Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Mr. Midshipman Glover, \R.\N. - A Tale of the Royal Navy of To-day
Author: Jeans, T. T. (Thomas Tendron)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mr. Midshipman Glover, \R.\N. - A Tale of the Royal Navy of To-day" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

***



[Illustration: Cover art]



[Illustration: HE WILDLY TORE AT EVERYTHING AND HURLED IT DOWN
ON HIS PURSUERS  _Page_ 86 _Frontispiece_]



                      Mr. Midshipman Glover, R.N.

                   A Tale of the Royal Navy of To-day


                                   BY

                          SURGEON REAR-ADMIRAL
                       T. T. JEANS, C.M.G., R.N.

             Author of "John Graham, Sub-Lieutenant, R.N."
                         "A Naval Venture" &c.



                   _Illustrated by Edward S. Hodgson_



                         BLACKIE & SON LIMITED
                           LONDON AND GLASGOW
                                  1908



                                   By
                          Surgeon Rear-Admiral
                              T. T. Jeans


                            The Gun-runners.
                   John Graham, Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.
                            A Naval Venture.
                        Gunboat and Gun-runner.
                       Ford of H.M.S. "Vigilant".
                          On Foreign Service.
                      Mr. Midshipman Glover, R.N.



       _Printed in Great Britain by Blackie & Son, Ltd., Glasgow_



                               *Preface*


In this story of the modern Royal Navy I have endeavoured, whilst
narrating many adventures both ashore and afloat, to portray the habits
of thought and speech of various types of officers and men of the Senior
Service who live and serve under the White Ensign to-day.

To do this the more graphically I have made some of the leading
characters take up, from each other, the threads of the story and
continue the description of incidents from their own points of view; the
remainder of the tale is written in the third person as by an outside
narrator.

I hope that this method will be found to lend additional interest to the
book.

I have had great assistance from several Gunnery, Torpedo, and Engineer
Lieutenants, who have read the manuscripts as they were written,
corrected many errors of detail, and made many useful suggestions.

The story may therefore claim to be technically correct.

T. T. JEANS,

SURGEON REAR-ADMIRAL, ROYAL NAVY



                               *Contents*

CHAP.

      I. The Luck of Midshipman Glover
     II. Helston receives a Strange Letter
    III. The Fitting Out of a Squadron
     IV. The Pirates are not Idle
      V. The Squadron leaves hurriedly
     VI. The Voyage East
    VII. The Pursuit of the Patagonian
   VIII. Mr. Ping Sang is Outwitted
     IX. Captain Helston Wounded
      X. Destroyer "No. 1" Meets her Fate
     XI. The Action off Sin Ling
    XII. A Council of War
   XIII. The Avenging of Destroyer "No. 1"
    XIV. Night Operations
     XV. Mr. Midshipman Glover Tells how he was Wounded
    XVI. Captain Helston’s Indecision
   XVII. Spying Out the Pirates
  XVIII. The Escape from the Island
    XIX. Cummins Captures One Gun Hill
     XX. The Fight for One Gun Hill
    XXI. On One Gun Hill
   XXII. The Final Attack on the Hill
  XXIII. The Attack on the Forts
   XXIV. The Capture of the Island
    XXV. The Fruits of Victory
   XXVI. Home Again



                            *Illustrations*

He wildly tore at everything and hurled it down on his pursuers . . .
_Frontispiece_

I struck at him with my heavy malacca stick

The sinking of the Pirate Torpedo-Boat

The Commander and Jones overpower the Two Sentries


Map Illustrating the Operations Against the Pirates



[Illustration: MAP ILLUSTRATING THE OPERATIONS AGAINST THE PIRATES]



                              *CHAPTER I*

                    *The Luck of Midshipman Glover*


    Ordered Abroad.  Hurrah!


           _Midshipman Glover explains how Luck came to him_


It all started absolutely unexpectedly whilst we were on leave and
staying with Mellins in the country.

When I say "we", I mean Tommy Toddles and myself. His real name was
Foote, but nobody ever called him anything but "Toddles", and I do
believe that he would almost have forgotten what his real name actually
was if it had not been engraved on the brass plate on the lid of his sea
chest, and if he had not been obliged to have it marked very plainly on
his washing.

We had passed out of the _Britannia_ a fortnight before—passed out as
full-blown midshipmen, too, which was all due to luck—and were both
staying with Christie at his pater’s place in Somerset.

It was Christie whom we called Mellins, because he was so tremendously
fat; and though he did not mind us doing so in the least, it was rather
awkward whilst we were staying in his house, for we could hardly help
calling his pater "Colonel Mellins".

You see, he was even fatter than Mellins himself, and the very first
night we were there—we were both just a little nervous—Toddles did call
him Colonel Mellins when we wished him "Good-night", and he glared at us
so fiercely, that we slunk up to our room and really thought we’d better
run away.

We even opened the window and looked out, feeling very miserable, to see
if it was possible to scramble down the ivy or the rusty old water-spout
without waking everybody, when Mellins suddenly burst in with a pillow
he had screwed up jolly hard, and nearly banged us out of the window. By
the time we had driven him back to his room at the other end of the
corridor, and flattened him out, we had forgotten all about it, and we
crept back like mice, and went to sleep.

It was just at this time that the papers came out with those
extraordinary yarns about the increase of piracy on the Chinese coast,
and how some Chinese merchants had clubbed together to buy ships in
England and fit out an expedition to clear the sea again.

You can imagine how interested we three were, especially as fifty years
ago Toddles’s father had taken part in a great number of scraps with the
Cantonese pirates, and Toddles rattled off the most exciting yarns which
his father had told him.

We saw in the papers that the Admiralty was about to lend naval officers
to take command, but it never struck us that we might possibly get a
look in, till one morning a letter came for me from Cousin Milly, whose
father is an old admiral and lives at Fareham, and isn’t particularly
pleasant when I go to see him.

My aunt! weren’t we excited!  Why, she actually wrote that if I wanted
to go she thought she could get me appointed to the squadron, as the
captain who was going in charge was a great friend of hers.

You can imagine what I wrote, and how I buttered her up and called her a
brick, and said she was a "perfect ripper".  I ended up by saying that
"Mr. Arthur Bouchier Christie, midshipman, and Mr. Thomas Algernon
Foote, midshipman, chums of mine, would like to go too".

I was very careful to give their full names to prevent mistakes, and put
"midshipman" after their names just to show that they had also passed
out of the _Britannia_. near the top of the list, and so must be pretty
good at chasing "X and Y", which, of course, is a great "leg up" in the
navy.

Two mornings after this Milly sent me a postcard: "Hope to manage it for
the three of you".

We were so excited after that, that we did nothing but wait about for
the postman, and even went down to the village post-office and hung
about there, almost expecting a telegram.

Well, you would hardly believe it!  The very next morning our
appointments were in the papers.

I have the list somewhere stowed away even now, and it began:

"The under-mentioned officers of the Royal Navy have been placed on
half-pay and lent to the Imperial Chinese Government for special
services".

Down at the bottom of the list was "Midshipmen", and we nearly tore
Colonel Christie’s paper in our excitement as we read, in very small
print and among a lot of other names, Arthur B. Christie, Harold S.
Glover (that was myself—hurrah!), and Thomas A. Foote.

Well, I can’t tell you much of what happened after that, for we were
simply mad with delight; but I do remember that when I rushed off home
my father and mother rather threw a damper over it all.

And when my gear had been packed and driven down to the station, I felt
rather a brute because everyone cried, and even my father was a little
husky when I wished him good-bye.  I think something must have got into
my eye too, a fly, probably, but it wasn’t there when the train ran into
Portsmouth Harbour station, and Mellins and Toddles met me and dragged
me to the end of the pier to get our first view of our new ship, which
was lying at Spithead.

Now you will have to read how all these things came about, or you will
never properly understand them.



                              *CHAPTER II*

                  *Helston receives a Strange Letter*


    Helston’s Bad Luck—Ping Sang tells of Pirates—Ping Sang makes an
    Offer—Helston Jubilant


In the year 1896 two naval officers were living a somewhat humdrum,
monotonous existence in the quiet little Hampshire village of Fareham,
which nestles under the fort-crowned Portsdown Hills, and is almost
within earshot of the ceaseless clatter of riveting and hammering in the
mighty dockyards of Portsmouth.

These two men had both served many years before in the small gun-boat
_Porcupine_ out in China, and their many escapades and adventures had
frequently drawn down on their heads the wrath of the Admiral commanding
that station.  Wherever the _Porcupine_ went, trouble of some sort or
another was sure to follow.  At one place an indignant Taotai[#]
complained that all the guns—obsolete old muzzle-loaders—in his fort had
been tumbled into the ditch one night; at another they only just escaped
with their lives from an infuriated mob whilst actually carrying from
the temple a highly grotesque, but still more highly revered, joss, at
which desecration they had cajoled and bribed the local priests to wink.


[#] Taotai = military magistrate.


Comrades in every adventure, and mess-mates during these four exciting
years, they had ultimately drifted together on half-pay, and, with their
old marine servant Jenkins, a taciturn old man, to look after them, had
settled down in this village.

Both men were below the age of forty, though a more accurate estimate
would have been difficult, for the shorter of the two bore himself with
the vigour and alertness of thirty, yet his face was old with the lines
and furrows of care and sadness, whilst the tall, gaunt figure of the
second was not held so erect, nor were his actions so vigorous, yet the
youthful fire in his eyes gave to his sea-tanned face and his thin,
tight-drawn lips and prominent jaw the appearance of a man who had not
yet reached the zenith of his manhood.

The shorter man was named Fox, a doctor, who had left the service when
he married, only to lose his wife a year later, and with her his whole
joy of existence.  Settling down in this village, near her grave, he had
worked up a small practice, which occupied but little of his time, and
lived a life from which his great grief seemed to have removed any trace
of his former ambition.

Not so the taller man, Helston, a commander, who had been invalided and
placed on half-pay, suffering from the effects of fevers picked up
whilst cruising off the West Coast of Africa, in China, and in the
Mediterranean. Though his body was weakened by disease, he was for ever
buoyant at the prospects of being restored to health and full-pay, and
dreamed eagerly of the time when once more he could go afloat and
eventually command his own ship.

He, however, generally found a most unsympathetic audience in the
Doctor, who listened, with ill-concealed boredom, to his rose-coloured
plans, and cynically would say, "Who goes to sea for enjoyment would go
to jail for a pastime.  Take my advice and get a snug billet in the
coast-guard, and don’t bother the sea any more.  It’s not done you much
good."

"It’s all my bad luck, Doc, old chap," Helston would answer; "no fault
of the sea.  I played the idiot when I was a youngster, was always in
disgrace up at the Admiralty, and now, with this rotten fever in me,
they won’t employ me again."

But he would always finish with, "Well, I’ve waited patiently enough for
the last three years, and luck must turn soon".

On one such occasion, when the warmth and brightness of a May day had
made Helston more than usually enthusiastic as to his chances of
full-pay service, Dr. Fox, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, growled,
"Next ship, indeed!  You talk of nothing but ships and sea, sea and
ships, when you ought to be buying a Bath chair to be wheeled about in."

"Never mind, old chap, I’m not as bad as that, and I’ll bet you that
they give me a ship in less than six months!"

"If they do, I will come with you," jeered the Doctor, as he stalked
moodily to bed.

"That’s a bargain," shouted Helston cheerfully after him.

Now one reason why Helston had settled down here with the Doctor, and
the great source of his ambitious dreams, was a certain lady named
Milly, who, with her father—his name is not necessary, for he was always
spoken of as "the Admiral", or "Miss Milly’s father"—lived close to the
village.  He had wooed her constantly for many years, and had known her
since she was born, but the somewhat disdainful little lady had refused
him many times, though not without giving him some slight hope of better
success if ever he were promoted to the rank of captain.  However, as
Mistress Milly never personally enters this story, nothing more need be
said of her than that she was one of the most bewitching little flirts
who ever tyrannized over an old father, or played havoc with the heart
of every man she met.

A few weeks after this incident, and whilst the two were at breakfast,
the old village postman stumbled up the path leading to their house, and
Jenkins, a sombre, morose man of few words, brought in a big official
envelope.

"What did I say, old chap?" cried Helston excitedly, tearing it open.
"Didn’t I say my luck would change? Hullo! this isn’t an ordinary
appointment.  Whatever is it?"  A large number of papers fell on the
table, and, the Doctor showing some signs of interest, the two men
hurriedly examined them, Jenkins standing behind at attention in order
to learn the news.

The first one was from the Admiralty, informing Helston that the
enclosures had been received through the Chinese Embassy, and ordering
him to report himself at Whitehall immediately.  These enclosures were
lists of ships supposed to be wrecked on the Chinese coast during the
last few years, lists of Chinese men-of-war supposed to have been
destroyed during the Chino-Japanese war, and papers showing the gradual
rise in insurance rates for the Chinese coasting trade.

"Where’s your appointment?" sneered the Doctor. "I’m off to see my
patients."

"I’ve got it, Doc; look here!  Do you remember that old mandarin we got
out of a scrape at Cheefoo once? Well, here’s a letter from him.
Listen!"  Saying which, Helston sat on the table and read it aloud,
whilst the Doctor filled his pipe impatiently:—


"DEAR COMMANDER HELSTON,—Perhaps you remember saving my life at Cheefoo
many years ago?  Now perhaps I can do you a good turn.

"For the last three or four years there has been a very large number of
steamers, ships, and junks employed on the coast trade which have left
port under favourable circumstances and apparently in good condition,
yet have never been heard of since.  The number has rapidly become so
great, that myself and several friends interested in the shipping trade
have suspected that these disappearances were not due to natural causes.
This year, for instance, three of our newest steamers have left Nagasaki
full of valuable cargo, and, though none of them could have experienced
bad weather, yet none have been heard of since.  All three, strangely
enough, carried a large quantity of military stores for Pekin, which had
been transhipped from German steamers, and all three left within three
weeks.  The captains were Englishmen—very good men, too—and what adds to
the peculiarity of their disappearance is, that the captain of the
English mail-steamer which followed the last out of harbour, and should
have passed her eight hours later if she had been on her proper course,
never sighted her.  We searched the coast ineffectually for any trace of
wreckage, and it is only within the last two months that we have
obtained a clue.

"One of our large junks from Formosa, being short of water, made for an
island, previously reported as being only occasionally inhabited by
Korean fishermen.  A few men went ashore to fill the casks, found the
fishing-nets deserted and no water, so followed a path leading inland
and winding up a hill.  When nearly at the top they came across four
dead Chinamen hanging from trees, and although very frightened, they
still pushed on until they came in sight of the natural harbour on the
other side of the island.  They swear solemnly that, lying at anchor,
they saw twenty or thirty steamers and several men-of-war, and that on
shore there were many storehouses (go-downs) and huts, and a very large
number of natives. They were just going down for water when one of these
men, who fortunately had formerly been one of the crew of the
_Tslai-ming_, our crack steamer, recognized her lying there.  He is a
cute fellow, and at once jumped to the conclusion that these were
pirates (you remember how terribly frightened they are of ’pilons’?),
and ran back with his fellows to their boat.

"They brought this news to us.

"Four years ago, when this island was last visited, it was reported as
uninhabited.  Personally I did not doubt the men’s tale.  In fact, they
are so frightened, and have spread their story so freely, that it is
difficult to get a crew together for any port south of Amoy.

"I have made very careful enquiries to account for the presence of the
men-of-war, and have discovered that many of the war-ships, and nearly
all the torpedo-boats which were run ashore to escape capture during the
late war, had disappeared.

"The local mandarins and officials of course know nothing, but from the
natives living near I find that large ships came and stayed near the
stranded ships for some weeks, and finally towed them away.  There is no
doubt that two, if not three, cruisers in bad plight have been sold to a
couple of Europeans, and have disappeared, where, no one knows.  A
couple of the Yangtze corvettes have also mysteriously vanished.

"I memorialized the throne, but they would do nothing, and made fun of
my report.  The mandarins got hold of my informants, tortured them till
they denied the truth of their story, and then of course laughed at me.

"Trade was practically at a stand-still, so we decided to send one of
our best captains, an Englishman, to see if the men’s story was correct.
He landed at night from a junk, disguised as a native, and spent a day
on the island, running great risks of detection, and being taken off
next night.  He reports that there are certainly three cruisers and
seven torpedo-boats anchored there, and at least twenty coasting
steamers, among them being the three that disappeared when laden with
military stores.  Great numbers of coolies were working at the narrow
entrance to the harbour, and, as far as he could see, they were mounting
guns behind earthworks.  He thought he could distinguish some Europeans,
but is not certain.  He brought a rough plan of the harbour, marking the
positions of ships, buildings, and guns.

"I decided to take him next day to some of the ministers whom I knew
personally, thinking that they would pay more attention to the word of
an Englishman.  I must tell you that the three natives who first brought
the news and were tortured to deny it, have disappeared, and as they
were very honest, faithful men, I suspected some underhanded dealing,
and, thinking to keep the Englishman safe made him sleep in my _yamen_
that night.  Next morning he had disappeared, and his body was found two
days later in a low quarter of the town, stripped of all valuables
including the plan, which he had in his pocket-book, although this
itself was not taken.  The gatekeeper saw him go out, and there is no
doubt his habits were unsteady, but for all that his death is very
suspicious.

"Naturally I had no proof good enough for the Government, but my friends
and myself subscribed ten million dollars, and asked the Government for
another five millions, to fit out an expedition and destroy these
pirates, offering to hand over to them the men-of-war we intended
buying, and also a percentage of our recaptures.  They refused at first,
but thinking money was to be made out of it, promised us four millions,
the protection of the Imperial flag, and the use of their dockyards.

"We had thought of applying to some European power to take the matter
up; but you know the great tension of affairs out here at the present,
and the acute international jealousies; we therefore came to the
conclusion that it would take years to bring this about through the
ordinary diplomatic channels, and as every year’s trade is worth from
£10,000,000 to £20,000,000 for us, we cannot afford to wait.

"I, therefore, as President of the China Trading Defence Committee, am
authorized to offer you the control of this money if you will accept the
responsibility of organizing a small expedition with the greatest
possible speed to rid us of this unbearable piracy which is destroying
our trade.

"You will get this letter and the enclosed lists and tables from our
Ambassador in London, who will give you every facility for granting
Imperial commissions for your ships and officers, and every information
he can.

"I know enough of your service to think that if you take command of this
expedition you will advance your prospects, and the opportunity of doing
this I have very great pleasure in giving you.

"Wire me your decision and plans; don’t worry about money—haste is the
great thing.—Your sincere friend,

"PING SANG.

"TIENTSIN, _17th March._

"_P.S._—If you do not accept the command it will be offered to
Lieutenant Albrecht of the Imperial German Navy.

"I hope the Doctor with the broad shoulders and terrible fists is well.
Give him my ’chin chin’, and bring him with you if you can."


Helston finished reading, and both men stared at each other in blank
amazement, whilst Jenkins commenced stealthily to remove the breakfast
things.

"Well, of all the hare-brained, foolish schemes I ever heard of!" gasped
the Doctor.

"There’s something in it, old chap.  Ping Sang was one of the richest
mandarins in China when we were out there many years ago.  A splendid
chap, as you remember, and practically an Englishman in his ideas—he
went to Charterhouse when he was a boy—and besides, his Government has
taken it up, and I have to report myself to the Admiralty; so they
believe in it, evidently.  Why, old man," continued Helston, "if this is
all true I shall get promotion out of it, and that means—you know as
well as I do—that means Milly."  And he danced about the room as if he
never had had fever in his rheumatic legs.

"Stop that tomfoolery, and go off to London and find out whether it’s
all a mare’s nest or not," said the Doctor. "Jenkins, go and get the
Commander’s things ready at once."

"For China, sir?"

"No.  For London, you fool!"

"Very good, sir," and off went Jenkins.

"Well, good-bye, Helston, I’m off round the practice. Don’t make an ass
of yourself, and let me know the result."

By the time the Doctor returned Helston had disappeared, and it was late
that evening when a telegram brought news of him.  The Doctor hurriedly
opened it: "Job genuine—accepted command.  Send all clothes—cannot
return—too busy."

Three days later he received a long letter.  In it Helston wrote that he
had been backwards and forwards from the Admiralty, the Foreign Office,
and the Chinese Embassy the whole of the last few days settling
preliminary details. "The Bank of England has one and a half million to
my credit, on the advice of the Ambassador and Ping Sang, so the money
is safe enough, and I am trying to get hold of any ship which will be
ready in the next three months. Our Admiralty did not at first wish me
to take command, and wanted to give me some captains, just as advisers,
but I knew what that meant.  They would get all the kudos; I should get
none.  So I told them that if I did not take command, absolutely and
entirely, I would throw it up, and, of course, that meant that the
Germans would get a look in.  That stuck in their gizzards, so they
piped down, and I am to be my own boss and have any officers I want, and
a large proportion of men, from the navy.  They have given me an office
and a couple of clerks, and already I’m terribly busy.

"From what I can gather, their idea seems to be that a couple of
cruisers of the _Apollo_ type and two or three destroyers will be
sufficient for my purpose and well within my means; that if I find
myself unable to destroy the pirates, whose existence they still doubt,
I shall at least be able to blockade the island till the present tension
of political affairs is somewhat relaxed, when they hope to be able to
detach some ships from our fleet to help me, more especially if I prove
conclusively the existence of these pirates.  You may bet your boots,"
Helston concluded, "if I can get away from England and past Hong-Kong
without interference, I sha’n’t wait for other help. My luck is at the
top now, and if only it will remain there for eighteen months or so, I
shall be a made man.  Will it? that is the question."

"Silly fool!" thought the Doctor; "he’s always brooding on his ill-luck.
If people would only look more on the bright side of things, we should
hear less about this fatal ill-luck which they always fancy follows
them."

When he returned from the round of his very limited practice and opened
the London paper waiting for him, he swore angrily when he saw that two
columns were devoted to the proposed expedition.  "Silly fool! giving
himself away to these interviewers.  It may make him notorious, but the
Admiralty won’t like it; and if there _are_ pirates, they will learn his
schemes and plans almost as soon as he knows them himself."



                             *CHAPTER III*

                    *The Fitting Out of a Squadron*


    Helston Tricks the Doctor—Valuable Information—The Doctor makes
    a Bargain—The Squadron Assembles


A month had passed by, during which time the Doctor saw by the papers
that Helston had acquired a cruiser at Elswick, built on "spec", an
armoured cruiser being built by Laird’s, for a South American republic
which had waived its claim to her, and three destroyers which were being
completed at Yarrow’s, Thorneycroft’s, and Laird’s works respectively.
At the end of the month he ran up to London, in response to a telegram,
and met Helston at Waterloo.

"I should hardly have known you," he said, grasping his hand; "you look
twice the man you did six weeks ago. What fool’s errand have you brought
me here for?"

"Going to show you round my little fleet, old chap. How’s Milly and her
old father?"

"She’s all right.  Asked after her Don Quixote the last time I saw her;
but confound you, I’m hungry, I don’t want to see your ships.  I’ve seen
enough in my lifetime; you ought to have known that."

"Come along then, old chap, we’ll have some grub and put you in a better
temper," answered Helston, smiling, and took him to his hotel.

They visited Yarrow’s yard that afternoon, and next day went up the
river to Chiswick, where Thorneycroft’s destroyer lay almost ready for
launching, with her engines and boilers on board.  "Funny state of
affairs, Doc, old boy," began Helston, as he patted her smooth sides,
"for me to be buying ships.  Fancy imagining six weeks ago that I should
ever be signing cheques to the value of three-quarters of a million and
thinking nothing of it!"

"How much did this one cost you?" asked the Doctor grimly.

"Just over £40,000—a mere fleabite," laughed Helston; "and she’s to do
her trials next week—a guaranteed thirty knots.  That would shake up
your wretched liver, Doc, rushing along at more than thirty-five miles
an hour!  It’s a funny thing, but they have had several bids for her
during the last few days, so I wrote out a cheque on the spot and got
her.  The others were a little doubtful about cash."

"Some of these smaller republics always are," laughed the manager, who
was standing near them.

"It was Patagonia, too, of all others," continued Helston. "She tried to
get all my ships, and, strangely enough, has never been in the market
before, and doesn’t possess such a thing as a ship."

"I expect she wants to become as civilized as some of her neighbours,
and get up a rebellion against the army," added the manager.

After dinner that night Helston showed the Doctor a list of officers he
had chosen, among whom there were several they had known in the old
days.  The Admiralty had put them all on half-pay and lent them to the
Chinese Government for eighteen months directly Helston had made out
their temporary commissions for the squadron he was fitting out.  The
Chinese ambassador had been empowered to sign their commissions, and the
ships were to fly the Yellow Dragon.

"I see you have no doctors yet," said the Doctor.  "I suppose no one has
been such a fool as to volunteer."

Helston opened a drawer in his desk.

"There you are, nearly five hundred of them, men in the navy, army, and
from every corner of the world."

"I didn’t know there were so many fools on earth," growled the Doctor.
"To whom are you going to give the opportunity of being drowned or blown
up?"

"Oh, I’m not going to select them.  I leave that job to my principal
medical officer."

"What idiot have you managed to get hold of to do that?"

"You, old chap," replied Helston, slapping him on the shoulder; "you
were the very first to volunteer."

"I!" said the Doctor angrily.  "Why, I’d as soon think of volunteering
for a trip to the moon!"

"Can’t help that, Doc; you told me that night at Fareham, when you were
in such a bad temper, that you would come with me if I got a ship, and
here’s your commission made out—’all belong ploper, savez’.  Come on,
old fellow, don’t leave me in the lurch; come and have another look at
China.  We will look in at our old places in Japan and fancy ourselves
young again.  I’ll make you as comfortable as you possibly can be on
board a ship."

"Well, you have played a trick on me," answered the Doctor, after he had
stamped and fumed about the room, "and if you were not steeped in fever
and ague, I would see you at Jericho first; but I’ll see you safely
through this foolery—more for Milly’s sake, though, than for yours, you
sly brute."

"I knew you’d come, Doc; you aren’t doing yourself any good moping down
at Fareham, and the practice can manage itself pretty well, can’t it?
You’ll get fleet-surgeon’s pay, and Jenkins will be able to look after
us both."

So this being settled, the two men discussed plans far into the night.

On the way to Newcastle next morning, and as the train was leaving
King’s Cross, a man jumped hurriedly into their carriage, his bags were
thrown after him, and the door slammed violently.

"I’m sort of intruding," he said, by way of introduction and apology.
He was a young and very handsome man, typically American from the long
hair brushed off his forehead to his long pointed boots, his Western
accent very strong and nasal.

"Guess you two ain’t lived all your lives on land.  I’ve been six years
in the United States navy, and can spot a navy man like a pointer."

"Yes, we are both in the navy," answered Helston, smiling.

"There you are; you Britishers always call _your_ navy _the_ navy.  Why,
our American ships—ship for ship—would give ’em all points and knock
spots out of them. We ain’t got so many just now, but we’re just
scurrying around, and we’ve got the iron and the brains, and Congress
will find the dollars.  I’m quit of the navy.  The guv’nor curled up and
left me a pile, so I just sent in my commission and been enjoying myself
ever since—that’s four years ago next fall.  Going out to China in a few
weeks—shake up the oil business.  The old man was in oil—see!  Ever been
in China—Asiatic station we call it—and met the old _Monocacy_?"

"Twice," said Helston, much amused.

"Well, I was a cadet for two years in that old packet—Reginald S.
Hopkins, my tally—and I guess we have mutual acquaintances out there."

"My name is Helston."

"Helston!" ejaculated the American.  "Why, I know your face—couldn’t
guess where I’d seen it before seen your picture in every illustrated
journal I’ve taken up for the last ten days—shake, sir, shake," and he
grasped Helston’s hand warmly.  "Very pleased to make your acquaintance.
I reckon you’re just about the most talked-of man walking the face of
this earth just now."

The conversation naturally turned on the approaching expedition, in
which Hopkins was keenly interested. "I guess I can give you some
middling-sized information about those ships the Chinese ran ashore.  I
was out with the Japs at Wei-hai-wei, just looking round—kind of
correspondent for a Boston journal—and went on board some of them.  I
reckon the silly idiot who bought that lot of scrap iron wished he had
left ’em there.  There ain’t a dockyard in the States that could make
’em keep pace with a funeral.  Why, I went aboard one of the
torpedo-boats—high and dry she was—I’m mighty inquisitive, I tell
you—her boiler had burst and blown up her deck, when she went aground, I
reckon.  I’ve never seen such a mess as the engines were—two horrid
staring corpses been there a week, too—ugh!"

"Very lucky that I met you," Helston said eagerly. "I’ve telegraphed to
a dozen men who were up there, and none know anything beyond doubtful
rumours."

"I guess most of the Europeans were just searching around about that
particular time, and looting or getting quit of the place, if they’d
been aiding the Pigtails," drawled the stranger.

"You didn’t hear anything about the cruisers which went ashore, I
suppose?" asked Helston.

"Didn’t I!  Didn’t I!  I knocked up against a little Scotchman—chief
engineer aboard the _Mao Yuen_ when her old skipper shoved her nose on
shore and cut.  He was just about in a hair-raising funk, for the
mandarins wanted his head, and the Japs his body.  I packed him off in a
steamer, and he was mighty glad to take his head with him, you bet!"

"Did he tell you anything of the condition of his ship?" asked Helston,
"for she is one of those which have disappeared."

"Didn’t he!" roared the American, smacking his thigh. "Why, all the time
he was under my wing he kept shouting out, ’Oh God!  Oh God!—two hundred
dead bodies on board, burning fore and aft—they’ll kill me if I go on
deck—the boilers won’t stand the pressure, and my home’s in Glasgy’.  He
was just on being properly crazed, and during the night woke me by
shrieking, ’We’re on the rocks, we’re on the rocks—the steam-pipe’s
burst, and I can’t get on deck—the steam, the steam’, and I found him
trying to climb up the wall."

"She must have damaged herself very badly if the shock smashed her main
steam-pipe," said Helston; "and they tell me at the Embassy that the
_Yao Yuen_, her sister ship, which was also reported refloated, was
completely gutted.  It seems to me that any amount of patching up won’t
make these two much of fighting ships."

"You’ve just hit it, Captain.  Give me the old _Monocacy_—you remember
the old tub—and I reckon I’d wash out the whole crowd."

He left the carriage at their first stopping-place.

"Lucky we met him, Doc," said Helston; "his information may be very
valuable, and he seems a fine type of an American naval officer."

