sentences since he had been in the country, but felt
very doubtful about making himself understood; while, when he did at
last make up his mind for the effort, and leant forward to venture a
question to one of his bearers, all he elicited was a derisive burst of
laughter, interspersed with mocking imitations of his attempts at the
Chinese tongue.

"Brutes!" he muttered again; and he rode on in silence for some time,
till his anxiety to know more of Wing's fate proved too much for him,
and this time he appealed to the soldier who had used his spear.

But the only reply was a menacing gesture, accompanied by a scowl, for
the man had not forgiven him for being the cause of a sharp reproof from
the captain, though it is doubtful whether Stan could have made himself
understood.

Fortunately for the prisoner, the pain he suffered from his blows and
bonds grew more bearable as the procession jogged slowly on; for the sun
was hot, pauses had to be made from time to time to exchange bearers,
and nobody seemed to be in the slightest hurry.  The result was that
after a couple of hours' tramp the great gate-tower seemed to be nearly
as far off as ever, and Stan had sunk into a gloomy state of thinking,
in which he divided his time between determining to make the best of
things and forcing himself to take as much notice as he could of the
devious track they followed through the rice-fields, whose beautiful,
tender green seemed to refresh the poor fellow's weary eyes.

"Yes," he said to himself, "I may be able to escape, and I might do
worse than make straight for the farmhouse.  The people there are
friendly, and I could reckon upon their helping me to the river and some
boat.  Once in a boat with some provisions, I could float down to the
_hong_ easily enough, even if it took days or a week or two because of
my being forced to hide in the reeds by day and only go on by night.
But why go to the farm first when, if I could get to the river from the
town, I could start on at once?  I shall see," he muttered; "and there
can be no harm in noticing the country along here.  It might be useful
to know.  But I wonder what has become of poor old Wing."

He sat on all through the heat of the day, drooping as well as
wondering, but growing more low-spirited as he swayed forward, jog, jog,
jog, jog, in wearisome fashion, and having hard work at times to sit
erect.  And but for a couple of halts that were made for the men to rest
and smoke as they lay about in the thick grass at the edge of some
paddy-field, he would have sunk forward as far as his bonds allowed and
fallen into the stupor of exhaustion.

After the last halt, which was greatly prolonged, the way led along a
much more beaten road; and now the great gate seemed to have loomed up
with wonderful suddenness through the hot haze of the Asiatic afternoon.
The sight of the huge building and the walls seemed to give the
prisoner more energy, making him gaze excitedly at what he could see of
the dwarf buildings beyond the encompassing walls, and wonder where the
prison would be situated that was to be his halting-place.

He now recalled, too, the tramp through the darkness of the early
morning with Wing, the way up to the sleeping guards from inside, and
the narrow escape from being taken when the great gate was approached.

It now seemed certain to the lad that they must, after all, have been
seen by some one of the guards, and quietly pursued and trapped at the
farm; and after settling this in his own mind, he turned once more as he
swayed along on his bearers' shoulders to wonder where he would be
imprisoned, questioning himself as to what sort of a place it would be--
whether very strong, high up in a tower, or low down in a dungeon.
Where?

"If poor old Wing were only here!" he groaned to himself as they
approached and passed under the gate.  "We could perhaps escape
together.  But he must have been killed.--Oh, if I only knew where they
are going to put me!"

His head was feverish from his hot and weary ride, which was fast
bringing on a strange delirium which made him feel as if it were only a
dream after all.

Then it was no dream.  Everything was wakeful and a fact, for he knew
where he was to be imprisoned, the bearers halting and setting down his
chair at the beetle-browed entrance of what proved to be the great
guard-room of the gateway tower.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

"TCHACK!  TCHACK!"

"They'll give me some tea," thought Stan as, with head throbbing so that
he could not hold it up, he sank down in the place to which he had been
led, too much exhausted by all he had gone through to do more than
glance round and see that it was literally a cage, whose floor and bars
were of thick bamboos, opening upon a kind of yard from which came a
sickening odour.

That was all he could note in the gloom, feeling only too glad to sink
down against one side, which also seemed to be formed of bars.  Then his
eyes closed and he fell into a kind of stupor, in which the whole of the
day's adventures passed before him, from the earliest start till he
staggered into his prison and heard the door banged to and fastened
behind him.  There it all was again, seeming to be beaten into his head
with some great mallet with sickening reiteration, till sleep came after
burning hours of misery, and the beating upon his brain ceased in
oblivion.

Mingled with the thump, thump, thump, thump, as of his troubles being
driven into his head so that he should never forget them, he had some
consciousness of a door opening and a great red paper lantern appearing
through the wall, shining like the moon seen through a thick fog.

Then there was a bang as of some heavy pot being placed on the floor,
followed by another which splashed over his hand.  Some one seemed to be
speaking to him in a hoarse, deep, guttural voice, followed by a surly
grunt; but he could not rouse himself sufficiently to answer what seemed
in his dream-like state to be questions in the Chinese tongue; while
directly after there was a tremendously loud rattling, such as might
have been produced by a great staff being drawn over bars.  Then further
rattling, with shouts as if some one yelled the syllables "Ho, yo fi
yup, yup, yup!" close by his head, with the effect of producing other
sounds full of rage, snarling, squeaking, and squealing, while _bang!
bang! bang_!--it was as if some great cat, a tiger or leopard, were
bounding heavily about its cage.

Then came the rattling as of the great staff being drawn across the bars
again, a grunt or two, the banging of the heavy door, and silence.

It was to Stan as if he had been roused out of his trance-like sleep to
hear all this, as the great, ruddy, moon-like lantern burned more hotly
into his eyes; and then all was closed in darkness, silence, and
oblivion once more.

_Cock-a-doodle-doo--oo--oo_!

A long-drawn crow, hoarse and croaky as ever cochin-china fowl uttered
after heavily flapping its wings, and Stan was back in Old England,
dull, aching, stupidly drowsy, and in a confused way feeling that he was
by a farmyard with the window open.

But his eyelids did not part, and those of his brain seemed to be quite
dark still, for he had not the most remote conception of anything more.

And so he lay in a hutched-up, awkward position, with the back of his
head against some upright bamboos, without stirring.  It was almost
dark, but the cool grey of the coming morning was filtering down into a
vile, close yard, and spreading slowly in through the bars of a great
cage, divided in two by the uprights against which the lad had sunk; and
as slowly as the light stole into the great cage, so stole in the
prisoner's power to think.

At last it began to seem--it can be called nothing else--that something
was fidgeting his hair about.  At first there was a gentle touch or two
as if it were parted, and then something tickled close up to the crown,
and Stan gave his head a twitch, but he did not open his eyes.

The tickling sensation ceased, however, and he was slowly sinking back
into oblivion, when the fidgeting and tickling began again, making him
jerk his head.

Again the fidgeting feeling passed off, and he was nearly unconscious
once more, when he was aroused, and this time he opened his eyes
wonderingly, to grasp some notion of there being a softly diffused and
faint light gradually coming down in a sloping way through thick bars;
and then there was the tickling, and the stirring of his hair.

Wakefulness and reason were slowly asserting themselves now, making the
lad turn his head slightly on one side and try to look up.

He did so in a dreamy kind of belief that he was somewhere in a place
with a huge spider, one far bigger than he had ever imagined before;
that it was hanging from the ceiling; that it kept on lowering its legs
till they were near enough to touch his head; and that then it began to
softly stir his hair.

So Stan, after screwing his head sideways, raised one eye to the fullest
extent and looked wonderingly up for that great spider.  But he did not
see it, for the simple reason that the spider was not there.

But he saw something else, which brought his full senses back in an
instant, making him utter a hoarse cry, and, scrambling up, bound right
across to the other side of the great bamboo cage into which he had been
thrust.

It was sufficiently startling, and must have had a similar effect upon
one older and sturdier than he.

For as he brought his eye to bear, there, just above his scalp, was
suspended what at the first glance through the dim light seemed to be
the head and neck of a large snake, softly dancing up and down before
descending to touch his hair.  But that was only his first idea, for the
second glance was sufficient to make him grasp the fact that it was no
snake, but a long, thin-fingered hand with quivering, pliable fingers,
smooth below but hairy at the back, and at the end of a very long, thin,
hairy arm which had been thrust between two upright bamboos.

It was only momentary, for as Stan uttered his hoarse cry the hand
darted out of sight as rapidly as if it had been made of india-rubber,
to be followed by the sound of a bump as if its owner had made a bound
across the part of the divided cage in which Stan now stood with every
nerve quivering, and his brain actively at work bringing back the
incidents of the previous day.

"Another prisoner," thought Stan, and he shuddered with horror, for
slight as was the glance he had obtained, it was enough to raise up
plenty of horrors.  The hand and arm were frightfully attenuated, and he
felt that if this were a fellow-prisoner, the poor creature must have
suffered the most terrible starvation to bring him to such a state.  He
was a prisoner too, and so horrible were his feelings for the next few
moments that the confusion and semi-delirium of the previous night
threatened to return.

But after he had rested, his thoughts grew calmer again in the silence
and the soft grey light.

He was a prisoner, but an English prisoner, he felt, and the Chinese
guard would not dare to injure him.

He gazed rather wildly at the place from which he had leaped, to see
upright bamboos very close together, but with space enough between for a
very thin hand and arm to be thrust through; and now the disposition to
speak to one who must, whoever he was, be a fellow-sufferer came
uppermost.

But he did not speak; his thoughts took another direction, and he
mastered his position.

He was, in fact, in a great cage--such a one as might have been used by
a keeper of wild beasts for the dwelling of some animal.

The floor was, as before stated, composed of bamboo bars similar to
those which formed the front; and as the light broadened slightly, Stan
could just make out that there was a light wall only a few feet away,
and that the wall was continued upward some ten or a dozen feet.

Turning his eyes to the spot from which he had leaped, Stan swept the
open division again, noting the while that all was perfectly still.  But
he could see nothing, till all at once he fancied that he detected the
tip of one of the thin fingers again; but at the slightest movement he
made, the finger, if it had been there, was withdrawn.

It was impossible to help a shuddering sensation creeping through him,
for there was something strangely uncanny about that hand seen in the
dim twilight; and the thought of being so close a fellow-prisoner of so
weird a personage grew more and more repellent as the utter silence
continued.

But there was one satisfactory thing to make matters more bearable, and
that was the fact that the light was steadily increasing; and as, after
trying hard to penetrate the mysterious screen, Stan once more looked
about his prison, and above all examined the doorway through which he
had been thrust, he caught sight of two clumsy-looking pots, which,
though the produce of the land which gave us porcelain, were of such
rough, coarse earthenware that it would have been considered too rough
for flower-pots at home.

But the prisoner's throat felt parched and his lips hot and cracked,
while a rapid inspection proved to him that one of the vessels contained
water.

It was no time for being nice.  Obeying the natural craving, Stan sank
upon his knees, raised the pot with both hands, and the next minute he
was drinking deeply of the cool, grateful fluid, which trickled down
with a sensation that was delightful, and he had drunk long and deeply
before the questioning thought came:

"Is it clean?"

He set the pot down again close to the wall, and shuddered slightly, for
the dank, cool morning air was distinctly tainted with a horrible odour
which he believed came from the yard.

Putting all suggestive thoughts from him, he turned his attention to the
other pot, and saw that a couple of sticks rose above one side; and to
test whether his surmise was correct, he took them both in hand, raised
them towards the faint light, and found that he had judged rightly, for
he brought up a lump of boiled rice adhering to the chopsticks, which he
dropped suddenly on hearing a faint noise to his left.

There was no doubt about the cause; for there, looking more weird and
strange than at first, was the limb which had first startled him, with
the long, thin hand outstretched, and the fingers twitching in a most
unmistakable fashion.

A sense of relief came over Stan now, for he saw at once that this was
not the half-mummified hand of some starving prisoner, but that of a
large ape; and without hesitation the lad stooped down again, seized the
chopsticks, and scooping up with them as much of the wet rice as would
stay on, he stepped across to the extended hand, which closed round the
food on the instant and disappeared between the bars.

_Tchack_! came in a low, quick utterance, followed by other sounds which
plainly indicated what was becoming of the rice.

"I can't eat that stuff," thought Stan; and visions of one of his
customary breakfasts floated before his eyes, in company with wondering
ideas about how long it would be before any one came and he would have
an opportunity to appeal or order the man to put him in communication
with some one in authority.

"It's out of ignorance," he said to himself.  "They dare not keep me
here."

_Tchack_! came again, this time in quite a cheerful tone, and Stan's
thoughts were again diverted.  His face crinkled into a smile, for he
felt that this was a fellow-prisoner with whom he could make friends at
once; and without hesitation he dug out some more rice with the
chopsticks, and dabbed the lump into the once more extended hand.

"Is it good, old chap?" he said in a friendly tone; and for response
came:

_Tchacker_!

"Monkey pidgin--eh?" said Stan as the hand disappeared, leaving some wet
grains sticking to the bamboo bars, a fact which resulted in another
hand appearing on the prisoner's side and the attenuated fingers
cleaning off every grain with wonderful celerity before it disappeared.

"Let's see what you're like," said Stan, putting his face to the bars,
to find that there was light enough now to show him a similar division
to his own, with a dumpy, solidly built monkey squatting down on the far
side, nursing the handful of rice against its broad chest, and picking
it up rapidly grain by grain.

As Stan looked through, the creature raised its head, which seemed
joined without neck to its chest, and displayed a pair of keen-looking,
very human eyes, peering at him from beneath their straight, overhanging
brows; and as they twinkled brightly, there was a third flash from a
double set of very white teeth, which were displayed in a grin.

Then the eating went on as if there were not a moment to lose, till Stan
fell back half-startled, for as the last white grain disappeared behind
the thin, tightly drawn lips, the animal rose upon a pair of short,
crooked legs, sprang at the bars, to hold on with its feet, and once
more a long, thin, spidery arm and hand came through.

"Hungry--eh?" said Stan, half-annoyed with himself for his display of
dread.

_Tchack_! was the reply, and the fingers curved upward in so suggestive
a way that Stan raised the pot and poured into the palm as much as it
would hold.

In went the hand again, and Stan stood holding the pot against his
breast, listening to the sound made by the monkey eating.

The natural result was that the odour given off by the wet rice rose to
the prisoner's nostrils; and it was not enticing, for it was not unlike
that of wet clay.  But the holder knew that it was rice, and that it was
eatable, though unappetising, and it awakened in him a feeling of
longing consequent upon its being many hours since he had touched food;
so, taking up some of the sticky grains on one of the chopsticks, he
raised it to his lips, with the result that they curled slightly in
disgust.

But nature was hungry, and not to be disappointed from any
fastidiousness displayed by a pair of lips, nor yet by the disgust of a
tongue.  It was only the first step that cost, and after making an
attempt to eat, Stan went on, to find that the mess, though anything but
nice, was satisfying; and he was busy at the second suggestion of a
mouthful when he had to draw back sharply, for like a flash the weird
hand darted out, grabbed the edge of the pot, and tugged it towards the
bars.

But Stan's arm was round the vessel, and his withdrawal carried it away
out of the animal's reach.

"Manners!" cried Stan; and he was at once attacked by what seemed to be
meant for a volley of reproaches, in tones which somehow seemed familiar
and connected with the troubles of the past night, especially as they
were accompanied by sounds caused by the animal bounding backwards and
forwards, hurling itself from the division bars to those which faced the
yard, till _bang! bang! bang_! came a tremendous beating against the
door, followed by one angry roar of Chinese adjurations.

_Wow_! came in a piteous tone from beyond the bars, as the noise outside
ceased; and directly after the hand was thrust out, palm upwards, and
the fingers twitching.

Stan paid no heed for a few moments, but stood waiting for the door to
be opened, ready to attack his jailer, whoever he might be, with such
Chinese as he knew; but all remained silent, and a feeling of angry
indignation swept over the lad, enraged now as the knowledge of his
position flashed through him.

"Insolent brutes!" he said half-aloud.  "I'm a foreign devil, am I?  And
I'm to be shut up in the next cage to a great monkey, am I?  What do you
mean?  To make a show of me?  Oh, it's unbearable!"

_Tchack_!

"You think so too, do you?" cried Stan aloud.

_Tchacker_!

"You think it's worse?  Well done.  You're a wiser monkey than I
thought, then.  There, old chap--fellow-prisoner--you shan't find me a
bad friend.  Here, peg away!"  And half-laughing the while--a laugh full
of mocking indignation--Stan thrust the pot down close to the bars.  In
an instant one long arm was holding it tight against them like a band of
bone and muscle, and the other was working to and from it like an
animated spoon.

"Poor brute!" said Stan softly, and he raised one hand with extended
index-finger to touch the hook-like arm.

_Ur-r-r-r-r_! came in a savage, malicious snarl, and the free hand came
down spang upon his wrist, seizing it with startling violence, and
snatching it towards the bars, against which it struck heavily.

There was a momentary struggle, during which in imagination the lad saw
his fingers being crushed between two trap-like jaws, and then he was
free.

"Why, you savage beast!" he cried fiercely.

_Tchack_! said the monkey; and the hand was going and coming calmly
enough now, and almost without a sound.

"Humph!" grunted Stan.  "My fault, I suppose.  Thought I was going to
take away its food;" and he stood rubbing his wrist gently where it had
been bruised against the bamboo bar, and watched the monkey's hands till
the last grain had been cleared out of the pot, which was released and
allowed to fall over upon its side.

"Finished?" said Stan, good-humouredly now, for the pain had passed
away.

_Tchack_!

The sound--cry, ejaculation, whatever it may be called--was evidently a
reply, and as it was uttered the hand came out towards the prisoner once
more.

"Why, you hungry brute!" said Stan.  "No more.  All gone," he cried; and
he stooped down to take away the pot.

It was incautiously done, and in an instant the animal's fingers had
closed round his hand tightly.  For the moment Stan was about to obey
his natural instinct and tear his hand away, but it struck him that the
grasp was not meant inimically, and that even if it were he must be the
stronger of the two, and could prevent his strange adversary from
dragging his arm sufficiently through the bars to make use of its teeth.
So he stood fast, and found that, in place of tearing hard and trying
to drag the hand it had secured through the bars, it was contenting
itself with pressing the hand firmly and nestling its own fingers within
his grasp, as if the sensation were satisfactory and it enjoyed the
proximity of a companion.

"Want to be friends?" said the lad quietly.

_Snar-r-r-r-r_! went the animal savagely, snatching its hand away, and
with one bound leaping to the other side of its cage.

The reason was made plain the next moment.  Its hearing was the keener,
and it first heard approaching footsteps.

The next minute great bars were being rattled down from the door, which
was thrown open, and three rough-looking Chinese soldiers entered; the
first going straight to the barred division and drawing the shaft of his
spear cleverly along the bamboos before thrusting the butt through and
making prods and savage thrusts with it at the wretched monkey, which
shrieked and chattered and bounded about, with noise and turmoil which
brought back vividly now the strange sounds Stan seemed to have dreamed
in the confused and feverish wanderings of the night.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

"I WISH YOU WERE A DOG."

While one of the soldiers teased and brutally ill-used the monkey, which
fought savagely with its aggressor, ending by getting hold of the
spear-shaft with teeth and all four hands, and displaying an amount of
strength that was wonderful in so small a creature, the other two looked
on and laughed till their comrade was tired and merely held on to his
spear.  Then they condescended to turn their attention to their new
prisoner, examining and giving him credit for the empty rice-pot; and
after a glance at the other pot, which was half-full of water, one of
them, watching for an opportunity, threw its contents all over the
monkey, with the result that the poor brute uttered a shriek, loosened
its hold of the spear-shaft, and contented itself with dodging the
thrusts made at it by its aggressor.

He too now turned to Stan, and made a thrust at him with the spear-butt,
and then stared with astonishment at the result.

For Stan's temper boiled over at once.

"You insolent hound!" he roared, striking the bamboo aside, as he sprang
at the man.  "How dare you!"

Stan's aspect was tragic, for, in spite of the disproportion between him
and his enemy, the man started back, and the scene became a farce.

The great cowardly brute fell against one of his comrades, who responded
by giving him a heavy thrust which sent him against the third, who
raised his knee so suddenly that Stan's assailant cannoned off and fell
heavily against the cage-like partition.

"Hergh!" he growled savagely as he began to gather himself up slowly,
glowering at Stan the while and muttering threats.  But the next minute
he uttered a yell and sprang to his feet, but only to fall back, with
his head giving a heavy, resounding rap against the bamboo uprights,
where Stan saw that it was held tightly, while his big, round face,
turned towards the spectators of his trouble, was wrinkled up into
distortions caused by fear and pain.

For the moment Stan was puzzled, and the more so at seeing the other two
begin roaring with laughter as their companion continued to yell for
help, while they stamped about the prison, thumping the butts of their
spears upon the open floor.

"Why doesn't he get up?" thought Stan.

A strange, snarling, growling noise gave the explanation.  It was just
such a sound as would be given out by a hound worrying a fox, and now it
was that Stan grasped what had happened.  For the enraged monkey had
seen its opportunity when its tormentor had fallen and the back of his
head struck the partition; it had darted its long, sinewy hand and arm
through, and snatched them back, drawing soldier's pigtail into the den.
Then, with a snarl of triumph, a grab was made with the other hand and
feet, the steel-trap-like jaws closed upon the thickest part of the
plait, and holding on with bulldog-like tenacity, and more than double
that animal's strength, the fierce little creature growled and worried
and tore away till Stan's rage evaporated in something very much like
enjoyment of the victim's discomfiture.

"Well done, monkey!" he said to himself, and then waited to see the
termination of the encounter.

One thing was very evident, and that was the impossibility of the man
freeing himself, for at every struggle to draw the tail from the little
animal's grasp, and any increase of the distance between the imprisoned
head and the bars, there was a fierce, worrying noise, and the monkey
made a bound back which drew the head against the bars with a heavy
thump, to the increase of the man's agony, as it forced from him fresh
yells for help and more laughter from his companions.

This went on and on, the sufferer running up and down a whole gamut of
appeals, cries that were doubtless Chinese oaths hurled at his friends,
threats of what he would do to the monkey, and orders to Stan--at least
they seemed to be, for he stared furiously at the lad as he shouted, and
at last so piteously in the midst of a savage worrying, which sounded as
if the monkey was beginning to tear at the sufferer's head, that Stan's
compassion was moved, and he went forward to try and get the man free.

But the others dashed at him at once, and holding their spears
horizontally, thrust him back, growling out what evidently meant "No,
no, no!" and completely debarring the lad from giving any aid.

At last, not from good fellowship, but from growing tired of the sport,
the two soldiers began to lend an ear to their comrade's appeals; and
after a little banter from one, and a few shouts from the other to the
monkey, which seemed to Stan to be incitements to the animal to go on
worrying, a word or two passed between them, resulting in one picking up
the water-pot, putting his spear in a corner, and stepping out into what
seemed to be a passage.

Seeing this, a wild idea crossed Stan's mind that now would be his
time--that is, to seize the spear and make a dash for liberty.

But he made no attempt, for he felt that a better chance must come, and
he waited, to see the man step back directly with the heavy pot brim
full.  This he bore towards the sufferer, who yelled at him savagely,
words which Stan felt certain were a bullying, insulting order to make
haste, for he saw the Chinese Aquarius exchange a malicious grin with
his comrade, who stood leaning on his spear; and then the whole of the
contents of the pot were discharged full at the partition, but with so
mischievous an aim that the imprisoned head received a larger share than
the monkey on the other side.

But the result was freedom.

Once more the monkey uttered a shriek at the unexpected bath, and darted
away, while its victim scrambled up, feeling at his tail, which was
ragged and torn frightfully about six inches or a foot from his head.

As the gallant warrior felt how terribly the noble appendage had been
damaged, he burst forth into a piteous howl, and then literally
blubbered with misery like a great, fat-headed booby of a boy.

"Oh, how-w!" he cried--"oh, how-w!" and once more his comrades stamped
about and thumped the floor with their spear-ends in the exuberance of
their delight.

"I wish I thoroughly understood Chinese," said Stan to himself as, quite
forgetting his own troubles, he listened to the crying soldier's string
of reproach poured out upon his comrades, till, after wiping the water
from his head and clothes, and feeling his tail again from end to end,
the pause he made over the gnawed and tattered portion was too much for
him.

Uttering a howl of rage, he dashed at his spear, seized it from where it
leaned, made for the partition, and thrust the sharp point through.

The monkey took this for a challenge, and uttered a chattering yell of
defiance, while Stan saw it advance bravely to meet the fresh assault.

This could only have had one result, but the poor beast found an
unexpected ally in Stan, who stepped forward just in time.

The spear was half its length through the bars, and on a level with the
monkey's broad breast, as the soldier made his thrust, one which must
have spitted the little, dwarfish creature through had not Stan made a
thrust at the same moment, diverting the man's aim.  The result was that
the spear met with no opposition, and the fierce energy with which the
stroke at the monkey was made carried the soldier crash against the
partition and within reach of the animal's hands, which passed through
the bars, caught him by the ears, and held on for a moment or two--not
more.

For the man threw himself back with a yell of dismay, escaped, and, now
more enraged than ever, turned upon Stan with his spear.

It would have gone hard with the lad, for the soldier was furious, but
his comrades interfered with angry word and action, dragged the spear
from him, and bundled him out of the place, before refilling the
water-pot and half-filling the other vessel with cold boiled rice.

While these proceedings were taking place Stan attacked the two soldiers
verbally with the best Chinese he could command, assuring them that they
had made a great mistake in arresting him, an Englishman, bidding them
find out what had become of Wing, and ordering them to go straight to
the merchant's house at the other side of the town to tell him of what
had happened, and then inform the mandarin of the city, so that the
speaker might be released at once.

All of this the prisoner emphasised with great volubility.  The two
soldiers smiled and listened and nodded their heads, before going out
and fastening the door after them, leaving poor Stan with the
determination upon him to wait patiently until the messages were
delivered, but all the time with his heart sinking and his common-sense
telling him that his present jailers had not grasped a word he said.

"Oh dear!" he cried bitterly; "they didn't understand a word.  Oh, dear!
why didn't the Doctor teach me Chinese instead of all that Latin and
Greek?  They would have understood me then; while now I'm perfectly
helpless, the brutes treating me just as if I were some newly discovered
wild beast.  Whatever shall I do?

"I know," thought the lad at last: "wait till it's dark.  These bars are
only bamboo, and it will be strange if I can't get through as soon as I
set to work.  And what then?  Why, the river!  I must be able to find
some boat or another.  Pooh!  I'm not going to despair.

"No," he added gloomily after a few moments' thought; "I can't go alone,
and leave poor old Wing in the lurch.  He wouldn't leave me, I know.  I
will make for the farm.  Perhaps Wing is over there after all, and for
aught I know he may be following me up, and is perhaps hunting for me
even now.  There, I'm not going to be heart-sick and despairing.  I
shall get away back to the _hong_ after all."

"Tchack!"

As Stan talked to himself he was gazing at the prison door, but this
sound brought him round in the other direction, to see a pair of bright
brown eyes watching him, and the fierce Chinese mountain monkey with its
long, thin arm stretched through the bars.

"Hullo, savage!" cried Stan aloud.  "I'd forgotten you.  Nice game this,
making me your companion.  What do the contemptible brutes mean?  To
send us both to their wretched Zoological Gardens in Peking?  I should
like to catch them at it!  Well, you're not handsome, but, my word, you
are a plucky little chap!  Think of your tackling that great hulking
John Chinaman as you did!  I say, though, it was nearly all over with
you with that spear."

"_Tchack_!" said the monkey coolly.

"Say Jack, if that's your name," said Stan, smiling.

"_Tchack_!"

"Oh, very well!  Tchack!  I say, though, who'd ever think that there was
so much strength in that skinny arm?  What do you want?  You can't be
hungry.  Want to shake hands?"

"_Tchack_!" said the monkey quietly, and it strained out its fingers as
far as it could, while its fellow-prisoner could see that it was
clinging to the upright bar with the hand-like feet.

"Want to shake hands?" said Stan.  "Now, I wonder whether monkeys have
sense enough to know the difference between friends and enemies.  Dogs
do, of course, but you look a risky one.  I've no tail for you to grab,
but you might get hold of me and give me an uncomfortable grip.  You
might drag my hand through and bite and tear it horribly.  Perhaps,
though, I'm as strong as you are, if it came to a tussle.  Yet I don't
know; you are wonderfully powerful for such a little chap."

"_Tchack_!"

"Does that mean shake hands?  Well, I'm just in the humour to risk it.
Perhaps you do know I'm friendly, after all, for you don't look so
fierce as you did."

Stan took a step or two nearer, bringing himself so close that he had
only to raise his hand to take that of the fierce-looking little animal;
while it was now light enough for him to see every twitch and wrinkling
of its restless forehead as its eyes searched his keenly.  Then he
waited, occupying the time in calculating his chances.

"If I do let him grip my hand," he said to himself, "and he tries to
drag it between the bars, I have only to plant a foot against the bars
and hold back.  He can't get at me to bite unless I let him drag my hand
right through, and I'm not going to be such a coward as to shrink.  I've
been kind to the little brute, and fed him.  All animals are ready to be
friends with those who feed them, so here goes."

But here did not go, for another thought struck the lad, and he gave
utterance to it.

"What nonsense!" he said.  "I'd better think of making my escape instead
of trying experiments with monkeys.  I might give him a little more to
eat, though.  Perhaps that's what he wants after all."

Stan stood blinking his eyes at the monkey, and the monkey blinked its
eyes at him.

"Hungry?" he said aloud.

"_Tchack_!" was the reply.

"Not much of a conversationalist for a fellow-prisoner," said Stan,
laughing; and stooping quickly, he caught up the two chopsticks, dug a
portion of the rice from the pot, and held it out.  "Here you are," he
said.

The twitching of the animal's face was wonderfully quick, and its eyes
twinkled as it stared at its new companion, but for a few minutes it
made no offer to take the rice.

"Aren't you hungry?" cried Stan.

"_Tchack_!" was the reply, as the hand moved delicately, a couple of
fingers pinching off a few grains, which were raised to the animal's
nostrils, snuffed at, and then crumbled so that they fell to the floor,
while the hand remained outstretched.

"Not hungry?  What does it mean, then--a trap?"

There was no reply, and after pitching back the chopsticks into the pot,
Stan looked the animal full in the eyes, stood well on the alert, quite
ready to plant his right foot against one of the bamboo bars, and then
very slowly let his hand go down till it lay in the long, narrow,
outstretched palm.

It was the crucial moment then, and hard work to keep from snatching it
away, for the long, thin fingers closed over it gently but tightly.  But
that was all.  The animal breathed heavily--it sounded like a sigh--but
there was no sharp flashing of the keen brown eyes, only a softened look
as they blinked gently; and the fierce little beast just held on as if
it enjoyed having company and being talked to, for, perhaps oddly
enough, the satisfied feeling began to be mutual, and in what followed
the English lad seemed as if he were taking his fellow-prisoner into his
confidence in an apologetic way.

"Seems stupid to make friends with a savage monkey," he said slowly; and
as he spoke he began to softly manipulate the long, thin fingers.  "I
don't see why.  A fellow would not be long in taking up with a strange
dog if he were locked up alone as I am.  He'd be precious glad of the
chance, and you seem ever so much more intelligent than a dog.  Like
that?"

"That" was a gentle pressure of the hand; but there was no reply, so
Stan went on talking gently:

"I wish you were a dog, old chap--our dog, so that I could write a note,
tie it to your collar, and send you off with it to the _hong_.  As a
monkey, you must have more gumption than a dog; but if I did tear a leaf
out of my pocket-book, write a message on it, and then tie it to your
neck, do you know what you'd do?--No, you don't.--Well, I'll tell you.
You'd take it and pick it all into little pieces, and perhaps chew them
up.  That's about what you'd do; but I dare say I could teach you in
time.

"Well," continued Stan after a short pause, "I don't believe you mean to
bite.  Let's see if I can't make you feel that you can trust me."

It was venturesome, and Stan half-expected to see the hand snatched
away, for he did see the eyes open more widely and begin to flash; but
he went on with what he purposed doing, slowly and quietly raising his
left hand, noticing that he was carefully watched, till it was just
beneath the one he held.  Then he supported it with his left hand, and
began to stroke it gently with his right, smoothing the long, hairy
fingers; and as this went on there was another soft, long-drawn sigh,
and the animal's eyes nearly closed.

"There!" said Stan suddenly; "that's lesson the first.  Now I'm going to
see if there is a way out of this horrible dog-hole."

He released the hand, and walked quickly away along the front bars,
peering through into the yard, but seeing nothing but blank wall, and
then crossed to the door, to stand listening.

But he had not been there many seconds before the monkey uttered an
uneasy whine, bounded up the bars of the partition, sprang across to
those at right angles, bounded back again higher up, and then, with
wonderful activity, lowered itself down, clung fast, and thrust a hand
through again.

"Oh, but I can't keep on with that game!" said Stan cheerily.  "Here,
I'll take hold again for a minute.  Then I must sit down and think.  No;
I'll try if I can eat some of that horrible rice."

He went boldly up to the partition this time, and without hesitation
took hold of the monkey's hand, saw that it was supporting itself by
clutching the bars with its feet, and the next moment two hands were
thrust through, ready to be patted and held, a long-drawn sigh of
satisfaction being uttered; and as Stan gazed in the intelligent brown
eyes, he was ready to declare that the animal smiled.

"Well, it hasn't taken long to get to be friends with you, old chap," he
said.  "There! that will do.  I'm going to have my breakfast now."

Dropping the two hands, he stepped back to the two pots; and as soon as
his fellow-prisoner was released it began to bound about the great cage
with marvellous agility, snuffling, panting, and snorting, and ending by
leaping at the partition, clutching the bars, and holding on, while it
watched in perfect silence as Stan took a hearty draught of the water
and then sat down with the rice-pot between his knees and began to eat
the tasteless, unsatisfactory mess.

A few minutes later, when the prisoner looked up, his wild companion in
adversity was out of sight--but not out of hearing, for from somewhere,
apparently at the top, a peculiar tearing and crackling sound began.
Sometimes it was a mere gnawing such as might have been made by a rat;
then there would be a pause, followed by a sharp crack as a piece of
cane was being ripped off.  But Stan could see nothing, and coming to
the conclusion that the monkey was amusing itself by tearing at some
piece of board, he went on with his wretched breakfast, paying no heed
till a couple of loud cracks came in succession, followed by quick
footsteps and the unfastening of the door.

At the first sound of steps the noise ceased; and as the door was flung
open and a couple of soldiers stepped hurriedly in, the prisoner looked
up from his mess of rice to find that they were looking at him
curiously, then round the place, till, apparently satisfied by seeing
how peacefully their charge was employed, they drew back and shut the
door, when silence once more reigned.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

"THE UPROAR WAS TREMENDOUS."

That day passed wearily away, but there were a couple more visits from
the jailers, who looked at the prisoner curiously before going back.

At the second visit they brought more rice and water--nothing more--and
to all Stan's questions about Wing, the mandarin, and the merchant to
whom he had sent a message, there was nothing but a dull, stolid,
exasperating stare, and then once more he was left.

Twice over there was the cracking and tearing sound as if the monkey was
working away at the wood, but with darkness all was silent within the
gate-tower.  Plenty of sounds arose from outside, but the prison was
evidently right at the back, and the trampling and voices heard from
time to time seemed far away.

That night sleep was long in coming, for Stan had much thinking to do,
and he carefully examined his prison while the monkey clung to the bars
asleep.  As far as he could make out, there was not much prospect of
escape.  By working hard Stan felt that he could perhaps have succeeded
in getting through into the monkey's partition, but nothing would
apparently be gained by that, and he sank into a moody fit, full of
discontent at his ill-fortune, wishing that he had refused to come up
the country, and that he had stayed with father and uncle; ending by
working himself up into a low, despondent state, from which he was
released by sleep.

Three days dragged their slow course along without change.  Plenty of
soldiers came in with the jailers to stare at him, and from time to time
parties of men and women were admitted to the narrow yard, where they
divided themselves between staring at him and the monkey, till the lad
grew at times half-maddened.

"Oh," he groaned to himself, "the miserable, conceited brutes!  To be
treated like a curiosity!  I believe they look upon me as no better than
that monkey.  Well," he added mockingly, "it's only fair.  I don't look
upon them as being as good.  Poor wretch!  How every one teases and
ill-uses it!  I wish he'd do one of the miserable cowardly wretches some
harm."

But as time went on in a horribly monotonous state of imprisonment, Stan
noted that, in spite of the way in which the soldiery prodded and struck
at the poor beast with their spear-shafts, it seemed less vicious.  When
he and the monkey were free from interruption, its great delight was to
come to the bars of the cage and thrust out its long, thin arm, while if
Stan would take its hand it was perfectly still and happy.

What it was doing up by the top of the bamboos Stan could not make out,
but from the beautifully white, sharp state of its two great rows of
teeth, the lad came to the conclusion that it was following the example
of carnivorous animals and sharpening and cleaning them upon the
woodwork; but after that hurried visit from the men when Stan first
heard the cracking and splintering noise, they came no more save at
regular times, when they made sure that he was safe, and treated all his
attempts to make himself understood as if he were some lower-class
animal kept for show.

And during the next two days this seemed to be more and more the case,
for the soldiers kept on ushering in common-looking country-people, till
at one time the yard was nearly full of gaping spectators, for whose
delectation the monkey would be sent bounding about its cage, flying up
the bars in front to avoid the shaft of some spear thrust in brutally,
but, in spite of rapid strokes, rarely striking it.  For the active
little creature made prodigious leaps, or swung itself from side to side
by its long, thin, muscular arms; and as often as not it scrambled up
the partition bamboos to take refuge in the corner farthest from the
front, to hold on in full view of Stan, keeping itself in position close
to the roof by clinging with both arms round a couple of the bamboos,
its head being thrust away in the extreme angle.

There it would stick, well out of reach of the soldier who played
showman, till the spectators were turned out of the yard, when it would
suddenly snatch its head out of its nook, turning it sharply to look
down and listen, keeping quite motionless and on the _qui vive_ to hide
itself ostrich fashion if there was another sound; but if not, it would
hold on by the two bamboos with all four hands and shake them savagely,
making them rattle again, snarling and chattering savagely at its
fellow-prisoner, and snapping its sharp ivory trap-jaws as if to show
how it would bite if it had a chance, before uttering its favourite cry,
_tchack_!

"Poor old chap!"  Stan always said.  "I should like to see you get loose
among them."

No sooner had he spoken than the quaint-looking little creature loosened
its hold slightly and slid down the two bars, to squat at the bottom and
thrust one hand into Stan's compartment, reaching in as far as possible
for it to be taken, when it held on tightly, drooping its head as if
enjoying the sympathy shown for it.  But not for long.  Suddenly drawing
its hand back, it began to trot like a dog about its cage, to keep on
picking up, examining, and smelling the scraps of food and fruit that
had been thrown in by the people, stopping to eat some tempting piece,
before scrambling up the bars again to the corner nearest the front,
where the cracking and tearing noise went on again in the part of the
cage beyond the reach of Stan's eyes.

There had been more visitors than usual, with a fresh jailer to play the
part of showman, and while some of the people stood gaping stupidly at
Stan, the monkey was hunted about till those who watched it were tired,
when it took refuge out of reach, refusing to come down.

Upon this the party shifted their attention to Stan, joining the rest in
their miserably stupid, gaping stare, which exasperated the lad into
imitating the monkey's tactics and turning his back in the far corner,
but of course on the floor.

Instead of doing good, Stan found it result in harm, for a most
irritating form of annoyance began, the people beginning to take aim and
pelt him with oranges, bananas, and pieces of bread-cake; all of which
the prisoner, who was simmering with wrath, ignored, declining to make a
spectacle of himself, and remaining quite motionless till he felt a
heavy dig in his back.

This made him turn sharply, to find that his fresh custodian was
reaching in as far as he could, holding his spear by the extreme end of
the shaft, and poking at him with his cheek close against the bars and
one hand extended to the full extent of his arm.

"Beast!" growled Stan, with a jerk forward, as he flung out his arm; and
the next moment, as much to his own surprise as to that of his jailer,
he had caught hold of the spear-head and jerked the weapon out of the
man's hand.

The little crowd uttered a yell of delight and excitement, while the
soldier burst forth into a torrent of bad--Chinese--language, leaping
about, shaking his fist at the prisoner, and evidently threatening what
he would do if the spear was not handed back on the instant.

But this last affront had made Stan regularly boil over, and a fresh
yell came in chorus from the crowd as they saw him swing the spear round
to make a thrust at the owner, who shrieked aloud as he darted back,
while the swift drawing of the spear-shaft across the bamboos made every
one in the yard utter a yell of dismay and begin tumbling one over the
other to reach the yard door; an example followed by the gallant
warrior, whose speed was hastened, and who began thumping the backs of
those who hindered, when Stan thrust the spear out between the front
bars and gave him a few digs in the back.

The uproar was tremendous, and increased by the excitement of the
monkey, who, upon seeing his friend armed with the instrument used for
torturing him, began to bound about, leaping at and shaking the bars,
and chattering savagely, till the last of the occupants of the yard had
escaped by the door, which was banged to.

Then, seeing that Stan had drawn in the spear again to stand upon his
guard, the monkey stopped short too, watching him, and, like his
companion, gazing hard at the inner door, beyond which there was a
fierce buzz of voices, the shuffling of feet, and other sounds which
announced the coming of more soldiers to disarm the prisoner.  But Stan
felt in no humour for being disarmed.  There was something invigorating
in feeling possessed of a weapon, and at the first indications of the
prison door being opened he stepped back, drove the head with a thud
into the wood, snatched it back, and then, after a step to the rear, he
brought the stout elastic shaft across the door with an echoing bang,
which had the double effect of silencing and putting to flight the
braves in the passage and making the monkey shriek, chatter, and rattle
the bars in a way that helped the retreat.

"Hah!" ejaculated Stan as he stood with the spear-head lowered ready to
make a thrust at the first man who appeared.  "Let them come.  I don't
care now."

This was a fact, for the lad had grown reckless, and determined to
attack, extra nerved as he was by the thought that if he made a bold
charge with the spear the Chinese soldiers would turn tail, and if he
followed them up he might in the confusion escape.

But he neither charged nor escaped, for the simple reason that the door
was not unfastened; and after waiting for some time Stan came to the
conclusion that the Chinese braves would not attack, but would probably
try to starve him into a state of submission--thoughts which became
strengthened later on.

After waiting some time, watching the inner door alternately with that
which opened out of the yard, Stan turned to speak to the monkey.

"Hullo, Tchack!  Did I frighten you?" he said.

But there was no reply, and no fellow-prisoner in sight, the poor beast
being so much alarmed by seeing the torturing spear in the hands of its
friend that it had climbed up the bars into its favourite place out of
sight, and declined to be coaxed down.

The time went on, and no one returned to the yard, or even ventured, as
far as Stan could make out, into the passage; so that the afternoon and
evening were passed with the prisoner in the novel position of guard,
playing sentry, and waiting for the next jailer to attack.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

"IT'S ALL OVER!"

Night had long taken the place of day, and sound after sound in the
great gate-house had put Stan on the alert; but no one had come to the
door, and as he rested upon the spear-handle the prisoner underwent
pains which endorsed his ideas that he was to be starved into
submission.  In fact, he grew so hungry that all his pride died out, and
in the darkness he humbled himself so that he was glad enough to allay
his starving pains by seeking for and picking up some of the fruit and
scraps of cake that had been thrown to the strange foreign devil, or
wild beast, that the guard of the gate had on view.

"Oh, it's horrible to come down to this!" muttered Stan as, tired out
with standing in spite of the support from the spear-shaft, he sat down
and ate sparingly just enough, as he put it, to keep himself from
feeling faint.  But he was terribly hungry, and cake, bread, bananas,
and an orange proved, in spite of being gleaned from the cage floor, not
bad; so that he did not content himself with enough to keep him from
feeling faint, but unconsciously ate heartily, and felt much better.
His spirits began to rise, and after a good, hearty draught from the
water-pot, which, fortunately, he had not exhausted, he was so far from
being starved into submission that he cut something very much like a
caper as he threw himself into an attitude with the spear, looked in the
direction of the doorway, and crying, "Come on!" muttered afterwards, as
he made a thrust at an imaginary enemy, "Oh, how I should like to serve
some of you out for this!"

He listened, but there was not a sound to be heard.  Then he seated
himself with his back to the side-wall, so that he commanded the open
partition facing him, the door being to his right, and the front of the
cage to his left, while he held the spear ready for action across his
knees.

