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Title: Brown of Moukden - A Story of the Russo-Japanese War
Author: Strang, Herbert
Language: English
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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 "Brown of Moukden - A Story of the Russo-Japanese War" ***

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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Illustration: Herr Schwab under Fire]



                            Brown of Moukden

                   A Story of the Russo-Japanese War


                                   BY

                             HERBERT STRANG

          AUTHOR OF "KOBO: A STORY OF THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR"
             "TOM BURNABY" "BOYS OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE" ETC.



                  Illustrated by William Rainey, R.I.



                          G. P. Putnam’s Sons
                          New York and London
                        The Knickerbocker Press
                                  1906



"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
       —_Tennyson’s Ulysses_.



_My dear Raymond,_

_Last year I wove a romance about the early incidents of the great war
now happily at an end; this year I have chosen its later incidents as
the background for my hero’s adventures.  But while in "Kobo" the
struggle was viewed from the Japanese stand-point, in "Brown of Moukden"
(which is in no sense a sequel) you will find yourself among the
Russians, looking at the other side of the shield.  It is not the
romancer’s business to be a partisan; and we British people were at
first, perhaps, a little blind to the fact that the bravery, the
endurance, the heroism, have not been all on the one side._

_As a boy preparing for the Navy, you would have liked, I dare say, to
see Jack Brown in the thick of the great naval battle at Tsushima.  But
I had three reasons for giving no space to that famous victory.  First,
Jack could not possibly have seen it.  Secondly, sea-fights had a very
good turn in "Kobo".  Thirdly, I hope some day to give you sea-dogs a
whole book to yourselves—but that, as Mr. Kipling somewhere says, will
be another story.  Meanwhile, if you get half as much fun in reading
this book as I have had in writing it, I shall count myself very lucky
indeed._

_Yours sincerely,_
       _HERBERT STRANG._

_September, 1905._



                               *Contents*

_Chapter_ I
       IVAN IVANOVITCH BROWN

_Chapter_ II
       MR. WANG AND A CONSTABLE

_Chapter_ III
       DEPORTED

_Chapter_ IV
       THE GREAT SIBERIAN RAILWAY

_Chapter_ V
       A DEAL IN FLOUR

_Chapter_ VI
       IN FULL CRY

_Chapter_ VII
       A DAUGHTER OF POLAND

_Chapter_ VIII
       A CUSTOM OF CATHAY

_Chapter_ IX
       AH LUM

_Chapter_ X
       THE HIRED MAN

_Chapter_ XI
       WAR-LOOK-SEE

_Chapter_ XII
       THE RETREAT FROM LIAO-YANG

_Chapter_ XIII
       MR. BROWN’S HOUSE

_Chapter_ XIV
       A NIGHT WITH SOWINSKI

_Chapter_ XV
       COSSACK AND CHUNCHUSE

_Chapter_ XVI
       FIRE PANIC

_Chapter_ XVII
       THE WAR GAME

_Chapter_ XVIII
       A FIGHT IN THE HILLS

_Chapter_ XIX
       CAPTAIN KARGOPOL FINDS THE CHUNCHUSES

_Chapter_ XX
       THE BATTLE OF MOUKDEN

_Chapter_ XXI
       AH LUM AT BAY

_Chapter_ XXII
       CAPTURING A LOCOMOTIVE

_Chapter_ XXIII
       FROM MAO-SHAN TO IMIEN-PO

_Chapter_ XXIV
       LIEUTENANT POTUGIN IN PURSUIT

_Chapter_ XXV
       THE PRESSURE-GAUGE

_Chapter_ XXVI
       A DOUBLE QUEST

_Chapter_ XXVII
       SAKHALIN

_Chapter_ XXVIII
       THE EMPTY HUT

_Chapter_ XXIX
       THE HEART OF THE HILL

_Chapter_ XXX
       CROWDED MOMENTS

_Chapter_ XXXI
       ENTENTE CORDIALE

*Glossary*



                        *List of Illustrations*

_Plate_ I
       HERR SCHWAB UNDER FIRE . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

_Plate_ II
       A SEARCH PARTY

_Plate_ III
       JACK SAVES AH FU

_Plate_ IV
       SOWINSKI’S VISITOR

_Plate_ V
       AT FULL TILT

_Plate_ VI
       "RECALL YOUR LAST WORD!"



                            *Maps and Plans*

Manchuria and part of Siberia

The Battle of Liao-yang.

The Battle of Moukden.

The Siberian Railway from Mao-shan to Han-ta-ho-tzü



                              *CHAPTER I*

                        *Ivan Ivanovitch Brown*


Scenes in Moukden—Beyond the Walls—Lieutenant Borisoff—The Cangue—Anton
Sowinski—Criminal Procedure—Mr. Brown Senior—Schlagintwert’s
Representative—The Automatic Principle


The midsummer sun had spent its force, and as it reddened towards its
setting Moukden began to breathe again.  The gildings on palace, temple,
and pagoda shone with a ruddy glow, but the eye was no longer dazzled;
garish in full sunlight, the city was now merely brilliant, the reds and
greens, blues and yellows, of its house-fronts toned to a rich and
charming beauty.  The shops—almost every house is a shop—were open,
displaying here poultry, dried fish, and articles of common use; there
piles of Oriental merchandise: silks and embroideries, parasols and
screens, ornaments of silver and copper, priceless porcelain and
lacquered ware.  Monsters with vermilioned faces grinned from the
poles—hung with branches and surmounted by peacocks with spread
tail—that bore the signs and legends of the merchants and shopkeepers
before whose doors they were erected: all different, yet all alike in
gorgeousness of colouring and fantasy of design.

Two main thoroughfares traverse Moukden at right angles.  Along these
flowed in each direction a full tide of people, gathering up cross
currents at every side street and alley.  It was a picturesque throng,
the light costumes showing in brilliant relief against the darker
colours of the houses and the brown dust of the roadway.  There were
folk of many nations: Manchus, Mongols, Tartars, Greeks and
Montenegrins, soldiers Chinese and Russian, here and there a European
war-correspondent escaping from the boredom of his inn.  Pedestrians and
horsemen jostled vehicles of all descriptions.  Workmen staggered along
under enormous loads; labourers of both sexes trudged homewards from the
fields, their implements on their shoulders.  A drove of fat pigs in
charge of a blue-coated swineherd scampered and squealed beneath the
wheels of a Russian transport wagon.  Here was a rickshaw drawn with
shrill cries by its human steeds; there a rough springless two-wheeled
mule-cart, painted in yellow ochre, hauled by three mules tandem, and
jolting over the ruts with its load of passengers, some on the backs of
the mules, some on the shafts, some packed beneath the low tilt of blue
cotton.  Not far behind, a trolley, pushed by perspiring coolies and
carrying seven men standing in unstable equilibrium, had halted to make
way for a magnificent blue sedan chair, wadded with fur and silk, borne
by four stalwart servants.  Through the trellised window of the chair
the curious might catch a glimpse of a bespectacled mandarin, his
mushroom hat decked with the button indicative of his rank.  With shouts
and blows a detachment of Chinese soldiers, red-jacketed infantry,
carrying halberts, javelins, and sickles swathed to poles, forced a
passage for his excellency through the crowd.

The heavy air quivered with noise: the mingled cries of street merchants
and children, the clatter of hoofs, the din of gongs at the doors of the
theatres, weird strains of song accompanied by the twanging of
inharmonious guitars, and, dominating all, the insistent strident squeak
of a huge wheelbarrow, trundled by a grave old Chinaman, unconscious of
the pain his greaseless wheels inflicted on untutored sensibilities.  A
Russian lady passing in a droshky grimaced and put her fingers to her
ears, and a wayfarer near her smiled and addressed a word to the
torturer, who looked at him aslant out of his little eyes and went on
his way placid and unabashed.

The pedestrian who had spoken was one by himself in all that vast
throng.  That he was European was shown by his garments; a western
observer, however little travelled, would have known him at a glance as
an English lad.  His garb was light, fitting a slim, tall figure; a
broad-brimmed cotton hat was slanted over his nose to keep the glowing
rays from his eyes; he walked with the springy tread and free swinging
gait never acquired by an Oriental.  He wormed his way through the
jostling crowd, passed through the bastioned gate of the lofty inner
ramparts, crossed the suburbs, where the gardens were in gorgeous bloom,
and, leaving the external wall of mud behind him, came into the brown,
rough, dusty road, lined on both sides with booths, leading to the
railway-station. Rich fields of maize and beans and millet covered the
vast plain beyond, and upon the sky-line lay a range of wooded hills.

By and by the walker came to the new street that had sprung up beside
the railway-station since the Russian occupation: a settlement tenanted
by traders—Greek, Caucasian, and Hebrew—dealing in every product of the
two civilizations, eastern and western, here so incongruously in
contact.  Nothing that could be sold or bartered came amiss to these
polyglot traders; they kept everything from champagne to saké (the rice
beer of Japan), from boots to smoked fish.  Hurrying through this oven
of odours, he passed the line of ugly brick cottages run up for the
Russian officials, and arrived at the station.  It was quiet at the
moment; there was a pause in the stream of traffic which had for some
time been steadily flowing southward. Save for the railway servants, the
riflemen who guard the line, and a few officers desperately bored in
their effort to kill time, the platform was deserted.  The Russian
lieutenant on duty accosted the new-comer.

"Well, Ivan Ivanovitch, what can we do for you to-day?"

"The same old thing," replied the lad slowly in Russian. "Can you send a
wire to Vladivostok for my father?"

"Very sorry; it is impossible to-day as it was yesterday. None but
military messages are going through."

"Well, I just came up on the chance."

"When are you leaving?  We shall miss you."

"Thanks!  In a few days, I hope.  Father has just about settled up
everything.  In fact, that consignment of flour is the only thing left
to trouble about now.  I hope it will get through safely, but the
Japanese appear to be scouting the seas pretty thoroughly.  As soon as
we hear from our agent at Vladivostok we shall be off."

"Come and have a glass of tea in the buffet.  It may be the last time."

Jack Brown—known to his Russian friends as Ivan Ivanovitch, "John the
son of John"—accepted the invitation. After a chat and a glass of tea
from the large steaming samovar, always a conspicuous object in a
Russian buffet, he left the station as the dusk was falling and a haze
spread over the ground, covering up the many unlovely evidences of the
Russian occupation.  For variety’s sake he changed his course and took a
path to the left that skirted the native graveyard, intending to enter
the city by one of the northern gates.  A line of heavy native carts,
with their long teams of mules and ponies, was slowly wending
northwards; women, their hair decorated with flowers, were taking their
children for an airing before the sun set and the gates were closed; a
beggar stood by the roadside cleverly imitating a bird’s cry by blowing
through a curled-up leaf.  Jack came to the great mandarin road and
turned towards the city; such evening scenes were now a matter of course
to him.  But he was still at some distance from the outer wall when he
came upon a sight which, common as it was in Moukden, he never beheld
without pity and indignation.  A big muscular Chinaman of some thirty to
forty years was seated on the ground, his neck locked in the square
wooden collar known as the cangue, an oriental variant of the old
English pillory.  So devised that the head and the upper part of the
body are held rigid, the cangue as an instrument of punishment is worthy
of Chinese ingenuity.  The victim, as Jack knew, must have sat
throughout the long sweltering day tortured by innumerable insects which
his fixed hands were powerless to beat off.  At nightfall a constable
would come and release him, conveying him to the gaol attached to a
yamen within the city, where he would be locked up until the morning.
Then the cangue would be replaced and the criminal taken back to the
same spot on the wayside.

Jack hurried his step as he approached, eager to leave the unpleasant
sight behind him.  But on drawing nearer he was surprised to find that
he knew the man,—surprised, because he was one of the last who could
have been expected to fall into such a plight.  The recognition was
mutual; and as Jack came up, the parched lips of the victim uttered a
woeful exclamation of greeting.

"How came you here, Mr. Wang?" asked Jack in Chinese.

The crime was indicated on the upper board of the cangue, but Jack,
though he had more than a smattering of colloquial Chinese, knew almost
nothing of the written language.  The poor wretch could hardly
articulate; but with difficulty he at length managed, in the short
high-pitched monosyllables of his native tongue, to explain. He had been
accused of fraud; the charge was totally without foundation; but at the
trial before the magistrates witness after witness had appeared against
him: it is easy to suborn evidence in a Chinese court: and he had been
condemned to the cangue, a first step in the system of torture by which
a prisoner, innocent or guilty, is forced to confess.

To one who knew the Chinese as Jack did, there was nothing surprising in
this explanation, except the fact that Wang Shih was the victim.  He was
a respectable man, the son of an old farmer some fifteen miles east of
Moukden, and practically the owner of the farm, his father being past
work.  Hard-working and honest, he was the last man to be suspected of
trickery or base dealing. Mr. Brown had done much business with him, and
only recently had had a proof of his good faith.  The Chinaman had
contracted to supply him with a large quantity of fodder. A few days
before the date of delivery he had been visited by a business rival of
Mr. Brown’s, a Pole, who had come to Moukden some four or five years
before, and from small beginnings had worked up a considerable business.
Almost from the first he had come into competition with Mr. Brown.  The
methods of the two men were diametrically opposed,—the Pole relying on
bribery, the corruption of the official class with which he had to deal;
the Englishman sternly resolute to lend himself to no transaction in
Manchuria of which he would be ashamed at home.  Anton Sowinski, as the
Pole was called, offered Wang Shih the strongest inducements to break
his contract with Mr. Brown; but finding his native honesty proof
against temptation, he had lost his temper, abused him, and finally
struck him with his whip.  The Chinaman was a peaceable fellow; but
beneath his stolidity slumbered the fierce temper of his race.  Under
the Pole’s provocation and assault his self-restraint gave way.  He
seized Sowinski with the grip of a giant, rapped his head soundly
against the fence, and then threw him bodily into the road.  The
contract with Mr. Brown had been duly fulfilled; and it was, to say the
least, unlikely that a man who had thus kept faith to his own
disadvantage should have descended to vulgar fraud.

"Who was your accuser?" asked Jack.

"Loo Sen."

"He’s a neighbour of yours, isn’t he?"

"Yes, and has long borne us ill-will.  But it was not he really.  As I
left the yamen where I was tried, a friend whispered me that Loo Sen was
in the pay of Sowinski."

"Ah! that throws a light on it.  Sowinski is having his revenge.  It is
a bad business, Mr. Wang."

Jack knew the ways of Moukden magistrates too well to hope that the
conviction and sentence could be quashed. On the contrary, if the cangue
proved ineffectual in extorting a confession, there were various grades
of torture that could be applied in turn.  But prisoners often escaped;
their friends, it is true, afterwards suffered.  Wang Shih was so big
and strong that he might easily have overpowered his gaoler some night
when the cangue was removed; it was, perhaps, only consideration for his
family that had restrained him.  Jack questioned him on this point.

"Yes.  That is the reason.  The constable—wah!  I could kill him easily;
but what then?  I could not remain in Moukden; I am too well known.  And
my father would not be safe.  They would behead him, and rob my family
of all they possess."

"Yes, I understand.  I wish I could do something for you; but I see no
way.  My father might have done something at one time—possibly through
the Russians, although they are unwilling to mix themselves up in
Chinese quarrels; but in any case his influence is gone since the war
began."

"You can do one thing for me, sir, if you will; that is, send a message
to my father.  Tell him to gather all his things together and leave the
district.  I will never confess to a crime which I did not commit, and
there will be time for him, before I am beheaded, to get away."

"I will do that.  I would do anything I could to help you, but——"

"Here comes the constable, sir."

Jack looked along the road and saw, slouching up, a typical specimen of
the Chinese constable.  In China the constable is universally and
deservedly detested. Sheltered by the mandarins of the yamen, he preys
upon the rich and oppresses the poor.  The prisoner in his keeping is
starved, beaten, tortured until he yields his last copper cash; if he
escapes, the constable pounces upon his unhappy relatives, and their
fate is the same.  This man scowled fiercely upon Jack, and the latter,
seeing that no good could come of remaining longer, spoke a final word
of sympathy to Wang Shih, and went on amid the thinning stream of people
to the city.

"Well, Jack," said his father, as the lad entered the neat one-story
house which served both as dwelling and office; "any news?"

"None, Father.  The wires are still monopolized."

"That’s a nuisance.  You’ll have to pack off to Vladivostok yourself,
I’m afraid.  Ten chances to one, Captain Fraser will not get through
safely; still, one can never tell.  I heard a rumour to-day that the
Russian fleet has made a raid from Vladivostok; and if it keeps the
Japanese employed, Fraser may make a safe run.  You’ve been a long
time."

"Yes.  I had a chat with Lieutenant Borisoff; but I was detained on the
way back.  What do you think? Sowinski has got Loo Sen to bring a charge
against Wang Shih, and the poor fellow is in the cangue."

"Whew!  That’s bad.  It means decapitation in the end."

"I suppose you can do nothing for him?"

"Nothing, I fear.  I’m sorry for the poor chap, especially as I’m afraid
it’s partly through his holding to his bargain with me.  But I’ve no
influence now, and even if I had, it would be useless to interfere in a
purely Chinese matter.  We could never prove that Sowinski had a hand in
it."

Mr. Brown reflected for some moments, Jack studying his features.

"No," he said at last, "there’s absolutely nothing we can do.  This only
proves that I am right in winding things up and cutting sticks.  That
fellow Sowinski is a blackguard; if I stayed here he’d find some means
of doing me an injury next."

"But, Father, the Chinese are good friends of ours, and you’ve never
been on bad terms with the Russians."

"Not till lately, it is true.  But this war has brought a new set of men
here, and you know perfectly well that I’ve offended some of them;
General Bekovitch, for one, has a grudge against me.  They don’t
understand a man who won’t bribe or be bribed; I really think they
believe there must be something fishy about him!  However, we’ll be off
as soon as you get back from Vladivostok, and leave the field to
Sowinski.  I wish the Russians joy of him."

"When shall I go to Vladivostok?"

"The day after to-morrow; that gives Orloff another chance.  And I’ve
several little things still to settle up. By the way, here’s a queer
letter I got just now; it was brought by a Chinese runner from
Newchang."

He handed the letter to Jack, who read:


"Respected Sir,—The undersigned does himself the honour to introduce
himself to your esteemed notice, as per instructions received per
American Cable Company from my principals, Messrs. Schlagintwert Co. of
Düsseldorf, namely, ’Apply assistance Brown of Moukden’.  I presume from
aforesaid cable my Co. may already have had relations with your esteemed
Firma. My arrival in Moukden may be expected within a few days of
receipt.  Believe me, with high esteem and compliments,

"Your obedient servant,
       "HlLDEBRAND SCHWAB.

_"Postscriptum_.—Also representative of the _Illustrirte Vaterland u.
Colonien_."


"Tear it up, Jack.  No doubt we shall be away when he comes."

"Who are Schlagintwert, Father?"

"You remember those automatic couplings we tried on the Harbin section
three or four years ago——"

"The ones that took two men to fasten and four to release?" said Jack,
laughing.

"Exactly.  Well, they were Schlagintwert’s."

At this moment the clang of a gong, followed by the thud of a drum,
sounded through the streets.

"They’re closing the gates," said Jack.  "I think I’ll go to bed,
Father; I’m pretty tired."

"Good-night, then!  I shan’t be long after you.  I’ve a little more
writing to do.  Send Hi Lo in with some lemonade."



                              *CHAPTER II*

                       *Mr. Wang and a Constable*


The Flowing Tide—Backsheesh—At the Window—Hu Hang—Quis Custodiet?—Mr.
Wang’s Grip


Mr. Brown, like many another active and enterprising Englishman, had
left home as a young man and done business in many parts of the globe.
He was a struggling merchant in Shanghai when Jack, his elder son, was
born.  Nine years later he seized a promising opening in Vladivostok,
and removed thither with his family, now increased by another boy and a
girl.  When Jack was eleven he was sent to school in England, being
shortly afterwards followed home by his mother, sister, and brother.
Then, at the age of fifteen, he was recalled by his father, who wished
for his assistance in a new business he was starting in Moukden.  Jack
was nothing loth; he had a great admiration for his father, and an
adventurous spirit of his own.  He had done fairly well at school; never
a "swot", still less a "smug", he had carried off a prize or two for
modern languages, and counted a prize bat and a silver cup among his
trophies.  Everybody liked him; he always "played the game".

Mr. Brown had at first prospered exceedingly in Moukden.  His business
had been originally that of a produce broker; but when the Russians
extended their railway and began to develop Port Arthur, he added branch
after branch, and soon had many irons in the fire.  He supplied the
Russian authorities with innumerable things, from corn to building
stones; he had large contracts with them in connection with their great
engineering feat, the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and in
this part of his business Jack had taken a special interest, picking up
thus a considerable knowledge of railway plant, locomotives, and other
details.  Being a man of absolute integrity, respected and trusted by
the natives, Mr. Brown before long won the confidence of the officials
with whom he came in contact.  But he was a shrewd student of affairs as
well as a man of business.  He had foreseen the outbreak of war, and
viewed with amazement the careless assurance of the Russian attitude
towards the "yellow monkeys", deemed so insignificant.  Making many
friends among the Russians, he saw much to admire in them: their
kindliness and abounding hospitality, their perseverance in face of
obstacles, their vital faith in their country’s destiny.  With the
Japanese his personal relations had not been so intimate; but he had
watched their progress from afar with the keenness of a clear-eyed
observer, and he knew that when the trial came, the Russians would find
the little men of Nippon no mean foes.

Events proved the accuracy of his forecast.  The Russian fleet was
bottled up, the Yalu crossed, Port Arthur was already beleaguered, and
Stackelberg’s attempt to relieve it had failed.  Mr. Brown talked with
some of the wounded who had been sent back from the Yalu to Moukden, and
were now in hospital in a Buddhist monastery near the outer wall.  They
were not downcast: they spoke of being outnumbered and unprepared; when
General Kuropatkin’s army was complete the tide would turn, and then——
But he got them to talk of their actual experiences in battle.  Some of
them had been within arm’s-length of their enemies in a bayonet charge;
and what he learnt of the eager joy, the buoyant audacity, displayed by
the Japanese, strengthened his belief that, given equal generalship,
equal numbers, equal equipment, such a spirit could scarcely be matched,
and was bound to lead them to victory.

Prudent but not alarmist, Mr. Brown considered how the war would affect
him.  The Japanese were pressing northward; should Port Arthur fall, the
besieging army would be able to strengthen Marshal Oyama’s forces in the
field.  If the Russians were compelled to withdraw from Manchuria, Mr.
Brown could hardly hope to save his business, and it behoved him to set
his house in order. Another consideration weighed with him.  The
development of the railway and the imminence of war had brought new men
on the scene.  The Russian officers whom he knew so well were withdrawn,
and replaced by men of another stamp—men who were not all so
clean-handed as their predecessors.  He soon became aware that he was
expected to grease their palms, and his uncompromising resistance to
corruption in every shape and form made him disliked.  Several contracts
were given over his head; he found that in many cases the new-comer,
Sowinski, of whose antecedents nothing was known, was favoured at his
expense; and it was clear that these circumstances, together with the
general Russian distrust of England and all things English, boded ill
for his business. He was turned fifty years of age, and had amassed a
comfortable fortune.  It appeared the part of discretion to wind up his
affairs before it was too late, and return to England, where a man of
his wealth and energy might find occupation for his maturer years.  When
he had once made up his mind, Mr. Brown wasted no time.  He proceeded to
put his design into effect, and now expected in a few days to leave
Moukden for home.

It was past midnight before he had finished sorting his papers.  That
done, he smoked a final cigarette at the door, then shot the bolt,
turned out the lamp, and went to bed in the room next to Jack’s.

Jack had found it somewhat difficult to get to sleep. He could not put
Wang Shih’s plight from his thoughts. He had seen something of Chinese
methods; there came before his mind the vision of a poor wretch he had
once met on his way to execution, emaciated to a skeleton, one of his
legs blackened and withered, almost fleshless, and wanting its foot,
which had dropped off as the result of his being chained by the ankle to
a ring in his prison wall.  Such evidence of inhumanity was horrible; it
made him shudder to think of Wang Shih, so good a fellow, so fine a
specimen of manhood, suffering and dying thus. And he admired the
Chinaman’s fortitude, his loyalty to his family, his refusal to avail
himself of means of escape lest his people should suffer.  Could not
something even yet be done for him?  Jack did not wish to complicate
matters; but, after all, they were on the eve of departure, and he knew
his father well enough to be sure that he would not refuse to lend a
helping hand if required.  But puzzle as he might, he could see no way
of saving both Wang Shih and his family, and the problem was still
unsolved when he at length fell into a troubled sleep.

Suddenly he awoke.  The night was very close, and at the first moment he
thought his waking was due to the heat.  But then he heard a slight
scratching at his left. He raised himself on his elbow to listen; he had
never seen or heard mice in the house.  The scratching continued; it was
very close at hand.  Surely at that time of night it could not be anyone
scratching at the paper window?  He got out of bed; it was too dark to
see anything; he put his ear against the thin paper.  The noise was
certainly caused by the moving of a finger-nail.

"Who is there?" he asked softly in Chinese.

"Wang Shih, sir."

"Mr. Wang!  You’ve escaped, then.  All right!  I’ll come to the door."

On the way he went into his father’s room, and touched him on the elbow.

"Hey!  Who’s that?  What’s the matter, Jack?"

"Wang Shih is outside, Father."

"By Jove!  What does he want?"

"I don’t know.  He has evidently escaped."

"Send him about his business.  I can’t be mixed up in this sort of
thing."

"You might see him, Father.  He wouldn’t have come unless he saw some
way of getting off without harming anyone."

"Well, well!  Light the lamp, and let him in.  I’ll slip on my
dressing-gown and follow you."

Jack went to the door, opened it, and was confronted, not by one big
form, as he expected, but by two.

"Who is with you, Mr. Wang?"

"Mr. Hu."

"Who is Mr. Hu?  Come inside both of you, and let me lock the door."

The two Chinamen entered, blinking in the light of the little oil lamp
Jack had lit.

"Now, Mr. Wang, explain.  Who is Mr. Hu?"

"He is Hu Hang, the constable, sir."

"The constable!" exclaimed Jack, now recognizing the low brow and shifty
eyes.

"Yes; I had to bring him."

"What’s this, what’s this?" said Mr. Brown, coming from his bedroom.
"What you two piecee man makee this-side?"

Like almost all English merchants, he had found Chinese too much for
him, and in his intercourse with the natives made use of pidgin English,
the lingua franca of the Chinese coast.

There was a world of humility and apology in Wang Shih’s kowtow.

"My lun wailo," he said.  "My no wantchee catchee killum.  Muchee
bobbely yamen-side.  Allo piecee fightey-man bimeby look-see Wang Shih;
no can wailo outside that-time."

His exceptional size was certainly against him.  It was clear that
without some disguise the man could not hope to escape from the city.

"Yes, that’s all very well," said Mr. Brown reflectively. Then turning
suddenly to the second man: "But what this piecee man makee this-side?"

"He Hu Hang; muchee bad policeyman, galaw!"

"Policeyman!  Yes, but what-for policeyman he come this-side too?"

"Hu Hang he my policeyman.  He watchee my.  My hittee Hu Hang velly
muchee plenty hard, hai-yah!  Hu Hang plenty silly top-side; my tinkee
lun wailo chop-chop. ’Stoppee, stoppee!’ say Hu Hang; ’what-for you
makee leavee my this-side?’  Ch’hoy!  My tinkee Hu Hang belongey muchee
leason.  Hu Hang lun wailo all-same."

Mr. Brown still looked puzzled.

"Don’t you see, Father," broke in Jack, "Mr. Wang couldn’t leave the
poor wretch to bear the brunt of his escape.  They would have cut his
head off as sure as a gun."

"Not much loss to his fellow-citizens, by the look of him," said Mr.
Brown, glancing critically at the scowling, sullen countenance of the
truant constable.  "Still, it was uncommonly decent of Mr. Wang.  We
must really do what we can to get him away.  What you tinkee makee, Mr.
Wang?"

The man turned to Jack and addressed him in Chinese with much movement
of the hands and frequent glances at Hu Hang.

"He says that after I left him," explained Jack, "he heard that the
yamen runners were already ill-treating his people.  That means, of
course, that they’ll be stripped of all they have.  His only chance was
to get away and join the Chunchuses.  If he can only join Ah Lum, no
mandarin will be rash enough to interfere with them.  Even the Viceroy
of Moukden is afraid of the brigands. Mr. Wang’s only difficulty is to
get out of the city."

"A rather serious one.  No doubt by this time they’re keeping a pretty
sharp look-out for him, and"—glancing at the man’s huge bulk and
muscular development—"he’s not the kind of man to pass in a crowd."

The Chinaman, though unable to follow Mr. Brown’s English, had gathered
the gist of what he said.  He spoke again to Jack.

"If only we can lend him a cart, he says, and a new tunic and
pantaloons, he hasn’t much doubt of being able to get through.  We can
surely manage that, Father."

"Well, it’s risky; but I can’t see the man come to grief if it can be
helped."

That Wang Shih understood this was clear, for his face beamed, and he
kowtowed with every mark of gratitude.

"But what about the constable?" said Mr. Brown to Jack.  "Suppose he
cuts up rough?"  Turning to Wang Shih, he said: "Supposey policeyman
makee bobbely; what you do that-time?"

Mr. Wang grinned.  He took the constable by the scruff of the neck and
held him half-throttled at arm’s-length.

"Ch’hoy!  My keepee Mr. Hu allo-time long-side: he plenty muchee ’flaid,
savvy my belongey plenty stlong, galaw!"

He gave the gasping wretch a final shake.  Mr. Brown was satisfied.  The
demonstration was complete.



                             *CHAPTER III*

                               *Deported*


Mesalliance—An Outing—Bonbons—"Mr. Blown"—A Northern Frontier—Bandit and
Patriot—Hi Lo—Arrested—Monsieur Brin offers Condolences—Old
Scores—General Bekovitch—Short Notice—The General loses Patience


"Ah!  I disturb you, Mr. Brown.  I always disturb somebody.  I disturb
myself!  Therefore I go; another time, another time."

"Not a bit of it, Monsieur.  Sit down; I shall be through with these
papers in five minutes.  What will you drink?  We have a fair
selection."

"Lemonade, my dear Mr. Brown, nothing but lemonade. It is the cool
drink."

"Hi Lo, wailo fetchee lemonade for Monsieur."

"Allo lightee, sah," said a little fellow of some thirteen years,
bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked, a smiling Chinese boy.

Monsieur Anatole Brin, correspondent of the _Soleil_, sat down in a cane
chair and wiped his perspiring bald pate with a yellow silk
handkerchief.  Mr. Brown continued to sort his papers.  It was not
possible for Monsieur Brin to sit speechless.

"Ah!  Mr. Brown, you have things to do.  You do not suffer, as we
others, from nostalgia—the home-sickness, you understand?  I sigh for
Paris, for the boulevards, the cafés, the Opera, for anything, anything,
but this Moukden.  It is five weeks that I am here; I have my paper, my
pencils, my authorization; I have presented to the Viceroy my letter of
credit, my photograph, as it is ordained.  I have the red band on my
arm; you see it: the letters B.K., correspondent of war; also Chinese
arabesques, one says they mean ’Him who spies out the military things!’
and here I am still in Moukden.  I spy out no military things; I broil
myself with sun, choke myself with dust; it is not possible to go to the
south, where the war is made; no, it is permitted to do anything but
what I am sent for; I become meagre with disappointment."

"Cheer up!  Yours is a hard lot, no doubt.  The modern general has no
liking for you correspondents.  But you will get your chance, no doubt,
in time.  The Japanese are coming north.  There has been a fight at
Wa-fang-ho, I hear."

"What!" cried the Frenchman, starting up.  "A battle and I not there!  I
hear of no battle.  Colonel Pestitch hear of none.  I ask him just now.
Does he tell me lie—prevaricate?"

"He probably knows nothing about it.  I knew it through a Chinaman
yesterday.  The natives outdo the telegraph, Monsieur, especially the
telegraph with a censor at one end.  But, in fact, I have more than once
heard the result of an engagement before even the military authorities."

Monsieur Brin walked up and down the little office impatiently twisting
his moustache.

"Ah!  It is abominable—but yes, abominable.  Of what good that France is
the ally of Russia?  I might be Japanese, or Englishman, with no
alliance at all.  Why did I quit Paris?  To put on this odious red
badge, like a convict.  For what?  To promenade myself about Moukden,
from day to day, from week to week, in prey to hundred Chinese diseases,
subject to thousand Chinese odours!  Ah, quelle malaise, quel
désappointement, quel spleen!"

"You’re in low spirits to-day, Monsieur.  Why don’t you go about the
country and see the sights?"

"The sights!  I have seen them.  I have seen the tombs.  They do not
equal the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame.  Pouah!  My throat
fills itself with dust, or my feet stick fast in the mud.  For the rest,
if I go farther I fall into the hands of the Koungouzes, the brigands;
they have asperity; I have respect for my skin."

"Look here, Monsieur, this won’t do.  You’ll make yourself ill if you
take things so hardly.  What do you say to this, now?  My boy is going
some fifteen miles out to a farm, to see some friends of ours—Chinese,
you understand.  Why not go with him and see something of the Chinese at
home?  Our friend Mr. Wang has an interesting family; you’ll enjoy it,
and get material for one article at least for the _Soleil_."

"Ah! it is an idea.  We go—how?"

"On ponies.  They will put you up for the night.  You can return in the
cool to-morrow morning."

"It is an idea.  It please me.  There is no risk?"

"None, I should think.  You can take a revolver, but Jack is pretty well
known.  Hi Lo, tell Mr. Jack I want him."

In a few seconds Jack entered.  He shook hands cordially with Monsieur
Brin, whom he had seen once or twice since his arrival with a letter of
introduction to Mr. Brown.

"Jack, Monsieur Brin is making himself ill for want of something to do.
Take him with you and introduce him to Wang Shih’s people.  I think
he’ll like them."

"I’ll be glad, I’m sure.  Will you come, Monsieur?"

"With pleasure, to pass the time."

"I am starting immediately.  Hi Lo, saddle a pony for Monsieur, quick."

The little fellow, son of Mr. Brown’s compradore, ran off, and returned
in five minutes.

"Pony allo lightee, sah."

"Good boy!  Now, Monsieur, shall we start?"

"Hope you’ll have a pleasant day, Monsieur," said Mr. Brown.  "Look me
up in the morning, and tell me how you got on."

"Good-bye!  Thanks!  I have not disturb you—busy man like you?"

"Not a bit.  Good-bye!"

Mounted on neat little ponies, Monsieur Brin and Jack set off through
the city.  To the Frenchman’s surprise, Jack did not choose the main
thoroughfare direct to one of the eastern gates, but turned first into
one side street, then into another.  They were dusty, dirty, crowded
with people, pigs, and poultry, and Monsieur Brin held his nose and
began to expostulate.

"Wait a little, Monsieur," said Jack.  "We are coming to my street.  I
never miss it when I come in this direction."

They came by and by to a street differing in no wise from the rest,
except that in one of the paper-windowed houses a school was held.  No
sooner had Jack appeared at the end of the street than the sing-song of
children at lessons ceased as by magic, and out of the school flocked a
score of little ones, who rushed towards him with loud and happy cries
of greeting, scattering the fowls and pigs and kicking up clouds of dust
as they ran.

"Mon Dieu!" exclaimed Monsieur Brin, reining up his pony to avoid
trampling them.

"Don’t be alarmed," said Jack, laughing.  "They are my little
pensioners."

The biggest of the children were already swarming round the pony.  Jack
put his hand into his pocket. Instantly there was a yell of delight.
Then suddenly a shower of sweetmeats fell on the outskirts of the crowd,
among the smallest of the children.  There was a merry scramble; before
the first handful was picked up a second was scattered in the opposite
direction, and soon every child was on all-fours, hunting for treasure
in the thick brown dust.  Meanwhile every door in the street had become
blocked with smiling elders,—toothless old grandames, brawny workmen,
women, girls, all enjoying the scene, chattering among themselves, some
of them giving pleasant salutation to Jack.  His pockets at last were
empty; his pony was becoming impatient; and, laughingly threatening to
run the youngsters down, he moved on amid high-pitched cries of "Come
again soon, Mr. Blown!"

Monsieur Brin was vastly entertained.  The children’s antics were very
droll, and Monsieur was a man of sentiment.

"My word!" he said.  "Here is something at last for the readers of the
_Soleil_.  I have no victories of war to write; I write of a victory of
peace; how a young Englishman has won the hearts of all a street of
Chinese; how to them he is no longer foreign devil but sweet-stuff
saint.  Eh?  How became you so great a friend?"

"Oh, it is very simple.  I took a fancy one day to a little toddler;
picked him up out of the way of a boisterous pig, and gave him a sweet
to comfort him.  Other children were looking on; next time I came this
way a group of them stood with their fingers in their mouths and their
eyes on my pockets.  I flung them a sweet or two; they picked them up
and scampered away as though half-scared; but they were on the watch for
me after that, and now, as you see, it has become an institution.  They
have very easy-going schoolmasters here; as soon as my nose is seen at
the street end the word is given and out they troop, and the elders know
the sounds and come to see the fun.  They are all very good friends of
mine."

Leaving the narrow streets, they came at length to the outer gate,
guarded jointly by several sleepy Chinese soldiers and a Russian sentry.
Jack was well known, and the two riders passed through without
difficulty.

Having a little business to settle with Mr. Wang senior, Jack had
offered, before Wang Shih left Mr. Brown’s house in the small hours of
that morning, to ride out and inform the family of his escape.  A ride
of some fifteen miles brought the two within sight of the farm.  It was
a brick building of one story, like all Manchurian houses, with
cow-byres, pig-sties, and poultry-houses clinging to the wall.  The
farmstead was surrounded by lofty wooden palings, and Monsieur Brin’s
attention was attracted by two fantastic warlike figures roughly daubed
in red and green on either side of the great gate.

"Oh!" said Jack, in reply to his question, "they’re supposed to scare
away evil spirits."

"Hé!  Are not the dogs enough?"

The appearance of the two strangers was hailed by a rush of dogs, large
and small, yelping and barking fiercely, but without malice.  The noise
brought the inmates to the door: an old Chinaman and his wife, and two
girls of eighteen or thereabouts, whose regular features, soft brown
eyes, and delicately ruddy complexion made an instant impression upon
the Frenchman.  He doffed his hat with the most elegant and graceful
ease, and was not disconcerted when this unaccustomed mode of salutation
set the girls giggling.  The mistress led the visitors into the best
room, lofty, airy, clean, with paper windows; along one side a broad
platform some thirty inches from the floor.  This was the k’ang, a
hollow structure containing a flue warmed by the smoke and hot air from
the kitchen-fire; it served as a table by day and a bed by night.  A
little graven image occupied a tinselled niche; and, the kitchen-fire
not being required in hot weather, a kettle stood on a small brazier,
boiling water for the indispensable tea.

The old people were greatly distressed at the disgrace that had befallen
their only son; still more at his approaching fate, for to die without a
male child to honour one’s ashes is the worst of ills to a Chinaman.
They were not aware of his escape; but when Jack told them that he was
now at large, and had gone to join the great Chunchuse chief Ah Lum,
they all, parents and girls, clapped their hands, feeling now secure
against ill-treatment by the Chinese officials.  The chief would send
word from his head-quarters to his agent in Moukden that Wang Shih was
under his protection, and the terror in which the brigand was held was
so great that the farmer’s family would remain unmolested.

Jack asked where was the encampment of the Chunchuse band.  It varied,
said the old man.  To avoid capture by the Russians, the chief
frequently shifted his quarters.  His band was constantly on the move
between Kirin and the Shan-yan-alin mountains, going so swiftly and
secretly that no one knew where it would turn up next.  One day it would
be on the Hun-ho; a detachment of Cossacks would be sent to cut it off,
only to find that it had disappeared.  Two or three days later it might
be heard of several hundred li away, on the Sungari.

"Yes," said the old man.  "Ah Lum is a great leader, and a great hater
of the Russians; but he hates the Japanese nearly as much.  He would
drive all foreigners out of the country.  I am glad my son is with him,
though I fear he will not be able to return home until the war is over."

Jack and Monsieur Brin spent some time in rambling about the farm, the
latter smoking innumerable cigarettes, making copious notes, and every
now and then breaking forth into enthusiastic praise of the eldest
daughter, who he declared reminded him of his fiancée in the boulevard
Raspail.  He watched with absorbed interest the Chinese way of making
tea: the green leaves placed in a broad saucer and covered with boiling
water; another saucer inverted over the first, and pushed back a little
way after the tea had "drawn", the beverage being sipped through the
interstice.  The old farmer insisted on his guests going to see his
coffin, a very handsome box thoughtfully provided by his son and kept in
an outhouse, where Mr. Wang frequently spent an hour in meditation on
mortality.  Afterwards Brin was initiated into the complexities of
fan-tan—a guessing game that was prolonged far into the night.  They
slept comfortably on the k’ang, and left about eight next morning very
well pleased with their visit.

The sun was already hot, and they rode at a walking pace, partly to
avoid the clouds of choking dust which trotting would have raised.  They
were still several miles from the city when Jack saw a small Chinese boy
hastening in their direction.

"That’s young Hi Lo," he said, as the figure came more clearly into
view.  "I wonder what he is coming this way for!  Surely Wang Shih has
not been caught after all?"

The boy had broken into a run, and when he met them Jack saw at once by
his face that he bore grave news. But he was not prepared for what the
little fellow told him in breathless gasps.  Soon after daybreak a squad
of Siberian infantry had appeared at Mr. Brown’s house, put the merchant
under arrest, ransacked his papers, and carried him off a prisoner.  Hi
Lo’s father, the compradore, happened to be at a window of the front
room as the soldiers came up; and suspecting, with Chinese shrewdness
and dislike of the soldiers, that something was amiss, he had run to the
inner sanctum and removed the most valuable papers from the safe before
the Russians entered.  But knowing that he was likely to be searched, he
had handed the papers to Hi Lo, hoping that the boy would escape the
visitors’ attentions.  Mr. Brown made a vigorous protest against the
Russians’ action, and demanded by what authority they arrested him and
the crime with which he was charged; but the officer in command refused
to give him any information.  Before he was marched off, he was allowed
a few words with his compradore, a servant of many years’ standing.
Learning that the papers were for the present secure, he had managed,
without making his meaning clear to the Russian officer, to direct that
they should be handed to Jack. They were for the most part vouchers from
the Russian authorities for goods supplied; if not concealed, they would
certainly be seized, and Mr. Brown knew how impossible it was to make a
Russian official disgorge plunder.  The whole thing was probably a
mistake, at the worst a plot which could no doubt be shown up.  The
first necessity was to put the securities out of harm’s way; then Jack
could take whatever steps might be called for to obtain his father’s
release, if he were still detained after he had met the charge against
him.

The boy told his story rapidly in pidgin English; not that Jack did not
understand Chinese, but because, like all Chinese servants, Hi Lo made
it a point of pride to use his master’s language.  Monsieur Brin could
make nothing of the narrative.

"What is the matter with you, my friend?" he asked, seeing the look of
concern on Jack’s face.

"An annoying mistake, Monsieur.  My father has been arrested by the
Russians."

"Oho!  What has he been doing?"

"Nothing, of course.  Some official has been too zealous, I suppose.  I
must ride on, Monsieur."

"But may not you be arrested, too?"

"I don’t think so.  If they intended it, they would already have sent a
detachment after me.  You may be sure their spies know very well where I
have been.  No, I’m in no danger; but anyhow I must find out what it all
means, so if you don’t mind, Monsieur, we’ll hurry on and chance the
dust."

"Certainly, my friend.  My word! this is an unfortunate end to our
pleasant little picnic."

"You have the papers, Hi Lo?"

The boy produced them from some pouch in his wadded cotton garments.
Jack looked them over.  They represented a considerable sum of money.
He did not care to have them about him, in case he should be searched.
What could he do with them?  For a moment he thought of giving them into
the care of Monsieur Brin, but on reflection he hesitated to involve the
correspondent in his difficulties.  Hi Lo was a clever little fellow,
devoted to him; probably he would be the best custodian for the present.
He gave the papers back to the boy.

"Keep them carefully, Hi Lo.  Don’t come near our house till I send for
you."

Then he put his pony to a canter, and with Brin by his side hastened on
to the city.  At the moment, as Jack knew, there were few Russian
soldiers in Moukden. General Kuropatkin was at the front, somewhere
south of Liao-yang; Admiral Alexeieff was at Harbin.  The arrest must
have been made in their absence, and probably unknown to them, by the
local military authorities. But, knowing his father’s innocence, Jack
expected to find that he had already been released.

On entering the city he said good-bye to Monsieur Brin, who was full of
condolence.

"If I can do anything, tell me," he said.  "Unhappily I cannot
telegraph; the soldiers have monopoly of the wires; and, besides, there
is the terrible censor.  But if I can do anything——"

"Don’t worry, Monsieur.  It will be all right.  My father is a British
subject; and though the Russians don’t love us just now, they won’t do
anything very dreadful, I imagine.  Many thanks!  I will let you know
how things stand."

He rode straight home, and, finding that the house was shut and locked,
sought the compradore at his cottage at the rear of the compound behind.
Learning from him further details of the arrest, he at once set off for
the military head-quarters near the railway-station.  He knew several of
the Russian officers, but those to whom he spoke had heard nothing of
the singular occurrence.  One of them offered to make enquiries.  He
returned by and by with the information that the order for Mr. Brown’s
arrest had been given by General Bekovitch.  This was not cheering, for
General Bekovitch, as Jack knew, was an officer who under a surface
polish and refinement was thoroughly unscrupulous, and one indeed whose
enmity Mr. Brown had incurred by his uncompromising attitude towards the
official methods of corruption.  Some time before this, when Bekovitch
was a colonel, he had transferred to the Pole, Sowinski, a contract
which had been placed in Mr. Brown’s hands.  The latter protested, and
Bekovitch’s superior disallowed his action and gave him metaphorically a
rap on the knuckles.  The colonel was deeply chagrined, both at the
reprimand and at the loss of the secret commission arranged with
Sowinski.  He was now promoted major-general; his superior was gone; and
Jack could hardly doubt that he had seized the opportunity to pay off
his grudge against the English merchant.  Jack shrank somewhat from a
meeting with the general, but his indignation outweighed every other
feeling, and, plucking up his courage, he made his way to the luxurious
railway-carriage which served Bekovitch for quarters.

He had to wait some time before he gained admittance to the general’s
presence.  When at last he was invited to enter, he found Bekovitch
lolling on a divan smoking a cigarette, a champagne bottle at his elbow.
He was a tall fair man, inclining to stoutness, with a long moustache
and carefully-trimmed beard, and looked in his white uniform a very
dignified representative of the military bureaucracy.

Jack’s residence as a boy in Vladivostok had given him a good colloquial
knowledge of Russian, so that he had no difficulty in addressing the
general in his own language.

"I have recently heard, sir, of my father’s arrest," he said, "and I
have come to ask if you will be good enough to tell me where he is and
what he is charged with."

"You are Mr. Brown’s son?  How do you do?" said the general suavely.  "I
am sorry for you.  It is a bad business altogether.  I should be quite
justified in refusing to give you information, but I am, of course,
willing to stretch a point in a case like this—father and son, you know.
Well, I regret to say that I had to arrest your father for giving
military information to the Japanese."

"But, sir, that is ridiculous.  My father never did such a thing.  He
has had no connection, not even a business one, with the Japanese; he
doesn’t like them.  Besides, he would never think of doing anything
underhand.  No one who knows him could even imagine it."

If Bekovitch felt the personal application, he did not show it.

"Very creditable, very creditable indeed.  A loyal son; excellent.  I
should be the last to undeceive you; therefore we will say no more about
it.  Let me offer you a cigarette."

"No, thank you, sir.  Really the matter cannot end thus.  What evidence
have you against my father?"

The general shrugged.

"Well, if you will——  We had our suspicions; your father is an
Englishman, you know; we examined his papers and found proof of our
suspicions—full, conclusive.  There is no doubt at all about it."

"But you will allow my father to clear himself.  I am sure he can do
so."

"We have no time for long-winded processes," replied the general,
throwing away the end of his cigarette and lighting another.  "Moukden,
as you must be aware, young man, is under martial law."

"Then what has become of my father, sir?  Where is he?"

"We might have shot him, you know."  The general’s manner was suaver
than ever.  "But we are a merciful people.  Your father has merely
been—deported."

At this Jack felt that either there was a hole in the net woven around
his father, or the Russians had feared to proceed to extremities owing
to his British nationality.

"Well, sir," he said, "I shall, of course, appeal to our government."

"Certainly, my young friend, certainly!  But on what ground?  See, I
recognize your anxiety; it is perfectly natural; for that reason I am
patient with you.  But we must be the judges as to who shall stay in
Manchuria, who shall leave.  Your father is now on his way to—to the
frontier.  You will follow without loss of time.  I give you twelve
hours to quit the city.  A pass shall be made out for you; you will go
by to-night’s train to Harbin."

General Bekovitch’s manner was as urbane and polite as ever, but there
was in his tone a something that warned the boy that further protest
would be useless.  Still, he must make one more effort to discover his
father’s whereabouts.

"Has my father gone to Harbin?" he asked.

"I have told you, my young friend, he has been deported.  I can tell you
no more."

"But why not tell me his route, General Bekovitch? He was in any case
leaving for England in a few days. If I am to go to Harbin I should like
to know whether there is any possibility of overtaking my father and
proceeding to Europe with him."

For answer the general summoned an attendant.

"Michel Sergeitch, show this young man out."

Jack gave him one look, then turned in silence towards the door.

"One moment," called the general after him.  "As I said, a pass shall be
sent you.  The train leaves at eight. If you are found here to-morrow,
you will be arrested and escorted as a prisoner to the frontier.  That,
I may remark, is an unpleasant mode of travelling.  Remember, eight
o’clock."



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                      *The Great Siberian Railway*


Duty and Inclination—A Domiciliary Visit—Monsieur Brin Protests—A
Reminder—The Ombeloke—Quandary—Salvage—A Fortune in Soles—Fellow
Passengers—From a Carriage Window—A Further Search—At the Sungari
Bridge—Off the Line—The Compradore’s Brother—Consultation—A Bargain—The
Terms—The Last Load—In a Horse-box


Jack had rage in his heart as he walked back to the city. He was angry
and indignant, but even more alarmed. The general had told him little:
was that little the truth? What did he mean by "deported"?  If Mr. Brown
had really been put across the frontier, why should the general have
refused to say by what route he had travelled?  Jack feared that there
had been foul play, and his anxiety was none the less because he could
not imagine what form the foul play had taken.

His own position was awkward.  He was homeless; in a few hours he was to
be packed like a bundle of goods into a train and carried away against
his will.  His father might have preceded him to Europe; on the other
hand, he might not.  Was he to leave Moukden thus, in uncertainty as to
his father’s fate?

Thus perplexed and troubled in mind, he walked back to his house.  At
the door he found Monsieur Brin in a state of desperation at his
inability to make head or tail of the compradore’s pidgin English.

"Ha, my friend!" he exclaimed, "I am glad to see you; I must know the
worst; I come in haste, but the Chinese man speaks a language of
monkeys; I understand it not. Tell me what is arrived."

"I have seen General Bekovitch," replied Jack.  "He told me almost
nothing.  My father has been deported—for betraying secrets to the
Japanese, if you please!  Did you ever hear of anything so ridiculous,
so preposterous!"

"But that is all right.  O.K.  Deported!  Mr. Brown is the happy man.
It would please me to be deported also. He goes back to Europe: that I
could accompany him!"

"But that is the point.  Has he gone back to Europe? The general would
not tell me.  And he is packing me off too!  I have to leave by
to-night’s train for Harbin, or he will put me under arrest."

"Hé!  That is a scandal.  I will expose it.  I will write it all to my
redacteur.  Ah!  But I ask myself, will the redacteur publish my letter?
France is allied to Russia. A French publicist has to consider not
solely his own persuasions, but his duty to his country.  I reflect: it
will be best actually to write nothing.  But if, my friend, there needs
money, demand me; I can furnish hundred, hundred and fifty roubles: it
will be to me a pleasure."

"Many thanks, Monsieur!  I do not think I shall need your assistance.  I
told the general I shall appeal to our government.  Unluckily we have no
consul here; the nearest, I suppose, is at Shanghai; and being sent off
to Harbin, I don’t know when I shall have an opportunity of
communicating with our authorities."

"Truly, it is a difficult situation.  And your goods here: what will
they become?"

"They’ll be confiscated, I suppose.  As you see, I am locked out.
Luckily we have nothing of any great value. My father sent off in
advance all that he wished to keep, and they can’t touch his account at
the Hong-Kong and Shanghai bank."

He said nothing about the securities in Hi Lo’s possession, not from any
want of faith in the Frenchman’s good-will, but not entirely trusting
his discretion.

"They have no right to lock me out," continued Jack. "And as General
Bekovitch said he’d send me a pass for the train, he must suppose he’ll
find me here.  So if Mr. Hi will put his shoulder to the door, I think
we’ll force the lock and see what they have been doing."

The stalwart compradore made short work of the fastenings. Accompanied
by Monsieur Brin and the Chinaman, Jack entered his father’s house.
There were manifest signs of ransacking.  The floor of the office was
strewn with papers; in the dining-room the drawers had been emptied; and
a large oaken press, a fine specimen of Chinese cabinet-making on which
Mr. Brown set much store, had been forced open.  They were contemplating
the dismal scene when Hi Lo came running in.

"Masta," he said hurriedly, "thlee fo’ piecee Lusski walkee chop-chop
this-side."

[Illustration: A Search Party]

A few moments later the house was entered by four Siberian infantrymen,
headed by a lieutenant and accompanied by a tall, fair, hook-nosed man,
at the sight of whom Jack started.  A light flashed upon him.  Anton
Sowinski was the Russian Pole who had been doing his best to ruin Mr.
Brown’s business, and had so bitterly resented Mr. Brown’s successes.
It was he, too, who had instigated the charge trumped up against Wang
Shih in revenge for a business defeat.  Was it unlikely that Sowinski
had been the agent in this other trumped-up charge of espionage?  If
not, what was his business now?

"I have come," said the lieutenant, "to bring you the pass promised by
General Bekovitch.  Here it is."

He drew a large unsealed envelope from his pocket, and took from it a
paper which he proceeded to read.  It stipulated that Mr. John Brown,
junior, was to leave Moukden by the train for Harbin at 8 p.m., en route
for Europe. Replacing it in the envelope, the officer laid this upon the
table and said:

"I regret, Monsieur, that I have a disagreeable duty to perform.  I am
ordered to search the house and everybody in it.  Mr. Brown is known to
have been in possession of certain vouchers which are now forfeit to my
government. They could not be found when he was arrested; the conclusion
is that they are in your possession.  I must ask you to turn out your
pockets."

"I have no papers," said Jack, "and I protest."

"I am sorry.  I have my orders to carry out.  Resistance is useless."

"Oh!  I shall not resist.  Search away."

The lieutenant had already posted a soldier at the back entrance, and
had sent another man to bring into the room anyone whom he might find on
the premises.  As Jack was being searched, Hi Lo was brought in; he had
slipped away when the Russians entered.  Jack hoped that the boy had had
time to hide the papers, for though the amount they represented was
small in comparison with his father’s total fortune, it was yet
considerable in itself, and he was anxious to save it, not merely for
its own sake, but because without it he would have no means of carrying
through a plan he had already dimly determined on.  Hi Lo’s face was
void of all expression.  There were now in the room, besides the
Russians, Jack himself, Monsieur Brin, the compradore, and his son.  The
door was locked.

Jack was searched from top to toe.  Nothing was found on him save
letters of no importance.  The compradore and Hi Lo were examined in
turn; they submitted meekly, and Jack almost betrayed his relief when he
saw that the papers had not been discovered on the boy.  Then the
officer turned to Monsieur Brin, glancing at the red band on his arm.

"But I am a Frenchman," exclaimed the angry correspondent. "Why do you
search me?  I have nothing.  I know nothing."

"I find you in Mr. Brown’s house.  I have orders to search everybody.  I
hope you will make no difficulty, Monsieur."

"Difficulty!  It is you that make difficulty.  It is an insult, an
indignity.  I am an ally; peste! for what good to be an ally if I am
thus treated as an enemy!  But I do not resist; no, I resign myself.
From no one but an ally would I endure such an indignity."

"I am exceedingly sorry, Monsieur.  General Bekovitch, in giving orders,
of course did not contemplate for a moment the case of a French
correspondent being present; but my instructions are positive.  I have
no choice but to carry them out."

"Well, I protest still once more.  I will make the French nation know
the price they pay for this so agreeable alliance."

Monsieur Brin was searched.  No papers were found on him except his
pocket-book, a lady’s photograph, and several letters, which the officer
glanced through, the Frenchman fuming with impatience and indignation.
At the conclusion of the search the lieutenant threw a meaning glance at
Sowinski, whose attitude throughout had convinced Jack of the
correctness of his surmise.  The Pole’s presence was in itself a
sufficient proof of his personal interest in Mr. Brown’s fate.  An hour
was spent in making a further examination of the scattered papers;
nothing incriminating being found, the lieutenant gave his men the order
to march.  At the last moment he glanced at the envelope on the table.

"Take care of it, Monsieur," he said; "it would be awkward for you if it
were lost."

When the party had gone, Monsieur Brin fairly exploded with wrath.
English was too slow for him; a rapid torrent of French came from his
quivering lips.  But Jack’s attention was diverted from the Frenchman by
the strange antics of Hi Lo, who was dancing round his father, his face
beaming with delight.

"You hid the papers?" said Jack.  "You are a good boy.  Where are they?"

The boy pointed to the envelope on the table.

"What do you mean?"

"Masta, look-see.  Masta, look-see."

Jack lifted the envelope.  The boy’s glee puzzled him. Opening it, he
took out the Russian pass, and with it half a dozen thin slips of paper
written upon in Russian and French.  He could hardly believe his eyes.
They were the very papers for which the officer had sought so diligently
but in vain.

"How is this?  What does it mean?" he said in blank amazement.

"Hai-yah!  Velly bad Lusski man look-see Masta; allo piecee bad man
look-see all-same; no can tinkee Hi Lo plenty smart inside.  Hai-yah!
Allo piecee Lusski man look-see that-side; my belongey this-side, makee
no bobbely; cleep-cleep ’long-side table; my hab papers allo lightee:
ch’hoy! he belong-ey chop-chop inside ombeloke; Lusski no savvy nuffin
’bout nuffin, galaw!"

Jack burst into a roar of laughter, and translated the boy’s pidgin to
the bewildered Frenchman.  While the Russians were intent on searching
Jack, and their backs were towards Hi Lo, the boy, knowing that his turn
must come, seized the opportunity to slip the precious papers into the
unclosed envelope on the table.  Monsieur Brin flung up his hands and
began to pirouette, then stopped to laugh, and held his shaking sides.

"Hi! hi! admirable!  Excellentissime!  Bravo! bravo! Ma foi!  Comme il
est adroit!  Comme il est spirituel! Ho! ho!  Tiens!  Le gars mérite une
forte récompense.  Voilà!"

In his excess of enthusiasm he took a silver dollar from his pocket,
spun it, and handed it to Hi Lo.  The boy was sober in an instant.  He
gravely handed the coin back.

"No wantchee Fa-lan-sai man he dollar," he said.

Brin looked to Jack for an explanation.

"He is much obliged, but would rather not.  You made a little mistake,
Monsieur.  You can’t offend a Chinaman of this sort more than by
offering him money.  He is, indeed, a clever little chap.  I’ll take
care he doesn’t go unrewarded."

"Ha!  That is another point for my chapter on the characteristics of the
Chinese.  But now, my friend, what will you do?"

"Really, Monsieur, I don’t know.  I must talk it over with the
compradore."

"Very well then, I leave you.  I go to write notes of this most
interesting episode.  I begin to enjoy war correspondence.  You go at
eight?  I will be at the station to say adieu."

Jack spent more than an hour in serious consultation with Hi An, the
compradore, a man of forty, who had served his father for nearly twenty
years, and was heart and soul devoted to his interests.  There was no
question but that Jack must leave Moukden that night, and Hi An advised
him to go straight to Moscow and take the first opportunity of
communicating with the British Foreign Office.  Meanwhile the compradore
himself would do what he could to trace the whereabouts of his master.
But this course Jack was very unwilling to adopt.  In the first place,
he had his father’s instructions to realize the securities, so cleverly
saved by Hi Lo.  Then there was the consignment of flour which he hoped
might run the Japanese blockade and come safe to harbour at Vladivostok.
If it should arrive it would be worth a large sum of money, and Jack was
not disposed to yield that a spoil to the Russians.  Last and most
important consideration, he was oppressed by the mystery of his father’s
fate.  With the likelihood of innumerable delays on the congested
railway, he might be three weeks or a month reaching Moscow; he foresaw
difficulties in inducing the Foreign Office to move in a case where
there was so little to go upon; and, above all, it was unendurable to
think that his father might, for all he knew, be still near at hand, in
danger and distress.

He was already determined, then, that, leave Moukden if he must, he
would not leave Manchuria.  But what could he do to secure his objects
and his own safety?  He wondered whether the news of his father’s arrest
had been telegraphed to Harbin and Vladivostok.  That was unlikely, he
thought, for two reasons.  It was well known that Mr. Brown had been
winding up his business; the Russian authorities, unless specially
informed, would not suppose that there was any plunder to be got apart
from what was found at Moukden.  And the telegraph had been for months
past very much overworked, what with the heavy railway traffic and the
constant messages flashing to and fro between the principal depots in
Manchuria and between Manchuria and St. Petersburg.  It was therefore
unlikely that the enforced departure of a Moukden merchant would be
considered of sufficient importance to communicate.  If this reasoning
was correct, and Jack could contrive to reach Vladivostok before the
news filtered through, he might save the remnants of his father’s
property, and turn the vouchers into negotiable securities.  He would
then find himself in possession of considerable funds, which he might
use if necessary in tracking his father.

The first thing was to get to Vladivostok.  The pass stipulated that he
should go through Harbin over the Siberian railway to Moscow.  To reach
Vladivostok he must change trains at Harbin, and by that very fact
become a fugitive and an outlaw.  Apparently General Bekovitch did not
intend to send him north under an escort; it probably never occurred to
him that with his father deported, his home broken up, Jack would make
an effort, in face of the definite order to quit the country, to remain.
But though no escort was provided, he would undoubtedly be watched; and
to slip away at Harbin in a direction the opposite of that intended
promised to be a matter of considerable difficulty and danger.

The compradore shook his head when Jack explained what he had in his
mind.  Then, finding that his young master was determined, he did not
attempt to dissuade him, but set himself in earnest to talk over ways
and means.  He had a brother in Harbin, a grain merchant, who had
dealings with the Russians.  This man might be able to give Jack
information and assistance, and to him the compradore wrote a short note
of introduction.  The next thing was to provide for the safety of the
Russian vouchers.  Jack might be searched again _en route_, and it was
therefore inadvisable to carry them in his pocket. He pondered for a
time without finding any solution of the difficulty.  He was sitting
with crossed legs, his hands clasping his knee, his eyes cast down.
Studying the heavy thick-soled boot he wore in summer, under stress of
Manchurian mud, he suddenly bethought himself.

"You can turn your hand to most things, Mr. Hi; do you think you could
split the sole of one of my boots and put it together again?"

"Of course, sir."

"That’s the very thing, then.  No one would ever think of taking my boot
to pieces."

Hi An very quickly and deftly performed the necessary operation.
Between the two parts of the split sole Jack placed the vouchers and
letter of introduction; then the compradore neatly stuck them together
again.  He produced a roll of rouble notes, enough to pay preliminary
expenses and leave a margin for emergencies.

"There, Master," he said.  "I have done all I can."

"You’re a good fellow.  I must trust to the chapter of accidents for the
rest.  I may never see you again, Mr. Hi. If I come to grief, you will
do what you can to find my father?"

"I will, Master, if I have to trudge on foot all the way to Pekin to ask
help of the Son of Heaven himself."

Some minutes before eight o’clock Jack, by virtue of his pass, was
admitted without a ticket to the platform at which the train for Harbin
was drawn up.  He had been compelled to take his farewell of Monsieur
Brin, the compradore, and Hi Lo outside, much to the Frenchman’s
indignation.  The line was very badly managed; the officials were
soldiers, with no technical acquaintance with railway management.
Trains were despatched from Moukden to Harbin, and from Harbin to
Moukden, at any time that suited the officials at either end, without
prearrangement, sometimes even without communication between the
stations.  On this particular train there was no distinction of classes,
and Jack found himself one of some forty passengers packed into a
carriage built for thirty.  The company was exceedingly mixed.  Russian
officers were cheek by jowl with Chinese merchants; a huge long-bearded
Russian pope was wedged between a German commercial traveller and a
Sister with the red cross on her arm; at one end was a group of
chattering Greek camp-followers, who brought out a filthy pack of cards
long before the train started, and began a game of makao, which
continued, with intervals for squabbling and refreshment, all the way to
Harbin.  Jack made himself as comfortable as he could in a corner, and
prepared to sleep if the close proximity of his fellow-passengers and
the stuffiness of the air allowed.

It was past nine o’clock before the train steamed out. Punctuality is a
virtue non-existent on the Siberian railway.  The journey taxed Jack’s
patience to the utmost. The line is single, doubled at intervals of five
versts to allow of the passage of trains in opposite directions.  The
train was constantly being shunted into sidings, remaining sometimes for
hours, no one could tell why; and one of the most annoying features of
the constant stoppages was that the train, after running through a
station where the passengers would have been glad to obtain
refreshments, would come to a stand several versts beyond, where they
had nothing to do but kick their heels and look disconsolately out on
the country.  On one of the sidings stood a goods train, two trucks of
which were loaded with a large gun; it had no doubt been injured by a
Japanese shell, and was being returned to arsenal for repair.  In
another train Jack noticed a truck crowded with poor wretches who
appeared to be chained together—misdemeanants from the army, he
surmised, on their way to one of the penal settlements in Siberia.  At
short intervals appeared the little brick huts of the soldiers guarding
the line, and occasionally a group of three or four of those
green-coated guards might be seen riding along at the foot of the
embankment on their stout Mongol ponies.

Jack had travelled many times along the line, but not recently, and he
was greatly interested in the amazing developments which it had
undergone.  New buildings of brick seemed to have sprung up like
mushrooms along its course.  Where formerly had been spacious fields of
kowliang—the long-stalked millet of the country—with Chinese fangtzes
few and far between, there were now wide bare stretches upon which
Russian industry was erecting storehouses, engine-sheds, tile-covered
residences for the officials.  Some thirty-five miles from Moukden is
Tieling, which, when Jack’s train passed through at three o’clock in the
morning—having taken just six hours to run that distance—seemed to be
nothing but a collection of scaffolding, with Chinese bricklayers
already at work, trowel in hand.  Between Tieling and Harbin stretches
an immense plain, fertile for the most part, and hitherto left almost
unspoiled.  Nowhere does the line pass through a Chinese village; these
were purposely avoided by the Russian engineers from motives of policy,
and in deference to native susceptibilities.  They are for the most part
out of sight from the railway.  All that can be seen is, on the right,
the broad rutty mandarin highway; on the left, a narrower road edging
interminable fields of kowliang. There are few stations between Moukden
and Harbin: at two, Tieling and Kai-chuang, the Russians had established
their base hospitals.

Hour after hour passed.  Jack whiled away a good part of the time by
whittling sticks with his penknife, somewhat to the amusement of the
Russian army doctor who sat next to him, and who did not appear to
notice that the sticks were shaped to a definite size, and that, after
several had been thrown away, two or three were placed in Jack’s pocket.
Many times the train was halted at a doubling to allow a troop train to
pass, filled with Russian soldiers on the way to the front, shouting,
singing, in the highest spirits.  At one point an empty Red Cross train
stood on a siding, having emptied its freight of wounded men at one of
the hospitals.

During one of the stoppages the belaced official who acted as guard
politely requested Jack to step into the station-master’s office, where
he was searched by one of the soldiers.  He was thus left in no doubt
that he was under surveillance, and when he got back to his carriage he
found that his bag had been opened.  He congratulated himself on his
forethought in concealing his papers so effectually in his boot.

At the moment of saying good-bye the compradore had given him a piece of
news that made him anxious to complete his journey.  A Chinese employed
at the station had told him that Anton Sowinski had booked a seat by the
next day’s train.  It was by no means impossible that this train, if it
happened to carry any important passengers, would overtake and pass the
first somewhere on the line. The Pole was likely to spread the news of
Mr. Brown’s arrest, and if he should succeed in getting to Vladivostok
before Jack the game would certainly be up.

At length, about forty-five hours after leaving Moukden, someone said
that Harbin was in sight, and there was instantly a movement and bustle
among the passengers.

"Keep your seat," said the doctor to Jack with a smile.

"Thanks!  I know," said Jack with an answering smile.

The train slowed down, then stopped at the southern end of the bridge
over the Sungari river.  It was as though the engine were parleying with
the sentry.  On the right rose the barracks of the frontier guards,
surrounded by a loopholed wall.  At the bridge end were two guns framed
in sand-bags, and watched by two sentinels.  Across the river, above and
below the bridge, an immense boom prevented traffic either up or down.
While the train halted, an official came along the carriages, fastened
all the windows, locked all the doors; to open them before the bridge
was crossed entailed a heavy penalty.  When all the passengers were thus
secured, and there was no chance of any Japanese spy throwing a bomb on
to the bridge, the train moved slowly on, passed more guns at the
farther end, and came to rest at the spacious station in the Russian
quarter of the town.