"They are all tarred with the same brush," growled the Doctor—"think
their own country the only one in the world, and they themselves its
brightest ornament.  A conceited, bragging liar I should call him."

"Liver bad this morning," thought Helston.

They went down to Elswick that afternoon and inspected the cruiser which
Armstrong’s had almost completed.  She was, in fact, preparing for her
engine and gun trials.  She had been built as a speculation, and Helston
had eagerly snapped her up for a trifle of £290,000.  "We should have
made another £20,000 if you hadn’t settled at once," said the manager
ruefully, "for the Patagonian agent offered us £310,000 next morning."

They next travelled to Birkenhead and saw Laird’s destroyer, which was
nearly ready for sea, and the armoured cruiser which was to be Helston’s
flagship, and had been promised in two months.

They were inspecting the cabins aft.

"If I’m coming with you, you’ll have to knock those two into one," said
the Doctor.  "I’m not going to be cramped up in the ordinary cabin at my
time of life."

"All right, old chap," replied Helston, giving the necessary directions,
"what will happen if you don’t get your own way?"

"Invalid myself home," answered the Doctor, with a twinkle in his eye.
"Did the Patagonians want this one?"

"Did their best," smiled Helston, "but ready money did the trick."

"It seems to me that someone is very anxious you should not buy your
ships, Helston.  Somewhat fishy, isn’t it?" suggested the Doctor, on
their way back to London.

Two days later the papers published lists of temporary commissions
granted by the Chinese Government to officers in the Royal Navy lent to
a squadron now fitting out in England.

To Helston the Admiralty had granted leave to assume the rank of captain
whilst he was in command of his squadron.

The rest of the officers, commanders, lieutenants, doctors, engineers,
paymasters, marines, and warrant officers were all detailed for various
duties—fitting out the ships, buying and supervising stores and
provisions, and recruiting the crews.

The Admiralty lent the entire crews for the three destroyers and
skeleton crews for the two cruisers, consisting of petty officers,
seamen gunners, engine-room artificers, armourers, and also a small
detachment of marines, whilst, acting on the advice of the Foreign
Office and the Chinese Embassy, both of which threw out hints of the
possibility of treachery, the remainder of the crews were taken
exclusively from Naval Reserve men of known good character.

During the following three weeks several suspicious incidents occurred
which suggested that influences were at work to retard or damage the
expedition.

Thorneycroft’s destroyer broke down on two occasions. On the second
trial the finding of a loose nut in the high-pressure cylinder whilst
the engines were being preliminarily turned, averted a terrible
catastrophe.  It was highly probable that it had been placed there
intentionally.

Laird’s cruiser developed several small break-downs, attributed to
improperly fastened locking nuts, whilst the main bearings of one of her
screw shafts became almost red-hot, and it was found that sand had been
mixed with the water that was pumped over it during the full speed
trial.  This alone delayed the departure of the expedition for a month,
as the huge casting had to be removed. Laird’s destroyer was also run
down one night by a tug-boat whilst lying anchored off Birkenhead, and
as it was a perfectly clear night, and she was not in the usual course
of tugs, this was very suspicious.  Fortunately the damage was not
serious.

Most serious of all was the discovery of a man, dressed as a dockyard
labourer, tampering with the magazine locks of Armstrong’s cruiser, with
many yards of fuse and a dynamite cartridge in his pocket, which
naturally he could not account for.

However, three months after the receipt of Ping Sang’s letter,
Armstrong’s cruiser, named by Helston the _Strong Arm_, the three
destroyers "No. 1", "No. 2", and "No. 3", and a stout little merchant
steamer, the _Sylvia_, to be used as store-ship, were lying at Spithead,
gaily flying the Yellow Dragon at their ensign staffs, and only awaiting
the completion of the repairs to Laird’s ship, which Helston named the
_Laird_.

Helston, the Doctor, and two or three officers were still remaining in
London completing the work of fitting out the squadron.



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                       *The Pirates are not Idle*


    A Disaster—"The Mysterious Three"—Suspicions Confirmed—Three
    Chinamen—Helston Desperate


One night after dinner, whilst they were playing billiards, the folding
doors were flung open and Hopkins, whom Helston had not seen since he
had first met him on his way to Newcastle, rushed in, nearly upsetting
the waiter.

"Excuse me, Captain," he said, as he warmly gripped Helston’s hand.
"I’m always just busting with energy; only landed on the Island three
hours gone; tracked you here, and now mighty glad to meet you again.
Been bustling round Europe for the last two months; done the capitals
and the crowned heads and other sights; and now come here to pack my
traps and off again.  Say, Captain, how’s your picnic progressing; just
booming, I reckon?"

"Oh, fairly well," answered Helston, pleased to see him and introducing
him to the others.  "There have been several strange mishaps lately,
which look suspiciously as if somebody was already working against us,
but I think we shall be off in a week or two."

"Well, I call that just prompt; couldn’t do it slicker in the United
States.  Maybe those accidents are simple coincidences."

"They may be, but they are very worrying, all the same," replied
Helston, opening a telegram a waiter had brought him.  He scanned it
carelessly, but his jaw dropped.  It was from the captain of the _Strong
Arm_: "Regret to report Government powder barge fouled ram 8.15
to-night; drifted astern and sank, blowing up as she went down.  Ship
making water and down by the head.  Must dock for examination.
Explosion caused minor damages after-part of ship and stove in starboard
plates of ’No. 1’ destroyer.  Regret report three men ’No. 1’ killed.
Crew of barge took to dinghy and pulled ashore."

Helston read it aloud, to the consternation of the others. "That means
our departure delayed indefinitely," he said bitterly.  "I must be off
to Portsmouth at once."  He went up to his room to pack a bag.
Presently there was a knock at the door and Hopkins came in.

"Excuse me bothering you just now, Captain, but I’ve gotten an idea that
this explosion ain’t all fair and square, and I just want to fix up a
contract with you."

"Well, what is it?" asked Helston, amused at his earnestness.

"Well, I reckoned this affair was going to be a simple slap-up picnic,
and if there’s devilry about now there will be a jolly sight more before
you’ve squared yards, and I’m just keen to be in it.  I’m a bit of a
sailor and picked up a bit of the lingo, so I should be worth my
nose-bag. Will you take me on, sir, if you find this explosion was due
to treachery?"

"I’ll see about it when I come back," replied Helston.

"Thank you, sir.  Good-night;" and Hopkins disappeared.

"I don’t care for that man," said the Doctor, as he saw Helston off to
Portsmouth (they were talking of Hopkins). "He talks too much, and I
hate foreigners.  I hope you won’t take him."

However, Hopkins himself was apparently confident that he would be
taken, for next morning at breakfast he joined their table, quite
unasked, and kept forcing his conversation on the Doctor.  Now there was
one thing the Doctor would never do, and that was, talk at breakfast;
not even till he had had his after-breakfast pipe was it safe to address
him, and he happened to be especially "livery" that morning.  He was
boiling over with wrath when the meal was over.

"Bad temper, I suppose it is," growled the Doctor, as, later, he jumped
into a hansom and drove to the U.S. Legation; "a villainous liver that
makes me dislike that fellow.  At any rate, if he comes with us we had
better know all about him."

At the Embassy he managed to get hold of several old navy lists, and
found the name Reginald S. Hopkins given as a cadet on board the
_Monocacy_ in 1885, but no mention of it in later years.

He enquired whether the Naval Attaché was in the building, and, as luck
would have it, he was, and could give the Doctor more information.

"A naval officer yourself, Doctor?" said the Attaché, looking at his
card.

"Yes; belong to the ’pirate-catchers’, as we are called, and this man
Hopkins is very anxious to join us."

"Well, I see by my books that he retired, by permission, from the
_Monocacy_ in 1885."

"I found that out down below; but you know nothing more about him, I
suppose?"

"Well, not officially, you know; but three or four years ago I was Flag
Lieutenant of our Asiatic squadron, and we heard that he had been mixed
up with the China-Japanese war, was in a Chinese ship at the battle of
Yalu, and was afterwards said to have made a pile of money by buying the
wrecked ships and selling them as old iron. He’d probably be a useful
man for you to get hold of, I should think."

"I think he would," said the Doctor gravely.  "I suppose you never met
him?"

"No, never; but there were rumours that he led a wild kind of
adventurous life among the Chinese with two partners, an Englishman and
a German, prospecting for mines or running expeditions against
rebellious provincial rebels.  They used to be called the ’Mysterious
Three’ at the Tientsin Club, if I remember rightly, and were said to be
hand in glove with many of the highest officials."

"It was a bad temper and a worse liver before," muttered the Doctor, as
he drove away and directed the cab to a well-known detective agent, "but
after hearing this—whether it’s curiosity or suspicion, I’m going to
find out more about that young man."

Next morning he received a letter from Helston at Portsmouth, which
confirmed his fears that another and successful attempt had been made to
damage the expedition. What was left of the powder barge had been
examined by divers, who had reported that it certainly was not like the
usual Government barges.  The crew of three had disappeared, though they
must have landed safely, as their dinghy had been hauled up the beach at
Southsea, and this fact enhanced suspicions.  Both "No. 1" and the
_Strong Arm_ had been docked by Admiralty permission at Portsmouth, and
the repairs, which were being pushed forward night and day, would take
at least six weeks in the case of "No. 1", though the cruiser was found
to have suffered but minor damage.

"The bill will be tremendous," wrote Helston, rather despairingly, "not
so much for the actual repairs, but it means keeping and feeding all the
crews for six weeks more than I had calculated.  At any rate they are, I
am glad to say, all the keener after this affair to get to close
quarters with the scoundrels, who have hit them below the belt.  After
the funeral of the three men of the destroyer who were killed, I went
aboard each ship, fell the men in aft, and told them that any man who
wished to back out of the job could give in his name to the
master-at-arms.  They broke out into cheers, and not a man has done so."

"Foul play after all, Hopkins," said the Doctor later, when he met the
American.

"Well, I can’t say I’m sorry about it," he answered frankly, "if it
gives me a chance of a look in at the game."

Every day the detectives employed by the Doctor reported to him
Hopkins’s movements, but nothing suspicious whatever occurred for some
days.  He spent his time visiting business houses especially connected
with the China trade, and in the evenings was either at the hotel or a
theatre.  Then, however, he was reported to have visited, the previous
evening, after dark, a large "doss-house" near the Millwall docks, a
place kept by a Chinaman for the use of the Chinese firemen and the deck
hands employed in the ships trading to the East.  He had stayed there
nearly two hours, shoved several papers into his pocket as he came out,
and was accompanied to the door by two Chinese, who appeared to treat
him with the greatest respect.

It happened that he had hurried away from dinner that night on the
pretence of going to a theatre.

"He’s a liar, at any rate," thought the Doctor, but his suspicions
turned into a different and more startling channel before the morning
was over.

There were two little American boys staying in the hotel who had struck
up a great friendship with Hopkins. Going down the main staircase he
came upon these two—fighting as usual.  "Clear out of this, you young
rascals!" growled the Doctor, and the two boys ran away.  Two steps
lower down the Doctor noticed a brightly coloured stamp on the carpet,
stooped down, and found it was one of a new issue of the Patagonian
Republic.  "Please, sir," said one of the boys coming back, "that’s
ours. Mr. Hopkins, the big man who sits at your table, gave it us this
morning—tore it off a big envelope."

"I’ve never seen one before," said the Doctor, thinking of the strange
coincidence.

"Mr. Hopkins has a big crackly paper with an enormous green sealing-wax
seal just like it," chimed in the boy. "You ought to see it—it’s
lovely!"

"Phew! that’s odd," he muttered.  "What’s Hopkins doing with Patagonian
letters?  And a ’big crackly paper with an enormous green seal’ means an
official document, so I should think.  I hardly heard of the name till
Helston told me they were trying to buy his ships.  Phew!  I wonder if
he had anything to do with that?  I’ll find out."

But the Patagonian agency knew nothing of Hopkins. An Austrian by the
name of Von Grootze had been engaged in the negotiations for ships, so
the Doctor returned puzzled.

A few days later the detectives reported that Hopkins had again visited
the "doss-house" in Millwall, and that next day a very large number of
Chinese had shipped for Antwerp.

"Well, he seems to have something to do with these Chinese, receives
communications from Patagonia, is a known adventurer, and, perhaps most
convincing of all, I don’t like him," thought the Doctor.  "Helston is
coming back to-morrow, and I’ll have a long yarn with him about this
business."

So next day he told Helston all the details that were arousing his
suspicions, adding, "I don’t suppose there is much in it, but I am a
beastly suspicious fellow and don’t like him."

"Well," answered Helston very gravely, "do you know what was found in
that powder barge?  A dead Chinaman!—unrecognizable except for his
pigtail.  We’ve managed to keep the fact very quiet, but this somehow
seems to connect things, doesn’t it?"

The best thing to be done, they both agreed, was to keep their eye on
Hopkins, and to do that more easily Helston decided to make out his
commission as secretary to himself.  Later, when he gave it to Hopkins,
no one could deny that his expressions of extreme pleasure were genuine.
Two nights later, however, the Doctor, coming back to the hotel at
midnight, went up to Helston’s room with a very grave face.

"Pretty late to turn a fellow out," said Helston, switching on the
light.  "Hullo, man, you look pretty scared! What’s in the wind now?"

"I’ve just come from that doss-house of which I told you.  I pretended
to the boss that I wanted a Chinese cook to take out with me.  He was an
ugly old Cantonese, and took me into his little room—pugh! how the place
did reek of garlic and stale clothes—and went off to try and find one.
Whilst I was waiting I heard a shrill argument going on in the next
room—there was only a wooden partition between—and presently I heard a
voice, which I would swear anywhere was Hopkins’s, ordering silence."

"He told us he was off to the theatre," interposed Helston, now
thoroughly awake.

"You can imagine I was on the qui vive then, and did my best to hear
what was going on.  Two Chinamen were evidently trying to extort money
from him, but they were talking so shrilly and so fast—you know how they
talk when they are excited—that I could not make out much of it till
another voice chimed in, and I distinctly heard: ’He smokee too muchee
opium, massa.  Me go shakee him—no can move—vely big man—no can wait—go
topside plenty quick—jump in boat—all plenty chop, chop—then makee blow
up.  Ah Tung belong dead man—you pay blother fifty dollars can do—all
belong ploper.’  You know their pidgin-English?"

"Can you swear it was Hopkins’s voice?" asked Helston. "That must have
been the brother of the man killed in the powder barge."

"I would swear to that beastly nasal twang anywhere."

It was early next morning when the two separated, and then they had
decided not to let Hopkins suspect that they knew his treachery, and
still to allow him to reckon on joining the expedition.

"In fact," said Helston, "to have him on board will be our best
safeguard, and we must see that he does not give us the slip."

The detective reported that Hopkins had been to the "doss-house" the
night before, adding, with a smile, "which you probably know already,
sir, for you were there too".

As the Doctor and Helston were leaving the hotel—Helston going to his
office and the Doctor for a walk—Hopkins joined them.  "Any work for
your secretary, Captain?" he asked good-humouredly.  "I guess I’m just
aching for a bit of quill-driving.  I’m just about the cut of a
secretary, am I not?" and he opened out his broad shoulders and smacked
his chest vigorously.

"Not till we get afloat, thanks," said Helston.

"All right; I’ll just come along with you to the corner, and then I’ll
be off.  Have to make a few dollars—you Britishers aren’t half
smart—before I go sailoring again."

As they came to the end of the street they saw a small crowd curiously
gazing at three Chinamen looking in at an A.B.C. shop.

"I’ll pull those three fellows’ legs," said the American, and, as they
forced their way through the little crowd, he whistled the first line of
"Chin, Chin, Chinaman".

The crowd recognized the tune at once, and there were shouts of "Chin,
Chin, Chinaman!"

The Chinese turned round with fury in their eyes, whilst the crowd
jeered at them.

The Yankee, laughing loudly, wished his friends good-bye. "Guess a
Chinaman won’t learn manners in London, anyhow."

"Well, he’s not a gentleman, at any rate," said Helston, when he had
gone.  "Funny those three being there; you don’t often see them so far
from the docks."

"My blessed aunt!" said the Doctor excitedly, "it was a put-up job.  I
see it clearly.  Hopkins wanted them to be able to recognize us again.
Didn’t you notice that they looked at us and no one else; and, now I
think of it, he put his arm through yours just at the time—that was to
point you out more particularly."

"Stuff and nonsense, Doc!  You must not jump to conclusions like that.
It was all done too naturally; I can’t believe it."

"You always were an idiot," growled the Doctor.  "I’d bet you anything
I’m right."

However, every day after this, Helston met these Chinese—not always the
same, he felt sure—and they always gave him a cold, impassive stare from
under their slit-like lids as they passed him going to or coming from
the office.  Did he go round a back, unfrequented way, they were waiting
for him outside his office when he left it. Did he walk on the other
side of the road, they crossed over to gaze at him.  There was no doubt
left in Helston’s or in the Doctor’s mind that these men were in
Hopkins’s pay, and were being made familiar with Helston’s appearance,
in order to be able to kidnap or kill him when Hopkins gave the signal.
Naturally it was exceedingly difficult to remain on friendly terms with
this man, whose presence seemed to make their flesh creep, but outwardly
there was no change in their relationship, or, if there was, Hopkins did
not seem to notice it.

A month later and the incessant strain of being constantly watched
wherever he went, and the endless worries and delays attending the
expedition, began to have their effect on Helston, who was visibly
losing the vigour his new appointment had first given him.

"Let us get out of this, old chap," he almost gasped one day when,
coming back to the hotel, they had been met by three more villainous
Chinese standing almost inside the door.

"Pour me out something to drink, Doc, to take the taste of the ugly
brutes out of my mouth.  If I don’t get away soon my luck will desert me
again, and they will murder me somehow or other.  I can’t stand them
much longer."

Helston paced up and down in a very agitated manner, and it was very
evident that the strain of the last few weeks was wearing him to a
shadow.

"Look here, old chap," he said, coming to a halt, and turning abruptly
to Dr. Fox, "it’s my idea that if Hopkins intends mischief he will wait
till the last few days before either disappearing himself or setting
those sneaking Chinese dogs on to me.  If we can only get him aboard and
start several days before he expects the expedition to sail, his
treacherous schemes may fail.

"Now, my idea is this.  The _Laird_ runs her after-repair trials
to-morrow, and I will telegraph to her Captain and order him to report
defects requiring twelve days to repair, and make arrangements as if our
departure would be delayed till then, and give the information to the
Press.

"The scheme is this, Doc," he continued excitedly. "’No. 1’ destroyer
runs her trials on Saturday next after coming out of dock.  My idea is
for us to go down to Portsmouth, take Hopkins with us—as if only for the
trial, you understand—and, when we are out at Spithead, signal to the
remainder of the squadron to prepare for sea, and to send a telegram to
the _Laird_ at Birkenhead ordering her to meet me at a certain
rendezvous."

"That fellow Hopkins is a greater fool than I take him for if he is
deceived by that," growled Dr. Fox.

"Perhaps you are right, but I will try; and I will wire to Cummins of
the _Laird_ at once."

"You had better use the cipher code," Dr. Fox suggested.

The twenty-four hours which followed the despatch of this telegram
seemed like the same number of days.

Helston could not sleep.  Twice during the night he came to Dr. Fox’s
room, with wild suggestions for warding off the blow he now felt certain
was impending, and haggard and irresolute he paced to and fro in the
smoking-room after breakfast next morning.

At one moment he would decide to rush off to Birkenhead himself; at
another, that he would pack up and go aboard the _Strong Arm_ at
Spithead and await results there.  Finally, he did not stir from the
hotel till the evening, when the reply to his telegram arrived.
"Full-speed trial successful; sundry small defects; condenser-tubes
require fourteen days to repair."

It was Hopkins who brought in the telegram.

"Confound him!" cried Helston, with well simulated wrath.  "We shall
never get to sea at this rate."

Orders were made out that the squadron would sail from Spithead in
fifteen days’ time, and the date of sailing was communicated to the
Press.

It was only Helston and Dr. Fox who knew that it would actually sail a
week earlier.

"Thank God," exclaimed Helston, "there are only a few more days of these
hateful Chinese!"



                              *CHAPTER V*

                    *The Squadron leaves hurriedly*


    A Break-down Averted—The "Sylvia" and the Destroyers


          _The Narrative is continued by Lieutenant Hugo John
                            Pattison, R.N._


My name is Pattison, and I’m lieutenant in command of destroyer "No. 1",
belonging to Captain Helston’s squadron; and trouble enough I had to get
her, and shouldn’t have done so after all, but for a jolly little girl
living at Fareham, who knew the Skipper when he was on half-pay.

"No. 1", of course, you remember, was damaged by the explosion out at
Spithead, and had spent weeks in Portsmouth repairing.  At last
everything was ship-shape again, and on 16th October we were lying
alongside the basin waiting for the Skipper, who was coming out on our
trials, with steam blowing off in clouds and Elridge, our Engineer,
getting very impatient.  Presently down came Captain Helston, looking
pretty well fagged out, and with him surly old Dr. Fox, and his Yankee
secretary.  Directly they got aboard, I cast off and threaded my way
down the harbour and out to Spithead.  As we were passing the end of
Southsea pier the Captain borrowed my telescope, and saying, "There they
are again", handed it to me.

"Those three Chinese, sir?" I asked him.

"Yes; they followed me down from town, and have been shadowing me for
the last four weeks.  You can imagine I am thankful to get afloat once
more."

On our way to the measured mile we had to pass close to the rest of the
squadron anchored at Spithead, and we stopped engines alongside the
_Strong Arm_, whilst a boat came across for orders.

When we started again the Skipper seemed much relieved, and I quickly
knew why, for he came for’ard to the bridge and told me to make for a
rendezvous 250 miles s.w. of the Needles, and that there we should be
joined by the rest of the fleet.  "Thank God, Pattison, I’m at sea once
more!"

"Not going back, sir?" I asked, naturally very surprised.

"No, Pattison, no.  I’m sorry to inconvenience everybody, but it was
absolutely necessary.  Haven’t you wished your people good-bye yet?"

"No," I answered, getting rather red in the face, for I was thinking
that I had never even thanked the little girl who had got me my
appointment.

"Nor have I, nor have I," half sighed the Skipper to himself.

The Doctor was apparently in the secret, but Hopkins, the Yankee, seemed
terribly cut up, as he had made arrangements for a week’s leave on very
urgent private affairs, and in fact was only waiting for "No. 1" to get
back to Portsmouth to start.  How strange it is that Americans never
seem to have any idea of discipline? He took it almost as a personal
insult that he had not been informed previously, and for a second I
thought he would fly at the Captain, he looked so angry.  However, he
calmed down quickly enough.

The orders that the Captain had sent aboard the _Strong Arm_ were to
direct Captain Hunter to proceed to the given rendezvous at easy speed,
weighing as soon as possible after sending a boat ashore to telegraph to
the Captain of the _Laird_.

They were exceedingly prompt in obeying this last order, for before five
minutes elapsed, we saw their picket-boat tearing along in the direction
of Portsmouth.

Hopkins is a careless fellow, and nearly brought us to grief.  He had
been down below poking about in the engine-room, and, just before we
began to settle down to our trial, Elridge came up to the bridge to
report to the Captain.  As he was going away again he jokingly said to
Hopkins: "It’s lucky I went round after you.  You know those lubricator
feeds you couldn’t understand?  I found that you’d left every oil-cock
turned off, and our starboard crank bearings would have been red-hot in
a few minutes. You are a careless beggar."

"I’m so mighty inquisitive," apologized Hopkins, and asked Elridge to
let him come down below again.

"Certainly not; I want you up here," said Captain Helston, in so angry a
manner that everyone was quite astonished.

The news that we were not going back soon spread amongst my men, and
Captain Helston ordered me to fall them in, just abaft the bridge, and
made them a little speech—just the right thing—no big words and
high-sounding phrases.  He told them he was very sorry they wouldn’t
have the opportunity of wishing their friends good-bye, said he relied
on them to do their duty, and held out the probability of prize-money.
He has a fine, tall, commanding figure, and his speech went down with
the men very well.

Nothing important happened.  We never pressed the engines to full speed,
and after a short time dropped to fifteen knots, which we kept up all
through the afternoon, steering out of the usual course of ships running
up or down channel till we reached the rendezvous and stopped engines.

Next morning "No. 2" and "No. 3" joined us.  Late that afternoon the
_Strong Arm_ and the _Sylvia_, armed store-ship, joined company, and,
ten hours later, we were all exceedingly pleased to sight the _Laird_.
Captain Helston, his secretary, and Dr. Fox went aboard her as soon as
possible, and the squadron, now united for the first time, steamed for
Gibraltar.

I rather fancy we were all somewhat disappointed at sneaking away in the
dark, as it were, and had rather expected, and looked forward to, a
hearty send-off.  There wasn’t much time for regrets, however, for we
had all our time taken up keeping station with the next ships ahead and
astern, and plenty to think about.

Our little squadron made a brave show.  First came the _Laird_.  She was
a cruiser of 6500 tons, with a narrow 4-inch belt all round her
water-line.  On her fo’c’stle she carried an 8-inch Q.F., another on the
poop, and on each broadside were six 6-inch Q.F.—three on each side of
the main deck in casemates, and three above on the upper deck behind
shields.

Besides these she had eight 12-pounders and six 3-pounders, three in her
fore-top and three in the maintop of her military masts.  Four Maxims
were mounted on the two bridges, and she also carried two 12-pounder
field-guns.  She had Belleville boilers, and had done 22-1/2 knots on
her trial.  She did not carry much coal, however, everything being
sacrificed to armour, guns, and speed, so that her total coal stowage
was only 900 tons.

After her came the _Strong Arm_: 3600 tons, eight 6-inch Q.F., ten
6-pounder Q.F., three 1-pounders; speed, 20 knots.

She had a search-light platform, with a fighting-top under it, on each
mast, and these gave her a somewhat clumsy appearance; but she was a
fine heavily armed little cruiser, and excellent in a sea-way.

The third in the line was the _Sylvia_, a trim, looking, strongly built
merchant steamer, with a raking funnel and two pole masts.

She had four 12-pounders mounted on her sides and in addition carried
two more field-guns and a couple of Maxim guns on field-carriages, which
two guns were destined to play a very important part.

Besides 2000 tons of coal, she carried great supplies of provisions,
ammunition, and stores of all kinds.  On board also were the torpedoes
and torpedo-tubes of the destroyers, for these had been taken out to
lighten them during the long voyage to Hong-Kong.  "No. 1", "No. 2", and
"No. 3", in this order, brought up the rear of the line.  Each of us
carried one 12-pounder on our bridges, and five 6-pounders in addition.
As it happened, though otherwise almost indistinguishable, my boat, "No.
1", had four funnels; "No. 2", two large ones, far apart; whilst "No. 3"
had three.  The identity of each could therefore be seen at a glance.
"No. 2" had actually made the highest speed on her trial, 29.6 knots,
"No. 3" had just touched 29.5, and my boat 28.9; but probably in a long
race there would not be much to choose between them.  We could
practically keep up between 25 and 27 knots indefinitely, and be able
occasionally to get another two knots for a short burst.

As to the men who formed the crews, there were on board:

    *Laird* ................... 463
    *Strong Arm* .............. 312
    *Sylvia* ..................  40
    Three destroyers .......... 177
                               ——
        Total ................. 992

The _Laird_ carried 80 Marine Light Infantry and 100 naval petty
officers and men; all the rest of the crew were picked from the Naval
Reserve.

The _Strong Arm_ had 40 Royal Marine Artillery and 60 Royal Navy men.

All the crews of the destroyers were men of the Royal Navy, previously
trained in these delicate, fragile little craft.

Such was the composition of the little squadron, which, manned by nearly
a thousand men, all volunteers, slowly steamed away from the rendezvous
late on the afternoon of 18th October, and, painted a dull olive-green
from truck to water-line, shaped its course for Gibraltar, and soon
disappeared in the rapidly closing twilight.



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                           *The Voyage East*


    A Gun-room "Sing-song"—The Dumpling gets Wet—Hopkins
    Disappears—Off in Chase—Escape of One Patagonian—Off to Colombo


     _The Narrative of Mr. Harold Swinton Glover, Midshipman, R.N.,
          serving on board the Imperial Chinese ship "Laird"_


You heard about all the rum things that happened to us before we left
England, and how we all went to sea suddenly, no one knew why.  We
thought we were safe then; but not a bit of it, and just before we got
into Gibraltar they found a dynamite cartridge down in the stoke-hold,
mixed up with a lot of coal.  It was jolly lucky they found it, for
Ogston—that’s our Assistant Engineer—says there would have been an
"awful catastrophe" if it had got into a furnace.  Don’t think we were
in a funk, because we weren’t—at any rate not all of us—but it is such a
beastly feeling to know that you may be blown up any minute.

The Skipper was terribly worried even before we got to Gibraltar, but
you should have seen his face when I took him down some telegrams they
brought off to the ship.  I was midshipman of the watch.  He gasped like
a dying fish, and sang out to the old Doctor, who was there: "They’ve
killed the Paymaster, and taken all his papers—mine and Hopkins’s; did
it at Lyons, in the boat express."

They both looked so scared that I crept up on deck.

Afterwards I heard that the Paymaster had been left behind to bring some
valuable papers across Europe, and to join us at Port Said.

Well, we got into Malta, and more telegrams came aboard; but I wasn’t on
watch, and didn’t take them down.  They must have been pretty serious,
though, for whilst we were all shifting into plain clothes in the
gun-room flat to go ashore, the Commander’s messenger came running down
the ladder and sang out: "No leave for anybody!"  So we had just to
shove our things back into our chests and get into our dirtiest uniform,
for the coal lighters were already alongside, and we were being
smothered with coal dust.  Jolly sick of life we were, too, I can tell
you, for we had arranged to get ponies at Red Saliba’s, down in the
moat, and were off for a picnic to St. Paul’s Bay.

"Some of us would probably have been killed or broken up, so p’raps it’s
all for the best," said Mellins (his real name was Christie, as I told
you before, a tremendously fat cadet, who always saw the cheerful side
of things), "and, now we’ve got the grub, we’ll have a jolly good ’blow
out’ afterwards."

Then we all had to nip on deck, where we found any amount of row going
on aft on the quarter-deck.  The Skipper and Commander were there,
looking very serious, with two marines close to them, holding a Chinaman
covered with coal dust and in a terrible funk.  You should have seen him
roll his eyes.

I asked the side-boy what the row was, and he told me that a stoker had
spotted him as a Chinaman, although his pigtail was coiled all round his
head and he had a big cap over it, had searched him, just for luck, and
found three dynamite cartridges in his pockets.