"They'll wait till they think I'm asleep," he muttered, "and then pounce
on me.  But I'm not going to sleep, and if any one does come sneaking in
he'll have a prick from this spear that will send him out quicker than
he came in.  Wonder what father would think if he could see me now!  And
Uncle Jeff.  I wish he were here.  No, I don't.  I shouldn't like any
one I know to be in such a predicament.  I say, I don't feel frightened,
for they are cowards and no mistake.  Fancy their being ready to run
from a boy like me!  They won't dare to hurt me, because I'm English.
I'd give something, though, to have poor old Wing here.  I do hope he
has escaped--'scaped--I'd--'scape--hah-h-h-h!"

This last very softly, and then Stan heard no more, for weariness and
his large meal had proved too much for him.  He was fast asleep.

He was not wide awake when he sprang to his feet with spear levelled,
ready to drive it at the first Chinese soldier who made a rush at him
from the door he believed to have been burst open with a sharp,
crackling sound.

The thrust was not delivered, because no one made a rush; in fact, all
was perfectly still.  And when, after a long pause, during which his
imagination had been very busy peopling the dark cage with crouching
enemies in various corners waiting for their opportunity to spring at
him, he began cautiously to make little pushes with the steel point here
and there, without result and ended by advancing softly towards the open
door, to be checked by the spear bringing him up short with the point in
the wood, it began to dawn upon him not only that the door was shut, but
that he must have been asleep.

"How queer!" he muttered.  "I was perfectly certain that the door was
burst open, and I'm sure I heard a crackling sound."

Thoroughly satisfied, after a little feeling, that the door was close
shut, he turned round to face the bars, finding that while all elsewhere
was pitch-dark, there was a faint suggestion of light there; inasmuch as
he could just make out the black bamboo bars with the darkest of grey
streaks between them, clearly enough cut save in one place, where, high
up, there was a big blur.

He stood with his heart still beating heavily, consequent upon the
startling manner in which he had been awakened.

And as he stood gazing with eyes whose pupils were dilated in the
darkness, that blur, high up towards the top of the bars, seemed to wear
a familiar shape, which idea grew and grew upon him to such an extent
that he tried to give it a name, and said softly:

"Tchack!"

He was right, for in an instant it began to glide down the bars like a
couple of the beads on a scholastic numeration frame, reaching the
bottom lightly, to utter the same word.

"Why, however did you get out there?" said Stan excitedly.  "What
nonsense!  I'm looking at the side instead of the front."

He turned sharply, extended his hand, and the next moment touched the
partition bars, and grew more confused.

"It isn't the side," he muttered; "this is the side; and that is the
front, by the light coming there.  Have you got out, Tchack?"

Stan's heart beat fast at the idea, for it was full of suggestions of
escape.

But a soft, peculiar sound changed the current of his thoughts, and
looking to his left, he was conscious of the dark blur passing quickly
up to the top of the bamboo bars, and passing horizontally along; then,
as the blur died out in the darkness, he heard the monkey come closer,
working itself high up from bar to bar of the partition against which he
stood, and glide swiftly down, brushing his breast with one hand as it
dropped to his feet.

_Tchack_! it said softly, and the next moment the thin, sinewy hand was
foraging about him to get at his, into which it nestled, and the poor
animal uttered a low, heavy sigh of content.

For some minutes Stan could only think in a puzzled, confused way,
feeling that he must be dreaming; but at length things settled
themselves in an orderly way in his brain, till it became perfectly
clear to him that the monkey must have some way out of the top of its
cage which enabled it to pass along to his place.

If so, he reasoned, the yard must be open to it; and if it could get
into the yard, it was quite possible that it could get through the
doorway or over the wall; and if so, it was probable that it could get
into some court or lane by the gate-house.

If the monkey could do this, he argued directly after, why could not he?

And now he could think clearly, his reason suggested that the crackling
and splintering noise he had so frequently heard must have been caused
by the animal trying to gnaw its way out, the noise which woke him
having been made during the final efforts.

Stan's heart began to beat faster and his ideas to flow more freely.  He
wondered now why it had not all seemed clear to him at once, for it was
evident that if he could get through the partition and into the monkey's
cage, there was the way open for him also to escape.  He had never
troubled himself about the bars between him and his fellow-prisoner.
Why should he have done so?  He did not want to escape from one cage to
the next.  But now he recalled that the bamboos were smaller than those
in front; a few touches of his hand confirmed this, and withdrawing the
other from the monkey's grasp, he seized two of the bars, and the animal
sprang up them at once.

"Oh, if I could only climb like you!" said Stan to himself as he went
from bar to bar, trying them and giving them a shake, when, after a few
trials, to his surprise he heard one of those he held creak in a
peculiar way; and upon seizing it with both hands, to his astonishment
and delight he found it give way with a sharp crack, the middle having
been gnawed through, while, climbing up a little, he was able to use it
lever fashion and wrench it so much on one side that in another minute
he managed to force himself through and stand in the place from which
the monkey had escaped.

It is only the first step that costs, the French say in their proverb,
and Stan found it so here.  After a time he was able to make out what
the monkey did to escape, for, close up in the left corner, he made out
that instead of the bars looking regular black streaks against the grey
light, there was one large, ragged patch of grey; and upon climbing up,
by clinging leg helped, to a couple of the bars, he soon reached the
top, where one had been gnawed right through and was now a splintery,
sharp mass of fibres.  Here, after some difficulty and a good deal of
tearing, Stan managed to get through and slide down outside the bamboos,
to drop the next minute into the yard.

It seemed too good to be true, and he paused in doubt to look round for
and speak to the monkey; but he could not make out where it was, and he
had no time to spare.

There was no sound of sentry near, no sign of danger; so, making for the
gateway, he found it possible to climb, and soon reached the top of the
wall in which it was placed.

Still no sound--nothing but darkness around; and thoroughly strung up
now, the lad lay flat on the wall for a few moments, before lowering his
legs, hanging at full length, and then dropping, to come down heavily
upon rough paving-stones, but with the delight thrilling through him
contained in the thought that to some extent he was now free.

He hesitated for a few moments, listening and looking to right and left,
thinking of the dark and devious lane along which he had passed with
Wing upon that unlucky morning, and wondering whether he could retrace
his steps.  But he felt that it would be madness to attempt it; and
besides, his one great idea was to reach the river, feeling sure that
sooner or later he would find an empty boat moored somewhere, and once
on board that, he felt that he would be safe.

He had determined to start off and follow the first turning he came to,
in the hope of reaching the riverside before daylight, when something
seemed to induce him to look up.

His blood began to turn cold, for there on the wall above, dimly seen in
the darkness, he could make out the head of some one intently watching
his every movement.

It was for life and liberty that, giving a violent start, he dashed off;
breathing freely the next minute, for he realised the fact that he had
been watched by his dumb fellow-prisoner, the monkey starting as
violently as he did at the first movement, and disappearing instantly
into the precincts of the prison.

For the moment Stan felt as if, owing so much as he did to the
quaint-looking animal, he would have liked to coax it to follow him; but
common-sense told him that he would be wasting valuable time, and
perhaps sacrificing the liberty he was on the point of securing, so he
kept right on, feeling damped by the fresh thought that perhaps he was
on the wrong side of the great city-wall.

"Can't help it," he said; "there is no choice.  This one may turn out
the best."

In the spirit of this thought he hurried along the narrow lane, which
was so dark that he could hardly pick his way, and seeing nothing but
that it was shadowed by low-roofed, overhanging houses, whose occupants
were so far silently asleep; but from the way in which house and _hong_
followed one another, he felt what he had noted when with Wing, that the
city must be densely populated, and that he must find some hiding-place
before daybreak.

He tramped on for quite a couple of hours through what seemed to be a
deserted city, doubling here and there, but without a sign of the main
artery he sought, till, just as he was in despair and ready to sink with
weariness and the thought that all his toil had been in vain--for the
tops of the houses were beginning to show clearly against the grey sky--
he came upon a wider turning.  Glancing hesitatingly down it to see if
it offered anything like a hiding-place, he rushed forward at once; for
there, stretching to right and left, was the black, flowing river, with
big junks moored close together, and beyond them and the smaller boats
crowding the stream were the house-boats and dwellings by the farther
shore.

A couple of minutes later Stan was on the hither bank, hurrying by boat
after boat, but all too big to be manageable; and he kept on and on,
feeling that he had not a minute to spare, for at any moment early
risers might be on the move, and the sight of a fugitive English lad
would be sufficient to raise a shout--and a hue and cry to hunt him
down.

"It's all over!" he groaned to himself suddenly; and he made a dart
forward to get in the shelter of a great junk aground right up to the
bank, for all at once he heard the splash of an oar, and a boat was
being pushed off from the far side, looking wonderfully plain now in the
fast-broadening dawn.

It was for liberty, so there was no time to put in practice the familiar
old proverb of "Look before you leap," Stan was running as he placed the
stranded junk between him and the rowers, so he made a bound as he
reached the lowest part midway between the high bows and the towering
stern, springing from a rough kind of wharf on to the junk's deck, which
seemed to be about a couple of feet lower than the wharf.

The leap was nerved by despair; he had a good take-off, and for a brief
moment or two he saw flowing water below him; then he came down on the
rough bamboo deck.  There was a soft, crushing sound, and he went
through some of the rotten wood down into darkness, to fall upon his
side and lie motionless, looking up at the grey, ragged patch he had
made, and holding his breath as he listened for the coming of the
boatmen, who must have heard the noise.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

"CHINESE MEN-OF-WAR."

Stan Lynn lay holding his breath and straining his ears, till he uttered
a hoarse gasp, and all the while the murmur of voices and the plashing
of an oar came nearer and nearer.  Then the sounds were so close that he
raised himself a little to look round for some hiding-place in the
depths of the vessel, and then dared not stir.  But all at once, just as
he felt that the boat must be alongside, relief came in a hearty laugh
uttered by one of the boatmen, the plash, plash, plash of the oar grew
more distant, and he let nerve and muscle relax till he felt limp and
helpless ready to do nothing but lie panting amongst the rotten wood,
resting and trying to recover his failing powers.

The light overhead increased, and as his eyes wandered here and there he
could see bright cracks and rifts in the deck and high up in the sides,
all evidences that he had found a sanctuary in some dilapidated,
half-rotten junk which had been drawn close inshore ready for breaking
up, its services being evidently at an end.

The morning grew brighter, and fresh sounds of plashing came near,
tempting him to creep through the half-darkness to where the first
gleams of the morning sun streamed through a rift in the side.  Upon
reaching it and applying his eyes, he found that he could command a good
view of the river to right, left, and across, with the water becoming
animated, boats large and small passing and repassing, the opposite
shore waking up, and smoke beginning to rise from the house-boats moored
close to the bank, and all the morning business of a great city
appearing around.

If only the old junk were left alone, Stan felt that he might lie in
hiding till night.  There might be a possibility of his marking down
some boat, and as soon as it was dark wading or swimming to it, when, if
he could loosen it from its moorings and secure the mast, sails, or
oars, escape would be simplicity itself.  But, as the lad argued, there
were so many _ifs_.

"But I oughtn't to grumble," he muttered.  "I have got out of the
prison, and I am here in a capital hiding-place where nobody is likely
to come."

Just about the time when he had come to this conclusion a waft of some
peculiar odour from food being cooked seemed to float down the river and
reach his nostrils, producing a sensation that was repeated again and
again with increasing violence, till the poor fellow uttered a low moan
of misery.

"If this goes on I shan't be able to bear it," he muttered; and then,
setting his teeth hard, he groaned out through them, "I must--I must.
Oh, what a coward I am!  I've only got to wait till it's dark, and then
surely I can land and find something somewhere."

But even as he tried to console himself with these words, he felt more
and more hopeless, not seeing for a moment where he was to search, and
all the time suffering more and more keenly.

For in all directions smoke was rising from the hundreds upon hundreds
of house-boats that lined the shores, as well as from the many
one-storied houses clustering together, and a strange mingling of the
most maddening scents came floating around--literally maddening to one
whose sole sustenance for many hours had been a couple of bananas and a
piece of cake.

It was all so horribly civilised, too.  The fugitive was in far-away
Asia, but his nostrils were assailed with the steam of fragrant tea,
freshly roasted coffee, newly baked bread, frying fish, and appetising
bacon.

No wonder the starving lad called it maddening as he crouched down in
the darkness and tried to think of other things.

Before long, however, he had something else to take his attention, for a
procession of nearly a dozen huge junks came slowly down the stream,
each with its leering, painted eyes and gay dragon-like gilded
ornamentations.

They were full of men armed with spear, fork, and trident, besides in
parts bristling with matchlock barrels, while fore and aft the watcher
could see that they carried big service-guns.

"Chinese men-of-war, full of soldiers!"  Stan mentally exclaimed; but
only to alter his opinion directly, for he had some little experience of
the Government troops, and knew that the men all wore a grotesque kind
of uniform.

They were not merchant-vessels, he thought, for though many of the
trading-junks carried armed men, those before his eyes were out of all
proportion.

"Could they be pirates?" he asked himself; but the sight of the leading
junk casting anchor in midstream--an example followed by the rest--put
an end to his surmises, for they were evidently at peace with the people
in the vessels about them and on shore, many landing and mingling with
the men who came to the sides and crowded in boats about the anchored
vessels to supply them with food.

So much was going on all about him in this latter way that every now and
then Stan felt that, come what might, he must land and seek for
something, even if it was only a loaf of bread, to appease his hunger;
but he knew it meant surrendering his liberty, for there would be a
crowd round him at once; while doubtless by this time it was known that
the foreign devil had escaped:

Stan watched till the morning was well advanced, longing for the night
to come even though the sun was not yet at its height, while now a fresh
agony assailed him; the rugged deck overhead began to get hotter and
hotter, and the air about him suffocating, till at last he felt that at
all hazards he must crawl up and trust to his not being seen while he
crept to some spot where the remains of the lofty stern would act the
double part of shading him from the sun and the curious eyes of those
who passed.

There are limits to human endurance.  Stan had not slept for above an
hour during the previous night, and the bodily and mental toil he had
gone through were tremendous.  Hence it was that when his sufferings
were at the worst, the faintness produced by his hunger and the heat
more than he could bear, a half-delirious kind of insensibility stole
over him--half-stupor, half-sleep--which tided him over the hottest part
of the day, rendering him oblivious to all that was going on, till he
awoke suddenly, to find, to his amazement, that it was twilight in his
hiding-place, and on looking out through a rift he could see the river
glowing like blood from the reflection of the sunset clouds.

In his excitement at the beauty of the scene which met his eyes lower
down the river, he clapped his hands together, and had hard work to
refrain from shouting aloud, merely standing gazing out through the open
rift in the planking, and feeling giddy now in his joy.

Hunger and heat were forgotten, and he gazed out till his eyes grew dim
and he had to make an effort to avoid yielding to the giddiness and
swimming which attacked his head.

Strange that one in such a terrible position should feel such ecstasy
upon seeing a glorious vision in the sunset beauties of that far-eastern
river?  Not at all.  Stan Lynn was in no sentimental mood to be moved to
such excitement by a few orange-and-gold clouds reflected in the water,
or the gay aspect of the thronging people haunting the great warlike
junks still moored higher up.  Stan's beautiful vision was something far
more simple.  It was that of a lad of about his own age seated in a
_sampan_ which he had moored about a hundred yards lower down the
stream.  There he was, sitting alone, unnoticing and unnoticed save by
the watcher in the crumbling junk's hull, who saw him pull up a silvery
fish, and then, after putting it into a basket between his feet, proceed
to rebait his hook and cast it in again.

Was it hunger, then, which produced a longing for a few raw fish?  Again
nothing of the kind.  As Stan's eyes lighted upon that small boat, which
seemed to have a little mast and matting sail laid with the oars and
pole projecting over the stern, the idea had struck him that this was
exactly the kind of boat for which he longed.  Could he but gain
possession thereof and get rid of the boy who was fishing, while
retaining his lines and bait, the _hong_, no matter how many days'
journey distant, was within easy reach; and hence when Stan clapped his
hands it was after coming to the determination that he would have that
boat at all costs.

But how?



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

"OH!--HAH!"

"Where there's a will there's a way," says the old proverb.

It is not quite true, but there's a great deal of truth in it; and Stan
had made up his mind how to gain possession of the boat almost before
the boy had caught another fish.

The first idea was to wait till it was quite dark, so that his
proceedings might not be seen by people in the many boats or from either
shore; but he dared not wait, for at any moment the boy might be
satisfied with the fish he had caught--scores, for aught Stan could
tell--pull up his anchor, and row ashore, and the chance of getting the
means of reaching the _hong_ would be gone.  What he did must be done at
once, Stan concluded, and he prepared to act.

Fortune was favouring him, for the boat swung by a rope from the bows,
and the boy was at the other end, facing the stern, over which he hung
his line.  And consequently he was sitting with his back to him who was
planning the onslaught upon his peace.

Stan's thoughts ran fast as he watched through the gap in the side of
the junk and completed his plans, getting them so compact and clear that
at last, as the boy fished on, it seemed as if he had nothing to do but
make a start and succeed; but when at last he was quite strung up to the
sticking-point, obstacle after obstacle began to appear and suggest
impossibilities.

He was safely hid in the hold of the junk, but the moment he appeared on
deck in his white flannels he would be a mark for every eye, from the
crews on the high poops and sterns of the great junks to the people on
the house-boats and shore, as well as the busy folk paddling here and
there in the little _sampans_ which were constantly on the move up,
down, and across the river.

He seemed to hear the shout raised, "Foreign devil!" and to see the
fishing boy, warned thereby, jumping up in his boat, pulling up the
little wooden anchor, and rowing out of his reach, while scores of eager
people joined in to hunt him down.

Stan's venture seemed to become more and more mad, and he breathed hard,
feeling that he must give it up.  But there was the river before him,
one wide-open way, flowing down and ready to bear him onward night and
day toward his friends.

But he wanted the boat, and the only way was to seize it--steal it, he
told himself, though he comforted himself with the thought that he was a
prisoner trying to escape from his enemies, and that such a reprisal
would be just.

"I must--I will do it," he panted.  "Oh, I wish I wasn't such a coward
to hesitate like this!--And there's another fish.  He must have caught
enough to leave me a good meal, and I am so, so hungry!  Now then!  Once
to be ready!" he muttered, with his old school-games rising before him.

"Twice to be steady!"

He paused here long enough to see the boy hook and draw in another fish,
then bait again, and--

Stan was in agony, for the boy hesitated, paused to pick up a basket and
examine its contents, and then he seemed as if he were satisfied and
about to haul up his anchor and make for the shore.

"Too late!" groaned Stan.  "I ought to have tried before.  It's all
over.  I must look out for another boat."

He was casting his eyes in other directions, when, with a feeling of
relief that is impossible to describe, he saw the boy drop down again
and continue fishing.

Stan's nerves and muscles were now like steel, and he began to crawl for
the broken portion of the deck, got well hold of a cross-piece of bamboo
with both hands, and commenced swinging himself to and fro from his
hands till he could get one foot up, then the other, level with his
face; and by a clever effort he raised himself so that he could, thanks
to old gymnastic games at school, fling himself on to the unbroken part,
where, after a few moments' pause, he began to crawl to the edge of the
deck where the bulwarks had broken and rotted away.  Then, feeling that
he must dare everything now, he lowered himself down, his feet sinking,
and the water rising about him as he stretched his arms out till it was
up to his hips.

And there he hung, a white figure in the evening glow, right in view for
a few moments, as he hesitated before making the final effort.

"Suppose he shows fight," he thought to himself.  "Well, I must show
fight too.  I've licked English chaps as big as myself, and it will go
hard if I can't lick a Chinese."

At this point he straightened his fingers, which were crooked over a
ragged piece of bamboo, and _plosh_! he went down feet first with a
heavy, sucking noise; the water closed over his head with a deep,
thundering roar, and keeping himself quite rigid and his eyes wide-open,
he waited till, after what seemed an immensely long time in darkness,
his head rose above the ruddy surface of the water, and he found that he
had turned as the current carried him along, so that he was looking at
the rotten old vessel he had left.

Stan was skilful swimmer enough to reverse his position, and found it
none too soon, for there was the boat he sought to reach some forty
yards away, and so much out of the course he was taking that he had to
begin swimming till he was well in a line with his goal, but so much
nearer that as he ceased striking out he was close upon the anchor-line.

The next minute he had touched it gently, and at the happiest moment for
his success, the boy having hooked a fish--a large one--which took up
his attention so much that Stan softly seized the bow with both hands,
let his legs float on the swift current, and then by a quick effort drew
himself well up and rolled over into the bottom of the boat, where he
lay quite still beside the folded-up little matting sail.

The boat rocked so that the owner looked sharply over his left shoulder,
but not far enough to see the invader of his boat; and probably
attributing the movement to his own exertions, he went on playing his
big fish; while, reaching up his hands, Stan got hold of the painter and
began to haul, till, to his great delight, he weighed the little anchor,
and saw that the stream was carrying them down.

Still the boy did not turn, but hauled away at his line and gave it out
again, as if afraid that if he were too hard upon his prize it would
break away.

This went on for a good five minutes, till, apparently satisfied, the
boy sank upon his knees and reached over the stern, hanging down so as
to get a shorter hold, and ended by bringing the fish's head well within
reach, and while holding on with his left hand, he crooked his right
finger ready, so as to turn it into a gaff-hook.

Stan saw a part of what was going on, and suspected the rest, as he
seized his opportunity to get hold of the anchor-stock.

The next moment the fisher had raised himself up and swung a fish of
some five pounds weight flop into the boat; while, as if acting by a
concerted motion, Stan reached over and swung in the little grapnel--the
actions of the lads bringing them round, from being back to back, now
face to face.

_Flop! flap! flap_! went the fish.

_Bang! bang_! went the anchor.

"Oh!" ejaculated the Chinese lad, opening his mouth wide.

"Hah!" ejaculated Stan, springing up to seize his adversary.

But the latter did not wait to be seized.

Grasping the fact that the boat was gliding down-stream, and that he was
face to face with a foreign devil, he raised his hands together well
above his head and dived over the side in the easiest, most effortless
way, gliding over like a blue seal blessed with a bald head and a big
tail; when, as Stan dropped down in the boat, keeping only his head over
the side, he saw him rise again far enough behind, and begin swimming
with all his might for the shore.

Stan had something else to do besides watch the boy.  He had some
knowledge of boat management, and felt that he must risk everything now
in the way of being seen; so, seizing the little mast, he stepped it,
hauled up the yard and with it the matting sail, found it easy enough to
get in position, and in five minutes more, as he drifted rapidly down
with the stream, he had the mat sheeted home, and an oar over the stern
for rudder.  With the evening breeze quite sufficient for the purpose,
he found himself gliding rapidly down the river, able to steer while
lying down upon his back pretty well out of sight, and not a sound
behind announcing that there was any pursuit.

"Hah!" he panted out at last.  "They'll have to come fast to catch me
now.  I wonder how far that poor fellow has to go before he can get help
and another boat.  Oh! if it would only turn dark, I could escape.

"What's that?" he ejaculated, raising his head; for there was a loud
smack as if something had struck one of the planks of the boat, and he
turned cold with a despairing feeling, being sure that something had
happened to check his flight.

But three or four more sharp spangs on the bottom of the craft
enlightened him directly after, and he bore smilingly upon his oar so as
to give a junk anchored in the river a wide berth, thinking the while of
the shore lower down and a fire, if it was to be had, at which he could
try his hand at cooking; for he knew with joy in his heart that the
noise was made in the expiring efforts of what he meant to be his supper
trying to leap over the side and failing dismally.

"Hah!" sighed Stan again.  "I never saw it turn dark so rapidly before.
In another few minutes it will be impossible for any one to see me from
the shore."

In fact, as he glided abreast of the anchored junk he saw a man busy at
work hoisting a great round yellow paper lantern to the mast-head, too
busy to pay any heed to him; and soon after he could see light after
light beginning to dot the broad surface of the stream.

"I'm going to escape," cried the poor fellow exultantly.  "Oh, if I only
can!"

_Flap_! said the fish softly, turning his thoughts into another groove.

"Yes, I hear you," said Stan.  "Fish--roast fish must be as good as
fried.  I wonder whether there's a lantern anywhere on board.  If there
is there'll be--Hooray!  I've got my little silver box of matches in my
revolver-pocket.  I only wish I had my pistol too.  But even if I hadn't
got the matches, I could glide up quietly to one of those boats, lower
down and steal a lantern in the dark, and slip away.

"Steal!  Yes, steal," he said, laughing bitterly.  "That's the way these
things grow.  I begin by stealing the Chinese soldiers' prisoner; then I
steal a boat with a lot of fish; and now I'm thinking quite coolly of
stealing a lantern.  Who'd ever have thought that I should turn out such
a thief?"

The fish gave one more flap, and lay still in the bottom of the boat
like something of silver very dimly seen.

"I'm horribly hungry," muttered Stan; "but the boat goes splendidly, and
I'll eat some of that fish raw before I'll run her ashore to make a
fire.  Why not?  I dare say it wouldn't taste bad, and I only want just
enough to keep me alive.  I shall eat a piece as soon as it's quite
dead."

An hour later he was tasting raw fish for the first time, and finding
that it tasted very fishy indeed, but not more so than a big oyster just
torn from its newly opened shell.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

"WHAT'S THE MATTER?"

The night proved to be brilliant, for the moon was nearly at its full,
so that, the wind being favourable and the current swift, sunrise the
next morning found the fugitive far beyond pursuit.  There was not a
boat in sight, and as far as he could see on either side stretched the
wide-open country, from the winding river's banks right away to the
distant hills; and when at times as the day wore on, with the boat
gliding down fast, any craft came in sight, Stan had his choice of sides
to take on the great river, and naturally he hugged the shore opposite
to that taken by the trading-junk or smaller boat.  Now and then he
could see farm-buildings or clusters of village cottages, with an
occasional pagoda.  Once he passed a more pretentious collection of
houses, like a small town, but it was some distance up a stream that
joined the river; and as he sailed farther on, it was into cultivated
land where traces of inhabitants were very few.  Towards evening he took
advantage of the fact that there was neither house nor boat in sight to
run his little craft ashore where a patch of woodland came right down to
the stream; and here in an opening he collected sufficient dead branches
and twigs to make a fire, whose smoke was diffused among the boughs
overhead, feeding it well till there were plenty of glowing embers, over
which he roasted the best of his fish.  He spent an hour or so in eating
heartily and, after roasting, cooling down enough in a pot he found in
the boat so as to have an ample supply for the next two days.

Grilled fish and cold river water seemed to ask for something else, but
Stan had plenty of strong young appetite, and he was ready to
congratulate himself upon having done so well; and in excellent spirits
he quenched the fire with the water-pot when he had done, and pushed off
at once.

That late afternoon and evening he sailed on till the moon was right
overhead, when, feeling more secure, he made fast to a tree; and utterly
unable to battle against an overpowering feeling of drowsiness, he slept
in the bottom of the boat, with the matting sail for cover, till the
morning sun was well up.

That day, as he was passing a solitary house about a hundred yards from
the bank, where he could see a couple of women at work in an enclosed
field, he ran the boat inshore, the women in answer to his signs coming
to the bank to stare at him.  Then by means of the little Chinese he
knew, and the offer of the figured white silk neckerchief he wore in
exchange, he not only obtained a good supply of cake-bread and some
eggs, but the women made him some tea before he pushed off again.

Encouraged by his success, he fished the next day, had excellent sport,
and bartered some of his prizes at a house for a couple of dozen fine
potatoes, whose fate it was later on to be roasted in the embers of one
of his fires.

And in this fashion, without any noteworthy experience, Stan dropped
down the river, losing count of the days in the monotony of the journey,
but always obtaining a sufficiency of provisions of some kind or another
in exchange for the plentiful supply of fish he caught in the evenings
after sundown, or else for some portion of his clothes--for his watch,
money, and knife had disappeared in the prison, he never knew how.

In fact, the escape down the river, under the happy circumstances which
fell to his lot, was simple in the extreme, it being easy enough to
avoid the boats and junks he met, as well as the more inhabited parts of
the shore.

He kept a sharp lookout during the last three days, expecting every hour
to catch sight of the great _hong_ towering up by the right bank of the
river; but it was far longer than he expected before it appeared, and
even then proved to be much more distant than he could have believed.

At last, however, there it was, with a river-boat drawn up to the wharf,
and by degrees he made out one of the big coolies; then Lawrence, the
foreman, came out of the office door, but he took no notice of the white
figure in the little native boat when Stan stood up and waved his hand.

"Why, I should have thought he would have known me directly," grumbled
Stan to himself.  "Ah! now we shall see," he cried joyously as a tall
familiar figure came out, crossed the wharf, and stood talking to some
one in the river-boat.

Stan waved his hand so excitedly now that he was seen, and he noted that
the tall figure shaded its eyes and then turned to speak to one of the
boatmen, who hurried in through the door of the warehouse and returned
with something which the tall figure held up to its eyes.

"He'll see me now," said Stan to himself.

He was right, for the next minute a hand was being waved by the manager,
who stood ready to exchange grips with Stan as he ran his boat up
alongside the wharf and stepped ashore.

That evening was passed in the relation of adventures and a discussion
about the fate of Wing.

"I'm afraid--very much afraid--that he was killed by the savages," said
Stan sadly at last.

"Savages--cowardly savages!" cried Blunt angrily.  "But I don't know;
old Wing is a very slippery gentleman, and knows his way about pretty
well.  I'm not going to give him up for a bad job yet."

"You think he has escaped?" said Stan excitedly.

"I hope so," was the reply.  "Things are not so bad as they might have
been.  You see that amongst the soldiery there is a feeling of respect
for the English name."

"Respect!" cried Stan indignantly.  "You don't fully grasp how they
treated me."

"Yes, I do, Lynn; for they didn't kill you, and with people who hold
life so cheaply that is saying a great deal.  Well, my lad, it has been
an adventure that you will never forget, and I'm very glad you have
escaped so well.  You don't feel much the worse for it all?"

"Not in the least.  But it's delightful to get to civilisation again,
and I'm looking forward to lying in a clean bed once more.  I shall
sleep to-night after what you have said about Wing."

"I suppose so.  But I say," continued Blunt dryly; "wouldn't you have
liked to bring that monkey away with you?"

"I should," cried Stan eagerly.

"Yes, of course; but it's as well not.  I know those chaps.  They're
wonderfully strong and vicious.  Only safe in a cage.  We couldn't have
done with him here.  I say, shouldn't you like to make one with me in an
expedition to knock that prison to pieces?"

"Yes," cried Stan eagerly.  "Could it be done?"

"Yes, if we went to war; but I dare say if proper application were made
we could get compensation.  We shall see I say, though, what about that
gathering of war-junks you saw?  Not piratical craft, were they?"

"I don't know," replied Stan.  "I had thought no more of them.  I
thought more, however, of that poor boy's boat that I took."

"Ah! that was a bit of an annexation.  Never mind; I'll send it back to
the Chinese merchants we deal with; they'll find out whom it belongs
to."

"'Longs to," said Stan slowly.

"Hullo!" cried Blunt.  "What's the matter?  Feel ill?"

"Hi?  I--Oh, I can't help it; I'm so stupidly sleepy I can't keep my
eyes open, and I could hardly understand what you said last--so
dreadfully drowsy I don't know what to do."

"I'll tell you," said Blunt, smiling.

"Do, please.  Go and bathe my face?"

"No," said Blunt.  "Off with you and tumble into bed."



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

"NOT A BIT DEAD."

"What will you do about poor Wing?" said Stan the morning after his
return, when he was out on the wharf, all the better for bed, bath, and
breakfast.

"Wait," said Blunt, frowning.

"Wait?  In such an emergency, with the poor fellow regularly murdered?"

"We don't know that yet, youngster," said the manager.  "You did not see
him murdered, and you did not see his body."

"No; but--"

"Exactly; but I've known Wing longer than you have.  He is a very quiet
fellow, but he is full of resource, and being amongst his
fellow-countrymen, I think it very doubtful about his having been
killed."

"I only hope you are right," said Stan; "but there was a desperate
fight."

"No--not desperate.  You see that though you were one they looked upon
as an enemy they did not kill you, and evidently never intended anything
of the kind."

"Well, no; I don't think they meant to kill me."

"I'm sure they did not.  If they had, they would have done it.  In fact,
I hardly know why they took you at all.  It seems to me more out of idle
recklessness than anything else; a party of rough soldiery with nothing
to do, and under very little control.  They have some discipline, but it
is very slight.  It's a rarity for them to get any pay, even when they
are on duty.  There seems to have been a detachment hanging about the
gate of the city, doing as they pleased, and dependent upon the people
coming in to the market for their supplies.  They saw you, a stranger,
passing the place; and as there was no one to check them, they followed
and pounced upon you."

"But what for?"

"Ah! what for?  I can only place one construction upon the act."

"And what is that?" asked Stan.

"The one you suggested."

"I?  I suggested none."

"Yes--by your words.  What did you say they did?"

"Nothing but behave to me in a very insulting way, and refuse to carry a
message or fetch help."

"Yes, they did."

"Yes, I see what you mean.  The insolent creatures!  They treated me
just as if I were another monkey."

"To be sure; and made a show of you."

"Yes," said Stan, beginning to swell with indignation.  "Brought no end
of people into the yard beyond the bars of the prison grating."

"And who were the people?"

"Oh, I don't know.  Rough-looking country-folk."

"To be sure.  People coming in from the country; and if we knew the
truth of the matter, depend upon it, they took some toll in some kind of
provisions for giving them a peep at the Tchili monkey and the foreign
devil they had caught."

"Oh, I say, Mr Blunt, don't!" cried Stan quickly.  "It's horrible.
It's so degrading."

"Well, it was not pleasant, my lad," said the manager, smiling; "but you
couldn't help its being degrading, and you gave them the slip."

"But you'll send a report to my father and uncle, so that they can lay
the matter before the Consul?"

"I will if you like; but if I do, it will be a very long business.  It
will be to maintain the English dignity, but only at the expense of a
few poor wretches in a distant part of the country, who will be taken
and bastinadoed--perhaps decapitated."

"Oh!  I don't wish that," cried Stan quickly.

"Whether you wish it or not it will be done, to quiet the foreign
settlers and traders and to keep up our prestige.  It may be right, only
the mischief is that the right men will not be punished."

"What! not the soldiers?"

"No," said Blunt; "they'll escape for certain.  The mandarins will never
catch them."

"Then I shouldn't like to feel that I had been the cause of the
punishment of innocent people.  But I do feel that such a crime as the
murder of poor Wing ought not to go unpunished."

"So do I," said Blunt; "and it must not.  But, as I say, we don't know
that he is dead yet."

"But where is he?"

"I don't know: Let's wait a bit and see.  It is quite possible that he
is making his way back by land, as the boat was sent home, and it may be
days yet before we see him.  It is quite as possible that we may not see
him for a long time, for he will be afraid to show his face here on
account of losing you."

"But he'll get to know that I escaped," cried Stan.

"Some day, perhaps.  Then he'll come--delighted.  Let's wait, for it may
be some days or weeks, hanging about as he will be in the country, which
is terribly unsettled, as I have just learned, by a fresh incursion of
pirates and disbanded soldiers.  Wait, my lad--wait.  By-and-by perhaps
I may be able to come down heavily upon one of the up-country mandarins
for compensation; but we shall see.  China is a place where matters move
very slowly, and law and order are very seldom at home.  I don't like
the news at all that I have been hearing about what is going on
up-country.  It hinders trade, too.  I'm very glad, however, that you
are safely back, instead of being weeks wandering about from plantation
to plantation."

"Then you feel pretty sure that Wing is not dead?"

"No, not pretty sure," replied Blunt; "only very hopeful about his being
alive.  What do you think of that?"

"That I feel much better satisfied.  It would have been bad enough if
any poor servant of the _hong_ had suffered, but horrible for Wing to
have come to so sudden an end.  I liked Wing."

"So did--So do I," said Blunt, correcting himself.  "Cheer up.  He'll
come along smiling some day, as soon as he hears you are back."

Something happened much sooner than either of the Europeans at the
_hong_ anticipated.

The next day Stan talked a good deal with Lawrence, the foreman of the
coolies, and several of the clerks about Wing's absence, and could not
find one who believed that the man was dead.

"Unless he has fallen amongst pirates," said Lawrence.  "That would be
different.  He had charge of you, and he lost you.  _Ergo_, as the old
fellow in Shakespeare says, he's afraid to meet Mr Blunt.  I should
feel just the same if I were Mr Wing."

Stan felt more encouraged still; and the very next morning, as he was
going through the big warehouse, his attention was suddenly caught by a
figure stepping out of a small _sampan_ which had just reached the side
after crossing the river.

"Hi!  Mr Blunt!" cried Stan.  "Look through that window.  Isn't that
Wing?"

"Wing?" replied the manager thoughtfully as he bent down to examine the
Chinese brand on one of a stack of tea-chests.  "Not likely yet.  He has
a long way to come overland."

"But I'm sure I saw him step out of a boat on to the wharf."

"Hardly likely.  These fellows look so much alike in their blue frocks
and glazed hats.  Where did you see him?--Why, hullo!  Well done!  It is
he after all."

For just then the object of their conversation came slowly in through
the open door, ragged, worn out, and dejected, the very shadow of the
trim, neat Chinaman familiar to Stan.  Coming out of the bright
sunshine, he stood with puckered face blinking and looking about, and so
weak and weary that he seemed to be glad to hold on by the first pile of
bales he reached.

There he stood, peering about till he dimly made out the tall, upright,
unmistakable figure of the manager in his white garb, when he made a
deprecating movement with his hands as if about to salaam like a Hindu,
and he was in the act of bending down when he suddenly saw Stan.

In an instant the man's whole manner was changed.  Throwing up his
hands, he uttered a hoarse cry, and ran forward to throw himself upon
his knees at the lad's feet, flinging his arms about his legs, and then
burst forth into a fit of sobbing, crying like a woman, and the next
minute laughing hysterically.

"Wing t'ink young Lynn go dead.  Wing t'ink bad soljee man killee dead
young Lynn.  Oh deah! oh deah!  Come along.  Walkee allee way tellee
Misteh Blunt.  Ha, ha, ha!  Allee light now.  Give poo' Wing eatee
dlinkee.  Feel dleadful bad.  Allee light now.  Oolay! oolay! oolay!"

The poor fellow began his cheer fairly, but ended it in a miserable
squeak, and then loosened his grasp of Lynn, and pressing his
sleeve-covered hands to his mouth to stifle the hysterical cries
struggling to escape, he began to rock himself to and fro; while Stan,
who felt touched by the poor fellow's display of emotion, stood patting
his shoulder and trying to calm him.

"No, no, Wing; not a bit dead," he said, with a husky laugh.  "They took
me prisoner and shut me up.  Why, I've been thinking you were killed.
What became of you?  How did you get away from the brutes?"

"Wing tellee soon.  Wing tellee soon.  Allee chokee chokee.  Got floatee
velly full.  Makee cly like big boy so glad young Lynn allee 'live."

"Well, it makes me ready to laugh to find you're alive," said Stan,
though his features did not endorse his words.  "Here, tell us where you
have been."

"Evelywheh," said the poor fellow.  "Bad soljee put big pitchfolks to
Wing, makee lun away.  Keep folly Wing.  Wing tly come back.  Soljee put
pitch-folk to Wing back and dlive light away.  Makee lun velly fass.
Come light away tell Misteh Blunt.  Allee way soljee, allee way pilate.
Wing wantee lie down and die.  Wantee come tellee young Lynn plisneh.
Wing t'inkee nevah get back to _hong_.  Come at las' find young Lynn
allee 'live.  Wing leady lie down die now."

The poor fellow sank over sideways as he said the last words very
feebly, and it was quite evident that he was not very far from death's
door through his exhaustion.

"Poor beggar!" said Blunt gruffly.  "There's no deception here.  Get
something out for the poor fellow at once, Lawrence.  Look at him; he
must have suffered horribly.  He looks as if he has been travelling
night and day.  My word!  I'll never think him a coward again.  Fancy
coming to meet me with such news as that!  I should have been ready to
kill him if it had been true."



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

"BIG JUNK BOAT."

Poor Wing lay for about a couple of hours, during which everything
possible was done, and then he began to recover rapidly, when, after
superintending, the manager insisted upon the poor fellow doing nothing
but try and sleep.

"Wing wantee tell Misteh Blunt evelyting," he said, with a piteous look.

"Not now," said Blunt sharply.  "Get well first."

"Allee velly dleadful," said the poor fellow feebly.

"Yes, I know; but I'm not going to blame you, my man.  You did your
best.  Get strong again, and tell me all about the troubles then."

Wing gave him a horrified look, glanced at Stan and then back at Blunt,
his countenance looking drawn and his complexion more sallow than ever,
while his lips moved as if he was speaking, but no sound came.

"Well, why don't you rest?" cried Blunt.  "What's the matter with you?
Been so much frightened?"

Wing nodded sharply, and gave Stan a look full of horror and despair.

"Why, what's the matter with the fellow?  Not been wounded, have you?"

Wing shook his head.

"Why don't you speak?" cried Blunt, so roughly that the man held out his
hands in a gesture evidently intended to mean deprecation.  It was as if
he meant to say, "Don't be angry with me; it is not my fault."

"Well, I see you're upset, my man," cried the manager, softening his
manner.  "Perhaps you had better ease your mind.  Speak out.  Now then,
what's the matter?  Have you lost the money I gave you?"

"No, no, no," cried Wing, shaking his head violently.  "Velly solly--
velly solly," he murmured.

"Very sorry for what?" cried Blunt, catching the man's arm and looking
at him sternly.

Wing, who seemed weak in the extreme, shivered as he shrank from the
manager's eyes, and turned appealingly to Stan as if begging him to
intercede.

"The poor fellow doesn't seem to know what he is saying," said Stan
quietly, "and he's frightened of you."

"Humph!" replied Blunt.  "I thought I spoke gently enough to him.--Here,
Wing, don't look at me in that scared way.  I told you that I was not
going to blame you.  Speak out.  What is it?  You have something else to
say?"

The man nodded.

"Bad news?"

Wing nodded again sharply.

"Out with it, then, and let's know the worst."

The trembling Chinaman hesitated for a few moments more, and then
pressed up towards his chief and whispered something quickly in his ear.

"What!" roared the manager, catching him fiercely by the shoulders and
making the poor fellow utter a piteous wail as he turned to Stan as if
for help.

"Wing can't help," he cried.  "Wing no want tell baddee news."

"Then you've brought bad news?" said Stan excitedly.

"Velly bad news.  Wing can't help.  T'ink bes' come tell Misteh young
Lynn dead and allee bad news."

"Yes, yes," said Stan impatiently.--"The poor fellow's half-frightened
out of his wits, Mr Blunt.  You're too harsh with him now he's in such
a weak state.--Look here, Wing; it's all right.  You see matters are not
so bad.  I'm not hurt, and Mr Blunt does not blame you."

"But Wing can't help," pleaded the poor fellow.  He waved his hands and
looked round at the clerks and warehousemen, who were drawing up
wondering why their chief had seized the returned agent so fiercely;
while some of his fellow-countrymen also began to draw near, the sight
of "the Boss," as they called him, apparently about to punish one of
them being irresistible, and whispers ran round in two languages,
Anglo-Saxon and the base alloy known as "Pidgin," inquiring what Wing
had done.

There was silence now for quite half-a-minute, during which time the
pressure of the manager's hands, or that of poor Wing's feelings, had
the effect of squeezing out a few tears, which swelled and swelled till
they were big enough to roll over the man's eyelashes and find their way
into a couple of curved creases which made his mouth look as if it had
been placed between parentheses.

Down these gullies in the Chinaman's skin the tears ran till they
dripped from his chin, and possibly it was the sight of them that
brought Blunt out of his stern fit of thinking, for he suddenly loosed
his hold and dropped his hands to his sides, saying hoarsely:

"Now then, say that out aloud for every one to hear."

"Wing speakee quitee loud?" said the Chinaman, rolling his head slowly
like a ball in its socket, as if he were trying to find out where any
damage had been done to the mechanism.

"Yes; let's have it.  Look sharp."

Evidently satisfied that none of his vertebra were damaged, a look of
satisfaction smoothed the wrinkles in Wing's face, which became round
again, and in place of the painful parenthetic curves, pleasantly
mirthful lines began to appear; his eyes became two diagonal slits with
something twinkling between the edges, and he reached up both hands to
take hold of his ribbon-tied pigtail, which he gave a whisk to right and
left before he let it fall down between his shoulders.

"Misteh Blunt wantee Wing tell evelybody whole tluth?"