[Illustration: Map of Manchuria and part of Siberia]

A train from Vladivostok was expected during the afternoon, and the
composite train would leave for the west at nine o’clock.  Jack went out
with the majority of the passengers into the buffet, which is one of the
admirable features of the Russian railway system, and ordered a good
meal.  Then he looked over some illustrated papers, making no attempt to
leave the station, having noticed that he was still watched by one of
the train attendants. Time hung heavily; he took a nap on one of the
seats, and when he awoke found that the Vladivostok train had arrived,
and the night train for the west was being made up.  Strolling out with
his bag, he showed his pass to an official, and by means of a liberal
tip secured a sleeping compartment to himself.  He explained with many
yawns that, being tired out, he intended to turn in as soon as the train
started, and asked the man to arrange his bed and lock him in.  The
attendant complied, and a few minutes later Jack noticed him in
conversation with the man under whose watchful eyes he had been all day.
The latter appeared satisfied and went away.

The train was late in starting; a high personage, it seemed, was
expected.  Jack stood for some minutes at the door, watching the varied
crowd on the platform Suddenly he heard cheers; the high personage had
no doubt arrived.  A warning bell rang; the officials called to the
passengers to take their seats.  Jack took off his coat in full view
from the platform, then drew the curtain, opened his bag, and took from
it, not a night costume, but a brush, a comb, and a collar.  Then he
turned off the light.

But instead of throwing himself on his bed, he went to the opposite door
of the compartment and tried it; as he expected, it was locked.  He put
on his coat, crammed into the pockets the articles he had taken from his
bag, and from his vest pocket took one of the sticks he had been
whittling on the way from Moukden.  Leaning out of the window, he
inserted it in the lock.  The train was just beginning to move.  Would
this extemporized key serve?  He turned it; the lock clicked; and the
next moment he was on the foot-board.  Silently closing the door he
dropped to the ground, and ran alongside the moving train, stumbling and
tripping over the rugged ballast.  The pace quickened and the train
began to distance him; but he made all the speed he could, and by the
time the last carriage had passed him he found, to his relief, that he
was beyond the station and in darkness. Dodging behind an engine-shed he
clambered over a fence, left the railway, and set off to find the house
of the compradore’s brother.

He had taken the precaution, before starting, to obtain very explicit
directions, in order to save time, and to avoid the risk involved in
asking questions.  The Chinese part of the town is some three miles from
the station, on lower ground near the river.  The streets were
abominably filthy; and by the time Jack reached the priestan or
merchants’ quarters he felt sadly in need of a bath.  By following the
compradore’s instructions he found the grain store of which he was in
search, though with some trouble. All the business premises in the
neighbourhood were closed for the night; there were few people in the
streets: the Chinaman as a rule barricades himself in his house at
nightfall.  Making sure by peering at the sign that he had come to the
right house, Jack gently knocked at the door.  It was opened by a
Chinaman, whom Jack recognized by the light of the oil-lamp he carried
as the compradore’s brother.

"I am from Moukden, Mr. Hi," said Jack, "and have a note from your
brother Mr. Hi An."

"Come in," said the Chinaman at once, without any indication of
surprise.  Jack pulled off his dirty boots and followed him to a little
back shop, where he had evidently just been engaged in brewing tea.  He
asked Jack to sit down, poured him out a dish of tea, and then waited
with oriental patience to hear what his visitor had to say. Prising open
the sole of one of his boots, Jack drew out the compradore’s note.  It
bore only three Chinese characters, and said merely that Hi An wished
his brother to give all possible assistance to the bearer.  The Chinaman
looked up with an expression of grave polite curiosity and still waited.

The compradore having said that his brother could be thoroughly trusted,
Jack explained to him, as simply and clearly as he could, the
circumstances that had brought him to Harbin, and the object of his
visit.  When the Chinaman had heard the story, and learnt what was
expected of him, he looked somewhat scared.  He said that the Russians
would inflict the most terrible punishments upon him if they discovered
that he had sheltered and assisted a fugitive.  He spoke of his terror
of the Russian knout.  But the Englishman might command him to do what
he could.  Had he not himself received benefits from Mr. Brown?  Five
years ago, he said, when he was on the verge of ruin, he had written to
his brother the compradore for assistance.  Hi An, a born gambler, like
every Chinaman, had himself been speculating disastrously, and was
unable to give any help.  But he had appealed to Mr. Brown, who had at
once advanced the sum required and set the grain merchant on his feet
again.  The loan had long since been repaid: in business transactions
the Chinaman is the soul of honour: but he had never lost his feeling of
gratitude; and his recollection of Mr. Brown’s kindness, together with
his brother’s request, made him willing to run some risk on behalf of
his benefactor’s son.

Jack talked long over the situation with his host.  His object was to
get to Vladivostok as soon as possible. Having no pass he could not
travel openly, and when breakfast-time came next morning his absence
from the Moscow train would be discovered, even if it were not found out
before; the news would be telegraphed to Harbin, and there would
instantly be a hue and cry.  The Chinaman doubted whether this would be
the case; the train officials would be too anxious to screen their own
negligence.  Still, it would be unsafe for Jack to remain in Harbin; as
for himself, he saw no way of helping him.

"I must go by train," said Jack, "and secretly.  Could I go hidden in a
goods wagon?"

"That might be possible," said the Chinaman; "but goods trains are not
fast; they are often delayed for hours and even days.  The journey would
take a week, and though you might carry food with you, you would have to
leave your hiding-place for water, and you could not escape discovery."

"Still, it may be that or nothing.  Have you yourself any goods going in
that direction?"

"No.  My business is chiefly to supply fodder to the Russians, more
especially for horses that are being sent south.  I completed a large
contract yesterday.  One thing I can do.  I can go to the station in the
morning and learn what trains are expected to leave for Vladivostok.
That is the first step.  You will remain concealed in my house.  You
were not seen as you entered?"

"No.  The street was clear."

"Then nobody but my wife and myself need know that you are here.  I will
do what I can for you."

"Thank you!  And if it is a question of bribery, you need not be
niggardly."

The Chinaman smiled.  He had not had dealings with Russian officials for
nothing.

Jack was provided with a couch for the night, and, being very tired
after his long journey and the excitement of his escape, he soon fell
asleep.  About five o’clock he was awakened by the Chinaman’s hurried
entrance.

"It is all arranged, sir," he said, "but at a terrible price.  A train
conveying horses is to leave for Vladivostok at seven.  The sergeant in
charge is well known to me: I have had dealings with him.  All Russians
can be bribed; but this man—sir, he is an extortioner.  Still, after
what you said, I made the bargain with him.  You give him at once twenty
roubles; you arrive safely at Vladivostok and give him thirty roubles
more.  I tried to make him accept twenty-five for the second sum, but he
refused."

Jack could not help smiling at this naïve evidence of the oriental habit
of bargaining.  He felt that if he reached Vladivostok for fifty roubles
he would have got off remarkably well.

"But how is it to be managed?" he asked.

"I gave him to understand, sir, that you are a foreign correspondent
wishing to see Vladivostok, and that there is a delay in the forwarding
of the necessary authorization. It was because you are a foreigner that
the sergeant was so firm about the five roubles.  He talked about the
risk he ran, and said that you must leave the train some time before it
arrives at Vladivostok and walk the rest of the way.  He said, too, that
if you should be discovered you were not to admit that he had any
knowledge of your presence.  I promised that you would do all this."

"Very well.  I am exceedingly obliged to you.  But how am I to go?  What
will the sergeant do for twenty roubles?"

"He will give you a corner in a horse-box."

"Does the train consist of nothing but horse-boxes?"

"Horse-boxes and the sergeant’s van.  You cannot go in that."

"No.  And how am I to get into the horse-box without being seen?  There
are sure to be soldiers and officials about."

The Chinaman rubbed his hands slowly and pondered.

"If it had been yesterday," he said, "you might then have gone hidden in
a hay-cart.  But my last loads were delivered yesterday."

"Who knows that?"

"The inspector of forage; perhaps others."

"And is the inspector likely to be at the station this morning?"

"Not so early as seven; he is too fond of his bed for that."

"Where is the train standing?"

"On a siding at some little distance from the station. You can drive
straight up to it from the road through the goods entrance.  But there
is a sentry at the gate."

"Well, Mr. Hi, I think I see a way to dodge the sentry, with your kind
assistance.  I suppose you have some hay or straw in your store?"

"Certainly."

"Then if you will load up a wagon with several large bundles, and leave
a hole for me in the middle, I think I can get to my place in the
horse-box."

"But you might be seen as you slip out."

"We can lessen the risk of that.  You can drive the wagon up to the
horse-box as though bringing a final load that had been overlooked.  I
am covered by the bundles. You move them in such a way that the sides of
the cart are well screened, at the same time leaving a passage for me.
I ought to be able to slip into the box without being observed.  And if
you are willing I will chance it."

The Chinaman agreed, and as the time was drawing near, and the earlier
the plan was carried out the better, he went off to get his wagon
loaded.  Shortly after six the cumbrous vehicle was brought up as close
as possible to a door giving into the yard of the store.  Jack thanked
Mr. Hi very warmly for his services, and begged him, if he should by any
chance learn of Mr. Brown’s whereabouts, to communicate with his brother
in Moukden.  Choosing a moment when nobody but the Chinaman and his wife
was near, Jack slipped into the wagon, and was in a few moments
effectually concealed by the bundles of hay.  He found in the bottom of
the cart a supply of food and a large water-bottle thoughtfully provided
by his obliging host.

Mr. Hi himself mounted to the bare board behind his oxen, grasped the
rope reins in one hand and the long-thonged whip in the other, and drove
off.  Jack did not enjoy the drive, jolted over the vile roads, and
half-choked by the full-scented hay.  The wagon came to the gate of the
goods entrance, and the Chinaman was challenged by the sentry.  He
pulled up, and with much deference explained that he had brought a last
load of hay for the horses about to leave for Vladivostok, pointing at
the same time to the long line of horse-boxes standing on the siding,
about three hundred yards away.  The sentry jerked his rifle over his
shoulder and said nothing.  Taking his silence for consent, the Chinaman
lashed his oxen, and the wagon rumbled over the bumpy ground and two or
three lines of metals until it reached the last carriage but one, next
to the brake-van.  The Chinaman jumped to the ground, backed the wagon
against the door, and began to arrange his bundles as Jack had
suggested.  He whispered to Jack that nobody was near; and next moment a
form much the colour of hay crept on all-fours out of the wagon into the
van.  Then Mr. Hi built up the hay with what was already in the vehicle,
so as to conceal him and yet allow a little air-space near one of the
small windows. There were three horses in the van.  Though early
morning, it was already close and stuffy, and Jack looked forward with
anything but pleasure to the heat of mid-day and the prospect of many
hours in this equine society.



                              *CHAPTER V*

                           *A Deal in Flour*


Vladivostok—Orloff—Russian Resentment—Large Profits—Quick
Returns—Overreached—A Droshky Race—The Waverley—Captain Fraser—Sowinski
comes Aboard—Sea Law—Pourboire


It was two o’clock in the morning on the second day after Jack left
Harbin.  The train slowed down as it rounded a loop, and finally came to
a stop.  Jack was fast asleep in his corner of the horse-box.  He was
awakened by a touch on the shoulder.

"You get down here, sir."

"Ah!  Where are we, sergeant?"

"Four versts from Vladivostok."

"That’s well.  And what sort of a night?"

"Fine, sir; but dark as pitch."

"Thanks!  Let me see; is it twenty-five roubles I owe you?"

"Thirty, sir, no less; more if you like."

"Here you are.  Have you got a match?  Take care: a spark, you know!
Count them; three ten-rouble notes. Now, how am I to get into the town?"

"The road’s not far on the other side of the line.—Nobody is to know how
you got here, sir."

"I understand that.  Many thanks!  It has been a pretty rapid journey
for Manchuria, I think."

"Yes.  Live stock comes next to the Viceroy.  Horses are none the better
for being jolted over three hundred miles of rail, so they’ve let us
pass several goods trains on the way."

"Any passenger trains allowed to pass us?"

"Not one."

"Then I couldn’t have got here sooner.  Thanks again!"

Jack dropped from the foot-board, ran down the embankment, and in a few
minutes struck the high-road.  He had not thought it necessary to
explain to the sergeant that he knew the district.  It was, as the
Russian had said, very dark, but Jack made his way to a plantation near
the road, through which he knew that a little stream ran.  There he had
a thorough wash, changed his collar, brushed and shook his clothes, and
felt a different creature.  Then he sat down on the moss-grown roots of
an oak, and ate the Chinese cakes and dried fruit that remained from the
stock of food given him by Hi Feng, the compradore’s brother, washing it
down with water from the brook. Dawn was breaking by the time he had
finished his frugal breakfast, but it was useless to go into the town
until the business houses opened.  He therefore determined to remain in
the secluded nook he had chosen, and sat there thinking of what lay
before him.

About eight o’clock he rose to continue his walk to the town.  It was
two years since he had last visited it, and he was struck by the
progress it had made in the interval. Founded only forty years before,
the city had grown very rapidly; but since the Russian occupation of
Manchuria it had made giant strides.  New hospitals and barracks had
been erected; the surrounding hills, once decked with forest, but now
treeless, were covered with immense forts and earthworks, at which vast
gangs of coolies were still at work.  The wooden shanties that formerly
lined the shore had for the most part given place to more solid and
imposing structures of brick and stone.  Other signs of development
caught Jack’s eye as he walked towards the harbour; but he was too eager
to complete his errand to dwell upon them, especially as he heard behind
him in the distance the rumble of an approaching train.  It overtook him
just as he turned down one of the steep, narrow side streets leading to
the office of his father’s agent; and as he saw the long line of
carriages, including several sleeping-cars, roll past, he could not but
wonder whether Anton Sowinski was among the passengers, and hastened his
steps.

The office had just been opened for the day when he arrived.  Alexey
Petrovitch Orloff was a big, jovial Russian of some forty years; honest,
or Mr. Brown would have had no dealings with him; a little greedy; a
good business man, and on excellent terms with his principal.  But Jack
knew little about him outside their business transactions, and had made
up his mind not to trust him with his secret.

"Ah, Ivan Ivanovitch!" exclaimed Orloff as Jack entered.  "I was
expecting you or your father.  You came by the night train?"

"Yes.  You must have been asleep when it arrived."

"What sort of a journey had you?"

"It was very hot."

"Yes, we have been baked here.  When did you leave?"

"On Thursday."

"A fairly quick journey, considering the state of the line. You left
before my letter arrived?"

"Yes.  Of course you guess the object of my visit?"

"The consignment of flour?  You have had great luck, I must say; but
Captain Fraser always is lucky.  Of course his cargo was not contraband
according to English ideas, but we Russians have been rather strict of
late, and the Japanese will probably follow suit.  However, Captain
Fraser never saw a Japanese cruiser the whole voyage.  It should be an
excellent speculation for your father.  Prices are naturally high just
now."

"That is good news.  We shouldn’t like to wind up with a failure."

"Of course not.  It is a pity your father is retiring; we are bound to
win in the end; but I’ve no doubt he can well afford it.  And I’m not
the man to complain, if, as I hope, I can get hold of a part of his
business.  Perhaps he is wise after all.  Manchuria is not the most
comfortable country to live in—just now, at any rate; and I fancy an
Englishman will have a poor time of it in Moukden, eh?"  (He gave Jack a
shrewd look.)  "Your newspapers have so completely taken the side of the
enemy."

"Yes, there is a strong feeling at home in favour of Japan, and your
people resent it.  That’s natural enough."

"It’s rather worse than that.  People here are saying that Russia and
England will be at war before a month’s out."

"Nonsense!"

"They say so.  Our cruisers have stopped a P. and O. liner, the
_Malacca_, in the Mediterranean, and put a prize crew on board.  She was
carrying contraband, it appears; but your fire-eaters—jingoes, is that
the name?—are thirsting for our blood."

"We don’t all eat fire and drink blood, Alexey Petrovitch."

"True.  And you English will find you have backed the wrong horse."

"You haven’t been much troubled here, then?"

"No.  The bombardment did us no harm.  Our cruisers sank three Japanese
transports the other day, and they captured another of your ships with
contraband, the _Allanton_: you’ll see her lying in the harbour now."

"Well, it appears to be lucky for us that the _Waverley_ was, in a
sense, on your side.  About this consignment of flour: do you think you
can find an immediate purchaser? We want to realize and get away at
once."

The Russian’s eyes gleamed, but his reply was cautious.

"Well, Ivan Ivanovitch, it is always more difficult to sell in a hurry
than if you can wait.  A good profit can be made, but we must take our
time.  It is a matter of bargaining.  The man in a hurry always
suffers."

"Yes, I know.  We must be prepared to sacrifice something. At the market
rate the flour ought to fetch about 27,000 roubles; but look here, if
you can find an immediate purchaser at 25,000 I’ll let it go."

Orloff still hesitated, but Jack could see that he was making an effort
to restrain his eagerness.

"In business," he said, "it is best to be frank.  If you will give me my
usual commission of two and a half per cent—what do you say to my taking
over the stuff myself?"

Jack smiled.

"I say that it pays very well to be principal and agent at the same
time.  But we won’t quarrel about the commission.  If you’ll write me a
cheque for 24,375 roubles, we’ll call the matter settled.  I’ve full
authority to act."

The Russian, looking as if he was sorry he had not improved the
opportunity still further, sat down at once and made out the cheque,
adding:

"There will be one or two papers to sign.  I will get them from the
dockyard people."

"Very well.  In the meantime I’ll pay this into the bank and call back
as soon as I can."

"What is the hurry?  Business is slack, and I suppose I shan’t see you
again for a long time."

"Probably not.  But there’s a ring at your telephone. Evidently someone
wants to do business.  I’ll see you again shortly."

Orloff was disposed to be talkative, but Jack was on thorns lest the
train he had seen come in should have brought Sowinski.  He had the
cheque; while in the train he had taken the vouchers from the sole of
his boot; he wondered whether he could complete his business at the bank
before Sowinski, supposing him to be in Vladivostok, should come upon
the scene.  He hurried to the branch of the Russo-Chinese bank, where he
was well known to the officials.  Business there also was slack; the
manager said indeed that trade in Vladivostok would be ruined if the war
continued much longer.  Within half an hour, Jack left the building with
bills on Baring Brothers for the amount of the cheque and the sum
represented by the vouchers, less 2000 roubles in notes which he kept
for his immediate and contingent expenses.

He hurried back to Orloff’s office, keeping a wary eye on the people
thronging the streets, among them many soldiers in the _pashalik_, their
characteristic peaked cap. When he entered the room, Orloff flung down
his pen and gave a shout of merriment.

"I must tell you the joke, Ivan Ivanovitch.  Not five minutes after you
left, who should come in but Sowinski!"  Jack repressed a start.  "He
had happened to hear, he told me, that the _Waverley_ had arrived with a
consignment of flour for your father.  Was I empowered to sell? Ha! ha!
It was not a matter of much consequence, he said.  Ha! ha!  I know
Sowinski.  But, having a small contract to fulfil in a month’s time at
Harbin, he could do with the flour, if it was to be had cheap.  ’Mr.
Brown is leaving the country, I understand,’ says he.  Ha! ha!"

Sowinski had evidently not told Orloff of the arrest. Jack wondered for
a moment why.  But the explanation at once suggested itself.  If the
fact were known, the consignment would no doubt be impounded by the
Russian authorities in Vladivostok, and then the Pole would lose his
chance of making a profitable deal.

"I assure you I was not eager," continued Orloff, still laughing.
"Sowinski is no friend of mine.  In the end he went down to the harbour,
inspected the consignment, and bought it for 27,000 roubles, the market
price, as you yourself mentioned."

"Quick returns and by no means small profits," said Jack.

"Yes.  But—ha! ha!—what makes me laugh is something else.  I was rung up
at the telephone—just as you went, you remember; two vessels had been
signalled from the mouth of the harbour carrying flour—not a moderate
consignment like yours, but a whole cargo each.  You see, Ivan
Ivanovitch?  The market price of Sowinski’s lot will fall in an hour to
20,000 roubles, and it serves him right.  How your father will laugh
when he learns how his rival has overreached himself!  By the way, the
_Waverley_ is sailing this morning, in ballast of course."

"Indeed!"  No information could have pleased Jack more.  "Captain Fraser
is an old friend of ours.  I should like to see him."

"Then you haven’t much time to lose.  But you may as well sign these
papers to complete our little transaction—the last, I am sorry to say.
You will be back again?"

"I am not sure.  I am not staying in Vladivostok long, and I’ll say
good-bye in case I don’t get time to run in again."

"And when do you leave for home?"

"As soon as possible."

"By the Trans-Siberian, I suppose?"

"Probably; unless we can get through the lines to Newchang."

"That will be easy enough soon.  Reinforcements are pouring in for
General Kuropatkin, and he’ll soon be strong enough to drive those
waspish little yellow men into the sea."

"Perhaps.  Well, good-bye, Alexey Petrovitch!"

"Remember me to your father."

"I will, the moment I see him.  Good-bye!"

Leaving the office Jack hailed a droshky, and ordered the man to drive
down to the harbour.  Knowing that Sowinski was actually in the town he
felt insecure with such valuable property in his pocket.  As he stepped
into the vehicle he glanced round, and, forewarned though he was, he
started when he saw, a few yards up the street, the man he was anxious
to avoid hurrying in his direction. By the look on the Pole’s face, and
his quickened step, Jack knew that he had been recognized.  It was touch
and go now.

"Quick, my man!" he said quietly to the driver, "time presses."

The man, scenting a tip, whipped up his horse, and it sprang forward,
throwing Jack back into his seat. At the same moment he heard the Pole
shouting behind; but his voice was at once drowned by the clatter of the
wheels, and the droshky man, standing in the car, and driving with the
usual recklessness of the Russian coachman, was too much occupied in
avoiding the traffic to turn his head.  Jack, however, a minute later
looked cautiously over the back of the vehicle.  Sowinski, with urgent
gestures, was beckoning a droshky some distance up the street.  He was
now nearly a quarter of a mile behind; and, turning a corner, Jack lost
him from sight. But the street he had now reached was a long straight
one, leading direct to the shore, and almost clear of traffic. In a few
seconds the pursuing droshky swung round the corner at a pace that left
Jack amazed it did not overturn. To throw the Pole off the scent was
impossible now; it was an open race.  In two minutes Jack’s droshky
rattled down the incline to the shore.  He had the fare and a handsome
tip in readiness.  Springing from the car almost before it had stopped,
he paid the man, leapt down the steps into a sampan, and called to the
burly Chinaman smoking in it:

"The English ship _Waverley_!  A rouble if you put me aboard quickly."

The Chinaman looked stolidly up.

"She is about to sail, master.  See!  And they will not allow you on
board.  There are difficulties.  The port officers——"

Jack waited for no more.  Taking a rouble note from his pocket, he
cried:

"Here is six times your fare; this or nothing!"

At the same time he seized the yuloh,—the pole that does duty for a
stern oar, and shoved off.  There is nothing a Chinese coolie will not
do for a rouble.  The man sprang to the oar, worked its flat end
backwards and forwards with all his strength, and sent the sampan over
the water at a greater speed than its clumsy build seemed capable of.
Jack kept his head low in order to be sheltered as long as possible by
the shanties on shore and the sampans crowded at the water’s edge;
Sowinski, he felt, would not hesitate to take a shot at him.  He could
see the Pole spring from his droshky and rush at break-neck pace towards
the waiting row of craft.  He leapt into one, pointed Jack out to the
coolie, and in a few moments started in pursuit.

The _Waverley_ had left the inner harbour where merchant vessels drop
anchor, and was steaming dead slow out to sea.  The captain stood on the
bridge, and the vessel hooted a farewell to the cruiser _Rurik_ that lay
in the middle of the channel.  Suddenly Captain Fraser became aware that
the voice sounding clear across the still water was hailing him.
Glancing round, he saw a sampan making rapidly towards him from the
shore, and in it a youth with one hand to his mouth, the other waving
his hat.  The captain first swore, then signalled half-speed ahead; it
was some Russian formality, he supposed, and as a British sailor he’d be
hanged if he delayed another moment for any foreign port officer.  But
next moment he heard his own name in an unmistakably English accent,
and, looking more closely at the shouter, recognized him.

"Young Mr. Brown!" he muttered.  "What’s he wishing?"

At the same time he jerked the indicator back to "stop", a bell tinkled
below, and the vessel came to a stand-still.

"Ay, ay!" he shouted.  "And be hanged if there isn’t another man
bawling.  What’s in the wind, anyway?"

The first craft was soon alongside, a rope was heaved over, and in a few
seconds Jack stood on deck.

"Pleased to see you, Mr. Brown," said the Captain. "Ay, and I wouldna
have sto’ped for no ither man."

"Thanks, Captain!  I want your help."  Jack spoke hurriedly; the second
sampan was but a biscuit-shot distant.  "The Russians have collared my
father on a charge of spying for the Japanese; I don’t know where he is;
that fellow in the boat is at the bottom of it.  I’ve managed to steal a
march on him and sell the flour you landed the other day, and I want you
to take charge of these bills and deposit them at the Hong-Kong and
Shanghai Bank for me."

"Eh, laddie, is that a fact?  And what’ll you do yersel’ the now?"

"Oh, I’ll stay and find my father.  Here’s Sowinski. I’m jolly glad I
got here first."

The other sampan was by this time under the vessel’s quarter.  A seaman
came up to the captain.

"A furriner, sir, talking double Dutch."

"Quay."

He left the bridge and went to the side.

"What might you be wishing the now?" he said.

Sowinski began to address him in very broken English, eked out with
French and Russian.

"I’m no’ what you might ca’ a leenguist," said the Captain, after a
patient hearing.  "What’ll he be meaning, Mr. Brown?"

"He says I’m a fugitive, and insists on your giving me up.  If you
don’t, he’ll have the boat stopped at the signal station, and you’ll be
heavily fined."

"He’s a terrible man, yon; there’s nae doot about it. Just tell him to
bide a wee, Mr. Brown, until you an’ me has had a wee bit crack.  Now,
sir," he added in a lower tone, when this had been interpreted to the
Pole, "hadn’t ye better come wi’ me now ye’re aboard?  If you go ashore
you may be caught.  I’m no sure but we’ll be overhauled by a Russian
cutter as we gang out, but I’ve no contraband aboard; in fact, I’ve run
a cargo in for the Russians, an’ well they know it.  Your father may be
half-way to Europe by this time; I canna see there’d be ony guid biding
to look for him."

"That’s good of you, Captain, but I must stay.  They say they’ve
deported my father; but somehow I feel sure he is still in the country,
and I shall try to hang on here by hook or crook till I find him."

"Aweel; then the best thing will be to get yon terrible Turk aboard.
Just ask him to step up, sir."

As Sowinski was clambering up the side the captain signalled the
engine-room to go ahead dead slow.  He invited the Pole to join him on
the bridge.  Captain Fraser looked him critically up and down; then said
blandly:

"And is it a port officer I’m to understand you are, Mister?"

"A port officer!  Not so.  I am man of affairs, business man.  But in
name of his majesty ze Imperator I—I arrest zis young man."

"Just exactly.  But I beg your pardon, Mister—Mister—what?"

"Sowinski."

"Just exactly.  Well, then, Mr. Sowinski, do ye happen to have about ye
a warrant for the arrest o’ this young man in the name o’ the Imperator,
by which, I preshume, you mean the Czar?  Where’s your authority, man?"

The Pole looked puzzled.

"Audority!  I have no audority.  But I tell you, zis young man is
deported; he escape from arrestation; he——"

"Tuts!  And you have the impidence to come aboard my ship: to haud me
up, a British subject; to cause loss to my owners—to my owners, I
say—without authority? I’ll learn you, Mister, what it is to haud up a
British ship without authority.  Hi, Jim! lug this man below, and if he
doesna behave himsel’ just clap him under hatches."

Sowinski, wriggling desperately, and volubly protesting in half a dozen
languages, was bundled from the bridge.

"He’s got the wrong sow by the lug in Duncan Fraser," said the captain,
with a grim tightening of the lips.  "I’ll just tak’ him along to
Shanghai if the coast is clear, Mr. Brown, though I may have to drop him
a few miles lower down if I see signs of any Russians being
inqueesitive. And if you must go ashore, laddie, tak’ a word frae
me—keep out o’ the road o’ the Russians."

"I’ll be careful, Captain.  When you get to Shanghai you’ll tell our
consul all about it, and ask him to wire to England?  The newspapers
will take it up, and I should think Lord Lansdowne will make official
enquiries at St. Petersburg."

"Ay, I’ll do what I can.  You’re quite determined to bide?"

"Oh yes!  And another thing, Captain: I think, if you don’t mind, you’d
better let my mother know; she expects us home, and not hearing, would
be alarmed.  Tell her not to worry; it’s sure to come all right in the
end."

"Ay, I’ll do that.  I never heard the like o’t.  What the ballachulish
will the Russians be doing next!  I needna say I wish ye good luck, sir.
Will you take a wee drappie?"

"Not to-day, Captain, many thanks all the same!  A pleasant voyage to
you!"

Both sampans had kept pace with the steamer; the coolies were beginning
to be anxious about their fares. Jack bade his friend the captain a
cordial farewell; the vessel stopped; and, dropping into his sampan,
Jack ordered the man to put him ashore at the nearest point. Within a
yard of the shore the Chinaman brought the punt to a stop and demanded
two roubles.

"But the bargain was one."

"I did not know, Master.  I do not risk offending the Russians for a
rouble.  Give two, or I will not let you land."

He looked at Jack with victorious malice in his beady black eyes.  For a
moment Jack hesitated; he did not wish to have an altercation with the
man; at the same time he objected to be "done".  He stood up in the
sampan and drew a bundle of notes from his pocket. Selecting one, he
folded it; then, flinging it to the coolie, he sprang suddenly
overboard, giving the sampan a kick which sent it backwards.  The man
also had risen; the sudden movement made him lose his balance, and he
fell over the yuloh into the water.  Jack quietly walked away. As he did
so he heard loud laughter on his left hand. Turning, he saw that the
incident had been witnessed by two Russian officers who had been walking
towards the mouth of the harbour.  Knowing the ways of the Chinese
coolie, they were much amused at the readiness with which Jack had
disposed of the boatman.  One of them shouted "Well done!" in Russian.
Jack smiled, and replied with a couple of words in the same tongue; then
hurried on, thanking his stars that the matter had ended so well.



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                             *In Full Cry*


In Chinatown—A Deal in Horseflesh—North and by East—A Korean Host—Across
the Line—Buriats—Father Mayenube—Gabriele—A Shot—Hard Pressed—In
Hiding—Suggestio Falsi


Jack’s business in Vladivostok was now completed.  He had secured the
last of his father’s property; bills representing several thousands of
pounds were in the safe hands of Captain Fraser, soon to be confided to
the Hong-Kong and Shanghai Bank.  So far his task had been unexpectedly
easy; his difficulties, he felt, were now to begin.  During the long
journey from Harbin he had spent hours endeavouring to think out a plan
to adopt if his secret visit to Vladivostok proved successful.  By hook
or crook he must get back to Moukden and learn the result of the
compradore’s enquiries; the question was, how?  The return journey would
be attended by many difficulties; even if he should reach Moukden in
safety it would only be to find himself encompassed by danger. Yet he
saw no other chance of tracing his father, and whatever the risks and
perils, he felt that his duty called him to face them.

The first thing, then, was to make his way back to Moukden.  To return
by the railway was out of the question.  He dared not go openly, and he
knew no one in Vladivostok whom he could trust to negotiate for a
clandestine passage.  His only course was to slip away, gain the
Manchurian frontier, and cross the Shan-yan-alin range of mountains—a
long and difficult journey at the best, and in the present circumstances
hazardous in the extreme.  If he evaded the Russians in and around
Vladivostok he would still be exposed to capture by Chinese bandits, to
say nothing of the tenfold risks as he neared his journey’s end.

His difficulties were intensified by the desperately short notice at
which he must now quit Vladivostok.  Sowinski, furious at being
outwitted in the matter of the bills, would be goaded to madness by his
detention on board the _Waverley_, and as Captain Fraser would probably
consider it prudent to put him ashore at no great distance, it might not
be long before he telephoned to head-quarters and thus raised the hue
and cry in Vladivostok itself.  To the natives Jack might easily pass
for a Russian; carefully made up, he might, with his smattering of
Chinese, be taken by the Russians for a native.  But there was no time
for such preparations; and a Russian policeman on the hunt for an
Englishman, with the Pole’s description of him, must be an exceptionally
incompetent member of his class if he failed to recognize the fugitive.
Speed was thus the first essential.

Hurrying up from the shore he made up his mind what to do.  Fortunately
he was in the Chinese quarter of the town; it was the part of prudence
to avoid the Russian settlement on the hill.  He remembered a Chinese
horse-dealer with whom Mr. Brown had done business when he lived in the
town years before.  The Chinese had altered less than the official city,
and he thought he could find his way to the merchant’s house.  Taking
his bearings, he walked rapidly through several streets, and found to
his delight that his recollection had not failed him.  The horse-dealer
was at home; he did not recognize Jack, who was a boy of eleven when his
transactions with Mr. Brown had taken place; but he well remembered the
English merchant.  And when he learnt that Jack wished to purchase a
pony he rubbed his hands together and led him at once to the stables to
view the stock.  They were a weedy lot, like most of the native animals.
Jack was careful to show no haste or eagerness; he looked them over
critically, rejected one after another in spite of all the flowery
things the Chinaman found to say in their favour, and finally refused to
buy.  As he expected, the merchant then managed to find a better beast—a
beautiful little Transbaikal pony, sturdy, well-made, and evidently full
of mettle.  Jack could not have wished for a better animal; but,
experienced in the ways of Chinese business men, he gave no sign of his
approval.  The merchant quoted a price; Jack hemmed, hesitated—he knew
better than to close at once; and then offered half.  Eager as he was to
get away, he patiently chaffered for nearly an hour; then, when the
Chinaman was beginning to think he had lost his customer, Jack suddenly
closed with the last offer, and the pony became his at two-thirds of the
price first asked.  The purchase of a saddle did not take so long; and
when he rode off, both dealer and customer were equally pleased.

In the street Jack stopped a young Chinese boy and sent him to a
purveyor’s shop for a small supply of portable food.  The messenger
returned with some dried fish and stale cakes of potato-rice, all he
could procure.  With this tied behind his saddle Jack set off.  It was
an anxious moment when he passed a brown-coated Cossack policeman, and a
little farther on he gave a jump when a squadron of Cossacks swung round
the corner of the street.  But they rode on without giving him more than
a casual glance.  Not daring to hasten, he slowly made his way through
the city and out into the country.  It was still only eleven o’clock; he
had nine or ten hours of daylight before him, and though the pony was
somewhat soft for want of exercise, it was no doubt good for thirty
miles at a pinch.

Vladivostok stands at the end of a narrow peninsula, with the Amur Bay
running for several miles into the land on the west, and the Ussuri Bay
on the east.  To gain the Manchurian frontier Jack would have to ride
northwards, cross the railway at the head of the Amur Bay or beyond, and
then turn to the south-west.  It was obviously unsafe for him to ride
parallel with the railway line, for his escape, if discovered, would no
doubt be telegraphed ahead, and the road would be watched, especially in
the neighbourhood of the stations.  His best course, therefore, would be
to strike up eastwards towards the head of the Ussuri Bay, away from his
ultimate destination, and trust to luck to find a hill-path leading back
that would enable him to cross the line somewhere between the head of
the Amur Bay and the garrison town of Nikolskoye.  His way led through
the plantation where he had made his toilet early that morning, then to
the right towards the hills.

Though Vladivostok itself has sprung up with marvellous rapidity, the
country is as yet sparsely peopled. At one time the town was closely
surrounded by magnificent woods; but the axe of the lumberman has been
busy, and the same work of deforesting that has robbed the town of
picturesqueness is now being pursued inland. One of the few people Jack
met along the unfrequented road he had chosen was a Russian colonist
riding behind a cart laden with pine logs and driven by a coolie.  Jack
threw him a friendly "Good morning!" as he passed, and received a
feeling "Very hot, barin" in return.  It was indeed hot; the almost
naked Korean labourers in the fields were streaming with sweat; and Jack
was glad to halt at a little brook to refresh himself and his beast.

After riding for some three hours, and covering, as he guessed, about
eighteen miles, almost entirely uphill, he saw the sea below him on the
right, and the far coast-line running to all appearance due south.  This
must be Ussuri Bay.  He had evidently come far enough east; it was time
to change his course to the north-west. Swinging round, he had not
ridden far before he came to a small farm, the house surrounded, like
all Chinese isolated country buildings, with a mud wall.  His pony
required food, and though he felt some misgivings he thought this too
good an opportunity to be neglected.  He rode up.  The owner, he found,
was a Korean; Jack did not speak Korean; but by the help of Chinese and
pidgin Russian he succeeded in making the man understand what he wanted.
He then asked how far it was to Nikolskoye, and learning that it was
thirty versts, roughly twenty miles, he decided to give his pony a good
rest and start again about six o’clock, so that darkness would have
fallen by the time he came to the neighbourhood of the railway.  Having
seen that the animal was rubbed down and provided with a good feed of
hay, he joined the farmer in a game of _wei-ch’i_, a difficult variant
of chess, and with this and a slow laborious conversation, in the course
of which his host expounded his hazy ideas of the war, he managed to get
through the hot afternoon.

Soon after six he set off again.  The way was mainly downhill now, and
easier riding.  About nine o’clock he saw in the gloaming a little
settlement ahead, and beyond it the hexagonal water-tower and timbered
store-house of the typical Siberian railway-station, but on a small
scale. The path he was following led direct to the hamlet, and the sight
of several small knots of people at that hour of the evening showed that
a train would shortly be passing; the peasants have not yet lost their
curiosity about the iron horse.  He thought it well to avoid observation
by leaving the track—road it could not be called—and striking across a
bean-field.  Making a wide sweep he came to the railway some three
versts north of the station.  He rode very cautiously as he approached
the line, tied his pony to a tree, and scouted ahead to make sure that
the line rifle guard, whose hut might be expected a few versts beyond,
was not in sight.  Suddenly he heard the distant rumble of a train—the
night train for Harbin.  In a moment he saw that the passage of the
train would give him an opportunity of crossing the line unobserved.  He
went back to his pony, led it as near as he dared to the embankment, and
waited.

The engine came snorting along at a fair pace, the fire throwing a glow
upon the darkling sky.  The train clattered by.  Immediately after the
last carriage had passed, Jack mounted the embankment, dragging his
pony, crossed the single line, and descended on the other side.

With a lighter heart he got into the saddle again, and rode his
excellent little steed across the fields in the hope of ere long
striking a road.  Pursuit would be difficult in the darkness; the
greatest danger was to be expected with daylight, and it was very
necessary that he should put as many miles as possible between himself
and the railway before dawn.  His course must be mainly south-west; the
nearest town of any size was Hun-chun, some sixty miles in that
direction; but having a vague idea that the Russians had erected a fort
there, he had already made up his mind to avoid that town itself.  Four
or five hundred miles and countless perils lay between him and Moukden;
but with the hopefulness of youth he rode confidently on.  Danger and
difficulty were only incentives to caution; if he anticipated them, it
was merely that, being prepared, he might be the more ready to grapple
with and overcome them.  Ever present in his mind was the belief that
his father’s fate hung upon the success of his enterprise.

Coming by and by to a rough track between the fields, he followed it
until past midnight.  Then, feeling that his pony could do no more, and
being unable in the darkness to guide himself by the little compass he
wore on his watch-chain, he left the track, rode into a plantation to
the right, off-saddled, and, hitching the bridle to a tree, threw
himself on the ground and fell asleep.

During the short hours of darkness his slumbers were disturbed by
dreams.  Sowinski, Orloff, Monsieur Brin, the Chinese horse-dealer—all
figured in a strange phantasmagoria.  Monsieur Brin had lost his pass,
and was shedding tears because he could not tear the red brassard from
his arm, when Jack awoke with a start. Looking at his watch he found it
was five o’clock. He must be up and away.  He ate the last of his food;
the pony had already made a meal of the shoots of creeping plants; then,
with the instinct born of his fugitive condition, Jack approached the
edge of the plantation to spy out the country.  Before him, not many
yards away, was a narrow river; behind—he gave a great start, for little
more than half a mile distant he saw a troop of Russian horsemen
trotting smartly along the road towards him.  They might be going, of
course, to Possiet Bay, or Novo Kiewsk, or the Korean frontier. But he
noticed at a second glance that the leading man was bending low in his
saddle, as though following a trail. He distinguished their uniform now;
they were Buriats, Mongols by race and Buddhists by religion, hard
riders, excellent scouts, the most reckless and daring of the Russian
cavalry.  Without a moment’s hesitation he went back to his pony,
snatched from the ground the saddle that had formed his pillow, threw it
over the animal’s back, and, tightening the girths with hands that shook
in spite of himself, he plunged with the pony into the thickest part of
the plantation.


At seven o’clock that morning, in a neatly-thatched, white-washed brick
cottage, surrounded by a luxuriant and well-kept garden, in the
hill-country above the Chuan, a little group sat at breakfast.  The room
was plain but spotlessly clean.  The wooden floors shone; the white
plastered walls were covered with coloured lithographs representing the
seven stations of the Cross; the little windows were hung with curtains
of Chinese muslin. A narrow shelf of books occupied one corner, a stove
another; and the table in the centre was spread with a snow-white cloth,
dishes of fruit, and home-made bread.

At the table three persons were seated.  One was a tall man of fine
presence, with clear-cut features, soft brown eyes, long white hair and
beard.  He wore the loose white tunic and pantaloons of a Chinaman, but
the cross that hung by a cord round his neck was not Chinese.  Jean
Mayenobe was a Frenchman, a priest, one of those devoted missionaries
who cut themselves off from home and kindred to live a life of
self-denial, peril, and humble Christian service in remote unfriendly
corners of the globe.

His companions were a woman and a girl.  The former was plain-featured
and plainly dressed, with placid expression and humble mien.  The latter
seemed strangely out of place in her surroundings.  She was young,
apparently of some seventeen years.  Her features were beautiful, with a
dignity and a look of self-command rare in one of her age.  Her
complexion was ruddy brown; her bright hair, gathered in a knot behind,
rebelled against the black riband that bound it, and fell behind her
ears in crispy waves.  Before her on the table was a samovar, and she
had just handed a cup of tea to the missionary.

"Father," she said in French, "I am so tired of waiting. I am beginning
to think that permission will never come.  But why should it be refused?
It is not as if I were seeking some benefit.  In appearance I lose, not
gain."

"True, my child, you have nothing personally to gain. I have said
before, it is not every daughter who would come thousands of miles and
suffer hardship in order to bear her father company in exile and
imprisonment.  And such exile!  The little I know of Sakhalin is
frightful.  It gives me pain to think of your knowing even so much."

"I am not afraid.  And if the treatment of prisoners in Sakhalin is so
bad, that is all the more reason why I should be at my father’s side, to
help and comfort him a little.  Why do they refuse to let me go?"

"Probably they have forgotten all about you.  The war occupies them
completely.  And I repeat, if you have patience your father may come to
you.  I have no belief that the Russians will win in this terrible war.
I heard but a little while ago from a brother priest near the scene of
operations at Hai-cheng, who has studied the combatants, that he is
convinced of the ultimate success of the Japanese.  If they are
victorious they will probably demand that Sakhalin shall be restored to
them, and it will no longer be a place for Russian prisoners. Rest in
the Lord, my child; wait patiently for Him, and He will give thee thy
heart’s desire."

Gabriele Walewska was silent.  Father Mayenobe sank into a reverie.  The
elderly woman looked sympathetically at her mistress, laid her hand on
hers, and murmured a few words in Polish, to which the girl responded
with a grateful smile.  The sound of a distant shot coming through the
open window shook the missionary from his musing.

"Russian officers out snipe-shooting again, I suppose," he said.  "It
reminds me I must go, my child.  That poor Korean convert of mine is at
the point of death, I fear.  I must go to him.  I may be absent all
day."

"We shall be quite happy, father.  I shall pick the last of your
strawberries to-day, and make some of your favourite tartlets for
supper."

"You will spoil me," said the priest with a smile. "Dominus vobiscum."

When the missionary had gone, Gabriele left the Korean servants to clear
the table, and, accompanied by her old nurse, went out into the garden
with a light wicker basket. As she did so she scanned the surrounding
country for signs of the shooting party.  The mission station was at the
summit of a low hill, and below it, towards the east, stretched a tract
of sparse woodland, alternating with cultivated fields.  A stream bathed
the foot of the hill, and wound away to join the Hun-Chuan, its course
traceable by the thickness of the wooded belt and the more vivid green
of the fields.

While the girl was still picking the ripe red berries she heard another
shot, this time closer at hand.  She rose, and out of pure curiosity
searching the landscape she saw, about two miles away, a band of
horsemen galloping through a field of kowliang, already so well grown
that the stalks rose almost to the horses’ heads.  There were some
thirty or forty of the riders, at present little more than specks in the
distance.  It struck her as rather a large hunting party, and she
wondered what they were chasing, big game being unknown in the
neighbourhood, and the time of year unusual for such sport.  As she
stood looking, the horsemen left the field and disappeared into the
wooded belt bordering the stream.

Expecting them to come again into sight a little higher up, Gabriele
remained at the same spot.  It occurred to her that one of them might be
bringing the written permission she desired, and had taken advantage of
his errand to organize a hunt.  Suddenly she was startled to see a
figure on horseback emerge from the copse but a few yards below her.  It
was a young man, a European; he was swaying in his saddle; and she
noticed with feminine quickness that one arm was supported in a sling—a
handkerchief looped round his neck.  The next moment the rider caught
sight of her; his eyes seemed to her to speak the language of despair.
He swayed still more heavily, and was on the point of falling from his
horse when Gabriele sprang down the slope and caught him. Calling to her
nurse and a Korean man-servant near at hand, with their help she lifted
him from the saddle and loosened his shirt-collar, then sent the Korean
for water.

Jack was dazed at first, all but swooning.

"Thank you!" he said in Russian.  "I was almost done, I think.  But
please help me to mount again.  I must ride on."

"Impossible, gospodin!" she said.  "You are hurt, I see; the injury must
be seen to."

"It is good of you, but my arm must wait.  Please help me to mount my
pony."

His wounded arm, his urgent manner, recalled to Gabriele the shots she
had heard, the band of horsemen she had seen galloping in the distance.

"You are in danger?" she said quickly.  "Is it not so?"

"Yes.  There are Buriats behind me; they are close on my heels.
Indeed"—he smiled wanly—"it is your duty, as a Russian, I suppose, to
give me up."

"I am not a Russian," she exclaimed.  "And if I were, I should not
lightly give up a fugitive to the Russian police. You can go no farther;
what can I do?  There is so little time."

For a few seconds she appeared to be considering.  Her brow was knit;
she looked at him anxiously.  Fully trusting her, he made no further
effort to continue his flight, for which, indeed, he was manifestly
unfit.  Half-reclining on his pony’s neck, he waited, panting.

Then she spoke rapidly to the Korean.

"Take the pony, unsaddle him, and turn him loose in the kowliang yonder.
Saddle the Father’s pony, ride a few yards in the stream, then gallop
past the edge of the copse, through the hemp field, up to Boulder Hill.
If you are followed by horsemen, throw them off the scent. Don’t let
them see you closely.  Return after dark, but make sure the Buriats are
not here before you come in."

An unregenerate Korean would probably have hesitated, but this man had
been for some time under Father Mayenobe’s training, and in a few
minutes he had brought out the pony and cantered away.  Meanwhile
Gabriele, asking Jack to lean upon her arm, had led him into the copse
to a large beech, the lowest branch of which sprang from the trunk about
twelve feet from the ground.  Asking him to remain there, she ran off
with the fleetness of a doe, and soon returned with a light ladder.
Setting this against the tree, she assisted Jack to mount; when he
reached the fork he saw that the interior of the trunk was hollow.  Then
she pulled up the ladder, lowered it into the hollow space, and helped
Jack to descend. Drawing up the ladder again, she let it down outside,
ran down, and carried it swiftly back to the house, leaving Jack inside
the trunk, where he stood upright, supporting himself with his uninjured
arm.

Scarcely five minutes had passed since his first appearance.  The
Buriats had not yet come in sight; they had clearly been checked by the
fugitive’s sudden divergence from his previous line of flight, and
nonplussed by his precaution in riding for some distance through the
stream. But in another five minutes half a dozen horsemen, with a
handsome young Russian lieutenant at their head, drew rein in front of
the house.  Gabriele was unconcernedly shelling peas at the window of
the little dining-room.

The officer was evidently surprised to see a young European lady.  With
heightened colour he bent over his saddle and addressed her in Russian.

"Have you seen a man on horseback in (he neighbourhood, Mademoiselle?"

Gabriele looked up, with a puzzled expression.

"Monsieur parle-t-il français?" she said.

"Oui, Mademoiselle," returned the officer, then repeating his question
in French.

"Yes," she replied.  "A few minutes ago a man galloped from the stream,
past the copse, and rode auay along the side of the hill."

"Merci bien, Mademoiselle," said the lieutenant, translating the
information for his men.

They at once began to hunt for the tracks, and in a few moments spied
the hoof-marks of a galloping horse.  One of them discharged his rifle
to bring up the rest of the troop, who had scattered over the face of
the country, endeavouring to pick up the trail of the fugitive.  Some
were already galloping off in the direction indicated by Gabriele.  Soon
the rest of the Buriats came riding by in twos and threes, until the
whole band was in full cry up the hillside.

Gabriele remained at the window shelling peas until she was sure that
the last horseman had passed.  Then she took a bottle of home-grown wine
from the missionary’s store, filled a cup and gave it to her old nurse
to carry, and returned with the ladder to the tree.

"It is I," she said as she approached.  "I am bringing you wine."

Mounting into the tree, she handed down the cup.  Jack drained it at a
draught.

"You are suffering?" said the girl.

"Not much.  It is a flesh wound; I have lost some blood, and was faint.
I am better now."

"You must remain in the tree.  The danger is not yet past; but have
patience.  I dare not stay longer; they will come back soon.  Hope on."



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                         *A Daughter of Poland*


Suppressio Veri—The Keys—At Fault—A Polish Patriot—A Daughter’s Love—A
Common Sorrow—A French Mission—A Council of War—From Canton—A Surprise
Visit—Hide and Seek—Ladislas Streleszki


All was silent for nearly an hour.  Slowly the minutes passed.  Jack
felt he had never been so wretchedly uncomfortable.  His legs ached; his
arm throbbed with pain; there was not room in his hiding-place to sit;
the stuffiness of his prison and the attentions of innumerable insects
so tortured him that he could hardly refrain from crying out to be
released.  Eagerly he listened for the return of the tall strong girl
whose quick wit had thrown the Buriats off his track.  When would she
come again?  At last, after a period of waiting that seemed ten times as
long as it really was, he fancied he heard her footsteps. He listened;
yes, it was certainly someone approaching; his long imprisonment was
ended.  But just as the footsteps, now distinctly audible, neared the
tree, his ears caught the heavy thud of horses galloping, and a few
moments afterwards an angry voice saying in French:

"The man you saw, Mademoiselle, is not the man we are searching for.  My
sergeant, who is following him up, sends me word that he got a clear
view of him as he breasted the hill.  The dress is different, the horse
is different——"

He broke off as if expecting an explanation.

"How unfortunate, Monsieur!" exclaimed Gabriele in a tone of concern.
"I fear you must have come a long distance out of your way."

"That is as it may be, Mademoiselle," replied the lieutenant, somewhat
nettled.  "Perhaps not so far either, for we tracked our man to within a
few hundred yards of your house."  He paused a moment, then added
suspiciously: "What was he like, the man you saw galloping?"

"What was he like?" she repeated reflectively.  "I think he was about
your height; but then you are mounted, and so was he, and it is so
difficult to judge when a man is mounted, is it not, Monsieur?  And then
he was going so fast; in a flash he was by; there was his back
disappearing into the copse.  It was a broad back; yes, certainly a
broad back; and he was hitting his pony; yes, I remember that clearly,
poor thing! and it was going so fast, too."

All this was said with the most artless simplicity, and Jack was amused,
though his heart was beating hard with apprehension.

"But, Mademoiselle, what was he like?" repeated the officer, finding
some difficulty in repressing his anger.

"The man I saw, Monsieur, or the man you saw, or the man your sergeant
saw?  There are so many—they confuse me."

"The man you saw.  Come, Mademoiselle, we are wasting time.  Was he a
white man, or a Chinaman, or what?"

"Oh, his colour!  Really, I cannot say.  You see, Monsieur, the sun was
in my eyes.  I saw his back plainly, a broad back; but he was riding
fast, and hitting his pony; yes, poor thing! he was hitting it very
hard."

The lieutenant hesitated; Jack held his breath.

"You will pardon me, Mademoiselle, if I ask you to let me search your
house."

"Not my house, Monsieur.  It belongs to Father Mayenobe."

"Peste!" he exclaimed as he dismounted.  "This house, whosesoever it is.
The man gave us the slip in this neighbourhood, and my orders are to
capture him."

"Certainly search, Monsieur.  Father Mayenobe is away from home, or I am
sure he would receive you as the occasion demands.  The house is open to
you. Perhaps a few of you would enter at a time?"

The frowning officer glanced at her, unable to decide whether she was
mocking him.  But her face was perfectly grave.

"Certainly, Mademoiselle," he replied a little uneasily. "Two will be
sufficient; and with your permission I will accompany them.  Doubtless,"
he added, as by an afterthought, "it will prove a mere form."

"I suppose it is quite right, Monsieur.  I know nothing about these
things.  Perhaps I ought to say no until Father Mayenobe returns.  But
then I couldn’t prevent you, could I?  So you had better go in and do
your duty. Let me see, you will want the keys."  She took a bunch from
her pocket.  "There are very few.  This is the key of the larder."

She innocently handed him the bunch, indicating the one she had
mentioned.

"Only the larder is locked," she added.  "The natives, you are aware,
Monsieur, will overeat if one is not careful."

The young officer, looking very much ashamed of himself, took the bunch,
and having no answer ready, moved towards the house.

"Will you show us the house, Mademoiselle?"

"Oh no, Monsieur! that would be to countenance your intrusion.  I cannot
be expected to do that."

The conversation had been carried on throughout within a few feet of
Jack.  In spite of his wound, his uncomfortable position, and the danger
of discovery, he found himself shaking with silent laughter, imagining
the play of expression on the faces of Gabriele and her victim.

The lieutenant with two of his men went into the house. There was
silence for a while, broken only by the champing of the Buriats’ ponies
and the rattle of accoutrements, the men sitting their steeds mute and
motionless. Then the voice of the officer could be heard interrogating
the old nurse, who merely shook her head to every question.  She knew
nothing but Polish, and the officer’s Russian was as incomprehensible to
her as his French.  After a few minutes he returned.

"Accept my apologies and my thanks, Mademoiselle," he said, as he handed
her the keys.  "We must pursue our chase elsewhere.  Bonjour!"

"Bonjour, Monsieur!"

The troop rode away, taking a different course.  Gabriele’s lips curved
in a smile as she watched them.  The officer glanced back just before
riding out of sight.  She was walking slowly towards the house.

Half an hour afterwards the missionary returned.

"Father," said Gabriele, "I have played the good Samaritan since you
have been away."

She explained to him rapidly what had occurred.

"My daughter," he said gently, "I cannot blame you, but you acted
rashly, very rashly indeed."

"What would you have done, Father?" she asked archly.

"Just what you did, my dear," he replied with twinkling eyes.  "But we
must be careful.  The Russians look askance at our missions as it is;
they only want a pretext to expel us."

"And the poor young man is all the time in the tree! He must be nearly
dead with fatigue."

"But we cannot release him yet.  Some of the Russians may return this
way from their chase of Min-chin.  I hope they will not shoot the poor
fellow by mistake."

Jack waited, feeling more and more exhausted, and wondering how long his
irksome durance was to last. By and by he again heard horses galloping.
The Buriat sergeant and one of his men had returned from their fruitless
chase.  Min-chin, the Korean servant, had outridden them, and they had
lost trace of him.  They pulled up at the missionary’s house to ask the
whereabouts of the remainder of the troop, then they rode on.  Watching
them out of sight, and waiting for some time to assure himself that
danger was past, Father Mayenobe carried the ladder to the tree, and
soon Jack, pale, worn, and hungry, lay in the priest’s own bed.  The
father, like most of the French missionaries in China, knew something of
medicine and surgery; he examined Jack’s wound, dressed and bound up his
arm, and said that he was not to think of getting up for several days.
It was in fact nearly a week before he was allowed to leave the bed, and
the missionary saw that watch was kept night and day to guard against a
surprise visit from the Russians.

During this period of enforced seclusion Father Mayenobe learnt Jack’s
story.  Though it made him feel more than ever the gravity of his
position if his guest should be discovered, it did not abate by a jot
his determination to do what he could for him.  Indeed, his sympathy for
Jack was enhanced by a certain similarity between his circumstances and
Gabriele’s.  He told Jack her story.  Her father was a large land-owner,
the descendant of a great Polish family, a man of noble character,
greatly beloved of his tenants and respected by his peers.  Like every
true Pole he was a strong patriot, and had been a member of one of the
secret associations that have for their object the restoration of Polish
liberties.  Some six years before, the society had been betrayed by one
of its members; Count Walewski, with several of his compatriots, was
arrested and sent without trial into exile; and as a deterrent to other
Poles who might contemplate revolt, the place selected for his
punishment was the bleak barren island of Sakhalin, the farthest eastern
limit of the Russian empire.  There was special cruelty and indignity
involved in this choice, for the island was reserved as a rule for
murderers and the lowest class of criminals; and his friends in Poland
were aghast when they heard to what a living death he had been
condemned.

At the time of the count’s arrest and banishment, his daughter Gabriele
was only eleven years of age.  Her father’s estates being confiscated,
and she a motherless child, she was adopted by her paternal aunt, an
unmarried lady of ample means, who took her to her home in Paris,
educated her, and treated her with a mother’s care.  But as the girl
grew older and learned to understand more fully the hopelessness of her
father’s fate, she resolved at all costs to share his exile, and to do
what lay in her power to alleviate and sweeten his terrible lot.  Her
aunt, fearful of allowing a young girl to undertake a mission so
terrible, and being too infirm to accompany her, did all that she could
to turn her from her purpose.  But with increasing years the girl’s
determination became ever stronger.  She grew up quickly into a
thoughtful strong-willed maiden, full of patriotic ardour, of passionate
resentment against the Russian government, and of an overflowing love
for the father whose affection she remembered so well, and whose noble
qualities she had not been too young to appreciate. While grateful for
all the kindness her aunt had showered upon her, she was possessed by an
overmastering sense of duty to her father.  At last, when she was nearly
seventeen, but in looks and mind older than her years, she threatened to
set forth without assistance if her aunt refused her assent and help.
Having no alternative the poor lady yielded, only stipulating that
Gabriele’s old nurse should accompany her.  For some months they vainly
tried to get permission from St. Petersburg for the girl to join her
father.  In the case of ordinary criminals no difficulty was usually
made; it was clear that, as happens so often in Russia, the political
offence was to be visited more heavily than the worst of crimes.  Then
she started without permission, hoping to obtain the necessary
authorization at Vladivostok.  She was provided with letters of
introduction to a Polish family in Siberia, and one to Father Mayenobe,
whose sister had been a teacher at the pension Gabriele had attended in
Paris.  But the outbreak of the war had so much disorganized things that
the Polish friends were not to be found.  She arrived in Vladivostok;
there her request for permission to go to Sakhalin had been referred by
one official to another, shelved, and finally ignored.  Then, friendless
and despairing, she had written to the missionary asking his advice. He
had already heard of her from his sister.  Riding at once into
Vladivostok he endeavoured to get the required permission; but the
governor and officials had something more important to consider than the
romantic impulses of a Polish school-girl, and they politely shunted all
his representations.  At his suggestion Gabriele and her nurse had
returned with him to his little mission station in the hills, where they
had since remained, hoping that in course of time they would gain their
object.

When Jack was well enough to leave his bedroom and share the simple life
of the missionary and his household, it was apparent that the two young
people were drawn together by the common circumstances of their fate.
From the first moment Jack had felt a strong admiration for the girl
whose resourcefulness had saved him from capture; while Gabriele
regarded his position as even worse than her own, for she knew at any
rate where her father was.  They had many long conversations together;
the girl put her own sorrows into the background, and entered heartily
into Jack’s perplexities and plans.  Father Mayenobe often joined them
in talking things over, and soon won Jack’s admiration for his
character, and respect for his wise counsel.

Jack had opportunities of seeing something and learning more of his new
friend’s mission work.  Jean Mayenobe had been a favourite pupil of
Monsieur Venault, the young nobleman who gave up his career as a
courtier of Louis XVIII, and devoted his whole fortune and forty-two
years of his life to his labour of love in Manchuria.  A great part of a
French missionary’s work consists in relieving the poor and sick and
caring for orphans.  He does little actual preaching of the Gospel; he
conducts service in a small church or oratory attached to his house, but
converts are made chiefly through the agency of native Christians, and
through the training of orphan children from tender years.  The priest
dresses and fares little better than the poorest of his flock, and is
never absent from his charge, fulfilling with absolute literalness the
Divine command.

One day a Korean youth in training for the priesthood came in with a
message from the Sister in charge of the orphanage at Almazovsk.  He
remained for several days in the house.  Observing his manly open
countenance and his air of energy and enthusiasm, so much in contrast to
the average Korean’s flabby effeminacy, Jack understood what an
influence for good the Christian missionary can wield.

The talk in the little mission-house turned again and again upon the
mystery of Mr. Brown’s fate.

Father Mayenobe confessed that he was unable to make a likely guess as
to the merchant’s whereabouts.

"There are so many places in Siberia to which he may have been sent.
Sakhalin, you suggest?  Sakhalin is little used now for political
prisoners, although, as in Count Walewski’s case, some few are still
sent there."

"How am I to find out?  It is the uncertainty that is so terrible."

"I can think of no safe means.  If the Russians are determined to keep
his whereabouts secret——"

"That is itself an admission that they are in the wrong," interrupted
Gabriele.

"It may be.  I was going to say that if that is their determination it
will be very difficult to trace him, and the only likely course would be
to follow up enquiries along the railway."

"That is almost hopeless in present circumstances.  The war has
disorganized everything.  Besides, how am I to get into Moukden again?"

"Why attempt it?  Why not try to gain the coast and make for home, and
trust to diplomatic representations at St. Petersburg?"

"No, no, father, I certainly disagree with you," cried Gabriele.  "You
know how slowly diplomacy works. Think of it; Monsieur Brown may pass
months, perhaps years, in the most terrible uncertainty and suspense.
No; if I were in his place I would do as he means to do.  Oh, I wish I
were a man!"

"But think of the danger!  If he were to go as a European, he would be
set upon by Chinese in the out-of-the-way parts through which he must
pass.  In the towns the English and the French are respected when other
Europeans are not, but in the country parts all alike are foreign
devils, of less account than pigs.  If he got safely within the Russian
lines he would probably be arrested as a spy and shot.  His only chance
is to go as a Chinaman."

"As a Chinaman?"

"Yes, disguised to the best of our ability."

Gabriele looked dubiously at Jack, as though questioning whether any
disguise would serve.

"What do you say yourself, Monsieur Brown?" asked the missionary.

"I must risk it, father.  I have been long enough in China to know the
difficulties and dangers in my way; I don’t underrate them, I assure
you.  But anything is better than this harrowing uncertainty.  I could
not remain idle; I feel I must do something to clear up the mystery,
even though I should be venturing on a forlorn hope."

"Well, my son, I will not dissuade you.  Fortune favours the brave, they
say.  You are determined to go; God go with you!  But we must think of
how it is to be done."

"I must go as a Chinaman, that is certain.  It had better be as a
southern Chinaman.  Mademoiselle perhaps does not know that the spoken
language of the north and south are so unlike that natives of the one
can only communicate with the other by written characters or by pidgin
English.  I can’t write Chinese, and if I pretend to be quite illiterate
(as indeed I am from the Chinese point of view) I may hope to pass
muster.  I can speak pidgin English.  We had a Canton servant in
Shanghai with whom I spoke nothing else, and we use it still with the
servants in Moukden."

"But there is a greater difficulty—the difficulty of feature. You would
pass better in Canton as a Manchu, than as a Cantonese in Manchuria."

"I can only risk it.  A little saffron and henna——"

"And a pigtail, Monsieur Brown?—will you have to wear a pigtail?" said
Gabriele.

"Yes, unluckily," said Jack with a rueful smile.  "My own hair won’t
suffice.  But false pigtails are common enough in China.  I shall ask
your help with that, Mademoiselle."

"It would amuse me—if it were not so terribly serious."

"You will go as a Chinaman, then," said the priest. "But you must have a
story to tell on the way if you are questioned: have you thought of
that?"

"Yes.  Suppose I give out that I am the servant of a Moukden mandarin,
returning from a special mission to Hun-chun, hinting perhaps at
anti-Russian intrigue?"

Father Mayenobe stroked his beard.

"It is inevitable," he said.  "For you this is a state of war, and in
war the first principle is to deceive the enemy. Still, I do not like
your venture.  The more I think of it, the more heavy do the odds appear
against success."

"Father, do not let us go into that again," pleaded Gabriele.  "Can you
suggest any better plan for Monsieur Brown?"

"I confess I cannot.  Well, let it be so, then.  I will do all in my
power to help you, my son."

A fortnight passed away.  The wet season had begun, and though the
rainfall was not so continuous as is commonly the case, the streams were
swelled to overflowing and the rough tracks rendered impassable.  The
mission station, being on a hillside, suffered less than huts on the
lower ground.  During the unfavourable weather much anxious care was
given to Jack’s preparations.  The costume was got ready in every
detail; Gabriele with her own hands plaited the pigtail and wadded the
loose tunic and pantaloons.  At last all was in readiness, and Jack only
awaited a fine day to set off.

One afternoon, when the sun was hot, raising a thick vapour from the
sodden fields, Min-chin came running into the house with the news that a
party of Buriats were riding up the hill.  It happened that Father
Mayenobe had taken advantage of the change of weather to visit some of
his little flock a few miles off.  Without a moment’s delay Jack
hastened to the hollow tree, and was safe inside by the time the
horsemen rode up.  They surrounded the house, and the officer, an older
man than the lieutenant whom Gabriele had discomfited, alighted at the
door and called for the priest.  Gabriele appeared. It was evident from
the officer’s manner that he had heard of her.

"Mademoiselle," he said in French, "you will please give me a plain
answer.  A stranger has been seen in and about this house.  Who is he?"

"Oh! you mean the catechumen from Almazovsk?"

The captain looked hard at her.

"Come, Mademoiselle, where is the man?"

"The catechumen?  He is gone.  He went three days ago, all through the
rain.  He would not remain, though Father Mayenobe pressed him to wait
in hope of finer weather.  You seem to doubt me," added the girl.  "The
house has been already searched once, in Father Mayenobe’s absence; I
assure you there is nobody in it but our servants; if you will not
accept my assurance you had better search again."

She moved away, and began to occupy herself with simple household
matters, completely ignoring the Russians.  The captain did not go
shamefacedly about his work as the lieutenant had done; he searched the
little house thoroughly, ransacking every hole and corner.  The task did
not take him long; he found nothing.  Coming out again, he beckoned to a
man in civilian costume whom Gabriele had not previously noticed.  As he
rode forward, she started; but in an instant recovered herself.  He
spoke a few words to the captain; then the latter, with a curt word of
farewell to the girl, gave his men the order to ride away.  Gabriele did
not like his look; he had seemed too easily satisfied, and consulted
with the civilian; and she sent two of the servants to keep watch at the
only convenient approaches to the settlement.  Her precaution was
justified.  Two or three hours later the party rode back at a gallop.
The alarm was given by one of the sentinels, and Jack had time to get
back into the serviceable beech before they arrived.  A second search
was made, this also fruitless; then the horsemen finally departed,
convinced against their will that they had come once more on a false
scent.

When Jack left his hiding-place he saw by the expression of Gabriele’s
face that she had something to tell him.  A red spot burned on each
cheek, and her eyes were blazing.

"How dare he!  How dare he!" she exclaimed.  "Oh, if I could have killed
him!  It was Ladislas Streleszki, the traitor, the villain, the man who
betrayed my father. He was our steward; we did not know for a long time
who had done that foul deed; but when my father was arrested Streleszki
disappeared, and it was many months before we understood."

"Do you mean, Mademoiselle, that he is now a Russian officer?"

"No, no; but when they came the second time he was with them."

"Did he not recognize you?"

"No; it is six years since he saw me, and I have changed very much.  I
was afraid he might; I thought perhaps a chance word from one of the
officers in Vladivostok through whom my applications have passed, had
brought him here to persecute me.  But it cannot be so; he hardly looked
at me.  I knew him at once; he has altered little; his hair is turning
grey; but I could never mistake him; one eyelid droops and——"

"Indeed!" cried Jack with a start.  "Is it his left eyelid?"

"Yes.  Oh, why do you ask?"

"Sowinski, my father’s enemy, has the same defect.  Did you hear him
speak, Mademoiselle?"

"Yes; his voice is gruff and coarse."

"Then Streleszki and Sowinski are the same man.  Good heavens, we have
indeed had a narrow escape!  It would have been all up with me if I had
been found, and I fear your fate would have been sealed too.  I am to
blame for staying here so long.  I must not bring you into danger again.
I will go to-day."



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                          *A Custom of Cathay*


The Forbidden Mountain—Two from Canton—Clutching at Straws—Ipsos
Custodes—A Question of Dollars—The Yamen—The Majesty of the Law—Judge
and Jury—The Cage—Torture—Mr. Wang—Benevolence and Aid


"Hai-yah!"

"Ph’ho!"

"Fan-yun!"

"Fan-kwei!"

"Look at his eyes!  How big!  Round as the moon. See how they goggle and
glare!"

"Yah!  Ugly beast!  His nose!  Look at it!  Like the beak of a hawk."

"And his hair!  Ch’hoy!  Like the fleece of a sheep."

"And his clothes!  Ragged as a quail’s tail."

"No doubt of it, he is a foreign devil, ugly pig."

