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Title: Held by Chinese Brigands
Author: Strang, Herbert
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 "Held by Chinese Brigands" ***

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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Illustration: "’I AM CHEONG-CHAU,’ HE CRIED." _See page_ 63.]



                        HELD BY CHINESE BRIGANDS


                                   BY

                         CAPTAIN CHARLES GILSON



                             ILLUSTRATED BY

                        JOHN DE WALTON, A.R.W.A.



                            HUMPHREY MILFORD
                      THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
                       LONDON, EDINBURGH, GLASGOW
                  TORONTO, MELBOURNE, CAPETOWN, BOMBAY
                                  1921



                                   To
                           BARBARA PARTRIDGE



                                  ————



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER I--HOW HENNESSY K. WALDRON "TRIPPED AROUND"
    CHAPTER II--OF AH WU’S OPIUM DEN
    CHAPTER III--OF THE TIGER AND THE FOXES
    CHAPTER IV--HOW CHEONG-CHAU CAME FORTH OF THE TOWN OF PINGLO
    CHAPTER V--HOW CHEONG-CHAU STRUCK AT DEAD OF NIGHT
    CHAPTER VI--HOW CHEONG-CHAU STATED HIS TERMS
    CHAPTER VII--HOW THE LETTER WAS WRITTEN
    CHAPTER VIII--AND HOW FRANK RESOLVED TO FOLLOW IT
    CHAPTER IX--OF THE HOSPITALITY OF THE TEA-GROWER
    CHAPTER X--HOW FRANK WAS IN LUCK’S WAY
    CHAPTER XI--OF THE REAPPEARANCE OF LING
    CHAPTER XII--HOW MEN-CHING ESCAPED
    CHAPTER XIII--HOW FRANK WAS CAUGHT IN THE TOILS
    CHAPTER XIV--HOW LING SNUFFED THE CANDLE
    CHAPTER XV--OF CHEONG-CHAU’S MESSENGER
    CHAPTER XVI--OF THE REPENTANCE OF YUNG HOW
    CHAPTER XVII--HOW LING WAS TOO LATE
    CHAPTER XVIII--OF THE SPIDER AND THE WEB
    CHAPTER XIX--HOW LING READ CONFUCIUS
    CHAPTER XX--HOW THE TIGER SPRANG
    CHAPTER XXI--OF THE GLADE OF CHILDREN’S TEARS
    CHAPTER XXII--OF THE CAPTURE OF THE JUNK
    CHAPTER XXIII--HOW THE TREASURE ARRIVED
    CHAPTER XXIV--HOW THE TIGER VANISHED IN THIN AIR
    CHAPTER XXV--AND HOW CHEONG-CHAU VANISHED ALTOGETHER
    CHAPTER XXVI--OF GREED OF GOLD
    CHAPTER XXVII--HOW LING DRIFTED TO THE STARS

                                  ————

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"’I am Cheong-Chau,’ he cried" . . . . . . _Frontispiece in colour_
(_see page_ 63)

"Mr Waldron never moved an inch"

"Ling snatched the boathook from his hand"

"There came a roar like that of a charging lion"

"He himself was hurled after it"



CHAPTER I--HOW HENNESSY K. WALDRON "TRIPPED AROUND"


We have heard it said, by those who are widely travelled, that there are
three beautiful harbours in the world: Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil; Sydney
Harbour, and--most beautiful of all--the harbour of Hong-Kong.

The famous Peak rises above the town of Victoria and, at a height of
about two thousand feet, buries its crest in the clouds.  The harbour
itself is in the shape of a crescent, enclosing the red, bare hills of
Kow-lung.  By day, from Lyemun to Stonecutter’s Island, ferry-boats,
_sampans_, _wupans_ and launches scurry here and there, in and out among
the great anchored men-of-war, like so many mice romping in a cage of
sleeping tigers.

The slopes of the mountain are green with palm-trees, mango, orange and
lichen, in the midst of which can be seen innumerable white, flat-roofed
villas, each with its upper-story verandah and green-latticed windows.
To the east the hills are more rugged; streams, traced through the glens
by straggling brushwood, descend in a succession of waterfalls to the
level of the sea.  In the Pass of Lyemun the traveller finds himself in
the midst of an inhospitable grandeur, similar to that of the western
Scottish isles.

It is, however, by night that Hong-Kong Harbour is at its best.  With a
sky of a million stars, and the pale, round China moon hanging like a
lantern in the midst of the heavens, reflecting its light upon the
surface of the dark, tranquil water, the moving lights upon the
_sampans_ and the countless lanterns in the streets of China town, this
place is surely one of the most romantic in the world.  Here the Far
East and the West touch; it is the one place in all China where the
foothold of the European is secure.

Upon this beautiful island, with its rugged hills and feathery palms,
the white man stands, under his own flag--as it were, upon the very
threshold of the mysterious, eternal "Middle Kingdom."  Over the way, to
the north-west, is the great estuary of the Canton river, the
Chau-kiang--the main trade highway of the south.  Canton itself, a city
of two and a half million inhabitants, lies at the junction of three
rivers, which meet almost at right angles: the first flowing from the
east, the second from the north, and the third--and greatest---from the
west.  Canton is a city of mysteries and marvels; it is a city of many
industries, insufferable heat, intolerable smells, and almost
unbelievable devilry and crime.

The whole of the great province of Kwangsi and the eastern portion of
Yunnan is drained by the West River and its hundreds of tributaries.
These tributaries for the most part find their sources upon the
watershed of the Nan-ling Mountains, which extend from the Tung-ting
Lake to the city of Kin-yuen, a distance of over five hundred miles.

Of that great stretch of country little or nothing is known.  Thanks to
the early Jesuit explorers, we are provided with excellent maps. But a
map is no more than a coloured piece of paper which--at the best--is
backed with linen.  Names in themselves convey nothing. Though you study
the map of China for a fortnight you will know less of the Si-kiang, or
West River, than the naval lieutenant who ran his gunboat past Wu-chau,
and blew the mud huts of a pirate village into a dust-heap with the
pound-and-a-half shells of his Maxim-Nordenfeldt.  For, if to this day
there are wild men anywhere upon the face of the earth, who know neither
mercy nor pity nor the laws of God or man, they are to be found in the
tract of country that lies between the West River and the Nan-ling
Mountains to the north.  And thither we are about to journey, into the
midst of a land that is by no means a wilderness, but which is populated
for the most part by peaceable, hard-working peasants.

There are, however, certain members of the community who are neither
peaceable nor industrious, who care no more for the gunboats of His
Britannic Majesty upon the wide reaches of the river than they do for
the _yamen_ of the Viceroy of Canton, who so terrorise the province that
each honest man knows that it is more than his life is worth to give
information against them.

The chiefs of these pirates or brigands are, as often as not, highly
educated Chinese, sometimes entitled to wear the blue or red button of a
mandarin.  They hold sway by dint of their cruelty and their cunning.

Such a man was Cheong-Chau, whose headquarters were established in the
town of Kong-chin, at the foot of the mountains.  Thence he and his men
were wont to descend to Pinglo, where they would board a sea-going junk,
in which they would steal past Wu-chau to Canton, and thence to the open
sea, to rob fishing-junks and sometimes even cargo ships. If they passed
a gunboat or destroyer upon the broad waters of the estuary they were
simple fishermen, on a cruise to Macao or Amoy. But under their fishing
nets and tackle was always a veritable armoury of blood-curdling
cutlasses and knives.

For the time being we will leave this cutthroat resting on his
ill-gotten wealth, dazed from opium in a filthy den in the city of
Pinglo, and return to the sublime and tranquil beauty of the harbour of
Hong-Kong.  There we are to meet a gentleman of appearance more
personable, and personality more engaging, than the redoubtable
Cheong-Chau.  We refer to Mr Hennessy K. Waldron, of Paradise City,
Nevada, U.S.A.

Mr Waldron was engaged upon what he termed a "trip around."  He had made
a pile of money out of cattle, silver, a patent egg-whisk, and pigs.
His "trip around" had already lasted two and a half years.  He had been
to London, Paris, Switzerland, and Venice.  He knew the height of the
dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, the number of bricks in the Mont Cenis
tunnel, and the names of all the famous Venetian painters.  He had gazed
at the Pyramids, he had contemplated the Coliseum, and standing upon the
Bridge of Sighs in Venice, he had quoted Byron, sentimentalising over
the narrow stretch of water that divides the Doges’ Palace from the
gloomy dungeon to the right.

And wherever Hennessy K. Waldron had been he had been well received.
Before leaving New York he had taken the precaution of arming himself
with so many letters of introduction to influential persons in all parts
of the world that he was obliged to carry them about with him in a large
tin-lined box.  He had not been two hours in Hong-Kong before he had
called upon his Excellency the Governor, _Sir_ John Macintosh--with the
accent, according to Mr Waldron, on the "Sir."

He had also a letter from the British Ambassador in Washington to Sir
Thomas Armitage, the Chief Justice of the Colony, upon whose verandah he
was now seated, with his legs sprawled out in front of him, a Manila
cheroot in the corner of his mouth and a whisky-and-soda at his elbow.
Hennessy K. Waldron believed in "tripping around" in comfort.

"Judge," said he, "I’ve scheduled Hong-Kong for a six weeks’ stay.
Calculate I can do South China in that time?"

Sir Thomas smiled and shook his head.

"Mr Waldron," he replied, "you can’t ’do’ South China in six years, and
you’ll know precious little about it even at the end of sixty."

"Waal, I guess I’m not slow in the uptake. I can run my eye over the
Tower of London, the Matterhorn, or the Louvre, in less time than a New
York elevator would take to conduct you to the thirteenth story of the
Flat Iron Building.  And, sir, I’m speaking of things I know.  Guess
I’ve got face value out of every dollar’s worth of shoe leather I ever
purchased, or I never knew the difference between glue and honey."

"That may very well be," said the judge, "but there is so much about
China to learn, so much that is confusing, and even contradictory, that
I must confess, even after thirty years in the country, I know very
little about it."

"Reckon," observed Mr Waldron, "the lingo would twist the tongue of a
rattlesnake. I’m not referring to that."

"Whilst you are in China," asked Sir Thomas, "what is it, Mr Waldron,
you most desire to see?"

For some moments Mr Hennessy K. Waldron appeared to be deep in thought.
It was as if he considered the question worthy of earnest consideration.

"Temples," said he, at last.  "Judge, I’m just crazy on temples."

"It so happens," said Sir Thomas Armitage, "that I’m interested in the
same subject. For many years I have made a study of the religions of
China--a vast, and to me an absorbing subject, upon which I am writing a
book."

"Waal, now," exclaimed Mr Waldron, "that’s very interesting, Judge.  I
always understood the Chink worships the spirits of his ancestors, and
that’s about as far as he gets."

"That is by no means correct," said the judge.  "There are many
religions in China. The upper classes are, practically without
exception, Confucianists.  It is true Confucianism is scarcely a
religion; it is a system of moral philosophy which, however, serves its
purpose. There are few Mohammedans in China, though great numbers of
Buddhists--Chinese Buddhism differing in several interesting particulars
from the corruption of the religion which exists to-day in India.
However, the great bulk of the people, especially in the rural
districts, are Taoists.  Taoism is extremely difficult to understand,
and even harder to explain.  The original Taoist doctrine was a
philosophy of fatalism; it has deteriorated, however, into a belief in
evil spirits, alchemy, black magic, and so forth.  Taoism and Buddhism
have become confused; in the Taoist temples images can be seen of Buddha
and his disciples."

"Guess that’s what I want to see," cut in Mr Waldron.

The judge was silent a moment.

"I am about to undertake a long and somewhat arduous journey," he
continued.  "I have had a great deal of work of late, and am taking a
six weeks’ vacation.  In pursuit of my hobby I intend to journey up the
West River, to visit a very famous and ancient Taoist temple, situated
in the hills, not far from the town of Pinglo.  If you would like to
accompany me, Mr Waldron, I am sure I shall be delighted.  I warn you,
however, that it will be no picnic.  The heat will be excessive--for the
summer is here--and we shall be called upon to undergo certain
inconveniences and even hardships."

"Sir," exclaimed the American, "I began life as a cow-puncher in Texas.
I have consorted, in the course of my career, with Mexican caballeros,
bar tenders and pugilists.  I’m not likely to get cold feet at the sight
of a mosquito or a heathen god."

The judge laughed, and rose to his feet.  Mr Waldron knocked the ash
from the end of his cigar.

The moonlit harbour lay immediately beneath them.  The mast-head
signalling-lights upon the anchored cruisers winked their dots and
dashes from one to the other.  The round Chinese lanterns upon the
_sampans_ moved restlessly, like fire-flies, upon the dark surface of
the water.  Somewhere, to the right, in the midst of the trees, a
military band was playing; now and again they caught the strains of
_Light Cavalry_ or _The Pilgrim’s March_, from _Tannhäuser_.  To the
left, the flaming lights in the streets of the Chinese quarter threw
their reflection upon the dark foliage of the palms and orange-trees on
the slopes of Mount Davis.  Strange two-stringed instruments and shrill
Chinese voices, heard faintly in the distance, conveyed to Mr Hennessy
K. Waldron the impression that he was thousands of miles away from
Paradise City.

"That’s settled, then," said the judge. "We travel together, Mr Waldron.
I shall be delighted to have the pleasure of your company."

"Judge," said Mr Waldron, "the pleasure is mine, sure.  If it’s temples,
I’m your man. If there’s going to be danger, I carry a six-shooter; and
I can handle a gun as well as any."

"I trust," said the other, "that no such necessity will arise.  However,
in the region of the Nan-ling Mountains anything may happen.  I myself
will go unarmed."

At that moment a boy of about sixteen years of age entered the verandah
from the dimly lighted drawing-room beyond, where he had been seated for
some time engrossed in a book. Though he was a good-looking and
well-built lad, he had the yellow complexion similar to that of the
Chinese themselves, which sooner or later comes to every European who
has lived for any length of time in the Far East.

"Are you talking about your journey up the West River, uncle?" he asked,
with his eyes upon the heavy Colt revolver that Mr Waldron had produced
from the hip-pocket of his trousers.

"Yes," said Sir Thomas.  "Mr Waldron has agreed to come with me.  I have
promised him that the expedition will be full of interest."

"I am going too?" asked the boy.

The judge laid a hand upon his nephew’s shoulder.  "I believe," said he,
"that was arranged.  Here, Mr Waldron," he added, turning to the
American, "is our interpreter. I have studied the Chinese language all
my life and can speak a little in the Mandarin dialect.  But Frank is
lucky.  He learnt the language from his amah, or Chinese nurse. He could
talk Cantonese before he knew fifty words of English.  When I am
travelling on the mainland I always take Frank with me. The Chinese are
extraordinary people.  If you speak their language badly they will not
attempt to understand you, but Frank can talk the Southern dialect as
well as the peasants themselves."

"I’m in luck’s way," observed Mr Waldron. "In the old days in Texas, if
I was prospecting for gold, I struck oil; if I was looking for oil, I
found gold.  That’s how I made my pile. I guess there’re not many
globe-trotters who get such an opportunity of leaving the beaten track,
of seeing China from the inside.  And, Judge, I’m no good on the stump,
but let me tell you, sir, I appreciate the honour; and if ever you find
yourself in Paradise City, Nevada, U.S.A., you’ll find my name a free
pass to anything that’s going, from a ten-cent circus to a pocketful of
cigars.  And that’s a bargain, Judge."

Whilst Mr Waldron was expressing, in his own peculiar fashion, his sense
of obligation, there appeared, in the shadows of the room that gave upon
the verandah, a tall, dark-eyed Cantonese servant, a man of about thirty
years of age, with a black glistening pigtail which reached almost to
his knees.

Wearing soft, felt-soled shoes, he glided across the room as noiselessly
and as stealthily as a cat.  At the casement window he caught sight of
the shining barrels of Mr Waldron’s nickel-plated revolver.  And at once
he disappeared--behind a curtain.

"And now, Judge, may I ask when you intend to start?" asked the
American.

"In a week’s time," said Sir Thomas. "That will give you a few days in
which to see the sights of Hong-Kong.  Bring no more baggage than one
man can carry.  We are going into a country where there are no roads,
only a few footpaths between the ricefields. And above all, Mr Waldron,
I must request you to say nothing about it to anyone.  Our destination
must remain a secret.  I do not trust even my own personal attendants."

"Your wishes will be obeyed, Judge," said Mr Waldron.  "But may I ask,
sir, why these precautions are essential?"

"They are not essential," said the judge, "but I think you will agree
with me they are wise when I tell you that the West River abounds with
pirates, and there are several gangs of Chinese bandits in the Nan-ling
Mountains, especially in the neighbourhood where we are going.  The town
of Pinglo has an exceptionally bad reputation.  You yourself, Mr
Waldron, are a wealthy man, and I have a position of some importance in
this colony.  It might be well worth the while of some rascal who is in
touch with the West River pirates to give information against us."

"I get your meaning, Judge," said Mr Waldron, returning his revolver to
his hip-pocket.  "I’m as dumb as a dewberry pie. And now I must get back
to my hotel.  Good-night, and, sir, I’m pleased and honoured to have met
you."

"One moment," said the judge.  "Let me send for a ricksha.  I am afraid
my own chair coolies have gone to bed."

Sir Thomas entered the drawing-room, unconscious of the fact there was a
man not five paces away from him hiding behind the curtain.  He rang a
small bronze hand-bell and returned to the verandah.

The man behind the curtain dropped down upon his hands and knees, and
keeping in the shade of the various chairs and tables he gained the
door, opened it, and passed through silently.

Two seconds afterwards he re-entered, standing at his full height, with
an expression of profound dignity, even of contempt, upon every feature
of his face.

He closed the door with a bang, marched with a stately stride across the
room, and presented himself at the window.

"Master rang," said he.

"Yes," said Sir Thomas.  "Yung How, please order a ricksha for Mr
Waldron, to take him to the King Edward Hotel."

The man bowed--if an almost imperceptible downward movement of the head
may be so described.

"Yes, master," said he.

Stepping upon the verandah, he picked up the empty glass which had
contained Mr Waldron’s whisky-and-soda.  Holding this in his hand, as if
it were something sacramental, Yung How stalked gravely from the room.

That night, tossing restlessly upon his bed in the stifling heat of the
breathless tropic night, Mr Hennessy K. Waldron, of Paradise City, Nev.,
dreamed of heathen gods.



CHAPTER II--OF AH WU’S OPIUM DEN


The small river-launch steamed away from the narrow creek which divides
Canton city from the island of Shamien.  The Chinaman at the wheel
navigated the little craft into the very midst of the clustered
shipping, the mass of junks and river-boats that thronged the entrance
to the creek.  Her prow cutting the water in a long, arrow-shaped,
feathery wave, the launch gained the fairway of the main river, and
thence worked up-stream.  Seated in a comfortable chair in the bows, a
cigar in his mouth and a pair of field-glasses in his hand, was Mr
Hennessy K. Waldron, of Paradise City, Nevada, U.S.A.

Sir Thomas Armitage drew a basket-chair into the shade afforded by an
awning.  There he produced his spectacles and, opening a book, settled
himself to read.  His nephew, with his coat off and his sleeves rolled
up, was occupied with an oil-bottle in the little engine-room.

In the stern of the launch stood Yung How, with folded arms.  His dark
face was expressionless.  For all that, his eyes were fixed upon the
northern bank of the river, where the houses of the city were so
close-packed that a man standing with outstretched arms in one of the
narrow streets could have touched with his finger-tips the walls on
either side.

At the extremity of one of these dark, stifling lanes stood a Chinaman,
wearing a faded scarlet coat.  This man was an old man, with a grey tuft
of hair upon his chin, and a queue that was white and short and thin as
a monkey’s tail.  He stood motionless, shading his eyes with the palm of
a hand and looking out across the river.  As the launch hove into sight
he drew back a little, hiding himself in the doorway of an adjacent
house.  The launch passed within fifty yards of the shore.

He observed Mr Waldron and he observed Sir Thomas Armitage, who was
engrossed in his reading.  Moreover, he observed Yung How, who slowly
raised his right hand and laid it upon the shaven forepart of his head.

At that the man disappeared.  He vanished into the gloom of an even
narrower side street.  Five minutes afterwards he appeared in the open
space on the western side of the Temple of the Gods.  Here a coolie was
standing, holding the bridle of a thick-necked, short-legged Mongolian
pony, of the breed common in the north of China but seldom seen in the
south.  The man with the faded scarlet coat flung himself into the
saddle.

"It is the West River!" he cried, and he was off like the wind, riding
due north, leaving the suburbs of the great city to his right.

Such an extraordinary incident stands, perhaps, in need of explanation.
The judge’s party had spent a week in Canton, during which time Mr
Waldron had inspected the Five-Story Pagoda, the Water Clock, the
temples of the Five Genii and the Five Hundred Gods; he had witnessed
theatrical performances and a public execution; he had smelled the
smells of Canton.

As for Yung How, he also had not been idle.  He had gone by night to a
certain opium den in the vicinity of the Mohammedan mosque--the opium
den of Ah Wu.  Thither we must accompany him if we are to make head or
tail of the narrative that follows.

Yung How had appeared before Sir Thomas Armitage.  "Master," said he, "I
have a brother in Canton."

The judge smiled.  He had lived many years in China.  He knew that
Chinese servants always have brothers and aunts and grandmothers.

"And you want a day’s leave, Yung How?" he asked.

"No, master," said Yung How.  "Go away to-night, after dinner-time. Come
back to-morrow morning."

Sir Thomas guessed that Yung How’s "brother" was nothing more or less
than an opium pipe.  He knew, however, that it would be useless to
refuse the man leave.  Yung How was sadly addicted to opium; in
Hong-Kong he often appeared in the morning with the pupils of his eyes
no bigger than pinheads.  And Sir Thomas knew also that, once a Chinese
has become a slave of the opium pipe, nothing will ever cure him.  The
judge shrugged his shoulders.

"Very well, Yung How," said he, "you can go."

"Thank you, master," said Yung How.  And he stalked in a majestic manner
from the dining-room of the Shamien Hotel, where the judge and his party
were staying.

Yung How crossed the little bridge of boats that connects the island
with the main part of the city to the north.  He found himself in
narrow, twisting streets densely packed with people, the majority of
whom were of the coolie class and wore little or no clothes.  The shops
and booths were ablaze.  Everyone was shouting at once, swearing,
wrangling, bargaining till they were hoarse.  The heat was insufferable,
the atmosphere humid.  The foul smells of the city would have sickened a
European, but they did not seem to affect the Oriental nostrils of Yung
How, the Cantonese.

He walked slowly with long strides, turning to the left, then to the
right, then to the left again.  He was evidently familiar with the city.
Brushing past half-naked, gesticulating coolies, and thrusting children
aside, he came presently upon a great sow, sleeping in the middle of the
street.  Since there was no room to pass on either side he kicked the
animal violently.  As the pig got grunting to its feet, Yung How swept
past with an expression of contempt upon his face.

He found himself, at last, outside the Mohammedan Mosque.  Crossing what
the Europeans call "West Street," he entered a dark thoroughfare, a
blind alley, at the end of which was a solitary, blood-red Chinese
lantern, suspended above a door.

Yung How did not knock.  He walked straight in and found himself in the
presence of Ah Wu.

Now Ah Wu was a notorious character; he was also a notorious scoundrel.
He was a little, fat man, with a round, smiling, cherubic
countenance--except that there was nothing cherubic about his eyes,
which were small and evil, and glittered like those of a snake.

"Ha!" he exclaimed, the moment he set eyes upon Yung How.  "You have
returned to Canton!  Ah Wu bids you welcome.  If he eats rice under the
roof-tree of Ah Wu, Yung How shall have of the best.  He shall smoke the
finest Chung-king opium."

"I desire none of these things," said Yung How.

Ah Wu looked disappointed, for Yung How was a rich man as Chinamen went,
who paid for his night’s entertainment in brand new Hong-Kong dollars.

"Ah Wu," said Yung How, in a low voice, "I desire to speak with you upon
a matter which is private.  It will be worth your while to help me if
you can."

Ah Wu’s eyes glistened.  He rubbed his hands together.  "Come with me,"
said he.

He drew aside a heavy, richly embroidered curtain and, passing through,
they found themselves in the opium den.  This was a room of two stories,
with a flight of stairs in the middle leading to the upper story, which
was a kind of balcony.  All around the walls, both upstairs and
downstairs, were couches, and by the side of each couch was a small
lacquer table.  Upon every table was an opium pipe, a small bowl
containing a substance that resembled treacle, and a little spirit-lamp.
And upon each couch was a man, stretched at full length, wearing no more
clothes than a kind of towel tied around his waist, for the heat of the
room was like that of a Turkish bath.

Some of these men were engaged in smoking, rolling the opium into little
pills, holding these pills over the flame of the spirit-lamp until they
frizzled in the heat.  Some were lying flat upon their backs, with their
arms folded behind their heads, staring with eyes wide open at the
ceiling.  Others were motionless, insensible, asleep--drugged into
oblivion.  The room reeked with the pungent smell of the drug.

Yung How, taking no notice of the occupants of the den, followed the
proprietor into a small room under the stairs.  There a paraffin lamp of
European manufacture burned upon a table.  Ah Wu offered his guest a
chair and seated himself on the opposite side of the table.  He produced
a matchbox from the sleeve of his coat, struck a match, and lighted a
small spirit-lamp.  This, together with a bowl of opium and a large
ivory pipe, he shoved across the table.

"You will smoke?" he asked.

Yung How could not resist the temptation.  He snatched up the little
skewer and dived it into the brown glutinous substance.

"Thank you," said he.  "I can think better when I smoke.  The matter of
which I have to tell you, Ah Wu, is of some importance.  It may be very
profitable to me, and also, in some degree, to you--if you are able to
assist me."

Ah Wu’s little almond-shaped eyes glistened more than ever.  His face
became wreathed in smiles.  He got to his feet and went to a cupboard,
from which he produced his own opium pipe.  Then he seated himself again
at the table, and with their heads very close together these two sleek,
shaven, unmitigated rascals rolled their little pills and filled the
room with bitter-smelling smoke.

And as they fell under the influence of the wonderful and subtle drug
that holds sway over the whole of the Far East, from Shanghai to Bombay,
they discussed in low voices the affairs of Mr Hennessy K. Waldron, of
Paradise City, Nevada, U.S.A.

"Tell me," asked Yung How, "do you ever see anything of Cheong-Chau, the
robber?"

"He himself," said Ah Wu, "comes often to Canton.  He invariably stays
here.  He is a great smoker.  He smokes opium by day and walks abroad by
night.  He will not show himself in the streets by daylight, in case he
should be recognised by the soldiers of the Viceroy."

"He is a brave man," said Yung How--avoiding, after the manner of the
East, the point at issue.

"He fears not death," said Ah Wu.  "But the day will come when he will
be led to his execution, to the Potter’s Yard, where they will cut off
his head, and the heads of all his followers."

"How many men has he?" asked Yung How.

Ah Wu shrugged his shoulders.

"Some say twenty," said he; "some say thirty.  Men-Ching, his
second-in-command, is always here.  He is one of my oldest patrons." Ah
Wu nodded his head towards the door.  "He is in there now," he added,
"sound asleep.  I saw him as we passed."

It is not the custom of a Chinese to convey surprise, satisfaction or
displeasure, or any other emotion, upon the features of his face.  Yung
How’s countenance remained expressionless.  He did not raise an eyebrow.
And yet he was delighted.  He was in luck’s way, and he knew it.

"What sort of a man is this Men-Ching?" he asked.

"He is an old man," said Ah Wu, "a grandfather.  He wears a small grey
beard, and his pigtail is almost white."

Yung How leaned across the table and whispered in Ah Wu’s ear:

"I know of a party of Europeans," said he, "who are going up one of the
rivers--I am not sure which.  I have not yet discovered their
destination.  They are rich men.  How much will Cheong-Chau give, do you
think, if I deliver them into his hands?"

Ah Wu chuckled.  Then, very carefully, he rolled another opium pill and
puffed the smoke from his mouth.

"This can be arranged," said he, rising to his feet.  "I will fetch
Men-Ching.  He returns to Pinglo to-morrow."

Ah Wu entered the opium den and, ascending the stairs, awakened a man
who was sleeping upon one of the couches.  This was an old man with a
small grey beard and so little hair upon his head that his pigtail was
not six inches long.

Men-Ching listened to Ah Wu’s apologies, and then got slowly to his
feet.  He put on his faded scarlet coat and followed the proprietor down
the stairs.  In the little room below, he was introduced to Yung How,
and a Chinese introduction is a serious and ceremonious occasion. For
the better part of five minutes the two men paid each other compliments,
which were neither the truth nor intended to be such. Then all three
seated themselves at the table, and presently the smoke from three opium
pipes, instead of two, was filling the room with the bitter, pungent
smell.

They discussed the matter in every detail; they regarded it from every
aspect.  They calculated the risk and speculated upon their own share of
the plunder.  They tried to estimate the illimitable wealth of Mr
Hennessy K. Waldron.  Perhaps Ah Wu had visions of retiring from
business and settling down in his native town of Chau-chau, on the banks
of the Han river, where the rice is the best in China.

At all events they were three great scoundrels, and although Cheong-Chau
himself may have been a greater one, there was a certain man who--even
whilst they were closeted together--had entered the opium den, who was
without doubt the greatest villain in all the thirteen provinces, in all
that land of thieves and knaves and cut-throats, from the Great Wall of
China to the Shan States, upon the borderland of Burmah.

And this man was Ling.  He burst into the opium den with such violence
that the outer door was in danger of being broken from its hinges.  He
thrust aside the embroidered curtains so roughly that several of the
wooden rings that secured them at the top were broken.  Once inside the
room, he bellowed for Ah Wu, the proprietor of the establishment, and
his voice was so great that he awakened many of the sleepers.

Being informed that Ah Wu was privately engaged, he strode into the
little room beneath the stairs, and there found himself confronted by
Men-Ching, whom he knew well by sight and reputation, and Yung How, whom
he had never seen before.

For some moments he stood regarding the three men.  Then he
laughed--just as a jackal laughs.

"What’s this?" he cried.  "Three such heads were never brought together
to discuss Confucius or the writings of the learned Lao Tzu.  An old
fox, Ah Wu--one of Cheong-Chau’s paid assassins, and a smooth-faced
Hong-Kong ’boy’!  Vulgar men, all three, who breathe from their throats,
and walk in fear and trembling.  Fetch me a pipe, Ah Wu, and take us
into your council.  I have a mind to learn the reason of these
whisperings."

We have said that the Oriental does not betray his innermost feelings
upon his features.  We have stated that the Chinese countenance is
incapable of expression.  The case was overstated, for all three of
them, the moment they set eyes upon this self-confident intruder, became
visibly alarmed.  It is true that to no small extent the personal
appearance of Ling may have been responsible for this.

The man was a giant.  Yung How was a tall man; but when he stood at his
full height, the shaven top of his head was not level with the shoulders
of the new-comer, who must have been at least six feet eight inches in
height.  His complexion was so sallow as to be almost green; his cheeks
were hollow like those of a human skull.  At the same time, he had
enormous features: a great hooked nose; a square, massive chin; a mouth
that almost reached to his ears when he grinned.  He had coal-black
eyebrows which met upon the bridge of his nose, and slanted slightly
upwards.  Upon his upper lip was a long black moustache, the ends of
which hung down below his chin.  His bones were mammoth-like; he had
enormous fists; and when he walked, his great shoulder-blades could be
seen moving under his long blue silken robe.  Ah Wu looked up at him,
with the glint of fear in his little fox-like eyes.

"We were discussing the rice crop," said he.

"_Liar!_" roared Ling.

And he brought down his fist upon the table with such force that the
opium bowls jumped, and one of the spirit-lamps went out.

"Liar!" he repeated.  "Fetch me a pipe, as I bid you, and speak true
talk.  This is a human affair and concerns me as much as you.  Were it a
question of divine philosophy, I should be the last to intrude. Come, I
propose to give you advice."

Thereupon, without the least warning, he seized Yung How by the scruff
of his neck, and lifted him bodily out of his chair.

"This foreign devil’s flunkey shall increase the wisdom of the mighty
Ling," he shouted.  "He shall tell me in his Hong-Kong jargon why he
holds conference with one of Cheong-Chau’s bandits, and one who has
grown so old in wickedness, and so rich in ill-gotten gains, that his
eyes are sunk in the wrinkled fat of his face."

He dumped Yung How back into his chair, and for once the habitual
expression of serene dignity had departed from that gentleman’s
countenance.  Indeed, he looked terribly frightened--but not more so
than Ah Wu himself, who now came forward, holding in his trembling hand
an opium pipe, which he offered politely to this gigantic Oriental
swashbuckler.

Ling examined the pipe critically; and then, apparently satisfied with
the appearance of it, proceeded to roll opium pills in his huge,
flat-tipped fingers.

"I smoke," said he, "not like fools, to dream.  I smoke to fight, to
think, and to make fools of others."

As he said these words he flung off his long coat.  Underneath he was
wearing a thin vest of the finest Chifu silk.  Around his waist was a
belt, attached to which was a great knife--a Malay _kris_--the handle of
which was studded lavishly with jewels.



CHAPTER III--OF THE TIGER AND THE FOXES


Ling was a Northerner.  He hailed from the province of Honan, a land of
rugged hills and dark, inhospitable valleys, through which flows the
unnavigable Hoang-Ho, the turbulent Yellow River that thrashes its way
into the Gulf of Pe-chili, over cataracts and rocks, through dark,
precipitous ravines.

The Honanese are a warlike race.  From this province the viceroys of the
north were wont to recruit the majority of their soldiers--wild,
raw-boned men who, in the old days, guarded the sacred presence of the
Emperor.

The pirates of the West River may be compared to wolf-packs that roam
the southern provinces in search of plunder.  But Ling may be likened to
a solitary beast of prey, a man-eating tiger, or a rogue elephant--than
which there is no more dangerous beast in all the world. He lived by his
wits, his great strength and cunning.  He had established such a
reputation for himself in the provinces of Kwang-si and Kwei-chau that
he was feared alike by peasants, priests, and mandarins.  He committed
crime openly and gloried in it; for in China there are no police, and
prefects and magistrates can be bought with silver _taels_.

And Ling was a man of great wealth.  He employed bribery when that was
likely to succeed.  Otherwise he relied upon his Malay kris, or his
great hands, with which he could strangle the life out of an ordinary
man in no more time than it would take to wring the neck of a hen.

The wonder of this man was that he was a great scholar.  He had passed
several of the public examinations in which the candidates could be
numbered by the thousand.  He was learned in the classic books: _Spring
and Autumn_, _The Doctrine of the Mean_, _The Analects of Confucius_,
and the books of History, Rites and Music, and the Odes.

He was in the habit of quoting Confucius and the writings of the sages;
and he could always, by twisting the meaning of the proverbs of
antiquity, find excuses for his crimes.

"To the good I would be good," he would quote, adding: "As there are no
good on this earth, there is no necessity to be other than I am."

In no other country in the world would such a man have been allowed to
walk at large in the streets of a populous city.  Everyone knew him, and
everyone feared him; but no one had the courage to step across his path.
He came and went at his pleasure, laughing in his loud, boisterous
manner, quoting from the writings of Confucius, Mencius, and the learned
Lao Tzu, the founder of the Taoist religion.  It must be remembered that
China is a country in which everyone minds his own affairs.  The sages
have taught the Chinese to believe that the destiny of every man is in
his own hands, and that whether he lives foolishly or wisely, whether he
does evil or good, is a question solely between that man himself and the
Spirit of the Universe.  No one has the right to interfere.

In this world there are those who talk and those who act.  Ling did
both.  He bullied and threatened and stormed; he was childishly vain of
his learning, and in seven dialects he scattered his knowledge
broadcast.  At the same time, he was a man of action; he was resolute
and brave, and without scruples or a sense of pity.

But neither courage nor brute strength nor wisdom, nor a combination of
the three, can accomplish all things.  And in Ah Wu’s opium den, the
mighty Ling found himself in the presence of three subtle,
smooth-tongued Cantonese; and the whole world across, from San Francisco
to Yokohama by way of Port Said, there is no more capable and fluent
liar than the lemon-skinned, almond-eyed Chinese who hails from the
province of Kwang-si.  It is difficult to say who could lie most
gracefully, who was the greatest hypocrite--Ah Wu, Yung How, or
Men-Ching, the brigand.  Each in his own way was a past master in the
craft of falsehood.

Moreover, they had no intention of taking Ling into their confidence.
They may have been frightened of the man, but not even fear could make
them behave like imbeciles.  They knew that if Ling gained knowledge of
the presence of Mr Hennessy K. Waldron upon the upper reaches of one of
the rivers, there would be but little booty left for themselves.  And so
they lied--gracefully, easily, pleasantly, and with admirable
consistency.

What that lie was is immaterial to the skein and texture of this story.
It was a presentable and passable falsehood, you may be sure, but it was
not good enough to deceive Ling, who, however, professed that he
believed every word they had told him, whilst he complacently smoked
pipe after pipe of opium--at Ah Wu’s expense.

And then he left the opium den, paying for nothing, quoting from Mencius
in regard to the virtue of hospitality.  In the dark streets of the
mammoth city his colossal figure became lost in the shadows; but he left
behind him, in the opium den, in the little room beneath the stairs, an
atmosphere of tension--a feeling that a great typhoon has passed, which
by a miracle had caused but little damage.  The three conspirators
continued to discuss their plot, but they were no longer conscious of a
sense of security.  Once or twice Ah Wu, who was the most nervous of the
three, glanced anxiously over his shoulder, whenever a heavy footstep
was heard in the room beyond.

They had lied to Ling to the best of their ability--which was saying
much.  For all that, they had no reason to suppose that the gigantic
Honanese had believed a single word of what they had told him.  In
consequence, they feared him all the more.  The tiger was on the prowl,
and the three foxes, their heads close together, whispered in the ears
of one another and rolled their little pills.

They arranged matters to their satisfaction.  Yung How was to attempt to
discover the destination of Sir Thomas Armitage and the wealthy
American.  Men-Ching would lie in wait upon the river bank.  Yung How
would signal to him as the launch went by.  If their destination was the
North River, Yung How was to place his left hand upon the shaven
fore-part of his head.  If it was the West River, he was to raise his
right hand.  In either case, Men-Ching was to take horse and ride to
Pinglo, where he would inform Cheong-Chau that the fish were swimming
into his net.  As for Ah Wu, at a later date, he was to play a certain
part for which--on account of his cunning and secretive nature--he was
eminently suited.

It was an exceedingly well-arranged plot, which will be duly explained
in the appointed place.  There was some discussion in regard to what sum
it would be possible to obtain; but in the end it was decided that
twenty thousand dollars would be sufficient, allowing that Cheong-Chau
would take the bulk of it himself.

It was long past midnight when they came to the end of their
deliberations.  By then they were heavy with opium, and their eyes
glazed from the drug.  They threw themselves down upon the soft matted
couches in the outer room, and slept and dreamed--as Chinese will--of
things celestial, transcendental, such as cannot be expressed in words.
For all that, the following morning Yung How presented himself at the
breakfast-table of Sir Thomas Armitage in the Shamien Hotel.

"Well, Yung How," said the judge, "did you see your brother in Canton?"

"Yes, master," said Yung How, without moving a muscle of his face.  "He
makes bobbery with his wife."

"You mean," said Sir Thomas, for the edification of Mr Waldron, "that he
and his wife have quarrelled?"

"Yes, master.  She does not like that he smokes opium--once a week."

The judge made a wry face.  "A nasty habit," said he.

"Yes, master," said Yung How; "only bad men smoke opium."

Sir Thomas looked at Yung How’s eyes.  The pupils were shrunken to the
size of little beads.

"Yes," said he.  "You are right, Yung How; only bad men smoke opium."

"Opium does harm," said Yung How, who, five minutes later, appeared in
the hotel kitchen.  Several coolies were eating rice upon a doorstep,
and one of these was the engineer of Sir Thomas’s river-launch.  It is
not pleasant to watch lower-class Chinese eat rice.  They hold the bowl
about two inches from their mouths, which they open very wide, and then
they scoop up the rice with their fingers in much the same manner as one
might brush pieces of fluff from the sleeve of a coat.

"Ah Su," said Yung How, to the engineer, "has the judge told you where
we are going?"

"No," said Ah Su.

"The weather," said Yung How, "is very hot."

He then departed to the vestibule of the hotel, where he encountered the
comprador.  In China, the comprador knows everything.

"Are there any letters for the judge?" asked Yung How, in a lordly
manner.

"He has them," said the comprador.  "He himself took them into the
breakfast-room."

"We leave to-day," said Yung How casually.

"So I understand," said the other.

"I suppose letters will be forwarded?"

"The judge has given instructions.  All letters and parcels are to be
forwarded to the British Consulate at Wu-chau."

"In Wu-chau," said Yung How, "I have a brother."

He turned away and went upstairs, where he entered the bedroom of Mr
Waldron.  In one of the small drawers of the dressing-table he
discovered the millionaire’s cheque-book; and since he could read
English tolerably well, he spent a pleasant five minutes studying the
counterfoils.  Then quite suddenly Mr Waldron came in.

"Say," said he, "what are you doing here?"

"Have cleaned hairbrushes," said Yung How, without a moment’s
hesitation.

"Then, git!" cried Mr Waldron.  "Guess I can fill my own grip-sack. When
I want a slit-eyed son of Satan hanging around my boudoir, I’ll send for
him.  So, git!"

And Yung How "got."  He walked gravely from the room with his head held
proudly in the air, and his eyes fixed upon the ground.  He appeared
grossly insulted.

He knew very well, however, that the great city of Wu-chau lies upon the
West River, and is not so far--as the crow flies--from the town of
Pinglo, where Cheong-Chau was in the habit of smoking opium.



CHAPTER IV--HOW CHEONG-CHAU CAME FORTH OF THE TOWN OF PINGLO


Mr Waldron appreciated the journey up the West River even more than the
sights of Canton.  Stretched comfortably upon his deck-chair, he
surveyed through his binoculars the rich, prosperous landscape of
Southern China.  He interested himself in the straw-hatted peasants at
work in the tea-gardens and the ricefields.  As the launch steamed upon
its way, he inspected river-side villages, temples, gateways and
pagodas.

The party arrived at Wu-chau, spent two or three days seeing the sights,
and then proceeded up-river.  A few days later, the launch arrived at
the town of Pinglo--three days after Men-Ching, seated astride his
little Mongolian pony, had ridden in from the East.

Since there was little or nothing to see in Pinglo, Sir Thomas Armitage,
Frank and Mr Hennessy K. Waldron, accompanied by Yung How and one other
personal servant, set out on a journey across country towards the north.
They carried knapsacks upon their backs, and proceeded by way of the
narrow paths separating the ricefields.  The heat was excessive, but as
they progressed, and reached higher altitudes, it became cooler, and at
the end of three days’ march the Nan-ling Mountains stood out before
them like a great wall.