"Yes; and be sharp about it," was the angry reply.

"Misteh Blunt no knockee Wing head on tea-box, makee sore?"

"No, I shall not touch you again, however bad the news is," said the
manager gravely.

"Misteh Blunt plomise like gentleman no killee poo' Chinaman?"

"No, I tell you!  Now then, out with it!  But mind this: if what you say
is not true, sir, you may make tracks out of this place, and never show
your face here again."

"Yes," said Wing calmly enough.  "Make tlack an' lun away velly fass."

"For look here, sir; if you create a bad scare to frighten every one
here you deserve to be hung."

"Flighten me too.  Flighten velly much.  But Misteh Blunt no hang poo'
Chinaman?"

"As sure as I'm here, I will, sir--by your pigtail--"

Wing's hand went up to the black appendage, and he took hold and gave it
a gentle pull as he glanced at Stan, to say softly:

"Make poo' Chinaman cly.  Oh deah! oh deah!  Misteh Blunt hang Wing up
so?"

"Yes, to the crane, and give you a few dips in the river to wash the
lies out of you."

"Wing no got tell lie.  Allee velly tlue.  Gleat tlouble come.  Soljee
gleat many up livah-side; pilate man gleat many up livah.  Big junk.
Allee buln missionaly house, killee foleign devil, killee evelybody.
Buln village, pull up tea-bush, stealee tea-box, buln go-down.  Gleat
many fightee; cuttee float, dlown.  Oh, velly, velly dleadful up livah!
Wing lun away, come tell Misteh Blunt, evelybody.  Come down livah velly
soon."

"Nice bit of news this, Mr Lynn," said Blunt, turning his frowning face
to Stan, who noted that there was a fierce, lowering glow in the
half-shut eyes.

"Yes," replied the lad; "but perhaps very much exaggerated.--Here, Wing,
is all this quite true?"

"Oh, allee quitee tlue.  Wing nevah tellee big thumpy.  Too much 'flaid
Misteh Blunt find out.  Knock down."

"One reason for telling the truth," said Blunt bitterly.  "But that is
quite true; I should if I found him out."

"Plenty man lun away up to mountain; soljee, pilate come lob house, buln
evelyting up.  Shoot bang.  Wing, only lun away like evelybody."

"I'm afraid it's all true," said Blunt sombrely.

"Eh?  No!" cried Wing excitedly.  "Blunt tell big lie now; not 'flaid a
bit.  Makee Chinee pilate muchee flighten.  Makee lun away."

"Perhaps," said the manager grimly.  "But how far away are these people,
Wing?"

"Come velly soon.  Big junk sail down livah.  Wing see um."

"Well, you all hear?" said the manager sternly.  "No; you are not all
here.  Call every one.  I want everybody to hear how we stand.--You,
Wing, if you're well enough, get all the Chinamen together."

Wing went off to the far end of the warehouse and wharf, one of the
clerks to the offices, and in a few minutes every man, European and
Asiatic, was present, and heard of the threatened attack; after which
the manager looked in Stan's direction and said sharply:

"There! you have all heard how we stand, and there are two courses open.
One is to crowd on board the river-boat and set all sail down to the
port, and get out to sea and coast along north for Hai-Hai."

"No gettee big junk boat," cried Wing excitedly.  "Capen velly muchee
flight.  Pull up anky.  Lun away.  Misteh Blunt lookee."

The manager glanced sharply at the window, and, true enough, there was
the junk with all sail set, gliding down the river, and now a quarter of
a mile away.

"Hah!" ejaculated the manager, giving one foot an angry stamp.  "That
settles one plan.  No; we could collect some small boats if we had time.
But the other course is to barricade the place, leaving loopholes, and
fight to the last.  We might beat them off.  Now, I am manager here, and
responsible for everything, but I feel that I have no right to call upon
any man to risk his life against these murderous wretches.  But I should
like to hear Mr Lynn's opinion.--This place is the property of your
uncle and father, sir, and if we give it up without striking a blow, by
to-morrow morning the valuable store of tea and silk, with the building,
will be only a heap of ashes.  What is your opinion about the matter,
Mr Lynn?"

"It seems very horrible," said Stan, with something like a shudder.

"Very, sir," replied Blunt rather sarcastically.

"If we escape in boats we shall save all our lives."

"Perhaps," said Blunt bitterly.  "Likely enough, though, we shall be
pursued by half-a-dozen junks or so, and shot down or sunk before we
could reach the banks; while if we took refuge ashore--"

"Pilate lun afteh evelybody, choppee head off."

"Most probably," said the manager, smiling.--"Now, Mr Lynn, you hear
the state of affairs."

"Yes," said Stan, speaking with a slight quiver in his voice; "but I
don't like to give my opinion.  There was, as you know, an attack made
upon our place, and my father and uncle fought hard to save it, even
when the enemy set it on fire.  They held out--"

"They?  Didn't you help them, sir?"

"Yes, a little," replied Stan; "and the enemy were kept off till help
came from the city.  If we defend this place for a time, is it likely
that help will come?"

"Not a bit," said the manager.  "There is no help to be got here for
above a week."

"But I don't think my father and uncle would wish these people here to
run such a fearful risk as to fight for the place against terrible
odds."

"Sooner lose about ten thousand pounds' worth of tea, dyewoods, and silk
that I have been hard at work collecting with the help of Mr Wing
here?"

"Yes," said the Chinaman, nodding his head like an image.  "Velly much
money.  Velly dleadful let pilate man come and buln.  Aha, ha, ha!
Ayah, ayah, ayah!"

Stan stared.  It seemed as if the poor fellow had suddenly gone mad; for
after uttering a series of piercing yells, evidently intended for a
war-whoop, he clapped his hands together as hard as he could, and then
made a run at a big, half-nude coolie, whom he caught by the waist,
twining his arms round him, and, to the astonishment of all present,
lifted him from the floor and tried to throw him.

But Wing had reckoned without his host.  He was a plump, soft man,
unaccustomed to hard work, while the adversary he sought to overthrow
was tough-muscled and hard, besides proving to be an adept at wrestling.
Instead of falling, he came cleverly down upon his feet, attacked in
turn, and before any one had time to interfere in poor Wing's favour,
there was defeat, the latter being hurled staggering backward; while
with a yell the man who had freed himself made a dash, vaulted through
the window, ran across the wharf, jumped down into a boat, cut the rope
which held it swinging in the river, and thrust it forth into the
stream, where he seized a long oar and began to paddle the boat along.

As Wing recovered himself he shouted to the coolies to follow, and made
for the door.

"No; stop!" said the manager sternly.  "The fellow would have got too
long a start before we could get a boat off.  Let him go.  Why, it's
that new man I took on a few days ago."

"Yes," said Wing, shaking his fists in the air.  "Baddee man, got blue
malk on aim.  Come spy, see how muchee tea, silk in go-down.  Lun away
now tell pilate.  Misteh Blunt no askee Wing whetheh new man good man.
Wing su'e spy pilate come to see."

"Yes; I made a mistake there," said Blunt bitterly; and as Stan watched
the escaped man and saw him lay down his oar and hoist a matting sail,
which filled at once and sent the boat gliding away up-stream, he
suddenly became aware of the fact that Blunt had disappeared.

But the next minute he was back with a rifle in his hand, busily
thrusting in a cartridge.

"Are you going to shoot him?" said Stan huskily as he saw the manager
drop on one knee, lay the rifle-barrel across the window-sill, and take
aim.

"If I can," said the manager gruffly.  "Why not?"

"It seems so cold-blooded: an unarmed man."

"It may mean our lives or his, sir."

"Yes, but--"

"Very well," said the manager roughly; "but we needn't argue the point.
Look there at the man's artfulness.  Or rather, don't look, for you
can't.  I shouldn't hit him if I tried.  It takes a good shot to hit so
small a mark as a hand in a fast-sailing boat--eh?"

"Yes," said Stan, with a feeling of relief, for he felt a horror of
seeing the poor wretch flying for his life shot down.

"An Englishman wouldn't have thought of that," continued Blunt as he
rose from his knee and let the butt of his rifle rest upon the floor,
while all watched the cunning of the escaped spy, who was now lying down
in the boat, holding the sheet of the sail with his left hand, and the
steering-oar with his right, nothing of him being visible but the
fingers which grasped the oar.

"Now then," said Blunt sternly, "we have settled nothing.  What is it to
be, Mr Lynn?  You are the governor's son: is it to be run for our lives
like cowards and, if we escape, face the principals with the best tale
we can tell, or fight?"

"If we defend the place and are not able to beat them off, I suppose
they will burn the _hong_ and us in it?"

"Most likely," said Blunt savagely; "but some of them will not live to
see the flames rising.  I'm afraid you don't want to fight, Mr Lynn."

"I don't," said Stan frankly.  "The idea of shedding a fellow-creature's
blood is horrible."

"Yes, of course," said Blunt, with something like a sneer.  "You ought
to jump into one of the boats yonder and run down-stream as hard as you
can to fetch help if the warehouse is to be saved."

Yes, that would be grand.  I could have a boat?

"Oh yes, you can have a boat."

"Wing get boat, Wing hoise sail, stee' boat beautifully."

"I could bring back a lot of armed men to your assistance," said Stan
eagerly.

"To be sure," said Blunt coolly.  "Only you'll have to be pretty sharp
about it."

He turned his back upon the lad and took a step towards the excited
group of men, who were talking hurriedly in whispers.

"Now, my lads," he said, "we can't give up this place to a mob of
savages without making a bold defence for the sake of our employers.
Some of you will, I hope, stick to me, but others will like to get out
of the scrimmage.  So those of you who have no stomach for a fight had
better join Mr Lynn here, who is going off to Hai-Hai to fetch help."

"No, I am not," said Stan quietly.

"What!  Why, you said you were."

"I said I should like to," said Stan, "but I said so without thinking of
the distance.  I see now that it would be impossible to get help in
time."

"Quite, sir," said the manager, staring at the lad.  "Well, at all
events you are going off in the boat with Wing."

"Indeed I am not," said Stan, speaking slowly and thoughtfully.  "It
seems to me that we must make as brave a defence as we can.  We may be
able to beat off the enemy."

"Then you mean to stay?" cried the manager, his eyes lighting up.

"Of course."

"And fight?"

"As well as I can," said Stan rather sadly; "but I don't think I
shall--"

He got no farther, for his words were drowned by a loud cheer given
heartily by the little band of European employees; while the strong gang
of sturdy coolies and native workpeople, taking it for granted that they
ought to follow their white fellow-workers' example, cheered lustily as
well.

"Do I understand you to mean that you will stop with us and fight it
out?" said Blunt.

"Yes."

"Don't be deceived.  Do you understand the danger?"

"I think I do."

"You don't, my lad, and I will not keep it back from you.  Fight with
Europeans, and if you are beaten you are taken prisoners; fight with the
lower order Chinese, and you will have a set-to with some of the most
savagely unmerciful people on the face of the earth.  You had better
think again.  It may mean lying wounded and seeing the flames creeping
towards you while you can't raise hand or foot to get away."

"Don't talk like that, Mr Blunt, please," cried the lad, "or you'll
make me a greater coward than I feel I am."

"I want you to know what you may expect to meet," said the manager
coldly.

"But I don't want to know.  I know more now than I can bear."

"Then you will go?"

"Yes, if you do," cried Stan eagerly.

"I'm going to stay and do my best to save the place and goods I have in
my charge, Mr Lynn," said the manager sternly.

"And I'm going to help you, then," said Stan quietly.

"Do you mean it, in spite of all I have said?" cried Blunt.

"Yes."

Stan's hand was seized in such a grip that he flinched and the blood
flushed into his cheeks.

"Thank you, my lad," cried the manager hoarsely.

"I can't say thank you," said Stan, whose face was twitching from the
pain he felt.  "I say, don't shake hands again like that."

"Hurt?"

"Horribly."

"I beg your pardon, then.  But look here: 'pon my word, Mr Lynn, I
don't understand you a bit.  For the last ten minutes I've been thinking
that you were a downright coward."

"That's quite right," said Stan quietly; "I am.  My hands are all of a
tremble."

"Well, then, all I can say is that you're the most curious coward I ever
saw."

"That's because you are right in what you said, Mr Blunt.  You don't
understand me a bit."

"Ah, well! perhaps I shall by-and-by," said the manager.

Wing had disappeared during the above little verbal passage, but just
then he reappeared, in time to be of use.

"You, Wing, come here," cried the manager.  "I shall want you
directly.--Now, gentlemen," he continued, turning to the European
employees, "you have been here long enough to know what a fight with a
party of Chinese pirates means--hard blows and no quarter.  Now's your
time: any of you who feel that you have not stomach for such an
encounter will only be in our way here.  There's a boat ready to take
you down-stream.  Step out, all who want to go."

Quite half the men took a step or two forward, but the others stood
fast.

Then after a whisper and several uneasy glances back at their
companions, one of the forward party acted as spokesman.

"You see, Mr Blunt, sir," he said, "we don't feel that we should be at
home fighting.  We are clerks and writers, warehousemen.  We all
think--"

"No, we don't," growled one of the men who had stood fast.

"But you all agreed just now that it would be better to chance it and
go."

"Yes, a bit back," said another of the men; "but six of us here, after
seeing you step out, feel as if it would be un-English to sneak off and
leave Mr Blunt and the young partner in the lurch.  You fellows look as
if you are ashamed of yourselves."

"That's about what I am," said one of the party with the spokesman.
"I'm going to stop."

As he said these words he stepped back into the rear rank.

"Same here," said another; and he too dropped back.

"Oh, I say," said another; "it's shabby to leave us here like this."

"Shabby?  It's dirty," cried the spokesman.  "I wouldn't have said what
I did for all of you if I'd known.  Hang me if I'm going almost alone!"

"Nor I--nor I," cried two others.

"In for a penny, in for a pound," cried another man.  "I'm not going in
the boat."

Stan forgot his own nervousness, and burst out laughing, at which the
whole party of Europeans broke out into a cheer.

"Thank ye, my lads," said the manager in his grimmest way.  "I did feel
a bit puzzled.--Now then, Wing, tell the coolies and the rest that we're
in for a big fight.  They'll understand you better than they will me.
Tell them that every one who doesn't mean to stand by us can go off in
the boat with you.  Be fair with them, and tell them that there'll be a
lot of bad fighting."

Wing nodded, and made a most animated speech to his yellow-looking,
sun-tanned audience, who received it with a series of grunts.

"What do they say, my man?"

"Say wantee big fight.  Shalpen knives and cuttee lot heads off."

"You didn't make them understand how dreadful it is going to be."

"Yes; said velly dleadful--pilate kill plenty men."

"Tell them again."

Wing spoke to the little crowd, and as he finished the coolies set up a
tremendous shout.

"What do they say now?" cried Blunt.

"Say don'tee ca'e half mandalin button fo' all pilate on livah."

"Well done!" cried the manager.  "What else?"

"Allee wantee fight velly bad.  Knife all cuttee cuttee like lazo'.
Wantee shave bad man head off."

"Then they mean to stop and back me up?"

"Yes.  Say kill plenty mo'e pilate.  No habbee big fightee long time
ago, and say Wing go in boatee all alonee and get out way."

"Off with you then, my man," cried Blunt; "they're quite right.  You'll
be in the way.--Well, do you hear?"

Wing nodded.

"Not go 'long till Misteh young Lynn quite leady."

"But don't you understand?  Mr Lynn is going to stop and fight."

"Yes.  Wing stop take ca'e of um."

"What!" cried Stan, laughing.

"Yes.  Wing tellee old Lynn and Uncle Jeffley takee gleat ca'e young
Lynn.  How takee gleat ca'e if Wing lun away in boat?  Wing go 'top
along takee ca'e young Lynn."

"No, no, Wing.  You had better go and get out of danger," said Stan
warmly.

"Young Lynn talkee talkee big piecee nonsense stuff.  Wing go back in
boat Hai-Hai; Uncle Jeff say, `Hullo, you!  What double dickens you do
along young Lynn?'  What Wing say?  `'Top topside house fightee
fightee.'  Misteh Olivee say, `Why Wing not 'top topside house fight
too, kill pilate, bling young Lynn quite safe?'  Misteh Olivee old Lynn
quite light.  Wing no go lun away in boat.  Young Lynn come, Wing go.
Young Lynn no go, Wing 'top along takee ca'e young Lynn."

"Stop, then," cried the manager abruptly, "and let's see whether you can
fight."

"Yes," said the Chinaman coolly enough.  "'Top 'long young Lynn.  Fight
muchee.  Kill plenty pilate."

"There! we've all talked enough," cried the manager, turning up his
sleeves.  "Now then for work.--You, Wing, go right up to the top of the
big warehouse and watch the river.  As soon as you see the tip of a
junk-sail you'll give us warning."

"Misteh Blunt lendee Wing two-eye pull-out glass?"

"My double telescope?  Yes, take it; and mind you let us know in time.--
Now, Stan Lynn, we've got some man's work to do.  You can't afford to be
a boy any longer.  This way.--Now, my lads, follow on.  If the
bloodthirsty wretches will only give us plenty of time they shall have
such a reception as will open their diagonal slits of eyes."

Five minutes later Wing was perched at the very top of the great
warehouse, with his eyes glued to Blunt's lorgnette, and his blue cotton
frock filling out in the breeze and shrinking again in the most
grotesque fashion.  One minute the Chinaman was blown out like a man in
the transition state of turning into a balloon.  The next minute he was
convex one side, concave the other, while directly after he seemed to
have been furnished with an enormously huge bun upon his shoulders.  But
he noticed neither wind nor sunshine; his eyes were strained up the main
reach of the river, and the glass was sweeping bend after bend in search
of the coming danger in the shape of the top of some tall matting
junk-sail seen across the country where the great river pursued its
serpentine course.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

"NOW THEN, CARTRIDGES!"

There was an end to peaceful mercantile pursuits at the great warehouse
and wharf, and all was hurry and bustle, but with little confusion, for
Blunt had suddenly become military in his orders and issue of
directions; while, full of excitement now, Stan dashed at the task in
hand, proving himself a worthy lieutenant to the fighting manager.  The
men began busily handling boxes and bales, and at first sight it seemed
as if they were preparing to load a trading-junk with the contents of
the storehouse, so actively were they engaged in bearing out silk-bales
and tea-chests; but the pleasant herb which cheers but does not
inebriate was to be put to a very different purpose.

"You take that job in hand, Lynn," cried Blunt, "and make the fellows
plant the chests down right along the front, just as if you were
building a wall of blocks of stone; but after the second row is placed,
leave a loophole between every second and third chest so that we can
fire through, while I set to work and make a breastwork with the
silk-bales at every door and window.  No bullets or shot that the enemy
can fire will go through the soft, elastic silk.--Work away, my lads."

Englishmen and Chinamen cheered together, and worked with might and
main, every one feeling that it was a race against time, but growing
lighter-hearted as they went on, the materials being so close at hand;
and as they were brought down from above or taken from the huge stacks
on the ground-floor, they were rapidly formed outside into a light but
strong loopholed wall extending along the wharf and facing the sea.  One
easy enough to tear down, no doubt, if the enemy determinedly faced the
storm of bullets poured upon them from the loopholes, but good enough to
protect the defenders and keep the assailants in check for a time;
while, when it began to yield, the besieged party had only to rush into
the warehouse offices and dwelling, close and barricade the doors, to
help to defend what formed the keep or stronghold of the mercantile
fort, and continue the firing from behind the silk-bales advantageously
placed as breastworks behind the first-floor windows, where they could
fire down upon any of the pirates who tried to shelter themselves behind
the tea-chest wall.

It was wonderful with what rapidity the wall and breastworks rose, while
the Chinese carpenters, whose general work was the making of the chests,
sawed and hammered away, barricading the lower windows, and placing
planks ready for closing up the two doors that were left for temporary
use.

"They'll never get past the chest wall," panted Stan excitedly as Blunt
came down from where he had been showing his men how to wedge the
silk-bales together so as to stand tightly in the windows.

"Don't you be too sure, my boy," said Blunt.  "They are regular fiends,
these half-wild Chinamen, and they'll come swarming over the wall like
monkeys."

"And I thought it so strong that nothing but fire would have any effect
upon it," said Stan gloomily.

"Fire would have hardly any effect upon it," said Blunt, "unless there
was a strong wind.  The chests might burn, but the tea would only
smoulder away."

"I am disappointed," said Stan, wrinkling up his forehead.

"Not a bit.  I'm delighted with what you have done.  It is strong, but a
party of our sappers and miners would laugh at it all and say it was as
weak as so much cobweb."

"But I say, if they come, how will they attack?"

"Like civilised savages: pour in a hail of swivel-gun balls, scrap-iron,
and pebbles from the junks till they land, and then come on with spears,
pitchforks, tridents, and swords.  Some of them will have long
_jingals_--matchlocks, you know--and no doubt muskets and rifles as
well.  Then, too, I dare say they will bring plenty of stink-pots to
throw--earthen jars full of burning pitch.  We shall have a high old
time of it, Stan, my lad, as soon as the fight begins."

"Oh!" exclaimed Stan suddenly, with a look of dismay.

"Hullo!" cried Blunt, looking at his companion in a peculiar way.
"Beginning to think it will be too much of a good thing?"

"No-o-o-o!" cried Stan angrily.  "That I wasn't.  I was thinking of the
stink-pots."

"Well, of course they'll stink, as 'tis their nature to," said Blunt
merrily.

"Of course they will; but burning pitch--it will stick."

"Pitch has a habit of doing so, my son," said Blunt mockingly.

"Oh, you don't see what I mean," cried Stan excitedly.  "The warehouse--
wood--they'll set the whole place on fire and burn us out."

_Phee-ew_!

Blunt gave forth a long-drawn whistle.

"By Saint Jingo, the great fighting-man," he cried, "I never thought of
that Stan Lynn, you're a regular Todleben--a prince of engineering
defence.  Why, of course!  They'd roast us out, and it would hurt
horribly, without reckoning how they would poke us back with their
tridents to go on cooking if we tried to run away."

"You see now, then?" said Stan.

"See?  Yes.  I can almost feel.  I am glad you thought of that.  All
right.  We'll have half-a-dozen casks in the middle of the big office,
and I'll set a line of men to work across the wharf with buckets to fill
the casks from the river."

"So as to nip any little fire in the bud?" cried Stan eagerly.

"I don't see how you can nip a fire in the bud," said Blunt, with sham
seriousness.

"Oh yes, you can," cried Stan laughingly.  "Nip it in the bud before it
blossoms out into a big blaze."

"Good boy, Stan!  But the old people ought to have called you Solomon.
Come on; let's get the men at work filling the water-casks, and then
we'll serve out the firearms."

In very few minutes the empty casks were in place, and two lines of
coolies at work dipping water from the edge of the wharf, passing it
from hand to hand along one line to where it was emptied into the open
casks, and sending the empty buckets back along the other line to be
refilled.

"Goes like clockwork," said Stan as he watched the men.

"Thanks to you, my lad," said Blunt.  "Now then, let us consult the
oracle."

"Eh?" asked Stan.

"Old Wing," replied Blunt; and stepping outside, he hailed the Chinaman
where he was perched upon the extremity of one gable, using the glass
most energetically.

"Ahoy, there!  Hullo, Wing!" shouted the manager.  "How many junks can
you see, and how many pirates in each?"

"No see not one yet while," cried Wing, lowering his glass.  "Velly,
velly long time coming."

"And a good job too, my man.  Have you looked right out yonder where the
river bends round?"

"Yes; Wing look evelywheh.  No junk come yet."

"That's right.  Keep on looking out."

"You think junk full o' pilate come now?"

"Of course I do.  Didn't you say they were coming?"

"Yes.  Wing think allee junk come long ago."

"Which means he is getting very tired of sitting perched up there," said
Stan, laughing.

"Yes; and we're getting very tired of working down here, but it has to
be done," responded Blunt.  Then aloud: "Never mind what you expected,
Wing; keep a sharp lookout all round, and don't miss the enemy unless
you want to have a sharp something round your neck, and your head off
before you know it."

"Yes, Wing look all alound.  No wantee head choppee off by pilate man."

"That's right," said Blunt, turning away.--"Well, we are getting into a
good state of defence even now, and of course we are bound to have a
couple of hours' notice, unless the enemy make their attack in the
dark."

"In the dark?" said Stan, whom the idea quite appalled.

"Yes; they may wait till dark, and then drop down slowly with the
stream.  It will be bad for us if they do, but we must take things as
they come; but I should like it to be daylight for our job."

Stan felt ready to shiver, but he suppressed it.

"You see it is of no use to be nice about this bit of business, my lad,"
said Blunt gravely.  "There'll be no compunction on the part of the
enemy.  They'll come on with the intention of massacring us all, and
they'll do it if they can."

"But they can't," said Stan hoarsely.

"They shan't," said Blunt; "for, as I said, it will be no time for being
nice.  We've got to kill every one of the wretches if we can."

"For the benefit of humanity," said Stan eagerly.

"I suppose so, my lad, but principally for the benefit of ourselves.  We
want to live out our time, and we'll do it too, so we must shoot them
when the game begins.  There! don't let us talk about what may be; the
pirates haven't arrived yet.  All we've got to do is to be ready for
them if they do come."

"Then you think that perhaps, after all, they may not attack us?"

"No, I don't," said Blunt in the roughest manner.  "I trust Wing--as far
as one can trust a Chinaman--but it is always on the cards that the
scare is not so bad as he made out.  Now then, let's see about the
shooting-tackle."

Blunt led the way quickly, and with a decision in his step that showed
how much he was in earnest, to the portion of the warehouse set apart
for the arms-rack, chest, and the magazine.

"This is the sort of thing your people at Hai-Hai ought to set up," said
Blunt.  "I hinted at it when I was over there, but your father said so
plainly that he preferred to trust to the police there that I said no
more, only made up my mind that, as we have no police or protection of
any kind here, I was quite right in being prepared for the worst.  What
do you say?"

"I hate the idea of using such things," said Stan gravely, "but it must
be right here."

"Of course; and you won't mind using a rifle?"

"I shall mind very much," replied Stan, "but I'm going to use one."

"That's right.  Here we are," said Blunt, unlocking and raising the
trap-door in the floor by its ring, and descending half-a-dozen steps
into a bricked-in place with something resembling a wine-bin of three
shelves on one side, in which were stacked a few boxes not unlike cases
of wine.

"Here! let's have them out at once," said Blunt, and he handed up to his
young companion case after case.

"Set them on that big table," he said.  "Mind be careful.  I don't know
whether if one were dropped the cartridges would explode, but I
shouldn't like to try it.  There you are; two cases for the rifles, and
one for the revolvers.  We'll leave the rest here, with the key in ready
if wanted.  Now for the tools themselves."

He stepped out, closed the trap, and turned to the arms-rack.

"You, Stan, take to the arms-chest and open it ready.  I'll serve out
the rifles; you do the same with the revolvers.--Hi, you!" was shouted
to one of the clerks busy helping to pass out more tea-chests for the
continuation of the wall-building; "pass the word for the men to come
for their rifles."

The order was given, and as the men filed up each received a
Martini-Henry, bandolier, and revolver, afterwards proceeding to the big
table to wait till the weapons were supplied to all who needed them.

"There you are," said Blunt as the last one was supplied.  "Splendid new
weapons that shoot perfectly straight if you hold them so.  Now then,
cartridges!"

Packets of large and small cartridges were handed to the men for rifle
and revolver, several of them receiving instructions how to fit the
little rolls of powder and lead into the clips of the bandoliers, before
they marched out, ready for the great emergency, keeping their weapons
with them now as they went on with their several duties of finishing the
defences.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

"WHY, HE'S ASLEEP!"

"The enemy do not come, Lynn," said Blunt a short time later, when they
had both filled their bandoliers and pistol-pouches.

"And a good thing too, for we're hardly ready yet."

"What! with our defences?  Well, let's take a good look round and see
what more there is to be done."

It was getting late in the afternoon, and the westering sun was pouring
down its rays with a violence peculiar to a Chinese summer, though the
winters are so intensely cold that the people go about with clothes
piled upon clothes, so that a wealthy man often resembles an animated
feather-bed, and in fact has his garments so quilted with feathers and
down that if picked to pieces, though he might not furnish enough for a
bed, he could respectably fill a bolster and pair of pillows.  There was
very little breeze, and Blunt and his companion were longing for that
which would come in the evening.

"Only there'll be a great drawback to it," said Stan--"the darkness will
come too."

"Yes, the darkness will come too," said Blunt thoughtfully, for his eyes
were wandering over the tea-chest defence-wall inside which they were
walking; "but," he added in words which proved that his thoughts were
not upon the darkness, "I don't like that ending off.  It's weak."

"What! where it turns round the end of the warehouse?" replied Stan.
"Yes; the enemy might make for that corner and come round."

"And attack us in the flank, as soldiers would say," exclaimed Blunt.
"It won't do.--Here, three or four of you, get some more tea-chests out
and build this end up higher.  There ought to be quite a dwarf tower
here."

"No more chests, sir," said the clerk addressed.  "We've used them all
as far as they'd go."

"Then use bales.  Call up a dozen coolies, and build up a rounded corner
as quickly as you can."

"Yes, sir," was the eager response, and the man addressed trotted off,
followed by his comrades.

"Odd that we shouldn't have noticed that before.  The corner at the
other end is strong, and I meant in my hurried mental plans for this to
be like it.  Stopped, of course, by the material running out.  Our weak
spot, Lynn; and they say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Our chain of defences--eh?"

"I hope we shall not find any more weak points," replied Stan.

"Then we had better not look round any farther, my lad, for in this
hasty knocking up of our defences we shall find plenty."

"Let's know the worst," said the lad warmly.  "Yes; we'll have no falser
confidence," replied Blunt; and they continued their inspection of the
ground-floor with its two doors and the ample material ready for
barricading them if the defenders were driven in.  Then they ascended to
the first floor, after standing aside for a few minutes to allow the
bearers of the bales to pass along with their loads ready for making the
little extemporised bastion at the end.

But they found no weak places upstairs.  Every window had its protecting
breastwork where a man could use his rifle in comparative safety and
well cover the spots likely to be attacked.

"Capital," said Blunt; "far better than I expected.  If the enemy do
come, all I can say is that they will be mad to attack us, for they must
leave scores of their party shot down before they could carry our outer
wall.  Now then, we'll go down and see how the corner is getting on;
then hail Wing, and if he has nothing to report, we'll call the men
together for a good hearty meal, and over it I'll tell off the different
stations they are to occupy."

"What are you going to do about giving orders when the firing begins?"
said Stan.  "There'll be the noise of the guns and shouting."

"This," said Blunt, taking a large silver whistle from his pocket.  "I
shall explain that when this whistle is blown all are to run towards the
place from which the sound comes, so as to command plenty of strength in
hardly-pressed places.  Two shrill whistles mean, make for the upper
windows."

"Retreat?"

"Yes."

"And what about barricading the two doors?"

"I shall station the two carpenters and four men at those doors, ready
to close them up when necessary.  Tut, tut, tut!"

"What's the matter?" said Stan, startled by his companion's
ejaculations.

"In the hurry and excitement I haven't found time to say a few words to
the Chinamen about fighting for us.  Never mind; I'll have a few words
with them over the supper, dinner, or whatever it is."

They passed down and went outside on to the wharf, where, before
inspecting the addition to their defences, they both looked up, and
Blunt hailed Wing, who was still seated astride the gable, shading his
eyes from the ardent sun and slowly sweeping the horizon.

"Well, Wing," cried Blunt; "see anything of the enemy?"

"No.  Not come yet.  Velly long time."

"And a good job, too," said Blunt to his companion, who, after another
good look at the patient figure in the blue frock, crouching all of a
heap and looking like a very amateurish beginner astride of a huge
razor-backed horse, said:

"Don't let us forget to send the poor fellow up some tea and bread-cake.
He must be half-famished."

"So must everybody be," said Blunt.  "I know I am.  Here, how are you
getting on, my lads?" he continued, turning to the working party.

"I think we've got on as far as we can, sir," replied the clerk.  "I was
hoping that you'd come soon and tell us what more to do.  We've packed
in nearly fifty bales, as you see."

Blunt inspected the work in silence, with its double wall loopholed, and
with extra shelters for the men who would be firing therefrom, and
finally stood thinking.

"Well," he said to the men who were watching him anxiously, "I can
suggest nothing more.  You have done your work admirably.  So now knock
off and come into the big store-room for refreshments."

The men cheered and followed into the great place, which, minus its
piles of tea-chests carried out to build the wall, looked vast; but the
trestle and boards spread ready, and pretty well covered with a
substantial tea by Blunt's Chinese servants, made the place look welcome
in the extreme; and upon the men being bidden to fall to, Europeans and
Asiatics set to work eagerly, talking, laughing, eating, and drinking,
and more resembling a strange picnic party than a number of men
expecting to be engaged at any hour in a desperate fight for their lives
against a savage foe.

There were only two of those present who looked moody and were silent.
These were Blunt and Stan, the former washing down his food with
draughts of tea as with frowning brow he cogitated over his plans; the
latter, now that the excitement of preparation was over, feeling a
strange sense of sinking which the bread and tea did not remove.  He
wanted to preserve his firmness and show Blunt that he was no coward,
but there was what seemed to be a dark mental cloud ahead, and in spite
of every attempt to pierce it, there it hung ominously like a portent of
what was to come, and as if fate was kindly hiding from him the horrors
in store.

Stan set his teeth hard and made a tremendous effort at last.

"I must eat," he said to himself, "or I shall be as weak as a child, and
I must drink to quench this horrible feeling of delirious thirst.  Oh, I
wish I wasn't such a weak coward!  I'm sure no other fellows of my age
can be like me."

Forcing himself then, he began to eat and drink hurriedly, all the while
recalling old school fights into which he had entered with fear and
trembling, but without recalling how he had come out.

Then all that he had read of Chinese horrors, and the indifference of
these people to life, came floating before his eyes--anecdotes that he
had read of their atrocities and savage treatment of their enemies--
there they all were, till, instead of seeing any longer that black,
cloud-like curtain, the lad now seemed to be seeing red, and he started
violently when his companion brought him to himself by suddenly rising
and blowing his silver whistle.  Then in the silence that immediately
ensued Blunt explained his plans to his listeners, and had his words
well interpreted to such of the Chinese workers as were not perfect in
their knowledge of English.

Blunt spoke briefly, but every word of his instructions was to the
point, and the listeners rose from their rough benches at last well
drilled in their duties as to the places they were to occupy, the
Europeans finding a leader to reply and declare how to a man they would
fight to the death; while, when the manager had done, the head of the
Chinamen rose and declared that his comrades thoroughly hated all
pirates and murderers, and that to a man they too would fight for the
good, just master who always behaved to his men as if he were their
father.

Blunt smiled and nodded, and then said a few words to the leader about
his comrades having rifles.  But these were declined, the Chinaman
declaring that he and his fellows could do more good with their long
knives and hatchets when the enemy came to close quarters; and this he
said, as Stan noticed, with a fierce glow in his eyes which proclaimed
that, in spite of the speaker being as a rule a mild-spoken, peaceful
carpenter, there was Chinese Asiatic savage instinct beneath the skin--
showing, too, that he and his fellows were going to prove themselves
dangerous foes to the bloodthirsty enemy when they approached.

"Then now we all understand each other," said Blunt sternly.  "I have
only this more to say--that as soon as it is dark three parts of you
will lie down to sleep.  I shall place sentries to give the alarm if the
enemy come on in the night.  Then every man will run to his post, and
Heaven help us all to do our best!"

A tremendous cheer greeted the close of Blunt's speech, and after giving
all present a sharp gratified look, with a nod of the head, Blunt turned
to his young companion.

"Come along," he said.  "You and I will go and order poor Wing down, and
keep a lookout from the little bastion while he comes and has his tea."

"Yes, quick!" said Stan; "my conscience has been smiting me all the time
you were talking, but of course I could say nothing then."

"Of course not I had quite forgotten him.  I had so much else to think
about.  Now then, take your rifle.  Here's mine.  We must make these our
companions now."

Stan obeyed the order he had received, following his companion's example
as Blunt took his rifle from the corner where he had placed it; and
together they stepped out into the shelter behind the wall, then climbed
over on to the wharf, looked at the broad, clear river, bright in the
evening glow, but with nothing visible to mar its peaceful beauty, and
then as they reached the end of the wall--

"We shall have no enemy to-night," said Blunt.

"Why do you say that?"

"Because we can see for miles, and there is not a sign of danger.  They
will not surprise us; they want daylight for their attack.--Ahoy, there!
Wing!  See anything?"

There was no reply.

"Look at that," said Blunt, smiling.  "Nice sort of a sentry that!"

"Why, he's asleep!" whispered Stan.

Asleep the poor fellow was, and no wonder.  Duty to his employers had a
strong hold, but nature and exhaustion, after hours of baking and
fasting upon the roof with straining eyes, were stronger; and but a very
short time before the appearance of his European masters, Wing's head,
in spite of a desperate struggle to keep it firm, had begun to nod, then
to make long, slow, graceful bows at the western sky, till at last, as
if the strain upon his eyes in watching had affected the poor fellow's
brain with an uncontrollable drowsiness, his head went right down, to
rest between his knees.  There he crouched as if in a saddle; and then
he was motionless, and looking wonderfully like a beautifully carved
finial placed by a cunning builder as an ornament to the great
gable-end.

"Poor beggar!  It was too bad to leave him so long," said Blunt.  "I
suppose I mustn't bully him.  But suppose the enemy had been coming down
the river and had surprised us."

"We should have been to blame for not having more sentries on the
lookout."

"Right, my young Solon," said Blunt; "but it would have been a startler
for him, and a lesson too, if he had been woke up by a shot."

"Yes, that's right," said Stan, smiling at a thought which flashed
across his brain.

"What are you laughing at?" said Blunt sharply.  "I was thinking how it
would make him jump if I fired a shot now."

"Ah, to be sure!  Slip a cartridge into your rifle and fire in the air."

"I am loaded," said Stan, who began to repent of his words.

"Of course.  Fire away."

"No, no; it would be too bad."

"Fire--away!" said Blunt in a stern, angry tone; and feeling at once the
impulse to obey, the lad held his rifle up pistol-wise at arm's-length,
drew the trigger, and then, as the report rang out, winced at the kick
the piece gave, and as the smoke rose, stared in horror at the result of
his shot.

Stan Lynn--by George Manville Fenn



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

"'TOP LITTLEE!"

Stan Lynn had good reason to stare, for at the sharp report of the rifle
poor Wing's aspect of being a part of the gable disappeared instantly.
He sprang to his feet with one hand clapped to his chest, the other
reaching round to his back, both busily searching for his wound, as he
uttered a dismal cry.

The next moment both hands were in the air clutching for something to
hold on by so as to save himself, but clutching in vain.  For his foot
as he stood erect had slipped on the sharp slope of the tiled gable-end,
and in far less time than it has taken to describe the catastrophe, the
poor fellow had fallen upon his back and was sliding rapidly down.

But he had not quite lost his presence of mind.  Making a tremendous
effort he wrenched himself round so as to bring his chest underneath;
and as he went on gliding down, Stan could see him striving hard to get
a hold with his crooked fingers, which he vainly tried to drive in
between the interstices of the tiles.  They were too closely fitted,
however, and it was not till he was three parts down that he was able to
check his downward course.

"That's right!" shouted Blunt hoarsely, for, though Stan strove to
speak, no sound came from his parched lips.  "Hold on; we'll soon help
you."

Then, turning to the first of the men, whom the report of the rifle had
brought rushing out to make for their posts to repel the imaginary
attack:

"Run up, some of you, with a rope.  Get up on to the roof-ridge and
lower one of the men down to get hold of him."

There was a rush back into the warehouse, but before half the men were
inside, Wing's weight had proved to be too much for his fragile hold.
He slipped suddenly and glided down sideways till one foot caught
beneath the eaves, and he made here a desperate effort to save himself,
brought his other foot alongside the first, with his soft heels in the
gutter, and then tried to turn over to plant his toes where his heels
rested; but he only succeeded in dislodging them, so that he came down
with his crooked fingers clutching in the hollow, and there he held on.

"That's right; hold tight!" cried Blunt again.  "Help coming."

Stan would have added his voice could he have found utterance, but he
could only think and stand half-paralysed at the sight of the poor
fellow swinging by his crooked fingers to the frail gutter.

Had he remained perfectly still, it is possible that he might have hung
till some one descended to him with a rope; but most probably the
Chinaman felt his fingers giving way, and before they were dragged from
their hold by his weight he made one more desperate effort to perform an
impossibility.  For, contracting his muscles, he slowly drew himself up
by his arms till his chin was on a level with his hands, and meanwhile
his toes were tearing at the wall to find a footing--trying, but finding
not, for the soft boot-toes kept gliding over the wall beneath the
eaves.  Once by a desperate struggle he got what seemed to be a firm
footing, but it was only to hasten the disaster, for all at once as
those below gazed upward they saw that the poor fellow's knees were
close up to his chest, and he hung like a stout package by his arms.  At
the same moment there was an encouraging shout, and one of the most
active of the clerks, bearing a coil of rope, and followed by several
more, appeared on the ridge.

"That's right," roared Blunt.  "Be smart!  Let yourself be lowered down.
Hold hard, Wing!"

His words were supplemented by a shout from below, where half the
employees of the warehouse were assembled, all impotent to render any
assistance to the unfortunate sentry.

Instantly following the shout, which sounded to Stan as if meant
derisively, the end came, for, as suggested, Wing's desperate effort
only meant putting greater strain upon the fingers in the guttering,
forcing them right off, so that he fell like a light bundle rapidly
through the air fully thirty feet, and as he reached the bottom, passing
out of sight behind the wall, but really to rebound about a couple of
feet, and then lie all of a heap just inside the little bastion so
lately made.

The dull thud which struck heavily upon Stan's ears acted like magic.
The moment before the lad had stood looking upward feeling quite
paralysed.  Then every nerve and muscle quivered, and, rifle in hand, he
bounded to the bale wall, climbed over, and, wild with excitement,
dashed to where poor Wing lay, to drop upon one knee by the sufferer,
whom he fully expected to find lying dead.

The same thought was shared by those who followed the lad and climbed to
the top of the wall, for directly after Blunt said hoarsely:

"Lift his head gently, Lynn.  Is he dead?"

"No--not bit dead," said the poor fellow in a plaintive voice as he
slowly turned his face towards the questioner and opened his eyes.
"Only velly bad indeed.  Bloken all to bit.  Poo' Wing!  I velly solly
fo' him."

The removal of the painful tension suffered by the lookers-on was so
sudden that to a man they broke out into a loud laugh.  Not a
mirthful-sounding explosion of mirth, for it was painful and hysterical.
Every one had expected to hear Stan answer "Yes" to the manager's
question, while the supposed-to-be-dead man's statement sounded
inexpressibly droll, and his next words, in spite of a strong feeling of
commiseration, only brought forth another burst that really was now one
of merriment.  For the poor fellow said piteously:

"Not'ing to laugh at.  Wing velly, velly bad."

"They don't mean it," whispered Stan, whose own face was still
convulsed.  "They laugh because they are so glad you are not killed."

"Here, let me come," cried Blunt.  "I am a bit of a doctor in my way;"
and he too bent down on one knee.  "Now, Wing, my lad, cheer up.  Let's
see what's the matter with you."

"Plea' don't touch, Misteh Blunt," cried the poor fellow piteously.
"Tumble down such long way.  Come all to piecee."

"No, no; not so bad as that.  Come, come; I'll be gentle with you.  I
want to see where you're hurt before I have you lifted up."

"No, no; plea' don't," sobbed the poor fellow, with the tears running
down his cheeks.  "Not quite dead yet."

"No, no; of course not."

"Don't let the boys buly me yet a bit.  Velly dleadful; makee poo' man
flighten."

"Bury you?  Nonsense!  Who's going to bury a live man?"

"Only half alive.  Oh deah! oh deah!  Oh-h-h!"

"Come, come; be a man," said Blunt gently as he softly raised the poor
fellow's head, manipulating it gently the while, and laying it down
again.  "Does that hurt very much?"

"N-no," sighed the sufferer.  "Not head bleak.  All to piecee evely
place, not head."

"Then you're not going to die, I hope," said Blunt.  "Your skull is not
fractured, and the hinges of your neck are not broken."

"You suah?"

"Quite sure, my lad.  You wouldn't be talking like that if your neck was
broken."

"P'l'aps not," sighed Wing.  "Bleak to bit evelywheh, no alm, no leg.
Oh deah! oh deah!"