"Why still alive?  Kill him at once, say I.  Foreign devils are
dangerous to keep.  One come, thousands follow. Kill at once; if we had
done that with the Russians, no more trouble.  He will bring ill-luck on
the village.  What luck have we had since the Russians came digging into
the Hill of a Thousand Perfumes?  Who can say how many demons they let
loose?"

"Yah!  Who has found ginseng since then, who? Nothing but ill-luck now.
An Pow dead, strong as he was; Sun Soo drowned in the river; all our
oxen carried off by Ah Lum and his Chunchuses.  Hai! hai!  And this
foreign devil will make things worse.  Why did they not chop off his
head at once?"

To this conversation, carried on within a few feet of him, Jack listened
in a somewhat apathetic spirit.  He was utterly dejected, worn out,
humiliated.  He lay in a large wooden cage near the headman’s house in
the village of Tang-ho-kou in the Long White Mountains. It was a
secluded spot, in a district supposed to be sacred to the emperor’s
ancestors, where it was sacrilege even for a Chinaman to tread.  The
inhabitants were an exclusive community, ruled by a guild, owning only
nominal allegiance to the emperor, and essentially a self-governed
republic.  They were unmolested, for government is lax in Manchuria, and
the Long White Mountains are far from the capital and difficult ground
to police; theoretically the guildsmen went in danger of their heads,
practically they were monarch of all they surveyed.

A group of the villagers was collected on this July evening about the
cage, discussing the foreign prisoner, interrupting their conversation
to snarl at him.

"It is true; his head ought to be chopped off, but they were afraid."

"Afraid of what?"

"Of what might be done to them.  The illustrious viceroy at Moukden is
very strict.  Even a foreign devil may not be killed without leave.
Why?  Because if one is killed, there is trouble.  The kings of the
foreign devils are angry, and many good Chinese heads have to fall. They
have sent to ask leave to behead the barbarian: better still, to slice
him.  He fought like a hill tiger when they caught him, and two men even
now lie wounded."

"How did they catch him?"

"A Canton man, mafoo to his excellency General Ping at Moukden, overtook
him riding in the hills.  He was making a bird’s noise with his lips;
that was suspicious. But the Canton man was wary.  He spoke to him as a
friend, and rode alongside.  Where did he come from? Thus asked the
Canton man.  The barbarian shook his head and answered in pidgin, the
tongue of the foreign devil in the south.  Yah!  That was his ruin.  Our
Canton friend also speaks pidgin.  ’You come from Canton?’ says he.
’Yes.’  ’What part?  Where did you live?  Do you know this place or
that?  What is your business?’  Those were his questions; a shrewd
fellow, the Canton man.  He left him at the next village; then followed
with six strong men.  They got ahead of him, hid in a copse by the
roadside, and when the foreign devil came up, rushed out upon him.  They
were seven; but it was a hard fight.  Ch’hoy! These barbarians are in
league with a thousand demons; that is why they are so fierce and
strong.  But they got him at last, and brought him here; worse luck! he
shall suffer for it yet."

The crowd drew nearer to their helpless prisoner, stared at him, jeered,
cast stones and offal, and, worked up by the teller of the story, were
only kept from tearing him to pieces by the guard and the bars of the
cage.  Exposed without shelter to the broiling sun, Jack was dizzy and
faint.  His clothes had been torn to tatters in the struggle, his
pigtail wrenched from his head.  He had had no food for many hours, and,
what was worse, no water.

He had been able to catch the gist of what the chief speaker in the
crowd had said.  How stupid of him to whistle—a thing a Chinaman never
does!  How unlucky that he had met a man from Canton!  The dialects of
the north and south differ so much that by professing to be a Southerner
he had come so far on his journey undetected; but in conversation with a
Cantonese his accent had inevitably betrayed him.  And now he knew that
he could expect no mercy.  A European carries his life in his hands in
China whenever he ventures alone out of the beaten track.  In Manchuria
just then, with the natives embittered by the wanton destruction of
their towns and villages, the chances of a captive being spared were
infinitesimal.  Only fear of the mandarins had apparently caused them to
hold their hands in his case; but Jack had little reason to suppose that
the mandarins would interfere to protect him.  No order would be issued;
but the villagers would receive a hint to do as they pleased; and Jack
well knew what their pleasure would be.  In the unlikely event of
diplomatic pressure being afterwards brought to bear, the mandarins
could still repudiate responsibility, and the villagers would suffer;
several, probably the most innocent, would lose their heads.  But Jack
knew that he had placed himself outside the protection of the British
flag.  Neither the mandarins nor the villagers had anything to fear.

The sun went down; the village watchman beat his wooden gong; and the
group gradually dispersed.  Only the guard was left.  Parched with
thirst, Jack ventured to address him, asking for a cup of water.  The
man, with more humanity than the most, after some hesitation acceded.
He was generous, and brought also a mess of rice.  Greatly refreshed by
the meal, scanty though it was, Jack felt his spirits rising; with more
of hope he began to canvass the possibilities in his favour.  But he had
to admit that they were slight.  There was just one ray of light, dim
indeed; but a pin-point glimmer is precious in the dark.  He had heard
the villagers mention the brigand Ah Lum, the chief of the Chunchuses,
who had levied upon their oxen.  This was the chief whom Wang Shih had
left Moukden to join.  If Jack could only communicate with Wang Shih
there might still be a chance for him.

He began a whispered conversation with his guard, and learnt that, a few
days before, Ah Lum’s band was known to be encamped in the hills some
twenty miles to the south-west.  It was resting and recruiting its
strength after a severe brush with a force of Cossacks, who had almost
succeeded in cutting it to pieces during a raid on the railway.

"Do you know Wang Shih?"

"No; Ah Lum has several lieutenants.  His band numbers nearly eight
hundred; there were more than a thousand before the fight with the
Russians."

"You know what a dollar is?"

"It is worth many strings of cash."

"Well, if you will take word to Mr. Wang about me, I will give you fifty
dollars."

"Where will you get them from?" asked the man suspiciously.  "Were you
not searched, and everything taken from you?"

"True, I was searched; but the foreign devil has ways of getting money
that the Chinaman does not understand. It is a small thing I ask you to
do.  The reward is great; fifty dollars, hundreds of strings of cash.
You will never get such a chance again."

True to the oriental instinct for haggling, the man argued and discussed
for some time before he at last agreed to Jack’s proposition.

"You must make haste," said Jack.  "If the messenger to the mandarin
returns before you, I shall be killed and you will get no money."

The man at once explained that it was impossible for him to leave the
village; he must find a messenger.

"Very well.  He is to find Wang Shih and say that Jack Brown from
Moukden is in peril of death.  You can say the name?"

"Chack Blown," said the man.

"That will do.  Now, when can you send your man?"

The guard said that he would be shortly relieved; then he would lose no
time.  In a few minutes a man came to take his place, and Jack, with
mingled hopes and fears, settled himself in a corner of the cage, to
sleep if possible. Half an hour later the guard returned with the
welcome news that a messenger had started, after bargaining for twenty
of the fifty dollars, and would travel all night on foot, for he had no
horse, and to hire one would awaken suspicion.

"But," added the guard, "he is a trusty man, much respected, and a great
hater of foreign devils, like all good Chinamen.  If he had had his way
the honourable foreign devil would have been executed this afternoon."

"Then how comes it," asked Jack, "that he is willing to go as
messenger?"

The guide looked puzzled.

"Surely the honourable barbarian understands?  Did I not explain that I
promised Mr. Fu twenty dollars?"

Even in his misery Jack could not forbear a smile.  His messenger was
doubtless the man who had led the chorus of threats and insults a few
hours before.  The man’s convictions were no doubt still the same; but
the prospect of a few dollars had completely divorced precept from
practice.

Then Jack reflected that the enterprise was a poor chance at the best.
There was little likelihood of the man finding Wang Shih in time, and if
he found him, it was uncertain whether his sense of gratitude was
sufficiently keen to bring him to the rescue.  Yet, in spite of all,
Jack’s impatient eager thought followed the messenger, as though hope
could give him winged feet.

He spent a miserable night.  In that hill country even the summer nights
are cold; and his clothes having been well-nigh torn from his back, he
had scant protection. He slept but little, lying awake for hours
listening to the mice and rats scampering around the cage, and to the
long-drawn melancholy howls of the village dogs.

Soon after dawn he heard a great commotion in the village.  His pulse
beat high; he hoped that Wang Shih had arrived.  But when his friendly
guardian came to resume duty, his heart sank, for he learnt that the
headman’s messenger to the local mandarin had returned, bringing word
that the barbarian should be suitably dealt with by the guild.  The
mandarin had evidently washed his hands of the matter; the guard had no
doubt that when the headman was ready Jack would be taken before him,
and he must expect no mercy.  The people had never ceased to grumble at
the delay in executing him; and nothing could be hoped of the headman,
for he was a native of Harbin, and bore a bitter grudge against the
Russians, who in constructing their railway had cut through his family
graveyard, and in defiling the bones of his ancestors had done him the
worst injury a Chinaman can suffer.  Jack was to have no breakfast; his
captors were so sure of his fate that they thought it would be a mere
waste to feed him.

An hour passed—a terrible hour of suspense.  The villagers began to
gather round the cage, and their looks of gleeful and malicious
satisfaction struck Jack cold. All at once they broke into loud shouting
as a posse of armed yamen-runners forced their way through.  Jack was
taken out of the cage, and, surrounded by the runners and followed by
the jabbering crowd, was marched to the headman’s house.  He there found
himself in the presence of a dignified Chinaman, a glossy black
moustache encircling his mouth and chin, his long finger-nails denoting
that he did not condescend to menial work. He was in fact a prosperous
farmer, who, besides possessing large estates (to which he had no title)
in the Forbidden Country, carried on an extensive trade in ginseng, a
plant to which extraordinary medicinal virtues are attributed by the
Chinese, and so valuable that a single root will sometimes fetch as much
as £15 in the Peking market.  The headman, feeling the importance of the
occasion, had got himself up in imitation of a magistrate, wearing a
round silk buttoned cap and a blue tunic.

He had evidently made a study of the procedure in a mandarin’s yamen.
He was the only man seated at a long table; at each end stood a scribe
with a dirty book, which might or might not have been a book of law,
outspread before him; at his right hand stood a man with a lighted pipe,
from which during the proceedings the headman took occasional whiffs; in
front stood a group of runners in weird costumes, wearing black cloth
caps with red tassels.  From the sour expression on the Chinaman’s face
Jack knew that he was already judged and condemned; but he held his head
high, and gazed unflinchingly on the stern-visaged Chinaman.

It is proper for a prisoner to take his trial on his knees, and one of
the runners approached Jack and sharply bade him kneel.  He refused.
Two other men came up with threatening gestures, and laid hands on him
to force him down.  He resisted; he had the rooted European objection to
kowtow to an Asiatic.  With too much good sense to indulge himself in
heroics, he yet recalled at this moment by a freak of memory the lines
written on the heroic Private Moyse of the Buffs.  His back stiffened;
there was the making of a pretty wrestling match; but the headman,
mindful of the stout fight when the prisoner was arrested, and desiring
that the proceedings should be conducted with decorum, ordered his men
to desist.  Then he began his interrogatory.

"You are an Russian?"

"No, an Englishman."

"Where have you been living?"

"In Moukden."

"What have you been doing there?"

"I lived with my father."

"Who is he?"

"He is a merchant."

"What is his name?"

"He is known as Mr. Brown of Moukden."

"What did he trade in?"

"In many things.  He supplied stores of all kinds."

"To the Russians?"

"Yes."

"Assisting them to build the iron road that is the ruin of Manchuria?"

"I believe your august emperor gave the Russians permission."

"Do not dare to mention the Son of Heaven.  Do not dare, I say, you
foreign devil!  Where is your father now?"

"I do not know.  He was arrested by the Russians."

"Why?"

"They accused him of giving information to the Japanese."

"Did he give information?"

"No."

"Ch’hoy!  Then clearly he was in league with the Russians.  He, too, is
worthy of death.  What brought you into the Shan-yan-alin mountains?"

"I am trying to find my father.  I was on my way to Moukden."

"Do you know that the Ch’ang-pai-shan is sacred to the emperor?  Nobody
is allowed to tread these hills, on pain of death."

"I am in your honour’s august company."

The headman winced and blinked.  That was a home-thrust. He grew angry.

"Enough!  You are a foreign devil.  By your own confession you have been
in league with the Russians, assisting them in their impious work,
disturbing the feng-shui in the most sacred city of the virtuous Son of
Heaven.  You are found in insolent disguise within the limits of the
Forbidden Mountains; you resisted lawful arrest, to the severe injury of
two of my officers.  It is clear that you are a vile example of the
outer barbarians who are scheming to drive the Manchu from his
immemorial lands, defiling the graves of our fathers, and bringing our
sons to shame.  You are not fit to live; every one of your offences is
punishable with death; in their sum you are lightly touched by my
sentence upon you, that you suffer the ling-ch’ih, and then be beheaded.
Confess your crimes."

Jack had answered the man’s questions briefly and calmly, and listened
with unmoved countenance to his speech.  The decision was only what he
had expected. The worst was to come.  He knew that by the laws and
customs of China he could not be executed until he had acknowledged the
justice of the sentence and made open confession of his crime; he knew
also that, failing to confess voluntarily, he would be tortured by all
the most fiendish methods devised by Chinese ingenuity until confession
was extorted from his lacerated, half-inanimate frame.  The end would be
the same; for a moment, in his helplessness and despair, he thought it
would perhaps be better to acquiesce at once and get it over.  But then
pride of race stepped in.  Could he, innocent as he felt himself to be,
act a lie by even formally acquiescing in the sentence?  He did not know
how far his fortitude would enable him to bear the tortures in store;
but he would not allow the mere prospect to cow him.  He had paused but
a moment.

"I have nothing to confess," he said.

The headman gave a grunt of satisfaction.

"Put him in the cage," he said.

Jack’s blood ran cold in spite of himself.  The word used by his judge
was not the name of the cage in which he had already been confined, but
meant an instrument of torture.  Amid the exultant hoots of the crowd of
natives, who spat on the ground as he passed, he was hauled from the
presence and taken to a yard near by.  In the centre of it stood a
bamboo cage somewhat more than five feet high.  Its top consisted of two
movable slabs of wood which, when brought together, left a hole large
enough to encircle a man’s neck, but too small for his head to pass
through.  The height of the cage was so adjusted, that when the prisoner
was inside with his head protruding from the top he could only avoid
being hung by the neck so long as his feet rested on a brick.  By and by
that would be removed; he might defer strangulation for a short time by
standing on tiptoe, but that would soon become too painful.  Jack had
never seen the instrument in use, but he had heard of it, and he quailed
at the imagination of the torture he was to endure.

His arms were bound together; he was locked into the cage; his head was
enclosed; and the mob jeered and yelled as, the brick being knocked away
after a few minutes, he instinctively raised himself on his toes to ease
the pressure on his neck.  How long could he endure it? he wondered.
Had the messenger failed to find Wang Shih?  Had some perverse fate
removed the Chunchuse band at this moment of dire peril?  Humanly
speaking, his salvation depended on Wang Shih, and on him alone: was his
last hope to prove vain?  Should he now yield, confess, and spare
himself further torture?  Already he was suffering intense pain; he
gained momentary relief for his feet by drawing up his legs, a movement
which brought his whole weight upon his neck; but that was endurable
only for a few seconds.  He closed his eyes to shut out the sight of the
yelling mob; pressed his lips together lest a moan should escape him: "I
will never give in, never give in."  he said to himself; "pray God it
may not be long."

The pain became excruciating; he no longer saw or heard the yelling
fiends gloating over every spasm of his tortured body; he was fast
sinking into unconsciousness, and the headman, fearful of losing his
victim, was about to give the order for his temporary release, when
suddenly his ears caught the sound of galloping horses.  The noise
around him lulled; he heard loud shouts in the distance, and drawing
ever nearer.  Then the crowd scattered like chaff, and through their
midst rode a brawny figure brandishing a riding-whip of bamboo.  Dashing
through the amazed throng at the head of thirty shouting bandits he
leapt from his horse, sprang to the cage, tore away the catch holding
the two panels together, and Jack fell, an unconscious heap, to the
bottom of the cage.

The first alarm being now passed, the villagers raised a hubbub.  They
clustered about the new-comers, protesting with all their might that the
prisoner was merely a foreign devil, an impious pig.  But Wang Shih
cleared a space with his whip; then, springing to the saddle again, he
raised his voice in a shout that dominated and silenced the clamour of
the mob.

"Hai-yah!  What are you doing, men of Tang-ho-kou? Is this foreigner a
Russian that you treat him thus?  A fine thing truly!  You skulk in your
fangtzes, afraid to come out with the honourable Ah Lum and me and fight
the Russians, and yet you are bold enough to catch a solitary man, a
friend of the Chinaman, and to misuse him thus because he is alone!
Know you not that he is an enemy of the Russians?  They have imprisoned
his father; it is reverence for his father that brings him here.  Is
filial piety so little esteemed in Tang-ho-kou to-day?  Ch’hoy! I see
your headman aping a lordly mandarin; let him listen.  I say you are
lucky I do not burn your village and execute a dozen of you as you were
about to execute the stranger.  But I will be merciful.  I will take
from you a contribution of five thousand taels for my chief; and your
headman—ch’hoy! he shall stand for half an hour in the cage.  That shall
suffice.  But beware how you offend again.  Learn to distinguish your
friends from your enemies—an Englishman from the Russians whom the
dwarfs of Japan are helping us to drive back to the frozen north. Take
heed of what I say—I, Wang Shih, the worthless servant of his excellency
Ah Lum, the virtuous commander of many honourable brigands."

This speech made an impression upon the crowd.  The headman was
beginning to slink away, but Wang Shih noticed the movement and sent one
of his men after him. In spite of his protests he was dragged to the
cage, from which Jack, now fully conscious, had been removed; he was
fastened in it, and compelled to tiptoe as his erstwhile prisoner had
done.  But after some minutes Jack, with a vivid remembrance of his own
sufferings, interceded for the wretched man, and Wang Shih released him,
bidding him collect from the villagers the tribute he had demanded.  The
presence of the thirty well-armed Chunchuses was a powerful spur to
haste, and within half an hour the amount was raised.  Meanwhile Jack’s
neck had been bathed, and his muscles were beginning to recover from the
strain to which they had been put.  He declared that he was well enough
to ride away with his deliverers.  He had first to pay the guard the
fifty dollars agreed upon.  Not wishing to disclose the hiding-place in
the soles of his boots where he kept his notes, he borrowed from Wang
Shih the necessary sum in bar silver.  Then, mounted upon a horse
borrowed from the headman’s own stables, he rode with the brigands from
the village.



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                                *Ah Lum*


Ishmaels—The Chief—Fair Words—Wise Saws—Ah Fu’s Tutors—An Honorary
Appointment—Chopping Maxims—A Deputation—Hunting the Boar—A Forest
Monarch—Charging Home—The Knife—A Close Call


The Chunchuse camp, Jack learnt as he rode, was some thirty miles
distant in the hills.  It had been shifted; it was always shifting; that
was why the intervention of Wang Shih had been so nearly too late.

Jack was somewhat amused when he reflected on the strange company in
which he found himself.  He had heard a good deal about these
redoubtable bandits, but never till this day had he seen any of them.
Their bands were, he knew, very miscellaneous in their composition.
Escaped prisoners, whether guilty, or innocent like Wang Shih,
frequently sought refuge with one or other of the brigand chiefs.  Men
who had been ruined in business, or were too indolent for regular work;
men possessed of grievances against the mandarins, or by a sheer lust of
adventure and lawlessness; helped to swell their numbers; and Mr. Brown
had once remarked that they reminded him of the motley band that
gathered about David in the cave Adullam: "Every one that was in
distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was
discontented".

The name Chunchuse means "red beard", and was originally applied by the
natives to any foreigner.  Since the bandits were almost all
clean-shaven, like the majority of Chinamen, Jack could only conjecture
that they were styled "red beards" from some fancied resemblance of
their predatory ways to the methods of the hated foreigners. They were
held in terror by all the law-abiding inhabitants, and the machinery of
the Chinese government was totally unable to keep them down.  Since the
coming of the Russians they had grown in numbers and in power. Knowing
every inch of the country they were able to wage an effective guerrilla
warfare against the invaders, often surprising scouting parties of
Siberian riflemen or Cossacks, raiding isolated camps, damaging the
railways, and capturing convoys.

Jack was interested in taking stock of his strange companions.  They
were tall strapping fellows, powerfully built, with muscular and
athletic frames, and they included men of every race known in Manchuria.
Their costumes differed as greatly as the men themselves.  Some were
clad in the usual garb of Chinamen; others had black cloth jackets with
brass buttons, tight-fitting trousers, and long riding-boots reaching to
the knees.  Their heads were covered with knotted handkerchiefs of red,
black, or yellow cotton, beneath which their pigtails were coiled up out
of sight.  Each carried a rifle and a revolver stuck in his leather
belt.

On the way to the camp Wang Shih gave Jack a few particulars about the
band, in which he had already risen to a high position.  Ah Lum, the
chief, had been for many years notorious for the daring with which he
would swoop with a few men on rich merchants travelling through the
country, even though they might be escorted by Chinese soldiers.  But
since the outbreak of the war such sources of gain had ceased, and he
had gradually collected a very large following for the purpose of
conducting irregular operations against his country’s despoilers.  All
were magnificent horsemen; the Russians had in vain endeavoured to hunt
them down; and the very rifles they carried were the spoil of successful
raids.

After a ride of about five hours through the hills, Wang Shih’s party
reached the Chunchuse camp.  It was a strange mixture of shelters, many
of them huts built of the stalks of kowliang, yet arranged, as Jack
noticed, in a certain order.  Conspicuous in the middle of the camp was
a large tent, in which, as they approached, Jack recognized the Russian
service pattern.  This too was evidently part of the spoil of a raid.

At the outskirts of the camp Wang Shih dismissed his men, proceeding
alone with Jack to the tent.  It was the head-quarters of the chief.
There was no sign of state, no sentinel at the entrance; Wang Shih rode
up unquestioned, and unceremoniously shouted into the tent for Mr. Ah.
If Jack had expected to see the typical brigand of romance he must have
been disappointed. Ah Lum was the shortest member of the band, a wiry
figure with a slight stoop.  His appearance was that of a university
professor rather than a warrior.  He was apparently between forty and
fifty years of age, with an intelligent and thoughtful cast of
countenance, enhanced by a pair of horn spectacles over which he looked
searchingly when Jack was introduced to him.  Ah Lum was, in fact, a man
of considerable education and even learning.  He had taken the highest
honours in the examinations for the successive degrees of Cultivated
Talent, Uplifted Literary Man, and Exalted Bookworm; and the poems he
composed when competing for a place in the Board of Civil Office were
acknowledged as superior to anything recently written in the Mandarin
language.  But his success on this occasion awoke a bitter jealousy in
the breast of a "same-year-man" who had kept pace with him throughout
his career until this last promotion.  The disappointed candidate
adopted a characteristically Chinese mode of wreaking vengeance.  He
committed suicide on Ah Lum’s door-step.  According to Chinese belief Ah
Lum would not only be haunted ever after by his rival’s spirit, but
would also have to clear himself before the mandarin’s court of a charge
of murder.  Unluckily the mandarin was an enemy of Ah Lum; his price for
a favourable judgment was more than the Exalted Bookworm could offer;
and the latter, seeing that his condemnation was certain, discreetly
vacated his desk at the Board of Civil Office and betook himself to the
mountains.

Jack only learnt all this gradually.  His first impression of Ah Lum as
a spectacled, courteous, polished savant left him wondering how such a
man had succeeded in imposing his authority on the hard-living,
hard-faring, reckless set of outlaws who composed his band.  That he had
some personal force of character was a foregone conclusion, for his
position could depend on nothing else. He received Jack very kindly,
and, having Heard his story from Wang Shih, promised to do all he could
to help him.

"Mr. Wang," he said, bowing to his lieutenant, "does me the honour to be
my friend.  Has he not rendered me great services?  Surely it becomes me
to serve his friends when my insignificant capabilities permit.
Meanwhile deign, sir, to regard all our contemptible possessions as your
own, and excuse our numberless shortcomings. Where good-will is the
cook, the dish is already seasoned."

He paused, as though expecting a comment on the proverb.

"Quite so," said Jack, feeling that he ought to say something.

The chief proceeded at once to warn him of the danger of pursuing
further his attempt to enter Moukden in disguise.  If he tried to pass
as a Canton man he might at any moment meet a real Cantonese, as had
already happened to his cost; and, besides, the Cantonese were not loved
in Manchuria.  As a Manchu, on the other hand, he would be apt to betray
himself in endless little ways. However, if he were bent on it, Ah Lum
would do what he could to secure him good treatment.  Meanwhile, after
what he had gone through, a few days’ rest in camp would do him no harm.

"Haste is the parent of delay," he said; "whereas if one has a mind to
beat a stone, the stone will in due time have a hole in it."

Again he paused, like an actor waiting for the gallery’s applause to his
tag.

"A very sound maxim," said Jack, thinking it well to humour this
singular moralist.

The chief concluded with an offer of hospitality so cordial, that Jack,
anxious as he was to pursue his mission, could not well decline it.

Wang Shih, Jack found, was third in command.  His enormous strength,
allied to a bull-dog courage, had enabled him to force his way to the
front in a community where those qualities were esteemed above all
others. That they were not the only titles to respect was proved by the
position of the chief; and the longer Jack stayed in the camp the more
he was impressed by the ease and firmness with which Ah Lum swayed his
band.

The chief had a son, a boy of twelve, who from the first took a great
liking to Jack.  Ah Fu was a bright boy, vivacious for a Chinese; and Ah
Lum loved him with even more than the usual Chinaman’s devotion.  He
doted on the child.  He never tired of talking about him to Jack.

"If," he said, "a man has much money, but no child, he cannot be
reckoned rich: if he has children, but no money, he cannot be reckoned
poor.  And I am blessed in my son: he is dutiful, respectful, voracious
of knowledge. ’A bad son’, says the Sage, ’is as a dunning creditor; but
a good son as the repayment of a long-standing debt’."

At great pains he had kidnapped two graduates for the express purpose of
having Ah Fu carefully trained in the elements of Chinese culture.
Himself a man of education, he set the highest value on learning.
"Weeds are the only harvest of an untilled field," he would say.
"Though your sons be well disposed, yet if they be not duly instructed,
what can you expect of them but ignorance?"  In addition to his daily
instruction in the philosophers and poets, the boy went through all
kinds of physical exercises—practising with the bow and the rifle,
riding a spirited little pony, learning fearless horsemanship from the
best rider in the band; and the Chunchuses rival the Cossacks in the
superb management of their steeds. Before Jack had been a day in the
camp he was requested by the chief to teach his son English.  He agreed,
though he thought that in the short time he was to spend with them not
much could be done.  Ah Lum was very pressing in the matter.  Jack, he
was sure, had all the learning of the west (this tickled Jack; how the
fourth-form master at Sherborne would have roared!).  The learning of
the east Ah Lum himself could get for the boy.  In addition to the
kidnapped graduates he had his eye on an astronomer of distinction at
Kirin, and at Tieling there lived a very learned man, skilled in the
casting of horoscopes. But he had naturally few opportunities of
providing European instruction.  "True doctrine cannot injure the true
scholar," he said.  "An ounce of wisdom is worth a world of gold."  He
was particularly anxious that Ah Fu should lack nothing in education
through his father’s outlawed condition.  Himself a poet, he set much
store by poetry; and having learnt from Jack that the most popular
English poet was Tennyson, he made it a special point that the boy
should from the first learn some of his poems. Jack was amused; he did
not tell the chief that poetry was not so highly esteemed in England as
in China; but happening to know a few odds and ends of Tennyson’s verse,
he got Ah Fu to repeat them after him until the boy could recite them
faultlessly.  Jack had his doubts whether the poems thus recited would
have been recognized by an Englishman, but that was nothing to the
point.

After a week, when he felt his strength thoroughly recruited, Jack spoke
of continuing his journey.  But Ah Lum, in his politest manner, urged
excellent reasons why he should remain a little longer.  It had been
raining almost continuously since his arrival; the streams were in
flood; the rivers were not fordable.  Moreover, a large body of Russian
troops was moving between the camp and Moukden; and Chinamen were being
narrowly questioned and examined under suspicion of being Japanese spies
in disguise.  Day after day passed; every hint of Jack’s that he wished
to be off was met by some new excuse enforced by maxims, and turned by a
question as to how Ah Fu was getting on with his poetry.  At last Jack
grew uneasy and suspicious; it appeared as if Ah Lum intended to keep
him as an additional tutor, unpaid. He began to think of taking French
leave, but was restrained by several considerations: the fact that he
owed his life to the brigands; the danger lest his disappearance should
cause a quarrel between Wang Shih and the chief; the hope that he might
find the Chunchuses useful in prosecuting his search; and the risk of
recapture, for he knew that the country people would certainly give him
up to the chief if they caught him.

He abandoned therefore the idea of flight, resolving to stay on with
what patience he could muster, and hoping to obtain his end by mild
persistence.  But his courteous and repeated applications were met by
still more courteous and equally firm refusals—not direct refusals, but
regrets that on one pretext or another the "Ingoua superior man" could
not safely leave the camp.  Ah Lum’s stock of proverbs and maxims was
again drawn upon.  "Though powerful drugs be nauseous to the taste, they
are beneficial to the stomach.  So, candid advice may be unpleasant to
the ear, but it is profitable for the conduct. The carpenter makes the
cangue that he himself may be doomed to wear."

"Exactly."

There was a want of conviction in Jack’s stereotyped reply.  He was
growing tired of these eternal copy-book headings, which seemed to him
often the merest platitudes—tired of expressing the assent which his
sententious host always looked for.  He asked Wang Shih to expostulate
with the chief; but when the Chinaman ventured to suggest that the young
Englishman’s dutiful regard for his father ought to be respected and his
errand furthered, he got a good snubbing for his pains.

"It is easy to convince a wise man," said Ah Lum with a snap; "but to
reason with fools, that is a difficult undertaking.  You cannot turn a
somersault in an oyster-shell."

Greatly daring, Wang Shih cited a maxim very pertinent, he thought, to
the case.

"True, honourable sir; but is it not written: ’Of a hundred virtues,
filial piety is the best’?"

"No doubt," retorted Ah Lum, still more snappishly. "But remember that
if a man has good desires, heaven will assuredly grant them."

And Jack had to kick his heels, and drum poetry into Ah Fu, thinking
disrespectfully of proverbial philosophy.

Thus three weeks passed.  During this period the band grew steadily
stronger.  Jack reckoned that it now numbered at least eleven hundred.
The rains having ceased, the camp was moved some twenty miles to the
north-west, not in a direct line to Moukden, but nearer to that city. To
Jack this was a crumb of comfort; but there were disadvantages in the
change, for with the finer weather and the removal to somewhat lower
ground, the midges and mosquitoes became more lively and troublesome,
and he spent many a hot hour of pain and smart.

Another fortnight went by.  The Chunchuses had been inactive so far as
brigandage was concerned, and, except that they did no work, they might
have been nothing but a peaceful mountain tribe.  But one day a
deputation came to the chief from a village lying in the midst of a
woody and well-cultivated valley a few miles from the camp.  They
announced that their plantations of young bamboos were being devastated
by a herd of wild boars with which they were unable to cope, and they
had been deputed to beg the Chunchuse chief to come to their assistance.
Ah Lum was never unwilling to please the country people when he saw a
chance of gaining a substantial advantage.  "Let no man," he would say,
"despise the snake that has no horns, for who can say that it may not
become a dragon?"  Food was running short, and but for the deputation it
was probable that some fine night the village would have been raided and
plundered.  But the request for assistance opened the way for a deal; Ah
Lum consented to organize a battue in return for a large supply of food
and fodder; and after half a day had been spent in haggling, the
deputation returned, promising to send in the quantity first demanded.

The chief was exceedingly pleased.

"Do not rashly provoke quarrels, but let concord and good understanding
prevail among neighbours.  Seeing an opportunity to make a bargain, one
should think of righteousness."

Jack welcomed the impending hunt as a pleasant change, and appeared to
gratify the chief when he asked to be allowed to join in it.  As a
diversion from the sugared sweetness of Tennyson, he bethought himself
to teach Ah Fu Fielding’s fine song "A-hunting we will go"; and when the
boy learnt the meaning of the words, he was all afire to share in the
chase.  Ah Lum was pleased with his spirit; but being unwilling that his
only son should run any risk, he at first declined his request.  The boy
persisted, pointing out that he was already a good shot, and asking what
was the good of his learning poems of hunting if he was not allowed to
express in action the ardour thus fostered.  This argument appealed to
the chief’s sense of the fitness of things; he would have agreed with
Socrates that action was the end of heroic poetry; he yielded,
stipulating, however, that throughout the hunt the boy should remain at
his side.

Jack soon found that the hunt was not to be conducted on the lines of
pig-sticking in India.  He remembered the vivid account of such an
adventure given him by a Behar planter whom he had once met on board a
steamer between Shanghai and Newchang.  Nor were the animals to be
caught in artfully-contrived pits, as is the custom in Manchuria.  The
chief was ignorant of the Indian method, and was possessed of too strong
a sporting instinct to be content with the work of a trapper; it was to
be a real hunt, as he understood it.  The cover in which the boars were
known to lurk was about a square mile in extent. Ah Lum intended to take
advantage of the large force at his disposal and arrange for beaters to
drive the animals to a comparatively open space, at the end of which he
and a select few would take up their positions and shoot down the boars
as they emerged from cover.  This seemed likely to be a safe way of
effecting the desired object; and though not sport in the British sense,
it would at any rate make some demand on their nerve and their
marksmanship.

The important day came.  On a bright fresh morning, soon after the sun
had gilded the hilltops, when the air was clear and a cool breeze
tempered the summer heat, Ah Lum, accompanied by seven of his best
marksmen and by Ah Fu and Jack, rode down to skirt the base of the hill
and gain the northern side of the clearing to which the boars were to be
driven.  Jack had been provided with a rifle and a long knife; his pupil
rode at his side, armed with a carbine; and very proudly the boy bore
himself. At the foot of the hill the party were met by some of the
villagers, come to guide them to their destination.  When they reached
the spot they found that the clearing was about a furlong across, with
thin plantations behind them and on either side, and in front a mass of
dense, almost impenetrable scrub interspersed with trees.

The party of ten took up their position in line facing the scrub,
standing a few feet apart; Ah Lum was in the centre, with the boy on his
left, and Jack one place farther in the same direction.  Jack felt that
if the Manchurian boar was anything like the Indian specimen of which
his planter friend had told him, the party might have a lively time
should two or three of the beasts break cover at the same moment,
especially if they should charge down through the plantations on left
and right.  The Chunchuses, however, were evidently secure in their
numbers and the stopping power of their military rifles.

The beaters, nearly a thousand strong, had been sent to their allotted
positions earlier in the morning.  They formed a rough semicircle more
than two miles in length. When all was ready, the chief sent a horseman
to the farthest point with orders to begin the beat.  The clang of a
gong soon rang out in the still morning air; immediately the sound was
taken up all along the arc; drums, gongs, rattles, shrill yells combined
to form a pandemonium of noise.  Flocks of birds clattered out of the
tree-tops and flew in consternation over the country; hares and rabbits
darted out of the underwood as the beaters closed in; a fox or two, even
a wolf, came padding out, stopped at the edge, gave a glance at the line
of men, and disappeared on either side.  All these passed unmolested;
the ten stood in silent expectation, ready to bring their weapons to the
shoulder.

Suddenly from the centre of the scrub pounded with lowered tusks a large
boar.  He had advanced some yards into the open before he was aware of
the ten human figures ranged opposite to him.  Then, swerving heavily to
the left, he trotted towards the plantation.  At the same moment two
shots rang out as one; the chief and his son had fired together, the
others waiting in courtesy.  Ah Lum, for all his spectacles, his poetry,
and his sentences, was an excellent shot; the boar fell within a yard of
the trees; the chief’s bullet had penetrated his brain.

Hardly had the smoke cleared away when two other boars appeared at
different parts of the scrub.  Eight rifles flashed; the boar to the
right fell; but the other, unhurt, instead of making towards safety in
the plantation, dashed straight across the open.  As by a miracle it
survived a volley from the whole party of ten, and had come within
twenty yards of them before it was struck mortally and rolled over.  The
hunters, their attention fixed on the gallant beast that had just
succumbed, did not notice that he was followed at a few yards by a huge
tusker, the glare of whose red eyes sent a thrill through one at least
of the party.  Dashing at headlong speed through the plantation almost
in a line with the hunters, the boar came on unswervingly, heedless of a
scattering fire.  The hunters impeded each other; Ah Lum and the men on
his right could hardly fire as they stood without hitting their
companions.  There was a moment’s hesitation; then the chief, with a cry
to his boy to run, stepped calmly to the front, preparing to fire at a
range of only a few yards.  But one of his men on the left, in a nervous
anxiety born of the emergency, rushed forward, and, stumbling against
his leader, spoilt his aim.  The shot flew wide.  The unfortunate man
paid dearly for his clumsiness. In another moment the boar was among the
party, making frantic rushes, ripping and tearing with his formidable
tusks, his bloodshot eyes glaring with the concentrated fury which only
a wounded boar can express. Several shots were fired, but the beast’s
movements were so rapid that they either missed him, or, hitting him at
a non-fatal spot, served only still further to infuriate him. The
inexperienced hunters, indeed, were in greater danger than the boar from
each other’s firearms.  They hesitated in confusion, moving this way and
that to avoid each other; then, in a sudden panic, several of them took
to their heels and made for the shelter of the trees.

But Ah Fu stood his ground, as though fascinated.  His father and Jack
perceived at the same moment that the boar in desperate and vengeful
rage was heading straight for the boy, who held his carbine at the
slant, looking on as at some fearful thrilling spectacle.  Ah Lum and
Jack, separated from the boy in their movements for securing good aim,
sprang to his assistance.  But before they could reach his side the
beast was upon him.  Awake to his danger, the little fellow raised his
carbine to his shoulder and fired almost point-blank; but the Russian
service bullet has no stopping power to check a wild boar in full
career; the boy was toppled over, receiving a gash in the leg from the
mighty tusk.  Then the animal wheeled in his tracks to pursue his
vengeance.  Jack’s rifle was empty; even if it had been loaded he could
hardly have fired without running the risk of hitting the boy.  The
chief was still a few yards away, he, too, rendered helpless by the same
appalling danger.  Jack saw that in an instant his little pupil, now
gamely struggling to his feet, must be gored to death. Dropping his
rifle, he drew his knife, and flung himself upon the blinded, maddened
brute, driving the weapon between its shoulders.  So great was his
impetus that he stumbled full across the boar, which, intent upon its
purpose, struggled on a foot or two, staggering under the blow, but
making light of Jack’s weight.  Even as Jack was wondering whether his
stroke had failed, the beast uttered a long squealing grunt, fell on its
knees, then rolled over stone-dead within a few inches of Ah Fu.

[Illustration: Jack saves Ah Fu]

The chief caught the boy in his arms and held him in a warm embrace; the
runaway Chunchuses, no more boars being visible, came dropping back from
the plantations; and Jack, his coat covered with blood, rose panting
from the back of the victim.



                              *CHAPTER X*

                            *The Hired Man*


Gratitude—On Humanity—A Broken Thread—The Hill Country—Nearing
Moukden—The Compradore—News at Last—Sowinski’s Address—Burnt Offerings—A
Little Black Box—Toitshe!—Pidgin—Excellence—Herr
Schwab—Photographabbaratus


After the rescue of Ah Fu, Jack stood in a new relationship to Ah Lum.
The boy was the apple of the chief’s eye; nothing was too good for his
deliverer.  When the party reached camp after the memorable adventure,
Ah Lum paraded his whole band, and, his voice broken by unwonted
emotion, proclaimed the Englishman his friend. In all such moments of
ceremony the literary man, the university graduate, appeared through the
brigand chief. After reciting the heroic deed in the flowery language a
scholarly Chinaman always has at command, he continued:

"Forgetfulness of a favour received is a sure sign of a bad heart.  Let
me speak in a similitude.  A man is on a long journey; his money is all
spent; he is destitute, far from home, without friends, and perishing
from want.  To him comes a stranger whose goodness of heart leads him to
present the wanderer with a few hundred cash, thereby preserving his
life.  Should he afterwards see this man, his benefactor, ought he not
to make some expression of gratitude?  It is a common saying, if we
receive from others a favour like a drop of water, the return should be
as an overflowing fountain.  How much more when a man snatches from
death a male child!  Does not the Sage say: ’The three greatest
misfortunes in life are: in youth to bury one’s father; at the middle
age to lose one’s wife; and, being old, to have no son’?  Heaven has
already afflicted me with the first and the second of these
tribulations; the honourable foreigner by his magnanimous courage has
spared me the last.  It is a true saying, ’The brave act like tigers,
not like mice’.  Some of you, to the shame of your ancestors, acted like
mice; the Ingoua leapt forth like a tiger and saved my pearl from the
snout.  He is my friend; whosoever does him a service does a greater
service to me.  As the Poet says:

    "’The Spring that feeds the Mountain Rill
    Helps the great River to grow greater still’."


Making allowances for the chief’s surcharged emotion, Jack felt that
there could be no longer any obstacle to his departure.  Ah Lum, indeed,
was torn between two impulses.  He wished to keep by his side the youth
who had shown that he could not only teach English poetry, but display
courage and readiness in a moment of danger. He wished also to show his
gratitude practically, and knew that he could do so in no more
acceptable way than by furthering Jack’s search for his father.  After a
night of indecision his generosity prevailed; he called Jack into his
tent, and promised, if he still wished to go, to do all that he could to
help him.  But he pointed out that it would be very dangerous for him to
venture into Moukden.  There were both the Chinese and the Russians to
reckon with.  As for the former, he could furnish Jack with a pass which
would probably secure him from molestation; but if it were found upon
him by the Russians, it would in itself be sufficient to hang him.
Jack, however, felt that there was little chance of tracing his father
except by beginning at Moukden and working along the railway, and he
once more expressed his unalterable determination to face whatever risks
this course might involve.

Ah Lum then settled down to a serious discussion of ways and means.  He
agreed that Jack’s best plan would be to try his luck again as a
Chinaman; but not this time as a Cantonese; there were too many
Cantonese about.  It would be better to pass as a native of one of the
interior provinces, such as Sz-chuen.  The dialect was not likely to be
known to anyone in Moukden, so that the matter of speech would not be a
difficulty.  He might be supposed to have come down the Yang-tse-kiang
on river boats, and to have drifted to Manchuria with an Ingoua; the
Ingoua, as every Chinaman knew, were great travellers; this would
explain his knowledge of pidgin English.

The chief spoke with great simplicity and earnestness; evidently he was
sincerely anxious on Jack’s behalf.  It was only at the end of the
conversation that he reverted to his academic manner.

"Prudence," he reminded Jack, "is what is most necessary to be
cultivated by the young.  Your path will be beset with perils; a chance
word may be your undoing. When you converse in the road, remember there
are men in the grass.  For myself, I am old enough to be your father;
this and my affection must be my excuse for offering words of advice.
What says the proverb?  ’In a melon-patch, do not stoop down to arrange
your shoes; under a plum-tree, do not lift your hand to adjust your
cap.’"

Jack knew from experience that, being fairly mounted on his hobby, the
chief could not easily be stopped, and settled himself to listen in
patience.

"There are three things mainly to strive for: filial piety, that is the
most important; integrity; and humanity.  Let us take the last first.
Humanity is among the greatest of the virtues.  If a man wish to attain
the excellence of superior beings, let him cultivate the attributes of
humanity.  They include benevolence, charity, clemency——"

At this moment a voice was heard at the entrance: "The august decree is
fulfilled."

The curtain was parted, and there entered the chief’s second in command,
a big ferocious-looking fellow, holding up to Jack’s horrified gaze two
ghastly blood-stained human heads.  Ah Lum looked at the hideous objects
with unmoved countenance.

"That is well," he said.  "Affix them on poles, and set them in the
centre of the camp, with this scroll in large characters from the poet
P’an T’ang-she’n:

    "’Virtue is best; hold Knavery in dread;
    A Thief gains nothing if he lose his Head.’"


The incident interrupted the chief’s homily before his first heading was
developed.  The flow of his ideas seemed broken, for on the departure of
his lieutenant he turned the conversation into another channel.

Jack afterwards learnt that the unfortunate wretches decapitated were
two members of the band who had stolen fowls from a farmer.  Since
robbery was a principal reason of the Chunchuses’ existence, Jack was
amazed at such an offence meeting with so terrible a punishment, until
he heard that the farmer thus robbed had purchased immunity from Ah Lum
by a gift of fodder, and the chief was inexorably merciless to any who
were guilty, or who made him appear guilty, of a breach of faith.  Jack
was now convinced, if he had not been before, that Ah Lum was no mere
spectacled pedant.

One fine morning Jack set off on his long journey to Moukden.  His
appearance was indistinguishable from that of a well-to-do Manchu.
Every detail of his costume was correct, from the round black hat and
glossy pigtail to the cloth boots with white felt soles.  He was mounted
on a good pony, and accompanied by a trusty Chunchuse.  Ah Fu shed tears
at parting; Ah Lum and Wang Shih were undisguisedly sorry to lose him,
and the former indeed declared his willingness at any time to welcome
him back, and even to give him a command in his band.  Jack thanked him
warmly, pressed his closed fists to his breast in Chinese salutation,
and rode away.

It was nearly a thousand li—more than 300 miles—from the camp to
Moukden; not as the crow flies, for in that country of forest, mountain,
and river a straight course is impossible.  The traveller has to proceed
by pack roads, to ford streams deep and swift, to ascend and descend
rugged forest-clad slopes; and if his journey is timed in the rainy
season he suffers inconveniences and perils without number.  It was
fortunate for Jack that the rains were not so persistent and continuous
this year as is sometimes the case.  He was delayed at one or two stages
of his journey by thunder-storms and swollen rivers; but, thanks to his
guide, who knew the country perfectly, he was able to cover an average
of about twenty-five miles a day.  At another time nothing would have
delighted him more than to take things easily, for he passed through
some of the most magnificent scenery in the world, a country teeming
with game of all kinds, and dotted at out-of-the-way spots with
interesting monuments.  But, determined to reach Moukden as soon as
possible, he was not to be allured by the cry of pheasants or the trails
of the tiger and the deer.

Furthermore, unequipped for such travelling as attracts the
globe-trotter, he found the inevitable discomforts of the route somewhat
trying to his patience.  On fine days he was plagued for hours at a time
by myriads of midges, which swarmed about his head, biting with fiendish
ferocity.  But his own sufferings were slight in comparison with his
pony’s.  From sunrise to sunset huge gadflies infested the poor animal,
settling upon its tough hide, and piercing it till the beast was
streaming with blood.  Jack spent the greater part of the day in
smashing the terrible insects with his whip, slaying hundreds and still
leaving hundreds unslain.  The nights also were times of torment.
Putting up at some inn, he had to pass the hours in a crowded room,
sealed up to prevent the ingress of midges, filled with smoke and the
sickening odours of stewed pork and rancid vegetables.  He slept on the
k’ang, sometimes wedged in among a crowd of natives by no means too
clean, never knowing but that he might have the dangerous company of an
adder before the morning. He had to put up with such food as the inn
afforded, mostly Chinese pork and salted eggs, with an occasional bonne
bouche in the way of a trout when there happened to be Korean fishermen
in the neighbourhood.  But night by night he rejoiced in the completion
of another good stage of his journey; and, thanks to his prudence and
the clever management of his guide, he aroused no suspicions, and was
accepted as a native, morose and uncompanionable indeed, but excused as
being a wanderer from a distant province.

At length, on the fourteenth day after leaving the Chunchuse camp, the
two travellers reached a village some twelve miles from Moukden.  They
were squatting at dinner in an inn when a detachment of Cossacks rode
up, in the course of a foraging expedition.  Jack felt a little anxious
as they entered, but to them he was a mere Chinaman like the rest; he
escaped notice, yet was relieved when they rode off in the direction of
Moukden.  When they were well on their way he suggested to his guide
that it would be good policy to follow hard on their heels; entering the
city in their wake he might hope to pass without attracting special
attention.

It was late in the day, near the time for the closing of the gates, when
the Cossacks approached the city.  To Jack’s disappointment, instead of
entering they rode off to the north-west, in the direction of the
railway.  He thought it advisable to put up in a little hamlet some two
miles from the walls and wait till morning.  There was sure to be a
considerable crowd of country people awaiting the opening of the gates,
and in the crush he was likely to pass unrecognized.  Early in the
morning, therefore, he took leave of the Chunchuse and turned his pony’s
head towards Moukden.  Though outwardly calm, he had many an inward
tremor as he joined the crowd of people—labourers, farmers with carts
loaded with beans, drovers with black pigs, women with fowls and geese
slung round their necks—a miscellaneous throng, all too intent on their
business, however, to give more than a passing glance to a rider hardly
distinguishable from themselves.

The gates were thrown open, and Jack passed through with the rest,
feeling tolerably secure now that he was at last within the walls.
Turning off from the main road, he made his way by narrow and tortuous
alleys to the street where the compradore lived in his cottage at the
foot of Mr. Brown’s garden.  The man was smoking at the door, and his
son Hi Lo was playing at knuckle-stones on the ground near him.  Jack
reined up and dismounted, saying nothing at first in order to test the
efficacy of his disguise. The compradore looked up, but did not
recognize him. The boy was quicker.  At the first glance he jumped up,
ran to his father, and whispered in his ear.  The man started, kowtowed,
then, looking hurriedly and anxiously around and up and down the street,
invited Jack to enter. When the door was shut he expressed his delight
at seeing his young master once more.  He had heard from his brother at
Harbin of the successful stratagem by which Jack had managed to start
for Vladivostok, but, knowing what risks the journey involved, he had
ever since been fearful lest some harm should have befallen him.

"I have had some narrow escapes," said Jack, "but here I am, you see,
safe and sound.  I’ll tell you all about it by and by; but first tell
me, Mr. Hi, have you discovered anything about my father?"

The compradore’s face fell as he related the result of his enquiries.  A
Chinaman once in Mr. Brown’s employment had been working at the
railway-station at Shuang-miao-tzü, about half-way between Moukden and
Harbin, when, on a siding in an open truck, among a crowd of malefactors
in chains, he had been amazed to recognize his former master.  The truck
had remained there for two days; the man had tried to get speech with
Mr. Brown, but in vain. By questioning and comparing notes Jack came to
the conclusion that this was the very truck he had seen from the window
of the train on his way to Harbin.  His blood boiled at the recollection
of the miserable wretches and the thought that his father was among
them; he felt an insane desire to rush off at once and confront General
Bekovitch with the discovery; but he knew how fatal such a step would
be; and after an explosion of wrath which he could not control, and at
which Hi An looked on with every mark of sympathy, he regained his
composure, and, recognizing that there was no hope save in patience,
settled down to discuss his future course of action.  He knew full well
that an unlucky accident might at any time put an end to his quest and
perhaps his life, and resolved that so far as in him lay he would not
fail through lack of caution.

After the first moment of relief and happiness at seeing Jack again, the
compradore showed himself seriously concerned for his young master’s
safety.  If he were detected by the Russians he ran the risk of being
shot as a spy. His disguise was perfect; Moukden was probably the last
place where his enemies would expect to find him; but while the Russians
were in possession there would always be found Chinamen ready to curry
favour with them, and earn a little cash.  After some discussion it was
arranged that the compradore should give out that Jack was a distant
relative from Sz-chuen, and Hi An himself suggested that he should feign
illness for a time until his future movements could be carefully thought
out.

"I shall want a name," said Jack with a smile.  "What can you call me?"

"Sin Foo, master.  I had a nephew of that name; he is dead, poor boy; it
is a good name."

"Very well.  Now we must make further enquiries along the line to see
what has become of that truck.  I have plenty of money; the flour we
expected came safely to Vladivostok, and I sold it.  You have friends
you can employ?"

"Yes.  But it will take a long time."

"Of course.  I wish I could go up the line myself.  Is it impossible?"

"You must not think of it, master.  If it were known that questions were
being asked about an Englishman arrested by the Russians, suspicion
would be awakened, and what could you say if you were caught?  No, leave
it to my countrymen; they will know exactly how to enquire, without
seeming too curious.  As for you, it is best to remain in Moukden, and
wait until we get more news."

"I’m afraid you are right.  Well, let it be so for the present.  Tell
me, is Sowinski in the city?"

"Yes, he is living in your father’s house."

At that Jack fired up again.  Red with anger he strode up and down the
room, itching to do something, yet feeling all the time his
helplessness.  Then he checked himself with a laugh.

"I’ll never do for a Chinaman," he said, "if I show temper so easily.
You must teach me to fix my face, Mr. Hi."

"Yes, master," said the compradore seriously.  "I will buy a little
image of Buddha, and put it in a corner of the room.  If you look at it
for two hours every day your face will be as calm as a still pool."

The compradore’s house was very small, and before a week was out Jack
was terribly sick of being cooped up in it from morning till night.
Only after dark, when the quarter was quiet—and that was at a very late
hour, for when Chinamen start playing fan-tan it becomes a trial of
endurance—only then did the compradore think it safe for his guest to
issue forth for a breath of air.  The proximity of Sowinski was itself a
danger.  Moreover, his acquaintances, among them Sowinski’s Chinese
servants, were becoming curious.  It was impossible to harbour a
stranger long in secret; for a couple of days the story of a sick cousin
passed muster, but the compradore had omitted to state the nature of the
illness, and his friends began to enquire whether they might not be
allowed to see the sick man and join Hi An himself in the charms and
exorcisms proper to cure him.  Thus pushed into a corner, the worthy man
drank in their sight the ashes of burnt yellow paper, and whispered that
he feared his relative was sickening for a fever; it would not be safe
to admit visitors.  He was about to sacrifice to the divinities on the
sick man’s behalf; and, taking his courage in both hands, he invited a
number of his friends to accompany him.

Jack rolled with laughter when he afterwards learnt what had happened.
His amusement was all the greater because the compradore was so
obviously ill at ease lest he should have incurred the displeasure of
the divinities by sacrificing for a man who was not ill.  Professing to
be not quite sure of the disease, he had gone first to the roadside
shrine of his Excellency the Small-Pox and burnt incense there; then to
the Honourable Divinity the Plague; finally, to make short work of it
and cover all imaginable complaints, he had proceeded to the deity known
as Mr. Imperfect-In-Every-Part-Of-His-Body, a hideous idol with sore
eyes, hare-lip, and ulcerated legs.  Convinced now that the travelled
relative must be in a desperately bad state, the inquisitive neighbours
gave a wide berth to Hi An, and no longer desired to cross his
threshold.

But when a week had passed, Jack, finding his inactivity intolerable,
came to the conclusion that it would really be safer if he moved about a
little.  The neighbourhood would expect to be invited either to his
funeral or to a feast in celebration of his recovery, and the talk that
would ensue when neither event happened might develop danger both for
himself and for his host.  One evening the compradore, on returning
home, chanced to mention that during the day he had been asked by a
foreign war-correspondent if he could recommend a servant.  The stranger
already had a capable mafoo, or groom, but this man had absolutely
refused to carry or have anything to do with a little black box on which
his master set great store, and the foreigner had met with the same
refusal from every native to whom he applied.  Hi An himself was
somewhat amused at the situation.  Having served Mr. Brown for so many
years, and in so many different places, including the southern treaty
ports, he was well aware that the black box was a harmless photographic
camera: had not Master Jack himself possessed one in Shanghai?  But the
Moukden natives, not yet accustomed to the kodak of the globe-trotter,
were convinced that the mysterious box was choke-full of little black
devils impatiently waiting for any confiding Chinaman simple enough to
be lured within their influence.  The correspondent, being somewhat
stout and far from active, was loth to carry the camera himself, and had
almost resigned himself to the dead-lock.

"Poor fellow!" said Jack, laughing.  "How did you come across him, Mr.
Hi?"

The compradore explained that the correspondent appeared to be a
business connection of Mr. Brown’s, for he had tried to find the
merchant when he arrived in Moukden some weeks before, and was greatly
disappointed and distressed when he learnt what had happened.

"How should I suit?" said Jack, as an idea struck him.

"Ch’hoy!" exclaimed the compradore.  "Master a servant?"

"Why not?  I should be able to move about then; as the servant of a
European I should run less risk of being suspected either by Russians or
Chinese than if I were a masterless man; and I might—the chance is
small, but still it is a chance—I might come upon some trace of my
father if attached to a foreign correspondent, whose duties will surely
take him from place to place."

"But, master, a servant!  And to a foreigner; not even a Yinkelis or a
Melican man, but a Toitsche!  Ch’hoy!"

There was a world of contempt in the Chinaman’s tone. To the average
Chinaman all "foreign devils" are alike; only those whose business
brings them into relations with Europeans recognize degrees.

"I know you don’t like the Germans; but what does it matter, Mr. Hi?  A
German is less likely to see through my disguise than an Englishman.
Besides, of a hundred virtues, filial piety is the best.  You know the
maxim?"

The compradore scratched his head.  He found these ideas difficult to
reconcile.  But after some further talk he yielded, and promised to go
to the correspondent early next morning and offer the services of Sin
Foo, a young man whose honesty and industry he could guarantee.

A little before noon next day he returned.  The correspondent was
delighted with the prospect of engaging a suitable man, but must see the
candidate first.  He was living with a number of other correspondents at
the Green Dragon Hotel, and wished to see Sin Foo at once.

"Is Monsieur Brin there?" asked Jack instantly.

"No, master.  He went to Harbin a week ago.  He was very sad."

"Lucky for me!  Then we’ll go at once, Mr. Hi."

The neighbours had already been prepared to see Hi An’s relative
out-of-doors at last; the application to Mr.
Imperfect-In-Every-Part-Of-His-Body had been abundantly successful.
Most of them were engaged in their usual occupations at that time of
day, and Jack attracted little notice as he walked through the streets
at Hi An’s side. At the hotel he was presented to a short, corpulent
German, wearing gold spectacles and a battered wide-awake, and smoking a
huge pipe.

"He belongey Sin Foo," said Hi An.

Jack made the kowtow in the most approved style. The German looked him
up and down.

"So!" he said.  "You been servant before?"

"Suttingly," replied Jack, remembering his fagging days at school.

"So!  You strong?"

"My plenty stlong, masta!"

"Not afraid of little box?"

"No fea’!  My cally littee box this-side, that-side, allo-side,
all-same."

"Goot!  You are shust ze man I seek.  Now to fix ze so imbortant
business of vages.  Business are business. Vat you say to ten yen—ach!
I zink still I am in Japan: vat say you to ten dollar per mensem—ze
monce?"

"Allo-lightee—" began Jack, but the compradore interposed.

"Ch’hoy!  Ten piecee dollar!  Ph’ho!  My hab catchee Sin Foo—one piecee
first-chop man; he numpa one boy; my fetchee he this-side; no can makee
pidgin so-fashion for littee bittee cash.  Sin Foo, come wailo
chop-chop; folin genelum no savvy pidgin China-side fashion."

The compradore’s intervention showed Jack that he must needs exercise
every care if he was to play his part properly.  To have accepted the
German’s first offer without bargaining would have betrayed him to any
travelled man.  After an hour’s discussion an arrangement was concluded
between the stranger and Hi An.  Sin Foo was to have nothing else to do
but to take charge of the photographic apparatus.  The terms agreed upon
were so high that the German declared that he must dismiss his mafoo and
engage a cheaper man.  Whereupon the compradore suggested Hi Lo to fill
the place, and Jack regarded the opportunity as almost a special
providence, for he had been dreading the discomforts and dangers that
might arise from enforced companionship with a Chinese mafoo.  With Hi
Lo for a fellow-servant, however, he need fear neither danger nor
discomfort, and he was pleased when the German accepted the boy, but at
ridiculously low wages.

Jack was to enter upon his duties at once.  As soon as the compradore
had gone to fetch Hi Lo, the German took the opportunity to explain who
and what he was.

"I cannot shpeak your bidgin talk," he said.  "You understan’ blain
English, boy?"

"My savvy littee bit Yinkelis; my tly understan’ masta—he talkee
Yinkelis first-chop."

"Ver’ vell.  Now you call me Excellenz; you can say zat?"

"No, not a bit of it."

The phrase slipped out before Jack could check it.  Luckily the German
was not aware of the _lapsus linguae_.

"Zat is not bolite English; you should say, ’No, sir, I am sorry, or I
regret, zat I cannot say Excellenz.’  Vell, can you call me ’mein
Herr-r-r’?"

"He no belongey lightee China-side.  My no can talkee so-fashion.  China
boy tly; he say ’mine hell’."

"Ach!" grunted the German.  "Zat vill nefer do, not at all.  But I
cannot vaste ze time to egsblain.  You must zen call me—master.  Ver’
vell.  Now, my name is Schwab—Hildebrand Schwab."  Jack suddenly
remembered the letter his father had shown him on the day before the
arrest; this, then, was the representative of Schlagintwert & Co. and
correspondent of the _Illustrirte Vaterland und Colonien_.  "And
remember zis," continued Schwab.  "If you meet any man vat vant
Birmingham screw, Manchester soft goots, Viltshire bacon, or hair-oil,
superfine, you vill let me know at vunce—at vunce.  Ven ze var is ofer I
shall do goot business in all zose zinks—ja, and many more.  It is only
in var zat I am gorresbondent; in beace I rebresent ze solid firma
Schlagintwert Gombany of Düsseldorf.  You understan’?"

"Allo lightee, Herr."

"Ver’ goot, ver’ goot inteed.  You say it not so bad. Now I tell you
ozer zink.  I haf come at great egsbense from San Francisco to take
photographs of ze scenes of var.  I am already some veeks here, vaiting,
vaiting, for bermission to go to ze front.  You understan’?  At last it
come.  I haf it now in my pockett.  How do I get it? Ach! it vas qvite
simble.  Ven I am tired of vaiting, I go to Herr Oberst Pesteech,
bresscensor, and I say: ’Your servant, noble sir; Hildebrand Schwab.
Entweder you give me ze bermission to see zis var business, or I vire to
our Kaiser who is in Berlin.  At Berlin, and viz ze Kaiser, business are
business.’  Zat is ze vay I shpeak. So I return to my hotel: siehe da!
ze bermission is already zere.  Zat vere business.  Ver’ vell.  Now I
tell you vat ve do.  To-morrow ve go to ze front, vere ze var is.  You
vill haf ze camera; you vill assist me to make my photographs.  I vill
learn you how.  And give notice, boy, zat I am not bermitted to
photograph ze bositions of ze Russian army; nor Russian troops on ze
march; nor Russian troops in action, egzept I get anozer bermission from
ze Russian general.  Vat is zat for a kind of bermission I do not say.
Zerefore you vill take photographs ven I tell you, and no ozer time.
You understan’?"

"Savvy allo masta talkee; my tinkey velly nice."

"So; come zen viz me; I vill learn you ze—ze—ze control of ze
photographabbaratus."



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                             *War-Look-See*


Schwab is Shocked—Snapshots—The Coming Battle—To Liao-yang—Schwab’s
Opportunity—Carpe Diem—Suobensius—Shimose—Last
Wishes—Stackelberg—Something Accomplished—Rhapsody—Two-Piece Pony


That night Jack shared a tiny room with Hi Lo.  The boy had become
accustomed to see his master in Chinese dress, but the situation was
entirely changed now that he had to regard him as an equal and address
him as Sin Foo.  Jack impressed on the little fellow that everything
depended on his caution—Jack’s own safety, and the prosecution of his
quest; and Hi Lo showed a quite painful anxiety to behave with
discretion and yet with naturalness.

Next day Schwab spent several hours in explaining to Jack, not too
lucidly, the working of the camera; the development of the negatives he
reserved for himself. Then he prepared to sally forth to make a few
experiments. An American correspondent, standing with his hands in his
pockets at the door of the little Chinese hotel, observed Jack as he
passed.

"Hello, Schwab!" he shouted.  "Caught a Tartar at last, eh?"

"Yes, Mr. Vanzant—if zat is not a shoke.  Zis man is not afraid—he gif
sign of modicum of intelligence; I zink he vill do."

"I guess he will do for your camera; well, so long!"

Walking out of the city, Schwab set Jack to take photographs of a few
prominent objects—the Temple of Earth beyond the eastern gate, the Tomb
of Wen-Hsiang, the statesman who rose from being a table-boy to the
highest official appointments, Dr. Christie’s Hospital, where the little
Scots doctor had dispensed the blessings of Western surgery and medicine
to thousands of grateful patients. Schwab was delighted with Sin Foo’s
rapid progress; it amazed him.

"Truly I zink ze Manchu is not such a fool as he look," he said.

"My plenty muchee glad masta likee Sin Fool," said Jack gravely.

"Ach!  You do so vell zat to-morrow ve go to take var pictures.  Zere
vill soon be a great battle; ze Russians shall at last do goot
business."

In the afternoon they went up to the railway-station to see if seats
could be booked in next morning’s train, Jack carrying the camera in
case anything of interest should offer.  The station was crowded.  For
many days troops had been passing towards the south; the platform was
now thronged with soldiers, surgeons, nurses, camp-followers.  Schwab
was amazed, his German sense of discipline was shocked, to see colonels
walking arm in arm with lieutenants; still more when he noticed a
placard stuck up in the buffet, signed by General Sakharoff, threatening
with dire punishment any officer who should presume to criticise his
superiors or their conduct of the operations.  He was disgusted also to
observe, in a siding, a superb dining-room car in which a company of
officers and ladies were eating and drinking with a light-hearted gaiety
that ill matched the occasion, if the rumours of the stupendous battle
approaching were well founded.

"You, Sin Foo," said Schwab, "I tell you zis; zat is not var.  Zat is
not ze vay ve Gairmans shall behave ourselves ven ve go to invade
England; zen you vill see var zat _is_ var.  You understan’?"

Seeing little probability of obtaining a seat in the train, Schwab
decided to return to the hotel and journey south on ponies.

As they left the station a number of Russian soldiers who had just
marched in were lying dead-beat in a sort of trench parallel with a
siding.  A troop train was being slowly made up, doubtless to convey
these and other men southward to the front.  Schwab stood contemplating
them for a moment.  Then he turned to Jack.

"Boy, upfix ze camera; ve vill take schnapshot of zese men."

"Allo lightee, masta," replied Jack, wondering at the German’s choice of
a subject.  He was to be enlightened on that point later.

It was late in the day by the time they reached the city. Passing along
the principal street, they saw a crowd of natives hurrying down a side
alley uttering piercing shouts. Jack noticed that two or three of them
had buckets suspended from the ends of a long bamboo pole carried on the
shoulder.

"My tinkey house hab catchee fia."

"A gonflagration in Moukden!  Zat vill be ver’ interesting to ze
abonnenten of my baber.  Ve vill take it on ze hop."

Schwab led the way, his tall bulky form making a path through the crowd.
A pawn-shop was ablaze.  The roof had already fallen in.  Siberian
infantrymen were trying to keep order in the crowd—hundreds of Chinamen
yelling, jostling each other, going hither and thither with their
buckets, splashing through the mud.  Many of them were laughing
uproariously; to the Chinaman a fire is purely a spectacle, to be
enjoyed without any disturbing sympathy for the victims, whose efforts
to save themselves and their goods are greeted as the most enjoyable
farce.  Some of the crowd were waving bright-coloured flags; in the
glare from the burning house it was like a scene from a country fair.
Here and there Chinamen were squirting feeble and futile jets of water
on the house from tiny copper pumps, like the syringes used at home for
watering flowers.  An old mandarin in yellow silk forced his way through
the press, paying no heed to the fire, anxious only to get home without
soiling his white socks.  But the throng was becoming unwieldy; there
was danger of the whole quarter being set ablaze; and at last a Russian
captain came up with a squad of men at the request of the Chinese
Viceroy himself, and set about clearing the street in a business-like
way.  For a few minutes the confusion seemed redoubled; the Chinamen
scampered this way and that as the Russians came at the double along the
street.  This moment was seized by Schwab, who evidently had a keen eye
for a tableau.  At his bidding Jack took a snap-shot of the strange
scene—a scene that would have been appropriate to the stage of a comic
opera.  Then he returned with his employer to the Green Dragon.  The
correspondents there—French, Italian, English, and American—were in the
bustle of preparation for moving out next day to Liao-yang, where a big
battle was expected to take place.

Jack, it must be confessed, was considerably excited at the prospect of
seeing something at close quarters of this terrible war, which had
brought forth so many surprises for the world.  Hitherto he had seen
nothing but its fringe; and of the many contradictory rumours he had
heard he was not disposed to believe too much.  The Russian officers
with whom he had talked were divided into two classes: the partisans of
Alexeieff and those of Kuropatkin.  The majority pinned their faith to
Kuropatkin.  If he had been left alone, they said, the war would have
followed an entirely different course.  He would have waited patiently
at Harbin until his army had been raised to overwhelming strength; then
he would have taken the offensive and driven the Japanese into the sea.
But his strategy had been dictated either by Alexeieff or from St.
Petersburg. Worse than that, he had not been able to devote his whole
energies to the proper work of a commander-in-chief. That in itself was
a stupendous task for one man, afflicted with a poor staff.  But the
general had been compelled to attend to details of commissariat,
hospital arrangements, the supply of clothes, the preparation of maps.
His was a harassing struggle against corruption, incompetence, and
drunkenness.  Once, alighting at a railway-station to make an
inspection, he found the platform strewn with intoxicated officers.
With a burst of anger, unusual in a man habitually patient and calm, he
ordered the wretched men to be sent on by the first train to the front.