They found the Taoist temple, surrounded by trees, tucked away in the
corner of a picturesque valley, where there were great numbers of birds
of brilliant plumage.

Mr Waldron was delighted.  The temple was deserted, and appeared to have
been neglected for centuries.  The plaster had crumbled from the walls
and lay in heaps upon the floor.  The place consisted of one huge hall,
with several smaller rooms on either side.  Everything of value had been
stolen; but the architecture remained, solid and fantastic, and of the
greatest antiquity.

Ranged around the walls were the figures of scores of gods and
goddesses, chief amongst whom was Buddha.  Sir Thomas was able to
identify several of the images, one of whom he recognised as Mohammed,
another as St Paul, and a third as Marco Polo.  That Marco Polo should
have risen in China to the dignity of a deity is conceivable, since this
dauntless adventurer was the first European to reside in the ancient
Tartar kingdom of Kublai Khan.  But it was indeed remarkable that the
fame of such great preachers as St Paul and the founder of the
Mohammedan religion should have reached--across the whole of Asia--the
heart of the Chinese Empire.  This is no treatise on Chinese theology,
else we could write much concerning the Taoist temple on the southern
slopes of the Nan-ling Mountains, at the very back of the beyond.  It is
sufficient to say that the judge took copious notes, and Mr Hennessy K.
Waldron was delighted.  As a memento of the expedition he knocked off a
stone gargoyle from above the porchway of the temple.

In many ways the expedition resembled a delightful picnic, in a country
that was charming and romantic.  The ruined temple was surrounded by
flowering shrubs and queer-shaped deciduous trees, and there were
moss-grown banks upon which one could lie at ease during the heat of the
day or sleep tranquilly by night, when thousands of frogs were croaking
in the valley below, and crickets were singing in the long _kiao-liang_
that grew upon the mountain-side.

The place was a natural garden, scented with almond and mimosa.  During
the heat of the day there was shade in plenty; after sunset the
temperature was cool and refreshing.  Yung How and his assistant
attended to their wants; gave them four-course luncheons and dinners,
produced from a saucepan and a frying-pan by means of a small wood fire
laid between two bricks.  Neither Mr Waldron nor the judge himself
showed the slightest inclination to return to the steaming valley of the
river.  As for Frank, he was happy all day long, exploring the
neighbourhood, climbing to the crest-line of the hills, whence he could
survey a vast panorama of terraced paddy-fields, winding rivers,
scattered villages and towns, each with its joss-houses and its temples
and its great horseshoe graveyards.

On the second day of their visit, whilst his uncle and the American were
occupied in inspecting the temple, Frank Armitage ascended a steep
bridle-path which crossed the mountains at a narrow pass.  To the north
he found his view obstructed by another and even more rugged range of
mountains.  Anxious to gain a more commanding position, the boy left the
bridle-path and climbed, on hands and knees, the steep face of the
adjacent peak.

It took him the greater part of an hour to gain the top, but there he
found his efforts rewarded by a view that reminded him of many scenes
pictured by Gustave Doré, illustrating _Don Quixote_ or _Paradise
Lost_--pictures that had fascinated and frightened him as a child.

Immediately before him was a second valley, at right angles to the one
dividing the parallel ranges, resembling a huge, deep sword-cut in the
barren, savage hills.  This valley narrowed as it rose to a higher
altitude, and finally became lost in mountain mist.  There were few
trees upon the steep, glistening slopes, and such as were to be seen
were stunted and deformed.  There were no roads or paths; no sign of
life or civilisation.  The sun itself appeared to have been shut out for
ever from this stretch of desolation.

Frank turned and looked towards the south.  In this direction were green
trees, green fields--a plain, rich, fertile, well-watered and thickly
populated.  It was almost impossible to believe that a narrow watershed
could divide landscapes so different that they might have been scenes
from different planets.  He glanced again at the dark sinister valley;
and as he did so he caught a glimpse of something red, moving slowly
across the spur that formed the angle of the two valleys immediately
below.

He could not at first make out what this could be, for the moving object
almost at once disappeared behind a hillock.  When it appeared again,
however, it was in mid-valley; and he recognised a party of men dressed
in scarlet coats, who were marching in close formation, making in the
direction of the pass across the range.

Frank knelt down behind a boulder and watched with interest, and not
without apprehension, the approaching figures.  A natural instinct
warned him that it would not be wise to show himself.  There was
something in the forbidding nature of the valley itself that warned him
that its sole occupants were not likely to be men whom one could trust.

They climbed the bridle-path, gaining at last the pass whence Frank
himself had ascended to the hill-top.  They were now easy to
distinguish.  The party numbered about thirty.  They were brown-skinned
Chinese, evidently mountain-born; all were armed with scythe-like spears
or long, curved knives, and one or two carried pistols in their belts.
All wore scarlet coats, some of which were bright and new, others being
so faded that they were a kind of dirty pink.  At the head of the party
marched a little shrivelled man, whose scarlet coat was trimmed with
gold.  Frank Armitage did not know it--though within eight hours he was
to learn the truth--but this was the redoubtable Cheong-Chau
himself--the brigand chief who plundered the southern provinces from the
Nan-ling Mountains to the sea.

As they passed, swinging on their way, these men sang a low, wailing
chant that might have been a funeral dirge, but which was, in fact, a
pirate song of blood and lust and murder.  At the rear of the party was
an old man, seated upon the back of a short-necked Mongolian pony. This
was Men-Ching, who had ridden post-haste from the city of Canton,
bringing greetings to Cheong-Chau from Ah Wu, who kept an opium den in
the vicinity of the Mohammedan mosque.

Men-Ching had seen Yung How in the city of Wu-chau, and had there heard
news of the ancient Taoist temple upon the southern slopes of the
mountains.  And Cheong-Chau had shaken off the sleep of opium and,
gathering his men, had issued from the town of Pinglo, and had marched
by night into the mountains, the sovereignty of which he shared with the
eagles and the kites.



CHAPTER V--HOW CHEONG-CHAU STRUCK AT DEAD OF NIGHT


It was late by the time Frank returned to the temple, where he found his
uncle and Mr Waldron engaged in an animated discussion upon the subject
of the untapped resources of China.  The boy had taken some time to
climb down the mountain-side.  Having no wish to fall into the hands of
the scarlet-coated band who had descended into the valley to the south,
he had given the bridle-path a wide berth, with the result that he had
been obliged to go down upon all fours, and descend stealthily foot by
foot.

He lost no time in relating to his uncle all that he had seen.  The
judge was somewhat surprised, but he did not show any signs of being
nervous.

"I trust they didn’t see you, Frank?" he asked.

"I have no doubt as to that," replied the boy.  "I remained hidden all
the time.  Besides, they were immediately below me, and I should have
noticed if any man had looked up."

The judge shrugged his shoulders.

"All’s well that ends well," said he.  "Nevertheless we may consider
ourselves lucky.  There can be no question that the party you saw was
one of the brigand bands that are said to infest these mountains.  We
are far from civilisation.  We could expect neither mercy nor
consideration if we fell into the hands of such desperate rascals."

"Judge," said Mr Waldron, "it looks as if I may have a use for my
six-shooter after all."

"I don’t think so," said the judge.  "Frank was wise enough not to show
himself, and the men went down into the valley.  There is no reason why
they should know anything about our presence in the neighbourhood."

It was then that Yung How appeared, silently, from the midst of the deep
shadows beneath the temple ruins.  He moved stealthily and with
something of the supple grace of a cat.

"Master," said he, "dinner is served."

"Thank you," said the judge.  But Yung How remained, his features calm
and expressionless, a table-napkin thrown over his left forearm, after
the manner of waiters all the world across.

"Guess," said Mr Waldron, "I shall sleep with my gun ready loaded."

"That is no more than a wise precaution," said the judge, "and we should
be well advised to post a sentry.  We could divide the night into three
watches of three hours each.  Frank, as the youngest, shall take the
first watch, from nine to twelve; I myself propose to take the middle
watch, from twelve to three--unless you, Mr Waldron, would prefer it?"

"As you like, Judge," replied the American.  "Early morning suits me
well enough.  In the old days in Texas, six days out of seven I was in
the saddle before sunrise."

"Master," repeated Yung How, "dinner is served."

The judge whipped round upon his servant.  "What are you doing here?" he
demanded.  "You have announced dinner already.  We are all hungry enough
not to forget it."

"Very good dinner," said Yung How, lapsing into pidgin-English, and
without moving a muscle of his face.  "Hot soup, all belong one piece
tin; number one fish, all belong river; two piece chicken and top-side
apricots, all belong tin, all same soup."

"And a very good dinner too," said the judge.  "The sooner we get to
work the better."

They dined by the light of a Chinese lantern suspended from one of the
branches of an almond-tree, beneath the temple wall, where they were
sheltered from the cool evening breeze that was blowing from the west.
The thin mountain air, after the insufferable, humid atmosphere of the
river valley, had served to give them a healthy appetite.  The soup was
half cold, the chickens were very tough, and the West River fish tasted
horribly of mud; for all that, hungry men, encamped in a wilderness many
miles from the nearest outpost of civilisation, will regard such fare as
delicacies.  They ate with a relish everything that Yung How placed
before them, and washed down their meal with pannikins of crystal-clear
water from the mountain spring that flowed past the temple.

After dinner the judge lighted his pipe, and Mr Hennessy K. Waldron one
of his choice Manila cheroots.  They talked of many things, but above
all of China, of its immensity and mystery, its wealth, vitality, and
future.  And then the judge and Mr Waldron spread their blankets and
laid them down to sleep.

There is no life in the world to compare with that which is lived in the
open air.  A moss-grown bank supplied a bed as comfortable as any spring
mattress.  The wind, gently stirring the leaves of the trees, the
distant croaking of the frogs, and the singing of the crickets, combined
to form a sort of lullaby that soothed and enticed the wayfarers to
slumber.  There was no moon that night; but in a sky unbroken by a
single cloud, a gorgeous canopy of stars illumined a scene that might
have made a fitting setting for a fairy-tale.

Frank Armitage selected his sentry-post at the foot of a great tree
immediately before the temple steps.  Hence he was able to obtain a fair
view both of the bivouac and the mountain slope to the south. Knowing,
however, that it would be wise not to neglect the northern side of the
temple, he decided to patrol the entire building at least once every
quarter of an hour.  Armed with Mr Waldron’s revolver, he kept well in
the shade, knowing that a good sentry is one who observes without
himself being seen.

An hour passed and then another hour, without the occurrence of anything
unusual.  The judge and Mr Waldron were both sound asleep, the latter
snoring loudly.  Yung How and his companion lay in the shadow of the
temple wall: the former curled up in his blankets, the coolie lying flat
upon his back, his mouth wide open, dreaming, perhaps, that he was back
in the Chinese quarter of Hong-Kong, where lived his wife and seven
children, all of whom he supported upon the astonishing sum--expressed
in English coinage--of nineteen shillings a month.

Frank, as he went his rounds, frequently paused to listen.  The frogs
and the crickets continued their uproar.  The wind murmured in the
trees; once or twice he could hear wild-duck flying high in the night
sky towards the north, towards the great marshes of the Yangtsi and the
Yellow River.  But no other sound disturbed the silence of the night.

In course of time he came to consider the utmost vigilance unnecessary.
He began to interest himself in trivial things.  Mr Waldron had ceased
to snore and Yung How was engaged in a kind of duet with the coolie.
They snored alternately, the one on a deeper note than the other. Frank
paused upon one of his rounds and stood for a moment looking down upon
the two sleeping Chinese, thinking how vastly different from himself
they were.  Then he passed on upon his way, conscious that as the hour
grew later the air was becoming colder.  On that account, it was
advisable to keep moving.  He walked round the front of the temple,
across the great stone steps leading to the entrance, and found himself
on the farther side of the ruined, rambling building.  There, in the
deep shadow of a tall, gabled gateway, he stopped quite suddenly,
thinking that he had heard a twig snap underfoot.

He was so sure of this that almost at once he became aware that his
heart was beating rapidly.  He held the revolver in his hand, gripping
the handle tightly.  The starlight enabled him to see a considerable
distance, except where the shadows were deep under the temple wall
itself and beneath the trees.

At his right hand was a massive stone pillar that supported the roof of
the gateway.  He stood stock-still, listening; and then, close to him,
he heard a sound that might have been the wind, but which, on the other
hand, might have been the heavy breathing of a man.  As quick as
thought, he stepped behind the pillar, and at once, quite suddenly, and
yet without noise or violence, his revolver was taken from his hand.

For the fraction of a second he was too astonished to cry out.  He took
a quick step backward, which brought him into the starlight, and at that
moment both his wrists were grasped, and he beheld before him a face,
sinister, fierce, and yet expressionless.  It was the face of Yung How,
his uncle’s servant.

He let out a shout, a loud cry for help--a shout that was stifled in a
second.  Someone had seized him from behind.  The palm of a hand was
placed so tightly upon his mouth that he found it difficult to breathe.

For a moment he endeavoured to struggle, but soon realised the
uselessness of an attempt to extricate himself by physical force.  He
had been seized by at least three men; and almost before he had time to
recover from his surprise, he was thrown violently upon the ground, his
hands bound behind his back, and a gag thrust between his teeth.

He lay quite motionless, wondering what had happened, and what would
happen next.  Men were talking in whispers in harsh Cantonese voices,
but too softly for him to catch the meaning of their words.

He was bidden rise.  He hesitated a moment, and was then lifted bodily
to be dumped down upon his feet.  He found himself confronted by a
Chinaman who was small in stature, the skin of whose face was wrinkled
and weather-beaten.  This man wore a scarlet coat, richly embroidered
with gold thread that glittered in the starlight.  He came quite close
to Frank, and peered into the boy’s face, grinning from ear to ear,
showing dirty, fang-like teeth--teeth that resembled those of a dog.

The boy turned away in disgust, and looked straight into the face of
Yung How.  Yung How neither smiled nor lowered his eyes.  He appeared to
be neither delighted nor ashamed.  His features were expressionless; his
eyes looked straight into Frank’s.  Behind Yung How stood some twenty
men, all dressed in scarlet coats.  Frank took them in at a glance, and
the thought flashed across his mind that it would be difficult to select
from the party the one who appeared the greatest villain, whose
countenance was the most hideous and repulsive.  They were Cantonese of
the coolie class, high of cheek-bone, with low, receding foreheads, and
cruel, snake-like eyes.

The man who was wearing the gold embroidered coat turned and walked
rapidly towards the temple steps, ordering the others to follow him.
Frank was led forward, a great raw-boned Chinaman on either side of him,
each of whom grasped him tightly by an arm.  He was made to ascend the
steps, and was brought to a halt in the shadow of the porchway of the
temple.

Hence he could look down upon the sheltered glade where he and his
friends had been encamped for two days.  In the starlight he could see
the figures of his uncle and Mr Waldron, both of whom were still fast
asleep.

So far, all that had happened had come to pass so rapidly that Frank had
not had time to feel alarmed.  But now, when he beheld his uncle--as he
had every reason to believe--in the greatest danger, he was filled with
apprehension.  He made a lurch forward as if he would escape--for his
feet had not been bound--but he was at once roughly thrown back by the
men who guarded him, one of whom struck him a violent blow in the face.

At that moment it was as if the boy was incapable of feeling physical
pain or moral indignation.  He was filled with remorse.  He had been
given a position of responsibility and trust--and he had failed
pitifully.  And now, perhaps his uncle’s life was in danger.

He was obliged to remain an impotent and conscience-stricken spectator
of the scene that followed.  He could neither cry out nor hasten to the
assistance of his friends.  He saw both his uncle and Mr Waldron seized
whilst they were sound asleep, handled roughly by savage, lawless men;
gagged and bound, and then led into the great hall of the temple.

As soon as they were all inside, about a dozen torches were lit, and
these were planted upright between the stone flags that paved the floor;
so that they resembled as many candles, illuminating that fantastic,
mediæval chamber.

Indeed, it is almost impossible to imagine a scene more weird and
dream-like.  The three captives in the centre of the hall; the
evil-looking, criminal faces of the brigands, made to look even more
alarming and sinister by the flickering light of the torches; and around
that great, dingy room, the implacable, sedate, inevitable figures of
the Chinese gods and goddesses, over whom presided the huge Buddha,
seated cross-legged upon a stone plinth, immediately opposite the
entrance.

Frank Armitage caught his uncle’s eye.  He tried his utmost to convey in
a glance the remorse and anguish he endured.  Sir Thomas must have
understood him, for he slowly shook his head.  Then someone from the
back of the room commanded that everyone should be seated; and when this
order had been complied with, one man alone remained upon his feet.
This was he whose scarlet coat was embroidered heavily with gold, who
now stepped into the centre of the circle, where he stood in the full
light of the torches.

"I am Cheong-Chau," he cried.  "And those who fall into the hands of
Cheong-Chau must pay in silver _taels_ or else in blood."



CHAPTER VI--HOW CHEONG-CHAU STATED HIS TERMS


The situation in which the judge and his companions found themselves was
certainly not of the pleasantest.  It so happened that Sir Thomas knew
nothing of the reputation of the redoubtable Cheong-Chau. However, the
man’s character was made evident upon every feature of his face.

Standing in the centre of the hall, gesticulating wildly, he harangued
his audience for the better part of twenty minutes without once pausing
for breath.  Sir Thomas was sufficiently acquainted with the Cantonese
language to follow the drift of the man’s speech, whereas Frank was able
to understand every word.  Mr Waldron, of course, comprehended nothing.

The American was under the impression that he was about to be put to
death.  He regarded, with a kind of timorous curiosity, the murderous
weapons of the bandits and the villainous facial contortions of
Cheong-Chau.  The man held forth in the flowery language of the Chinese
of the southern provinces.  He talked a great deal about his own power
and cruelty.  He did not seem to care in the least whether or not anyone
listened to him.  He boasted in regard to his past crimes; he spoke of
his courage and audacity; he uttered innumerable threats.  And in the
end the captives were led away into one of the smaller rooms that gave
upon the great hall of the temple.

There they remained until late the following evening, when the whole
party--with the exception of Yung How, who returned to Canton--set out
across the mountains, traversing the narrow pass from above which Frank
Armitage had first beheld the brigands.  They entered, at dead of night,
the bleak, desolate valley extending towards the north. Cheong-Chau
himself led the way, following a path, carrying in his hand a large
Chinese lantern suspended from a pole about six feet long.

Daylight found them still upon the line-of-march.  They had by then
ascended to a high altitude, where the atmosphere was both cold and
damp.  The crests of the mountains were wreathed in a thin white mist,
similar to that which is found in Scotland, which drenched them to the
skin.

They were brought to a halt at the mouth of a certain cave, in a very
desolate, inhospitable region--a country of sheer barren slopes, rugged
peaks and turbulent mountain streams that descended thousands of feet in
series of roaring cataracts.  They had been conducted to a spot upon the
globe’s surface where, in all probability, no white man had ever been
before.

The entrance to the cave was hidden behind an enormous boulder, almost
as big as a fair-sized house, which balanced itself upon the very brink
of a steep slope that descended at an angle of about forty-five degrees.
Upon these slopes a few withered shrubs were growing: leafless, twisted
things, tortured by the bitter east winds that swept those cheerless
valleys.

Inside, the cave was comparatively comfortable.  In the centre a wood
fire was burning brightly, and though this filled the place with smoke,
it served to introduce both light and warmth into that gloomy prison;
for indeed the cave was destined, for many days to come, to play the
part of a prison.  For all that, some attempt had been made to give this
place a homely aspect.  Several Chinese mats were spread upon the floor,
and there were wooden shelves loaded with provisions: dried fish, rice,
and bags of green China tea.

To give so redoubtable a rogue as Cheong-Chau the little justice he
deserves, it must be stated that his captives were treated with every
consideration.  They were well fed, on simple Chinese food, which must
have been carried miles across the desolate mountains upon the backs of
coolies.  They were given straw mattresses upon which to sleep, and were
allowed to warm themselves by the fire.  Mr Waldron--as the only member
of the party who was a stranger to the country--expressed the greatest
anxiety in regard to their fate.  His mind was filled with vague fears
to the effect that their lives were being preserved in order that they
might eventually be tortured.  He had interested himself in all manner
of gruesome subjects; he had heard of the "death by a thousand cuts,"
the Chinese "corkscrew," and the wholesale manner in which Cantonese
executions were usually carried out.  None the less, he was not afraid.
He was a man who had led a hard life, who had faced danger more than
once, and who had learnt--in spite of his riches--to regard his own
existence as by no means an essential part of the great scheme of
universal things.  He speculated in regard to his destiny after the
manner of a man who backs horses without knowing anything whatsoever
about what--for some reason or other--has been called "the sport of
kings."

"Say, Judge," said he, "I don’t cotton to this notion of a thousand
cuts.  Guess one cut’s enough for me.  If they’re going to kill us, why
don’t they do it and have done with it, instead of stuffing us full of
rice and rotten fish?"

Sir Thomas shook his head.

"There is every reason to suppose," he answered, "that this is a case of
ransom.  If this rascal had meant to murder us he would have done so
before emptying our pockets of all the money, watches and valuables in
our possession.  You may be sure, Mr Waldron, he has brought us here for
a purpose.  That is not troubling me in the least."

"It troubles me," said the American.  "I left Paradise City with the
idea of seeing the world; but I guess, Judge, this is one side of human
experience that it was not my original intention to investigate.  Wish I
was back in Nevada."

Frank Armitage laughed aloud.  It was the first time he had done so
since the calamity had befallen them.  Sir Thomas sat cross-legged by
the fire, stirring the embers with a stick, his brows set in a frown.

"Even now," said he, in a quiet voice, "even now I can’t realise that
Yung How is the unmitigated villain he is."

Frank bit his lip.  "If I ever get the chance," said he, "I’ll be even
with that scoundrel."

"He has been in my service," continued Sir Thomas, "for nearly seven
years.  During the whole of that period he has never once given me cause
to suspect or to mistrust him.  That shows you very clearly, Mr Waldron,
what a subtle rascal a Chinaman can be.  For seven years he has been
obedient, faithful, and even honest; and yet--it is now apparent--all
that time he was but waiting his chance."

Mr Waldron made a wry face.

"Guess he might have waited another seven years," said he, "or at least
till I was clear of Hong-Kong.  Why his chance should have come the
moment I arrive in the colony is a mystery to me."

"I am sorry to say, Mr Waldron," said Sir Thomas, "I can’t regard that
coincidence in the light of a mystery.  I have a very shrewd suspicion
that your wealth is the sole cause of all our trouble."

"Not the first time," added Mr Waldron, "by a long chalk, that money has
led to disaster.  I tell you frankly, I was a happier man in the old
days--when I lived on fifteen dollars a week--than after I had made my
pile."

"I can very well believe it," said Sir Thomas.  "That, however, doesn’t
alter the situation in the least.  Mark my words, very soon Cheong-Chau
will show his hand."

It is clear that the judge had correctly estimated both the
circumstances of the case and the character of Cheong-Chau; for scarcely
had the last words left his lips when the brigand chieftain himself
entered the cave, accompanied by Men-Ching, his second-in-command.

Cheong-Chau seated himself cross-legged upon the ground, and for a few
moments warmed his hands by the fire, without uttering a word.  Then he
spoke in the Cantonese language, addressing himself to the judge:

"Those who fall into the hands of Cheong-Chau," said he, "must purchase
their freedom in silver _taels_ or in blood."

The judge did not reply.  After a pause Cheong-Chau continued.  Though
he was a little man, his voice was both deep and guttural.  He spoke
slowly and with great deliberation, as if particularly desirous that his
words should not be misunderstood.

"I make you a fair offer," said he.  "It is not my habit to mince
matters.  I hold you captive.  You are my prisoner.  I can do with you
what I like.  No one will ever find you here.  Neither can you escape;
day and night there are sentries at the mouth of the cave.  They tell me
that you have the reputation of being a wise man.  If that is so, you
cannot fail to see that you and your companions are in my power--birds
caught in the fowler’s net."

He paused again and looked at the judge, who merely nodded his head.

"This is my offer," he continued.  "After I have explained matters I
shall give you ten minutes in which to make up your mind.  You are to
write a letter to the Governor of Hong-Kong, or to anyone else you may
choose.  In that letter you are to say that your life, and the lives of
those who are with you, are in the hands of Cheong-Chau, and that
Cheong-Chau demands, as the price of your freedom, the sum of twenty
thousand Hong-Kong dollars, to be paid in cash before the new moon."

Having laid down his conditions, the man remained silent whilst the
judge explained the meaning of his words to Mr Waldron.

"It is as I told you," said Sir Thomas.  "Twenty thousand dollars.  The
rascal certainly cannot be accused of being modest."

Mr Waldron snapped his fingers.

"So far as I am concerned," said he, "he can have it.  Don’t let the
money worry you, Judge.  I’ve paid that for a picture."

The judge turned to Cheong-Chau and asked him to continue.  The man
grinned--an unholy grin of fiendish satisfaction.  To him and his
cut-throats the sum was more than a fortune; it would serve to keep the
whole gang of them in luxury for the rest of their lives.

"The matter," said he, "is quite simple to arrange.  Write your letter,
and I will undertake to have it conveyed to Hong-Kong.  The moon is but
three days old.  We have therefore twenty-five days.  Together with your
letter I will send one of my own, in which I propose to demand that the
money be left hidden in a certain place upon the Sang River, not far
from Canton.  If the whole of this sum is safely deposited in the proper
place before the conclusion of the waning of the moon, you and your
friends shall be set at liberty.  If, however, for any reason, the
ransom is not paid, I swear by the Five Sacred Books that all three of
you will be put to death.  Concerning the manner of your death," he
added, "I say nothing--beyond a warning that those who die by order of
Cheong-Chau die neither easily nor swiftly."

The man got to his feet.

"And now," said he, "you have ten minutes in which to discuss the
question with your friends, in which to make up your mind.  Say that you
agree, and my messenger leaves for Hong-Kong within an hour. Refuse, and
you die before another sun has risen."

With that Cheong-Chau turned upon his heel and, followed by Men-Ching,
shuffled from the cave.



CHAPTER VII--HOW THE LETTER WAS WRITTEN


Neither the judge nor Mr Waldron desired so much as ten minutes in which
to arrive at a decision.  Twenty thousand dollars is by no means an
impossible sum to a man who is a millionaire.  Even the judge himself
would have found little difficulty in producing the money with a few
days’ notice.

Cheong-Chau, and even Yung How, who was more conversant with the manners
and customs of Europeans, had underestimated the wealth of Mr Waldron.
To them twenty thousand dollars represented almost fabulous wealth.  It
never occurred to them that they might have asked twice as much, and
secured it with no greater difficulty; for we meet the real miser more
in fiction and in fable than in real life, and there are few men who
will not part readily with the whole of their fortune in exchange for
the most valuable of all human possessions: life, the right to walk upon
the face of the earth, to breathe the air of heaven.

Cheong-Chau re-entered the cave, holding in the palm of his hand the
gold watch he had stolen from Mr Waldron.

"Ten minutes," said he.  "I trust you are ready with your answer."

Men-Ching stood at his side, and behind his back was a score of his
ruffians, each man with a naked sword.

"We have considered your proposal," said the judge, "and we agree to
it."  He spoke the Cantonese language with difficulty, and his
pronunciation was faulty.  However, there is little doubt that
Cheong-Chau understood him, for the man nodded his head with an air of
satisfaction.

"You are wise," said he.  "Rumour has not lied."

"One moment," said Sir Thomas, taking him up.  "There is one question we
would ask you.  If the money is sent from Hong-Kong, and taken in safety
to your hiding-place, what guarantee do you propose to give us that you
will set us at liberty or even spare our lives?"

"How would I gain by killing you?" asked the bandit, with a shrug of his
narrow shoulders.

"I have lived in China," said the judge, "for more than thirty years. I
know that there are men in this country--and I see no reason why you
should not be numbered amongst them--to whom murder is a pastime, who
kill for the sake of killing, who derive a fiendish pleasure from
torturing the innocent."

Cheong-Chau carried a hand to his face and stroked his wrinkled chin.

"I see that you are prudent," said he.  "For myself, I never bargain
with fools."

"Do you mean," asked the judge, "if the conditions are fulfilled on our
part, you will guarantee our safety?"

"I mean no such thing," said Cheong-Chau.  "I guarantee nothing."

"Then we have naught to rely upon," the judge answered, "but your
oath--the oath of a robber?"

"That is so," said the other.

"And may I ask," said the judge, "how much Cheong-Chau reverences the
Five Sacred Books?"

The Chinese answered nothing, but stretched forth a hand, and
deliberately snapped his fingers.

Sir Thomas shrugged his shoulders and turned away.

"We must make the best of a bad business," said he to Mr Waldron.  "I
tell you frankly, I don’t trust these men.  I know what such scoundrels
are."

He spoke in English, and whilst he did so was conscious of a gentle
touch upon the shoulder.  He turned and beheld Men-Ching, who presented
him with a brass Chinese ink-box, a large piece of rice-paper and a
writing-brush.  "Write your letter," said the old man, "to the English
Viceroy of Hong-Kong.  Tell him that the sum of twenty thousand dollars,
in silver, must be hidden under the red stone in the Glade of Children’s
Tears, before the waning of the moon."

"Where is this place?" asked Sir Thomas.

"On the Sang-kiang, five Chinese _li_ to the north of the city of
Canton.  A narrow path leads due north from the Five-Storied Pagoda.
This path crosses the hills and descends into the valley of the Sang
River--a very beauteous place."

"Are they long _li_?" asked Sir Thomas, understanding well the vagueness
of all Chinese measurements, "or short _li_?"

"They are short _li_," answered Men-Ching, "for the road runs up-hill
until you come to the last _li_, where the traveller descends into a
wide valley of ricefields and fruit trees, li-chi and mango.  In the
Sang valley there is a tall tower, from the top of which, in days gone
by, fathers were wont to throw the she-children they could not afford to
keep.  A woman child is no use in the world.  From the day of her birth
to the day of her death she does little else but talk.  On the west side
of the tower is a small wood, and in the centre of this wood is a glade
where the birds sing in summer-time, whilst the water of the river makes
sweet and pleasant music.  In the glade are rocks; but in one place
there is a great red stone, almost round.  Two strong men can roll it
away from the place where it is; but they must use all their strength.
And when the red stone is rolled away, it will be seen that it rests
upon a great hole in the ground.  It is like the lid of a kettle.
Inside this hole there is room enough for twenty thousand dollars."

The judge had listened intently, committing each detail to memory.  A
little after, Men-Ching left the cave, and the three white men found
themselves together.  Sir Thomas turned to his nephew.

"Did you hear what the rascal said, Frank?" he asked.

"Every word," replied the boy.

"And you remember it all?"

Frank nodded.

"Then," said the judge, "help me to write this letter.  It will be by no
means easy to write.  I shall have to explain matters very clearly to
Sir John, and I’ve got to write it with a brush."

In the temple they had been deprived of their pencils and notebooks, and
everything else their pockets contained, and these had not been brought
by Cheong-Chau to the cave.  Otherwise Sir Thomas might have asked for
his own fountain pen.  As it was, he was now obliged to write in English
characters with a Chinese brush, and this was a tedious business.  In
the end, however, the letter was written, covering in all five pages of
Chinese rice-paper, in shape longer than foolscap, but not so broad.

Sir Thomas had written fully.  He had explained where and by whom they
had been captured; he even went so far as to give the name of the bandit
chieftain and to relate how he had been betrayed by his own personal
servant, Yung How.  He said that he had not the slightest doubt that, if
the rascals were not paid in full upon the stroke of time, the three of
them would be ruthlessly put to death.  He ended the letter by
explaining the exact whereabouts of the "Glade of Children’s Tears,"
describing the red stone beneath which the ransom money was to be
hidden.  He also expressed the opinion that it would be useless to
endeavour to capture the brigands in the neighbourhood of the glade
itself, and he strongly advised the Governor not to attempt to lay an
ambush.  He pointed out that such a plan would most assuredly fail,
since the Chinese were sure to exercise the utmost caution, and to have
spies in the neighbourhood.  Moreover, the discovery of such a plan
would undoubtedly lead to the immediate death of Sir Thomas himself and
his companions.  It would be time enough to think of reprisals, of
taking steps to track down the brigands, after the judge and his party
had returned safely to the island.

As the judge wrote, aided by the flickering light of a torch, Frank and
Mr Waldron looked over his shoulder, each offering occasional
suggestions.

"Do I understand," asked Mr Waldron, "that you don’t trust these
fellows?"

"I am afraid I am very far from trusting them," replied the judge. "Men
of this type, in this mysterious, savage country, are as often as not
without honour, cruel beyond description, and incapable of showing
mercy.  Moreover, in moments of delight--I know for a fact--they are
capable of committing the most terrible atrocities.  I don’t wish to
alarm you unnecessarily, Mr Waldron, but I tell you honestly that I fear
the future.  Sir John will send the money, provided the letter reaches
him in safety--which I have no doubt it will.  But once the money is in
Cheong-Chau’s possession, it is quite possible he will kill us, out of
sheer devilry, in the moment of his triumph."

Mr Waldron thrust his hands into his trousers pockets, and shaped his
lips as if he desired to whistle.  No sound, however, came from his
lips.  He paced backwards and forwards in the cave like a wild beast
that is hungry.  For all that, upon his clear-cut, regular features
there was no sign of apprehension.  His manner suggested impatience more
than fear.

"It’s just cruel luck," said he, as though he were speaking to himself.
"Guess I can’t look upon it in any other light.  Why did I leave
Paradise City!"

"There’s not much paradise about this," said Frank, taking in his hand a
burnt stick and stirring the embers of the fire.  A flame sprang forth
that illumined the rugged walls of the cave.  Here and there upon the
hard rock were narrow, streaky grooves, where the moisture had trickled
down.

"We’re helpless," Mr Waldron burst out, "helpless as the little children
these fiends used to throw from the top of that tower.  That’s what gets
me on the raw, Judge.  I never before felt helpless.  In the course of
my life, I have found myself in a great many awkward places; but I have
always been able to see a way out and I have made good in the end.  This
thing’s different.  Hennessy K. Waldron may be a great man in the state
of Nevada; but in this blamed country I guess he don’t count more than a
copper cash."

And Mr Hennessy K. Waldron was about right--a copper cash, in the
coinage of China, having the approximate value of the fifth part of a
farthing.



CHAPTER VIII--AND HOW FRANK RESOLVED TO FOLLOW IT


That same evening, Men-Ching, accompanied by another man, set forth upon
his journey to the south.  It was calculated that he could reach the
river in five days, though to do so he would have to travel by night as
well as day.  The prisoners had little doubt that he would find a
river-junk at Pinglo or at some other river-side village where the
brigands had established outposts.  With the help of the current and a
favourable wind, he could reach Canton in a few days, and thence the
last stage of the journey could be completed by steam-boat--ships
leaving Canton for Hong-Kong at least twice a day.

There was, therefore, plenty of time--provided no mishap befell him--for
Men-Ching to fulfil his mission.  Cheong-Chau, who knew his business,
had taken steps to convince the Governor that the plight of the judge
was genuine.  He had included in the envelope containing his own letter
a gold signet ring, which he himself had taken from the finger of Sir
Thomas.

When Men-Ching left the cave it was raining hard.  He brought the two
letters to the fireside, desiring in all probability to satisfy the
prisoners that there was to be no mistake, that he was not going to take
any risks.  He took off his faded scarlet coat, ripped up the lining
with a sharp knife, and sewed the letters inside.  That done, he tied a
sash around his waist, threw a straw raincoat across his shoulders, and
put on a large straw hat such as the coolies wear when at work in the
southern ricefields.  Then he and his companion departed, Men-Ching
carrying in his hand a long stick.  They followed the narrow path that
traversed that bare, desolate region, at one moment on the crest-line of
a watershed, at another upon the very brink of a precipice.

The rain descended in torrents, shutting out completely the last rays of
the setting sun.  A great darkness descended upon the wilderness. The
water in the gullies and ravines mounted with the rapidity of
quicksilver; and presently the night was alive with savage, discordant
sounds: the wind howling amongst the rocks, the roar of cataracts,
turbulent streams plunging, as if demented, down the mountain-side. But
in spite of the darkness and the rain, Men-Ching and his companion
continued to move rapidly towards the south.  He was an old man, as we
know, but he was by no means inactive.  Also, he knew every inch of the
road.  It was probably for that reason that Cheong-Chau had selected him
to undertake the journey.

They did not halt to rest until many hours after daybreak, and then
snatched only a few hours’ sleep, after eating a handful of rice.  The
storm had cleared.  Men-Ching took off his raincoat, and stretched it
out upon the ground, in order that it might dry in the sun.  Placing
both his hands upon his faded scarlet coat, he expressed the greatest
satisfaction to find that it was absolutely dry.  The letters were safe;
he could feel them inside the lining.  There was no chance that the rain
had washed out the ink.  Indeed, in the whole world, there is probably
no more efficient waterproof garment than the straw raincoat of the Far
East.

In course of time Men-Ching gained the southern extremity of the
Nan-ling Mountains, at a place not far from the town of Pinglo.  The
rich, fertile valley lay before him, extending as far as the eye could
reach.  He had left behind him China, the desolate, the barbarous, the
unknown; before him lay China, the civilised, the prosperous, the land
of ceaseless industry and untold wealth.

And there, for the time being, we may leave him, still travelling
towards the south upon his robber’s errand.  We will leave him to his
fate, to the mercy of the heathen gods he may or may not have
worshipped.  His destiny was already sealed, though little did Men-Ching
dream that that was so.

In the cave, day followed day, so far as the captives were concerned,
with the same dreary monotony; the same fears and half-foolish hopes.
They could take no exercise, and they had no books to read.  There was
nothing for them to do but to talk, to discuss amongst themselves the
tragedy of their position.

And as time passed they had less and less reason to trust Cheong-Chau,
to think that they could rely upon his word.  The man proved himself a
reprobate.  He was an opium drunkard; and that is a thing not so common
in China as the majority of Europeans imagine.

It is true that opium is smoked throughout the length and breadth of the
East.  Indeed, the opium pipe in China is the equivalent to the British
workman’s glass of beer, and opium dens in that country are as common as
public-houses in this.

At the same time, most Chinese are only moderate smokers.  They do not
smoke enough opium even to injure their health.  The reason for this is
obvious: opium, even in China, is very expensive, and the ordinary man
cannot afford to buy much of it.  Neither does opium happen to be a drug
that does a great deal of harm unless it is taken in excess; it probably
does infinitely less harm than alcohol.  If taken in large doses,
however, its results are disastrous and terrible.

For some reason or other--never explained by physiologists--repeated
doses of opium sap the moral fibre.  A man begins to smoke opium in a
small way, but after a time he finds that he has to smoke double the
quantity of pipes in order to get the desired result.  And so on, until
he finds himself taking doses that would kill one who was not inured to
the drug.  By that time he has lost everything a man should value most:
his sense of honour, his will power, much of his physical strength, and
his power of concentration.  He is a degenerate whose mind is filled
with the foulest, most perverted fancies, who is a stranger to truth,
and who delights as often as not in committing the most fiendish of
crimes.

Now Cheong-Chau was evidently such a man; for one night he rolled into
the cave, awakening his captives--who for many hours had been fast
asleep--by the blasphemy and violence of his language.  His gait was
unsteady; the pupils of his eyes, visible in the bright light of the
fire, were small as pinheads.  He carried in his hand a naked sword.

"I am Cheong-Chau," he shrieked.  "Death to all foreign devils who dare
set foot upon the sacred soil of China!"

Bursting into a loud laugh, he raised his sword as if he would strike
down Mr Waldron, who had risen to his feet.

"Stay," cried the judge.  "Have we not your oath--that if the money is
paid you will not stain your hands in blood?"

"Oath!" cried the robber.  "What are oaths and blood to me?  Am I a
Canton flower-girl or a Buddhist priest that I should not shed blood
when the fancy takes me?  Know that I am Cheong-Chau, the robber, who
cares for neither oaths nor gods nor men."

For some reason or other he had singled out the American; and it looked
most certain that, at that moment, the life of Mr Hennessy K. Waldron
was in the greatest danger.  However, Mr Waldron never moved an inch; he
neither drew back nor showed the slightest sign of alarm.  He held his
ground, staring the villain boldly in the face.

[Illustration: MR. WALDRON NEVER MOVED AN INCH.]

It was, in all probability, solely his courage that saved him.  The
Chinese was so low down in the scale of humanity that he was not far
removed from the beasts; and it is well known that no animal can for any
length of time look a strong man in the eyes.  The eyes of Mr Waldron
were those of one who had carved a way for himself in the world,
who--starting life in a very humble sphere--had conquered a thousand
difficulties; thereby proving himself a strong man who could not fail to
be conscious of his strength.

Cheong-Chau was unable to maintain his threatening and defiant attitude
before that steel-grey, steady gaze.  Slowly his sword descended; his
eyes dropped to the ground.  Mr Waldron, with admirable calmness,
deliberately placed a hand upon the man’s shoulder, and addressed him in
the English language in a tone that was even kindly.

"Say, old cockolorum," said he, "you ought to retire from business.
You’re doing yourself no good, you know.  Guess you want a good six
weeks at some quiet seaside resort, where there’s no more excitement
than a dance-hall or a merry-go-round.  Take the missus and the kids."

Cheong-Chau turned away with an oath.  No doubt he supposed that Mr
Waldron had delivered a brief speech, somewhat in the tragic vein,
suitable to the occasion; for neither in the expression upon the
American’s face nor in the serious tones of his voice was there anything
to convey the intelligence that Mr Waldron was disposed to be frivolous.

For all that, they could not overlook the fact that, whether or not the
ransom were paid, their lives were in the greatest danger.  The man who
held them in his power was subject to ungovernable fits of wrath, during
which his mental condition bordered upon that type of insanity which is
inseparable from the truly criminal character.  At such times--which
invariably followed a debauch of opium smoking--Cheong-Chau was
certainly not responsible for his actions; and discussing the question
among themselves, they came to the conclusion that at any moment the
order to murder them might be issued.  By no such act of treachery could
the brigand forfeit the ransom, since both the prisoners and Cheong-Chau
himself had no means of direct communication with Hong-Kong.  Men-Ching
should be now well upon his way, approaching the city of Canton.

It was Mr Waldron who suggested that one of them should endeavour to
escape.  At first, this idea struck the judge as a piece of outrageous
folly, since if one of the three even did succeed in getting away from
the cave and crossing the mountains--a very unlikely contingency--the
murderous Cheong-Chau would be so furious that he would probably not
hesitate to make short work of the unfortunate two who remained.  On
debating the matter, however, Mr Waldron was able to throw quite another
light upon the situation.

He explained that if a survivor reached Hong-Kong who could not only
identify Cheong-Chau himself and the majority of his men, but who could
actually guide an avenging expedition to the neighbourhood of the cave,
the brigands would be hunted from pillar to post, and if not captured,
certainly driven from the province.  The robber could not be unaware
that in the British colony were both English and Indian troops, whilst a
large fleet lay at anchor in the harbour, and he must have known enough
of the British Government to remember that the cold-blooded murder of
British citizens was an act not likely to be overlooked.  He could not
wish to involve both himself and the members of his gang in
international complications.  He would therefore, in all probability,
hesitate to do away with his captives.