"Now then, I want to lay you out straight so as to feel your body all
over."

"Lay stlaight?" cried the poor fellow, with more animation.  "Leady to
buly poo' Wing?"

"Nonsense!" cried Stan warmly.  "No one thinks of such a thing.  Let me
lay that arm close beside you."

"No, no," sighed the poor fellow.  "Wing don't wantee see aim come off."

"It won't come off, my man," said Blunt kindly.--"That's right, Lynn.
Well done!  It's not broken.  Neither is this," he continued as, with
the patient still groaning, the other arm was tenderly examined and laid
straight.--"Hurt you very much, Wing?"

"Not velly much.  Bloken off.  Wing can't feel."

Stan glanced at Blunt, and saw him frown and look more stern as he met
his companion's eyes to exchange a look full of intelligence.

"Now his legs," said Blunt then.  "Both together.  Lay them out
straight."

This was done, Wing groaning softly the while.

"Bones all right," said Blunt half to himself; "joints move easily--no
dislocation.  That hurt you very much, Wing?"

"N-no.  Hultee evelywheh else."

"Does that mean the spine is injured?" whispered Stan anxiously.

"I'm afraid so," was the reply.

Wing looked sharply from one to the other.

"Young Lynn say bote leg bloke light off?"

"No," said Blunt, smiling; "he didn't say anything of the kind.  They're
quite sound.  Now then, I will not hurt you much.  I'm going to feel
whether your ribs are broken."

"No, no; much betteh let be.  All bloke littlee bit."

"I don't think so," said Blunt, passing his hands softly down the man's
sides over and over again from armpits to hips.  "Now breathe, Wing."

"Wing keep on bleathe lil bit longeh.  Not dead yet."

"`Not dead yet: see the _Quiver_,'" said Blunt softly to himself, as,
incongruously enough, there came to his mind the words on one of the
great bills which appeared upon nearly all the hoardings in London many
years ago.

"Breathe again, Wing," continued Blunt.  "Draw in as long a breath as
you can.--Well, do you hear me?"

"Wing 'flaid," was the reply.

"Afraid?  What of?"

"'Flaid nevah bleathe again; so bad."

"Stuff!  Do as I tell you."

"Oh deah! oh deah!" sighed the poor fellow as he obeyed, and retained
his breath for some time.

"Well, does that hurt you very much?"

"N-no, n-no," sobbed the man.  "Not velly much."

"Then there are no broken ribs, Lynn.  Look here."

As he spoke Blunt passed his hands firmly about the sufferer's chest,
even going so far as to press the ribs inward, without eliciting more
than a faint groan.

"There!" said Blunt; "nothing is broken.  The injury must be to the
back."

"Yes," said Wing, uttering a whimper.  "Back.  Velly, velly bad."

"Come, let's see," said Blunt.  "We'll have you carried into the big
office now, and knock you up a bed of some kind.  Give me your hand.--
Take the other, Lynn, and let's raise him up into a sitting posture.
Gently, mind."

"No, no; plea', plea' don't!"

"Why not?" said Blunt, who was watching the man keenly.

"Back bloke.  Come in two bit.  Bleak light off.  Leave poo' Wing leg
lie all alone."

"Well, well!" said Blunt gently; "never mind; be a man.  If you come
right in two we'll fasten you up tightly again with sticking-plaster.
You'll soon grow together again."

"Eh?" exclaimed Wing, looking sharply from one to the other, but looking
in vain, for Stan took his cue from his companion and preserved a
perfectly serious countenance.

"Now," said Blunt; "both together.  Lift."

Wing uttered a louder groan than ever as he was drawn right up into a
sitting posture and lowered down again.

"Did that hurt much?"

"Oh, velly, velly much!" said Wing, with the tears trickling down his
plump face.

"Yes, you are a good deal shaken, Wing, my man, but you are not broken
in half."

"Misteh Blunt suah?"

"Yes, quite," replied Blunt.  "You have had a wonderful escape from
being killed.  You are hurt, of course, but I believe that if you were
helped you could stand right up."

"Wing velly much 'flaid."

"I suppose so, but you are going to try."

"Must?"

"Yes, you must.--Now, Lynn, take one side; I'll take the other.--Come,
Wing; just for a minute.  Up with you like a man."

Wing gave each a piteous look, but said nothing, as he was again raised
into a sitting position, and then allowed his arms to be drawn over his
helpers' shoulders as they bent down over him and rose together, brought
him up standing, and held him there.

"Now then, you can feel that you are not broken to bits, Wing?" said
Blunt.

"Yes; but hult velly bad."

"Of course it hurt, Wing; but you'll soon get better."

"Get betteh?  No go die and be bulied?"

"You'll not die and be buried this time.--Do you see what saved him,
Lynn?"

"Yes--of course.  I see now.  He must have come down upon those piled-up
silk-bales."

"To be sure; and they are so yielding and springy that they threw him
off again so that he fell on to the stones inside."

"Yes," said Wing piteously; "tumblee all togetheh.  Come bump, bump on
silk-bales.  Flow um off again on to stones and bang back dleadful bad."

"Yes; a very narrow escape for you," said Blunt firmly.--"Bring a board
here, some of you."

Two of the coolies hurried off, to return in the fast-increasing gloom
with a broad plank, which was set down and Wing then lifted carefully
upon it, bearing the moving very well, and only uttering a groan or two.

"Now carry him into the office.--We'll make that the hospital, Lynn."

"'Top littlee!  'Top littlee!" cried Wing.

"What's the matter?" said Blunt sharply, speaking as if he felt that he
had spent enough time on his patient.

"Wing wantee say much 'blige, t'ank you.  Um feel deal betteh now."

"That's right," said Blunt.

"Wing velly much 'flaid when he fall.  Much mo' 'flaid when come down
bump, bang on stones.  Misteh Blunt, young Lynn, makee feel velly happy.
Not bloke all bits.  Going to live long time."

"That's right," said Blunt brusquely.  "But look here; all your trouble
came from your going to sleep when you were on sentry."

"Yes," said Wing dolefully.  "Velly muchee solly.  Sun hot--velly
hungly--velly dly mouth.  Can't help go 'sleep.  Misteh velly angly poo'
Chinaman?"

"Not very, Wing, for you have been severely punished."

"Wing nevah do so no mo'e."

"That's right," said Blunt, who hurried away as soon as he had seen the
injured man lying comfortably; and Stan was about to follow, but Wing
caught his sleeve and signed to him to bend down.

"Young Lynn know who shot Wing?" he whispered.

"Yes," said the lad frankly.

"Young Lynn tell Wing."

"Yes, some day," replied the lad, who felt the blood flush to his face,
but it was now so dark in the office with the blocked-up windows and the
coming night that the questioner could not see.

"Young Lynn tell Wing some day.  Wing betteh now.  Thought bloken allee
piecee.  Not bloken allee piecee.  Don't ca'e mandalin button now."

"That's right," said Stan.  "Look, they're bringing you some bread and
tea.  Think you can eat and drink?"

"Velly much indeed," said the Chinaman.

"Begin at once, then," said Stan.  "Here, I must go."

He hurried after Blunt, and as he went to where the latter was standing
sweeping the dimly seen surroundings with his glass, it suddenly
occurred to him that after firing the shot to startle Wing he had not
replaced the empty cartridge.

He opened the breech, and at the sound of its being closed upon the
cartridge Blunt turned upon him suddenly.

"Hullo, young fellow!" he cried.  "Going to fire again to startle me?"

"No," replied Stan.  "I was thinking that I might have to shoot again,
and it would not do to find that my rifle was not loaded."

"No," said Blunt thoughtfully.  "I'm sorry, though, that I gave you that
order.  For a time I was quite under the impression that you had aimed
at and hit the poor fellow.  But he'll soon be right again."

"I hope so," said Stan.  "Can you see anything with the glass?"

"Just the dim country, that's all.  There! we'll set our sentries and
let all who can be spared lie down for a rest till we change guard, for
we must be military now.  I shall take the first part of the night for
visiting the posts every hour; you will have to take the second half.
Mind, you will have to visit each sentinel and see that he is awake and
watchful.  You understand?"

"Quite," was the reply, given in a firm voice, though the lad could not
help shrinking a little from the great responsibility about to be placed
upon his shoulders.

"Come along, then."

Stan followed, and a short time after half-a-dozen sentries were leaning
upon their rifles in different places, keeping a strict watch upon the
river, the direction from which danger was most likely to come; while,
his part of the duties performed, the lad went to lie down on the bare
boards in the office, near to where Wing was sleeping soundly.  As he
listened to the man's hard breathing a feeling of envy came over him.
He wished that he too could sleep and forget the danger, if only for an
hour.  He was completely fagged with the day's exertions; the heat was
great, and his brain was in a state of wild activity which made him feel
that he had never been so wakeful before in his life.

All was very still without, and as he turned upon the hard boards it
seemed that every one must have gone off to sleep at once, while he was
growing more and more wakeful.  Now and then he started up on one arm to
listen to a strange cry that suggested the approach of the enemy; but
after two or three repetitions he came to the conclusion that it must
have come from some riverside bunting, heron, or crane, and he lay down
again, but only to ask himself whether he might not just as well get up
and join Blunt, to share the night-watch, for he was more sure than ever
that it was impossible to sleep under such circumstances as these.

"Yes," he said to himself, with a feeling of satisfaction, "I'll do
that;" and it seemed to him that he got up to go and join the manager
out on the dark wharf, where he could see him standing on a pile of
stones close to the river-edge, leaning upon his rifle and gazing
up-stream for the first sight of the enemy who might at any moment come.

Blunt turned upon him at once in the darkness, looked down, stretched
out one hand and caught him by the shoulder, to say in a sharp whisper:

"Now then, my lad, time's up!"



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

"AM I GOING MAD?"

Stan made no reply, but stared straight up at him, to feel the grasp
upon his shoulder tighten, while Blunt said again: "Now then, my lad,
time's up!"

But this time there was an addition--"Do you hear?"

"Yes--of course," whispered back the lad; "but I don't know what you
mean.  What time's up?"

"Why, your time.  Hang it all!  You take it pretty coolly, when at any
moment some hundreds of savage cut-throats may be down upon us.  I
couldn't have slept like that."

"Like what?" said Stan sharply.

"In the way you have done."

"I?  I've not been asleep."

"Oh, haven't you?  Why, you're asleep now."

"If I'd been asleep, how--Oh, what nonsense!  If I was asleep, how could
I have come out here to keep you company?"

"What!" cried Blunt, with a soft, chuckling laugh.  "Well, you are a rum
fellow!  Do you know where you are?"

"Yes; standing out here on the wharf, with the river flowing softly down
at our feet."

"Stoop down and put your hand in it, then."

Stan stretched out his right hand at once, and felt the rough boards,
while at the same moment Wing drew one of those deep breaths which are
so like snores.

The next moment Stan was sitting up feeling for his rifle.

"Here, I say, I haven't been asleep?"

"Of course not.  You said you hadn't, and I can't doubt the word of a
gentleman."

"Oh, how stupid!" said Stan in a hoarse whisper, as he felt his rifle,
and sprang up at once.  "What time is it?"

"Just struck two by the American clock in the big warehouse."

"Then I have been asleep."

"I think it's very likely," said Blunt dryly.

"Then I must have been dreaming that I came out to you on the wharf
because I couldn't sleep."

"And instead of your coming to me, my lad, I came to you.  There! come
along outside in the cool air; that will wake you up thoroughly; and I
want to give you a few instructions and then lie down for an hour or two
to get a little rest before the enemy come in the morning."

"Then you think they will come?"

"Most likely," said Blunt dryly.  "Come along."

Stan was wide enough awake now, and proved it as soon as they were out
on the wharf, where a pleasantly fresh breeze came off the water.

"Did you visit all the six posts?" he said.

"Yes, every one."

"Regularly?"

"Of course."

"Find any one asleep?"

"No; everybody was keenly on the watch."

"How did you know when the hours were up?"

"Guessed it," said Blunt quickly.  "Are you wide awake enough now, my
lad?  You know where all the men are stationed?"

"Oh yes."

"Repeat the places."

Stan ran rapidly through the posts--east, west, north, south, back and
front--and Blunt grunted his satisfaction.

"Good!" he said.  "The fresh men have relieved those who watched with
me, and there is a new password.  Don't forget it.  As soon as you
approach you'll be challenged with `Who goes there?'"

"Yes; I understand," said Stan eagerly.

"No, you don't.  What word will you give to prove that you are a
friend?"

"Don't know."

"Of course not.  Remember it, then.  `Cartridge.'  Understand?"

"Yes, perfectly."

"Then I'm off.  I'm dead-beat, my lad.  Every hour, mind, as near as you
can guess.  Take hold of my whistle, and keep a sharp lookout up the
river from where I did."

"What! from up on that pile of stones at the edge of the wharf?"

"Eh?" said Blunt sharply.  "How did you know I watched from that heap of
stones at the edge of the wharf?"

"I saw you there."

"What!  When did you come?"

Stan was silent, feeling quite confused,

"Did you come and look at me before you went to sleep?"

"No," said Stan slowly--"no; I'm sure now that I did not."

"But you said you saw me there, and I never told you nor any one else
that I was going to make that my post of observation."

"You didn't tell me," said Stan; "and it seems very strange.  I thought
I came out to you and you caught me by the shoulder."

"You did not, and I did not catch you by the shoulder till I came and
shook you to wake you up."

"Then I must have dreamed it," said Stan, "for I certainly seemed to see
you there in the darkness."

"Yes, you must have dreamed it; but it seems very strange."

"Horribly," said Stan.

"Don't you get dreaming any more of that sort of stuff, then," said
Blunt shortly.  "Here, catch hold of this whistle; but mind, you are not
to use it unless the enemy come in sight.  Then blow as if you wanted to
bring the place down.  Pleasant watch to you.  I'm off.  If I don't go
and lie down I shall fall down and sleep on these stones."

"Good rest to you," said Stan quietly.  "One moment: where are you going
to lie down?"

"On the planks that formed your bed.  They're nice and soft now, I
suppose."

"No; horribly hard.  Put some bags under you."

"Not I," said Blunt gruffly.  "I could sleep now on a row of spikes.
Good-night--morning, or whatever it is."

The manager walked quickly to the nearest opening in the wall of chests
and passed through it, leaving Stan to his watch, which he commenced by
giving a good searching look up river and down, and then placing his
hand behind his ear to listen, before, feeling satisfied that all was
right, he stepped to the bottom of the piled-up block of stones, mounted
it carefully, rested the butt of his rifle at his feet, felt whether his
revolver was within easy reach of his hand, and then began to think
about his dream and the strangeness of his imagining that he had walked
out to get to the wharf and had then seen his brother-officer, as Blunt
seemed to have become now, standing exactly where he had taken his own
place.

"All imagination," he said to himself at last, for he could make nothing
else of it, and forcing himself to think of something fresh, he began to
peer into the darkness in every direction, and long for his first hour
to pass so that he could have something more active to employ his time
and go and visit the different posts.

"Let me see," he mused; "they will challenge me by saying, `Who goes
there?' and I shall answer, `Stranger, quickly tell'--Nonsense!  `A
friend.'  No, no; that's wrong.  What did Mr Blunt tell me to say?
Why, I've forgotten the word.  I remember that he told me something, but
it seems to have gone right out of my head.  How stupid, to be sure!  I
couldn't have been half-awake after all.

"What shall I do?" thought Stan again, after striving vainly to recall
the word.  "I must go and ask him again, and that means waking him up.
Why, he'll call me an idiot.  I know; I'll go to the nearest sentry and
ask him."

The lad stopped short in his musings, for a cold chill ran through him
at the thought of the risk he would have to run--the idea of the risk
coming to his brain with the thought:

"Why, if I can't give the answer just when he challenges me, he'll fire
and send a bullet through my head."

The more the lad thought and strove to recall the password, the more
confused his brain seemed to grow.  Hundreds of words flowed through,
but not one which suggested that which was correct.  Time, too, was
gliding steadily on, and in imagination he felt that he must be getting
very near the end of the hour when his duty would lead him to the first
post--for what?  He felt ready to groan as he told himself that it was
to be shot at.

"Whatever shall I do?" he said at last, when he stood on the stone pile
fully believing that the time was past, and that if he did not visit the
posts the sentries would grow uneasy and give some alarm, the result of
which would be that Blunt would wake up; and how could he meet him after
being guilty of such a contemptible lapse of duty?

"He'll look upon me as a complete idiot," thought the lad; "just, too,
when I was trying so hard to behave in a manly way, and making him begin
to believe in me.  It's dreadful; it's horrible!  Am I going mad?"

In utter despair, Stan let his rifle-barrel sink into the crook of his
left arm, and turning his hands into a binocular, gave a long, careful
look up the river, half-expecting to see some tall-sailed junk dropping
quietly down the stream.  In his excitement he turned trees into masts,
and projections from the banks and a solitary long low hut into vessels;
but after further inspection he was bound to believe that there was no
sign of danger, and at last, with a sigh of weariness, he sank down into
a sitting position, with his legs hanging over the side of the pile and
his rifle across his knees, to make one more desperate effort to recall
the password from the black depths of his brain into which it seemed to
have sunk down.

But all his efforts were in vain; his head seemed to grow more and more
dense, and he felt that he must rouse himself and run all risks.  He
determined to walk towards the first sentry, and the moment he was
challenged in the darkness call out loudly who he was and say frankly
that he had forgotten the password.

"The sentry will think I'm half-mad, and I believe I am.  It's the
excitement, I suppose, and the risk and dread.  I never felt anything
like it before.  It's dreadful.  Yes, it is the excitement."

But he did not give the true cause, for he did not grasp the position--
to wit, that it was due to brain weariness from the overstrain of
thought and want of proper rest.  For if, when his inability was at its
worst, he had been able to lie down and sleep soundly for a few hours,
he would have wakened up with his mind perfectly clear and the missing
word ready to come quite readily.

"There! it is of no use," he said to himself at last; "the time must
have gone by ever so long ago.  I must get up and go.  It's very risky,
but I am bound to risk everything so as to do my duty.  Here goes; and
if I am shot at, I am shot at.  It's a hundred to one that the sentry
couldn't hit me in the darkness, hurry, and confusion, and before he
could reload and fire again I might rush up to him and explain.  Oh,
horrible, to have to tell the fellow what a weak-minded muff I am!"

Grown perfectly desperate now, as he felt the minutes seem to gallop
away, Stan took up his rifle, rose to his feet once more, and descended
to the level of the wharf, perplexed by another thought which had come
to torment him.

"He'll fire at me, of course," he said, "and I must run in before he can
reload, as I said; but what about his revolver?  Well, I can't help it,"
he muttered; "I must risk it.  And perhaps I can make him understand
before he can draw the pistol out of the holster."

Drawing a deep breath, he nerved himself for the encounter, and began to
walk steadily for the corner where the first sentry was stationed, and
in the effort of action felt stronger and firmer.

"I may find him asleep," he thought, "and pounce upon him before he
wakes up to challenge.

"Not likely.  Our men here are not like poor Wing; but--Ah! that's
possible," he said to himself excitedly.  "I forgot to do so; why
shouldn't he have done the same?  He may not have loaded, and if he has
forgotten to slip in a _cartridge_--Oh!  Think of that!" he cried
half-aloud, for the missing word had come.

Just in the nick of time, too, for the lad's ejaculation had been heard,
and in an instant the challenge came out of the darkness:

"Who goes there?"

"`Cartridge,'" said Stan promptly; and the next moment he was conversing
with the first sentry, feeling as if a tremendous load had been taken
off his mind.

The man had nothing whatever to report, and Stan went on towards the
next.

"Mustn't let that cartridge go off again," he said to himself, with a
little laugh.  "How stupid it seems now!  Cartridge--cartridge!  How
could I have forgotten it like that?"

There was nothing to report at either of the other posts, and Stan
returned to his old station, feeling calm and refreshed, to pass the
rest of the hours, which did not prove weary, though there was nothing
more exciting than the occasional cry of a bird, a rustling of wings
overhead, and now and then a splash in the river which suggested the
possibility of part of a night spent in a boat with fishing-rod and
line.  He found himself wondering what Chinese river fish would be like,
and whether they bore much resemblance to those of Old England--thoughts
which brought up memories of days spent by pond and lake in school
excursions.

But whenever the lad's ideas wandered off like this, they were brought
up short again by the stern aspect of the present, and he felt ready to
blame himself for letting his thoughts go astray when possibly a
terrible fate might be awaiting them all, and he was bound to keep his
attention fixed upon the broad stream in front.

Fortunately it was a beautiful night, and before the watcher could think
it possible the stars grew faint, a long, pale, soft line of light began
to appear in the east, and soon after as it broadened there was a
twittering and whistling in the belt of reeds across the river where all
was rural, half-woody, half-cultivated land, with waving corn and
sugar-grass.  Then a loud flapping and splashing began in the river,
whose farther side proved to be a perfect colony of ducks; while after a
time the trees, which had during the night been visible only where seen
against the lighter parts of the horizon, grew plainer and plainer, till
they gradually showed in their natural green.  For high up orange flecks
were appearing, and before long, as Stan watched, it seemed impossible
that anything horrible could be on the way, so grand was the
transformation taking place from night to a glorious day.

"Poor old Wing must have taken fright at nothing at all," said Stan to
himself; and with the terrors of the night seeming to have passed away
like a dream, he visited his posts and chatted with the men, joining in
the general anxiety whose subject was common to all--namely, how long
would it be to breakfast, and would a good, hearty one be spread?

In due time the party were relieved by a couple of men who were sent up
with glasses to the roof of the warehouse, after being duly cautioned
not to meet with such a fate as that of poor Wing; and as soon as they
were stationed Blunt made his appearance, looking eager, refreshed, and
ready for anything that might come.

He greeted Stan warmly, and they went together to see how Wing was, the
injured man having been fast asleep when Blunt arose.

"Well," said the latter, as they found him now awake, "how are the
broken pieces?"

"Allee quite wellee," said the man, with a broad smile.  "Wing going get
up to bleakfas'."

"That's good news," said Stan.  "Shall I help you?"

"Help?  No; Wing get up all 'lone."

He tried to rise as he spoke, smiling the while, but his whole aspect
changed, his face wrinkling up like that of an old man, as he sank back
groaning with pain.

"Muchee achee all oveh," he said piteously.  "T'ink all bleaky af' all."

"Oh no," said Blunt, smiling.  "You're stiff and bruised, and naturally
you'll feel pain as soon as you move; but do you know what you've done,
sir?"

"Yes; fallee down.  Almos' bleak all to piecee."

"No, no; I mean, giving us all such a scare.  Where are your Chinese
pirates?"

"Allee up livah.  Long way."

"Yes; and a very long way, too.  They won't come to attack us."

"You t'inkee?" said Wing softly.  "Ah! you wait lil bit, you see.  Wing
see velly hollible t'ing.  Pilate fight, kill.  Suah come soon."

"Why are you sure?" said Blunt quickly.

"Pilate in junk.  Come flom up livah.  Mus' come pas' Lynn Blothee
_hong_.  No othey way."

"Unless they go back," said Blunt.  "Well, we shall soon see.  Can you
eat some breakfast?"

"Wing velly 'ungly, sah.  Quite empty.  No eat nothing allee day
yes'day."

"Hungry--eh?  That's a capital sign.  Well, you lie still for a day or
two, and your stiffness and pain will soon go off."

"No wantee Wing come fightee?"

"No; we can kill all the pirates who are likely to come."

Wing smiled very feebly, and then winced, for in making a deprecating
movement with his hands he brought bruised muscles of his back into
play, giving himself an agonising pain.

"That's his conscience pricking him for deceiving us about the attack,
Lynn," said Blunt dryly.  "There! let's see if this coffee is hot.--You,
Wing; we'll send you something to eat.  And you understand, you are to
lie still.  Oh, here comes some one to say breakfast's ready.  I told
them to set it in the long store."

For as he was addressing Wing one of the Chinese servants hurried in to
say that all was waiting.

"We must drop ceremony now, Lynn, and feed together, coolies and all.
Be thankful to get anything at all under the circumstances.  It isn't a
scare.  The enemy are on the way."

"What! you've seen them?"

"No; but I've seen that Wing's tale is true, for not a boat has come
down here with provisions this morning.  Things are all wrong up-river
or we should have had boats with vegetables, fruit, fish, poultry,
butter, milk, and bread, while now--"

Bang!



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

"DUTCH COURAGE."

It was the report of a rifle in the clear morning air, fired from the
warehouse gable occupied by the two lookout men.

"The pilates!" shouted Wing exultantly.

"It's our breakfast knocked over, Lynn," cried Blunt.  "Come along,
lad."

He led the way out at the double, and the next minute was hailing the
men on the roof.

"See them coming?" he shouted, with his hand to the side of his mouth.

"Yes, sir; half-a-dozen big junks yonder, right across the land there,
in the second great bend of the river, I think."

"Miles away, then?"

"Yes, sir; four or five."

"Then the wind will be sometimes with them, sometimes against.  That's
good news, Lynn; we shall be able to have our breakfast in peace, and
digest it in war.  Come along in."

"Oh, I couldn't eat now!" cried Stan excitedly, for his heart was giving
big thumps as he gazed right away overland towards where the river
curved round the end of a mountain-spur.

"I thought you meant to help us to beat the enemy off."

"Of course I do," cried Stan.

"Well, a steam-engine won't work without coal, and a human being can't
fight unless you feed him.  Come! no nonsense.  All our preparations
were made yesterday, so we've nothing to do but man our works."

"So as to be ready?" panted Stan, whose breath came short from
excitement.

"We don't want to be ready two hours too soon, and tire the men out with
anxious watching before the enemy come near.  We're going to have a
regular good hearty meal to put strength and courage into us."

"Dutch courage," said Stan rather contemptuously.

"Can't be Dutch courage, because we are all English who are not Chinese.
But that's a stupid old expression, my lad, meaning, of course, that
the Dutch are cowardly.  Now, I don't know much about history, but
whenever I've read anything about the Dutch in war, it has gone to prove
that the Hollanders are a thoroughly sturdy, brave, and obstinate set of
men.  There! don't get in a nervous state of flurry; it will spoil your
shooting, and I shall want you to fire steadily and well.  Why, you
don't want to go into action with your veins jumping and your nerves all
of a slack quiver."

"Of course not," said Stan huskily.

"That's right.  You want every string screwed up tight and in the best
of tune, so that you can play an air that will make the savage
scoundrels dance a figure that is quite new to them.  Eh?"

"Yes, that's what I want to do," said Stan; "but--"

"Never mind the butting; leave that to the pirates.  Let them come and
butt their heads against our wharf.  Here, I'm captain of the good ship
Lynn Brothers, and you're only lieutenant, so obey orders.--It's all
right, gentlemen," he continued coolly and pleasantly the next moment to
the little crowd of his people who had hurried out and were waiting for
their orders; "the enemy are coming, just when it seemed as if, after
all our preparations, they had got wind of what was waiting for them and
had made up their minds to disappoint us."

He was interrupted here by a loud cheer, in which the Chinese employees
joined with a peculiar yell, which did not improve the heartiness of the
cheer, but gave it a fierce, rasping, savage tone.

But it evidently meant business, all the same, and altogether seemed to
thrill Stan from top to toe and make him feel, as he put it to himself,
in better heart.

"That sounds right," said Blunt as the cheers died out into what was a
series of vocal Chinese exclamations.  "Now listen; we've got a sharp
fight before us, in which we are going to show those savage scoundrels
that they have made the greatest mistake they ever made in their lives."

There was another cheer at this, one in which Stan found himself joining
and waving his cap, just as if it were at home and the cheering had
something to do with a football victory.

"Now," continued Blunt, "I reckon that we have two hours of waiting to
do before the music begins to play, so we'll spend part of the time in
enjoying the breakfast I have ordered to be ready for every one here.
In the name, then, of our employers' son and nephew, I ask you to come
and breakfast with him--all but you two gentlemen up yonder.  You must
stay and continue your lookout, but my Chinese servants will bring you
up all you want."

There was another cheer at this--one that threatened to be terribly
prolonged--but Blunt held up his hand.

"That will do for the present; keep the rest of the shouts till we have
driven off the enemy.  Now then, pile arms and file in to breakfast.  No
ceremony; we must all be equal over this meal, as we shall be when we
are fighting the enemy."

"Yes, sir!  Yes, sir!" came in chorus, and the men began to flock in.

"Stop a minute," cried Stan excitedly, catching at his captain's arm.

"What is it?"

"The men on the roof want to say something."

"Do they?--Ahoy, there!  What is it?"

"Can't we have a big bamboo up here, sir?" said the clerk who had been
waiting to speak.

"A big bamboo?" cried Blunt.  "Do you want to bastinado your comrade?"

"No, no, sir.  One of the biggest down yonder in the yard.  If you sent
us up a rope, sir, we could haul the great pole up and lash it to this
chimney-stack.  We feel as if we ought to have a Union-jack hoisted up
here."

"Why, of course," cried Stan excitedly.

"Yes--of course," cried Blunt.  "I'm glad you mentioned it.  I never
thought of that.  But there's plenty of time.  Breakfast first, and the
flag afterwards.  Come along, Lynn."

"Oh, don't--pray don't take things so coolly," whispered Stan as they
climbed in over the tea-chest wall.

"Why not?  We must be cool, my lad, if we wish to win."

"Yes; I suppose so.  But hadn't we better get the flag up first, and
then it will be done?"

"No," said Blunt shortly.  "I'm not going to do anything till all our
men have had a good meal.  I'm not going to drive my team till every
horse has had his corn, so in with you."

"I suppose he's right," thought Stan; "but I couldn't take matters like
that with the enemy coming slowly and surely on."

Right or wrong, Blunt took the head of the table, and made ready for
Stan to sit on his right.  Directly after the rattle of knives and forks
began, the Chinese servants placed great steaming mugs of coffee at
every man's side, and the thick slices of bread-and-butter which kept
coming in relays seemed to melt off the dishes as if they were a
confection of ice, while the tall coffee-urns ran more and more dry,
till there was a general falling-off in the demands for more, and the
manager's stores had shrunk to the lowest ebb.

"Now then," he cried suddenly, rising and beating the side of his
coffee-mug with a spoon, "there's plenty of time, so file off quietly;
but every man will now take his place.  All of you remember this,
however--that Mr Lynn and I want prudence, not rashness.  When the
firing begins every man is to make as much use as he can of his shelter.
Some of us must be hit, but the fewer the better."

There was a cheer at this.

"No more cheering," cried Blunt firmly.  "This is business, not
pleasure.  Now, one more thing I want you all to remember.  When you aim
at a man and draw trigger, it is not for the sake of making a noise, but
for every one to prove his marksmanship and get rid of one enemy.  That
is all; now in silence, please, every man to his appointed station."

The men, Europeans and Asiatics, filed out quietly, each man taking his
rifle from where he had leaned it against the wall, and Stan turned to
Blunt's chief servant.

"Have you taken breakfast to Mr Wing?" he said.

The man smiled and nodded.

"Did he eat it?"

"Yes; eat and dlink muchee," replied the man, with a broad smile, just
as Blunt turned to the lad.

"I've got a flag about as big as a moderate tablecloth," he said.
"We'll send that up to the roof by one of the stoutest Chinamen, along
with a rope.  Come and let us make two of the others pick out a large
bamboo."

This was all quickly done.  The rope was lowered from where the two
sentries and the sturdy picked Chinaman were standing by the
chimney-stack, and directly after a stout twenty-foot pole was made
fast, hauled up, and the flag secured to the end; and as there were no
halyards attached, it was raised against the chimney-stack and secured
by the big Chinaman, the rope having been cut in half so as to lash the
bamboo in two places, and wedges driven in afterwards to tighten the
rope to the greatest extent.

Another cheer which arose was not checked, for it was when the light
morning breeze made the folds open out to float well over the centre of
the big building, even Blunt and Stan joining in the salute of the flag
whose united crosses seemed to promise victory for the brave defenders
of the solitary _hong_.

"That's a good job done, Lynn," said Blunt; "and I'm very glad it was
suggested.  The men will fight all the better for it.  I almost feel as
if I shall."

"Yes; it seems to put courage and confidence into one," said the lad
warmly; and then he coloured a little, for it seemed to him just then,
as he met his leader's eye, that Blunt was watching in a curiously
inquiring way, looking, Stan thought, as if he felt a good deal of doubt
as to how the lad was going to behave.

And all this time the great junks came slowly and steadily on, growing
more and more distinct from the defences, but still seeming as if they
were sailing right through the waving fields of growing grain.

Blunt had his glass in hand now where he stood in the little bale-made
bastion, and after a good look he handed it to his companion.

"Have a good squint, my lad," he said.  "I make it that it will be quite
half-an-hour before the leading junk comes round the bend into the
straight part of the river, and even then it will take another half-hour
before they have run down to us."

"Yes; I can see the matting sails very clearly now," said Stan after a
good look, "but the hulls are quite hidden by the fields."

"Yes, and will be till they reach the straight reach of the river.  But
I expect they are all crammed with men.  How many junks can you make
out?"

"Six," said Stan.

"Yes, that is what I saw.  Now let us have a quiet walk round amongst
the men and see if anything is needed to better the defence."

Stan followed his leader, whose first examination was of the two
doorways through which the defenders must pass when they gave up or were
driven from their fragile wall.

Everything was as it should be; the doors were wide-open, but ready for
closing, and half-a-dozen short, stout pieces of plank were standing in
sight, waiting for placing and securing inside the door after it was
closed.  Even the holes were made ready for the insertion of big screws
instead of nails, and all was in charge of two Chinese carpenters, with
assistants ready to hold the plank while it was being screwed tightly to
the door-posts.

Both doors were in the same state of preparation, and Blunt nodded his
satisfaction.

"Capital," he cried.

"If the men are not scared away by a rush of the enemy," said Stan
thoughtfully.

"That we must chance," said Blunt.  "But I do not think we shall be
troubled that way, for the men who are retiring from the wall must keep
the enemy in check.  I propose being at the farther door: do you feel as
if you could stand your ground with some of the men to hold this door
till all is safe?"

"I haven't much confidence in myself," said Stan rather excitedly, "but
I will try my best."

"You can't do better," replied Blunt quietly.

"You see, I am not a man," added Stan.

"No, not in years; but you can try to act like one."

"Yes, I'll do that," said Stan.

"And here's a bit of encouragement for you.  I shall have four of our
best fellows at each of the windows over these two doors.  They'll keep
up such a rifle-rattle as is bound to check the Chinamen for a bit,
besides which the men with you will keep on shooting till the last board
is in its place."

"And what about fire?"

"Ah! that's the weak spot, my lad," said Blunt, with a sigh.  "They may
not think of burning us out, but if they do--well, we have our supply of
water and the buckets all ready.  We can do no more.  If they do start a
blaze we must put it out.  That is all that need be said: _must_ put it
out; and we will."

A look round on the first floor showed everything ready for the defence
that could be devised, and after inspecting this, with the open windows
and breastworks ready for firing over, Blunt descended with his young
lieutenant to inspect the cartridge supplies, one of the most trusted
clerks being in charge of these.  And then, to Stan's intense
satisfaction, for he had long been all of a fret, Blunt led the way out
to the wharf, where the lad started in wonder, if not in alarm, to see
the progress the junks had made: for there they were, six in all, well
in the strait, and sailing steadily down like gigantic, great-eyed
water-dragons making for the victims it was their mission to destroy.

For clearly enough now, as they were seen end-on by the watchers, each
displayed on either bow a huge, grotesque, but cleverly painted eye,
giving them the aspect of fabled monsters of the deep which had risen to
the surface in search of prey, and were now leering with malicious
satisfaction as they glided on.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

"KILL ALLEE PILATE."

"This will be your station, Lynn," said Blunt as they passed along
inside the thickest wall till they reached the bale bastion, where the
manager halted.  "You take that wide loophole shelter yourself at the
side; there's a capital place for resting your rifle, and with such a
steady support, and as you will be able to cover so wide a sweep of the
enemy's advance, I shall expect you to make a good score."

"A good score!" said Stan in a tone of voice full of disgust.  "Any one
would think I was going to shoot at a target."

"At a good many targets," said Blunt.

"Yes, human beings.  You don't really mean to say you want me to kill as
many of those unfortunate wretches as I can?"

"Unfortunate?  They haven't proved to be unfortunate until they are
badly beaten.  Yes, that is what I mean.  I want you to kill or disable
every one of the enemy at whom you can get a shot."

"And do you think I could be so bloodthirsty?"

"I think you know us all pretty well here, and would be sorry to see us
cut to pieces by a set of savages who are coming down in full force to
the attack."

"Cut to pieces!" said Stan contemptuously.

"Yes," continued Blunt sternly; "cut to pieces--literally.  I am making
use of no high-flown figure of speech.  I know from what I have heard
and seen that these piratical Chinamen, after shooting down the people
they attack, finish by spearing or beheading every fallen man; and then
the braves, as they call themselves, go round with their big razor-edged
swords and hack their victims to pieces."

"Ugh!" ejaculated Stan, with a shudder of horror.

"I think you will see that it is better for you to help us to the best
of your ability with your rifle and bring down as many as possible.
Mercy is a fine thing, and I dare say I should be content with taking a
man prisoner who dropped upon his knees and threw down his arms; but
Chinese pirates neither drop upon their knees nor throw down their arms.
Now look here, my lad; you are young and naturally shrink from shedding
blood, but this is no time for being squeamish.  You are not going to
fight against ordinary human beings, but against a set of fiends who
live by robbery and the murder of their victims--men, women, and
innocent children."

Stan was silent for a few moments, and in that short period his face
grew so lined that he looked years older.

"Is this perfectly true, Mr Blunt?" he said at last in a husky voice
that did not sound like his own.

"On my word as a man who is about to stand up and face death, and may
before an hour is over be lying on his back with his dead eyes gazing
straight up beyond the clouds.  You hear me?"

"Yes," said Stan firmly.

"And you'll do your best for the sake of those who would be ready to
encourage you if they were here, for our sake, and for your own?"

"Yes, I'm quite ready now," replied Stan firmly.

"That's right.  Then shake hands, my lad."

"What for?" asked Stan.

"Because," was the reply, given in a grave, solemn tone, "we may never
have the chance again."

"You think it is as bad as that?"

"Quite," was the reply as hand pressed hand.  "There! we shall be at it
soon, and I'm sorry, Lynn.  When you first came I thought I should
always detest you as a young meddler sent here to be in my way."

"But you don't think so now?" said Stan, smiling.

"Quite the contrary, my lad.  There! we've talked enough.  Only one word
or so more.  Keep cool, load steadily, and fire only when you feel sure
of your man.  Never hurry.  Recollect that one carefully taken shot is
worth a score of bad ones, which mean so much waste of ammunition.
There!  I'm off now to talk to the rest.  I'll come and be with you as
much as I can."

"Thank you; but I can see what you have done.  You've put me in one of
the best-sheltered places, and you are going to expose yourself in the
most dangerous."

"You are only partly right, my lad.  I have not put you in one of the
best-sheltered places, but I am going to expose myself in one of the
worst as much as I can, and that is here--the place where I have
stationed you."

Stan's next words slipped out unconsciously:

"Why have you put me in the most risky place?"

"Because I saw that you liked shooting since you brought your gun and
revolver, and I gathered so, too, from your conversation and the way in
which you handled that rifle.  Now are you satisfied?"

Stan nodded, and the next minute he was alone, but with men at all the
loopholes near.

As soon as he was left to himself a peculiar chill came creeping over
him.  Blunt's words seemed to be ringing in his ears about being face to
face with death, and in imagination he pictured the aspect of his newly
made friend lying stark and stiff gazing up into the skies.  He would
have given anything in those brief minutes to have seen him come back,
not to act as a shield from the firing too soon to begin, but so as to
have his companionship; for, near though the others were, the little
bastion seemed to be horribly lonely, and the silence about the great
warehouse too oppressive to bear.

But as the boy--for he was a mere boy after all--stood at the opening
with his hand grasping the barrel of the rifle whose butt rested between
his feet, and gazing out at the glittering river, his image-forming
thoughts became blurred; the figure of Blunt passed away, and another
picture formed itself upon the retina of his eyes.  There before him
were the smoking ruins of a native village, and, so horribly distinct
that he shuddered and turned cold again, there lay in all directions and
attitudes the slaughtered victims of the pirates' attack, and all so
ghastly that the lad uttered a peculiar sibilant sound as he sharply
drew in his breath between his teeth.

The next instant the chill of horror had been swept away with the
imaginary picture--imaginary, but too often real in a country where the
teeming population hold human life to be cheap as the dirt beneath their
feet--and Stan, with his brows knit, was carefully cocking and uncocking
his rifle to see if the mechanism worked accurately, before throwing
open the breech to take out and replace the cartridge, when he closed it
smartly and looked out at the coming junks, which glided nearer and
nearer like fate.

They were so nearly within ken now that Stan could see that they were
crowded with men, each a desperate and savage enemy.

"I wonder whether I can hit the first one who takes aim at me.  I must
or he'll hit me," muttered the lad.  "But I shall have to be quick or he
may hit me first."

He had hardly dwelt a moment upon this thought before he heard Blunt's
voice in the long, narrow opening between the tea-chest wall and the
buildings proper of house, offices, and stores, where the soft,
shuffling sounds of feet could be plainly heard--sounds which Stan, who
had been long enough in China to recognise them, knew to be caused by
the collecting of the coolies.

Proof was afforded the next minute by Blunt's brisk voice addressing
them with--

"Now, my lads, I want you to fight your best for us.  How many of you
can manage rifles?"

There was a few moments' silence, and then a deep voice said:

"No wantee lifle.  Takee big ilon clowba', sha'p chip-chop knifee.  Kill
allee pilate, evely one."

"That will do.  Wait, then, till the wretches rush in, and then use the
bars and your knives.  I see you mean to fight."

There was further shuffling of soft feet, and though he could see
nothing, Stan knew that the big picked Chinamen, whose muscles were
hardened by their tasks of handling and running to and fro over gangways
with heavy bales, casks, and chests, were being posted in places of
vantage ready to receive the enemy when they landed at the wharf and
made their first onslaught.

Stan turned to watch the junks, whose sails were now lowered as
unnecessary and stowed lengthwise to be out of the way, while great
sweeps had been passed out, not to urge on the vessels, but to keep a
little way on and make them answer the steering-gear, the force of the
current being enough for the enemy's purpose, which was to lay them
alongside the wharf after--as was proved ere long--a sharp discharge
from their clumsy artillery.

"How long they seem in coming!" thought Stan, though in reality the time
was very short; and then he started, for Blunt had come close up behind
him unperceived.

"Here I am," he said.  "We are all ready, and our people are waiting for
you to open the ball."

"For me?" cried Stan, who felt startled.

"You.  You will fire the first shot when I give the word.  That will be
the signal that I consider the enemy sufficiently close, and the men
will begin picking the wretches off.  I say, look; clumsy as the great
craft seem, they come on very steadily and well.  There is no confusion.
See what a line they keep of about a couple of hundred yards apart.
Their captains are not bad sailors after all."

"Yes, they come on slowly and surely," said Stan in a sombre tone.--"I
wish I didn't feel so nervous."

"It's quite natural," said Blunt.  "I feel just as bad as you."

"You do?" cried Stan, staring.  "Nonsense!"

"Indeed I do," said Blunt.  "I'm in what schoolboys call a regular stew.
Every one in the place feels the same, I'll venture to say.  It's
really quite natural; but as soon as the game begins--"

"Game!" cried Stan bitterly.

"Oh, very well; drama, if you like.  I say as soon as it begins we shall
all be too busy to feel fear, and be working away like Britons.  Here,
it's going to begin sooner than I expected.  By your leave, as the
porters say, I want a look through my glass.  Yes," he continued as he
carefully scanned the leading junk, "they've got a big brass swivel-gun
there, and they're loading it.  How's your rifle sighted now?"

"For two hundred yards."

"That will do nicely.  You shall have a shot soon.  But they're going to
let us have it.  Keep well in cover.  I hope the lads are all doing the
same."

"Yes, they're going to begin," said Stan excitedly.  "Bravo, good eyes!
How do you know?"

"Because I can see a man going along the deck with something smoking."

"That's right.  Yes: I can see it.  It's the linstock or slow-match.
Keep under cover, for we shall have a hail of ragged bullets of all
kinds directly.  They've laid the gun, and the man is waiting to apply
the match."

"Yes: I can see that too.  Look out: here it comes.  I saw the smoke
seem to make a dart downwards."

"Quite right; and I can see with the glass that the burning end is
resting on the touch-hole."

"But it doesn't go off," said Stan excitedly.