What had been the course of the war since that memorable May day when
the invading army crossed the Yalu? General Kuroki’s brilliant dash was
followed by several weeks of what to the outside world seemed
comparative inaction.  But during that period both sides were straining
every nerve: the Russians to hurry forward reinforcements and complete
the great fortified positions along the railway; the Japanese to perfect
the arrangements for the three great armies which were, first, to cut
off Port Arthur, and then to move northwards against the main Russian
forces concentrating in the neighbourhood of Liao-yang.  General
Stackelberg having failed at Wa-fang-ho in his forlorn hope against the
army investing Port Arthur, the northward movement of the Japanese was
slowly resumed, the Russian right being steadily driven back along the
railway with occasional half-hearted attempts to stem the Japanese
advance.  Meanwhile General Kuroki on the east had forced the mountain
passes at Motien-ling, and General Nodzu, in command of the centre, was
preparing for the attack on the Russian position at To-ma-shan that
resulted in the evacuation of Hai-cheng.  The beginning of August found
the three Japanese armies relentlessly driving the Russian forces
towards the fortified positions south of Liao-yang which General
Kuropatkin had prepared as the scene of his first serious attempt to
roll back the tide of invasion.

It was a warm, dry morning, the 29th of August, when Schwab, Jack, and
Hi Lo, mounted on hardy ponies, hit the Green Dragon for their forty
miles ride to Liao-yang.

Just before they reached the gate, Jack had an exceedingly uncomfortable
moment when he noticed his father’s enemy Sowinski hurrying in the
opposite direction in a Pekin cart.  The Pole passed without recognizing
the tall figure in Chinese dress, though he gave a nod to Schwab. Jack
knew that to the European all Chinamen look pretty much alike; but he
did not wish to come to too close quarters with the Pole, and was glad
that for a time at any rate he would run no risk of being recognized in
the streets.

The rains had ceased some days before; the wind was beginning to dry the
mud which in the wet season renders all traffic impossible.  The other
correspondents had already gone to the front, and when our riders left
the mud walls of Moukden behind them they saw nobody on the road except
a regiment of Cossacks marching off behind their band, and a number of
Greek camp-followers going south in the hope of reaping some profit from
the battle.

As they approached Liao-yang they heard the dull boom of guns in the
distance.  For several days the three Japanese armies under Generals
Kuroki, Oku, and Nodzu had been marching through mountain passes and the
valleys opening upon the Tai-tse-ho, and the Russians had been falling
back on the circular line of defences which for three months they had
been strengthening.  As he heard the thunderous reverberations, Schwab
exulted.

"So!" he exclaimed, "I haf vaited long time.  At last my obbortunity haf
come.  Zis are business.  Ze _Illustrirte Vaterland und Colonien_ shall
haf fine bictures taken egsbress by a Gairman viz native assistance on
ze sbot. Famos!"

Liao-yang is a walled city lying on the direct road from Moukden to
Newchang and Port Arthur, and even more picturesquely situated than the
capital.  Three miles north of the city flows the Tai-tse-ho, taking a
northerly course by the north-east corner of the walls.  The railway
passes at some distance to the west, making an acute angle with the
western end of the city.  Southward the ground rises gradually.  Here
the Russians had prepared their defences; the crests of the hills were
scored with several lines of trenches, the result of three months’
diligent spade-work.

Schwab and his two companions, entering the city from the north, found
themselves in the midst of great bustle and activity.  The streets were
thronged with soldiers; long lines of transport wagons were arriving;
and the merchants, native and foreign, were plying a brisk trade. Schwab
had some difficulty in finding a lodging; the hotel, kept by a Greek,
was full; but he at length secured a small cottage near the wall at an
exorbitant rental.  It was evening when they arrived; Hi Lo prepared a
supper consisting of tinned sausages and biscuit brought from Moukden,
and pears purchased from a local fruiterer. The booming of artillery had
ceased, but the city was full of noise, and Jack was amazed at the
careless light-hearted mood in which the soldiers, officers and men,
were preparing for the struggle.

Before seeking repose on his frowsy k’ang that night, Herr Schwab went
out to prospect for a spot on which to place his camera next day.  He
returned in a state of exaltation.

"Zere shall be colossal combat," he said.  "I haf shtood on ze blatform
by ze reservoir, and zere I converse viz high Russian officer, his
gloves vite as snow.  No more shall zere be evacuation, he tell me; ze
fight shall now be to ze death.  Boy, ve shall see shtubendous zinks.
You are afraid?"

[Illustration: Map of Battle of Liao-Yang, Aug-Sept. 1904. Map of Battle
of Moukden.]

"My no aflaid this-time, masta; allo-same my tinkey no hab look-see
bobbely yet; what-time guns makee big bang-lo, that-time masta talkee
’bout Sin Foo he belongey aflaid."

"Vell, you muss screw your gourage to ze shticky place, for vizout doubt
ve shall be in ze midst of schrapnells.  It insbires me: I breeze deep.
I zink of my ancestor Hildebrand Suobensius, a great fighter, a
Landsknecht, in ze Middle Age.  Vun say zat I am ver’ like."

Herr Schwab struck his chest, and continued:

"It is in ze blood.  Zerefore vake me early in ze morning; ve shall be
early out to secure a goot blace."

But there was no need for Sin Foo to wake his master. Before day had
fully broken, Herr Schwab was shocked from his sleep by the boom of
heavy guns—the opening of a cannonade that broke the paper windows and
set the crockery rattling.  Springing up, he bade Hi Lo saddle the two
ponies, and, stuffing some biscuits into his pocket, set off with Jack
and the camera, leaving Hi Lo to guard the house.

He led the way to the north-west of the town, past the reservoir and the
brick-built government offices near the railway-station, which was
already crowded with officers scanning the horizon through their
binoculars.  On the previous night he had marked a solitary hill, known
as the Shu-shan, some distance south-west of the city, as an ideal place
for a general view of the battle-field.  An old Korean signal-tower
crowned its summit; it was approached on two sides by easy slopes, but
on the north was precipitous, its rocky face cut by ravines dark with
overhanging clumps of firs.  At the western base a battery of artillery
was posted.

Arriving at the hill, Schwab saw that it was impossible to ride up its
northern face, while to ascend on either side would be to court death
from the Japanese shells.  But in his zeal on behalf of the _Illustrirte
Vaterland_ he was determined to gain the summit.  Hitching the pony’s
reins to a tree, he bade Jack follow him up the steep acclivity nearer
the road, warning him to be very careful of the camera.  After a stiff
climb they, panting, reached the top.  Just as they appeared there was a
prolonged whistle followed by a sharp crack; the new-comers were
assailed with loud shouts; several hands seized upon Schwab and forced
him into a trench cut in front of the tower, and rough Russian voices
informed the puffing German that he had narrowly escaped a shrapnel.  He
did not understand what they said; but Jack, who had slipped into the
trench behind him, whispered:

"My tinkey this plenty nasty place.  Japanese he shoot too stlaight."

Herr Schwab mopped his face with a red bandanna and glanced somewhat
nervously around.  But the shock wore off, and finding himself to all
seeming well protected, his courage soared into antiquity.

"My ancestor, Hildebrand Suobensius——" he began.

There was a shriek above him; another shell had burst but a few yards
away.  He dropped flat in the trench. Twisting his neck until one side
of its fleshiness was creased with deep furrows, he said:

"Tell me, boy, do you see any more shells goming?"

Jack peeped cautiously over.

"My no look-see no mo’e, masta.  He come long-long chop-chop all-same."

Schwab slowly rose to his knees, again mopping his brow.

"Zis is most terrible.  Never did I zink zat var vas such a business!
Gnädiger Himmel! vy haf I gome? Boy, I haf a bresentiment."  His voice
sank on a tragic note.  "I feel it here."  He laid his hand on the lower
buttons of his ample waistcoat.  "I, Hildebrand Schwab, shall vizout
doubt be killed."  He wrung the bandanna out.  "Listen, boy, gif notice:
ven I am killed you shall send all my goots to Schlagintwert Gompany in
Düsseldorf, all egzept ze letter to Schneiders Sohne, vich gontain order
for vun dozen trouser stretchers for General Belinski; zat you shall
bost.  And listen, boy:"—here his voice sank to a confidential
whisper—"in my writing-desk zere is a visp of my hair tied up viz bink
ribbon, and a boem, a boem of lov; zese you vill send to ze Frau Jane
Bottle, at ze address on ze envelope, and you vill register ze packett.
Yes—and insure it—you shall insure it for hundert dollars."

Herr Schwab sighed deeply, at the same time keeping an eye on the
direction whence the last shell had come.

Another shrapnel burst a few yards in his rear.  He groaned, lamenting
bitterly.  The men of Stackelberg’s 1st Siberian Infantry paid no
attention to him; in the trench they were secure.  General Stackelberg
himself was at the other end, grimly peering through his glasses over
the epaulement.

Suddenly the projectiles ceased to pass over them. Jack ventured to
raise his head and scan the surrounding country.  Before him stretched a
plain dotted with villages, the fields covered with the waving green
stalks of kow-liang.  On the crests beyond, some two miles away, lay the
batteries of the Japanese; their infantry was swarming in the
intervening level, but concealed by the kow-liang.  To the left,
separated from the Shu-shan hill by the An-shan-chan road, was an
irregular line of lower heights, stretching as far as the eye could
reach and out of sight.  Here were posted the main forces of the Russian
infantry, ensconced in cunningly devised trenches. In every gap between
the rocky hills batteries were placed, concealed by every possible
device.  To the west of Shu-shan the Russian cavalry, with a portion of
the 1st Siberian Army Corps, was stationed to protect the railway and
the right flank.  Behind, between the hills and the town, large forces
of infantry were held in reserve, with the hospital tents and field
ambulances.  Temporary lines of rail had been laid from the station to
the rear of the hills, and on these trolleys containing ammunition were
pushed along by men.

Jack explained as much of the position as he could see to Schwab, who,
in the security of the trench, took diligent notes, for reproduction in
the _Illustrirte Vaterland_ as first-hand evidence.

"But tell me, boy, do you see General Kuroki?  I do not lov General
Kuroki; he ill-use me, he gif me vat zey call beans, ven I vas in Korea
last year.  Is he in sight?"

"My no can look-see one piecee Japanese.  Allo hidee inside kowliang."

"So!  I make a note of zat.  All ze Japanese hide. Ver’ goot."

Jack now became aware that General Stackelberg was standing erect at the
end of the trench, fully exposed to the Japanese gunnery.  The general,
in hooded cloak, wearing white gloves, spick and span as if on parade,
was calmly sweeping the plain with his glass, issuing orders, dictating
telegrams, slowly, deliberately.  Shells again began to fly around; but
Stackelberg, summoned to the telephone installed behind the tower,
walked erect towards the spot heedless of a shrapnel that burst within a
few yards of him, bespattering his clothes with black dust.  Jack felt a
thrill of admiration; the general was giving the lie to the slanderers
who said that at Wa-fang-ho he had skulked in his carriage.

Now the sharp crackle of musketry was mingled with the shrieking of the
shells.  Long lines of Japanese were threading their way through the
fields, endeavouring to turn the Russian right.  Stackelberg marked the
movement; he gave an order; the Russians in the trenches sprang to their
feet and ran down the slope to reinforce the threatened position.  Rain
began to fall, and Schwab raised his head from the trench.

"Ach! it rains.  Vill it shtop ze battle, zink you?"

"My no tinkey so," said Jack.  "Japanese, he fetchee plenty big guns; he
come this-side chop-chop."

"Ach, ich Unglücklicher!"  Schwab hastily dropped back into safety.
"Nefer shall I leave ze Vaterland again. But I shall not return;
Düsseldorf shall zee me no more; no; I haf a bresentiment; I feel it
here."

Jack, following the movement of his employer’s hand, made a suggestion.

"P’laps masta he belongey hungly; p’laps he want-chee chow-chow."  He
offered him a biscuit.

Schwab shook his head dismally.

"No, no; I haf no abbedide."

"My eat he."

Nibbling the biscuit, Jack, in a lull of the firing, ventured to leave
the trench.  A moment later he called to Schwab.

"My hab catchee one-piecee pictul.  Japanese lunning long-side kowliang;
littee littee black t’ings inside gleen stalks."

"Gott sei dank!  I shall not die vizout agomblishing somezink for ze
Vaterland.  Ach! zere is anozer!"

There was a gentle sound overhead, like the cry of a wounded bird.  An
aide-de-camp crossing the hill-top fell with a groan.  A bearer-party
marked with the Red Cross appeared from behind the tower and swiftly
bore him out of sight.

Schwab flattened himself as much as his rotund form permitted against
the floor of the trench.  The cannonade was resumed with redoubled fury.
The din was incessant; shells whistling and shrieking; musketry
crackling; the Russian batteries in their emplacements thundering as
they replied to the Japanese.

Whole ranks of the Japanese were mowed down in the fields; still they
pressed on.  They were attempting to turn the Russian right.
Reinforcements were hurried to the threatened regiments; battery
answered battery; the ground trembled under the repeated shocks.  The
attack was repulsed, and long blood-stained tracks marked the path of
the bearers as they conveyed thousands of wounded to the rear.
Stackelberg had held his own.

Dusk was falling, the rain ceased, and a steaming mist rose over the
ground.  There was a lull in the firing. Jack stood upon the epaulement.
To the left he saw a village in flames.

"My hab catchee nuzza velly good pictul, masta," he said.

"Goot boy!  Zink you it is now safe for me to shtand opp?"

"My tinkey so.  He fightey man tinkee hab plenty nuff."

Schwab got up slowly on his knees, peered over the edge of the trench,
then stood upon his feet.  He was beginning to regain his spirits.

"So!  Famos!" he exclaimed.  "I see all ze whole fielt of battle; I see
burning villages, black fielts, hundert or tousand dead men.  Zis is
var.  Vat a—vat a"—Herr Schwab was at a loss for words—"vat a zink is
var!"  He threw out his chest and snuffed the smoke-laden breeze.  "But
I muss go and describe ze battle for my journal, illusdraded viz
photographs taken by a Gairman sobjeck on ze sbot.  My ancestor
Hildebrand——"

They were turning to walk down the hill; a belated shrapnel shell burst
within a few yards of them, peppering the ground in all directions.  A
splinter shaved off an inch or two of the leather cover of the camera.
Schwab cut short his reminiscence by dropping flat upon the rain-soaked
ground.  When he arose, a pitiable object, after a short period of
self-communing, without further words he hastened towards the path.

Another shell crashed upon the rocks to the left, hurling a lofty
fir-tree into the ravine.

"Ach! gome alonk, gome alonk!  Ve shall be killed. Let us go to find our
bonies."

Scrambling down to the spot where they had left the animals, Schwab
uttered a woeful cry; they had disappeared.  A Siberian infantryman was
passing; him the German interrogated.  But the Russian shook his head;
he knew no German.  Jack ventured to question him in broken Russian.

"Yes, I did see two ponies.  A Chinaman led them. That was long ago."

"He say-lo China boy hab catchee two-piecee pony, wailo long-time."

Schwab lifted up his voice in bitter lamentation.  It was growing dark;
the ground had been made a miry swamp by the rain; there was no
alternative but to tramp back through it to Liao-yang.  They reached the
mandarin road.  Their feet sank ankle-deep in mud; at every step they
almost left their boots behind.  Long stretches of the road were under
water.  Carts were passing drawn by long teams of mules.  Schwab tried
to bargain for a seat, but the drivers refused to listen to him; their
loads were wounded men, who at every jolt uttered heart-rending moans.
Jack suggested that they should leave the road and cut across the fields
to the railway; they would find the embankment easier walking.  This
they did, pursued, as it seemed, by the whistling bullets of the
Japanese.  At length, unharmed, untouched, they reached the northern
gate, and, entering, made their way all bemired, weary and famished, to
the cottage where Hi Lo awaited them.



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                      *The Retreat from Liao-yang*


Rifle and Bayonet—Kuroki—Schwab’s Strategic Movement—The Moukden Road—At
Yentai—One of the Wounded—Pawns in the Game—Our Friends the Enemy—Story
and Song—Schwab Smokes


Next day dawned bright and clear.  The fusillade had continued almost
throughout the night, and the Japanese had made repeated assaults on the
Russian trenches in the centre, only to be driven back every time with
enormous slaughter.  The first day’s battle had no decisive result; the
Japanese had failed to dislodge the Russians from any part of their line
of defences.  Jack was eager to go out again; his excitement had been
kindled by what little he had been able to see of the opposing
movements; after the first tremors, the shriek of shells and whistling
of bullets had left him unmoved, and he was all afire to witness the
continuation of the great struggle.  But Schwab absolutely refused to
budge.

"It vas not a bresentiment," he said.  "It vas a bileattack.  Zose
shells, zeir schmell vas vorse zan Schwefelwasserstoffgas—I forget ze
English name, but ze schmell is ze same; it is a schmell of eggs
suberannuated.  I suffer egstremely.  Besides, zey haf shtole my bonies.
And vat do I discover?  I discover a damage in ze ubber egstremity of ze
camera.  Vy you tell me nozink about zis?  I discover it, I say.  Who
done zat? Vy you bermit it?  It is not business: it annoy me egstremely.
I lose many dollars ven I shall gome to sell ze photographabbaratus.  My
gustomers vill now see it is not new.  Venever I zink of it I suffer
bile.  I go not again to zis battle, no more does ze camera; I vait for
ze next.  I vill stay and cure ze bileattack.  You shall see ze battle;
I vill take notes ven you return."

Jack had no intention of running unnecessary risks in order that Schwab
might make "copy" out of his experiences.  But he made his way towards
the railway-station, expecting to obtain from the embankment as good a
view as was possible without venturing again on the shell-swept hills.
His choice was fortunate, for it happened that the closest fighting of
the day took place west of the railway.  General Oku had made up his
mind to force this, the weakest spot in the Russian position. While,
therefore, General Nodzu in the centre was repeating the first day’s
bombardment, the Russian right, throughout the day, was the scene of as
terrible a series of infantry attacks as the world’s history has known.
Time after time the Japanese advanced to storm the trenches; time after
time they were mowed down by the pitiless bullets of the enemy; but
again and again they returned to the charge, recking nothing of death or
wounds, thinking it a privilege indeed to end their lives in their
country’s cause.  On both sides the bayonet did its fell work; at one
point a trench was captured by a company of Japanese, but their
ammunition was spent, they were unsupported, and their plight being
perceived from a Russian trench a hundred yards distant, they were
bayoneted to a man.  As the hot day wore on, the Russians were driven
back against the railway embankment; streams of wounded, their cries of
agony mingled with the horrid sounds of war, flowed incessantly towards
Liao-yang; and when sunset put an end to the firing, the bearer-parties
went about their awful work on the battle-field.

Except for the slight impression made on the right, the Russian position
was intact.  The Siberian regiments had held their own with splendid
tenacity, and were almost recompensed for their terrible sufferings by
the message of thanks from General Kuropatkin, who had witnessed their
heroic resistance from his train beyond the railway-station.  Jack
started to return to Schwab with the impression that the force of the
Japanese attack was broken, and that on the morrow the Russians would
take the offensive.  The day closed with a terrible rain-storm that
turned the fields and roads into a quagmire.  The streets of the city
were thronged; soldiers, Chinamen, camp-followers, pedlars improving the
occasion, all jostling one another in noisy confusion.

Standing at the door of his cottage, Schwab hailed an American
correspondent who was passing just as Jack appeared.

"Is ze battle finished gomblete?" asked Schwab eagerly.

"Yes; the Russians have won.  It is their first victory. I am on my way
to telegraph the news to New York—if I can get a wire."

"Zen I vill write my account of ze closing scenes," said Schwab to Jack.
"To-morrow, if ze sun shine, you can take more pictures of ze Japanese
defeat."

But half an hour later the American looked into the house on his way
back to his own quarters.

"I was mistaken, Schwab," he said; "it is not a victory after all."

"Eh?" said Schwab, looking up from his papers.

"The Russians are leaving their positions; evacuation has begun."

"Himmel!  Vat is ze meaning of zat?"

"Kuroki has crossed the Tai-tse-ho, and is threatening our
communications.  You had better clear out."

Schwab might well be amazed.  During the desperate and persistent
attacks on the Russian right and centre, General Kuroki had crept
steadily round their left, and forced a passage at a ford twenty-five
miles east of the town.  The news, as conveyed to Kuropatkin, was that
the Japanese general had four divisions; he had, in truth, only two;
and, misled by the exaggeration, Kuropatkin had felt it necessary to
detach some of the seasoned Siberian regiments from Stackelberg’s
command in order to reinforce the less trustworthy European corps whom
Kuroki was attacking.  But the American was mistaken in speaking of
evacuation.  The commander-in-chief had only decided to abandon his
advanced position, which had always been too widely extended for
effective defence, and to withdraw his forces to the inner
entrenchments, forming a large arc almost encircling the town, and
resting at each end on the river.

Overpowered by the terrors of "war that was real war", Schwab was goaded
into feverish activity by the news of the withdrawal.  His own pony was
gone; so was Jack’s; but Hi Lo’s remained, and this the German ordered
to be instantly prepared for himself.  Whether the interest of the
Schlagintwert Company or the safety of his own rotund skin was the more
important consideration did not appear; but it is certain that, within
half an hour after receiving the news of Kuropatkin’s order, Schwab was
riding as fast as the congested traffic would allow towards the north.
He carried the precious camera and the negatives with him, leaving the
tripod with Jack.

"You muss shift for yourself," said he at the moment of leaving.  "You
and Hi Lo muss gome on behind.  I muss go qvick; it is a matter of
business.  Vun bony vill not carry zree, and if I do not arrive in
Moukden before ze Russians zere vill be no money left to bay your vages.
Take most egstreme care of ze dribod."

Jack was not ill pleased to see the back of his employer. In other
circumstances he might have been amusing; as it was, he was a trial of
patience.

"I think we will wait till morning," said Jack to Hi Lo. "I am not sure
all is over yet.  In any case the Japanese won’t come into the city in
the dark; the firing has stopped; and we shall see our way better by
daylight."

So they stretched themselves on the k’ang and slept until the dawn.
When they arose it was obvious that Schwab’s flight was premature.
True, the roads northward were crowded with fugitives, but they were in
the main natives; the Russians held their positions; and Jack saw a fine
regiment marching, not northward, but southward, in the direction of the
enemy, singing the Russian national anthem with a spirit that little
betokened a failing cause.  But Jack felt that Schwab would expect his
two servants to follow him; he would be helpless without them. The
exodus from the city was already so great that it seemed best to go
northwards by the pontoon bridge while it was possible.  He therefore
started on his way back to Moukden.  Hi Lo had managed to secure a
mule—Jack did not enquire how; and on this, with the boy trudging by his
side, Jack crossed the river by the pontoon and gained the mandarin
road.

He found himself in a scene of terrible confusion.  The road was blocked
with vehicles of all descriptions,—droshkies, Pekin carts, ammunition
wagons, country carts with their unwieldy teams; and crowds of
camp-followers and Chinese tradesmen.  Drivers were shouting, soldiers
cursing, women shrieking.  Chinamen staggered along with poles over
their shoulders, a basket slung at each end containing a child barely
awake, but laughing with glee at what seemed to its innocence a novel
and pleasing adventure. Women passed, bent under heavy bundles
containing their household gear; carts were heaped with bits of
furniture, ambulance wagons with wounded and dead; here was a soldier
leading a little donkey with a battered drum upon its back, there a
farmer whose clumsy cart was filled with cackling ducks and squealing
pigs.  Now an axle would break, and the contents of the wagon were
scattered over the ground; now the wheels of one cart would become
locked with those of another, and the tangled teams plunged and kicked
in the mud.  Then the uproar became still more furious; riders, careless
of what damage they might do, pressed their horses through the throng in
haste to make good their escape from the terrible shells whose coming
was announced from afar.  The Japanese had begun to bombard the station.

Jack saw that he had little chance of making his way through the crush.
Calling to Hi Lo, he turned aside into a field of kowliang, already
trampled, and rode on over the ruined crop.  In the distance, on the
left, he caught sight of train after train steaming northwards. Behind,
dense clouds of smoke obscured the city: the Russian quarter of
Liao-yang was in flames.  Ever and anon a detonation shook the air, and
by and by the whistle of bullets was heard; the Japanese had occupied
the Shu-shan hill, and with their terrible long-range weapons were
firing into the Russian settlement.

The fourteen miles from Liao-yang to Yentai took Jack six hours.  It was
evening when he arrived—too late to go farther; and he put up for the
night in a ruined hut. Russians were massed in the town, and covered the
slopes towards the mines.  The Russian left wing had been driven back in
this direction, and it was to reinforce the hard-pressed troops here
that Kuropatkin had withdrawn Stackelberg with his Siberians.  But it
was too late.  Next day Kuroki flung his divisions upon the Russian
entrenchments. At a critical moment General Orloff, professor in a
Russian military college, attacked, contrary to his instructions.  The
Japanese hidden in the kowliang awaited the onset, then poured in a
terrible fire, which threw the first regiment, composed of raw recruits,
into confusion. They broke and fled; the regiment behind, prevented by
the high stalks from seeing what had happened, opened fire upon their
own comrades; a third was led into the same fatal error; and the entire
left wing, bewildered, disorganized, sought safety in flight.  Yentai
was filled with the Russian wounded; surgeons, with coats off and shirt
sleeves tucked up, went about their work in the open streets; the air
was filled with the screams and groans of men in agony.

Jack hurried through the town, and came again into the open country.  A
mile north of the town he overtook a bearded veteran crawling painfully
along; he was wounded in the chest.  He looked with haggard, covetous
eyes on Jack’s mule; his face was drawn and white; sweat was streaming
from his brow.  Jack stopped and sprang to the ground.

"Get on my mule," he said in Russian.  "Hi Lo, help me to lift him up."

The man broke into sobbing exclamations of thanks. Supported by Jack on
one side, by Hi Lo on the other, he rode on during the rest of that hot
day.  At dusk they entered a straggling village, and Jack was thinking
of looking for a shelter for the night when a rough voice from a cottage
cried:

"Ach, Strogoff! come here, comrade."

"Nu, Chapkin," said the wounded man.  "I am wounded, old friend."

Jack led the mule to the door, and helped to carry the man into the
cottage.  It had been appropriated by a group of Russian soldiers who
had become separated from their regiment.  They received their wounded
comrade with rough expressions of sympathy; and, learning from him of
the Chinaman’s kindness in lending his mule, they invited Jack and Hi Lo
to stay with them.  Jack was nothing loth.  He shared his few remaining
biscuits with the men, and sent Hi Lo out to buy some fruit if possible.

The boy returned with some pears and peaches, which formed a welcome
addition to their black bread and cakes of buckwheat.

Sitting on the k’ang, Jack was an interested listener to the soldiers’
talk.  He did not understand all they said; they were simple moujiks,
whose broad dialect was not easy to follow; but he picked up a good deal
of their conversation.

Strogoff had to relate how he had received his wound. His story was long
in the telling, punctuated by many an "Ach!" "Och!" "Eka!" "Nu!" from
his comrades.

"Ach!" he concluded, "the Japanese are fine fellows, but they are too
little to use the bayonet.  A bigger man would have made a better job of
it, and I should be dead now."

"Da!  But you’d rather be alive, Strogoff?"

"How can I tell, Kedril?  Will the doctors be able to mend my wound?"

"Not if they’re such fools as the generals," grunted Kedril, a big,
shaggy rifleman who had lost an arm.

"True, there are some fools among them.  But better be a fool than a
knave, like the commissaries.  Why, half the biscuits served out to us
to-day were full of maggots, and my boots—look at them!—are made of
paper.  Do you think the Little Father knows how we are cheated?"

"No, no; the Emperor does not know, Almazoff.  He would not suffer these
evils if he knew them.  Nu! he cannot be everywhere, like the Lord God."

"Things will be better some day.  We’ve done our part, little pigeon.
But the Emperor would not like it if he knew what lies they have told
us.  Why, they said the Japanese were dirty little men like monkeys; but
they’re cleaner than you and me, Strogoff."

"And they said they walked with their heads downwards."

"No, Chapkin, that’s the English.  They say the English walk upright in
their own country, but when they go to another place of theirs called
Australia they turn upside down and walk on their heads."

"That can’t be true, because Australia belongs to Germany.  It’s a part
of America, I believe."

"Nu!  America belongs to England, so I dare say I was right after all.
Anyway, the Japanese walk on their feet like us, and they fight well.  I
wonder what made them so angry with us?"

"I don’t know.  What do we get angry about when we’re at home?  Perhaps
the Little Father called the Emperor of Japan a sheep; if you called me
a sheep I should fight you; but emperors can’t fight; of course not, for
they’ve no one to give them orders except the Lord God, and He couldn’t
give orders to both at once."

"But if they quarrel, why should they make us fight in thousands?  It
would be much better if his excellency the general and the Japanese
marshal took off their coats and fought, just they two.  That would be a
fight worth seeing, eh, comrades?—a fight after the old style, before
they did everything by machinery."

"Da!  It wouldn’t matter so much if they made each other’s nose bleed,
instead of us shooting at the little Japanese and them shooting at us.
Why, think of the thousands of widows there must be in Little Russia—da!
and in Japan too, for I expect they have a kind of marriage there."

"True, we haven’t any quarrel with the little men; and they’re not very
angry either.  When I was wounded in the bayonet charge, and lay on the
ground, a Japanese came up and gave me a cigarette; ach! the sun was
hot, and I was fanning myself with my cap, and he made me take a little
paper fan he had.  Here it is: I shall give it to my little Anna,
dushenka! when I get home again."

"Ach! shall we ever get home again?  Look at the thousands of versts we
are away; and we’ve got to stay till we beat the Japanese!  Sing us your
song, Chapkin—you know, the one that always makes me cry."

The big veteran addressed took a sip from his half-empty flask of vodka,
and began, in a fine baritone every note of which was charged with
pathos—

    "No more my eyes will see the land
      Where I was born.
    I suffer at my lord’s command;
      My limbs are torn.
    Upon my roof the owl will moan;
      The pigeon for her mate will yearn;
    My heart with grief is broken down:
      No, never more shall I return!"


The simple words brought tears to the eyes of all those rough soldiers.
Kedril grunted and growled.

"Don’t make us more sad.  Almazoff, you’re the only fellow among us who
can read: read us something out of your English book; the piece about
the great fight in heaven; that’s the stuff for a soldier."

Almazoff took from his pocket a dirty dog-eared paper-covered book, and
turned over the leaves.  Having found the place, he began, in a slow
sonorous chant—


"Then rose a storming fury, and such uproar as never yet had been heard
in Heaven.  Arms clashed on armour, a din of horrible discord; the
furious wheels of brazen chariots roared with rage; dire was the noise
of battle.  Overhead with awesome hiss flew fiery darts in flaming
volleys, and their flight covered either host with a vault of fire.
Beneath this burning dome the embattled armies shocked together, with
deadly onset and unquenchable rage: all Heaven resounded; and had earth
been then, the whole earth had quivered to her centre.  What wonder,
when on both sides millions of angels fought, fierce foes, of whom the
feeblest could wield the elements and arm himself with the might of all
their regions!——"


Thus he read on, and through the rough prose of the Russian translation
Jack caught echoes of the famous passage in _Paradise Lost_.

Far into the night the reading, story-telling, singing, went on.  In the
morning Jack took leave of the simple brave fellows and resumed his
journey.  On the way he learnt that the Russian army was in full
retreat.  General Kuropatkin’s able dispositions had extricated his worn
troops from the danger of being surrounded, and they were falling back
in good order, disappointed but not disheartened, towards Moukden.
Thither Jack made with all speed; and entering the city with Hi Lo by
one of the south gates in the evening, he found Schwab placidly smoking
his pipe at the door of the Green Dragon.



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                          *Mr. Brown’s House*


Schwab and Sowinski—Extempore—The Camera cannot Lie—Sowinski
Suspicious—Shadowed—Short Notice—Run to Earth—A Hole in the Fence—Lares
et Penates—The Press—Sowinski’s Supper


Weeks passed.  Moukden was no longer the city Jack had known.  Hitherto
but few Russian troops had been seen in its streets; now these were
thronged from morning till night.  Regimental wagons, ammunition carts,
rumbled hither and thither, raising clouds of dust.  Officers strolled
about, buying knick-knacks of the curio dealers; war correspondents
kicked their heels in the hotels; droshkies, rickshaws, troikas, flew
this way and that, to the disturbance of the placid people of this
ancient city.

There were already signs of winter in the streets.  The seasons in
Manchuria do not shade off one into another; summer heat stops, almost
at one stride comes winter cold. One morning the shops in the principal
streets were hung with furs—the skins of wild cats, foxes, martens,
otters, sheep, raccoons; fur caps, lined coats, woollen hoods, sheepskin
leggings, stockings of camel’s hair.  The Chinese merchants near the
eastern ramparts plied a brisk trade with Russian officers, offering
their customers cups of tea with true oriental politeness, and raising
their prices a hundred per cent.

They had been weeks of idleness for Jack.  The Japanese had occupied
Yentai; the Russians had thrown up entrenchments to the south of
Moukden.  There was talk of their taking the offensive; but warlike
operations had ceased for a time, and Schwab had been too busy
developing his negatives to think about taking more photographs.  Jack
spent much of his time with the compradore, hoping day after day, but in
vain, for news of his father.  He had caused money to be forwarded to
Mr. Hi Feng in Harbin for the purpose of pushing enquiries in the north,
through Chinese channels, and two trusty Chinese had been sent to make
investigations along the Moukden-Harbin section. The latter returned
quite baffled.  But Jack sent them out again; he chafed at his own
helplessness: meanwhile no stone must be left unturned.  Once or twice
he had seen Sowinski in the streets; once he met him face to face near
the palace; but the Pole passed by without giving any signs of
recognition.

Schwab had become tired of the Green Dragon, and now lived in a little
house which he rented from a Chinese grocer.  He was waited on by Hi Lo,
who shared with Jack a room looking on the street.  One day Jack was
standing at the window, watching the thronging traffic. He was in low
spirits: he had been so hopeful when he left Father Mayenobe; was he to
endure a long suspense like Gabriele Walewska, but in more pain even
than she, not knowing whether his father was alive or dead? Suddenly,
behind a string of carts he saw Schwab approaching in company with
Sowinski.  Schwab was talking eagerly.  Jack knew that his employer had
had several interviews with the Pole; he had probably been establishing
business relations between him and Schlagintwert in anticipation of the
close of the war.  The two entered the house, and Jack, with a certain
tingling of the nerves, betook himself to the kitchen.  Presently Hi Lo
came in to prepare dinner; Sowinski was dining with his master.  The boy
waited at table, and, coming in and out of the kitchen, he gave Jack
from time to time information of what was going on.  The Pole knew a
little German; both he and his host knew a little English; and as they
eked out their acquirements the quick-witted China boy picked up scraps
of their conversation and reported them to Jack.

"He piecee Polo man talkee; say-lo what plice Melican lails?  Masta he
say velly cheap; he sellum evelyting cheap; he say belongey plenty
pidgin what-time fightey man all wailo."

"Boy!" shouted Schwab from the other room.

"Hai-yah, masta!" replied Hi Lo, hurrying away.  He returned in a few
seconds.

"Masta say wantchee Sin Foo chop-chop."

Jack whistled under his breath.  For a moment he thought of slipping out
of the room.  But Schwab knew he was there.  To leave without
explanation would cause trouble.  It would perhaps be best to brazen it
out.  He had already met Sowinski several times without being
recognized.  Yet he regretted that he had not taken French leave the
moment he saw the Pole coming.  He obeyed the summons.

"You Sin Foo, bring ze photographs, zose I haf developed."

"Allo lightee, masta."

Jack went out conscious that the Pole’s eyes had been fixed on him.
Returning with the photographs he gave them to Schwab, and was on the
point of leaving the room when the German bade him wait.  Schwab
unrolled the papers and spread them before his guest.

"Zere!  Vat you zink of zat?  Zose I took at ze battle of Liao-yang.
Ach! zat, mein frient, vas a fearful time. You vere not zere?  No—you
are a man of beace; ve gorresbondents are men of var.  Picture ze hill
of Shu-shan, schrapnel burst here, zere, everyvere; ze bullet fall zick
as leaves of Vallombrosa.  Zat hill, mein frient, vas target for hundert
fifty guns.  Zere am I, at ze top, fixing ze Japanese batteries in my
focus.  Danger!  Donnerwetter! It vas truly bandemonium.  But vy am I
zere? Duty, mein frient, calls me; business are business; my duty, I am
baid to do it; but not enough, no, certainly not enough.  Vy, I write
zis mail to Düsseldorf and say I can no longer encounter such danger for
ze brice.  I muss haf increase of screw.  Boy, fetch ze camera."

Jack laid it on the table.

"See, mein frient," continued Schwab.  "Gontemblate zat hole!
Schrapnel!  Anozer inch, or inch and half—ach! it is all ofer viz
Hildebrand Schwab.  Ze var gorresbondent run colossal risk, true; but ze
var gorresbondent vat is also var photographer—vy, his risk is—vat shall
I say? it is schrecklich, furchtbar!"

Jack was aghast at Schwab’s magnificent assurance. If he had been alone
with the Pole, that would have been another matter; but to dilate upon
his exploits in the presence of one who knew exactly what heroic part he
had played was astounding.  Jack reflected, however, that he was merely
a Chinese servant, and as such of no importance.

Finding that his invention was more than equal to the strain, Schwab
proceeded with even greater confidence.

"Look at zis, mein frient.  Here ve haf terrible scene of carnage in a
Russian trench, a whole gombany is viped out by vun shell."  Herr Schwab
handed his guest the photograph of soldiers sleeping in the ditch near
the Moukden railway-station.  "And zis—vat zink you of zis?"  He picked
out the snap-shot of Siberian infantry before the blazing pawn-shop.
"Here, mein frient, ve see Russian infantry vat make nightattack on
village near Yentai: zey set on fire house full of Japanese."

"Ver’ good, ver’ good," remarked the Pole with an acid smile—"for a
photograph made by night."

Schwab shot a suspicious glance at his guest.

"Ja!" he said, "it is vonderful.  Zese vill abbear in ze bages of my
baber, ze _Illustrirte Vaterland und Colonien_, zey vill give true
account, shpeaking better zan volumes of gorresbondence, of ze horrible
scenes vat zeir rebresentative haf beheld at ze bost of danger."

Sowinski’s attention had been flagging; perhaps his intuition had
detected the artistic temperament.  At any rate Jack felt that his eyes
were once more fixed on the silent Chinese boy—fixed in a puzzled,
scrutinizing gaze. The epic of the camera being completed, and Schwab
turning the conversation once more to business, Jack took the
opportunity of slipping away.  Hi Lo remained in the room to replenish
the glasses.  When Jack’s back was turned, Sowinski, as Hi Lo reported
later, leant forward and asked quietly:

"Tell me, where did you get your boy?"

"Vich?  Sin Foo?  Oh!  I tell you.  I got him to carry ze camera.  Ach!
zese Chinamen!  Zey are above all zinks suberstitious.  Zey zink ze
camera hold tousand defils; not one haf ze gourage to undertake it till
I abbly to ze gompradore of a Mr. Brown, for whom I had a letter.  Mr.
Brown is a bad lot; he is gone, none knows vere—ze Russians haf him put
out of sight for because he haf betrayed zem to ze Japanese.  Perhaps
you know him, mein frient?  Vell, ze gompradore recommend me zis boy,
Sin Foo, vat haf some intelligence and do not fear ze defils.  He is of
use—yes, of use; he is not afraid to follow me in ze zick of ze battle.
Vere ze gombat rage, zere is Schwab and his camera.  It is in ze blood.
My ancestor Hildebrand Suobensius vas a great fighter—a Landsknecht.  I
vill tell you his history——"

Hi Lo’s report made Jack uneasy.  Sowinski was evidently suspicious.  If
his suspicions took definite form, it was scarcely likely that a man of
his rancorous disposition would leave things as they were.  In the dusk
of the evening Jack hurried to his friend the compradore; he felt that
at this critical moment he needed advice from a Chinaman of experience.
When Hi An heard what had happened, he said at once that it would be
madness for Jack to remain longer in Moukden.  Sowinski would certainly
seek a resolution of his doubts; he would in any case have Jack
arrested; and being in disguise, Jack would in all probability, if
arrested, meet the fate of a spy.

While they were talking, Hi Lo came in hurriedly to report that one of
Sowinski’s servants was hanging about Schwab’s house, apparently on the
watch.  That clinched the matter.  Jack must make himself scarce, and as
speedily as possible.  Where was he to go?  In the confused state of the
country he might easily disappear; he could become a camp-follower, or
mafoo to some European.  But this would have its dangers; a Chinaman, as
he had already proved, would soon penetrate his disguise; with a
definite purpose before him, he did not care to be the sport of chance.
He might take refuge for a time with Wang Shih’s people; but it was not
improbable that search would be made for him there, and he did not wish
to involve them in the escape of a spy. There was his friend Ah Lum; he
remembered the chief’s invitation, and bethought himself that the
Chunchuses, moving constantly about the country, enjoyed the best
opportunities of learning his father’s whereabouts.  His mind was made
up; he would join the brigands.

But unluckily the city gates were now shut.  Since the war had come
nearer to the walls, the entrances had been guarded more strictly.  No
one was allowed to go in or out after nightfall unless he wore a uniform
or had a pass.  The inner wall was too high to climb over; if by any
chance he could slip through the gates, traverse the suburbs, and climb
the outer wall, he might be shot; if he waited till morning, he ran the
risk of arrest.  Yet, all things considered, it seemed better to wait.
Sowinski was apparently not quite sure of his ground.  Then, to ensure
his escape, a pony was needed; and he would have to enquire of Ah Lum’s
agent in the city, from whom alone could he learn the present
whereabouts of the band. Finally, he was disinclined to leave Schwab
without personally informing him of his approaching departure.  This was
perhaps in the circumstances a small matter, but it had more weight with
Jack than he was probably aware of.

Taking leave of Hi An, he set off to return to Schwab’s house.  Hi Lo
had preceded him.  As he walked he felt that he was being dogged.  He
did not care to assure himself by looking back; but he took the first
opportunity of slipping into a side street, and hurrying to his
destination by a short cut.  Schwab was writing, alone.

"My velly solly, masta," said Jack, kowtowing with even more than usual
humility.  "My wantchee wailo."

"Vat you say?  Already vant holiday?  No, no, boy. You haf been viz me
not yet vun monce.  I do not gif holidays so soon."

"My no wantchee holiday; my wantchee wailo allo-time; no come back; hab
catchee muchee plenty leason."

"Donnerwetter!  Vat is zat for a kind of business? Zat is desertion;
infamous!  Who zen vill carry ze camera?  No, I cannot let you go; no, I
refuse, I vill bay you no vages."

"My velly solly.  My likee masta first-chop; wantchee wailo all-same.
Masta no say Sin Foo belongey tellum what-time he wantchee go.  Masta no
wantchee pay-lo wages? all-same; my no makee bobbely.  Suttinly my wailo
chop-chop."

"Ach!  Zat is ever so; ze goot servant cut his shtick; ze bad servant
shtick fast.  Vell, if I say no, vizout doubt you vill run avay?"

"No fea’."

"Vell zen, I let you go.  You haf done me vell; zat is ze truth.  But
business are business; you haf served me vun monce less two days.  I bay
you zen fifteen dollar less ze vorth of two days.  Vat is zat?"

"My no savvy, masta; my no hab catchee t’ings so-fashion China-side."

"Vell, I vill gif you fifteen dollar, and zay nozink about vat you owe
me.  Vere you go?"

"My go look-see flend long long wailo."

"So!  I tell you zis; if again you gome back to Moukden vile Hildebrand
Schwab is var gorresbondent, he alvays gif you job."

"Masta too muchee velly kind.  My tinkee Toitsche genelum numpa one
chappee, galaw!  My say-lo by-by, masta; so long!"

The farewell interview had taken longer than Jack anticipated.  He was
anxious to be gone, feeling insecure in Schwab’s house.  Giving the
hard-earned dollars to Hi Lo, he hastened back by side streets to the
compradore, with a suspicion that he was watched as he left the house by
two Chinamen whom he caught sight of on the other side of the road.  He
peeped back at the first corner, and saw that one of the men was coming
in his direction; the other had disappeared.  On reaching Hi An’s house
he found that the man was absent; he had spoken of making enquiries of
Ah Lum’s agent.  Jack waited rather anxiously.  Twenty minutes passed,
then the compradore came in very hurriedly.

"Sowinski is coming with Russian soldiers!" he gasped. "They will be
here in five minutes.  I found Ah Lum’s man, Me Hong; he will send a
guide to Hsien-chia-kou, ten miles away.  You must not go near Me Hong.
But how to get away!"

Jack fortunately could keep his head.  He had but a few minutes to
decide on a course, and he made the most of them.  If he went into the
street he would be at once seen; probably there were already men on the
watch at each end.  The only other way out was by the back.  The
compradore peered out; as Jack expected, he saw several figures lurking
in the shade of the wall.  Jack remembered that in the fence separating
the compradore’s garden from Mr. Brown’s there was a narrow gap through
which Hi Lo had been wont to creep as a short cut to the house. Between
the fence and the house there was a line of shrubs about two and a half
feet high.  It was growing dark; if he could creep away under cover of
the bushes to the hole in the fence he might gain his father’s house.
There he would in truth be in the enemy’s country; but the attention of
the watchers would probably be engrossed by the soldiers whose tramp was
now heard approaching, and his own house would be the last that Sowinski
would suspect as the fugitive’s hiding-place.  What the next step might
be Jack could not imagine; the first was risky, but he saw no other.  In
a word he told the compradore of his intention.  The man gasped; then
with a rapid movement took a revolver from a shelf and pressed it into
his young master’s hand.

"Good-bye, Mr. Hi!  I will let you know.  Don’t forget Father."

He slipped to the back door, dropped on all-fours, and wriggled along
the ground close to the line of shrubs.  He had barely started when he
heard Sowinski loudly summoning Hi An to open the door.  The compradore
made some reply, apparently temporizing; the answer was an angry shout,
followed by a soothing response from the faithful servant.  Jack heard
no more; in another moment he reached the gap in the fence.  He wriggled
through; the garden had been neglected since Mr. Brown’s arrest, and the
undergrowth was rank; this was fortunate, for only a few feet away he
saw, leaning on the fence, the form of a Russian soldier, and a yard or
two beyond him another.  They were talking together, or they might have
heard the rustle as Jack squeezed through the hole and made for the
house.

In these few moments he had been rapidly thinking. He could not hope to
hide in the house, but he might pass through it, gain the front door,
and escape by the street.  Naturally he was so familiar with the house
that there was no danger of his going astray.  But, slipping in by the
back door and turning into the passage leading to the front, his hope
was suddenly dashed.  Three Chinamen stood at the open door, completely
barring his egress. They were talking excitedly and in loud tones.  Jack
overheard one of them say that the Russians were arresting a supposed
Chinaman, actually an Englishman who had come to spy for the Japanese,
the very man who had been living in Hi An’s house behind, and whose
illness had given them such concern.  Evidently they were servants of
the Pole, stationed at the door to keep watch. The three men blocked up
the doorway and stood facing the street.

Jack noiselessly slipped into the dining-room, lit by a single lamp.  He
felt like a fox in a hole, with dogs all round ready to snap him up if
he showed his nose.  He looked round the familiar room with a curious
sense of aloofness.  Had this been for so long his home?  It was the
same room, the same furniture—a table, a few chairs, engravings on the
walls, the large oaken press; but a different air seemed to pervade it
now.  For a moment he thought of hiding in the press until dead of
night, and then slipping away.  He opened the door; the lock had been
forced; the press was empty save for a few bottles of wine.  Clearly
this would not be a secure refuge; a bottle might be required at any
moment.  What else could he do?  He could open the window—the only glass
one in the house—and drop into the street; but he would certainly be
seen by the men at the door or by a casual passer-by, though there were
few people about at that hour of the evening.  Yet no other course
suggested itself, and he was moving towards the window when he heard
soft footsteps in the passage outside.  Quick as thought he sprang
behind the open door, listening with thumping heart.

One of the servants passed by on the way to the kitchen. He had left the
others at the door to keep watch while he prepared his master’s supper.
The cloth, Jack noticed, had been left on the table.  In a minute or two
the man would come into this very room, and Jack must be seen. With
nerves tingling he waited, setting his lips as a plan of action was
suggested to him by the emergency.  Soon he heard the clink of glass.
The servant was returning. He came from the kitchen carrying a tray with
a glass jug, a tumbler, and a plate.  He entered the room, walked to the
table, and set the tray upon it.  At that moment Jack stepped quietly up
to him from behind, brought one arm round over his mouth to stifle any
cry, and with the other held the cold barrel of his pistol to the man’s
temple.

"Keep silent, for your life!" he whispered.

The Chinaman, with fear in his eyes, made no sound or movement, but
stood as still as his trembling limbs allowed. Still keeping the pistol
pointed at the man’s head, Jack quietly closed the door.  Then he said:

"I will do you no injury, but your safety and mine require that you
should be out of harm’s way for a time.  I have business with your
master.  Go into that press.  So long as you are quiet and do what you
are told, you have nothing to fear.  But if you make the slightest
sound, that moment will be your last.  You understand me?"

He spoke very low and rapidly, but distinctly.  The man nodded; there
was no mistaking the grim meaning with which this tall foreigner who
spoke Chinese fingered the trigger of his revolver.  Crossing the room
to the press, the Chinaman stepped into it, and Jack closed the door.

He wondered if he could slip out of the house before Sowinski returned.
Before long the Pole must discover that the bird had flown; he would
realize the hopelessness of searching the whole of Moukden at night for
a man disguised as a Chinaman, and, furious as he might be, he would
doubtless accept the situation for the moment, and return to his evening
meal.  Once more Jack was making towards the window when he heard
footsteps again, this time approaching from the back of the house; not
the shuffling felt soles of Chinese, but the tramp of heavy European
boots.  At the same moment there came from the street the clatter of
several feet marching in time. Jack stepped back from the window.  He
heard a gruff voice, the voice of Sowinski, say in Russian:

"Sergeant, there is no more to be done.  The spy has got away.  Inform
the sentinels at the gates.  He cannot leave the city to-night; we may
trap him yet.  Report to General Bekovitch; I will see him in the
morning. Good-night!"

The sergeant responded, and marched his squad away.

"Where is Ming Fo?" demanded Sowinski of the servants at the door.  "Why
is he not watching with you?"

"He is preparing your supper, master; we are keeping watch for him."

"You have seen no one pass?"

"No one."

"Very well.  Go and get your supper."

[Illustration: Sowinski’s Visitor]

Then Jack heard Sowinski’s footsteps approaching the room and the two
Chinamen shuffling along behind towards the kitchen.  His chest heaved;
the crisis was at hand.



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                        *A Night with Sowinski*


The Persuasive Pistol—A Pass—Thorough—Captain Sinetsky—The Eastern
Gate—An Empty Pistol


Jack had intended to deal with the Pole as he had dealt with his
servant; but the fact of the two other Chinamen passing the door of the
room close on his heels had thrown out his calculations.  He could not
afford to run the risk of the slightest struggle; it would certainly be
heard.  He had but an instant to decide on his course.

Behind the door was a chair.  To this Jack tiptoed, and he had just
seated himself when Sowinski opened the door.  The Pole flung his hat on
a chair, and moved towards the press, doubtless with the intention of
getting a bottle of wine.  He almost had his hand on the knob when he
became aware, rather by instinct than by perception, of a movement
behind him.  Jack with his foot had gently swung the door to.  Turning
sharply round, Sowinski saw the red light of the shaded lamp reflected
from the barrel of a pistol in the hand of a young Chinaman seated
composedly within five feet of him.  For a moment he was motionless; he
was too much surprised for speech; a second glance showed him who his
visitor was, and Jack, watching him keenly, saw his face go pale.  He
stood irresolute; the ominous pistol, not held rigidly, but moving
gently from side to side, seemed to hold him spell-bound, as the swaying
head of a snake fascinates a hare.

"Yes, Mr. Sowinski," said Jack quietly, though his pulse was galloping;
"yes, it is I, Jack Brown.  You were looking for me?  Speak low, or the
pistol may go off."

"You would be arrested at once," said the Pole in a hard whisper.

"Possibly, but that would not help you.  You would be dead."

Sowinski ground his teeth.  Rage and fear struggled for the mastery; but
fear, as Jack had calculated, was the stronger.  The man’s eye never
left the barrel.

"First, Mr. Sowinski," continued Jack, rising, and now pointing the
revolver steadily at his head; "first, I wish to know where my father
is."

"Your father?  How should I know?  Am I your father’s keeper?  He was
deported."

"You lie!" said Jack, his voice vibrant with anger. "Come, your reply;
your life depends on it."

Visibly cowed by Jack’s menacing look and tone, the Pole replied
sullenly:

"Well, it is true; he was taken to Harbin, to be delivered to General
Kriloff."

"And where is he now?"

"I do not know.  I swear that is the truth.  General Bekovitch——"

"Does he know?"

"I cannot say.  I do not know what message he sent to General Kriloff.
I have heard nothing of your father since he went away."

"He went in chains; did you know that?"

"Yes," replied the Pole hesitatingly.

"Then where is he?  You know that; you know more; a man is sent away in
chains, herded with foul criminals; it is your doing; what have you done
with him?"

"I don’t know; may I never speak again if that is not true.  He is
probably in the mines."

As he said this, even the imminent pistol could not prevent Sowinski
from betraying his rancorous satisfaction in a mocking curl of the lip
and a half-suppressed chuckle. Yet Jack felt intuitively that in this
case the man was speaking the truth; that he really did not know what
had become of his victim after he had seen him safely wedged in the
cattle-truck.  There was scorn as well as a white heat of anger in
Jack’s reply.

"You infamous scoundrel!  You would be justly served if I shot you where
you stand, and for my own part the satisfaction would be worth the risk.
But I can’t kill even such vermin as you in cold blood; and if I spare
you, be sure the day of reckoning is only deferred.  There are a
thousand Poles waiting to kill the traitor Ladislas Streleszki at
sight."

The amazed and wretched man swayed as he stood; his hue turned still
more ashen than before; his whole body seemed to shrink together with
craven fear.

"Now, choose," continued Jack after a pause.  "The pistol, or instant
compliance with my demands.—Silence!"  He heard the two Chinamen
approach the door, and noticed a twitching of the Pole’s mouth
suggesting a cry for help.  The impulse, if impulse it was, was
immediately checked by Jack’s stern command.

"Send them home."

Sowinski called to the men that they might go; he would require them no
more that night.

"Now close the shutters.  Thank you!  I see pen, ink, and paper on
yonder shelf.  Seat yourself at the table and write in Russian from my
dictation."

The Pole moved mechanically, under the spell of the covering revolver.

"’To Lieutenant-Colonel Gudriloff,’" dictated Jack. "’Please supply
bearer, Chang Sin Foo, with a pass for the gates, and two good ponies;
debit the charge to my account.’  Now sign your name—your present name.
That is right.  Now, Mr. Sowinski, you have been so obliging that I
trust you will excuse what must seem a poor return for your
complaisance.  But my position in your—that is to say, my father’s
house, being somewhat delicate, I have no alternative."

The two Chinamen having gone away, Jack no longer subdued his tone.  He
had the whip hand.  Still keeping the revolver steadily pointed at the
scowling Pole’s head, he stepped to the press and, Sowinski looking on
in amazement, called to the Chinese servant to come out. The man was as
pale as his master; he was stricken with the very ague of fear.

"You have nothing to fear," said Jack, pitying the fellow.  "Do what I
tell you quickly.  Tear up that cloth."  He pointed to the none too
clean cover on the table.  "Tear it into six strips."

The man tried, but the material was too tough, or his hands too much
enfeebled from fright.

"Take the knife, but remember, at the first movement in this direction I
will shoot you."

With some difficulty the man did as he was bid.

"Now bind your master’s legs—first round the ankles. Quick!"—as the man
recoiled before the glare in Sowinski’s eyes.  Jack jerked up his
pistol, and the trembling wretch hastened to obey.  The Pole made no
resistance; but if looks could have slain, both Jack and the Chinaman
would have been killed on the spot.

"Now the arms," said Jack, when, under his supervision, Sowinski’s legs
had been securely trussed.  "No, behind him—not in front: that is right.
Now the knees. Now tie the wrists to the ankles.  Now a gag; that fur
cap will do.  We are going to place your master in the press.  You take
the head; I will take the feet."

Jack felt that he was giving the Chinaman a bare chance to close with
him; but the man seeming so cowed, he took the risk, careful, however,
to keep the revolver conspicuous. As they lifted the Pole they saw his
face distorted with rage and hate.  They stood him upright in the press,
and closed the door, leaving sufficient space between it and the sides
to admit air.  Then with a feeling of relief after the tension of his
perilous situation, Jack took up the order signed by Sowinski, and was
wondering how to dispose of the Chinaman, when there was a loud knock at
the outer door, followed immediately by footsteps in the passage. Jack’s
heart beat violently; he caught a malicious look of triumph in the
servant’s eyes.  But he recovered his _sang-froid_, and at the same
moment made his decision. A voice in Russian was calling for Sowinski;
just as the footsteps approached the inner door Jack pushed the Chinaman
in front of him.

"Send him away," he whispered.  "Remember the pistol."

He had no time for more.  The visitor was at the door. It opened.

"Ha, Sowinski!—" said the new-comer, a captain of Cossacks.  Then he
paused, seeing only two Chinese servants.

"Where is your master?"

"He is away, Excellency," faltered the man; "not at home; he will not be
back for some hours."  Jack touched his heel to quicken his invention.
He continued: "He said he was going first to the Green Dragon, then to
the railway-station.  He expected to meet a friend.  Can I give him any
message?"

"It is very annoying," said the officer.  "I must see him to-night.  The
Green Dragon, you say?  I will see whether he is there.  If he returns,
say that Captain Sinetsky called, and that he is to come and see me at
my quarters at once."

He turned on his heel and left the house.  The tension was relaxed.  The
immediate danger was past, but Jack saw that his escape was still to be
deferred.  The captain’s look and tone of vexation showed that his
business with Sowinski was important.  Failing to find the Pole at the
hotel he might return himself or send a messenger, and then, if Jack
were absent, the prisoner would be discovered and released, and the hue
and cry after the disguised Englishman would be hot before he could get
his pass and be clear of the city.  The gates would not be opened before
daybreak.  It would hardly be safe to leave the house much earlier.  He
made up his mind to wait.

Creaking and groaning, the massive gates barring the eastern entrance to
Moukden swung back on their hinges; the squatting crowd patiently
awaiting the opening awoke to sudden activity; there was a general
movement of foot-passengers, chairs, and carts towards the archway.  In
a moment the rush was checked: a Cossack officer with a dozen sturdy
troopers barred the way—one man only might pass at a time, and that
after careful scrutiny.

When some two or three score had run the gauntlet, the officer, whose
patience seemed to be sorely tried, permitted himself a hearty Russian
oath, and growled to the sergeant at his side.

"These Chinese are all alike.  What the goodness is the use of asking us
to stop—what is it?"—he glanced at a paper in his hand—"’a young
Englishman, tall, slim, cleverly disguised as a native’?  It’s
absurd—it’s a job for a Chinaman, not for us."

"But, little father, it must be quite easy to recognize an Englishman.
They are all red-faced, with long noses, and big teeth, and side
whiskers—I have seen pictures of them in the papers in Petersburg.  They
are ugly, the English—one would know them anywhere."

Captain Vassily Nikolaeitch Kargopol, his feelings relieved by his brief
outburst, smiled condescendingly.  He recognized the sergeant’s
description of the familiar continental caricature of John Bull; but as
the crowd surged through he had no time for correcting his subordinate’s
impressions.  An old man, riding one pony and leading another,
dismounted at the gate as the crowd thinned, and with elaborate kowtows
presented his pass.  The shadow of a wide-brimmed hat seemed to deepen
the wrinkles of his parchment skin; but there was an alert look in the
eye, and a nervous energy in the carriage, that told of a spirit still
young.

"Pass the bearer, Chang Sin Foo, and two ponies.
Gudriloff—Lieutenant-Colonel."  The captain read out the instructions,
handed back the document, and signed to the Chinaman to proceed.
Leading his ponies through the gate, the old man mounted, and rode
slowly on.  A mile out he quickened his pace, and struck off into a side
track winding towards the hills that bounded the horizon north, south,
and east.  As he left the main road, the more rapid movement jolted a
pistol from the folds of his voluminous garments.  He glanced back and
saw it lying on the track, but did not check his pace, though an odd
smile disturbed the wrinkles of his mouth.

"It’s a good job," he muttered in unmistakable English—"a jolly good
job, Sowinski didn’t know it wasn’t loaded!"



                              *CHAPTER XV*

                        *Cossack and Chunchuse*


The Road in China—A Change of View—Looking Ahead—A Cold
Welcome—Beleaguered—The Part of Prudence—Smoke—Beaten Back—The Water
Supply—An Inspiration—Ch’hoy!


At Hsien-chia-kou the strangely young old man with the two ponies met
not only the guide punctually furnished by Ah Lum’s agent, but also Mr.
Hi and his son.  The compradore explained that after what had happened
he no longer felt safe in his little cottage, and had made up his mind
to join his brother in Harbin and do what he could there to further the
enquiries for Mr. Brown.  As for Hi Lo, the boy had for the first time
shown a most reprehensible and unfilial spirit of disobedience.  He had
declared that the Toitsche genelum’s service, now that Sin Foo had left,
had no further attraction for him.  If he must serve someone, it should
be Mr. Chack Blown; and he would much rather serve Mr. Chack Blown than
accompany his father to Harbin, for he did not like his Aunt Feng.

Jack laughed.

"Let him come with me, Mr. Hi.  He saved those papers so cleverly that I
think a great deal of him, and I’ll really be glad to have him with me."

The compradore would not oppose his young master’s express wish;
accordingly, Jack, when he rode off, had two companions.

Jack had learnt from his guide that Ah Lum’s camp was situated in the
hills south of Kirin, at a point many miles due north of the spot where
he had left the chief.  He had before him, therefore, a journey of
nearly three hundred miles.  Fortunately the rainy season was past; a
few days of brilliant sunshine and bustling winds had worked a
marvellous transformation.  The road that only recently had been a pulp
of liquid mud was now thick with soft brown blinding dust, clouds of
which were blown by the north-easter full in the travellers’ faces,
covering them from head to foot.  Unpleasant as this was, it was less
troublesome than the continual assaults of midges which Jack had
suffered on his previous journey.  The autumn air, already nipping out
of the sunshine, had annihilated these pests, and the only trouble of a
similar kind that Jack experienced was from some black ants whose nest
his pony disturbed, and which bit with terrible ferocity.

For more than a week the three riders pursued their journey almost
without incident.  After the first few days they came into a country of
hill and forest, broken by richly cultivated valleys and large swift
streams.  They had to climb ridges, to cross ravines, to ford rivers,
sometimes fording the same river a score of times, so serpentine were
its windings.  Here and there were settlers’ huts, where they found
scanty accommodation, but a warm welcome; here and there also a hillside
inn, at which they spent the night on the floor of a tiny room, with
perhaps a dozen Chinamen packed like sardines in a box on the k’ang
above them.

During these days and nights Jack had many opportunities of thinking
over his position.  He wondered sometimes whether the course he had
decided on was the best he could have taken; but his ponderings always
converged to the same point—that his only chance of obtaining news of
his father and procuring his liberation lay in remaining in Russian or
Russo-Chinese territory. For himself, hunted and outlawed as he was,
capture might well mean death, and nowhere was he so likely to be safe
as among the Chunchuses.  But he saw that in seeking an asylum among
them he was in a sense casting in his lot with the enemies of Russia and
espousing their quarrel.  That consideration gave him food for thought.
He had no concern with the great struggle then in progress.  It was
nothing to him whether Manchuria became the spoil of either Russia or
Japan.  Up to the time of his father’s arrest, indeed, his sympathies
had inclined to the Russian side.  He had made many friends among the
Russians during his stay in Moukden, especially among the engineers and
officials connected with the railway. He had found them amiable,
courteous, and singularly free from what, for want of a better word, the
Englishman calls "side".  Of the Japanese, on the other hand, he knew
almost nothing.  His impressions of the few he had met in the course of
business were not wholly favourable, which was perhaps little to be
wondered at, for the trading classes of Japan, with whom alone Mr. Brown
had had relations, were only just beginning to emerge from the condition
of a despised and, it must be admitted, despicable caste.  Japanese of
the Samurai class looked down on a merchant with far more disdain than
an English aristocrat shows towards a petty tradesman; and it would have
seemed incredible to them that an English marquis should become a coal
merchant or a dairyman.  It was natural enough that a class thus
despised should not be greatly hampered with self-respect; and their
business methods did not commend themselves to Mr. Brown, with whom, as
with every British merchant, his word was as good as his bond.

But the black sheep whom Jack had come across recently had brought about
a change in his feeling towards the Russians generally.  He saw them now
as grasping adventurers, and the Chunchuses as patriots waging a lawful
warfare against invasion and oppression. He had no very kindly feeling
for the men who were treating his father with such abominable injustice.
He did not disguise from himself that in joining the Chunchuses he could
not remain a passive spectator of the struggle.  He must be prepared to
identify himself completely with the fortunes of Ah Lum’s band, and
become to all intents and purposes as lawless a brigand as themselves,
But he hoped it would not be for long.  If the tide of success upon
which the Japanese arms had been borne from victory to victory did not
turn, the Russian domination must ere long be shattered, and in some
vague undefined way he felt that the fortunes of his quest were bound up
with the discomfiture of the Russians.  But in thus throwing in his lot
with their enemies he reserved one point: he would steadily refuse to
have any part in such excesses as were from time to time reported of the
Chunchuses.  It was likely enough that as a very unimportant individual,
incurably a "foreign devil", he would be laughed to scorn for his
scruples by Ah Lum.  The custom of torturing prisoners was so deeply
rooted in Chinese methods of warfare that Ah Lum, even if he so desired,
might be unable to control his followers and prevent atrocity when they
were not under his immediate observation.  This would make it difficult
for Jack to remain with them; but he put the matter from his thoughts:
he would not meet difficulties half-way.

Now and again, as with his guide and Hi Lo he passed through isolated
villages, he heard of small bodies of Cossacks having been seen in their
vicinity.  From the general talk at inns and farmhouses he gathered that
the Russians, alarmed for their communications after the battle of
Liao-yang, were about to make a serious attempt to deal with Ah Lum and
one or two other Chunchuse chiefs who threatened the railway between
Harbin and Vladivostok.  The Cossack parties whose movements the
villagers reported, were presumably scouting to ascertain the exact
position of Ah Lum’s band preparatory to a concerted attempt to entrap
him.

One afternoon, as they climbed a rugged slope towards a village nestling
among trees at the top, the travellers heard the rattle of musketry in
the distance, and saw a couple of Russian horsemen riding away in the
direction whence the sound came.  At first Jack thought of avoiding the
village altogether, and making a detour; but he had been riding since
early morning over difficult country, the sun had been hot, and he was
very hungry; so that after consulting with his guide he decided to go
on, the man thinking there was as great a risk of encountering Russians
the one way as the other.  They proceeded, therefore, but cautiously,
keeping a sharp look-out.  The guide knew the headman of the village; if
he could get speech with him they might obtain useful information.

Firing could still be heard fitfully; it was impossible to tell how far
away, but it seemed at a considerable distance from the village.  When
they entered the street, they came upon a knot of villagers in voluble
discussion. They were instantly the object of a narrow scrutiny; but the
guide had already marked his friend the headman among the group, and
called him by name.  The man came forward to meet the riders; the guide
explained in a sentence that he wished to have some private talk with
him, and he at once led the way to his house.

Thinking that frankness was here the best policy, Jack asked his guide
to explain briefly who he was and what had brought him to the village.
The headman was perturbed, almost incensed, when he heard the story.  He
had suffered already from depredations by the brigands; if the Russians
knew that he had harboured a fugitive, he could only expect to suffer
even more seriously at their hands.  And there was great danger that
they would discover the new-comers’ presence.  A squadron of Cossacks
about two hundred strong was at that moment besieging some fifty
Chunchuses in a farm three miles away.  The brigands had been shut in
for three days, and it was expected that they must yield shortly,
perhaps before another day was past.  The owner of the farm had come
into the village when the Chunchuses appeared. He said that there was
plenty of grain in his barns; the brigands could not be starved; but the
water supply was likely to give out.  The farm being situated less than
half a mile from a river, the store of water kept in it was only
sufficient for his family and servants, and could not meet the
requirements of the company of Chunchuses, to say nothing of their
horses.  Behind the walls they might succeed in keeping the Russians at
bay unless artillery were brought against them; but lack of water must
inevitably cause them to surrender.  They had made a good fight; the
besiegers had lost a good many men; two Cossacks had come into the
village only a short time before Jack’s arrival, with orders to the
headman to prepare quarters for the wounded.  But they so greatly
outnumbered the defenders that they could afford to lose heavily without
seriously reducing the odds in their favour; and, taught by experience,
they would probably not attempt to storm the place, but would sit down
and leave its reduction to the work of time.

These explanations were given by the headman, who concluded by earnestly
entreating Jack and his companions to depart.  If the Cossacks suspected
that any of the villagers had been in relations with the brigands they
would certainly burn every house in the place, and in all likelihood
slaughter the inhabitants.  Jack sympathized with the man in his terror;
he said at once that the village should suffer no harm through him; and
after buying a little food to carry him to the next stage, he rode out
with his two companions.

But the news he had just heard was not of a kind to pass unconsidered.
He was on his way to join Ah Lum’s band; it was a part of that band that
was now in such desperate straits, and he felt a personal interest in
their fate.  Word had been sent to Ah Lum, as the headman had informed
him; but Ah Lum was at least two days’ march away, and another two days
must pass before help could come from him, even if he found himself in a
position to send assistance.  If this siege of the farm were a part of
an organized movement against the Chunchuses, it was not unlikely that
Ah Lum himself was hard pressed.