It is true that an attempt to escape might fail, in which case the
plight of the prisoners would be, if anything, somewhat worse.  But in
any case, as day succeeded day, they became more and more convinced that
Cheong-Chau intended to kill them.  He did but bide his time, waiting to
hear news of Men-Ching to the effect that the ransom had been duly paid.
For these reasons it was eventually decided that one of them should
endeavour to escape.

It was next necessary to settle who should go.  The judge himself was
too old to attempt to cross the mountains alone upon so long and
hazardous a journey.  The choice, therefore, lay between Frank Armitage
and Mr Waldron.

The American--who had already proved himself a man of the greatest
courage, both physical and moral--was naturally anxious to take the risk
himself.  However, he could not be blind to the fact that he laboured
under several very serious disadvantages.

In the first place, he was entirely ignorant of both the language and
the country.  He knew neither the habits and customs of the people nor
the topography of Southern China.  Frank, on the other hand, had been
born and had lived all his life in China; on many a former occasion he
had proved himself quite capable of conversing even with the most
untutored and obstinate peasants.  Moreover, the boy was the most active
member of the party: he was a good runner; he could climb, if necessary,
to the top of mountain peaks, and he was an adept at swimming--an
important item, since he might have to cross the West River, as well as
several tributaries, in order to reach Canton or the coast.

It was this consideration that settled the question in the mind of Mr
Waldron.  The American was obliged to confess that he could not swim
except for a short distance in salt water.  If he endeavoured to cross
the strong current of a great river without even taking his clothes off,
he would most assuredly drown.

"And in that case," he observed, "I might as well have stayed here to
have my throat cut in my sleep, or sample the death by a thousand cuts."

He spoke of such atrocities as if they were nothing.  He was so calm
about it all that the judge looked at him, wondering whether he was one
of the few really brave men in the world, or whether he was entirely
devoid of imagination.  In any case, Mr Waldron withdrew his claim to be
allowed to undertake the adventure; and the choice fell upon Frank.

Once this all-important question was settled, it was obvious that there
was nothing to be gained--indeed, there was much to lose--by putting off
Frank’s departure.  The sooner he was away the better, though they did
not then realise the supreme importance of time, the alarming fact that
the lives both of Sir Thomas and Mr Waldron were to hang upon the thin
thread of a few seconds.

It was decided that Frank should endeavour to make his escape from the
cave that night.  It was in the act of passing the sentries, posted at
the entrance, that the bulk of his danger would lie.  Once the boy
succeeded in getting away from the cave, his absence would probably not
be discovered until the following morning.  He would, in that case, have
several hours’ start of any pursuers whom Cheong-Chau might think fit to
send after him.

Frank had already considered the contingency of making a dash for
liberty.  He had, so far as he had been able to do so from the interior
of the cave, studied the lie of the land.  He had noticed that the
sentries were not particularly vigilant and that they were armed with
old-fashioned, out-of-date fire-arms which they possibly knew not how to
use.  One of these was a Martini-Henry carbine, and Frank had on one
occasion seen a Chinese trying in vain to lower the lever, which was so
rusted on to the lock that it was quite certain that the breech could
never be opened.

Immediately before the entrance to the cave was the huge boulder, or
rock, which has already been described.  On either side of this rock a
sentry was always posted.  But these men did not necessarily face the
cave.  Indeed, as often as not, they looked the other way, interesting
themselves in the wide panorama extended before them.  None the less,
since the two passages on either side of the boulder were very narrow,
one could never hope to pass without being seen.  Escape that way,
therefore, was impossible without a struggle, which meant that the alarm
would be given and a party would immediately start in pursuit of the
fugitive.

This was what Frank most wanted to avoid.  He knew that his attempt was
doomed to failure if he did not succeed in getting well away.  He
therefore examined the rock itself, and saw at once that it would be
quite easy to climb to the top of it.  Since he could not pass _round_
this obstacle he would have to go _over_ it.  On the other side, as he
knew, was the steep mountain slope descending hundreds of feet to the
bed of the valley.  Whether he could climb down the slope at all, much
less do so silently, so as not to be overheard by the sentries, was
another question.  He was resolved, however, to take the risk.  It was
clear that there was no other alternative.  It was a perilous business,
but he must make the best of it, trusting to Providence, as well as his
own agility and presence of mind.



CHAPTER IX--OF THE HOSPITALITY OF THE TEA-GROWER


They waited until nearly midnight, when Cheong-Chau and his ruffians
were sound asleep, and only the sentries awake.  That day, both Sir
Thomas and Mr Waldron had eaten no food since the morning meal, so that
Frank might not set forth upon his journey unprovided.  He would
certainly not be able to procure anything to eat in the desolate
mountain region, though with his intimate knowledge of the Chinese
language the boy should not experience any difficulty in procuring rice,
millet, or even fish, in the valley of the main river.

The most precarious part of the whole business, however, was to escape
unseen from the cave.  In this, neither of the older men could render
the slightest assistance to the boy, who would have to rely solely upon
his own initiative.  All three lay down upon their straw mattresses, and
pretended to sleep, breathing heavily and even snoring, in order to
arouse no suspicion on the part of the two sentries.  They had purposely
allowed the fire to burn down quite low, so that there was only an
exceedingly dim and somewhat fitful light in the cave.

Choosing a moment about an hour after the sentries had been relieved,
Frank Armitage rose stealthily upon his hands and knees, and slowly
began to crawl towards the entrance to the cave.  Neither his uncle nor
Mr Waldron moved.  The latter continued to snore.

Frank approached the entrance from an angle, whence he peered cautiously
round the corner.  He was surprised, and somewhat dismayed, by the
exceeding brightness of the night.  The sky was wonderfully clear; a
full, round moon illumined the rugged mountain ridges, making them
appear so white that they might have been snow-clad, whereas the valleys
seemed by contrast to be buried in the deepest shadow.  By reason of the
firelight in the cave, the brightness of the moon, attended by a
solitary and gorgeous planet, had not been noticeable from within.

The light, however, enabled Frank to take stock of the sentry who was on
the same side of the boulder as himself.  He was able to observe the man
at his leisure, since he himself was in the shade.

The man was evidently wide awake, for he was moving his arms backwards
and forwards with a kind of rocking gesture.  His back was turned.  He
sat cross-legged upon the ground, upon a plaited mat of straw, surveying
the magnificent scene that extended before him.  Perhaps, despite his
brutal features, and low, receding forehead, there was at least a spark
of sensibility, a small power to appreciate the beautiful in nature and
the most wonderful works of God, in the untutored mind of this Chinese
robber and cut-throat.  At any rate, he seemed in a kind of ecstasy, for
he was talking softly to himself.

Frank silently crawled across the entrance.  And there was the other
man, walking slowly to and fro, stamping his feet from time to time, as
if he suffered from the cold.  Clearly, it would be madness to attempt
to escape until this fellow had settled down.  He was far too wide
awake.

The boy lay flat upon his face, in a position not exposed to the
moonlight.  Here he was sure he could not be seen, whereas he was well
able to observe the walking sentry.

Five minutes elapsed, ten, a quarter of an hour.  Frank was becoming
anxious.  Perhaps the man never would sit down; perhaps he did not
intend to relax his vigilance until another came to relieve him of his
duties.

Even as the thought crossed the boy’s mind, the man stopped, yawned
loudly, and then, seating himself upon the ground with his back resting
against the great central rock, produced an opium pipe and proceeded to
roll a pill.

Frank’s heart was in his mouth.  He knew that the moment of his great
ordeal had come.  The man had played into his hands; for not only was
the opium bound to make him drowsy, but he had planted himself in the
very situation that gave the boy his best opportunity.  Frank intended
to climb over the central boulder, and had already satisfied himself
that the ascent would be a matter of no difficulty at all.

What lay beyond was another question.  He had never had any means of
ascertaining whether or not he would be able to climb down the other
side of the rock, much less make the descent of the slope.  He who is
over-cautious will, however, accomplish nothing.  The traveller who
considers the pitfalls in his way and the many dangers that lurk upon
the highroad makes little or no progress, and as often as not fails to
arrive at his destination.  He who would gain all must risk all; he who
will risk nothing gains nothing--or, at least, does not deserve to do
so.

Frank glanced back into the cave.  By the dim light of the fire he was
able to see that both his uncle and Mr Waldron were stretched at full
length upon their mattresses, looking up.  No doubt each was unable to
bear the continued suspense, the silence that had endured so long, but
must take one last look at him who carried with him the fortunes of all
three.

The boy glided into the shadow of the rock.  There he paused a moment,
waiting breathlessly to learn whether or not he had been observed whilst
he was crossing the narrow strip of moonlight.  A minute passed, and as
nothing happened Frank knew that he was still safe.

Then, very slowly, he began to climb.  He had taken off his boots, and
these were suspended by means of the laces around his neck.  He was
careful not to make the slightest sound; he was fearful almost to
breathe.  He knew that the whole enterprise was in jeopardy, that at any
moment a loose stone might fall from the rock, thus attracting the
attention of the sentries.

He succeeded in gaining the top, and there lay flat upon his face.
Knowing that the utmost caution was of far more importance than haste,
he did not move for some time.  Then, slowly lifting his head, he took
in his surroundings.

The sentry on the right had not shifted his position.  He still rocked
his arms and sat staring straight at the moon.  The man on the left was
invisible to Frank, being immediately under the rock.  He had probably
smoked his pipe of opium, and was now in that semi-dazed, self-satisfied
condition that invariably follows an administration of the drug.  The
boy wormed himself forward, until he had gained the furthermost edge of
the rock, which was flat-topped, like a table. Thence he was able to see
into the second cave, where Cheong-Chau and his men were fast asleep,
lying close as dogs around the dying embers of a great charcoal fire.

When Frank peered over the edge of the rock, in order to decide upon the
most suitable means of descent, his heart for a moment failed him. It
was as if he was gazing down into one of the uttermost pits of Hades.

The cliff appeared to be perpendicular, which the boy knew was not the
case.  Moreover, it seemed to descend to eternity, to fade away into a
great expanse of darkness that was like the sea.  It occurred to him
that if by any chance he slipped and fell, his body would be dashed to
atoms thousands of feet below.

Then fortunately he had the strength of mind to remember that
imagination makes cowards of us all.  It was no affair of his what lay
at the bottom of the valley; his immediate business was to descend from
the top of the rock, and he had therefore best confine his attention to
the few square yards in front of him.

Immediately he did so he saw that he was confronted by a proposition by
no means difficult of solution.  To descend was easy enough.  In the
face of the rock was a narrow cleft down which it would be quite easy to
climb.  Without hesitating an instant, he lowered himself, and in a few
seconds found himself at the base of the rock, where he again paused and
listened.

He was so close to the man whom he had seen light the opium pipe that he
could actually hear him breathing.  Neither, however, could see the
other, since the sharp corner of the rock intervened.  However, the
situation was so dangerous that Frank was resolved to have no more of it
than he need; and almost at once he began to descend on all fours the
steep face of the cliff.

He realised that in the first ten yards or so his greatest danger lay.
He could not tell for certain whether or not he was within sight of
either of the men.  He could but take the only possible precaution.
Lying almost flat upon his face, he slid, very slowly indeed, at about
what seemed to him a snail’s pace, down the smooth, rocky slope.

In three minutes he knew that he was out of immediate danger.  He had
escaped.  Moreover, no alarm had been given.

Two courses now lay open to him: he might continue to descend until he
eventually reached the bottom of the valley, or he might work his way
along the cliff, parallel to the bridle-path above, until, having gained
comparative safety, he could ascend to the higher level and then follow
the road to the south.

He wisely selected the latter alternative, since he knew not whether the
slope was accessible lower down.  Besides, it might so happen that there
was neither path nor road in the valley.

Owing to the steepness of the slope, he could not stand upright, nor was
there any need to do so.  He could progress, if not with comfort, at
least at a very tolerable pace, on all fours.

He had traversed in this way a distance that, was probably about a
quarter of a mile, when he deemed that it would be safe to ascend to the
path above by means of which he and his fellow-captives had been
conducted to the cave.  This he gained without difficulty, it being
easier to mount the slope than to progress transversely across it.

Once upon the bridle-path he found the moonlight of the greatest
possible assistance; for having put on his boots he was able to set
forward running, knowing full well that every step lengthened the
distance between himself and those who he knew would certainly, sooner
or later, set forth in pursuit.

It would be wearisome to describe in detail Frank Armitage’s adventurous
journey across the mountains.  Sunrise found him still upon the road,
alternately walking and running, hurrying forward for life itself.

The fact that for three whole days he saw not a single soul speaks for
itself in regard to the desolation of this wilderness.  On the morning
of the fourth day he found himself in the midst of the foot-hills, with
a clear view before him of the fertile valley of the West River.  By
then he had consumed all the provisions he had brought with him from the
cave.  He was, indeed, almost famishing, and felt tempted to take almost
any risk to procure something to eat.  That afternoon he encountered
several peasants, who all regarded him with undisguised curiosity.
Knowing that Cheong-Chau was sure to have despatched a party in pursuit,
and realising the supreme importance of time, he considered that it
would be advisable to ask one of the inhabitants of the country the
shortest route to the nearest main tributary of the river.

He selected his man with care, and after a considerable amount of
hesitation, addressed himself to a little thin, prosperous-looking
Chinaman of the middle class whom he overtook upon the narrow mule-track
he had followed for several miles.

On being interrogated, the Chinaman was not a little surprised, though
he was far too well-bred and polite to say so.  He was surprised at two
things: first, he had never expected to meet with a European in such an
out-of-the-way corner of the province; secondly, he was amazed that the
young Englishman should address him so fluently in his own language.

"You have travelled far?" he asked.

"From Hong-Kong," answered Frank.

"That is a long way."

"It is of the greatest importance," said Frank, "that I return without
delay."

"Many days’ journey is before you," said the Chinese.  "I should be
greatly honoured if you would deign to accept such hospitality as my
miserable self is in a position to offer.  I am a tea-grower," he
continued.  "My house is not far from here.  I should be deeply
gratified if you would eat rice under my dilapidated roof."

It immediately occurred to Frank that the tea-grower might be able to
assist him in more ways than one.  He readily accepted the man’s offer
in the manner duly approved by Chinese etiquette and custom.

"Such a despicable, beggarly foreigner as myself," said he, "would be
inexpressibly delighted to partake, in your palatial residence, of such
nourishing and delicious provender as, I am sure, it is the custom of
yourself and your honoured family to consume."

The Chinaman smiled.

"You speak our language to perfection," he remarked.  "Few foreigners
are able to do so.  But what is even more extraordinary to me is that
you appear to be acquainted with our forms of ceremony.  As a general
rule, the European cannot speak to you for five minutes without being
guilty of a dozen breaches of etiquette, defying every canon of good
behaviour."

"You see," said Frank, "I have lived in China for many years."

"Come with me," said the tea-grower.  "Allow me to have the honour of
conducting you to my hovel of a dwelling."

Together they followed the mule-track for about a quarter of a mile, and
then the Chinese turned to the left, walking along a narrow bank that
separated two flooded ricefields.  Beyond they passed through a field of
_kiao-liang_, in the midst of which the crickets were singing merrily,
and then found themselves in an extensive tea-garden.

In the centre of the garden was a considerable house, built after the
manner of all better-class houses in China--that is to say, a
one-storied rambling building, together with several outhouses and a
fair-sized yard, the whole surrounded by a mud wall about eight feet in
height.  The building was situated upon a gentle slope that faced due
south, and from the outer gate it was possible to survey the greater
part of the plantation.

Here the tea-grower entertained Frank Armitage.  He gave him green tea
to drink and a cup of alcoholic beverage--called _samshu_--which is made
from fermented rice.  And then came a dinner of about fourteen courses.
There were various kinds of fish, sharks’ fins, larks’ tongues,
birds’-nest soup, small pieces of meat on little skewers, rice, millet
and edible seaweed from Japan.  Frank devoured all these delicacies with
a relish.  It was not the first time that he had eaten a Chinese dinner.
Although the tea-grower lived in the wilds of the province he was
evidently a rich man.  He had the true gift of hospitality, and with
more sincerity than is usually the case in China he offered his guest
everything that his house contained.

Now Frank might have refused this offer.  In fact, the rules of ceremony
decreed that he should do so.  He had a mind, however, to disguise
himself, and he therefore begged the tea-grower to be so good as to
provide him with a suit of Chinese clothes.

The man did not hesitate.  He supplied the boy with a long robe, a pair
of white trousers and a pair of felt-soled shoes.  Thus attired, Frank
Armitage bade his host adieu and crossed the tea-garden late that night,
when the moon, which had guided him throughout the past three or four
days, was rising in the east.

The tea-grower seemed to have taken a fancy to the boy, for he
accompanied Frank almost a mile upon his journey, putting him upon the
road which led to the village in which the majority of his coolies, or
workpeople, lived.  In bidding good-bye to him, Frank thanked the man
from his heart for all his hospitality and kindness.  He shook hands
with himself in the approved Chinese fashion, and bowed so low that his
nose almost touched his knees.  Then he was about to set forward alone
when the tea-grower cried out to him, asking him if he had any money.

Frank replied that he was without a cent in the world, telling the
truth--that he had been robbed of all he possessed in the mountains.
Whereupon the tea-grower took from his neck a long string of copper
cash.  These he threw over the boy’s head, at the same time quoting
Confucius: "_Be charitable to the stranger from a far country! so that,
when thou thyself art a stranger, doors may be opened to thy knock._"



CHAPTER X--HOW FRANK WAS IN LUCK’S WAY


Frank found the village without any difficulty.  Although it was then
almost midnight, there were lights in the majority of houses, and
several shops were open.  The Chinese are a singular race.  One of the
first things that strikes a visitor to that remarkable country is the
fact that the inhabitants never appear to go to bed.  No people in the
world work harder by day, and no people in the world are more inclined
to talk, laugh, quarrel and gamble throughout the night, into the small
hours of the morning.

Frank marched boldly into a barber’s shop, where he expressed a desire
to have the forepart of his head shaven.  The barber could scarce
contain his astonishment when he observed that his patron had no
pigtail.  He was vastly curious with regard to the matter, asking
several questions as he sharpened his big Chinese razor--which was
something after the shape and about the size of the business-end of a
Dutch hoe.  Frank informed the man that he had been robbed, and no doubt
the fellow presumed that the robbers had cut off their victim’s queue.

The boy rightly supposed that he could talk quite frankly about his own
affairs in a village which was populated almost exclusively by honest
men who worked in the tea-gardens.  But what most surprised him, and at
the same time afforded him the greatest possible satisfaction, was that
no one in the barber’s shop appeared to notice the fact that he was a
European.

Now a Chinaman can suffer no greater disgrace than the loss of his
pigtail.  Viewed historically, this is a strange circumstance.  The
mediæval Chinese did not wear pigtails.  It was the Manchu race, who
conquered the Chinese in the fifteenth century, who grew their hair long
and plaited it in the well-known manner.  The Manchus were horsemen of
whom it might be said that they almost worshipped their horses, and the
queue was originally grown in imitation of a horse’s tail.  For the same
reason the Manchu warriors adopted those wide coat-sleeves, which even
to this day are called "horseshoe sleeves." It was mainly by means of
their excellent cavalry that the Tartar warriors were able to overcome
the Chinese foot-soldiers.

A conquering race invariably enforces certain obligations and
restrictions upon the vanquished, and one of the first Manchurian
imperial edicts issued was to the effect that all Chinese should adopt
the pigtail as a symbol of their submission to the dominant people.  In
the course of a few centuries what was originally a token of defeat
became a source of national prejudice and pride.  The Chinaman of the
nineteenth century was as loth to part with his pigtail as his
forefather had been to adopt it.

The barber sympathised with Frank.  Moreover, his sympathy took a
practical turn.  He undertook for a few copper cash to supply the boy
with a new pigtail, and also to attach it to his head in such a manner
as would make it appear to be natural.  All this, however, took time,
and it was past one o’clock in the morning when Frank Armitage left the
village and continued on his way, downhill, through tea-gardens and the
ricefields, following the narrow path which, he had been told, would
conduct him to the river.

What the name of the river was he had not been able to ascertain.
Everybody he asked told him a different name.  That is usually the case
in China.  One man will say a village is called the Village of the Wu
family; another will say it is the Village of the Chin family; and a
third will be equally certain that it is called One-Tree Village.  And
when you get there, you will find it is called Bad-Weather Village, or
the Village of Starving Dogs.  Knowing this, Frank did not bother
himself about the name of the river.  Provided he came to it, he would
be satisfied, since the water of that river must eventually find its way
into the main stream which flowed past Wu-chau to Canton, and thence to
the great estuary, at the mouth of which was the island of Hong-Kong.

He reached the river at about midday.  By then the heat in the valley
was excessive, and the boy thoroughly exhausted.  He had been travelling
day and night for several days.  With the exception of the almost regal
banquet he had enjoyed at the house of the tea-grower, he had had
insufficient nourishment.  There had been few nights when he had had
more than three or four hours’ sleep.  He felt quite unable to progress
farther on foot.

He therefore hailed a fisherman whom he observed approaching down the
stream in a small _sampan_, or river-boat.  The man--so soon as he
understood that a bargain was afoot--drew in to the bank and undertook
for an exceedingly small sum of money to take Frank down-stream to a
certain large town to which he himself was going.  Frank got into the
boat, and lying down beneath the matted awning that sheltered the stern
part from the fierce rays of the sun, he was soon fast asleep.  Whilst
he slept, he covered several miles of his journey.  The fisherman had
hoisted a sail, and the wind being from the north, and the strength of
the current great, the boat travelled at a considerable velocity.

When the boy awoke, refreshed from his sleep, he found to his surprise
that the sun had set.  Darkness was spreading rapidly, and a thick white
mist clung to the river-valley.  The atmosphere, however, was
exceedingly close and humid, and the air was alive with myriads of
mosquitoes and gnats.

Frank asked the fisherman where they were, and the man replied, with
Oriental vagueness:

"We come soon to Kwang-Chin," said he.  "That is the end of my journey!"

"And where is Kwang-Chin?" asked Frank.

"Very nice town," replied the man, evading the question.  "Plenty
cooked-dog shops.  Little Kwang-Chin dogs are very good to eat, better
than little Canton dogs."

Frank knew the uselessness of trying to get anything definite out of the
fisherman.  He therefore lay back in a comfortable attitude, and gave
himself up to thoughts of the perilous situation in which he had left Mr
Waldron and his uncle.

He wondered how far Men-Ching had progressed upon his journey to the
coast.  So far as he could guess, the rascal should be already in
Canton.  At the same time, though he did not know where the town of
Kwang-Chin was, he believed that he himself could not be far from the
great capital of Southern China.  Canton was but a few hours by river
steamboat from Hong-Kong.  The boy had therefore completed the greater
part of his journey.

They arrived at Kwang-Chin in the small hours of the morning, and Frank
could not persuade the fisherman to take him any farther.  He was
therefore obliged to go ashore and attempt to find a lodging for what
remained of the night.

This was no easy matter, for the town appeared to consist of nothing but
opium dens.  It was an old walled city, the ramparts and gateways of
which must have been built centuries before, in the days when China was
harassed and ravaged by continual internecine wars.  Frank, who did not
feel capable of travelling farther that night, decided to wait till
morning, when he might be able to find another fisherman who would
consent to take him down-stream, probably as far as the main river, if
not to Canton itself.  In the meantime, he realised that he could do
nothing better than snatch a few hours’ additional rest, recognising the
fact that he would still be called upon to undergo considerable
hardships and dangers.

He therefore plucked up courage, and entered the first opium den he came
to, in the doorway of which he had observed a light.  He found himself
in an establishment similar in all respects to that which has already
been described as nourishing in the slums of Canton under the
proprietorship of Ah Wu.  This place, however, was very much dirtier,
and--with the exception of Cheong-Chau’s brigands--Frank had never seen
a more villainous collection of men than the habitués of the place, who
were sprawled in all manner of attitudes upon the various couches.  And
then he was astounded, and at the same time considerably alarmed, to
observe that several of these coolies were wearing scarlet coats,
similar in all respects to those worn by the bandits.  But, once inside,
he could not very well beat a hasty retreat.  He summoned to his aid all
his presence of mind and addressed himself to the proprietor, a
venerable-looking man with gold-rimmed spectacles and a white
goat’s-beard.

"I desire, for a few hours," said the boy, speaking in his best
idiomatic Cantonese, "a couch upon which to sleep.  I am a poor man," he
added, "but I will pay you to the best of my ability."

"You will not smoke opium?" asked the host, opening his eyes in
surprise.

"I have not the habit," said Frank.

The proprietor adjusted his spectacles upon the very tip of his nose and
regarded the boy from over the top of the glasses.

"How very remarkable!" he observed.  "Every man, however, can please
himself.  You may certainly sleep here.  My charge is forty _cash_."

Now forty cash is the equivalent of two-pence, and this does not appear
to the European mind to be an exorbitant charge for a night’s lodging.
But Frank Armitage knew the Chinese character.  He had a part to act,
and he knew how to act it.  He remembered that a Chinaman loves a
bargain.

"I will give you thirty cash," said he.

The old man pointed to the couch.  "It is an excellent bed," said he.
"The hangings are of silk, and I guarantee that the mattress is free
from vermin.  I will let you have it for thirty-eight cash."

"I offer you thirty-two," said Frank.  "Remember, I require it for a few
hours only."

"In that case," said the landlord, "we will say thirty-six."

"I will give you thirty-four."

"Good!" cried the landlord.  "We will call it thirty-five and have done
with the matter."

Thereupon Frank counted out thirty-five of the little copper coins which
the tea-grower had given him and which he carried upon a string slung
around his neck like a necklace.  Indeed each _cash_ has a little square
hole in the middle of it for this purpose.

Having settled his account, the boy took off his coat, for the heat of
the room was intense and the atmosphere foul with the mingled odour of
paraffin oil, opium smoke and Chinese garlic He arranged the pillow,
then stretched himself at full length upon the couch.  A group of three
or four men at the other end of the room were talking loudly, and it was
the constant sound of their voices that made it difficult for the boy to
fall asleep.

He was dozing off, and in that blissful state which lies midway between
slumber and consciousness, when he was startled by a remark that came to
his ears very distinctly from the other end of the room.

"They tell me that Cheong-Chau has returned to the mountains."

The answer was a chuckle.

"Cheong-Chau is never idle," came the reply.  "Rumour has it that there
are fine fish in his net.  Do you know that Men-Ching passed through
here late yesterday afternoon?"

"Indeed!  And where was he going?"

"He did not say."

"Some secret business," said the other.  "Men-Ching is no more than the
coolie of Cheong-Chau.  He does all the dirty work.  He runs the
errands."

It was here that the voice of a third man joined in the conversation.

"I know where Men-Ching was going," said he.  "I made it my business to
find out.  He goes to Canton to the opium den of Ah Wu, which lies near
the Mohammedan Mosque.  He did not leave this place till nearly ten
o’clock to-night, after having smoked several pipes of opium.  He is a
great smoker, Men-Ching.  He went down the river on a _wupan_ that was
taking a cargo of rice to Canton.  The _wupan_ calls at Sanshui, to take
on board certain chests of tea."

The man who had spoken first laughed loudly.

"You know everything, Hsien-Lu," said he.  "You are always prying into
other people’s affairs.  For myself, though I wear the scarlet coat, I
think it well to give Cheong-Chau as wide a berth as possible.  He will
have his head cut off some day.  That is beyond all doubt.  And on that
occasion I should prefer not to accompany him.  And now, good-night.  I
desire to sleep.  The opium has made me drowsy."

After that there was silence.  Frank gave them about ten minutes in
which to prepare themselves for slumber.  Then he got up from his couch,
put on his coat and, unobserved, left the opium den.

Outside he took in a deep breath of the fresh night air, then hurried in
the direction of the river.  He realised that fortune had played in a
remarkable manner into his hands.  Men-Ching was but a few hours in
front of him.  He intended, if possible, to overtake the man and possess
himself of the letters.  He might be able to do this by stealth if he
could not succeed by force.  He could, at any rate, make sure that the
letters reached their destination, since the lives of both his uncle and
Mr Waldron depended upon their delivery into the hands of the Governor
of Hong-Kong.



CHAPTER XI--OF THE REAPPEARANCE OF LING


Walking rapidly, the boy soon found himself upon the right bank of the
river.  Though there was as yet no sign of daybreak in the east, several
people were already abroad, for the Chinese begin their day’s work early
in the morning and do not cease till late at night.  Parties of men were
engaged in loading the junks and _wupans_ which were moored to the
wharves and jetties.

Frank walked along the river-side until he found a junk about to sail.
He hailed the captain, a tall, sun-burnt Chinaman with his pigtail
coiled round the top of his head, who wore hardly any clothes at all.
This man informed him that the junk was bound upon a fishing cruise upon
the open sea.  He readily agreed to take Frank as far as Canton for a
small consideration in the way of copper cash; and a minute later, the
boy was on board, whilst the junk moved down-stream under full canvas.

Nearly all the relatives of the captain and his crew had come down to
the wharf to bid them good-bye.  There were small-footed Chinese women,
and little round-faced, naked children, each of whom appeared to have
eaten so much rice that he looked in danger of bursting.  There was much
wailing and gnashing of teeth--for the Chinese on occasion can be
exceedingly emotional--and no sooner was the junk clear of her moorings
than the silence of the morning was disturbed by a veritable fusillade
of Chinese squibs, rockets and crackers.

Indeed it might have been an Eastern Fifth of November.  A great bundle
of gunpowder crackers, tied to the poop of the vessel, went off in a
kind of _feu de joie_, sending out so many sparks in all directions that
it appeared that the ship was in danger of catching fire.  The idea and
object of this custom, which is universal throughout China from Tonkin
to the Great Wall, is to scare away the evil spirits which might be
disposed to embark on board the departing ship.  The Chinese believe in
the potency and the ubiquity of evil spirits.  A European--commonly
called "a foreign devil"--is invariably accompanied by a host of such
attendant ghosts.  Indeed, it is extremely difficult for any man, even a
virtuous Chinese, to avoid being shadowed by malignant spooks who desire
nothing more than to lead him into calamity and misfortune.  There is,
as every Chinese is well aware, but one method of driving away these
evil spirits, and that is by exploding so much gunpowder and creating
such a noise, that they flee in all haste back to the spirit land whence
they come.

Frank Armitage observed this ceremony from the forepart of the boat. He
had often witnessed such a scene before in the Chinese quarter of the
harbour of Hong-Kong, but he had seldom seen such an expensive and
gorgeous display.  It was evident that the master and owner of the junk
was a rich man who could afford to insure his property at the maximum
premium.  Also, this particular junk had an unusually large pair of eyes
painted upon the bows.  As the captain himself explained later in the
day, if a junk has no eyes it cannot see where it is going.  If a junk
cannot see where it is going, it will probably, sooner or later, strike
a rock or another ship, or run ashore.  That would be a disaster for
both the junk and its owner.  Hence a junk must have eyes the same as a
man.  This argument is thoroughly Chinese and would be entirely rational
provided the painted eyes upon the bows of a Chinese ship were of the
slightest practical use.

All that day they sailed down-stream towards the centre of the great
valley of the West River.  Every mile the country became more and more
thickly populated.  They passed many villages situated upon both banks
of the river, the houses in the majority of cases overhanging the water,
supported by heavy wooden piles.  The country was exceedingly fertile,
being given over almost exclusively to the cultivation of rice.  There
were few trees and few hills except far in the distance, towards the
north, where the foothills of the great Nan-ling Mountains stood forth
upon the horizon like a wall.

Late the following afternoon the river joined a wider stream flowing
towards the south-east.  This Frank at first believed to be the West
River itself, but he was informed by the captain of the junk that the
Si-kiang was still fifty _li_ to the south.

It was midnight when they turned into the main stream, and soon
afterwards they saw before them the bright lights of the city of
Sanshui, which is situated about twenty-five miles due west of Canton.

At this place, Frank was in two minds what to do.  He might go straight
on to Canton and thence down the river to Hong-Kong, at both of which
places he would be able to get in touch with his friends.  On the other
hand, he had every reason to suppose that Men-Ching was at that very
moment in the city of Sanshui.  The junk had made good headway down the
river, and the boy knew that the boat on which Cheong-Chau’s messenger
had come south was to call at Sanshui to take on a cargo.

Now there is no doubt that Frank Armitage would have been wise had he
first considered his own safety.  He was already practically out of
danger; there was no vital necessity for him to put his head
deliberately into the lion’s mouth.  If his determination appears to be
rash, it may be supposed that he was guided by some natural instinct
that warned him that, in this case, the most dangerous course was the
only means by which his uncle and Mr Waldron could be saved.

Be that as it may, he argued thus: from the very moment he escaped from
the cave his journey had been extraordinarily uneventful; he saw no
reason why it should not continue to be so.  If Cheong-Chau’s men were
in pursuit he had seen nothing of them; he had apparently left them
miles behind.  He had every reason to be satisfied with his disguise; he
was fairly confident that even if he found Men-Ching he would not be
recognised, since he knew the old man to be extremely short-sighted.
Throughout his journey, he had experienced no difficulty in passing
himself off as a Chinese.  The barber, the proprietor of the opium den,
the fisherman and the captain of the junk--all had taken him to be a
native of the country.  The boy was sanguine of success; he never dreamt
for a moment of failure.  He saw no reason why he should not succeed in
finding Men-Ching, in tracking the old rascal all the way to Hong-Kong
and there having him arrested by the British police authorities.  He
even considered the possibility of completing the remainder of his
journey actually in the company of Men-Ching and his companion.

He therefore asked the captain of the junk to set him ashore.  He paid
the man according to his agreement, and found himself, at about one
o’clock in the morning, in the centre of a very dilapidated and
evil-smelling city.

Since he had slept a good deal on board the junk--there being nothing
else for him to do--he decided to remain awake until daybreak, keeping a
close watch upon the _bund_, alongside which the junks and river-boats
were moored.  He felt sure, from what he had overheard in the opium den,
that one of the many _wupans_ that lay alongside the wharves was that
upon which Men-Ching had come down the river.  His object was first to
discover the _wupan_.  He would then have no difficulty in finding
Men-Ching himself.

The boy seated himself upon the end of a jetty whence he could obtain a
good view of the harbour.  A watery moon was low in the heavens, and
this, together with the stars, illumined the river with an iridescent,
ghostly light, by which it was possible to see for a considerable
distance.

The hour was as yet too early for the riverside workmen to begin work.
The _bund_ was deserted save for a number of rats, which were to be seen
quite clearly continually crossing the open space that separated the
houses from the ships.

Though the night was warm the air was somewhat damp, and Frank, fearing
that he would contract malarial fever, rose to his feet and strolled
casually down the jetty.  At the corner of a narrow street he came quite
suddenly face to face with a most alarming personage.

The expression "face to face" cannot be taken literally, for the man was
a giant, and Frank’s face was scarcely on a level with his chest. In the
shadowy slums of a poverty-stricken Chinese town, at such a ghostly hour
as two o’clock in the morning, to find oneself unexpectedly confronted
by an individual of the stature of a Goliath and with the countenance of
a demon, is an experience well calculated to give a jolt to the nervous
system of anyone.  To put the truth in a word, Frank Armitage was
frightened out of his wits, and these fears were by no means dissipated
when the Herculean stranger, without the least warning, grasped him by
the collar of his coat and lifted him bodily from off his feet.

"Ha!" the man roared, in the Cantonese of the educated classes.  "A
river-side thief!  A junk rat!  A prowler by night!  Tell me, friend
weasel, have you stolen rice from on board a Canton junk, or a
night-watchman’s supper?"

"I pray you, sir," cried Frank, "put me down upon my feet again.  I am
no thief, I assure you, but a peaceable citizen of Wu-chau, who goes
upon a visit to his grandfather."

"A peaceable citizen!" roared the man, bursting into laughter.  "That’s
good, indeed.  I would have you to know that all citizens are peaceful
when they fall into the hands of the mighty Ling."

So if Frank were none the wiser, the reader at any rate is better
informed.  Frank Armitage had never in his life, to the best of his
knowledge, heard of the mighty Ling.  The reader, however, has made that
extraordinary man’s acquaintance.  He knows that Ling was not by any
means one who could be trifled with, and he has been given some kind of
a notion of the character and reputation of this same unmitigated
villain who was wont to call himself "the mighty Ling."

The giant set down the boy upon his feet, planting him immediately in
front of him.

"I have need of you," said he.  "It is possible you may be able to
render me some assistance.  You doubtless have not failed to observe
that the gods have made me too big to hide myself without considerable
inconvenience.  It is in this regard that you can help me.  If you do so
faithfully I shall reward you.  If you attempt to play the fool with me,
you go into the river with a twisted neck.  And now, follow, my junk
rat!  Follow me!"

At that, he grasped the boy by a wrist and, taking such tremendous
strides that Frank was obliged almost to run, dragged him along the
wharf.



CHAPTER XII--HOW MEN-CHING ESCAPED


Ling led the way to one of the many warehouses which were situated along
the wharf--which in China are called "go-downs."  On attempting to open
the door and finding it locked, with one wrench the Chinaman tore the
hinges from the jamb and, casting the door aside, dragged Frank into a
great darkened chamber that smelt of grease or some kind of oil.  There
he struck a match.

One of the first objects that attracted his attention was a candle stuck
in the neck of a bottle, and this he at once lighted so that the place
was dimly illumined.

The "go-down" was filled with all manner of packing-cases, casks,
barrels and bales.  Picking these up, one after another, as though each
weighed but a few pounds, the great Honanese--who might have been in a
towering rage--threw them right and left, breaking many open, and
creating such a disturbance that Frank was surprised that the whole town
was not awakened.

After a while, by means of such brutal violence, he had make a way for
himself to the farther end of the warehouse.  Thither he ordered Frank
to bring the candle, and then proceeded to ascend a step-ladder that led
through a trap-door, such as one usually finds over stables, to an upper
story.

The boy, following his captor, found himself in a kind of loft,
containing all manner of things--rope, sails, fishing-nets, straw and
sacks of millet.  Here Ling, holding the candle well above his head,
carefully examined the roof.

He very soon found what he was looking for, and, laughing aloud, ordered
Frank to come to him.  Laying one of his enormous hands upon the boy’s
shoulder, he suddenly burst forth into the following eulogy upon his own
abilities and prowess.

"The mighty Ling," he declared, "is the favoured child of the gods;
swift as the kite, wise as the tortoise, strong as the tigers of Amoy.
There are few things within the attainment of mortal man that Ling
cannot accomplish.  Scholar, poet, robber, soldier, merchant,
mandarin--all these am I, and more.  But there is one thing, I declare
to you, that is beyond me.  Guess, my little junk rat, what it is?"

Fortunately Ling did not appear to expect an answer, for he ran on,
without giving the boy time to reply:

"Do you see that man-hole in the roof?" he asked, pointing upward.
"Well, the sages themselves could not devise a method by which the
mighty Ling could pass through there.  But you can, my monkey, and
thither you go, whether you want to or not."

"What am I to do when I get there?" asked Frank, who could think of no
way of escaping from this truculent, swaggering monster.

"Know you nothing," roared Ling, "of the sayings of the seers?  How it
is written truly that ’Patience filleth the stomach, whereas he that
hurries to the feast falleth by the way’?  Hearken unto me and ask no
questions."

He placed the candle upon the ground and seated himself straddle-legged
across a sack, with his great legs sprawled out before him.  Frank
regarded the man’s face in the candlelight, and thought that he had
never seen anyone of appearance more formidable and sinister.

His huge countenance was like a mask of some weird and evil Eastern god.
There were deep lines scored about his forehead, mouth and eyes--lines
of wrath; so that even in moments of rest he appeared to be in the
throes of an uncontrollable passion.  And this expression of fierceness
and of anger was intensified by his black, glittering eyes, which seemed
to pierce whatsoever he regarded.  In addition to this, Frank was
impressed by the gigantic proportions of the Honanese: his great sinewy
hands, the muscles in his neck, his thighs, each as thick as the waist
of a smaller man.

"Listen," said he.  "Listen to the description of the man who goes by
the name of Men-Ching, who is a fool who believed in his blindness that
he and his cur-dog friends could cheat the mighty Ling."

It was as if Frank Armitage had been struck.  He was so astonished at
the sudden mention of Men-Ching’s name that he caught his breath in a
kind of gasp.  Fortunately Ling was not looking at him at the moment.
The man had drawn a long knife of Malay design from his belt, and was
examining it fondly, feeling the sharpness of the blade with his thumb.

"This man," said Ling, "is over sixty years of age--old in crime, but a
babe in matters of intelligence.  He has a long thin beard upon his chin
and his grey queue is no larger than the tail of a rat.  He wears a
faded scarlet coat, and limps with his left foot when he walks. Also, he
rubs his hands together as if he were always pleased. Pleased!" roared
Ling.  "When he sets eyes upon me, the pleasure will go out of him as a
candle is blown out in the draught.  But, tell me, you have listened and
will remember?"

Frank answered that he had paid strict attention.  He did not think it
incumbent upon him to advise the "mighty Ling" that he already knew
Men-Ching perfectly well.  He was both amazed by the coincidence and
utterly bewildered as regards the business which these two could have in
common.  He did not dream for a moment that Ling was as dangerous to
himself as the redoubtable Cheong-Chau: that he now found himself in the
presence of the man who would soon hold in his great hands the trump
cards in this colossal game of Death.

Ling picked up the candle, and rose to his full height.

"If I lift you up by the feet," said he, "you should be able to reach
that rafter.  Thence, without difficulty, you should be able to gain the
man-hole, and so to the roof.  From the roof you will obtain an
excellent view of the harbour.  The moonlight should be sufficient to
enable you to see anyone who approaches.  Keep your eyes open, and the
moment you see the man whom I have described let me know.  I will remain
here."

Frank had no alternative but to obey the instructions of this
extraordinary ruffian.  Indeed, he was powerless as a mouse in the jaws
of a cat.  He was ordered to straighten himself, to remain in a position
perfectly upright and rigid, and then he was lifted high above the man’s
head until he was within easy reach of one of the rafters. Swinging
himself on to this, he gained the man-hole which had been pointed out to
him, and a moment after he found himself upon the roof.

Thence--as Ling had predicted--he was able to look down upon the
numerous wharves and jetties along the bank of the river.  The moon was
sinking low, but it was so magnified by refraction on account of the
moisture in the atmosphere that the boy was able to see quite clearly,
not only the various junks, _wupans_ and _sampans_ that lay anchored
along the shore, but also the whole extent of the _bund_ itself.