That was partly why our leave had been stopped, and one of us midshipmen
had to stand at each coaling-port, with a couple of petty officers and a
marine with fixed bayonet, examine every basket of coal, and prevent
anybody coming on board, whilst others had to go down in the lighters
themselves.  "No blow out now," said Mellins sorrowfully, as he climbed
down past me into the lighter; "but won’t it come in handy afterwards?"

We examined that coal pretty thoroughly, you bet! Directly it came
aboard it had to be upset on the deck, and we had to look through it
carefully.  But didn’t it take a time, that’s all! and weren’t we jolly
sick of it, especially when we couldn’t get away for seven-bell tea?

Directly it got dark we knocked off, and then I had to go away in my
cutter and patrol the starboard side, with nothing to eat except a tin
of sardines, which Mellins passed out of the gun-room scuttle, and which
I shared with the coxswain.  He got the best of it, for he drank the
oil.

We were relieved by another crew in an hour, and Mellins had saved me a
bit of grub, which I tucked into, whilst the others started a good old
gun-room sing-song.

Jeffreys, our Sub-lieutenant, who runs the show in the gun-room,
suggested it.  "Just show the beggars we don’t mind, and cheer the men
up.  They’ve got dynamite on the brain."

When they heard our row some of the ward-room officers came down and
joined in, and Hopkins, the Skipper’s secretary, a jolly Yankee, gave a
rattling good song.  My eye! didn’t we make a noise! and soon after the
men began a concert of their own, forward on the fo’c’stle.  Presently
the Master-at-Arms came down to order "lights out", and Jeffreys asked
for another half-hour (Jeffreys is a good chap, though he does lay it
into us midshipmen if anything goes wrong), and the Clerk banged away at
the piano again.

Then who should come down but the Skipper; and we made way for him to
get a seat near the piano, and he joined in the chorus.  When it was
over, he got up and said: "Thank you, gentlemen, your sing-song was a
good idea.  Good-night!"  And as he went away we gave him three cheers
and "For he’s a jolly good fellow", and went to sleep on our chests and
in odd corners, for the ship and we were much too dirty to sling our
hammocks.

We were at it again soon after sunrise, looking at every lump that came
aboard, and some time after breakfast, whilst we were having a
stand-easy, three destroyers came slowly in, flying a funny flag, which
none of us had seen before, but which the signalman told me was the
Patagonian.

We could not help laughing, for the first one was towing both the
others, and one of these had a great list to port.  It was a very
comical sight.  Hopkins borrowed my glass.  "I reckon that ain’t much of
an advertise for the man who built those craft," he said in his funny
Yankee drawl; nor was it, for they had evidently broken down.

Well, we got all our coal in by noon, had an hour for dinner, and then
were hard at it cleaning down.  It’s really not bad fun, when you are
horribly coal-dusty and it’s jolly hot, to paddle about in bare feet,
with your trousers tucked up above your knees, and the fire-hoses
splish-splashing on the deck and washing the coal dust away—you get very
wet, and it’s jolly refreshing.  I was bossing the quarter-deck, and the
old quarter-master and I were watching the newly arrived destroyers, now
busily coaling.

"What’s them colours, sir?" said the wiry old man. "I never see’d ’em
afore, and I’ve been nigh twenty-four years at sea, man and boy."

"Patagonian," I answered, and he borrowed a telescope and looked at
them.

"Sure, there’s some dirty Chinamen on board that craft, sir.  Look at
their heads poking out of the engine-room ’atchway."

Sure enough, there were five or six unmistakable Chinese faces, and I
could see one coiling his pigtail round his head.

Of course we had Chinese on the brain rather badly, and Dunning (we
called him Suet Dumpling, because his name was Cyril—a sneaking,
under-handed, little midshipman, who couldn’t pull himself up once on
the horizontal bar), who was standing by us, ran and told the lieutenant
on watch what we had seen, just as if he’d made the discovery himself,
and he was sent down to tell the Skipper.

Up came the Skipper, for he couldn’t see the destroyers out of his
stern-ports, and stood looking at them, with that ass, Suet Dumpling,
grinning with importance just behind him.  "Tell the Commander I want to
see him in my cabin," said the Skipper, and went down below again with a
very grim-looking face.

The Dumpling ran forward to find the Commander. Now the man who was
using the hose was washing down the battery-screen, close to the battery
door, and, just as the Dumpling was disappearing through it, I called
out to the man, and he turned round with the hose in his hand, just as I
wanted, Dumpling getting it all in his back—he had just shifted into a
clean white tunic, too. He was pretty wild, for he knew I had done it on
purpose, but didn’t say anything, though I thought I had better not
sleep in my hammock that night, lest he should cut me down.

We slipped from our buoys at four o’clock and went to sea, passing quite
close to the Patagonians, but there were no Chinese to be seen, and men
were very busy on the two disabled ones, and the pumps on the one with
the list to port were going for alt they were worth.

Of course we were all excited, the men especially, for we’d become so
suspicious of Chinamen, that when everyone knew that there were some
aboard these destroyers, we felt sure there must be something wrong
about them.

"Why, Patagonia doesn’t possess a single ship!" said Hammond, another of
our Assistant Engineers, a jolly little fellow, who is a walking
_Brassey’s Naval Annual_, and knows every man-of-war in the world by
name, and what guns she has, and all that.  "Rather odd these three
being there, and having Chinamen on board."

Then a rumour spread that the skipper had been heard to say to the
Doctor; "If they _are_, they won’t give us much trouble, for two of them
seem badly broken down".

It was the detestable Dumpling who brought the news. "What did the
Doctor say then?" we asked.

"’Whatever they are, they’ve stopped me going ashore, hang them!
Everyone seems to have Chinese, pirates, dynamite, and Patagonia on the
brain,’" said Dumpling, imitating the Doctor’s irritable way of talking.

We all laughed.  "Just like the old Doc," said Mellins. "I had to go
for’ard to the sick bay this morning with stomach-ache, and he made me
take some beastly castor-oil on the spot.  I hate the stuff," and he
grinned and said: "That’s for kicking up that wretched row last night
down in the gun-room.  Kept me awake till midnight."

"The selfish old brute," we all agreed; "he doesn’t care what happens,
so long as he makes himself comfortable."

We were so excited about these destroyers, that I fancy most of us
imagined we should see them suddenly tearing after us.

Whatever the Skipper thought, he was at any rate not going to be caught
napping, and directly it was dark we altered course till we were twenty
miles north of the usual track, and not a single light was allowed to be
shown. I had to go round all the starboard cabins and see that the
dead-lights were down, and in the middle watch, which I kept aft on the
quarter-deck, I was responsible that they were kept closed.  Funnily
enough, Mr. Hopkins wouldn’t seem to understand that he mustn’t show a
light, and twice I saw his scuttle lighted up during the night. I was
afraid the Skipper might come on deck and see it and drop on him, so
went down into his cabin.  He seemed very bad-tempered, couldn’t go to
sleep on account of the heat, and must have his scuttle open to get
fresh air, and his light burning to try to read himself to sleep. At
last I told him straight that I should report him to the lieutenant on
watch, and he then seemed to understand it really was necessary.

Nothing happened in the night, nothing indeed till we reached Port Said,
where, right in front of us, were the three Patagonians coaling again!

The Skipper got more telegrams here, and it soon leaked out that the
destroyers had all left Malta only two hours after us, all three
steaming very fast in our direction.  The harbour-master told us they
had been in Port Said for two days, going out at dusk and not returning
till morning; so we then felt sure that the break-down at Malta was all
rot, and that they had simply been waiting for us off Port Said.
Luckily the Skipper had refused to go near Port Said in the dark, but
had waited about all night a long way to the north and east—the most
unlikely place for us to be.

As soon as we made fast to a buoy, I was sent away in the second cutter
and ordered to board the P. & O. _Isis_, which was lying off the Suez
Canal offices (she had come in early that morning from Brindisi with the
mails), and bring back a lieutenant who was to join us—a Mr. Staunton,
who had been left behind in London with the Paymaster, who was killed at
Lyons.

When I forced my way through the crowd of boats alongside, I slipped up
the ladder and asked for him.  The quarter-master, however, said he had
gone in a man-of-war’s boat several hours before, so I pulled back and
reported.  Then I was sent over to H.M.S. _Hebe_, one of our own
gun-boats, doing guardship there, but they knew nothing of him—they had
sent a boat for mails to the _Isis_, but she certainly had brought back
no passengers. This was very strange, so I made my boat’s crew lay back
to their oars, and reported to the Commander as soon as possible.

He took me down to the Skipper, who looked very vexed when he heard the
news.  After that I and two other midshipmen had to go ashore and make
enquiries at the consuls and all the hotels—a terribly hot day, too, it
was, with an awful glare which fagged us all—but we could hear nothing
of him.  When we got back to the ship the three Patagonians had gone,
and not only that, but Hopkins had disappeared, and, I can tell you,
there was tremendous excitement on board.

Everyone, of course, felt sure that Mr. Staunton was on board one of the
Patagonian destroyers and now miles down the canal, and many thought
that probably Mr. Hopkins too had been somehow decoyed away.  You see he
was just the man they would want, for he was the Skipper’s secretary and
would know everything.  Whilst we three were trying to get something to
eat, the Commander’s messenger sang out for me and Toddles (Toddles was
the next senior midshipman), so up we had to go again.

"Get a few warm things together, and be ready to leave the ship in five
minutes," he said.  "You, Mr. Foote, are lent to ’No. 1’, and you, Mr.
Glover, to ’No. 3’."  As we left the cabin to hurry down below he called
out: "Don’t forget flannel shirts and sea boots".

"All right, sir, thank you," we answered joyfully.

I borrowed one of Dumpling’s bags, which I found lying about (I didn’t
ask him), and we were ready before the boat came alongside, Mellins
giving us a basketful of grub as we shoved off.  Toddles was put aboard
"No. 1", and then they put me aboard "No. 3", where I reported to Mr.
Parker, the lieutenant in command.

Luckily for me, Toddles in his hurry had forgotten his share of the
grub.

I was sent aft to look after the stern ropes and see that everything was
"clear" astern, for we were on the point of shoving off.

"What’s up?  Where are we off to?" I asked two men standing aft.

"Going after them pirates, sir, I expect.  I heard Mr. Parker tell the
Sub-lootenant that we ’ad to follow them as ’ard as we could."

I hadn’t any time to ask more, for Mr. Parker sang out from the bridge
"Let go aft!" and we hauled in the slip on the buoy astern.  When the
rope was clear of her screws and rudder I shouted out "All clear astern,
sir", and away we went, following close behind "No. 2".

As we went past the other three ships the men crowded to the side and
cheered us, for they had got wind of what we were going to do.  It does
make you feel ripping to hear and see people cheering you.

From the _Laird_ Mellins made a semaphore signal with his arms, "Is grub
safe?" so I waved back "Yes", and on we went into the canal.  It soon
became dark, and our French pilot made us run our search-light, though
it wasn’t much good, as the bridge got in the way. However, it lighted
up both sides of the steep sandy banks, and we followed "No. 2" somehow
or other.  Of course we wanted to go as fast as we could, and the pilot
nearly had apoplexy, shrieking and gesticulating with fright or anger,
whenever "No. 2" forged too far ahead and we had to put on a few more
revolutions to close up. "The wash, it will damage the banks!" he
yelled.  "They will make you pay.  I give up my authority—I wipe my
hands."  Then we would slow down again and he would be quiet.

We reached the Great Bitter Lake about eleven o’clock and there changed
pilots.  The Patagonians were only two hours ahead, and we simply tore
through this part of the canal.  I felt jolly nervous, I can tell you,
for everything looked all the darker on account of the searchlight, and
we were simply sticking on to the stern of "No. 2".  If she or "No. 1"
had stopped suddenly we should have been all in a heap.  I expect "No.
1" had an English pilot on board, or a Norwegian, perhaps.  Our
Frenchman was paralysed with funk.

We quieted down when we got into the narrow canal again.

We had to tie up once to let a big British India mail steamer pass us,
and did not get out of the canal till ten next morning.

The Patagonians, we were told, had left three hours before; so after
them we bustled, only stopping to let our pilots be taken off.

"Steam for full speed" was signalled from "No. 1", and down below dived
Mr. Chapman, our engineer, to superintend things in the stokehold.

"They have three hours’ start," said Mr. Parker to the Sub, "and it will
be a very long stern chase."

"What have we to do if we catch them?" he asked.

"Search them," replied Mr. Parker.

"But what if they won’t let us?"

"Search them," replied Mr. Parker, with a queer twinkle in his eye, and
then I knew that there might be a fight. It gave me a funny feeling in
my stomach, but I knew I was jolly lucky to get the chance and so ought
to feel glad, and I really think I did.

We were all going it now with a vengeance.  The smoke from "No. 1" and
"No. 2" nearly blinded us, and we were shaking and throbbing as the hum
of the engines gradually rose, our bows coming out of the water, and our
stern squatting down in a mass of foam as we rushed into the wake of the
others ahead of us.

I had never been so fast in my life, and was holding on to the bridge
rails to avoid being blown away.

We went on like this for hours, and I felt too excited to go down below
and get anything to eat.  That shows what a ripping thing it is to be
rushing along in a destroyer with an enemy ahead.

Presently we formed line abreast, "No. 2" on the starboard and we on the
port side of "No. 1", about three miles away from each other, so as to
cover more ground.

As it was getting dark we saw "No. 1" slow down to speak a small
merchant steamer going north, and directly afterwards we were ordered
back to Suez to inform Captain Helston that all three Patagonians had
been sighted steaming south very fast.

Round went our helm, we heeled well over, our stern swung round, and we
were off on our way back before you could say "knife"; but you should
have heard what Mr. Parker and the Sub said, and the quarter-master too,
for that matter, only he didn’t do it so loudly.

We made our number to the _Laird_ at Suez early next morning, having
kept up nearly twenty-seven knots for the last twenty hours—a jolly good
performance.  We hadn’t to wait long, for we ran alongside the _Sylvia_,
filled up with coal, took ten tons in bags on deck, and away we went for
Aden at twenty knots—quite an easy, comfortable speed.

I had to see the coal aboard, and made myself beastly dirty, and much
missed the gun-room bath on board the _Laird_.

We got into Aden on the third afternoon without meeting any adventures.
"No. 2" and "No. 1" were there, and so were two of the three
Patagonians.

Mr. Pattison and Mr. Lang, the Skippers of "No. 1" and "No. 2", came
aboard of us directly.  They told us that they had reached Aden only
four hours after the Patagonians.

They immediately made arrangements to coal, and meanwhile had gone on
board the two Patagonians in frock coats and swords, and been received
in a very friendly manner, and shown all over both, and not a trace of
Staunton, Hopkins, or Chinese, for the matter of that, could they see.
"We felt rather sold, you can imagine," said Mr. Pattison, "at having
our long chase for nothing—a very tame ending."

The third destroyer, we were told by people on shore, had left an hour
before we came, and was sighted from the top of the rock making east,
till she disappeared below the horizon steaming at great speed.

"I could not follow her," continued Mr. Pattison, "for of course we had
no coal, and some of our condenser-tubes were leaking badly, and both of
us required a few days in harbour to put things right down in the
engine-room.  And not only that, but I dare not let these two
Patagonians out of my sight, for Captain Helston thinks they will
probably lie in wait for him in the Straits to the westward."

"We can go on directly we’ve coaled," interposed Mr. Parker eagerly,
"for there is nothing the matter with us. Is there, Chapman?"

"No, rather not," answered our Engineer, adding, "we’re Laird’s built,
you know."

"Very good," said Mr. Pattison, who was the senior of the three
Lieutenants and therefore took command, "off you go to Colombo as soon
as you have coaled, watered, and provisioned.  The third Patagonian has
most probably shipped Staunton, Hopkins, and all the Chinese to allay
our suspicions of these other two, and whatever course she steers, if
she is going out to the East, she must fetch up at Colombo.  If she
won’t allow you to search her there, follow her out to sea and compel
her to heave-to."

"Very good, sir," replied Mr. Parker, saluting.

"Well, good-bye, old chap; wish you good luck.  Lang and I will be off,
for here come your coal-lighters.  When you are ready to shove off I’ll
make you a misleading signal, which you must act upon till out of sight
of land, for those fellows can probably read our semaphore, and will be
standing by to get any information possible."



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                    *The Pursuit of the Patagonian*


    We Sight Her—A Stern Chase—We Overhaul Her—We Have to
    Apologize—Spinning the Yarn


             _Mr. Midshipman Glover’s Narrative continued_


For the next two hours we were hard at work, and when we signalled that
we were ready for sea, and hoisted the "permission to weigh and proceed
in pursuance of previous orders", "No. 1" semaphored, "Inform _Laird_
that I cannot meet squadron, as condensers require repair".

"That’s the misleading signal," Mr. Parker said, as he and the Sub spelt
it out; "I only hope those fellows read and swallow it, for if they do
they will imagine we are going up the Red Sea again."

To "create a diversion", as the Sub put it, we steered W. after clearing
the harbour till out of sight of land, as if we were going to meet the
squadron, then we steered S.E. for a couple of hours, and finally
altered our course for Colombo.

It was very hot, very tedious, and very monotonous work steaming across
the Indian Ocean.  We had to go slow to economize our coal, and all
fresh food gave out two days after we left Aden, and I hate tinned stuff
altogether.  I had to do my share of watch-keeping during the day, and
soon learnt to handle "No. 3" as easily as a ship’s steam-boat.  You can
imagine we grew excited as we began to approach Colombo.  Whether we
caught her or not depended almost entirely on whether they had believed
the misleading signal at Aden, for if they thought we were on our way to
Colombo, they would have, of course, hurried her away by telegraph.

"If we don’t catch her now we never shall, for there are any number of
places she can hide in and coal between Colombo and Singapore or
Saigon," said Mr. Parker.

"Well, shall we shove her on a little?" suggested Mr. Chapman.  "At this
rate we shall get in to-morrow evening with eighteen tons of coal on
board.  I could give you another knot and a half if you like."

There was a long discussion about it—I was too young, of course, and did
not have anything to say—but they finally decided it would be safer to
have some few tons in hand.

"You see," argued Mr. Parker, as all three leant up against the bridge
rails, "if they sight us before they know by telegram that we are on our
way, they may think that we have no coal left and may ’clear out’,
imagining that we can’t chase them.  That would be certainly their most
reasonable plan, wouldn’t it?  That’s what I should do if I were in
their shoes.  We will just shove on every knot you can give us, Chapman,
directly we sight the lighthouse, and that won’t give them much time to
get away."

I had the morning watch from four till eight, and had gone below to get
some breakfast—sardines, jam, and ship’s biscuit—when suddenly I heard
the engine-room gong clang, and could feel the engines whizzing round.
The plates began dancing about the table, and my coffee was nearly all
spilt before I could drink it.  I stuffed down the last two sardines in
one mouthful and rushed up on deck.  All the men were crowding forward
under the bridge, gesticulating and pointing ahead.  Climbing up to the
bridge, I could make out the lighthouse and the long breakwater of
Colombo.

"Is she coming out, sir?" I asked, for I could not see anything through
my telescope—we were shaking so, and the ship was so unsteady.  "The
signalman says she is," said Mr. Parker, with his eye glued to his
telescope. "Yes, there she goes!  Look at that dark patch on the
breakwater.  That’s smoke, and she’s underneath it.  My eye! she’s
getting up speed pretty quickly."

In another half-minute we could see her with the naked eye.  She was
showing up dark against the white breakwater, and was tearing through
the water, running almost at right angles to us till she cleared the
breakwater and the rocks.  We were drawing rapidly together when she put
her helm over.  We saw her heel over, swing round, right herself as she
settled down on her proper course, and away she flew, the Patagonian
flag stiffening out astern.

"Follow her, Davis," sang out Mr. Parker to the petty officer at the
wheel, as he tried to light his pipe behind the chart table.  "Go to
quarters, Collins (the Sub), and pass up ammunition."  The Gunner and
Mr. Collins flew down on deck to see everything prepared, leaving only
Mr. Parker and myself on the bridge.

He shouted down the engine-room voice tube, "How much coal have you
left, Chapman?"

"Nearly fourteen tons."

"How long will that last at full speed?"

"Rather more than an hour and a half," came the muffled reply.

"Then give me every ounce of steam you can raise."

At the time the Patagonian had altered course there was about one mile
and a half between us, but she was rapidly gaining, for we had not yet
reached our highest speed, and she was evidently doing all she knew.
She was almost hidden under a great cloud of smoke, and occasionally
entirely hidden by spray, for a slight choppy head sea, which we had not
noticed before when going slowly, was now covering us fore and aft with
spray.

Down I had to go to see the boats all ready for lowering, and when this
was done run several messages to the Sub, who by this time had men at
all the guns, and plenty of ammunition on deck.  There wasn’t much doubt
that Mr. Chapman and his men were doing their utmost, for now we could
feel the engines humming round like sewing machines, the ship began to
throb and vibrate with a funny wriggle which you could almost see when
you looked aft along the deck from the bridge.  It was just as much as I
could do to hang on to the bridge rails with one hand and keep my cap on
with the other, whilst the spray wetted us from head to foot.  The
12-pounder’s gun crew had come up to the bridge and fondly cleared her
away and loaded her.  Then I felt that funny sensation in my stomach
again, the sardines and the wobbling I expect it was, and hung on to the
bridge and gasped for breath between the showers of spray.

You should have seen our funnels!  What paint was left on them came off
just like the skin of scarlet fever people when they peel, great roaring
flames licked out of them, and clouds of smoke went rushing aft, whilst
astern was a huge mass of churned-up foam, looking as if it would fall
on board.

We must have been chasing her for nearly half an hour, and did not
appear to be gaining.  Mr. Parker kept on anxiously looking at his watch
as we rushed along—now leaving Colombo behind us and running away from
the dark belt of trees which marked the shore.

Presently Mr. Chapman came up on deck, sweating all over.  "She’s doing
as many revolutions as she did on her trials," he shouted; "her engines
won’t take any more steam, I’m only blowing it off," and he pointed to
clouds of steam hissing away from each funnel.

"Make a signal, ’I wish to communicate and send a boat’, and keep it
flying," roared Mr. Parker to the signalman, who was evidently prepared,
for he had already bent the proper flags and pendants to the halyards
and quickly hoisted them, the bunting stiffening in the wind like
painted steel.  I forgot to say that the Chinese ensign, the Yellow
Dragon, was flying at our stern.  How we did wish it was our own white
ensign.

We all watched for a reply, but none came. There was no doubt we were
now gaining—we could plainly make out a few men on her bridge looking at
us from time to time—and judging from the great masses of smoke which
were pouring from her funnels, the stokers must have been working
desperately hard to escape from us.

"We’re well out of the three-mile limit, I think, Collins?" shouted Mr.
Parker.

"Yes, sir—ten miles away."

"Then try a shot at twelve hundred yards, Jones (the ’No. 1’ of the
12-pounder).  Go as close to her as you can without hitting her."

"Very good, sir."  And Jones, a huge muscular man pressed his shoulder
against the mounting and bent over the sights.  How we did throb and
pitch—the muzzle of the gun never seemed still, and it seemed ages
before Jones fired.  There was a beastly sharp crack, the cordite smoke
drove back into our eyes, and we all strained to see the result.  The
shell burst half a mile ahead of the Patagonian as it struck the water.

"No one can shoot from a platform like this," Collins said angrily;
"we’re dancing about like a lot of marionettes."

Jones fired another shot, which burst astern, but not the slightest
effect had either—still no answer to our signal, and no attempt to
lessen speed.

Just then Mr. Chapman reported that he only had two more tons left, and
had swept every bunker.  Mr. Parker groaned, "She’ll get away, and I
can’t even get back to Colombo.  Carry on firing as fast as you can,
Collins, with your two for’ard 6-pounders."

Then we heard, below us, the joyful voice of the Gunner singing out,
"Target, right ahead, at one thousand—independent firing—commence."

Wasn’t there a banging.  But I was too excited to mind the noise, and we
all cheered as every now and again one of our little shells burst close
to the Patagonian.  We were closing rapidly, and could see all but two
of her men clear rapidly down below.  Then one of our shells struck a
boat they had stowed inboard near the stern, and great pieces of it flew
into the air.  Didn’t we cheer, for at this they had evidently had
enough of it, and clouds of steam came roaring out of their funnels as
they stopped their engines. We were going so fast that we were almost on
top of them before Collins jumped for the telegraph, and put the engines
full speed astern and the helm hard over.  With a great trembling and
shaking our way was stopped, we swung clear, and lay still not fifty
yards away from our prize.  There was hardly need to use the engine-room
telegraph to stop the engines, for they were gradually slowing down.
Our fires were burning low, and there was no coal to replenish them.

"Train every gun that will bear on her," sung out Mr. Parker, "and stand
by to fire.  Get out the boats."

In two minutes the dinghy was in the water, and Mr. Parker was bobbing
across the fifty yards that separated us.  I had to follow him with six
men in the collapsable Berthon boat, each of them armed with cutlass and
rifle.

I felt jolly proud, you can imagine.  We were alongside in a "jiffy".
"You first, sir," said the coxswain, and shoved me up the smooth side,
and I climbed aboard, followed by two of the men.

Mr. Parker was listening to a horrid little officer who was
gesticulating and talking very furiously.

"Take six of your men to the fore bridge and don’t leave it till I give
you orders, and kick everyone else out of it," he ordered, so up we
climbed and kicked the two men still left there down the ladder.  They
didn’t want much kicking.

In a few minutes Mr. Parker went below, followed by the little officer,
still stamping and swearing.  He seemed to stay there for ages, and I
was wondering whether I had not better send some of my men down after
him, but could not disobey his orders, and of course there was "No. 3"
with her guns trained on us not fifty yards away, and that was
reassuring.

Presently up he came on deck, followed by Hopkins and a man I knew must
be Mr. Staunton.  The men in "No. 3" saw them and raised a great cheer;
indeed, it was splendid to have rescued them, and so jolly lucky too,
for we could not have caught her if she had run away for another five
minutes.

But the best part of the "show" was to come, for presently up poured a
number of Chinamen, I should think quite fifty, and they were taken
across to "No. 3" in small parties till there wasn’t one left.  I felt
jolly sorry for Mellins and the others of the _Laird_ that they weren’t
there to see that little man stamp and fume and curse, whilst Mr. Parker
looked on perfectly unconcernedly, and my six men kept their rifles at
the present.  I made ’em do this—I thought it would look better.  When
all the Chinese had gone, Mr. Chapman and his stokers came across, and
the last boat-load towed over a grass hawser.  With this they hauled
aboard one of "No. 3’s" cables, and then it dawned upon me that the
Patagonian was going to tow us back to Colombo, for, of course, as I
said before, we had no coal left, and were perfectly helpless.

It seemed rather rash to trust all those Chinese on board "No. 3" with
only the very few hands left in her, but the leading seaman I had with
me said, "Why, bless your ’eart, sir, them devils is all doves and
sucklings now", and as he had been out on the Chinese station and knew
them, that settled it.

Well, we got back to Colombo all right, and tied up to buoys inside the
breakwater, and then there was a proper row.  The skipper of the
Patagonian went ashore and wired to his Government, and they wired to
Peking, and Peking wired to us, and the result was that Mr. Parker had
to put on his No. 1 frock coat and apologize very humbly for his
"unwarrantable and high-handed proceeding". The fact was, you see, that
the little man, who had been an officer in the Mexican navy, really had
all his papers in order, and no doubt had a commission from the
Patagonian Government.  He swore he knew nothing about Mr. Staunton and
Hopkins except that they had been put aboard at Aden from the other two
destroyers, "and they take away all my good men there and give me
Chinese pigs".  That explained why we had seen no Chinese in Aden on
board the other two.

Mr. Staunton told us his adventures, and how he had been captured at
Port Said.

When the _Isis_, bringing Mr. Staunton from Brindisi, had anchored at
Port Said, a man-of-war’s whaler manned by men dressed as English
blue-jackets, and flying the Yellow Dragon, had come alongside for him.
Without the least suspicion he had been pulled across to a destroyer
also flying the Chinese colours, naturally thinking it was one of our
own.

Directly he climbed aboard he was seized and tumbled down below.  They
had not misused him, but you can imagine what his feelings must have
been; and he said the food was awful, although they gave him whatever
they could.  "How that destroyer did stink on the way across from Aden,
with all that crowd of Chinese on board!" he said, grimacing with
disgust at the very thought of it.

Mr. Hopkins told his adventures too.  "Just hustled ashore to have a
squint at those cunning weasels alongside the coal wharf, guessed they’d
played us a mighty smart trick way back at Malta, and was mighty
inquisitive to see ’the cut of their jibs’.  Ain’t been looking at ’em
time enough to see a cat jump, when round came two hands in front of my
face, fingers on ’em, too, like steel claws, and laid hold of my
windpipe as loving as a mother-in-law.

"Then someone caught me a whack behind the knees which brought me down,
and before I could say ’Johnny Jones’ I was lifted up, bundled on board,
and plumped on deck like a bag of spuds."  Mighty pleased they both were
to be rescued, and Mr. Hopkins kept on smacking his thigh and roaring
with laughter.  "My snakes, how those black-livered, herring-gutted,
fried-up tar-brushes of Patagonians did get to wind’ard of you at Malta!
Just about won this round though, Parker?"

"I should just think we had," answered Mr. Parker, smiling.

Well, in the middle of all this off came a Cingalee telegraph boy with
what turned out to be a telegram from Captain Helston.  Mr. Parker came
on deck after he had deciphered it, with a very grave face, and said:
"Mr. Hopkins, I am ordered by Captain Helston to inform you that you
must consider yourself under arrest for going ashore without leave at
Port Said.  I must request you to go below."

This was a facer for everybody; but Mr. Hopkins, with a look of
amazement, obeyed immediately, leaving us on deck wondering why Captain
Helston had been so severe. "His worries must have made him confoundedly
strict," said Mr. Parker.

For the next days we lay at this buoy, keeping our eyes on the
Patagonian, and with steam "up" in case she tried to leave.

We had a jolly good time ashore, and the dinners at the Grand Oriental
Hotel in the cool of the evening, with the punkahs swinging to and fro,
were simply ripping.

Then along came the rest of the squadron safe and sound, much to our
delight, and Mr. Staunton and Mr. Hopkins were sent over to the _Laird_.
The latter was certain to get a terrible wigging from Captain Helston,
and we all felt very sorry for him.