Jack was in a quandary.  Prudence bade him press on without delay; the
convoy with the Russian wounded was no doubt already on the way to the
village, and might meet him or cross his path at any moment.  But he
felt an overpowering curiosity, natural in one of his active spirit, to
see for himself the place where the brigands were so stoutly keeping up
a fight against odds; and his curiosity was reinforced by another
motive: the desire to see whether there was any possibility of their
escaping from their peril. He felt the natural impulse of youth to "do
something", even though he recognized how hopeless it was to imagine
that he, with but two companions, could intervene between the Chunchuses
and their fate.  Still, the impulse was overmastering; he must see with
his own eyes how they were situated; and having availed himself of Ah
Lum’s protection in placing himself in the hands of his agent, he
thought it his duty not to leave the neighbourhood without at least
assuring himself that rescue was out of the question.

He announced his intention of riding to the farm.  His guide vigorously
protested; it was absurd, he said, to go into the very jaws of danger;
much better hurry on and reach safety with the chief.

"And what would Mr. Ah think of you if he heard that?"

"But I don’t know the way, master."

"No matter.  The firing was to our right; we saw the way the Cossacks
went; no doubt the wounded will come the same way, so we must avoid
that; but if we work round gradually under cover of that copse yonder,
we shall be going in the right direction.  They’re firing again. You
will come with me," he added sternly, divining an inclination to bolt,
"or you will no longer be Mr. Ah’s man, and you know what that means."

The three turned off to the right, skirting the beech plantation of
which Jack had spoken, the guide resigned but sullen.  It was now about
five o’clock in the afternoon; in an hour and a half it would be dark.
Riding cautiously, keeping a keen look-out on all sides for signs of the
Russians, they gradually made their way across country, guided by the
firing that was still heard at intervals.  They were crossing a hilltop
some three miles from the village they had left behind, when Hi Lo
suddenly declared that he saw smoke in the distance.

"You have sharp eyes," said Jack.  "We had better dismount.  Being on
the sky-line we shall be easily seen if the Russians look this way.  Let
us hope they are giving their whole attention to the farm."

They tied up their ponies to trees some distance from the hill-path they
had been following.  Jack wished to leave Hi Lo in charge of the
animals, but the boy pleaded hard to be allowed to accompany his master.

"Masta say-lo my hab plenty good look-see.  My walkee long-side masta;
plaps my can helpum masta."

"Very well.  Now show me where you saw the smoke."

The boy pointed to a hollow nearly a mile away, where at first Jack
could see nothing but fields of hay and over-ripe kowliang.  The smoke
of course had now disappeared; but, following Hi Lo’s finger, Jack
presently saw the dull mud-coloured walls of a farm enclosure, barely
distinguishable from the brownish vegetation around.  A moment later Hi
Lo’s keen glance lighted upon the low shelter-tents of the Russian
encampment, some distance to the left of the farm, apparently situated
in a field, recently cropped, near the bank of the river, of which a few
yards could be seen.  Not a man was in sight; but beyond the camp was a
clump of brushwood, at the edge of which Jack fancied he saw the black
forms of two or three horses.  Probably the rest were tethered in the
copse.

As Jack and his two companions, standing motionless on the hilltop,
looked across the valley they suddenly saw a score of men rush out from
the tall kowliang in which they had been concealed, and dash forward
against the far corner of the wall surrounding the farm.  At the same
moment, from the fields around puffs of smoke were seen rising in the
air, and a few moments later the sharp rattle of musketry, like the
sudden shooting of pebbles from a cart, reached their ears.  But the
defenders had not been caught napping.  A withering fire met the
Russians as they charged up the slight slope leading to the farm; only a
few gained the crest, and these fell to the Chunchuses, who all at once
appeared as by magic in the courtyard. The survivors hesitated for a
moment; then they turned and plunged into cover of the long grass and
kowliang. In a few seconds every man had disappeared from view; peace
reigned over the scene; there was nothing to show that the farm was the
centre of a bitter struggle.

But for the scarcity of water Jack had little doubt from what he had
seen that the Chunchuses would be able to hold their own indefinitely
against the Cossacks, unless siege operations of a regular kind were
adopted.  He could see no trace of trenches, such as, with their
numerical advantage, the besiegers could easily have constructed if they
had been so minded and possessed the requisite knowledge.  But they were
a mounted force, unused, no doubt, to any tactics but the simple Cossack
evolutions.  The average Russian soldier has little adaptability.  The
construction of trenches is not a horseman’s business; it would not
enter the head of a Cossack captain to employ a device so far removed
from his routine.  Yet with the aid of a trench the besiegers could make
short work of the Chunchuse defences, which consisted simply of the mud
wall surrounding the farm, and the farm itself—a thatched cottage with
byres and pig-sties adjacent, flimsy structures at the best.

Under cover of the tall shrubs that crowned the hill, Jack looked long
and searchingly at the beleaguered farm.  He tried to picture the
defenders within the walls, hoping for relief, watching the inch-fall of
their water supply, tantalized by the sight of the full stream flowing
so near, and yet as distant as though it were in another continent.  To
Jack it appeared that there was no chance whatever of doing anything to
assist the Chunchuses, among whom doubtless were men whom he had seen in
Ah Lum’s camp.  He asked the guide whether he could suggest a way.  The
man replied that the only course was to hurry on and inform Ah Lum of
the desperate position of his men. Inasmuch as a messenger had gone on
the same errand two days before, the guide’s suggestion was not very
helpful.  And Jack was possessed of the feeling that to act thus would
be equivalent to leaving the trapped band in the lurch, a thing that
went very much against the grain.  Yet what else could he do?  If he
could give no help in the actual, pressing emergency, there was nothing
to gain by remaining on the scene—not only nothing to gain but
everything to lose, for he would run the risk of being snapped up by the
Cossacks.

"There’s no help for it, I suppose," he said half-aloud. Very
unwillingly he turned his back on the farm, and retraced his steps down
the hillside towards the copse where the ponies were tethered.  Just
before the farm was wholly shut from his sight by the crest of the hill,
he turned again and swept the country with his eye, as though to take a
last look at the scene of an approaching tragedy. It happened that in
his movements upon the hill he had reached a point where a somewhat
different view was obtainable, and he now noticed for the first time,
half a mile away to his left, an open space in which a group of men,
Russians no doubt, were busy around a number of tripods with big
cauldrons suspended.  Smoke was rising from one or two; the men were
evidently lighting fires to prepare their evening meal.

"Strange," thought Jack, "that the cooking place should be so far from
the shelter-tents and horses.  It must be nearly half a mile from the
farm.  Do the troops march to the food, I wonder, or is the food carried
to the troops?  Probably the former.  But why so far away?"

Even as the question occurred to him the answer flashed upon his
mind—and not only the answer, but a possible means of doing what he so
much longed to do.  Was it possible?  He felt his pulse quicken at the
mere thought. The dusk was fast gathering over the scene; the farm and
its surroundings must soon be shut altogether from his gaze; before that
came about, he must take one more look.  Bidding Hi Lo and the guide
remain where they were, he went back to his former post of observation,
moving very carefully so as not to be seen from the quarter where he had
not previously suspected the presence of an enemy.  Once more he scanned
the landscape; then he returned to the two Chinese, who looked at him
questioningly, wondering at the change of expression on his face.

"Back to the ponies!" he said briefly.  As they went they saw the glow
of the Russians’ fires in the glooming sky.  The sight brought a smile
to Jack’s lips, but he said nothing to his expectant companions.  They
found the ponies where they had left them; they took from the saddles
the food brought from the village—a little rice, some bean sprouts, and
a small heap of monkey-nuts, all that they had been able to get at short
notice.  As they munched their frugal meal Jack could not but wish for
five minutes by the steaming cooking-pots on the other side of the hill.
When their hunger was satisfied, and the dusk had deepened into night,
Jack suddenly looked up from the brown study in which he had appeared to
be absorbed and said:

"Now, listen to me."

His two companions listened with all their ears; Hi Lo soon became
restless with excitement; the guide, though his Chinese stolidity was
not so easily broken through, at length gave utterance to the
exclamation "Ch’hoy!" which signifies approbation or disdain, pleasure
or misgiving, according to the inflection of the voice.  What Jack had
to say took some time; it was quite dark when he finished; then he got
up.

"Remember," he said, "not a movement nor a sound. Do exactly as I have
told you; then make for this spot again."

Then he slipped away into the darkness.

Slowly, with infinite caution, he crossed the brow of the hill, struck
off towards the right, and descended the slope on the opposite side.  It
was so dark that he had no fear of being seen; but, his view of the camp
fires being intercepted by the hill, he could not make sure of his
direction, and knew that at any moment he might stumble upon a sentry.
The only chance of escape for the Chunchuses being to take advantage of
the darkness, he had no doubt that the Russians would keep the strictest
watch at night. He had to guess his way; he was going to the farm.



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                              *Fire Panic*


Sentry-go—Beneath the Wall—An Old Friend—Thirst—A Way Out—Three
Shots—The Signal—The Reply—A Countryside in Flames—At Full
Gallop—Alarms—Stampede—Chow-chow


At the most, the distance Jack had to traverse was but a short mile, yet
so slow was his progress that nearly two hours had elapsed before, from
the vantage-ground of a hillock a few feet above the surrounding fields,
he caught a dim glimpse in the starlight of the farm buildings looming a
short distance in front of him.  His intent ears had already caught the
measured tread of a sentry just ahead; stealing along for another few
yards he could now see his head and shoulders and the end of a carbine
projecting above the high grass.  Jack stopped and watched.  The
sentry’s beat seemed to be about thirty yards; to his right Jack could
hear the hum of several low voices, no doubt from a picket.  He had
taken the precaution of approaching the farm at the point farthest from
the main gate.  The Chunchuses, if they made a sally, would not leave
their horses behind, for on foot they would be at the mercy of their
enemy.  Since they could not leap their steeds over the wall, they were
bound to issue from the gate if at all; the exit, therefore, was sure to
be closely guarded, though no doubt there were sentries all round the
farm.

To the left of the sentry Jack had first seen there was another, whose
beat met that of his comrade.  Jack could barely discern him in the
darkness, but he fancied that the man, on reaching the nearer end of his
beat, awaited the arrival of the other before turning.  That would
evidently be the best point at which to attempt the passage to the farm;
and the best time would be a second or two after they had turned their
backs upon one another, when any slight noise Jack might make would
almost certainly be attributed by each man to his comrade.  Jack went
down on hands and knees and crawled very slowly to within a few paces of
the meeting-place.  Then he lay still, hoping that he had not
miscalculated and that there was no danger beyond.  He listened
intently; on both sides he heard the men approaching; to the left the
sound was fainter; the beats were evidently of unequal length.  One man
came to a halt; in a few seconds he was joined by the other; they
exchanged a remark in a low tone, then separated and tramped in opposite
directions.  Instantly Jack glided across their trail, and, still on
hands and knees, crept towards the farm, which he distinguished as a
blacker patch against the sky perhaps a hundred yards away.

He soon found that between him and the wall lay a stretch of almost bare
ground, no doubt made by the traffic around the farm.  How was he to
cross this?  He might be seen by both Cossacks and Chunchuses, and if
seen he would be the target for perhaps scores of rifles.

All was still within the farm; from the distance came faint
sounds—voices from the Russian camp; behind he heard the tramp of
sentries.  Flat on the ground, already cold with the autumn night frost,
he eagerly scanned the prospect for some cover by favour of which he
could creep across to the wall.  His heart gave a jump as he noticed, a
few feet to his right, what appeared to be a ditch running from the wall
across the bare patch and into the fields.  Crawling noiselessly to it,
he found that it was a shallow cutting, intended, as he judged by the
smell, to carry off the drainage from the courtyard.  There was no help
for it; he sidled into the channel, luckily dry, and wormed his way
along it until he came to within a few feet of the wall.  As he
expected, the drain passed through a hole in the wall, sufficiently deep
for a man to crawl through.

But the wall gave him pause.  He dared not creep through; he would be
taken for an enemy and shot. He must seek a means of communicating with
the garrison without drawing their fire.  He crawled to the hole,
hesitated for a moment, then, making a bell of his hands, sent through
the shallow tunnel a low hiss, loud enough to awaken attention; soft
enough, he hoped, not to create alarm.  Breathlessly he waited; there
was no response. Again he hissed; this time somewhat louder.  There was
a quick footstep within; then silence.  A third time; he heard a foot
strike against the wall, and next moment became conscious that someone
was looking down at him over the wall.  He lifted his head.

"I am a friend," he said in deliberate clear-cut Chinese. "I have news
for your captain."

The man uttered an exclamation under his breath; then bade him remain
perfectly still or he would shoot him.  In a low tone he summoned a
comrade and sent him for the commander.  Jack heard a little bustle
within, not loud enough to catch the attention of the sentries.  A few
minutes later a second voice spoke from the top of the wall.

"Come through."

Jack wriggled through the narrow opening.  Only his head projected
within the wall when he was told to stop.

"Who are you?"

"Mr. Wang, is that you?"

"Ch’hoy!  It is Mr. Chack Blown.  Rise, sir!"

All bemired and dishevelled, Jack sprang to his feet. The Chinaman
kowtowed, uttering an incoherent welcome; then led the way to the
farmhouse.

"That’s the most ticklish half-hour I ever spent in my life," said Jack,
when he was seated opposite to Wang Shih on the k’ang in the
living-room.  "And I’m pretty hungry.  I’ve had nothing but rice-cakes
and monkey-nuts since morning.  Have you got anything to eat?"

"Plenty, sir; it is water we are in straits for.  I will get you
something."

In a few minutes a hot dish of boiled chicken and rice, with a couple of
clean chop-sticks, lay before Jack.  He ate the meal with keen relish,
while Wang Shih at his request gave a rapid narrative of the events that
had led to his present predicament.  With a small force he was beating
up recruits in the district when he suddenly came upon a troop of
Cossacks outnumbering him by two to one. Knowing the country so well, he
could easily have got away, but unluckily he was sighted by a second
troop, which cut across his line of retreat so rapidly that he had only
time to throw himself and his handful of men into the farm before the
two hostile bands united and closed upon him.  He had kept them off for
three days; there was food enough to last another week, but his
ammunition was running short, and, worst of all, the water supply had
almost given out.  His men had been put upon the smallest possible
allowance, but in spite of their care and self-denial there was barely
enough left to last for another twenty-four hours, and the horses were
already suffering terribly.  He had been hoping that Ah Lum would send a
force to relieve him; but the chief was moving northward when he last
saw him, and he doubted whether the man he had sent could reach him in
time.  In default of relief, his only course when the water failed would
be to make a sortie by night; but the odds against him were so heavy
that very few of his men could possibly escape.

"That is why I am here," said Jack.  "I was on my way to join Mr. Ah—the
reason I will tell you presently—when I heard of your plight, in the
village yonder.  I came to see for myself how you were placed; your
danger had not been exaggerated; and I was on the point of going off in
despair when I had a sudden idea; it was suggested by something I saw in
the enemy’s camp.  I think there is a bare chance of escape if you will
act on my plan."

There was a look of mingled eagerness and anxiety on Wang Shih’s face as
he begged Jack to tell him what he had in mind.

"I am not alone," continued Jack.  "I came up with a guide given me by
Mr. Ah’s agent Me Hong in Moukden, and Hi Lo, our compradore’s son, you
remember.  They are waiting on the hill less than a mile away.  When I
was looking out over the country I saw the Russians light fires for
cooking their supper, and at first wondered why their kitchen was so far
away from the farm.  But I saw the reason.  As you know, there’s a
strong north-easter blowing; the smoke from their fires floated this
way, towards the farm.  They had been prudent in selecting a spot away
from the fields, for a spark in the long grass might start a blaze, and,
spreading through the kowliang, it would destroy their cover and make
them easy targets for your marksmen.  What would happen if the grass
chanced to burn in the night, eh?"

The Chinaman’s expression changed; his chest heaved.

"We have tried to fire the grass more than once, but they always stamped
it out.  Go on, sir," he said.

"Well, you see, if a match were put to the grass to windward of the
farm, in several places, and if the wind held, the flames would sweep
upon the Russians in a very few minutes.  Their horses would stampede;
the men would be so startled that probably they would be quite unable to
think of anything but their own safety; and while they were scattered
and disorganized, you could sally out of the gate and get so good a
start that, even if they caught their horses, you would be out of harm’s
way before they could pursue."

"But the flames would set fire to the farm.  We should be burnt alive;
our horses would be frightened too, and we could never get them to face
the fire and smoke."

"I had thought of that.  The thatch will probably catch fire; but the
open space outside the wall will prevent the flames from actually
touching the wall, and that will serve as a partial protection.  Then
you can blindfold the horses so that they don’t see the glare; they’ll
have to risk suffocation by the smoke, but the men can avoid that by
lying flat on their faces and holding wet rags to their mouths. If I’m
right, the crops will burn very quickly and not smoulder; you must, of
course, wait until the fire has swept by the farm; but then dash out
without losing a minute. I think you can rely on the Russians getting a
terrible fright, and that will be your opportunity."

"But how is the fire to be lighted at the right place, and how are we to
know when it will be done?"

"I left instructions with my guide.  If he hears three rifle-shots in
succession at noon to-morrow he is to creep down with Hi Lo at dusk and
choose two spots about half a mile apart, just beyond where the
Cossacks’ horses are picketed.  They will set fire to the grass where it
is thickest, then run towards each other and fire it in two other
places, and make their way as rapidly as possible back to the copse
where our ponies are.  The only risk is that they may be discovered
before they can complete their work; but it’s to their own interest to
be careful, and I think I can trust Hi Lo, at any rate, to outwit any
Russian."

Wang Shih was convinced.  Greatly impressed by the care with which Jack
had thought out the details of the stratagem, he smiled and rubbed his
hands together with gleeful satisfaction.  Suddenly he checked these
signs of pleasure; he rose from the seat, pressed his closed fists to
his breast, and bent over until his brow all but touched the ground.

"I thank you, sir," he said.  "I am grateful; Mr. Ah will be grateful;
you have risked your life for us, and we Chinamen never forget a
benefit."

"You saved me from death, Mr. Wang; look at it as an acknowledgment if
you like.  Besides, we are not out of the wood yet; the farm may be
stormed to-morrow before the time for trying our little plan."

The Chinaman scoffed; he had held the Russians off for three days, and
it was not to be supposed that, with an additional motive for a stout
resistance, his men would fail at the last.

"But what if the wind drops?  We require the wind to make the blaze a
short and merry one."

"No, no, sir.  At this time of year the wind when it sets from the
north-east blows for weeks at a time——"

"Bringing snow as often as not.  A snow-storm would spoil it all."

Wang Shih’s face fell; he looked so much distressed that Jack laughed.

"I was only imagining the worst, Mr. Wang.  The sky is clear and the air
as dry as a bone.  Barring an accident, or some very sudden and unlikely
change in the weather, there will be a pretty bonfire to-morrow night."

"Shall I tell the men to-night, sir?"

"On no account.  Let them sleep.  The place is carefully watched, of
course?"

"Yes.  Six men are on duty for two hours at a time; the watches are
carefully arranged."

"That’s all right, then.  Now I’m pretty tired; this k’ang is very warm
and cosy, and if you don’t mind I’ll coil myself up on it and go to
sleep.  Don’t wake me unless anything happens."

Jack slept like a top till ten next morning.  It was bright and clear,
and he was delighted to find that the wind had increased in force.  Wang
Shih had been self-restrained enough to withhold the details of Jack’s
plan from his men, curious as they were to learn what had brought the
Englishman into their midst at such risk to himself. They had merely
been told that there was a prospect of escape.  At noon the three shots
arranged as a signal were fired by Wang Shih himself.  The Russians took
no notice of them.  Hidden by the kowliang they were content to wait,
knowing that the water supply must ere long fail.  In the afternoon the
men were informed of the scheme and given their instructions.  They
became voluble as they discussed the plan among themselves.  There is a
bed-rock of stoicism in the Chinese character; these brigands were not
given to a facile display of emotion; they showed little surprise,
little pleasure, but talked over the approaching event almost
dispassionately, as if it had been an academic problem.  They prepared
material for blindfolding the horses, and rags to steep in the last inch
of turbid water in the tank; then the most of them settled down to
beguile the remaining hours with fan-tan.

Jack could not achieve such composure of mind.  He gave no outward sign
of his feelings; but as the hours passed and the time drew near for the
execution of his plan he began to feel restless and impatient.  He was
amused at himself, remembering how his father had been wont to poke fun
at him for this very characteristic.  "It’s only in the Arabian Nights
that an acorn becomes an oak in a moment," Mr. Brown once said.  But
though he could smile at himself he did not become less impatient as the
day wore on.  As the sun crept round towards the west, and sank over the
purple hills, he looked anxiously from a secure corner of the wall
towards the spot whence he expected the flames to spring.  The twilight
thickened; there was no sign.  All at once he thought he saw an object
moving down the opposite hillside.  Surely the guide could not be so
arrantly stupid as to approach in full view of the camp!  In a few
moments Jack’s anxiety was relieved, and at the same time increased,
when he found that the moving object was a Cossack slowly riding towards
the farm.  He was a messenger, perhaps; probably his approach had
delayed the execution of the scheme; Jack could only hope that this
would not be frustrated entirely.  The rider came nearer and nearer; he
might discover the man and the boy lurking in the long grass, for he was
approaching the very spot that Jack had pointed out as an excellent
place for the first match to be struck.  An intervening hillock now hid
the Cossack from view; Jack waited; it was growing darker; would the
expected flame never spring up?  The minutes passed, lingeringly; all
was quiet; nothing could be heard but the rustle and clash of the grass
and stalks as the wind struck their tops together.

Suddenly, from a spot somewhat to the right of the place where the
Cossack had disappeared, a thin spiral of smoke shot up into the indigo
sky.  Almost simultaneously another appeared, far to the left; in the
dark they could scarcely be detected except by eyes so intently looking
for them as Jack’s.  They grew in volume; other spirals rose between
them; fanned by the steady wind they swelled into a bank of smoke,
through which Jack’s anxious gaze now discerned tongues of flame.

"Now!" he cried to Wang Shih at his elbow.

The word was given to the men; in a few seconds the horses were
blindfolded; and by the time the rags were steeped a vast blaze
illuminated the sky; the four fires, spreading with amazing rapidity,
were sweeping towards the farm at the rate of a trotting horse.  Shouts
broke the stillness; amid the crackling of the flames the clatter of
metal, the shrill whinnies of terrified horses, then the thunder of
hoofs.  From the fields men ran helter-skelter, some attempting to catch
their horses, others in their confusion rushing towards the open space
before the farm, careless whether the rifles of the Chunchuses marked
them down.  Onward came the dense volume of smoke bellying towards the
farm.  Jack already felt the heat; above his head red wisps of grass
were streaking the sky; one fell upon the thatch, extinct; another
followed, dying before it could kindle the straw; the next was larger,
burned more brightly; it held; the thatch was alight.

The men were prone upon the ground, pressing wet rags to their mouths.
Their horses were snorting, whinnying, straining on their halters; one
had broken loose, and was madly dashing round the courtyard when Jack
seized it by the broken halter and endeavoured to soothe it.  The mud
wall beat off the flames; but the smoke enveloped the whole farm in a
dense cloud, pungent, spark-laden, becoming every moment more stifling.
Jack was forced to earth; he could not breathe; still clutching the
halter he crept under the lee of the wall, and there lay fighting for
breath.  The thatched roof was now ablaze; the fields were a mass of
fire; would the smoke never pass and leave a passage for the almost
suffocated men?

A red glare lit up the farmyard.  The flames had devoured the thatch,
and were licking the joists.  Jack glanced round the scene, his eyes
smarting so keenly that he could scarcely see.  The horses were
shivering with terror; two or three of the men, braving the smoke, were
endeavouring to calm them; the rest of the Chunchuses were still flat on
the ground.  But to the north-east the smoke was thinning.  Jack rose to
his feet and looked over the wall.  The fields between the farm and the
river were black, with here and there a smouldering stalk.  On the other
side the flames were still raging; there was nothing to check their
fury.  The passage from the gateway was now open; the ground indeed was
very hot; but it would be folly to wait for it to cool.  Jack called for
Wang Shih.

"Now is the time," he said.

Wang Shih gave the word; the men sprang to their feet and vaulted into
the saddle; the bar across the gate was let down; and then, tearing the
bandages from their horses’ eyes, the men dashed out at a furious gallop
across the still scorching soil.  Jack, mounted on a spare horse, led
the way towards the river, making for the bridle path which must have
been followed by the Cossack just before the match was struck.  For the
first half-mile it was a terrible race; sparks and smoke flew up as the
horses stirred the smouldering embers; the poor beasts screamed with
pain as their unshod hoofs felt the heat; the men breathed stertorously,
half-choked by the acrid fumes.  Then, in an instant as it seemed, they
passed from an inferno into the elysian fields.  They had reached the
limit of the burnt grass, the keen cold wind struck their faces; men and
animals took deep breaths; they were free, and in the pure air again.
Floundering through the fresh-ploughed field where the Russians had left
their cooking-pots, they came to the river.  For one moment they halted
to allow men and horses to slake their thirst; then they pushed on, up
the northern slope, in the direction of the place where Jack hoped to
find Hi Lo and the guide.

On the crest of the slope he reined up for a moment and looked to the
left.  The sheet of fire was still sweeping on towards a plantation on
the south-west side.  It seemed that the whole country in that direction
must be devastated; nothing could stop the flames but the bare rocky
ridge a mile or more away.  Faint shouts came from the distance; then a
fitful succession of shots scarcely audible through the crackle and
roar.  Who could be firing?  Jack was puzzled to account for the sounds
until he guessed that the Cossacks in their headlong flight had flung
away their loaded carbines, and that, as the fire swept over them, these
were exploded by the heat.

With a glow of content at the success of his scheme, Jack hastened on
after the brigands, now walking their horses towards the uplands.  There
was no fear of pursuit; the Russians were far too much demoralized, and
their horses were gone, none knew whither.  When Jack overtook the band,
Wang Shih suggested that they should follow up their advantage and
destroy the enemy.  But from this Jack dissuaded him; there were
probably other detachments of Cossacks in the neighbourhood; it was best
to let well alone, and rejoin his chief as soon as possible.  Ah Lum
might himself be hard pressed by the encircling movement which the
Russians had apparently begun.  The Chunchuses therefore rode on, still
at a walking pace.

The moon was rising, throwing her silvery mantle over the quiet country.
Skirting a black clump of trees the riders were startled to hear the
distant clatter of a large body of horses galloping towards them.
Moment by moment the sound grew louder.  Had another troop of the enemy
learnt of what had happened and started on their tracks?  Wang Shih
looked anxiously around; nothing could be seen, but the sound appeared
to come from beyond a stretch of rolling country to the left of their
line of march.  Giving a brief word of command, Wang Shih wheeled his
horse towards the copse; and his band following him at a quick trot,
they were soon in the cover of the leafless trees, waiting in anxious
silence for the appearance of the enemy.

Nearer and nearer came the thud of hundreds of hoofs. Wang Shih ordered
his men to maintain absolute silence; he hoped that the enemy, unaware
of his proximity, would pass by and give him the opportunity to slip
away undetected.  A few minutes passed; Jack was wondering why he could
not hear the rattle of sword-cases on the horses’ flanks, when on the
crest of the low ridge opposite appeared the head of the column, and the
earth seemed to shake as score after score of dark forms swept forward
towards the path the Chunchuses had so lately left.  The brigands had
much ado to quiet their ponies, which were pricking their ears and
snuffing with distended nostrils in restless excitement.  Then, as the
moonlight fell upon the advancing mass, every man in the copse heaved a
sigh of relief—and something more.  Their pursuers were not horsemen,
but horses, every one of them riderless—clearly the stampeded horses of
the enemy, rushing blindly into the night, the fire panic at their
heels.

"We ought to catch them," said Jack to Wang Shih as they thundered past.

The Chinaman smacked his lips with approval.  Such a capture would be a
turning of the tables indeed.  But how was it to be done?  One of his
men, knowing in the ways of horses, proposed a plan.  The principal
thing was to prevent the fugitives from heading back towards the
Cossacks.  Let the brigands then extend on a wide front and follow; the
runagates would keep together, and by and by, when their flight was
past, come to a halt.  Adopting the suggestion, Wang Shih led his men at
a smart trot up the slope.  For a long time the beat of the runaways’
hoofs could be heard in the night air—the more clearly because they were
to windward.  Then the sound gradually died away.  Wang Shih was anxious
not to outrun them in the darkness; the country was uneven, with patches
of timber here and there, and the animals if they stopped in the shelter
of the hills might easily be passed.  But with the number of men at his
command it would not be difficult to find the most of them, at any rate,
with the morning light.  He pushed on, therefore, until he reached the
spot where Hi Lo and the guide were eagerly awaiting Jack’s arrival.
There the band off-saddled, and, worn out with fatigue and excitement,
the men flung themselves down on the leaf-strewn ground and sought their
much-needed rest.

Jack did not fail to bestow warm praise upon the man and the boy who had
so faithfully and cleverly carried out their part of the scheme.  Hi Lo
had been just on the point of striking his match when the Cossack
messenger whom Jack had seen came riding behind him.  The boy had barely
time to slip into the tall kowliang, whence he had watched the
unsuspecting horseman ride past.

"You did very well," said Jack.  "Your father will be pleased when I
tell him."

Hi Lo beamed with delight.

"My hab makee velly big fire; my look-see allo-piecee Lusski man
belongey velly muchee ’flaid; my walkee long-side chow-chow pots;
catchee plenty muchee bellyful, that-time lun wailo."

Jack laughed, and bade the boy make a pillow of his pony’s saddle and go
to sleep.

Next morning the stampeded horses were discovered peacefully cropping
the grass in a narrow valley about a mile from the Chunchuses’ bivouac.
They allowed themselves to be caught easily; and with the booty of
nearly two hundred Transbaikal ponies in excellent condition Wang Shih
pursued his march.



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                             *The War Game*


An Offer—Conditions—The Sweep of the Net—Military Instructor—The Spur of
Competition—Birds of a Feather—Short Commons—A Trap—More Cossacks—Ah Lum
in Danger—Initiative—A Race for Position—Sword and Pistol—Driven Off


For four days Wang Shih and his band marched through the hills without
hearing anything of Ah Lum.  Their progress was somewhat hampered by the
additional horses, and Wang Shih chose devious and difficult paths in
order to evade scouting parties of Cossacks; for he had little doubt
that when the news of the recent incident reached the Russian general in
charge of the lines of communication, he would issue orders to his
lieutenants to hasten their movements against their daring and elusive
enemy. On the fifth day it was reported by a peasant that Ah Lum, after
a continuous march northward, was now turning south before formidable
Russian forces that were threatening to enclose him.  He had felt their
strength in one or two slight engagements, and found that they greatly
outnumbered him; but, owing to his superior mobility and his knowledge
of the country, he had been able to escape without serious loss.

Next day, as the band was threading a defile leading to a well-watered
valley, there was a sudden stoppage of the column.  It turned out that
the advanced patrol had been halted by Ah Lum’s scouts, who, however, as
soon as they learned the identity of the new-comers, allowed them to
pass.  The Chunchuse chief was found to have encamped by the river-side,
in the valley, the three exits to it being carefully guarded.  When he
learnt that Wang Shih had returned, with a welcome supply of remounts,
he rode forward to meet his lieutenant.  Great was his amazement to find
among the band the young Englishman who had served as unpaid tutor to
his son.  His surprise was greater still when Wang Shih recounted the
part Jack had played; and the narrative did not minimize his
achievement; Wang Shih declared plainly that but for Jack’s timely
arrival, quick wit, and fearlessness of character, the band must
inevitably have been wiped out.  Ah Lum made no effort to conceal his
pleasure.  He had the soldier’s delight in a brilliant feat; the
brigand’s delight in a good haul; and the mere man’s delight in the
chance of again securing tutorial services for nothing.  He warmly
congratulated Jack, and insisted on knowing all the circumstances that
had led up to the great event.  When the story was fully told, his
little black eyes gleamed through his goggles with undisguised
satisfaction.

"Irresistible destiny has fulfilled her own decree," he said.  "All
events are separately fated before they happen.  I repeat the offer I
made to you on the eve of your departure.  If there be no faith in our
words, of what use are they?  I will give you a command in my army; you
will come next to my trusty lieutenant, Mr. Wang; he has muscle, you
have mind: both inestimable qualities in a warrior.  Did not the poet
Wang Wei write in his _Essay on Military Matters_:

    "’Know then the Proof: that Leader is most fit
    Who Thought to Valour joins, and Strength to Wit’?"


"Thank you!" said Jack gravely; "I accept your kind offer; but, to be
frank, there are one or two points I think I ought to mention.  As I
said, our compradore has gone to Harbin to make enquiries for my father;
if I hear from him, I may have to leave at any moment."

"That is understood.  The son that forgetteth his father, shall he not
die childless?"

"And there is another point.  As you know, Mr. Ah, it is not the English
custom—nor indeed the custom of any western nation—to torture prisoners.
I have heard that the ways of Chinese warriors are not like ours in that
respect.  You will pardon me if I say that it will be difficult for me
to take service in a force to whom such excesses are permitted."

Somewhat to Jack’s surprise the chief did not take offence.

"In that also," he said, "my mind is equally yoked with yours.  As
Confucius says, ’The intelligence of the superior man is deep’; the wise
man is he that is ever learning.  I have watched this war; I see that
the Japanese have won their successes by adopting the red man’s methods.
I will make a decree that no prisoner shall suffer inordinate
correction.  But I must beg you to be patient.  When water has once
flowed over, it cannot easily be restored; when the passions have once
been indulged, they cannot easily be restrained.  Water must be kept in
by dykes, the passions must be regulated by the laws of propriety.  I
will impress these laws on my men; they shall know what is right; and I
will make them understand that knowing what is right without practising
it denotes a want of proper resolution."

"Thank you, Mr. Ah! that is a relief.  For myself, I can only say that I
will do my best to be worthy of your confidence."

"Now, is it not written, ’He that gives willingly is himself worthy of
gifts’?  I beg of you a favour in return; it is that you will continue
to give my son lessons in your honourable language.  And, further, I
shall be grateful if you will deign to teach me something of the
barbarian’s art of war, the learning of which has made the Japanese so
victorious."

"I will go on with Ah Fu with pleasure," said Jack, adding with a smile:
"but I’m afraid I can’t do anything in the other line.  I have made no
study of warfare; my father has trained me to a commercial career."

"But you have seen the barbarian armies at their exercise?"

"I admit that."

"Well, I am sure you can be of great service to me if it is your august
pleasure."

"I will do what I can, Mr. Ah,—if your men will carry out instructions.
I’m a ’foreign devil’, after all."

"’In the world there are many men, but few heroes’, as the proverb says.
I know your worth; do I not remember the boar, and the saving of my
son’s life? surely it would ill become me to forget; and this late
employment of fire against our enemies?  Modesty is attended with
profit; whereas arrogance courts destruction.  My men, those that I
place under you, will obey you.  I will see to that."

Jack thus found himself lieutenant in a regiment of some twelve hundred
men, armed for the most part with Mausers, and well mounted.  Except for
a wholesome dread of their chief, however, they had very little
discipline, and but scant military cohesion.  Although there was no lack
of arms and ammunition, Ah Lum was not too well provisioned. He had been
driven by the encircling Russian movement into a somewhat poor district,
the hills being more fruitful in forest trees than in grain.  The valley
of his encampment was fertile enough, but its products would soon be
exhausted, and it was separated from the grain-bearing plains to the
west by a chain of barren heights.  The bandits were being driven
farther and farther into the mountainous regions, where it would become
increasingly difficult to feed so large a force.  Messengers had
recently come in, reporting that Russian troops operating on the
northern frontier of Korea were pushing reconnoitring parties into the
hills in their rear with the object of locating them.  There were many
smaller parties of Chunchuses scattered over the country, but Ah Lum’s
was the only considerable band left in the angle between the two railway
lines connecting Harbin with Kirin and Vladivostok respectively.  The
lull after the battle of Liao-yang had enabled the Russians to devote
more attention than heretofore to clearing their flanks of these
troublesome irregulars.  Ah Lum was well served by scouts, the country
people being anxious to purchase immunity by giving such information as
they could without risk; and from them the chief had learnt that the
largest force opposed to him was at this time about two marches away.
Some days would probably pass before they came on his trail.  It had
been throughout the war the Russians’ experience that the Chinese were
very reluctant to give them news of any kind, and this reluctance had
been still more marked since the unbroken success of the Japanese had
become common knowledge through the country.

Day after day passed, and the bandits were still left unmolested.  Jack,
settling down to his new position, had his hands fully occupied.  He
gave Ah Fu lessons in English daily, to his father’s great delight.  But
he had wider scope for his tutorial faculty.  He had felt a little
natural amusement at the idea of being placed—he, a civilian, with just
as much military experience as his school drill-ground and some practice
at the butts afforded—in command of a troop of warriors—a motley horde,
indeed, but all seasoned, determined, fearless fellows. But, as was
inevitable in a force indiscriminately recruited and entirely lacking in
regular training, the men had much to learn; and Jack had not made a
whole-hearted study of the Boer war without feeling that, civilian
though he was, he was better acquainted with the general principles of
warfare than possibly any other member of the band.  The Chunchuses were
little accustomed to organized movements on any considerable scale; they
were most adept in sniping at single travellers or small bodies whom
they could attack unawares from the vantage of cover.  Something more
was required if they were to defeat the serious attempts now being made
to crush them, and Jack was determined to show himself worthy of Ah
Lum’s confidence by his manner of handling his own division of two
hundred and fifty men.

Marksmanship and cover: these he took to be the principal factors in
modern warfare.  So far as the use of cover was concerned, he found that
his men had little to learn; several months of hard fighting against
troops carrying arms of precision had enforced the value of cover in the
most practical way.  In each engagement the Russians had taken toll of
those who failed to recognize its importance: their bodies lay among the
hills from the Yalu to the Sungari.  But in marksmanship the Chunchuses
were not so efficient.  A large proportion of them had never handled,
perhaps never even seen, a rifle until they joined the band.  Without
definite instruction they were apt to blaze away at their own will and
pleasure, absolutely reckless of the wastage of ammunition, which had
hitherto, owing to one or two lucky raids, been plentiful.  Jack
suspected that the proportion of hits to misses was woefully small.  He
therefore set earnestly to work to effect an improvement in this
respect.  He rigged up butts, put every man in his command through a
course, and, taking advantage of the Chinaman’s love of competitive
examination, started a shooting competition, with badges of different
form and colour for the prizes.  This especially pleased Ah Lum; it
aroused a keen spirit among his men; the example of Jack’s division was
soon followed by the rest, and the general proficiency was very largely
increased.

Among Jack’s men were the greater part of the company he had rescued.
One of them was Hu Hang, the ex-constable.  This man showed
extraordinary skill with the rifle.  As Hi Lo said:

"Policeyman he can shootee allo plopa first-chop what-time no piecee man
he shootee back."

This was a somewhat caustic remark; but Hi Lo had no love for the
constable, who indeed was not popular among the band.  His comrades
would have been hardly human if they had not made the most of their
opportunities of paying off against Hu Hang the scores that many of them
owed to members of his hated class.  He kept a good deal apart, finding
a congenial soul only in C’hu Tan, the former second in command, who had
been deposed for grave neglect of duty, and replaced by Wang Shih.  The
two malcontents were often together, condoling with each other on their
wrongs; and their animus against Wang Shih extended to Jack, who struck
them as an additional supplanter, the more hateful from being a
foreigner.  Jack knew nothing of this himself; but it did not escape the
shrewd eyes of Hi Lo, who kept quiet and unobtrusive watch upon C’hu
Tan, dogging him at every turn.

After a fortnight’s steady practice Jack felt that the fighting value of
his little force was well-nigh doubled. But at the end of that time Ah
Lum suddenly ordered the rifle practice to be stopped.  A scout had
reported that the Russians had approached within striking distance, and
the chief feared lest the sound of the firing should betray his
whereabouts.

At last one morning, after hearing a messenger who came in faint and
gasping after a long night’s ride, Ah Lum felt that the coil was being
drawn too tightly around him.  He gave a sudden order to decamp; the
band quitted the valley that had sheltered them so long, and set off
into the hills.  Lack of provisions was beginning to be felt. The
ponies, hardy little animals, were able to pick up a subsistence on the
hillsides, sparse though the grazing was at this time of year; and for
them stalks of kowliang could always be obtained as a last resource.
But the supply of rice and buckwheat, on which the men depended, was
running short.  Ah Lum somewhat dismally told Jack that it would now be
necessary to reduce the rations.  He confessed that he was in a tighter
place than ever before. At no time previously had the Russians made such
determined efforts to crush him.  In addition to the Korean frontier
force far to his rear, which for the present need not be reckoned with,
there were, as he had learnt, three large forces of Cossacks, each
stronger than his own band, converging upon him from north, east, and
west.  General Kuropatkin had hitherto been able to make little use of
these characteristic cavalry of the Russian army, so that they were
available for the less dignified but very necessary work of
bandit-hunting.  The three forces directed against Ah Lum were still a
considerable distance apart from one another, but it was clear to him
that in a few days he would have to try conclusions with one of them
before they got into touch.  He had only escaped this necessity so long
because the Cossacks were unaccustomed to hill work.  Matchless in rapid
furious charges on the plain, they had shown little capacity for
mountain fighting or even for scouting; and, as Jack learnt afterwards,
they were desperately chagrined at their hard luck in having so few
chances of the kind of work that suited them.

The Chunchuses marched for several days into the hills, their condition
going from bad to worse.  The rations were verging on exhaustion.  The
Cossacks were no doubt well supplied, and Ah Lum felt that the moment
had come for an attack on one of their forces.  The nearest was only a
long march distant.  Breaking up his camp early one morning, when the
night’s frost lay white on the ground, he led his men across the hills
northward, and, proceeding with great caution, located the enemy late in
the afternoon.  Throwing out scouts in advance—men intimately acquainted
with the country—he sighted the Cossacks before they sighted him, and at
once fell back behind a forest-clad ridge so that his presence might not
be discovered that day.  During the night his scouts reported,
apparently by a calculation from the enemy’s watch-fires, that the
Cossacks were at least a thousand strong, and thus about equal
numerically to Ah Lum’s effective force, with the advantage of better
discipline and training.  But the chief, in common with all his
countrymen, had shrewdly studied the invaders; he had not been blind to
the Cossacks’ failure in the war, and he was hardly the kind of man to
allow himself to be terrorized by the mere name of Cossack, the effect
of which was due merely to the memory of past exploits when the
conditions of warfare were different.

An hour or two before they sighted the Russians, the bandits had
advanced through a narrow pass, enclosed between steep and rugged
bluffs.  Upon this pass Ah Lum decided to fall back; it offered every
advantage for an ambuscade.  Withdrawing thither during the hours of
darkness, he allowed his men a brief spell of sleep; then, while the
dawn was yet but a glimmer, he set them to fell trees in the copses that
crowned the hills, and to pile them across the pathway at the far end.
It was still early when he placed half his men in cover upon the heights
overlooking the track; the rest, consisting of the divisions of Wang
Shih and Jack, were sent to threaten the Russian rear.  A mist hung over
the hills; it was bitterly cold, and the ponies often slipped on the
frosty ground.  Luckily Wang Shih had with him a peasant of the
neighbourhood who acted as guide.  But for him the Chunchuses could
hardly have found their way.

It was but an hour after daybreak when they found themselves on the
right rear of the Russians about two miles from the latter’s camp.  Wang
Shih’s orders were to wait until the Cossacks had advanced to the end of
the pass and been checked by the ambuscade there.  Then, before the
enemy could recover from the confusion into which they would be thrown,
he was to follow up rapidly in the hope that a movement seeming to
threaten their line of retreat might complete their disorder.  He
therefore waited until, from a secure hiding-place, he saw them quit
their camp and march out.  Then he moved his men with Jack’s down the
hill somewhat closer to the enemy’s line of march, and awaited the sound
of firing in the distance that would announce the beginning of the fight
at the ambuscade.

Meanwhile Jack narrowly scanned the surrounding country.  The mist had
cleared away, and a bright cold October sun was painting the distant
hills with various charming tints.  Suddenly Jack’s attention was
attracted by a dark, narrow, tape-like something moving down a slope far
to the north-west.  Before many seconds were past he was convinced that
it was a body of horsemen.  The question was, what horsemen?  In the
distance their character could not be distinguished; the one thing
certain was that they were not Japanese, for their clothes were very
dark; the Japanese were wearing khaki.  They were scarcely likely to be
Chunchuses; from their regular even progress Jack concluded that they
could not be native carriers; surely they must be a second body of
Cossacks who had advanced by forced marches to co-operate with those now
approaching the ambush.

Jack had moved some little distance in advance of his troop.  What he
had seen sent him in haste to rejoin Wang Shih.

"We must get our men under cover," he said.  "There are Cossacks, I
believe, descending the opposite hills. They may not have seen us yet."

The Chunchuses moved within cover of the nearest trees, and Wang Shih
sent forward his keenest scout on foot to ascertain whether the
new-comers were enemies or friends.  He returned in a few minutes
declaring that even at this distance he had distinguished the
characteristic head-dress of the Cossacks.  Wang Shih was disposed to
remain in cover until the time came for him to carry out Ah Lum’s
orders.  In his present position he ran little risk of being seen by the
oncoming party, and being entirely without imagination it did not occur
to him that the situation was now perhaps radically altered.  But to
Jack the discovery seemed to be serious.  The line of advance taken by
the second body of Cossacks would bring them within an hour across Ah
Lum’s rear.  The position had been strangely reversed.  While Ah Lum
believed that Wang Shih was cutting off the retreat of the first body,
his own rear was in process of being threatened by a force twice as
numerous as the one he could dispose of.  He was probably in ignorance
of the danger, for the advancing Cossacks were shut from his view by the
contours of the hills, and there was little likelihood now of a warning
being conveyed to him by a Chinese villager.  It was impossible for a
messenger to reach him from Wang Shih, for the first Russian force lay
between.

Jack pointed out to Wang Shih the peril in which his chief lay.  The
Chunchuse admitted it, but asked what he could do.  With his assistance
Ah Lum might beat the first body of the enemy before the second could
arrive, and then could turn his attention to it in its turn.

"But suppose the fight takes a long time?  And suppose we do not succeed
in beating the first Russian force?  If they hold us until the second
arrives, Mr. Ah’s men will be attacked from the rear, and they will
certainly be crushed between the two."

"It is as you say.  But the chief has given me orders; he will be angry
if I disobey.  It is better to carry out orders."

It was evident that Wang Shih was disinclined to assume any
responsibility.  Jack was by no means satisfied that things must be
allowed to take their course.  It appeared to him of the utmost
importance that the second Russian force should be held in check until
the first had been disposed of.  He went through the clump of bare trees
until he reached the summit of the crest, and looked anxiously towards
the advancing band.

About a mile away the hill path it was following disappeared in a cleft
in the hills, reappearing a quarter of a mile farther on.  It seemed to
Jack that at this spot, resembling somewhat the position Ah Lum had
taken up, it was possible to hold the Russians in check.  So far as he
could see, there was no better place along their route for such an
attempt, and he instantly made up his mind that the attempt must be
made.  It was doubtful whether the Chunchuses could reach the cleft in
time to occupy it before the Cossacks arrived, but there was a bare
chance, and he resolved to take it.

Hastening back to Wang Shih he explained that he proposed with his own
division of men to make for the cleft, leaving the rest to carry out Ah
Lum’s instructions. Wang Shih raised no objection; he merely stipulated
that Jack should accept the full responsibility for his action. In a few
minutes, therefore, Jack rode off at the head of his band; almost
immediately after starting he heard the dull sound of firing in Ah Lum’s
direction; the fight in the pass had begun.  Clearly there was no time
to lose, for the same sound would certainly quicken the approach of the
second body of Russians.

Keeping down the hill in order to screen his movements as long as
possible from the enemy, Jack led the way at as rapid a trot as the
rugged ground allowed.  Only a few minutes had passed when the little
force rode out on to the open hillside, where they must be seen by the
Russians. Jack fancied that the enemy was at this time nearer to the
cleft than his own men; but the Chunchuses were riding downhill, the
Russians up, which gave room for hope that he might reach the position
first.  He was helped also by the more open character of the ground on
his side, and by the fact that for some time the Russians failed to
recognize the object of the horsemen riding at full speed towards them.
During these precious moments Jack’s party gained several hundred yards.
Keeping one eye on the rough ground and the other on the enemy, Jack
noticed that the leading files broke from a walk into a trot and then
into a headlong scramble.  It was now neck or nothing.  Throwing caution
to the winds, he dug his spurs into his pony, and clattered at breakneck
speed down the slope, the Chunchuses hard at his heels.  Several ponies
stumbled and came to their knees, flinging their riders; but the rest,
intoxicated with the excitement of the race, rode unheeding after their
leader.  A dip in the ground now hid the two forces from one another;
they would not again come in sight until the cleft was reached.  Between
the Chunchuses and the point they aimed at lay a comparatively clear
space, dotted by a few single boulders without any of the smaller stones
that for most of their ride had impeded their progress.  Now Jack urged
his panting steed to a mad gallop; the quarter-mile was covered in a few
seconds; he dashed into the cleft, the foremost of his men but a length
behind.

[Illustration: At full Tilt]

Eagerly he peered ahead through the narrow tortuous passage.  None of
the Cossacks was in sight.  He galloped on, hoping to reach the other
end before they arrived; it would be easy to hold the entrance against
them.  He had almost reached the farther opening when he came full tilt
on the leading Russian horseman, a Transbaikal Cossack riding with loose
rein, pistol in hand. He was some twenty yards in advance of the troop.
In the heat of the race Jack had not anticipated the chance of a fight
on horseback.  Before he could draw his pistol the Russian had fired:
the bullet whizzed harmlessly past Jack’s head.  With astonishing
dexterity the Russian whipped his sword from the scabbard; by the time
Jack had his pistol ready only a few yards separated the two. Then Jack
fired; the Russian’s uplifted sword dropped from his hand, and the
ponies came together with a thud. Both riders fell to the ground, Jack
being thrown lightly on the slope to the right, thus fortunately
escaping the hoofs of the ponies following.  He arose dazed, saw a
confused mass of men in front of him, heard shouts and the crack of
pistols.  Pulling himself together, he ordered his men to dismount and
line the sides of the gully.  In an instant some scores of them were
scrambling up the bluffs on both sides, leaving their ponies to be
gradually passed to the rear by their comrades.

The men in front, finding themselves unsupported, began to give way, but
slowly and stubbornly.  As the Russians could only advance two abreast,
and that with difficulty, two or three precious minutes were gained,
during which the crests of the slopes on either side were manned by the
Chunchuses.  Now Jack gave the word to open fire.  His men were
breathless; their limbs were quivering; and their hasty ill-directed
shots did little execution.  But several horses and men fell in the
Russian van; the pressure on the mounted Chunchuses who were stemming
the Russian advance was reduced; and then, as the marksmen steadied and
took deliberate aim, a hot and deadly fire was poured into the enemy’s
ranks. The Russians made an attempt to reply, taking advantage of cover
where they could, some of them sheltering themselves behind the ponies
that had fallen.  But the bandits had all the advantage of position; the
Cossacks, after a gallant stand, were forced to give way; and leaving
more than thirty of their number on the ground they galloped back a
half-mile to a shoulder of the hill, where they found protection from
the rifle-fire of the Chunchuses.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

                         *A Fight in the Hills*


Playing the Game—A Sprint—Hit—Waiting—Across the Open—Hard Beset—Between
two Fires—The Raising of the Siege—The Spoils—The Rear-Guard—The Outlook


The onfall had been so violent and the fight so brisk and rapid that
Jack had had no time to form any plans or give any but the most obvious
orders demanded by the exigency of the moment.  He was exceedingly glad
of the breathing space afforded by the withdrawal of the enemy. If he
had checked them, it was only because he was able to forestall them in
the cleft; the real struggle was to come.

He utilized the pause to make good his position in the pass.  The narrow
path was strewn with boulders.  With these each bandit made his own
little fort, so arranging them, when they were not too heavy to be
moved, as to give the maximum of cover against the enemy’s fire. Jack
wondered what form the Russian attack would take. The pass was so
narrow, its course so uneven, that direct fire from the farther end
would not, he thought, be very effective.  That he was right was soon
proved.  In about a quarter of an hour the Cossacks opened a spasmodic
rifle-fire from the rough ground about three-quarters of a mile away.
It made no impression on the Chunchuses, except that one man was shot
dead by a ricochet.

Apparently convinced of the hopelessness of loosening the bandits’ hold
upon the pass, the Russians ceased firing.  As the minutes passed in
silence, Jack wondered what their next move was to be.  Faint sounds of
shots came from the distance; Ah Lum’s band was evidently still engaged;
surely the commander of the men opposed to Jack must know that he was
losing precious time, and would make some real effort to join hands with
the other force.  Jack could not but suspect that some movement was
being developed quietly and out of sight, a suspicion strengthened when
firing again broke out, intermittent, absolutely ineffective, probably
designed to withdraw his attention from anything beyond his immediate
front. From his position in the pass he could see nothing of the
surrounding country; but about a hundred yards nearer the Russians there
was a point from which he thought a good view might be obtained.  To
reach it, however, he would have to run the gauntlet of the Russian
fire; for at least thirty yards he would be fully exposed without
possibility of taking cover.  Should he risk it?

For a time he hesitated.  The weighty reasons against endangering his
life flocked one after another through his mind; uppermost of all, the
thought of his father, and of his friends at home so anxiously waiting
for news of him. But he felt that having brought his men into their
present hot corner it was his duty, at whatever personal risk, to get
them out of it; and only by ascertaining the Russian plan of attack, if
they had one, could he hope with his mere handful of men to hold his
own.  He hesitated no longer. Not that he was disposed to forget
prudence and play the dare-devil.  He would not throw away any chance.
Shouting to the men nearest to him he told them what he proposed to do,
and arranged that when he reached the limits of cover three of the
bandits should draw the Russian fire by the old Indian trick of
displaying the corner of a garment above their lurking place, as if they
were exposing themselves to take aim.  The trick when tried for the
first time was almost certain to provoke a fusillade from the enemy, and
Jack could then seize the opportunity to make a dash across the open
ground.  The same device could be employed again when he signalled his
desire to return; but it was less likely to prove successful then, for
the Russians would be on the watch, and the more intelligent of them
would have seen through the ruse.  Still, it would be worth the trial
even in the second case. Accordingly, having arranged for the signal
which should announce his return, he started to worm his way to the
limit of cover.

When he arrived there he halted, turned round, and, lifting his hand to
show that he was ready, braced himself for the sprint across the open.
The appearance of a hat and portion of a coat above the rocks behind was
followed instantly by the rattle of musketry from the Russian position.
Setting his teeth, Jack sprang from cover and raced at full speed up the
hill to a little knot of boulders above him.  Before he had gone half
the distance there was a second crash of volleying rifles; but the
Russians had clearly taken very flurried aim; Jack heard the hissing
flight of the bullets, but reached the shelter of the rock without a
scratch.

As soon as he had taken breath, he set himself to make a careful survey
of the scene beneath him.  There was a party of Cossacks, whose numbers
it was impossible to estimate, more or less hidden in the rough ground
immediately in front of the pass.  Half a mile in their rear was another
body, apparently in reserve, numbering, as he guessed, about 300.  But
the force he had seen an hour before, winding its way down the hillside,
had consisted of more than 1000 men.  Where, then, were the rest? Jack’s
eye travelled from the lower to the upper slopes of the hill.  For a few
moments he could distinguish nothing resembling a body of men; then—yes,
about a mile and a half away was a dark object moving diagonally across
the field of view, and this soon resolved itself into a column of
horsemen.  The remnant of the Cossack force, about a third of its
strength, had presumably returned some distance along the path of their
advance, then swept round to the right.  In a few minutes they
disappeared from view; Jack could hardly doubt that they intended to
turn his position by following a bridle path that would probably bring
them out upon his rear.  He must go back and question the guide.  He
made the signal to his men; again they raised the garments; there was a
scathing volley from the Russians, but some, not to be caught napping a
second time, held their fire, and as Jack bounded forth he heard the
flying bullets whistling unpleasantly around him.  One tore the felt
from his Chinese shoe; another stung him like a whip in the forearm;
but, owing, doubtless, to the fact that he was racing downhill, and that
in consequence both the range and the elevation were rapidly changing,
he reached cover in safety except for these slight mishaps.

While his wound was being bound up, he questioned the man who had guided
the bandits to the district.  The Chinaman, on Jack explaining what he
had seen, agreed that there was a path through the hills in the
direction indicated.  It led to a ledge of rock jutting out from a
shoulder of the hill about half a mile in the rear of Jack’s position.
An enemy holding that narrow platform could command the southern outlet
of the pass, and completely cut off the Chunchuse force.  For a moment
Jack thought of stealing a march on the Cossacks and occupying the
ledge, but a little reflection showed how useless this would be.  Not
only would he weaken the body holding the pass, every man of whom would
be required when the serious attack was delivered, but the ledge itself
and the path in its neighbourhood were scarcely tenable against a force
so largely outnumbering his own.

Another move that suggested itself was to abandon the pass and fight a
rearguard action as he retraced his steps towards Ah Lum’s position.
But to do this would be, he felt, to abandon his whole object, which was
to relieve Ah Lum as long as possible of pressure from the second
Russian force.  After taking anxious thought, he decided that he must
stick to the pass if the chief was to have any chance of escaping the
net now closing around him.  So long as there was a fighting force in
the pass the Russians would not venture to attack Ah Lum, for they could
not spare enough men to bottle up Jack’s division and at the same time
strike an effective blow at the chief so strongly placed.  Accordingly
Jack withdrew his men from the section of the pass likely to be covered
by the flanking force, and settled down to await developments.  Sounds
of firing still came across the hills in the rear, showing that Ah Lum,
and possibly by this time Wang Shih also, were at grips with the first
Russian column.

Fronting the southern end of the pass was a small clump of trees that
would give the Russians ample cover if they could reach it.  But in
order to reach it they would have to cross a quarter of a mile of
comparatively level ground, affording little cover, and exposed to the
direct fire of the defenders.  For a moment Jack was tempted to occupy
the clump; but that would involve the splitting of his force, and any
detachment he might send to hold the position would be completely cut
off from support except by rifle-fire. Fortunately the clump was not
approachable from the rear; the attempt would involve a laborious climb
uphill, the climbers all the time exposed to fire from the mouth of the
pass.  This end being less defensible than the northern, Jack had
already placed the greater number of his men in cover here in
anticipation of the arrival of the Russian turning column.

Some twenty minutes passed, during which Jack impressed upon his men the
necessity of husbanding their ammunition.  They had but a small supply,
with no reserve to draw upon; it was imperative that they should not
reply to the Russian fire until they could see their enemy distinctly.
The near approach of the Cossacks was heralded by a sudden hail of
bullets falling upon the rocks on either side of the pass.  This was the
signal for a warm fusillade from the original point of attack.  To
neither was any reply made by the Chunchuses, among whom not a man was
touched.  After a few minutes there was a sudden lull in the firing; it
had become evident to the Russians that unless they rushed the clump of
trees they could make no impression on an enemy so well protected.
Intuitively Jack knew what was impending; he called to his men to be on
the alert; and scarcely had he spoken when forty or fifty big horsemen,
in open order, dashed across the open space towards the trees.  Then
Jack gave the word.  The Cossacks had covered but a few yards when a
terrible fire was poured upon them from the pass.  Here a man dropped
from his saddle; there a horse rolled over; but with the fine courage
that had distinguished the Russian soldier throughout the war, the
others held on in their terrible race with death.  As they galloped
forward man after man fell; only a gallant remnant reached the clump,
and with it comparative safety. Scarcely a third of the troop gained the
shelter of the trees, but tactically the movement was worth the
sacrifice. There was silence for a brief space; then the men in the
clump opened fire.  From their new position they were able to enfilade a
considerable section of the pass.  One by one Jack’s men began to fall;
then there was a second rush from the Cossack main body to reinforce the
men in the copse; and the defenders of the pass, enfiladed as they were,
were unable to stop it.  Most of the Russians got across; and with the
reinforcements they had received, the men in the clump poured a still
more damaging fire into the Chunchuses, only half-concealed now by rocks
and boulders, and hampered by the necessity of sparing their ammunition.
The Russians, feeling that they had the upper hand, began to expose
themselves both in the copse and on the rough ground whence their rushes
had been made; and the bandits, with the fear of their cartridges
running short, durst not take full advantage of their opportunities of
picking off incautious individuals among the enemy; they had to content
themselves with firing whenever a group of two or more presented a broad
target, and directing occasional close volleys into the copse.  Still,
the distance separating the combatants was so short—barely three hundred
yards—that even in the comparative shelter of the trees the Russians
suffered heavily; every now and then their fire slackened, and it was
necessary to reinforce them by further detachments from the main column.

While the battle was thus waged at the south of the pass, there had been
constant firing at the other end.  Hi Lo went backwards and forwards
between the two divisions of Jack’s band, with news of the enemy’s
movements and the progress of the fight—a duty involving considerable
risk; but the boy could make use of rocks and inequalities of the ground
that would not have sheltered a grown man, and he was indeed exceedingly
proud of being selected to assist in this way.

He reported now that the enfilading fire of the Russians in the copse at
the south had driven the Chunchuses from the western face of the pass at
the north end, allowing the Cossacks to creep round the hillside on the
north-east of the entrance, and gain a position from which they were
able to inflict serious loss on the defenders.  Jack felt that the coils
were gradually being drawn around him; and when a number of men, covered
by a brisk rifle-fire, dashed from the copse towards the steep hillside
overlooking the pass, and in spite of the loss of several of their
number began laboriously to climb the slope, he could not but recognize
that the game was well-nigh up.  The fight had lasted three hours.  His
men were worn; the strain had been very great; and they were reduced to
half a dozen rounds a rifle.  But they were still steady and undismayed;
how much their tenacity owed to Jack’s training and how much to their
native courage it would be difficult to say; but two things were
certain: their marksmanship was distinctly superior to that of the
Cossacks, and the temptation of undisciplined troops to blaze away at
random had been quite heroically resisted.

The men climbing the face of the hill soon passed out of sight; but in
about ten minutes they opened fire from a ridge high up the slope.  In
excellent cover themselves, they had many of the Chunchuses in full
view; and the Chinamen could not move into shelter without exposing
themselves to the fire of the Cossacks in the copse. Nevertheless the
bandits, with the characteristic doggedness of the Chinese in face of
peril, clung to their positions, flattening themselves against the rocks
and boulders, which gave them less and less protection, attacked as they
now were from several sides.  More than once Jack made a hazardous trip
to the northern end of the pass, encouraging his men; each time he
noticed with a sinking heart that the number of still and prostrate
forms was greater.  What caused the keenest pang, it was impossible to
bring the wounded to a place of safety.  As soon as a man fell, he
almost inevitably lost the complete protection of his boulder; a portion
of his body lay outside the zone of safety, and the poor wretch thus
became the mark for a score of bullets.  His heart torn with pity for
the men, Jack at one time thought of surrender.  But then he recollected
that they would merely exchange the bullet for the noose; and there was
always a bare chance of relief.  He himself was wounded in the shoulder;
at least half his men were out of action; the Russians were gradually
closing in towards both entrances of the pass; and a simultaneous rush
at each end must finish the struggle.  Jack wondered why such an assault
had not already been made.  It would entail a certain loss of life; but
perhaps less in the end than would result from prolonging the struggle.
Even as the thought struck him, he saw signs of the movement he so much
dreaded, and hurrying back to the southern end, where the worst of the
fighting must take place, he was about to urge his men to sell their
lives dearly, when from the steep pathway beyond the rocky platform
previously pointed out by his guide there came the discharge of half a
hundred rifles.  The combat in the pass ceased instantly; both sides
were startled and amazed—Jack wondering whether the first Russian force
had disposed of Ah Lum, and was now returning to complete the
destruction of his followers; the Cossacks apparently uncertain whether
the shots came from friend or foe.  Another volley flashed from the
height; immediately afterwards a swarm of horsemen was seen to descend.
By the manner of their riding it was plain they were not Cossacks.  They
were making direct for the rear of the Russian force, threatening to cut
off its retreat.  The Cossacks beyond the copse waited no longer.  In
one wild rush, some throwing away their rifles in their haste, they fled
towards the pathway by which they had come, hoping to reach the ponies
tethered beyond the zone of fire.  The men in the copse, less
fortunately placed than their comrades, offered a desperate resistance
to the Chunchuses now enveloping them—Jack leading some of his men in a
charge from the pass, the new-comers sweeping round at headlong speed to
intercept the fugitives.  A few of the Cossacks, seeing their flight
hopeless, surrendered; the rest died fighting; while those on the
hillside, taken in reverse, were shot down almost to a man.

Thus reinforced, Jack sent a detachment round towards the northern end
of the pass, and led a strong body to make a frontal attack on the
Cossacks there.  But they did not await the assault.  Perceiving their
danger, they withdrew towards their reserve; and becoming aware within a
few minutes of the Chunchuses rapidly approaching on their flank, they
abandoned their position and galloped swiftly away, many of them falling
to the rifles of the bandits.

The detachment which had come so providentially to Jack’s relief proved
to be Wang Shih’s force.  By the time they returned from pursuing the
fleeing Russians, Ah Lum himself arrived at the pass.  Jack then learnt
what had happened.  The first Russian force had been completely routed.
They had lost heavily in the ambuscade, but had rallied and attempted to
rush Ah Lum’s position.  Then, however, Wang Shih had come down upon
their flank, and, discouraged by their heavy losses at the ambuscade,
they had retreated.  Closely followed up by Ah Lum, they were taken
between two fires, and their retirement, at first orderly, soon became a
headlong flight.

Ah Lum made the handsomest acknowledgments to Jack for the part he had
played.  And his was indeed a notable achievement.  Though threatened by
nearly thrice their numbers, his men by their gallant fight had
prevented the junction of the two Cossack forces, and thus enabled Ah
Lum to secure his object, and win the victory on which so much had
depended.  His combined force was not strong enough to follow up the
advantage gained; for among the hills the Cossacks would easily find a
defensible position, and if they once succeeded in checking the pursuit,
the Chunchuses would soon be opposed by overwhelming numbers.  But in
the hastily evacuated position the victors discovered a considerable
supply of food, fodder, and ammunition abandoned by the Cossacks, and
this proved a welcome addition to their depleted stores.

Ah Lum had now to consider his future movements. He had learnt from a
scout, who had overtaken him as he rode towards the pass, that a strong
Cossack force was pushing northwards from the Korean frontier.  To
escape the ring-fence in which the Russians were evidently determined to
enclose him, it seemed best to strike north-east, and endeavour to gain
a position that had more than once been occupied by Chunchuses in their
conflicts with Chinese troops.  Arrangements were hastily made for the
transport of the wounded, on both sides unfortunately very numerous.
Mindful of his engagement with Jack, Ah Lum would not allow his men to
despatch the wounded Russians, as was their wont.  Forming a long
column, he started on his march, leaving Jack with 300 men to watch the
Cossacks and hold them at bay, should they return, until the main body
had got a good start.  Jack held the pass for the remainder of the day;
he was glad of the rest, for it enabled him to have his injured arm
bathed and dressed.  Fortunately the wounds were slight. No sign of
further attack being seen, he thought it safe to follow up his chief.
They joined forces within twenty-four hours of Jack’s leaving the pass.
Ah Lum’s march had been delayed by the wounded, whom, however, he left
in groups at friendly villages en route.  All the wounded having been
thus disposed of, the combined Chunchuse column regained its former
mobility, and, marching rapidly, in three days reached the hill fastness
where Ah Lum hoped to enjoy a breathing-space to rest and recruit.

In the course of the march he gathered up ample food supplies for man
and beast, but was still beset by the scarcity of ammunition.  A great
deal had been expended in the recent fight, and the wastage was by no
means made up by what had been captured from the Russians.  The band,
too, was constantly being recruited, mainly from men who had been
wounded and left behind in the villages after previous engagements; and
in spite of its recent losses it was now again fully twelve hundred
strong.  But when the stock of ammunition came to be examined, it was
found that there scarcely remained a dozen rounds a man. Unless,
therefore, a fresh supply could in some way be procured, it would be
necessary to disband the force.  The dilemma gave Ah Lum serious
concern.



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                *Captain Kargopol finds the Chunchuses*


Grumbles—Pai-chi-kou—The Masterful Muscovite—A Midnight Council—The
Inn—A Summons—Betrayal—Confirmation—Miss-fire—The Rounds—Ivan Ivanovitch


Captain Vassily Nikolaeitch Kargopol was not in the best of tempers.
His pony, which had carried him all day over some of the worst mountain
tracks in Manchuria, slipped at the frozen edge of a rut, and nearly
rolled over. The rider, as a captain of Transbaikal Cossacks, was too
good a horseman to be thrown; but he was severely jolted, and he brought
the poor jaded beast up with a smart lash of his whip.  This seemed to
relieve his feelings; and further consideration, together with a
comically reproachful look on the face of his companion, brought
repentance.  Leaning forward he patted the animal’s neck.

"You needn’t look at me like that, Borisoff," he said. "I know it’s too
bad of me to visit the sins of this accursed country on the beast.
Never mind; he shall have an extra feed of buckwheat to-night, and I’ll
see that he gets it."

"That’s more like you, Kargopol," returned Lieutenant Casimir Andreitch
Borisoff.  The cloud had indeed cleared like magic from the captain’s
round, jovial, somewhat rubicund face; evidently he was not a man on
whom ill-temper sat long or heavily.

"The truth is, I am becoming a little uneasy.  Isn’t there something in
the Scriptures about hunting after a dead dog, after a flea?  I confess
I’d rather stick to our proper work, and smash Oyama instead of running
after this Ah Lum and his Chunchuses."

"Yes, confound the fellow!  He’s as agile as the little unmentionable
fellow you were beguiled into naming, though by all accounts he’s more
like a live lion than a dead dog.  That fight of his was a masterly
piece of work."