A party of coolies was already at work, and in several places there were
signs of life on board the ships.  Frank, looking down through the
man-hole through which he had passed, could see the mighty Ling, who had
taken a book from his pocket and was reading aloud by means of the
candlelight.  He was reading the _Analects of Confucius_, a volume that
is admitted to contain some of the purest ethical reasoning in the
world.  The man read aloud in a deep voice that sounded to Frank like a
roll of far distant thunder.  He was obviously fully conscious of the
literary and philosophic beauty of the famous maxims.

As for Frank, his thoughts were purely material.  He could not think why
this singular and terrible man should be so anxious to find Men-Ching.
He knew, however, that it was essential that he himself should get into
touch with Cheong-Chau’s second-in-command. Personally, he was not in
the least inclined to render assistance to Ling.  But he could not deny
the fact, even to himself, that he feared the man more than he had ever
feared anyone before--even the giants and ogres of which, as a child, he
had been wont to dream.  He knew that his life was at stake, that Ling
would not hesitate to kill him if, through any fault of his, Men-Ching
managed to escape.

There could be no doubt that Men-Ching was at that moment in the town,
probably in one of the numerous opium dens which are to be found in
every Chinese city.  Frank had gleaned that information, and somehow or
other Ling was equally well informed.  It was also certain that some
time that morning Men-Ching would embark and proceed upon his journey to
Canton.  Frank, therefore, kept a sharp look-out for the man, but it was
only fear of Ling that impelled him to do so.

About half-an-hour before sunrise, when the first signs of daybreak were
visible in the east, Men-Ching and his companion were among the first
people to arrive upon the wharf.  They went straight to a _wupan_ that
was moored at a distance of about two hundred yards from the door which
Ling had broken from its hinges.  There Men-Ching called out in a loud
voice in order to awaken the owner of the boat, who was asleep under the
awning.  Frank had no doubt that he had found the right man, for he
recognised his voice, and besides the light was sufficient to enable him
to identify the old man’s scarlet coat.

The boy looked down through the man-hole into the great loft below. Ling
was still reading, though the candle had almost burned out.

"He is on the wharf," cried Frank.  "He is about to go on board.  The
fisherman is preparing to hoist his sail."

On the instant, Ling closed his book and, springing to his feet,
hastened to the head of the step-ladder that led to the room below.  He
did not trouble himself in the least about Frank, who was left upon the
roof.  By no means content to remain an inactive spectator of what was
to follow, the boy descended rapidly to the rafter, and thence dropped
to the floor, stinging his feet severely.  A few seconds later he was
swarming down the ladder, hastening after Ling, who had already gained
the _bund_.

Men-Ching had just boarded the boat, when for the first time he caught
sight of the mighty Ling, who charged down upon him like an infuriated
tiger.  Frank was in time to see the expression of absolute horror and
dismay which was stamped upon every feature of the old man’s face.  At
the sight of Ling, Men-Ching’s jaw dropped and his eyes opened wide, and
seemed in danger of springing from his head.

"Make haste!" he shrieked.  "If I fall into that man’s hands, everything
is lost!"

With feverish hands the old man uncoiled the rope that secured the bows
of the _wupan_ to a wooden bollard.  He succeeded in doing this in the
nick of time, for when he was in the very act of pushing the boat clear
of the wharf by means of a long boathook, Ling gained the shore and
snatched the boathook from his hand.

[Illustration: "LING SNATCHED THE BOATHOOK FROM HIS HAND."]

In the meantime Men-Ching’s companion, who had accompanied him
throughout his journey from the cave, had seized an oar, with which he
propelled the boat clear of the clustered shipping.  By that time the
fisherman who owned the _wupan_ had hoisted his sail, which, filling
immediately with the strong west wind, carried the boat down-stream at a
considerable velocity.

Ling was like a raging beast.  Stamping with his feet, he filled the air
with the most terrible Chinese oaths--and there is no language in the
world richer in expletives than the dialect of Southern China.  The
man’s rage lasted no more than a moment.  Determined not to allow
Men-Ching to get out of sight, he looked about him for some method of
following in pursuit.  His eyes fell immediately upon a small sailing
_sampan_, with a long oar fastened to the stern which did duty as a
rudder.

"That will serve my purpose," he exclaimed, and then, lifting his great
voice to the full extent of his lungs, he shouted after the _wupan_.

"Men-Ching," he cried, "you can never hope to evade me.  Go north to
beyond the Great Wall, or south to Singapore, and the mighty Ling shall
follow."

Then, turning, he beheld Frank Armitage at his elbow.

"And you shall come with me," he roared.  "There must be two of us to
manage the boat."

He bundled the boy, neck and crop, into the _sampan_, and a few minutes
later they were flying down-stream in pursuit of the _wupan_, upon the
broad waters of the great West River that flows through the mammoth city
of Canton.



CHAPTER XIII--HOW FRANK WAS CAUGHT IN THE TOILS


Throughout the greater part of the morning the pursuit continued without
the _sampan_ gaining upon the larger boat.  Indeed, when they had sailed
a few miles towards the east it became apparent to Ling that they were
losing ground, that the distance between the two boats was gradually
becoming greater.

The man was infuriated.  He stood at his great height in the bows of the
_sampan_ from time to time, shaking his fist at the scarlet coat of
Men-Ching, who was plainly visible upon the deck of the river-junk.
After a time, however, Ling’s wrath subsided; and seating himself, he
confined his attention to the management of the sail.  Frank, who was in
the stern of the boat, had received orders to steer.

Ling shrugged his great shoulders and came out with a kind of grunt.

"He shall not escape me," said he, talking aloud to himself.  "The old
fool would be wiser to haul down the sail of the _wupan_ and throw
himself upon my mercy."

Frank, summoning to his aid all his moral courage, decided to question
the man outright, taking the bull by the horns.

"Why do you want this man Men-Ching?" he asked.

Ling looked up, lifting his black eyebrows, and then chuckled.

"Men-Ching carries upon his person certain letters," said he.  "I would
have you to know that those letters are worth thousands of dollars."

Frank Armitage was so much astonished that it was some moments before he
could recover his presence of mind.  How was this man, of all people, in
possession of such information?  Ling was certainly not a member of
Cheong-Chau’s brigand band.  It was only a week before that Men-Ching
had been entrusted with the letters--indeed, he had not been given
possession of them until immediately after they were written. The whole
thing was a mystery that Frank was in no position to solve.

Sitting amidships in the boat, the man continued to chuckle.

"I will find him in Canton," said he.  "He is certain to go to the house
of Ah Wu.  There I will find him.  I will take possession of those
letters.  A score of men could not prevent me.  If Men-Ching hands them
over quietly all will be well.  If he resists, I cannot say what will
happen."  And Ling shrugged his shoulders.

Frank was dismayed.  It took him some time to realise the extreme
gravity of the situation.  There was something in the aspect of the
boisterous Honanese giant, seated immediately before him, that made the
boy feel quite sure that Ling seldom failed in any enterprise he
undertook.  The man was at once clever, strong and unscrupulous.  He
meant to obtain those letters, and Frank felt quite sure that he would
not fail to do so.

That brought the boy face to face with the fact that the lives of his
uncle and Mr Waldron were in the greatest danger.  Ling no doubt
intended to appropriate the ransom, thus foiling Cheong-Chau.  In these
circumstances, there could be but little doubt that the brigand chief,
robbed of what he already regarded as his own property, would put both
his captives to death out of sheer fiendish spite.

Frank could not for the life of him think what course he should take.
His brain was in a whirl.  In the end he decided that at any cost he
must escape from Ling the moment they arrived at Canton, where he hoped
to gain an interview with the British consul.

Throughout the remainder of the journey the boy’s thoughts ran
continuously upon the mystery in which he found himself enveloped.  He
could not explain it, and after a time he gave up attempting to do so.
He neither knew who Ling was nor how the man had such intimate knowledge
of Cheong-Chau’s affairs.  He regretted bitterly that he had rendered
Ling such valuable assistance.  He was, however, determined never to do
so again, and during the pursuit down the river he even went so far as
to hold the _sampan_ back by means of the oar with which he was supposed
to be steering.  All the time he was doing so his heart was beating
rapidly, since he dared not think what would happen to him if Ling
discovered his deception.

When they reached the great city of Canton it was still early in the
morning.  Ling hauled down the sail and himself took charge of the stern
oar, by means of which he propelled the boat into the narrow creek that
separates the main part of the city from the island of Shamien.  Running
into the bank alongside a sea-going junk, he ordered Frank to step
ashore.  The boy did so, determined to avail himself of his first chance
to escape.  In such narrow, close-packed streets as those of the great
southern city, he thought he would have many opportunities of giving
Ling the slip.  He did not expect any difficulty in getting away, since
he had no reason to believe that Ling required his services any longer.

Frank--as the saying goes--had counted his chickens before they were
hatched.  They had not progressed thirty yards along one of the main
streets of the city before Frank dived down a side street, brushed past
a party of coolies, and then turned into a still smaller street to the
right.  There he found a ricksha.  Jumping into this, he ordered the
ricksha coolie to go ahead as fast as he could.  The man had picked up
the shafts, and was about to set forward, when Frank was seized by the
scruff of the neck and lifted bodily from the seat.  He was then thrown
so violently to the ground that one of his knees was cut and his elbows
badly bruised.

Gathering himself together, he looked up, and found himself at the feet
of Ling.

"Do you take me for a fool?" roared the man.  "Why have you run away?"

"I did not think," answered the boy, somewhat weakly, "that you needed
me any longer."

"No more I do," said Ling.  "But you know too much about me.  When I
have run Men-Ching to ground, and emptied the old rascal’s pockets, then
you are free to go where you like.  For the present you remain with me."

He bent down, and seizing the boy by a wrist, dragged him to his feet.
Then he set off walking briskly through the narrow streets, dragging the
boy after him like a dog on a leash and roughly thrusting aside everyone
who got in his way.

In about ten minutes they found themselves in the neighbourhood of the
Mohammedan Mosque.  Having crossed the main street that runs parallel to
the river, Ling turned into a by-street, and thence into the blind
alley, at the termination of which was Ah Wu’s opium den.

He kicked open the door with his foot and thrust the boy inside.  Frank
found himself standing before the embroidered curtains that were
suspended across the entrance of the smoking-room.  Ling lifted his
great voice in a kind of shout, mingling his words with triumphant
laughter.

"Ah Wu," he cried, "give welcome to a visitor who loves you.  There is
one here whom it will rejoice your heart to see.  Come forth, old fox,
and greet the mighty Ling!"

Having delivered himself thus dramatically, he flung the curtains aside,
and stepped into the opium den, dragging Frank with him.

Ah Wu, as fat and crafty-looking as ever, stood in the centre of the
lower room in front of the stairs that led to the balcony above.

He was holding in his hand a blue china bowl filled with _samshu_.  And
so dismayed was he when he set eyes upon his gigantic guest that the
bowl fell from his hand and smashed to atoms on the floor.

"Ling!" he gasped.

"The same," roared Ling.  "And this time I come not to debate and argue,
to exchange words with liars.  I come for Men-Ching.  I have reason to
believe that he is here."

Ah Wu strove to pretend he was delighted to welcome Ling.  He smiled
from ear to ear, his little eyes almost disappearing in the fat of his
face.  He bowed, folding his hands in the prescribed Chinese fashion. He
even took a few steps forward, so that he was almost within reach of the
long arms of the Honanese.

"Men-Ching," said he, still smiling, "is not here."

And no sooner had the words left his lips than he was given a practical
and somewhat painful demonstration of the violent character of the man
with whom he had to deal.  Upon the right of the entrance, adorned by
the embroidered curtains, was a lacquer table, upon which stood a heavy
china vase.  Without a word of warning, Ling seized this vase by the
neck, and hurled it with all his force at the proprietor of the opium
den.  The ornament must have weighed several pounds, and it struck Ah Wu
fair in the chest, with the result that he went over backwards and lay,
stretched at his full length, at the foot of the staircase. Almost a
minute elapsed before he struggled to his feet.  Ling had not moved.

"And now," he roared, "lie to me again."

In the meantime, in spite of such extraordinary happenings, Frank had
taken in his surroundings.  Ah Wu’s opium den has been already
described--except that we saw it before at night, when the place was
crowded.  On this occasion there was only one man asleep upon a couch in
the lower room.  It was about twelve o’clock in the morning, and at this
hour, as a general rule, Chinese opium dens are empty, the smokers of
the previous evening having departed and the day’s customers not having
arrived.

Strangely enough, the vase had not broken, but in falling to the floor
it had made a considerable noise, and this was sufficient to awaken the
sleeper, who evidently suffered from a guilty conscience.  The man
sprang to his feet, and rushed to the entrance, as if he intended to
escape.  There, of course, he found his way barred by Ling, who lifted
one of his huge fists as if to strike the fellow.  The man jumped
backward like a cat that finds itself face to face with a dog.  And it
was then, once again, that Ling burst into one of his boisterous fits of
laughter.

"And here’s the flunkey!" he cried.  "Here’s the Hong-Kong cur-dog! Have
you also a mind to lie to me, or do you set a value on your life? I tell
you truly, I am not here to exchange words.  I know what I want, and I
am come to get it.  Hands up!" he shouted, seeing the man move one of
his hands to his waistbelt, under his coat, where he might have carried
a firearm.  "Hands up, or I wring your neck like a duck!"

In fear and trembling the man lifted both hands above his head.  Frank
regarded him then for the first time.  And it was as if the boy’s heart
had suddenly ceased to beat when he recognised Yung How, his uncle’s
servant.



CHAPTER XIV--HOW LING SNUFFED THE CANDLE


Frank had every reason to suppose that he would be recognised in spite
of his disguise.  To deceive Men-Ching was one thing, but Yung How had
known the boy for years.  More than ever he desired to escape.  It was
clear that both Yung How and even Ah Wu himself were equally anxious to
get away from the room.  All three of them, however, were caught like
rats in a trap, for Ling guarded the entrance, and it was as much as the
life of any one of them was worth to attempt to pass, either by force or
stealth.

Ling approached Yung How, lifted the man’s coat and drew a large
nickel-plated revolver from his belt.

"I thought so," said he.  "I draw the jackal’s teeth."

So saying, he thrust the revolver into his pocket.

"And now, Ah Wu," he cried, "is Men-Ching here or not?"

Some seconds elapsed before Ah Wu could summon sufficient courage to
answer.

"Yes," said he at last.  "He is."

"Where?" asked Ling.

"In the little room--asleep."

"Asleep!  He could not have arrived more than an hour ago!"

"He was very frightened," said Ah Wu, who was now certainly speaking the
truth.  "His nerves were shaken.  He knew you were in pursuit.  He
smoked opium to calm himself, and now he sleeps."

"Lead the way," said Ling.  "And you too," he added, addressing himself
to Yung How.  "I drive you before me like a herd of pigs."

This was indeed a very accurate description of the proceeding, for Ling
was determined that neither of the Chinese nor Frank should for a moment
get out of his sight.  It was remarkable that one man should have so
much power--by which we mean will-power as well as physical force.  But
undoubtedly, the most extraordinary thing about him was the unbounded
confidence he seemed to have in himself.  And it was this
self-confidence, even more than his courage and great physical strength,
that made this man a master over others.

Into the little room under the staircase he hustled the three of them.
There he locked the door and pocketed the key.  Upon the only couch in
the room lay Men-Ching in his faded scarlet coat--sound asleep.

Ling bent down and placed both hands upon the sleeper’s chest.  Then he
smiled, and turning slowly round, looked Ah Wu straight in the face.

"They are here," said he.  "It is the custom of the gods to reward those
who deserve to prosper."

"What do you seek?" asked Ah Wu, upon the features of whose face was
stamped an expression of the most profound dismay.

"The letters," said Ling.  "The letters for which I have searched for
fourteen days."

"Fourteen days ago," retorted Ah Wu, "they were not written."

"Of that," answered the other, "I confess I know nothing, and care less.
It is sufficient for me--and for you, too--that I have found that for
which I sought."

There was a pause.  And then Yung How asked a question.

"How did you know about these letters?" said he.

Ling smiled again.  "Do you think," he asked, "that when I found you
three rascals with heads together in this very room--do you think I did
not know that something was afoot, something into which it might be
worth my while to inquire?  Do you suppose for a moment I believed your
lies?  No.  I watched.  And I sent a spy here to smoke opium and to
pretend to sleep--a spy who listened to all you had to say, who told me
that Cheong-Chau had sent a messenger with the news that the fish had
been landed high and dry, and a promise that both Ah Wu and yourself
would have your share of the ransom as soon as it was paid.  I had but
to watch the river.  And when I was told that one of Cheong-Chau’s men
had been seen in Sanshui, and the description of that man agreed with
Men-Ching, I should be little short of a fool if I did not guess that
Men-Ching carried with him letters demanding a ransom.  And now," he
concluded, "these same letters are mine."

He bent down, and very gently unbuttoned Men-Ching’s coat.  Then,
without waking the sleeper, who appeared to be heavily drugged with
opium, he tore open the lining and drew out the two letters: that of
Cheong-Chau, written in Chinese, and Sir Thomas Armitage’s letter,
written in English.

Neither of these was in an envelope, but both were sealed in the Chinese
fashion.  Without a moment’s hesitation Ling broke the seals, and Sir
Thomas’s gold signet ring fell to the floor.  He stooped and picked it
up, and then read both letters to himself.  And as he read his smile
broadened, displaying his fang-like yellow teeth.

"It is fortunate," said he, "that I can read English.  It is of
advantage in this life to be a scholar.  The ignorant man works in the
paddy-field wading knee-deep in the mud, but the wise man eats the
rice."  Then he remained silent for some minutes, still reading to
himself.

"I see," he remarked, "this matter has been well arranged.  Cheong-Chau
threatens to take the lives of the foreigners if he does not receive a
ransom of twenty thousand dollars before the new moon.  It interests me
to learn that the money must be hidden before that date in the Glade of
Children’s Tears, upon the banks of the Sang River.  I know the place
well.  I even remember the red stone--though I admit I did not know
there was a vault beneath that stone.  Certainly the matter has been
well arranged."

During this soliloquy--for Ling had to all intents and purposes been
speaking to himself--Frank could not help regarding the countenances of
Ah Wu and Yung How.  The expression upon the face of each was suggestive
of the most complete disgust.  Disappointment and infinite distress were
conveyed in every feature.  Ling looked at them and burst into laughter.

"Two fools!" he cried.  "Had you been wise men you had taken me into
your confidence and allowed me a share of the plunder.  As it is, you
may see not a cent of it.  It will be very simple for me to deliver
these letters and to keep watch upon the Glade of Children’s Tears."

His laughter had disturbed the sleeper, for Men-Ching turned over upon
his back and mumbled a few incoherent words in his sleep.  Then, still
sleeping, he moved a hand to the breast of his coat, to the place where
he had carried the letters.

Almost at once he sat bolt upright--wide awake.

"Stolen!" he cried, his hands still clutching at his coat.  "Stolen," he
repeated.

Then he set eyes upon Ling.

Upon his face an expression of dismay turned, as in a flash, to one of
uncontrollable anger.  He sprang to his feet, at the same time drawing
from his belt a long curved knife.  Though he stood upon the couch
itself, he was little taller than Ling.  With a savage oath he raised
the knife above his head.  And then he struck downward, straight for the
heart of the gigantic Honanese.

The tragedy that now took place was the work of a few seconds.
Men-Ching’s wrist was caught.  He let out a shriek of pain as that grip
of steel tightened under such steady, inevitable pressure that the very
wrist-bone was in danger of breaking like a piece of rotted wood.  Then
he was caught by the throat.  He was jerked forward.  Something snapped.
And then he was thrown down upon the floor--dead.  It was all over in an
instant.

Frank Armitage was horror-stricken.  He had never seen anything so
terrible in all his life.  And this was murder.  And the man who had
committed the crime merely shrugged his shoulders.

"Take warning," said he.  "Behold the fool who tried to kill me.  He who
lives by violence comes to a violent end.  I had no wish to kill him; he
attempted to stab me.  I have dealt with him in the same way as I would
snuff a tallow candle."

Here Ah Wu fell into a kind of hysterical panic.  Wringing his hands
together, he worked himself up to such a pitch of emotion that the tears
streamed from his eyes.

"What is to become of me?" he cried.  "This thing has happened in my
house.  If the _tao-tai_ hears of it I shall be led to my execution in a
potter’s yard.  Woe is me that such a crime should be committed under my
roof!"

Ling laughed.

"You make a great fuss about nothing," said he.  "Put him away till
darkness falls.  Then set him up in a ricksha, place a lighted cigarette
between his lips, run him down to the river, and throw him in.  Such
things have happened before in this city of Canton.  You make much of
nothing.  What was the old scoundrel worth?  Not a snap of the finger.
And in any case he had but a few years to live."

Ah Wu seated himself upon the couch, immediately above the body of the
murdered man.  Placing his elbows upon his knees and his head between
his hands, he rocked himself from side to side.  As for Frank, the whole
thing seemed to him like some terrible nightmare.  He had lived in China
all his life, but he had lived in a different China--a land of comfort
and civilisation.  This was a world of devilry and crime.  And all this
time Yung How stood by, motionless, speechless, his face pale with
terror.

Ling stooped down and thrust the body under the couch.

"What is death?" he asked.  "A sleep--no more.  A long sleep in
which--for aught we know--the divine spirit roams the eternal heavens.
Sweeter by far the adventures of the soul than the dreams that come from
opium.  A moment since he slept upon the couch, and now he sleeps
beneath it.  Why grieve, old fool?  Why weep?  Men-Ching is already with
the spirits of his fathers."

Taking the key from his pocket, he unlocked the door.

"Come," said he.  "We will hold converse together; there are many things
that I wish to discuss.  See that the outer door is locked, that no one
is allowed to enter the house.  We four will be alone."



CHAPTER XV--OF CHEONG-CHAU’S MESSENGER


To the reader who is unacquainted with China, the conduct of Ling may
appear to be highly improbable.  In any other country in the world such
a crime might be committed, but in no other country would the criminal
not be seized with alarm.  He would know that there was direct evidence
against him and, in consequence, he would be obliged either to fly for
his life or else stand his trial on a charge of murder or manslaughter,
as the case might be.

In this regard China is unique--a country without police, in which
evidence is extremely hard to obtain, no man presuming to testify
against his neighbour.  Under the old imperial regime there were no real
courts of justice beyond the summary jurisdiction exercised by the local
government official--the prefect, the _tao-tai_ or the viceroy. And so
far as we are aware, these very necessary reforms have not yet been
instituted in the modern republican China of the twentieth century.

Ling had little or nothing to fear.  Men-Ching had no relations who
might carry the tale to the viceroy’s _yamen_.  Both Ah Wu and Yung How
had been frightened out of their lives, and the Honanese had no
apprehensions in regard to the unfortunate boy whom he had kidnapped in
Sanshui.

In less than a minute after this deed of violence had been accomplished,
Ling was sprawled at his great length upon one of the couches in the
outer room.  There, puffing complacently at a pipe of opium, he appeared
to have dismissed the incident from his mind.  He was busy making plans
for the future.  Ah Wu had now sufficiently recovered his composure to
attend to the wants of his unwelcome guest. He brought Ling opium; he
lighted the spirit-lamp; he rolled opium pills in his fat little
fingers.

To all intents and purposes, Ling had taken complete possession of the
opium den.  He himself might have been the proprietor.  He offered Yung
How a pipe of opium, which Yung How accepted.  He ordered Frank to be
seated, and the boy had no option but to obey.  Then he delivered
himself as follows, addressing himself to Ah Wu.

"Ah Wu," said he, "I desire that you will be so good as to make a
complete confession.  There are certain details connected with this
affair concerning which I am completely in the dark.  For instance, who
was to go for the treasure to the Glade of Children’s Tears?"

"I was," said Ah Wu.

"Alone?"

"No.  Yung How was to accompany me."  And Ah Wu indicated his Hong-Kong
friend by a motion of the hand.  "We were to hire a junk in which to
take away the money.  We were to be assisted by Men-Ching and another
man."

Ling looked across at Yung How and nodded pleasantly.

"And so, my tame cat, your name is Yung How.  A fit name for one who
washes plates and brushes a foreigner’s clothes."

"I do not wash plates," said Yung How; "that is coolies’ work."

"I beg your pardon," said Ling.  "Since it is beneath your dignity to
wash plates I am sorry for you, for presently I propose to eat at Ah
Wu’s expense.  And you shall wash the plates which it shall be my
pleasure to use."

Yung How made a wry face, and dropped his eyes to the ground.  Frank
observed that the man muttered to himself.

The boy was astonished that Yung How had not yet recognised him.  Was it
possible that he would fail to do so?  The thought seemed too good to be
true.  On the other hand, it was possible that Frank had already been
recognised, that Yung How knew who he was, and had managed to conceal
his surprise.  The average Chinese is quite capable of such
extraordinary self-control.  The boy’s train of thought was interrupted
by Ling, who took up the thread of his cross-examination.

"And so," said he, "you, Ah Wu, and Yung How, were to go together to the
Glade of Children’s Tears, having first ascertained that the
neighbourhood was safe, that the foreigners in Hong-Kong had not thought
fit to send armed men to capture you?"

"That is so," said Ah Wu.

"And the money was to be brought here by river?"

Ah Wu nodded.  "To Canton," said he.

"Where Cheong-Chau would come by night, giving you your share and taking
the rest back with him to Pinglo, to divide amongst his gang?"

Ah Wu nodded again.

"A simple business," said Ling.  "A well-laid plot that has come to
grief.  Well, I am generous.  My soul is of honey.  I am soft of heart.
You will find me a better master than Cheong-Chau.  I can be generous to
those who help me, as I know how to deal with those who declare
themselves my enemies."  And he jerked a finger in the direction of the
little room beneath the stairs.

"Do you mean," asked Yung How, "that you propose to buy our silence?"

The man rose upon his couch like a bearded lion.

"I mean nothing of the sort," he cried.  "Go to the viceroy if you will
and tell him that you saw Ling take the life of Men-Ching in the opium
den of Ah Wu--say I murdered the man.  It will be a lie, I tell you. He
attempted to stab me and I killed him in self-defence.  Still you are
free to go to the _yamen_ with any tale you like, and when you have
fulfilled your errand, I tell you frankly, upon the word of a man who
holds the truth as sacred, that you shall not live for forty-eight
hours.  That is the manner of man I am, and that is the way in which I
buy your silence."

Yung How did not move a muscle of his face.

"Then I fail to understand you," said he.

"I will make my meaning plainer," said the other.  "This afternoon I
send these letters to Hong-Kong by post, by the night boat.  They will
arrive to-morrow morning.  In two--or at the most three--days, the
ransom will be paid: twenty thousand dollars will be conveyed by some
means from Hong-Kong to the Glade of Children’s Tears.  I think no
soldiers will be sent because the Englishman in his letter has expressly
stated that such a course would not be wise."

At that moment there came a loud, persistent rapping on the outer door,
which Ah Wu had already locked.  Ling at once ceased talking, but it is
a singular fact that he was the only one of the four of them who showed
no signs of being alarmed.  They sat in silence, listening for several
minutes, during which time the knocking upon the door continued.  It was
Ling who was the first to speak.

"Who is there?" he asked, addressing himself to Ah Wu.

"I have no idea," replied Ah Wu.

Ling got to his feet, strolled across the room, and drawing the
curtains, unbolted the door.  On opening it he beheld, standing before
him upon the threshold, a man dressed in the scarlet coat of
Cheong-Chau’s brigand band.

"What do you want?" asked Ling.

"Men-Ching," said the man.

"And who, may I ask, is Men-Ching?"

"He is a friend of mine."

"He is not here," said Ling.  "You can come in, if you like, and see for
yourself."

The man entered the opium den, advancing down the centre of the room.
Frank recognised him at once: he was the man who had accompanied
Men-Ching upon his journey from the mountains.  He went straight up to
Ah Wu, to whom he bowed, folding his hands in accordance with the custom
of his nation.

"You, I believe, are Ah Wu?" he asked.  "You are the landlord of this
establishment?"

"I am," said Ah Wu.

"I come for a friend of mine, Men-Ching by name.  I think you know him.
He told me he would be here."

"He is not here," said Ah Wu, who, palpably nervous, from time to time
glanced in the direction of Ling.

"That is strange," said the man.  "He certainly told me that I should
find him here.  Can you tell me where he is?"

Ah Wu shook his head.  "I cannot say," said he.

The man looked perplexed.  He stood for a moment stroking his chin, as
if he was undecided what to do.  Then Ling laid one of his great hands
upon the man’s shoulder.

"I will tell you where he is," said he.  "He left here in great
haste--and unexpectedly.  He has gone upon a journey--a long journey. He
did not say where he was going, for two reasons: firstly, he had no time
to tell us; secondly, I do not believe he knew.  And so, my friend, we
can give you no information likely to be of value.  Who are we, that we
should know all things, that we should be able to solve the riddles of
the universe?  We are poor mortals, with little wisdom and great hopes.
We arrange our lives in accordance with our own ideas, and those ideas
are but guess-work, the product of imagination.  We know nothing.  We
live in the dark.  The printed page of the book of mysteries lies open
before us, but we are blind and unable to read. Could I soar higher than
an eagle, traversing the eternal plains of space, I might be able to
tell you something of Men-Ching.  As it is, I cannot."  And Ling, with a
shrug of the shoulders, turned away.

The man regarded his broad back in amazement.  He could make neither
head nor tail of what he had been told.  And at the same time he was in
a dilemma: he could do nothing without Men-Ching; in a great city like
Canton--with which he was not well acquainted--he had no idea where to
look for him.

"It is of the greatest importance," said he, "that I find Men-Ching
without delay.  I have news for him."

Ling whipped round at once.

"News," he exclaimed.  "I tell you, my good man, you may be perfectly
frank with us.  We are in the secret."

"You are!" cried the man.

"All four of us," said Ling, whose capacity for falsehood appeared to be
in proportion to his other faculties.

The man looked in surprise from Ling to Ah Wu, from Yung How to Frank.

"I see you doubt me," continued Ling.  "Permit me to enlighten you. You
are one of Cheong-Chau’s band--that is evident from your coat.  You came
south with Men-Ching in order to convey certain letters to Hong-Kong.
Cheong-Chau demands a ransom of twenty thousand dollars as the price of
the lives of three European prisoners whom he holds in his hands.  This
sum of money is to be conveyed by junk, before the new moon, to the
Glade of Children’s Tears.  It has already been arranged between my very
good friend, Cheong-Chau, and Men-Ching, that we four, accompanied by
Men-Ching himself, proceed to the Glade of Children’s Tears in order to
take possession of the money.  I am surprised that Men-Ching did not
inform you of all this.  I presume you no longer doubt me?"

"I cannot doubt you," said the man.  "You know more of the matter than
myself.  I was aware that Cheong-Chau had agents in Canton, but I was
never informed who they were.  Perhaps you will be so good as to advise
me what to do."

Ling stroked his black moustache.  He appeared to be deep in thought.

"If I were you," said he, "I should leave the matter in Men-Ching’s
hands.  He cannot be far away.  If I were you I should return at once to
Cheong-Chau."

"That is not necessary," said the man.

Ling looked up quickly, lifting his eyebrows.  For a moment his eyes
flashed, suggesting something of the fierce sudden intelligence of a
beast of prey that scents its quarry.

"How do you mean?" he rapped out.

"It is not necessary," said the man, "that I return to Cheong-Chau, for
the simple reason that Cheong-Chau himself has come to me."

Ling closed his mouth with a snap.

"Ah!" he exclaimed.  "So Cheong-Chau is--in Canton?"

"He approaches Canton," said the man.  "That is the information that I
desired to give to Men-Ching."

"He approaches Canton," repeated Ling.  "This is indeed interesting! And
can you tell me why Cheong-Chau approaches Canton?"

"Yes," said the man.  "One of his prisoners has escaped."

At the word Frank Armitage caught his breath.  With a great effort of
will he managed to control himself.  He stared hard at the opium bowl,
filled with the sticky, treacle-like substance, that was immediately in
front of him.

The boy felt like a helpless bird, imprisoned in a cage of poisonous
snakes.  He could not be blind to the peril in which he stood.  Hardly a
minute passed when it was not made evident to him that his life hung
upon a thread.  At any moment he might be discovered, and then, in the
hands of such a man as Ling, he could hope for little mercy.

"What you tell me interests me vastly," said Ling, still addressing
himself to the brigand.  "You have no idea how annoyed I am.  And so one
of the prisoners has escaped!  I think you had best return to
Cheong-Chau, taking with you a written message from my friend, Ah Wu."

Ah Wu looked up at Ling in something like despair.  The fat proprietor
of the opium den, at that moment, bitterly regretted that he had ever
had anything to do with the business.  He feared Cheong-Chau, but he was
terrified of Ling.  He now found himself between the hammer and the
anvil.

"What do you wish me to do?" he asked, in a weak voice.  "What sort of a
message am I to send to Cheong-Chau?"

"Tell him the truth," said Ling.  "Tell him that Men-Ching called here
this morning, and soon afterwards departed unexpectedly, in a great
hurry.  Say that you presume he has gone to Hong-Kong.  He told you, I
believe, that the letters were safe."

And even as Ling said these words he placed one of his hands upon the
pocket of his coat--and they all heard the crinkling sound of the stiff
rice paper upon which the letters had been written.  Both Yung How and
Frank regarded Ling in astonishment.  The man was beyond doubt an
accomplished and unmitigated villain.  He was never at a loss.  As for
Ah Wu, very meekly he crossed the room to the writing-desk where he kept
his accounts.  There he wrote a letter, handling with skill the long
Chinese ink-brush.  And as he wrote Ling strolled up to him, glanced
over his shoulder, and strolled away.  Then Ah Wu folded the letter and
sealed it and gave it to Cheong-Chau’s man, who a few moments afterwards
left the opium den.

No sooner was he gone than Ling bolted the door and came back quickly
into the room.

"This," said he, "is going to be a touch-and-go affair.  It will be an
open question now who gets to the Glade first: Cheong-Chau or I.  You
three shall help me.  I take it, you prefer to be on the winning side. I
shall need the assistance of every one of you.  You will have your fair
share of the plunder, more than you would have got from Cheong-Chau--I
promise you that.  But I have warned you once, and I warn you again:
play me false, and I deal with you as I dealt with Men-Ching.  It is
already late in the afternoon.  There is much to be done to-night.  Ah
Wu, you must keep the place closed; you must put up a notice outside
saying that no customers will be admitted.  Tell me, is there a back
entrance?"

Ah Wu nodded his head.

"Good!" exclaimed Ling.  "You and I must get the body of that fool out
of the way.  We shall be able to do that as soon as it is dark.  As for
these two, they can remain here till we return.  I care not how many men
Cheong-Chau has brought with him.  I know how to settle him.  The man is
an opium fiend, and by opium he shall fall.  Now then, Ah Wu, are we to
be friends or foes?"

"Friends," said Ah Wu.

"Then swear friendship."

And Ah Wu swore, with a hand uplifted, by the Five Sacred Books.

And then Yung How swore fidelity to Ling, who rounded upon Frank.

"And you, my little smooth-faced infant, whom I have truly taken to my
heart, you have not told me yet your name?"

"Ah Li," said Frank, who for some time had been prepared for such a
question.

"And you also swear?"

And Frank swore, following the example of Ah Wu and Yung How, and using
the same words to be faithful to the mighty Ling.  And as he made the
declaration he satisfied his conscience that he attached no more
importance to the words than did Ling to the life of the man whom he had
killed.



CHAPTER XVI--OF THE REPENTANCE OF YUNG HOW


Thus it was that they became the unwilling servants of Ling.  They had
no option but to obey him.  By reason of his gigantic strength, Ling was
the master of the situation.

Ah Wu was as crafty as a fox.  All his life he had been connected with
the opium business; and an opium den is a place where a Chinese may gain
a very intimate knowledge of his fellow-men.  He learns much in
connection with human character.  Whatever may have been the feelings of
Frank Armitage and Yung How, the proprietor of the opium den had not the
least doubt that in agreeing to follow Ling they had taken the wisest
course.

During the few hours that elapsed between the departure of the brigand
and sunset, they were given a further opportunity of observing the
singular abilities of this inhuman monster.  There is no doubt that the
man might have succeeded in almost any walk of life.  His plans were not
only elaborate, and so carefully laid that they allowed for almost every
possible contingency, but they were made rapidly without a moment’s
hesitation.

In the course of the afternoon Ah Wu’s three attendants arrived, gaining
entrance into the opium den by means of the back door.  These were sent
upon various errands, from which they could not possibly return until
after dark.  As soon as Ling himself had conveyed the mortal remains of
the unfortunate Men-Ching from the opium den, the place was to be open,
customers were to be admitted.  These customers were to be entertained
by Yung How until Ah Wu himself returned.  The establishment was to
remain open, day and night, throughout the next few days.  Ling made no
secret of his intention to decoy Cheong-Chau to the opium den, where he
was to be drugged, whilst Ling gained possession of the ransom, which by
that time should have arrived from Hong-Kong.

About the middle of the afternoon Ling went out, and was absent about
twenty minutes.  This in itself is sufficient proof of the
self-confidence of the man.  It was within the power of Ah Wu, Yung How,
or the youth who had called himself "Ah Li," to betray him.  These three
were left alone in the opium den with the horrid evidence of Ling’s
guilt.

During his absence, Ling posted his letters.  The night boat left Canton
at eight o’clock, and Ling himself took the letters on board. He
returned to the opium den, and was admitted at the back door by Ah Wu
himself.  He did not seem in the least curious as to whether they had
been discussing him whilst he was away.

Soon after nightfall, Ling and Ah Wu departed on their gruesome errand,
taking with them the body of Men-Ching.  This they secreted under the
hood of a double ricksha, and Ah Wu, much to his dismay, was made to
seat himself beside a lifeless companion.  As for Ling, he stripped
himself to the waist, coiled his pigtail round the top of his head,
after the manner of a coolie, and himself drew the ricksha through the
dark, narrow streets of the great city.  Frank and Yung How stood at the
small back door of the opium den when Ling took his departure. They
heard the wheels rattling over the cobble-stones of the streets, and
then the ricksha disappeared in the darkness, and with it that which had
formerly been Men-Ching, Cheong-Chau’s second-in-command.

Yung How and Frank returned to the main room, where they lighted the
lamps, and shortly afterwards the three attendants returned.  The
establishment was then opened, and it was not long before customers
began to arrive.  Most of these were regular patrons of Ah Wu’s, who
knew how to look after themselves.  Having ordered what they wanted,
they disposed themselves on couches in the lower room.  There they
smoked opium, drank _samshu_, and nodded off to sleep.

Frank regarded Yung How.  The man lay upon a couch; his arms were
folded; he was staring blankly in front of him, thinking possibly of
Ling and how that villain had placed himself between Yung How and a
fortune.  For there could be little doubt that, under the original
arrangement, Yung How was to be treated handsomely, and the man attached
little or no value to Ling’s promise.  It does not necessarily follow
that one rogue will trust another.

Frank, as he looked at the man, was busy with his thoughts.  Two things
were evident to him: first, that Yung How had not recognised him and
that he was now scarcely likely to do so; second, that he might be
persuaded to operate against Ling--provided he could do so without great
personal risk.

Now in order not to overestimate the boldness of the step which Frank
Armitage then and there proposed to take, it is necessary to realise
that the boy could see no other way out of his difficulties, to remember
that not only his own life but the lives of Mr Waldron and his uncle
depended upon his success, and to remember also that he stood in no fear
of Yung How, whom he had known since he was a child.

It was above all things necessary for Frank to communicate with
Hong-Kong if he could not go there himself.  The moment Ling left the
opium den it occurred to Frank that he might write a letter.  He could
not, however, do this without being observed by Yung How, who had
received strict orders from Ling not to allow the boy out of his sight
for a single moment.  Frank therefore decided to play a bold card; but
he would never have taken a step so hazardous had he not had something
more than an inkling that he was likely to meet with success.  He
crossed the room to the couch upon which Yung How was lying, and asked
the man if he would be so good as to accompany him to the balcony at the
head of the stairs.

"I have something of the greatest importance to say to you," said he.
"It may be to your advantage as well as mine."

Yung How looked at him in surprise, then got to his feet, and walked
slowly up the stairs, followed by Frank.

They seated themselves, side by side, upon a couch in a darkened corner.
Now that Frank found himself confronted by the greatest crisis in all
his strange adventures, he hesitated to begin.  Several minutes elapsed
before he could speak, and he did not do so then without a word of
encouragement.

"Well?" asked Yung How.

"I am surprised, Yung How," said Frank, "that you have not recognised
me."

Yung How knitted his brows, and drawing away from the boy, turned and
stared at him.  Frank Armitage did not move.

"I should have thought," he added, "you would have known me."

Yung How’s voice came in a kind of gasp.

"Master Frank!" he exclaimed.

The boy smiled.  It was as much as he could do, but he managed it
somehow, knowing full well that everything depended upon his presence of
mind.  He had learned something from Ling.

"Are you blind, Yung How?" he asked.

"I did not know you," said the man, who had not yet recovered from his
astonishment.  "The shaven head!  The pigtail!  Your clothes!  Besides,
you are the last person I expected to see.  I thought you hundreds of
miles away."

"So I was," said Frank.  "I escaped."

"Ah!  It was you who escaped!  I did not think of that."  Then he
lowered his voice.  "But why have you told me?"

"Because, Yung How, though you have behaved like a rascal, I cannot
believe you to be such a villain that you would allow my uncle, who has
been a good master to you for years, to be murdered."

Yung How was silent for more than a minute.

"That is true," said he; "that is very true."

"I suppose you realise," Frank went on, "that if I remain here, Ling may
gain possession of the ransom, and in that case both my uncle and Mr
Waldron will be killed.  You know also that, if you betray me to Ling, I
shall be killed.  Do you remember, Yung How, when I was a little boy who
had only just learned to walk, you used to take me up to the top of the
Peak, and we would walk upon the asphalt paths, and you would tell me
Chinese fairy tales?  I remember them to this day.  Then, it was you who
taught me to speak your language.  Do you remember when the plague came
to Hong-Kong, and people were dying in the streets? Have you forgotten
that you too fell ill, and my uncle himself carried you in his arms and
sent you in a chair to the hospital?  Have you forgotten that?"

The face of Yung How had grown very serious.  Slowly he shook his head.

"My master," said he, "I have not forgotten."

"You had the plague," said Frank, "and my uncle took you in his arms. In
doing so, he risked his life to save yours."

"That is true," said the Chinaman, who sat quite still and rigid,
staring straight in front of him.

"Is there no gratitude," said Frank, "in all the Chinese race?"

There was again a long pause; and then Yung How quite suddenly fell down
upon his knees.  Clenching both his fists, he raised them high above his
head, shaking them violently, as if he suffered anguish.