Mellins and a lot of other midshipmen came over from the _Laird_, and
Tommy Toddles from "No. 1", bringing a big cake his mater had sent out
by the mail.  We had a tremendous chin wag, and it was jolly to meet
them all again, and spin them the yarn of our chase and capture of the
Patagonian.  How they did envy me!

Whenever I see a big cake now, I always think of that afternoon, sitting
round the after 6-pounder gun platform, with the awning over our heads,
and the big scavenger-birds (Bromley kites we call them) swooping round
us as we ate our way through Tommy’s cake.

A big P. & O. liner, too, homeward bound—she had waited an hour to take
our mails—passed close to us, and the passengers all came to the side
and cheered us, so we midshipmen gave a loud whoop all together, which
brought Mr. Parker up on deck to order us to "chuck it".

They went back to their ship soon, and we had to patrol the mouth of the
harbour after sunset, in case those other two Patagonians came in.



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                      *Mr. Ping Sang is Outwitted*


    Helston’s Letter—A Tsi has Information—Ping Sang Acts
    Quickly—Ping Sang Watches—Ping Sang in Trouble—A Tsi Escapes—A
    Tsi Sights the Squadron—A Tsi Gives Warning


Mr. Ping Sang lived usually at Shanghai, but on hearing of the departure
of Helston’s squadron from Colombo, he had hurried down to Hong-Kong to
confer with a friend of his, a wealthy merchant named Ho Ming, and to
arrange for the rapid provisioning and refitting of the ships.

It was very necessary for the squadron to complete its task without
delay, because the expenses of its maintenance were an enormous drain on
the resources of the Trading Association, and also the depredations of
the pirates had become so frequent, and their raids so successful, that
coastal trade by Chinese-owned ships was at a stand-still.  One thing
was very clear, only ships belonging to Chinese subjects were attacked,
and the most tempting bait, if belonging to Europeans, was left severely
alone. Not a month ago a fine new steamer of 5000 tons had disappeared
without leaving a trace whilst running from Amoy to Swatow—in fine
weather, too—and it appeared that the pirates had begun to extend their
operations to the northern part of the coast, for several ships had
lately vanished near the mouth of the Yangtze in the most unaccountable
manner.

An English gun-boat cruising among the Chusan Islands had reported
meeting three ships flying the Chinese colours, ships which they were
almost positive did not belong to the Chinese Government; but when a
further search was made for them, they had disappeared.

Ping Sang was also anxious that the stay of the squadron at Hong-Kong
should be as short as possible, for he was convinced that if the pirates
intended making any more attempts to destroy the ships, they would
choose that harbour in which to do it.  One reason was that, ready to
hand among the crews of the myriad of junks always assembled there, were
hundreds of cut-throats from the lower reaches of the West river only
too willing to commit any crime for money; and he was especially anxious
to confer with Ho Ming, for this merchant owned a large fleet of junks
trading up the river beyond Canton, and their captains and crews would
probably be better able to obtain information as to the presence or
suspicious movements of these desperadoes than even the police
authorities themselves.

These two—Ping Sang and Ho Ming—were sitting in the latter’s
smoking-room on the evening of December 21 smoking their after-dinner
cigars, whilst A Tsi, Ho Ming’s confidential clerk and comprador, was
detailing the results of his enquiries among the native floating
population.

They were interrupted by an obsequious, white-gowned butler, who
advanced through the mat-screened doorway and handed a letter to Ping
Sang—a letter which Captain Helston had written from Singapore.


"The Imperial Chinese Ship _Laird_,
       Singapore, _14th December_.

DEAR MR. PING SANG,

My last letter reporting the proceedings of my squadron was written from
Colombo on my arrival.  I left that harbour on the morning of December
2, and proceeded to sea at easy speed, leaving destroyer ’No. 1’ to
await the arrival of the two Patagonian destroyers left behind at Aden,
and destroyer ’No. 2’ to keep touch with the third destroyer if she
attempted to leave harbour within twenty-four hours of my departure.

They both rejoined me on 5th December at full speed, and reported the
arrival of the two destroyers six hours after I had left, and that they
made no immediate preparations for sea.  After recoaling ’No. 1’ and
’No. 2’ from the _Sylvia_ store-ship, a process which occupied seven or
eight hours on account of a strong breeze and a slight sea, I proceeded
at thirteen knots, and reached Singapore without further incident,
anchoring in the outer harbour.

Here I was met by a collier, chartered in Cardiff under sealed orders,
and am at present completing the coaling of my squadron.

I have determined, after the incidents of the dynamite cartridges on the
way out to Gibraltar and again at Malta, to take no more coal from
shore, and have arranged for a collier to meet me at Hong-Kong.  Our men
will alone handle the coal, so there shall be no further chance of foul
play.

The man Hopkins is still under close arrest, and I consider that this
course will be more conducive to the safety of the expedition than
handing him over to the civil authorities, with my proofs of his
complicity not yet substantiated. The fact also that he is an American
citizen would open up many legal difficulties, and after the lengthy
diplomatic representations as a result of Parker’s opening fire on the
Patagonian, it is advisable to steer clear of these shoals in future.

This morning I received a wire from Colombo informing me that the
Patagonians had not yet left, and that one was still undergoing repairs.

I shall leave to-morrow, and, as the monsoon is fairly strong, I have
dismounted the guns and the search-lights of all three destroyers to
lighten them as far as possible.

The mail is just leaving, and by the time you receive this letter I
shall be slowly punching my way against the monsoon.  I hope to be in
Hong-Kong not later than the 22nd.

Both Dr. Fox and I shall be very glad to renew our acquaintance with you
there, and to talk of old times and adventures when we all three were
much younger.

C.H. HELSTON."


Ping Sang was small of stature and plump to a degree. He lay indolently
back in his luxurious, crimson-upholstered chair, resting his podgy feet
on a richly embroidered footstool.

His jolly, oily face was wreathed in smiles, and he blew great clouds of
smoke from between his fat lips as he slowly read this letter, his
little eyes twinkling with humour and with appreciation of his own
well-being and prosperity.

His fat little hands had short stumpy fingers, beautifully manicured and
covered with rings, which glistened and twinkled as he raised a dainty
Venetian glass to his lips. He was dressed in dark claret-coloured silk
robes, with pantaloons of light green, held together with gold knob
buttons and gold braid loops, and was undoubtedly a prosperous gentleman
and a dandy to boot.

On the opposite side of the fire, sitting bolt upright in an attitude of
keen nervous alertness, was Ho Ming himself, a tall, gaunt Manchu, whose
long thin fingers, with their prominent tendons, clenched rather than
grasped the carved arms of his chair.  His light-blue silk over-garment
hardly concealed his attenuated figure, and his face was as gaunt as his
body, with thin, tightly drawn lips, deeply recessed eyes, and prominent
hooked nose.

Between them and behind a carved black wood table, supported by black
wood dragons, sat A Tsi, Ho Ming’s comprador, almost hidden by the
clouds of tobacco smoke circling round him in the dull light of an
ancient bronze lantern which swung from the ceiling, and contained a
cunningly concealed electric light.  He was dressed solemnly in black
silk, relieved only by gilt buttons.  It was this man who for the last
ten days had been searching for any traces of the Pirate Syndicate’s
intentions, and with several Cantonese sailors selected from his
master’s vessels had mixed, both on board their ships and in the opium
dens and lodging-houses ashore, with all the floating population of
Hong-Kong.

"Helston and his ships should be here in a couple of days," said Ping
Sang, speaking in Chinese and handing the letter to the anxious Ho Ming;
"everything is all right so far."

"Now, Tsi, tell us again what you have been able to discover."

"Nothing, sir, beyond what I have already reported. There are two large
junks from Amoy at the Aberdeen Dock, whose crews are strangers to
Hong-Kong.  Two days before their arrival an Englishman arrived by a
coasting steamer which had picked him up at Amoy, and he is now staying
at the Victoria Hotel, and one of my men has seen him go on board these
junks.  From what I can find out, they have a much larger crew than is
customary."

"It is very unusual for junks to come down here from Amoy," interposed
Ho Ming, glancing keenly from one to the other, and hardly able to
restrain his impatience at Sang’s apparent indifference or his
comprador’s stolidity. "Those junks are probably full of explosives, and
it would be an easy thing to float them up against any of Helston’s
ships in the harbour and blow them up.  We must do something—we must!
Why, the ships may be here any time!"

"My dear Ming," smiled Ping Sang, waving a fat deprecating finger and
settling himself more comfortably in his chair, "we must not excite
ourselves—that’s the only thing we can do at present.  We’ve not the
faintest reason for suspecting either the Englishman or his junks;
still, we may be able to do some little thing."

"I think it might be wise, just for the sake of curiosity, to burn those
junks."

"But think of the law—English law; we are not in China now.  (’Thank
goodness’, or the equivalent in Chinese, piously muttered the
comprador).  We can’t bribe the magistrates here; and think of the risk
and the punishment."

"Well, well," continued Ping Sang soothingly, "we won’t do it to-night.
To-morrow I’ll try and get a look at this Englishman—I may know him and
he may know me.  Have you seen him yourself, Tsi?" he asked.  "Is there
anything peculiar about him?"

"No, sir; but the man who saw him go aboard at Aberdeen says he limped
badly," answered A Tsi.

"A limp had he?  Well, I rather fancy I shall know him, and I rather
fancy he would know me," drawled Ping Sang, "though I’ll take good care
he doesn’t recognize me!"

                     *      *      *      *      *

On each side of the entrance to the Victoria Hotel is generally a motley
row of coolies squatting at the edge of the pavement with their mat
trays containing sweetmeats, matches, or sugar-canes for sale among the
rickshaw men who come and go.  Among these, next morning, was a fat old
man in a dirty pair of blue trousers, with a dirty blue tunic tied round
his naked shoulders, clamouring for purchasers as he fanned a swarm of
flies off his sugar-canes with his broad mat hat.  This was Ping Sang,
and all the while he kept his eyes glued on the hotel entrance.  He had
bribed a coolie to give him his place for the day, and there he squatted
in this extremely uncomfortable position.  Sportsman as he was, with all
his love of luxury, he never did anything by halves, and there he stayed
on the chance of seeing the lame Englishman, whilst the sweat ran down
his back, and even the morning sun blistered it.

Presently a coolie—and Ping Sang recognized A Tsi—came out of the hotel
and passed without apparently noticing him, but he had the forefinger of
his left hand extended, whilst the other fingers were doubled up.  That
meant that the Englishman was not in the hotel.  A Tsi sauntered back
again.  Two fingers of the other hand were extended this time.  That was
sufficient for the old gentleman.  The Englishman had gone to Aberdeen,
where the two Amoy junks were anchored.  Gladly rising to his feet, Ping
Sang stretched his cramped legs, slung his two baskets across his
shoulders with a bamboo pole, and trotted down the main street, trying
to imitate the usual ambling gait of a street hawker.  It was several
miles to Aberdeen, and he slowed down very quickly, dropping a
sugar-cane every now and then to lighten his load, and eventually came
to the outskirts of the town and to the broad road which runs along the
edge of the sea. Finally he squatted down at a sharp bend of this road
in the shade of a big tree, and waited with his baskets in front of him.

He had arranged for A Tsi to follow him, and presently that invaluable
comprador came rapidly along in a tumble-down double rickshaw, still in
his coolie dress and with a big bundle under his arm.

After much haggling with the rickshaw man, who did not appreciate the
extra weight of Ping Sang’s fat little person, the old sportsman got up
beside A Tsi, and the coolie drew them along, sweating and grunting.

Half a mile before they arrived at Aberdeen the busy little bay, crowded
with native shipping, came in sight, and A Tsi pointed out to his
companion two very large junks lashed together in the middle of the
harbour.

"These are the two from Amoy.  They came in two days ago, and have not
yet discharged any cargo.  In fact they don’t seem to have any," said A
Tsi.  "If you will wait by the landing-place I will go off to the junks
under pretence of selling this bundle of ready-made clothes, and try and
find out more about them."

They stopped the rickshaw some hundred yards from the centre of the
village, paid their grumbling coolie, and then Ping Sang trudged down to
the landing-place with his baskets of sugar-canes, and squatted by the
road-side, in spite of the hostile looks of the vendors already there.

A Tsi followed at some distance, got into a _sampan_, and was sculled
out to the junks.

Ping Sang watched him clambering over the ship’s sides; but almost
immediately afterwards he noticed that a scuffle was going on and saw A
Tsi thrown overboard, and, missing his boat underneath, fall with a
splash into the sea, bundle and all.  He swam ashore easily and
scrambled up the beach with a very rueful countenance, amidst the
shrieks of laughter of the coolies along the sea-shore, who had gathered
to see the fun.

As he passed Ping Sang he made a previously agreed-upon sign, which
meant that the Englishman was aboard, then he entered an eating-house
across the road.

Hardly had A Tsi disappeared when a rickshaw came rushing up, a Chinaman
jumped out, threw a piece of silver on the ground and ran down to the
water’s edge, got into a _sampan_, and urged the boatman to hurry off to
the same two junks.  Ping Sang just caught a glimpse of his face and it
seemed familiar, but where he had seen it before he could not think.  He
watched him board the junks, and wondered whether he too would meet the
same rough treatment; but he did not reappear—he evidently belonged to
them.

The old gentleman racked his brains, but could not, try as he would,
remember that face.

An hour went by, the bell at the little dockyard rang out, and the
workmen poured out to their dinner, and Ping Sang, after his
unaccustomed exercise, felt very hungry, and longed for his usual
luxurious lunch and Manilla cigar.  He even felt annoyed that he, one of
the smartest business men in the Chinese empire, should be such a
failure as a hawker, for no one would buy from him.  In desperation,
hunger overcame his disgust, and he munched one of his own sugar-canes,
smiling grimly to himself at the unappetizing meal.  Presently the crowd
was scattered by a double coolie rickshaw.  The men, in gaudy uniform,
stopped close to him, and shortly afterwards, for he kept his eyes on
the junks all the time, he saw a European in a white helmet climb down
into a boat alongside and come towards the shore.

The _sampan_ rasped against the shore, and the white man stepped out and
slowly limped up the sloping landing-place, scanning the faces of the
men on either side.

Ping Sang’s surmise was correct.  He was one of the three men—the
Englishman of the "Mysterious Three"—whom he had mentioned in his first
letter to Helston—the most reckless adventurer of the lot.

Ping Sang thought there was little chance of his being recognized, but
took the precaution of pulling his broad hat over his eyes and bending
down over his baskets. It struck him too that his shoulders and back
were not grimed and blackened with the sun, and he was hastily pulling
his dirty tunic over them, when he was prodded heavily in the stomach,
his hat was knocked off, and standing above him was the Englishman,
bursting with laughter.

"Ask this man for his license!" shouted the Englishman, and a big Sikh
policeman did so.  Ping Sang had not one—the one thing he had forgotten
in his "make-up"—and he fumbled in his belt to give himself time to
think. Out rolled two of his favourite cigars, wrapped in silver paper
(he had kept them to smoke on the way back after dark), and they were
worth more than a hawker could earn in a month.

He grabbed them hurriedly, but the policeman was too sharp for him, and
hauled him to his feet with an unmerciful twist of his pigtail.

"Robber! thief!" grunted the highly amused crowd, which had now flocked
round them.

Poor old Ping Sang was dumfounded, and though ready for most emergencies
when dressed in his usual clothes, had now not a word to say.  In fact,
thoughts and words do not come quickly when your scalp is being nearly
torn off at every move.

The crowd made way as the huge Sikh shoved his way through, and Ping
Sang had perforce to follow, vainly trying to ease the strain on his
pigtail.

The Englishman came with them to the police station and charged him with
stealing the cigars, and before Ping Sang knew what had happened a pair
of handcuffs were snapped on his wrists and he was shut up in a room.
As the door closed behind him he heard the Englishman say to the
sergeant in charge:

"That’s a double-dyed villain, sergeant; was a servant of mine once; had
to get rid of him for prigging my things.  There’s another of them
somewhere about, and if you’ll lend me a couple of your men I’ll have
him here in no time."

Poor old Ping Sang’s heart went to his feet, for if A Tsi too were
caught, no one would know what had become of them.  They might be in
jail for a week or more before being identified, and meanwhile Helston’s
ships would arrive, and no word of warning could reach them except from
Ho Ming, who, he well knew, was useless in any emergency.

A Tsi, however, had seen the whole incident from an upper window of the
eating-house, where he had had his clothes dried.

The affair was evidently premeditated.  Somebody must have given
information as to Ping Sang’s presence there, and no doubt remained that
this European with a limp was the Englishman whom Ping Sang, the
previous night, had said he probably knew.

Now the old man was under arrest, and till he could be identified and
released any plan of action would be delayed, and so much time would be
gained by the pirate syndicate.

It was useless his going to the police station and stating that the
dirty old hawker was no other than the wealthiest merchant in China and
the president of the Trading Association, for he himself was a dirty,
disreputable-looking object, and would be probably clapped in jail as an
accomplice.

No; he must get back to Ho Ming as quickly as possible.

He crept down the rickety stairs and was just going out into the street,
when he saw the European with a couple of Sikh policemen coming straight
towards the house, led by some gesticulating men who had seen him go in
there.

It flashed across his mind that whoever had seen Ping Sang had seen them
together, that he was now going to be caught on some trumpery charge,
and he knew well enough that, unless he could escape, their predicament
might not be known for weeks.

He made his way to the back of the house, but the inn-keeper, already
suspicious of him, barred the way, and he fled up the unguarded stairs
again, looking eagerly for some place in which to hide, but the rooms
were as bare as a barn.  He then ran to the rear windows to see if he
could jump to the ground; but even if he did so, there was no escape
from the yard behind, for two walls, too high to climb, ran back to the
face of the hill, which here was cut in a perpendicular cliff.

Already he heard the tramp of heavy boots up the stairs, and, in
desperation, was about to jump and chance scaling the walls, when he
suddenly noticed that next to this house was a small temple or
joss-house, and that a grotesque carving at the corner of one of the
projecting eaves stuck out within jumping distance.  Once he was on the
roof of the temple he might climb across to some lower buildings behind,
and might possibly find some place to hide himself.

It was his only chance; so without a second thought he kicked off his
shoes, clambered like a monkey to the roof above him, crawled to the
edge, balanced himself unsteadily, and sprang for the gilded dragon
seven or eight feet away from him.

As he sprang he came in view of the street and heard a yell from the
crowd; but it only made him grip more firmly as he fell on the grinning
dragon, the rotten wood creaking and cracking as he drew himself on to
the top of the joss-house.

Moving cautiously along, he jumped to the lower buildings behind, and
saw, to his great joy, that they were built right up against the cliffs,
which were here much less abrupt and might possibly give some foothold.
If he could but climb to the top he would be able to reach Ho Ming
across the mountain; so, clinging to bushes and clumps of grass, pulling
himself up from rock to rock, he painfully made his way upwards.
Looking over his shoulder, he saw one of the Sikh police following him.
The man jumped from the roof of the eating-house to the joss-house; but
the dragon, already cracked, broke under his weight, and he fell into
the court-yard beneath.

This gave A Tsi a momentary start, for they now could only get on to the
roof by climbing the pillars in front of the joss-house, and this was a
difficult thing to do.

The crowd in the street began throwing stones at him and several struck
him, but in desperation he clambered up and up, forcing his bruised toes
into every crevice that would give foothold, now slipping and sending
down a shower of stones, now gaining a yard or two.  His hands were
bleeding and numb with pain as he fought his way, till with a gasp of
relief he wriggled and wormed his way to the top, and with a last effort
swung himself over the edge and rolled breathless into some bushes.

Cautiously peering over the edge, he saw several coolies clambering
after him, whilst the Englishman and the Sikhs encouraged their efforts
from below.

Once they reached the top he knew that he would be captured in no time,
for with his naked feet and want of training he could not hope to
distance these sturdy coolies in a chase over the mountain-side.

As he clutched the edge, wondering what best to do, he accidentally
dislodged a stone.  It rolled down and made the climbers hesitate.
Instantly seeing his opportunity, he wildly tore at everything he could
loosen and hurled it down on his pursuers.  The foremost was hit on the
hand, and slid some feet before he could steady himself. Another had his
eyes filled with earth and sand, and then with great relief A Tsi saw
them all retreat, slipping and sliding to the roof of the joss-house, in
spite of the threats and cajoling of the police.

Then he saw the crowd streaming along the road, and knew his pursuers
would climb up some other way.  Getting on his feet, he began painfully
pushing his way up the thickly wooded side of the mountain slopes.  He
was now free from immediate danger, but must reach Ho Ming without a
moment’s delay.  He dare not descend to the main road, because the
police would be certain to be on the watch for him, besides which he
dare not go into the town till after dark, for he was bleeding from many
cuts, and his clothes were in tatters.

It was a terribly long way and terribly hard work to climb the mountain
to the Peak, but he must do it and wait till dark before striking one of
the roads running down to his master’s house.

Hour after hour he climbed painfully and slowly, getting his directions
from the sun, and occasionally catching glimpses of the harbour beneath
him.

Presently he came to a large clearing, breasted the slope in front, and
saw the whole panorama of the harbour below him glistening in the sun,
and the dark mountain ranges of the mainland looming behind it.  The
tiny boats moving backwards and forwards were the ferry-boats to
Kowloon, and like toy ships lay several English cruisers.

As he stood panting with his exertions, the boom of a gun came up from
below, then another and another at regular intervals.  A man-of-war
saluting!  He searched the harbour below him, but saw no sign of powder
smoke. Quickly he glanced towards the narrow waters of the Lyemoon Pass,
knowing that through this entrance men-of-war usually arrived, and then
from a little black, moving object on the water he saw a tiny ball of
white smoke shoot out, and presently the report came gently up to him.
Nineteen he counted, then twenty and twenty-one, and understood enough
to know that it was a foreign man-of-war saluting the British flag.

Throwing himself down on the coarse grass, he watched the black speck
moving nearer and nearer, and as it emerged from the dark shadows of the
Lyemoon Pass, he saw that it was followed by five others, the last three
mere dots on the sea.

Gradually the little squadron become more distinct, and he was able to
distinguish two cruisers with masts and military tops leading, a
merchant ship with short, stumpy funnel, and then three destroyers.  At
last Helston’s squadron had arrived, a day before it was expected, and,
unless he could give warning, the ships would run the greatest danger
before night was over.

Not a moment was to be lost, so painfully he pushed on, crawling round
rocks and shoving his way through the undergrowth till he came to the
outskirts of the villas on top of the Peak.  Creeping behind garden
walls and thick hedges, he made his way, without being seen, to the belt
of trees and bushes which ran by the side of the road, among which he
hoped to conceal himself till dusk made it possible for him to descend
to his master’s house.

Fortune, however, favoured him, for who should he see wobbling down as
fast as his fat little legs could carry him but that merry little tailor
Hong Sing, with a great bundle of clothes under his arm.  He knew him
well, and called him by name as he came near.  The little man gave a
frightened look round, and would have made off had not A Tsi seized him
by the arm and pulled him into the bushes.

When Hong Sing had calmed down he hurriedly explained matters.

Luckily the little man was returning from trying on some clothes for a
customer, and had in his bundle enough clothes to rig A Tsi as a
respectable-looking butler.  He had no shoes, but Hong Sing knew where
he could borrow a pair from a house close by, and within half an hour A
Tsi was walking boldly down the road with his escort.

As they neared Ho Ming’s residence A Tsi stayed behind, whilst Hong Sing
went on to reconnoitre; but all was safe, and at last the faithful
comprador had finished the first part of his task.

Ho Ming had already returned from his office, but it was very difficult
to make him act energetically.  Like most Chinamen, he had the utmost
fear of the law and those who administered it.  He was more polite and
obsequious to a police sergeant than to the wealthiest merchant in the
colony, and it was a long time before A Tsi could persuade him to take
immediate steps for the release of Ping Sang.  He had not even heard of
the arrival of the squadron, and walked rapidly up and down the room
bemoaning the absence of Ping Sang and his own helplessness.  "What can
I do?  What can I do?" was all he could say.

"You go at once to the Chief of Police and bail out Mr. Ping Sang; they
will do it for you.  Get them to telegraph to Aberdeen to send him up to
head-quarters with an escort.  Write a letter to Captain Helston before
you go, and I’ll take it aboard and warn him of his danger."

"Yes, yes; we ought to do that," faltered Ho Ming, already trembling at
the prospect of interviewing the Chief of Police, and sat down to write
a letter, whilst A Tsi went away to change his butler’s clothes for some
of his master’s.

With the letter in his pocket, A Tsi hired a chair with four sturdy
coolies, and was soon carried down to Murray Pier, off which the little
squadron was now at anchor, and, taking a _sampan_, pulled alongside the
_Laird_.



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                       *Captain Helston Wounded*


    Ping Sang Kidnapped—Cummins gives Advice—A Narrow
    Escape—Helston’s Fears—A Futile Search—An Exchange of Prisoners


                _The Narrative is continued by Dr. Fox_


We arrived at Hong-Kong on the afternoon of December 22, after an
uneventful voyage from Singapore, and received permission to moor at
Admiralty buoys.

Helston expected Ping Sang to come aboard immediately, and was rather
upset that he did not appear.  He is still very nervous and irritable,
and the chilly evening made him complain again of his rheumatism, though
he certainly seems much improved in health and spirits since he shook
off the Patagonian destroyers, and has, so far, brought his ships in
safety.

He and I were smoking in his after-cabin, and making up our minds as to
whether we would wait any longer for Ping Sang or go ashore, dine at the
Club, and afterwards try and find the old gentleman, when Pritchard, the
officer of the watch, brought down a letter.

Helston hastily tore it open.  I saw at once that it contained bad news,
but he handed it to me without saying a word, and rang for the
quarter-master to bring down the messenger.

The letter was from a Mr. Ho Ming, of whom we had never heard.


"DEAR CAPTAIN HELSTON,

"I do not know what to say.  My comprador brings you this, and you may
trust him.  His name is A Tsi.  He knows all.  You are in the greatest
danger. Mr. Ping Sang has been thrown into prison this afternoon, and
there is a fearful conspiracy to sink your ships.  In great haste and
distress,

"Yours respectfully,
       "HO MING."


Hardly had I read it before the bearer of the letter was shown in—an
honest-looking Chinaman, not marked by small-pox.  He appeared
exhausted, was much scratched about the face and hands, and I saw that a
patch of blood had soaked through the right sleeve of his silk coat.

He told his story in a very direct, straightforward manner, and would
not be disturbed in the telling of it, although Helston kept constantly
asking him unnecessary questions, wanting to know the end of the yarn
before he had barely started.  I admired him for his pertinacity—though
I generally detest Chinamen—and for his pluck, because he was evidently
almost on the point of collapsing. In fact his legs nearly gave way
under him several times, and at last I pushed a chair forward and made
him sit down.

Helston seemed somewhat relieved when the story had been told, for, as a
matter of fact, there was little enough evidence of immediate danger,
and the thought of Ping Sang the sybarite shut up in jail as a common
thief was somewhat amusing.

Hardly had he finished, though, before Pritchard came down from the
quarter-deck followed by a native who was one of the tallest I have ever
seen, and as thin as a lath. He was in an extremely excited condition,
flopped down on a chair, said his name was Ho Ming, and began wringing
his hands.

"Mr. Ping Sang has disappeared," he broke out; "gone, no one knows
where.  I go see Chief of Police and tell him who Ping Sang is.  He
perfectly satisfied if I will stand bail.  Telephones to Aberdeen police
station to have him sent up.  They reply, ’The master of the man
arrested this afternoon withdrew the charge and has taken him away’.
What shall we do?  What shall we do?"

He was in a state of most intense alarm, pitiful to see, even in a
Chinaman.

"Phew!" ejaculated Helston, "that makes it more serious.  Did they know
where he had gone?"

"I no wait," whined Ho Ming.  "I come to you quickly."

There was silence for some seconds whilst Helston and I looked at each
other, for if Ping Sang had actually been kidnapped by this scoundrel of
an Englishman, it was a most disastrous event for our expedition,
because he was the head and brains of the Trading Association, and it
was through him, and by means of his enormous credit throughout China,
that the heavy expenses of the squadron had to be met.

Without him it was almost impossible to move, as I well knew that the
funds with which Helston had in the first instance been supplied were
well-nigh exhausted.

"See what Cummins has to say about it!" we both suggested, breaking the
silence.

Cummins was the Commander of the _Laird_, and, even in the few months
the ship had been in commission, had become the one man relied upon in
every emergency either for advice or action.  Short of stature, with a
little thin body and very sloping shoulders, his head looked too big for
his body and his long thin nose too big for his head. It was only when
he talked, which he seldom did, that his dreamy grey eyes commenced to
light up, and then they had the most humorous twinkle in the world.  He
was a great mathematician, had been a torpedo lieutenant, and was taken
for a dreamy philosopher till you saw those twinkling eyes change to
eyes of steel, and his somewhat effeminate, irresolute lips harden.
This was only when he had a big job to undertake or a weighty decision
to make.

He sauntered in, dressed as usual, without regard to appearance, in an
old ill-fitting monkey jacket, the pockets of which had been roughly
stitched at the sides, for he always had his hands in them and wore them
out rapidly. He was chewing his usual wooden toothpick, biting off
little pieces, which he carefully put in his left-hand pocket, whilst he
carried a store of new ones in the right-hand one.

When he did speak he always commenced with a silly little chuckle which
was distinctly irritating—to me at any rate.

He seemed vaguely amused at the presence of the two Chinese, and at the
details of the crisis which Helston recounted to him.

"What do you advise?" asked Helston, biting his words, as he always does
when excited.  "Whatever we do we must do quickly."

"Heugh! heugh! heugh!" chuckled Cummins, selecting a fresh toothpick
from his pocket, "I should give that cove some brandy first of all,"
pointing to A Tsi, who was looking pretty ill, and he smiled blandly at
us, wandered off to a corner of the cabin where Helston kept his cigars,
and lighted one, whilst a servant brought the drink and turned on the
electric light, for by this time it had become dark.

Every now and then he gave vent to an irritating chuckle, as if
immensely amused at the whole story, whilst Helston watched him with
ill-concealed impatience, knowing that it was useless to hurry him.

Then suddenly turning round, he gave his advice:

"Communicate with the police, sir, and have Ping Sang traced.  Get
search warrants issued, and search every junk leaving Hong-Kong
to-night.  This Englishman has got a long start, but there is no breeze
to speak of, and if he tries to get him away to the mainland, we might
catch him if you sent the destroyers out at once.  That man—the one with
the brandy—would possibly recognize the junk.  Send him with Parker
(’No. 3’); he’s the smartest of the three, and will probably get away
first.  I will go up and make the necessary signals, and have their
searchlights sent over from the _Sylvia_.  They may be able to get away
in an hour."