"No; the priming must have been knocked off, or be damp or badly made.
It's a failure, certainly.  There!  I wish you could see with the glass;
it's all as clear as if it was close to us.  One of the men close to the
breech of the long piece is priming it again."

"I can't see that--only that the men are busy," said Stan as the great
leading junk, with its leering eyes, glided onward till it was somewhere
about a hundred and fifty yards from the wharf and being swept closer
inshore.  "Now then," cried Stan; "look out!"

For he could just distinguish the downward movement of the smoking
match, which was followed directly after by a couple of puffs of smoke,
one small from the breech, the other large and spreading, followed by a
bellowing roar, almost following a strange rattling and crash as of
stones about the face and surface of the wharf.  There was a dull
pattering, too, over the head of the watchers, and dust and scraps of
stones ran down the front of the building.

Stan made some remark, but it was drowned by a deafening roar--nothing
to do with barbaric artillery, but coming from the throats of hundreds
of men, beginning with those in the first junk, right along from those
which followed, to the very last; and to make the sounds more
ear-stunning, men began belabouring gongs in every junk with all their
muscle brought to bear.

"Nice row that, Lynn," said the manager coolly.  "Just shows what fools
these barbarians are.  Of course, you know why they beat these gongs?"

"To frighten us, I suppose," said Stan.

"That's it; and I don't feel a bit alarmed.  Do you?"

"Pooh!  No; but I did feel scared when the charge of that big swivel-gun
came rattling about us."

"Yes, and with reason, too," said Blunt quietly.  "Their ragged bits of
lead and scraps of iron make horribly painful wounds.  I don't want to
get a touch of that sort of thing."

The moment the booming of the gongs ceased, Blunt drew back and shouted
to know if any one had been hurt by the discharge of the great swivel;
but though he waited and called again, he had good proof in the silence
that no one was injured.

"Do you hear there?" he cried again.  "Is any one--"

His words were drowned by a roar from the enemy's gun, almost
accompanied by the snarl-like noise made by its great charge, which came
hurtling against the chests and bales this time, though a good half
spattered angrily over the front of the stones.

"We mustn't let them have it all their own way, Lynn, my lad, or they'll
come on with a rush full of confidence and do too much mischief.  Now
then, the distance is easy.  Look yonder in the front of the junk: what
can you see?"

"Two men pulling out the rammer of the long swivel-gun, and another
pointing it, as it seems to me, exactly at this loophole."

"I don't believe he is, my lad, but it looks like it."

"Now he's taking the--linstock--don't you call it?--from the man who is
holding it, and is going to fire."

"Don't let him," said Blunt sharply.  "Take aim.  Ready?  Fire!"

In obedience to his companion's orders, Stan had dropped on one knee,
taken a long and careful aim, and then drew trigger.

For a few moments the soft grey smoke hung before the lad's eyes and hid
what was going on; but he did not waste time.  Throwing out the empty
cartridge, he began to fit in another, and as with trembling fingers he
reclosed the breech he whispered sharply:

"Did I hit?"

"I fancy so; the man sprang up in the air and fell backwards.  You've no
time to look, so take it from me.  They are carrying the man away."

Stan drew in his breath with a hissing sound, but no time was given him
to think of what he had done, for Blunt's voice made him start, as he
was bending over him.

"Loaded?" he said.

"Yes."

"Take aim, then, at that man with the match.  He is shifting the gun a
little to allow for the distance the junk has floated with the stream."

"Yes; I see."

"Let him have it, then.  Sharp!  He must not fire that piece."

Stan's rifle rang out, and the Chinaman dropped behind the high bulwark
and was seen no more.

"Load again, stupid!" cried Blunt, for Stan half-knelt behind the
opening from which he had aimed, looking stunned and motionless,
impressed as he was by his terrible success.  But he started into active
life again under the spur of his companion's fierce words.

"Keep on firing slowly and steadily, Lynn," said Blunt in tones which
made the lad feel that he must obey, though the compunction was dying
and he knew how necessary it was to render the big piece useless by
checking the efforts of the gunners.

He fired again just in the nick of time, and the man who now held the
linstock dropped it and stood gesticulating to his companions.

"You've missed him, Lynn," said Blunt angrily.  "Look! he has picked it
up again."

Stan needed no telling that he had only startled the gunner by sending a
bullet close to his head, and before he could fire again a puff of smoke
darted from the mouth of the piece, and Blunt struck him sharply across
the back, spoiling his aim so that the bullet from his rifle went
anywhere.

"Why did you do that?" he cried sharply, for the blow stirred him into
making an angry retort, as he gazed through the smoke at his comrade.
"I've done the best I could.  I'm not used to this sort of--Why--what--
Mr Blunt!" he cried, as he saw a peculiar look in the manager's face,
and that he was leaning sideways against the wall of bales.  "Oh! you're
hurt!"

The manager tightened his lips and nodded sharply before letting himself
subside, gliding down half-resting against the defensive building, and
saving himself from falling headlong in his faintness.

"Here," cried Stan, letting his rifle rest on the top of the bale from
which he had fired, "let me bind up the wound.  Where are you hurt?"

"Hah!" exclaimed Blunt, as if mastering a spasm of pain.  "Never mind
me.  Go on firing, my lad.  Don't you see how close they are in?  Fire
away, and shout to the others to keep it up.  Stop them from loading if
you can; it may scare the next junk from coming on.--Ah, that's better!"

For the sounds he heard were pleasant to his ears.  There was no need
for Stan to shout, and he took up his rifle again in obedience to his
orders and went on aiming at the men on the junk who seemed to be most
prominent.  Firing was going on all around, and from the upper windows
of the warehouse as well, the consequence being that the men at the
sweeps fell one by one; and then the two men handling the huge
steering-oar dropped away, with the result that, instead of the great
junk being laid alongside of the wharf for the pirates crowding her to
leap ashore, they were carried on down-stream, with her captain and
officers raging frantically, till the chief man received a bullet
through one of his upraised arms and sank back into the arms of a
subordinate.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

"FIRE AWAY!"

The leading junk was soon some distance down the river, the confusion on
board from the steady rifle-fire, which caused man after man to drop,
checking all efforts to recover the lost ground; but the second junk had
taken its place, and those on board were pouring in a hot fire from two
clumsy swivel-guns, consisting of showers of rough missiles, bullets,
broken iron, and the like.

But little damage was done to the sheltered defenders, who, animated by
the example set from the little bastion, kept up a steady, regular fire,
with certainly more than half the shots telling among the Chinamen
working the guns or giving orders.

In the intervals of his firing, however, Stan kept on imploring Blunt to
let him summon help, or cease firing and attend to the injury.

"Go on firing, as I told you," cried the wounded man in an angry snarl.
"Can't you see that you are helping me by what you are doing."

"But you must be getting faint."

"I am," said Blunt fiercely, "with the hard work to keep you at work.
Do you think I want our men to be put out of heart because I am bowled
over?"

"No," said Stan, with his cheek against his rifle-stock, and he pulled
the trigger, sending a leaden messenger at one of the enemy who was
about to lower his smoking linstock, which produced a savage yell by its
effect; for the man with the burning match flung up his hands, the
linstock went flying overboard, and Stan's frown deepened as he felt
that he had desperately wounded the gunner, who was being borne away
before the lad's rifle was again charged.

"That was another hit, wasn't it?" said Blunt anxiously.

"I think so," was the reply, "but I'm not sure that it was my shot."

"Never mind so long as it's one murderer the less.  Keep on firing, my
lad, while you can get so good a chance.  I can't see what the rest are
doing.  It seems to me that they are only wasting powder."

"Oh no," said Stan; "men on the junk keep on falling.  But there are two
more junks coming close up."

"And you haven't checked them.  Fire away!  Try and hit the steersmen."

"It's hard work to see them so as to pick them out," said Stan, "but
I'll do my best."

The lad's best was to aim carefully at the men holding the steering-oars
of the second and fourth junks, but excitement combined with the
distance affected the steadiness of his aim, and he uttered an impatient
ejaculation as he saw the two great crowded vessels coming steadily
onward.

"We shall be having all three close in together," he muttered.  "It's
impossible to keep them off."

But better fortune had attended his efforts than he had given himself
credit for.  In each case his carefully aimed shot had taken effect, and
they were supplemented by the shattering fire kept up by the defenders
at the other loopholes.  Certainly the third and fourth junks were
coming in fast, but it was in an ungoverned way, and their action soon
after produced a savagely furious volley from the captain of the second
junk; for its companions came on to crash into it, with the
accompaniment of falling masts and sails, and the confusion of
top-hamper, a good deal of which came down upon the men, who yelled
shrilly and angrily until they were extricated or able to get free.

In spite of the faintness and sinking caused by his wound, Blunt held
tightly on by the cord binding the bale against which he had propped
himself, and watched everything that took place with swimming eyes, but
an intense feeling of satisfaction as he witnessed the disasters of the
attacking pirates.  And every now and again when the noise grew less
overpowering he hurriedly went on giving his companion instructions to
take careful aim at this one and that of the enemy's force, and did not
fail to give praise when the shot was successful.

"Bravo!  Well done, lieutenant!" he said hoarsely.  "That's a murderer
the more put out of action.  Don't shudder; three parts of them will
unfortunately get better, but they're done for this time."  Then: "Keep
it up, my lad.  You take my place now and lead the fighting.  Nobody
knows yet that I'm down.  You'll have to give the order soon to withdraw
into the warehouse."

"Not fight it out here?" cried Stan eagerly, for he was fast growing
intoxicated with the wild excitement of the fray, and had forgotten all
about the danger of his position.

"No; it is impossible.  You are only hindering them now and crippling
them as much as is possible, but before long they will come like a wave
over the sides of the junks, and swarm up to the defence here, and you
will not be able to resist them."

"But we should all have a much better chance to shoot them down then."

"Of course; and a dozen or two would be struggling on the stones.  But
if a hundred were shot down it would make no difference; they would come
on all the same in their blind, savage fury, for they think nothing of
those who fall.  Here, leave your rifle where it is for a few moments.
That's right.  Now take this whistle.  Put it in your vest-pocket, where
you can get at it easily, and after they have made their first rush, use
it."

"Yes," said Stan huskily as he thrust the little instrument into his
watch-pocket; "but about you?  Hadn't I better call a couple of the
coolies to come and lift you into your room?"

"No!" snapped out Blunt, as if he were maddened by the pain he suffered.
"Do you want to turn a brave resistance into a panic?"

"No; of course not, but--"

"Silence!" cried the poor fellow sternly.  "The men are fighting
splendidly now, and I want them to go on till such time as it is
necessary to get inside and continue the defence from the upper windows.
Do you hear?"

"Yes; and I'll do all you wish, but I must have time to get you safe
inside."

"Leave that to me," said Blunt slowly and in a more gentle tone.  And
then, as if warned by his sensations, he continued: "If I faint, use
your own common-sense.  Don't hesitate: fight till it seems folly to
hold on longer here; then blow the whistle with all your might.  Some of
them are sure to rush to your help.  Then let a couple take me by the
hands and drag me--don't let them stop to carry me--drag me in through
the first doorway."

"I'll take one hand myself."

"You'll do nothing of the kind," cried Blunt passionately.  "I order you
to take my place as captain, and as your father's son save us all from
this murderous scum.  You're captain now--do you hear?"

Stan nodded.

"Then act sensibly.  Do you want to give up directing and turn yourself
into a coolie to save one helpless man, and perhaps sacrifice your own
life?"

"But you are--"

"Only one," snapped the manager; "and the most useless one here.  Now
back to your place, and go on firing as the captain should, to bring
down more of the miscreants and encourage our brave fellows.  If you
fail now I'm not able to strike, the rest will be out of heart at once."

"You are giving me more than I can do," half-groaned Stan.  "I'm only a
boy."

"Forget that, Stan," said his wounded comrade harshly.  "I say you're
acting like a man.  Now fire at that giant of a fellow standing in the
gangway waving his great broad-bladed sword--"

There was the sharp crack of Stan's rifle, and the big, showily dressed
Chinaman followed the direction in which he waved the sword--that is,
shoreward--and literally dived off the junk into the river, to be seen
no more by those in the bastion.

"Well done--for a boy!" cried Blunt mockingly as he passed his left hand
over his streaming brow.  "I only hope every man at the back and right
and left is doing as well.  Mind when you retreat that the doors are
well barricaded.--Reloaded?"

"Yes," cried Stan, who felt as if his companion's words were goading him
to act in a way contrary to his nature, and without further urging he
fired again and again.

"Good--good!" panted Blunt.  "I daren't turn to look back, because I
should expose myself--and I know that if I stirred I should faint--but
tell me, how are the fellows behaving?"

"Keeping up a steady fire, just as you told them.  I can see the poor
wretches falling killed or wounded.  There goes another into the river."

"Hah!" sighed Blunt.  "I can't tell the difference between their firing
and ours.  It seemed, though, as if our fire was dropping off."

"It isn't that," said Stan, passing his reloaded rifle into his left
hand so as in turn to wipe his streaming face with his right, quite
unconscious of the fact that he had covered it with the wet, black,
exploded powder fresh from the breech of his piece and his used
cartridges, and now leaving a broad black smudge across his forehead and
down each cheek--"it isn't that.  I'm sure our men are firing
splendidly, but the enemy are using their clumsy pieces now from the
junks."

"Yes, that's it," said Blunt slowly.  "But what are they doing now?  I
can't see for this cloud of smoke."

"Getting the junks closer in with poles.  They're going to leap ashore,
I think, and make a rush.--But there is no cloud," he muttered to
himself; "the wind is driving it away."

"Be ready, then," said Blunt.  "Fire once more right into the thick of
them, reload--and--then be ready--to sound retreat--to--sound--"

Stan took a quick aim, fired, threw open the breech of his piece with
his fingers trembling, and then closed it again, using stern resolution
to carry out his orders, though all the time he felt sure that Blunt was
as he found him when he looked round--that is to say, lying motionless
on the floor of the bastion, but with his fingers still crooked in the
cord of the bale.

"It must be nearly time," groaned Stan to himself, as he felt
half-stunned for the moment.

But a moment only.  The next he was grinding his teeth as he again
passed his rifle into his left hand to feel for his knife with the
right, take it out, and open the blade.

For he foresaw a terrible difficulty as he glanced first at Blunt's hand
still clinging to the cord, and in dread lest the desperate clutch might
prove a hindrance, he bent down and, as quickly as he could, sawed
through the tightly strained cord, which quivered and then, as the last
strand was severed, sprang apart with a sharp crack, springing out of
the wounded man's fingers and leaving the arm free to fall across his
breast.

Stan sighed as he replaced the knife and turned to fire once more; but
he saw at once that if the retreat was to be made and a fatal
hand-to-hand conflict, which could only terminate in their all being
borne down, avoided, the signal must be given at once.

The time had come.  In fact, as he placed the whistle to his lips he
felt that the call had been deferred too long, for there was a furious
yelling, accompanied by a deafening beating of gongs, and with a roar a
human torrent came pouring out of the gangways and off the sides of the
two nearest junks; while the crews of two more, which were interlocked
with their companions, rushed on to the nearer decks to cross and
supplement the attack.

"They'll never hear it!" thought Stan as he blew with all his might,
just as every holder of a rifle was making it spit its deadly cones of
lead right into the thick of the enemy's advance.

But he was wrong.  At the first shrill chirrup of the silver whistle,
its keen, strident tones cut through the heavy roar of the gongs and
voices, and as the firing from the junks had ceased so as to allow the
enemy to advance, so did that of the defence; and while Stan was drawing
breath to repeat the piercing call, there was the quick sound of
footsteps, and two of the clerks appeared at the back.

"Dead?" shouted one as he saw Blunt lying motionless.

"No," shouted Stan.  "Quick!  A hand each, and drag him in.  Off!"

The last words acted like an electric shock, and in less time than it
takes to tell it the manager's hands were seized, and with his head just
clear of the ground, the two bearers doubled with him along the back of
the tea-chest wall and in through the open doorway.

Stan followed them till he too reached the opening, and then stood back
against the chests waiting while man after man dashed up to this and the
farther door, till the last had passed in, and then with unconscious,
bravery the lad followed.

It was none too soon, for as he reached the lintel the hands of a score
of savages, armed with swords and spears, appeared above the frail
defence, assisted to the top by their fellows.  Directly after they
began to tumble over, heedless of the firing now being opened upon them
again from the upper windows of the warehouse; and then, wild with fury
as several dropped, they made a dash at the doorway into which some of
them had seen Stan dive.



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

"THE DANGEROUS TASK."

It was none too soon, but soon enough, for as Stan rushed through, still
blowing the whistle--for no reason at all save that he had forgotten to
take it from his lips--the plan enforced by Blunt in his instructions
acted like clockwork and the door was clapped to in the faces of the
enemy with a sharp bang; half-a-dozen of the defenders stood fast with
rifles presented ready to fire past the carpenters if there were need,
and a doubt was rising in the breathless lad's breast.  It was this:

"Oh, if the others don't secure that farther door!"  The doubt was
quelled by a second sharp bang, and a cheery voice--that of another
doubter--cried: "It's all right there."

"Yes," cried Stan as he thrust the whistle back into his pocket.
"Splendidly done!"

There was no further talking, for the noise outside was deafening.  The
enemy, maddened at their check, were hard at work chopping frantically
at the door with their heavy swords, and stabbing at the panelling with
spears in a way which threatened to make short work of it.  But all the
time the right work was going on, the two great Chinese carpenters
placing the prepared short lengths of timber in their places as coolly
as if nothing was the matter, and screwing them tightly with wonderful
celerity, till the highest piece was being adjusted, when Stan pushed
quickly past the men waiting to fire if the need arose, and made his way
to the farther door, to find, to his great delight, that the barricading
was even further advanced than at the one he had left.

"Well done!" he shouted, to make his voice heard above the horrible din
without.  "Now one man will be enough to stay on guard here ready to
raise the alarm if the enemy begin to get through; the rest off at once
to man the windows.  Mind, don't waste a cartridge."

Stan actually blushed in the semi-darkness as he gave the order in an
imperative voice, and then felt ashamed of himself for daring to order
these men.  But a strange feeling of exultation ran through him the next
moment, and he felt the pride of power, for there was a hearty cheer,
and his command was obeyed with such alacrity that he ran back, and
found the little party he had left waiting still as if for a similar
order.

This was given loudly and quite as a matter of course, and from that
moment Stan felt as if he really was in command, ready to do his best to
protect the place, and as if he had only to speak to find the defenders
ready to fight for him to the death.

It is a strange thing, that natural readiness of the human being to
follow the lead of the one who leaps to the front and displays his
contempt of danger, and it has often done work that history is proud to
record.

"What next?" thought Stan as the last man dashed off, rifle in hand, to
augment the dropping fire from the carefully protected windows.

The answer came from his heart quite silently: it was to go and see how
Blunt had fared, and where he had been placed.  But the intent was
crushed out by the orders that had been given him--by Blunt's own words
about his only being _one_, and that Stan was not to do anything to
sacrifice many lives for the sake of looking after one wounded.

His place, he knew the next moment, was to be on the upper floor,
watching and directing, ready to send men here and there where the
danger was most pressing, and above all to be on the watch for the great
peril; and to this end he made his way to where the great water-casks
stood ready filled, wishing to make sure that if the emergency arrived
the coolies were at their posts ready to run here or there with buckets
of water.

To his great delight, there they all were, every man stripped to the
waist and with a great ready-bared knife stuck through his girdle, ready
to salute him with a broad smile and seize a bucket to plunge into the
open-ended casks.

"No, no--not yet!" cried Stan authoritatively.  "Be ready."

A grunting murmur of satisfaction followed him as he hurried back
towards the broad stairs, at the foot of which the big carpenters and
their two assistants stood, knife-armed like the rest, and having a
great moving crowbar resting with one end upon the floor.

Stan was about to spring up the stairs with the intention of sending one
of the clerks to the office to report upon his chief's state, when he
heard a shrill cry, and turning sharply, he became aware that Wing, in
spite of his injuries, was up and dressed, and limping painfully in his
efforts to overtake him.

"Ah, Wing!" he cried.  "Up?  You ought to be lying down out of danger."

"Wing not lil bit 'flaid," said the man quickly.  "Wing look see if
young Lynn allee light, quite well, casee you wantee know allee 'bout
Misteh Blunt."

"Yes, yes; I was going to send.  I can't come yet," cried Stan eagerly.

"Wing t'ink muchee jus' come tell young Lynn Misteh Blunt lie on back.
Tablee.  Close Wing.  Wing see what matteh."

"Yes, yes.  Is he very bad?" cried Stan.

"Dleadful bad," said the man solemnly.  "Gottee big hole light floo
heah."

The position he denominated "heah" was pointed out by the Chinaman with
his two thumbs, one placed on his shoulder-blade, the other on the upper
part of his right chest.

"Oh! that must be dangerous," cried Stan wildly.

"Yes, velly bad," said Wing, frowning and shaking his head.  "Wing
findee bullet lead inside py-yama."

"And you have tried to bind it up?"

Wing nodded importantly.

"Bad place," he said.  "Wind come out flont, blood lun out behind."

"There must be a big bandage put over the place.  Go and tear up a
sheet."

"No," said Wing, still more importantly.  "Gettee clean tablee-cloff--
cuttee long piecee."

"You have done that?"

"Yes," said Wing, rather pompously now, as if exceedingly proud of his
knowledge.  "Wing know allee 'bout it.  Mend bloken leg oncee.  Big tub
fallee flom clane when wind um up.  Fall on coolie leg.  Poo' Chinaman.
Wing mend leg.  Misteh Blunt got hole floo heah,"--the thumbs
illustrating again--"Wing get softee cotton, pushee piecee in flont
hole, 'top wind come out; pokee piecee in back, keepee blood in.  Allee
blood lun out, Masteh Blunt die velly fast."

"But have you bandaged the place well?"

"Bandage?  Yes; tie velly long piece tablee-cloff lound and lound and
oveh shouldeh.  'Top wind, 'top blood.  Get well now."

"Go and stop with him, Wing," cried Stan excitedly.  "I can't come."

"Wing know.  Got tellee men how to fight."

"Yes.  Stop with Mr Blunt.  You're a splendid fellow, Wing," cried Stan
excitedly.

"Young Lynn glad Wing 'top place?"

"Yes, I tell you.  Capital!  Off with you back."

"Yes, Wing go back.  T'ink young Lynn like know."

Stan only heard a part of this, for the firing was going on furiously,
the enemy were battering at the doors, and just then there was a crash
and a heavy report.

"They've begun to use the guns again," panted the lad as he sprang up
the broad warehouse stairs two at a time, to see half-way down the great
store one of the windows wrecked as to its defences, bales and boards
lying some feet in, the former tumbled over and the latter in splinters,
while the two defenders who had been stationed there lay upon the floor.

"They've got one of the biggest guns to bear on the window," said one of
the defenders of the next window excitedly.

Stan nodded and ran to the weakened place, to go down on one knee and
look out.

He was not cautious enough, for he was seen from the deck of one of the
junks and saluted by a yell, followed directly after by the discharge of
some half-dozen _jingals_, whose ill-directed bullets whistled by his
ears.

"Take care!" shouted three or four voices.

"I should think I will," muttered Stan, dropping on his face, his rifle
striking the floor with a bang.  Then quickly drawing back, he got
behind one of the bales that had been driven in, rested his rifle upon
it, and raising his head cautiously, prepared to fire.

For at his first look out he had seen all he wanted, and following
almost directly upon the sharp clicking of his rifle-lock, the man
nearest to him heard the lad draw a deep breath and fire.

Stan's fresh companion peered from his side to see the object of the
lad's shot, and he uttered a loud "Bravo!" for Stan had continued his
former luck, as, seeing that the gun on board the biggest junk was being
reloaded, and that the firing-match was just about to be applied, he
steadied himself, took the long breath the young clerk had heard, and
then drew trigger, with the result that there was no heavy report and
crash of another of the defences.

Another attempt was made to fire the gun, but a second man went down.  A
third fared no better, and amidst cheers from the different windows,
joined in by the two injured men, who were stunned by the woodwork
driven in upon them but not seriously hurt, one of the officers of the
junk was to be seen raging about giving orders, which produced a ragged
volley from the clumsy Chinese firelocks, bullets and pieces of iron
hurtling through the window; but no more harm was done, except to the
officer, who fell pierced by a shot from farther along the great goods
floor.

While the party who had landed, quite seventy strong, were raging and
tearing round the building, battering at door and barricaded window, and
every now and then making a vain thrust with their spears at the firing
party quite beyond their reach at the upper windows, and frequently
getting a bullet in return which laid a desperate aggressor low, some of
the more cautious sheltered themselves on the outside of the wall of
bales and chests to begin firing up at the defenders.  But with no
advantage to themselves, for while crouching down behind the wall they
could only bring their heavy, clumsy matchlocks to bear at such an angle
that the charge went up high above the defenders' heads.  And whenever a
man who had grown furious from several disappointments rose up to get a
better aim, he went down to a certainty, riddled by a bullet sent home
by one or other of the watchful clerks.

And all the while effort after effort was made by the leaders of the
pirates to bring the swivel-guns of their junks to bear, but without
avail; for, with a strong desire to emulate the success of Stan's shots,
quite half-a-dozen of the clerks and warehousemen who commanded the
dangerous spots waited patiently and watchfully with presented piece and
finger on trigger for the opportunities that were not long in coming.
Man after man of those working the guns was shot down, till, in spite of
yells and blows from their leaders, not a single pirate could be induced
to carry out the dangerous task of loading, laying, or firing the heavy
swivel-guns.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

"FIERY MISSILES."

The desperate fight had been going on for quite an hour from the time of
the landing of the attacking party, and the men who had gained an
entrance into the first defence had grown exhausted by the vain efforts
they had made to break a way through, and contented themselves, such as
could, with getting back outside to the shelter of the walls and,
crouched there, watching their companions' fire, while turning a deaf
ear, and then sullen looks, towards their leaders on the junks, who kept
on furiously yelling to them to go on.

They did not seem inclined to risk it, but scowled at those who ordered
the attack, and waited.  After a short consultation among the junk
captains--a consultation carried on by shouts and yells from vessel to
vessel, delivered through hands held trumpet fashion to the lips--it
became evident to Stan and his little garrison that an attack was to be
made upon a larger scale.  For the crews of the junks manned the sweeps,
and while those close in strove to lay their craft alongside the wharf
above and below the spot where their three junks were grappled together,
the other two began to creep up inshore as if to land their men where
they could get right round to the back of the great _hong_ and the
outbuildings; while, to add to the peril, one of the men on the far side
of the roof-ridge--a point of vantage from which several successful
shots had been sent into the vessels--shouted the bad news that the
first junk, which had been carried down the river till she had
disappeared round a bend, was coming up again full sail, evidently to
rejoin the others.

"It looks very bad now, Mr Lynn," said Lawrence, the foreman, who had
distinguished himself by the way in which he had maintained his
coolness.  "They're going to make a grand attack now in force."

"Yes," replied Stan quietly, "it does look very bad.  They're too many
for us."

"But you won't give in?" cried another anxiously.  Before Stan could
reply another broke out with: "They don't want to kill us; only to
plunder the hong.  Why not take advantage of this lull and quietly get
out on the other side, so as to get right away from the river?  I don't
believe that they would pursue us."

"Then you have a great deal more faith in the Chinese character than I
have," said the first speaker, "I believe that as soon as they saw our
confession of weakness--"

"We should make no confession of weakness," retorted another.  "We
should only retire."

"They would think we were beaten, and come after us for certain," said
another bitterly.

"Yes," said the first speaker sharply, "and follow us till we were
surrounded and overwhelmed out yonder in the marsh, or paddy-fields."

"But why should they take all that trouble for nothing?"

"For nothing?  They wouldn't call it for nothing when they would get all
our rifles and ammunition, in addition to having the profound
satisfaction of spearing and hacking to pieces a party, of what they
call foreign devils.  What do you say, Mr Lynn?"

"Only this," said Stan quietly, "that if we are to be killed it would be
better to fall fighting to the last in our own defence."

"Then you will fight?" cried Lawrence eagerly.

"Of course," was the reply.  "I am obeying Mr Blunt's instructions to
defend the place to the last."

"But isn't this the last, sir?" said the clerk who had proposed the
retreat.

"Oh no.  We are as safe or safer than ever, and though there are going
to be a great many more to make the attack, it does not follow that any
of them will get in."

"Hear, hear!" shouted Lawrence.

"And besides," continued Stan, "when it does come to their beginning to
break in, we have all our big, strong coolies to join us and help with
their knives and bars.  I feel sure that they will fight bravely."

"So do I, Mr Lynn," said Lawrence warmly.

"But they are brother natives," said the objector.

"That's the very reason why they will fight all the fiercer for us.
They hate pirates like poison, and will enjoy sending them out of the
world far more than we shall.  It is only fair, though, Mr Lynn, that
you should give any one who likes to make the attempt to escape free
leave to go."

"Yes," said Stan; "it is not fair to force any one to fight who wishes
to escape."

To Stan's surprise, there was a dead silence; and after waiting a few
moments listening to the storm of voices without, Stan continued:

"Then we're all going to stand by one another?"

"Yes, to a man, sir," said the objector.  "I dare say I'm wrong in my
ideas, and I give way."

There was a cheer at this.  Every man went back to his shelter and
examined his rifle, afterwards taking out and examining his revolver
before thrusting it back in its holster, while Stan went from man to man
to inspect his supply of cartridges, and ended by having a fresh box up
and himself seeing to the refilling of every bandolier.

While this was in progress those who kept a strict watch found that no
further attack was being made.  The matchlock firing had ceased, and the
men beneath the outer defence lay crouched close as if waiting for
further orders.

But the preparations on board the junks were being made with a
determination that augured a serious encounter at the next attack.  Men
were collecting, armed with spears and the great heavy curved Chinese
swords which widened out in the blade from about an inch and a half at
the handle to more than double that width near the point; while
something fresh suddenly took Stan's attention, and he pointed it out to
those with him in the great store.

"Yes, sir," said his chief backer in the late debate; "that's the
ugliest thing we've seen yet."

"Why, it looks like the preparation for a procession.  Every hatch on
the different junks has seven or eight great Chinese lanterns; but
they're not yet lit, so far as I can tell in this bright sunshine."

"They mean it for a procession," said Lawrence, "and they think it is
for our funeral."

"What!" cried Stan.  "But look; what's that smoke?"

"They're lighting stink-pots to throw, sir.  Those and the lanterns are
to burn us out."

"Think so?"

"I feel sure," was the reply.

"But why didn't they use the stink-pots before?"

"Because they thought they could drive us out without.  They didn't want
to set fire to the place for fear of damaging the loot they mean to
take.  They can find a market fast enough for tea and silk; but they're
getting savage now, and mean to make an end of us, even if they have to
burn the place down."

"Well," said Stan coolly, "we must not let them.  I'll go down now and
fetch up the warehousemen and coolies to do nothing else but pick up and
hurl back the fire-pots, for of course they will try and fling them in
at these open windows."

"You couldn't do a better thing, sir."

"No," said Stan thoughtfully.  Then raising his voice, he cried: "If any
one here can suggest anything more to be done, pray speak out."

"Nothing more could be done, sir," said a clerk.  "Your arrangements are
excellent."

"Mr Blunt's are, you mean," said Stan, smiling.  "Very well, then; I
want to stay up here and watch.  You, Mr Lawrence, go down and bring up
the coolies, and tell them what they are wanted to do; but you had
better leave half below to be ready to help with the water-buckets."

The messenger went down, and returned with the sturdy body of Chinese
labourers, who were placed at intervals from end to end of the great
open space, well back in shelter; and as soon as this disposition of the
defensive force had been carried out, and the young chief had satisfied
himself that the men thoroughly grasped the duties they had to perform,
Stan gave orders for all who handled rifles to be in readiness to take
good aim and mark out for punishment every prominent leader amongst the
enemy, so as to try and bring him down, and thus throw confusion amongst
the men who were being led to the next attack.

Then began a weary wait, evidently caused by the leaders of the
expedition holding their men in hand until the first junk had beaten up
against the wind till she was some distance beyond the _hong_, when the
watchers saw the sails suddenly begin to glide down and the great junk
slacken and stop in its upward course; while directly after, with the
sweeps on either side thrust out, she began, after hanging upon the
current for a few moments, to drop down again, the huge oars being plied
vigorously, so as to run her ashore just below the edge of the wharf.

"Now," cried Stan suddenly, "four of you, fire at the steersmen."

Three shots rang out simultaneously, with the result that the two
steersmen went down.  But two more sprang to their places, seized the
great rudder oar, and the rowers toiling hard, the progress of the junk
was apparently not checked, and she came steadily on.

Two more shots rang out, mere cracks in the vast space, but the junk
still kept on, till her bows touched the ground and her stern swung
round parallel with the wharf, while her crew uttered a fierce yell and
crowded to the side; but they were some fifteen feet away from the
wharf-edge.

"Hah!" said Stan to himself.  "They mean business now;" for once more
there was silence for a few moments before the old tactics were carried
out, a signal was given, and full warning afforded to the defenders that
the enemy was coming on.  For on each junk men rushed forward and aft to
begin belabouring the great hanging gongs with all their might, and this
formed the accompaniment to a terrific chorus of yells.

"I should have liked to go down and see poor Mr Blunt once more," said
Stan to himself; "but I dare not go now."

Then he started, for his words suddenly assumed a strange significance.
It seemed to him as if his seeing Blunt once more meant that it would be
for the last time, and something like a shudder ran through him.

He made an effort, however, and it was gone, leaving him firm and ready
to an extent that startled him, for he could not believe that in the
face of such terrible danger it would last.

There was no more thinking then.  The enemy, keeping up the horrible din
which was evidently intended to terrify the defenders of the _hong_ into
submission, came pouring now from the various junks, some over the sides
to leap down from bulwark to wharf, some through the regular gangway,
and those from the freshly returned junk making no scruple about
dropping from the rail at the nearest point down into the river, to wade
or swim ashore.  The manoeuvre resulted in several unfortunates being
crowded down, to rise after an interval, and in several instances to be
swept away by the sharp current now running between the side of the junk
and the wharf, where, as fast as the assailants gathered, they rushed
yelling to the tea-chest barrier and began to climb.

All was wild excitement on the part of the assailants, who, as they
pushed one another up, to be pulled up in turn by those at the top, kept
up a continuous chorus of savage abuse and threats of the way that they
would treat their victims as soon as they got them down; but the furious
outburst seemed to have not the slightest effect upon the defenders,
who, crouching well below their barricades, remained perfectly calm and
firm.  They knew their cut-out task, and contented themselves with the
delivery of a well-directed shot now and again.  There would be a
well-concealed loophole, with nothing visible to the attacking pirates,
giving them perfect confidence that the defenders were hiding away from
them, and then all at once there followed a sharp, pale spurt of flame,
a little puff of smoke, and some leading man of the attacking party
would go down from the top of the wall, where he had been urging his
followers on, while as he fell it was as often as not to lie perfectly
motionless, unnoticed by his people; though upon some occasions, after
staggering and falling, he would struggle to his hands and knees and
crawl out of the hurrying crowd, to try and creep back to one or other
of the junks.

But as fast as one man went down several came on in his place, and in a
very short space of time the whole of the narrow alley between wall and
store was full of hurrying fighting-men, carrying on the former tactics
of battering with their weapons at door and window, some of the storming
party holding their ground and keeping on thrusting their spears in
savagely wherever there was a loophole to which they could gain access.

"Keep cool," shouted Stan, though for his own part he seemed on fire.
"They'll get tired of hammering at the place in time."

"Hadn't we better try and shoot more of them, sir?" said one of the
clerks.

"No; you must only shoot their leaders.  If we went on firing at the
crowd we should soon have no cartridges left.--What does that shouting
mean?"

He raised himself a little to try and see the reason for a fresh burst
of shouting below the window where he was watching.

The answer came at once, after a peculiar odour, and in the shape of a
blazing earthenware pot of inflammable material which was thrown from
the top of the tea-chest wall with such accuracy that it came flaring
and fuming right in through the narrow opening, to fall heavily beyond
Stan.

One such blazing missile, it was plain to all, would be sufficient to
commence the destruction of the place, and in his excitement the young
leader forgot his status of chief and director, for he made a dash
towards the blazing pot, to stoop, seize it, and hurl it out.  But just
as he was holding his breath to avoid the smoke and flame, he was sent
backward by a sharp concussion, sitting down involuntarily, and then
trying to recover himself; but before he could get upon his knees he saw
the burning pot travelling back through the window-opening with so good
an aim that it fell on the far side of the wall, just where the enemy
were thickest.

The man who had thrown it back after upsetting his leader turned upon
Stan with hands blackened with the horrible resinous compound, and a
deprecating look on his countenance as he murmured something in his
native language, before ending up with his version of the English word
"sorry."

"All right," shouted Stan, smiling, as he clapped the coolie on the
shoulder.  "Bravo!  Capital!  Go on."

The coolie's face lit up with satisfaction, and he turned sharply to
field another blazing pot and return it as sharply as a clever
wicket-keeper would a ball to the stumps which it had passed, and with
such splendid effect that it struck and broke on one of the enemy, who
was standing on the wall in the act of hurling another of the hideous
missiles.

The effect was startling.  In an instant the pirate's blue cotton frock
was covered with the blazing resin, and uttering frightful yells, he
leapt down into the crowd of his comrades in the shelter of the wall
beneath, forcing several to share in his misfortune as they were
lighting up more of the horrible missiles to hand up to him for
throwing.

There was a burst of flame through a cloud of smoke, out of which Stan--
fascinated into looking out--saw something alive flaring as it rushed
here and there, making for a party of its fellows dashing up with more
of the pots.

It was all done in a few seconds, and had any of the assailants been
ready and noticed the lad watching, he would have been shot down.  But
every eye was directed at the blazing figure, and, to his horror, Stan
saw the end of the tragedy.  For the instinct of self-preservation had
made them doubly callous to their comrade's sufferings.  The man rushed
on as if seeking help or in a blind effort to reach the river and plunge
in; but he did not reach it of his own volition, being received upon the
lowered spears of three or four of his comrades, and then he was thrust,
shrieking horribly, over the edge of the wharf, a sullen puff of smoke
from the surface of the water telling that the tragedy was at an end.

A frightful sensation of sickness made Stan's head swim as he dropped
back to the floor just in time to escape being struck by another of the
fiery missiles; but the faintness was driven off by excitement, and it
was with perfectly clear brain that the lad saw the burning Asiatic
grenade hurled back amongst the yelling assailants.  This proved to be
with an effect that checked further effort for the moment and sent two
of the pirates running to the edge of the wharf, to plunge in and climb
out again dripping, but with no worse injury than a few smarting burns.

Stan was awake to the danger that was rapidly increasing, for after
seeing that the smoking patches of pitchy resin on the floor were
innocuous, he ran on towards where the far end of the great room was
full of smoke, dreading greater mischief there; but, to his great
relief, he found that, though quite half-a-dozen stink-pots had been
hurled in through the windows, the coolies there had dashed them back at
once.  And here, too, he found that the enemy had suffered so painfully
from their own weapons that the throwing had ceased.

Any doubt that might have lingered in the brains of the British
defenders respecting the amount of confidence that might be placed in
the Chinese labourers was now completely driven away; for though the men
had been burned about the hands by the missiles they had returned, they
made very light of the pain, laughing and congratulating one another
upon the retaliation they had been able to inflict, for Stan soon
gathered that here no less than three of the enemy had been seen to rush
shrieking to the edge of the wharf and plunge in.

There was a brief cessation now from the attack, and the defenders,
whose vision was a good deal obscured by the smoke that hung in the
place, made out that the throwers were hanging back from where several
stink-pots were burning away in the shelter of the wall, some of the men
protesting loudly as one of their leaders furiously urged them on, and
ended by trying to set his followers an example by stepping forward,
seizing one of the vessels, coming back into sight again with the pot
flaming as he held it by its loose handle, and then making a rush to a
breach where a portion of the tea-chest wall had been torn down.

The act was one of barbaric bravery, and Stan saw him reach the top,
swinging the pot to and fro and making the flames roar as they rushed
away from his hands.  Then as his arm was reached out backwards to its
fullest extent, and he was about to launch the horrible missile at the
opening in front, there was the sharp crack of a rifle, and he fell
forward, pitching headlong to the ground beneath the window, while the
blazing pot struck the stonework close to the foundation of the
building, broke up, and went on blazing and sending up a dense cloud of
pitchy smoke.

"Dead?" said the man who had fired, for Stan had reached forward to look
out, but drew back again coughing.

"It's impossible to see," he cried.  "The smoke is blinding."

"And it will be setting something on fire," said another voice out of
the smoke.

"Ah! that's right," cried Stan, for the big coolie who had taken his
place near them pressed forward with a bucket of water, which he set
down while he thrust out his head to see exactly where the danger lay,
before picking up the bucket again, reaching out, and dribbling the
water down a little at a time, producing a cloud of steam to mingle with
the black smoke, and putting an end to all danger of a fire starting at
the lower barricaded windows.

As the cloud of steam and smoke passed off, one of the clerks risked
thrusting out his head from the next window, but withdrew it sharply,
for it resulted in a hasty discharge of _jingals_ from the deck of the
nearest junk.

"Hurt?" cried Stan, rushing to where the clerk had staggered back.

"Yes, sir, horribly," was the reply.  "Something--a piece of iron--or--
a--a bullet--caught me--here--and--"

The words came at short intervals, and sounded confused.  For the
speaker was feeling about his head and neck, and drawing in his breath
with pain.

"One moment," cried Stan, reaching out a hand to take something from
where it had lodged just within the poor fellow's collar.

"Yes, that must have been it," he said wonderingly.  "Bit of stone.  Hit
me on the side of the head.  But that couldn't have come out of one of
their matchlocks."

"No," said Stan; "it must have been chipped off the side of the window."

"And there's only a lump coming here.  Doesn't bleed, does it, sir?"

"No," replied Stan.  "You had a lucky escape."

"What a close shave!  Never mind; a miss is as good as a mile," added
the young fellow cheerily.  "I saw the captain, though, or whatever he
is, lying down at the foot of the warehouse quite dead."

"Are you sure?" asked Stan, with his face contracted.

"Oh yes--quite.  He wouldn't be lying doubled up as he is if he were
only wounded.  I say, Mr Lynn, that wasn't a bad shot."

"No; excellent, and just in the nick of time.  Who fired it?"

"Well," said the young man, hesitating and speaking as if he were not so
proud of the effort after further consideration, "I fired straight at
him, as I thought, just as he was in the act of flinging that blazing
pot; but I can't say I am sure that I hit him."

"But you are sure that he is dead?" replied Stan quietly.  "Pray be
cautious, though.  Don't run such a risk by looking out again."

"You may take my word for it I won't, sir," said the young clerk,
patting the side of his head softly as he spoke.  "One taste like this
will act as a reminder for some time.--Hullo!  Look out.  They've begun
again."

There was proof of a renewal of the attempt to destroy the place by fire
in the presence of another of the pirates' hand-shells, for one came
sailing in through the farthest window, to break up with a crash about
the middle of the flooring; and the defenders had a fine exemplification
of the dangers to which they were exposed in seeing the half-liquid
contents of the pot begin to flow, blazing steadily, in all directions.

One of the coolies rushed up at once to spread the contents of a bucket
of water all over the burning patch, while another, regardless of the
pain, ran here and there catching up the flame-licked fragments of the
pot from where they had fallen, and kept on hurling them like little
smoke-tailed comets back through the window-opening.

"More water," shouted Stan, as the burning patch began to add another
odour to its own, a fine, pungent smoke beginning to mingle with the
dense black fume, indicating that the floor boards were beginning to
catch.

"No, no, sir; this will be best," said one of the warehousemen, and he
dragged one of the silk-bales away from the nearest window.

"But that will catch fire," said Stan.

"Too closely pressed together, sir," was the reply.--"Here, you two,
draw that backwards and forwards over the fire to smother it out."

The two coolies caught at the suggestion, and seizing the bale together,
they began to push it here and there over the burning place, with the
effect of rapidly smothering out the flaming pitch, dense black smoke
alone rising wherever the bale was passed; but unfortunately a heated
gas kept on ascending from the blackened boards, and that caught fire
again with a little explosion as the bale glided away.

Perseverance won, however, but none too soon, for all danger had hardly
been swept away before another of the pots came hissing and fuming in,
but without breaking; and this was jerked out, sending the attacking
party flying from the place where it was expected to fall, the painful
examples they had seen making the assailants pretty careful now.