"Oh, how blind am I!" he cried.  "Opium has done this.  Opium, my young
master, has brought me here.  You smoke a little and it is good; your
troubles vanish, your pains are no more, your dreams are sweet.  Then
you must take more, until, at last, you smoke all night, in order to
forget the troubles of this world.  And all that costs money.  There
comes a time when even ten dollars will not secure the treasures, the
delights of opium.  The craving was strong upon me, and all my money had
gone, when I heard that my master was about to undertake a journey to
the Nan-ling Mountains.  I knew that I could get into communication with
Cheong-Chau through Ah Wu.  I knew also that Cheong-Chau would give me a
good share of the ransom.  I thought there would be no harm in it.  I
was assured that no one should suffer death.  And now I am filled with
remorse when I think of what has happened, when I think of this man,
Ling, and realise that the lives of us all hang upon a thread.  I have
had my fill of opium.  I want no more of it.  Believe me, my young
master, I am prostrate with grief!"

It was fortunate that there was no one else on the balcony, for not only
was Yung How’s emotion great, but he had raised his voice, and had there
been anyone near at hand, he must have been overheard.  Frank realised,
with a sense of relief, that he had nothing to fear from the man, that
Yung How would not betray him.  He saw also that Yung How must master
himself before Ling returned.  The boy stretched forth a hand and
touched the Chinese upon the chest.

"Listen, Yung How," said he, "you need not despair.  With your help, I
believe, we can not only escape ourselves but save my uncle and Mr
Waldron.  Ling watches me.  Without your help I can do nothing.  But you
have friends in Canton; it should be possible for you to get a message
through to Hong-Kong.  To-morrow morning Cheong-Chau’s letter will be
delivered to the Governor.  The ransom will be paid, but Ling will get
hold of it if troops are not sent down to capture him.  This message
should go to Hong-Kong to-night.  The boat leaves at eight o’clock.  It
is now half-past seven."

Yung How sprang to his feet.

"We have delayed matters too long," he cried.  "Why should not we two
escape at once without wasting a moment?"

Frank grasped the man’s hand and pressed it.  "I promise you my uncle
will forgive you.  More than that, on his behalf, I promise you a
reward."

"That is not necessary," said Yung How.  "I am disgraced; you have made
me realise my own baseness.  I should like you to see that a Chinaman
can be an honest man.  But, I repeat, we do but waste time in words. We
must go together and we must go now--at once--if we are to catch the
boat!"

Even as he continued speaking, he moved forward rapidly, followed by
Frank.  They passed hastily down the stairs, and thence, passing the
little room in which Men-Ching had been done to death, they went to the
back door, with the object of letting themselves out.

As Frank Armitage stretched forth a hand to take hold of the handle, the
door swung back, as on its own accord.  And there entered Ling, who had
to stoop in order that his gigantic form might pass beneath the lintel.

"And so," cried Ling, "we have returned.  Men-Ching sleeps with his
fathers.  As the West River flows eastward to the sea, the waters sing a
song of sleep to the celestial graves on either bank.  Opium, Ah Wu!
Give me opium to smoke, for like the long-tailed horse of a Manchu
warrior, the mighty Ling scents battle from afar."



CHAPTER XVII--HOW LING WAS TOO LATE


It was, with Ling, something in the nature of a pose to speak after the
fashion of the scholars, using the flowery language of the writers of
poesy, or quoting the philosophical maxims of the sages.  None the less,
the moment he entered the opium den, though he spoke of other things, it
was apparent both to Frank Armitage and Yung How that Ling had detected
the fact that they were about to make their escape.

In his customary boisterous manner, the great Honanese ushered them into
the room.  Ascending the stairs, he sprawled at full length upon the
couch upon which Frank had been seated but a few moments before, when
Yung How made his confession.

"At last," said Ling, "Cheong-Chau and myself are to meet.  He knows me
of old.  This will not be the first time that I have snatched the ripe
fruit from his mouth.  Cheong-Chau has no cause to love me.  I have
heard it said that he regards me as his deadly enemy, the only man who
ever foiled him."

He puffed at the opium pipe which Ah Wu had brought him.  The amount of
the drug that the man consumed was extraordinary, and moreover, it
seemed to have very little effect upon either his physical or mental
constitution.  As he sent thin clouds of blue smoke upward to the
ceiling, in the close, stifling atmosphere of the room, he half closed
his eyes, and appeared to be lost in his thoughts.

"Well," said he, "I have no fear of Cheong-Chau and all his rascals.  I
shall win.  There is little doubt as to that.  The wolf cannot stand
before the tiger.  Therefore you would be wise to side with me.  If the
wolf shows his teeth, he goes the way of Men-Ching.  And thither go all
who oppose me.  For your own guidance, I advise you to remember this."

He opened his eyes and fixed them upon Yung How, who stood at hand. Yung
How did not flinch.  He was as calm and dignified as usual. Indeed, for
a few moments only had Frank seen him otherwise, and then he had
appeared absolutely carried away by anguish and remorse.  It occurred to
Frank how strange it was that a man who, as a general rule, was
outwardly so calm and collected should be capable of such deep-seated
and demonstrative emotion.  However, the Chinese are an inexplicable
race, as Frank knew well enough.  He regarded Yung How, and was
delighted to observe that the man never faltered in his honest
resolution before the steady, piercing gaze of the implacable Honanese.

"I desire to know," said Ling, "where you two were going as I chanced to
enter."

Yung How did not answer a word.  He continued to look Ling straight in
the face.

"Very well," said Ling, "you need not tell me.  I have a shrewd
suspicion that you were up to no good.  I shall take the necessary
precautions and ask you, for the sake of your own welfare, to remember
my warning."

He disposed himself as if for sleep, throwing back his head upon the
pillow.  Ah Wu busied himself about the establishment, entertaining his
guests, of whom there were now many, and seeing that his assistants went
about their duties.  As for Frank and Yung How, they lay down upon
couches on the balcony, the former because he was thoroughly tired, and
felt that he required a rest.

Suddenly Ling sat up, and cried out that he was hungry.  Shouting down
into the room below, he ordered one of Ah Wu’s men to bring him food,
and then turned to Yung How.

"And you shall wait on me," he declared.  "I have heard it said that you
have a great reputation in Hong-Kong, that you squeeze even ricksha
coolies for copper cash and make more money than a comprador.  You shall
attend to my wants; and when I have eaten all that I desire, you
shall--as I promised you--wash up the bowls and plates."

Presently one of Ah Wu’s assistants mounted the staircase, carrying in
his hands a large tray upon which was a number of Chinese dishes.  The
tray was set down upon a small table at which Yung How was ordered to
preside, handing the mighty Ling whatever dish he might call for.

Now Yung How had made up his mind to escape, and even as he waited upon
Ling he took careful stock of his surroundings.  He knew that he could
not rely upon any help from Ah Wu, who was now hand and glove with the
Honanese.  He had noticed that Ah Wu had locked the back door, putting
the key in one of his pockets.  There was a clock in the room, towards
which Yung How repeatedly carried his eyes.  It was twenty minutes to
eight.  Yung How had, indeed, very little time if he was to make good
his escape and catch the Hong-Kong boat.  He could not very well cross
the room, and go out by the main entrance, because Ling would certainly
see him and follow in pursuit.  The man was beginning to despair when he
observed a window at the farther end of the balcony.

This window was closed, but it might be possible to open it.  Also,
since the floor of the lower room was somewhat below the level of the
street, the window could not be far from the ground.  The difficulty
that confronted Yung How was how to reach the window without arousing
the suspicions of Ling.

Now Yung How, like the majority of his countrymen, was by no means
devoid of inventive powers.  The Chinaman is an adept at finding an
excuse, and it must be confessed that the device of Yung How was
ingenious.

In handing a small bowl of rice to Ling, the man purposely knocked over
the small opium spirit-lamp which stood burning upon the table by the
side of the couch upon which Ling was lying.  This nearly resulted in a
general conflagration that might have destroyed the whole establishment.
The oil ran out, and set fire to the dry matting with which the floors
were carpeted; and this burned like tinder-wood, the fire running with
rapidity along the balcony and filling the whole place with smoke.

Ling, springing to his feet, utilised one of the cushions of the couch
to smother the fire.  Frank was not slow to follow his example, and Ah
Wu and several men from the lower room, hastening up the steps, resorted
to various means to quench the fire, or at least to hold it in check.

For the best part of a minute the whole place was uproar and confusion.
Those who were already asleep from the effects of opium were awakened by
cries of "Fire!"  One or two in alarm left the establishment by the main
entrance, spreading the report in the city that Ah Wu’s opium den had
actually been burned to the ground.

Long before that Yung How had made the most of his opportunity.  At the
moment when the danger was most imminent, when the attention of both
Ling and Ah Wu was fully engaged, the man passed unseen to the window,
which he opened.  Leaning over the sill and looking down, he satisfied
himself that it was not more than twelve feet to the ground.  As quick
as thought he crawled through, hung for a moment at the full extent of
his arms, and then dropped to the street.  Instantly he set off running
as fast as he could in the direction of Shamien.

When the fire was extinguished, Ling gave vent to his feelings, cursing
Yung How for his carelessness and folly.  However, he had not unburdened
himself of more than a few sentences when, to his astonishment and
indescribable wrath, he discovered that Yung How was gone.  Seeing the
opened window, he rushed to it, and looked out. Beyond there was nothing
but darkness, an unlighted by-street, not more than two or three yards
in width.

Ling descended the stairs like an infuriated tiger.  Quite suddenly he
came to a halt in the middle of the room.  Thence he returned up the
staircase, four steps at a time, at the top of which he encountered
Frank.  He seized the boy by the throat, and then, lifting him off his
feet, tucked him under an arm, as a man might carry a hen.

He again descended the stairs, unlocked the door of the little room,
threw the boy inside, and locked the door upon him.  A moment later, he
was in the street, rushing forward at such a tempestuous rate that he
cleared all obstructions from his path.  He thrust an empty ricksha
aside with such violence that he broke the shafts.  He knocked over
three men: a fat old merchant, a beggar, and a blind man.  He killed a
duck by crushing it underfoot, and finding his way barred by a pig, he
picked it up and threw it over a wall, the animal squealing in terror.

Gaining the narrow creek that separates Shamien from the main part of
the city, Ling dashed across the bridge of boats.  That night the few
Europeans who were walking along the _bund_ in front of the hotel and
the club beheld the remarkable apparition of a Chinese giant who charged
forward like a madman, his long pigtail flying out behind him, making in
the direction of the harbour.

On a sudden, Ling stopped dead.  His headlong course had been arrested
by a peculiar sound, or rather combination of sounds, the explanation of
which was not difficult to seek.  There was the shrill whistle of a
siren and the sound of large paddles violently thrashing the water.

Almost at once, the Hong-Kong boat hove in sight.  The decks were ablaze
with light.  Upon the bridge, Ling could distinguish both the Chinese
pilot and the English captain.

"Hi!" he shouted.  "I have missed the ship.  If you slow down and lower
a rope I can come on board from a _sampan_."

He spoke in excellent English.  There is no doubt that the captain both
heard and understood him, for Ling received his answer.

"Too late, my friend!" shouted the captain.  "We sail to time, and if
you’re not here it’s your own fault.  You’ll have to wait till
to-morrow--eight o’clock in the morning."

Ling’s answer was neither in the English language nor at the top of his
voice.  It was in Cantonese, and as a matter of fact it cannot be
translated.  And if it could be translated, no one would print it.  For
Ling had not failed to observe Yung How, standing alone upon the upper
deck.



CHAPTER XVIII--OF THE SPIDER AND THE WEB


When Frank was thrown into the little room beneath the stairs, and heard
the key turn upon him, he at first believed himself to be in utter
darkness.  But very soon his eyes became accustomed to the dim light
that emanated from several cracks in the woodwork.

These cracks were in the stairs that led from the lower room to the
balcony.  The opium den was, of course, well illumined by several
paraffin lamps.  The little room in which Frank was imprisoned extended
from the foot of the staircase to the back wall, the staircase itself
forming the ceiling, which was in consequence only about three feet high
at one end of the room, and about twelve feet high at the other. Now it
so happened that the largest crack was at the lower end of the room, and
Frank Armitage was not slow to discover that, by placing his eye to
this, he could see quite easily into the opium den.

When he looked into the outer room he was able to observe several opium
smokers, and Ah Wu himself, who was seated at his desk at the doorway.
There was, however, no sign of Ling, and Frank rightly concluded that
the Honanese must have left the establishment in pursuit of Yung How.

There could be no doubt upon this point; for not only could the boy see,
but he was able to hear quite distinctly, the woodwork of which the
small room was constructed being extraordinarily thin.  If Ling had been
either upon the balcony or in the lower room Frank must have heard him;
for the man seldom spoke without raising his voice to such a pitch that
he might have been giving a word of command to a regiment of cavalry.

Fully an hour elapsed before the Honanese returned.  He was then in a
towering rage.  He called for Ah Wu, who chanced to be absent in the
kitchen.  Frank heard Ling inform the proprietor of the opium den that
Yung How had escaped on the Hong-Kong boat.  Both men then repaired to
Ah Wu’s private apartments, where they remained for the greater part of
the night, Ah Wu occasionally looking in upon the opium den to see that
his business prospered.

Until about eleven o’clock the following morning, Frank Armitage was
left to his thoughts; and these were none of the pleasantest.  He was
suffering considerable discomfort.  It was a long time since he had had
any food; and the great heat and stifling atmosphere of the opium den,
together with the pungent smell of the smoke, had served to make him so
thirsty that his lips were dry and his tongue clave to the roof of his
mouth.  He regretted bitterly that he had not been able to escape with
Yung How.  He felt that he could not stand the extreme suspense of his
situation much longer.  It seemed to him inevitable that before long
Ling would discover who he was.

This was all the more probable, since--according to Ling--Cheong-Chau
himself was coming to the opium den.  The brigand would be far more
likely than anyone else to recognise Frank--because he knew which of his
prisoners had escaped, and had evidently come south in order to hunt for
the fugitive.

Frank was seized with a great dread that Cheong-Chau had already made
away with his other prisoners, that he had murdered both Sir Thomas
Armitage and Mr Waldron.  There was a possibility, on the other hand,
that he had brought his captives with him, which he might have done
quite easily on board a river-junk.  Knowing full well that he could not
hope to obtain the ransom if Sir Thomas and Mr Waldron were known to be
dead, he may have decided to send further evidence to Hong-Kong to the
effect that his hostages were still alive.  On thinking the matter over,
Frank was inclined to the belief that this was what had actually
happened.

There was another aspect of the business which demanded consideration.
It was now Cheong-Chau’s intention to go himself to the Glade of
Children’s Tears, in order to procure the money as soon as it arrived.
This, as we know, was a privilege that the mighty Ling had chosen to
reserve for himself; and so a meeting between these two redoubtable
villains was sooner or later inevitable.  Cheong-Chau would have upon
his side the advantage of numbers.  Ling, on the other hand, was in
possession of the more accurate information: he knew Cheong-Chau’s
whereabouts and his intentions, whilst Cheong-Chau knew nothing about
him; he knew also that Yung How had escaped to Hong-Kong and that
intervention by the British was by no means improbable--a circumstance
of which the brigand chieftain remained in ignorance.

That night Frank endeavoured to work out every possible contingency,
until his brain grew dizzy with thinking.  At last, dead tired, feeling
sick with suspense, hunger and thirst, with such a splitting headache
resulting from the foul atmosphere of the den that he could hardly open
his eyes, he flung himself down upon the couch and almost at once fell
fast asleep.

In the boy’s last waking thoughts he found some degree of comfort.  He
had come to realise that he himself could do nothing.  He was at the
mercy of fate, in the hands of Providence--just as helpless as a wisp of
straw carried down-stream upon the current of a river.  So far as his
own safety was concerned, he had come to such a pass that it might
almost be said that he no longer regarded it.  To himself it did not
seem a matter of supreme importance whether he lived or died.  He had
not given up hope, but physical exhaustion and mental strain had done
their work.

During the earlier hours of the night his sleep was disturbed and
restless.  He was conscious all the time of the voices of men talking in
the outer room, and these voices were in some way mingled with his
dreams, which were nothing but a series of nightmares, in which the
sinister figure of the colossal Ling was ever present--Ling with his
great hands and brute strength, his long glistening pigtail, his evil,
snake-like eyes, his rude jokes, his loud laughter, and the
half-mocking, half-serious manner in which he quoted from the writings
of the great Chinese philosophers.  But, given a fair chance, a sane,
healthy and youthful constitution will in the end triumph over both
mental and bodily disorders, and towards the small hours of the morning
the boy fell into a heavy, dreamless sleep, from which he was not
awakened until Ling unlocked the door of the little room about eleven
o’clock in the morning.

The Honanese regarded his captive for some moments without speaking.

"You have slept well?" he asked.

"I have slept well," said Frank.

"They say," said Ling, "that sound sleep is a sign of a pure conscience.
I myself am in the habit of sleeping like a child.  And yet," he added,
in a doubtful voice, "I am half of opinion that I ought to put you out
of the world."

"You are free to do as you wish," said Frank.

"I thank you," said Ling.  "I am aware of it."

"At the same time," said the other, "I beg to remind you that I am not
here of my own free will.  I did not ask to accompany you; you can
scarcely say that I intruded.  You kidnapped me and demanded that I
should assist you.  I did so to the best of my ability.  I confess I had
no other alternative.  That does not alter the fact that had you left me
to mind my own affairs I should not have interfered with you. You told
me a great deal about yourself.  I did not ask you to.  You brought me
here, where in my presence you committed a crime----"

"No, no," Ling interposed.  "You do me a great injustice.  I have
committed no crime.  I did but defend my life.  I usually do so with
success."

"Have it your own way," said Frank, who now--for some reason or
other--felt bolder in the man’s presence that he had ever felt before.
"It is not a matter that concerns me.  A few days ago I had neither seen
nor heard of you.  It was a misfortune for me that I encountered you
that morning upon the wharf at Sanshui.  You have no right to detain me.
I have no valuables upon me, but a few copper _cash_.  If you want them
you can take them.  You are welcome to what I have.  I ask but one
thing: to be allowed to go free, to go about my own affairs."

"That is well spoken," said Ling.  "I admit I am fond of you.  I think I
have told you already that I have admitted you into the innermost
chamber of my heart.  Had I a son, I would that he were such as you.  I
would bring him up in the way that he should go.  I would not entrust
his education to the _literati_ of China.  I would teach him myself."

"To be a robber?" asked Frank.

"Robbery," said Ling, "is a profession.  I think that education should
be regarded merely as a groundwork, a kind of foundation upon which to
build.  A man should be left to discover his own talents.  His natural
inclinations will not lead him astray.  One man will make a good priest,
another a good pirate.  An excellent _scroff_ may make a fool of himself
as a schoolmaster.  You cannot grow mangoes upon a cherry-tree, neither
will a river fish live in the salt water.  I would teach you, my son,
the divine philosophies of China; I would instruct you in astronomy,
music and mathematics.  Then, when you were grown up, you would be able
to fend for yourself.  It would be all one to me whether you were a
government prefect, a mandarin of the Red Button, or a brigand like
Cheong-Chau, whom I hope to meet this evening."

"I see," said Frank, "that you would confer many favours upon my humble
self.  I ask but one small boon--to be allowed to go away from this
place where you have thought fit to imprison me."

"And that is the one request," said Ling, "that I am unable to grant. It
so happens that I want you."

"Why?"

"Our friend, Ah Wu, has gone away.  He has gone upon a visit to
Cheong-Chau.  Cheong-Chau and he are old friends; they are brother pigs,
who have eaten many a time from the same trough.  Ah Wu will bring
Cheong-Chau here.  Cheong-Chau is a great opium smoker, and, as all
Canton is well aware, no better opium can be obtained in the city than
that which is sold by Ah Wu.  So Cheong-Chau will come."

"And what has this to do with me?’ asked Frank.

"It has a great deal to do with you," said the other, "for, in the
meantime, I am left in charge of this establishment; hence, for the
second time, I need your assistance.  Cheong-Chau knows me very well by
sight.  He would not remain in this place two seconds if he saw me when
he entered.  Therefore, once again, I must hide."

"Where?" asked Frank.

"There is a small storeroom between the curtains and the outer door.
There I shall be.  Thence I shall be able to see everyone who enters or
who leaves.  There will be no other way of exit, for the back door will
be locked and I shall have the key.  When Cheong-Chau enters you are to
attend to his wants.  When he asks for opium to smoke, you are to take
it to him; but you are to come to me for it, and the opium which I will
give you will be drugged.  That is all you have to do.  It will be very
simple.  You cannot hope to escape, for I myself guard the outer door,
and I shall be armed with the revolver that I took from Yung How.  I
need hardly tell you that, if necessity arises, I shall shoot."

Frank realised at once that this plan of Ling’s involved the utmost
peril for himself.  It was probable that Cheong-Chau, when he came,
would recognise the fugitive.  What the result of this would be, Frank
dared not imagine.  On the other hand, he saw no way of escaping from
Ling.  It was as if the boy was no more than a fly which had been caught
in the meshes of the huge net woven by this implacable and terrible
spider.

Throughout the whole of that day, he was kept busily employed in the
opium den, brushing the couches, sweeping the floor and cleaning the
spirit-lamps.  He was given food to eat, and plenty of green tea to
drink, which had the effect of getting rid of his headache.  And all the
time he was working he endeavoured to collect his thoughts; he tried to
think of some definite plan of action.  But rack his brain as he might,
he could see no way out of his difficulties.  He could think of no means
of staving off the calamity which was impending.

During the afternoon the den began to fill.  Customers continually
dropped in, some to smoke opium, others to purchase it and take it away.
At nightfall, there was about a dozen people in the place, and when the
clock which was suspended upon the railings of the balcony struck the
hour of ten, the voice of Ah Wu was heard without the main entrance.
Immediately afterwards, the fat proprietor entered, accompanied by
Cheong-Chau, the brigand chief.



CHAPTER XIX--HOW LING READ CONFUCIUS


Frank, who feared instinctively that the worst would happen, retreated
hastily to the other end of the room.  There he busied himself with
vigorously sweeping the floor, until he was summoned by Ah Wu to attend
to the wants of the new-comer.

The boy’s heart was beating violently.  It was as much as he could do to
lift his eyes from the ground to meet those of the redoubtable brigand
from whose clutches he had so recently escaped; and when at last he did
so, he was more than ever dismayed to perceive that Cheong-Chau was
attended by three of his ruffians, whom Frank knew well by sight.

As in a flash, the boy reviewed the circumstances of the predicament in
which he found himself.  He saw no hope that he could avoid detection.
Even if Cheong-Chau himself failed to recognise the fugitive--a very
unlikely contingency--one of the other three would be almost sure to do
so.  It must be remembered that the boy had not disguised his features.
His identity was but thinly veiled by the Chinese clothes he was
wearing--which had been given him by the tea-grower--the false pigtail
and the shaven forepart of his head.  He could not believe for a moment
that Cheong-Chau would fail to know him.

In his extreme anxiety, it did not occur to the boy that Yung How, who
knew him a great deal better than any of the brigands, had been quite
deceived, that Frank had been obliged to declare his identity to the man
who had known him since childhood.  For all that, even if the boy had
had either the presence of mind or the inclination to take stock of his
chances of success, he could not have overlooked a very important fact:
that Cheong-Chau was looking for him, whereas Yung How, on the other
hand, had never suspected for an instant that he had escaped.

Cheong-Chau and his men had come south in pursuit of the fugitive.  The
man had been enticed into the opium den by Ah Wu, whom he still believed
to be his colleague.  Here Cheong-Chau was to be drugged by order of the
subtle and relentless villain who even then lay in hiding--like a great
cat crouching by the side of a mouse-hole--behind the embroidered
curtains.  And now Cheong-Chau was to find himself, suddenly and
unexpectedly, confronted by the very fugitive whom he had pursued for
days.

Frank, cold with fear, certain of disaster, and dreading that he would
be mercilessly put to death, looked Cheong-Chau in the face.  The varied
sensations he experienced were akin to what those must be of a condemned
man upon the scaffold.  He did but wait for the terminating blow to
fall.

He could not look at Cheong-Chau for more than an instant.  He turned
and regarded Ah Wu, who was standing on the other side of him.  Ah Wu
was smiling in his oily, plausible manner.  He looked the complete host,
affability itself, and all the time he was planning the discomfiture of
his guest.  A fat, genuine rogue!

"Ah Li," said he, addressing Frank, "you will attend to the wants of our
distinguished guest.  Conduct Cheong-Chau and his friends to the more
comfortable couches upstairs, smooth the pillows, place a spirit-lamp
upon each table, and then hasten to the storeroom and procure the best
quality opium.  Cheong-Chau would smoke the Indian variety, that which
comes from Calcutta, than which there is no finer opium in the world."

Frank turned, and departed up the staircase.  Indeed, he was devoutly
thankful to get away.  At the top of the steps he paused, and stood for
a moment trying to think, with his back turned to the room.

Nothing had happened--nothing at all.  Cheong-Chau had not spoken. None
of his men had said a word.  The boy was still unrecognised.  It was too
good to be true.  It was all like a dream.

Pulling himself together, Frank carried out his orders, thinking all the
time that the remarkable chain of circumstances which had carried him
against his will and inclination from one adventure to another was
something altogether foreign to his former experiences.  Life, instead
of a pleasant and somewhat homely occupation, had become a kind of
romantic nightmare.  It was hard not to believe that presently he would
awaken to find that Cheong-Chau, Ah Wu and Ling himself were phantasms,
hallucinations, that would vanish at the moment of waking, their
sinister and evil personalities fading away, in the boy’s memory, like
smoke upon the air.

He could scarce believe that a few minutes’ calm reasoning would not
instantly dissipate the reality of these strange and terrible people,
the remarkable events dependent upon the thoughts and actions of a
ruffian like Ling.  Everything was all the more unreal to Frank because
he appeared to exist, to continue to undergo such singular experiences,
only by virtue of a series of miracles.  The unexpected always happened.

It was also inconceivable to the boy that he himself, the nephew of one
of the most distinguished government officials in Hong-Kong, a man of
almost world-wide reputation as a lawyer, should find himself a coolie
attendant in a Canton opium den, in which he conversed, in terms of
intimate acquaintance, with Chinese thieves, brigands, swindlers and
cut-throats.  And yet he was not dreaming: he was conscious of a
headache; both his knees and elbows had been badly bruised; and besides,
Yung How, who had once been wont to take a small five-year-old boy for
walks upon the level paths on the crest of the Peak, had known him, had
fallen upon his knees before him, and had wept tears of repentance.

Whilst the boy was busy with these thoughts, he was carrying out his
duties.  He had arranged the couches, lighted the spirit-lamps, and seen
that there was one of Ah Wu’s best carved ivory opium pipes upon each
lacquer table.

By that time Cheong-Chau and his three companions, attended by the
officious Ah Wu, had ascended the stairs.  Cheong-Chau’s eyes glistened
at the thought of the treat in store for him; while his men--rough
Chinese of the very lowest class--stared about them in awed amazement at
the carved wood, the rich draperies, the gilded lacquer that adorned Ah
Wu’s premises.  Doubtless they had never before found themselves in such
a high-class establishment.  They had been wont to smoke their opium in
the foul and verminous dens of the provincial town of Pinglo. Possibly
they had never before beheld the miraculous city of Canton.

Frank observed all this, and knew that he could find here the reason why
he had not been recognised.  The men were too much impressed by their
surroundings to take note of details.  Place a beggar in a palace, and
he will most likely fail to notice the pattern of the carpet upon which
he stands, even though he stare in his embarrassment at nothing else.

Cheong-Chau stretched himself upon the couch immediately facing the
stair-head.  His three followers similarly disposed themselves upon his
left, the one at the end reclining under the window through which Yung
How had escaped.

Ah Wu rubbed his hands together and addressed himself to the brigand.

"They tell me," said he, "that one of your prisoners has cut off?"

"That is so," said Cheong-Chau, with an oath.  "The fools of sentries
let him through.  He got away in the night.  I and ten men started at
daybreak, bringing with us the two other captives, but so far we have
failed to find the culprit."

Frank, standing near at hand, listened intently to every word.  The boy
had placed himself against the wall, a little behind Cheong-Chau, so
that the man would have to turn to look at him.

"Can he have reached Hong-Kong, do you think?" asked Ah Wu.

Cheong-Chau shrugged his shoulders.

"I think not," said he.  "He has barely had time.  But who can say?"

"And you have brought your other captives with you?"

"That was necessary," said Cheong-Chau.  "I had to keep them under my
eye.  I cannot trust my men.  They allow hostages to escape."

"Did you not find them very much in the way?" asked Ah Wu.

"Not in the least.  We came down in one of my own sea-going junks.  We
are now anchored in the Sang River, about two miles from the Glade of
Children’s Tears.  Still, I am not here to give information but to
receive it.  What news have you of Men-Ching?"

"He left here yesterday morning," answered the other, without moving a
muscle of his face.

"Did he not say where he was going?"

"Not a word."

"Strange," said Cheong-Chau.  "A surprising circumstance!  He knew well
enough that you were in our confidence.  He ought to have spoken openly
to you."

Ah Wu laughed.

"Of course," said he.  "Why, it was I myself who arranged the whole
matter."

"And what of the other man, Yung How, the Hong-Kong servant?"

"He also is gone."

Cheong-Chau was silent a moment.

"We must suppose," said he, "that Men-Ching has gone on to Hong-Kong
with the letters.  We may therefore presume that the letters have
already reached their destination.  The money may arrive at the Glade
to-morrow.  As for Yung How, I do not know the man.  But if he
contemplates treachery, it will go ill with him.  And now, Ah Wu, my
opium.  I would smoke."

Ah Wu turned to the boy and ordered him to bring four bowls of Indian
opium from the storeroom.  Frank descended the stairs, passed down the
length of the lower room, drew back the embroidered curtains and entered
the storeroom, where he found Ling seated upon a stool.  It was one of
those high stools upon which Chinese of the merchant class are wont to
do their accounts, similar to the old-fashioned clerks’ stools sometimes
seen in offices in England.  When seated upon one of these, the average
man rests his feet upon a cross-piece, several inches from the ground.
Ling, however, sat with one foot upon the floor and the other leg
crossed upon his knee.

When the boy entered, Ling was reading, but he at once looked up from
his book.

"The writings of Confucius," said he, "assure me that the perfect life
cannot be attained by any man.  Troubles, disappointment, sorrows and
failure are bound to accompany us wherever we go.  Divine philosophy
instructs us to accept our destiny with grace.  The coat of every man is
patched; there are cracks in the armour upon which he depends to defend
himself from the arrows of adversity.  He who thinks himself infallible
falls the most heavily; the conceited man lays the trap by which he
himself is caught; his own vanity trips him up.  He who attempts much,
hopes for much, but is prepared to go unrewarded, is he to whom success
is doubly assured.  I trust, my youthful friend, you follow me."

"Perfectly," said Frank.

"That is well," said Ling, laying down his book.  "And now we will
poison Cheong-Chau."

"Poison him!" exclaimed the boy.

"Fear not," said Ling.  "Send him comfortably to sleep--a sleep that
will last for some days.  By then I shall have gathered the harvest at
the Glade of Children’s Tears, and you, my little one, will be
free--your heart’s sole desire."

He turned and picked up a large pale blue bowl in which he had stirred a
quantity of opium, mixing it with a colourless fluid contained in a
bottle.

"There are four of them, I understand?" said he.

"Yes," said Frank.

"It is as well," observed Ling, "that I have made enough.  I fill four
small bowls--one for each.  These fools will not taste anything; they
will not suspect.  They will smoke and dream, and enjoy to the full the
delights of opium.  And they will fall gradually into such a sleep that
the firing of a cannon in the room would not awaken them."

He handed to the boy the four small bowls upon a tray of carved black
wood.

"Take it," said he, "and leave me to my reading.  Happiness is to be
found in wisdom, not wisdom in happiness.  In prosperity the heart
withers; in adversity, it blooms.  Farewell."

Frank went out, holding the tray before him, and ascended the flight of
steps.



CHAPTER XX--HOW THE TIGER SPRANG


Upon the balcony Frank found Cheong-Chau still in conversation with Ah
Wu.  No one would have suspected from the demeanour of the fat
proprietor of the opium den that he plotted the overthrow of the
redoubtable brigand chief.  The man was all smiles and Chinese courtesy.
He rubbed his hands together; he flattered his guest; he bowed
repeatedly.  Frank advanced, carrying the tray upon which were the four
bowls of opium.

"Ah!" exclaimed Ah Wu.  "We have here the choice opium of which I spoke.
I guarantee that the distinguished Cheong-Chau has never smoked the like
of it.  I procure it from an agent in Burma.  This, I believe, is the
only house in China in which it is sold."

"I thank you, Ah Wu," said the brigand, who had divested himself of the
greater part of his clothing.  "I thank you from my heart.  I am a rough
man, accustomed to the wilds.  Such luxuries seldom come my way. At the
same time, Ah Wu, who is this boy?  It occurs to me that I have seen him
before."

The man was staring at Frank, who felt his heart sink within him.  Ah
Wu’s answer, given without hesitation, was somewhat reassuring.

"He has been here," said Ah Wu, "for many months."

"Strange," said Cheong-Chau, "that I have never seen him before!"

Frank was, at first, at a loss to explain what motive Ah Wu could have
for telling such a deliberate falsehood.  It then occurred to him that
Ah Wu could not explain truthfully who he was without mentioning Ling;
and it was--from Ah Wu’s point of view--of extreme importance to keep
the name of Ling out of the whole affair.  If Cheong-Chau but knew that
the great Honanese was in the building, he would not have remained in
the place for five seconds, much less would he have been so careless as
to allow his physical and mental capacities to be temporarily subdued by
the subtle fumes of the opium poppy.

"Come here, boy," said Cheong-Chau, who had not yet removed his eyes
from Frank.  "I want to look at you more closely."

The boy went forward in fear and trembling.  Cheong-Chau grasped him by
a wrist, and drew him downward, so that their faces were not more than a
foot apart.

"You bear," said Cheong-Chau, speaking very deliberately, "a most
remarkable resemblance to the very man I am looking for.  What is your
name?"

"Ah Li," said Frank.

The boy’s heart was beating like a sledgehammer.  He felt instinctively
that the Sword of Damocles, which had been suspended for so long above
his head, was at last about to fall.  That the result would be fatal to
himself, and those whose lives depended upon him, he could not for a
moment doubt.

"I come from Sanshui," said he, in a weak voice that quailed.

Cheong-Chau suddenly rose to his feet and lifted his voice to a kind of
shriek.  It was the voice Frank had heard when Cheong-Chau addressed his
followers in the gloomy nave of the temple; it was the same voice the
man had used on the occasion when he staggered into the cave, senseless
and drugged with opium.

"It is in my way of thinking," he shouted, "that you come from
Hong-Kong, that your name is no more Ah Li than mine is, that you are a
foreign devil in disguise!"

Ah Wu opened his eyes in astonishment.  He lifted both hands with
fingers widespread.  He looked like an old woman who has seen a ghost.

"There is some mistake!" he cried.

"This boy," roared Cheong-Chau, "is a foreigner."

His voice was so loud that it carried to the farther end of the room.
Everyone heard his words, and those who were not asleep raised
themselves upon their elbows to ascertain what the disturbance was
about.  Behind the embroidered curtains the mighty Ling, who had been
listening to all that was said, crouching like a cat, rose stealthily
and slowly to his feet.  He was like a great beast of prey that suddenly
scents danger.  It was as if he stretched the great muscles of his body,
preparatory to action.

"You are a foreigner!" cried Cheong-Chau.

Frank knew not which way to look.  He had put down the tray upon a small
lacquer table by the side of Cheong-Chau’s couch.  The brigand still
held him tightly by a wrist.  Realising that he could not deny the truth
of the man’s words, the boy made a foolish, headstrong effort to escape.
With a quick wrench, he freed his arm, and turned upon his heel with the
intention of dashing down the steps.  Since subterfuge had failed, he
felt that he had nothing else to rely upon but physical agility.

He had almost reached the head of the stairs when Ah Wu stretched forth
a hand to detain him.  It is strange that the boy’s exposure should have
been brought about by Ah Wu, in whose interests it was for the deception
to continue--at least, whilst Cheong-Chau was in the house.

Ah Wu attempted to seize the boy by a shoulder, and failing in this, he
clutched at Frank’s pigtail, which was flying out behind him.  Needless
to say, as the boy plunged down the stairs, he left behind him his false
pigtail in the hands of the dumbfounded Ah Wu.  Before he could stop
himself, Frank was at the bottom of the stairs, and there, for the first
time, he remembered that he would have to pass Ling at the outer door.

For the brief space of a moment, Frank looked about him like a hunted
beast.  He could see no way of escape.  Ling, he knew, was in front of
him, though not visible.  The back door was locked.  There were no
windows in the lower room.  On the other hand, escape from one of the
balcony windows was impossible, for Cheong-Chau and his three followers
stood at the stair-head.  The voice of Cheong-Chau filled the room,
uttering, in a weird, sing-song voice, a kind of triumphant pæan.

"I am Cheong-Chau," he cried, "and men fear me from the Nan-ling
Mountains to the sea.  I have hunted down the fugitive and I have found
him.  Those who foil me can expect no mercy.  I live by the knife, and
my enemies die by the knife.  Death to foreign devils!"

At that, he dashed down the stairs.  As he did so he drew from his belt
a long, curved Chinese knife, which he raised high above his head.

Frank turned and fled down the room, but Cheong-Chau was upon him as a
cat springs at a mouse.  The boy was caught by the coat, and jerked
backward.  With difficulty he maintained his balance.  Looking up, he
beheld Cheong-Chau’s knife raised on high, whilst the man’s eyes were
fixed upon the region of the boy’s heart.

"By the knife!" shrieked Cheong-Chau.  "By the knife!"

The cruel weapon glittered in the light emanating from the paraffin
lamps.  Frank closed his eyes, knowing that the end was about to come.
He felt that he had not strength to look longer into that impassioned
face.

Then, quite suddenly, there came a roar like that of a charging lion.
Frank was pushed aside and sent flying across the room, to pitch, head
foremost, over an unoccupied couch.  Gathering himself together, he
beheld a feat of strength that was amazing.

[Illustration: "THERE CAME A ROAR LIKE THAT OF A CHARGING LION."]

The mighty Ling had swooped down upon his rival as an eagle snatches his
prey.  A blow from his great fist sounded like a pistol shot, and
Cheong-Chau, without a sound, fell in a heap senseless on the floor. And
then two of the brigand’s followers were seized by the throat, and their
two heads were brought together with a crash.  One man pitched forward
on the instant, and lay upon his face, flat across the body of his
leader.  As for the other, he went reeling round the room like a man
dazed and drunken.  Then he dropped down upon both knees by the side of
a couch, holding his head between his hands.

The third man turned and fled in trepidation at the sight of the fate of
his comrades.  However, he had gone no farther than half-way up the
stairs, when Ling snatched up one of the small lacquer tables, and
hurled it at the fugitive with such force that it crashed to atoms
against the banisters.  This projectile was followed, a fraction of a
second later, by a lighted paraffin lamp, which stretched the man
senseless upon the balcony at the feet of the amazed Ah Wu.

All this had happened in less than a minute.  Frank Armitage had only
just time to observe that the lamp had fortunately gone out, and that
there was no danger of the place being set on fire.  And then he himself
was plucked violently from off his feet.

Ling had picked him up as though he were a babe in arms.  In his haste
and violence, the man tore down the embroidered curtains.  Frank heard
the front door slam, and then he was conscious of the fact that he was
being borne onward at a terrific pace, through the dark and narrow
streets of the great Chinese city.



CHAPTER XXI--OF THE GLADE OF CHILDREN’S TEARS


Frank had neither time to consider the extraordinary sequence of events
narrated in the previous chapter nor the slightest inclination to
speculate in regard to the future.  He realised, somewhat dimly, that he
was no more than a pawn in the game.  A few moments since, he had stood
defenceless in the stifling atmosphere of the opium den; he had beheld
the knife raised to strike him down.  He had been delivered with
dramatic suddenness at the eleventh hour.  At the same time, he could
not help realising that, in all probability, he had fallen out of the
frying-pan into the fire.  If his deception had been detected by
Cheong-Chau, his identity had also been discovered by the formidable
Ling.

In the meantime he was being carried away to some unknown destination.
The boy realised the futility of attempting to struggle, and if he cried
out for help in those dark streets, no one was likely to take the least
notice of him.

Ling kept--so far as he was able--to the by-streets: the narrow,
twisting lanes that form a veritable labyrinth in the poorer parts of
this wonderful and mysterious city.  The hour was tolerably
late--approaching midnight.  The main streets were lighted by means of
the flares in the shops and upon the hawkers’ booths; and when it was
necessary to cross one of these, the spectacle of the great Honanese
carrying under his arm one who was apparently a foreign boy, dressed in
Chinese clothes, attracted no little attention.  However, with every
Chinaman it is a fixed principle of life to mind his own affairs, and no
one interfered.

At last, Ling set down the boy upon his feet, and taking hold of him by
a wrist, proceeded to drag him forward.  Presently they came forth upon
the outskirts of the town.  It was a bright night; for though the moon
was on the wane, the sky was clear and there was a glorious canopy of
stars--stars such as can only be seen east of the Suez Canal.  The boy
was able to make out the great gabled tower, situated upon a hillock to
the north of the city, which goes by the name of the Five-Storied
Pagoda.  He remembered very well visiting this place, a few weeks
before, accompanied by Mr Waldron and his uncle.

Ling took a bridle path leading directly to the north, lying in a
bee-line across the down-like hills.  The man strode forward, walking at
such a great pace that Frank was obliged to run to keep up with him. All
this time he said nothing.  He walked, staring straight in front of
him--a gaunt, sinister and gigantic figure.  Never for a moment did he
release his hold of Frank’s wrist, which felt as if it was held within a
vice.

After a time they came to a river, or canal.  Since the path led
straight into the water and was visible in continuation upon the other
bank, it was evident that there was a ford.  Ling hesitated a moment,
and then, hoisting his captive upon his shoulder, carried him high and
dry to the other side, himself wading in water that reached to his
knees.  Beyond, he once more set down Frank upon the ground; and they
went forward at the same steady pace.  And at every step the water
squelched in the soft felt shoes the Chinaman was wearing.

At the end of an hour, Frank was beginning to feel fatigued; he was
considerably out of breath.  Ling, on the other hand, appeared to be in
no way exhausted.  They came to a hut--the habitation, in all
probability, of some swineherd or peasant.

Ling kicked open the door, and they found within an old man, very
disreputable and dirty, clothed in rags, sound asleep before the glowing
embers of a charcoal fire.

Ling touched the sleeper upon the shoulder, and the old man sat up.

"The mighty Ling!" he exclaimed, the moment he saw his visitor.

"Peace," said Ling.  "I come in peace, my friend.  You need not be
discomfited.  I ask for nothing more than you can give me."

The old man, who had now risen to his feet, bowed low.

"A mandarin of the Blue Button has but to speak," said he.  "Who is a
mere drover of foul pigs to gainsay the word of so distinguished a
personage?  Is it food you desire, or water, or an hour’s rest upon your
journey?  All I have, sir, is your own."

"I want that which will cost you nothing," answered Ling.  "This will
not be the first time that you have aided me.  I will reward you--at a
later date--if all goes well with me."