Without waiting for Helston’s "All right, Cummins, you carry on," he
sauntered up on deck, and we heard him singing out for the signalman;
and then, putting his head down the skylight, he chuckled; "Heugh!
heugh! heugh! You need have no fear for your Chinese friend, sir; they
won’t hurt a hair of his head.  They’ll want to exchange him for that
rascal Hopkins."

"Bless my soul, I never thought of that!" exclaimed Helston, much
relieved; "I never thought of that!"

The Skipper’s galley being called away, he and I went ashore, taking Ho
Ming with us.

We landed at Murray Pier, and had to push through a crowd of curious
Chinamen.

Helston clutched my arm and whispered excitedly: "There are some of
those brutes who shadowed me in London.  Get out of this quickly, old
chap!"  I thought he was probably mistaken, and put it down to his
nervousness, but when we got into rickshaws and were driven rapidly up
the street, I could swear that several detached themselves from the
crowd and followed us in the dark shadows of the trees on either side.

However, there was no trace of them when we reached the main road.

By a stroke of luck we found the Chief of Police at Headquarters, and he
telephoned to Aberdeen for more information.

Ping Sang had been discharged two hours ago, and was taken aboard the
Amoy junks, one of which was just then sailing.

He listened impatiently whilst the Chief of Police spoke through the
telephone.

"Has she left the harbour?" ... "Well, can’t you follow her?" ... "How
about the steam-boat?" ...

"She is already out of the harbour," he said, turning to us and hooking
up the telephone-receiver, "and their steam-boat is under repairs and
they cannot stop her.  I’ll send one of our patrol boats from here to
cut her off."

"My destroyers must be ready by this time," interposed Helston, "and if
you will make out search warrants, I’ll catch her before she can get
across to the mainland."

"The warrants would take some time," answered the official, "and I
should have to see the Governor.  The patrol boat shall get away
immediately."

But for once Helston made up his mind.  "Warrants or no warrants, I’ll
search every junk under way to-night," he said, and strode impatiently
out of the room.

"I don’t care what you do, outside the harbour limits," said the Chief
of Police to me as I followed Helston; "and it’s a very dark night, and
no one will be any the wiser."

Ho Ming coming with us, we went down to the Victoria Hotel, and after
some difficulty—for all we knew of the Englishman was that he walked
with a limp—found that he had not returned in time for dinner, as was
his custom.

Coming back from the hotel, I several times thought I could hear the
pattering of soft feet behind me, though I could see no one.  To reach
Murray Pier, however, we had to go round the cricket ground, and as we
passed along the front of it I saw two shadowy figures dart across to
the trees which bordered the road at the side, and it struck me
immediately that, if they meant any mischief, they might head us off
there.

With a sudden inspiration, I sang out to Helston, who was ahead of me,
"Race you to the pier for a dollar, old chap!" and called to my coolie,
"Fi tee, fi tee!  You beatee him fellow lickshaw, half dollah can do."

This was enough for the sporting coolies, and they raced like mad things
round the corner and down the dark road.

It was lucky we were going so fast, because as we came abreast the one
electric light in the road, two pistol shots rang out from the shadows
under the trees and then a third.  One splintered through the woodwork
of Helston’s rickshaw, and both our rickshaw coolies, with a yell of
fright, dropped their handles, and fled for their lives. Helston tumbled
head-foremost into the road at the sudden stop, though I was just able
to save myself, and turning, saw a Chinaman within two yards of me
levelling a pistol straight at Helston.  I struck at him with my heavy
malacca stick, and caught him on the wrist just as he fired again, the
pistol rolling into the mud.

[Illustration: I STRUCK AT HIM WITH MY HEAVY MALACCA STICK]

I grabbed at it, and the Chinaman fled into the shadows.

Helston scrambled to his feet, and we both jumped behind trees, the
policeman on duty at the pier rushing towards us with his revolver in
his hand and blowing his whistle lustily.

Ho Ming, whose rickshaw man had dropped him twenty yards behind, crawled
out from behind another tree, and soon we had quite an army of policemen
running up from different directions, one of them dragging my own
wretched coolie after him into the electric light.

Then came some of our boat’s crew with boat’s stretchers in their hands,
and just as they reached us Helston suddenly fell in a heap on the road.

They carried Helston down to the pier, and there he regained
consciousness and struggled to his feet.  I saw his left arm was broken.
I supported him down to the boat, got him safely aboard, and ripped his
clothes off to examine him.  "Beastly ashamed of myself, old chap," he
kept saying, "but they’ve got me in the chest too."

The bone was smashed five inches above the elbow. The flattened bullet
had then torn a deep groove through his chest muscles, and he had lost a
great quantity of blood.  His wrist and forearm were also paralysed, so
it was a pretty bad job, and took me and my surgeon, young Richardson,
an hour and a half before we had him ship-shape again.

We ought to have given him chloroform and tried to sew up the damaged
nerve, but he would not hear of it, because he was anxious to get the
destroyers away and look after a hundred details, when once Cummins had
reported their departure; and all the time we were busy with him,
putting on splints and sewing up the wound in his chest, messengers and
signalmen kept coming and going incessantly.  He feared that one or
other of the junks would drift down alongside and blow up, and worked
himself into a tremendous pitch of excitement when the _Strong Arm_
delayed reporting "all water-tight doors closed".  Then he thought it
would be advisable for the steam-boats of the two ships to patrol round
and round till daylight, and it took a long time to get steam up in
them, all of which excited him still more.

Of course I knew that Cummins would "carry on" without him perfectly
well, and I am certain he knew that too, and the knowledge only made him
the more determined to superintend everything personally.

Finally he wanted to go aboard the _Strong Arm_ to see for himself that
she was prepared for any emergency; but that was too much for me, and he
eventually was satisfied with sending for her captain, Hunter, to report
personally.

I made him eat some dinner—he had had nothing since lunch-time—and urged
him to take a sleeping-draught. Not a bit of it.  He was going to stay
on deck till sunrise. "I’m no baby, old chap; it’s all right, now you’ve
fixed it up;" and he had a chair placed on the quarter-deck and sat
there.  However, I put half a grain of opium in his cup of coffee, and
what with that and with the strain of the last few hours, he was soon
sound asleep, and we moved him, chair and all, into the navigator’s
cabin, much to the relief of everyone, and especially of Cummins.

Personally I did not believe in the blowing-up theory, nor did I feel
any intense interest either in old Ping Sang’s fate or in the effects
his disappearance would have on the expedition.  As a matter of fact, I
was pretty well bored with the whole affair, and would have "chucked it"
willingly, but for my chum Helston.  I turned in and slept soundly, as,
thank Heaven! I generally do.

As I conjectured, nothing happened during the night, and at daybreak the
destroyers had not returned.

Helston had slept fairly well, but, what with the pain in his arm and
chest, a bad headache from the effects of the opium, and the
disappointment of not recovering Ping Sang, was almost unbearable.

He had a great number of official calls to pay on shore, and was also
very anxious to "carry on" aboard his ships, but I had at last to come
definitely to an understanding with him and tell him very plainly—and he
knew that I meant it—that I would not remain in the ship any longer
unless he went on the sick list and did exactly what he was told to do.
If he continued to play the fool, I swore that I would invalid myself
home, and—perhaps most powerful argument of all, though I do believe he
would not have had me desert him for anything—I assured him that if he
persisted in refusing to act on my advice his health would most
certainly break down, he would be obliged to give up the command, and
then what hope would he ever have of winning that fickle little jade
Milly.

Eventually we got him to bed—I was horrified to see how thin he had
become—and I gave him another sleeping-draught, darkened his cabin,
roped off the quarter-deck to prevent any trampling of feet over his
head, and presently he went to sleep again, sleeping soundly till the
afternoon.

He looked much less haggard when he woke, but I kept him in bed.

"How long are you going to keep me here, old chap?" he asked piteously.

"Two days more at the very least," I told him.

The destroyers had returned that afternoon without having been
successful in their search.

During the next few days the police searched, without result, every junk
in the harbour and every place where the Englishman could have concealed
himself or Ping Sang.  The second Amoy junk was found to contain no
suspicious cargo, but, for all that, it was carefully watched, to give
early warning lest she should attempt any treachery, because Cummins was
still doubtful about her, and did not relax any precautions during those
long nights.

Christmas-day went by, and Helston was able to walk round the gaudily
decorated mess-decks, headed by our amateur band playing those atrocious
tunes, "The Roast Beef of Old England" and "For he’s a jolly good
fellow", and everyone gorged as usual at lunch and slept like boa
constrictors afterwards in their cabins.

I suppose I am too old for sea life, because Christmas so-called
festivities on board ship bore me to distraction. At night the
midshipmen had what they called a sing-song in the gun-room, to which
the _Strong Arm’s_ gun-room had been invited.  They made the most
disgusting noise—it makes me angry to think of it even now—and had the
confounded impudence to ask me down, as they all wanted to drink my
health.

The yarn had got about that but for me Helston would have been killed.

Perfect rot! but there it was; and the Sub and senior midshipman came to
my cabin after I had turned in and pressed me to go down, even for five
minutes.

I was reading a favourite chapter of Carlyle’s _Sartor Resartus_—what a
biting cynic that man was!—and hate being disturbed, so told them to go
to Jericho, and wished I had the power to send them there, the whole bag
of tricks.

No news of Ping Sang had arrived, and though Helston naturally worried
himself, Cummins was still convinced that, as he had been kidnapped
solely to be exchanged for Hopkins, we should shortly hear of him.

And so it turned out, for a letter came one morning, apparently written
by the lame Englishman and posted from Macao, the Portuguese town at the
mouth of the West river.

He signed himself Chas. R. Hamilton, and suggested an exchange of
prisoners.  I quote an extract from his letter as showing his unbounded
impudence and his evident knowledge that we were bound hand and foot
whilst Ping Sang was in his power.

"... In conducting war against the Chinese Government at Peking (war he
called it, not piracy!) we little imagined that we should have the
honour of meeting ships manned by my own countrymen....  Ping Sang, you
may be glad to hear, is in robust health, but is anxious to return to
you, as, I understand, your further proceedings are practically
dependent upon his financial assistance.

"As he is of such great importance, I am naturally loth to part with
him; but unfortunately I hear you have on board your ship an old friend
of mine, Reginald Hopkins, and if you could deprive yourself of his
society we might, in short, exchange our two unwilling guests ...

"In arranging the details of such exchange I must first ask you to give
me your word of honour that you will not attempt any treachery during
the transfer, nor endeavour, once the exchange has been made, to follow
or interfere with Hopkins.

"I suggest that you send a destroyer to Macao with your reply.  On her
arrival a man giving my name will board her and receive the letter.  If
favourable, I will then write you again, and only regret that my
distance from Macao will cause much delay.

"Failing a reply I shall, of course, retain possession of Ping Sang...."

We had a council of war after dinner that night, that is, Cummins and
Helston had, for I myself only sat near the fire and smoked, and refused
to give any advice even when they asked me.

I am paid to come this fool’s jaunt as a doctor, and I’ll see them
hanged first before I interfere with their job.  I certainly would not
let them meddle with mine.  If they did follow any advice I happened to
give and it was unsuccessful, I should never hear the last of it, or, if
it by chance were successful, they would pat each other on the back and
pretend and believe too that it was their plan all along; so it was much
better to smoke my pipe and keep my own ideas to myself.

Eventually they decided to arrange the exchange, although Cummins seemed
personally averse to such a proceeding, thinking it much beneath our
dignity to treat with such a man.



                              *CHAPTER X*

                   *Destroyer "No. 1" Meets her Fate*


    To Release Ping Sang—Trapped—"No. 1" Disabled—A Gallant
    Deed—Sinking—Poor "No. 1" Disappears


               _Mr. Glover’s Narrative is now continued_


The three days after Captain Helston had been shot (his coxswain told me
he probably would have been killed but for Dr. Fox) were most exciting.
Then things calmed down and became rather monotonous.  We were not
allowed ashore after sunset, however.  Captain Helston did not want
anything to happen to us midshipmen, and that was a nuisance, for we
missed any amount of fun—dances and things.

Our gun-room people played the _Strong Arm’s_ gun-room at Socker in the
Happy Valley, and knocked "the hide and hair" off them; and this was
some consolation, for they had been rather uppish.  We also had a picnic
in the sailing pinnace to Deep Bay, which was jolly good fun, although
we all got wet through coming back, and that ass Dumpling dropped the
bread into the water whilst he was wading ashore with it.

I had been sent back to the _Laird_ from "No. 3", and Tommy Foote
(Toddles) from "No. 1", and on New Year’s eve we were having a bit of a
jamberee in the gun-room—we had asked for half an hour’s extra
lights—when Jeffreys, our Sub-Lieutenant, was sent for by the Commander.

We thought it was because of the row we were making, but he came back
and told Tommy to get his things ready and stand by to go aboard "No. 1"
at daybreak.

"No. 1" went off in the morning, but was back again in time for
seven-bell tea.  Tommy hadn’t much to tell. They’d run over to Macao,
and Mr. Pattison, the Skipper, had given a letter to a Chinaman who had
come alongside as soon as they anchored.

That was all, and nothing more happened for seven or eight days, whilst
we had to grind at school, mathematics and torpedo theoretical rot and
other things.

But then there were more rumours, and one day we heard that all
Hopkins’s gear was being packed—you remember him, the Yankee secretary
who had been under arrest ever since leaving Colombo—we often wondered
why.

Tommy Foote was sent again to "No. 1", and when next morning Mr.
Pattison came aboard for final orders, he was evidently to take Hopkins
with him.

You bet your life I was dead keen to go with Tommy and see the fun, for
there was evidently something in the wind; so I asked Mr. Pattison to
take me too.  You see I had rather a pull over him, for he was very
sweet on my cousin Milly; so he asked the Commander and off I went.

We steamed out through the West Channel, and Tommy and I thought we were
bound to Macao again, but we were wrong, and it turned out that our
destination was a small island about sixty miles away, at least I should
think it was that distance, for we were doing about fifteen knots, and
it took us four hours before we ran into a narrow little harbour between
high cliffs, anchoring some ten cables from shore.

There wasn’t a sign of a living thing, and we waited and waited, whilst
Mr. Pattison kept on looking at his watch.  He told us then that we were
going to exchange Hopkins for the old Chinese gentleman who had been
kidnapped.

"Why! is Hopkins one of the pirates?" we both asked, somewhat
disappointedly, for he was hardly our idea of a pirate, and we rather
liked him, he was so amusing.

"I only knew it myself this morning," Mr. Pattison told us.

Well, presently a _sampan_ came wriggling out from behind a small
headland, and when it arrived alongside there was a fat little man
sitting in it gorgeously dressed.

I didn’t tell you that we had brought a man named A Tsi with us; but
this man recognized him immediately as Ping Sang.  The fat old chap
climbed nimbly over the side and shook hands all round, so pleased was
he to be safe again.

Hopkins was brought on deck, and apparently he and Ping Sang knew each
other, though they only glared like two cats, and he climbed down into
the _sampan_, Mr. Pattison taking no notice of him whatever.

However, Tommy and I stepped forward and shook him by the hand.  I don’t
quite know why, but expect it was because we wanted to say that we had
shaken hands with a real pirate.  He seemed quite pleased.

His bags and boxes were so numerous that the _sampan_ had to make two
trips, and this delayed us nearly an hour, Mr. Pattison fuming with
impatience, and steam blowing off from the escape pipes.

Directly the _sampan_ had shoved off with its last load, we weighed and
secured the anchor and were off back to Hong-Kong.

We thought our work was over for the day, but were mightily mistaken,
for as we came to the mouth of the harbour, there, to our dismay,
steaming gently towards us, were the three Patagonian destroyers, and
behind them a cruiser painted dark green from mast-head to water-line,
very much like the _Strong Arm_, only not so big.  And they were, all of
them, between us and Hong-Kong.

I never felt so scared in my life.  Tommy went as white as a sheet, and
even Mr. Pattison turned a bit yellow.

He swore terribly and cursed them for treacherous hounds—it was just
about the neatest trap you ever saw in your life—and ordered the helm
hard a-port.

Round we went, clear of the harbour mouth, and heading south as if we
were going to run away; but if the people in the Patagonians thought we
were going to do so they were jolly well mistaken; it was only to get up
full speed and clear to quarters, which we did in a brace of shakes, the
men as keen as mustard.

Tommy had to go down on deck and take charge of the two for’ard
6-pounders, but Mr. Pattison ordered me to stay on the bridge with him.
The helm was put hard a-starb’d, we swung round like a top, and headed
straight for them.

The destroyers seemed at first to be making straight for us too, but
almost immediately turned off to starboard and ran into the little
harbour we had just left.  The signalman sang out, as they showed their
sides to us, that they had no guns aboard, so that explained their
flight.

We were now rushing down on the cruiser, going at quite twenty knots,
and wondered whether she would open fire.  We were not long left in
doubt, for we were not more than eight hundred yards from her when we
saw two little spurts of flame from under her bows, and then more from
her fore-top, and the little shells whistled past and burst in the sea
behind us.

I know I ducked my head, and rather thought Mr. Pattison did so too.

Then we began firing from the 12-pounder on the bridge and from Tommy’s
6-pounders as fast as we could, and what with the noise of the guns
going off so close to me and the whistling of the enemy’s shells, I felt
quite dazed, and it was no use to bob or duck, because the air seemed
full of them.

Mr. Pattison startled me to life again by sending me aft with a message
to the Sub.  As I ran down the ladder two holes suddenly appeared in the
after funnel, and a cloud of smoke burst out with a roar close to the
after steering-shield. I must confess I stopped running, absolutely in a
funk, and my legs would hardly hold me up.  It was only for a second,
though, and I ran aft just as hard as I could. The shelter screen was
all bent and twisted, and in front of it were two of the after 6-pounder
gun’s crew lying on their faces, and blood was oozing from under them
and running along the deck.  I just managed to give the message to the
Sub, who was bending over them, and then I was horribly sick.

I don’t remember how I got back to the bridge, but just as I did so—and
now we were not a hundred yards from the cruiser—a shell burst on the
fo’c’stle close to the port anchor, and pieces came tearing through the
canvas screen round the bridge with a horrid shrieking noise.  Looking
down I saw that one of the securing chains had been smashed, and that
the anchor was now half over the side, hanging by one small chain.

Mr. Pattison saw it too, and tumbled down to the fo’c’stle, shouting to
me, "Keep her as she is, and run along her starboard side as close as
you can go."

I knew what he was going to do.  If that last securing chain carried
away, the anchor would go overboard, and even if the cable held at the
stopper and did not run out, we might swerve right across the cruiser’s
bows and be cut in half.

We were right up to her now, and through her bow-gun ports I could see
the men round the small quick-firers, but the mere fact of having a job
to do prevented me from feeling frightened.  Another second and we were
alongside her fo’c’stle, not twenty feet away, and their small guns
fired point-blank at us as we rushed past her side. I remember dimly
noticing Mr. Pattison lying on his stomach on the fo’c’stle lashing the
anchor for dear life. My ears were ringing and painful, my head seemed
to be splitting, but I had enough common sense left to see that the
stern of the cruiser seemed to be swinging into us.

She must have put her helm over, and meant to crush us as her stern
swung round.

I yelled to the quarter-master at the wheel to "hard a-starboard", for
she would be into us before we could clear her.  I could just see his
face as he stood on the steering platform below, and he heard me, but
shook his head grimly and put the helm over to port.  Our bows were
already flying past her quarter-deck, and I saw at once that he was
right and I was wrong, for our stern immediately began to swerve
outwards.

It was a terrible moment, for she was swinging into us faster than we
were swinging away from her.

She must strike us and I thought all was over, and gripped hold of the
bridge rails, waiting for the bump.

Another second—there was a crash!  We heeled right over to port till I
saw the lee gunwale a-wash, and, oh horrors! the two men lying on the
deck aft slipped overboard with shrieks of agony and fear.  I saw our
stern crumple like tissue-paper.  We grated along, separated, righted
ourselves, and were flying away.

Mr. Pattison jumped up to the bridge, yelling to "’midships the helm",
but it would not move, and was jammed hard over.

All the men aft had been knocked off their feet, and I saw them
scrambling up again as Mr. Pattison rushed aft, and all crowded round
the crumpled stern.

We were now steaming in a circle, and our broadside was exposed to the
cruiser, which commenced firing very rapidly again.

Then I saw the men aft jump clear of the rudder chain, the rudder swung
amidships, and, thank God! we darted away; but something must have
happened to the engines, for we were not going nearly so fast.

This has taken a long time to write, but probably did not last fifty
seconds.  It seemed a lifetime.

Directly we were clear Mr. Pattison came for’ard and took charge.

They had unshackled the steering chain, he told me, and the rudder had
swung amidships.  The starboard propeller had been smashed in the
collision, and, with only the port screw working and the helm almost
useless, we struggled along in a very erratic manner, our bows now going
round to starboard and now falling off to port.

Shells were shrieking all round us, but going wild, probably because we
were swerving so much from side to side.

To avoid exposing the men, Mr. Pattison ordered all those on deck to
take shelter under the fo’c’stle, leaving only himself on the bridge and
the quarter-master at the wheel.

I was sent with the necessary orders, and for the first time noticed
Ping Sang and A Tsi standing on deck near the for’ard torpedo-tube quite
unconcerned; but I hustled them for’ard, and everybody, even the Sub,
Tommy, and I, had to crowd down below, and did not see what happened
during the next five minutes, though they were evidently making better
shooting, for we heard several small explosions where shells must have
struck.

All at once there was a muffled roar and the hissing noise of escaping
steam.

We three jumped on deck and saw a great hole in the deck near the base
of the foremost funnel, and clouds of steam and smoke pouring from it.

We opened the manhole cover to the for’ard boiler compartment, more
steam and smoke came swishing out, and in the middle of it crawled out a
stoker, with his face and arms terribly scalded.  He just managed to
pull himself out, and, yelling with pain, would have thrown himself
overboard, had not the Sub caught him and hurled him to the deck, where
he lay writhing and shrieking.

Tommy and I peered through the manhole to see if anyone else was alive,
but the Sub shoved us aside, and, with a heaving-line lashed round him,
and holding an old oilskin in front of his face, crawled down.  His name
was Harrington—I must tell you it, because this was the pluckiest thing
Tommy and I ever saw.

We took charge of the heaving-line, and he half-stumbled or was
half-lowered down into the steam.

When he got down the ladder and put his feet into the water we could
hear swishing about, he gave a great cry of pain—it must have been
nearly boiling—but he did not hesitate, and we could dimly see him
groping about on the bottom plates, and could also see that the water
was rapidly rising, and was quickly over his knees.

He called out in a squeaky voice for another rope, and lashed it to
something, which we two and some men who came to help hoisted up.

It was another of the stokers, but such a sight as I shall never forget.
He was quite dead, and half the flesh was torn from one shoulder and
from one side of the face.

As we hauled him on deck his skin seemed to come away with his clothes
wherever we touched him.

Oh, it was a most fearful sight!

Tommy and I were roughly pushed away by an old petty officer, and the
body was covered with a tarpaulin.

We could not keep our eyes off that heap, and should have fainted in
another second had not Harrington himself appeared out of the manhole
with his face just like beef and bleeding, and his hands like turkeys’
claws.

He fell down on the deck, and as I knelt down he said in a hoarse
whisper; "My feet, my feet!  For God’s sake undo my boots!"

We unlaced them, and oh, the terrible pain it was to him to take them
off!  and though we cut his socks with a knife, the skin all came off
with them.  He had fainted by that time.

Then I heard Mr. Pattison’s voice, and Tommy rushed aft and brought some
brandy and a pillow, and we propped his head up and poured a little
brandy down his throat, though it was difficult to do it, because his
tongue was so swollen.

They covered him with a blanket, but he was a huge man, and his two raw
feet stuck out at the end.  I shall never forget them.

All this terrible time I had noticed nothing else, but now, looking over
the side, I saw that the destroyer was only going very slowly, and that
there was a big hole at the water-line, where that last shell had come
aboard, and water was pouring in.

No shells seemed to be coming our way now, and looking towards the
island I saw the cruiser steaming away from us without firing, and,
hurrah! hurrah! two great splashes of water leapt up, one after the
other, close to her stern, and boom!  boom!  came the reports of heavy
guns from the north.

"Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted Tommy, "there’s the _Strong Arm_."

You can imagine what a relief it was and what we felt.

We yelled and shouted like mad things, and even Harrington had strength
enough to raise his head and wave his arm, though he could not make as
much noise as a mouse.

It was indeed the _Strong Arm_ firing her foremost guns, and making a
great bow wave as she steamed towards us.

"Out collision mat!" shouted Mr. Pattison, and the order was yelled down
the fo’c’stle and everyone came rushing out, got a line round the
destroyer’s bottom, made it fast to the collision mat, and hauled it
over the great rent in the side.

It took three or four minutes to do this, and by that time the deck
seemed quite close to the water, and the stern seemed even lower.  The
_Strong Arm_ was now drawing up rapidly.

Then I was sent with a couple of men to screw down the hatch covers
leading to Mr. Pattison’s cabin and the ward-room, and by the time we
had done it the deck was a-wash.

The starboard engine had stopped by now, and we lay wallowing with a
horrid log-like jerky motion whilst the men tried to get a tarpaulin
over the hole in the stern, but did not seem to do any good.

The boats were next got into the water.  They were full of holes, but by
stuffing their jumpers into the shot holes in the whaler and by bailing
hard, they just managed to keep her afloat.  The collapsable Berthon
boats were quite useless, being pierced in half a dozen places, and the
dinghy was smashed to smithereens.

There was only the whaler for fifty men.  This meant that most of us
would have to take our chance of hanging on to an oar or wooden grating
till the _Strong Arm_ could pick us up.

By the time we had lowered Mr. Harrington (the Sub) and the scalded
stokers into the whaler our stern was quite under the water, and we were
heeling over to starboard, till fittings, not secured to the deck, began
sliding down, and the sea came over the foot of our deck stanchions. We
could actually feel poor old "No. 1" sinking under us—a horrid
sensation.

"Scramble on deck, boys!  All up from below!" was shouted down the
engine-room and stokehold hatches, and everybody began taking off their
boots and jumpers.

This gave me a very creepy feeling.

Steam was roaring out of the escape-pipe, and we all anxiously looked
first at Mr. Pattison, expecting him to give the order to jump, and then
towards the _Strong Arm_, wishing she would come along faster.

Mr. Pattison was hanging on to the bridge rails—the bridge had a
tremendous slant—to keep himself upright, and the signalman hoisted a
signal that we were sinking.

The _Strong Arm_ came rushing up, firing fast from her bow guns, and for
one horrid second I thought she would not see our signal in the
excitement of chasing the cruiser.

Tommy and I were hanging on to the torpedo-tube aft with our feet in
water, and I heard him gasp, with a very white face, "She’s going on";
but a moment later we saw her boats’ crews clambering over the nettings
into their boats, and raised a mighty cheer of relief as she slowed down
abreast of us.  Her boats were lowered with a run and a splash, and came
pulling over to us as hard as men could pull, and as they arrived
alongside our men were ordered to scramble on board them.

We had a row as to who should jump first, for Tommy said that he
_belonged_ to the destroyer and I was only a passenger, so that he ought
to be the last to leave; but I said that as I was senior to him—I was
two places above him passing out of the _Britannia_—it was my duty to
see him get into the boat first.

We had to cling to the torpedo-tube to argue it out, for the deck was
now so steep we couldn’t stand on it.

"Get into the boats you young idiots!" shouted Mr. Pattison.  "Why are
you keeping the boats waiting, you lop-eared sons of Ham?"

So we settled the matter by both jumping at the same time.  I was jolly
glad that I did not let him have his own way.

Just as we had all shoved off, Mr. Pattison being the test to leave, we
heard a cracking noise—a bulk-head must have given way—"No. 1" almost
righted herself—her bows came out of water and pointed higher and
higher, till they were almost upright.  There she stayed while you could
have counted fifteen or sixteen, and then slowly slipped down out of
sight.

There was just a little swish as the sea rushed in to cover her, two of
her capstan bars came shooting out of the water, and poor old "No. 1"
had disappeared. I felt rather snuffy, and I knew Tommy did too. We soon
were aboard the _Strong Arm_, and down in the gun-room they all crowded
round and asked questions. It was not till then that I discovered that
my cap was missing, and found too that my hair was all matted together
with blood.

Tommy searched and found a cut about an inch long, and felt rather
annoyed, I think, that he himself hadn’t anything to show.

You can imagine I felt jolly proud to have been wounded, though it did
rather take the gilt off the ginger-bread not to have known it at the
time.  It was probably a piece of the shell that smashed the
anchor-securing chain.

It must have delayed the _Strong Arm_ nearly an hour, to stop her
engines alongside "No. 1" and to get all of us aboard, and by that time
the pirate cruiser was only a cloud of black smoke on the horizon, with
the three little destroyers which had again come out of the bay steaming
after her at full speed.



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                       *The Action off Sin Ling*


    The Action Commences—Casualties


        _The Report submitted by Commander Richard Hunter, R.N.,
                     Captain of the "Strong Arm"._


The report of the proceedings which Commander Richard Hunter, R.N., the
Captain of the _Strong Arm_, subsequently submitted to Captain Helston,
is so terse and yet so graphic, that it is inserted here.

                     *      *      *      *      *

"H.I.M.S. _Strong Arm_,
       "Hong-Kong, 9th Jan.

"SIR,

"I have the honour to report that, in accordance with your signal
received at 8.30 A.M. on 8th Jan., I immediately raised steam in fifteen
boilers.  One hour later I was able to slip from the buoy, and proceeded
southwards to the rendezvous indicated in your orders.

"By 10 A.M. I was making fourteen knots, and at 11 nearly nineteen,
which speed was gradually increased to twenty as the remainder of my
boilers raised steam.

"At 12.35 P.M. the island then being in sight, the mast-head look-out
sighted a cruiser and three destroyers steaming towards it from the
west, and almost immediately afterwards sighted destroyer ’No. 1’
leaving the island.

"The cruiser was apparently heading to cut off ’No. 1’, whilst the three
destroyers disappeared under the land.

"We then saw ’No. 1’ head straight for the cruiser, which thereupon
opened a vigorous fire from her small guns.  ’No. 1’ disappeared behind
her and apparently fouled her stern, for she came away steaming but
slowly and steering in a very erratic manner.