"I only wish we could get to grips with him.  Here have I been for
weeks—months—on the hunt, and haven’t so much as sighted a bandit.  Hi
there!  Ivan Samsonitch, ask the Chinaman how far it is to this precious
village."

The trooper addressed, riding beside a burly Chinaman twenty paces
ahead, translated the question into a barbarous mixture of Chinese and
pidgin Russian.  The Chinaman, whose legs as he bestrode his little pony
almost touched the ground, bowed humbly upon the animal’s neck, and
barked a reply.

"He says, little father," said the sergeant, translating, "that
Pai-chi-kou is about seven li farther; that is four versts; but there is
a river to be forded."

"Another river!  That makes a round dozen since we started.  And the
water’s icy cold, confound it!"

The captain had drawn up to the sergeant; only to him and the Chinaman
was his mild grumble audible.  The sergeant was a man of responsibility
with whom he could to a certain extent unbend; the men must hear no
complaints.  For nine hours the detachment of 150 Cossacks had marched
up hill and down dale over tracks slippery with frost, wading streams
that in another month would be deeply coated with ice.  Their progress
was hampered by the necessity of watching and assisting the
heavily-laden pack-mules that formed the major part of the column. Their
destination was the village of Pai-chi-kou, where they were to be joined
by the larger force for which they were carrying ammunition and
supplies.  As verst succeeded verst, the captain thought, and said to
Lieutenant Borisoff, hard things of the transport officer who had drawn
out the itinerary.  The want of good service maps was a terrible
disadvantage.  Once the detachment had lost its way altogether; and only
after an hour had been spent in futile search was a countryman
opportunely discovered and pressed into the service as guide.  The man
was very unwilling to act; he protested his wish to go in an entirely
different direction, to a village where his grandfather awaited burial
rites.  But Captain Kargopol had had enough dealings with Chinamen to
regard this grandfather as an oriental Mrs. Harris; he turned a deaf ear
to the man’s protests, and was unmelted by his facile tears. Under his
guidance the troops had trudged along, the men bearing the fatigues of
the march with the fine cheerfulness of the Russian soldier, breaking
out every now and then into song, their rich voices ringing out
gloriously in the clear, frosty air.

The twelfth river was waded, only one of the mules losing its footing
and submerging its load.  Shortly afterwards, just as dusk was falling,
the column arrived at a long, straggling village.

"This is Pai-chi-kou?" said the captain.

"Yes, little father," replied the sergeant, after questioning the guide.

"H’m!  It seems very populous.  Where do they stow all the people?  And
what is the noise about?"

The street was crowded with Chinese men, women, and children, making a
terrible din with gongs, drums, and crackers.  The guide explained that
a great number of people had come into the village to keep the annual
Dragon-boat Festival; if the Russians had arrived a little earlier they
would have seen the river covered with long, narrow, gaily-painted boats
paddled by crews of twenty in fantastic costumes, the banks thronged
with onlookers.

"A pity we missed it, Borisoff," said the captain. "However, I’m glad we
have arrived safely at last."

If Captain Kargopol had known a little more about Chinese customs, he
would certainly have asked why in this village the Festival—a summer
festival held on the fifth day of the fifth moon—was being celebrated
four months after the proper time.  Moreover, it is only celebrated
where the rivers are broad; on a hill stream the procession of boats
must be a mere travesty.  But the captain could hardly be expected to
know that.

The captain rode up to the only inn, where the one habitable room was
crammed with Chinamen.  After a short colloquy with the innkeeper these
natives were unceremoniously bundled out into the courtyard; the captain
had declared his intention of occupying the room with Lieutenant
Borisoff for the night.  He then sent his sergeant to find quarters for
the troopers in the village.  The man reported that every house was full
up.

"Then we must empty them," said the captain, who was tired and grumpy.
"Make the Chinese turn out. The men have more need of rest than they."

This was unanswerable, if illogical.  The sergeant went to do his
bidding, and soon the street was noisier than ever, the dispossessed
Chinamen in scattered knots cackling away in their high-pitched voices,
some of them weeping, and crowding to suffocation the few houses that
were not required by these masterful foreign devils.

With military punctiliousness Captain Kargopol set a strong guard at
each end of the village, arranged for the single street to be patrolled,
and the inn to be watched by a sentry; then threw himself on the k’ang
with a weary sigh, and prepared to eat, if not digest, the meal which
the innkeeper soon had ready for his guests.  It was quite clear that,
though the Chinamen had all been turned out, some had ventured to creep
back into the passage and a sort of shanty adjoining the room.  The
innkeeper kow-towed and apologized; he hoped the honourable officer
would not object to the men occupying this shelter for the night; they
had paid their scot in advance, and if he did not give them house-room
he would have to refund the money and pay compensation in addition.

"Poor wretches!" said the captain to Borisoff.  "We’re pretty hard on
them at the best.  They won’t interfere with us, I suppose, unless they
snore; and even then, I fancy I’m so dead beat I could sleep through
anything."

When the officers had finished their supper, they wrapped themselves in
their cloaks, and lay, Captain Kargopol on the k’ang, the lieutenant on
the floor. Though the inn was now quiet, and the troopers were no doubt
sleeping as soundly as their superiors, it was evident from the sounds
proceeding from the houses that the Chinese were wakeful, possibly
through the excitement of their festival.

Towards midnight, under the shelter of a low shed not far from the inn,
where they crouched for protection from a biting north wind, two
Chinamen were talking in low tones.  One was the guide who had so
reluctantly accompanied the Russians; the other a much younger man.  All
at once, out of the darkness crept a short Chinese boy, looking fatter
than he was by reason of his thickly wadded clothes.  He came to the
younger of the two men, and addressed him in an excited whisper.  To
anyone who overheard him it would have been clear that he had been
hiding, according to instructions, in the inn.  He said that he had
overheard a conversation between Hu Hang and C’hu Tan, who were among
the Chinamen in the shanty.  He had seemingly heard more than was
expected.  The ex-constable and Ah Lum’s ex-lieutenant were going to
seize and gag the innkeeper, and then to waken the Russian officers and
give them an important piece of information.  The howl of a dog outside
the village was to be the signal for carrying this plan into effect.
They had said that between the first howl and the second there would be
plenty of time for what they meant to do.

"Hai-yah!" growled the larger of the two listeners, following up the
exclamation with an oath.  The other made no comment on the news he had
just heard, but, turning to the boy, he said rapidly:

"Run and tell Pai Ting there are to be two howls, not three.  What was
to have been the first will now be the second.  The signal will be given
as soon as the moon goes down behind yonder clump of trees.  You
understand?"

The boy nodded, and without a word crept away, wriggling down a narrow
passage between the shed and the next house towards the outskirts of the
village.

As soon as he had gone, the two men rose quietly and went into the
street.  Dodging the patrol, they hurried to the inn, passed to the
rear, and cautiously made their way into the shanty or lean-to.  There
were several Chinamen in the stuffy den, to all seeming fast asleep; but
a close observer might have noticed that the entrance of the new-comers
was at once remarked, and that, as they passed by or actually stepped
over the recumbent forms, they were the object of a keen scrutiny.  The
inspection appeared to satisfy the men, for they at once resumed their
attitude of complete repose.

To any but ears keenly alert the progress of the two men would have been
inaudible; for there was a constant noise from the courtyard and a large
open space behind the inn, where the greater number of the ponies of the
convoy were picketed under a Cossack guard.  A Cossack was also doing
sentry-go in front of the inn, but approaching from the back the two
Chinamen had avoided him.

When they came in sight of the main room they exercised the extremest
caution.  The door was but half-closed, and through the opening came the
faint yellow light of a small oil-lamp.  Coming to a spot whence they
could see the greater part of the interior, they halted, and peeped
within.  Near the door they could just make out the forms of three
Chinamen huddled on the floor—doubtless the innkeeper, and the two men
whose little plot the boy had overheard and reported.  The Russian
officers had apparently been too much fatigued to resent this invasion
of their privacy.

Waiting merely to get a mental photograph of the position in the room,
the younger of the two Chinamen moved gently backward, and, touching one
of the dormant figures on the shoulder, beckoned him towards the back
door. Then he whispered an instruction.  The man was to enter the room,
boldly but not aggressively, and summon the innkeeper to join Wang Shih
at the house of the village headman.  This was but a move in the game
shortly to be played out.  The two conspirators would doubtless be
relieved to find themselves—by a lucky accident, they would suppose—free
from the presence of the innkeeper; it would no longer be necessary to
dispose of him; at the same time they would be reassured as to the
whereabouts of Wang Shih.  The man crept in as directed.  His entrance
caused the captain to stir.

"What is it?" he growled.

The innkeeper explained as well as he could that he was called away.

"Out with you, then, and tell the sentry to allow no one else in.  I
want to sleep."

He then turned over, and was instantly oblivious.  The innkeeper, coming
out, was surprised to find Wang Shih at the door, but was warned by that
burly man’s younger companion not to open his lips.

He had scarcely left the room before one of the two Chinamen lying
within the room began to wriggle towards the officers.  The other man,
none other than Hu Hang, once a constable, now a disappointed Chunchuse,
bent forward, intent upon his companion’s progress.  At a hint from the
younger of the two watchers, the elder, Wang Shih himself, slipped into
the room and stood silent and unnoticed behind Hu Hang.

The creeping Chinaman came first to Lieutenant Borisoff, stretched on
the floor.  He nudged him; the Russian grunted.  A second gentle nudge
provoked another grunt. Then the officer awoke with a start, and seeing
by the dim light a Chinaman bending over him, he instinctively felt for
and grasped the revolver beneath the cloak that formed his pillow.  The
Chinaman held up his hands to show that he wras unarmed.

"What do you want, confound you?" asked Borisoff in pidgin Russian.

"Ss-s-h!" was the answer.  "Listen quietly, honourable nobility.  There
is danger."

"What is it?" asked the lieutenant, raising himself on his elbow.  "Tell
me quickly, and be sure you tell me the truth, or——"

There was an ominous movement of the revolver.  He touched Captain
Kargopol’s foot, and that officer, awake in an instant, sat up on the
k’ang and looked about him.

"This village is not Pai-chi-kou, honourable nobility. It is
Ta-kang-tzü.  The Chinamen here are all Chunchuses. Very soon honourable
master will hear the howl of a dog. It will not be the voice of a dog,
but of a man.  It is a signal.  Ah Lum’s men are outside.  At the signal
they will surround the village."

Both officers were now on their feet, gripping their revolvers.

"Afterwards another howl," continued the informer. "The Chunchuses in
the village will seize rifles and pistols hidden in the gardens and
pig-sties.  Afterwards a third signal; every house with Russians in it
will be attacked, every honourable soldier captured or killed."

The captain rapped out an oath.  The Chinaman, still on his knees,
lifted up his hands and spoke earnestly.

"I can show the honourable nobility how to cheat them; honourable master
will reward his humble slave.  Is it not so?"

The captain, none too quick-witted, nodded to the man to proceed.  The
Chinaman stood erect.

"At the first howl, master will cut a hole in the window—quickly, so
that the men in the passage hear nothing; they are all Chunchuses.  He
will whisper to the sentry outside; the soldier will warn the patrol,
and they will in haste make the round of the houses where soldiers are.
Before the second signal is given, honourable master’s men will be
ready; they can shoot down the Chunchuses in the village, and Ah Lum
will have to retreat, for honourable nobility’s countrymen are only ten
miles away."

For a moment the captain gazed doubtfully at the man.

"Do you think it a trap?" he asked Borisoff.

The long-drawn howl of a dog as if baying the moon rose and died away at
some distance from the village. The officers started.

"Trap or not, we can’t go far wrong in doing what he says.  Even if he
is lying we are no worse off."

"Honourable nobility’s servant asks fifty ounces of silver for——"

"By and by, by and by.  Your story must be proved. It sounds likely
enough——"

"You are quite right, your nobility," said another voice in good
Russian.  "It is more than likely; it is literally true."

As the figure of a young Chinaman advanced from a dark part of the room,
the startled officers backed and cocked their revolvers; the informer,
turning a sickly green under his yellow skin, stared mouth agape at the
speaker; while, from the corner where the man’s fellow-conspirator had
been waiting, the sound of a choking gurgle showed that Wang Shih was
busy with his old friend the constable.

The scene in the dimly-lit room was one not likely to be soon forgotten
by the actors in the drama.

While the two officers stood fingering their weapons in amazed
irresolution, and the wretched traitor leant for support against the
k’ang, the new-comer continued:

"What this man says, gentlemen, is perfectly true, so far as he knows.
But he doesn’t know all.  Before you do anything rash allow me to
explain.  The howl you have just heard was the second, not the first
signal.  Ah Lum’s men have already surrounded the village, and eighty
men inside are prepared to rush the quarters occupied by your troops.
The inn is watched; the slightest commotion here will be the third
signal."

The news was in itself sufficient to provoke the deepest wrath, but the
coolness with which the explanation was given enraged the captain beyond
all bounds.  Springing forward with an oath he cried, "I will risk it!"
and snapped his revolver within a foot of the Chinaman’s head.

There was no report.

"It is fortunate for you, sir, that we drew the charges while you slept.
But for that, your fate and that of your men would have been sealed.  If
you will give me your word of honour not to make a sound, I will give
you ocular proof of what I have said.  Believe me, it is only to save
your detachment from annihilation.  But you shall judge."

The officer, pale and quivering with rage and chagrin rather than fear,
threw a glance at Lieutenant Borisoff, who nodded.

"Agreed," said Kargopol fiercely.

Going to the door, the Chinaman said a few words to those outside.  They
rose and stood, fully armed, in the passage.

"They are Chunchuses, you observe, sir; not peaceful countrymen, as you
believed, but the men you are hunting. We will pass outside.  Be careful
not to alarm your Cossacks."

They passed by the row of silent Chinamen out into the street.  The
officers were saluted by the sentry, who supposed them to be making the
rounds.  They came to the largest house in the village.  In front, on
the street, nothing was to be seen.  But at the back, and in a dark
passage-way at the side, were at least twenty dim figures, armed at all
points with rifle, pistol, and dagger.  The silent group passed to
another house, and to yet another; at each, cunningly placed out of
sight of the patrol, Chunchuses lurked, awaiting the signal for the
terrible work of the night.

"We have but a few minutes, gentlemen, before the signal.  Are you
satisfied?  Nothing stands between your men and extermination, save
yourselves.  What is your decision?"

The captain bit his moustache.

"Let things take their course," said Borisoff quietly. "We had better
die fighting than be tortured to death after surrender."

"I can promise you and your men good treatment as prisoners of
war—always supposing your general is willing to exchange you for our
men, and does not hang any more of ours in the meantime.  You need not
fear torture."

The Russians laughed grimly.

"What are your assurances worth—you, a Chunchuse?"

"A Chunchuse—yes, Captain, but in this case also an Englishman."

"An Englishman!" cried Kargopol with a start of surprise.  Borisoff
stepped nearer to Jack and peered into his face.

"An Englishman, sir."

"And a Chunchuse?"

"A Chunchuse, by compulsion of your countrymen. But, gentlemen, we waste
precious time.  In a few seconds the matter will be beyond your
discretion—or mine."

The captain stopped and faced the speaker.  Borisoff’s face wore a look
of perplexity.

"You give me your word?" said Kargopol after a moment.

"Yes."

"As an Englishman?"

"As an Englishman."

"Then I surrender."

"Believe me, sir, it is the wisest, the most humane course."

"Your name is Brown?" said Borisoff suddenly.

"Ivan Ivanovitch Brown, Lieutenant Borisoff."

"Batiushki!  I was puzzled by something familiar in your voice.  What in
the world——"

"Pardon me, the situation is still full of danger, a spark may fire the
train.  I will explain everything afterwards."

Peering into the dark, Jack in a moment beckoned to a small figure
crouching under the shelter of a wall.  Hi Lo came bounding up, and to
him Jack gave a rapid order. The boy sped away at full speed.

"I have told him that the third signal is not to be given. I hope he may
be in time."



                              *CHAPTER XX*

                        *The Battle of Moukden*


Reservations—The Cupboard—Perfidious—"The Little More"—Winter
Quarters—More Perfidy—Russians Concentrating—Captured Maxims—A Missing
Messenger—The Battle Ground—Nogi dashes North—Hemmed In—Nogi cuts the
Railway—The North Road—A Carnival of Blood


"You have sold us completely, Ivan Ivanovitch," said Borisoff as they
walked back towards the inn.  "I suppose that rascally guide of ours led
us into this trap."

"All’s fair in war, you know.  He is Wang Shih, Ah Lum’s principal
lieutenant."

"He deserves to be hanged!" growled the captain. "So do you, Mr. Brown."

"We seldom get our deserts, Captain.  But I think Lieutenant Borisoff
had better make a round of the houses and tell your men of the
surrender.  I will send word to our man outside bidding him keep his
Chunchuses in hand for the present.  In a few minutes I will rejoin you
at the inn."

As the lieutenant visited house after house he recognized how hopeless
resistance would have been.  At the given signal every dwelling would
have been rushed, and before the Cossacks could have realized what was
happening they must have fallen to a man.  The crestfallen troops were
paraded and disarmed in the street; then by the light of flares the
convoy was got ready, and an hour and a half later it set off from the
village up the hillside, escorted by the Chunchuses, to join Ah Lum some
fifteen miles away. Jack stood at the door of the inn beside Captain
Kargopol as the convoy and prisoners filed past.  Nearly a hundred
pack-mules heavily laden with ammunition, winter clothing, and
provisions, and a hundred and fifty Cossacks, formed the prize of his
ingenuity.

Several mules and their loads were left behind for the benefit of the
villagers who had assisted in the plot.

"You had better hide them," said Jack to the headman. "There is a large
Cossack force only ten miles away: they may be down upon you at any
moment."

He learnt later that hardly were the last of the ponies and their loads
secured in caves and hollows among the hills when, shortly after dawn, a
squadron of Cossacks galloped up—the advance guard of the twelve hundred
men whom Captain Kargopol was to have joined with his convoy.  The
commander was furious when he heard the news, told him with much
sympathy by the headman, who reserved none of the details save only the
participation of the villagers.  Finding the track followed by the
Chunchuses, the commander sent a galloper back with the news and himself
pushed on in pursuit.  But after three hours’ hard riding his squadron
was effectually checked by a handful of men in a defile, and by the time
he had received sufficient support to force the pass the convoy had
reached Ah Lum’s encampment, and nothing but a battle could recover it.

During the northward march Jack rode between Captain Kargopol and
Lieutenant Borisoff.  They were eager for the promised explanation of
his partnership with brigands. Jack had already made up his mind to be
chary of details. He would give no hostages to fortune in the shape of
information that might be used against him later; nor would he say
anything about the friends whose assistance had been so valuable to him.
Of Gabriele Walewska and the missionary, of Herr Schwab and the
compradore’s brother, he therefore said never a word.  The gist of his
explanation was that, being uncertain and suspicious in regard to his
father’s fate, he had resolved to stay in the country, and found that he
could only do so safely in disguise.  This being penetrated by
Sowinski’s acuteness, he had perforce taken refuge with Ah Lum, one of
whose lieutenants was an old friend of his.

"That rascally guide of ours, I suppose," said Borisoff. "Well, it
happens that I can give you a little information——"

"About my father?’

"No, I know nothing about him.  A few weeks ago a curious thing happened
to that fellow Sowinski, a man I loathe.  Kuropatkin received a telegram
from Petersburg asking for particulars of the charges brought against
your father, and for information as to his whereabouts. Your Foreign
Office had apparently been making enquiries. Kuropatkin knew nothing
about it, of course; after some delay he discovered that Bekovitch had
dealt with the matter.  Bekovitch produced a number of letters found in
your father’s office conclusively showing that he had been in
treasonable correspondence with the Japanese——"

"That’s a lie!" said Jack.

"Well, there were the letters," said Borisoff with a shrug.  "Kuropatkin
asked if there was any independent evidence.  Bekovitch at once sent
Sinetsky for Sowinski. He couldn’t find the man, and though he left an
urgent message he didn’t turn up.  So he went to his house again early
next morning.  There was nobody about, the door was wide open, and he
walked in.  The house was empty, but he thought he heard a strange
rustling in a big press in the dining-room; Sowinski had appropriated
your house, by the way.  He opened the door, and there was the Pole,
gagged, tied hand and foot, and nearly dead from exhaustion.  Sinetsky
cut him loose; the poor wretch couldn’t speak for half an hour, his
tongue was so much swollen. He’d been tied up by a Chinese servant, it
appeared, though the job must have taken more than one man."

"Yes—I was the other."

"You!"  The officers laughed heartily.  "You’re a perfect demon of
ingenuity, Ivan Ivanovitch.  Why didn’t he say it was you?"

"He had his reasons, I suppose.  What happened then?"

"He went to Kuropatkin and swore to all manner of things against your
father.  The information was telegraphed to Petersburg, and that’s all I
know about it."

"But where is my father?"

"I don’t know.  Bekovitch didn’t know, or professed he didn’t.  I fancy
he had taken care not to know, in case any unpleasant questions were
asked."

"But someone must know.  Confound it, Lieutenant, is the whole Staft a
conspiracy of silence?"

"It appears that Bekovitch sent your father to Kriloff, and Kriloff is
dead.  I suppose enquiries were made, but so far as I know nothing has
come to light."

"I never heard of such villainy!" said Jack, his indignation getting the
better of him.  "I had always believed the Russian officer was a
gentleman."

"Oh, come now!" said Captain Kargopol, "you English haven’t a monopoly
of the virtues.  You can’t throw stones, after the dirty trick your
government has played us."

"What do you mean?"

"You haven’t heard?  I forgot: I suppose your Ah Lum doesn’t subscribe
to the _Manchurian Army Gazette_.  The Baltic Fleet was attacked by
British torpedo-boats in the North Sea; Admiral Rozhdestvenski very
properly fired and sank one or two.  Some trawlers got in the way and
were rather knocked about: unfortunately a few men were killed, and your
canting press of course set up a howl and clamoured for war.  But it’s
we who are the injured party: you may be the ally of Japan, but that’s
no excuse for an unprovoked attack on our fleet."

"Really, Captain, pardon me, but the story’s absurd. When did this
torpedo attack take place?"

"At night, of course; you don’t suppose they’d dare to attack
battleships in broad daylight."

"Then depend upon it there was a mistake.  Someone was scared by the
sight of a trawler.  It’s ridiculous to suppose that our government sent
torpedo-boats on such a silly errand as that."

"Well, they might have hired Scandinavian boats, to save their face."

Jack repressed a smile.  It was evidently of no use to argue with the
captain.

"Time will show," he said.  "By the way, Mr. Wang," he added, seeing the
Chunchuse a few paces away, "what did you do with Hu Hang?"

"I am very sorry, sir," said Wang Shih with a look of sincere penitence.
"It was quite a mistake—I was excited, and I squeezed too hard."

"You strangled him?"

"Yes.  It is a pity—a great waste.  I fear the chief will be angry.  Hu
was a strong man—he would have lasted for days."

"Oh!"

Understanding what he meant, Jack thought it just as well.  He doubted
whether his influence with Ah Lum and the band would have been enough to
preserve the informer from the most gruesome and lingering tortures
Chinese inventiveness could devise.

"And what became of Ch’u Tan?"

"He stabbed himself."

"Anticipating a worse fate," Jack explained to the officers.

"We are aware of our good fortune in falling into your hands, Ivan
Ivanovitch," said Borisoff gravely; "and if, when we are rescued, I can
do anything——"

"Thanks, Lieutenant!  I don’t owe much to the Russians," he added
bitterly, "my father less.  When he is righted I shall hope perhaps to
pick up my old friendships again."

Towards the close of the day the convoy reached Ah Lum’s mountain
fastness.  The chief’s little eyes gleamed when he saw the great haul
made by his son’s tutor.

"You are bold enough to stroke a tiger’s beard," he said.  "Where there
is musk, there will of course be perfume."

The supplies captured were very welcome.  Ah Lum had found it necessary
to lie low, to avoid the forces on the hunt for him.  But after a few
days he learnt that the troops from the Korean frontier had been
recalled, and the only Russian column now in the mountains was nearly a
hundred miles away.  He could therefore afford to live on his gains for
a time.

The band settled down to a period of quiet camp life. The Cossacks were
distributed over the settlement and carefully guarded.  Jack proceeded
with the education of Ah Fu, and the further training of his men.  There
was considerable competition among the Chunchuses for enrolment in his
corps; he was looked upon as lucky, a special favourite of heaven.  For
himself, he regarded his position differently.  Harassed with anxiety as
to his father’s fate; among uncongenial surroundings; an exile, without
anyone to confide in as a friend; he felt anything but lucky.  As week
after week passed he grew terribly weary of his life; winter had settled
down upon the hills; the snow lay inches thick, and even the warm
clothing captured from the Cossacks—the fur caps, thick gray overcoats,
felt-lined boots, ear gloves, and what not—proved but insufficient
protection against the intense cold. He volunteered for what active work
was going; but there was little, and he did not covet the command of any
of the parties that went out from time to time to replenish the larder.
Ah Lum was punctilious in giving receipts for the supplies he
requisitioned from the country people, but Jack felt that they were
little likely to be paid for: it was a mere form at the best.  And the
villagers could ill afford the contributions demanded, though after all
they were better off than their countrymen living in the main current of
the war.  To all except the few merchants and contractors, who made huge
profits by supplying the rival armies, the war had brought blank ruin.

Occasionally news of the progress of the war filtered through the
country.  Jack learnt that Admiral Alexeieff, after continual wrangling
with Kuropatkin, had been recalled; that the combatants had gone into
winter quarters on opposite sides of the Sha-ho, both Russians and
Japanese living in dug-outs, called by the Russians _zemliankas_; that
Port Arthur was still holding out, though from Chinese reports it seemed
inevitable that the end must soon come; that fresh troops were
continually arriving from Europe.  One day a dirty copy of the
_Manchurian Army Gazette_ was brought into the camp; the Chinese are
always loth to destroy anything written or printed.  The most
interesting item of news it held for Jack, and one on which he had a
battle-royal of argument with the Russian officers, was the statement
that the _Ocean_, a British battleship on the China station, had been
sold to the Japanese, and would appear in the next naval fight as the
_Yushima_, which the Russians declared had been sunk by a mine while
blockading Port Arthur.  Captain Kargopol stoutly maintained that this
was another instance of British perfidy, and came very near to losing
his temper when Jack refused to take the report seriously, and bantered
him on his anti-British prejudice.

At last, one bright cold January day a Chinaman came in with the news
that Port Arthur had fallen.  Jack could not but sympathize with the
captive officers.  Personally they were the best of comrades; their
distrust of England did not alloy the cordiality of their relations with
Jack; and their air of hopeless dejection was distressing to one who
bore neither to them nor to their nation any enduring ill-will.

A few days afterwards Ah Lum learnt that the Russian column which had
been watching him had suddenly decamped.  The inference was obvious.
The fall of the great fortress had released a large number of Japanese
troops, and Kuropatkin was concentrating against the forward movement
now to be expected.  This information had considerable importance for Ah
Lum.  He had been canvassing the desirability of moving towards Kirin,
leaving only a small force in the hills to watch the Russians.  Their
sudden retreat, however, caused him to change his plan.  He resolved to
follow them.  There was more chance of safety for him if he kept to the
hills within a few marches of the combatant armies than if he was
completely isolated and likely to be cut off by several mobile columns
operating against him.  It was hardly likely that the Russians would now
spare any troops from the fighting line to interfere with him.  He was
only a mosquito after all, though his sting had more than once proved
extremely irritating.  His only concern was to be near enough without
being too near.  In the last resort he could go over to the Japanese;
but he disliked the Japanese only less than the Russians, and preferred
to keep aloof.  It would be time enough to approach the Japanese when
they were well on the road to Harbin and the area of his possible
operations became more restricted.

The camp was therefore struck.  By easy marches the band came to within
eighty miles of Moukden.  Then, having made complete arrangements for
the approach of any Russian force to be signalled to him from point to
point, Ah Lum encamped and awaited a favourable opportunity of cutting
across the Russian line of communications.

To none was the change of scene more welcome than to Jack.  He had been
worrying for some time past at the absence of news from the compradore;
that he had sent no message made Jack fear that the man had returned to
Moukden and been made to suffer by Sowinski or General Bekovitch for his
young master’s escape.  Growing more and more restless, disappointed
also that no news of his father had been gleaned by any of Ah Lum’s
agents in different parts of the country, he at last made up his mind to
venture once more into Moukden.  It was necessary to ask leave of Ah
Lum; and Jack, in his present state of mind, was not disposed to be
fobbed off with maxims and proverbs.

As he expected, the chief looked very solemn and endeavoured to dissuade
him from his purpose.

"It is like a blind fowl picking at random after worms," he said.  "It
is like attempting to carry an olive on the pate of a priest.  You have
already had a very narrow escape.  You may not be so fortunate next
time."

"I must insist, Mr. Ah," said Jack.  "Anything is better than suspense."

"I will send a man for you.  A wise man never does himself what he can
employ another to do for him."

"Yes; but if one will not enter a tiger’s lair, how can he obtain her
whelps?"

He cited the proverb with the utmost gravity.  Ah Lum was taken aback.
Were his own maxims to be turned against him?  He pondered for a moment.

"All things are according to heaven," he said with a resigned air.
"Still, I will send a man with you; let him go before you into Moukden;
then you must act as you think best on receipt of information.  To die
or to live is according to fate."

When it became known in the camp that Jack, or Sin Foo as he was there
known, was about to leave, many of the Chunchuses were eager to
accompany him.  He found his popularity, and the extraordinary belief in
his luck, rather embarrassing.  He thanked these willing volunteers, but
declined their company: Hi Lo and the man selected by Ah Lum were to be
his only attendants.

Soon after dark on a bitter February night Jack, with his two
companions, rode up to the farm of Wang Shih’s people, some fifteen
miles from Moukden.  They were overjoyed to see him, and to hear news of
their son and brother.  Old Mr. Wang, when he learnt that his son was
now Ah Lum’s chief lieutenant, rubbed his hands with delight and
foretold that he would die a mandarin.  It would not be the first time
in the history of China that a successful brigand had been bought back
to the cause of law and order by the bribe of high official rank. Mrs.
Wang was garrulous about a second visit paid them about Christmas-time
by Monsieur Brin, who had consoled himself for his failures as a war
correspondent by studying Chinese social arrangements at first hand.
The simple folk readily agreed to put Jack up for a few days; it would
have been impossible to find more comfortable quarters during his period
of waiting.

Next morning Ah Lum’s man went into Moukden.  By mid-day he had
returned.  The compradore had never been seen in the city since he left
for Harbin on the morning of Jack’s departure.  But the Chunchuse agent
Me Hong had learnt one trifling fact about Mr. Brown; he was surprised
that his chief was still in ignorance of it.  The English merchant had
been seen and recognized among a gang of convicts at Kuan-cheng-tzü.  Me
Hong had sent off the news at once by a messenger to Ah Lum; the runner
had vanished.  He had not returned to Moukden; certainly he had never
reached the Chunchuse camp.  Sowinski was still in the city; so, the
messenger believed, was the "Toitsche war-look-see man"; but there were
so many of the fraternity living in Moukden that he was not sure that
his information on that point was correct.

He brought other news.  Another great battle was evidently impending.
The Japanese had for weeks been steadily pushing forward.  They had cut
the railway-line south of Moukden; two regiments of their cavalry had
crept round the Russian left, and had been seen within a few miles of
Harbin; and it was reported among the Chinese that Generals Nogi and Oku
were preparing a great turning movement on the right.  The city was full
to overflowing with refugees; many were streaming northward; the
Russo-Chinese bank had packed up its chests and decamped; and the
Chinese viceroy was in a terrible state of anxiety for the safety of the
palace and the ancient tombs of the Manchu emperors.

This news almost tempted Jack to venture again within the city.  But on
second thoughts he decided to run no risks of meeting Sowinski.  The
imminence of another great battle, however, perhaps to prove the
decisive battle of the war, created a keen longing to witness the scene;
and next day, taking leave of his kind hosts, he set off with Hi Lo for
a little village lying between the Moukden railway-station and
Sin-min-ting.  Hi Lo had relatives there with whom they could safely
stay.

The battle-ground was in essentials a repetition of that of Liao-yang,
though on a much larger scale.  The Russians had thrown up an immense
line of entrenchments extending in a rough semicircle from Sin-min-ting
on the north-west of the city to Ping-ling on the east, with Moukden as
the centre.  Comprising a range of low hills for the greater part of its
course, the position was naturally strong, and it had been fortified for
months with all the devices known to the military engineer—pits,
abattis, barbed-wire entanglements, forts of solid masonry bristling
with huge guns.  Snow lay upon the ground, frozen so hard that the
passage of cavalry across it raised clouds of white dust.  The plain to
the west and south of the city was one vast whiteness: yet that peaceful
scene was the arena on which three-quarters of a million of men were
preparing to spill their blood in blind obedience to duty—to contend
with desperate earnestness in one of the decisive battles of the world.

The Russian right wing was composed of the Second Manchurian Army under
General Kaulbars, resting on an arc between Sin-min-ting and Moukden.
The centre, south of the city, was held by General Bilderling with the
Third Army; the left, thrown out as far south-east as Tsin-khe-chen, was
entrusted to General Linievitch and the First Army.  It was here that
the first attack was made.  On February 19 General Kawawura threw his
right flank detachment against the Russian works, and, after a fight
prolonged over five days, drove the Russians back towards Fa-ling.
Meanwhile General Kuroki moved forward upon Kao-tu-ling, and succeeded
in forcing his way northward, and General Nodzu, from his position on
the Sha-ho, opened a furious bombardment on the exact centre of the
Russian lines.  By these movements General Kuropatkin was led to expect
that the brunt of the fighting would fall upon his centre and left; in
reality they were designed to hold his attention while more formidable
operations were developed on his right.

It was on the last day of February that General Oku’s army deployed
between the Sha-ho and the Hun-ho, and General Nogi started with
incredible rapidity on his northward march.  By the time General
Kuropatkin became aware of the danger threatening his communications on
the right, Nogi had made such progress and so skilfully disposed his
forces that to crush him was out of the question; all that Kaulbars
could do was to fall back towards Moukden and oppose as stubborn a
resistance as possible.  The assaults of Kuroki and Nodzu on the centre
were so fierce and persistent that Kuropatkin had no troops to spare for
the reinforcement of his jeopardized right flank.  Doggedly, intrepidly,
the indomitable Japanese pressed home their attack.  The Russians clung
heroically to their positions, and rolled back charge after charge; but
still the enemy returned, seeming to gain in vigour and enthusiasm after
each repulse.  They charged with bayonets, with grenades, with shovels
and picks; sometimes, when they penetrated the Russian entrenchments,
flinging down their weapons and going to it with their fists.  The
trenches were filled with corpses; the frozen ground all around was dyed
red with blood; there was no respite day or night; men fell, their
places were filled, and foe met foe over the bodies of the slain.

For ten days the issue was in doubt.  Then, on March 5, Kuroki was
across the Sha-ho; Nogi had swept through Sin-min-ting towards the
railway; Marshal Oyama’s huge army was flinging its octopus tentacles
around the Russian position, vast as it was.  Kuropatkin, most
unfortunate of generals, on March 8 found it necessary to withdraw his
centre and left behind the line of the Hun-ho, and collect every unit
that could be spared by Kaulbars and Bilderling to stem the advance of
Oku and Nogi.

Meanwhile the Russian left had opposed a bold front to Kuroki and
Kawawura.  Unable to make a successful offensive movement, Linievitch
stubbornly retreated in good order beyond the Hun-ho, and entrenched
himself in a new position there.  But around Moukden the plight of the
Russian army was becoming desperate.  As the terrible enemy crept on
towards the city from all sides save the north-east, the Russian troops,
packed into a constantly diminishing space, and exposed to a converging
fire, fell in thousands.  More than once the Russians attempted to break
through.  The gallant Kuropatkin in person led a terrific attack on Oku
at the head of sixty-five battalions, and his splendid men fought with
such courage and determination that for a while it seemed the Japanese
advance must be checked.  But at this critical moment, when the Russians
were at least holding their own on the right centre and left, and Oyama
was concentrating to hurl them back, an event had taken place at the
left centre that proved to be Fortune’s cast of the die.  Early on the
morning of March 9, Kuropatkin received the news that Kuroki had driven
a wedge between Bilderling and Linievitch.  Those generals in falling
back on the Hun-ho had temporarily lost touch: and the Japanese general,
who had never made a mistake throughout the war, was quick to seize this
opportunity of breaking the enemy’s line. On the same day Nogi got
across the railway between Moukden and Tieling; nothing but instant
retreat could save the Second and Third Russian armies from annihilation
or capture; and at nightfall on that fifteenth day of the battle the
order to retreat was given.

Next day at ten in the morning the Japanese entered the city, and with
their entrance burst the bubble of Russian domination in Manchuria.
Scattered parties of Russians fought on for several days in the
neighbouring villages; but with Nogi astride of the main line of retreat
and every northern road, the Russians were forced to abandon everything
and take to the hills.  Two days afterwards the Japanese had chased
their enemy full thirty miles to the north; Kuropatkin’s great army,
broken, routed, had well-nigh ceased to be.

Jack is never likely to forget that terrible fortnight. During the first
few days he witnessed nothing of the fighting; he heard the
reverberations of the guns, and saw crowds of natives hastening from the
villages in the line of the Japanese advance, bearing with them
everything portable that could be saved from the impending ruin.  At
night, standing on the broken mud wall, he beheld in the far distance a
dull glow in the sky that told of houses burning, and thought of the
untold misery inflicted upon a peaceable and industrious people by the
greed of rival governments.  But as the tide of battle rolled northward,
and the roar of the guns grew louder, other evidences of the terrific
struggle came within his ken.  Ever and anon a train would rumble
northward along the line, with wagon-loads of wounded.  The darkness of
the nights was now illuminated with bursting star-shells, and the red
flare of burning villages nearer at hand. One morning, in the twilight
before dawn, he saw an immense column of smoke rise over the Russian
settlement by the station.  It was in flames.  Venturing out with Hi Lo,
he soon came upon stragglers from the army, and by and by upon a huge
block of horse and foot and artillery, field-telegraph wagons, mess
carts, ambulances—all in inextricable confusion, jammed in their frantic
efforts to escape.  Trains rolled along, crowded to the roofs of the
carriages, even to the engine itself, with soldiers; carts lay
overturned, broken, wheelless, on the roads and fields; the air was
loaded with the acrid fumes from piles of blazing goods, clothing, and
forage, burnt to prevent their falling into the hands of the conquerors.

The retreat from Liao-yang had been orderly and not uncheerful; the
retreat from Moukden was an orgy of riot and misery.  There was no order
in the ranks: the officers made no efforts—made, they would have been in
vain—to check the insubordination of their men.  Some as they fled had
looted the sutlers’ carts and roamed at large, defenceless, intoxicated,
singing wild songs, dropping to the ground, to be frozen stiff in a few
minutes.  Others tramped along, moody, taciturn, mad, going blindly they
knew not whither, they knew not why.  Here a horse’s head could be seen
above the crowd, its eyes bloodshot and haggard, its nostrils dilated.
There a horse fell; the throng thickened around it; harsh voices were
raised in imprecation; then the movement recommenced, and nothing was
heard but the tramping of feet and the crunching of wheels.  Wounded men
dropped and froze in their blood; others staggered this way and that,
having lost all power to govern their limbs; and still in the distance
artillery boomed, flames crackled, and the smoke of burning homesteads
rose into the sky.

Sick at heart, Jack returned to the village.  That evening the Japanese
entered it, bringing with them a number of Russian prisoners and
wounded, these having been carefully tended by the Japanese ambulance
corps.  Jack lent what assistance he could in finding cottages where the
more seriously injured could remain.  "Strange," he thought, "that war,
which brings out the worst in men, should bring out also all that is
best."



                             *CHAPTER XXI*

                            *Ah Lum at Bay*


Schwab again Retreats—A Business Friend—Reinstated—A Little Light—Ah Lum
Threatened—A Thousand Roubles Reward—The Lessening Circle—A Mountain
Tiger—Mirage—Ah Lum’s Lament—A Cossack Cloak


It was not merely curiosity that had held Jack within the area of
fighting.  He clung with a sort of superstition to the belief that his
father’s fate was inwoven with the fate of the Russian army.  He had a
conviction, perfectly illogical, that a victory for Japan would favour
his quest. There was so much truth in this idea as that amid the
disorders of a Russian retreat he might hope to pass undetected in his
disguise.  The Russians would be too busy to look closely into the
bona-fides of a mere Chinaman, one of thousands who would be swept
northwards on the tide.  He could easily keep out of sight of the few
who might recognize him.

He thus had a purely personal interest in the result of the battle.
Convinced that the compradore must have remained with his brother in
Harbin, he had resolved to go north and learn from the man’s own lips
the issue of his enquiries.  When the victorious army had rolled by, he
set off with Hi Lo in its wake.

One day, a few miles north of Tieling, he was riding slowly along,
contrasting his present position with the different circumstances under
which he had made the retreat from Liao-yang, with Mr. Schwab’s precious
tripod in his care, when, a little ahead of him, he caught sight of a
solitary figure trudging wearily along.  It needed but one glance at the
broad back.  The tired pedestrian was Schwab himself—and he was carrying
the camera.

Jack’s lips twitched.  To this had come the descendant of the great
Hildebrand Suobensius, the itinerant representative of Germany’s
imperial might!  There was matter for amusement in the reflection, and
for sympathy too: Schwab’s patriotism was genuine; his little vanities
were harmless enough; and whatever else might be said of him, he was
devoted to the interests of the Schlagintwert company.  Jack resolved to
make himself known to the correspondent, who could have no interest in
betraying him to the Russians.  Cantering up behind, he heard Schwab
sighing and muttering under his breath.

"Excellenz," he said, "my Sin Foo——"

At the first word Schwab swung round with an alacrity that betokened as
much pleasure as surprise.

"Ach!" he said, "I know you; you are imbostor.  I am delighted.  I
abologize."

"That’s very good of you, Herr Schwab, but I don’t know why."

"Vy!  Vy, for my vant of gombrehension, my zickness of shkull.  But you
did bretend; zat you muss gonfess; and I did bay you your vages, so!"

Jack smiled.

"I’ve nothing to complain of," he said.  "To you I was a Chinese
servant, and I never want a better master."

"Say you so?  I vill shake hands viz you.  Zere vas talk about you in
Moukden; vy truly, zey gratulate me for because I haf, zey say, a so
clever servant.  Ach, mein freund!  you see me; I am sad, I am broken;
no longer am I vat I haf been."

Schwab proceeded to tell a pitiful story.  He had started on the retreat
in company with Sowinski, with whom he had arranged a great deal of
business against the termination of the war.  One night they had taken
refuge in a Chinese hovel.  Schwab had carefully put the satchel
containing his papers and money under his head.  In the night he had
heard and felt a movement, and, springing up in the dark, seized and
held an arm.  The arm was wrenched away, then Sowinski’s voice asked
whether he had heard anything.

"’Yes, certainly,’ I said, ’I zink zere is a zief. ’Shtrike a light!’ I
cry.  Zere shtrikes a light; I look for my zinks; siehe da! eferyzink is
gone.  Against ze door had I blaced a big kettle, for to gif notice if
anyvun intrude.  Zere it is, in ze same sbot.  I say: ’Sowinski, you are
vun big scoundrel; gif me my money!’  Zen he burst into fearful bassion;
he bresent me a bistol and demand instant abology.  For myself, I am
berfeckly cool. I egsblain I am business man; certainly it is not my
business to fight, ven ze ozer man hold a revolver.  I abologize;
Sowinski say he is satisfied; but zen he say I had cast asbersion on his
honour; no longer could he travel in my gompany; he demand me to get
out.  Vat could I?  Ze bistol muzzle vas at my head.  It is gombulsion.
I vat you call clear out, viz my photographabbaratus.  But my trouble
only begins.  My mafoo, vere is he?  Vizout doubt he has abbrobriated my
bony.  Zere am I, zen, viz no babers, no money, no bony, nozink in ze
vide vorld but my camera.  I cannot send a message to ze _Illustrirte
Vaterland und Colonien_: vere is ze money to gome from?  Ze
Kaiser,—alas! he is in Berlin.  I zink vat is var gorresbondence for a
kind of business?  I try to sell my camera; no vun buys.  Ze Russian
soldier is good comrade, ver’ fine fellow; for zree days I eat nozink
but vat he gif me. But ze officers—ach! ven I egsblain to zem, zey are
all too busy to listen; zey tell me, abbly Colonel Egoroff.  But Colonel
Egoroff, vere is he?  Nobody know.  Nobody know vere nobody is.  All is
gonfusion and upside-down. I never see nozink so unbusinesslike novere."

As he told his story Schwab trudged along beside Jack’s pony.  Jack did
not interrupt him; the man’s relief in finding someone to lend him a
sympathizing ear was so obvious.

"You have had an uncommonly hard time," he said. "I’m very sorry.  What
do you think of doing?"

"Zink!  I zink nozink.  My brain is no more vat it vas. All I can do,
you see it; I valk and valk; I beg my bread, vich is Russian biscuit.
Nefer shall I see ze Vaterland no more.  Hildebrand Schwab is gome to an
end."

"Cheer up!  What do you say to taking me on as your servant again?"

"Zat is unkind, to mock at me."

"Believe me, nothing is further from my thoughts.  I mean it.  There
will be some risk for you and for me, but it’s worth chancing.  Let me
explain my plan."

Jack saw in Schwab’s plight a means of advancing his own quest, and at
the same time doing a good turn to the unfortunate representative of the
_Illustrirte Vaterland_, for whom, in spite of certain unlovely
characteristics, he had a real liking.  As servant of a European, far
from any place where he was likely to be recognized, Jack thought he
would probably reach Harbin more quickly than as a masterless Chinese
fugitive.  He proposed that they should make for the railway.  The
nearest point was Erh-shih-li-pu, the junction of the Kirin branch with
the main line.  It was not unlikely that if Schwab told his story there
the officials would give him a passage to Harbin.  The German eagerly
accepted the proposal. Jack insisted on his mounting the pony; it was
necessary, he explained, to keep up appearances, but his firmness on the
point was really due to the quite obvious fact that Schwab was
completely worn out.  At the first village both Jack and Hi Lo made a
few alterations in their dress, so as to look as little like Schwab’s
former servants as possible; and without more than the expected
difficulties and delays, the three at length reached Erh-shih-li-pu.
Luckily at the station Schwab was recognized by a Russian officer, a
member of Stackelberg’s staff, who had once dined with the foreign
correspondents at the Green Dragon in Moukden.  On hearing the German’s
troubles he readily agreed to give him a pass to Harbin for himself and
his servants, and would not allow the fares to be paid; Jack had
previously pressed upon Schwab some of his rouble notes.  Thus on a
bright March day, when the frozen ground was sparkling in the sunshine,
the three travellers arrived in Harbin. Schwab was lucky in obtaining
quarters in the Oriental Hotel; Jack made his way at once with Hi Lo to
the house of his uncle, the grain merchant, and there, as he had
expected, found Hi An.  The two brothers were delighted to see their
visitors, and there was a touching scene of welcome between Hi Lo and
his father.

For Jack there was but one crumb of information. Hi Feng, as he had
promised, had set on foot such enquiries as seemed safe, especially
along the railway line. About a fortnight after Jack left Harbin in the
horse-box, a customer of Hi Feng came in with the news that he had seen
a man answering to the description of Mr. Brown among a batch of
prisoners at Imien-po on the Harbin-Vladivostok section.  The train was
apparently bound for Vladivostok, but it had remained for twenty-four
hours on a siding, and the man’s business had not allowed him to wait to
see what became of it.  Hi Feng had himself travelled to the place; the
train had of course by that time departed; and the Chinese of the
neighbourhood could give him no information about it; one train was to
them like another, and delays at this siding were of constant
occurrence.

Jack shuddered to think what his father’s sufferings must have been
during the protracted journey.  His blood boiled when he saw Russian
officers in the streets; his rage against Bekovitch poisoned his former
good-will towards them.  He fumed under his utter helplessness; he could
do nothing.  To some extent the information received narrowed the area
of search.  The fact of the train having been seen at Imien-po showed
that the prisoners had been taken either to Eastern Siberia or to
Sakhalin.  Whichever it might be, Mr. Brown would be equally unable to
communicate with his son, and his removal from Manchuria seemed to
destroy all chance of help from the Chinese.  To them Siberia and
Sakhalin are foreign lands; and if Siberia was remote, Sakhalin was
inaccessible.  Being wholly a penal settlement, there was little chance
of getting into or out of its ports undetected.

Jack remained for several weeks with Hi Feng, hoping against hope.  Herr
Schwab was still at the Oriental Hotel.  Exposure to cold, lack of
sufficient food, and his mental anxieties had broken down the German’s
robust health, and for a fortnight he lay at death’s door. Monsieur Brin
happened to be at the same hotel; he had missed every fight, solely
through his own restlessness, which sent him backwards and forwards from
place to place—never the time and the place and the correspondent
together.  He was a good-hearted fellow, and, finding a German lying ill
and not too carefully tended, he constituted himself sick nurse, and
devoted himself to his self-imposed duties with unusual constancy.  He
had his reward in the patient’s convalescence.  As soon as Schwab was
able to sit up and take a little nourishment, Brin undertook to prove to
him that the Kaiser in Berlin was the Man of Sin, and for a good
fortnight he had much the better of the argument.

One day Hi Feng learnt that a great effort was at last being made
against Ah Lum.  He had already been defeated by a large force of
Cossacks, and driven from the neighbourhood of Kirin north-eastwards
towards the Harbin-Vladivostok railway.  Strong columns were hard upon
his heels in pursuit.  Through his position as forage contractor to the
Russians, Hi Feng already knew that a large body of Cossacks was shortly
to leave Harbin for a place half-way between that town and Vladivostok.
Putting the two pieces of news together, and making discreet enquiries,
he found that it was intended to make a sudden dash upon Ah Lum’s line
of retreat and dispose of him once for all.  The evacuation of Moukden
and the narrowing of the area of country open to the Russians in
Manchuria had made the presence of a strong guerrilla force within their
lines insupportable.  Ah Lum must be rooted out.

Hi Feng was to deliver a large quantity of forage within ten days; it
was pretty safe to infer that the expedition would start from Harbin
soon afterwards.  Jack felt that Ah Lum must be warned at once.
Furthermore, he was much disposed to rejoin the Chunchuses.  Without
overrating his abilities, he knew that he had been able to do something
for them, and what he had learnt about his father’s treatment did not
make him more friendly to the Russians or less inclined to do what he
could to thwart them.  If he had seen any chance of reaching or
communicating with his father he might have taken a different view:
having left Ah Lum with that purpose there would be no call for him to
abandon his quest.  But it was now clear that his enquiries must be
pursued through Russian agents.  He therefore decided to rejoin Ah Lum.
At the same time he would let it be known that a reward of 1000 roubles
should be paid to anyone giving him certain information of his father’s
whereabouts.  This offer, judiciously circulated through Chinese
channels among the officials of the railway, might bring definite news.

There was another consideration.  Among the Chunchuses, so long as Ah
Lum held his own, Jack would be out of reach of the Russian authorities.
If he remained in Harbin, or any other Russian centre, the news of his
offer would at once put his enemies on his track.  While he was in Ah
Lum’s camp Hi Feng or his brother the compradore could easily
communicate with him if they received any information.

Once more, then, he set out to join Ah Lum, Hi Lo accompanying him.  He
travelled in the guise of a Chinese farmer.  Each took two ponies, and
they pushed on with great rapidity, riding the animals alternately.  By
means of the secret signs used by Ah Lum, Jack soon got upon the chief’s
track.  Making a wide detour to avoid the Russian columns now steadily
driving Ah Lum towards the point whence the Harbin force was to complete
his encirclement, he came upon the Chunchuses from the east, and early
one morning rode into the brigand camp.

His arrival was regarded as a favourable omen.  It was likened by Ah Lum
to the delightfulness of rain after long drought.  Sin Foo was lucky;
Fortune would now surely smile.  The Chunchuses were, in fact, in a
somewhat critical position.  The camp, only one day old, was pitched in
a valley of the Chang-ling hills some twenty miles above the Kan-hu
lake—an extensive sheet of water nearly thirty miles long and of varying
breadth.  Fifty miles to the north lay the nearest point on the railway,
about 150 miles from Harbin and twice as far from Vladivostok, the line
threading a tortuous path among the hills.  A considerable Russian force
sent out from Kirin was known to be at Wo-ke-chan to the south-west;
from this place a winter track led over the hills to the head of the
La-lin-ho valley, within striking distance of Ah Lum’s camp. Another
column, at O-mu-so to the south, commanded the upper valley of the
Mu-tan-chiang, and while cutting off access to Ah Lum’s old quarters on
the upper Sungari, threatened his left flank by the high-road to
Ninguta.  At that place, some eighty miles from O-mu-so, a third column
covered the passes into the Lao-ling mountains on the east. The bandits
were thus in a ring-fence.  Only the north was open, and Jack’s news
confirmed the wary chief’s suspicions that the apparent gap in the north
had been left with the sole object of tempting him into the
neighbourhood of the railway, on which an overwhelming force was held in
readiness.

The confirmation of his suspicions roused the chief from the dejection
into which the gradual tightening of the coils had thrown him.  From an
attitude almost of despair he now rose to a spirit of sullen
determination.  The Russians were gradually closing around him; they
would drive him to bay.

"The tiger comes to eat the fly," he said.  "Wah! he may prove a wooden
tiger.  The Russians shall see what it is to draw a badger.  I own,
honoured sir, I thought once of disbanding my force.  But on reflection
I have come to another mind.  The very villagers who have been most
willing to help me would probably turn against me retreating, and sell
me to the Russians.  He who advances may fight, but he who retreats must
take care of himself. It is better to die fighting.  Adversity is
necessary to the development of men’s virtues.  I will choose a strong
position and await the flood.  It will not be long in coming.  The
Russians, I doubt not, when their arrangements along the railway are
complete, will advance at the same time from east, west, and south,
driving me against the spears of the Cossacks hiding behind the railway
to the north.  I have only 600 men left.  There has been much fighting
since you left, honoured sir; my men are exhausted with constant
marching and insufficient food. It is not easy to stop the fire when
water is at a distance."

Jack found that the Russian prisoners were no longer with the
Chunchuses.  Ah Lum had been glad to exchange them against as many of
his band captured during the recent fight.  But for this exchange his
force would have been even smaller than it was.  He was hopelessly
outnumbered by the Russians, each of whose columns was about 1200
strong.  Their horses were in good condition; and the work of chasing
the Chunchuses having devolved on one only of the columns at a time, the
Cossacks were not so much worn out as their quarry, who had been kept
moving constantly.

Ah Lum and Jack discussed the situation in great detail. There seemed
indeed no way out.  To fight or to disband: those were the alternatives,
each fraught with peril if not disaster.  Another fight would probably
be the last, for the Russians would hardly make a serious attack until
they had the wily brigand who had given them so much trouble completely
surrounded.  With perhaps 5000 men engaged on one side and only 600 on
the other there was but one result to be expected.

If the gap to the north had really been a gap—if the Russians had been
as stupid as they wished Ah Lum to believe—there would still have been a
chance.  The chief explained that far to the north, in the high hills
above the lower valley of the Mu-tan-chiang, he might hope to elude
pursuit for an indefinite period.  It was a wild, mountainous, almost
uninhabited country, in which the only difficulty would be that of
subsistence, not of hiding.  But a Chunchuse can live on much less than
a Cossack, little though the latter requires.  If only Ah Lum could have
gained those hills, he could have shown a clean pair of heels to his
pursuers.

Regrets, however, were useless.  "It is no good climbing a tree to hunt
for fish."  The appearance of the Chunchuses within twenty miles of the
railway would be the signal for a simultaneous movement of squadron upon
squadron of Cossacks from east and west, while the three columns now
closing upon them would seize the opportunity of occupying the passes in
their rear, hemming them within a small circle where they would soon be
annihilated.

"No," said Ah Lum, "I can only eat my three meals in the day and look
forward to sleeping at night.  It is impossible to stand on two ships at
once.  I shall stay here, occupy the approaches on each side, and fight
to the last gasp.  Death has no terror for me.  I can eat my rice
looking towards heaven.  My only trouble is my son, my only son Ah Fu.
If I die, he will die; who then will do honour to my bones?  True, I
shall be remembered; as the scream of the eagle is heard when she has
passed over, so a man’s name remains after his death.  But my
cooking-range will go to a stranger; the ancestral tablets of my family
will be broken; there will be none to sacrifice to my manes.  And the
boy: why should he be cut off?  The growth of a mulberry-tree
corresponds with its early bent. Ah Fu is a good boy, as you know,
honoured sir.  He is brave; I love him, and have been liberal in
punishment, as the sage advises; his intelligence, though but a grain of
millet, will in due time grow green to the height of a horse’s head.  I
looked for him to endure the nine days’ examination and write verses
worthy of high office.  Ai! ai!"

Through the scholar’s pedantries Jack saw the man’s heart throbbing.  He
expressed his sympathy.

"Wah!" returned Ah Lum.  "Calamity comes from heaven.  After the pig has
been killed it is useless to speak of the price.  I have done all I can.
The one thing remaining is to meet the inevitable end with dignity. But
as for you, honoured sir, you have done enough.  I do not ask you to
stay.  You have your own quest to follow.  Let every man sweep the snow
from before his own doors, and not heed the frost on his neighbour’s
tiles."

"You are right, chief," said Jack.  "But it has not come to that yet.
There may be a way out even yet, and you have been so kind to me that I
should not think of leaving you while there is any hope at all."

Ah Lum’s remark about the possibility of evading pursuit if he could
reach the farther side of the railway had set Jack thinking.  Was there
no way out of his strait? Could the Russians, he wondered, be led off
the scent, thus gaining time for the band to make a dash across the
line?  In the privacy of his little hut of kowliang stalks Jack pondered
the problem long.  But the more he thought, the less feasible the thing
appeared.  The railway gave the Russians so great a mobility: they could
move troops so quickly up and down it, and now that the main armies were
for the time quiescent, they had so many men available, that with only
600 Chunchuses there seemed no hope of such a dash being successful. He
racked his brains far into the night.  As the hours drew on, it became
very cold; the north wind struck keenly.  Looking around for an
additional garment, Jack saw a military cloak, part of the stock of
clothing captured from the Cossacks.  He put it on, and tramped up and
down, thinking and thinking again.  The fur-lined cloak warmed him, by
and by he became hot with the excitement of an idea.  He rolled himself
up in the cloak and tried to sleep, but his eyes were still unclosed
when the chill dawn stole over the mountains.  With racking head he
sought an interview with the chief.  For some hours they remained in
earnest consultation.  When the talk was ended Ah Lum rubbed his hands
together and said:

"If you succeed, honoured friend, we shall certainly escape the net.
The task you have set yourself is difficult. It is like feeling after a
pin on the bottom of the ocean. But whether you succeed or not, we shall
owe you an unfathomable debt of gratitude.  Choose what men you need;
all will be proud to serve under you."

Then, weary but light of heart, Jack returned to his hut and slept.



                             *CHAPTER XXII*

                        *Capturing a Locomotive*


Overdue—A Special—The Vladivostok Train—The Sound of a Whistle—An
Interrupted Message—A Correction—Bound East


"The fair at Wu-chi-mi will be well attended this month. I have not had
so many bookings for a long time."

The station-master at Mao-shan looked appreciatively at the motley
gathering.  With true oriental patience they had come at least an hour
before the train was due, and in Manchuria that was probably two hours
before it would arrive.  Flanked by the enormous bundles and parcels
that in the East represent personal luggage, they were squatting on rugs
and mats under the station shed, waiting for the gates leading on to the
platform to be opened.

"I only hope there’ll be room for them all.  But it’s wonderful how
tight these Chinamen can pack.  And they haven’t far to go.  The
long-distance passengers will grumble."

The waiting crowd was not really large, but the station was small.
There might be seventy or eighty in all—men, women, and children.  Some
of them were chattering volubly in their high-pitched voices; others
were stolidly smoking or doing nothing at all.  One big, burly fellow
was joining in a game of knuckle-stones with a bright-looking boy, the
man playing with the deepest solemnity, the child bubbling with
merriment as he got the better of his elder.  All were protected from
the cold by garments so thickly wadded that the heads of the people
looked entirely out of proportion to their bulk of body.

"It’s extraordinary," continued the station-master, who was doing the
most of the talking, his companion, a tall captain of Cossacks wearing
long felt boots, a large fur hat, and a fur-lined cloak up to his ears,
interjecting only an occasional brief word—"it’s extraordinary, your
nobility, how the Chinese have taken to the railway.  When I came here
four years ago, the most of them looked on it with suspicion, even
dread; now they use it as freely as the folk in Moscow or Petersburg.
But this is a poor district hereabouts, and they can’t afford to travel
much, though it’s cheap enough, goodness knows."

"She’s late, is she not?" enquired the captain, breaking into the
official’s monologue.  "It’s past eight"—glancing at the station clock.

"True, little father.  Half an hour late at Hsiao-ten-shan-ling, and
that’s less than usual.  She may make up five or ten minutes; it is
downhill on the whole.  But the government is keeping a sharp eye on the
fuel.  They won’t burn extra to make up lost time; and for the matter of
that, there’s no need.  The only train that mattered ran through two
hours ago."

"Ah! a special?"

The station-master dropped his voice, as if fearful of being heard by
the Chinese outside the barrier.

"Yes, a special.  We were warned by telegraph not to let the news spread
among the natives.  But seeing you are an officer, there’s no harm in
mentioning there were three hundred of your own men—Cossacks, and a
sprinkling of Siberian Rifles.  I suppose you are going on the same
errand?"

[Illustration: Map of the Siberian Railway from Mao-shan to
Han-ta-ho-tzü.]

There was much curiosity in the station-master’s voice. He was himself a
soldier, and keenly interested in military matters, in which, indeed, he
was more at home than in the routine of railway work.  A green-coated
railway sentinel passed and saluted.  The captain, who was unknown to
the station-master, had ridden in from Ho-ni-ho-tzü an hour before, and
purchased a ticket for Hai-lin, the station for Ninguta.  He had been
anything but communicative, much to the chagrin of the official, to whom
a gossip was the sole distraction in a very monotonous existence, exiled
as he was in this out-of-the-way station.  His curiosity had been
aroused by the fact that the captain was leaving his horse in his
charge.  It was to be put on board the Harbin train when that officer
returned.

"Yes," the captain replied, "the same errand."

"Ah Lum?"

"Da, da!  Ah Lum.  There will soon be a strong force at Ninguta."

"There must be nearly a thousand there now, to say nothing of the three
hundred that passed through this morning, and as many yesterday morning.
They are running them very quickly, for the empty train passed here on
the way back to Harbin on the afternoon of the same day.  We don’t often
make such running on this railway.  It’s more like old days on the
Warsaw section. I was there before I came here.  The Paris express—that
is a train if you like.  Although they do say that they run even faster
in England.  Of course that’s a lie; they are all liars, the English.
That’s well known, is it not, little father?"

"What’s that yonder?" said the officer instead of replying.

The station-master looked in the direction indicated. Nearly a mile away
a cart, drawn by mules and ponies, was hurrying from the neighbourhood
of Ho-ni-ho-tzü towards the station.

"Another passenger, I suspect," said the station-master. "And he’d
better hurry, for there’s the train at last."

A thin white riband of vapour was just visible against the blue sky,
floating above the hills to the west.

"He won’t catch it," said the officer.

"I sha’n’t keep it for him," returned the official.  "But he may just do
it.  He’s cut it rather fine for a Chinaman. The train’s late as it is;
should have been half-way to Wu-chi-mi by this time."

As he spoke, the engine came in sight round a curve of the hilly track.
The Chinamen in waiting rose to their feet, grasped their bundles, and
closed up against the barrier.  Three riflemen emerged from their little
blockhouse and began to patrol the platform; two or three station
attendants appeared.  A few seconds later the huge train, looking far
too large for the station, rumbled in and came to a stop.  It consisted
of several old and shaky carriages already well filled with passengers,
and one saloon in the centre.  The few passengers for Mao-shan alighted
and passed through the barrier; then the waiting crowd surged through
and hurried along the platform in search of vacant places, which seemed
hard to find.

A train attendant handed an official-looking paper to the
station-master, who passed with it into his office; there was a
signature to affix.  Two of the Chinese passengers followed him as he
left the platform; two others halted near the attendant.  There were
cries from the officials to the Chinamen to take their seats.  Meanwhile
the Cossack captain had sauntered into the room of the telegraph
operator, and half a dozen Chinamen, having, it seemed, failed to
discover vacant places in the forward carriages, were moving on towards
the engine, followed by the voluble protest of one of the riflemen, who
hurried after them to bring them back.  Two or three, among them the big
man and the boy who had been playing knuckle-stones, were peering in at
the windows of the saloon carriage, apparently in great curiosity to see
the occupants.

By this time the rest of the passengers had squeezed themselves into the
already crowded compartments.  Faces were pressed against all the
windows; there was much speculation as to the chance of the belated
passenger in the cart catching the train, its progress being eagerly
watched, and the Chinamen in the carriages betting freely on the event.

Suddenly a shrill whistle rang out from the room of the telegraph
operator.  There was an instant change of scene.  Here and there along
the platform, groups of Chinamen, who a moment before had all the guise
of peaceable passengers, threw themselves with startling rapidity upon
the officials and the riflemen.  There was a series of brief swift
struggles; a revolver shot was heard; but that was all.  Inside and
outside of the train the guard and attendants were in a few seconds
bound and helpless; the men who had gone forward to the engine grappled
with the driver and fireman; the station-master was tied up in his own
office.  The passengers, alarmed and apprehensive, were staring
open-mouthed at the proceedings.  The door of the saloon carriage was
thrown open, and there appeared at it two men, one a tall long-bearded
Russian officer, whose uniform betokened high rank, the other a fair
hook-nosed civilian, who stared round the other’s shoulder.

"What is this, what is this?" cried the officer, stepping out of the
train revolver in hand.

The last word was hardly out of his mouth when the burly Chinaman hurled
himself at the Russian’s knees from behind; he fell backwards; the
revolver was wrenched from his hand, and the Chinaman held him pinned to
the platform.  His companion meanwhile had run back into the saloon;
before he could slam the door the Chinese boy interposed, flinging
himself flat on the floor of the doorway.  Two Chinamen forced their way
in, and did not reappear.

The prostrate officer was now trussed up.  His captor had given a brief
order to the rest of the assailants, now ranged along the platform
awaiting instructions.  At once they boarded the train, and peremptorily
ordered the passengers to alight.  Then the Chinamen found their
tongues; there was a great hubbub and commotion among them; their first
hesitation was quickly overcome by the pistol butts of the bandits, who
hastened their exit by ruthless and well-directed kicks and buffets.
One of the passengers, a heavy man, roared an imprecation and showed
fight; but he was matched in size by the big fellow who had tackled the
officer, and who now, his work with him being finished, seized the
protester and flung him out on to the platform.  Bruised and shaken, he
rolled over and squatted on his hams; there was no more fight in him.

As soon as the train came to a standstill the Cossack officer had
entered the little room of the telegraphist, and at a sign from him the
Chinaman close behind him blew the shrill blast on a whistle that had
been the signal for the attack.

"Excuse me," said the captain, "I have a message to send."

The operator, interrupted in the midst of a message, was startled by the
abrupt entrance of the soldier, the sudden whistle, and the sharp crack
of a revolver immediately following.  He looked round, half-rising from
his chair, his hand still on the key of the instrument.

"Finish your message," said the officer quietly.  His uniform, his calm
air of authority, impressed the man. Dropping back into his seat he
ticked off the remainder of his message: it was merely a service
intimation of the arrival of the train.  The sounds of commotion on the
platform were increasing; when the operator had finished he said:

"Is there a fight, your nobility?  Perhaps I ought to assist.  We are a
small staff."

"No.  Stay where you are.  It is all over.  Now please, my message.  To
Wu-chi-mi——"

"But, your nobility, if you will write the despatch out—we are not
allowed——"

"There is no time for that.  At once, if you please."

The man still hesitated: the officer sternly continued:

"My business will not admit of a moment’s delay.  You can attend to
formalities afterwards."

"Well, your nobility, if you insist——  But you will take the
responsibility?"

"Certainly.  Call up Wu-chi-mi, if you please."

The man ticked off the call.  There was an immediate reply.

"Say this: ’Station on fire’——"

The operator almost sprang from his stool; his eyes were wide with
alarm.

"But——"

"You heard what I said.  ’Station on fire!’"

A pistol’s cold muzzle at the man’s ear sent him cowering to his post.
Pale to the lips, with trembling fingers he ticked off the words.  It
was clear that the officer could follow his rapid movements, for he
suddenly pointed the pistol full at his brow, saying:

"That is enough: recall your last word; another mistake of the kind may
cost you your life."

[Illustration: "Recall your last word!"]

Seeing that his attempt to warn the operator at the other end had been
detected, the man corrected the word.

"Now add: ’Vladivostok train can get through; expect temporary cessation
of messages: will try to save instruments’.  That will do."

The man sank back, and wiped his clammy brow.  The officer turned to the
Chinaman, beckoning him forward. In his arms he bore a bulky parcel.  At
a sign from the captain he placed the bundle beneath the operator’s
desk; opening it, he disclosed a heap of greasy shavings. He struck a
match and set light to the pile; the man sprang from his chair and made
for the door, but was caught and held by the Chinaman.  Dismantling the
apparatus, the officer gave it into the free hand of his follower; then,
the room being full of smoke, he hurried out to the platform, the cowed
and bewildered official being pushed along in front.