"May the gods assist you," said the old man, bowing again.

"I rely upon myself," said Ling.  "Tell me, Cheong-Chau’s men have come
from the mountains.  They are reported on the Sang River.  Have you seen
anything of them?"

"I have indeed," said the other.  "There is a junk anchored about three
_li_ west of the tower.  I saw it this afternoon."

"Did you notice how many men were on board?"

"About five or six," said the old man.

"That agrees," said Ling, "with what I already know."

He remained silent for a moment, and then suddenly grasped Frank by an
arm and thrust him through the door.

"Come!" he cried.  "We have no time to lose."

The next moment Frank Armitage was on the road again, and throughout the
early hours of the morning he continued to travel northward, in company
with his grim and silent captor.  Once the boy dared to speak, asking
Ling where they were going; but he was at once ordered to hold his
tongue.

"You need what breath you have," observed the Honanese.  "I am not here
to answer questions."

There was more than a little truth in the first remark, for the boy was
obliged to keep up a steady jog-trot mile after mile, with never a halt
or a rest by the wayside.

Presently they gained the crest of a chain of low-lying hills.  The
moonlight was sufficient to enable them to see for a considerable
distance.  Before them lay a valley--so far as Frank could make
out--exceedingly fertile and picturesque, in which was a tall, thin
tower, somewhat resembling a short factory chimney, except that at the
top there was a narrow, circular balcony protected both from the rain
and the powerful rays of the sun by one of those queer-shaped,
overhanging roofs that are peculiar to Southern China.

Frank knew at a glance that this was the tower from which, in days gone
by, it had been the custom of the Cantonese to throw little children,
whose existence had grown irksome to their parents.  At one time this
barbarous and terrible custom was prevalent in the Middle Kingdom, until
finally even the Chinese themselves revolted against the laws that
permitted such a crime.

Flooded by the pure light of the moon, the valley appeared a perfect
haven of rest.  No one would have believed that such a beautiful spot
had, in former times, been the scene of such terrible brutality.  The
tall tower shone like brass, and at its feet the broad waters of the
Sang River flowed swiftly to the west.

Ling, still dragging Frank forward, descended the hill, and then turned
to the right, towards a clump of trees.  It was then, for the first time
since they had left Canton, that, of his own accord, he spoke to his
prisoner.

"Here is the place," he cried.  "The Glade of Children’s Tears.  Here it
is that Cheong-Chau’s ransom money will be hidden."

Frank did not think it advisable to answer.  Ling no longer held him by
a wrist: such a precaution was now unnecessary.  Frank could not
possibly escape.

For a distance of about a hundred yards they walked in the heavy shadows
under the branches of the trees, which were thick with leaves. And then,
quite suddenly, they came once again into the bright moonlight, to find
themselves confronted by a scene which was both grotesque and
picturesque.

In ancient times the place had evidently been the site of a temple, of
which only the ruined walls, a few stone steps and several flagstones
remained.  Here and there, lying upon the ground, overgrown by weeds and
underwoods, were great broken, hideous idols, many of which were at
least twelve feet in length.  In the ghostly moonlight, it was like
looking upon a scene which had been the battle-field of giants.

It was manifest that Ling knew the place well, for he walked straight up
to a great circular stone, considerably darker in colour than the
surrounding brickwork and rocks.  Though this stone must have been of
enormous weight, he rolled it away without difficulty.  Beneath was a
large hole.  Going down upon his knees, the man struck a match, the
light of which dimly illumined a vault as large as an ordinary room.

"Empty!" he exclaimed.  "However, I did not expect to find the money
here.  It should arrive to-morrow, if my calculations are correct.  I do
not think that your friends will venture to waste time.  Too much is at
stake."

"_My_ friends?" said Frank.

"Exactly," said the other.  "I was so fortunate as to discover who you
are.  I confess that for days you deceived me.  I never dreamt for a
moment that the boy whose services I enlisted in Sanshui was a European.
I congratulate you upon your accent and your knowledge of the Cantonese
language.  You speak it as well as I, who am a Northerner."

"And why," asked Frank, "have you brought me here?"  This was the
question he had long been burning to ask.

Ling shrugged his shoulders.

"You may have deceived me," said he, "but I am not altogether a fool."

And that, apparently, was all the reply he would condescend to give.

"I fail to understand," said Frank.

"Then you are very dense.  Let me enlighten you: in a few hours, twenty
thousand dollars will be hidden in this place.  That money is intended
for Cheong-Chau.  Cheong-Chau will not receive a cent."

As he said these words, he rolled the stone back into its place.

"Cheong-Chau’s junk lies up-stream," he continued, once again as if
speaking to himself.  "He had ten men with him.  He took three with him
to Ah Wu’s opium den.  Of those three, I have accounted for one at
least, and I do not think the man I struck down with the lamp will be
fit to fight for many a day.  In any case, neither those three men nor
Cheong-Chau himself are here.  There are therefore only seven on board
the junk.  It is now about three o’clock in the morning.  Six of those
seven men are sound asleep.  I propose to take the junk by storm."

"You mean," said Frank, "that you will do this--single-handed?"

"I have this," said Ling.  "If necessary, I shall use it."

At that he produced the revolver he had taken from Yung How.  He played
with it for a moment in his great hands, and then put it back in his
pocket.

"I shall require the junk," he added, "in order to take the treasure
away.  And even if I fail to get possession of it, I have you, my little
one, who are so clever.  You are worth, to me, at least another twenty
thousand dollars."

Frank saw the truth as in a flash: once again he was a hostage.  Ling no
doubt intended to demand a second ransom as the price of the boy’s
freedom--perhaps his life.  As the man remained silent for some minutes,
Frank had the greater time to think the matter out.  And the more he
thought of it, the more was he obliged to admire the consummate subtlety
of Ling, who had the faculty of grasping a situation without a moment’s
waste of time, estimating the salient factors at their proper value.

In the opium den, Frank’s identity had been unmasked, and his life
threatened in a period of time which could not have been more than
thirty or forty seconds.  And yet, in those brief and breathless
seconds, Ling, in hiding behind the curtain, had summed up the position
at a glance.  He had seen that Cheong-Chau--who for the moment was blind
with rage--was about to throw away a human life that was likely to be
extremely valuable to himself.  It was not a sense of humanity that had
prompted him to save the boy.  He had done so for his own personal ends.

"Come," he cried, "to the junk!  I promise you I will flutter the
dovecot.  I will scatter them like ducks."

At that he strode forward, followed by Frank, amazed at the man’s
calmness and audacity.



CHAPTER XXII--OF THE CAPTURE OF THE JUNK


Ling walked in an easterly direction, keeping at a distance of about a
hundred yards from the river bank.  The morning was exceedingly still;
nothing disturbed the silence but the ceaseless sound of the current of
the river, stirring the tall reeds that grew in the shallow water.  The
Sang River, which at this place was about a hundred and fifty yards
across, is one of the main tributaries of the Pe-kiang, which flows into
Canton from the north.  As Frank knew well, it was navigable for a
considerable distance, even for sea-going junks.  Presently Ling began
to talk to himself in a low voice, but loud enough for the boy to hear.

"The sages have told us," he observed, "to think before we act.  Men
speak of the ’road of life.’  That is a false metaphor.  In life there
are many roads; it is open to us to travel by one or by another.  The
junk will be anchored in midstream."  He broke off, turning quickly to
the boy.  "Tell me, can you swim?"

Frank replied that he was a good swimmer.

"That is well," said Ling.  "It will be necessary for you to accompany
me into the water.  It is to your advantage to do so.  On board, you
will find the two friends you left in Cheong-Chau’s cave in the
mountains."

"So if you capture the junk," said Frank, "if you overpower those on
board, you will have three hostages instead of one."

"That is true," said Ling.  "But better for you and your friends to be
in my hands than in the hands of Cheong-Chau, who is a blind, senseless
fool."

"You will be satisfied with the ransom?"

"Concerning that," said Ling, "I have not yet made up my mind."

He spoke no more, but continued to stride forward, the boy following in
his footsteps.  They came to marshy ground, where their shoes squelched
in the mud.  And here, knowing that they could not be far from the junk,
they walked more slowly, as silently as possible.

A little after, at a place where the river turned abruptly to the north,
they found themselves before the junk, which lay at anchor not fifty
yards from the bank.  Ling took off his coat, and the boy followed his
example.  Then, without a word, the Chinese, like a great water-snake,
glided silently into the river.

Frank hesitated to follow.  It was within his power to escape.  Perhaps
the great Chinaman did not care whether he did so or not.  For two
reasons, the boy divested himself of his coat and followed Ling: first,
he had by now so great a respect for the man’s ability and prowess that
he doubted very much whether he would succeed in getting away; secondly,
and chiefly, he had an overmastering desire to set eyes upon his uncle,
to know that both Sir Thomas and Mr Waldron were still alive and safe.

The current being somewhat swift, it was fortunate that Frank was a
strong swimmer.  In the moonlight he could see before him the great head
of Ling, moving rapidly and silently forward upon the surface of the
water.

The man reached the prow of the junk, and there, laying hold of the
chain to which the anchor was attached, he lifted himself half out of
the water, and in this position he remained, waiting for Frank.  In a
few seconds the boy had joined him.

The moonlight fell full upon the Honanese.  The man’s yellow skin
glistened.  In his teeth he held his revolver which, whilst swimming, he
had held high and dry.  Then quite slowly he drew himself up the chain
until he had gained the deck--the high forecastle-peak which is to be
found on every sea-going Chinese junk.  There he crouched behind the
capstan.

In a few minutes, Frank Armitage had joined him.  The boy was out of
breath from swimming.

Side by side, they lay quite still for about five minutes.  Ling
evidently intended to give his young assistant time to recover his
breath.  At last, the man whispered in Frank’s ear.

"Fools!" he exclaimed.  "They have not even posted a sentry."

As he said the words, a man appeared from behind the mast--a man who was
smoking a cigarette.

The end of the cigarette glowed brightly.  It was plain that the man had
just lighted it.  In all probability he had gone behind the mast for
that purpose, in order to be sheltered from the wind.  He appeared to
have no suspicion that intruders had come on board, for he walked
leisurely forward, smoking and singing to himself a weird Chinese
tune--a melody on three notes, each long sustained.

He reached the peak of the vessel, and there stood still for a moment,
looking across country towards the hills.  And then it was that Ling
sprang upon him.  The man was snatched from off his feet.  He had no
time to cry out, to give the alarm, for almost at once one of the great
hands of the Honanese was placed upon his mouth.  He was gagged in less
than a minute with an oily rag that was found lying upon the deck, which
must have been extremely unpleasant to the taste.

There is never any difficulty on board a ship of any kind in finding
rope, and it was not long before the unfortunate sentry was bound hand
and foot and left upon the deck.

Then Ling, still followed by Frank, advanced on tiptoe until he came to
a little hatchway, a kind of trap-door, which communicated with the foul
cabin in which Chinese fishermen and their families are wont to live,
eat and sleep.

Lying down at his full length, Ling turned an ear downward and remained
for some time listening.  From below there issued sounds of heavy
snoring.

Having satisfied himself that everything was in order, the Honanese got
to his feet, and returned to the man whom he had gagged and bound in the
forepart of the ship.  With his great fingers he tore the man’s coat
into shreds.  These he folded carefully.  Then, searching the deck, he
found a long cord, which he cut into several pieces, each about a yard
in length.  Thrusting all these materials into his pockets, he returned
to the hatchway, where he lowered himself carefully and silently into
the cabin below.

What followed Frank could only guess.  By reason of the darkness in the
cabin, the boy was able to see nothing.  He heard faint sounds of
struggling--an occasional gasp or choke---once or twice a muttered
Chinese oath, stifled suddenly in the midst of a syllable.

It was apparent that the mighty Ling fell upon his victims one by one,
in quick succession.  He dealt with them in detail, pouncing upon each
man when he was deep in heavy slumber.

Not one of these unfortunates was given time to cry out, to give the
alarm to his comrades.  Each in turn was gagged before he was fully
awake.  And then his hands were bound behind his back and his feet tied
together.

The Honanese had accounted for six in this manner, when he struck a
match and lighted a hanging paraffin lamp suspended from one of the
beams that supported the deck.  He then ordered Frank to descend.

The boy found himself in a small cabin that extended from one side of
the ship to the other.  It was indescribably dirty.  All sorts of things
were scattered upon the floor: pieces of rope, fishing tackle, unwashed
plates and rice-bowls and articles of clothing.  Upon the floor lay six
men in a row, gagged and bound, each one wearing the scarlet coat which
was the distinctive uniform of the followers of Cheong-Chau.

The place was not high enough to enable Ling to stand upright.  He stood
in the middle of the cabin, almost bent double, in which position he
resembled a huge gorilla.  He was grinning from ear to ear.

"A simple affair," said he.  "They were delivered into my hands by that
benevolent Providence that unerringly guides the footsteps of those who
have acquired merit.  Were I not a generous and kind-hearted man I
should throw them, one after the other, into the water.  As it is, they
can lie where they are."

By then he had discovered a door at the after end of the cabin.  On
attempting to open this door, and finding it locked, he turned again to
Frank.

"Search those fools," he ordered.  "On one of them, I have little doubt,
you will find a bunch of keys."

Frank did as he was commanded, but failing to find that for which he
looked, suggested that the man on deck might have had charge of the
keys.

"That may be so," said Ling.  "I am not disposed to wait.  I have an
idea that beyond this door we shall find your European friends."

So saying, with a great blow with his foot, he kicked in the door so
that the lock was broken.  He then took the paraffin lamp from the hook
from which it was hanging, and followed by the boy, entered a small
cubby-hole.

This place was probably intended for a storeroom, for though it extended
from one side of the ship to the other, it was little more than two
yards across, terminating in a bulkhead which divided the junk
amidships.

Upon the floor were two men, both of whom were sitting bolt upright,
with their eyes wide open.  They appeared to have been fast asleep when
they had been rudely awakened by the breaking open of the door.  Each
man had his feet tied together, and his hands bound behind his back.
They were hatless, and their clothes were reduced to rags.

Frank Armitage gave vent to an exclamation of delight, and rushing
forward, flung his arms around his uncle.  The other prisoner, it is
needless to say, was Mr Hennessy K. Waldron, who had certainly undergone
some very astonishing and unpleasant adventures since leaving Paradise
City, Nevada, U.S.A.



CHAPTER XXIII--HOW THE TREASURE ARRIVED


Sir Thomas Armitage did not at first recognise his nephew, and when he
did so, he could hardly believe the evidence of his eyes.

"Frank!" he exclaimed.  "However did you come here?"

"That is too long a story to tell you now," answered the boy.  "What a
relief it is to see you!  All these days I have not known whether you
were alive or dead."

"Say," said Mr Waldron, "are we to be let loose?  Am I a free citizen of
the United States or a condemned criminal?  I should like to know."

Frank turned to Ling.

"Those are questions," said he, "which you are better able to answer
than I."

Ling, finding it inconvenient to remain standing in so cramped a
position, seated himself cross-legged upon the floor and spoke in
excellent English.

"You are right," said he.  "The situation is in my hands.  I hold you as
hostages until the ransom is paid."

Here Mr Waldron was guilty of an injudicious action.  He expressed
himself with extreme rashness in a moment of deep-seated indignation.

"I assure you," said he, "that I will pay this twenty thousand dollars
without question and without delay.  To be frank, I consider the value
of my freedom and my safety to be far greater than that.  Twenty
thousand dollars is nothing to me."

"I am glad to hear it," said Ling.  "I may demand forty or even fifty
thousand.  In the meantime, I must satisfy myself with what I can get."

"Do I understand," said the judge, addressing himself to the Honanese,
"that you are not one of Cheong-Chau’s band?"

"Does the tiger serve the wolf?" said Ling.  "I am neither his coolie
nor is he mine.  Understand that I have taken possession of this junk,
that at the present moment every man on board is bound hand and foot,
with the exception of this boy.  The crew, the ransom money, Cheong-Chau
and yourselves--all are at the mercy of the mighty Ling.  I will tell
you plainly what I intend to do.

"At any moment," he continued, "I expect the ransom money to arrive at
its destination.  It is possible that Cheong-Chau may put in an
appearance.  When he recovers his senses, he will probably behave like a
madman.  If he puts his head into the tiger’s jaws, the fault is
his--not mine.  It would appear to be a simple matter for me to possess
myself of this money.  I have but to wait here until it arrives, and
then, taking the treasure on board, to sail down-stream to the North
River, and thence to Canton.  However, I have reason to suspect
treachery.  I must therefore be careful to act with the greatest
circumspection."

"Treachery from whom?" asked Frank.

"From your friend, Yung How," said Ling, "the Hong-Kong ’boy.’"

He got suddenly to his feet, and passing through the door into the cabin
beyond, set foot upon the lowest rung of the little companion-ladder
that led to the deck above.

"I leave you for a few seconds," said he to Frank.  "In my absence you
are not to attempt to unbind your friends.  I propose to inconvenience
them a little longer."

He mounted the ladder and returned soon afterwards, carrying the man
whom he had overpowered on the upper deck.  This fellow he threw down
upon the ground alongside the others.  He then returned to the inner
room.

"I desire you to come with me," said he, still addressing Frank.  "It is
not so much that I find your company indispensable, as that I am not
such a fool as to leave you on board.  I propose to go to the tower,
from the top of which we shall be able to obtain a good view of the
surrounding country.  So soon as the money arrives we will return to the
junk.  You will assist me in hoisting the sail and navigating the ship
down-stream after we have taken our cargo on board.  I know of a village
on the North River where I shall find friends who will assist me--good
seamen, who know their work.  These will sign on as my crew, and
Cheong-Chau’s men can be packed off ashore.  We shall sail to an island
that lies not far from Macao.  There I shall keep you and your two
friends in comfort and in safety--if not in luxury--until I obtain a
second ransom.  This gentleman," he added, indicating Mr Waldron, "has
been so obliging as to inform me that he can well afford to pay fifty
thousand dollars.  Very well, he shall do so.  The matter can be
arranged."

He then told Frank to ascend the companion-ladder, he himself following,
the ladder creaking violently beneath his weight.

Upon the deck they were able to observe the first signs of daybreak upon
the horizon to the east.  The old moon was setting; one by one, the
stars were disappearing in the sky.  The river at that hour looked
ghostly.  A thin white mist was drifting down the valley.

Ling, walking to the stern part of the ship, found a small boat, a kind
of dinghy.  This he lowered into the water; and then he and Frank
climbed down by means of a rope.  It required but a few strokes of the
oar, wielded by Ling’s powerful arms, to drive the boat into the bank,
where he hid it among the rushes.  A moment after they set off walking
rapidly in the direction of the tower and the Glade of Children’s Tears.

By that time the first rays of the sun had flooded the valley with a
stream of golden light.  Frank observed that a great many of the trees
were covered with bloom, and that the surrounding country was rich in
colour, the slopes across the river being scarlet with the bloom of the
opium poppy.

Ling came to a halt before a carved door at the base of the tower.
Opening this, he entered, followed by the boy, and found himself in a
small circular room.  Owing to the semi-darkness of the place, Frank
could not at first take in his surroundings, but as soon as his eyes
grew accustomed to the light, he was able to make out a narrow spiral
staircase, built into the wall itself, which must have been at least
five feet thick.

By means of this they ascended to the top of the tower, where they found
themselves upon a narrow, projecting balcony, encircling a little room
that reminded Frank of a summer-house.  From this position they were
able to look down upon the whole valley, which extended to the east as
far as the eye could reach, but which to the left vanished at a distance
of about a mile behind a great fold in the hills.

"We wait here," said Ling.  "At any moment the treasure may arrive.  If
you take my advice you will go inside and snatch a few hours’ sleep.
There are strenuous days in front of you.  You will have to work for
your living.  But I will reward you.  I am a kind master, as those know
well who serve me to the best of their ability."

Frank, thinking that he might as well follow this suggestion, entered
the small circular chamber, and there lay down upon the floor, using his
rolled coat as a pillow.  Almost immediately he fell asleep, and must
have slept for several hours, for, when Ling awakened him, he noticed
that the sun had passed its meridian, and was already sinking towards
the west.

The boy was exceedingly hungry, and accepted with eagerness the offer of
a large piece of rice-cake which Ling produced from his pocket. Hardly
had he taken a mouthful when he remembered his uncle and Mr Waldron.

"Your prisoners!" he exclaimed.  "They will be starving!"

The Chinaman shook his head.

"Not so," said he, "whilst you were asleep, I returned to the junk and
attended to their wants.  I gave them food to eat and water to drink.
Besides, I was anxious to see that all was well."

"Supposing they are found," said Frank, after a pause, "by some junk
passing up or down the river?  There is plenty of traffic upon the Sang
River, as you know, this part of the country being thickly populated."

"They will not be found," said the Chinaman.  "There is no reason why
anything of the sort should happen.  They have no means of communicating
with anyone passing upon the river.  And there is nothing extraordinary
in the spectacle of a junk lying anchored clear of the mid-stream
fairway.  You yourself often must have seen upon the Chinese rivers
thousands of such boats with not a soul visible on board.  In all such
cases the crew has either gone ashore to drink _samshu_ or to smoke
opium, or else they lie asleep below.  I am anxious about
nothing--except, perhaps, Yung How," he added, in an altered voice.

"And the money has not come?" asked Frank.

"It is coming," said Ling.  "That is why I awakened you."

"It is coming now!"  The boy sprang to his feet.

Ling pointed to the west, in the direction of the river.  There, sure
enough, about half-a-mile down-stream, was a small white launch, similar
to those which may be seen by the score in Hong-Kong harbour, heading
straight for the southern bank, for the Glade of Children’s Tears.

Like a great vulture in the heavens that soars higher and higher in a
series of concentric circles, Ling from the top of the tower looked down
upon his prey.  After the manner of a vulture, he did but bide his time.

The launch ran into a narrow creek, and for a moment was hidden from
view by the trees of the little wood.  Shortly after, it appeared again,
and both Frank and Ling watched the Chinese sailors tie her up to a
stunted tree that overhung the water.  On board were three Europeans,
dressed in white ducks and wearing sun-helmets.  The launch was too far
away for Frank to recognise these men.

And then they witnessed a sight that made the dark eyes of the great
Honanese glitter with triumph and greed; his wide mouth expanded in a
smile.  A plank was thrown from the launch to the shore.  Across this
gangway bag after bag was carried, each one so heavy with silver that it
required two men to lift it.

At last the task was ended.  The Europeans, who had superintended the
discharging of this precious cargo, returned to the launch, which
presently turned slowly round and made off down-stream.  In the red
light of the setting sun, on the surface of the water, they could see
the convergent lines of ripples spreading from the bows of the launch.

Ling laughed.

"Come!" he cried, seizing Frank by a wrist and dragging him out into the
open.  "The ripe harvest awaits the reaper; the honey-comb is full.
Come, come, my little junk rat, let us hasten to the feast.  Wisdom and
prudence are always triumphant.  The victory is ever to the strong."

As the words left his lips, there came from the direction of the glade
the report of a revolver, and a bullet, speeding upon its way with a
soft, shrill whistle, cut off the lobe of one of the great Chinaman’s
ears.  On the instant Ling fell flat upon his face, and Frank was not
slow to follow his example.



CHAPTER XXIV--HOW THE TIGER VANISHED IN THIN AIR


They had thrown themselves down upon the ground in a place where the
grass was long enough to screen them from view.  The light was fading
rapidly.  It would soon be quite dark.  A heavy mist was gathering in
the valley.

Frank looked at his companion.  He could see blood flowing profusely
down the man’s neck.  For all that, the expression upon Ling’s face did
not suggest that he suffered pain.  He was grinning.

He held in his hand the loaded revolver he had taken from Yung How in Ah
Wu’s opium den.  It was manifest that every sense was alert. Screwing
his eyes, he endeavoured to pierce the gloom of the thickets immediately
in front of them.

Nothing was to be seen.  No sound disturbed the silence of the evening.
Slowly and stealthily Ling began to move forward through the long grass,
after the manner of a snake, never for a moment lifting his chin more
than a few inches from the ground.

Frank followed him.  There was no reason why the boy should have done
so, and without doubt he had been wiser had he remained behind in
safety.  But he was consumed by an overmastering desire to see the
matter out, to follow to the bitter end the fortunes of the mighty Ling.

He followed in the man’s wake, Ling in his progress was making a kind of
pathway through the grass.  Frank was careful not to show himself. He
realised that the exposure of any part of his body would, in all
probability, immediately be greeted by another shot from the glade.

Ling was making for a great boulder that lay upon the outskirts of the
wood, about twenty yards from a place where the undergrowth was
exceedingly dense.  He gained this without any mishap; and there, a
moment later, he was joined by Frank.

"You have followed me?" he asked, in a whisper.

The boy nodded his head, not venturing to speak.

"Then you have done so at your own risk.  I am not responsible for your
life."

Very cautiously, Ling peered round the boulder behind which they lay in
hiding.  Almost at once, a single shot from a revolver was fired from
the thickets immediately before them.

Ling did not draw back, nor did he flinch.  On the contrary, he drew
himself forward until at least half his body was exposed to view.

Then came another shot from the wood; Frank saw a bullet strike the
ground not three inches from the man’s head.  At that moment Ling
himself fired.  Three revolver shots rang out in quick succession, and
then, with a roar like that of a charging tiger, the man rose to his
feet and plunged into the wood.

Frank saw the flash of a long knife he carried in his left hand.  In his
right he still held his revolver.  He crashed into the undergrowth like
a wild bull, and the darkness swallowed him up.

The boy waited an instant; then, as nothing happened, he rose to his
feet and followed after Ling.

He was able to see very little of his surroundings.  He found himself in
twilight.  Trees arose on every side of him like gaunt spectres, twisted
and deformed.  Dark shadows upon the ground seemed to be moving,
floating here and there like silent ghosts.

Knowing not which way to go, for a few seconds the boy remained quite
motionless.  Then suddenly there came a loud shout, in which Frank
recognised the voice of Ling.  This shout was followed by an uproar, a
noise that bore no small resemblance to the crackling of green wood upon
a mighty fire.  Branches were broken; dry sticks and twigs were trampled
under the feet of excited, hastening men.

Frank, running forward, found himself, before he had gone thirty yards,
upon the skirting of the Glade of Children’s Tears.  Here there was more
light.  The boy could see the great broken idols, overgrown with moss
and lichen, lying upon the ground; he could see the ruins of the ancient
temple and the great red stone beneath which the treasure had been
hidden.  Then, on a sudden, he became conscious of the figure of a man
crouching behind a rock, not ten yards away.

Though he was well in the shadow, there was sufficient light to enable
the boy to make quite sure that the man in front of him was not Ling.
One could not fail to identify the gigantic proportions of the Honanese;
and this was a thin, small man.  Moreover, he did not wear the long robe
of the upper classes in China, but a short jacket, reaching not far
below the waist; and so far as Frank could make out, this coat was red.
Also, the man was bareheaded, whereas Ling had been wearing the buttoned
hat of a mandarin.

Frank remained silent and motionless, scarcely daring to breathe.  On
hands and knees the man moved a few paces forward, which brought him
into the light.  The boy recognised at once the shrunken, evil features
of Cheong-Chau, the brigand chief.

He could have been given no greater cause to regret the fact that he was
altogether unarmed.  In this conflict, the sympathies of the boy were
wholly on the side of Ling.  That Cheong-Chau was more evil than Ling
was not to be doubted, since the brigand was never to be trusted. Ling,
on the other hand--so far as Frank’s experience went--was not likely to
go back upon his word.  He was pitiless and wholly unscrupulous; but at
the same time, he had in his own way certain estimable virtues.  The boy
considered that the worst calamity that could, at this juncture,
possibly befall him and his friends was for Cheong-Chau to regain
possession of his hostages.  If the brigand overpowered Ling, he would
possess himself of the ransom money, he would recapture his own junk,
setting free the crew which Ling had bound hand and foot; and then, it
was more than probable, he would seek satisfaction in the murder of his
victims.

Frank therefore was eager to render all the assistance he could to Ling.
But since he had upon him neither fire-arms nor weapons of any sort, he
could do nothing but lie still and await the tide of events. Cheong-Chau
continued to move forward on hands and knees.  He turned his head
rapidly first one way and then another.  The boy was well able to see
that the brigand was armed to the same extent as Ling; in other words,
he carried in one hand a revolver of European manufacture, and between
his teeth a long Chinese knife.

It was plain that the man was searching in all directions for his
adversary.  He was still not many yards away from Frank.  On a sudden,
he lay quite still, seeming to flatten himself into nothing, just as a
cat does when it lies in ambush.  He had evidently seen something.

Frank, straining his eyes, observed another man, visible as a mere
shadow, moving slowly and silently amidst the undergrowth on the other
side of the glade.  This man was steadily approaching.  Cheong-Chau did
not stir.

When the two men were not fifteen paces away from each other,
Cheong-Chau raised his revolver, and was evidently about to fire, when
suddenly he brought it down again.

"Tong!" said he, in a loud whisper.

"Is that you, Cheong-Chau?" came back the answer.

"It is myself.  And have you seen aught of the tiger?"

By then the two men were together lying side by side behind a fragment
of the ruined temple wall.  They were so close to Frank that, though
they spoke to one another in whispers, it was easy for him to hear every
word that they said.

"I thought you were he," said the man who had answered to the name of
Tong.

"And I too," said Cheong-Chau.  "I was about to fire when I saw that you
were too small to be Ling."

"That is fortunate," said the other, "fortunate--for me."

"And where is Chin Yen?" asked the brigand chief.

"He is close behind me," said the man.  "He is here."

Indeed, at that moment they were joined by a third man, who crept
forward from out of the midst of the shadows.  The night was descending
rapidly; it was already almost dark.  Frank, however, had no doubt as to
the identity of these two men.  He remembered very well hearing their
names when he was in the opium den of Ah Wu.  Chin Yen was the man who
had fallen down upon his knees beside an opium couch, holding his head
between his hands.  Tong was the unfortunate individual who had been
struck down with the paraffin lamp.  It was subsequently discovered that
the third man never recovered from his injuries.

"Well, Chin Yen," said Cheong-Chau, "where is the tiger?  Have you seen
nothing of him?"

"Nothing at all," came the answer.  "Three minutes ago I saw him
standing on the edge of the glade.  I was about to fire, when suddenly
he disappeared.  I think he fell upon his face."

"He is somewhere here," said Cheong-Chau.  "He is too big to hide
himself.  We shall find him sooner or later.  He cannot have been
spirited away."

Tong shivered--or rather there was a tremor in his voice.

"I don’t like this business," said he.  "Presently, without a moment’s
warning, the tiger will spring upon us from out of the darkness.  And
then, woe betide him into whom he digs his claws."

"You are a coward," said Cheong-Chau.  "We are three to one, and we are
all armed with revolvers.  What is there to fear, if we keep together?
Ling’s strength will avail him nothing."

"That is true," said Chin Yen.

All the same the tone of his voice carried not the least conviction. He
was obviously just as frightened of his opponent as his comrade.
Cheong-Chau himself was the most courageous of the three.

"Obey my orders," said he, "and remain at my side.  We will search the
place thoroughly.  He lies somewhere in hiding.  Keep as close to the
ground as possible.  He will fire the moment he sees us."

"He may have escaped," said Tong.

"He has done nothing of the kind," said Cheong-Chau.  "For two reasons:
first, we must have heard him; secondly, it is not the custom of Ling to
run away."

"Let us go first to the junk," said Chin Yen.  "We shall then be ten to
one."

"Fool!" exclaimed Cheong-Chau.  "We should never get there.  Ling would
shoot us in the open.  Come, we do but waste time talking.  The glade
must be searched."

As he said the words, he began to move forward, straight toward the
place where Frank was hiding.

The boy’s heart was in his mouth.  He could scarcely hope that he would
not be discovered.  He could not make his escape without being seen nor
was he in a position to offer resistance.  And if he was discovered, he
had every reason to believe that Cheong-Chau would kill him.

These were the thoughts that passed rapidly through his mind.  He lay
motionless, fearing to breathe, his eyes fixed upon the crouched,
gliding forms of Cheong-Chau and his companions.  And then the boy was
discovered.  The man called Tong caught sight of him and raised his
revolver to fire.  At the moment Tong pressed the trigger, Frank struck
the weapon upward, so that the bullet flew wide through the branches of
the trees.

Knowing that he would be shot if he remained at arm’s-length or
attempted to run away, the boy closed at once with his adversary.
Flinging himself into Tong’s arms, he endeavoured to seize the man by
the throat; but almost immediately he was overpowered by the three of
them, and found himself pinned to the ground and once again a prisoner.

Chin Yen peered into the boy’s face.

"This is not Ling!" he exclaimed.

Cheong-Chau came out with a brutal oath.

"No," said he.  "This is not the tiger; it is the foreign devil who has
twice slipped through my fingers."

Frank Armitage closed his eyes and caught his lower lip between his
teeth.



CHAPTER XXV--AND HOW CHEONG-CHAU VANISHED ALTOGETHER


There is little doubt that Cheong-Chau would have killed the boy then
and there had he not been alive to the fact that he himself stood in
immediate danger of a sudden onslaught from Ling, who lay in hiding
somewhere amidst the shadows of the wood.

It was now almost dark.  It was scarce possible to see across the glade.
Cheong-Chau turned to Tong--the man who had endeavoured to kill the boy.

"You were a fool to fire," said he.  "How so?"

"You have betrayed our whereabouts to the tiger.  He cannot be far
away."

"Let us keep together," whispered Chin Yen.  "It will be as much as the
three of us can do to overpower him."

It was quite plain to Frank that the three brigands stood in mortal fear
of the mighty Honanese.  They had not forgotten their experience in the
opium den, when Ling had accounted for four of them in less than a
minute.  They knew their opponent, and they were well aware that he was
the last man in the world to beat a hasty retreat.  Indeed, Ling had
deliberately attacked them, charging blindly like an infuriated beast
into the darkness of the wood.

For the time being they could give little attention to the boy.  They
remained for a few minutes perfectly still, holding their revolvers in
their hands, keeping a sharp look-out in all directions.

And then the mighty Ling descended into their very midst.  Small wonder
that they had not discovered him, for the man had climbed up a tree, and
had for the last four or five minutes been seated upon a branch,
immediately above their heads, listening to every word that was said.
They had looked to the right and to the left; their sharp eyes had
pierced the dark shadows beneath the underwoods and the crumbled ruins
of the ancient temple; but never for a moment had any one of them
dreamed of looking upward.

Like a thunderbolt, Ling descended to the ground.  His great weight fell
upon Chin Yen.  The man let out a loud cry, prompted by acute and sudden
pain.  Then he lay upon the ground, groaning and writhing with a broken
arm.

Ling himself staggered, and with difficulty maintained his balance.
Indeed, he only succeeded in doing so by laying hands upon the terrified
Tong.

The man had no time to fire.  He was snatched from off the ground.  He
endeavoured to struggle, but his efforts were hopeless.  His revolver
was wrenched from his hand and thrown far across the glade.  Then he
himself was hurled after it, thrown away like a half-filled sack.  In
his descent his head struck the side of one of the fallen images, and he
lay upon the ground, motionless and stunned.

[Illustration: "HE HIMSELF WAS HURLED AFTER IT."]

In the meantime, Cheong-Chau had made the most of the only chance he was
ever likely to have.  He had fired at Ling at almost point-blank range.
Frank, who still lay upon the ground, heard a loud groan issue from the
lips of Ling, and a moment after he was just able to perceive the dark
blood flowing slowly from the man’s side and staining his long silken
robe.

Cheong-Chau, thinking that he had done his work, turned with the
intention of seeking safety in flight.  He was caught by the pigtail,
and jerked backward, as a boy might flick a top.  A moment after he
found himself held by the great hands of Ling, gripped by both forearms,
so that he felt as if he were wedged in a mighty vice.

Fear took strong hold upon him.  He knew, no doubt, that his last hour
had come.  He shrieked in pain and in terror, calling upon his followers
to hasten to his help.  But Tong lay senseless, and Chin Yen had already
gathered himself together and taken to his heels like one possessed.

Let it be said for Cheong-Chau that he made no plea for mercy.  On the
contrary, he reviled his adversary, making use of a string of Chinese
oaths to which the boy was a stranger.  And then he kicked, his legs
being the only part of him which was free.  The more violently he kicked
and struggled, the greater became the pressure upon his arms; until at
last he was obliged to desist, lest his very bones should be broken.
Suddenly he became limp from exhaustion and despair.

"Have you done?" asked Ling.  His voice was deep and very low, and there
was in it something of a tremor that made it plain to Frank that the man
suffered considerable pain.

Cheong-Chau made no answer.

"Listen," said Ling.  "Last night, had I wished, I might have killed
you.  I did not do so.  The more fool I!  And now, you have shot me.  I
am wounded, perhaps mortally--I cannot say."

"We are old enemies," said Cheong-Chau.

Ling laughed.  In his laugh there was something of his old boisterous
manner; but at the same time, it was manifest from his voice that he was
already weak from loss of blood.

"The wolf," said he, "was never an enemy of the tiger, nor can the rat
be the foe of the dog.  You, Cheong-Chau, are vermin.  I would lose all
pride in myself, in my strength and dignity, if I killed you otherwise
than with my hands."

A shudder ran through the thin frame of the brigand chief.  He had lived
a life of crime; he had sinned, time and again, against the gods and his
fellow-men, but he was no coward; he had always known that, sooner or
later, he must die a violent death.

He had thought that fate would bring him to the dreadful Potter’s Yard,
the public and official place of execution in the city of Canton.  The
inevitable conclusion of the West River pirate is the block.  So
Cheong-Chau was prepared to die.

"You will not torture me?" he asked.

"I would," said Ling, "if I meted out to you the fate you have more than
once prepared for others.  But I am no such fiend.  Moreover, I have no
time to spare.  I go down-stream to-night on your own junk, with the
ransom money that you thought was yours.  I go where tide and current
take me--perhaps to live for the remainder of my days upon the fatness
of the earth; perhaps to find my way amidst the stars in search of the
Unknowable."

"What do you mean?" asked the other.

"I mean that--for all I know--the sands of life are running out.  The
blood issues from my wound.  It may be that the breath of life goes with
it.  And now, you die, by what strength remains in me."

Frank Armitage was not able to see how it was done--indeed, he turned
away, and covered his eyes with a hand.  It seems that Cheong-Chau was
taken by the throat and that either he was strangled or his neck was
broken.  At any rate, it was all done in silence.  The lifeless body of
the man was allowed to fall to the ground, and then Ling turned to the
boy.

"Are you safe?" he asked.

Frank rose to his feet, but did not answer.  Ling placed a hand upon his
shoulder.  The boy felt that he was called upon to sustain much of the
man’s great weight.

"You must help me," said Ling.  "I am hurt badly.  You must help
me--back to the junk."

Together they left the wood and came out into the starlight.  The moon
was already risen.  It was crescent-shaped and very thin.  Ling was
breathing heavily.

"In two days," said he, "it will be a new moon, but I do not think I
shall behold it.  There is something to be said for the creed of the
Mohammedans, who hold the belief that the lives of us all, down to the
most insignificant details, are written in an unalterable Book of Fate.
I wonder," said he.  "I wonder."

They walked slowly upon the river bank, Ling still leaning upon his
young companion.  Presently they came to the boat, which they had hidden
amongst the rushes.  Ling seated himself in the bows, and as he did so
he groaned again.  Frank, placing himself in the stern, took hold of the
little oar.

"Come," said Ling, "row me to the junk."



CHAPTER XXVI--OF GREED OF GOLD


When they reached the junk, Ling was not able to ascend by means of the
rope up which he had swarmed so easily before.  Frank went on deck, and
finding a rope ladder, lowered it over the side of the ship.

By means of this Ling climbed to the deck, whence he descended to the
cabin below, where the paraffin lamp was still burning brightly.

He asked Frank to procure for him a bucket of river water; and whilst
the boy was absent, the man took off his coat and the thin under-vest
that he wore.  The bullet had passed under his ribs, on the left side of
his body.  The wound, which was still bleeding profusely, was a great,
ugly rent.  When Frank returned with water he was at once shocked and
astonished to observe the expression upon the man’s face.

His features were pinched and drawn and haggard.  The agony he suffered
had caused deep lines to appear upon his forehead and about his mouth,
and his eyes seemed to have sunk into his head.  Beyond doubt, any other
man would have fainted; but Ling was possessed of something of the
vitality of a cat.  He was able to speak with difficulty, yet his mind
was perfectly clear.  Assisted by the boy, he washed and dressed his
wound.

He had evidently small regard for antiseptics, for in place of lint and
iodoform, he utilised ordinary ship’s tow, which he held in place by
means of a silk sash tied tightly round his waist.  Then he ordered
Frank to search the ship for opium.

The boy found a bowl of the treacle-like substance upon a table in the
cabin.  This he brought to Ling, together with an opium pipe and a
spirit-lamp.

The man smiled, at the same time thanking the boy for his kindness.

"I am too far gone to smoke," said he.  "I desire to be released from
pain."

At that, he dipped his hand into the bowl and proceeded to eat the
contents.  The boy stood by, amazed.  He knew enough of the potency of
the drug to believe that Ling had swallowed enough to kill himself.  He
knew nothing, however, of the man’s capacity for consuming poisonous
doses of morphine.

In a few minutes the drug began to work.  His eyes, which had become
dull, grew brighter; the wrinkles slowly vanished from his face.  When
he spoke, his voice was stronger.

"You may think," said he to Frank, "that the tables are turned, that you
are now master of the situation.  It may have occurred to you that you
have but to go into the other room to release your European friends, and
then it will be an easy thing to overpower a wounded man. I assure you,
that is not the case."

"I had no such thought," said Frank.

Ling smiled again, regarding the boy even kindly--if such an expression
may be used in regard to a man whose face was like that of a hawk.

"You are my friend," said he.  "I know not why I like you.  I think,
because you are brave.  I am not fool enough to believe for a moment
that you love me; but I am sure that you have always realised that I am
a just man, whereas Cheong-Chau was no better than a fiend.  I would
have you to understand--lest I be forced to harm you--that, wounded as I
am, I am still master of this ship and master of you.  My strength is
going rapidly from me, as the tide goes down upon the margin of the sea,
or as the sun sets when the day draws to its close.  But I can still
shoot, and if you play me false I shall kill you.  Whilst the breath of
life is within me, you will be wise to obey my orders."

He got to his feet, and walking more briskly than before, ascended to
the upper deck, followed by Frank.  There they hoisted the sail, and
going to the forepart of the ship, hauled up the anchor.  A minute
later, the junk was sailing slowly down the river in the starlight, Ling
holding the tiller.

With a skill that proved that he had spent a portion of his life upon
the sea, he steered the junk into the narrow creek which had been
entered by the launch.  There Ling, assisted by Frank, lowered a
gangway, conducting from the deck to the shore.  The sail had been
hauled down and the ship secured by hawsers made fast to the trunks of
trees that grew upon the edge of the water.