"She was now under a very severe fire, and a considerable explosion
occurred nearly amidships at 12.45.

"Being now 10,000 yards from the cruiser, I opened fire on her from my
foremost guns, and in a couple of minutes caused her to cease firing on
the crippled destroyer and steam off to the southward.  At this range I
did not hit her.

"I followed at my utmost speed, and was rapidly closing, but as ’No. 1’
signalled that she was unable to keep afloat I stopped alongside her and
removed her crew.  I regret to report that she sank immediately
afterwards.

"I also regret that five men of her crew are missing, including two
wounded men who fell overboard, and that ten are injured—Sub-lieutenant
Harrington, suffering from severe burns and scalds, Midshipman Glover,
slightly wounded, and one man badly burnt (since dead).

"Having re-hoisted my boats, I renewed the pursuit, and at 2 was
overhauling her fast.  Meanwhile the three destroyers had scattered and
I disregarded them.

"At 3.25 we made our distance 6000 yards by range-finder, and I again
opened fire from my forecastle 6-inch and the two foremost upper deck
6-inch.

"The enemy replied vigorously from two or three guns and continued her
flight.

"Though we made one or two hits at this range, it was not till we had
drawn up to within 4000 yards that our shooting became good, and at
4.32—the island of Sin Ling being five miles to leeward—she caught fire
astern, steered wildly, and exposed her broadside.

"We now hit her time after time, and her fire became slow and very
inaccurate.

"At 4.56 she hauled down her flag (the Chinese imperial colours, with a
black instead of a red dragon and ball) and ceased firing.

"I too ceased firing and lay to about 2000 yards distant, unwilling to
go within torpedo range.  I then ordered my First Lieutenant (C. W.
Smith) to board her, and gave him sixty men to form a prize crew and
navigate her to Hong-Kong.

"When my boats were half-way across she suddenly opened fire on them,
gathered way, and steamed towards me with the evident intention of
ramming, an evolution which I managed to avoid by going full steam
astern.

"She also discharged a torpedo whilst passing, which struck me on the
port bow, and, though failing to explode, stove in one plate.  Some
water entered through rivet holes.

"At the same time she opened a very rapid and sustained fire, which
caused many casualties on the open deck, where the men had crowded to
see her.

"Thereupon I renewed the action, and quickly cleared her upper works and
subdued her fire, my 6-inch shells doing very evident destruction.

"She was repeatedly hulled, flames burst out in several places, and at
5.15 made for Sin Ling at full speed, beaching herself in a sinking
condition at 5.42.

"Daylight was now failing.

"I took the _Strong Arm_ as far inshore as I dared, after picking up my
boats’ crews (they had been fired upon in the most wanton manner), and
shelled her at point-blank range.  In ten minutes I had the satisfaction
of seeing a large explosion aft; a great gap was made in her side, she
heeled to port till the water reached the base of her funnels, and half
her deck was submerged.  She was evidently too badly damaged to be
floated.

"This being done, I returned to Hong-Kong and moored to my buoy at 9.25
P.M.

"Very little damage has been sustained by this ship, and it can be
repaired without assistance from the shore.

"I regret, however, to report the following casualties:—

"Killed: One petty officer and five men.

"Wounded: Three officers, two petty officers, and thirty-five men.

"I have the honour to be, &c.,

"RICHARD HUNTER, Commander R.N.,
       "Captain of H.I.M.S. _Strong Arm_."



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                           *A Council of War*


    The "Strong Arm" Returns—Boarding the "_Hai Yen_"—Jenkins—The
    Council of War—Ping Sang’s Chart—Cummins has a Plan—Ping Sang
    Remembers


Captain Helston, with his left arm bandaged to his side, and one empty
sleeve of his monkey jacket flapping in the wind, was on deck to see
"No. 1" slip from her buoy and start on her fatal voyage.  No sooner had
her dark hull disappeared in the morning mist than he began to regret
having sent her.  A fit of his old irresolution returned, and he would
have recalled her had she been within signalling distance.

He sent for Cummins—a grotesque-looking object in the early morning,
unshaven and wearing a pair of huge sea-boots.

"You know, Cummins," he began, "I have a feeling that something will
happen to her.  There is no knowing but that she will poke her nose into
some trouble.  What induced me to trust to their word of honour I don’t
know, and it may simply be a trap to recapture Hopkins."

"Ha! ha! ha!" chuckled Cummins, chewing his toothpick, "it’s too late
now, sir; we can’t communicate with her."

"Well, don’t you think it might be advisable to get up steam and follow
her."

"Can’t manage it, sir.  They are refitting the starboard low-pressure
piston-ring, and it won’t be ready for another twenty-four hours.  You
might send the _Strong Arm_, though.  I was always averse to trusting
that Englishman’s word."

Helston, to tell the truth, was somewhat nettled at Cummins’s influence
on board and his somewhat arbitrary manner, and the implied "I told you
so" irritated him to a degree.  So, saying sharply, "Very well, we’ll
let her go alone," went down to his breakfast.

But ten minutes later he again changed his mind, and made a signal which
resulted in the _Strong Arm’s_ rapid departure.

He expected both ships back by four o’clock at the latest, and as the
hours went by and there was no sign of either, he became extremely
nervous and restless, pacing up and down his after-cabin all that
afternoon.  At dinner he scarcely touched anything, and was just on the
point of going out himself aboard "No. 2" or "No. 3", when the signal
midshipman reported that the _Strong Arm_ was entering the harbour and
making her number.

He ran up on deck to see for himself, and quickly a signal blinked
across from the _Strong Arm’s_ mast-head lamp that she had driven a
strange cruiser ashore, and rescued the crew of "No. 1", which had been
sunk.

The news rushed like wildfire round the ship, and officers and men
crowded on deck to see her slowly creeping to her buoy and signalling
for medical assistance.

Helston went aboard her immediately, and Dr. Fox and the other doctors
of the squadron worked all night with the wounded, many of whom had to
be sent to the Naval Hospital next morning, including Harrington, whose
condition was very grave.

Helston obtained a rapid report of the day’s happenings from Hunter, and
congratulated Ping Sang on his escape.

The identity of the strange cruiser was unknown, and even Ping Sang, who
had more information than anyone else as to the resources of the
pirates, had been unable to recognize her.  However, it was a great
achievement to have destroyed so powerful a vessel at the cost of one
destroyer, though the loss of life was much to be regretted.

"You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, I believe," was Ping
Sang’s comment, as he calmly puffed his cigar on the sacred
quarter-deck.

The loss of life evidently did not worry him in the slightest degree.

Helston was most severe with Pattison, for, though praising his
intrepidity and personal behaviour, he censured him strongly for his
manoeuvring of "No. 1".

"What induced you to run straight at her instead of taking to your heels
and escaping, I cannot think, and to leave the bridge in charge of a
midshipman at the most critical moment seems to me to show a great want
of judgment.  You had no torpedoes on board, and it was impossible for
you to damage her."

Except for the fact that his action delayed the cruiser, and ultimately
led to her destruction, Helston would have sent him home forthwith.

This was not his hasty judgment, for he made no remarks at the time, but
was given two days later when all the circumstances had been
investigated more closely. In fact Harrington, the Sub, who had been so
badly injured in his attempt to rescue people from the stokehold, was
the only one belonging to "No. 1" who came in for any praise, and he was
too ill in hospital to appreciate it.

This opinion was general throughout the squadron, and poor Pattison, who
was sent to the _Sylvia_ for duty, more or less in disgrace, felt it
very keenly.

"I did the first thing that came into my head," he said, "and it wasn’t
till we were right on top of her that I remembered we had no torpedoes
on board."

The morning after the return of the _Strong Arm_, this ship, with
Helston aboard, and the two remaining destroyers in company, steamed to
Sin Ling Island.

The strange cruiser was found still lying on the rocks—a
melancholy-looking object.  Her after magazine had evidently blown up,
and she was a total wreck aft of her main-mast—a mass of warped and
twisted plates and deck beams.

On her twisted stern was her name _Hai Yen_ in Chinese characters, the
gilt scorched by fire; but this name did not identify her, and her
origin and history were still a mystery.

No complaint could be made of the _Strong Arm’s_ captains of guns, for
their shooting had been marvellously effective, and her upper works were
riddled with shell holes.  Two guns had been dismounted, and her funnels
were pierced in a hundred places.

Helston and Hunter had come to the conclusion that she had been
escorting the three destroyers from the south, chiefly from the certain
fact that they had neither guns nor torpedo-tubes aboard when first seen
by "No. 1". These spare tubes and guns might still be aboard the _Hai
Yen_.  So a thorough search was made through the whole ship, and, though
none of these things were found, it was discovered that the ship had
been pretty thoroughly stripped of everything movable, and that the
upper deck was covered with coal-dust.  The coal must have been brought
up after the action, because in places it covered great smears of blood,
and the only inference was that the three destroyers had coaled from her
bunkers during the night, removed all her remaining portable stores—even
her small quick-firers had disappeared—and also taken her crew aboard
them.

To make certain that the crew were not still on the island, Helston
landed two hundred men and thoroughly explored it.  It was but a small
rocky outcrop from the Chinese coast, not a mile long, but by the time
this had been done daylight was beginning to fail.  No traces of the
crew were discovered.

During this time the midshipmen had been allowed to inspect the ship,
and, needless to say, returned with much spoil.  One of them had an
undamaged chronometer, another actually brought off the steering-wheel
from the conning tower, two of them lowered the ship’s bell into their
cutter, whilst a daring youngster swarmed up to the foremast-head and
secured her gilt weather-vane.

They were all vastly pleased with themselves and their trophies.

Everybody being aboard again, the _Strong Arm_ steered to the north,
and, on passing the island where "No. 1" had exchanged Hopkins for Ping
Sang, sent the two destroyers inshore to reconnoitre; but though they
entered the little bay where "No. 1" had been so neatly trapped, and
explored the whole of the coast with their searchlights, no sign of any
ship or junk could be found.

The three ships then returned to Hong-Kong, Helston taking Ping Sang
back to the _Laird_ with him.

Ping Sang and Dr. Fox dined that night with Helston, and that merry old
Chinese gentleman, vastly pleased to be sitting once again in front of a
good dinner, was amusing in the extreme.

He made even the surly Doctor smile at his adventures, and very droll
were the descriptions of himself sweating along the main road to
Aberdeen loaded down with sugar-canes ("Beastly stuff!  I can’t think
why they eat it. Never knew what it was to earn a living of ten cents a
day"); of being hauled along by his pigtail through a malodorous crowd
of his countrymen to the police station ("Never knew I hated them
before, till they began kicking me in the back"); of his struggles and
protestations when the Englishman withdrew the charge and took him back
to the junk; of his voyage to the island, shut down below in the
stinking hold ("They didn’t go across that night, but hid round a corner
till the next"), and of his imprisonment on the island, where he was a
guest of the same Englishman ("That man is a precious scoundrel, I tell
you, and his food was worse; but he did give me some decent clothes,
I’ll say that for him").

The only one without a smile on his face was Jenkins, Helston’s marine
servant, who had persisted in accompanying his master; but this was due,
as Dr. Fox well knew, to the fact that he had been ashore that
afternoon, and was now assuming an air of extreme sobriety only to be
accounted for by a too liberal consumption of beer.

He was an extraordinary man, this old soldier.  He never went ashore
without coming off half-drunk, and, as Helston often said, "he’s always
most drunk when he’s most sober", and it was only by his preternatural
solemness, or by noticing that he occasionally carried the dishes round
the table at the double, that one knew that he had been making a brute
of himself ashore.

Time after time Helston had dismissed him and sent him for’ard to rejoin
the Marine Detachment, but always, next morning, he was stealthily
creeping about Helston’s cabin, folding up and brushing his clothes, and
waking him at exactly the same time with "Six bells just gone, sir", and
"’Ere’s your cup of tea".

He had once managed to get rid of him by giving him "five days’ cells",
but before he had finished this punishment Helston’s hair required
cutting.  No one could do this so well, so he was brought aft to do it,
and, the job being satisfactorily concluded, Helston gave him one of his
cigars, and twenty minutes to smoke it, before he was locked up again.

On the sixth morning it was "Six bells, sir, just gone, sir, and ’ere’s
your cup of tea", and he was now as much a permanent institution as the
ship’s bell or the ship’s cat.

Ping Sang had gained much interesting but no valuable information from
the Englishman.

"Hamilton is his name.  I knew him well several years ago, before he
disappeared, and he was always up to some devilment or other.  If he
could not manage to work for his living, he could certainly live by his
wits.

"He gave me a very interesting account of his whole scheme.  He,
Hopkins, and the German, Schmidt—the ’Mysterious Three’ of Tientsin—had
put in fifty thousand dollars apiece, and many wealthy Chinese had
subscribed very large sums in what he called ’our venture’.  ’We’ve done
pretty well.  We have quite a respectable little fleet, and have
captured thirty million dollars’ worth of ships and cargoes, to say
nothing of the ransoms some of our prisoners have paid for their
freedom.  We have friends throughout the country, and our prisoners know
that if they talk too much when they get back, they will get their
throats cut one fine night.  We have had to do it to several
already—just as a warning.’

"I asked him if he did not fear capture.

"’Capture!’ he laughed, highly amused.  ’You will never see any of us
again, unless you happen to come as paying guests.  Hopkins made a fool
of himself, but he won’t be caught napping again, and ten times your
little fleet could not get into our island.’

"I asked him what became of all the crews of the many ships he had
captured.  Had he hanged them?

"’Hang them?  Rather not!’ he told me.  ’One or two of the first few,
perhaps, but ever since, directly they see what a fine life we are
having there, they volunteer to join us, and make splendid recruits.’"

"Did you discover how he was going to get back to his precious island?"
asked Helston.

"No, I did not.  I asked him several times, and kept my eyes and ears
open, but not a thing could I discover. He had nothing there except the
junk, as far as I could see, and they gave me complete liberty to go
about the island as much as I liked."

"How did you spend your time?" asked Dr. Fox.

"Playing cards with him, like a fool," said Ping Sang, wreathed in
smiles; "and I lost nearly ten thousand dollars, and have promised to
send them ashore directly we reach his island.  He is going to send a
junk for them as soon as we get there, and he had the cheek, too, to ask
me to bring up all the things he had left behind him in the Victoria
Hotel.

"Oh yes, I promised," laughed Ping Sang; "he amused me so, I couldn’t
help promising him."

Dinner being over, Hunter and the Captain of the _Sylvia_, Commander
Bannerman, came across in their galleys, and they and Cummins of the
_Laird_ joined a council of war, to determine the future plan of
operations.

It was a curiously impressive little scene in Captain Helston’s
fore-cabin that night—the polished table littered with documents and
lighted by the hanging crimson-shaded electric lamps; the grey clouds of
tobacco smoke eddying among the steel deck-beams overhead and curling
through the after 12-pounder gun-ports; the glitter of the polished
brass-work of the gun-mountings, one on each side of the cabin—a grim
reminder of war; and the serious, eager faces of Helston and his three
Commanders as they bent over the various papers and argued their plans
and proposals.

The last time they had all met together round that table they had drunk
success to the squadron, and gaily hoped that the pirates would give
them a chance of "doing something".

Now they had done something—one of their three destroyers was at the
bottom, and five of her men had gone down with her; nine of the _Strong
Arm’s_ men were dead (three had died of their wounds), and thirty or
more were wounded—and though they had destroyed a cruiser, still she had
not previously entered into their calculations, and her appearance on
the scene rudely interfered with their plans and expectations of only
meeting old, half-repaired Chinese men-of-war.  There might be more like
her, acquired secretly, and with the memory of those nine bodies waiting
to be buried in the quiet cemetery in the Happy Valley next morning, and
the unknown strength of the enemy they were now going to meet, the
council took their places round Helston’s table with a certain
solemnity.

Captain Helston himself, gaunt and thin, sat at the head, his long, thin
face haggard in the electric light, his right hand nervously fidgeting
with some papers in front of him, and his left arm still bandaged to his
side, his empty sleeve sewn across his chest.

At the other end of the table sat Hunter of the _Strong Arm_, a man with
a great red face and great red hands, a clumsy-looking giant, more
grieved at the loss of his men than elated at the destruction of the
pirate cruiser.  A typical bluff, good-hearted sailor was he, not devoid
of brains, but seldom troubling to use them.  To see him in a football
"scrum", and to hear his lusty roars of encouragement to his side, did
one good, and one knew immediately what kind of man he was.

Use his brains!  Why?  God had given him a great body which never knew
fatigue, a mind which never knew fear, and he was one of the
"range-up-alongside-and-blow-
the-beggar-out-of-water-and-if-he-won’t-sink-ram-him" school of naval
officer.

Antiquated in his ideas he may have been, but he was possessed, as are
most men like him, of an enormous personal magnetism, and every man Jack
of his crew would follow him to the death.

On Helston’s right sat Ping Sang, bubbling over with humorous details of
his escapade, red in the face, his eyes twinkling with appreciation of
his good dinner.  As he was beautifully dressed in his favourite colour
of dark claret silk, and had a gold-knobbed skull-cap of the same colour
on his head, his gay attire contrasted strangely with the more sober
mess jackets of the others.

As usual, he was smoking a cigar, and had in front of him a big despatch
box, from which he drew rolls of papers, spreading them in front of him
with a due sense of their importance.

No one who had seen him on board "No. 1" the day before, standing calmly
near the after funnel under a heavy fire, could help but praise his
contempt for danger; but his first remark when he was taken off in the
_Strong Arm’s_ boat and saw the destroyer slide under the sea was,
"There goes four hundred thousand dollars", and when it was discovered
that she had carried three men down with her, in addition to the two who
had been knocked overboard, all he said was, "Men very cheap; plenty
more to take their places".

It was very evident that everything was precious to him except the lives
of the people whom he was paying to risk their lives for the protection
of his vast trade.  Already Helston and the others had lost some of
their first admiration for the good-natured, plucky little man, and
could not feel in sympathy with a nature so completely indifferent to
death and suffering.  Still, he was not a European, and allowance had to
be made for the stoicism and callousness of the Celestial.

Next to him sat Cummins, an odd little figure, his tie up round his
ears, smoking a stale old pipe, and chuckling to himself as some
humorous fancy passed through his active brain.  Nothing, however solemn
or tragic, but had its amusing side for him.

Opposite him, and on Helston’s left, was Bannerman of the _Sylvia_, a
tall, restless man, with light tawny hair and cleanly-trimmed beard.  He
had employed all his social and service influence to be appointed to
Helston’s squadron, and always had a grievance that the _Sylvia_ was
only a store-ship.  The other Commanders chaffed him unmercifully about
his four little 12-pounders—the only guns she carried—and to ask him how
much coal he had for them was always sufficient to get a "rise" out of
him.

He was not popular, and when in a bad temper nagged his officers and men
till they in turn were white-hot with silent rage.  It was always with
him: "My ship moored very smartly this morning, Cummins", or "Beat you
yesterday unmooring, Hunter", or some other of the two or three
evolutions the store-ship could take part in.

He did not disguise his knowledge that if anything happened to Cummins
or Hunter he would get the vacancy, and, though he naturally never said
so in so many words, it was quite plain he looked forward to such an
event occurring.

His one idea was promotion, and he would stick at nothing to obtain it,
caring not at all who suffered in the process.

Dr. Fox was there too, reading the _Hong-Kong Evening Mail_ in an
easy-chair by the side of the fire, and making some caustic remark from
time to time.

A strange little group of fighting men it was: Helston, broken in
health, and only eager for promotion because promotion meant his
marriage to little Miss Milly; Bannerman craving for it for the power in
its train; big-hearted Hunter caring not a jot, so long as he got plenty
of fighting; and little Cummins, caring little for anything, so long as
he could work out practically his scientific theories of modern warfare.

The island occupied by the pirates was called Hong Lu—merely a small dot
on the Admiralty chart, lying in the middle of the Straits of Formosa,
half-way between the Pescadores and Amoy.  Ping Sang had had copies made
of the rough map, drawn by the English merchant captain a year ago, and
passed them round.

From these it appeared that Hong Lu was about five miles long, shaped
somewhat like a horse-shoe, and that the harbour, inside the loop, was
connected with the sea by a narrow passage between high cliffs, formed
by the curved-in ends of the island.

At the loop end there was also another outlet to the sea even more
narrow than the first.

The English captain had roughly marked the places, on each side of the
entrance, where he had seen them mounting guns, and Ping Sang knew that,
among the cargoes of the three steamers captured outside Nagasaki
eighteen months ago, there were six 6-inch modern guns and many smaller
quick-firers.  As these had been intended for a new Chinese fort on the
Min river, and as all their mountings and ammunition had also been on
board, it would be an easy matter to mount them efficiently.

"They’ll give us some trouble," smiled Hunter, gleefully rubbing his big
red hands together; "take any amount of hammering if the beggars only
fight ’em properly."

"I only hope they won’t," muttered Dr. Fox from his easy-chair.  "We’ve
had quite enough poor fellows killed already, and I don’t want any more
work patching up the wounded."

"And here is the list of ships," continued Ping Sang.

This was the list of Chinese men-of-war which had been run ashore after
the battle of the Yalu, and had apparently been salved by some
Europeans—the "Mysterious Three".

It included the _Yao Yuen_ and the _Mao Yuen_, sister ships, ten years
old, and of about three thousand tons. Each carried two Krupp 8-inch and
six 4.7-inch guns. Then there was the _Tu Ping_, somewhat larger and
still older, carrying a 10-inch Krupp in the bows and nine 6-inch
besides—all of them old-fashioned guns.

These were probably the three sighted by the English gun-boat whilst
cruising in the Chusan Archipelago a few months previously.

In addition, two or three corvettes belonging formerly to the Yangtze
squadron had disappeared.  These, however, could never be made
serviceable against modern ships.

"That little lot ought not to give us much trouble," said Hunter rather
sadly; "they dare not come out and fight us in the open."

"They have ten or twelve torpedo-boats," interposed Cummins, who was a
devoted believer in the possibilities of the torpedo, "and if those
three destroyers, which must have been handed over by the Patagonian
Government since we left them at Colombo, reach this precious island of
theirs, they will give us no end of trouble."

"Yes, perhaps they will," said Hunter cheerfully.  "It will add to the
excitement, won’t it?  Make a more level game, eh?  ’No. 2’ and ’No. 3’
ought to be pretty busy with that little lot.  Almost wish I was in
command of one myself."

"I should think it would make a more level game," came from behind Dr.
Fox’s newspaper satirically—"much more level."

"Well, what shall we do?" asked Helston.  "Those three destroyers have
at least twelve hours’ start of us, and I don’t suppose it will be
possible to catch them, for, of course, we cannot leave until after the
funeral of your men, Hunter.  Directly the funeral parties have returned
we will weigh and proceed north."

"Certainly, sir, we shall be ready," replied Bannerman and Hunter, the
latter, adding, "Of course, sir, I could not leave till I had buried my
men."

"Excuse me, sir," interposed Cummins, chuckling in his nervous manner;
"those destroyers could not take all the crew of the _Hai Yen_ and her
stores without being unseaworthy.  They must have had some other ship
there, and if she had been a man-of-war we should have seen something of
her.  Don’t you think that must have been so, sir?"

"Certainly; I half suspected it myself."

"Well then, sir, they must have had a merchant steamer, and a pretty
small one at that, otherwise they could not have got her in close enough
to transfer all those stores in one night, the water is so shallow."

"Certainly, certainly," nodded the others.

"Therefore, if she was small, there are but few such steamers that can
steam more than ten knots, and this, or more probably less, will be her
speed to Hong Lu, and the destroyers would be pretty certain to convoy
her, and so we might catch them as well."

"You want us to start immediately?" asked Helston.

"Certainly, sir, and at your highest speed, sending ’No. 2’ and ’No. 3’
ahead, if possible, and with luck we might bag them and Hopkins, and the
lame Englishman in addition."

"But," interposed Bannerman, "your whole plan is based on mere
conjecture, Cummins, and you must remember that my ship cannot steam
faster than ten knots herself."

"You can come on afterwards," replied Cummins, adding maliciously, for
he loved to goad Bannerman, "You won’t want an escort, I suppose.
Haugh! haugh! haugh!"

"Well, well," Helston interfered, seeing that Bannerman was rapidly
losing his temper, "the conjecture may turn out to be incorrect, but it
is better to act upon it than upon nothing at all."

"What time can you get your funeral parties on board again, Hunter?"

"Not before noon, sir; their mess-mates would never forgive me if they
could not do this."

"When I turn up my toes," said Bannerman snappishly, "I don’t mind what
happens to me; they can chuck me overboard if they like."

"Well, old fellow," answered Hunter, "when my turn comes, I should like
to know that my own men looked after me."

"Very good, gentlemen," concluded Helston.  "The _Strong Arm_ will
follow the squadron, the remainder of which will leave at daybreak."

Before Hunter went back to the _Strong Arm_ he drew Captain Helston
aside and put in a good word for Pattison of the ill-fated "No. 1", but
the latter shook his head: "Plucky, of course, he was, but a man in
command of a destroyer wants more than pluck—brains and common sense."

"Those two midshipmen, sir, Glover and Foote, behaved with great
coolness for youngsters under fire for the first time, and Harrington,
who I hear is doing well in hospital, did magnificently.

"Could you manage to send Foote to ’No. 3’, sir? The two boys are great
chums and he deserves another chance."

"All right, Hunter, I will not forget him; good-night."

Shaking hands with Helston the little council of war broke up, the
Commanders going back to their ships, leaving him and Dr. Fox alone.
Ping Sang was by this time sound asleep, unable to withstand the
influence of his good dinner, so they left him where he sat, and the two
old friends had a last pipe together before turning in. Going through
the fore-cabin again before saying "good-night" they woke Ping Sang, who
was still asleep with his head on the table.

He sat up with a start, and with a yell of triumph banged at the table
till the tumblers rattled.

"Ho Ming’s butler, the butler himself, I’ll have his liver torn out if
ever I can get him across to the mainland!"

"Whatever’s the matter?" they both asked, thinking his dinner had had
too much effect on him.

"He’s that brute who betrayed me to the lame Englishman Hamilton.  I
felt sure that I had somewhere before seen the man who went aboard those
junks so hurriedly, and that’s the man—Ho Ming’s butler, the
white-livered scoundrel!"

He was in a frantic rage, and wanted to go ashore immediately and tell
Ho Ming; but Captain Helston and Dr. Fox managed finally to calm him,
and induced him to go to bed.



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                  *The Avenging of Destroyer "No. 1"*


    Off in Pursuit—Horribly Sea-sick—A Neck-and-Neck Race—Commence
    Firing!—Running into Danger—"No. 1" Avenged—The Dinghy
    Capsizes—Plucky Little Ogston


               _The Narrative is continued by Mr. Glover_


We had had a jolly good day at Sin Ling Island, and Mr. Parker let me go
aboard the _Hai Yen_ with the other midshipmen, and a grand time we had
scrambling about her.  I brought back a scraggy cat—half-witted I think
he was, for he walked about with his head on one side in the funniest
manner possible, "meaowing" from morning to night.  His fur was burnt
off one side, but we got some ointment stuff from the medicine chest
aft, and with some bandages made him ship-shape—a comical sight he
looked, I can tell you.

We didn’t get much sleep that night, because, after coming back, we had
to fill up with coal again, get in fresh provisions, and then bring our
torpedoes over from the _Sylvia_.  It was not till three o’clock that I
crept into the Gunner’s bunk (he was on watch), and got a couple of
hours’ sleep.

Then we all unmoored, and whilst I was busy seeing everything secured
aft, who should come alongside but Tommy Toddles in one of the _Laird’s_
cutters.  He was wildly excited, I could see, and, after reporting
himself to Mr. Parker, came dancing along the deck and told me that
Captain Helston had sent him to join "No. 3".  We got his chest out of
the boat, but there was very little room for it anywhere, and Mr.
Parker, who swore very loudly when he saw it, made him take out the
things he wanted most and then sent it back to the _Laird_.

"You two youngsters will have to share the same chest," he said.  But we
didn’t mind in the least, it was so jolly to have Tommy.

Well, "No. 2" and we shoved off and left the _Strong Arm_ behind,
looking very forlorn in the half daylight with her ensign at half-mast.
It seemed quite strange, too, without "No. 1", and, when we were running
past the _Sylvia_, we saw Mr. Pattison on the bridge, looking, we
thought, very down on his luck.

Directly we were clear of Hong-Kong and were on our proper course, we
were sent ahead at full speed, and then had not much time to think of
anything else, for there was a big loppy sea and a strong breeze on our
starboard bow.

We were doing twenty-five knots and began to get very lively.

I thought that nothing would ever make me sea-sick, but this did, and as
I had nothing to do on deck, and neither Tommy nor I wanted to yarn, I
crept into the Gunner’s bunk again; but the Sub came down a few minutes
after to get his oil-skins and found me there.  He turned me out,
ordered me on deck, and made me take the wheel from the quarter-master
and steer.

We were pitching tremendously, our bows burying themselves up to the
conning tower.  Down, down they would go till I thought, with an awfully
empty feeling inside me, that they would never stop.  Up they would come
again, tons of water pouring off them, and the wave catching her
amidships would roll her over to leeward.

Roll!  Why, several times I thought she would go right over, and once or
twice, as we heeled, I caught hold of the edge of the bridge to steady
myself; but Collins had his eye on me all the time, and cursed me pretty
hard.

"Keep her into it, you young ass!  Don’t let her pay off like that," he
said.  And another time: "If you let her swing more than two points off
her course again, I’ll give you half a dozen over the ward-room table."

I would do my best, and would put the helm over to steady her, feeling
horribly sick and dreadfully miserable, for I was wet through and very
cold.

Mr. Parker came up presently in his oil-skins to relieve Collins,
smoking a pipe, the very sight of which made me feel green, and after
looking cheerily at "No. 2", which was on our beam, and having as bad a
time as ourselves, said, with his body jammed securely between the
chart-table and the 12-pounder; "We shall break the old girl’s back if
we keep at this much longer, Collins.  Give me a light, old chap; all my
matches are wet through."

I devoutly wished she would break her back, and actually looked aft to
see if there were any sign of such good fortune.

We slowed down shortly afterwards and fell back to the _Laird_; but she
must have been doing nearly twenty knots, and though she did give us
somewhat of a lee, we had a horrible time of it.

Mr. Parker sent me down below, and I had to hold on pretty hard to get
safely aft, and I found poor Tommy lying on the after 6-pounder gratings
in a worse state even than I was.

This cheered me a little.