Only a few minutes had elapsed since the train came to a stop at the
platform.  As the captain emerged, the cart which had been sighted in
the distance had just arrived.  While twenty men stood with levelled
revolvers overawing the crowd, a dozen muscular bandits hauled crowbars,
spades, and long spanners from the cart across the platform into the
brake-van, and the noticeably big man carefully carried a small box to
the saloon carriage. At a sign from the captain, a gang of the Chinamen
had hurried up the line some distance from the station and were now
cutting the wires in two places a hundred yards apart.  Breaking open
the store-room, yet another group found what they were evidently in
search of: a reserve instrument and a heavy coil of wire.  These, with
the wire cut from the line, with which the other men came hastening up,
were bundled into the train; and within a quarter of an hour from the
beginning of the attack the brigands were aboard, the Cossack captain
was in the cab of the locomotive, and, watched by the ejected passengers
in silent amazement, the train rumbled slowly out of the station.



                            *CHAPTER XXIII*

                      *From Mao-shan to Imien-po*


Wrecking a Bridge—Through Wu-chi-mi—More Dynamite—At Imien-po—Clearing
the Line—Pelion upon Ossa—A Puff of Smoke—Two Minutes’ Grace


Jack felt an extraordinary sense of exhilaration as the train, gathering
speed, rolled eastward over the single track towards Wu-chi-mi.  The
country was hilly.  The line at this point is some 900 feet above
sea-level, but although there are steep gradients the main altitude for
a considerable distance varies little.  Jack was satisfied at first with
a speed of about thirty miles an hour—a speed indeed rarely exceeded on
the railway—for the curves are at times very sharp, and not knowing the
line he felt that there was some risk of running the train off the
metals.  More than once, keeping a sharp look-out, he had to shut off
steam and apply the brakes at a particularly ugly corner.  His
hobnobbing with railwaymen during the construction of the line was now
bearing fruit; and he remembered with a curious pleasure, even while he
kept his hand on the regulator handle and his eye on the gauges, a
saying of his father’s: "Never lose a chance of picking up odd bits of
information: you never know when they may come in handy".  He had not
actually driven a locomotive before, but he had often ridden in the cab,
and watched the driver, so that he felt no nervousness at having the
Alexander the Second under his control.

As the train rattled past the block-houses of the railway guard, placed
at every tenth verst along the line, the men stared to see it make such
unusual speed; but no doubts troubled their sluggish minds, for they
caught sight of the well-known caftan and head-dress of the Cossacks at
every window.  In their innocent-looking bundles the Chunchuses had
carried the uniforms captured with Captain Kargopol’s convoy, and they
had donned them as soon as the train started.

Though he gave close attention to the engine, and saw that from time to
time the furnace and boiler were replenished with fuel and water, Jack
was keeping a sharp look-out for a spot at which he could do sufficient
damage to the line to check a pursuing train.  That he would be pursued
he had no doubt; he only wondered how long it would be before news of
his escapade reached the nearest point whence a train could be
despatched after him.  Mile after mile was passed, without his seeing
works of any importance.  The culverts were small, the water-courses
only a few feet broad, until, about twelve miles out, the train
approached a stream of some size spanned by a small bridge.  At this
point a special guard of three riflemen was stationed.  The train slowed
down, ran a few yards past the bridge, and came to a stand.  At a word
from Jack a dozen men leapt from the carriages on to the track, and
before the astonished guards, deceived by the Cossack uniform, knew what
was happening, they were seized, disarmed, and stretched bound upon the
embankment.

The bridge was of brick, and consisted of two small arches, the central
buttress sunk in the stream, which here ran only a few feet deep.  Jack
sent three men into the water above and below the bridge, each party
armed with a large hand drill.  The water was bitterly cold, but the men
set to work quickly, both parties simultaneously attacking the buttress
near the water-line.  Fortunately the brickwork was soft; Jack was glad
that his father had not had the contract for it, for then their labours
might have been indefinitely prolonged.  By a system of relief gangs a
fair-sized hole was drilled at each end of the buttress in the course of
twenty minutes.  Then Wang Shih brought from the saloon two articles
from the box he had so carefully carried from the cart.  They were
dynamite cartridges, part of the spoil of a Russian convoy. One was
placed in each aperture, and in a few seconds two muffled explosions
sent rumbling reverberations as of distant thunder among the hills.
Jack hoped the noise would not be heard at Wu-chi-mi, about six miles
off; it could not escape the ears of the guards in the intervening
block-houses, and it would probably carry much farther. But the true
explanation was not likely to occur to the staff at Wu-chi-mi, who in
any case would be quite unable to verify any suspicions they might have.

The result of the explosions was the collapse of the middle portion of
the bridge, only the jagged foundations of the central buttress
appearing above the water.  Followed by his men, Jack ran at once to the
train, which had been taken two hundred yards away, out of reach of
harm, and started the engine full speed ahead.  Although twenty minutes
had been spent at the bridge, the rate of progress from Mao-shan had
been so much above the average that the lost time might almost be made
up before the train arrived at Wu-chi-mi.

The general trend of the line from this point was downhill, and the
train tore along at furious speed over the six or seven miles into
Wu-chi-mi.  Slackening speed slightly during the last mile, it rattled
at about forty miles an hour through the station.  Jack noticed that the
staff was collected on the platform, excited probably by the noise of
the explosions, and by the reported fire at Mao-shan. They evidently
expected the train to stop.  But any hopes they may have formed of
authentic information were disappointed.  Sounding the whistle, Jack ran
the train through the station, and it was soon lost to sight.  But he
could not afford to take any risks.  If the suspicions of the Wu-chi-mi
men were aroused, it was certain that they would warn Imien-po, the next
station, some twenty miles distant.  In that case he would probably be
stopped at the points and questioned.  About a mile beyond Wu-chi-mi,
therefore, he stopped the train and sent half a dozen men to cut the
telegraph wire, hoping that the officials at the station behind would be
still discussing the unexpected passing of the train instead of
instantly sending a message ahead of him.

The bare hills had now given place to wooded slopes, the trees standing
gaunt and brown, awaiting the touch of spring.  The line crossed several
small water-courses and irrigation ditches.  Though he grudged the loss
of time Jack decided to pull up at one of the smaller culverts and
expend his last two dynamite cartridges in completing the work of
destruction begun at the bridge beyond Wu-chi-mi.  Although the
explosions raised a huge cloud of dust the actual damage was not great.
But as he was about to start the train, Jack hit upon an idea for
supplementing the work done by the cartridges and at the same time
lightening the load upon his engine.  Quickly uncoupling the third
carriage from the rear, he sprang into the cab and threw over the
reversing lever, setting the train in motion backwards.  When it had
gained sufficient momentum, he brought the engine to a stop; the three
rear carriages rushed down the incline and dashed with tremendous force
into the wreckage.  Then, relieved of nearly half its load, the engine
again started eastward.  The cutting ran parallel with the Ma-en-ho, a
wide stream flowing northwards into the Sungari. Glancing at the map of
the railway which had been found in the saloon carriage, he saw that
within a few miles he would come to a short stretch of line branching
off on the right, but apparently leading to no village, and having no
station at its end.  It seemed probable that it was a light line
connected with a mine.  At first he thought that the junction would be a
good place to lift a few rails.  But seeing at a second glance that the
station of Imien-po was not far beyond, he dared not run the double risk
of another delay.  On went the train, then, past the junction, where the
single pointsman looked amazed at the speed with which it thundered by.
Passing a brief instruction along the train, Jack shut off steam and
drew up sharply at the Imien-po station.  It was time, he thought, to
reassure the railway officials ahead.

On entering the station he noticed that an empty goods train bound west
stood on a siding waiting for the passenger train to pass.  Obviously he
must not leave this intact behind him.  Imien-po was a place of some
size; for all he knew, it might contain Russian troops sufficient in
number to deal with his handful of Chunchuses; and the goods train,
being empty, could soon be manned and sent after him in hot pursuit.
But what could he do with it? At first sight only two courses seemed
open to him: either to take the engine with him, or to destroy some of
its working parts.  Coupled to his own train, the engine would probably
be only an encumbrance, and he had almost decided to adopt the second
alternative, when, just as he drew up at the platform, a third course
suggested itself.  Bidding Wang Shih take half a dozen men and secure
the personnel of the goods train, he leapt on to the platform and
accosted the station-master.

"You will please give orders to preserve quietness. General Bekovitch,
who is in the saloon, is indisposed."  The general was in fact lying
bound hand and foot on one of the luxurious divans, just able to see
Sowinski in a similar plight at the opposite side.  "Be so good as to
wire down the line to shunt all traffic.  We are already late; the train
has been shortened to lighten us; and it is imperative that the lost
time be made up.  The service, you understand.  The general"—here he
became confidential—"is in charge of the operations against the brigand
Ah Lum."

The station-master looked duly interested and impressed, and was about
to speak when Jack moved towards the telegraph office, saying:

"Follow me, if you please."

Wondering what this young Cossack officer of the authoritative manner
wished to do, the station-master, a burly little man, toddled at Jack’s
heels.  The other officials had watched the short colloquy, and were now
approaching the carriages, surprised that none of the train attendants
had yet appeared.  Meanwhile the station-master had himself ticked off
the brief message to the next station.  The instant it was complete Jack
stepped to the door of the office and held up his hand.  A dozen men in
Cossack uniform sprang from the nearest carriage.

"Now, sir, you have been very obliging, and I am sorry that you and your
clerk must consider yourselves my prisoners."

The station-master stared in stupefaction.  Before his slow tongue could
find words two of the bandits ran into the room, and while their
comrades outside were dealing with the other officials, the poor man and
his equally amazed clerk were securely tied up.  At the same time Wang
Shih and his men, slipping out of the opposite side of the train, had
swarmed on to the goods train and surprised the driver and fireman, the
only men to be found on it, relieving them of their coats and caps, and
tying the men up.  The garments were afterwards donned by two of the
bandits who rode beside Jack on the engine.  Leaving his men to destroy
the telegraphic fittings, Jack hurried to the newly-captured engine.  He
released the brakes, then opened the regulator valve to its full extent.
The train began to move westwards; Jack jumped to the ground, and a few
seconds brought him to his own train. Glancing down the platform to see
that all his men were on board, he started the engine, and it snorted
out of the station just as one or two railway officials and the guard of
the goods train came running up from an outbuilding where it is to be
supposed they had been beguiling the time with vodka.

There was a grim smile on Jack’s face as, leaning from the cab, he
watched the tail of the empty goods train rapidly dwindling as it raced
away on its uncontrolled journey westward.  In a few minutes it would
crash into the ruins of the bridge and the wreckage of the carriages
already cut off from his own train.  The resultant block would tax all
the ingenuity of the railwaymen to clear away in time to get on Ah Lum’s
track, if the chief succeeded in reaching the appointed spot at the
appointed time.

Jack examined his stock of fuel and the water in the tender tank.  There
was enough wood to serve for an hour’s run, he thought; but he would
require to water in half that time at the most.  This was a necessity he
had foreseen: how to surmount it must perforce be left to the chances of
the journey.  He could only face each difficulty as it arose.  The
pressing matter at present was to guard against an attempt to stop him
at Pei-su-ho.  Two miles from the station he had just left he stopped
the train at a bridge.  The half-dozen watchmen at this point were
easily overpowered, though not before one of Jack’s men was wounded; the
telegraph wire was cut, and the rifles of the Russians were added to the
stock.  With those already captured the little party of Chunchuses had
now some twenty Mausers and a fair supply of ammunition.

The pause offered another opportunity for bridge destruction, but the
supply of dynamite cartridges was exhausted, and after what had been
done it was not worth while to expend precious time; there was still
ample work to do in providing against a dash of the Russians from the
neighbourhood of Ninguta.  The train once again started on its
adventures, the line still clinging to the valley of the Ma-en-ho; a
gradual ascent of some thirty miles, up which the engine snorted
furiously, leading to one of the highest points touched by the railway
in this district—a spur of the Chang-ling hills some 1200 feet above the
sea.

Five minutes after the journey was resumed, Hi Lo, who was on the
railed-in space on the right of the engine, drew Jack’s attention to a
small white puff of smoke in the direction of Imien-po, apparently no
more than two or three miles behind, and easily visible from the higher
position now attained.  Jack started, swung out on the foot-board, and
gazed intently down the hill.

"They are after us!" he ejaculated.  "But how in the world did they
manage it?  They can never have got over the wreckage."

He looked long and earnestly.  Then he turned to Hi Lo.

"What is it, boy?"

"Tlain, masta, no-fea’," he replied without hesitation.

There was no room for doubt.  The Russians were on his track.  Springing
back into the cab, Jack ordered the man acting as fireman to put more
fuel into the furnace, and opened the regulator valve to its full
extent.  Dense spark-laden smoke poured from the wide funnel; the
pistons flew backward and forward; the great locomotive seemed to leap
over the line, and Jack wondered whether the roughly-laid track would
hold together.  But, looking anxiously back, he found in a few moments
that the pursuing train had appreciably gained.  It must be either
lighter or better engined, or had still the advantage of the momentum
acquired before it had been discovered.

Danger acted on Jack like a tonic.  He instantly grasped the situation
and braced himself to cope with the peril. Shouting to Wang Shih to tear
up the rails behind the train as soon as it came to a stop, he shut off
steam and applied the brakes hard, bringing the engine with a jolt and a
screech to a stand-still.  Instantly the men told off leapt on to the
line; with feverish energy they loosened the fish-plates, forced up with
crowbars the spikes holding the rails to the sleepers, and threw the
lifted rails over the embankment.  Glancing anxiously back along the
track Jack, though the pursuing train was as yet invisible, saw its
smoke growing larger and larger in volume over the hills.  At last the
train itself came into view.  Jack saw with surprise that the engine was
at the other end of it; could the goods train, he wondered, have been
stopped in some inexplicable way and started back after him?  In two
minutes it would be upon him.  He waited for one minute; then, seeing
that a gap of some fifteen or twenty yards had been made in the track,
he summoned his men back to the train and pressed the regulator handle.
To his eager impatience it seemed that the engine would never get under
way.  The wheels slipped on the rails; he had pushed the regulator too
far; he drew it back, the wheels held, and, gathering speed every
moment, the locomotive raced on once more.

The thunder of the pursuing train was roaring in Jack’s ears.  It seemed
to him, looking back, that the foremost carriage was charging at the
gap.  He hoped the work of destruction had not been perceived; but in
this he was disappointed, for when the rear of his own train was barely
two hundred yards from the break, steam was shut off on the engine of
the pursuer, and, helped by the rising gradient, it succeeded in coming
to a stand-still just as the buffers of the foremost carriage were
within half a dozen yards of the gap.



                             *CHAPTER XXIV*

                    *Lieutenant Potugin in Pursuit*


From a Hilltop—Mystified—In Full Chase—A Runaway—In Sight—A Railway Duel


"Those Cossacks are taking their time, Akim Akimitch."

"Yes, little father; ’tis to be hoped Ah Lum has not swallowed them."

Lieutenant Potugin smiled.

"Ah Lum has been a bogey to them, truly, ever since Captain Kargopol
walked into his trap.  But I think we’ll run the fox to earth this time.
General Bekovitch will soon start the rounding up; and ’tis high time."

A half-company of Siberian infantry, including a few engineers, were
seated on the rocks in the hills above the Ma-en-ho, engaged in a meagre
luncheon of black bread and vodka.  They had arrived early that morning
by special troop train, in company with a sotnia of Cossacks, from
Harbin.  Their errand was to establish a temporary signal-station on a
convenient hilltop.  The hole for the signal-pole had been dug, not
without difficulty, in the hard and frozen soil, and before the
completion of the job was taken in hand, Lieutenant Potugin, in command
of the working party, was allowing his men a short respite for rest and
food.  The Cossacks meanwhile were scouting in the hills beyond—a task
they were by no means fond of,—and seeking a suitable place for the
erection of a corresponding signal some miles distant, whence
communication could be established with the height now occupied by the
infantry.

Lieutenant Potugin was very popular with his men, largely because he
never overworked them and was quite content when on duty to share their
humble rations.  He was seated now beside the sergeant, in the midst of
the circle, munching his bread, and every now and then raising his
field-glass to scan the surrounding heights.  It was a fine morning; a
breath of spring was already in the air, even in these heights; the
atmosphere was clear, and the outlines of the country were sharply
defined against the unclouded sky.

Over the shoulder of a low hill beneath him he could just see a stretch
of the main railway line, some three miles away.  The little branch line
along which his train had come that morning was out of sight immediately
below; but he expected every moment to see the empty train reappear on
the main line.  It was to return to Harbin; rolling stock was urgently
needed on all parts of the system; and when his work was done Lieutenant
Potugin was to report himself to General Bekovitch and join that
officer’s carefully-planned expedition against the Chunchuses.  The
branch line ended at a disused quarry which had been largely drawn upon
when the main railway was under construction; and there was no
telegraphic communication between the main line and the terminus of the
branch—if, indeed, the latter could be said to have a terminus: it
simply left off.  The empty troop train would doubtless remain at the
junction until it was signalled by trolley-car from Imien-po to proceed.

The sergeant, a famous raconteur, was telling a story, long-winded, not
at all humorous, yet received by the men with shouts of laughter.
Lieutenant Potugin smiled good-humouredly at the naïve amusement of the
honest fellows, and once more idly scanned the panorama beneath him. In
the far distance he saw a dense line of smoke lying flat in the still
air, betokening a train travelling eastward at a high speed.  He watched
it with languid curiosity as it appeared in the open and vanished into
cuttings in the winding valley of the river.  It passed the junction,
slackening speed, and then, to his surprise, pulled up.  Distant though
it was, he could distinctly see through his powerful glass a little knot
of men hurrying from the train up the line.  They disappeared for a
time, apparently beneath a culvert.  The circumstance awakened
Lieutenant Potugin’s curiosity; he watched with a certain eagerness for
the men to reappear; one or two small groups could be seen against the
snow, but a considerable time elapsed before the most of the men joined
them and the whole party ran back to the train.  Scarcely had they
reached it when a cloud of dust rose high into the air above the bridge,
and a few seconds later the sound of two dull explosions reached the
lieutenant’s ear, followed by miniature echoes from the rocks.

The lieutenant sprang up and gazed intently through his glass.  The
sounds had been heard by the men also; they turned their heads for a
moment, but, seeing nothing, resumed their conversation.  But Potugin
stood as if stupefied.  An attempt had been made to wreck the culvert;
that was clear.  But who were the wreckers?  Were they Russians, cutting
the railway to check pursuit by the Japanese?  Surely the enemy was not
already at Harbin? Accustomed as he was in this terrible war to sudden
and startling movements, the lieutenant could not believe that the
Japanese had made such strides.  No, he thought; it was more likely to
be a party of Japanese who had captured the train and were engaged on a
wrecking foray. Such things had happened south of Moukden; a flying
squadron might have evaded the Cossacks and made a daring attack on some
inadequately protected train.

The train was moving forward.  But what is that?  It has stopped again;
it is running back towards the stream. The madmen!  Are they going to
hurl themselves to destruction on the ruins of the culvert?  Potugin’s
gaze is fascinated.  Ah! he sees through it now; three carriages have
left the rest of the train, which is again at a standstill; they are
rushing down the gradient, faster, faster. Good heavens! they have
crashed into the culvert, piling themselves one above another, and the
sound comes to him like the breaking of some giant’s crockery afar.

Then Potugin found his wits.  Nothing in the whole course of the war had
given the Russians so much anxiety as their railway.  Depending on it
for the rapid transit of reinforcements and munitions of war, they were
constantly in nervous dread of this their sole communication with St.
Petersburg being cut by Japanese or Chunchuses. The dreaded thing had
happened.  Fully realizing the situation, Lieutenant Potugin was prompt
to act.

"Fall in!" he shouted.

The men sprang from their seats and were aligned in a twinkling.

"Sergeant, signal the Cossacks that a train is in the hands of the
enemy, and going eastward.  Men, follow me."

He led the way at a breakneck pace down the hill towards the spot where
they had left the empty troop train.  Three minutes brought them within
sight of the train; at that moment the engine whistled and began to puff
along.  The officer shouted, waving his hand; the engine-driver saw his
urgent gesture, and shut off steam. In another ten minutes sixty
breathless men, heated with their headlong scamper, were on board the
train; the lieutenant was beside the driver; and the engine was steaming
as rapidly as the crazy irregular track permitted towards the main line.

Arrived at the junction, Lieutenant Potugin himself leapt down and
switched the points close.  The pointsman had apparently been startled
by the crash and run off to inform the guardsmen at the nearest
block-house.  The troop in was just moving forward to cross the points
when a tremendous rumbling was heard from the direction of Imien-po,
moment by moment increasing.  The engine of the troop train was already
on the main line.  But the lieutenant, standing with his hand on the
switch and looking down the track, was horrified at what he saw rapidly
approaching.

"Reverse the engine!" he shouted; "for God’s sake reverse the engine!"

The driver with frenzied haste threw over his reversing lever and put on
more steam; the engine stopped, moved slowly backward; it had reached
safety by only a few inches when a goods train came thundering past at
furious speed, and disappeared in the direction of the bridge.  As it
flashed by, Lieutenant Potugin was almost sure that the engine had
neither driver nor fireman.  Startled though he was by the
hair’s-breadth escape from destruction, he immediately recovered his
presence of mind.  Setting the points, he ran to his retreating train,
clambered into the cab, and before the driver had pulled himself
together the lieutenant seized the lever, reversed the engine, and drove
the train on to the main line, then sprang down, unlocked the points,
and in two minutes was running the train backward towards Imien-po.

The engine was a powerful Baldwin; the train though long was nearly
empty; it gathered way, and with the regulator fully open had soon
attained a high speed. But the engine was at the wrong end; it was
difficult to see ahead.  The lieutenant was now outside the engine,
hanging on to the rail, and bending outwards in order to get a clear
view down the line.  Half-way to Imien-po he caught sight of a trolley
approaching.  He called to the driver to shut off steam and apply the
brakes.  The man working the trolley stopped the moment he caught sight
of the train, and seemed in doubt whether to go back or to remain.  The
train had almost come to rest; the officer bellowed a few words to the
trolley-man; he sprang to the ground, promptly tipped the trolley off
the track and over the embankment, and, running to the engine, climbed
up beside Potugin, the train still moving.  Again the brakes were
released and the regulator opened, and as the train forged ahead the
trolley-man explained in a few words to the lieutenant what had
occurred.

At Imien-po a few minutes’ stop was made while appliances for repairing
the line were hastily brought on board and a number of skilled
platelayers taken up.  The opportunity was taken to shunt several of the
carriages on to a siding.  The engine could not be transferred to the
front of the train without a serious waste of time, and every second was
precious.  A fresh start was made; greatly lightened, the train made
fine running for some miles. Then the lieutenant, using his glass, saw
the smoke of a train about five miles down the line.  As he watched it,
the smoke ceased; the train must have stopped, for the gradient was
rising.  A few minutes more and the runaway came in sight.  But the
fireman, stooping from his side of the engine, observed with his trained
eyes that a portion of the track had been torn up, and steam was shut
off and the brakes applied only just in time to avert a disaster.
Jumping from the train, half a dozen platelayers hurried with their
tools behind the engine, and, spurred by the voice of the officer and
helped by his men, in an incredibly short space of time they had
wrenched up some rails from the track already covered, and bridged the
gap at the other end.

Slowly and carefully the train was run over the shaky metals only
half-secured to the sleepers.  When the danger point was passed, the
driver opened the valve and the engine pushed along at full speed.  It
was to be a trial, not only of speed between the two magnificent
engines, but of wits between the two leaders: between the ingenuity of
the pursued in obstructing the progress of the pursuer, and of the
pursuer in overcoming the obstacles raised by the pursued.  It was more;
it was a competition in daring and the readiness to take risks. The
track was hilly, winding, roughly laid; not intended for, wholly
unsuited to, great speed; with steep gradients and sharp curves never
rounded by the regular drivers of the line but with caution.  Over this
track the two trains were leaping at a pace unknown on the Siberian
railway—a pace that would have turned the chief engineer’s hair white
with dismay.  On the one train Jack Brown, on the other Lieutenant
Potugin, had to think out their decisions, or rather to flash them
unthought, clinging to the outer rail of a rattling, swaying, jolting,
throbbing engine threatening at any moment to jump the rails, with the
noise of escaping steam, the roaring of the furnace heaped to the mouth
with fuel, the whistle constantly sounding to warn off any obstruction
ahead, small though the chances were that the signal, if needed, could
be heard and acted on in time.  Accident apart, the race would be to the
coolest head and the quickest wit.  On the one side the stake was life
or death.  Into whose hand would fortune give it?



                             *CHAPTER XXV*

                          *The Pressure-Gauge*


Timber on the Track—Fuel and Water—The Station House—A Trap—Neck or
Nothing—Screwing down the Valve—A Slip Carriage—Nearing the
End—Kao-ling-tzü—Indiscreet Zeal—A Lady Passenger—Traffic Suspended


Jack glanced anxiously back along the line; his engine was jolting,
bumping, up the incline at the rate of forty miles an hour; steam was
escaping from the safety-valves; the gauge registered over 10
atmospheres, considerably above working pressure; yet to his impatience
it seemed to be moving with exasperating slowness.  Dust was whirling
behind; through the cloud, five minutes after he started, he saw a puff
of steam in the distance; the pursuing train was again under way.
Turning to see if he could put on more steam, he was dismayed to find
that the water was just disappearing in the gauge glass.  In a few
minutes—he could not tell how few—the water would be below the level of
his fire-box crown, the fusible plug would drop, and the fire would be
put out by the escaping steam.  This was ominous indeed.

There were, he saw, two conditions in his favour: he had a start of
nearly five minutes; and he could choose his own place to obstruct the
pursuer.  But the other conditions were all against him.  He must needs
stop for water, and at the present rate of consumption for fuel also;
and whenever he passed a station it would be necessary to cut the
telegraph wires.  Moreover, on board the pursuing train there must be
men skilled in repairing the line, or the chase could not have been
resumed so promptly; and Jack could not expect to do more damage in a
given time than could be remedied by expert hands in the same period.
Worst of all, the pursuing engine was evidently more powerful than his;
and though it was somewhat handicapped by its position at the wrong end
of the train, yet an experienced driver can always get more work out of
his engine than a tyro,—and Jack was making his trial trip!

He cudgelled his brains for some means of checking the pursuit without
bringing his own train to a stand-still. He wished that he had thought
to instruct his men when tearing up the rails to lift some of the
sleepers into the train; these placed on the line would prove serious
obstacles.  It was too late to repine; he made up his mind not to lose
the chance if it should occur again.  While his thoughts were still on
the matter, his eye caught the balks of timber used for fuel on this
part of the line.  The stock in the tender was much diminished; more
fuel must soon be obtained; but surely one or two might be spared for
the experiment.  Without delay he sent Hi Lo to the back of the tender
with an order to Wang Shih to carry two of the balks through the train
and to drop them on the line from the communication door at the rear of
the last carriage.  In a few moments the command was carried out, but
Wang Shih reported that owing to the high speed he had found it
difficult to see what happened to the logs when they reached the ground.
One, he thought, had remained on the inside rail; the other appeared to
jump off.  Narrowly watching the riband of steam from the pursuing
train, Jack believed he detected a momentary diminution about the time
when it should have reached the spot where the logs had been thrown out;
but if there was a delay it was very brief, and a few minutes later the
tail of the advancing train came into full view, the growing size of the
carriage-end showing that it was making up on him.

Looking ahead with greater anxiety, Jack saw a station within a mile.
This must be Pei-su-ho.  He had already decided that to stop there would
be absolutely necessary, and in a short colloquy with Wang Shih when he
returned from throwing the logs on the track he had arranged what should
be done.  Immediately on the stoppage of the train twelve men were to
engage the station staff and destroy the telegraphic instruments; ten
were to tear up the rails behind the train, and, if possible, bring some
sleepers on board; four were to cut the telegraph wire, and twenty to
load wood from the station stock on to the nearest carriage. In the
meanwhile he himself, with the assistance of the man acting as fireman
and others riding on the engine, would take in a supply of water from
the tank.

The train rattled into the station.  In his anxiety Jack found that he
had shut off steam too late; the engine ran some yards beyond the
water-tower.  As he had already found at Imien-po, it was not easy to
the amateur to bring a train to a stand-still at a given spot.  But
although the greater part of the train had run beyond the platform, the
Chunchuses, who were standing ready with the doors open, swung
themselves out, and before the gaping officials were aware of what was
happening they were disarmed and helpless.  Not for the first time had
Jack reason to be glad that his men were the pick of Ah Lum’s band, and
a standing proof of the efficacy of discipline with the Chinese.

While Jack was backing the engine to the tank the work of ripping up the
track and demolishing the wire had already been begun, and a string of
men were hauling timber into the nearest carriage.  But before the
supply of water was fully replenished Jack had to blow his whistle to
recall the various parties; the pursuer was drawing perilously near.
The train moved off before all the men were in their places; the last of
them running along the platform and being helped in by his comrades.  Up
came the second train; again it had to halt before the gap, and the
driver, being at the other end, was compelled for safety’s sake to
reduce speed earlier than he would have done had he been able to judge
the distance more exactly. But this time the gap was shorter; the time
required to restore the line would be correspondingly less.  Yet Jack
had gained one advantage; knowing that the enemy’s water supply, like
his own, must have run low, he had brought the station hose away with
him, and he looked at it with grim satisfaction, lying coiled at the
rear of the tender.

As Jack’s engine, Alexander the Second, gained impetus and charged up
the gradient towards the hills looming in the distance, it was followed
by a dropping fire from the pursuing train: some of Lieutenant Potugin’s
men had climbed to the roof of the stationary carriages.  Whether any of
the bullets struck the train was doubtful; no harm was done; and in the
excitement of the moment the idea of firing rifles seemed almost as
childish as shooting at the moon.  Nothing less than a siege-gun would
have appeared formidable in the circumstances.

The brigands’ last cutting of the line and the removal of the hose had
evidently gained several minutes for the fugitive, for many miles had
been covered before the smoke of the pursuer was again seen.  With so
considerable a start Jack felt it safe to pull up once more and try a
device that had occurred to him.  His engine was at the summit of a long
descent where the line curved.  Hitherto his track-breakers had forced
up both the rails, but the curve was here so sharp that he thought he
might save time by having only one rail lifted, hoping that the partial
gap might not be seen by the enemy until it was too late to do more than
check the train, which would in all probability be derailed.  An
alternative plan suggested itself, only to be dismissed.  It was to
remove the rail, and then replace it without the bolts.  The pursuer
would then rush on at full speed expecting no danger; the train would be
hurled from the track, and probably all on board would be killed or
injured.  But even in the heat of the moment, and with the knowledge
that if he were caught he could expect no mercy from the Russians, Jack
could not bring himself to compass such wholesale destruction.  "Play
the game": the phrase of the school song stuck to him.  His purpose
would be amply served by the mere derailment of the train, the speed of
which would no doubt be sufficiently checked, when the gap was descried,
to avert fatal consequences.

So confident was he of the success of his scheme that when, after the
single rail was removed and flung over the embankment, he again crowded
on steam, his mind was occupied rather with the question of what should
be done at the next station than with the prospect of further
difficulties with his dogged pursuer.  He was now approaching the place
in the hills to which Ah Lum was to advance by forced marches, and
whence he was to be prepared to dash across the line on receiving a
message that the scheme had succeeded.  Jack had already selected his
messenger; the man was clinging to the rail of the engine, and only
awaited the word to spring during a temporary slackening of speed and
plunge into the hills.

The chosen spot lay between Pei-su-ho and Kao-ling-tzü, and had been
minutely described by Ah Lum.  Jack was glad that his anxieties appeared
to be over, for the country flashed by so rapidly that he ran the risk
of over-shooting the mark unless he could keep a good look-out. He was
narrowly watching for the opening on his right when Hi Lo suddenly drew
his attention westward.  With greater alarm than he had yet felt, even
when he first caught sight of the pursuer, he saw, scarcely a mile and a
half behind him, the relentless enemy leaping along in his wake.  He was
half-way up a steep incline; the second train was rushing with wholly
reckless speed down a steep straight gradient on which Jack, no longer
fearing pursuit, had thought it desirable to clap on the brakes.  All
notion of going cautiously must now be abandoned.  Amazed at the failure
of his last effort to delay the pursuer, Jack set his men with desperate
energy to pile up the furnace to its utmost capacity; and when he topped
the hill, and the enemy was just beginning the ascent, he let the engine
go at its own pace down the opposite side.  He and his men had to hold
on with both hands as they rounded another sharp curve; the wheels on
the inside seemed to be raised from the track, the train keeping the
rails only by the grip of the outside wheels.  Jack held his breath as
the panting engine plunged along; would it come safely on to the
straight?  Even in the excitement of the moment he solved as in a flash
the mystery of the pursuers’ escape from derailment, and he could have
beaten his head for his thoughtlessness.  The rail that had been lifted
was an inside rail; rounding a curve the weight of a train going at
speed is always thrown on the outer rail, which is raised above the
level of the other.  Either designedly or by accident the pursuing train
had passed at full speed over the gap, its very speed proving its
salvation.

Although there were many ups and downs, the general trend of the line
was still chiefly on the up grade, and Jack found that while the enemy
made as good timing as himself down the slopes, their more powerful
engine gained rapidly wherever the track began to rise.  As mile after
mile was passed, the huts of the line guards at intervals of ten versts
seeming like the milestones on an ordinary journey, the space between
the two trains steadily diminished.  Every now and again the pursuer was
lost to view; but whenever it next came in sight it was always
perceptibly nearer.  The noble Alexander the Second rattled and groaned
like a creature in pain; the working parts were smoking; some of the
bearings were melting, and Jack dared not risk the perils of oiling.  He
knew that he was getting out of it every ounce of which it was capable,
unless indeed he adopted the desperate expedient of screwing down the
safety-valve, from which a dense cloud of steam was escaping.  He
glanced at the gauge—13 atmospheres; then his eye went backwards along
the track—the pursuer was still gaining; he turned to look ahead, there
was a long steep ascent to be climbed. The pace lessened to an alarming
extent: puffing, panting, creaking, the engine toiled up a hillside on
which the track could be seen rising for at least two miles.  He must
risk it.

Three minutes later, the valve now screwed down, he again glanced at the
gauge—14 atmospheres.  Bursting pressure, Jack knew, was calculated at
five or six times the working pressure; but the Alexander the Second was
an old engine, he doubted whether her boilers would stand anything like
this strain.

For a time Jack’s train drew away; but the gain was only temporary; the
pursuers, he guessed, must have adopted the same desperate expedient.
Gradually they crept up, while Jack alternately watched them and the
track ahead, and the gauge, which now registered 15 atmospheres—the
limit which it was constructed to indicate. Beyond this point he had no
means of knowing how the pressure was increasing.  The rapidity of his
thoughts seemed to keep pace with the tremendous speed at which he was
travelling.  His mind worked with marvellous clearness; the minutes
seemed like hours; he even found himself speculating which of the three
risks was the greatest—derailment, capture by the Russians, or the
imminent explosion of the boiler.

To look for the spot chosen for the despatch of his messenger was out of
the question; it had probably been already passed.  Jack felt that he
had no longer any alternative; he must play what seemed his last card.
The pursuing train was only half a mile behind on the steep upward track
when at his order Wang Shih, at the risk of his life, uncoupled the
rearmost of the three carriages.  For a short distance it followed the
rest; then it stopped, and began to run back at a pace that threatened
to telescope at least one carriage of the oncoming train. A turn in the
track hid both the detached carriage and the pursuer from sight; Jack
listened with a beating heart for the sound of the collision, which he
felt would be audible even above the thundering roar of his own train.

Lightened of part of its load, his engine was forging its way uphill at
considerably higher speed.  At one moment he thought he heard the
expected crash, and it seemed that the move had been successful, for
when next he obtained a fair view of the line behind, the enemy was not
in sight.  Alternating between compunction and elation, he ventured, the
line being more level, to reduce speed until it was safe to drop his
messenger, who must perforce find his way to Ah Lum.  But the man had
barely left the track when, to Jack’s amazement, the indomitable pursuer
reappeared.  A glance showed him that it was pushing the discarded
carriage before it.  His move had been detected, probably before the
cast-off carriage began its backward journey; the pursuing engine had
been able to reverse in time; chased and overtaken by the runaway
carriage, the train had no doubt been badly bumped, but not with force
enough to cause any serious damage.  Now, to all appearance, it was
following the quarry at the same breakneck pace as before.  Jack felt a
glow of admiration for the wary Russians, who showed themselves so
intent to mark his every move, so quick to take measures to defeat it.

His mouth hardened as he watched the pursuer gaining upon him yard by
yard.  He knew that the pressure must now be enormous; would the boilers
stand the strain? Yet in spite of all he was steadily being overhauled.
Yard by yard the gap lessened.  Nothing but an accident could now
prevent him from being overtaken; his only course seemed to be to stop
before the enemy was too close, reverse his engine, and with his men
take to the hills. But then he reflected with a kind of agony that the
task he had set himself was even yet only half done.  There was no
longer, indeed, any chance of Ah Lum’s retreat being cut from the west;
but the Russians could still despatch a force from Ninguta in ample time
to check the Chunchuses before they got across the railway; and if they
were once checked, the forces behind would at once close in and crush
them.  While, therefore, the slightest hope remained, Jack resolved to
cling to his train; but he gave his men orders to jump clear at a
moment’s notice.  They must now be very near to Kao-ling-tzü: if they
failed to cut the line there the race was clearly run, for a warning
would certainly be flashed over the wire to the next station at
Han-ta-ho-tzü, giving ample time for preparations to be made to meet
him.  He was in a bath of sweat; his throat was parched; his limbs were
trembling; but collecting all his forces, he watched the gauge and
grasped the lever.

There remained, he clearly saw, one small chance, and only one.  If
there happened to be a train at Kao-ling-tzü side-tracked in obedience
to his instructions, it might be possible—how long would it take?—to
interpose it between himself and his pursuers.  There would be a minute,
nay, less than a minute, to gain possession of it and set it in motion.
Could he increase the margin?  Yes; by detaching the saloon, now the
rearmost carriage, and crowding the whole of his men and the two
prisoners into the single carriage in front.  The enemy had all along
shown himself so alert that he would doubtless be on the look-out for
such a move; there was no longer any likelihood that it would end the
chase; but at least it would check the pursuer’s progress, forcing him
to stop or reverse.  Even if it caused the delay of only a few seconds,
it was worth attempting; a few seconds might make all the difference.

The station was already in sight when, the transference of men having
been quickly effected, Wang Shih broke the couplings and left the saloon
solitary upon the line. Looking with blood-shot eyes ahead, Jack saw—and
his labouring heart leapt at the sight—not one, as he had hoped, but two
trains, one behind the other, completely filling a siding, where they
were halted to allow General Bekovitch’s expected train to pass.

But the same glance that gave Jack such elation showed him that he had
to deal with perhaps the greatest danger he had yet encountered.  He had
intended to follow the same plan that had proved successful at the other
stations: dispose of the officials, cut the wires, and block the line.
But he saw almost with dismay that the platform here was thronged.
Drawn, no doubt, by curiosity to see the train of General Bekovitch, and
excited by the urgent messages received along the wire, not only the
station officials were waiting, but a considerable number of workers on
the railway, Russian riflemen, and Chinese passengers.  These, together
with the attendants of the standing passenger train, were massed upon
the platform.  They formed so numerous a crowd that it would tax all the
energies of the Chunchuses to deal with them; there might be a prolonged
fight, and, even if it ended in a victory for the brigands, so much time
would have been consumed that the pursuers must arrive before anything
could be done to stop their progress.  It was a moment when many a man
might have despaired.  But Jack was not made of the stuff that yields.
As his engine plunged along towards the station he conceived an
alternative plan; it would test his nerve and self-command to the
uttermost; but it might succeed by its very audacity.

Passing the word to his men that they were to remain in the carriage and
hold their revolvers ready in case an attack was made, he halted the
engine with a jerk a yard beyond the spot where the station-master was
standing. He sprang to the platform, clutched the astonished official by
the arm, and dragged him along, speaking in low, rapid, urgent tones.

"Come with me.  There is not a moment to lose.  We are pursued by a
train in the possession of the enemy. General Bekovitch is laid up.  We
have done our best to check the pursuit, but they’ll be upon us in a few
minutes. Only one thing can be done: uncouple the engine on the siding,
and start it up the line.  Quick! our lives depend on it.  I will take
the responsibility."

As Jack had hoped, the suddenness and unexpectedness of the news, and
the urgency of his manner, bereft the station-master of all power of
independent thought.  He hurried along the platform, shoving aside all
who stood in his path, every man in the crowd looking on with
wonderment. He sprang on to the line, with his own hands uncoupled the
engine, signalled for the points to be closed, and ordered the driver to
send it ahead at full speed.

"Two minutes saved!" thought Jack, as the engine started.  But he could
not afford to let the flurried official regain his self-command.

"That is not enough," he said.  "They will see the engine, reverse,
couple it on, and come at greater speed. I’ve tried it already.  You
must empty the passenger train, and then push it along with the goods
engine.  It would be well to throw a carriage or two off the rails at
the points. Anything to block the line."

"Certainly, your nobility," said the station-master.  "It is the only
way."

They were now on the track between the waiting train and Jack’s.  Many
of the passengers had their heads out of the windows, wondering what was
going on.  Waving his arms, the station-master summoned them in urgent
tones to alight.

"I’ll now push on," said Jack.  "Do your best, nichalnik; remember how
much depends on you."

He walked rapidly along between the trains to reach his engine.
Passengers, anxious, wonder-struck, were already leaving the train.  One
of them, a Russian army doctor, stopped Jack and asked what was the
matter.

"Train behind in possession of the enemy," returned Jack laconically.

"Bozhe moï!" ejaculated the doctor, drawing his revolver and making for
the platform.

Jack passed on, not venturing to delay even long enough to assist a
lady, for whom the jump from carriage to track was somewhat difficult.
She sprang down unassisted.

"Monsieur Brown, Monsieur Brown!"

Jack shivered from top to toe, and never in his life felt so much
inclined to take to his heels as then.  He could hardly believe he had
heard aright; yet amid the bustle now filling the station he had caught
the whisper of his name.  On a sudden impulse he swung round.

"Monsieur Brown," said Gabriele Walewska, running up to him, "I have
news for you: I have something to show you."

"Come with me, Mademoiselle," said Jack instantly. "I haven’t a minute
to lose."

"But Masha is here; I cannot leave her."

"For heaven’s sake, Mademoiselle, climb up into this carriage.  I will
fetch Masha."

With anxiety tearing at his heart Jack hurried back down the train.  He
saw Gabriele’s old nurse at the door of a carriage; she was almost the
only passenger who had not yet alighted.

"Spring into my arms," he said, forgetting that she knew no tongue but
Polish.  But his outstretched arms spoke for him.  The woman jumped
clumsily; but Jack kept his feet, and, straining his muscles, he carried
the burden, as rapidly as he could stagger, to his own train.
Gabriele’s hands were ready to help the woman; with an unceremonious
heave Jack pushed her into the carriage.  Then he ran to his engine,
swung himself up, and pressed the lever just as the empty passenger
train moved off in the other direction.  Before he had run a hundred
yards he heard a crash behind.  Glancing back, he saw that the first
carriage had jumped the points, ploughed up the permanent way, and
overturned.  One after another the other carriages followed; and in a
brief minute there was a pile of wrecked trucks and coaches in
inextricable confusion across the rails.

Jack had not time to give a second thought to Gabriele. He was again
urging Alexander the Second along at full speed.  He must run to within
a few miles of the next station, and lift enough rails to delay for some
hours any train despatched from the direction of Ninguta.  Twenty
minutes brought him to a likely spot—a high culvert over a brawling hill
stream.  Employing the whole strength of his detachment in the work, he
lifted fifty yards of the track and flung the rails and sleepers into
the stream’s rocky bed.

"At last!" he exclaimed.  The load of anxiety he had borne for over two
hours was gone.  From the place where he had wrecked the bridge nearly a
hundred miles westward to the spot where he now stood, traffic on the
Siberian railway was hopelessly blocked.



                             *CHAPTER XXVI*

                            *A Double Quest*


Gabriele’s Story—A Hasty Word—Lex Talionis—Bribery and Corruption—Cause
and Effect—The Natural Man—The Filial Obligation—The Choice of Routes—A
Fair Pleader—In the Circumstances—Improving the Occasion


Jack’s part was done.  The way had been cleared for the passage of the
Chunchuses across the railway, and knowing Ah Lum’s rapidity of movement
he felt tolerably sure that the crossing might easily be made.  He could
now afford to think of his own safety.  He determined to run the train
back as near as he dared to Pei-su-ho, then to leave it standing on the
line and make off in a northerly or north-westerly direction, trusting
to join hands with Ah Lum at some distance north of the line.  The
railway guards were amazed to see the train running swiftly backwards;
but, whatever their suspicions, they were powerless. Jack came to a stop
between two of the block-houses; in a few minutes his men alighted with
Bekovitch and Sowinski, Gabriele, and her nurse; and then Jack abandoned
the noble Alexander the Second that had served him so well, and started
on his northward march.  Some distance above the line he instinctively
turned for a last look.  There was the short train, motionless on the
rails, a derelict in a vast solitude.  But it represented activities
that had disorganized the whole traffic of the line for a hundred miles,
nullified a military scheme, and saved hundreds of lives.  It was not
without a certain grim amusement Jack remembered that the final card in
that game had been played by the Russians themselves.  "I only hope the
station-master won’t be cashiered," he thought, as he turned his back
upon the scene.

Not till now had he an opportunity of learning what strange fate had
entrusted Gabriele to his care.  Some time after he had left the
missionary’s house the girl, unable to endure the separation from her
father, again ventured into Vladivostok.  Acting on the knowledge that
Jack had bribed a Russian official, she succeeded in persuading a
colonist about to re-embark for Sakhalin to carry a letter from her to
Count Walewski.  She told him of her intentions, assuring him that in
spite of her failure to gain permission to enter the island, she still
meant to persevere.  Several weeks later she received a reply, brought
by the same man, who had crossed the sea in probably the last boat
before the ports became ice-bound. It was addressed in a strange
handwriting, and as she tore it open she was oppressed by the fear that
her father was dead.  But the first line of the letter, written in
French, dispelled her anxiety.  The count was ill in hospital, unable to
write; but he had availed himself of the ready help of a
fellow-prisoner—a political prisoner who had recently arrived in the
island.  He thanked his daughter for her affectionate solicitude, but
pled with her to abandon her purpose: Sakhalin was no place for a woman;
she would only suffer without alleviating his lot. As for himself, until
the arrival of his new friend he had despaired of ever regaining his
liberty.  But the surprising news that the Japanese were winning victory
after victory had sown a seed of hope.  The prisoners on the island had
been fed with lies by the officials, who reported constant victories for
Russia.  But the new-comer had thrown a fresh light on the war; he could
not foresee its end: the Russians had still enormous powers of
resistance; it was possible that the great fleet on its way eastward
might break through to Vladivostok and change the aspect of things.
Yet, if it should be defeated, the Japanese might capture Sakhalin;
possibly the political prisoners would then be released if they had not
been previously removed to the mainland.  It was only a possibility, but
sufficient to give new courage to a sorely-tried man.

Jack read all this himself, for Gabriele, immediately after explaining
how the letter came into her possession, handed it to him.  The writing
was his father’s.  At the first moment he felt unutterable relief in
finding that his father was alive; then rage burned within him as he saw
before him, marching at some distance apart, each manacled to a
Chunchuse, the two men whose villainy had sent Mr. Brown to the bleak
"island of the dead".  Gabriele noticed his look.

"I understand," she said.  "But if your anger is great, how much greater
is mine!  Your father’s persecutor is a Russian, a foreigner; my father
was betrayed by one of his own countrymen,—one of his own house.  The
traitor there recognized me as I entered the saloon carriage; bound as
he was, he shrank from me as though expecting that I would kill him."

"But he did not recognize you when he saw you at Father Mayenobe’s?"

"No.  But something must have put him on my track, for it is through him
that I was a passenger on the train. I was arrested in Vladivostok and
ordered to go back to Europe.  He was with the soldiers who arrested me:
in fact, he pointed me out to them.  I do not know how he came to
recognize me after all."

At the moment no explanation occurred to Jack, who indeed did not give a
thought to it.  But later he remembered that, on the well-remembered
evening in Moukden when he had got the better of Sowinski, he had
mentioned the man’s true name, Streleszki.  This had no doubt set the
Pole wondering how Jack could have learnt his name; and the chain of
incidents had led him to connect the disclosure with the European girl
he had met at the missionary’s. So that Jack’s almost inadvertent
explanation had ultimately led to this meeting with Gabriele at the
station, and to the end of his long search for his father’s whereabouts.

The party marched as rapidly as possible, rising gradually towards the
barren hills.  After two hours they stopped for a brief rest, and for
the first time since his capture at Mao-shan General Bekovitch was
within arm’s-length of the Chunchuse leader.  Jack wondered whether he
would be recognized; but the change of costume, the hardening of his
features and the development of his physique due to his active rigorous
life, made him a different being from the lad whom Bekovitch had seen
for five minutes at the Moukden railway-station.  And the general was
certainly not in such a calm and collected mood as might quicken his
memory. He was indeed in a condition of boiling rage and indignation.

"Here, you—" he cried, seeing Jack so near to him. "Do you understand
Russian?"

"Moderately well, sir."

His very voice had become more manly; its deeper tones did not awaken
recollection.

"Then what do you mean, confound you! by treating a Russian general
officer thus?  What do you mean, I say? Do you know what you are doing?
Made to tramp over these hills—fettered to a filthy Chinaman—why—why——"

The general could find no further words to express his indignation.

"Is it not the Russian custom to manacle prisoners?" asked Jack quietly.

The Russian’s cheeks took a purple hue.

"An officer—a general!  Do you know who I am, you—you——"

"You are General Bekovitch."

"Well—well—loose me at once, then; I insist on this indignity being
removed; it is monstrous!"

"Possibly; but quite Russian.  You are no worse treated than you treat
your prisoners.  If a Chunchuse, myself for instance, had fallen into
your hands, what would have been his fate?"

The mild reasonableness of the Chunchuse’s reply, together with his firm
attitude, seemed to suggest to the general that he should try another
tack.

"Come," he said, with sudden suavity, "I know you gentlemen; I suppose
it is a matter of dollars.  How much will you take to let me go?"

Jack looked at him.

"Say a thousand dollars—that’s a very fair sum, more than you’d get in
the ordinary way of your—business.  Eh?"

"Yes: our business, as you call it, is certainly not profitable, but we
do make a haul at times."

The general looked furious.  Jack quietly continued:

"But you are making a mistake—you are treating me as you would a Russian
and an official.  I am merely a brigand—but we Chunchuses have our code.
Dirty though he is, General Bekovitch, the man you are bound to has
cleaner hands than you: he at least is an honest man according to his
lights.  It is he who should complain of contamination."

Bekovitch quivered with rage, but gulping down the indiscreet words his
anger prompted he returned to the point.

"I could make you a rich man.  I said a thousand dollars; come, I will
make it two thousand.  It will buy you a pardon, and an official post as
well.  Batiushki! no brigand ever had such a chance."

Jack laughed.

"We have our code, General Bekovitch, I repeat.  There are some things
bribery cannot effect.  Your release just now is one of them.  But for
bribery you would not be here."

The general stared.

"What do you mean?"

"It is all very simple.  If the Pole Sowinski yonder had not bribed you,
General Bekovitch, you would not have conspired against Mr. Brown at
Moukden, and you would not have needed to deport his son.  If you had
not deported his son, his son would not still be in Manchuria; and if he
had not been in Manchuria he could not have captured you, General
Bekovitch, and you need not have attempted to bribe him."

The general stared incredulously at the speaker.  Then it was as though
the Cossack uniform dropped away; as though the young man before him
became again the lad he had been nine months before.  The Russian
recognized him at last, and his jaw fell.

"You see now," pursued Jack, "the double uselessness of offering bribes
to me—as the son of Mr. Brown, and as an Englishman."

"What are you going to do with me?"

All the bluster, all the silkiness, was now gone; the general was
anxious, almost suppliant.

"That I cannot say.  You will be delivered to my chief, Mr. Ah.  It is
likely that you will be detained until my father is released.  But I
cannot answer for Mr. Ah.  He is a Chinaman, with Chinese ideas.  Much
may depend on how my father has been treated."

Bekovitch became pale; his eyes looked anxiously around. Jack left him
to his meditation.  Passing the spot where Sowinski sat, manacled like
Bekovitch, Jack noticed that the Pole’s eyes met his with a hunted,
terrified look.  He had recognized his captor at once, and having also
seen Gabriele he felt that he had to reckon with her as well; and his
imagination of what he himself might do, were he in their place, shook
him like the ague.

The march was resumed, and late in the day the party came in touch with
Ah Lum’s scouts.  The meeting between Ah Lum and Jack was very warm.

"Never was captain so nobly served," said the grateful chief.  "I was at
my wits’ end to escape the meshes of the net; and now not only have I
escaped, but I hold in my power the man who was to ensnare me.  Truly
the poet Li T’ai-poh was right when he said, in his _Apology for
Friendship_—

    "’Never despair: the darkest Lot may mend;
    Call no Man lost that hath one faithful Friend’.

You will find the works of Li T’ai-poh worthy of perusal, my honoured
friend.  They have been to me as a bright star to a wanderer in a dark
night."

Jack thanked him for the recommendation; then changed the topic, and
asked how the crossing of the line had been effected.  He learnt that a
slight skirmish had taken place at the line between the Chunchuses and
the energetic pursuers of the train; but the Russians, being hopelessly
outnumbered, had been compelled to retire with loss.  Ah Lum in his turn
was informed of the discovery of Mr. Brown’s whereabouts.

"Nothing proceeds from the machinations of men," he said, "but the whole
of our lives is planned by destiny."

"Yes, Mr. Ah, and destiny has willed that my father’s persecutor and
your hunter are the same man—the Russian general there."

"Ch’hoy!  May his posterity be cut off!  May the five thunders strike
him dead!  May the village constable attend to his remains!  May he be
born again as a hog! When we pitch our camp, I will cut out his tongue,
fry him in a caldron of oil, rip——"

"Stay, stay, Mr. Ah!" cried Jack, aghast at this unwonted fury in his
scholarly friend.  "You forget that he is a European, and I am an
Englishman; we don’t do such things in my country."

"But it is an imperative duty.  Your duty to your father demands that
you should heap on the villain the direst curses, and inflict on him the
most terrible torture."

"No, Mr. Ah, the books of our sages teach us differently. Besides, my
father would not approve: he would most strongly disapprove."

This was a new aspect, and one that Ah Lum took time to consider.

"That alters the case," he at length reluctantly admitted. "A son may
not act contrary to his father’s wishes.  What does the poet Tu Fu so
beautifully say?—

    "’Happy the Father, yea, and doubly blest,
    Whose Son, though absent, doeth his Behest’.

Yes, it is a pity; but when inclination and the counsel of sages agree,
there is but one course."

Considering that there would be plenty of time to levy a contribution on
the settlement at Shih-tou-ho-tzü, Ah Lum sent back 200 men for the
purpose of collecting supplies, and pushed on with the main body.  A few
hours later the detachment rejoined, with a number of carts containing
useful stores of all kinds, and the march northward was resumed with all
speed.  One of the carts was appropriated to the use of Gabriele and her
servant; but the former soon declared that she preferred to walk; the
springless cart made riding anything but comfortable. The march was
continued throughout the day.  In the evening Ah Lum reached a spot far
in the hills, where he might safely encamp.

Next morning Jack took the earliest opportunity of holding a
consultation with the chief.  It was his fixed intention to get if
possible to Sakhalin; he knew his father was there: to rescue him ought
not to be difficult. As a Chinaman Ah Lum confessed that he could not
oppose an enterprise of such piety; but as a practical man he thought it
his duty to mention the objections. He had never been to Sakhalin, but
he understood that it was a terrible place, visited by fierce storms,
buried for the greater part of the year under snow and ice, covered with
thick forests, infested by wild beasts, wilder men, and even hideous
dragons.  By the many forms of exorcism employed for generations past in
China, dragons had been driven out of the Celestial Kingdom; but they
had crossed the sea and taken refuge, so Ah Lum had been informed, in
the dreary wastes of Sakhalin.

Jack brushed all these objections aside.  Seeing that he was firm, the
chief carefully considered the best means of helping him.  The strait
between Siberia and Sakhalin was at this time of the year frozen over;
the ice would not begin to break up for several weeks.  The nearest
point at which it could be crossed was at least 1500 li from the
Chunchuses’ present encampment, and not only would so long a journey be
attended by many hardships, but Jack would be liable to arrest as soon
as he came to any considerable Russian settlement.  Jack at once said
that he did not propose to make the long overland journey; his best plan
would be to sail by junk from one of the Manchurian ports as soon as the
coast was clear of ice.  To go to Vladivostok was too risky; Possiet Bay
was the nearest point, and the most promising in all respects.  It was
some hundreds of li distant, and there were high hills to be crossed;
but Ah Lum offered to send with Jack a man who knew the country, and to
issue orders to the headman of every important village, instructing him
under pain of his severest displeasure and drastic penalties to do all
in his power to forward the journey.

This having been settled, the question of the disposal of the prisoners
arose.

"I am not one to mistake a village headman for the emperor," said the
chief; "but fishes, though deep in the water, may be hooked, and I know
I have a valuable fish in the Russian general.  How many men think you a
general is worth in exchanges?"

"That’s a hard question, Mr. Ah.  Some less than nothing: others an
infinite amount."

"Then it will be a matter of long bargaining.  As for the other man, he
is of little account.  The mule is always attended by a flea.  The two
men are companions: what does that prove?  When the rat and the cat
sleep together, be sure that the larder will be empty in the morning.
As the fishmonger throws a sprat into the scale to make the salmon
appear cheap, so will I deal with the Pole when I dispose of the
Russian.  But there is another point, my honoured friend; what is to
become of these women whom Destiny has sent to trouble me?"

"Yes, that has troubled me, too.  I must go and hear what they say."

Jack found Gabriele listening gravely to Ah Fu’s recitation of the "May
Queen".

"Mademoiselle, may I have a little serious talk with you? The chief is
sadly perturbed about your presence here."

"Well, Monsieur Brown, it was your train that brought me.  Seriously, I
suppose I must go back to Father Mayenobe _en route_ to Sakhalin, for
sooner or later I will get there—on that I am determined.  They may
deport me, but I shall always return.—What will you do yourself?—not
remain a Chunchuse?"

"No, indeed.  I am going to find my father."

"To Sakhalin?"

"Yes."

"Oh!  Monsieur Brown, cannot I come too?  I may never get such a chance
again.  My poor father! he has been there six years.  Take me with you."

"But, Mademoiselle——"

"I am very strong, really I am.  Did I not walk for six hours yesterday?
I will not delay your march."

"But think of the difficulties—a long mountain journey to begin with, a
voyage in a junk at one of the worst seasons of the year, the danger of
being discovered and arrested at any moment, exposure, perhaps hunger——"

"I am not afraid.  And surely it will be better for me to face these
hardships in your company than alone!"

"Alone?"

"Yes, alone!  I have as strong a motive as you; my father—oh!  I cannot
bear to think of him ill and wretched.  I shall go to Sakhalin.  If you
will not take me, and do not give me up to the Russians, I shall tramp
to the coast and cross on the ice—alone."

Jack hardly knew whether to be amused at the absurdity of such a
venture, or to be impressed with the girl’s determination.  That she
meant what she said he had not the slightest doubt.

"But what about Masha?"

"Poor old thing!  She declares she will never leave me. And she is quite
strong—stronger than I am, though she is getting on in years.  We shall
get through somehow; the Lord God will protect us."

In face of this spirit Jack felt helpless.  It was arranged that
Gabriele and the nurse should accompany him. Their destination was kept
secret from the band, lest by any mischance it should leak out.  A week
afterwards, Jack took a cordial farewell of Ah Lum, asking him, if he
had any news to communicate, to write to him at the care of the
Hong-Kong and Shanghai Bank at Shanghai.  The leave-taking was conducted
with due solemnity.  There was no question as to Ah Lum’s sincerity of
feeling.  He was unfeignedly sorry to lose the lieutenant who had done
him such yeoman service.  When he had exhausted the resources of his
language to express his gratitude, he spent a few minutes in bestowing
fatherly counsel on Jack, drawing lavishly from his well of proverbial
wisdom.  Jack found the draught a trifle turgid, but otherwise the
quality was excellent.

"Difficulty and danger," began the chief, folding his hands and looking
benignly over the rims of his spectacles—"difficulty and danger teach us
to know the value of friendship; at the same time they winnow the true
from the false, even as a husbandman winnows the grain from the chaff.
I may never see you again; take from me a few words of counsel, learnt
as well from life as from the works of the poets and sages.  What says
Li T’ai-poh?—’A good rule of conduct is better than stout armour or a
sharp sword’.  When you are most happy, you should be most ready to meet
misfortune.  Extreme joy is but a sign of grief to come.  In security,
do not forget danger.  Do not consider any vice as trivial, and
therefore practise it; nor any virtue as unimportant, and therefore
neglect it.  Let your words be few, and your companions select.
Inattention to minute actions will ultimately be prejudicial to a man’s
virtue.  Past events are as clear as a mirror; the future as obscure as
lacquer; yet, gazing into that mirror, I seem to see reflected a future
of great prosperity, high office, and a numerous progeny.  Heaviness and
care will come upon you, as upon all men; at such periods the works of
Li T’ai-poh will prove a well of refreshment, a mine of solace.  I have
no fears for you.  As the sun’s rays first gild the highest mountains,
so the blessings of Heaven fall in richest measure upon the upright.
You have shown yourself to be an excellent son: what says the poet Wang
Wei in his _Address to Posterity_?—

    "’To him who faithfully his Father’s Will obeys,
    Heaven in its Bounty grants great Wealth and Length of Days’."



                            *CHAPTER XXVII*

                               *Sakhalin*


Abundant Profits—A Hut in Sakhalin—Sowinski and
Another—Sympathy—Coincidence—Blood Money—Downhill


One brilliant April morning Jack set out towards Ninguta, accompanied by
Gabriele and the servant, Hi Lo, and two trusty Chunchuses.  They were
all dressed in Chinese garb, and since Manchurian women do not deform
their feet there was no difficulty for Gabriele on that score. But they
carried Russian dresses and uniforms for use if necessary.  They crossed
the railway safely at night half-way between two of the block-houses;
and, striking into the hills, followed a path that would take them a
considerable distance south of Ninguta.  Their great danger lay in the
chance of meeting one of the Russian columns which had been engaged in
rounding up Ah Lum; but the two bandits believed that they would hear of
the proximity of any such troops in good time to avoid them.

Jack had discussed with Gabriele whether they should take Father
Mayenobe’s mission station in passing.  On all grounds they decided that
it would be best to leave the good priest undisturbed.  No doubt he
believed that Gabriele was well on the way to Europe; it would be a pity
to renew his anxieties, and possibly involve him in trouble with the
Russians.

While they were laboriously making their way over the hills, another
member of Ah Lum’s band, posing as a lumberman, travelled by the
railway, newly restored and more strictly guarded than ever, to
Vladivostok.  He bore a letter from Gabriele to the man by whose aid she
had communicated with her father in Sakhalin.  The letter stated that
the receiver might earn 500 roubles if he would accompany the bearer to
Possiet Bay, and there meet the writer, who would then give him further
instructions. Jack had little doubt that when they arrived they would
find the man waiting.  To an ex-convict of Sakhalin 500 roubles is a
fortune.


The Chinese shipping interest at Possiet Bay was scandalized when it
heard that Too Chin-seng was contemplating a voyage to Chifu at least
three weeks before the usual season.  The ice, it was true, was breaking
in the harbour; but the weather was tempestuous outside; and large
quantities of loose floe rendered navigation difficult and dangerous.
There was much shaking of the head over the temerity of the ship-owner
who was thus imperilling not only the lives of the crew but the safety
of the vessel.  He could easily get another crew; a vessel like the
_Yu-ye_ ("Abundant Profits") was more difficult to replace.  She was a
stout junk some sixty feet in length and fifteen in beam, built of thick
wood to withstand the heavy seas of those northern latitudes, and from
the Chinese point of view well found in all respects. That for the sake
of a few weeks’ gain in time a man should risk so valuable a craft
seemed to the shipping world at Possiet Bay a wilful flying in the face
of fortune, almost an insult to Ma Chu, the goddess who watched over
good sailors.

Too Chin-seng went quietly about his preparations, not even swerving
when his neighbours protested that by the time he returned from Chifu he
would be too late for the early herring fishing off Sakhalin.  One day
the vessel, loaded with a cargo of rice, made her way with much creaking
and groaning out of the harbour, her sides bumped and scratched by heavy
ice floes.  Before sailing she had undergone the usual inspection; the
officials sniffed and pried, as though the dissatisfaction of the native
community had infected them also; but everything was in order.  The day
was fine, the sea exceptionally smooth for the time of year; and when
once free from the floating ice, the _Yu-ye_ ran merrily before a light
north-easter down the coast.

But towards evening, when off Cape Lesura, she hauled her wind and beat
about as if in expectation of something. She had not long to wait.  Half
a dozen figures appeared on the shore; a sampan was launched from the
edge of the ice and laboriously punted its way out to the junk. The
passengers were got aboard with some difficulty, for the wind was rising
and the sea beginning to be choppy. But, all being at length embarked,
the junk clumsily beat out to sea, heading towards the coast of Yesso to
the north-east.

"He can makee chop-chop sailo pidgin, lowdah?" asked Jack of Too
Chin-seng at the tiller.

"My belongey numpa one junk, masta.  Ping-ch’wahn no can catchee he,
galaw!"


In a rough wooden hut on a hill-slope above a small lumber settlement on
the south-east coast of Sakhalin two men were talking.  It was nearly
dark; a sputtering tallow candle threw a murky light over the room,
showing up its bareness.  A rickety table was the only article of
furniture; a raised portion of the rugged wooden floor, covered with one
or two frowsy blankets, served both for chairs and bed.  On these
blankets the two men were now seated.

One of them was a big, heavy-browed, uncouth fellow—a posselentsy; that
is, one who having served his time in the convicts’ prison, was now
liberated, though not free.  He could not leave the island, nor could he
choose his place of residence; he was bound to live where the governor
bade him live.  On leaving the prison he had been furnished with
implements and ordered to go and build himself a hut at the spot
prescribed, and till the soil around it.  For two years he had been
provided with food enough to keep him from starving; after that he must
keep himself by the labour of his hands—cutting wood, loading coal,
mending bridges.  His hut became the nucleus of a village, other
convicts being sent to do as he had done.  After fourteen years he might
hope to be permitted to return to Siberia or Russia.

The posselentsy was sitting with his back against the log wall, taking
frequent pulls at a bottle of vodka, which, though forbidden to the
colonists except at the two great Russian festivals in October and
January, is secretly manufactured in stills deep in the woods, and
stealthily bought and sold.  But this bottle was a present.

"Yes," he was saying in answer to a question; "he checks the logs loaded
into store by the foremen of our artels."

"An easy job, no doubt," suggested the other man—the Pole Anton
Sowinski.

"Easy!  It’s child’s play.  All he has to do is to count the logs and
write the numbers in a book.  Then the dirty Pole—I beg pardon; I forgot
he was a countryman of yours—gives out the vouchers, and the
work—work!—is done.  I had the Englishman’s job myself—until I made a
mistake in the figures."

"A mistake!"

"Well, they said it was intended.  At any rate they sent me back to the
woods."

"And while this Englishman—this spy—and the other sit at their ease, you
poor Russians have to do all the hard work.  I suppose it _is_ hard?"

"Hard!  Try it, barin.  Felling trees and splitting logs all day is not
exactly a soft job.  And to make matters worse, since this war has been
going on they’ve set a lot of us fellows to deal with the fish—make the
stinking fish manure that the Japanese used to make.  The herring season
is just beginning; that’ll be my pleasant occupation next week."

"And that is the life you lead while the Englishman—the spy—and the
other live like barins, eh?  It is shameful."

The Russian took a long pull at the bottle.  It was not often he got a
chance of airing his grievances and drinking vodka from the continent—a
great deal more to his taste than the crude poison of local manufacture.

"You are right; it is shameful."

"I wonder you don’t do something."

"Do something!  What can we do?  We rob them when we get the chance, but
that doesn’t make things easier.  Besides, they are not so bad after
all—the Pole and the Englishman.  The Englishman taught my boy to cast
accounts; he’s now a clerk in the superintendent’s office.  And the Pole
taught my girl to speak French; she’s now maid to the governor’s lady.
It didn’t cost me a kopeck: no, they’re not a bad sort."

"Still, think of the injustice."

"Yes, the injustice; that’s what makes my blood boil. I was a robber; I
tell you straight what I was; and I killed a gorodovoi who interfered
with me: that’s what brought me here.  But what’s that to being a spy,
and plotting against the Little Father’s life?  No, and if I had my
rights——"

The drink was beginning to take effect; the posselentsy was becoming
noisy.

"Yes, yes," interrupted Sowinski; "and I suppose if the Englishman were
out of the way you would stand a chance of getting your old job—his
job—again?"

"Perhaps—if I could bribe the governor’s secretary. But what chance is
there of that?  His price is too high for me.  And besides, the
Englishman is not out of the way, nor likely to be."

"And yet it might be managed too.  A determined man like you, with say a
couple of hundred roubles to back you, might go far."

The Russian was not so much fuddled that he failed to understand the
drift of the other’s words.

"What do you mean?" he asked suspiciously.  "Speak plainly," he added,
bringing his huge fist down upon the table with a bang that made the
Pole wince.  "What is your game?—that’s what I put to you.  You haven’t
come here—a barin like you—just to see me, and listen to my grumbles; I
know that.  No, nor yet for love of anybody else; I’m an old bird, I am,
and I see what I see, I do.  If you want anything out of me, I won’t say
I sha’n’t meet you if you make it worth my while; but you’ll have to
speak out, man to man, you know; beating about the bush is no good with
an old bird like me, not a bit of it."

"Quite so, my friend, quite so.  Indeed, that is my way: a clear
understanding—nothing kept back on either side."