This one was followed by several more, and then, to the great relief of
the defenders, there was a cessation, and the assailants could be seen
gathering together as if to listen to a mandarin-like officer who was
risking his life while talking vehemently to his followers, who had now
drawn away from the walls and were collected close to the edge of the
wharf, many glancing at the junks as if disposed to rush on board.

"They're beginning to turn tail now," said Stan to the warehouseman who
had spoken out so firmly.  "I think we had better give them a volley and
start them off with a run."

"I'm afraid that it would be just as likely to enrage them all the
more."

"Yes, sir," said Lawrence, Stan's lieutenant; "perhaps we had better
wait; but my fingers are itching to bring down that captain, or chief,
or whatever he is."

"He seems to be urging them on," said Stan thoughtfully--very
thoughtfully, for he had an idea in his head, one that would give the
man a chance for his life, which might not be the case if he told his
lieutenant to fire.

For now that the attack had ceased and the pirates' fiery missiles had
left off making his nerves quiver at the prospect of the fire gaining
the mastery and driving them out of their stronghold, the lad felt
anything but bloodthirsty; while he thought that if this leader, who
seemed now to be the most prominent of all, were disabled, his followers
might set the example of taking to flight.

"Look here," said the lad suddenly; "I think I could hit that man from
here."

"Of course you could, sir," cried his lieutenant eagerly.  "I saw how
you were firing at first and never seemed to miss.  Will you have a
try?"

Stan made no reply, but stood fingering his rifle for a few moments
before, to the great delight of the party of defenders, he sank down on
one knee, resting the barrel of his piece upon a bale, and then waited
and watched the Chinaman who was haranguing his men wildly as he stood
just at the edge of the wharf, now and then raising his arms as he
pointed again and again at the great store.

As he finished there was a tremendous shout, and every man of the crowd
of listeners began to wave his spear or sword.

Just then the crowd opened out as if to form in two parties for a rush
at the warehouse, leaving their leader standing out quite clear, his
tall, commanding figure looking huge in the sunshine.

"Here they come!  Look out!" arose from within, and the whole body were
in motion, when--

_Crack_!

The sharp report of Stan's rifle was heard, followed by the floating up
of a puff of grey smoke, and the sound seemed to act like magic, for the
attacking party stood fast, staring in amazement at their chief, whose
legs suddenly doubled up beneath him, and he fell back into the arms of
two men who rushed forward to his help.

"Good shot!" cried several of the defenders.

"A dead man," said Stan's lieutenant.

"I was afraid I could not do it," said Stan, smiling; "but he's not a
dead man, for I only fired at his legs.  Look! they're carrying him on
board the junk."

It was as the lad said: several of the men from the crowd went back to
help, while the rest stood fast watching and waiting as if, losing their
heads, they had suddenly been struck with a feeling of indecision.  All
the wild, savage desire for destruction had been discharged like so much
electricity at the touch of a rod, and a feeling of hopefulness sprang
up amongst the defenders as they could see that the whole of the
attacking party were now gathered into groups talking eagerly, so that
there was a low, buzzing hum instead of the chorus of savage yells and
threats.

"Where's Wing?" said Stan suddenly, as a thought struck him respecting
taking advantage of the lull.  "I know: he is with Mr Blunt.  One of
you go and tell him to send the servants with anything he can get
together in the way of food.  Another of you bring a bucket of
drinking-water up here."

The orders were carried out, and with watchful eyes and rifles ready to
hand, the whole party partook of the rough refreshments passed round,
the water proving, in their excited state, the principal object to which
they directed their attention.

Wing limped up to Stan as soon as he had performed his task, to announce
that Mr Blunt had gone "fas' 'sleep.  Velly weak; can'tee sit up.
Dlinkee big lot wateh."

Stan longed to go and see his chief, but duty kept him there watching
the actions of the men still crowding the wharf, till some one in
authority began to shout, when his followers crept up together as if for
a fresh attack.

This brought the refreshing to a hasty end, every man hurrying at once
to his post, but only to set up a subdued cheer, for, to Stan's intense
delight, the next order seemed to be one for making the fighting-men
separate into half-a-dozen different parties, as if drilled to certain
movements; but it only proved to be for forming up in the divisions
belonging to each junk, on to which they now began to file, either
direct from the wharf or across the nearest vessels to their own.

"They've had enough of it, sir," said one of the clerks excitedly.
"Hadn't we better give them a cheer and a few parting shots?"

"No," said Stan thoughtfully; "it would only be wasting ammunition.  I
can't quite believe in their giving up so easily."

"Easily!" said another to one of his companions.  "Not much of that.
Look at the dead and wounded."

There was no need to draw attention to the poor wretches lying about,
for their horrible presence was a burden to every one in the warehouse.
Many were lying dead where they had received the fatal bullets, but many
more lay where they had crawled painfully so as to get into shelter,
evidently in the full expectation that if they did not get under cover
they would be made the mark for fresh bullets.  And oddly enough, as it
seemed to the defender the cover most affected was the tea-chest wall,
where those who crawled up lay close, with only a leg or arm visible to
the watchers at the windows.  They were, of course, so near that their
groans came floating in through the openings, and now that they were
_hors de combat_ Stan became exercised in his mind as to whether he
ought not to take some steps to give the poor wretches water, and he
suggested it to his lieutenant.

"Yes," said the latter, "I've been thinking something of the kind, sir;
but it would be terribly risky work.  They are savages to a man, and as
likely as not they would turn upon the hand that came to their help.
You see, they're sure to have their knives and swords with them, and
some of them their rifles.  There, for instance," he continued, pointing
through the window where they stood to the stock of a _jingal_ whose
barrel was out of sight, being close under the wall where its owner lay.

"Yes, I'm afraid it would be risky; but if I went with a bucket of water
and a tin dipper they never could be such wretches as to turn upon me."

"My dear sir," was the reply, "if one didn't another would.  But you
couldn't possibly do it."

"I could, and I should feel plenty of confidence in their seeing what I
meant."

"Then your confidence would be misplaced, sir," said the man decisively.
"They'd all think you had gone out to poison them, and would turn upon
you at once."

"Oh, impossible!" cried Stan.  "They'd be bound to see."

"They'd see, sir," said the man firmly, "but they wouldn't understand.
Men who go about getting their living by slaughtering their
fellow-creatures can't grasp the meaning of an act of self-denial.
Besides, you couldn't go."

"I could: why not?"

"Because you are captain, and can't leave your men."

Stan made an impatient gesture.

"But I could, sir," continued Lawrence quietly; "and if you order me
I'll go."

Stan looked at him sharply.

"I mean it, sir," said the man, with a peculiar smile; "but all the same
I hope you will not send me."

"I can't," said Stan.  "How can I send you where I hold back from going
myself?"

At that moment the man stretched out his hand sharply and caught the lad
by the arm.

"What's that for?" said Stan sharply.

"Look in that first junk."

"Yes; I'm looking.  They're getting ready to hoist sail and go--No!  I
see now.  They're afraid to come to close quarters.  They're loading
that gun."

"That's right; and the crews of the other junks are at the same game."



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

"ONE CARTRIDGE LEFT."

There was no doubt about the matter, for as they were speaking a tiny
curl of smoke began to rise from the middle of the group of busy men on
the nearest junk, and Stan's voice rose, sounding hoarse and deep:

"Begin firing again, slow and careful shots, at the men carrying the
matches.  Stop; I'll begin."

He took aim across the bale of silk behind which he was kneeling, and--
though he did not see it, others did plainly--the linstock flew up,
jerked from the holder's hand, described a curve, and fell overboard to
be extinguished.

There was a yell at this, and half-a-dozen men or so began discharging
their matchlocks at the window from which the accurate shot had come;
while directly after there was a roar from another junk, whose men had
charged their brass gun unseen, and the contents went crashing and
spattering about the opening, making a great uproar, but doing very
little harm.

It was a disillusionment for the defenders which roused them to a
feeling of bitterness and nerved every one present with determination,
and the duel between the junks and the _hong_ went on fiercely, but with
no serious harm to the defenders.  The attacking party, however,
suffered terribly, man after man of the crews, if they can be so called,
of the guns falling killed or wounded from the slow, steady, accurate
fire which picked off with almost unerring precision those who loaded
and those who fired the junks' artillery, till the pirates yelled with
rage and fury, crowding over one another to take the disabled men's
places.

Meanwhile, in spite of the nerve-shattering discharges whenever the
swivel-guns were fired, Stan's followers kept up their slow, steady,
irregular reply.  Sometimes minutes passed without a rifle being fired,
for want of what was looked upon as a good opportunity; and then shot
after shot would snap out from one or another window, giving the enemy
the work of carrying off as many dead or disabled men.

Again and again Stan deluded himself into the belief, caused by the
cessation of the firing, that the enemy were once more out of heart; but
the pauses proved to be only due to the failure of ammunition or a
difficulty in bringing up the lighted match, and the firing recommenced,
and more gunners were in retaliation shot down.

"At last!" cried Stan exultantly, after the hottest passage of the
attack yet endured, when all at once the firing ceased.  "Look! they've
had some accident; that big junk is on fire."

He pointed needlessly to a great body of smoke which seemed to be rising
amidships of the first-coming junk but the last to be moored.

"Yes, there's something wrong there," said his lieutenant excitedly.
"No, no, no!  Look out!  Here they come."

To a man the defenders drew a deep breath, and their hands went to their
bandoliers to feel for cartridges.  For it was plain enough: discouraged
but enraged by the ill-success of their firing, the Chinese leaders had
given their orders to their men, who needed no inciting, but began
pouring over the sides of the vessels again, many of them bearing their
abominable fire-pots, of which a number had been made ready in the hold
of one of the junks; and, without leaders or any formation beyond that
of a yelling, surging crowd, the enemy began running up to the _hong_ to
gain the shelter of the wall of chests.

Here there was a halt for a few seconds till the front wall was crowded,
while not a shot was fired by the defenders, who, in full expectation of
what was coming, had seen their young leader order up two-thirds of the
coolies, one half to deal with the fire-pots, and return them blazing
amongst the enemy, and the other to be ready with buckets and bales to
smother out any fire which might arise.

The smoke of the pots was rising in a cloud, from the front of the wall,
and though they could not see, the defenders surmised correctly enough
that the bearers of the direful missiles were swinging them in the air
to get them into a high state of combustion before beginning the
assault; and all waited with knitted brows, wondering how long it would
be before the bewildering roar of the gongs began again, for the delay
seemed, in their over-excited state, to be long and strange.

Just when the excitement of waiting was becoming unbearable, there was a
diversion, the quaint-looking, pig-tailed head of Wing rising slowly
from the stairway, followed by the rest of him, and he began to limp
painfully towards where Stan crouched rifle in hand, with its deadly
charge waiting to bring down the first prominent leader upon whom he
could bring the sight to bear.

He was about the only one of the defenders who did not see the coming of
Wing, and he started as he felt the man's soft fingers touch his arm.

"Ah, you, Wing!" he cried sharply.  "What do you want here?"

"Misteh Blunt send Wing young Lynn."

"Hah!  Then he is awake?"

Wing nodded.

"Is he better?"

"No.  Velly bad.  Say smokee chokee.  Tell Wing come say you takee ca'e
fi' no get to magazine and blow up allee ca'tlidge."

"Yes, yes; I'll take care.  Tell him we are doing our best, Wing, and
that I can't come down to see him."

"No; can'tee come down.  B'long warehouse.  Mustee stop kill big lot
pilate."

"Go down now, Wing," said Stan impatiently.  "You'll only be in the way
here."

"Yes, go down soon fight begin."

"And stay with Mr Blunt; he may want water."

"No stay 'long Misteh Blunt--no.  Say Wing makee 'self useful.  B'long
wa'ehouse now.  Stop see if fi' begin to buln, and put um out 'gain with
bucketee wateh."

"Very well; do that, then."

"Yes, Wing go stand 'longside ca'tlidge place.  See no stinkee-pot come
floo."

"Yes; good.  Be off; I'm going to fire."

"Go fi'?" said Wing.  "Yes; no shootee Wing.  Get 'way now."

It was quite time, as the Chinaman felt.  Limping along the floor, he
made for the stairway, and had just reached it when, with a roar and
dash, the fierce enemy climbed to the top of the little wall and began
to discharge their _jingals_ and fire-pots, no less than three of these
latter falling inside at the first discharge.

It was a repetition of the first assault, but earned on with more savage
energy, in spite of the calm, steady reply in single shots from the
defenders, who kept to their former tactics, with the result that nearly
every time a rifle sent forth its jet of flame and faint puff of smoke
it meant a message of death or temporary disablement to some miscreant
who was more prominent than his fellows in the assault.

But they were as far, apparently, as ever from carrying the place, and
when, enraged by their ill-success, about a score of the most desperate
dropped from the wall to try and batter in the doors, covered by a
fierce discharge of the fire-pots through the windows above, Stan,
terrible as the time was, felt an old incident of schoolboy life flash
across his brain.

It was no time of fire, although it was mimic battle royal, for it was
an episode of snowballing when the weaker side were driven to take
flight and shelter themselves behind the dwarf wall of the covered-in
portion of the playground, where no snow had of course fallen, while
just outside it lay piled up consequent upon the roof having been swept
after a heavy fall.  Stan and his fellows were therefore in the position
of being without ammunition, while their adversaries were standing
knee-deep in the midst of abundance.

There seemed to be nothing left but ignominious surrender, when the idea
occurred to Stan which enabled his party to turn the tables.  It was
merely to catch the ready-made balls of snow and return them instantly
to the throwers.  And with this memory coming to him in the emergency,
just when the stink-pots were coming thickest and the doors below
threatened to give way to the battering and hacking they received from
the furious party beneath the windows, Stan brought his coolies together
and gave his orders, which were to raise the blazing pots with crowbars
and carry them to the openings over the threatened doors, after the
barricading bales had been dragged away; and then, just when the attack
was at its worst, two half-dozens of the blazing grenades were quietly
dropped at once amongst the constituents of the Chinese forlorn-hope.

The effect was as instantaneous as it was horrible.  Several of the men
at each door were splashed with the burning resinous material, while one
or two were in an instant blazing.  There was a wild yelling of pain and
despair, and, as much to avoid their fellows as the missiles flung after
them, the whole of the attacking party took to flight to gain the other
side of the wall, such of them as were burning making for the river.

This stopped the assault upon the doors, but only increased the fury of
the enemy's firing from their shelters, while more blazing pots were
being brought rapidly down from the junks, to be handed up to the
throwers and then hurled in as before.

"Never mind," shouted Stan; "we've checked them a bit.  Fire away at the
men who bring the stink-pots.--Eh--what?  Getting to the last
cartridges?  Plenty more.--Here, Mr Lawrence," he continued, turning to
his lieutenant; "there's a whole case in the magazine; fetch them up."

"Is the trap-door locked?" said the man thoughtfully.

"No--only shut down.  Quick!  We must not slacken our fire now."

Lawrence placed his rifle against the breastwork from behind which he
had been bringing down enemy after enemy, ran along the great store
floor, and narrowly escaped being hit by one of the fiery missiles which
came flying in; but he reached the broad stairway in safety, plunged
down, and returned in a marvellously short space of time with an open
case of ammunition in his hands.

"Here, cartridges--cartridges!" shouted two of his fellows as he hurried
by where they were firing; but he paid no heed to their cries, trotting
on to where Stan was as busy as the rest, and with a fierce growl banged
the case at his feet.

"Well done!" shouted Stan.  "Quick!  Hand the packets round.  What!" he
cried.  "Dripping wet?"

"Yes!" cried the bearer of the case and the most dire news that could be
carried to men in so sore a strait--treachery.  "The trap-door was
thrown back, and some cursed scoundrel had emptied a bucket into the
open chest.  Look!  The cases are saturated.  I had to pour a gallon of
water out into the iron bucket that was standing just below."

Stan's jaw dropped, and he stared for a moment or two helplessly at
Lawrence.

The cry of "Cartridges--this way!" brought him back to himself.

"Patience!" he shouted as loudly as he could, and throwing open the
breech of his rifle, he took out the full cartridge waiting to be fired
and replaced it in his bandolier.  Then, to break open one of the little
packets in which the contents of the fresh case were wrapped, he snapped
the string and tore off the sodden paper, which, as he crushed it in his
hand and then dropped it, fell with a soft dab on the floor.

The next instant he had placed one of the new cartridges in the chamber
of his rifle, closed the breech, turned, took aim at once at the most
active of the _jingal_ bearers, and drew trigger.

_Click_!

Just the falling of the hammer, and nothing more.

"That is the last case," said Stan softly, and without showing the
slightest emotion, as he merely withdrew the little cylinder, to whose
detonator the water had evidently penetrated, though part of the powder
might still have remained unspoiled.

"Yes, sir, the very last.  What's to be done now?"

"One moment," said Stan quietly as he once more put in the dry cartridge
from his bandolier.  "Just you try one from another packet," he
whispered.--"Halt!" he shouted down the room.  "Cease firing.--Now try
one."

Another packet from the next layer was tried, but the wrapper was if
anything wetter, and a _click_! was the result.

"Oh, they're all spoiled," said Lawrence bitterly.  "The game's up, so
only let us die fighting."

"Of course," said Stan coolly enough; "but we've not used our revolvers
yet.  We'll give them a volley from our rifles, and then we must take to
our pistols and wait till they come to close quarters."

"What do you say to retreating to the office after the volley, and then
defending the door as the brutes try to get at us?  The revolvers will
tell splendidly there, too, as we shall be firing into the dense mob who
crowd into the passage."

"The very thing," said Stan; "and we shall be defending Mr Blunt at the
same time.  Of course; and we must set the coolies at work then to help
us with their knives."

"Yes," said Stan's lieutenant, "the coolies--Chinamen.  Mr Lynn," he
cried in a hoarse whisper, "it must have been one of those dogs who were
to be ready to stop the fire with their buckets."

"It couldn't have been," said Stan.  "They were all up here."

"Then it was that cunning Chinese fox, Wing," growled Lawrence angrily;
"and if we're to die he shall go first."

"Oh, impossible!" said Stan excitedly.

"I've got but one cartridge left," shouted a man at the far end of the
room.

"And I,"--"And I,"--"And I," cried others, while some of the rest
confessed to having two or three.

"And the enemy are coming on for a fresh attack of some kind.  There's
quite a mob making for your window, Mr Lynn."

"And they've got about a dozen stink-pots with them, sir," cried
another.

Stan glanced round, and there was the situation plainly enough.  Some
ten men were in the front of a cluster of about forty of the enemy, who
were coming steadily on with levelled _jingals_, obviously making for
the centre of the building.

"Now's your time, sir," whispered the lieutenant.  "Let's give them one
good roar."

"Yes," said Stan, and he shouted to the occupants of the other windows
to close up round him and bring the coolies to stand ready for the
fire-pots close behind.

The evolution, if such it can be called, was performed at once, the
little party of riflemen placing themselves in three rows behind their
barricade, the first kneeling, the second stooping a little to fire over
their fellows' heads, and the back row perfectly upright, with the
barrels of their rifles resting on the shoulders of the second line.

"We must risk the fire-pots, gentlemen," said Stan; "but I hope to give
the wretches one good, startling volley before they are able to throw.
Right into the thick of them, mind, and then, before the smoke rises,
every man must dash down below and into the office.  I mean to hold that
now."

"But hadn't we better fill up our belts first, sir, with cartridges?"

"They have all been soaked with water," said Stan quietly.  "There has
been treachery here."

His words were received with a groan.

"Then it's all over," said one young fellow piteously.

"Not while we have our revolvers," said Stan.  "We can stop them from
reaching the office, I think, and our Chinese helpers will have a chance
to do something then."

A hearty cheer arose at this, for the cloud of despondency that was
gathering had been chased away, and once more every eye was bright and
nerves strung for the final effort.

"They're nearly close enough," said Stan quietly.  "When they are at the
densest, and the order is given to advance, I shall utter the word.
Then fire right into the centre; never mind the fire-pot throwers.
Let's try to startle them if we can."

There was a low murmur of assent, and then all waited, glaring past the
bristling barrels of their rifles at the coming enemy, who, contrary to
their former action, now crowded closely together as they came in
something like discipline, their movements pointing to the fact that
they were about to deliver fire from their _jingals_ and then to make a
rush.  What they intended with the stink-pots which were being carried
was not evident until they were closer in, when the fire-bearers struck
off suddenly to the left as if to deliver them from a fresh point.

At this moment, as if to excite and drive the party on into making a
more desperate attack, and to fill the defenders with dismay, the gongs
on every junk suddenly boomed out with a terrific din; the fresh party
uttered a yell, and then stopped short to fire.

Stan's voice was almost drowned, but not quite.  There was enough of his
order heard to animate his little body of defenders.  Trigger was drawn
before a single match could be lowered upon the powder-pans of the
_jingals_, and the rifles made almost one report, their bullets tearing
through the group of pirates, who were not twenty yards away.  Then,
blind to the effect of their volley, screened as everything was by the
smoke, the defenders started back from the window and hurried down the
stairway to make for the office, where Blunt, to the surprise of all,
was found sitting back in a cane chair, with Wing assiduously operating
to keep him cool with a palm-leaf fan.

"Wouldn't stop lying down," began Wing to the nearest man; but his
explanation was not heeded, the men preparing to barricade their keep,
only leaving space for the rest to file in.



CHAPTER THIRTY.

"TO CERTAIN DEATH?"

In the minutes that elapsed before the enemy could make their way into
the deserted portion of the defences Stan and his Englishmen worked
hard, making the coolies bring in a sufficiency of water for the hot and
thirsty, while watch and ward was kept, and wonder was expressed as to
what had been done with the stink-pots.

"I'm expecting," said the lieutenant, "that we shall know by the
crackling of burning wood what has become of them."

But there was nothing to break the silence, no rush to indicate that the
enemy had climbed in, and all attempts made to take an observation from
the chinks of the boarded-up windows of the office were useless; for
these latter only resulted in the examiners seeing the far-stretching
verdant country, no sweep of the river being visible from that portion
of the building.

"What does it mean?" said Stan at last.  "Some trap?"

All listened again for some minutes before Stan, pistol in hand, led the
way to the foot of the warehouse stairs, where they stood listening for
a few minutes before the lad planted his foot on the first step.

"No, no, sir; let me lead," whispered his lieutenant--"let me go this
time.  The first thing you'll hear will be the swish of one of their
great swords.  They're lying ready to take off the heads of all who
begin to show."

"But we must get to know what they're doing," said Stan.

"Then let the carpenters take down the top plank of one of the doors,
sir; it's only screwed, and we can see everything then.  If they begin
with their spears, a volley from our pistols will drive them back till
the board is screwed on."

"But I don't believe that any one can be upstairs after all," cried Stan
impatiently.  "How foolish to have all the windows closed up without
leaving a hole!"

"Hasn't proved very foolish, sir," said the lieutenant dryly, "according
to my ideas.  Holes for us to peep out at mean places for the enemy to
send spears through.  Where we could reach from inside they could get at
from outside."

"Listen," said Stan; and for nearly five minutes silence was maintained,
without a sound being heard.

"There!" whispered Stan triumphantly; "do you mean to tell me that the
enemy would be able to keep as still as that if they were up there?"

"I'm afraid they would if they had laid a trap for us."

"Oh, impossible!" replied Stan.

"Perhaps you are right, sir," said the lieutenant; "but I've been
working out here in China for the last twenty years, mixing with the
people and learning their ways, and I'm ready to say that they're about
the most artful beggars under the sun."

"Then you really believe that they are upstairs in hiding?"

"I do, sir.  What is it they want to do?"

"Murder us, of course."

"Exactly; and they've been trying to do that for the last hour, losing
men heavily all the time.  Force has done no good, and now they're
trying some artful trick to get hold of us without losing any more men."

"Then why don't they burn us out?  That seems to be the most likely
thing to do."

"Yes; only they'd burn all the rich loot they want to take.  They
haven't attacked us here for nothing.  Of course, they'd go back
rejoicing after hacking us to pieces, but they don't want to sail away
back with empty junks."

"There's something in that," said Stan thoughtfully.

"It's a trap, sir, and if you want any proof of their cunning, you've
just had one over those cartridges."

Stan frowned and looked sharply in the speaker's eyes.

"You don't doubt that it was Chinese work?"

"No," whispered back Stan; "we must have a traitor among us."

"Yes; one who felt that the enemy would get the upper hand."

"Do you know who did it?"

"I think so, sir," was the reply; "and did at first, though I've had my
doubts since."

"Well, that's all over.  What we want to see now is whether the enemy
are on the upper floor."

"I say they are, sir; and if one of us goes up, the next thing we shall
hear will be a horrible thud from one of their swords, and we shall be a
man short."

Stan stood listening in silence again for a few moments, gazing up the
stairs from out of the semi-darkness into the light which came down from
above.

"I don't care," he said at last; "there's something more in this than
you say."

"Perhaps so, sir; but the grim death I can see is quite enough for me."

"You're all wrong, and I'm going up to see what's the meaning of this
silence."

"What's the good, sir?"

"The good?" cried Stan.  "What an absurd question!  To know, of course."

"And what's the good of your knowing when you won't be able to tell us?"

"You mean I should be killed at a blow, and not be able to come back and
say what I had seen?"

"Of course, sir."

"Ah, well!" said Stan bitterly, "that wouldn't matter.  If you didn't
hear me cry out, you'd know you were right by my not coming back.  Now
then, lend me another pistol, and I'll rush up at once."

The lieutenant glanced round at those who were with him, and then
stepped before the lad.

"You're not going to run such a risk, sir," he said.

"What!  Who's going to stop me?"

"I am, sir; and the rest are going to help me."

"Mr Blunt put me in command, for all of you to obey me."

"Yes, sir, to defend the place--fight for it with us."

"And you are beginning a mutiny," cried Stan angrily.

"No, sir; only going to stop you from doing a mad thing."

"Mad?"

"Yes; going to throw your life away, when we want you to help us."

Stan hesitated.

"I don't want to do anything mad," he said more quietly.  "But we must
know the meaning of what is going on upstairs and outside.  The enemy
may be laying a mine to blow us all up."

"No, they may not, sir.  In their selfish cunning they will not do
anything to destroy the place."

"Absurd!" cried Stan.  "Why, they've been trying since the beginning to
burn the place down."

"Oh no, sir; there you're wrong.  Only to drive us out--stifle us with
their stink-pots.  As soon as they had done that they would have been
the first to drown out any fire that had taken hold.  Come, sir; I've
fought my best and tried to prove to you that I was staunch, so take my
advice--wait."

"No one could have been more brave and true," cried Stan warmly.
"Forgive me if I have spoken too hotly, but don't try and stop me now.
I must make a dash for it."

"It's your duty to Mr Blunt and your people, sir, to stand fast and
order us to go up."

"To certain death?"

"Yes, if it means it, sir."

"Then you have your doubts," cried Stan.  "There!  I'm going to make a
rush up.  Who'll follow?"

"All of us," came in a burst.

"Ready, then," cried Stan, cocking his pistol.  "Now then; once more--
ready?"

No one spoke, but there was a sharp clicking of pistol-locks, and then a
pause, while Stan stood with his left foot on the second stair, ready to
bound up, but listening intently.

"No one there," he said in a sharp whisper, and rushed up into the
light.



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

"A TRAITOR."

No movement above him, no swish and horrible thud of a great two-handed
sword, but a free course for the lad to spring from the last step into
the long room, its blackened, pitch-besmirched floor covered with
charred patches, and pieces of pitch, broken pots, and, above all,
scores of empty cartridge-cases lying scattered about, and all lit up by
the bright sunshine which streamed in through the open barricaded
windows, Stan stopped short, with his follower crowding up and pressing
upon him, pistol in hand, and gave a sharp look at every barricade to
see if any of the enemy were crouching behind the holes in the
window-opening; and, satisfied that the place was free, he waved one of
the revolvers he held above his head and led off in a wild and
excited--"Hip! hip! hip! hurrah!"

The shout was taken up and repeated with all the force of his
companions' lungs, while as the lad made a rush to the nearest window
and gazed out on to the river, his lips parted for another cheer and his
revolver-armed hand rose for a fresh wave.

But his lips closed again, his hand dropped to his side, and nothing but
a hoarse, murmuring sound came forth in the words:

"I can't--I can't; I'm dead-beat now."

"Hold up, my lad!" cried the lieutenant wildly as he sprang forward just
in time to catch Stan as he reeled, and eased him down into a sitting
position upon one of the bales, supporting the lad's head against his
breast.  "Where are you hurt?"

"Nowhere," said Stan in half-suffocated tones.  "Done up, I suppose--too
much for me.  Water, please.  Here," he added feebly, "give the cowards
one more cheer.  No, no," he added huskily and with more animation;
"we've all done enough.  Thank you!"

He took the tin of water dipped for him from one of the buckets brought
up for extinguishing fire, drank with avidity, and then rose and
staggered to the bucket-side, dropped upon his knees, and bent over to
bathe his burning temples and smarting eyes.

"Hah!" he ejaculated as he rose and began drying his face with his
blackened handkerchief.  "It was very weak and cowardly, but I couldn't
help it.  Sort of reaction, I suppose, after such a strain.  I can't
help feeling a bit ashamed."

"Of being so cowardly, sir?" said the lieutenant dryly.

"Yes; it was very weak," replied Stan.

"Oh yes, very," said the lieutenant, with a curious croak in his throat.
"I never saw such a cowardly lot as we all are in my life.--Eh, lads?"

A wild, half-hysterical laugh arose from the party, and the next minute
a most absurd performance was gone through, the men all beginning to
shake hands with one another, the biggest fellow present with tears
running down his cheeks.

"Shocking cowards, all of us, Mr Lynn," said the lieutenant huskily;
"but we've sent them flying with fleas in their ears."

"Yes, yes," cried Stan excitedly now, as he fast recovered from his
weakness.  "Oh! it was bravely done, but you ought to have had a man to
lead you.  Here, we must go down and let Mr Blunt hear the news."

"Yes, directly," said the lieutenant; "but when I tell him--I mean, _we_
tell him--all that has been done, I think I know what he'll say."

"Say?" cried Stan, staring at the speaker.  "What will he say?"

"That he couldn't have done it better himself."

A tremendous cheer arose at this, and the colour began to return to the
young leader's face, while to turn the conversation, which was growing
painful, Stan suddenly said, addressing all:

"Why, it must have been that last volley!"

"Yes," said the lieutenant; "that was too much for them.  They stopped,
though, to carry off all their wounded."

This last was said as they stood gazing out of the windows at the six
great junks gliding slowly up against the current with all sail set, but
no remark was made about the way in which the broad river was dotted
with ghastly-looking objects floating away with the stream and,
fortunately for those at the _hong_, fast growing more distant; but all
knew how busy the defeated enemy must have been plunging those who had
fallen into the river before they sailed away.

"Now let us go down, sir, and see if Mr Blunt is well enough to hear
the news."

"Yes; he ought to have been told before."

"We left him half-asleep," said the lieutenant meaningly.  "I wouldn't
wake a wounded man, sir, even to give him the best of news."

"Perhaps it would be best to wait," said Stan wearily, and looking as if
all the spirit in him before had completely gone.

"Feel done up, sir?"

"Yes, horribly," replied Stan as they reached the head of the stairs,
and both glanced round and then looked in each other's eyes.

"What were you looking round for?" said Stan.

"To see that there was no sign of fire anywhere about.  Weren't you?"

"Yes," said Stan.  "How horribly the place smells!"  Then, with his
thoughts reverting to the late engagement: "I say, the enemy must have
lost very heavily."

"Awfully, sir," said the man; and then meaningly, "Didn't you see the
crows?"

Stan's brave companion was alluding to a long line of dusky birds that
were following the dismal objects floating in direful procession down
the river, and coming up from all directions to join their friends.

"Yes," said the lad, with a shudder, "I saw them;" and at the same
minute a voice came from behind, one of the party calling the attention
of another to the same strange piece of animal instinct.

"I say," he said, "look how the crows are coming up.  How can they know
when there is a fight?"

He called them crows--the common term--but he meant vultures, the
scavengers of the Chinese villages and towns.

Blunt was sleeping heavily, or rather, he was lying back in a state of
semi-stupor, the result of his wounds and the exertion of moving when in
so weak a state.  Wing was at his side, busily wafting the fan to and
fro, but closing it quickly from time to time to make a blow at some
troublesome, obtrusive fly, but never hitting once.

"Still asleep?" said Stan in a whisper.

"Yes, sleep velly fast," replied the man.  "Velly bad indeed.  Hot in
head now.  Keep talkee.  Say silly pidgin nonsense.  Wanted get up and
go 'way while all fight.  Heah pilate shout.  Wanted go see.  Wing tly
to 'top him.  Say knock Wing down not get out o' way.--You been killee
all pilate?"

"All?  Nonsense," said Stan wearily.  "But we've driven them away."

"Dlive allee 'way?  Yes," said Wing, nodding his head a good deal.
"Shoot, killee, flighten.  Fly 'way like clows when shoot.  But soon
fo'get.  Come back again like clows."

"Come back like the crows?" said Stan.

"Yes.  Shoot gun, all fly 'way.  Fo'get soon; come back again to get
good t'ings."

"Do you mean you think the pirates will come back and attack?"

"Yes.  Wing suah.  Some day."

"Do you think he is right?" said Stan, turning to his lieutenant.

"Yes, I'm afraid so," was the reply.  "Not for some days, of course; but
they have been disappointed of the plunder, and knowing it is here,
they'll come again to try and get it and to pay us out for the number we
have killed and wounded.  There! don't talk about it now.  Let's see
about a meal being got ready.--You, Wing, I think you could leave Mr
Blunt as he is.  He can't do better than sleep."

"No do betteh," said the Chinaman.  "You say, go get dinneh leady?  Wing
glad.  Do evelybody muchee good."

"See about it, then," said Stan, "while we go and say a few words to the
coolies--eh?  Don't you think they ought to be praised for what they
have done?"

"Yes," was the lieutenant's reply; "come and say a few words to them--
not many--and tell them you are pleased with the way they fought.  But
tell them, too, that you'll have a good supper got ready for them
by-and-by.  That'll please them better than any amount of words."

Stan led the way to where the Chinamen were chatting together about the
fight and the way in which the enemy had been driven off; but they were
eager enough to turn and listen to the lad's words.  Their round faces
brightened upon hearing the announcement about the feast they were to
have, and they indulged in a hoarse cheer when their visitors left to
join their companions.  Then, after one of the doors had been opened,
the little party stepped out into the bloodstained alley between the
building and the impromptu wall, which, besides being splashed with
molten pitch and charred here and there, was horribly blotched in places
by the gore of some wretched pirate who had been wounded or met his end.

"After what has been said, then," said Stan sadly, "it will not be safe
to pull down these chests?"

"Well, I don't know yet.  I think I'd leave them up till Mr Blunt has
had a word or two to say to-morrow.  I hope he'll be well enough to take
a little interest in matters by then.  There's no hurry.  We'll have
them put straight here and there to repair damages, but they may very
well wait afterwards, as there's not likely to be any rain.  But I say,
Mr Lynn, what do you think about that bit of treachery?  I was of
opinion that it was Wing."

"So was I at first, but he seems so calm and innocent."

"Ah, yes!  But you mustn't think a Chinaman innocent because he looks
so.  He's a mystery, you know.  But still I have my doubts, and it
worries me lest it should be one of the coolies.  It would be so much
worse then."

"Why?" said Stan, looking wonderingly at his companion.

"Because they all belong to the same gang--are all members of one club--
and if one of them proves to be a traitor, the bad sheep corrupts the
whole flock."

"What is to be done?" said Stan after a short, thoughtful pause.

"Nothing now, sir.  We know there is a traitor amongst our men, but
there is nothing to fear from that until the enemy come again.  On
further thought, however, I don't think it was Wing."

"I'm very glad," said Stan, "for I believed in him, and I'm sure my
father and uncle did.  It must be one of the coolies, then.  How are we
to find out?"

"By going on quietly and not appearing to suspect.  As I say, there is
no immediate danger, and we have other things to think about.  What do
you propose doing first?"

"Asking your advice about Mr Blunt.  I want to send for a doctor at
once."

"Ah, yes!  But you ask my advice.  Well, it is that you wait till the
morning."

"Wait till the morning?  I want to send a boat with a messenger down the
river to the port to bring back a doctor."

"He could only bring a native one, and he has one now."

"What!  Wing?  He is not a surgeon."

"No; but he knows a great deal of that sort of thing.  He has helped Mr
Blunt to doctor the men often enough here, and I'd as soon trust him if
I were wounded as I would an ordinary native surgeon.  You see how well
he has treated the governor already."

"Roughly bandaged him up," said Stan impatiently; "but he may bleed to
death in the night."

"Not likely, sir.  Wing plugged his wounds, and I looked to see that the
bleeding had stopped."

"But he may be bleeding internally."

"No; I'm sure of that."

"How can you tell without a proper examination?"

"By the state he is in."

"Then you are a hit of a doctor?" said Stan rather dubiously.

"More of a surgeon, sir.  We're obliged to be in these out-of-the-way
places," said his lieutenant, smiling.

"I know nothing, but I'm horribly anxious.  How can you tell?"

"Simply enough, sir," said the other.  "Where is his wound?"

"Right through the shoulder."

"Very well; where would he bleed if it was not outside?"

"Why, inside, of course," said Stan.

"Certainly; but where?"

"As I said--inside."

"Inside is rather a vague term, sir.  Well, look here; the wounds are
quite high up?"

"Yes, very."

"Then if he bled anywhere, it would be into the cavity of the chest."

"I don't know anything about cavities, but of course it must be into the
chest."

"Exactly.  Well, we know his heart isn't touched."

"How?" said Stan.

"Because if it had been he would be a dead man."

"I see."

"Then no big arteries or veins are wounded.  If they had been he would
have been suffocated by the blood long enough ago."

"Would he?"

"Of course.  His lungs would have been choked with blood, so we know
that they are not injured."

"I see," said Stan; "but it's very horrible, isn't it?"

"I think not.  Any one who learns things like this may find them very
useful in an emergency.  I do; and it gives a man confidence.  I don't
think Mr Blunt's wound is dangerous at all."

"I do," said Stan shortly.  "See how delirious he seems to have been."

"That's only natural, sir.  Fever sets in generally after a wound."

"Oh, but you make too light of it," cried Stan.  "He is shot right
through the shoulder."

"So much the better."

"What!" cried Stan angrily.  "How can that be so much the better?"

"There is no fear of dangerous inflammation caused by the presence of
the bullet, for we know that it isn't in him, and Nature has set to work
before now to begin healing him up."

"Without a doctor?"

"To be sure.  She's a splendid surgeon, sir."

"I wish I could feel as confident as you do," said Stan.

"Well, learn all you can; you soon will."

"Then you think we might wait till the morning?"

"Certainly.  You and I will take it in turns to watch him through the
night, and in the morning we shall see."

"Very well," said Stan; "perhaps you are right, but I feel very anxious
about Mr Blunt."

"So do I, sir; but I feel sure that we are doing right."

Right or wrong, a little thought taught the lad that he was helpless.
Night was at hand, and it would have been impossible to despatch a
message till morning, for the presence of the pirates and the sound of
the firing had put every owner of a boat to flight.

Hence it was, then, that the inevitable was cheerfully accepted.

That night darkness soon hid the towering sails of the retreating
pirates; and in the morning watch, when Stan left Blunt's side to go to
the roof and look out in the grey dawn, glad to breathe the fresh, cool
air after some hours in the heated office where he had shared the watch
by Blunt's rough couch, there was no sign of danger, scan the distant
windings of the river how he would, while sunrise endorsed the fact that
the enemy had sailed on all through the night for their rendezvous,
scores of miles away.



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

"SHOT SILK."

It was the next evening when, after a whole day's rest passed in a deep
sleep quite free from fever--as Stan was made to notice by Wing the
Chinaman, who drew his attention to the calmness of the sleep, the
absence of all fever and restlessness, and, above all, the soft, fine
perspiration which bedewed the patient's skin--Blunt slowly opened his
eyes in the office, now made light and airy by the removal of the
barricades, and lay looking up at the ceiling.

As Wing pointed out the fact to Stan, the movement he made startled the
sufferer, who looked at him sideways and said:

"What's the matter?  Where am I?"

Stan bent over him and replied.

"To be sure.  Yes; I remember now.  Ah, how weak I am!  But tell me,
Lynn; how are things going?"

Stan explained the position briefly.

"Good!" said Blunt.  "Excellent!  Thoroughly thrashed them?"

"For the present; but we all believe that they'll come back."

"No, no, Lynn," replied Blunt faintly; "not for long enough, if they
ever do.  Tell me again; how many did they lose?"

"Ought you to talk now?"

"Well, no, I suppose not much; but I'm all right, only very weak.  I'm
not going to die, my lad.  There!  I will not talk much.  Go on telling
me.  I must hear."

Stan told him, but made no allusion to the bit of treachery; and when he
had ended the manager smiled his approval.

"Just what I expected," he said.  "Brave lads, all of them."

Hearing the talking, Stan's lieutenant in the defence came softly in,
but not so quietly as to be unheard by the wounded man, who raised his
hand on the uninjured side.

"Ah, Lawrence!" he said.  "I've heard all about it.  Bravely done, all
of you.  I'm better, you see.  All that feverish muddle I felt in the
head is gone."

"That's right, sir.  I came in to see how you were."

"Couldn't be going on better."

"But what about sending down to Nang Ti for a native doctor?"

"What for?"

"To attend you, sir."

"Pooh!  Absurd!  Wing can do anything that a native doctor would
suggest.  He knows as much as I do, and I know by my symptoms that I'm
going on all right."

"But we thought that as soon as you came to it might be better to send
for help."

"No need, my man.  I must be kept a bit low and quiet, not worried nor
allowed to get up too soon, and I shall soon be as well as ever.  Now
tell me quietly, what have you done about our breastworks and the wall?"

"Nothing, sir."

"What! not got the boxes and bales under cover again?"

"We thought it better to leave things as they were in case the enemy
returned."

"Bah!  They will not come.  But look here; the ammunition must be
getting very low."

"Very, sir," said Lawrence, with a meaning look at Stan.

"To be sure.--Here, Lynn, first thing to-morrow morning write a despatch
to your father, telling him of the attack and asking for a fresh supply
of cartridges.  It must be sent off by Wing in the first boat you can
get hold of.  At Nang Ti he will soon find a steamer bound for Hai-Hai--
You, Lawrence, start the first thing in the morning all hands at work to
restore everything that is not damaged."

"Yes, sir."

"That will do.  I must not talk any more.  Good-night."

To Stan's surprise, the patient had no sooner closed his eyes than he
seemed to be asleep; and it was late morning, just as Stan's long letter
was finished, and Wing, who declared himself well enough, came in to
announce that he had picked up a boat from among those which had come
stealing back, when Blunt opened his eyes again.

Busy days followed, with confidence returning as no further news was
heard of the pirates, while the way in which the people of the nearest
villages came back to their homes and work in the fields seemed to act
as an endorsement of the idea that the terrible raid was over, and the
likelihood of there being another attack seemed to be past.

The men worked hard; the traces of the fiery trial disappeared from the
great storehouse, save that the charring and the pitch-stains refused to
be scraped out; barricades disappeared, and partitions and stacks of
chests and bales rose again in their old places; the carpenters cut out
damaged wood, and with the exception of new-looking patches the place
assumed its former aspect, while the business in the office and
counting-house went on again as if the whole ugly blood-shedding had
been only a feverish dream.

Wing had not yet returned, but one afternoon Stan was busy in the office
talking to Blunt about a boatload of tea which had come down from the
interior--for the manager had progressed so rapidly that he was well on
the high-road to complete recovery.  Naturally he was a good deal pulled
down, hollow of cheek and sunken of eye, and compelled to assist his
steps by means of a stout bamboo cane, while the arm nearest to the
injury was supported by a silken scarf used as a sling.  But he was
bright and cheerful, and busy in the office some hours every day,
working, as he called it, vicariously, Stan being his deputy, who
superintended a great deal of the correspondence that went on.

"No news yet of Wing," he was saying.  "Seems a very long time, Lynn."

"Oh no; it's a long way, and there might be some delay over getting the
supplies you want."

"S'pose so," said Blunt abruptly.  "Good job our piratical friends don't
know of it or they'd come down at once.  Hullo!  What's that?"

Lawrence rose and went to the window to see what was the meaning of a
loud gabble of voices coming from the wharf.

"It's a boat coming in," he said.

"Oh, Wing at last!" said Blunt.  "Well, I'm very glad.  A good supply of
ammunition is just the tonic that will pull me round."