The night was almost as bad, and though I was dead tired and wet through
to the skin and longed to die, it was impossible to lie in a bunk.  I
was thrown out of the Sub’s bunk twice—you see there were not enough
bunks for all, so I had to use the one belonging to the man on watch—and
spent most of the night on the deck of the ward-room, clinging to the
legs of the ward-room table, till even these gave way at one extra heavy
lurch.  We went clattering to leeward and woke the Engineer, who kicked
me out and wanted to know "What I meant by choosing that time of night
to play musical chairs?"

Then I crept up on deck and held on to the after steering screen, really
too frightened to go below again, we were rolling so horribly.  I tell
you all this just to let you know what it is like to be in a destroyer
in heavy weather for the first time.  People see destroyers dashing in
and out of harbour, and think what a jolly life it must be on board; and
so it is, too, when once you are used to it, and have learnt that they
can stand on their heads one moment, roll till the sea comes half-way up
to their funnels the next, and be none the worse for it.

But doesn’t it want a lot of hanging on?

Tommy joined me behind the screen presently, and a miserable pair we
were, I can tell you, and wished ourselves back again in the _Laird_,
swinging in our hammocks.

In the middle watch Jones, one of our petty officers and the captain of
the 12-pounder, came aft to take the log and found us there.

"’Ello, sir! what be you two young gen’lemen a-doing of there?" he said.

We gulped out that we were too scared to go below, and felt better in
the fresh air.

He held up his flickering lantern.  "Eh! ye be sea-sick, be ye?" he
said.  "Well, ye do look powerful green, and be as wet as water.  Just
come along o’ me; I’ll stow you away out of ’arm."

He made us climb into the dinghy, which was in her crutches amidships,
told us to lie down on some coils of rope and old canvas deck-cloths,
and covered us with a tarpaulin.

We huddled up together and presently got warm again, and once we were
warm and steamy we soon went to sleep.

It did not seem ten minutes later before we were roughly shaken by the
shoulders, and there was Jones again.

"Turn out, you young gents; just show a leg there. It’s gone seven bells
(half-past seven), and it’s time ye were rousing yourselves."

"Looking better the noo, ye are," he said, as we scrambled out from
under the tarpaulin, feeling stiff all over but the sea-sickness gone;
"and ’ere’s a drop of hot cocoa for you and a bit of ship’s biscuit—make
men of you agin."

The sea had gone down considerably and it was broad daylight, the sun
shining brightly, and Jones was smiling in a fatherly manner at us, with
a couple of ship’s biscuits in one hand and a bowl of steaming cocoa in
the other.

Well, I should never have believed it possible.  A few hours before I
thought I should never want to touch a bit of food again, and now we
both felt famished, and would have gulped down the lot between us, but
Jones made us eat a bit of hard biscuit first, and then sandwich in a
little cocoa, and so on till there was no more left of either.

"No, there ain’t no more," said Jones, "and the Captain, ’e wants to see
you both as soon as you’ve made yourselves respectable."

He was on the bridge; and after we had brushed each other down we went
for’ard, feeling awfully cheap and disreputable.

"Now, you two youngsters must understand," he began. "I’ll let you off
this time, but don’t let me ever catch you shirking your work again,
whether you are sea-sick or not. Now, go below (I think I saw a twinkle
in his eye) and get some breakfast.  The _Laird_ has sighted those
pirate destroyers and we are chasing them, but I shall not want either
of you for half an hour, so make the best of your time."

"Where are they, sir?" we asked eagerly.

"Right ahead, but we can’t see them yet.  They’ve only just sighted them
from the _Laird_."

The range of view from a destroyer is very limited, and it was the
_Laird’s_ mast-head look-out who had discovered them.

"Couldn’t we stay, sir?" we asked, forgetting all about our hunger in
the excitement.

"No.  Go down below; and you’re not to come up again for half an hour."

Even with our excitement we managed to tuck in pretty well when at last
the officers’ cook did send us down something to eat—some eggs and
bacon—from the galley, and we made a loaf of bread and a pot of jam look
precious small before we had finished.

We waited impatiently for the thirty minutes to go by and then ran up to
the bridge, and by this time could see a cloud of smoke on the horizon
ahead of us.

We were tearing along with a vengeance, "No. 2" coming up astern, and
the _Laird_ several miles behind us.

A lovely morning it was, for the gale of yesterday had blown itself out,
and the sea was now a beautiful glittering green, with a long, quiet
swell, crested here and there with "white horses", which every now and
then dashed against our bows, leapt into the air, and fell in thousands
of sparkling drops over the fo’c’stle.

"No. 2" kept gradually coming up, and eventually, do what we could, she
drew level, and neck and neck we raced, not fifty yards apart.

Tommy and I could hardly keep still with excitement, and I felt as if I
was tingling all over.  Neither Mr. Parker nor Mr. Lang of "No. 2" had
as yet been under fire, and now was their chance to avenge poor "No. 1";
and they were going to do it, too, if only the engines did their best.

And splendidly they whizzed round, and we were going even faster than
when we chased the destroyer outside Colombo.

We now could see that there was a small merchant steamer with the
pirates, almost hidden in smoke, but she seemed to be lagging behind,
and presently we saw that the destroyers were steaming away from her.

"They’re leaving her to her fate," said Mr. Parker, and half an hour
later we caught her up, and went flying past near enough to see one
stolid-looking man on her bridge staring solemnly at us.  She was only
an old tub of a merchantman, very deep in the water, wallowing along
like a porpoise, and showing her bottom covered with barnacles and green
growth as she rolled.

"She probably has the crew of the _Hai Yen_ aboard," Mr. Parker told us,
"and the _Laird_ will catch her in an hour."

We left her as if she had been at anchor, "No. 2" forging ahead a
little, whilst Mr. Lang roared insulting remarks to Mr. Parker through
the megaphone, and the Sub dangled the end of their grass hawser over
the stern and asked if we wanted a tow—the most deadly insult they could
give.

We were now coming up to the three pirates, one of which seemed unable
to keep up with the others and was falling back rapidly, whilst the
other two, like huge porpoises, went rushing on.

By this time we had gone to quarters, and were standing by our guns.
Tommy had to do doggy to Mr. Parker and run messages; I had to look
after the for’ard 6-pounders, one on each side under the bridge.

The men took off their boots so that they could grip the deck more
firmly with their bare feet, stripped off their jumpers, and stood to
their guns, eagerly waiting, with rows of cartridges in the racks behind
them.

Down where I was, with "No. 2" right ahead, I could not see the pirates,
but almost immediately the signalman above me shouted: "They’ve fired,
sir!" and in the twinkling of a second a shell, missing "No. 2", fell
into the water close under our bows, and, bursting, covered one gun’s
crew with spray.

"Me mither told me niver to git wet," said the funny man of the crew,
ruefully shaking himself.

"Put your big feet up, then, and keep it off, Bill," shouted one, and
"Take off your ’at, ’twill make yer ’air grow", shouted another.

"Shall we load, sir?" asked the Captain of the gun, a little grey-eyed
man named Clarke.

I told him to wait for orders, and so we hung on, and as plenty more
shells came whistling past, the men became rather restless, the
ammunition numbers picking up the cartridges and waiting for the signal
to load.

The order seemed a tremendously long time coming, but "No. 2", sheering
across our bows to port, gave us a good view of the pirate, and
commenced firing herself.

At last Tommy, putting his head over the bridge screen, shouted down;
"Stand by!"  "Close up!" I yelled to the two guns’ crews, and the
captains of the guns, with their chin-stays gripped between their teeth,
jumped to their shoulder-pieces, pressing well home, glued their eyes to
the sights, and, with feet wide apart, stood ready, keeping their sights
on the destroyer.

Down went the breech-blocks with a snap, in rattled the cartridges, up
went the blocks again, and "Ready!" yelled the breech numbers.

"Range 1500 yards!" yelled Tommy from the bridge overhead in a funny,
squeaky, excited voice, and directly afterwards I heard Mr. Parker give
the order "Commence!" to Jones of the 12-pounder gun.

Tommy passed the order down to us, and with a whoop of joy the men
jumped to their guns.

My aunt, what a row there was!

Destroyer "No. 2" was now well ahead of us, and as she gradually drew
abreast of the pirate destroyer she got four guns to bear—the 12-pounder
on the bridge, the 6-pounder just beneath it on the starboard side, the
6-pounder on the beam amidships, and the 6-pounder on the platform aft.

We could see the fierce little spurts of flames darting out, and thought
she hit the pirate several times.

We too were firing very fast, and were trying to rake her stern, hoping
to be able to knock away some of her rudder gear.

The pirate was dividing her attention between us, but was shooting very
wildly and could not touch us; and no wonder, for presently "No. 2" had
even forged ahead of her, and we could every now and then see shells
bursting against her funnels and cowls and under her bridge. We all
yelled with delight.

Her shooting became very feeble, and we could see the guns’ crews trying
to sneak away down below; but a big man, with a great black beard, and
dressed as an officer, kept on driving them back, exposing himself with
great bravery.

It was wonderful that he was not hit, and really, if we had been
superstitious we should have thought that he bore a charmed life.  But
now "No. 2" had forged right ahead and was settling down after the other
two destroyers, leaving this one entirely to us.

Was not that a gentlemanly thing for Mr. Lang to do?

Now that they were no longer under a cross fire, the pirates took
courage again, and their shells began whistling past us in dozens.  We
did work hard at our guns, I can tell you, and hit her many times, but
never seemed able to reach a vital spot, for we were plunging and
shaking into the long swell, and it was awfully difficult to keep our
sights steady.

Just then there was a faint cheer from the pirate, and we could see
those still left on deck waving their arms and pointing ahead.

Tommy came jumping down the ladder in a tremendous state of excitement.

"The island of Hong Lu is in sight," he said, "and a cruiser is coming
out to their rescue.  Mr. Parker says we can’t possibly carry on for
more than ten minutes longer, and he’s going to steer in more closely.
You have to fire at her water-line between her funnels and try and
disable her boilers."

All our guns were turned on this part, and we gradually edged in till we
were not fifty yards away; but encouraged to renewed exertions by the
chance of a rescue, they fired still more vigorously, and at that
distance could not help hitting us.  One shell bursting nearly
amidships, wounded two men standing there, another pierced our foremost
funnel, tearing a great rent in it, and a third burst against the
conning tower, within ten feet of where I was standing, and though it
stunned us for the moment, smothered us with smoke, and little pieces of
it went flying round, no one was hit.

That was about their last shot, for they could take no more punishment.
Ten or twelve had already been knocked over, and we could see them lying
in huddled heaps on the deck.  The rest took shelter below, crowding
down the small hatchways, till we could see no one except the big
officer.

"That cruiser is getting jolly close," said Tommy, who had been sent
down to see what damage that last shell had done, "and ’No. 2’ is coming
back as fast as she can."

I could just see the big cruiser coming along under a dense cloud of
smoke, not more than 6000 yards off, firing at "No. 2" as she flew back
towards us.

I thought that Mr. Lang had had enough of it and was running away, and
wondered how Mr. Parker dare carry on, but not a bit of it.  Round came
"No. 2", and circling about our stern, she stationed herself just astern
of the pirate destroyer, on her other quarter, plugging at her for all
she was worth, and then I saw that we were both safe for the next few
minutes.  You see we were all three in a bunch, and the cruiser could
not fire without risk of hitting her own destroyer.

We ran like this, firing into her as hard as we could—we on one side,
"No. 2" on the other—and now our shooting began to take effect.  The
pirate began to slacken speed; we could see wide rents in her side and
water pouring in.

"Keep at it, men, for another minute," shouted Mr. Parker, and we poured
in a regular stream of shells.

One or two of these just did the trick (we never found out which fired
it, but Jones claimed it for his 12-pounder, and "No. 2" was equally
certain it was her shot), for suddenly a great volume of smoke and steam
rushed up from her deck, her mast and foremost funnel went over the
side, and her deck opened in a great gap, as if she had broken her back.

We gave a great cheer, and heard "No. 2" cheering wildly too.

It was just about time, for the cruiser was now not two thousand yards
off, and began blazing at us, apparently not caring whether she hit her
own destroyer or not, now that she could not possibly get away.

One shell fell into the water just between us, and went ricocheting away
with a loud hissing noise.

We had to leave her, and quickly too; so wheeling round we steered to
pick up the _Laird_ again, which now was out of sight, firing a parting
broadside, which made Mr. Parker sing out, "Cease firing, men, cease
firing; she’s had enough, she’s sinking!"

Didn’t the cruiser give it to us then!  Big shot came pitching all round
us with the noise of an express train, and little ones went past with a
"flipping" sound.  How it was we were never hit I cannot imagine to this
day, for she was really making splendid practice in that first five
minutes, and I don’t think I have ever felt in so much of a funk since,
for, you see, if but one of those big shells had come aboard, it would
have been death for everybody, and we should have sunk before we could
have said "Jack Robinson".

But our great speed soon took us out of accurate range, and then we were
practically safe, except from any chance shot.

The cruiser must have seen the _Laird_ before we did, for she soon gave
up the chase and left us alone; and mighty glad we were, too, I can tell
you, and went to "clean guns" and cleared up the deck.  It was littered
with empty cartridge cases, in spite of many which had rolled or been
thrown overboard.  The two wounded men had been attended to long before
this, but there was nothing very serious wrong with them, just flesh
wounds from small bits of shell.

Looking back we saw that the other two destroyers had returned, and were
standing by the one we had crippled; but they could not save her, for
suddenly she turned turtle and disappeared, our men breaking out into
cheers again.

"I hope they managed to save that big chap," Tommy said, and Mr. Parker,
hearing him, added, "I hope so too; I should jolly well like to shake
hands with that man."

We ran back safely to the _Laird_, and found her standing by the little
merchant steamer, which was rolling heavily in the long swell, had a
great list to port, and was apparently sinking.

We had heard no guns fired, so could not make out quite what had
happened; but the _Laird_ had evidently boarded the steamer, for, as we
came in sight of her, she was hoisting her two life-boats (cutters), and
it turned out that directly she had heard the report of heavy guns in
our direction, she had recalled the boats which she had sent across and
was coming to our rescue, judging that we had been attacked by something
bigger than a destroyer.

We went as near the _Laird_ as was safe, and sent across the two wounded
men, much against their will, I must say, for they thought that once
they were sent to the _Laird_ they would never get a chance of rejoining
"No. 3", and everyone expected that the destroyers would see most of the
fighting.

Tommy took them over in the whaler, and as he got alongside the
_Laird’s_ after accommodation-ladder, her crew came crowding to the side
and gave three cheers, for by this time they had heard that we had sunk
one of the pirates.

Whilst Tommy was away the little steamer gave one or two heavy lurches
to port, lifted her bows out of the water, just as if she had been
alive, and was struggling to keep her head up, and then sank.

Poor little thing!  She had probably been thumping her way up and down
the Chinese coast for years till she had fallen into the hands of the
pirates, and you could not help feeling sorry for her.

By this time the _Laird_ had lowered her boats again, and they pulled
over to where we could see a lot of heads bobbing about in the water,
and were evidently trying to save some of the struggling wretches.

A signal was semaphored across to us, and we had to get out our dinghy
and go to their assistance as well.  I went in charge with a volunteer
crew, consisting of Jones, our petty officer, and another man, and hard
work it was in that clumsy boat, nearly as broad as she was long, to
pull across to where the steamer had sunk.

We could do no good either, for the Chinese would not let us save them,
and it was dangerous work in that cranky boat getting hold of them with
a boat-hook and trying to haul them over the gunwale against their will.
They probably thought that we should torture them, and preferred a quick
death by drowning to mutilation, of which a Chinaman has a terrible
dread.

One we had nearly dragged on board, and all three of us were tugging at
him, when a wave lopped in over the gunwale.  We filled with water, and
before we knew what had happened we were all struggling in the water,
still gripping hold of the wretched Chinaman.

"Let the brute go!" I shouted, as soon as I got my head above water, and
we swam to the dinghy and clung on to her keel.  It was a jolly
uncomfortable position, for the water was very cold, and the waves kept
washing over us, and it was mighty hard work clinging to that three
inches of wood keel.

With all my clothes on, and my boots too, I seemed to weigh a ton, and
but for Jones catching hold of me every now and then whenever a wave
came along I should have been washed away.

We were not left there long, though, for one of the _Laird’s_ cutters
was quite close and came alongside, dropping down from wind’ard,
Mellins—good old Mellins—with a grin of delight, standing up in the
stern and taking care that we were not struck by the oars.

They hauled us aboard, and then we got hold of the dinghy’s painter and
towed her back to "No. 3". Mellins, being a chum of mine, and an awfully
good chap, first hunted round and fished all her bottom boards and her
sculls and boat-hook out of the water, for I dare not go back without
them, because Mr. Parker would have been so angry.

We all were horribly cold by the time we scrambled up the side of "No.
3", and, never thinking of anything else except to change into dry
things, I was just going to dive down below, when Mr. Parker hallooed
out to me; "Hoist your boat immediately, you young idiot!  I’ll teach
you to capsize my dinghy!"

We got it inboard presently, working at the little derrick winch till we
were almost warm again, and then I ran down to Mr. Parker’s cabin to
report "all correct".  "He really ought to be rather pleased", I
thought, for we had lost none of the boat’s gear; but I had forgotten
that I was still dripping with water, and wherever I stood a puddle of
water formed immediately.

Mr. Parker, seeing the mess I was making on his cabin deck, flew into a
great rage, and ordered me to go on deck, take all my things off, and
then report to him. "What the dickens do you mean by making my cabin in
such a state?"

It didn’t take a minute to slip off all my sloppy clothes, and I went
down again with nothing on but my cap, which somehow or other had stuck
on my head all the time I was in the water.

"You’ve lost everything out of her, I suppose?" he said angrily, though
he seemed rather amused at my appearance. "Here I send you away to pick
up people, and you have the cheek to capsize my boat and make yourself
and ’No. 3’ a laughing-stock!"

"I’m very sorry, sir," I told him, "but they did struggle so, and we
didn’t lose anything out of her, sir, not even her stern grating; we
picked them all up."

"All right, Glover, don’t do it again."

You can imagine that, as I stood there shivering, with my cap in my hand
and not a stitch of clothes on, I wasn’t very anxious to repeat the
experiment.

"I didn’t intend you to report to me like that," he added, smiling
again.  "Now, dry yourself," and he threw me one of his big bath-towels,
"and when you are dry, climb into my bunk and get warm."

He went on deck, and it was glorious rubbing myself dry till my skin
glowed, and Tommy came down with my pyjamas and a bucket of red-hot pea
soup he had got from the men’s galley.

It wasn’t long before I was jolly snug under Mr. Parker’s blankets, and
then Tommy told me of a very plucky thing that had happened.  They had
told him about it when he went aboard the _Laird_ with our wounded men.

It seems that when the _Laird_ had overhauled the steamer, many of the
crew jumped overboard and were drowned, nor would she stop her engines
till the _Laird_ had sent a shot across her bows and then another into
her bridge.

This brought her to, and a couple of boats, with their crews armed, were
sent across to take charge of her.

They found, as had been imagined, that the crew of the _Hai Yen_ were
aboard, but they made no resistance, and our people signalled over for
some stokers and engine-room hands to work the engines.

Little Ogston, the assistant engineer—I told you before what a jolly
little chap he is, and how clever—went over in charge of them, and by
the time they got aboard something had evidently gone wrong with the
steamer, for she seemed to be sinking.

They found that the Chinese captain had opened all his flooding valves
and under-water openings, and that the engine-room and stokehold were
half-full of water.

They could not close them, for the fittings were now below the water,
but little Ogston made one of the Chinese stokers show him more or less
where the opening and closing gear was, and what did he do but strip off
his things and dive under the water, which had now risen almost as high
as the cylinders, and was finding its way into the other compartments of
the ship, fore and aft.

The engine-room was quite dark, Tommy told me, and there was fifteen
feet of water swishing about among the machinery as she lurched from
side to side, and all the grease and filth from the bilges was floating
about in it.

Just fancy having the pluck to dive into that in the dark, knowing that
it was only a question of a few minutes before the ship would sink!

Of course it was useless, and Ogston was jolly well exhausted after he
had made three attempts.  They had to carry him on deck and do the
artificial respiration dodge before he came round.

He then wanted the diving apparatus sent across from the _Laird_, and he
would have gone down again in the diver’s dress had not they all been
recalled to the _Laird_. That was when she heard the pirate cruiser’s
heavy guns, guessed we’d run up against something big, and was coming
along after us.

"So you see," Tommy finished up dolefully, "they had to leave the
steamer, which was chock-full of stores, ammunition, and the _Hai Yen’s_
small guns, and now everything has gone to the bottom.  But wasn’t it
jolly plucky of Ogston?  They’re awfully proud of him down in the
gun-room, and are going to give him a mess dinner to-night and a
sing-song afterwards.  Don’t you wish we could go?"

"Rather!" I said; but it turned out that there was something to do that
night much more exciting than a sing-song.



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                           *Night Operations*


    Cooky has a Grumble—A Pirate Junk—"Hup, Hoff, and Hout of
    it"—Creeping Inshore—Four Pirate Torpedo-boats—A Dangerous Job—A
    Cunning Trap—The Fourth Torpedo-boat


     _Told by Pat Jones, Petty Officer, First Class, Captain of the
                     12-pounder, Destroyer "No. 3"_


I ain’t no blooming scholard, an’ writin’ ain’t much in my line.

I writes to my ole missus once in a way, and to the kiddies when their
birthdays come along, having got a list of ’em all written down proper
inside the lid o’ my "ditty-box"[#], ’cause I can’t never remember ’em,
but that’s all the writin’ I ever does, excep’ writin’ up the rough log
when I’m on watch.  And sometimes, when I’m a bit flush of the dollars,
I sends ’em a curio, for the ole woman just ’ankers arter things from
furrin’ parts, and shows ’em to all ’er pals in the village—living down
Dorchester way, she does.  I’ve knowed her just puff ’erself like a hen
what ’as the dandiest lot of chicks in the farm-yard, just becos’ I
gives ’er a real Chinee dollar when I goes home from this ’ere station
three years ago come next Michaelmas, and they all peers over it and
’andles it, and says "I’m blessed!  I’m jiggered!  Well, my never! and
them there ’eathen savidges made that all along ’emselves," and I larfs
to myself (and ’as to take me pipe out o’ my mouth, I larf so ’earty),
for all along I knowed it was made up to Birmingham in the mint there.
But that’s jest like wimmin folk, they’s so blooming simple in some
things, though you can’t get round ’em in others.


[#] "_Ditty-box_", small wooden box in which men keep their letters and
small personal effects.


But that ain’t nothin’ to do with this ’ere story, so I’ll jest start
right away.

We’d ’ad a pretty ’ard time of it a-punchin’ up from ’Ong-Kong and then
a-fightin’ most of the forenoon with them pirates, the which was just a
bit of a picnic, and makes us all the more ’earty for our meals and pipe
o’ baccy.

Mr. Parker, says ’e, "That was your shot did the trick", ’e says, when
the pirate we’d been worrying all the morning, like my little dawg at
’ome worries the rats over to Farmer Gilroy’s corn-bins, busts up; but I
ain’t taking all the credit, because "No. 2" was firing furious-like all
the time, and maybe she did it, though, mind you, that 12-pounder of
mine don’t make bad shooting when we ain’t jumpin’ into a ’ead sea.

Then we runs back to the flag-ship, an’ I has to go away in the dinghy
an’ try to save some o’ them Chinese savidges.  We gets upset, an’ that
’ere midshipman, Mr. Glover, ain’t very ’andy at ’anging on, an’ I have
to look arter ’im pretty close.

He’s a rare plucked un, ’e is, an’ as cheerful and bright-like as a
nigger a-basking on the coral strand, with the sun a-shining in the
hazure skies above ’im and bernarnas a-growing all around ’im in plenty.

It does one good to see ’is merry face, and all of us on the lower deck
have just made up our minds to look arter ’im, come what may.

When you’ve dropped your last pipe overboard, and there ain’t no more
spuds to be ’ad, or ain’t got no terbacco, an’ no matches if you ’ad,
and there ain’t a dry spot anywhere, and everything is just dolesome,
along ’e comes as cheerful as a blooming cricket, and it do your ’eart
good just for to see ’im.

We all says when they send Mr. Foote ("Toddles", the Orficers call ’im)
to "No. 3": "Now, these two young gen’l’men will be ’appy", for, you
see, they be great pals, and afore ’e came Mr. Glover ’ad no one to
fight.

Well, I must ’urry on with this yarn.  We gets to the pirate island
about six bells (three o’clock) in the afternoon, ’aving had a stand
easy after dinner and a lay off the land, or forty winks, as you calls
it ashore.

We was a-punchin’ along easy-like astern of the _Laird_, "No. 2" being
just a’ead, and the _Sylvia_ a-coming up from the southward, fifty miles
astern by this time, an’ I was standing outside o’ the galley a-passing
the time o’ day with Cooky, who was a-drying my wet things and Mr.
Glover’s, the things what we had on when the dinghy capshuted, and
grumbling like ole ’Arry that a shell had bust in his galley and made a
’ole in his best saucepan and smashed a lot of the Orficers’ crockery.
"’Ow can I do mysel’ justice," he says, "with all ’em things a-busted
up.  I does my best, s’elp me, for them Orficers, but, there, they
always be grumbling—the spuds ain’t cooked, or the entray is cold, or
the blooming aigs is ’ard boiled or ain’t boiled enough.  And the lower
deck be just as bad.  Bill Williams of No. 3 mess comes a-rushing along
with a meat-pie as big as a ’ouse, covered with twisted bits o’ pastry,
and though there ain’t room on top o’ the galley for a aig-cup, I shoves
it on top o’ somethin’ else; and Nobby Hewitt of No. 5—them stokers be
always the most partickler—comes an’ ’e wants ’is mess’s bits o’ meat
roasted; and, lor’ love me, what with one toff wantin’ ’em stooed, and
another roast, an’ another sings out as cheerful as if the ’ole ship was
a galley, ’Boiled for us, Cooky’, ’Old Fatty’, or ’Carrots’, or some o’
their ’air-raising impertinences, why, strike me pink! there be hardly
room to cook a blooming sparrah, and they all egspecs me to go on
a-basting with one ’and, a-turning a joint with another, an’ stirring a
stoo with another, and pokin’ the fire, and pitchin’ on coals, and
fetching water all in the same breath; an’ ’ere you comes and fills me
doll’s-’ouse with yer dripping clothes.

"Is it any wonder," Cooky continued, wiping ’is ’ands on ’is apron,
"that my countenance ain’t always a-smiling like a green bay-tree, or
skipping like a young ram; now, is it, I awsks you?"

He was a very religious man was Cooky, secre-tary to the Naval
Temperance Society aboard us, and he played the ’armonium at church on
Sunday.

"So long as we don’t go a-fightin’ when the galley is chuck-full o’ the
men’s grub a-cooking, I’ll come out on top,", he says patient-like; "and
when I plays the ’armonium they’ll join in the hymns more ’earty, and
maybe sign the pledge.

"I’ve a great scheme," he continued, "for makin’ ’em sign the pledge.  I
knows exactly ’ow many men in each mess are temperance men, and the more
as ’ave signed on in any one mess, the more I looks arter that there
mess’s food be cooked proper, an’, so you see, they’ll all sign on afore
this commission’s out, just to get their food to their likin’.  I tried
that plan in the ole _Thunderer_."

"But you got yourself into trouble," I said, larfing.

"Well, I did get my leave stopped for six weeks once, and lost a badge
another time, but it was all took cheerful-like.  We all ’ave our
burdens to bear, Jones."

An’ ’e says, "I was a-watchin’ o’ your shootin’ that 12-pounder of yours
this morning, Pat Jones, and says I to mysel’, ’’E ain’t a bad fellow is
Jones, an’ if ’e took up savings[#] for ’is rum ’e might ’it what ’e
aimed at—sometimes’".


[#] Men who do not want their rum are allowed a little more than the
actual value of it.  This is called "taking up savings".


"Never you mind about that 12-pounder o’ mine, Mister Cooky.  I don’t
come ’ere telling you ’ow to cook," said I to him, and was going to put
it much more plainer, for he riles me, does Cooky, when along comes the
Orficers’ domestic a-singing out: "’Ave you got the ’ot water for the
Orficers’ arternoon tea?" and Cooky, grumbling "’E can’t work no
blooming miracles, ’e can’t", goes off to draw some water, what ’e might
have done all the time he’d been jawing to me, so I saunters off with
them clothes, which are pretty near dry by this time.

Well, we ar’n’t getting much way on this yarn, but we’d got to the
island we’d come all this way to see, a middlin’-sized piece o’ land,
and going in closer, according to a signal from the flag-ship, we sees a
bit of a channel running into the middle of it between high cliffs on
each side.  A nasty-looking coast it was, as ever I saw, without no
beach where you could land in comfort, but ugly great black rocks
a-sticking out all round, with the big seas a-pounding themselves to
pieces on ’em.  "If there’s to be any boat-work in this ’ere place, look
out for trouble, Pat Jones," says I to myself.

We steamed close in, ginger-like, and spied a lumbering junk a-sailing
clumsily out towards us, and when she gets nearer we sees her flying the
white flag at the peak of her great sail made of matting; and then,
strike me pink! if she didn’t ’oist the "wish to communicate" flags at
her mast-head.  If a polar bear came up to you in the street o’
Portsmouth and said, "Beg pardon, but can you tell me where I can get a
ice", you wouldn’t ’ave been more struck aback than we were to see that
dirty junk a-’oisting signals all regular-like.

"Bless my rags," I ’eard Mr. Parker say, "but that about takes the
currant biscuit for cheek;" and after a bit of rummaging in the
signal-book we hoisted "Send a boat", and they answered it from the junk
and sent a boat across to us, a man-of-war’s whaler which they had tied
up at the stern, with a crew of Chinese dressed as
bluejackets—stolid-looking ruffians they were, too, as they squinted up
at us from their wicked little eyes.  They brought a letter for Mister
Ping Sang, the fat old gent who, they tell me, forks out the dollars to
keep this show going, and has come along o’ Captain Helston to see the
fun.

Back we goes to the _Laird_, and Mr. Parker takes it across in the
dinghy and comes back, ’alf larfing an’ ’alf swearing, with a couple of
big portmanties and ten bags of dollars sealed up, and all ’eavy as you
could make ’em.