Frank Armitage is never likely to forget that tragic night, its grim
work and pitiful conclusion.  He was led by Ling to the Glade of
Children’s Tears--so named, perhaps, because, in a barbarous age, the
murdered infants had been buried there, and the temple erected so that
men might pray to the heathen gods of China for those young souls who
had passed so soon into the Celestial Kingdom.

The faint, cold light of the dying moon here and there pierced the
branches of the trees, so that it was possible to distinguish the old
moss-clad ruins, the great fallen images, and the lifeless body of the
man whose very name had once spread terror from the Nan-ling Mountains
to the sea.  There was no sign of Tong; the man had evidently recovered
consciousness and taken to his heels.

Frank stood by, a mute and wondering spectator of the fruitless efforts
of the wounded giant.  The air was heavy with the scent of the blossom
which was on the trees; no sound disturbed the silence save the heavy
breathing of Ling, becoming shorter and shorter as he worked, and the
ceaseless washing of the water against the river bank.

Ling walked to the centre of the glade.  His gait was steady, though his
stride shorter than usual.  He stood at his full height; and had he not
once or twice carried a hand to his left side, the boy might have
forgotten that the man suffered grievous pain and was weak from loss of
blood.

He stood for a moment, thinking.  It may have been that then he prayed
to the god he worshipped, the god of Confucius and Mencius and the sages
of all China: the Eternal Spirit of the Universe, the Incomprehensible
Wisdom of the world.

Then he passed on to the great stone, which, not without difficulty, he
rolled from its place.  That done, he descended into the vault below,
where he struck a match, lighting a candle he had brought with him from
the junk.

Frank, looking down, beheld a subterranean chamber, about five yards by
six in area, and not more than six feet deep--for Ling’s head and
shoulders protruded above the level of the ground.  And in this vault
were sacks, to the number of twenty, each of which was filled with a
thousand Mexican dollars.

Now a thousand silver dollars are no mean weight; and yet Ling unaided,
and in spite of his fast-failing strength, lifted the sacks one after
another and placed them upon the ground above.

Then he himself came forth from the vault, and stood for a moment
holding his left side, with the pale moonlight full upon his face.  It
was the face of death itself.

The man’s features were more drawn and haggard-looking even than before.
It may have been the moonlight that caused his countenance to appear
snow-white.  He breathed like one who is spent from running; his great
chest heaved, and Frank perceived that his wound had opened again, and
the red blood was even then staining his clothes.  Towards this man--of
whom, throughout all the adventures through which he had passed, he had
stood in the greatest dread--the boy now experienced feelings of
infinite commiseration.

"Let me help you?" he asked.

And Ling laughed aloud--a laugh that sounded forced and hollow, in which
there was more of irony than mirth.  He pointed to one of the bags.

"Lift that up," said he.

Frank attempted to do so, but found that he had not the strength.

"You must go back to the junk," said he.  "I give you my word of honour
I will be true to you.  I will attend to your wound.  I will do all I
can to help you."

"You do not know me," answered Ling.  "I never give in.  I go through
with that which I have begun.  And besides, there is no time to lose. I
feel sure that Yung How has not wasted his time.  If I delay I may be
captured."

"If you do not rest," cried Frank, "you will kill yourself."

Ling was silent a moment.  Then he snapped his fingers.  "And what does
that matter?" he asked.  "What difference does it make to you--or, for
the matter of that, to me?  Death is nothing.  We are only put into the
world to die."

At that he lifted one of the bags upon his shoulder, and set forward in
the direction of the place where the junk was moored.



CHAPTER XXVII--HOW LING DRIFTED TO THE STARS


Ling staggered under the weight of his burden.  For all that, he gained
the junk, where he threw the sack into an open hatchway in the forepart
of the ship.

He then returned to the glade, and by a great effort lifted a second
sack upon his shoulder.  In all, he made the journey twenty times; and
on each occasion his gait was more unsteady, his breathing shorter and
faster.  It appeared to Frank, who watched him, that the man diminished
in stature; his shoulders became round--when he had once been so
upright--and he walked like an old man, with bent knees and hollowed
chest.

He was not able to complete his final journey without a rest.  Half-way
between the glade and the junk, he threw down the last sack upon the
ground, and seating himself upon it, placed his head between his hands
and came out with a great sob that was pitiful to hear.  He needed his
last ounce of strength to steady himself to walk the narrow gangway. No
sooner had he reached the deck of the junk than the sack fell from his
hands, and he himself collapsed.  His knees gave way from under him, and
he lay for several minutes quite motionless, curled up like a great dog
that sleeps.

Frank, thinking that the man was unconscious, knew not what to do.  He
began to search for a tin can or pannikin of some sort in which to give
him water, but he had failed to find anything suitable for such a
purpose when Ling struggled to an elbow.

"Come here," said he.  "I would speak to you."

His voice was so low as to be scarcely audible.  Frank hastened to his
side and, kneeling down, placed an ear close to his mouth.

The boy had no fear now of the mighty Ling.  Indeed, it would have been
mere foolishness to fear one so stricken, in so sorry a plight.  Ling
was no longer an incarnate monster, a blustering, boisterous bully. The
tiger was caught, choked and enfolded in the meshes of a net.  And yet,
he still struggled for life--struggled to the last.

He was a man who, during the last few hours, had been possessed by but
one idea, which had absorbed the whole of his mind and strength and
energy.  Call it avarice, greed of gold, or the nobility of a supreme
endeavour, it is all the same--it means that there was something in him
of the earthly hero.  It means that a power that is immortal had given
him strength to accomplish all that he desired, had given him courage to
live but a little longer.  And now, with the plunder safely on board,
and the wide river of the valley extending to the open sea, he knew that
his days were numbered, his time on earth was short.

"I would speak with you," he whispered.  "I would tell you, you are my
friend.  Go below and release the European prisoners, but keep
Cheong-Chau’s men bound hand and foot.  You cannot trust them.  They are
all of a breed--of the same breed as their leader.  In Canton--if you
wish it--you can hand them over to justice.  Tell the prefect that they
were captured by the mighty Ling."

In that thought he appeared to find some degree of satisfaction.  He had
always been vain of his strength, his wisdom and his courage.

He was silent a moment.  Frank noticed that he smiled--a smile that was
terrible to see, because his face was so pinched and haggard.  His
thoughts must have turned to things divine, for when he spoke again, it
was in the words of the Celestial Emperor’s prayer.  He had turned over
upon his back, and lay with his eyes wide open, looking up at the stars.

"To Thee, O mysteriously working Maker, I look up in thought.  How
imperial is Thy expansive arch!  I, Thy child, dull and unenlightened,
come to Thee with gladness, as a swallow rejoicing in the spring,
praising Thine abundant love."

All his vanity had left him now.  The heart of the monster was that of a
little child.  The violence of the life he had lived, the cruelty of his
deeds, departed from him as the life’s blood flowed from his wound; and
the wisdom and the reverence he had learned on earth rose superior to
earthly joys.  He closed his eyes, and lay for a long time, breathing
more easily, as if asleep.

Frank got to his feet and, descending into the cabin below, cut the
bonds that bound Mr Waldron and his uncle.  In as few words as possible,
the boy explained exactly what had happened; and then all three went on
deck, to the place where Ling was lying at the foot of the mast.

As they approached, he endeavoured to lift his head, but it fell back
again, as if he had lost control of the muscles of his neck.

"Can you sail the junk?" he asked, speaking for the first time in
English.

"I think so," said Frank.  "In any case, if we can but get her out into
mid-stream, she will drift upon the current."

"That is what I would wish," said Ling.  "Let me drift into the other
world.  Forty years since, I was born upon the turbulent waters of the
Hoang-Ho.  Let me breathe my last upon the tranquil Pe-kiang.  One is
inclined to believe," he continued, "that destiny is expressed in
symbols.  The Hoang-Ho is the most boisterous, violent and unmanageable
river in all the thirteen provinces of this celestial land.  And my life
has been such, in very truth.  I have lived by violence, and now I die a
death by violence.  But--I know not why--I die calmly, in peace with all
men and my Maker.  I think that, perhaps, the bad that was within me has
gone out of me with the brute strength that was mine, and the good that
was within me has taken possession of my soul, to conduct me to the
expansive arch of heaven.  And now, that I may rest in peace, bring me a
pillow for my head.  You cannot move me--I am too heavy. Besides, I
desire to remain here, to regard the stars."

Searching the junk, they found several cushions, and these they disposed
so that the man could lie in greater ease.  And Mr Waldron, who--as a
man who had lived much of his life in the wilds--had some little
experience in surgery and medicine, attended to Ling’s wound, washing
away the blood and folding another and a cleaner bandage.

And then they loosed the junk from her moorings, and with difficulty at
last succeeded in getting the ship clear of the creek.  She at once
swung round with the current.  And when they lowered what little canvas
she carried, the ship drifted down the river, with Sir Thomas Armitage
at the tiller.

On this account progress was very slow, and they had not progressed many
miles when the red dawn began to appear in the east.  They passed
villages upon both banks of the river, surrounded by flooded ricefields,
purple in the dawn.  As the light grew, they were able to perceive
distant wooded hills, with ancient temples and pagodas built upon their
slopes.

They had taken turn and turn about at the work of steering, relieving
one another every half-hour, so that there were always two of them in
attendance upon Ling.  He did not speak again until the sun had risen,
when he complained that the light was trying to his eyes.

As he had said, he was far too heavy to be moved.  They constructed an
awning above him, a small sail tied to the mast.  He thanked them with
Chinese courtesy, and then closed his eyes again, as if he desired to
sleep.

A little after, they rounded a bend of the river, and found that they
had gained the Pe-kiang, or North River, which joins the West River a
little above Canton.  And there, lying in mid-stream, like a watch-dog
at the mouth of its kennel, was a British gunboat, her paint glistening
in the sun, the great muzzle of a 4.5 gun directed at the bows of the
junk.  They could see the gunners, each man in his place, standing ready
to fire.

The junk drifted nearer and nearer to the man-of-war.  They could see
the commander on the bridge.  He shouted to them through a megaphone,
ordering them to heave to and drop their anchors, or else he would open
fire.  When he saw that there were Europeans on board, however, who were
free to do what they liked, and that the only Chinaman visible was a man
stretched at full length upon the deck beneath an awning, he threw back
his head with an exclamation of surprise.

At the commander’s side upon the bridge stood a long-coated Chinaman;
and as the junk drew alongside, Sir Thomas and his nephew recognised
their old servant, Yung How.

A moment later, the lieutenant-commander was on board the junk,
listening in astonishment to the extraordinary tale which Frank Armitage
had to tell.  It was not easy to believe, but there was on board the
junk indisputable evidence that the boy spoke the truth.  For there was
the sack of silver dollars upon the deck, where Ling had thrown it;
Cheong-Chau’s seven men were below, bound hand and foot; and there was
the great Honanese himself, with the spark of life no more than
glimmering in that colossal frame.

Whilst Frank was relating his story, Sir Thomas addressed himself to
Yung How, who stood upon the deck of the gunboat.  The man explained
that he had done all in his power to atone for his treachery and
ingratitude.  He had reached Hong-Kong--as we know--on the same boat as
the letters, but had not been able to pluck up sufficient moral courage
to present himself before the police authorities until after he had been
several hours on the island.  The ransom had already been despatched,
when the Chief of Police presented himself before Sir John Macintosh,
the Governor.

It would have been easy to telegraph to Canton, instructing those on
board the launch to wait for His Majesty’s gunboat _Ferret_.  It was
decided, however, to allow the ransom money to be taken over by the
brigands, who could afterwards be brought to book at the junction of the
Sang River with the Pekiang.  It would not be possible for Cheong-Chau
to remove the treasure by any other means than by junk or _wupan_.  Of
the operations of Ling and the undoing of Cheong-Chau and his band, the
Hong-Kong police authorities, of course, knew nothing.

Yung How himself was ordered to accompany the ship’s doctor, who
immediately hastened to the assistance of the dying man on board the
junk.  When the servant found himself face to face with his master, he
immediately fell upon his knees, imploring Sir Thomas to be merciful.
The judge was not slow to forgive, realising that Yung How had at last
been made to realise the evils of the drug to which for so many years he
had been a slave, and the depths of degradation to which the opium
smoker can sink.

Upon that fateful morning, however, beyond a few brief words of mutual
congratulation, little enough was said.  The attention of all was taken
up by the prostrate figure of the notorious Canton robber, who for years
past had defied all authority and law.

The naval surgeon declared that he could do nothing.  The man was
already as good as dead.  The surgeon’s sole cause for wonderment was
that Ling still lived.

The great Honanese remained insensible until the moment when
Cheong-Chau’s brigands were brought on deck.  Then, opening his eyes, he
looked at them, at first not appearing to remember who they were. Then,
very slowly, a smile spread upon his face.

"They go the way of all men," said he; "to the Potter’s Yard, if
evidence can be produced against them; at all events, to the wooden
cages that are to be found at the gates of the city.  As for myself, I
go before a greater court of justice.  And I am not afraid."

He remained silent for a moment, and then, seeing Frank, he asked the
boy to come to him.

"Had I not met you," said he, "that morning on the wharf at Sanshui,
perhaps I should not now be bidding farewell to all my earthly troubles.
Still, that is a matter of no importance.  I would like to thank you,
because you have been true to me.  It does not flatter me to think that
you preferred me to Cheong-Chau.  You obeyed me in the first instance
through fear, and then because you saw that I was one upon whom you
could rely.  Tell me, is that so?"

"I think it is," said the boy, and then he added: "You are a strange man
indeed."

"I believe I am," said Ling.  "A singular mixture: evil and good,
brutality and kindness, strength and weakness."

"I should not call you weak," said the boy.

"Then you do not know me, after all.  What was all my vanity and
boasting but weakness?  What right has any man to boast?  In the midst
of the universe he is smaller than the ant; his voice, beside the
thunder, is no more than the croaking of a frog.  And now, bid me
farewell, for I am about to die, and would gladly do so, that the pain I
suffer may be ended."

It was just as if the man passed into the other world of his own free
will.  Slowly he closed his eyes; and then he breathed no more.  The
features of his face relaxed; the hardness and the cruelty, the lines of
agony and crime, vanished from his features.  The tiger was no more. And
let us believe what he himself believed: that the evil that was in him
remained upon this earth in that great casket of sinew, nerve and
muscle, destined to decay, and the good that was within him--all that
was noble and heroic, the great thoughts that he had had and the wisdom
he had acquired--was carried by his soul into what he himself had
described as "the expansive arch of heaven."



                 THE RIVERSIDE PRESS LIMITED, EDINBURGH



                                  ————

                       A Select List of Books for
                       Young People: Published by
                        Humphrey Milford, Oxford
                            University Press


                             Books for Boys

"_Boys who read Mr. Strang’s works have not merely the advantage of
perusing enthralling and wholesome tales, but they are also absorbing
sound and trustworthy information of the men and times about which they
are reading._"--DAILY TELEGRAPH.

                           By HERBERT STRANG

The Blue Raider

Illustrated by C. E. BROCK.

Phil Trentham, a young English trader, and his friend Hoole, an
American, are amongst the few survivors of a tramp steamer sunk by a
German raider in the Pacific.  Together with Grinson, the boatswain, and
Meek, a seaman, they reach the coast of New Guinea, and find themselves
between the devil and the deep sea, in the shape of cannibal natives on
the one hand and the German raiders on the other.  After running
imminent risk of being devoured, the party come to terms with the
natives, who have themselves suffered much at the hands of the Germans;
and they unite against the common foe.  By a clever stratagem Trentham
wrecks the German raider and outwits the crew, who make an attack on his
party.  The fat boatswain, Grinson, and the lean, melancholy Meek are
good examples of Mr. Herbert Strang’s power of characterisation.

The Long Trail

Illustrated by H. EVISON.

This is a story of African adventure that carries the reader on
breathlessly.  Two English lads, who had gone to Africa prospecting for
tin, come into contact with the wild race of the Tubus, and unwittingly
cross the ambitions of their leader, Goruba.  They are besieged, with
their carriers, in a tumble-down fort, have encounters with savage
beasts as well as savage men, and ultimately, getting the better of
Goruba, have their reward in the shape of a hoard of ivory which lay
concealed beneath the fort.

A Gentleman-at-Arms

A Story of Elizabethan Days.  Eight plates in Colour by CYRUS CUNEO, and
thirty-eight line drawings by T. H. ROBINSON.

This book is unique In literature for boys.  It relates the adventurous
career of an Elizabethan gentleman, in a style carefully modelled on the
simple prose of the century which produced the Authorised Version of the
Bible.  No previous writer for boys has ever attempted a similar
achievement.  Apart from its romantic and exciting incidents, this story
has great value by reason of its historical and geographical
information, and its exceptional style.

Sultan Jim

Empire Builder.  Coloured illustrations by CYRUS CUNEO.

Asia and Australia have been the scene of Mr. Strang’s most recent
romances of Empire.  In this book he turns to Africa, where the
colonising activity of rival powers is raising problems of the greatest
interest and importance.  The presence of a young Englishman in one of
the debatable lands at a time of upheaval and international rivalry
enables him to uphold the interests of the Empire against formidable
opposition.  The story is brimful of adventure, and its moral is that of
patriotic self-sacrifice.

"Father Christmas brings many good things in his train, but It Is
doubtful If he brings anything better in its own way than a new story by
Mr. Herbert Strang.  The multitude of his youthful readers are likely to
find their most insatiable thirst for adventure satisfied by this new
volume."--_Bookman_.

The Air Patrol

A Story of the North-West Frontier.  Illustrated in Colour by CYRUS
CUNEO.

In this book Mr. Strang looks ahead--and other books have already proved
him a prophet of surprising skill--to a time when there is a great
Mongolian Empire whose army sweeps down on to the North-West Frontier of
India.  His two heroes luckily have an aeroplane, and with the help of a
few Pathan miners they hold a pass in the Hindu Kush against a swarm of
Mongols, long enough to prevent the cutting of the communications of the
Indian army operating in Afghanistan.  The qualities which marked Mr.
Strang’s last long story, "The Air-Scout," and won extraordinarily high
commendation from Lord Roberts, Lord Curzon, and others, as well as from
the _Spectator_ and other great journals, are again strikingly
displayed; and the combination of thrilling adventure with an Imperial
problem and excellent writing, adds one more to this author’s long list
of successes.

"An exceptionally good book, written moreover In excellent
style."--_Times_.

"The ’Air Patrol’ is really a masterpiece."--_Morning Post_.

The Air-Scout

A Story of National Defence.  Illustrated in Colour by W. R. S. STOTT.

The problems of National Defence are being discussed with more and more
care and attention, not only in Great Britain, but also in all parts of
the Empire.  In this story Mr. Strang imagines a Chinese descent upon
Australia, and carries his hero through a series of exciting adventures,
in which the value of national spirit, organisation, and discipline is
exemplified.  The important part which the aeroplane will play in
warfare is recognised, and the thousands of readers who have delighted
in the author’s previous stories of aviation will find this new book
after their own heart.

LORD ROBERTS writes: "It is capital reading, and should interest more
than boys.  Your forecast is so good that I can only hope the future may
not bring to Australia such a struggle as the one you so graphically
describe."

LORD CURZON writes: "I have read with great pleasure your book, ’The
Air-Scout.’ It seems to me to be a capital story, full of life and
movement: and further, it preaches the best of all secular gospels,
patriotism and co-operation."

"We congratulate Me. Strang on this fine book--one of the best fighting
stories we have read."--_Morning Post_.

Rob the Ranger

A Story of the Fight for Canada.  Illustrated in Colour by W. H.
MARGETSON, and three Maps.

Rob Somers, son of an English settler in New York State, sets out with
Lone Pete, a trapper, in pursuit of an Indian raiding party which has
destroyed his home and carried off his younger brother.  He is captured
and taken to Quebec, where he finds his brother, and escapes with him in
the dead of the winter, in company with a little band of New Englanders.
They are pursued over snow ’and ice, and in a log hut beside Lake
Champlain maintain a desperate struggle against a larger force of
French, Indians, and half-breeds, ultimately reaching Fort Edward in
safety.

One of Clive’s Heroes

A Story of the Fight for India.  Illustrated In Colour, and Maps.

Desmond Burke goes out to India to seek his fortune, and is sold by a
false friend of his, one Marmaduke Diggle, to the famous Pirate of
Gheria.  But he escapes, runs away with one of the Pirate’s own vessels,
and meets Colonel Clive, whom he assists to capture the Pirate’s
stronghold.  His subsequent adventures on the other side of India--how
he saves a valuable cargo of his friend, Mr. Merriman, assists Clive in
his fights against Sirajuddaula, and rescues Mr. Merriman’s wife and
daughter from the clutches of Diggle--are told with great spirit and
humour.

"An absorbing story....  The narrative not only thrills, but also weaves
skilfully out of fact and fiction a clear impression of our fierce
struggle for India."--_Athenaeum_.

Samba

A Story of the Congo.  Illustrated in Colour.

The first work of fiction in which the cause of the hapless Congo native
is championed.

"It was an excellent Idea on the part of Mr. Herbert Strang to write a
story about the treatment of the natives in the Congo Free State.... Mr.
Strang has a big following among English boys, and anything he chooses
to write is sure to receive their appreciative attention."--_Standard_,

"Mr. Herbert Strang has written not a few admirable books for boys, but
none likely to make a more profound impression than his new story of
this year."--_Scotsman_.

Barclay of the Guides

A Story of the Indian Mutiny.  Illustrated in Colour by CYRUS CUNEO.
With Maps.

Of all our Native Indian regiments the Guides have probably the most
glorious traditions.  They were among the few who remained true to their
salt during the trying days of the great Mutiny, vying in gallantry and
devotion with our best British regiments.  The story tells how James
Barclay, after a strange career in Afghanistan, becomes associated with
this famous regiment, and though young in years, bears a man’s part in
the great march to Delhi, the capture of the royal city, and the
suppression of the Mutiny.

With Drake on the Spanish Main

Illustrated in Colour by ARCHIBALD WEBB.  With Maps.

A rousing story of adventure by sea and land.  The hero, Dennis
Hazelrig, is cast ashore on an island in the Spanish Main, the sole
survivor of a band of adventurers from Plymouth.  He lives for some time
with no companion but a spider monkey, but by a series of remarkable
incidents he gathers about him a numerous band of escaped slaves and
prisoners, English, French and native; captures a Spanish fort; fights a
Spanish galleon; meets Francis Drake, and accompanies him in his famous
adventures on the Isthmus of Panama; and finally reaches England the
possessor of much treasure.  The author has, as usual, devoted much
pains to characterisation, and every boy will delight in Amos Turnpenny,
Tom Copstone, and other bold men of Devon, and in Mirandola, the monkey.

Palm Tree Island

Illustrated in Colour by ARCHIBALD WEBB.

In this story two boys are left on a volcanic island in the South Seas,
destitute of everything but their clothes.  The story relates how they
provided themselves with food and shelter, with tools and weapons; how
they fought with wild dogs and sea monsters; and how, when they have
settled down to a comfortable life under the shadow of the volcano,
their peace is disturbed by the advent of savages and a crew of mutinous
Englishmen.  The savages are driven away; the mutineers are subdued
through the boys’ ingenuity; and they ultimately sail away in a vessel
of their own construction.  In no other book has the author more
admirably blended amusement with instruction.

"Written as well that there Is not a dull page in the book."--_The
World_.

Herbert Strang’s Romances of Modern Invention

Each of the following stories is concerned with some particular
discovery of Modern Science, such as the aeroplane and the submarine,
which is made use of in the working out of the plot; and the heroes of
these adventures, who face dangers that were unknown in olden times,
cannot fail to make a strong appeal to boys of to-day.

The Flying Boat

Illustrated in Colour.

The flying boat Is a logical development of the hydroplane.  At a
sufficiently high speed, the hydroplane leaves the water and becomes a
hydro-aeroplane.  The possession of such a machine gives the hero of the
story (the scene of which is laid in China) opportunities of highly
exciting adventures, and Incidentally the chance of rescuing an old chum
who has fallen into the hands of Chinese revolutionaries.

"The book is alive with vigorous action from cover to cover, ’The Flying
Boat’ is a rattling good story."--_Bookman_.

The Motor Scout

A Story of Adventure in South America.  Illustrated in Colour by CYRUS
CUNEO.

In the interest aroused by the solution of the problem of flying, the
motor bicycle has been entirely overlooked by story-writers.  Happily
Mr. Herbert Strang has now thought of making it the pivot of a story,
the scene of which is one of the Latin States of South America.  Mr.
Strang tells the story of an Irish boy who is living in this State just
at the time when one of the periodical revolutions breaks out.  He is
forced to take sides, and with the help of his motor-cycle is able to
assist his friends, but not without running risks unknown to scouts
provided with less novel means of traversing the country.  "A really
fine story, full of life, and one that any bay can enjoy."--_Outlook_.

Round the World in Seven Days

The Story of an Aeroplane.  Illustrated in Colour by A. C. MICHAEL.

"This is a book which any boy would revel in, and which people who are
no longer boys will read with equally breathless
interest."--_Educational News_.

The Cruise of the Gyro-Car

Illustrated in Colour by A. C. MICHAEL.

(The Gyro-Car, which is a road vehicle or a boat at pleasure, is the
logical outcome of the gyroscope applied to the bicycle.)

Swift and Sure

The Story of a Hydroplane.  Illustrated in Colour by J. FINNEMORE.

"It is one of the most exciting of this season’s works for boys, every
page containing a thrill, and no boy will leave it to a second sitting
if he can help it."--_Teacher_.

King of the Air

or, To Morocco on an Aeroplane.  Illustrated in Colour by W. E. WEBSTER.

"One of the best boys’ stories we have ever read."--_Morning Leader_.

"The best book of its kind now in existence."--_Manchester Guardian_.

Lord of the Seas

The Story of a Submarine.  Illustrated in Colour by C. FLEMING WILLIAMS.

"The excitement lasts from cover to cover."--_Manchester Courier_.

               By Captain G. B. McKEAN, V.C., M.C., M.M.

Scouting Thrills

Illustrated by JOHN DE WALTON.

Captain G. B. McKean is a Canadian officer who served throughout the
war, first as a private, afterwards gaining a commission, and winning
successively the Military Medal, the V.C., and the Military Cross.  In
his book he recounts some of his most thrilling experiences on the
Western Front, particularly the exploit by which he gained the V.C.
Captain McKean was Scout Officer in his battalion, and his chapters are
amongst the most vivid and thrilling accounts of the war yet
written--not the war of "big pushes," massed attacks, bayonet charges,
and the capture of miles of trenches, but of nights spent crawling about
in the mud of No-Man’s-Land, of lonely vigils in shell-holes, bombing
raids, and unpleasant experiences "on the wire."

GENERAL SIR ROBERT BADEN POWELL writes: "I have devoured it with great
relish....  It gives a life-like representation of the risks and thrills
of scouting and the ’real thing’; and as a moral lesson of chucking
everything aside to get your duty done, it is bound to have powerful
results."

                           By HYLTON CLEAVER

Brother o’ Mine

A School Story.  Illustrated by H. M. BROCK.

"Brother o’ Mine" is a story of Harley, a great public school.  Toby
Nicholson, an old Harleian, after making a shot at one or two possible
openings for a career, accepts the post of Games Master at his old
school.  To his younger brother Terence the prospect of being at Harley
with Toby is one of unalloyed pleasure, and as he is pretty sure of his
First XI. colours next term, the world for him is rose-coloured.  But
his anticipations are not altogether realised, for Slade, the Captain of
Cricket, having no particular liking for Terence to start with, feels
that the presence of Toby is a direct challenge to him to assert his
independence; and on the plea that he will not show favouritism to a boy
because his brother happens to be Games Master, he refuses to do him
simple justice and keeps him out of the XI.  In the duel that ensues,
Slade makes several false moves that show him to be actuated by petty
spite rather than by any high motive of justice and fair-play; and his
own play proving anything but fair, his career at Harley comes to an
abrupt conclusion.  Terence is a fine bat, and the force of public
opinion and his own worth secure him the coveted "last place" in the XI.

The Harley First Eleven

Illustrated by C. E. BROCK.

"The Harley First Eleven" is a collection of Mr. Hylton Cleaver’s best
short stories, all centring on the great public school Harley, and,
individually, dealing with the sports for which it is famous.  Mr.
Cleaver’s knowledge of public school-boy character is extensive and
profound; he has a ready fund of wit and humour at his call, and he can
describe a Rugger match in a way that makes the blood tingle with
excitement.  Rugger was Harley’s great game, though the school produced
many first-class cricketers; and the two games form the pivot of several
stories.  Others are concerned with boxing, running and swimming; and we
are let into secrets regarding the giving or withholding of colours for
which the school at large saw no justification at the time.  The book is
a history of battles fought and won on the playing-fields of Harley.

                By CLAUDE GRAHAME-WHITE AND HARRY HARPER

Heroes of the Air

Illustrated in Colour by CYRUS CUNEO.

This book deals with the labours and exploits of those who have played
an important part in bringing about the conquest of the air.  It not
only contains personal memoirs of the men themselves, but traces the
progress of aerial flight from the early gliders to the aeroplanes of
to-day.  The story of the experiments of those who first essayed to
fly--the problems that long baffled them and the difficulties they
overcame--together with the accounts of the daring feats of modern
aviators, make a stirring narrative, and carry the history of heroism
and endurance a.  stage further forward.

"This will prove a great attraction to a multitude of readers who wish
to read of deeds of great daring and very narrow escapes."--_Nation_.

With the Airmen

Illustrated in Colour by CYRUS CUNEO.

Mr. Grahame-White has not only repeatedly proved his skill and daring as
a pilot, but the well-known type of biplane bearing his name shows that
he is in the forefront of designers and constructors.  With his
practical and technical knowledge is combined the somewhat rare ability
to impart his knowledge in a form acceptable to boys, as he has already
shown in his "Heroes of the Air."  This time he has written a vade mecum
for the young aeroplanist, who is conducted to the aerodrome and
initiated Into all the mysteries of flying.  The structure of the
aeroplane, the uses of the different parts, the propulsive mechanism,
the steering apparatus, the work at a flying school, the causes of
accidents, and the future of the aeroplane are all dealt with.

"It is surely one of the most entertaining books on a technical subject
that have ever appeared, as well as one of the most instructive and
comprehensive."--_Nation_.

                       By CAPTAIN CHARLES GILSON

On Secret Service.  Illustrated by JOHN DE WALTON.

Captain Gilson’s new book carries us back to the early days of the war,
when the hidden menace of spies in our midst was scarcely less
formidable than the obvious menace from the enemy without.  Daniel
Wansborough, a retired Scotland Yard detective, takes up active service
again in the hour of his country’s need, and becomes aware of a
well-organised system of espionage at work, with its headquarters in
London; but for a time he cannot discover whose is the brain directing
the organisation.  His nephew, George, a lad of sixteen, is instrumental
in obtaining this information.  George falls into the hands of the
arch-spy, and is kept a prisoner in London.  Here he learns the details
of an ingenious plan whereby the chief Government offices in Whitehall
are to be destroyed by Zeppelins.  The detective, in trying to unravel
the mystery of his nephew’s disappearance, finds the threads mingling
with those of the spy-plot, and when at length he locates the house in
which the boy is shut up, he finds himself with his hand upon the very
nerve-centre of the German Secret Service organisation.  George is able
to supply the missing links in the chain of evidence, and the scheme for
the destruction of Whitehall if frustrated at the eleventh hour.

The Spy

A Story of the Peninsular War.  Illustrated in Colour by CYRUS CUNEO.

To the work of story-writing Captain Gilson brings a remarkable
combination of talents: an unrivalled knowledge of military history, an
imagination that never flags, a dramatic literary style, and a keen
sense of humour.  These qualities are seen to perfection in "The Spy."
The hero, Sir Jeffery Jones, Bart, when a boy of sixteen, secures a
commission in a famous foot regiment, then under orders to sail for
Portugal under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley.  His first encounter
with the enemy takes place before he is fifty miles from home, for on
the road to London he pursues and comes near to capturing a spy in the
pay of Bonaparte.  Several times subsequently the paths of the two
cross, and eventually Sir Jeffery is the means of thwarting the
Frenchman’s schemes.  He takes part in much of the fighting in the
Peninsula, and, at the storming of Badajoz and elsewhere, renders his
country good service.

"Every boy who loves tales of war and perilous enterprise--and what boy
does not!--will read ’The Spy’ with unqualified enjoyment."--_Bookman_.

The Lost Empire

A Tale of Many Lands.  Illustrated in Colour by CYRUS CUNEO.  With Map.

This is the story of a middy who was taken prisoner by the French at the
time of the Revolution.  While in Paris he obtained possession of
Napoleon’s plans for the capture of India, and, after many adventures,
was the means of frustrating that ambitious scheme.

The Lost Column

A Story of the Boxer Rebellion.  Illustrated in Colour by CYRUS CUNEO.

At the outbreak of the great Boxer Rebellion in China, Gerald Wood, the
hero of this story, was living with his mother and brother at Milton
Towers, just outside Tientsin.  When the storm broke and Tientsin was
cut off from the rest of the world, the occupants of Milton Towers made
a gallant defence, but were compelled by force of numbers to retire into
the town.  Then Gerald determined to go in quest of the relief column
under Admiral Seymour.  He carried his life in his hands, and on more
than one occasion came within an ace of losing it; but he managed to
reach his goal in safety, and was warmly commended by the Admiral on his
achievement.

The Pirate Aeroplane

Illustrated in Colour by C. CLARK, R.I.

The heroes of this story, during a tour In an entirely unknown region of
Africa, light upon a race of people directly descended from the Ancient
Egyptians.  This race--the Asmalians---has lived isolated from other
communities.  The scientific importance of this discovery is apparent to
the travellers, and they are enthusiastic to know more of these strange
people; but suddenly they find themselves in the midst of exciting
adventures owing to the appearance of a pirate aeroplane--of a
thoroughly up-to-date model--whose owner has learnt of a vast store of
gold in the Asmalians’ city.  They throw in their lot with the people,
and are able in the end to frustrate the plans of the freebooter.

"The story is a riot of adventure.  There is the groundwork of a
complete new novel on every page."--_Manchester Guardian_.

The Lost Island

Illustrated in Colour by CYRUS CUNEO.

A rousing story of adventure in the little-explored regions of Central
Asia and in the South Seas.  The prologue describes how Thomas Gaythorne
obtained access to a Lama monastery, where he rendered the monks such
great service that they bestowed upon him a gem of priceless value known
as Gautama’s Eye.  Soon after leaving the monastery he was attacked and
robbed, and only narrowly escaped with his life.  "The Lost Island"
describes the attempt of one of Thomas Gaythorne’s descendants to
re-discover the missing gem; and he passes through some remarkable
adventures before he succeeds in this quest.

The Race Round the World

An Account of the Contest for the £100,000 Prize offered by the
Combined Newspaper League.  Coloured Illustrations by CYRUS CUNEO, and
a map of the route of _The Swallow_.

Old Silas Agge has invented a new motor spirit, far more potent than
petrol, and with this secret in his possession he has no doubt that he
will win the £100,000 offered by a Newspaper League to the winner of the
Aeroplane Race round the World.  But a foreigner, with whom Silas has
had business relations, succeeds in obtaining, first, the design of the
aeroplane which the old man has built, and next, a sufficient quantity
of the new spirit to carry him round the world.  The race thus becomes a
duel between these two rivals.  Guy Kingston, a daring young aviator and
nephew to Silas, pilots his uncle’s aeroplane, and at every stage of the
race finds himself matched against an unscrupulous adversary.  The story
of the race is exciting from beginning to end. Readers of Captain
Gilson’s earlier books will be particularly happy in renewing
acquaintance with Mr. Wang, the great Chinese detective.

"Suggestive of Jules Verne in his most ambitious and fantastic
vein."--_Athenaeum_.

"Boys will like it, and they will want to read it more than
once."--_Scotsman_.

                     SCHOOL STORIES BY DESMOND COKE

The Bending of a Twig

Illustrated in Colour by H. M. BROCK.

When "The Bending of a Twig" was first published it was hailed by
competent critics as the finest school story that had appeared since
"Tom Brown." It is a vivid picture of life in a modern public school.
The hero, Lycidas Marsh, enters Shrewsbury without having previously
been to a preparatory school, drawing his ideas of school life from his
imagination and a number of school stories he has read.  How Lycidas
finds his true level in this new world and worthily maintains the
Salopian tradition is the theme of this most entrancing book.

"A real, live school story that carries conviction in every
line."--_Standard_.

"Mr. Desmond Coke has given us one of the best accounts of public school
life that we possess....  Among books of its kind ’The Bending of a
Twig’ deserves to become a classic"--_Outlook_.

The School Across the Road

Illustrated in Colour by H. M. BROCK.

The incidents of this story arise out of the uniting of two
schools--"Warner’s" and "Corunna"--under the name of "Winton," a name
which the head master fondly hopes will become known far and wide as a
great seat of learning.  Unfortunately for the head master’s ambition,
however, the two sets of boys--hitherto rivals and enemies, now
schoolfellows--do not take kindly to one another.  Warner’s men of might
are discredited in the new school; Henderson, lately head boy, finds
himself a mere nobody; while the inoffensive Dove is exalted and made
prefect by reason of his attainments in class work.  There is discord
and insurrection and talk of expulsion, and the feud drags on until the
rival factions have an opportunity of uniting against a common enemy.
Then, in the enthusiasm aroused by the overthrow of a neighbouring
agricultural college, the bitterness between them dies away, and the
future of Winton is assured.

"This tale is told with a remarkable spirit, and all the boys are real,
everyday characters drawn without exaggeration."--_British Weekly_.

The House Prefect

Illustrated in Colour by H. M. BROCK.

This story of the life at Sefton, a great English public school, mainly
revolves around the trouble in which Bob Manders, new-made house
prefect, finds himself, owing to a former alliance with the two wild
spirits whom, in the interests of the house, it is now his chief task to
suppress.  In particular does the spirited exploit with which it
opens--the whitewashing by night of a town statue and the smashing of
certain school property--raise itself against him, next term, when he
has been set in authority.  His two former friends persist in still
regarding him as an ally, bound to them by their common secret; and, in
a sense, he is attracted to their enterprises, for in becoming prefect
he does not cease to be a boy.  It is a great duel this, fought in the
studies, the dormitories, upon the field.

"Quite one of the books of the season.  Mr. Desmond Coke has proved
himself a aster."--_World_.

"Quite the hot school story of the year."--_Morning Leader_.

                            By A. C. CURTIS

The Voyage of the "Sesame"

A Story of the Arctic.  Illustrated in Colour.

The Trevelyan brothers receive from a dying sailor a rough chart of a
locality where much gold is to be found in the Arctic regions.  They set
out in quest of it, bat do not have things all their own way, for some
rival treasure-seekers have got wind of the enterprise, and endeavour to
secure the gold for themselves.  There is a race between the two
expeditions, and fighting takes place, but the crew of the Sesame are
victorious, and after enduring great hardships amongst the ice, reach
home safely with the gold on board.

The Good Sword Belgarde

or, How De Burgh held Dover.  Coloured Illustrations by W. H. C. GROOME.

This is the story of Arnold Gyffard and John Wotton, pages to Sir Philip
Daubeney, in the days when Prince Lewis the Lion invaded England and
strove to win it from King John.  It tells of their journey to Dover
through a country swarming with foreign troops, and of many desperate
fights by the way.  In one of these A mold wins from a French knight the
good sword Belgarde, which he uses to such good purpose as to make his
name feared.  Then follows the great siege of Dover, full of exciting
incidents, when by his gallant defence Hubert de Burgh keeps the key to
England out of the Frenchman’s grasp.

                       By FRANK H. MASON, R.B.A.

A Book of British Ships

Written and Illustrated by FRANK H. MASON, R.B.A.

The aim of this book is to present, in a form that will readily appeal
to boys, a comprehensive account of British shipping, both naval and
mercantile, and to trace its development from the old wooden walls of
Nelson’s time down to the Dreadnoughts and high-speed ocean liners of
to-day.  All kinds of British ships, from the battleship to the trawler,
are dealt with, and the characteristic points of each type of vessel are
explained.

                            By GEORGE SURREY

Mid Clash of Swords

A Story of the Sack of Rome.  Coloured Illustrations by T. C. DUGDALE.

Wilfrid Salkeld, a young Englishman, enters the employ of Giuliano de
Medici, the virtual ruler of Florence, whom he serves with a zeal that
that faint-hearted man does not deserve; he meets Giovanni the
Invincible; and makes friends with the great Benvenuto Cellini.  He has
many a fierce tussle with German mercenaries and Italian robbers, as
well as with those whose jealousy he arouses by his superior skill in
arms.

A Northumbrian in Arms

A Story of the Time of Hereward the Wake.  Illustrated in Colour by J.
FINNEMORE.

Harold Ulfsson, companion of Hereward the Wake and conqueror of the
Wessex Champion in a great wrestling bout, is outlawed by the influence
of a Norman knight, whose enmity he has aroused, and goes north to serve
under Earl Siward of Northumbria in the war against Macbeth, the
Scottish usurper.  He assists in defeating an attack by a band of
coast-raiders, takes their ship, and discovering that his father has
been slain and his land seized by his enemy, follows him into Wales. He
fights with Griffith the Welsh King, kills his enemy In a desperate
conflict amidst the hills, and, gaining the friendship of Harold, Earl
of Wessex, his outlawry is removed and his lands restored to him.

                       By REV. J. R. HOWDEN, B.D.

Locomotives of the World

Containing sixteen plates in Colour.

Many of the most up-to-date types of locomotives used on railways
throughout the world are illustrated and described in this volume.  The
coloured plates have been made from actual photographs, and show the
peculiar features of some truly remarkable engines.  These peculiarities
are fully explained in the text, written by the Rev. J. R. Howden,
author of "The Boy’s Book of Locomotives," etc.

                            By JOHN FINBARR

The Mystery of Danger Point

Illustrated by ARCHIBALD WEBB.

A story of a hundred years ago, when there were highwaymen on every
public road and smuggler!  in every cove.  When their school breaks up,
the two youthful heroes go to spend the holidays with Robin’s uncle, who
lives in a tumble-down castle at Danger Point on the western coast, and
they soon discover that the local people are doing a brisk trade in
contraband goods.  To assist in putting down this illegal business seems
to them the obvious course.  They find a cave which has every appearance
of being used for smuggled goods, and keep their eyes upon certain
suspicious characters.  In the absence of Uncle Reuben, the boys get
wind of a big cargo about to be run, and resolve to inform the nearest
Justice of the Peace; but before they can put their scheme into
operation, they are quietly smuggled away themselves out of England into
France.  Here an opportunity presents itself for assisting a French
nobleman and his daughter to escape from the Reign of Terror, and they
return to England to invoke the aid of Uncle Reuben and his ship In this
enterprise.  Their success brings reward in several ways. The story is
very brightly written, and has many humorous touches.

                            By JOSEPH BOWES

The Aussie Crusaders

Illustrated by WAL PAGET.