"It may be, sir, but I hardly think so," replied Lawrence.  "It's the
_Chee-ho_ come back."

"With that miserable sneak Mao.  Cowardly hound to slip off as he did.
Here, I'll have a talk with him when he comes ashore.  No more boatloads
for him, he'll find.--What say, Lynn?  I'm weak yet--not get in a
passion?"

"It wouldn't be wise," whispered Stan.

"Well, perhaps not; but the thought of that fat, smooth,
comfortable-looking poodle coming in here smiling and rubbing his hands
puts me in a perspiration."

"Perhaps he'll be ashamed to show himself."

"What!" cried Blunt.  "Mao ashamed?  You don't know him.  You see if he
doesn't come cringing in, just as if nothing had happened, to ask if
there is a load ready for him to take down to the port.--What do you
say, Lawrence?"

"The same as you do, sir."

Half-an-hour later the matter discussed was put to the proof, for there
was the soft, shuffling sound of a Chinaman's boots in the passage, and
the _tindal_ of the boat in which Stan had arrived with Wing gave a
gentle tap, pushed the door, and entered, smiling profusely and bowing
to Blunt and Stan, before taking up his post half-way to the desks, hat
in hand, waiting to be addressed.

Blunt heard him, but paid no heed for a minute or so; then looking up
sternly, he saluted the man with a deep-toned--

"Well, sir, what do you want?"

"Come see when load leady fo' _Chee-ho_ boat."

"How dare you come and ask after deserting us as you did?  Why, we might
have been all massacred, you cowardly scoundrel, for all you'd have done
to save us.  What have you got to say for yourself?"

"Me t'ink _Chee-ho_ b'long me.  If stop, pilate man flow 'tink-pot.  Set
fi' and cuttee Mao float," said the man deprecatingly.

"And so you set sail and got out of the way?"

"Yes.  Velly fast.  _Chee-ho_ nicee big boat b'long me.  Takee ca'e.
Hold plenty tea-box, plenty silk.  Bluntee want--"

"Look here, you scoundrel," cried the manager angrily; "I am Mr Blunt,
your employer, and if you call me Bluntee again I'll throw this ruler at
you."

As he spoke the manager caught his big ruler from the desk and made so
fierce an "offer" with it that the Chinese boat-captain dropped upon his
knees and bowed his head almost to the floor.  "Get up!" shouted the
manager.  "No flow t'ick stick?" whined the man.  "I will if you don't
get up this moment.  Stand up like a man."

"Oh deah!" said the shivering Chinaman, getting up slowly and painfully,
and displaying a couple of great tears running down his fat cheeks.
"Misteh Blunt wantee Mao stop havee float cut?"

"No, but to stay and help us, sir.  How did you know but what we might
want to escape in your boat down to Nang Ti?"

"Mao quite suah not do so.  Know Misteh Blunt big man.  Velly angly.
Can'tee flighten um and makee lun away.  Mao know he stop fightee."

"And so you sailed away and left us in the lurch."

"Yes.  Pilate man velly dleadful.  Killee evelybody and cut Mao head
off.  Cut all men and flow um ove'boa'd."

"And so you ran away--eh?"

"Yes.  Velly much aflaid.  Mao tly save boatee fo' Misteh Blunt.  Boat
b'long Mao."

"Ah, well! you saved it."

"Yes.  Tookee long way.  Sail up cleek.  Hide till Mao quitee suah
pilate junk allee gone 'way.  Then come again.  You got plenty bale
plenty tea-box fo' Mao take down livah--eh?"

"Be off!" said Blunt shortly.  "I'll think about it."

"Yes, Misteh Blunt t'ink gleat deal.  See Mao 'blige lun away.
_Chee-ho_ boat b'long Mao.  No do let pilate buln, sink.  B'long Mao--
b'long Misteh Blunt--b'long evelybody."

"Be off!" shouted Blunt; and the man went away, nodding and smiling, to
join his crew upon the wharf.

"Shall you employ him any more?" said Stan as the door closed and the
captain's blue frock was seen to balloon out in the pleasant breeze as
he marched complacently along the river-front.

"Oh yes," replied Blunt.  "He's a very honest fellow, and can't help
being a thorough coward.  Suppose I dismiss him, I shall have to engage
another, who would possibly turn out dishonest and a greater humbug than
this one."

"But he seems to be utterly without courage."

"Pooh!  We all are at first.  I was horribly frightened when we were
attacked."

"It didn't seem like it," said Stan, smiling.

"Oh no, of course not.  I wasn't going to let any one see what a stew I
was in.  That's the result of education and one's love of keeping up
appearances.  You owned to being frightened too--at first."

"I was," said Stan frankly.  "Enough to make one."

"Of course it was.  But, you see, we're Britons, and when a job of this
sort comes to a head, why, we say, `Well, it's no use to make any bones
about it; the thing has to be done;' and we do it as well as we can.
And, as you see, the job was done."

"Only half-done," said Stan, with a sigh.

"What!  I think it was splendidly well done.  What do you mean by your
`half-done'?"

"Why, you said the enemy would come back again."

"Ye-es; so I did; but I don't feel so sure now."

"How is that?" asked Stan, impressed by his companion's manner.

"Well, you see, one often judges how the weather is going to be by the
behaviour of the animals about one.  Birds, cattle, reptiles, insects,
fish, if one studies them, give one hints of what sort of a season one
is going to have.  Chinese, too, are not slow in that way.  You see Mao
has come back."

"Yes; but what has that to do with it?"

"A good deal.  He has a sort of instinctive as well as experienced
knowledge that the trouble is at an end, or else he wouldn't have shown
his nose here now.  I shouldn't wonder if he had a hint that the enemy
were coming, some time before they arrived."

"But if he had he would have warned you."

"So he did, in a quiet sort of way, but I didn't believe him.  Yes, I
begin to think that you gave the enemy such an awful thrashing--"

"I?" cried Stan.  "Why, I only carried out your orders."

"And well, too, my lad; and as I was about to say when you interrupted
me so rudely, you gave them such an awful thrashing that in the future
they will look out for some nut to crack that has a thinner shell and
leave us most carefully alone.  Mao has come back, and that means the
storm is well over."

"But you'll be well prepared in case they do come again?"

"Trust me, my lad.  You and I will begin to play chess of an evening in
future."

"Have you a set of chess-men?"

"No; nor do I want them.  We'll make the _hong_ our chess-board, and
play the game of defiance with our brains."

"I have some idea of what you mean," said Stan, laughing, "but it is not
quite clear."

"I mean, we'll set to and scheme how to meet our friends if they do come
again.  You see, one is sure to have warning.  They can't come down the
river without; and I can't help thinking that you and I ought to be able
to contrive some kind of floating dodge which we could let down amongst
the junks, and which would blow them up or set fire to them."

"Yes; I see," cried Stan eagerly.  "Or why not try something with a big
kite that we could drop down to explode on their decks.  But of course I
don't know how."

"There you are!" cried Blunt, clapping him on the back.  "Bravo!  The
very thing!"

"Oh no," said Stan quickly.  "That was just the ghost of an idea."

"True; but we'll set to and make it something solid.  The people here
have wonderful kites, and I'll be bound to say that you and I could
contrive something chemical that we could send up and manage with a
string till it was just over them, and then drop it where it would
explode, so that it would scare them off even if it did not set fire to
their junks.  But wait a bit.  We'll see."

"Yes; if you take it like that, I think we might contrive something.  I
say, why not some kind of torpedo that we could sink just off the wharf,
connect it here with a wire, and have an electric battery to fire the
charge?  Why, if I had had such a thing here when the junks were all
together off the place, I could have--"

"Blown them to smithereens, my lad," cried Blunt.  "Bravo!  And we'll
have a little gun, too, that we can work easily--one that will send
explosive shells.  There! that will do.  I'm going to fill up an order
for one battery of cells, thirteen as twelve torpedoes, so many yards of
insulated wire, and--Here, I say, we ought out of common humanity to
send word up the river to all pirates to make their wills before they
come for their next attack."

"Or put up a big hoarding with a notice written in Chinese for all who
come up and down the river to read."

"What about?"

"New patent steel traps and spring-guns are set in these grounds," said
Stan, laughing.

"All right, my lad.  Joke away; but I'm on my mettle, and if we can't
contrive something better than walls and barricades of tea-chests and
silk it's very strange."

"Well, we ought to, certainly."

"And we will.  Just think of what a lot of good stuff has been made
absolutely worthless.  There is, I should say, a couple or three hundred
pounds' worth of tea and silk--more perhaps--perfectly unsaleable."

"Couldn't you send it to market under another name?" said Stan,
laughing.

"Name?  What name?" growled Blunt contemptuously.  "You can't sell tea
that has been exposed to fire.  What would you call it--coffee?"

"No; gunpowder tea," cried Stan merrily.

"One to you," said Blunt, with a grim laugh.  "But what about your
silk?"

"Oh, that's easy!" said Stan.  "Call that shot silk."

"Good gracious!" cried Blunt, with mock solemnity.  "The poor fellow is
going wrong.  Overstrain, I suppose, from the excitement of the fight.
There! try and be calm.  It's a bad sign when a fellow begins to make
feeble jokes.  Don't try again, Lynn.  Keep on with some nice, light,
playful idea or two, such as the flying kites and contriving busters for
the Chinese junks.  Those would be gentle, innocent pursuits.  But
seriously, though, the more I think of what you say the more I am taken
by it.  You see, it would be quite new and startling for the enemy.
Those junks are as fragile as can be, and a very little would send them
to the bottom.  Here, I say, I think I have it.  Isn't there a chemical
that we could squirt over them from an engine of some kind?"

"What for?"

"To burn them.  I once saw a chemical experiment in which such stuff was
thrown on to some light wood, and it burst into flame at once.  That's
the stuff we want.  If we can set one junk on fire, it will set more in
the same condition.  What do you say to that?"

"Splendid, if it could be done."

"Could be done?  It must be done, and we're going to do it.  Oh, there
are more ways of killing a cat than hanging it.  Let the pigtails come.
They shall find that I'm not going to have any more of our chests and
bales spoiled.  I think--"

"So do I," said Stan firmly--"that you've been talking twice as much as
you ought to do; so now have a rest."

"Well, I am a bit husky," said Blunt, "but not like the same man to-day.
Humph!  Perhaps you are right."



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

"WING'S A--CHINAMAN."

Several anxious days were passed, during which a sharp lookout was kept
for the return of Wing with the ammunition; but still it did not come,
and, as Blunt reasonably said, they could not settle down comfortably to
invention and forms of defence by schemes until they could feel prepared
temporarily for an emergency.

"Once we have two or three cases of cartridges in hand we'll go to work
at our plans.  But this waiting takes it out of a man."

"It is giving you time to get a little stronger," replied Stan.

"Oh, bother that!  I could grow stronger fast enough if my mind were
quite at rest I'm beginning to think that poor old Wing has come to
grief, and if he doesn't reach here by to-morrow night I shall make up a
little cargo and send Mao with an urgent despatch to the principals.
It's growing serious.  Here, come and let us plan what to send."

"You had better rest patiently," said Stan.  "Who's to rest patiently
with not a dozen rifle-cartridges on the premises?"

"You," said Stan, smiling.

"What!  Do you know the enemy may even now be on their way to make a
fresh attack?"

"No, they mayn't," replied Stan.

"What!  How do you know?"

"By seeing your weather-glass point to fine weather."

"My weather-glass?"

"Yes--old Mao.  He seems to be as satisfied as possible, sitting smoking
his opium-pipe and watching his men caulk and varnish the _Chee-ho_."

"Well, he does look pretty well content; but it's weary work waiting,
and I feel convinced that the message has never reached the principals."

"I can see a proof," cried Stan excitedly, "that you are only looking on
the black side of things."

"What do you mean?" said Blunt, staring at the way in which the lad had
sprung to his feet to run to the open window looking down the river.

"Here's the boat in sight, sir," cried Lawrence, hurriedly opening the
door.

"What! our boat?" cried Blunt excitedly.

"Yes, sir, with Wing showing his signal.  Try the glass, sir."

Blunt snatched the glass offered to him, but before he could get to the
window and focus it with his trembling hands, Stan had taken down his
own binocular and was leaning out, bringing the matting-sailed boat
close into the room, as it were.

"Yes," he cried, "there's Wing holding up a little flag so that it blows
straight out."

"A pocket-handkerchief Union-jack?" cried Blunt.

"Yes, that's it; and there's some one else on board beside the boatmen.
Why--yes--no--yes--no.--Oh, do stand still, whoever you are!  I can't
see if you bob about so.--Yes, it is.  Look, Mr Blunt--look!  Here's
Uncle Jeff come so as to see everything for himself."

"Right, Lynn, right," cried the manager; "so it is.  Three cheers for
him.  We'll give them when he's close up.  Well, hurrah for one thing!
We're not going to show him the ashes of his big warehouse along with
our burnt bodies."

"Ugh!" cried Stan.  "What a gruesome idea!  Let's get out and have the
flag hoisted on the pole."

"Ah! and we'll have every one out too, so as to give him a warm welcome.
But are you quite sure it is your uncle?"

"Certain," cried Stan proudly.  "You never saw anybody but Uncle Jeff
standing up in that free-and-easy way, just as if he didn't care a snap
of the fingers for the whole world."

"Yes, that's Mr Jeffrey," said Blunt, lowering his glass and drawing in
a deep breath; "the very sight of him seems to do a man a power of good.
Out with you, Lynn, and send Lawrence to hail the boys.  We'll all turn
out and man the edge of the wharf.  I want your uncle to see that I
haven't lost a man."

A few minutes later clerks, warehousemen, and coolies were all standing
at the edge of the wharf, with the flag fluttering and straining from
the halyards, where it had been run up to the head of the signal-pole;
while as soon as the boat came within hailing distance Lawrence acted as
fugleman and headed three good, hearty, welcoming cheers.  These, in
spite of the admixture of Chinese squeak from the throats of the
coolies--a squeak which ended with a hoarse croak--sounded so pleasant
to Uncle Jeff's anxious ears that he whisked off his sun-helmet, tossed
it on high, and gave forth a thoroughly deep, hearty British hurrah,
while, not to be outdone, Wing, who stood behind, bared his pig-tailed
head to wave his lacquered, shining black hat, and echoed the shout with
his alto pipe.

In another minute the sail was being lowered, and the next, as the boat
glided up against the wharf, Stan sprang on board, to have his hands
grasped by his big, manly relative.

"Why, Stan, boy," he cried, "we never thought we were going to send you
out of the Hai-Hai frying-pan into the Nang Ti fire.  But you were not
burnt?"

He held the lad back at arm's-length and uttered a loud puff like a
whale getting rid of its confined breath.

"No, I can see you were not.  Eyes bright, colour fresh, and hearty as
can be.  Hah! that's a comfort.  We shouldn't have sent you if we had
known.--Here, Blunt," he continued, "do you call this management,
bringing down all the ruffians of the river to attack the place!  Why,
hang it, man! you do look as if you have had more than your share of
trouble.  You've lost pounds since I saw you last.  Coming round again,
though, I can see."

"Yes; there's nothing much wrong now," was the reply as the pair shook
hands heartily.  "The wound's healing up nicely, thanks to Wing here.--
Well, Wing, how are you?"

"Badly," was the reply.  "Been fletting."

"Fretting?  What about?"

"Misteh Blunt and young Lynn.  S'posee pilate come back and Wing not
bling ca'tlidge."

"But you've brought them now?" said Blunt eagerly.

"Yes, plenty big box full.  Bling Misteh Jeffley too.  All leady fightee
when pilate come."

"And a very welcome recruit if needed," said Blunt, smiling.  "But we
don't want any more of that work--at any rate till I get strong again.--
You've heard, Mr Lynn, how I caved in and left your nephew to fight the
battle?"

"Oh yes.  I've heard all about it from Wing," said Uncle Jeff dryly.  "I
gave him a lesson in the use of the revolver before he left home, but I
didn't know he was going to turn out such an awful fire-eater as he
has."

"Don't you think you had better come in and have something to eat,
uncle?" said Stan quietly.  "It will do you more good than making fun of
me."

"Fun, Stan, my lad?  Oh!  I don't call this fun.  Wing says you've
become quite a general."

"Wing's a--Chinaman," said Stan, with a laugh full of annoyance, which
made the two men exchange glances--looks which the lad interpreted to
mean, "Hadn't we better leave off?"

And in this spirit Uncle Jeff clapped his hand upon the boy's shoulder
and said heartily:

"Take me round and show me the damage done by the enemy, my boy."

"There's very little to see, uncle, but the chipped stone and the leaden
bullets and pieces of iron the enemy poured in."

"The bullets--eh?  What! in the stone?"

"No, no, uncle," cried the lad.  "Stuck in the door-posts and woodwork."

"What about the windows where the stink-pots came flying in as if all
the stars in the sky had broken loose?"

"Oh, they must have been flying across the office, uncle, when Wing was
nursing Mr Blunt.  We didn't see those upstairs."

"But a great many did come in?"

"Yes, uncle, and burned great patches in the floor."

"Come, that's something; you must take me up and show me."

"I can't show you much, uncle," was the reply, "for the bales have been
stacked in their places again."

"Oh, come! this is disappointing," cried Uncle Jeff.  "No ruins; no
wounds but Mr Blunt's; no burnt-out warehouses!  Why, after such a
scare I expected to find the whole place crippled.  Where's Wing?"

"Oh, I must have a word here," said Blunt.  "I dare say Master Wing
painted the affair up pretty well, but it was as bad as it could be."

"Why, I thought you were bowled out at the first ball," said Uncle Jeff
sharply.

"So I was; but the other players had their innings, and told me all
about it afterwards.  Old Lawrence says it was awful."

"So it was, uncle," cried Stan; "nothing could have been worse."

"Well, all I can say is," said Uncle Jeff some time later, "that you
have cleared away wonderfully.  But there's one thing I don't like.  It
sticks in my memory very tightly, and it seems to me that it is the one
weak spot in our armour if we are again attacked."

"And what's that, uncle?" asked Stan, for there was a pause.

"The traitor in the camp, my lad.  You can't go on like this.  What is
the use of making all kinds of preparations when there is an enemy in
the midst who is ready to spoil all and, as it were, sell you to the
enemy?"

"You mean about the water poured over the ammunition?" said Blunt,
speaking rather excitedly.

"Yes--of course.  Now whom do you suspect?"

"At first I thought Wing might be the guilty party."

"Wing!" cried Uncle Jeff, starting.  "Ah, to be sure!" he continued
after but a few moments' thought.  "He was my informant, and very eager
to tell me all about it.  Tried hard, I remember now, to make me
understand it must have been some one at the _hong_.  Here, Stan, it's a
long time since I was at school; you've only just come away.  What's
that French proverb about the man who tries to clear himself making
matters worse?"

"He who excuses himself accuses himself," said Stan promptly.

"Humph!  Yes.  But it sounds better in French.  Here, I don't like to
think old Wing guilty; he has been such a true and faithful servant to
the `foreign devils,' as they call us.  Besides, he is so much one of
us, and has been so well paid and treated.  You've had no quarrel with
him, Blunt?"

"Not the slightest.  Always the best of friends.  Of course, you know my
way--short, sharp, and decisive."

"Yes; you always were a bit of a bully, Blunt."

"But I'm always just, sir."

"Perfectly; and I believe the people like you at bottom, even if you
have a rough side to your tongue."

"Oh yes, uncle," put in Stan eagerly, to be rewarded by a grateful
glance.  "I'm sure there isn't a man here who wouldn't fight to the
death for Mr Blunt."

"I wouldn't go so far as that, Lynn," said Blunt, with the hot blood
colouring his pallid, sunken cheeks.

"But they've proved it," cried Stan energetically.

"I'm thinking it was more for you, Lynn," said Blunt quietly.

"Well, let that rest," cried Uncle Jeff; "and let's go on with the trial
of Master Wing.  You have been good friends with him, Blunt?"

"Excellent."

"No sudden quarrel?"

"Oh no."

"Given him no cause of offence?  These Asiatics are rather fond of
nursing up a bit of revenge."

"Oh no," repeated Blunt.

"What about the coolies, then?  Any knocking down or punishing any of
them?"

"Nothing of the kind, sir.  I am quite at a loss to think of anything
that could have prompted a Chinaman here to retaliate.--You can think of
nothing, can you, Lynn, in the short time you have been here?"

Lynn remained silent and looked very conscious, while Uncle Jeff watched
him sideways.

"Hah!" he said at last.  "Dumb.  Now, Stan, lad, what are you thinking
of?  Out with it."

The lad tried to clear his throat, but in vain, for his voice sounded
husky as he said:

"I was thinking about Wing being on the watch, uncle--about my shooting
at him, Mr Blunt, and his tumble."

"Puss! puss! puss! puss! puss!" said Uncle Jeff softly, and he looked
towards the door.

It was the turn of Stan and the manager to stare at him now, and they
looked as if they fancied he was going out of his mind.

But he looked back at them with a light that was certainly not that of
insanity dancing in his clear, keen eyes, and there was the faint
dawning of a smile upon his lips as he saw their puzzled looks.

"What are you staring at, Stan?" he said at last.

"I--I couldn't make out what you meant, uncle.  Do you want the cat?
She's generally in the warehouse, watching for the rats that come out of
the river-bank."

"Oh no; I wasn't alluding to that one, but to the other."

"There is no other cat on the premises, sir," said Blunt, staring in
turn.

"Oh yes, there is.  I mean the metaphorical cat.  She's out of the bag
now, and I was calling her back.  Why, hang it, man! there's the cause
of the plot.  Tell us all about it."

The incident was repeated to the end.

"A great pity," said Uncle Jeff gravely.

"Yes, sir, it was," said Blunt.  "I acted on the impulse of the moment,
and of course I alone was to blame, for in my sharp, overbearing manner
I insisted upon your nephew firing.  Of course, I only meant, in my
annoyance at his dozing off at such a time, to give him a startler.  But
I've felt sorry ever since."

"I am sorry too," said Uncle Jeff.

"And I too, uncle."

"You are, I know, Stan.  Well, it's of no use to cry over spilt milk.
The thing's done and can't be undone.  But there's the motive, and now
the poor weak fellow has gratified his revengeful bit of spite let us
hope he is satisfied and that all will go smoothly.  Still, it is a
painful thought that we have had a traitor in the camp."

"I don't care," said Stan firmly.

"It is of no use to care, my lad; but if we have the enemy back I should
certainly lock Master Wing where he could do no mischief."

"You misunderstand me, uncle," said Stan.  "I didn't finish what I meant
to say."

"Let's have it, then, boy."

"I meant to say, I don't care; I don't believe Wing would do such a
thing."

"Neither do I," said Blunt warmly.  "The poor fellow is too true.  He
was quite affectionate to me in attending to my wounds, and nothing
could have been better than the plucky way in which he ran all risks
through the fight, and afterwards undertook the commission to go and
fetch the cartridges.  No; I say Wing was not the guilty party."

"Well," said Uncle Jeff, "I want to be with you, for I like old Wing.
There's a something about him that puts me in mind of a faithful dog.
We'll agree that it was not he, and that drives us to suspect the
coolies."

"Yes," said Blunt; "and I don't like suspecting them, for a better set
of fellows never lived."

"There couldn't be," said Stan.  "They almost worship Mr Blunt, uncle."

"Hah!" said the latter.  "It's a puzzle, then, and I can't help thinking
that the best way will be to drop the matter and be watchful.  If we
begin investigating we may not find out the guilty, but we're bound to
upset the innocent by our suspicions.  I say, Blunt, I wouldn't wake up
sleeping Chinese again with the rifle."

"You may depend upon it I shall not, sir," said Blunt frankly.  "And
now, if I may change the subject, I want to be put out of my misery."

"With a rifle, Blunt?" said Uncle Jeff dryly.

"No, no; not in that way, though I do want it done with cartridges.  I
shall be in misery till we get those ashore and in the magazine."

"Quite right; we'll have them seen to at once.  We must be ready if the
enemy do come."

"I say, uncle," cried Stan merrily, "how you keep on _we_ing!  Any one
would think you meant to stop."

"I do mean to stop, my boy," said Uncle Jeff sharply.--"No, no, no, no,
Blunt; don't take it like that," he continued as he saw the change in
the manager's countenance.  "I have not come to supersede you, only as a
humble recruit, ready if wanted, which I fervently hope I shall not be.
I should have brought half-a-dozen good fighting-men with me, only there
are none in stock at Hai-Hai.  It is getting to be every man for
himself, too, and we shall be very unsettled until our Government makes
a move and puts a few men-of-war on the station for the protection of
the mercantile folk.  My brother and several more are bestirring
themselves, however, and I hope something will be done before long."

"But you will take the lead, sir, while you stay, of course," said Blunt
rather coldly.  "As you see, I am weak."

"I shall do nothing of the kind, Blunt.  My brother and I are only too
well satisfied with your management.  I have come here to help to take
care of Nephew Stanley, and when the care is not necessary I am going to
have a rest, fishing, botanising, and shooting--in other words, to have
a spell of idleness, for I don't think you will be attacked again after
the taste you have given the miscreants of our quality here at the
_hong_.  Now then, Blunt," he added, "are you satisfied?"

The manager hesitated and still looked doubtful, but the look that
accompanied Uncle Jeff's outstretched hand was sufficient, and he
brightened up at once.

"Yes, sir," he said warmly--"quite."



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

"WAIT TILL THE WRETCHES COME."

The landing and stowing away of the cases of ammunition did not last
long, for every one joined in it, four men without orders taking charge
of a box that one could have carried with ease.  In fact, they looked
more like a party of schoolboys bringing boxes of fireworks for a fete
than stern, energetic men fighting for the privilege of either carrying
or simply watching the little chests, the possession of which turned
them from helpless, unprotected beings, at the mercy of the next
piratical crew that came down the river, to strong, vigorous folk ready
for a fleet of junks and eager to fight to any desperate end.

The last case was placed in the little magazine, the trap-door shut down
and locked, and then there was a burst of cheering which sounded stifled
in the great stack-filled store.

"Why, I thought at one time," said Uncle Jeff merrily when the whole
party had filed out and the speaker was seated in Blunt's private room,
"that they were all going to break out in a triumphal war-dance."

Stan coloured and laughed.

"Well, uncle," he said, "the men were so excited that I don't see that
I, a boy, need mind owning how I felt.  It was something like what one
used to experience when one had a present years and years ago."

"What!--ready to jump for joy, Stan?"

"Yes, uncle."

"I know the feeling," said Uncle Jeff, chuckling.  "I remember just as
well as if it was yesterday.  Ready to jump for joy; just, too, when I
was so weak from some fever that if I had been out of bed my legs
wouldn't have borne me, let alone jumped.  I remember it was fine summer
weather, and my father had come down from London and brought me a new
fishing-rod--a perfect marvel to my young eyes--reddish-yellow bamboo,
with brass ferrules, and having one joint fitting beautifully into the
other so as to form a walking-stick; and in addition, just as he had
brought them and had them bundled up together in a parcel, there was
quite a heap of treasures tangled up together on the big sheet of paper
spread out upon the white counterpane, while I sat up with two pillows
to support my weak back.  Oh, it was grand!

"Ha, ha, ha!" chuckled the great stalwart fellow, with his eyes lighting
up.  "Didn't I have the window opened so that I could pull joint out
from joint and put them together, making the rod grow till I sat holding
it out through the drawn-up sash.  All the time I was seeing in
imagination the great pond sheltered by the willows where the
water-lilies grew and the carp and tench sailed about underneath, every
now and then lifting a broad dark-green leaf or thrusting a stem aside,
with the glistening beetles gliding about on the surface as if they were
playing at engine-turning and describing beautiful geometric figures as
the big dragon-flies rustled their gauzy wings and darted here and there
in chase of flies.

"Then, too, I remember that I cried out against the window being shut,
because three parts of my rod stood out in the open while I was busy
examining a hank of Indian twist, beautiful steel-blue hooks of all
sizes, from tiny ones on gut to big, quaintly shaped large ones, loose,
but with eyes for attachment to the whipcord-like eel-line."

Uncle Jeff stopped short and turned with a droll look at his nephew.

"Here, Stan," he said, "you had better stop me or I shall go on with my
rigmarole about that line with the blue-and-white cork float and the
other with a quill, besides the one with the sharp-pointed porcupine
which stuck through the bedclothes into my leg.  Then there was the box
of split shot with the lid which stuck, and when I got it off the
contents jumped out, to go everywhere, over the bed, into it, under it,
rattling between the jug and basin, and had to be hunted out.  Then
there was that lovely landing-net that was so rarely required for a big
fish, but did splendidly to catch butterflies.  And the fishing-creel,
too, and--Here, Blunt, my dear fellow, where's your box of Manilla
cigars?--Stan, get me a light.  I must put something in my mouth or I
shall begin to tell you both about that little pike that I didn't catch
and that big carp that I did--I mean the one that seemed to my boyish
eyes as if he wore a suit of armour made of young half-sovereigns
overlapping one another from tail to head.  Ah, Stan!" cried Uncle Jeff,
"you're a lucky young dog to be a boy, though you don't know it, and
never will till you grow up to be a man."

"Why, uncle," cried Stan, "haven't I just had to play at being a man and
handle the rifle?"

"I'm sorry to say yes, my lad, and I'd a great deal rather have heard
that you had spent your time wandering on the banks of this splendid
river, catching nothing, perhaps, but filling your young mind with
things to remember when you grow old.  Ah! life's a very lovely thing if
human beings would not spoil it as they do."

Stan smiled at his uncle's words, but he did not see life in the same
light after his experiences at Hai-Hai and at the _hong_; though he was
quite ready to agree as to the way in which men spoil the world, and he
did say this, very tersely, later on:

"Especially Chinese pirates, uncle."

"Just so, my boy.  But really it is all so beautiful here," said Uncle
Jeff, "that now I have been refreshed and feel rested, it is more than
ever hard to believe what a desperate fight you have had.  I wish I had
been here."

"So do I, uncle," said Stan merrily; but he turned serious the next
moment.  "No, I do not, uncle.  It was very horrible, and you might have
been shot."

"Oh, I don't know, Stan.  You and your men escaped pretty well.
However, matters were best as they were--eh, Blunt?"

"Certainly," said the manager.  "The defence could not have been in
better hands."

"Oh, don't!" cried Stan, speaking like a pettish girl.  "Now you are
both sneering at me."

This was of course denied, but the lad was only half-convinced, and too
glad to hear the conversation take a different turn.

"We must achieve some better means of defence, Blunt," said Uncle Jeff.
"You ought to have a good little piece of artillery here--something that
would tell well on a junk--sink her if it was necessary."

"That's what we were planning, uncle," cried Stan; "only we had some
rather peculiar notions."

The natural result of this remark was that the lad had to explain and
give a full account of his ideas, which was received with a grunt.

"There's a lot in it that sounds well, Stan," said Uncle Jeff after
listening for some time in silence, "but too much of the toy-shop and
Fifth of November about the rest.  That kite-flying would never do."

"Why, it would be so simple, uncle!"

"Very simple indeed, my boy--Simple Simony.  Why, Stan, how do you think
you are going to fly kites with the enemy in front?"

"But they're only to raise burning things like the pirates' stink-pots."

"I should have a deal more faith in something of that sort.  But how
would you guide your kite with a fiery tail over the junk you meant to
destroy?"

"By means of the string.  I could easily manage one, by pulling in and
letting out till it was just over a junk; and then I should pull the
second string, for of course there would be two; and then I should let
one go, and down would fall the fiery shell right upon the junk's deck."

"If it didn't go down splash into the river--eh?"

"Oh, I should manage it better than that," said the lad confidently.

"So I suppose," said Uncle Jeff sarcastically; "and of course the wind
would be setting in the right direction--that is to say, straight from
you and over the enemy's junks."

"Of course, uncle," said Stan confidently.

"Of course!  Why, you too sanguine young enthusiast, the chances would
be five-and-twenty to one that the wind would not be right on the day
the enemy came.  Won't do, Stan.  Try again."

"Oh, I can't if you go on like that, uncle," said the lad in an
aggrieved tone.  "You're not half such a good listener as Mr Blunt.  He
thinks a good deal of my ideas."

"Then it was quite time I came.  He'd spoil you.  I will not, you may
depend.  Now then, let's have a better idea than that."

"Well, uncle," said the boy rather grumpily, "I did think something of
having a boat always moored among the reeds--one filled with dangerous
combustibles--that I could steal up to after the junks had stopped to
kill and plunder us, apply a match, and, after lashing the rudder, cause
it to float down with the stream right amongst the junks and set them on
fire."

"Splendid idea!" cried Uncle Jeff, clapping his hands.

"You like that, then?" said Stan, brightening up.

"I think the idea would be glorious.  Deadly in the extreme to the
enemy, but--"

"Oh uncle! don't say _but_," cried the lad, growing crestfallen again.

"Very well, my boy; I will not if you do not wish it.  All the same,
however, there's a defect in it that would be fatal."

"What's that?" said the boy rather dismally.

"The Chinese are very weak-minded, but they're not idiots."

"No--of course not; but tell me what you mean."

"Pooh!  Can't you see for yourself?  The enemy would see that the
fire-boat was coming, and of course they'd either heave anchor or cast
their cables and slip away, if they didn't send your fire-boat to the
bottom with a shot from one of their swivel-guns.  Try again."

"Oh, it's of no use to try, uncle."

"Yes, it is.  You've got gumption enough to make a pot without a hole in
the bottom.  You're last idea is manageable; the kite-flying was not.
Now then, you've got a better idea than that up your sleeve or in that
noddle of yours, I'm sure.--Hasn't he, Blunt?"

"Yes--a far better one."

"I thought so.--Now then, boy, let's have it."

Stan stood looking gloomy and silent.

"Well, why don't you go on?" said Uncle Jeff.

"Because I feel as if you are laughing at me for trying to invent
something."

"I am not, Stan--honour bright!" cried Uncle Jeff.  "But even if I was
laughing, what right have you to kick against it?  Every inventor gets
laughed at if he brings out something new, and then stupid people who
grinned because they had never seen anything like it before are the
first to praise.  There! out with it, Stan; the third shot must be a
good one."

The gloom passed off the lad's countenance, and he laid bare his idea of
contriving a kind of torpedo to sink off the wharf and connect by means
of a wire with an electric battery in the office, ready for firing as
soon as one of the junks was well over it.

"Ah! that sounds better," cried Uncle Jeff eagerly; "but could it be
done?"

"Oh yes," said Blunt.  "I think the idea is capital."

"So do I," said Uncle Jeff; "but there's an old proverb about the
engineer being hoist with his own petard, and however willing I might be
to blow up a junk full of murderous pirates, I shouldn't like to go up
with them."

"Oh, that would be easy enough, uncle," said Stan.  "We should have to
fill a big, perfectly waterproof canister with powder or some other
combustible, make a hole in the side or top, and pass a copper wire
through so that it is right in the powder, then solder up the hole, and
after the canister has been sunk, bring the wire ashore ready."

"Yes, and what then?  I must confess that I know nothing about
electricity."

"I'll tell you," said Stan.  "You fetch the copper wire ashore and bring
it in, say, through that window.  There! like this piece of string,"
continued the lad, illustrating his plans with a string-box which he
took from the office table, and after drawing out a sufficiency of the
twine, he dropped the string-box outside the window.  "Now, uncle," he
said, "that thing represents the canister of blasting-powder, and the
string is the wire.  You see, I shut down the window to hold the wire
fast, and bring the end here on to the office table."

"I see," said Uncle Jeff; "but what next?"

"I'll show you directly," continued Stan, with his forehead puckered up
in lines as if it were a mental Clapham Junction.  "Now then, this
stationery-case is my battery of cells, each charged with acid and
stuff."

"We don't want to put a dangerous battery on Mr Blunt's table to blow
him up," said Uncle Jeff.  "He's too useful."

"Of course he is, uncle; but we couldn't blow him up, because the
battery isn't dangerous."

"Then what's the good of it?"

"Ah! you don't see yet; you will directly," cried the boy.  "There's no
danger at all till it is connected with the wire; and the wire, you
know, is connected with the canister of explosive, uncle.  And don't you
see that it will be sunk right away there off the wharf?  When we
connect the wire with the battery, it is not that which goes off, but
the powder in the canister under the junk."

"Oh, I see!" said Uncle Jeff.  "Good; but when it is connected what does
it do?"

"Sends a current of electricity along the wire."

"Of course; I do understand that.  Sends an electric spark through the
powder and blows it up."

"That's right, uncle; only, instead of sending a spark along the wire,
it sends a current to the end of the wire, and that end begins to glow
till it turns white-hot.  But long before that it has set the powder
off, and if all goes right we should have a great junk blown all to
pieces."

"Bravo!" cried Uncle Jeff.  "Three cheers for our inventor, Blunt!"

"Nonsense, uncle!  I didn't invent that.  It's only what one has read in
books on electricity.  Now you can see, of course, that there is no
danger at the battery end of the wire."

"If you tell me there is no danger, Stan, of course I am bound to
believe it; but I don't quite see why the wire should not carry us the
message of the blow-up, and blow us up into the bargain."

"Ah! but that would be outside the bargain, uncle," said Stan, laughing.
"It would be a good bargain for us."

"And a horribly bad one for the Chinamen," said Uncle Jeff.--"Look here,
Blunt, this seems to be quite feasible."

"Quite," was the reply.  "There is only one risk in it that I see."

"And that is--"

"Making a mistake: some one connecting the wire at the wrong time for
the friendly junk instead of an enemy.  It wouldn't do to blow up Mao or
old Wing."

"No, uncle," said Stan quietly; "and it wouldn't do to take down rifles
and shoot either of them.  There would be no danger so long as we took
care of the electric battery; nothing else would fire the canister."

"All right," cried Uncle Jeff in his cheeriest way.  "Then the next
thing to be done is to get so many tins."

"They ought to be copper," said Stan.

"Very well, then, coppers--ready to `sky,' Stan--eh?  You remember
skying the copper--the old charwoman putting the gunpowder in the copper
flue, as she said, to `burn up by degrees'?"

"Yes, I remember," said Stan, laughing; "and when it had exploded she
said, `Where is the powder blue?'"

"Exactly.  The result of meddling with explosives which she did not
understand.  I don't understand these things, so I feel nervous about
handling them; but with the proviso that you two are careful, I shall
send an order for all the materials you want, so that we shall have so
many mines ready for war-junks which come to meddle with us.  But it
must take time."

"Yes," said Blunt, "it will take some months, for everything will have
to come from England, I expect.  But I honestly believe that it will be
long before the enemy get over the defeat they have had, and meanwhile I
feel quite happy, for you have brought me four times as large a supply
of cartridges as we had before, and yourself as reinforcement.  Besides,
our men are all veterans now, ready for the savage brutes if they do
venture to come."

"Well, the longer they keep off the better," said Uncle Jeff, "for you
will not be out of hospital for a month, Blunt."

"What!" cried the manager fiercely.  "Let them come, and they'd find me
ready for action now."

Uncle Jeff glanced at him and shook his head.

"But I am, I tell you," cried Blunt excitedly.  "My eyes are clear, and
my hand is pretty steady.  I could manage a rifle now as well as when I
practised at a mark.--What do you say, Stan?  Don't you think I could
fight?"

"I believe you'd try."

"Try: yes.  I want to pay off old scores."

"Ah, well!" said Uncle Jeff, "we have no need to fidget about that.
Wait till the wretches come and then we'll see."



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

"QUITE SAFE TILL DAWN."

"It seems rather absurd for us to settle down to talk about making what
people call infernal machines, Stan," said Uncle Jeff, and he pointed
through the open window of the office to the scene being enacted on the
wharf, with a lovely background of river, cultivated ground covered with
corn, rice, and fruit-trees, and beyond these hill and mountain of every
shade of delicious blue.  "Why, everything looks as peaceful as can be.
Look at those trading-craft with the stores they are bringing in, and
the village boats piled up with fruit, vegetables, and grain.  Hullo!
What's that next one?"

"Oh, that's the one that brings milk and eggs, poultry and little pigs,"
said Stan, smiling.  "We call it the _Dairy_."

"I really cannot realise the horrors you talked about, Stan, and in the
midst of such a beautiful scene of peace and content I can't talk about
torpedoes.  Here, I want some of those bright golden bananas from that
boat."

Stan's forehead puckered up again, and he did not even glance at the
boat with golden bananas, oranges, and scarlet tomatoes.

"But you wouldn't say it was absurd to talk about umbrellas because we'd
had three or four lovely days, uncle.  Storms are sure to come."

"Snubbed!" exclaimed Uncle Jeff.

"Uncle!"

"Well, I am, Stan--regularly snubbed; and I deserve it, boy.  Never mind
your umbrella simile; let's have a better one.  Suppose we say it's
foolish to build a house on the slope of a volcano because the mountain
has been quiet for a few years.  That's better.  Yes, it would be
foolish to settle down in the belief of there being peace when that lady
of the doves doesn't seem to be indigenous to Chinese soil.  We'll see
about the torpedoes at once, Stan; but let us moderate our transports,
and begin with a couple.  They'll be easier to manage, and we might find
that we could improve upon them."

"Yes, that is most likely, uncle," said Stan.  "Let it be two, then."

"Take a sheet of paper, and we'll make out a list of the things we want
sent out."

"Yes, uncle," said the lad eagerly; and he took a big sheet of ruled
foolscap, dipped a pen, and sat ready to take down his uncle's words.

But none came, for Uncle Jeff was filling a pipe now and looking
thoughtfully before him in silence.

"It seems to me," he said at last, "that--Hullo, Blunt!  We're jotting
down some notions for our torpedoes."

"You haven't any ready, I suppose?"

"Ready?" said Uncle Jeff, staring.  "Of course not."

"Then they'll be of no use to us this time."

"Is anything the matter, Mr Blunt?" said Stan, whose late experiences
had made him ready to take alarm.

"Yes, Lynn; a tea-grower from up-country has come down to warn me that
some junks have been prepared, filled with men, and are coming down the
river again."

"A false alarm, perhaps."

"No; I have too much faith in my informant, one of those with whom I
have done most business since I have been here.  He tells me that he had
a hint that the pirates were on the way again so as to have revenge for
their late defeat, and he came across country to warn me."

"Then we can't be ready for them this time, Stan," said Uncle Jeff.
"Never mind; put your paper away, and we'll prepare for our visitors.
We'll take it out again and finish it when they have gone."

The evil news was unexpected; there had been no warning giving time for
preparation, and upon further inquiry it proved that the enemy were not
coming slowly down the river, plundering villages on their way, but were
making straight for the _hong_, bent upon revenge.

Every one there felt this, and knowing full well the mercilessness of
the foe, all set to work in desperate earnest.  There was no time for
building up the outwork of chests and bales, but Stan declared that to
be of no consequence, for all it did on the last occasion was to delay
the enemy for a while, and when they did make a rush it did more harm
than good, as it provided shelter for the attacking party, close up to
the warehouse, from which they could assail in security, as well as
supplying a platform from which to hurl the stink-pots.

"But it must have been a splendid place from which to fire," said Uncle
Jeff.

"Yes, uncle; but it was horrible when the assault came, and I was in
doubt as to whether we could all get in and close up the two doors."

"Oh yes, let it go," said Blunt glumly.  "I hated the place.  Didn't I
get shot down there?  Don't speak up for it, Mr Lynn.  We can barricade
all the lower windows and the doors, and be all shut in here safely
before the enemy can land, while all our fighting can be done from the
first floor, quite out of reach of their spears."

"I give up," said Uncle Jeff; and he worked hard with the rest in
securing all the lower windows, and holding planks for the Chinese
carpenters to screw up, before wedging up the windows with a lining of
tea-chests.

The doors were blocked up as on the previous occasion; water-casks were
got on to the upper floor, as well as placed in the lower, and an ample
supply of the fire-quenching element brimmed them, as well as every
bucket that could be obtained.

There was plenty of time for this, the labour that would have been
bestowed upon the outwork being utilised here in strengthening the keep,
as Uncle Jeff called it, and making it as secure as it was possible to
be.

There was a curious look in Blunt's eyes as he opened the
cartridge-boxes and placed a couple of them on tables and chests in the
lower floor, as far apart as he could to be handy.

"I haven't forgotten my dreamy fancy about the stink-pots rolling down
the stairs, Lynn," he said.  "If one should come and by any strange
accident fire one box, I'm not going to have that set off the rest."

"But suppose a burning pot did happen to fall into an open chest of
cartridges," said Stan, "what would happen?"

"I never had the ill-fortune to be by when such an event occurred," said
Blunt rather sarcastically, "but you may depend upon it something
would."