"Well then, speak out, can’t you?  What is it?  What do you want me to
do, and what will you pay me for it?"

"That’s what I like—plain speaking.  Well, it seems that the matter
stands thus: here are two men between your present hard life—an
atrocious life, an unendurable life, a life worse than a dog’s—and an
easy life, a life with little to do and any amount of time to do it.
It’s a strange thing, but these very two men are hated by the
government. The officials don’t want to do anything openly: you know
their way; but if the two men were suddenly to disappear——you
understand?—well, the government at Alexandrovsk wouldn’t take it amiss.
Of course, there would be a kind of enquiry—a formal matter; and that
would be all.  But the officials must not appear in it. There are
reasons.  That is why, as I was coming here to see about a contract for
railway sleepers, the matter was mentioned to me—by a high personage,
you understand. I have with me——" he corrected himself hastily—"that is
to say, not here, but at the superintendent’s, two hundred roubles—fifty
for an immediate present when an understanding is come to, another fifty
when the disappearance takes place; the rest if the disappearance is so
complete that no traces of the two are found—say within a month.  But of
course I must know what becomes of them."

"Ah!  That’s the game, is it?  And what’s to be the story for
Petersburg, eh?"

"That’s an easy matter.  We’ll say they bought false passports—there’s a
manufactory of those useful documents not a hundred miles from
Nikolaievsk—and smuggled themselves away in a herring boat.  That’ll
wash, don’t you think?"

"If it goes down as easy as this vodka it’ll go down uncommon easy,"
said the man with a chuckle.

"And there’s plenty more where that came from.  Well, what do you say?"

"I can’t do it alone.  I shall want some one to help. You—" he looked
critically at the Pole—"you ain’t the man for such a job.  I’ll have to
get a pal.  Ten roubles, now—I suppose you won’t object to pay that,
supposing you don’t want to lend a hand yourself?"

"That shall not stand in the way.  I shall have to pay the money out of
my own pocket," he added as by an artistic inspiration.

The man flashed a shrewd glance at his visitor; but though he said
nothing on the point, he was apparently making a note of something in
his mind.

"Well, you leave it to me, barm," he said.  "When I take a job in hand,
my motto’s ’thorough’, it is.  And mind you: when I see you next,
another bottle of this vodka: that won’t ruin a barin with two hundred
roubles at the superintendent’s office and ten in his own pocket, eh?"

A few minutes later Sowinski left the hut and stumbled out into the
darkness—down the hill, dotted with rude huts dimly discernible in the
gloom, towards the little bay where half a dozen junks engaged in the
herring fishery lay at anchor.  The road was broken by ruts and
pitfalls; unconsciously the Pole groped his way over or past them, busy
with his thoughts, which were blacker than the night, hurrying him to a
deeper pitfall dug by himself for his own undoing.



                            *CHAPTER XXVIII*

                            *The Empty Hut*


My Son—Liberty in Sight—Au Revoir!—Suspense—The Open Door—A
Footprint—The Trail


While Sowinski was making his way down the hill, a sampan with two
passengers put off in dead silence from one of the junks in the
roadstead.  The vessel had arrived that afternoon with a small cargo of
rice; she was to ship a consignment of dried fish for Chifu.  The
loading was to be commenced at dawn on the following day; she was not to
carry a full cargo, having to fill up with coal at Alexandrovsk; by the
evening it was expected that her consignment would be on board, and she
would sail again next morning.

The sampan moved without a splash towards the northern end of the bay,
where there were no huts.  The fishing settlement extended half round
the southern end, and the lumber yards occupied the rest of the southern
quarter and part of the northern.  It was a very solitary spot at which
the passengers landed, and the sampan-man—who happened also to be the
owner of the junk—steering his little craft between two rocks, where he
was secure from observation, squatted motionless, apparently awaiting
the return of the two men whom he had just put ashore.

Making a circuit round the lumber settlement—a somewhat difficult matter
in the dark—the two passengers, one of whom evidently knew the way and
walked a pace or two in advance, stopped at a hut a little larger than
the majority of those they had passed, and gently tapped at the door.
No light was visible; the taller of the two men cleared his throat as in
nervous impatience.  A step was heard within; the door was opened, and a
voice asked in Russian:

"Who is there?"

"It is I, gráf," said the man who had led the way.  "I have a friend
with me."

"Come in, then."

The two entered; the door was gently closed behind them.  The outer room
was in complete darkness; but, leading the way through that, Count
Walewski opened a farther door, which led into a second room, dimly
lighted by a couple of candles.  A man was seated at a table, reading.

"Here is our friend Godunof, comrade," said the count in French.

Mr. Brown looked up—looked again, stared, then sprang to his feet.

"Jack!"

The taller of the two visitors brushed past Godunof, and father and son
clasped hands.  For a few moments not a word was spoken by either of
them; a stranger might not perhaps have guessed from their manner that
they had been parted for nearly a year—the father a victim of foul
wrong, the son ignorant of the father’s whereabouts and burning to
avenge the wrong.  But beneath his iron-gray moustache and beard Mr.
Brown’s lips were quivering, and Jack had a lump in his throat which
made him incapable of speech when his father turned to the count and,
keeping Jack’s hand in his, said simply:

"My son, Count."

Count Walewski was deep in conversation with the other man.  He seemed
scarcely to comprehend what Brown had said.

"Your son!  But—my daughter—you remember her letter; she is here, now,
in a junk at the shore; Godunof says so; it bewilders me; am I dreaming?
Your son!—they came together; Godunof tells me they have come to take us
away.  After all these years!—Brown, this will kill me!"

The count, trembling like a leaf, leant for support against the crazy
table.

"Sit down, my friend," said Brown.  "We must keep our heads.  Jack has
come on a desperate adventure; it takes my breath away; he must tell us
what it means."

A long conversation ensued—not long in point of time, but in the amount
of matter compressed into it.  The difficulty of arranging the escape
lay in the impossibility of knowing from what quarter the wind would be
blowing at any hour that might be determined.  Without a favourable wind
the _Yu-ye_ could not get out to sea; and it would be madness for Mr.
Brown and the count to go aboard until there was a practical certainty
of the junk being able to slip away.  As soon as they were missed, every
boat in the roadstead would be searched. And even if the vessel cleared
the bay, there was always a risk of its being followed by the government
launch engaged to patrol the fishing settlements along the coast,
perhaps by a gunboat sent from Korsakovsk in response to a telegram.
The launch at this moment lay at anchor in the bay, and unless the
_Yu-ye_ got a good start and a fair wind, it must inevitably be
overhauled, though the government boat was an old and crazy vessel whose
best work was long since done.

Granted a favourable wind, then, it was arranged that the two, the
following midnight, should make their way down to the point at which
Jack had landed.  If the wind proved unfavourable, the departure must be
postponed. The junk would slip her moorings at the first glint of dawn,
and before the escape was discovered Jack hoped they would be hull down
on the horizon.

"But what speed can you make?" asked Mr. Brown. "You can’t outrun a
steamer."

"I doubt whether the launch would venture far into the open," said
Godunof, the colonist who had carried the letters between Gabriele and
her father.  "She can’t stand heavy weather, and a gale may spring up at
any moment in these seas.  Besides, she’d be chary of meeting Japanese
cruisers in the Strait of La Perouse.  I wonder, indeed, she ventured
into this bay—no better than an open roadstead, and exposed to attack."

"She only arrived two days ago from Korsakovsk," said Mr. Brown.  "She
came on a matter of revenue; nothing else brings her here."

"Well, we must chance it, Father," said Jack.  "We’ve got here safely,
and please God we shall get away safely too.  We can run for the nearest
Japanese port, and there we’ll be as safe as—as in Portsmouth Harbour,
by Jove!"

The plan having been discussed rapidly, yet with anxious care, Jack took
leave of the two gentlemen—all three with full hearts wondering whether
they would ever meet again—and returned by the way he had come.

His return was eagerly expected on board the junk.  He had scarcely
clambered over the side when a figure closely enwrapped in Chinese dress
moved towards him.

"Did you see him?"

"Yes, Mademoiselle.  He was overcome at the news that you were here."

"And is he well?  And your father—both well?  Oh, Monsieur Jack, I pray
that nothing, nothing, may happen! Nobody knows of your visit?—you are
quite sure?  You made them understand?—the time, the place, the wind? To
think that we have to wait a whole night and day!  I can hardly endure
it!"

"I am just as bad, really, Mademoiselle.  Lucky for me we have to load
up to-morrow; that will give me something to do.  By this time
to-morrow——"

The next day was a time of dreary waiting.  It was a bright morning, the
sky clear, the sea smooth—too smooth, thought Jack, anxiously whistling
for a wind.  The cargo was taken on board—smelling horribly, but
Gabriele waived Jack’s condolences: what was such an unpleasantness
beside the larger matter of her father’s safety?  As the day wore on,
black clouds came scudding out of the north; the wind freshened minute
by minute, and the junk began to roll.

"The wind serves!" cried Gabriele joyfully.  "Oh for the dark!"

Some time before the hour agreed upon, the sampan was punted to the
appointed spot.  In it were Jack, Hi Lo, and the owner of the _Yu-ye_.
The wind was roaring, the sky was black, the tide full, and the Chinaman
had much ado to prevent his craft from being dashed against the rocks.
Time passed; nobody appeared.  Jack looked at his watch; it was twenty
minutes after midnight.  What had delayed the prisoners?  Another twenty
minutes; he was becoming uneasy.  What could have happened?  Godunof
could not have played him false; the colonist had not returned to the
junk with him the night before, but since he had received only a portion
of the reward promised him, it was unlikely that he had betrayed the
secret.  Had the prisoners been delayed by an unexpected visitor?  Had
they started and been caught?  All kinds of possibilities occurred to
him.

At last, when the two were fully an hour and a half late, he could
endure the anxiety and suspense no longer.  He resolved to go up to the
hut, and alone.  But when he told the Chinaman what he intended, and
asked him to put him ashore, Hi Lo spoke:

"My go long-side masta."

"No, no; you must stay and look after Mademoiselle."

"My no wantchee stay-lo; my no can do.  Masta wantchee some piecee man
allo-time long-side; ch’hoy! what-fo’ Hi Lo no belongey that-side?"

The boy was already slipping over the side of the sampan.

"Very well then," said Jack reluctantly.

Then, turning to the Chinaman, he bade him remain at the same spot until
near dawn.  If by that time Jack had not returned, the man was to go
back to the junk and come again when darkness fell on the following
night.  He must find some excuse for not putting to sea, and not let it
be known that anyone connected with the junk was ashore.  Above all, he
was to watch over the women.

With great caution Jack and the boy stole round the settlement towards
Mr. Brown’s hut.  Unfortunately, as Jack thought, a bright moon was
shining fitfully through gaps in the scudding cloud; and having to take
advantage of every patch of shadow when it appeared, their progress was
slow.  The wind was bitter cold; the spring-like promise of the earlier
part of the day had been succeeded by a sharp frost, which had already
hardened the slush and mud except in places sheltered from the blast.
The thin ice on standing pools broke under their tread, with a crackle
that gave Jack a tremor lest it should have been heard. But there was
not a light or a movement in the settlement, nor any sound save the
whistling of the wind and the booming of the surf on the shore.

Stealthily they made their way up the hillside.  They arrived at the
hut.  The door was closed, the window dark.  Jack tried to peer through
interstices between the rough logs of the wall; he put his ear against
the wood; he heard nothing, saw no glimmer of light.  With a sinking
heart he pushed gently at the door.  It yielded to his touch.  He
entered, groping in the dark; and bidding Hi Lo close the door, he
struck a match and held it above his head.  Feeble as the light was, it
showed enough to strike him cold with despair.  The hut was empty, and
in disorder.  A chair was overturned; a half-burnt candle lay on the
floor; the table was pushed into a corner, and a book had fallen beneath
it and stood on its bent leaves. Jack picked up the candle and lit it.
The clean boards of the floor were marked with many muddy stains as of
scuffling feet.  Dreading to search, Jack yet looked for traces of
blood; there were none.  But among the marks one struck him
particularly—a huge footprint, too large to have been made by either
Count Walewski or his father. Someone had entered before the ground
outside had frozen. But the struggle—everything in the bare hut spoke of
a struggle—must have taken place after the fall of dusk, for with a pair
of old perspective glasses found in the junk Jack had kept a close watch
on the hut, and had seen his father enter, late in the afternoon, with
another figure—presumably the count.

Dazed with this sudden set-back to his hopes, Jack sat down on one of
the chairs, resting his throbbing head upon his hands.  A feeling of
utter helplessness paralysed him. Hi Lo stood watching him, the boy’s
whole attitude one of mute sympathy.  Had the authorities got wind of
the plot, thought Jack, and again spirited his father away?  Had
Godunof, the ex-convict, betrayed him?  Scarcely, or a police visit
would have been made to the junk, and he himself arrested.  He tried to
pull himself together; he must do something, and at once; but what?  He
could not tell; he was in the dark; and Gabriele in the junk was
waiting, listening, wondering why ere this she was not in her father’s
arms.

Bending forward in his misery, suddenly his eye fell on the huge
footmark made with a clay-clogged boot on the white floor.  The boot
must have been of quite unusual size; what could have been the stature
of the man who owned it?  Jack suddenly sprang up; if there was such a
footmark within, would there not be others, similar, without? By them
could not the assailants be traced?  He was convinced that his father
and the count had been attacked: should he rouse the settlement?  Their
lives might be in danger; in warning the authorities he would at the
worst only risk his own liberty.  But supposing the authorities
themselves should be concerned in the matter!  To appeal to them would
then be worse than useless; he would merely sacrifice his own freedom,
and with it all possibility of serving his father.

Still the footmark stared at him.  An idea suggested itself.  Could he
trace the man himself?  He had never followed any trail but that of a
paper-chase; but what of that?  It was worth a trial.  In a rapid
whisper he told his thoughts to Hi Lo.  The boy nodded with full
comprehension. Jack blew out the light, and pocketed the candle; then
the two groped their way to the door and issued forth into the moonlit
night.



                             *CHAPTER XXIX*

                        *The Heart of the Hill*


Trackers—Voices—Into the Open—Waiting for Dawn—Demons—Greater Love—Choke
Damp—Found—A Rusty Chain—From the Depths—Explanations


The moonlight and the frost, which Jack had been disposed to regard as
hindrances, were now all in his favour. The moon threw just sufficient
light to enable him to avoid obstacles and to see the impressions of
footsteps in the mud, which the frost had suddenly hardened.  Bending
low, he was at first unable to distinguish, among the many footprints in
front of the hut, the large one for which he was so intently looking;
but a little distance away he had no difficulty in picking out two
separate trails of the enormous foot, one approaching the hut, the other
receding from it. It was the latter that must be followed, and with Hi
Lo at his side Jack walked as quickly as possible over the glistening
track.

Every now and then the traces disappeared, for whenever the moonlight
was obstructed by a cloud, a hut, or a tree, it was impossible to see
clearly enough to distinguish them.  Then it was that Hi Lo proved
himself invaluable, and made Jack thankful he had not refused the boy’s
request.  It was he, as a rule, who succeeded in finding the lost trail;
scouting ahead like a sleuth-hound, he seemed to be able to see in the
dark.

The way led steeply uphill.  It was hard and rough going, following a
narrow road probably used for the haulage of timber.  Under the thin
coating of ice the mud was deep, and at times their feet sank up to the
ankle.  The little hamlet of log huts was soon left behind; they came
into a clearing dotted with the low stumps of trees; here, evidently,
had been felled the timber of which the huts were built.  Then they
passed into a densely wooded clump, through which in the darkness they
had to grope their way.  Once or twice Jack ventured to light a match;
this being the sheltered side of the hill, there was no wind, and during
the few moments of feeble light Hi Lo could assure himself that they had
not lost the trail. Crossing more rapidly another open stretch, they
entered a still thicker and darker patch of wood.  When, after going
some distance into this, Jack again struck a match, the boy, peering on
hands and knees, declared that the footprints were no longer visible.
They must needs go back to pick up the trail, far more difficult to
distinguish in these forest depths than in the open.  The search took
time; anxiety was all the while tearing at Jack’s heart-strings, but he
schooled himself to patience.  At last they came again upon the huge
footprint with which they had now grown familiar.  Lighting the
candle-end, Jack traced the mark for a few yards on the upward path;
then, together with the other footprints, it suddenly disappeared.

"What in the world are we to do?" whispered Jack.

The forest was dense on each side of the path.  At the few points in the
course of their journey where a gap let through the moonlight, they had
seen extraordinary effects, the trees seeming to have been tossed about
by giants, lying at all angles against the trunks that had arrested
their fall.  But the path had been cleared of these obstructions, for if
not removed, the waleshnik, as the fallen timber is called, would soon
block up any forest road in Sakhalin.

Groping about, Hi Lo at length discovered, to the right of the main
path, a fallen tree that concealed a narrower track, made by men, but
apparently no longer in use, and partially overgrown.  For some time the
keen little fellow’s search failed to find the footprint, but at last,
at a break in the undergrowth, he pounced upon it.  The man with the big
feet had evidently passed this way.  Jack struck up the path; it was
steeper now, and blocked at many points by trees that had been allowed
to remain where they fell; but it was fairly broad, and at one time must
have been as important and as frequently used as the path they had just
left.  Here and there they came to a clearing—the work of fire;
blackened stumps standing grim and gaunt in the moonlight.  Then on into
the forest beyond, picking their way by touch rather than sight, barking
their shins and rasping their elbows against obstacles they were unable
to avoid.

The air was pervaded by the musty smell of decayed vegetation.  It was
silent as the grave save when a quick rustle told of some wild beast
scurrying away into the thicket.  Suddenly Hi Lo stopped, putting his
hand on Jack’s arm.

"What is it?" murmured Jack.

The boy instantly clapped his hand upon his master’s mouth, and pulled
him from the path through a mass of tangled undergrowth.  They were at
the edge of a small clearing.  Through the still air Jack could now hear
voices ahead; then came the faint glimmer of a light; and soon, as they
crouched breathless behind a friendly trunk, two figures appeared on the
farther side of the clearing, coming towards them, one carrying a
lantern.  The men’s voices were low; even in this remote spot they were
doubtless mindful that it is illegal to be abroad after dark.  Jack held
his breath as they passed within two yards of him. He caught a few words
in Russian.

"How long do you think?"

"About three or four days—unless they can eat coal!"

Then a hoarse chuckle.

The voices receded; the light died away; the men were gone.  One of them
was tall and broad, a son of Anak: clearly the owner of the giant foot.

His heart thumping against his ribs, Jack waited until he thought all
was safe; then with Hi Lo he recommenced his climb up the wooded hill.
He had no doubt that these men, whose voices the boy had fortunately
heard in time, were concerned in the disappearance of his father and the
count.  But what had been done with them?  Were it not for the evidences
of the struggle Jack would have been tempted to suppose that the men
were in league with the two prisoners, conniving at or assisting their
escape.  But the state of the hut belied any such thought.

It was some time before he ventured to strike another match in order to
make sure that he was still on the track; the merest glimmer seen from
below might lead to disaster. When at last he thought it safe to do so,
he saw clear indications of the recent passage of several feet. He
hurried on at the greatest speed the difficult path and the darkness
allowed, and after some twenty minutes emerged upon a kind of table-land
above the bay.  He remembered seeing it from the junk—a huge terrace in
the hills, sloping gradually upward, and after about a mile ending in
another steep incline.  The road was here more easy to follow; there
were no fallen trees; it was the so-called tundra of Sakhalin.  The
trees were not so thick: through gaps in them he caught glimpses of the
sea, silvery in the moonlight; and he thought of the fair girl waiting
in the junk, now doubtless in an agony of apprehension regarding her
father’s fate.

The two pressed on.  By and by they came to the steeper ascent.  It was
necessary once more to verify the trail.  Fearful lest a gleam should
give the alarm below, Jack took off his hat and struck a match within
it. There were the footsteps, going up and down the hill, which was not,
like the slope below, covered with trees. Indeed, during the last few
hundred yards the two searchers had stumbled over sleepers, rails, and
other things indicating a railroad either abandoned or in course of
construction.  Once they came full upon an upturned truck; a little
beyond, upon a coil of wire rope.  Jack stopped more than once to
examine these impediments, always careful to conceal his light; and he
concluded that they were rather the relics of a railway than material
for a new line.  He was still wondering what had tempted Russian
enterprise to construct and then to abandon a railway in this spot, so
remote and difficult of access, when the explanation came suddenly.  He
found himself among the outworks of a deserted coal-mine.  The ground
was littered with timber, dross, rusty tools; the path had come to an
end; and Jack stopped abruptly, at a loss what to do.

It was hopeless in the darkness to attempt to explore the workings, for
he had no doubt now that his father and Count Walewski had been brought
here and left in some remote part of the mine, to perish of starvation.
He saw through the villainous scheme.  "About three or four days—unless
they can eat coal!"—the words were now explained.  What the motive was
he could not guess. The conspirators had shrunk from murdering their
victims outright; but when starvation had done its work they would no
doubt come upon the scene, discover the dead bodies, and claim the
reward which the governor would probably have offered for news of the
fugitives.

The matches were used up; it would be dangerous to attempt to trace out
a route in thick darkness.  All that could be done was to wait for the
dawn.  What that might bring forth who could tell?  With morning light
the prisoners would certainly be missed, and a hue and cry would be
raised.  Even if the plot were the work of officials, still a search
would be made.  In that case it would be perfunctory; while if they were
innocent undoubtedly they would scour the country all round the
settlement.  There would be little to guide them.  The main path from
the hut was largely used; many tracks crossed and recrossed on it; and
if the night’s frost was succeeded by a thaw, as was almost certain, the
footprints would become mere puddles and give no clue.

Jack and the boy made themselves as comfortable as possible in the
shelter of an overhanging cliff; but the hours till dawn seemed to creep
along.  Jack’s thoughts dwelt in turn on the prisoners and their fate,
and on Gabriele waiting in the junk.  She was dressed in Chinese
clothes, but would she escape undetected when the vessels in the bay
were searched in the morning?  Jack was tempted to send Hi Lo back, so
that she might be warned; but second thoughts counselled him to wait
until daylight. He might then at least let her know whether the count
was alive or dead.

There was no sleep that night for either Jack or Hi Lo. As soon as it
was light enough to see the ground they resumed their search.  Almost
immediately Jack understood why they had failed to pick up the trail the
night before.  The party had climbed on to a ledge of bare rock a few
feet above the ground, and on this their boots had left no mark.  But a
little farther up the hill the track could be distinguished.  It led
directly towards a dark opening in the cliff—one of the galleries of the
deserted mine.

As they approached the opening, Hi Lo began to shake with fear.  A mine
to an unsophisticated Chinaman is a terrible thing.  He believes that
the delving of the earth lets loose innumerable demons, enraged at the
disturbance of their homes.  So strong is this belief that mining is
actually forbidden by law, though the law is now fast becoming a dead
letter.  Hi Lo knew nothing of western progress, and he implored Jack to
turn aside from this black tunnel into the earth.  Jack did not laugh at
the boy’s fears; he told him to remain at the entrance and give warning
if anyone approached.  Then he stepped into the mouth of the gallery.

He had already concluded that the mine consisted of galleries, not of
shafts.  The outcrop of coal was visible in the side of the hill.  He
therefore had no fear of coming unexpectedly upon a pit.  But he groped
his way along with great caution; the truck rails had not been removed
from the floor of the gallery.  The air was pure; he felt indeed a
slight draught, which pointed to the existence of an outlet of some kind
in the direction in which he was going.  After proceeding for a few
minutes he was brought to an abrupt halt by a solid wall of rock in
front.  Feeling each side of the gallery, he found that the passage
branched off to right and left.  Which turning should he take?  He stood
in indecision; in the darkness there was nothing to guide his choice.
Then it occurred to him to shout.  If his father and the count were in
the mine, they were doubtless alone: they would hear his call, though it
were inaudible outside.  He gave a halloo, and listened; he heard
nothing but the sound rumbling along the passages. He shouted again;
there was an answering cry behind him; then the patter of footsteps
hurrying, stumbling along towards him.  Facing round, he raised his fist
to fell an enemy; but a small form cannoned against him, and a boy’s
voice uttered a gasping yell.  It was Hi Lo. Hearing the shout, he had
unhesitatingly plunged into the blackness.  Anxious as the moment was,
Jack admired the spirit of the little fellow, who, to come to his
assistance, had braved dangers none the less terrifying because so
purely imaginary.

"Well done!" said Jack, patting his arm.  "Now run back and wait for me.
I’m all right here."

"My no can do," said Hi Lo decisively.  "My stay-lo long-side masta.
Big piecee debbils this-side; my helpum masta fightey; my no can lun
wailo."

"Very well.  Keep close."

Again and again he shouted, always without response. Then at a venture
he turned into the right-hand passage. After a few yards he felt Hi Lo’s
hold on his tunic relax. The boy had fallen to the ground.  Hastily
stooping he picked him up, almost falling as he breathed the lower
stratum of air, and staggered with his burden to the main gallery.  He
had but just reached it when he himself was overcome and sank to the
floor.  He did not lose consciousness, but his head buzzed and swam, and
he felt a horrid nausea.  When he was somewhat recovered, he carried Hi
Lo back to the entrance, and was relieved to find that in the open air
the boy quickly regained consciousness.  But he could not expose the
little fellow again to such peril; bidding him remain at the spot, and
on no account to follow, he plunged once more into the darkness.

This time he turned into the left-hand passage, and found that it sloped
rapidly upward.  Before long he was brought up by a similar obstacle;
the gallery again divided. He felt a slight current of air strike
against him from the left-hand side; in that direction he continued to
grope along. If the words he had overheard meant anything, they meant
that the prisoners might be expected to survive for a few days.  As that
would be impossible in the foul air of the unventilated passages, he
could not be wrong in pressing forward wherever he could breathe.  Again
he shouted; again there was no reply but a series of echoes. But moving
on again, and listening intently, he fancied he heard a low continuous
rumbling ahead; this could not be an echo.  The sound grew stronger as
he advanced; in a few moments he understood its cause; it was
unmistakably the sound of falling water.  Stepping now with still
greater caution, he soon became aware that he was within a few yards of
the waterfall; the sound seemed to rise from beneath his feet.  He threw
himself on his face and crawled forward—and the floor ended; he was on
the verge of a precipice.

With a shudder and a long breath he drew back.  For some distance he had
noticed that the walls of the passage suggested to the touch stone
rather than coal.  They were hard as flint, and the roof was so low that
he had to bend almost double.  Apparently it was a prospector’s gallery,
not a real working.  He wished he had a match; in the current of air
that he now clearly felt, there was little risk of explosion from
fire-damp.  But his box was empty. He understood that the sound of the
waterfall must hitherto have smothered his shouts; but if he hallooed
now he might be heard, if there was anyone within hearing. Making a bell
of his hands he uttered a shrill coo-ee.  It gave him a kind of shock
when, apparently from only a few feet below him, there came an answering
call.

"Is that you, Father?"

"Yes.  For heaven’s sake be careful, Jack.  It is a sheer drop.  Wait a
moment."

Mr. Brown struck a match.  Jack peered over the edge. There, some
fifteen feet below, on a broad ledge of rock sprayed by the waterfall
that plunged past it into a dark abyss, stood his father and Count
Walewski.  The rock above them was perpendicular and smooth; on either
side of them the ledge rounded inwards; in front of them yawned the
unfathomable gulf.  As he looked, the match went out, and with the
return of complete darkness a feeling of terror seized upon him; his
limbs shook, his skin broke into a cold sweat.

"Are you there, old boy?"

"Yes."

"You’ve no matches, I suppose?"

"No, but—of course, I’ve a candle-end."  Jack was pulling himself
together.  "Do you think you could pitch up your box, Father?"

"I can try.  I’ll strike a match; the count will hold it so that I can
get an aim."

Both spoke in a loud tone, to be heard above the splash and roar of the
fall.  Count Walewski held the lighted match aloft; Jack stretched
himself to the edge of the precipice; his father, retreating a few feet
along the ledge, took careful aim, and tossed the box of matches gently
into Jack’s outstretched hands.  In a moment the scene was faintly
illumined.

"You see how we stand, Jack; can you get us up?"

"You were let down by a rope?"

"Yes; they took it away with them."

Jack remembered the coil of wire-rope he had noticed at the entrance to
the mine.  It had no doubt been formerly used for hauling the trucks.

"Wait a few minutes, Father.  I’m going to see what I can do."

"Blow the candle out; there isn’t much of it left."

Again the scene was in darkness.  Jack hurried back along the passage,
and found Hi Lo at the entrance. Together they retraced their steps to
the spot where the coil of wire lay.  As Jack feared, it was too heavy
to carry; it proved too thick to break.  Wasting no time here, he sent
Hi Lo in one direction while he went in another to search for any stray
rope that would be long enough for his purpose.  He came to a
tumble-down hut which from its contents he guessed had been the
foreman’s tool-house.  Rummaging about among its rubbish, he found a
chain some ten yards long, rusty, but quite strong enough to bear a
man’s weight.  In a corner stood a broken sledge-hammer; and among a
heap of bolts, clamps, and miscellaneous old iron he came upon several
iron wedges such as are used for breaking hard ground and rock.  With
these they hurried back to the waterfall. Lighting the candle again,
Jack, now in complete possession of his faculties, saw that the ledge on
which his father and Count Walewski stood was at the base of a cavern.
By the feeble glimmer he drove two of the wedges into the floor of the
passage.  Then he quickly attached one end of the chain to them and
lowered the other end.  In this Mr. Brown made a loop, which he tested.

"The Count first," he shouted.

The poor old nobleman, who was ten years his elder, and older than his
years through the sufferings he had endured, sat in the loop and clung
to the chain with his thin feeble hands.  Hi Lo coiled the chain round
the wedges to prevent an accident, and Jack, steadily hauling on the
chain, brought the Count—a very light weight—to the edge of the
precipice.  Then he firmly secured the chain to the wedges, and, his
hands being now free, lifted the Pole over the brink.  The old man,
broken down by his terrible experiences and exhausted from lack of food,
was at first helpless; but when he had recovered from the terror of his
ascent, all three hauled on the chain, and succeeded in drawing Mr.
Brown up.

"Thank God!" he said, as he gripped Jack’s hand.

The Count murmured a feeble but heartfelt "Amen!"

"Let us get away from the noise of the waterfall," said Jack.  "Then we
can talk over the next step.  Please God, we’ll get you clear away yet,
Father."

They withdrew for some distance into the passage, and sat down.  In a
few words Mr. Brown explained what had happened: how on the previous
evening, when they had been reading in their hut, they had been
surprised and overpowered by two ruffianly posselentsys and forced to
accompany their captors up the hill path.  The men were unknown to Mr.
Brown; he could only explain their action by supposing that the plot to
rescue him and Count Walewski had been discovered.

"How did you find us out, Jack?"

"We tracked the fellows by the footprint of one of them; or rather Hi Lo
did; he has done me many a good turn since you disappeared, Father; I’ll
tell you the whole story when you are safe."

"What are we to do, Jack?"

"It won’t be safe to leave here before night.  If we did, we should be
sure to run up against one of the search parties that are probably out
by this time."

"You’re right.  I can manage to hold out, I think; but I’m afraid for
Count Walewski.  He’s not so strong as I am; we’ve both been without
food for more than twelve hours."

"My go fetchee chow-chow," said Hi Lo instantly.

Jack looked dubiously at the boy.  Was it safe?  he wondered.  Hi Lo
pleaded so earnestly to be allowed to go that Jack at last consented.

"Be very careful," he said.  "When you get out of the mine, go a
roundabout way to the shore.  If you get there safely you’ll be able to
reach the junk.  Tell Mademoiselle that we hope to see her to-night, and
bring just enough food to keep us going until then.  Be as quick as you
can, boy, and hide if you see anybody on the way."

"Allo lightee, masta; my lun chop-chop; no piecee Lusski catchee Hi Lo,
no fea’!"

And he slipped away.



                             *CHAPTER XXX*

                           *Crowded Moments*


A Search Party—Touch and Go—Food—Sowinski Reappears—Trackers
Tracked—Recrimination—De Profundis—After Long Years


"Now, Jack," said Mr. Brown when Hi Lo was gone, "do you think it safer
to stay here, or to leave the mine and hide in the woods till the
evening?"

"Here certainly, Father.  If we go away we stand a chance of running up
against a search party.  They are bound to search the workings."

"Yes, if they remember the mine," said the Count. "It has not been
worked for several years.  And suppose they come into it.  How can we
escape them?"

"Hi Lo and I nearly came to grief in one of the galleries.  The air was
very foul.  We might hide there, going as far in as is safe.  We could
keep wet handkerchiefs about our mouths and hold out longer than the
pursuers.  They wouldn’t dare to strike a light for fear of an
explosion."

"What is the height of the gallery?" asked Mr. Brown.

"From five to eight feet, I should say.  It varies.  The other galleries
seem to be regular."

"Well, whatever the height, the purer air will be at the top.  If in one
of the higher parts we could raise a platform and mount it we might
venture farther in than if we remained on the floor.  Can we do that?"

"Yes, there are some logs just at the entrance.  It’s worth risking, and
the sooner the better."

Hurrying to the entrance, Mr. Brown and Jack carried in as many balks of
timber as they could find, dropping them at the turning of the gallery.
Then, holding their breath, they rushed one of the logs into the gallery
as far as they dared, and ran back to the open passage.  They repeated
this operation until a small platform was raised some two feet above the
floor; then, bidding Jack remain in safety, Mr. Brown mounted to test
the result.  He found that the air, though foul, was not bad enough to
be dangerous.  The position would be endurable for a few minutes.  He
hoped that it would not be necessary to have recourse to this unpleasant
place of refuge, but it was well to know that it existed in case of
need.  Then, somewhat sickened by the foul air they had swallowed, they
went to find the Count, who had volunteered to keep watch at the
entrance to the mine.

He reported that he had seen, far off on the hillside, two parties of
men moving in different directions, in a manner that suggested a search.
But they had now disappeared. For some time nothing further was seen,
and Jack and his father took the opportunity to exchange confidences
about all that had happened since that June day when they had parted at
the door of their house in Moukden.

Suddenly the Count, who had remained constantly on the watch,
considerately leaving father and son to themselves, touched Mr. Brown on
the arm and pointed.  The heads of half a dozen men could be seen
topping the brow of a slope about 300 yards below them.  Instantly the
three withdrew into the first gallery, taking the precaution to remove
their boots, so that they would not be heard if they had to retreat to
the platform.  In a few minutes they heard the echoing voices of the men
as they left the open and entered the mine.  It was impossible to see
who they were, but the Count recognized the voice of one of the prison
warders, and Mr. Brown that of a prisoner who had occupied the next bed
when he was for a week in hospital.  It was soon apparent what the
prisoner had been brought for.  The party halted within a few yards of
the fugitives, and their words were now distinctly audible.

"Now, Scuratoff, you know the galleries?" said the warder.

"Yes; I worked here seven years ago."

"Then lead the way.  Is it safe to light a lantern?"

"Maybe; I cannot say.  It used to be safe enough in the main gallery,
but in my time there was foul air in the side galleries.  We had
safety-lamps."

"Yes, confound it!  I looked for a safety-lamp, but there wasn’t one to
be found in the place.  We must do the best we can with the ordinary
lantern; and to make sure, we’ll only use it in the main gallery.  If
the air in the others is too foul for a light, it will be too foul for
life."

The waiting fugitives heard the click of the lantern as the warder
opened it, and silently retreated into the side gallery, raising their
make-shift respirators to their mouths.  They saw a feeble light at the
junction of the two passages.  The search party continued their progress
and halted where the galleries branched, being now in full view of the
three within.

"This is the dangerous passage—this one to the right," said the
prisoner.  "Better take the light away."

The warder retreated some paces with the lantern.

"Go in, Scuratoff, as far as you can.  Foul air be hanged!  You’ll be
well rewarded, remember, if you find the runaways—a year off your
sentence, at any rate."

The man groped his way in, while Jack and the others quietly drew back
to the little platform, where they took their stand.  Nearer and nearer
drew the Russian; it seemed as though he must discover them, and Jack’s
hand instinctively went to one of the two pistols he had had the
forethought to bring from the junk.  Then the voice of the warder,
sounding hollow in the vaulted passage, was heard calling.

"Do you find anything?"

"Neither man nor beast," replied the prisoner in a shout.  Hitherto he
had held his breath, but after speaking he took a mouthful of the foul
air.  Instantly he turned, rushed down the passage, and stumbled gasping
at the opening into the main gallery.

His companions dragged him out into the purer air, and the warder
retreated still farther with the lantern.  Jack and the others stepped
down from the platform, and hurried towards the main gallery, to get the
much-needed air while the man was being revived.

"That’s enough for that one," they heard the warder say.  "We’ll push
on."

When the searchers passed the entrance of the gallery, the fugitives had
again retreated, but were within two yards of them.

It was long before the Russians returned, and meanwhile the fugitives
ventured into the main gallery, to enjoy the comparatively pure air as
long as they could before they had again to seek shelter.  At last the
search party, baffled, passed by towards the entrance.  Jack heard the
warder commenting on the chain they had seen hanging over the edge of
the precipice.  Somebody at some time must have descended by its means
to the ledge; but if the fugitives, they had paid the penalty, for there
was no sign of them.

They left the mine.  Ten minutes afterwards Jack ventured as far as the
entrance.  They had disappeared.

By and by Hi Lo returned with a small supply of food, which the three
ate ravenously.  He reported that every junk in the bay had been
searched; and that the "missy" had hardly been prevailed upon not to
return with him, so anxious was she to see her father.  The condition of
Count Walewski was pitiful to behold.  Privation and anxiety were
telling upon his already broken constitution, and Jack feared lest under
the terrible suspense his heart strings should snap.

"Keep a good heart, my friend," said Mr. Brown.  "In a few hours all
will be well."

The day wore away, all too slowly, and evening settled down over the
hillside.  Jack, looking out, saw a slight mist rising from the sea, and
welcomed it as favouring their dash to the bay, where the vessels at
anchor were already raising their riding-lights.  So intent was he upon
the scene seawards that he had not noticed two men, who were coming up
from the woods, furtively, as if fearful of being observed.  When he did
see them, he shrank back in momentary alarm, remembering immediately
that as he had not left the shade of the dark entrance he could not have
been seen.  He watched their approach.  One of the two was of huge
stature; the other!——Jack felt his heart leap, for the other, whom in
the distance he recognized rather by his gait than his features, was
Anton Sowinski, the man whom he believed to be hundreds of miles away in
Manchuria, in the safe hands of Ah Lum.

"Look-see, masta!" whispered Hi Lo at his elbow. "Polo man, galaw!"

Once more his father’s enemy was upon his track.  The Pole’s presence
was of evil import.  What was he doing here?  Was he merely a searcher,
like the rest?  He halted near the entrance, and the taller man, who
overtopped him by at least six inches, stooped and drew from behind a
broken truck a coil of rope.  Then both came into the gallery.

Jack slipped back to the others.

"Sowinski!" he said in a whisper.  During their conversation earlier in
the day he had told his father of his dealings with the Pole, and of the
man’s identity with Ladislas Streleszki, the traitorous steward of the
Count. This news Mr. Brown had kept from the old man, who had been all
along in absolute ignorance that he owed his exile and imprisonment to a
member of his own household.

Once more the fugitives shrank back into the foul passage.  As the two
men passed the entrance Jack heard Sowinski say:

"I cannot understand it.  Are you sure they searched the cavern?  There
are not two caverns?"

"No, barin.  There is only one.  Scuratoff guided them; there is no
mistake."

They turned into the left-hand passage.  Jack instantly resolved to
follow them.  Without his boots he would be inaudible, and they carried
no light.  Accustomed as he now was to the darkness of the mine, he
could move about it more rapidly than the Pole and his companion. He
whispered his intention to his father.

"Better not."

"I don’t think there’s any danger.  We three should be able to deal with
the men, big as the Russian is.  I’ll give you one of my pistols.  Hi Lo
can fetch an iron rail from the workings for the Count to use."

"Very well, but be careful, my boy."

Jack slipped away in the wake of the two conspirators. In a few moments
he heard the Russian apparently hailing someone in a low voice.
Approaching within a few yards of them he heard the man still hailing.
There was no reply.  Then there was the chink of a boot against a chain.

"What’s that?" cried Sowinski in his harsh voice. "Light your candle."

The posselentsy lit his candle.  The two saw the chain wound about the
wedges, and hanging over the brink. Jack wished he had removed it.

"Scuratoff had no rope," said the Russian.  "He must have gone down to
the ledge with this.  Now tell me if I was right, barin."

"Hold your tongue, fool!  The candle throws no light downward.  Let it
down over the edge."

Fastening it to the rope, the posselentsy paid the latter slowly out.  A
dash of spray from the waterfall extinguished the flame.

"Pull it up again!" cried Sowinski with a curse.  Jack felt
instinctively that the man was at a white heat of baffled rage.

Once more the candle, lighted after some trouble, was lowered.  This
time it escaped a wetting.  The Russian stretched himself on his face
and peered over.

"I can see nothing.  Bozhe moï!  They are not there."

He rose slowly and clumsily, pulling up the rope with the candle at the
end.  Then he turned and faced the Pole, and by the sputtering light
Jack saw the look of silly amazement on his face.

"What did I tell you, you clumsy, hulking fool!" cried Sowinski through
set teeth.  "You’ve bungled it; idiot that you are.  Why, why, I repeat,
didn’t you take my hint and do for them outright?"

"If it comes to that," replied the man, red with sullen anger, "why
didn’t you do it yourself?  You wanted to run no risks; you wanted it
done cheap; did you think I’d chance another twenty years in the prison
yonder for two hundred roubles?  No, I wouldn’t do it.  This was your
plan; your plan, to save a few paltry roubles.  I’d have cracked their
heads if you’d made it worth my while; you’ve only yourself to blame."

"Yes, I was a fool to trust the thing to a sheep-headed lout like you."

"Sheep-headed!  Look you, I stand no abuse.  I’ve done your job; two
hundred roubles is little enough for it; and I’ll trouble you to hand
over the balance."

"The balance!" snarled Sowinski.  "Eka!  You may think yourself lucky to
have got what you have.  You get no more from me."

"We’ll see about that, you white-livered little rat!"

The man made a sudden step forward and shot out his free hand to grip
the Pole by the throat.  But Sowinski, instinctively aware of what was
coming, drew back quickly, his right hand seeking his pocket.  The
Russian saw the movement, flung himself forward,—dropping the candle,
which sputtered on the floor of the passage—seized the Pole with his
right hand, and with the left clutched at the other’s right arm.  But he
was a second too late.  He missed his grasp, and even as he swung his
opponent round with the intention of hurling him into the abyss, there
was a flash and a report that startled a hundred echoes from the cavern
and the galleries.  The Russian gave a quick grunt; then all was in
darkness; they had trodden out the light.  Into the next moments so much
was crowded that Jack could never disentangle the separate events in his
mind.  His father’s voice; a cry from Hi Lo; an appalling scream from
Sowinski; a dull thud, followed by a brief silence save for the splash
and rumble of the cataract.  Then, through the sound of the waters, came
a second and heavier thud that turned Jack’s blood cold. At his side his
father struck a match.

"They’re gone!" gasped Jack, white to the lips.

"Your pistol?"

"No."

"Thank God!"

Tempter and tempted had struck the ledge in their fall, rebounded, and
gone headlong to the rocks a hundred feet below.


Some few minutes after midnight, a sampan put off silently from a
solitary angle of the bay.  Creeping through the white mist, slowly, to
avoid the intervening junks, it skirted the anchored vessels and quietly
ran alongside of the _Yu-ye_.  A hooded figure leant over the bulwarks,
watching with straining eyes as five dark figures climbed up the side.

Count Walewski tottered into his daughter’s arms.

Jack turned away and spoke to the skipper.  An order was given in a low
voice.  The junk, riding on a single anchor, slipped the cable and ran
up her enormous foresail.  Spars and cordage creaked; but all was silent
around; and the sail filling to the strong north-easter, the junk began
to make way towards the open sea.



                             *CHAPTER XXXI*

                           *Entente Cordiale*


Censored—A Letter—An Oxford Version—Last Words from Ah Lum—A
Rencontre—Debit and Credit—Schwab Sympathizes—Business—Partnership—Light
in the East


"My word!  And then—and then?"

"That’s all, Monsieur Brin.  The old junk sailed magnificently; with
morning light we found ourselves off the Japanese coast, and three days
later ran safe into the harbour of Hakodate.  There’s nothing more to
tell. We spent several weeks in Japan among the plum-blossoms, and—here
we are, in time to see this great meeting of the fleets."

Monsieur Brin and Jack Brown were among a party seated at dinner in the
George Hotel, Portsmouth.  The Browns had landed at Southampton two days
before with Count Walewski and his daughter.  They had been met by Mrs.
Brown and her two other children, and had now come to Portsmouth to
witness the festivities in connection with the visit of the French
fleet.  Monsieur Brin was at the same hotel, in the capacity of special
reporter for the _Soleil_.

"But now, Monsieur," continued Jack, "I’ve told you all our adventures.
What about yourself?  What have you been doing since I saw you last at
Harbin?"

"Ah!  You ask!  My friend, my history is in sum one word—Kaiser!  You
left me in Harbin: well, I devote care to Hildebrand Schwab; he
recovers; we are both recalled, he because his negatives are all lost, I
because when I describe the only battle I saw, my despatch is blacked
out by the censor.  Naturally my redacteur open his eyes when he must
pay my bills for such as this.  Look! Here is a leaf of my copy; that is
what the Russian censor has done—and Russia, par exemple! is the ally of
France.  Behold!"

He took a leaf from his pocket-book, and laid it on the table.  It
appeared as follows:—


    "Les Russes ont commencé aujourd'hui un −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−− j'ai vu le général
    Kouropatkin qui buvait −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−−−− 'Doucement bercé sur ma mule fringante,'
    je chevauchais à côté du général −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−− au même moment, psst! j'entends
    le sifflement d'un obus qui me va au−−−−dessus de la tête
    éclater dans −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−− des jambes,
    des bras, *disjecta membra*, comme dit le −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−− plus loin, un médecin qui plonge −−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−− et −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
    −−−−−−−−−−−−−− la bataille."


"That is my account of a most dramatic episode of the battle of the
Sha-ho.  What is left?  Nothing!  It provoke curiosity, it tantalise,
but does it satisfy, does it excite, hein?"

"The censor has certainly made a terrible hash of it," said Mr. Brown,
passing the paper round the table.  It created much amusement, and
seemed to fascinate Jack’s fifteen-year-old brother Humphrey, who gazed
at it with a sort of awful admiration.

"But you spoke of Herr Schwab," said Jack.  "What became of him?"

"He came——"

"By gum!" interrupted Humphrey, "don’t I wish old Cæsar’s despatches had
been blacked out like this!"

Brin glanced at the boy over his glasses and resumed:

"Schwab came with me from Harbin by the same train. My word! it is
Kaiser, Kaiser all the way.  ’Our Kaiser who is in Berlin’: I begin to
think that is the German paternoster.  I left Schwab at Vienna; he was
going to sell his camera.  He has a great admiration for you, Mr. Jack,
but he is filled with regret that he never had an opportunity of doing
business for Schlagintwert with that chief of brigands—how did he call
himself?"

"Ah Lum.  By the way, I forgot to tell you that when we landed at
Southampton I found a letter awaiting me from him; it had been forwarded
from Shanghai, and got here first owing to our little tour in Japan.  It
explains how Sowinski was able to reach Sakhalin."

He handed Ah Lum’s letter to the Frenchman.  Brin read it carefully, and
with much gravity.  It was as follows:—


From my camp above Tu-men-tzü,
       First Sunday after Trinity.

Honoured Sir,

A man’s manners, says the Sage T’ai Ping-fu, are to be measured by his
intentions.  If therefore your servant, greatly deploring his ignorance
of your honourable language, write through another hand, I pray you will
not charge him with want of courtesy; does not the poet say "Respect is
the corner-stone of friendship"?  Nor will you, honoured sir, be other
than indulgent if this letter should seem to have been unduly delayed in
the writing.  Even as a pearl is not to be found in every oyster, so is
it rare among our literati to meet a scholar learned in the barbaric
tongues.  Such a one I have now discovered in the writer of this letter,
Mr. Chang Fu-sing, whose late return from the august University at
Oxford was duly reported by my agents at Ma-en-ho-kai.  [_Lincoln
College: 3rd class Mods., aegrotat Mod. Hist.  Chang Fu-sing, B.A.
Oxon._] Him I secured by night for the trifling loss of five men.  [_My
nose abraded; one eye bunged up.  Ch. F.-s., B.A.Oxon._] Trifling, for
rarity—and the need of the purchaser—are the true measures of value.  To
the starving man a crust outweighs a viceroy’s ransom.

Since the auspicious day when your honour’s never-to-be-forgotten
assistance enabled our troops to reach the shelter of these mountains,
the insolent Russians—may their graves be defiled!—[_Idiom="Ruin seize
thee!"  Cf. Gray, "The Bard", i. 1. Ch. F.-s., B.A. Oxon._]—have not
dared to molest your unworthy servant.  For, as the ineffable T’ai
Ping-fu says, the bird that has once escaped the net is hard indeed to
snare.  But, again, as Wang Wei reminds us to our profit in his _Essay
on Military Matters_, small reverses, by inspiring caution, may benefit
an army, even as small successes may lead through saucy confidence to
humiliation.  After a little affair otherwise unworthy of your august
attention, the two prisoners, Bekovitch and Sowinski, were found to have
absented themselves from our custody.  As the proverb goes, Only a fool
expects courtesy from a hog.

Yet, as Li T’ai-poh harmoniously says:

    When stings the Bee, and Pain is keen, then shouldst thou
      think of Honey;
    Wise Men seek Good in every Ill, yea, e’en in Loss of Money.

[_The versification is mine.  Competitor: Newdigate Verse. Ch. F.-s.,
B.A. Oxon._]  After consulting the works of Tu Fu, I found that, the
sunshine of your honour’s presence being withdrawn, it was allowable to
return to our ancestral usages in matters relating to the treatment of
prisoners and criminals.  If in this my judgment was in error, I must
beg your honour’s clemency; for are we not taught by P’an T’ang-shên
that in defending a friend from calumny all measures are laudable?  It
may suffice to say that some days before his escape, the Pole, kneeling
on hot chains, was induced to confess his crimes; these were duly
inscribed by him in the Russian tongue and signed. Thereafter his
partner in guilt, who had shown more obduracy, even resisting our most
approved means of persuasion, acknowledged his many wickednesses, among
them the preparation of forged papers secretly introduced by a menial
into the writing-cabinet of your honour’s august father.  True is it, as
the Sage says, "Fear rather a faithless servant within the gates than a
hundred enemies without", or, as the more homely proverb warns us, A
worm at the root will bring the noblest oak to earth.

But calamity treads hard upon the heels of the wicked.  Witness the fate
of the Russian—may his posterity be cut off!  [_Idiom="A murrain on
thee!"  Cf. Shakespeare, "The Tempest", iii. 2. 88. Ch. F.-s., B.A.
Oxon._]  By sure hands your unworthy servant brought his confession
beneath the eyes of the barbarian commander-in-chief.  He is blind
indeed who cannot see the length of his nose.  My agents now inform me
that the evil-doer is stripped of his offices, and of the emoluments
thereto pertaining; as our saying goes, he has lost his buttons.  His
fellow-criminal has evaded my most diligent enquiries.  But him also
Justice pursues with sharpened sword, resting not by night neither by
day.

Quantum suff.  Though our lives be henceforth as two rivers flowing east
and west, the recollection of past favours will be with me, honoured
sir, as a plant in perennial bloom.  What says P’an T’ang-shên?—"A man
should find as much joy in the remembrance of a friend as though his
worst enemy were to boil in oil."

My son, who is now under the tutorial charge of Mr. Chang
Fu-sing—[_purely honorary—no pay.  Ch. F.-s., B.A. Oxon._]—adds, as in
duty bound, his humble respects.

Permit me, honoured sir, to subscribe myself

Your most grateful obedient Servant,
       AH LUM.

P.S.—May I venture once more to commend the works of Li T’ai-poh to your
august attention?


"Thanks!" said Brin, handing the letter back.  "I am ver’ much
interested.  The English is good, hein?  In the idiom of Oxford?  Permit
me to make a copy for my book that will appear at early date,
_L’Ascension de la Chine_."

Meanwhile Humphrey Brown had gone to the window, and stood with his
hands in his pockets looking into the crowded street.  A cab rattled up
to the door of the hotel.

"I say," said Humphrey, "here’s a funny old guy. Come and look, Agnes."

"I prefer to listen to the conversation," said Agnes, a self-possessed
girl of thirteen.

"All right, grumps!  But it would make you laugh. He’s coming into the
hotel.  My eye!"

Not two minutes later the door opened, and there entered a portly figure
in light-striped flannels; a pink cummerbund showing beneath the vest;
gold-rimmed eyeglasses fixed somewhat awry on his broad nose.  He stood
at the door for a moment to choose his table.

"By George!" exclaimed Jack, springing up; "it’s Schwab himself."

He went towards the door.

"Good-evening, Herr Schwab!" he said, holding out his hand.

The German turned and stared.

"Ach!  I haf not ze honour, unless—who do you rebresent, sir?"

Jack smiled.  Schwab instantly seized him by the hand.

"Du meine Güte!  I abologize.  I know you now. Nefer before did I see
you in ze evenink dress.  How are you, how are you, how are you?"

"Jolly glad to see you," said Jack.  "Come and be introduced to my
father, and mother, and the rest.  You know Brin.  We were talking of
you only a minute ago."

The introductions were made.  Humphrey turned away to hide his laughter
at the German’s elephantine bows.

"I abologize to ze ladies for my so unbecoming addire, but ven I
egsblain zat I haf shust gome from ze station——"

"Say no more," said Mr. Brown.  "Very unfortunate I couldn’t meet you in
Moukden, Mr. Schwab."

"Ach ja!  Bermit me to ask, haf you seen ze evenink baber?"

"Not yet."

"Vell, I haf vun.  I bought it at ze station; ze baber boys zey should
be made to keep change.  I haf only a benny, ze boy he haf no ha’bny—I
muss vait five minutes till anozer gustomer arrive.  Zat is not
business.  Ven I read ze baber, I see a baragraph vat I zink interess
you. I read to you.  ’It is announced from St. Betersburg zat ze
rebresentations of ze British ambassador in regard to ze extraordinary
case of Mr. Brown of Moukden haf at last been crowned viz success, and
orders haf been issued for Mr. Brown’s immediate release.’  Zere is
somezink I do not understan’, since already Mr. Brown is here."

"Ah!  You’re not a diplomat, Mr. Schwab," said Mr. Brown, laughing.  "It
is a little funny to know that three months after my escape, and when
Sakhalin is in possession of the Japanese, I am graciously permitted to
regain my liberty."

Jack gave Herr Schwab a brief account of the final scenes of his quest.

"Zen for how much is your claim?" asked Schwab of Mr. Brown at the
conclusion of the story.

"What claim?"

"Vy, your claim for gombensation—for intellectual and moral damage.
Business are business.  As business man, I advise downright zumping big
claim."

"Well, Mr. Schwab, I’ve been turning over the matter, and really I think
I’ll let things alone.  You see, Sowinski is dead, poor wretch! and
Bekovitch is degraded, and if the account were properly adjusted, and
Jack’s damage to the Siberian railway put on the debit side, the balance
might turn out against us after all."

"Ach! zat is anozer matter—ja! you muss gonsider ze balance-sheet.  Zat
is business."

"You are still in business?" said Jack.

"I am in business forever.  It is ze bress of my nostrils.
Vargorresbondencephotography, zat is not business; it do not bay
egsbenses.  I am now in beacephotography. I gome here, rebresentative of
Schlagintwert, to make bicturebostcardphotographs of ze French and
English entente.  And zen I return to ze Baltic to make photograph of
our Kaiser ven he velgome ze British fleet."

"Hé!" cried Brin with a chuckle.  "Welcome!  It must be
snap-shot—prestissimo!  When your Kaiser welcome the British fleet there
will need a good camera, and exposure—one-millionth second.  Ho! ho!"

Later in the evening Schwab took Jack confidentially aside.

"Mr. Brown, my frient, I have somezink to say.  It has been gonfided to
me zat you gondemblate a gondract."

"A contract, Herr Schwab?"

Schwab guffawed.

"Zat is my shoke—a madrimonial gondract."

"Who has been telling you that?"

"Ah, I haf it in gonfidence from your sister.  Already is she a frient.
She tell everybody in gonfidence."

"Then you can contradict it in confidence, Herr Schwab. There is no
foundation—that is to say, nothing is settled."

Schwab looked sly.

"No, not settled, of course—but gondemblated."

"Really, Herr Schwab!——"

"Yes, yes, I understan’.  Shust so.  I also have affair of ze heart."
He sighed deeply.  "I can symbazise.  But viz me it is different.  You
are lucky dog—ze Fräulein Walewska is kind; vile I am in ze depss of
desbair: Madame Bottle—ach, she is gruel.  I sigh, she smile; I groan,
she laugh; I even make bresentation, she decline vizout zanks.  Ah!  Mr.
Brown, you do not know vat it is to be gross in lov."

Jack looked as sympathetic as he could, while Herr Schwab, laying his
hand lightly on his waistcoat-buttons, continued lugubriously:

"Ach, truly it is a terrible zink to lov vizout return.  It break ze
heart; it shpoil ze digestion;—it is bad for business.  No longer can I
gif sole attention to ze interest of Schlagintwert.  Vy, it is only a
few days since I take order from Robinson & Robinson in London;
yesterday Schlagintwert return ze order.  Vat haf I written?—’Subbly
Mrs. Bottle, 68 Crutched Friars, London, 50 casks botato shbirit, last
quotation, f.o.b. Hamburg.’  Zere is fipence vaste in bostages.  Zat
show you!"

"Yes, very amusing," said Jack absently.  Gabriele had just come in with
Mrs. Brown, and Jack was on thorns lest the German’s by no means gentle
voice should reach the ladies.

"Amusink!" cried Schwab.  "Schlagintwert do not see ze shoke.  Vy——"

"Of course, I meant annoying.  But, Herr Schwab, if you will——"

"Yes, yes," said Schwab, noticing how Jack’s eyes strayed to the other
end of the room, and how he fidgeted with his watch-chain.  "Yes, I see.
Only vun moment, Mr. Brown.  Ze business I shboke of.  Already I mention
it to ze young lady——"

"Upon my word, Herr Schwab!—

"Vait, I egsblain.  Zere is nozink fix—not nozink at all.  Ze Fräulein
vill say nozink.  She blush; zen she ask me to tell her about my
ancestor, Hildebrand Suobensius. But zis is business."

"Well, what is it, Herr Schwab?"

"It is an obbortunity—an obbortunity for Schlagintwert and for yourself.
Our firma establish a new branch—bon-bons, gonfectionery.  Zey vish to
open accounts in zis gountry: you understan’?"

"Understand?—what?"

"Vy, zis—here is ze obbortunity.  Schlagintwert zey require
advertisement: zey shall make you ze vedding-gake—_costprice_!"


About six weeks later, Mr. Brown was looking over his copy of the
_Shanghai Mercury_ which had come by the morning post.

"Here, Jack," he said, "this paragraph will interest you."

Jack took the paper, and read:


"One of the results of the treaty of peace recently signed between
Russia and Japan is that the famous brigand, Ah Lum, has been summoned
to Pekin.  The military ability he displayed in his operations in
northern Manchuria has been recognized by his appointment to a high post
in the Board of Civil Office."


There is shortly to be started, in Hong-Kong, a new firm of produce
brokers under the style of Brown, Son, & Co.  Brown we know; Son we
know; Co. at present consists of Mr. Hi An-tzu.  Whether it will by and
by include Mr. Hi Lo-ch’u depends on that young man’s business aptitude:
Son thinks it very probable.  Brown is to be the sleeping, or as he
prefers to put it, the consulting partner.  Son will manage the London
house; while Mr. Hi in Hong-Kong will open accounts with respectable
Manchurian farmers, of whom one will undoubtedly be Mr. Wang.

Some of Brown’s friends took him to task for lifting his former
compradore from his lowly station to the equality of partnership.  To
their remonstrance Brown replied with a morsel of political philosophy.

"It’s all very well," he said, "to sneer at the ’heathen Chinee’, and
look upon him as fit for nothing better than to smoke your opium and do
your work in South African mines.  Believe me, John Chinaman is not so
very heathen; and he is waking up: and when he does move he will hustle.
For myself, I prefer a colleague to a competitor."

What Brown thinks to-day his business friends generally think to-morrow.



                               *Glossary*


C=Chinese, P=Pidgin-English, R=Russian.  The Chinese substitute _l_ for
_r_, and add the terminations _-ee_, _-um_, and _-lo_ to many words.


_ach_ (R), oh, ah.

_allo_ (P), all, every.

_artel_ (R), a society of workers formed on co-operative principles.

_barin_ (R), lord, gentleman.

_batiushki_ (R) = By Jove!

_belongey_ (P), often equivalent simply to the verb to be.

_bimeby_ (P), by and by, afterwards.

_bobbely_ (P), noise, uproar.

_bottom-side_ (P), down, below.

_bozhe moï_ (R), good heavens!

_cash_ (C), small copper coins carried on strings.

_catchee_ (P), to get, have.

_ch’hoy_ (P), an exclamation.

_chop-chop_ (P), quickly.

_chow-chow_ (P), food.

_Chunchuse_ (more strictly _Hunhutze_: C), literally red-beard: the name
given to the organized bandits of Manchuria.

_compradore_ (Portuguese), superintendent of a European’s native staff.

_da_ (R), an exclamation; literally "yes!"

_droshky_ (R), single-horse carriage.

_dushenka_ (R), little soul: a term of endearment.

_-ee_, a pidgin-English termination.

_eka_ (R), an exclamation: "there now!"

_Fa-lan-sai_ (P), French.

_fangtse_ (C), cottage.

_fan-kwei_ (C), foreign devil.

_fan-tan_ (C), a game: the players stake on the remainder when an
unknown number of cash is divided by 4.

_fan-yun_ (C), foreigner.

_feng-shui_ (C), the geomantic influences of the earth, determining the
luckiness or unluckiness of places.

_first-chop_ (P), best, excellently.

_flend_ (P), friend.

_fo’_ (P), four, for.

_folin_ (P), foreign.

_galaw_ (P), a common exclamation.

_gorodovoi_ (R), policeman.

_gospodin_ (R), sir.

_gráf_ (R), count

_he_ (P), he, she, it, they, him, her.

_Ingoua_ (C), English.

_kopeck_ (R), silver or copper coin: 100 kopecks make 1 rouble.

_kow-tow_ (P), to bow humbly.

_li_ (C), a Chinese mile: about one-third of an English mile.

_ling-ch’ih_ (C), capital punishment by slicing.

_littee_ (P), little.

_look-see_ (P), look, examine.

_lowdah_ (P), captain of a junk.

_Lusski_ (P), Russian.

_mafoo_ (C), groom.

_makee_ (P), make, do.

_Melican_ (P), American.

_moujik_ (R), peasant.

_muchee_ (P), very.

_my_ (P), I, me, my, mine.

_nichalnik_ (R), station-master.

_no can do_ (P), cannot.

_nu_ (R), well!

_numpa_ (P), number: numpa one, first-rate.

_och_ (R), oh!

_one-tim’_ (P), once.

_ph’ho_ (C), an exclamation.

_pidgin_ (P), business: pidgin-English, English as spoken by Chinese at
the ports.

_piecee_ (P), used with numerals: _one piecee man_=a or one man.

_ping-ch’wahn_ (C), gunboat.

_plopa_ (P), proper: allo plopa, all right.

_rouble_ (R), the standard money (paper) of Russia: ten roubles=a
British sovereign.

_samovar_ (R), tea-urn.

_sampan_ (C), a Chinese punt.

_savvy_ (P), know, understand.

_side_ (P), place, direction: this-side, here; that-side, there;
what-side, where.

_so-fashion_ (P), in that way.

_suttingly_ (P), certainly.

_tael_ (C), a coin (rarely seen) worth 6s. 6d.

_that-side_ (P), there.

_that-tim’_ (P), then.

_this-side_ (P), here, hither.

_tim’_ (P), time.

_tinkee_ (P), think.

_Toitsche_ (P), _i.e._ Deutsche, German.

_too_ (P), very.

_topside_ (P), above, superior; in the head.

_troika_ (R), three-horsed vehicle.

_verst_ (R), two-thirds of English mile.

_vodka_ (R), brandy made of barley.

_wailo_ (P), away, to go away, run away.

_wantchee_ (P), to want.

_what-for_ (P), why.

_what-side_ (P), where.

_what-tim’_ (P), when.

_yamen_ (C), mandarin’s residence and office: yamen-runners, equivalent
to English bailiffs, but a very inferior class.

_yinkelis_ (P), English.



           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *



                           *The Light Brigade
                               in Spain*

                                   or

                   *The Last Fight of Sir John Moore*

                          *By Herbert Strang*

                     Author of "Tom Burnaby," etc.

            With a Preface by Lieut.-Col. WILLOUGHBY VERNER.

          _Illustrated by William Rainey, R.I.  12mo.  $1.50_


"In ’Boys of the Light Brigade’ Mr. Strang draws upon the resources of
the Peninsular War, and succeeds in extracting much freshness from
well-worn themes, as Moore’s retreat to Corunna and the heroic defence
of Saragossa.  The personal interest of the story is kept at a high
tension....  It is a book which no boy will be able to put down when
once started.  The volume is provided with excellent maps and plans of
the scenes in which the incidents take place."—_The Standard_.

"This author has fairly earned the right to be accepted as the
legitimate successor of the late George A. Henty in furnishing
entertainment for youth.  Like Henty, Strang manages to galvanize the
dry bones of history into a close semblance of glorious life.... The
present volume contains vivid and spirited descriptions of campaign life
in Spain ... with many rare and interesting episodes....  This is good
reading for young and old."—_Chicago Post_.

"The author describes graphically with truth to history the last fight
of the British commander, Sir John Moore.  It is a stirring military
story in the manner of those written by the late George A. Henty, but
really with more authenticity."—_Philadelphia Press_.

"An interesting story, with extra good measure in its incidents and
character ... and with some pretty little love passages."—_Cleveland
Leader_.



                                 *KOBO*

                   *Story of the Russo-Japanese War*

                          *By HERBERT STRANG*

              Author of "The Light Brigade in Spain," etc.

           _Illustrated by William Rainey, R.I.  12mo, $1.50_


"It is a dashing romance for boys, founded on the Russo-Japanese War and
worthy of the late Mr. Henty at his best.  A story that every schoolboy
will enjoy and one that will be read with much pleasure and profit by
many older readers as well."—_Cleveland Leader_.

"The story throughout bristles with adventures, it is well written and
the author shows intimate knowledge of Japanese character and
customs."—_San Francisco Bulletin_.

"In one respect Mr. Strang’s tale is even better than many of the late
G. A. Henty’s.  It has more dash and dialogue. These are strong points
in the work of this writer, who is destined to fill the place vacated by
the lamented author of ’Under Drake’s Flag,’ and ’With Clive in
India.’"—_The Dundee Advertiser_.

"For vibrant actuality there is nothing to come up to Mr. Strang’s
’Kobo.’"—_The Academy_.

"A great amount of actual military history is incorporated with an
exciting and romantic plot."—_The Westminster Gazette_.



                            *The Adventures*

                                  *of*

                           *Harry Rochester*

                         *A Tale of the Days of
                        Marlborough and Eugene*

                                  *By*

                            *HERBERT STRANG*

            Author of "Kobo," "Light Brigade in Spain," etc.

          _Illustrated by William Rainey, R.I.  12mo.  $1.50_


"A story full of thrilling adventure."—_Newark Advertiser_.

"Mr. Strang is a follower of Henty in writing adventurous historical
romances for boys, and does his work with even more spirit and vim.
This tale gives a good picture of the wars of Marlborough and William of
Holland against the French, with a clever and courageous boy
hero."—_Congregationalist and Christian World_.

"Three such successes as Mr. Strang has now achieved definitely
establish his position and should fully reassure those who despondingly
wondered when and where a worthy successor to Mr. Henty would
appear."—_Glasgow Herald_.

"Mr. Henty’s mantle may worthily be worn by Mr. Herbert
Strang."—_Truth_.

"Told with a dash and vigor which mark him as Henty’s natural
successor."—_Notts Guardian_.



                        *By ELBRIDGE S. BROOKS*


Historic Boys.  Their Endeavors, Their Achievements and Their Times.
With 29 full-page illustrations. 8vo, pp. viii + 259.


Historic Girls.  Stories of Girls Who Have Influenced the History of
Their Times.  8vo, illustrated, pp. viii + 225.


Chivalric Days and Youthful Deeds.  Stirring Stories, presenting
faithful pictures of historic times.  Illustrated, 8vo.  $1.25


Heroic Happenings.  Told in Verse and Story. Illustrated, 8vo.  $1.25


Great Men’s Sons.  Stories of the Sons of Great Men from Socrates to
Napoleon.  Fully illustrated, 8vo.  $1.25

Including the Sons of Socrates, Alexander, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius,
Mahomet, Charlemagne, Alfred, William the Conqueror, Saladin, Dante,
Tamerlane, Columbus, Luther, Shakespeare, Cromwell, Peter the Great,
Napoleon.


The Long Walls.  An American Boy’s Adventures in Greece. A Story of
Digging and Discovery, Temples and Treasures. By E. S. Brooks and John
Alden.  Illustrated by George Foster Barnes.  8vo.   $1.25



                 *New York—G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS—London*



                          *By HERBERT STRANG*


The Adventures of Harry Rochester: A Tale of the Days of Marlborough and
Eugene.

The Light Brigade in Spain; or, The Last Fight of Sir John Moore.

Kobo.  A Story of the Russo-Japanese War.

Brown of Moukden.  A Story of the Russo-Japanese War.





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