Mr. Bowes’ latest story, "The Aussie Crusaders," deals with the British
Campaign in Palestine.  The hero is a young Australian officer, who,
having distinguished himself in the Gallipoli struggle, was given a
commission and quickly attained his majority.  He is still, however,
"one of the boys" in spirit, and the story gives a pretty good idea of
the informal, friendly relations that existed between the officers and
men of the A.I.F.  Major Smith is taken prisoner by a party of Bedouins
after the fight at Rafa, and on escaping from them, falls into the hands
of the Turks, from whom he also breaks free, obtaining possession of
papers giving valuable information about the enemy’s strength and
movements.  After rejoining his squadron, the Major takes part in the
great sweep that, starting with the attack on Gaza, culminated in the
fall of Jerusalem.

                           By WILLIAM J. MARX

For the Admiral

Illustrated in Colour by ARCHIBALD WEBB.

The brave Huguenot Admiral Coligny is one of the heroes of French
history.  Edmond le Blanc, the son of a Huguenot gentleman, undertakes
to convey a secret letter of warning to Coligny, and the adventures he
meets with on the way lend to his accepting service in the Huguenot
army.  He shares in the hard fighting that took place in the
neighbourhood of La Rochelle, does excellent work in scouting for the
Admiral, and is everywhere that danger calls, along with his friend
Roger Braund, a young Englishman who has come over to help the cause
with a band of free-lances.

This story won the £100 prize offered by the Bookman for the best story
for boys.

                           THE ROMANCE SERIES

The Romance of the King’s Navy

By EDWARD FRASER.  New Edition, with Illustrations in Colour by N.
SOTHEBY PITCHER.

"The Romance of the King’s Navy" is intended to give boys of to-day an
idea of some of the notable events that have happened under the White
Ensign within the past few years.  There is no other book of the kind in
existence.  It begins with incidents afloat during the Crimean War, when
their grandfathers were boys themselves, and brings the story down to a
year or two ago, with the startling adventure at Spithead of Submarine
64.  One chapter tells the exciting story of "How the Navy’s V.C.’s have
been won," the deeds of the various heroes being brought all together
here in one connected narrative for the first time.

"Mr. Fraser knows his facts well, and has set them out in an extremely
interesting and attractive way."--_Westminster Gazette_.

The Romance of the King’s Army

By A. B. TUCKER.

A companion volume to "The Romance of the King’s Navy," telling again in
glowing language the most inspiring incidents in the glorious history of
our land forces.  The charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman, the
capture of the Dargai heights, the saving of the guns at Maiwand, are a
few of the great stories of heroism and devotion that appear in this
stirring volume.

"We cannot toe highly commend this beautiful volume as a prize-book for
school-boys of all classes."--_School Guardian_.

The Romance of Every Day

By LILIAN QUILLER-COUCH.

Here is a bookful of romance and heroism; true stories of men, women,
and children in early centuries and modern times who took the
opportunities which came into their everyday lives and found themselves
heroes and heroines; civilians who, without beat of drum or smoke of
battle, without special training or words of encouragement, performed
deeds worthy to be written in letters of gold.

"These stories are bound to encourage and Inspire young readers to
perform heroic actions."--_Bristol Daily Mercury_.

The Romance of the Merchant Venturers

By E. E. SPEIGHT and R. MORTON NANCE.

Britain’s Sea Story

By E. E. SPEIGHT and R. MORTON NANCE.  New Edition, Illustrated in
Colour by H. SANDHAM.

These two books are full of true tales as exciting as any to be found in
the story books, and at every few pages there is a fine illustration, in
colour or black and white, of one of the stirring incidents described in
the text.

By MEREDITH FLETCHER

The Pretenders

With Coloured Illustrations by HAROLD C. EARNSHAW.

A tale of twin-brothers at Daneborough School, Tommy Durrant (the
narrator) has been a boarder for about a year, when Peter arrives upon
the scene as a day-boy.  The latter’s ill-health has prevented him
joining the school before, and, being a harum-scarum youngster, his
vagaries plunge Tommy into hot water straight away.  The following week,
unaware of all the mischief he has made, the newcomer, who lives with an
aunt, urges his twin to change places one night for a spree. Tommy
rashly consents, and his experiences while pretending to be Peter prove
both unexpected and exciting.

"Mr. Meredith Fletcher is extremely happy in his delineation of school
life."--_People’s Journal_.

The Complete Scout

Edited by MORLEY ADAMS, with numerous Illustrations and Diagrams.

This is a book intended primarily for boy scouts, but It also possesses
an Interest for all boys who like out-of-door amusements and scouting
games.  It contains many articles by different writers on the various
pursuits and branches of study that scouts are more particularly
interested in, such as wood-craft, tracing, the weather, and so on, and
the book should form a sort of cyclopaedia for many thousands of boys
who hail Baden-Powell as Chief Scout.

                             By D. H. PARRY

Kit of the Carabineers

or, A Soldier of Maryborough’s.

Illustrated in Colour by ARCHIBALD WEBB.

This story tells how Kit Dawnay comes under the notice of the Duke of
Marlborough while the latter is on a visit to Kit’s uncle, Sir Jasper
Dawnay, an irritable, miserly old man, suspected, moreover with good
reason, of harbouring Jacobite plotters and of being himself favourable
to the cause of the exiled Stuarts.

Kit, instructed by the Duke, Is able to frustrate a scheme for the
assassination of King William as he rides to Hampton Court, and the
King, in return for Kit’s service, gives him a cornet’s commission in
the King’s Carabineers.  He goes with the army to Flanders, takes part
in the siege of Liege; accompanies Marlborough on those famous forced
marches across Europe, whereby the great leader completely hoodwinked
the enemy; and is present at the battle of Blenheim, where he wins
distinction.

"The story bristles with dramatic incident, and the thrilling adventures
which overtake the young hero, Kit Dawnay, are enough to keep one
breathless with excitement."--_Bookman_.

                          By W. H. G. KINGSTON

Hurricane Hurry

Coloured Illustrations by ARCHIBALD WEBB.

This Is one of W. H. G. Kingston’s best books in the sense that It has
an atmosphere of reality about it, and reads like the narrative of one
who has actually passed through all the experiences described; and this
is no mere illusion, for the author states in his preface that the
material from which the story was built up was put into his hands by a
well-known naval officer, who afterwards rose to the position of
admiral.  Mr. Hurry enters the navy as midshipman a few years before the
outbreak of the American War of Independence, and during that war he
distinguishes himself both on land and sea.

Will Weatherhelm

Coloured Illustrations by ARCHIBALD WEBB.

A splendid tale of the sea, full of incident and adventure, and a
first-rate account of the sailor’s life afloat in the days of the
press-gang and the old wooden walls.  The author reveals his own ardent
love of the sea and all that pertains to it, and this story embodies a
true ideal of patriotic service.

By G. A. HENTY

In Times of Peril

A Story of India.  Illustrated in Colour by T. C. DUGDALE.

Major Warrener and his children are stationed at Sandynugghur when news
arrives that the native troops at Meerut have mutinied and murdered all
the Europeans there and are marching upon Delhi.  Almost immediately the
Major’s house is attacked and his family flee for their lives.  The
Major himself and some of his companions are taken prisoners, but only
for a short time, for his sons, Ned and Dick, disguising themselves as
Sepoys, are able to rescue them.  The party after an anxious time fall
in with a body of English troops who are on the way to relieve Delhi.
Dick and Ned are in Cawnpore when the Europeans are attacked, but they
escape by swimming instead of trusting themselves in boats.  They take
part in the storming of Delhi, which had been taken by the natives, and
in the relief of Lucknow.  The end of the Mutiny finds the whole family
once more united.

                        Edited by HERBERT STRANG

Early Days in Canada
Pioneers in Canada
Early Days in Australia
Pioneers in Australia
Early Days in India
Duty and Danger in India

Each book contains eight plates in Colour.

The story of the discovery, conquest, settlement, and peaceful
development of the great countries which now form part of the British
Empire, is full of interest and romance.  In this series of books the
story is told in a number of extracts from the writings of historians,
biographers, and travellers whose works are not easily accessible to the
general reader.  Each volume is complete in itself and gives a vivid
picture of the progress of the particular country with which it deals.

                        BOOKS FOR BOYS AND GIRLS

HERBERT STRANG’S LIBRARY

This is a new series of standard books for boys and girls, comprising
the great works of history, fiction, biography, travel, science, and
poetry with which every boy and girl should be familiar, edited by Mr.
HERBERT STRANG.

Each volume is prefaced by a short introduction, giving a biographical
account of the author, or such information concerning the book itself as
may be useful and interesting to young readers.  Notes, maps, and plans
are given where necessary.

The text of the books, many of which were not written primarily for
children, is carefully edited both in regard to matters that are
inherently unsuitable for their reading, and to passages that do not
conform to modern standards of taste.  In these and other respects the
Editor will exercise a wide discretion.

The Library Is illustrated with colour plates, reproduced by
three-colour process from designs by H. M. BROCK, JAMES DURDEN, A. WEBB,
and other well-known artists,

The following volumes are now ready:--

    Adventures in the Rifle Brigade       By Sir John Kincaid
    Westward Ho!                          By Charles Kingsley
    The Life of Wellington                By W. H. Maxwell
    The Boy's Country Book                By William Howitt
    Mungo Park's Travels
    The Coral Island                      By R. M. Ballantyne
    True Blue                             By W. H. G. Kingston
    Little Women                          By Louisa Alcott
    Good Wives                            By Louisa Alcott
    Tales from Hans Andersen
    Stories from Grimm
    Tom Brown's Schooldays                By Thomas Hughes
    The Life of Nelson                    By Robert Southey
    Quentin Durward                       By Sir Walter Scott
    A Book of Golden Deeds                By Charlotte M. Yonge
    A Wonder Book                         By Nathaniel Hawthorne
    What Katy Did                         By Susan Coolidge
    What Katy Did at School               By Susan Coolidge
    What Katy Did Next                    By Susan Coolidge
    Ivanhoe                               By Sir Walter Scott
    Curiosities of Natural History        By Frank Buckland
    Captain Cook's Voyages
    The Heroes                            By Charles Kingsley
    Robinson Crusoe                       By Daniel Defoe
    Tales from Shakespeare                By Charles and Mary Lamb
    Peter the Whaler                      By W. H. G. Kingston
    Queechy                               By Elizabeth Wetherell
    The Wide Wide World                   By Elizabeth Wetherell
    Tanglewood Tales                      By Nathaniel Hawthorne
    The Life of Columbus                  By Washington Irving
    Battles of the Peninsular War         By Sir William Napier
    Midshipman Easy                       By Captain Marryat
    The Swiss Family Robinson             By J. R. Wyss

                            Books for Girls

                       By CHRISTINA GOWANS WHYTE

Uncle Hilary’s Nieces

Illustrated in Colour by JAMES BURDEN.

Until the death of their father, the course of life of Uncle Hilary’s
nieces had run smooth; but then the current of misfortune came upon
them, carried them, with their mother and brothers, to London, and
established them in a fiat.  Here, under the guardianship of Uncle
Hilary, they enter into the spirit of their new situation; and when it
comes to a question of ways and means, prove that they have both courage
and resource.  Thus Bertha secretly takes a position as stock-keeper to
a fashionable dressmaker; Milly tries to write, and has the satisfaction
of seeing her name in print; Edward takes up architecture and becomes
engrossed in the study of "cupboards and kitchen sinks"; while all the
rest contribute as well to the maintenance of the household as to the
interest of the story.

"We have seldom read a prettier story than ... ’Uncle Hilary’s Nieces.’
...  It is a daintily woven plot clothed in a style that has already
commended itself to many readers, and is bound to make more
friends."--_Daily News_.

The Five Macleods

Illustrated in Colour by JAMES DURDEN.

The modern Louisa Alcott!  That is the title that critics In England and
America have bestowed on Miss Christina Gowans Whyte, whose "Story-Book
Girls" they declare to be the best girls’ story since "Little Women."
Like the Leightons and the Howards, the Macleods are another of those
delightful families whose doings, as described by Miss Whyte, make such
entertaining reading.  Each of the five Macleods possesses an
individuality of her own. Elspeth is the eldest--sixteen, with her hair
"very nearly up"--and her lovable nature makes her a favourite with
every one; she is followed, in point of age, by the would-be masterful
Winifred (otherwise Winks) and the independent Lil; while little Babs
and Dorothy bring up the rear.

"Altogether a most charming story for girls."--_Schoolmaster_.

Nina’s Career

Illustrated in Colour by JAMES BURDEN.

"Nina’s Career" tells delightfully of a large family of girls and boys,
children of Sir Christopher Howard.  Friends of the Howards are Nina
Wentworth, who lives with three aunts, and Gertrude Mannering. Gertrude
Is conscious of always missing in her life that which makes the lives of
the Howards so joyous and full.  They may have "careers"; she must go to
Court and through the wearying treadmill of the rich girls.  The Howards
get engaged, marry, go into hospitals, study in art schools; and in the
end Gertrude also achieves happiness.

"We have been so badly in need of writers for girls who shall be in
sympathy with the modern standard of intelligence, that we are grateful
for the advent of Miss Whyte, who has not inaptly been described as the
new Miss Alcott,"--_Outlook_.

The Story-Book Girls

Illustrated in Colour by JAMES BURDEN.

This story won the £100 prize In the Bookman competition.

The Leightons are a charming family.  There is Mabel, the beauty, her
nature, strength and sweetness mingled; and Jean, the downright, blunt,
uncompromising; and Elma, the sympathetic, who champions everybody, and
has a weakness for long words.  And there is Cuthbert, too, the clever
brother.  Cuthbert is responsible for a good deal, for he saves Adelaide
Maud from an accident, and brings the Story-Book Girls into the story.
Every girl who reads this book will become acquainted with some of the
realest, truest, best people in recent fiction.

"It is not too much to say that Miss Whyte has opened a new era in the
history of girls’ literature....  The writing, distinguished in itself,
is enlivened by an all-pervading sense of humour."--_Manchester
Courier_.

By J. M. WHITFELD

Tom who was Rachel

A Story of Australian Life.  Illustrated in Colour by N. TENISON.

This is a story of Colonial life by an author who is new to English
readers.  In writing about Australia Miss Whitfeld is, in a very literal
sense, at home; and no one can read her book without coming to the
conclusion that she is equally so in drawing pen portraits of children.
Her work possesses all the vigour and freshness that one usually
associates with the Colonies, and at the same time preserves the best
traditions of Louisa Alcott In "Tom who was Rachel" the author has
described a large family of children living on an up-country station;
and the story presents a faithful picture of the everyday life of the
bush.  Rachel (otherwise Miss Thompson, abbreviated to "Miss Tom,"
afterwards to "Tom") is the children’s step-sister; and it Is her
Influence for good over the wilder elements in their nature that
provides the teal motive of a story for which all English boys and girls
will feel grateful.

Gladys and Jack

An Australian Story for Girls.  Coloured Illustrations by N. TENISON.

Gladys and Jack are sister and brother, and, up to the point when the
story opens, they have been the best of friends.  Then, however, certain
influences begin to work in the mind of Gladys, as the result of which a
coolness springs up between her and her brother.  Gladys puts on a
superior air, and adopts a severely proper attitude towards Jack.
Gladys has been in society, has come to be regarded as a beauty, and has
been made a fuss of; consequently she becomes self-conscious. She goes
to spend a holiday up-country, and here, too, her icily-regular line of
conduct seems bound to bring her into conflict with her
free-and-easy-going cousins.  After some trying experiences, Gladys
finds herself in a position which enables her, for the time being, to
forget her own troubles, and exert all her strength on behalf of the
rest.  She comes worthily through the ordeal, earns the affection of her
cousins, and Jack rejoices in the recovery of a lost sister.

"We have a large number of characters all clearly differentiated, plenty
of incident, and much sparkling dialogue."--_Morning Post_.

The Colters

An Australian Story for Girls.  Illustrated in Colour by GEORGE SOPER.

This book deals with a merry family of Australian boys and girls. There
are a good many of them, and to each one Miss Whitfeld has imparted a
distinct individuality.  There is Hector, the eldest, manly and
straightforward, and Matt, the plain-spoken, his younger brother. Ruby,
quiet and gentle, with an aptitude for versifying, is well contrasted
with her headstrong, impulsive cousin Effie.  The author seizes upon the
everyday occurrences of domestic life, turning them to good account; and
she draws a charming picture of a family, united in heart, while
differing very much in habit and temperament.

                          By ELSIE J. OXENHAM

Mistress Nanciebel

Illustrated in Colour by JAMES BURDEN.

This is a story of the Restoration.  Nanciebel’s father, Sir John
Seymour, had so incurred the displeasure of King Charles by his
persistent opposition to the threatened war against the Dutch, that he
was sent out of the country.  Nothing would dissuade Nanciebel from
accompanying him, so they sailed away together and were duly landed on a
desolate shore, which they afterwards discovered to be a part of Wales.
Here, by perseverance and much hard toil, John o’ Peace made a new home
for his family, in which enterprise he owed not a little to the presence
and constant help of Nanciebel, who is the embodiment of youthful
optimism and womanly tenderness.

"A charming book for girls."--_Evening Standard_.

                         A NEW ALBUM FOR GIRLS

My Schooldays

An album in which girls can keep a record of their schooldays.  In order
that the entries may be neat and methodical, certain pages have been
allotted to various different subjects, such as Addresses, Friends,
Books, Matches, Birthdays, Concerts, Holidays, Theatricals, Presents,
Prizes and Certificates, and so on.  The album is beautifully decorated
throughout.

                         By MRS. HERBERT STRANG

The Girl Crusoes

A Story of Three Girls in the South Seas.  With Colour Illustrations by
                              N. TENISON.

It is a common experience that young girls prefer stories written for
their brothers to those written for themselves.  They have the same love
of adventure, the same admiration for brave and heroic deeds, as boys;
and in these days of women travellers and explorers there are countless
instances of women displaying a courage and endurance in all respects
equal to that of the other sex.  Recognizing this, Mrs. Herbert Strang
has written a story of adventure in which three English girls of the
present day are the central figures, and in which the girl reader will
find as much excitement and amusement as any boy’s book could furnish.

                          By WINIFRED M. LETTS

The Quest of the Blue Rose

Illustrated in Colour by JAMES BURDEN.

After the death of her mother, Sylvia Sherwood has to make her own way
in the world as a telegraph clerk.  The world she finds herself in is a
girls’ hostel in a big northern city.  For a while she can only see the
uncongenial side of her surroundings; but when she has made a friend and
found herself a niche, she begins to realise that though the Blue Rose
may not be for her finding, there are still wild roses in every hedge.
In the end, however, Sylvia, contented at last with her hard-working,
humdrum life, finds herself the successful writer of a book of
children’s poems.

"Miss Letts has written a most entertaining work, which should become
very popular.  The humour is never forced, and the pathetic scenes are
written with true feeling."--_School Guardian_.

Bridget of All Work

Illustrated in Colour by JAMES BURDEN.

The scene of the greater part of this story is laid in Lancashire, and
the author has chosen her heroine from among those who know what it is
to feel the pinch of want and strive loyally to combat it.  There is a
charm about Bridget Joy, moving about her kitchen, keeping a light heart
under the most depressing surroundings.  Girl though she is, it is her
arm that encircles and protects those who should in other circumstances
have been her guardians, and her brave heart that enables the word Home
to retain its sweetness for those who are dependent on her.

"Miss Letts has written a story for which elder girls will be grateful,
so simple and winning is it; and we recognise in the author’s work a
sense of character and sense of style which ought to ensure its
popularity."--_Globe_.

                            By ANGELA BRAZIL

A Terrible Tomboy

New Edition.  With Coloured Illustrations by N. TENISON.

Peggy Vaughan, daughter of a country gentleman living on the Welsh
border, is much too high-spirited to avoid getting continually into
scrapes.  She nearly gets drowned while birds’-nesting, scandalises the
over-prim daughters of rich up-starts by her carelessness in matters of
dress and etiquette, gets lost with her small brother while exploring
caves, smokes out wild bees, and acts generally more like a boy than a
girl.  Naturally enough her father and school mistresses find her very
difficult to manage, but her good humour and kindness of heart make it
impossible to be angry with her for long.  At the end of the story, when
the family have become too poor to remain any longer in their old home,
she makes a discovery which enables them to stay there.

                          By E. L. HAVERFIELD

The Happy Comrade

Illustrated by ALBERT MORROW.

Monica, the heroine of this story, is a wealthy girl who has never been
to school, but has formed a close home friendship with Penelope, a girl
somewhat older, upon whom she has been accustomed to lavish valuable
gifts, partly out of innate generosity, partly from love of
appreciation.  Her affection for Penelope induces her to enter the same
school, expecting that the home relations will continue there.  To her
chagrin, however, she finds that Penelope’s high position as head
prefect prevents close intercourse, and in some bitterness of spirit she
allies herself with a set of girls who delight in lawlessness and engage
in mischievous and unruly pranks.  She soon finds herself in serious
trouble; and the story shows how her better nature overcomes her
weaknesses, how she learns to despise the dishonourable conduct into
which her associates have lured her, and how the tribulation which she
has brought on herself leads ultimately to a firmer, purer friendship
for the girl whom she has all along admired and loved.

Sylvia’s Victory

Illustrated in Colour by JAMES BURDEN.

Owing to a change in the family fortunes, Sylvia Hughes is obliged to
attend a day school in a small seaside town where she has the misfortune
to make an enemy of the head girl, Phyllis Staunton-Taylor, who regards
Sylvia as one belonging to an inferior set to her own.  One day during
the holidays Sylvia swims out and rescues Phyllis, who has got beyond
her depth; but even this fails to establish amity between them, and no
word of Sylvia’s heroism gets abroad in the school.  It is not until
after she has experienced many trials and heartburnings that Sylvia
learns the reason of Phyllis’s apparent ingratitude, and friendship is
restored.

Audrey’s Awakening

Illustrated in Colour by JAMES DURDEN.

As a result of a luxurious and conventional upbringing, Audrey is a girl
without ambitions, unsympathetic, and with a reputation for
exclusiveness.  Therefore, when Paul Forbes becomes her step-brother,
and brings his free-and-easy notions into the Davidsons’ old home, there
begins to be trouble.  Audrey discovers that she has feelings, and the
results are not altogether pleasant.  She takes a dislike to Paul at the
outset; and the young people have to get through deep waters and some
exciting times before things come right.  Audrey’s awakening is
thorough, if painful.

"Is far above the Average tale of school and home life."--_Aberdeen Free
Press_.

The Conquest of Claudia

Illustrated in Colour by JAMES BURDEN.

Meta and Claudia Austin are two motherless girls with a much-occupied
father.  Their upbringing has therefore been left to a kindly governess,
whose departure to be married makes the first change in the girls’
lives.  Having set their hearts upon going to school, they receive a new
governess resentfully.  Claudia is a person of instincts, and it does
not take her long to discover that there is something mysterious about
Miss Strongitharm.  A clue upon which the children stumble leads to the
notion that Miss Strongitharm is a Nihilist in hiding.  That in spite of
various strange happenings they are quite wrong is to be expected, but
there is a genuine mystery about Miss Strongitharm which leads to some
unforeseen adventures.

"A convincing story of girl life."--_School Guardian_.

Dauntless Patty.

Illustrated in Colour by DUDLEY TENNANT.

Patricia Garnett, an Australian girl, comes over to England to complete
her education.  She is unconventional and quite unused to English ways,
and soon finds herself the most unpopular girl in the school.  Several
times she reveals her courage and high spirit, particularly in saving
the life of Kathleen Lane, a girl with whom she is on very bad terms.
All overtures of peace fail, however, for Patty feels that the other
girls have no real liking for her, and she refuses to be patronised.
Thus the feud is continued to the end of the term; and the climax of the
story is reached when, in a cave in the face of a cliff, in imminent
danger of being drowned, Patty and Kathleen for the first time
understand each other, and lay the foundations of a lifelong friendship.

"A thoroughly faithful and stimulating story of schoolgirl
life,"--_Schoolmaster_.

"The story is well told.  Some of the incidents are dramatic, without
being unnatural; the interest is well sustained, and altogether the hook
is one of the best we have read."--_Glasgow Herald_.

                            By BRENDA GIRVIN

Jenny Wren

Illustrated by C. E. BROCK.

Jenny Ferguson, the only child of a retired admiral, is sent as wireless
decoder to a Scottish naval base.  On her arrival she meets an old
friend of her childhood, Henry Corfield, who is apparently the skipper
of a fishing trawler.  Jenny, ignorant of the real object of the man’s
"trawling," calls him a slacker.  In his turn, Corfield, who has a
lively recollection of Jenny’s impulsive tongue, reminds her of her
nurse’s saying, "Miss Jenny can never keep a secret," and says he will
not shield her should she fail to preserve secrecy in her work. After a
few days, Jenny finds that information is leaking out.  Code books are
lost and mysteriously replaced, envelopes lapped.  Corfield attributes
this leakage to Jenny’s carelessness.  In the nick of time Jenny has a
clue and tracks down the criminal.  The breach between the two friends,
however, is a long time in healing, for Jenny does not learn till
towards the end of the book that "Skipper" Corfield, on his humble
little boat with her hidden guns, is one of the heroes of the war.  The
story ends with the coming of peace.

The Girl Scout

Illustrated in Colour by N. TENISON.

This is the story of a patrol of Girl Scouts, and the service they
rendered their country.  Colonel Norton announces that some silver cups,
which he values as souvenirs of the time when he could win races and
gymnastic competitions, have been stolen, and calls on the Boy Scouts to
catch the thief, promising, if they succeed, to furnish their club-room
in time for the reception of a neighbouring patrol.  Aggie Phillips,
sister of the boys’ leader, hears of this, and at once organises a
girls’ patrol to help solve the mystery.  In tracing the thief, the
girls manage to entrap two foreigners, who, in all kinds of disguises,
try to get hold of valuable papers in the hands of the Colonel.
Meanwhile the boys continually follow up the tracks left by the girls,
or are purposely misled by Aggie.  The girls win the prize but arrange
to join forces with the boys.

                           By ANNA CHAPIN RAY

Teddy: Her Daughter

Illustrated in Colour by N. TENISON.

Many young readers have already made the acquaintance of Teddy in Miss
Anna Chapin Ray’s previous story, "Teddy: Her Book."  The heroine of the
present story is Teddy’s daughter Betty--a young lady with a strong will
and decided opinions of her own.  When she is first introduced to us she
is staying on a holiday at Quantuck, a secluded seaside retreat; and
Miss Ray describes the various members of this small summer community
with considerable humour.  Among others is Mrs. Van Hicks, a lady of
great possessions but little culture, who seeks to put people under a
lasting obligation to her by making friends with them.  On hearing that
a nephew of this estimable lady is about to arrive at Quantuck, Betty
makes up her mind beforehand to dislike him.  At first she almost
succeeds, for, like herself, Percival has a temper, and can be "thorny"
at times.  As they come to know each other better, however, a less
tempestuous state of things ensues, and eventually they cement a
friendship that is destined to carry them far.

                         By CHRISTINE CHAUNDLER

Pat’s Third Term.

Illustrated by HAROLD EARNSHAW.

Pat Baxter is a turbulent, impulsive member of the Lower Fourth in a
famous Girls’ School.  She begins her Third Term by "cheeking" the Head
girl herself, thereby earning a good deal of hostility.  She falls from
favour in other quarters as the story goes on, for though she has a
genius for getting into scrapes, she is too honest and honourable to
disavow her share in any plot, as many of her school-fellows do. Through
her disobeying a stringent rule, and going alone into the town, the
whole school, upper and lower, is put into quarantine, the result of
this isolation being that Rhoda, the Head girl, generally beloved in the
school, will have to "scratch" from a local tennis match, the winning of
which would have brought her her coveted tennis colours. The whole
school, in indignation, unknown to Rhoda, sends Pat to "Coventry."  Pat
also becomes the object of a good deal of mean, unfair treatment from a
few of her form fellows, about which, in the end, Rhoda herself learns.
Horror-stricken at the treatment meted out, Rhoda puts Pat under her
special protection, and a deep friendship springs up between the two.
Pat finishes her third term by saving the life of her greatest enemy,
earning a special medal for bravery.

By MARY BRADFORD WHITING

A Daughter of the Empire

Illustrated by JOHN CAMPBELL.

Christina, a curiously vivid character, is suddenly thrown from the
backwoods of Australia into the family circle at Strafford Royal, where
Lady Stratford, her second cousin, reigns supreme.  Lady Strafford
dislikes Christina from the first, patronises her and snubs her, and the
girl is thrown for sympathy and companionship into the society of Miss
Luscombe, a lovable woman whose home is on a neighbouring estate.
Christina finds herself continually faced by the stone wall of the
prejudices of Lady Strafford, who looks on all foreigners with suspicion
and her own family with placid pride, and is continually voicing her
determination that the War shall not be allowed in any way to upset the
even tenour of her life.  Just how the War very successfully breaks in
on to Strafford Royal, sweeping away the heir, rendering halt and maim
the second son, is told in the course of the story.  Christina’s part in
the denouement is characteristically plucky and honourable, and in the
end she breaks down even Lady Stratford’s dislike and mistrust.  The
story is told with much charm and sympathy.

                            By L. B. WALFORD

A Sage Of Sixteen.

Illustrated by JAMES DURDEN.

Elma, the heroine of this story, is called a sage by her wealthy and
sophisticated relations in Park Lane, with whom she spends a
half-holiday every week, and who regard her as a very wise young person.
The rest of her time is passed at a small boarding-school, where, as
might be supposed, Elma’s friends look upon her rather as an ordinary
healthy girl than as one possessing unusual wisdom.  The story tells of
Elma’s humble life at school, her occasional excursions into fashionable
society; the difficulties she experiences in her endeavour to reconcile
the two; and the way in which she eventually wins the hearts of those
around her in both walks of life.

                           By ANNIE MATHESON

A Day Book for Girls

Containing a quotation for each day of the year, arranged by ANNIE
MATHESON, with Colour Illustrations by C. E. BROCK.

Miss Annie Matheson is herself well known to many as a writer of hymns
and poetry of a high order.  In "A Day Book for Girls" she has brought
together a large number of extracts both in poetry and prose, and so
arranged them that they furnish an inspiring and ennobling watchword for
each day of the year.  Miss Matheson has spared no pains to secure
variety and comprehensiveness in her selection of quotations; her list
of authors ranges from Marcus Aurelius to Mr. Swinburne, and includes
many who are very little known to the general public.

                           Books for Children

A Book of Children’s Verse

Selected and Edited by MABEL and LILIAN QUILLER-COUCH.

Illustrated in Colour by M. ETHELDREDA GRAY.

This is a splendid anthology of children’s verse.  In addition to the
old favourite poems, the volume contains many by modern authors, and
others not generally known.  The work of selection has been carried out
with great care, and no effort has been spared to make the volume a
worthy and comprehensive introduction to English poetry.  The book is
illustrated by a series of magnificent plates in colour.

                             By LUCAS MALET

Little Peter

A Christmas Morality for Children of any age.  New Edition.

Illustrated in Colour by CHARLES E. BROCK.

This delightful little story Introduces to us a family dwelling upon the
outskirts of a vast pine forest in France.  There are Master Lepage who,
as head of the household and a veteran of the wars, lays down the law
upon all sorts of questions, domestic and political; his meek wife
Susan; their two sons, Anthony and Paul; and Cincinnatus the cat--who
holds as many opinions and expresses them as freely as Master Lepage
himself; and--little Peter.  Little meets, and all who read about him
will certainly make friends with _him_.

"It is quite an ideal gift book, and one that will always be
treasured."--_Globe_.

                       By CHRISTINA GOWANS WHYTE

The Adventures of Merrywink

Illustrated by M. V. WHEELHOUSE.

This story won the £100 prize in the Bookman competition for the best
story for children.

This story tells of a pretty little child who was born into Fairyland
with a gleaming star in his forehead.  When his parents beheld this star
they were filled with gladness and fear, and they carried their little
Fairy baby, Merrywink, far away and hid him, because of two old
prophecies: the first, that a daughter should be born to the King and
Queen of Fairyland; the second that the King should rule over Fairyland
until a child appeared with a star in his forehead.  Now, on the very
day that Merrywink was born, the little Princess arrived at the Palace;
and the King sent round messages to make sure that the child with the
gleaming star had not yet been seen in Fairyland.  The story tells us
how Merrywink grew up to be brave and strong, and fearless and truthful.

                      By MRS. HENRY DE LA PASTURE

The Unlucky Family

New Edition with Coloured Illustrations by C. E. BROCK.

This is one of the most humorous children’s books published in recent
years, and the many awkward dilemmas and diverting experiences which
ensue upon the Chubb family’s unexpected rise in the social scale cannot
fail to delight young readers as well as their elders.  In the matter of
showing the propensity for gelling into mischief these youngsters
establish a record, but their escapades are generally of a harmless
character and lead to nothing very serious.

"It is a clever and amusing talc, full of high spirits and good-natured
mischief which children not too seriously inclined will
enjoy."--_Scotsman_.

                              By M. I. A.

Sir Evelyn’s Charge

New Edition, Illustrated in Colour.

"Sir Evelyn’s Charge" is one of the most popular books for Sunday School
prizes published within recent years, and has already run into very many
editions.  The object of the story is to show how the quiet, unconscious
influence exerted by a little child upon those around him may be
productive of lasting good.  This new edition, with a.  new cover and
colour plates, makes a very attractive gift-book.

                          THE PENDLETON SERIES

The Pendleton Twins

By E. M. JAMESON, Author of "The Pendletons," etc.  With Coloured
Illustrations.

The adventures of the Pendleton Twins begin the very day they leave
home.  The train is snowed up and they are many hours delayed.  They
have a merry Christmas with plenty of fun and presents, and in the
middle of the night Bob gives chase to a burglar.  Nora, who is very
sure-footed, goes off by herself one day and climbs the cliffs, thinking
that no one will be any the wiser until her return.  But the twins and
Dan follow her unseen and are lost in a cave, where they find hidden
treasure, left by smugglers, buried in the ground.  Len sprains his
ankle and they cannot return.  Search parties set out from Cliffe, and
spend many hours before the twins are found by Nora, cold and tired and
frightened.  But the holidays end very happily after all.

"Miss Jameson’s books are written with such humour and lightness of
touch that they hold the young readers, and not only amuse but instruct
them."--_Dundee Courier_.

The Pendletons

By E. M. JAMESON.

New Edition.  Illustrated in Colour.

"Young people will revel in this most Interesting and original story.
The five young Pendletons are much as other children in a large family,
varied in their ideas, quaint in their tastes, and wont to get into
mischief at every turn.  They are withal devoted to one another and to
their home, and although often ’naughty,’ are not by any means ’bad.’
The interest in the doings of these youngsters is remarkably well
sustained, and each chapter seems better than the last.  With not a
single dull page from start to finish and with twelve charming
illustrations, the book makes an ideal reward for either boys or
girls."--_Schoolmaster_.

Peggy Pendleton’s Plan

By E. M. JAMESON.  New Edition.  Illustrated in Colour by S. P. PEARSE.

To many young readers the Pendleton children are quite old friends, as
indeed they deserve to be, for they are so merry, so full of fun and
good spirits, that nobody can read about them without coming to love
them.  In the opening chapter of this book the family meet together in
solemn conclave to discuss plans for the holidays, which have just
commenced.  Every one of them has a favourite idea, but when the various
selections are put to the vote, it is Peggy Pendleton’s plan that
carries the day.  All the other children think it splendid.  What that
plan was, and what strange adventures it led to, are here set forth.

The Book of Baby Beasts

By FLORENCE E. Dugdale.  Illustrated in Colour by E. J. DETMOLD.

This book contains a series of simple little talks about baby animals,
both wild and domestic.  Each chapter is accompanied by a charming
picture in colour by E. J. DETMOLD, whose work as an illustrator is well
known, and whose characteristic delicacy of colouring is faithfully
reproduced.

The Book of Baby Dogs

By CHARLES KABERRY.  With nineteen plates in Colour by E. J. DETMOLD.

The Book of Baby Pets

By FLORENCE E. DUGDALE.  Illustrated in Colour by E. J. DETMOLD.

"A valuable family possession, and one which admirably fulfils the role
of guide, counsellor and friend."--_Athenaeum_.

The Book of Baby Birds

By FLORENCE E. DUGDALE.  Illustrated in Colour by E. J. DETMOLD.

"Simply irresistible."--_Observer_.

Queen Mab’s Daughters

From the French of JEROME DOUCET.  Illustrated by HENRY MORIN.

This book consists of twelve stories, each concerned with an episode in
the life of one of Queen Mab’s daughters.  These are very enterprising
and adventurous princesses, somewhat wilful, indeed; and their
activities, innocent though they are, often bring them into hot water.
They fall into the hands of witches and wizards, and are the means of
releasing from enchantment an equal number of princes who have been
changed into bears, eagles, monkeys, and other animals by the powers of
witchcraft.  Their adventures are related with the charming daintiness
wherein French fabulists, from Perrault downwards, have excelled; and
the book is a decided acquisition to the store of fairy literature in
which all children delight.

                            By VIOLET BRADBY

The Capel Cousins

Illustrated in Colour in C. E. BROCK.

The children in the Capel family hear that a cousin from South America
is to live with them until his education is finished.  On his arrival he
is found to be very frank and outspoken, accustomed to say just what he
thinks; and as his cousins are more reserved, the misunderstandings are
by no means few.  In time, however, he becomes used to English ways, and
his good nature and cleverness win his cousins’ admiration and
affection.  Mrs. Bradby writes as one who knows children thoroughly, and
her pictures of home life are very charming.

"The authoress shows a power of depicting a large family of delightful
and quite natural children which recalls the stories of Miss Yonge at
her brightest."--_Church Times_.

"A very pleasant, natural, and brightly written story "--_Lady_.

The Happy Families

Illustrated by LILIAN A. GOVEY.

Most children have probably played the game of "Happy Families," and it
Is possible that they have woven stories round the grotesque characters
that appear on the cards.  This is what Mrs. Bradby has done in this
book, and she has imagined a little girl being suddenly transported to
Happy Family Land and finding herself beset on all hands by the Grits,
the Chips and the Boneses, and all the other members of this strange and
wonderful community.

                         By FLORENCE E. DUGDALE

                          (MRS. THOMAS HARDY)

In Lucy’s Garden

Illustrated in Colour by J. CAMPBELL.

Miss Dugdale describes Lucy’s garden from month to month, the plants
that grow there, the insects that visit it, and the imaginary beings
with which Lucy peoples it.  During the first year Lucy is without any
companion to share her experiences, but at the beginning of the second
year, just when she begins to feel lonely, she makes the acquaintance of
a little boy, Peter, who is staying with his grandmother next door, and
who, too, has grown tired of playing by himself.  They gladly arrange
that in future they will play together, as they like each other very
much.  Little ones who have gardens of their own will enjoy reading
about Lucy’s, especially when they know that she was capable of
understanding what the apple trees and leaves and roses had to tell her
about things in general and themselves in particular.

"A delightful ’Nature story’ written in a charming vein of playful
fancy, and daintily illustrated."--_Lady_.

                           By TERTIA BENNETT

Gentleman Dash

Illustrated in Colour by P. H. JOWETT.

This is a book that will appeal to all lovers of animals.  Gentleman
Dash Is a fine collie who lives at a big house with a number of other
dogs and cats.  In spite of his handsome appearance, however, Dash
sometimes falls so far from dignity as to run away and steal meat from
butchers’ shops.  Then he is brought back and punished, and the other
four-footed members of the family come round and offer sympathy--which
is not pleasant.  The relations that exist between the various dogs and
cats of the establishment are friendly on the whole, though not
invariably so.  In the course of their conversations, the animals throw
fresh light on the problems of life as viewed from the kennel and the
yard.

                            By ALICE MASSIE

The Family’s Jane

Illustrated in Colour by JOHN CAMPBELL.

This is the story of a little girl’s search for her lost brothers and
sisters.  At first Jane did not know that she had any brothers or
sisters, and she used to feel lonely.  Then one day, quite by accident,
she discovered that such was indeed the case, although for some
unexplained reason they did not live at home and she had been kept in
ignorance of them.  Then Jane set to work to reunite the dismembered
family.  The fact that Jane was only eight, and some of the others were
quite grown up, with children of their own, did not turn her from her
purpose, and eventually her efforts had the happy issue which they well
deserved.

                        The Children’s Bookcase

                          Edited by E. NESBIT

"The Children’s Bookcase" is a new series of daintily illustrated hooks
for little folks, which is intended ultimately to include all that is
best in children’s literature, whether old or new.  The series is edited
by Mrs. E. Nesbit, author of "The Would-be Goods" and many other
well-known books for children; and particular care is given to binding,
get-up, and illustrations.

Mrs. Overtheway’s Remembrances

By JULIANA HORATIA EWING.

A delightful little book of short stories in which "the little old lady"
who lives over the way relates incidents from her girlhood for the
amusement of a young friend.

The Little Duke.

By CHARLOTTE M. YONGE.

Sonny Sahib

By SARA JEANNETTE DUNCAN (Mrs. Everard Cotes).

A charming story of Anglo-Indian life.

The Water Babies.

By CHARLES KINGSLEY.

The Old Nursery Stories.

By E. NESBIT.

In this book Mrs. E.  Nesbit relates the old stories of the Nursery--
"Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," etc.

Cap-o’-Yellow.

By AGNES GROZIER HERBERTSON.

A charming series of fairy stories by one of the very few modern writers
whose work compares with the classics of fairy-tale literature such as
Grimm and Perrault.

Granny’s Wonderful Chair.

By FRANCES BROWNE.

The author of "Little Lord Fauntleroy" declared this book to be the best
fairy story ever written.  Two generations of little readers have been
of the same opinion as Mrs. Frances Hodgson Burnett.

BY THE SAME AUTHOR

THE LOST EMPIRE.  A Tale of the Battle of the Nile.
THE LOST COLUMN.  A Tale of the Boxer Rebellion.
THE LOST ISLAND.  A Tale of the Mysterious East.
THE SWORD OF FREEDOM.  A Tale of the English Revolution.
THE SPY.  A Tale of the Peninsular War.
THE RACE ROUND THE WORLD.  A Tale of a New Motor Spirit.
THE PIRATE AEROPLANE.  A Tale of Ancient Egypt.
IN ARMS FOR RUSSIA.  A Tale of the Great War in Russia.
IN THE POWER OF THE PIGMIES.  A Tale of the Great Forest.
ON SECRET SERVICE.  A Story of Zeppelins.
A MOTOR SCOUT IN FLANDERS.  A Tale of the Fall of Antwerp.
ACROSS THE CAMEROONS.  A Tale of the Great War in West Africa.
SUBMARINE U93.  A Tale of the Great War at Sea.
THE MYSTERY OF AH JIM.  A Tale of the Sea.
THE FIRE-GODS.  A Tale of the Congo.
THE SCARLET HAND.  A Chinese Story.





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