"Well, I know that," cried Stan; "but what?  Cartridges wouldn't go off
like so much loose powder."

"Of course not."

"What I want to know is, would they go off one at a time?"

"There's only one way of knowing for certain, Lynn: stand by and watch."

"But the cartridges couldn't do much mischief unless one stood opposite
to the bullet-ends."

"I shouldn't like to try, my lad.  It seems to me that, according to how
the cartridges are packed, one would have to undergo the fusillade of
what would seem like so many tiny guns, each loaded with a conical
bullet; and I think we shall spare no pains to keep fire away."

"How are you getting on here?" said Uncle Jeff, coming up, wiping his
wet brow.

"Oh, pretty well, sir," replied Blunt.  "I have been arranging the other
cases ready for supplying the men's bandoliers when empty, and your
nephew and I have been discussing what would be the consequences if a
fire-pot came down into an open case."

"Never mind discussions now," said Uncle Jeff.  "I want to know if
there's anything more that I can do to strengthen the upper works."

"I'll come round with you now," said Blunt.

"Come along, then.--Come too, Stan, my lad.--But let us have a word with
the lookout man."

They passed out through the nearest doorway to hail the watch, which
once more proved to be Wing, who this time was keenly on the alert, and
ready to announce that the enemy were not yet in sight.

"What a change!" said Uncle Jeff as he paused upon the wharf to look
round.  The scene was the same as he had gazed upon when seated at the
table with Stan making plans; but the river was deserted, every boat
being hurried away in panic as soon as the coming danger was known.

The little party turned in again, noting that the planks and chests for
screwing up and barricading the door through which they passed were
ready for use as soon as the necessity came.  The other door had already
been closed up, after the last window.

A visit then to the upper floor showed everything in readiness for
receiving the attack, and nothing was left but to wait; while, the last
shades of evening showing no sign of the approaching enemy, it was
concluded that no attack need be expected till morning.

"They are bound to be some hours coming down after being sighted," said
Blunt.

"Of course, with the river winding as it does; but we'll be ready all
the same.  I say, though, Blunt, is there any possibility of an attack
being made from the shore?"

"I don't think so," was the reply; "but we'll be prepared all the same,
every one sleeping with his arms by his side.  But it would mean a
tremendous march along dikes and through swampy paddy-fields.  No, I do
not think it is likely.  The enemy are boatmen, and do not care to
tramp."

"Then you can feel safe for some hours," said Uncle Jeff.

"Yes, quite safe till dawn."

"Then I vote for every one getting as good a sleep as possible before
then, so that we may be in good fighting trim by the morning."

"Sleep, uncle!" cried Stan.  "Who could possibly sleep at a time like
this?"

"I could, and will if I have the chance.  I want steady hands for aiming
to-morrow."

"You had better sleep, sir," said Blunt.  "Lynn here and I will divide
the watch between us."

"No," said Uncle Jeff; "I don't mean to be left out in the cold.  I
shall divide the watch, taking one-third.  You're weak, Blunt, so you
and Stan go and lie down.  In three hours I'll wake Stan, and he shall
have his three hours' watch and then come and rouse you.  Then you ought
to be fresher and stronger.  There! no arguing; I'm going to be master
over this.  You send all the fellows off but two to keep watch with me,
and do so at once."

Uncle Jeff's tones endorsed his words, being masterful in the extreme.
Very shortly after the great building was silent as could be, and the
only sounds that broke the night were the cries of distant wild birds,
the splashings of feeding fish, and the steady tramp of the chief
watcher.  His big burly figure loomed up as he walked to and fro along
the paved wharf, his two companions preferring to pass their time
whispering together, straining their eyes for any dark, shadowy vessel
that might come stealing down the river, the subject of their discussion
being the desperate fight through which they had gone so short a time
before, while they wondered what would have happened by that time the
next night.

The three hours passed away, and to the minute Uncle Jeff sent his
companions to rouse Stan and the two men who were to take their places.

Three more hours passed, and in turn Stan sent one man to rouse up the
two next sentries and went himself to awaken Blunt.

"Yes, Lynn; all right.  Hah!  I've had such a sleep.  What of the
night?"

"All calm and still.  It's getting misty now, though, and a bit chilly."

"That means a greatcoat for this poor weak invalid.  There! turn in and
have another sleep till breakfast-time."

Stan did not stop to enter into any discussion, but the moment he had
seen the manager take his place with his followers he threw himself upon
the rough couch so lately vacated, and dropped asleep at once.

The next minute he was awake again, or so it seemed to him, to find
Blunt's hand upon his arm.

"Up with you," he said, "and help to rouse the rest.  Every man is to go
to his station without a sound."

"Are the enemy upon us, then?"

"No," said Blunt shortly.  "You said it was misty, and that has gone on,
till the river is covered by a white fog so dense that it looks as if
you could cut it.  You can see nothing half-a-dozen yards away, and I
was wondering whether it would disperse when the sun rose, when Wing
came close up behind me.  `See, misteh?' he whispered, and he pointed
down the river into the thick white fog.  `No,' I said.  `What is it?'
He pointed again down-stream, and at that moment the mist, which floated
like smoke on the surface of the water, lifted a little.  Lynn, I felt
stunned, for there were six junks in sight."

"So close?" whispered Stan.

"Yes; and the next minute the mist shut in again and they were gone as
silently as they had come."

"But they had seen the _hong_?"

"No, I think not, or they would have set to and used their sweeps.  We
must wait now till they begin to come back, unless we are so lucky that
they run aground on the other side.  Quick!  I'm going back to the
wharf."

Stan made no reply, but hurried to where Uncle Jeff was sleeping
soundly.  He sprang up at a touch.

"Come?" he said sharply.

"Yes.  I'm going to rouse up the others.  Blunt wants you on the wharf."

So well had the plans been made that in an incredibly short space of
time the whole of the defenders had gathered in silence, to find that
the place was completely shut in by the thick white mist, neither
warehouse nor river being visible, even those who were two yards distant
being quite invisible to their friends.



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

"ALL IN TO BEGIN."

With so great a danger at hand not a bound was made, every man, weapon
in hand, listening and waiting for the next phase of the pirates'
approach; while many a heart that had sunk low in the presence of the
peril began to beat less heavily as the minutes glided on, with the veil
of mist which hid them from their enemies growing thicker.

"Are we saved?" said Uncle Jeff at last in a whisper--"I don't want to
fight."

"Nor do I, uncle," whispered back Stan; "but it seems to be too good to
be true."

"What are you talking about?" asked Blunt from out of the mist close at
hand--"the pirates going by?"

"Yes," replied Uncle Jeff; "we've got off, haven't we?"

"Till the fog clears away; and that will not be long.  They won't give
us up.  It's only a question of time and their having to beat up against
wind and stream.  No," he added, holding his hand up on high; "only
against stream.  I can feel the breeze rising, and that will carry off
the fog before long."

"Then you will not be disappointed of your savage desires, Stan," said
Uncle Jeff good-humouredly.  "What a fellow you are to fight!"

"Oh! don't try to make jokes now, uncle; it's too horrible."

"For the enemy, Stan, my lad; and I don't pity them a bit.  They have
the means in their hands to escape all fighting by leaving us carefully
alone; but they will come on these murdering expeditions, to let's give
them all the bullets we can."

"Yes, here comes the breeze," whispered Stan.  "I can see the mist
gliding by."

"Yes, there it goes," said Blunt, endorsing the lad's words.  "We shall
be clear by sunrise."

Quite half-an-hour passed before the air was much lighter, and Blunt
ventured to give forth the hope that the enemy might have glided on so
far down the river that they would be out of sight, when, almost before
he had done speaking, the fog seemed to grow thinner, and directly after
to turn to a deep orange, golden hue.

"Sun's rising," said Uncle Jeff.  "I hope the junks are well out of
sight.  It will give us time for a good breakfast before they come
back."

"No breakfast," said Stan bitterly, for he was thinking of hot coffee,
and his appetite was suddenly damped by what he saw.  For the lightening
of the mist before the breeze meant that they were close to the edge of
the moving bank of rolling mist-clouds, and as if the veil had been
suddenly drawn aside, there were the horizontal rays of the sun shining
right across the clustering men on the wharf and turning the grey
fog-bank to one of gold.  To their left the river was hidden, while to
their right it was dazzlingly bright, with only a few golden wreaths
floating here and there--a glorious scene, but having one of threatening
horror behind; for close inshore, about half a mile down-stream, were
the piratical junks with grapnels out, holding on to keep from being
carried lower, two on the right bank, and four on the left; and as the
crews caught sight of them when the mist glided off they set up a yell
of savage exultation, and a busy scene ensued as some began to haul in
their grapnels, some to hoist sail, while others thrust the long sweeps
overboard, and the watchers saw them dip.

"Humph!" grunted Uncle Jeff in a low voice to his nephew; "it's a long
time since I was at school, Stan, but I am going to give an order that
used to be very familiar to me in the old days."

"What's that, uncle?" said Stan wonderingly.

"All in to begin, my boy."

"To be sure," said Blunt grimly.  "All in to begin it is; not that we
need hurry, for it will be a full half-hour before they can get up here
against the sharp current.  We'll have it all in--not to begin fighting,
but breakfast.  In with you, my lads," he cried smartly; "breakfast."

The defenders gave a cheer, and in less than five minutes the Chinese
servants were handing round bread-cake, biscuits, and mugs of coffee to
all, while the principals carried theirs out to take on the wharf and
watch as well.

In a quarter of an hour Blunt gave orders to the carpenters, and the
last open doorway was, being closed up, while the men rose from what all
felt might be their last meal to take their places for the defence, the
narrow slits at the windows between the closely packed chests and bales
looking very ominous, the more so in their desertion, not the barrel of
a rifle nor a glittering watchful eye being seen.

"All ready?" said Blunt as soon as he reached the upper floor, after
seeing to the last strengthenings being given to the two doors.

A cheer was the answer, and he turned to Uncle Jeff.

"There's plenty of time, sir," he said.  "Will you say a few encouraging
words to the men?"

"I'd rather not," replied Uncle Jeff.  "I came up here to fight, not
talk."

"But it will encourage them, sir--put heart into them.  It does not
matter how few words so long as they are to the point."

"Very well," said Uncle Jeff, flushing, as he drew in a deep breath and
filled out his chest.--"Just a word, my lads, all of you, English and
Chinese, for we have to fight like brothers to-day."

There was a hearty cheer, and Uncle Jeff seemed to be encouraged by
this, and spoke out more firmly as he went on.

"There's our duty before us," he continued, "to kill or wound as many of
these murderous savages as we can, for the sake of being left at peace
to earn our livings like men."

There was another cheer at this, and as it died out Uncle Jeff
continued:

"Then all I have to say more to you is this, that we are going to share
all dangers with you, and in return we ask you to behave like men."

That was all, and the echo of the final words was drowned by a burst of
applause and cries of "We will!  We will!"

"Now," shouted Blunt; "once more: no random shots.  Every cartridge used
ought to mean one enemy the less, every miss a mistake.  Don't fire,
then, till you are sure.--Now then, coolies, you with knife, club, and
bar will always be ready to come to the first window to help to beat
down the enemy if they try to get in.  When not wanted for that, half of
you are to be ready to hurl back the stink-pots thrown in, and the
others to keep to the buckets and dash out any fire that threatens to
take hold.  Now then, every man in his place."

There was a rush, and Uncle Jeff, who was watching the coming junks,
cocked his rifle.

It was like a clicking signal for every one to do the same, the sounds
running strangely along the stack-encumbered floor.

Then all was silent till Blunt, who was once more taking the lead, his
thin, sunken lineaments giving him a fiercely haggard aspect, spoke
again.

"Here they come," he said; "but no firing until the first men land.
Save only for us," he added in a low voice.  "You, Mr Lynn--you, Lynn
junior--will do as I do: keep our best marksmanship for the leaders and
the men working and firing the guns."

A low, growling whisper was the reply, and then all watched the coming
ships with their grotesque heads and listened to the buzzing booming of
the gongs.

"You gave them a severe lesson last time, Stan," said Blunt after
watching the manoeuvres of the enemy for a few minutes, not a swivel-gun
nor _jingal_ being fired as the junks were worked up in a double line
close alongside of the wharf, where great hooks were thrown ashore, as
well as from junk to junk.  "They're not going to waste time, but are
coming on for a big assault all at once."

"Yes, that's it," said Uncle Jeff calmly.  "Well, we must shoot down
their leaders, and if the rest come on they'll have a hard job to get in
at any of the windows."

The gongs kept on their monotonous booming, while the watchers with
bated breath noted that the previous losses had made no perceptible
difference, the decks of the clumsy vessels being as thronged as ever,
while more discipline was visible, parties of men working together under
leaders, and with a wonderful absence of confusion.

"They mean mischief, uncle," said Stan, who found it hard to bear the
waiting, his young blood being full of excitement, and he was longing to
begin.

"So do we, my boy," said Uncle Jeff coolly; "more than they expect.  I
don't want to brag, but I learnt to be a good shot, and I feel as if I
can't miss a man at this short distance.  You feel the same, don't you?"

"No, uncle; I feel my hands all of a shake, and as if I should miss
every one I shot at."

"Never mind.  Fire away steadily when you begin, boy.  As I said before,
they are so close that it will not matter; if you miss one man you are
sure to hit another."

"But it does seem so murderous, uncle," whispered Stan passionately.

"A mistake, boy: not murderous; it's only justice.  We are playing the
parts of executioners to criminals."

"Ah!  I thought so," said Blunt suddenly.

"Thought what?" cried Stan, who felt glad that the discussion was at an
end.

"Look at that smoke rising out from the middle of every junk."

"Stink-pots!" cried Stan excitedly.

"The fire to light them from," was the reply.

Blunt was rights for in a few minutes scores of wreaths of black smoke
were rising out of the little fleet, and as soon as the horrible
missiles were well alight the sounding of the gongs stopped for a
minute.  Then three heavy bangs were given from the nearest boat, and
directly after the decks were seen clear of the horrible smoke, and
seemed to have suddenly begun to bristle with matchlock barrels,
pitchforks, tridents, and spears, while every now and then a gleam of
sunlight flashed from some heavy sword-blade.

The scene was weird and strange, for the rapid motion of the crowding
crews set the smoke wreathing and floating here and there, while the
soft morning breeze wafted the clouds, one minute revealing the deadly
preparations, the next hiding all in smoke.

"A grand sight, Stan," said Uncle Jeff.

"Yes, and such a lovely morning, too," replied the lad.

"Ah!  The more fools the enemy not to go peaceably to work or play, and
enjoy it, instead of coming out a-murdering for the sake of a few bales
of silk and chests of tea.  They will have it, so it is not our fault.
I'm in hopes, however, that they'll soon have had enough of it when we
give them a taste of what we can do.  Hullo!  Look out!  Here they
come."

"Ah-h!" came like a gasp from Stan's chest as he let the breath he had
been holding escape.

For the enemy, in answer to six heavy booms from one gong, were now
waiting motionless, as if they had been carefully drilled to perform
some special evolution.

Then one loud resounding bang, and there was a yell from every junk.

_Crash_! went a dozen gongs then, with their beaters toiling furiously,
and every junk was full of motion, their occupants pouring over the
sides of the three first on to the wharf, while their places were taken
by those in the three outer junks lashed to the inner, and a rush was
made for the wharf as fast as room was made.

The yelling continued, but there was no firing as yet, all waiting till
the whole of the pirate force was on shore ready.

Meanwhile the movements had augmented the thick smoke of the stink-pots,
whose contents now began to burn fiercely, sparks and flashes of flame
darting through the black fumes.

"Now," cried Blunt suddenly after literally torturing those he commanded
by his reticence; "leaders only."

For several showily dressed, red-hatted men began to marshal their
forces previous to a general advance, sending the stink-pot bearers to
the front, ready for the orders for an advance, which seemed to be
imminent.  Blunt's command was given just as the leaders began to wave
their swords and the bearers of the barbaric hand-grenades took a step
forward; but no sooner was the order to fire given than three rifles
rang out, and three of the leaders went down; while, as directly after a
ragged volley came from the warehouse loopholes, down went the other
three leaders, in company with several of the stink-pot bearers, and
with them all the carefully inculcated discipline.  For with a savage
yell of fury the whole body of men dashed across the wharf towards the
barricaded windows, shaking their weapons, firing at random, and finally
making way for the companions who were bearing the fuming earthenware
vessels, eager to hurl them in at the first opening they could see.

They rushed on bravely enough, and in a few moments the whole building
was resounding and echoing with the casting of the fuming pots, blows
from bill-hook, hatchet, and spear, shots from _jingals_, and the shouts
of the attacking force.

In reply a steady fire was kept up by the defenders at the most
prominent of the attacking party, and Uncle Jeff's remarks had plain
illustration, for the enemy were literally so thick that where one was
missed another was hit.

But it seemed to make very little difference.  The pirates dashed up to
the front, and then dividing, went off to right and left, to hurry
yelling round to the back, meet there, and then rush back again, keeping
up a fierce hacking and beating at door and barricaded window; firing
too, and hurling the blazing pots wherever there seemed to be a chance
to make one lodge, but always to find the lower openings invulnerable,
and the grenades fall back among them in company with deadly shots.

In the midst of the wild excitement in front men were raised up on their
fellows' shoulders to get height before hurling in the pots, or to
enable others to reach and make deadly thrusts with their spears through
the loopholes.

Vain effort, for the bearers could not reach high enough, and after a
few efforts the coolies within served back such of the stink-pots as
reached the inside, and returned them on the heads of the spearmen and
their bearers, sending the pirates back covered with the blazing
material, and yelling with rage and pain, to follow the example set them
by others at the former attack and plunge off the wharf into the river.

This assault was kept up for fully ten minutes, the steady resistance
sprinkling the level wharf with wounded and dead; but though little
impression was made, the enemy, in their fierce fury, seemed to be in
nowise rebuffed.  They kept on, their voices and gesticulations
combining with their savage faces to enforce upon the defenders what
must be their fate should they not succeed in beating their foemen back.

The pressure was kept up without effect till the supply of fiery
grenades was exhausted, when, utterly baffled by the calm, steady fire,
and discouraged by their utter inability to make an impression, the
pirates made a sudden rush back to their vessels.  In an instant the
firing ceased, the defenders gladly accepting the respite to see to such
injuries as had been inflicted, and to extinguish the fire at a couple
of spots where the blazing resin was gradually creeping up one corner of
the building at a place the coolies had been unable to reach it with the
water without exposing themselves to the spears of the enemy.

The damage proved to be slight, and the personal injuries trifling in
the extreme, merely calling for a little plastering and a bandage, both
being dexterously applied by Wing, who seemed quite at home repairing
damages, as Uncle Jeff termed it, the injured coming back to their posts
quite as a matter of course, ready for the next onslaught if one came.

Stan clung to the hope that the enemy had learned enough and would now
go.  But he was soon undeceived, for freshly lit pots began to appear
amidships of the junks, and as soon as they were blazing well they were
raised, and the men came on again.  Then the fight raged once more,
being kept on for nearly half-an-hour without a sign of yielding on
either side, while, fast growing weary, Stan began to look anxiously
from one to the other of his two leaders.

It was not till he had glanced at them for the second time that Uncle
Jeff caught his eye, and said quietly as he went on loading and firing:

"They're tough, Stan, but they must give up soon, for they are losing
men fast."

"But what about us, uncle?"

"Eh?  Oh, we're all right, my lad.  Ah! fire at those two mandarin-like
fellows who are hounding the men on."

Their two rifles went off together, and the one Stan fired at stopped
short and then staggered back towards the nearest junk, while the other
made a dash forward and disappeared round the corner of the building.

"Both badly hit, Stan," said Uncle Jeff.  "Let us hope that fellow's too
much hurt to do any more mischief."

Their attention was taken off again to another party who were making
desperate efforts to force one of the windows, but without effect.  At
last their success looked likely, for one of the men managed to climb
high enough to get a knee on the sill of the opening; and help from his
companions coming at the right moment, he raised himself up, spear in
hand, and was just about to spring in, while others were following, when
thrusts were made with a couple of rifle-barrels and the man's balance
was destroyed, making him leap backward to avoid a heavy fall, and being
caught by his companions, who were surging about beneath the windows.

An exultant yell told the defenders that the enemy were satisfied that
this was nearly an accomplishment of their desires, and encouraged now
with the thought that the task was possible, the men came on like a
furious wave, literally hurling themselves frantically against the walls
and, regardless of life, swarming up at every opening.

"Getting warm," shouted Uncle Jeff to Blunt.  "Try and keep your men
cool; the enemy can't carry this on long."

"I'm doing my best with them," said Blunt, shouting to make his voice
heard in the frightful din, and having a narrow escape, for one of the
flaming pots came full in his face, to be avoided by a sharp wince, and
then crashed down on the floor, where a coolie pounced upon it and
dashed it flaming back.

"Good, Stan!" shouted Uncle Jeff in his nephew's ear.  "I saw you bring
down the fellow who flung that wretched thing.  Quick, boy!  Fire
faster.--Fire, all of you; they're coming on more and more.  How many
are there of the wretches?"

"I'm firing as fast as I can, uncle," cried Stan; "but I'm afraid that
they're doing something round at the back."

"Then don't be afraid--don't be afraid of anything," growled Uncle Jeff.
"We don't want imagination to help the real.  That is bad enough.--Hah!
That has settled you, my bloodthirsty scoundrel!" he growled as he
reached out and shot a man down.  But a spear came darting up and
scratched the side of his face, making him utter an angry snarl, while
his eyes lit up with rage as he glared through a loophole at the
swarming enemy raging about beneath as if nothing but the defenders'
blood would suffice.

"Not going to be too much for us, are they?" thought Stan, whose blood
was well up; but a slight feeling of dread attacked him as to their
future.  For the enemy seemed, in spite of their losses, by no means
quelled, only spurred on to fresh attacks, which grew fiercer as the
moments glided by.

"Eh?  What?" cried Uncle Jeff suddenly, as a blue-frocked, particularly
clean and tidy-looking individual forced his way amongst the
powder-and-pitch-smoke blackened party of four defending Stan's window.

"You here, Wing?" cried Stan, turning from taking aim, and feeling a
hand grasp his arm.

"Come, quick!" cried the Chinaman, with a highly pitched squeak.
"Pilate got in bottom.  Plenty lot come 'long fast; cuttee allee float."

"Quick, all!" roared Blunt at that moment.  "The stairs--the stairs!"

A rush was made towards the opening, and Uncle Jeff sprang to the head
of the broad stairs, just in time to bring his rifle-butt down on the
head of a big Chinaman who, holding a great sword in both hands, was
reaching forward to cut under the arms of Blunt, who was swinging his
piece round, clubbed, to beat back three or four of the enemy who were
crowding up.

Down came Blunt's rifle, and with it two of the enemy; but half-a-dozen
more were springing up ready to receive a tremendous blow from Uncle
Jeff--a too tremendous blow, for though it tumbled one man down upon
those beneath, the stock of the rifle went after him, and the barrel had
to be used as a weapon alone.

Meanwhile Stan had dropped upon one knee, and waiting his opportunity,
fired and brought down the next swordsman who reached up to cut at his
uncle.

They were desperate moments, but those three held the pirates in check
by their efforts till they were reinforced by the coolies who had dealt
with the fire-pots, these flinging themselves bravely forward in defence
of their masters; and the check grew more severe, giving the defenders
time to improve their position.

Stan was the first to make a suggestion, and it was to Wing.

"Bring me a bale here," he said, "to fight over."

"Yes, and let's have more and more," cried Uncle Jeff.

Wing showed no signs of his old injury, and as he jabbered fiercely to
the coolies, they followed his example, and in an incredibly short space
of time bales and tea-chests were thrust to the edge of the broad
opening, forming something of a defence against the attacking party, who
were checked but not damped, for three of the defenders of the windows
came to Stan's help, firing with him from behind the new breastwork,
over which Uncle Jeff raged like an angry lion; while Blunt, whose
strength was failing fast, only struck at intervals as opportunities
came.

"It's all over," thought Stan as he kept on loading and firing
mechanically, for it was plain enough that somehow or another the enemy
had forced a way into the lower floor, through which they were shouting
defiance and fulminating threats; but they made no farther progress, for
heads had only to be shown up the stairs for their owners to be beaten
down by rifle-barrel or pistol-butt, and their supporters to stumble
back or be riddled by one or other of the bullets that were fired with
unerring aim.

"Oh deah!" came in a whining voice close to Stan's ear in a momentary
pause between two attacks; and turning his head sharply as his fingers
were busy with the breech of his piece, there, bent over him, was Wing,
with a tremendous knife in his hand.  "Wing wish to be fighting-man.
Allee fall downee.  Pilate come fastee fastee.  Look, look!  Going buln
evelybody up."

Wing's eyes and nostrils had been busier than Stan's, for, engrossed as
he was with his firing, he had seen nothing but those who were about to
attack his uncle, and the greatest peril of all had escaped his notice.

But now it was patent to him that they were getting to the last of their
defence, though still he felt in nowise ready to give up.

"See that, uncle?" he panted.

"Yes, my boy; they're going to make our fall warm for us."

"But the water-buckets!"

"No good, my lad, unless they can be well applied, and our coolies are
helpless to do anything here."

"Fire!" cried Blunt hoarsely.

"Yes, fire," said Uncle Jeff; "but don't slacken your efforts, man.
Keep at it, hard; the wretches may get sick after all.  If not, I hope
they will be caught in their own trap."

"But us--your nephew--escape?"

"I don't see how," said Uncle Jeff.--"Do you think you could make a jump
from one of the windows and run for it out into one of the rice-fields
and hide, Stan?"

"Are you all coming too, uncle?" said the lad.

"No, my boy; it is impossible.  We must fight to the last."

"Yes," said Stan quietly; "of course it's impossible.  I should only
jump into a crowd and be hacked to pieces.  I'd rather stay here."

Uncle Jeff was silent, but he lowered one hand to squeeze his nephew's.

"Bless you, my boy!" he said hoarsely.  "It's very hard, but there's
nothing for it unless help comes."

"And no help will come that I can see," panted Blunt, who was reeling
with weakness.

"Ah-h-h!  Takee ca'e!" shrieked Wing, bringing down his big knife with
all his might, as, regardless of flame and smoke rising with stifling
fumes through the square opening of the stairs, some half-dozen of the
enemy made a rush to get at the defenders.  And once more a desperate
struggle ensued, which was repeated till the suffocating wreaths were
too much even for the much-diminished attacking party, who now drew back
to make way for a strong force of their companions.  These rushed to the
foot of the stairs to hurl about a dozen of the flaming missiles up at
the defenders, and then dashed away again, just in time to escape a
furious burst of flame which indicated that the fire was beginning to
rage below; in fact, within five minutes the staircase was perfectly
impassable, the flames roaring up being augmented with fresh fuel by the
enemy, who hurled in pot after pot.

"No escape there, Stan," said Uncle Jeff as they drew back from the
scorching heat.

"But no more attack, uncle," replied Stan.  "We are safe from that."

"And safe to be burned out."

"Yes," said Blunt bitterly; "but we can't die like this.--Come, my lads,
back to the windows, and let us make the wretches feel that they will
have to go on paying for our lives to the last."

"Yes," said Uncle Jeff solemnly; "it has all been bravely done, and so
we have done our duty.  I suppose we could not make a dash from one
window and fight our way to some boat?"

"No," said Blunt as he shared the old window with them again, the men
going back to their former stations--"no; it would be utter madness to
try it.  Ah I look below."

"Yes; swarming with their spears," said Uncle Jeff.

"To catch us as we spring out from the fire," cried Stan.  "Oh uncle,
can we do nothing?"

"Nothing but kill a few more of the wretches before we go, my boy.  I
should be acting the part of a coward now if I did not own that we have
reached the worst."

"Oh uncle," cried Stan passionately, "why did you come?"

"To help you, boy; and I am sorry I've failed.  There! shake hands, my
dear lad; life is always short, but this is too short for you."

"Fire! fire!" cried Blunt passionately.  "My rifle's useless, and in
another ten minutes we shall be too late."

Stan looked wildly round as he raised his rifle to fire through the
loophole again at the wretches waiting to catch them on bristling
trident forks and spears, and it seemed a mockery, though the
rifle-shots were fast pattering down, for him to think of destroying
still more life when so near the termination of his own; but Blunt was
his captain to the last, and his eye was on the sight, his finger on the
trigger, and almost by instinct he was marking down one of the wretches
right in front.  Once more his nerves were tensely strained, and in
another instant the enemy before him would have fallen, dangerously
wounded if not dead, when there was a sudden shock, as if the fire had
reached the little magazine and the cartridges had proved how they would
act under the circumstances.  The place literally rocked, there was a
deafening roar, and the savage yelling of the attacking force was
drowned.



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

"BUT WE WEREN'T BEATEN."

Stan looked round, and the man at whom he had aimed escaped.

"What's that?" he shouted as he looked for the crumbling down of the
walls.

The answer to his question came in the shrill, piping voice of Wing:

"Um t'inkee gleat Englis' man-o'-wa come 'long."

The Chinaman spoke as he rushed away across the wide floor, to begin
climbing the narrow ladder on one side--the steps leading to the roof
and the trap-door through which he had passed to play the part of
lookout.

"Oh, impossible!" cried Uncle Jeff hoarsely.--"Don't believe him, Stan,
boy; it's too good to be true."

_Boom_! _thud_! and a sound like a crash, followed by a cessation of the
yelling for a perceptible space, and then a peculiar murmuring, with the
enemy outside becoming wildly excited, and then as if by one volition
swarming for the edge of the wharf.

"Wing's right," cried Blunt.  "It must be a gunboat, and they are firing
shell."

"Yes, yes," shouted Stan, and there was a peculiar hysterical ring in
his voice.  "Look, uncle! that junk to the right is torn open; the poop
is smashed.  There's the smoke of the shell rising, and--Hurrah!  She's
going down!"

Stan's triumphant cry was taken up three times over, the defenders
crowding the narrow slits to get a glimpse of what was going on--for the
first shot had checked the attack, literally paralysing the pirates with
astonishment; the second turned the assault into a retreat, while as the
fierce hurrahs of the people in the _hong_ went on, the gangways of the
junks were being crowded in the rush for safety.

"Hoolay! hoolay! hoolay!" came from the ceiling of the great room; while
as Stan turned, there was Wing's head visible as he thrust it down, and
as soon as he saw that he was observed the Chinaman shouted, "Big
Englis' ship fi'e two-bang shot."

_Boom_! came another report, and, almost at the same moment, _crash_!

Another shell had burst just over the second junk close up to the wharf,
the splintering of fragments causing terrible havoc, which was trampled
out of sight directly by the men crowding aboard.

For the moment Stan forgot all about their own perilous position, for
the air rushing in through the barricaded windows was cool and
refreshing; but Blunt had had eyes for what was going on below and
within, where the air was growing stifling with smoke and heat.

"Here, Lynn," he shouted.  "Quick!  That whistle!  Blow, lad, blow!"

The shrill note rang out, and brought every one crowding up to one end
of the great stacked-up floor.

"Ah! that's right," cried Uncle Jeff.  "Nothing to fear from the enemy
now, lads; clear this window."

"Yes; and throw the bales down the staircase.  It will block the way,"
cried Blunt.

The men cheered, and worked with all their might, bale after bale being
tossed into the wide opening and filling it up so that the great draught
of heat was checked and the place rendered more bearable as the flame
and smoke ceased to rush up as if through some great flue.

This done, Blunt gave a fresh order, and the party began to drop one
after another through the window, those behind covering them with their
rifles in case of an attack.

But the precaution was needless, for the enemy had but one aim now--to
get all on board their vessels, cast them off from the wharf, and make
sail.

Hence it was that the defenders reached the outside of the burning
_hong_ uninterrupted, and while the pirates were busy their intended
victims followed the whistle once more, being led by Blunt and Uncle
Jeff round to the broken-down window at the back which the enemy had
forced.

Here Blunt leapt in, followed by Stan and Uncle Jeff, marshalling his
men for that which he had in view--the saving of the great warehouse
before it was too late.

Lucky it was that such precautions against fire had been taken and the
coolies and warehousemen were so drilled.

For there was only the smoke to fear now.  The great casks stood full,
and the buckets ready to be seized and passed along to Uncle Jeff and
Lawrence, who, all soiled like the rest, and half-suffocated, sent the
water streaming over the parts where the fire was eating its way along
the woodwork and up the stairs, till in ten minutes flames and sparks
began to give place to smoke and steam to such an extent that it was
safe for some of the clerks to assist the carpenters, who, by Blunt's
orders, began to tear down the planks over the windows and let in air
that could be breathed.

It was none too soon, for even Uncle Jeff of the mighty muscles began to
feel that he must crawl out or stifle, while as the first puff of
wholesome air rushed in Lawrence dropped, and he was being raised to be
carried out into the open air, but began to struggle and make signs that
he should be set down.  Five minutes later he was vigorously swinging a
bucket again.

"Hurrah, Stan!" shouted Uncle Jeff at last.  "There's nothing more to
fear.--Do you see, Blunt?  A splash here and a splash there.  Keep the
coolies at it and the mischief will not be so bad after all.  Here, I
must see what they're doing outside."

"Me know--I know," piped Wing, who always seemed to be ready for
everything but heavy manual labour such as might break his nails.  "Wing
been gone look outside off _hong_ whooff.  Big ship come all steam up
livah.  Shoot, shoot topside big junk.  Numbee one topside junk go
bottom.  Numbee two topside junk float down livah go close 'longside.
Allee ovey--junk lun 'way up livah.  Steamship shoot, shoot, shoot
two-bang gun."

Poor Wing in his excitement suffered to such an extent from incoherency
that his speech was hard to grasp; but helped by a lookout from the
wharf, where the enemy was represented only by the dead, the state of
affairs was fully grasped.  For the masts and parts of the sails of two
junks rose from the river a few yards from the wharf-edge; the wreckage
of another lying over on its side was floating down-stream, while in
response to the fire of a grim-looking grey gunboat, whose shells went
through her sides as if they were papier-mache, a fourth was settling
down a couple of hundred yards away, and her late occupants were
swimming for the farther bank across the river.

As Stan shaded his eyes, which were dim and painful from the effect of
the smoke, he saw enough to prove that the fate of the other junks was
sealed.  They were sailing up-stream, but the grey gunboat was churning
up the water astern as she stole after them like fate, every now and
then sending forth a great ball of white smoke with a roar, followed by
a stinging crack-like echo when a shell burst with unerring precision,
the result being that the river seemed in the distance to be dotted in
all directions with strange specks, all of which drifted for the farther
shore.

"Ah, Uncle Jeff!" cried Stan suddenly, as he heard a sharp scratch, and
turned to see a match burning in the bright sunshine.

"Yes, Stan, Uncle Jeff it is: come out to breathe and have a cigar.
I've used up all my stuff, boy.  Pumped out.  Here we are, you see;
safe, though, after all.--My word, how those Jacks can shoot!  Did you
see?"

"Yes, uncle.  Why, that junk must be half a mile away."

"Yes, splendid practice; but she'll go no farther than to the bottom,
and the lads will have a shell into that other directly."

Uncle Jeff was right.  It took two more shells as he sat smoking, and
then the last of the six pirate junks was so much bamboo chip floating
down the stream.

"Poor wretches!" he said.  "It seems very terrible; but it would have
been much worse if the poor warehouse had been smoking ashes now, and
our bones beneath."

"Yes," said Stan, shuddering.  "I say, uncle, this is a horrible
place.--Ah, Wing!  You there?"

"Yes; come see you like cup tea."

"What! can you get some?" cried Stan.

"Yes, plenty tea.  Wateh nea'ly boil."

"Oh!  I should," cried Stan huskily, "for I feel quite sick at heart."

There were a few rifle-shots fired at fugitives on the banks, but the
object of the gunboat's crew was more to scatter the savage miscreants
than to add to their destruction; for the commander on board was
satisfied with the blow at the pirates' power, and he said so
half-an-hour later, when his vessel had steamed back and was moored to
the wharf.

He had landed to inspect the place and congratulate its defenders
warmly.

"As brave a defence as I know of, gentlemen," he said.  "And it seems to
me that I only just came up in time."

"Only just," said Uncle Jeff; "but we weren't beaten."

"Beaten--up!" said the officer sharply.  "You'd have kept the miserable
brutes off, but I'm afraid that the fire would have been rather too
much--eh?"

"Yes," said Uncle Jeff; "we should have had to strike our colours to
that.  But there I don't talk about it.  We've had an awful escape."

"You have, and no mistake.  Here! come on board and have a wash while
something to eat is made ready."

"A wash!" cried Stan.  "Oh yes.--I say, uncle, you look awful."

"Do I, my boy?  Humph!--I say, captain, do you carry a pocket-mirror?"

"No; but there's a looking-glass or two in the cabins.  Do you want to
shave?"

"What! cut off my growing beard?" said Uncle Jeff fiercely.  "No, nor my
head either.  I wanted my nephew to see his face."

"My face?" cried Stan, colouring invisibly--that is to say, the red was
hidden by the black.  "Is it very bad?"

He glanced at Blunt as he spoke.

"Well," was the reply, "did you ever see a sweep?"

The hospitality on board the gunboat embraced the attentions of a doctor
as well as refreshments, and he had a busy hour with cuts and burns
before the night closed in, with sailors to keep the watch over those
who slept the sleep of utter exhaustion; though ward was needless, for
the remnants of the piratical gang were scattered far and wide,
completely crushed.



CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.

"SUPPOSE WE LEAVE THEM THERE."

Month later the people at the _hong_ had repaired all damages, and paint
and varnish had hidden unpleasantly suggestive marks; while in two
months the loss was almost forgotten in the increase of trade consequent
upon the peace existing in the district, maintained by an occasional
visit of the gunboat upon the station, ready always to quench every
piratical spark that appeared.

At first Stan had declared that he should never be able to feel settled
up the river; but he did, for there was always something animated and
new about the station to which the peaceful traders flocked, knowing as
they did that all transactions with the English merchants meant perfect
faith and nothing akin to dealings with the squeezing mandarins.  In
fact, the lad began to think that his busy life to and fro was, after
all, one of the most happy, and that he might pick out his father and
uncle as fine specimens of what English merchants might be.

"I begin to think, Uncle Jeff," he said one day, "that a young fellow
might do worse than become a merchant out here."

"Well, yes," said Uncle Jeff, with a smile; "he might--yes, certainly he
might."

It was one evening when Uncle Jeff, Blunt, and Stan were talking over
the old trouble of the past--that is to say, about the traitor in the
camp.

"Well, for my part," said Uncle Jeff, "I give all my votes--plumpers--
for poor old Wing.  He never tried to destroy the ammunition.  He's true
as steel."

"I second that," said Blunt.--"Now, Lynn, what do you say?"

"That it's cruel to the poor fellow even to think of such a thing.  I'd
trust him anywhere."

"Same here," said Uncle Jeff.

"Same here," said Blunt.  "It must have been one of those fellows who
had charge of the water-casks, but which we shall never know, for they
will not split upon one another.  Anyhow, they've fought well for us,
and the only thing to be done is to let the matter drop."

"As far as we can," said Uncle Jeff very gravely.  "It's a serious
thing, though."

"Very," replied Blunt; "and I've dwelt upon it time after time, till my
head has been all in a whirl.  You see, it was just when I was at my
worst, and I can remember in my half-delirious state being in a terrible
fright lest one of those stink-pots should come in, roll down the
stairs, and then go bounding down and reach the magazine.  It was like a
nightmare to me.--And you remember, Stan, that, bad though I was, I sent
Wing up to tell you of the need for being careful."

"Oh yes, I remember," said Stan.

"And even then I didn't feel at rest," continued Blunt, talking quickly,
and seeming as if every incident connected with the first attack had
come vividly back to his mind.  "It was horrible, and what with the
torture of my wound and that caused by anxiety lest any accident should
happen to the powder, I felt as if I didn't know what I was about.  Now
it was the wound, and now it was my head, and altogether it was like a
terrible dream, all worry and bewildering excitement, till the pain and
feverishness of my hurt were as nothing to the agony and dread lest the
place should be blown up.  It was then that I felt that something more
must be done or the place would go, and I sent Wing to warn you, Lynn."

"Yes; of course.  I thought that you must be in a great state of
fidget--and no wonder."

"Fidget doesn't express it, Lynn.  I was--Bless me!  How strange!
How--"

Blunt stopped short, looking in a bewildered way from one to the other,
and ending by clapping his hand to his forehead and holding it there.

"What's the matter, Blunt?" said Uncle Jeff quietly.

"Nothing--nothing--only it seems so strange--so queer.  My head--my
head!"

"Lie back in that chair.--Stan, fill a glass with water."

"No, no; nonsense!" cried Blunt impatiently.  "I'm all right now, only
it's my head.  So strange!"

"Yes; you've been talking a little too much.  You see, you are still
weak."

"Rubbish!" cried Blunt angrily.  "You don't understand.  It's my head.
Something seems to have broken or fallen there so that I can see quite
clearly."

"Drink that water," said Uncle Jeff sternly; and in obedience to the
command the manager took the glass Stan handed to him, drained it, and
set it down.

"Refreshing?"

"Yes, very.--But how strange!"

"Is it?" said Uncle Jeff quietly.

"Yes.  It's almost awful," said Blunt excitedly.  "Only a little while
ago."

"Here, I say, hadn't you better leave off talking?" said Uncle Jeff
gruffly.

"Lie down on the mats for a few minutes," said Stan.  "I'll roll one up
for a pillow."

"Absurd!" cried Blunt.  "You two are fancying that I am ill, when
something that has been clogging my brain has broken or been swept
away--I can't tell which; I only know that I'm quite well again once
more, and see everything clearly in connection with that business.  I
remember--Yes: that's it."

Stan glanced at Uncle Jeff, who frowned and looked puzzled as to what
was best to be done.  In his eyes the manager was going quite off his
head.

For Blunt had begun to pace the office rapidly, and went on muttering to
himself as he gazed straight before him, ending by stopping short at the
office table and bringing one hand down with a heavy bang which made the
ink leap in the stand.

"Have another glass of water," said Uncle Jeff; and Stan started to get
it, but stopped short.

"Don't run away, Lynn," cried Blunt.  "This is interesting.  How some
doctors would like to know!  It has all come back now, but I must have
been off my head or I shouldn't have acted so, of course.  Half-an-hour
ago I didn't know I had done it, but I do know now.  Talking about the
matter seems to have cleared away the last of the mental cobwebs that
have been worrying me."

"Yes, yes, yes," said Uncle Jeff impatiently; "but you really had better
have a nap."

Blunt smiled as he looked at the speaker.

"You think I'm a little queer still," he said.

"Oh no," replied Uncle Jeff; "only tired and over-excited."

"Not a bit," replied Blunt, "I'm all right, I tell you, and I can see
clearly now how that trouble came about the cartridges being wet."

"Indeed!" said Uncle Jeff.  "Well, how did it come about?"

"I drowned them with water, of course."

"You did?" said Stan, staring.  "Nonsense!"

"Yes, nonsense!" said Uncle Jeff.  "You wouldn't have done such a thing
as that!"

"If I had been in my senses--no.  But I was not.  I was wildly excited
and delirious from my wound, and there was that idea pressing upon me
that one of the stink-pots would roll down blazing from the upper floor
and explode the cartridges.  It was while I was more sane that I sent
Wing to you, Lynn, with that message, but as soon as he had gone the
trouble increased.  I felt that he would not get there in time, and I
got up and went round to the back of the warehouse, picked up one of the
buckets of water, and while the men in charge of the casks were on the
stairs watching you and the others keeping up the firing, I poured the
water into the last case of cartridges, chuckling to myself at my
cleverness, and saying that there was no fear now."

"You laughed and said that?" cried Stan sceptically.

"I did.  I remember it perfectly now, even to my feeling of satisfaction
at having saved the place from all risk of destruction in that way.
Yes, and I can remember lying down again and shutting my eyes because I
heard Wing coming.  Yes, there it all is, as plain as if I were looking
at myself now.  I can remember, too, the feeling of rest and content
that came, and with it the return of the throbbing pain, till I fainted
or fell asleep, to wake with my mind quite blank, knowing nothing
whatever of my acts, and being ready to join in accusing poor old Wing.
But there! it was the act of a man quite off his head, doing about as
double-edged an act as was ever committed.  Queer--eh, Lynn?"

"Queer?  Well, I don't know what to call it," said Stan, "but I hope
you'll never do such a thing again."

"I promise you I will not so long as I escape being shot through the
shoulder," said Blunt, smiling; "but if I am wounded like that I will
not answer for the consequences."

Suppose we leave them there.





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