We shoves off back to that junk and ’ands ’em all over to her; but it
was all a mystery to me till Mr. Glover tells me afterwards that the fat
Chinese gent ’ad been a-playing cards with the pirate chief when he was
kept a prisoner and lost all that mint of money, an’ ’ad been juggins
enough to promise to pay it up and bring the luggage what that
Englishman who nabbed him had left be’ind ’im at ’Ong-Kong.

Blister my heels! if it didn’t fairly give me the knock-out! And that
junk just ’oisted ’er boat aboard and sailed ’ome again with all those
dollars, the crew maybe a-cocking snooks at us over the stern.

An’, just as her big sail disappears under them cliffs, blest if the
pirates didn’t fire a big gun at us from the top of ’em, though we were
five miles off if we were a yard.  It didn’t fetch up by a couple o’
hundred yards, but splashed into the sea and racochied over’ead, playing
ducks-and-drakes a mile the other side.

When they see’d that one go short they fires another, an’ the signalman
sings out that it is comin’ straight for us, and lays down on ’is belly;
he never done this since—we chaffed ’im so immerciful—and a good many of
the youngsters would ’ave done the same if they’d had the moral courage,
what they hadn’t.

It did come mighty close and struck the water not fifty yards away,
buzzing off again like a hive of bees out for a airing.

Well, you bet we didn’t wait for any more o’ them "kind enquiries and
’ow are you", but were hup, hoff, an’ hout of it, hout of range.

"No. 2" came along more gently after us, for nothing short of a mad dawg
would make Mr. Lang move ’urriedly unless ’e wanted to partickler, an’,
bless my ’eart! ’e wouldn’t ’urry out of range for no pirates, though
the _Laird_ ’oisted "close on the flag-ship" and fired a small gun to
make ’im pay attention.

And all the time we watched them getting his range and dropping shell,
first on one side and then on the other, first a’ead and then astern,
a-holding our breath, sometimes they was going so close, though they
never hit ’im.

When he did get out o’ range an’ they ceased firing, we rather got the
hump that we’d run away so fast.

"I’m taking no chances," I ’eard Mr. Parker say to the Sub-lootenant, as
’e keeps his eye on "No. 2" with great spouts of water splashin’ hup all
round her, and p’raps ’e was right.

It was pretty well dark afore we got back to the _Laird_, and both Mr.
Parker and Mr. Lang had to go aboard for more orders, whilst we went to
supper.

Cooky was in a great state o’ mind.  "That second shot," says ’e,
putting ’is ’ead out, "was comin’ straight for my galley.  If the pirate
what fired it ’ad lowered ’is sights a ’ands turn, and been a temp’rance
man, it would ’ave been all U.P. with your blooming tea water, an’ there
wouldn’t ’ave been no more cooking aboard this ’ere ship, an’ no more
Cooky to cook vittles an’ play the ’armonium."

The Skipper comes back from the _Laird_, and she an’ the _Sylvia_ steam
slowly away into the darkness, showin’ not a single light, though we
could trace them for about a mile, when they just seemed to disappear,
leaving us alone for the night a-feelin’ lonesome-like.

Mr. Glover came round to see every scuttle along the sides closed and
the dead-lights screwed down, so that not a light should be seen, an’
even Cooky’s galley fire had to be raked out, for it made a tidy glow
amidships.

It turns out that Captain Helston expected them pirate torpedo-boats to
come out during the night, and we and "No. 2" were to go close in, at
each side of the entrance, an’ try an’ cut some of ’em hoff.

We’d lost sight of "No. 2" by this time, as she sheered off in the dark
to take up her station, and, as light after light was put out aboard us,
even the engine-room ’atchways being covered hup, it seemed to make the
night darker and darker, till it was just like pitch, and we put our
’ands out in front to feel where we were going, and spoke in whispers.

It was getting cold, too, and Mr. Parker goes past me on ’is way to the
bridge with ’is greatcoat buttoned up round ’is neck.  "More work
to-night, Jones.  See that your night sights are in good order, and get
up plenty of ammunition," ’e says, an’ I answers, "Very good, sir," and
goes hoff to overhaul the gun gear, and ’ears the engine-room gong
soundin’ down below and them engines, with a ’ollow grating sound like a
giant a-snoring, goes a’ead slow, and, though we can’t see five feet in
front of us, I knows by the lapping of the water against our bows that
we are moving slowly in under those big guns ashore.

"If they’ve got search-lights ashore, they’ll spot us and give it us
’ot," said one of the youngsters of my gun’s crew, whispering like a
fool.

"When you’re awsked for your opinion you just give it," says I, speaking
in my natural voice, which is rayther loud, and kicking ’im none too
gentle, for all this whispering rayther gives you the fair jumps.

We was a pretty chilly crowd up on the bridge, a-standing nervous-like
round the 12-pounder and staring a’ead into the darkness.  Joe Smith
(the signalman) and Mr. Parker had their night-glasses jammed to their
eyes, and all of us egspected to feel the rocks a-crunching and grating
under our bows every minute.  An’ not a sound ’cept the grating row down
in the engine-room, which seemed to swallow everything else, and we
’ardly thought them Dagos of pirates could help ’earing of it if they
had their ears shipped on proper-like.

Then someone whispers, "’Ear that, Bill", and shortly we could ’ear the
booming of the swell breaking itself on the rocks; and Mr. Parker, ’e
turns to the engine-room telegraph and we stops our engines, and the
grating noise stopped all of a sudden and left us all more lonesome than
ever, till the moaning and roaring on the rocks a’ead of us got louder,
and seemed a jolly sight too close to be comfortable.  The wind had
dropped by this ’ere time, and the long swell just slid under us and
rolled away into the night, as we listened for it to break itself with a
crash and a roar. It seemed not two ’undred yards hoff of us.

There was nothing to do, that was the worst of it. Mr. Parker orders us
all below, ’cept ’imself and the Sub-lootenant and the quarter-master,
whose watch it was, so I just made them all eat a bit of something we
’ad left over from our suppers, and we got some pickles and sardines out
o’ the canteen, and felt better; but, bless you! we couldn’t sleep, what
with the encitement and the noise of them breakers, which we could ’ear
even more loudly down below, for it seemed to come right up through her
bottom.  We’d got a good deal of sea-water down below, too—took it in
when we were punching into those ’ead seas outside ’Ong-kong—and that
fo’c’stle mess-deck war’n’t the most comfortable place that night; and,
as no one could catch a blessed wink of sleep, I just told the men to
light their pipes, which was mighty comforting, though, by the way,
’twas strictly agin’ orders, an’ I got a wiggin’ from Mr. Parker
arfterwards for doing it.

Then I ’eard that there Cooky a-jawing to some of the youngsters about
"’oping they was all prepared to die sudden-like, if so it was necessary
and they got the call".

So I told ’im to let ’em go to sleep, and do ’is own dooty first and get
’em some ’ot ship’s cocoa.

"’Ow can I make bricks without straw," said he, sad-like, and he had the
pull of me on that, for, in course, the galley fire had been drawn.

I had the middle watch that night, from midnight to four in the morning,
as you’d call it on shore, and nothing ’appened for the first two hours,
’cept that Mr. Parker and myself took it in turns to peer through the
night-glass towards where we knew the island was, and stamped up and
down to keep ourselves warm, for the night was most partickler cold, an’
once or twice we had to move the engines to keep her from getting too
close to them rocks.

Then the fun began.  It was still as black as ink, you must remember,
and we was supposed to be lying just off the narrow channel which
zigzagged between the rocks into the big anchorage inside the island, we
being on one side and "No. 2" on the other, though we could not see her,
and could only guess she was there.

"If their torpedo-boats or destroyers do come out," said Mr. Parker,
"they could no more find the _Laird_ on a night like this than a needle
in a ’aystack, so we can do just what we like—follow ’em and try and
sink ’em in the dark, or wait till they come back in the morning and cut
’em off then."

Well, we was watching and blinking like owls through the glasses, when
suddenly, down by the water edge, out blinked two little white lights,
some distance apart they were, and steady as anything.

"They’re lighting the channel," Mr. Parker said ’urriedly; "something
will be coming out directly.  Get the men on deck."

They scrambled up in no time, and by the time I’d got back to the bridge
the engines were working us round with our bows pointing out to sea.

Mr. Parker was just chuckling to ’imself, "I’ve got a scheme, Jones, a
ripping scheme.  If they do come out they sha’n’t get back to-night," ’e
said.

Then ’e stopped talking, for, as we watched, something dark glided in
front of the farther light, and shut it out for ’alf a minute.  Then it
shone again, and another dark thing shut it out, and so on till it
disappeared four times, and then it burnt brightly again.

"Four of them," muttered Mr. Parker, and ’is voice sounded like a
blooming earthquake, we was all so still and silent and excited.

It’s no use telling me you can judge distances at night, for you can’t,
and though we thought we’d been no more than a couple o’ ’undred yards
from the beach, it must ’ave been nearer ’alf a mile, for we saw nothing
more for, may be, three or four minutes, when someone down on deck
hissed "Ah", and looking shorewards we saw some sparks come flying up.
You can’t imagine what the excitement was like; all the worse becos’ we
dursn’t make a sound, and we could ’ear our ’earts a-thumping inside of
us.

Another minute an’ we could ’ear the noise of their engines just gently,
slowly "’Ere we are, ’ere we are" they was a-saying, but getting more
flurried, and, all of a sudden, with a white splashing under her bows, a
long, black torpedo-boat just walked past us, and another and another
and a fourth, and were swallowed up to seaward, leaving nothing but some
oily smoke, which swept back into our faces.

They hadn’t seen us, that seemed pretty certain, but "No. 2" had spotted
them, for on the other side of the channel we saw a torrent of sparks
flying up into the darkness, and knew she was going after them.

"Mr. Lang is after them, sir; shall we chase?" asked the Sub-lootenant.

But not a bit of it.

"Hard a-starboard, slow ahead starboard, half-speed astern port," were
Mr. Parker’s orders, and we turned in again towards the little light at
the entrance.

I ’eard Mr. Parker say to the Sub-lootenant, "If you’d seen those lights
when I did, both of them shining up simultaneously, you’d feel pretty
sure that they must be electric and on the same circuit, too.  They
probably have a cable running out to those outer rocks, and I want you
to take the whaler ashore with a ’destruction’ party and try and cut the
cable or smash the lamps."

Then I understood what we were going to do, and if so be that we doused
their glim for them, those torpedo-boats could never get back till
daybreak, and we could make mincemeat of ’em.

Nothing seemed moving on shore, not another light could be seen, just
those two little lights down by the edge of the water.

The swell was going down fast, too, so we lowered the whaler, an’ the
Sub chose the five strongest men on board to pull her, and that didn’t
leave me on board, you may bet your bottom dollar, and we took a torpedo
instructor and grapnels and axes and shoved off in the dark, the swell
lifting us along towards them lights.

We lost sight of "No. 3" in a brace of shakes, the last thing I saw
being Mr. Glover a-looking sad and mournful for once, because Mr. Parker
wouldn’t let ’im go with us.

Lonely, were we?  Why, I never felt so blooming lonely in all my life;
not a sound but the oars creaking and the booming of the sea a’ead of
us.

"Oars!  Hold water, men," whispered the Sub, an’ we ’ad time to look
round, and there we were, right in between the two little twinkling
lights.  They were electric, too, as Mr. Parker had guessed, an’ they
was just light enough to make the rocks they was fixed to look darker
than the night itself, and with just a glimmer in the sea which boiled
up agin’ them below.

There was no going near ’em to wind’ard, that was plain as a pikestaff,
and after we had a look at both, shoving our nose as close as we dared,
the Sub tried what we could do round the back of ’em, to leeward, where
the swell wouldn’t trouble us so.

It might have been all right in daylight, but this was just the
horridest job as ever I took on.

We did get close in once, and the bowman, as plucky a little fellow as
was ever invented, got a hold on it with ’is boat-’ook, but swish swirl
came the swell, lifting us up and breaking an oar, and as we dropped
again and tried to keep the boat off he lost ’is ’old, for it was only
seaweed ’e’d ’ooked ’is boat-’ook in.

"Back hard, men, back hard!" came from the Sub, and we all backed as if
the devil was after us, and scraped our keel along another ugly piece of
rock, just being lifted over it and not stove in by the next swell that
came.

My! but that was a close squeak, I can tell you, and we didn’t breathe
freely till we had backed out between the two lights once more.

We hadn’t been there a minute before we ’eard firing, a long way out to
sea.  "That’s ’No. 2,’" the Sub said, "and we’ll have to just be quick
about this job before she drives those torpedo-boats home again."

Then we tried edging in as close as we could and throwing a grapnel over
the rock, but that wouldn’t ’old, nor could we get near the light with
it, and once or twice we were nearly stove in and pretty nearly swamped
by the end of it.

"It’s no good, men," said the Sub-lootenant, when we’d backed out for
the last time; "I’m not going to run any more risk.  We must try and get
hold of the cable running between these two rocks."

That meant that we ’ad to creep for it by dragging the grapnel along the
bottom between the two rocks, a mighty slow job at the best, and ’orrid
at night.  There wasn’t no ’elp for it, so we dropped the grapnel to the
bottom, with a good stout rope secured to it, and slowly backed the
whaler in between the two lights.

Every now and again it would catch something, and we’d get in a state of
’oly joy and ’aul at it, but, offener than not, it was only a piece of
seaweed, or it had just caught a rock—you could tell that by the sudden
way it gave.  We went at it, ’auling the grapnel across where the cable
might be, then putting to sea and backing again, for mayhaps ’alf an
hour.

Rogers, the torpedo instructor, was ’andling the grapnel line, for the
Sub, he says to ’im, "You’ve had more experience ’unting for lost
torpedoes, so you take it, Rogers," which made us laugh, on the quiet,
as it ’it the little man rather ’ard, ’e being mighty sore about
anything going wrong with ’is torpedoes.

There was not a sound from shore, and not another light could we see.
Pretty eerie it was, with every now and again the noise of guns a-firing
out to sea, and we went backwards and forwards till we were well-nigh
sick of it, and every moment thought one or all of them torpedo-boats
would come dashing through, and probably cut us down.

Just as we were about to chuck up the business, Rogers sings out softly
that he’d got ’old of something, and sure enough, as another man clapped
on the grapnel rope, it came in with a steady pull, and Rogers, leaning
over, with his arm in up to the shoulder, as it comes to the surface,
says in a muffled voice, "I’ve got it, sir; right it is, sir."

We passed the grapnel aft.  The Sub lashed a rope round the cable and
’auled it over the stern, Rogers coming gingerly stepping between us to
cut it in ’alf, and we could just see ’im raise ’is axe, down it came,
and out went both the lights.

We could do nothing but chuckle inwardly; we dursn’t make a sound, and
it ’urt somewhat.

The Sub-lootenant ’ad got one end in his hand, and he hung on to it like
grim death, and hauled away till he’d got a couple of fathoms on board,
and Rogers cut this hoff, and we dropped the rest of it in the water.

"Back to ’No. 3’," sings out the Sub, and we pulls away as cheerily as
mud-larks, and then came the ’unt for her.

We’d got a signal lantern in the boat, and was just a-going to light it,
when the Sub-lootenant caught sight of her and ’ailed her softly.

We were aboard in a jiffy and ’oisted the whaler in again, everyone
a-patting us on the back.

They’d got some ’ot cocoa made down in the stokehold, too, and served us
out some all round, which we needed pretty bad.

There was more firing just about this time, and when we’d got on deck
again, after our ’ot cocoa, we were romping along in that direction.
But we weren’t off to ’elp "No. 2", not by a long chalk, for Mr. Parker
or the Sub-lootenant, or both of them, gets another idea (real artistic,
too, I called it), and he stops, and we gets out the two collapsable
boats and the whaler, and we soon sees what ’is little game is, for he
lashes a lantern in each of the small boats and sends the Sub inshore
again.  We were still, you see, quite close to the rocks, but ’alf a
mile farther along.

"Take some fire-bars to moor them with, and leave them as close in as
you can," he told the Sub.  "Light the lanterns, and come back as fast
as you can."

My! wasn’t that a pretty little game? and weren’t those torpedo-boats
a-going to get a sur-prise?

It took pretty near a ’alf-’our to do this, and every now and agin we
could ’ear shots—sometimes closer and sometimes seemingly farther off;
but at last the lamps shone out, and though they did look a trifle
unsteady in the swell, still they was good enough to deceive them
Chinese.

When the Sub had got back we went off to where we’d heard the firing.

It was getting less dark now, and a few stars were coming out, and in a
few minutes a long dark thing, with flames sputtering from the funnels,
went flying past us—one of the Chinamen a-going ’ome—and another
followed her, and we just laid low and let them go, chuckling to
ourselves and thinking of the trap we’d laid for ’em.

"No. 2" had got hold of something now with a vengeance, for she was
firing pretty fast, and, as we hurried over to her, we could see the
flames of her guns and sometimes the flash of a busting shell; coming
towards us too, she was.

We got our search-light cleared away, and when we were quite close we
found "No. 2" a-hanging on to a poor unfortunate torpedo-boat and
banging away at it; so we just slewed round her stern and turned our
light on the wretched thing—an old torpedo-boat just struggling along at
about twelve knots—to make it a respectable target.

That just did the trick, for she got hit by one of "No. 2’s"
12-pounders, in the boiler most likely, and seemed just to double up,
open out amidships, and go slithering under.

[Illustration: THE SINKING OF THE PIRATE TORPEDO-BOAT.]

Poor wretches! an’ we ’adn’t the ’eart to cheer; ’twas so one-sided a
show.

We stopped and tried to pick up some of her men, and did save a couple
of Chinamen, more dead than alive with fright.  They turned out jolly
useful, as you shall ’ear afterwards.

"No. 2" hadn’t seen the fourth boat, so we pushed on back to the
entrance to look for her in case she tried to get in.  The two lights we
had left were still burning, but we couldn’t see what had become of the
two torpedo-boats which had passed us.

The people on shore must a ’eard that torpedo-boat blow up, for now a
couple of search-lights shot out from somewhere high up on the cliff
near the entrance, and began hunting round to see what all the fuss was
about.

It just happened that where we’d moored the boats was a bit round the
corner and out of sight of them searchlights, so we stayed abreast of
them and watched the two beams a-travelling from side to side, and
presently saw the missing torpedo-boat coming sneaking in.  She must
have gone right around the island.

Mr. Lang rushed out from behind our safe corner, and tried to wing her
afore she could get into safety, and we followed ’im and tried a few
long shots from the 12-pounder; but even I couldn’t ’it anything under
them conditions, especially as they glared their search-lights in our
faces and commenced firing pretty briskly at us with small guns from the
shore.

So we goes back round our corner, more quickly than we came out, and
whilst we were turning they ’it us once or twice, smashing our whaler,
and a splinter of shell or wood knocked over poor Rogers, who was
standing by. We thought ’e was only stunned, but ’e was dead as a
door-nail, and it ’urt us to think we’d chaffed ’im so unmerciful, and
we covered ’im up and put ’im down below.

We waited about till it was light enough to see what ’ad ’appened with
our little trap, and then went close inshore again.

Well, there was a ’orrid sight, or joyful sight, whichever way you takes
it, for them two torpedo-boats were piled up against the rocks all
battered to pieces, one in ’alf and the other bottom up, a-smashing up
agin the bottom of the cliff.  There wasn’t a soul to be seen; and it
was well-nigh hopeless, for the cliffs rose straight up from the sea,
and no monkey could ’ave climbed them, let alone a Chinaman, so we knew
they must have all been drowned.  Poor old Rogers would have a lot of
them heathen to keep him company.

The two lanterns we’d left in the boats were still burning as innercent
as you like, looking yellow in the hazy light of morning.



                              *CHAPTER XV*

            *Mr. Midshipman Glover Tells how he was Wounded*


    Lang to the Rescue—In Disgrace—We Hate Dr. Fox


Pat Jones, the quarter-master, has told you all the exciting things that
happened the night we reached the island, and how we had bagged three of
the four torpedo-boats which came out, with only the loss of poor
Rogers.

Both Tommy Toddles and myself were jolly down in our luck at not being
allowed to go away in the whaler, and, like the silly idiots we were, we
did not take the opportunity of getting a little sleep.  The result was,
that when daylight came we were both so sleepy, we could hardly stand
upright or keep our eyes open.

Mr. Lang had brought "No. 2" close in abreast of the wreck of the
Chinese torpedo-boats, and ordered Mr. Parker to recover his two Berthon
boats.

As you know, our whaler had been smashed by the same shell that had
killed poor Rogers, so she was useless, and suddenly I heard Mr. Parker
singing out to me to clear away the dinghy and get her into the water.

"Take four hands with you; put one in each of the Berthon boats, and
then tow them back," were his orders, "and take care you don’t capsize
this time, or back you go to the _Laird_."

We pulled in towards the nearest boat—close inshore she was—and just
beyond her, right under the towering cliffs, were the two battered
torpedo-boats, with some dead Chinamen washing about among the
wreckage—a nasty sight, I can tell you.

We hauled in the moorings of the first boat, one of my four men jumping
into her, and we had just commenced to tow her across to where the
second bobbed up and down in the water, when ping! ping! came something
past my head.  A bullet took a splinter out of an oar, and we heard the
noise of a rifle high up on the cliffs above us.

Then came a regular hail-storm of them—whip! crack! whip! crack! they
went singing past, and throwing up little spurts of water all round us.

You may bet that we pulled hard and tried to make ourselves small.

Suddenly I saw Tomlinson, an A.B., who was pulling stroke oar, get white
in the face and drop his oar.

Pat Jones, who had come with me, seized it before it could fall
overboard, and Tomlinson tumbled down into the bottom of the boat with
both his arms shot through, and helpless.

Then there was a loud boom from "No. 2" or "No. 3", and one of our
12-pounder shells burst against the cliff just below where they were
firing at us; another and another followed, the noise rolling from cliff
to cliff and making a hideous roar, whilst stones and rock came rolling
down and splashing into the sea.

The pirates—Chinamen probably they were, for they shot miserably—left
off firing, but before we could weigh the second boat’s moorings they
began again, firing from the top of the cliffs, a little farther away.

Pat Jones was steadying the dinghy with the oars, whilst Stevens, a
Plymouth seaman, and I were hauling in the rope, and hauling, too, for
all we were worth, when suddenly Stevens gave a gasp and fell forward,
knocking me over, and would have fallen overboard himself had not Jones
jumped aft and pulled him aboard.  He was dead.  I could see that by the
way his head hung sideways as he was hauled into the boat, and Jones
laid him down alongside Tomlinson, who was groaning horribly.

The rope, too, had slipped through my hands, and the moorings had to be
hauled up again.  Jones and I seized hold of them, and it was then that
I felt something hit me in the leg.  It felt just as if somebody had
struck me hard with a ruler or the flat of one of our dirks.

I can’t really remember accurately what happened after that till I found
myself pulling the stroke-oar and towing the two Berthon boats away from
those horrid cliffs.  I felt terribly sick, and it was all I could do to
keep my foot from hurting Tomlinson and to keep the other away from the
dead man.

I seemed to wake up quite suddenly with my wrists feeling like hot
irons, and with hardly strength to lift the clumsy oar out of the water.
All the time, just as if it was in a dream, Jones behind me kept on
saying, "Steady, sir, steady!"

Little spurts of water were still jumping up close to us, but I was too
utterly tired to worry about them.  My leg, the one that had been hit,
began to feel like lead, and I know that I lurched over the loom of my
oar once or twice, and could hardly pull it through the water.

"You’ll do more good steering, sir," said Jones, and he got hold of my
oar, shifted the crutch, and pulled both oars himself, working like a
machine.  I managed to scramble aft and get hold of the tiller, and just
remember seeing "No. 2’s" whaler, with Mr. Lang in her, coming down
towards us.

                     *      *      *      *      *

I opened my eyes to find myself in Mr. Parker’s bunk, and the propellers
whizzing round and shaking the whole stern of the destroyer.

Looking over the edge of the bunk I saw Tommy Toddles in a chair fast
asleep, with his head hanging over to one side in a most comical manner.

I guessed what had happened.  I had simply fallen asleep in the boat,
and had been put in Mr. Parker’s bunk, with Tommy to watch over me, and
he, too, had gone to sleep.  I felt frightfully ashamed of myself for
being such a baby, and crawled out, found my trousers, which someone had
taken off in order to bandage my leg, and dressed myself rather
gingerly, because the leg was very stiff, and smarted a good deal when I
moved it.  There were two neat little holes in the trouser leg, where a
bullet had gone through, and a patch of blood, which stiffened the cloth
all round them.  I did feel proud!

What a joke it would be, I thought, to leave Tommy sleeping there and
guarding the empty bunk; but then it struck me that Mr. Parker would
only be the more angry, so I shook him, and a big job I had to wake him.

He did look silly when at last he opened his eyes and mumbled something
about it not being his watch, and we both scrambled on deck and made our
way for’ard.

It was a lovely warm, bright morning, and right astern was the island
which had been so horribly close to us all night.  Oh, we were so
sleepy, and all over the deck men were lying sound asleep curled up in
corners out of the breeze.  Just abaft the after funnel was a heap
covered with our best ensign, and we hardly cared to pass it, for we
knew that poor Rogers and Stevens were underneath.

We clambered up the bridge ladder, passing Pat Jones at the wheel, who
smiled grimly, with a warning look at Mr. Parker.  He, with his back
turned to us, and dressed in oil-skins and sou’wester, stood, gripping
the bridge rails, as rigid as a statue.

You should have seen him jump when I said, "Please, sir, I’m all right
now, sir," and Tommy, saluting, sleepily added, "Please, sir, Glover’s
woke up."

He looked ten years older: his eyes, sunk deep in their sockets, stared
at us in a dull way, his cheeks were sunken, and his whole face was
furrowed with deep lines.  He had practically not left the bridge for
forty-eight hours, and it was wonderful how he could stand the strain.

He swore angrily at us—at me for coming on deck without leave, and at
Tommy for letting me get up.

"But please, sir," I began, "Tommy did not——"

I just stopped in time, for I was going to tell him that Tommy had been
asleep.

Tommy, however, looking very ashamed, blurted out, "I went to sleep,
sir, and Glover got up without waking me."

That made Mr. Parker all the more angry, and he sent us both below.

"Both of you will go back to the _Laird_.  Have your chest ready in half
an hour!" he said, snapping our heads off.

We saw the _Laird_ steaming to meet us, and went below again, feeling
absolutely wretched, and commenced slowly to stow our things away in the
chest which Tommy shared with me.

The next thing we knew was that we were being roughly shaken by Pat
Jones, and we woke to find that we had both been asleep.  Tommy was
sprawled right across the chest, face downwards, with a pair of boots in
his hand.

We could have cried, we were so angry with ourselves.

A cutter from the _Laird_ was alongside, and we two and Tomlinson, the
wounded man, were pulled across to her, Mr. Parker coming too to make
his report.

As we went up the gangway we could hardly face all the midshipmen who
crowded round us—Mellins, and Dumpling, and all the others—we felt so
much in disgrace, and I had not even the heart to tell them that I’d
been wounded.

I had to hobble for’ard to the sick-bay, and the bandage was taken off
my leg.

"Just a skin wound, Glover," Dr. Fox said, and put in some stitches,
which didn’t pain me half as much as I expected.

"I needn’t go on the sick-list, sir, need I?"

The Fleet Surgeon smiled in his nasty way, and then fastened a long
splint to the leg, and, of course, that made it certain that I could not
go back to "No. 3".

How I did wish that I had not gone to sleep in the boat, and then no one
would have known that my leg had been hit, and I might still have been
aboard her.  What a fool I had been!  All my chances were gone, and,
feeling utterly wretched, I couldn’t manage to keep back a tear, and Dr.
Fox saw it before I could brush it away.

"Pain you, youngster?" he asked, and then he must have understood, for
he laughed and called me a young fire-eater, and wanted to know if I
wasn’t content with having been wounded twice, which made me get red and
uncomfortable, and made me hate him.

It was impossible to walk with the beastly splint, so they carried me
aft and put me in the Captain’s spare cabin.

Tommy came along, too, and spread his hammock on deck, the sentry
outside shut the door, and we slept soundly for nearly ten hours.
Wasn’t that a sleep? and weren’t we hungry, too, when we did wake up?

Tommy went off to the gun-room, and the mess-man sent us in any amount
of food.  What a time we did have! And all the midshipmen crowded in and
talked thirteen to the dozen, and wanted to hear all about our
adventures, and to see the scratch in my leg.  You can imagine how
important I felt, especially when Captain Helston, with his arm still
bandaged to his side, came to see me, and said some awfully jolly
things.  What I wanted, though, and what we both wanted, was to know
whether we could go back to "No. 3", and I managed awkwardly, and
getting very red in the face, to ask him.

He smiled grimly, and said, "I’ll see what I can do when you come off
the sick-list," and left us happy again.

It turned out that Mr. Parker himself had fallen asleep in Captain
Helston’s cabin after he had reported to him, and that, as everybody in
both destroyers had been practically forty-eight hours without rest,
people had been sent to them from the _Laird_ just to keep up steam and
keep a look-out during the day.

This news made Tommy and myself quite contented, for, at any rate, we
were not the only ones who couldn’t keep awake.

Mellins and Dumpling had, however, both been sent to "No. 3" to take our
place—temporarily we hoped.

"You haven’t missed much," added Ogston, the Assistant Engineer, who had
been so plucky in the sinking steamer, "for the _Strong Arm_ has not
joined us, and we’ve been doing nothing all day."

They had buried both Rogers and Stevens.  Poor fellows! they lay in a
hundred fathoms, and brought our list of killed up to fourteen already.

Dr. Fox came in then, cleared everybody out of the cabin, gave orders to
the sentry that no one was to be allowed in, turned out the light, and
left me.  Just like him, was it not?  But I had a pencil and paper,
turned up the light again, and wrote a tremendous letter home, just to
spite him.



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                     *Captain Helston’s Indecision*


    A Weary Blockade—Getting Impatient—The Prisoner’s Story—A
    Willing Prisoner—The Pirates’ Cunning—Ping Sang Excited—News
    from Home—Helston’s Ill Health—Cummins Indispensable—A Gun-room
    Scrap—Now to Business


The few days which followed after the events narrated in the last
chapter were days of peace and devoid of excitement.  Well, they were
needed, too, to allow the crews of the destroyers to recuperate after
their exertions and want of sleep, and to repair the minor damages
incurred by the fast steaming of the squadron from Hong-Kong.

The two poor fellows who had been killed were buried at sea with all the
solemnity possible under the circumstances, all the ships stopping their
engines and lowering their ensigns to half-mast, the crews standing
bareheaded whilst the service was being read, and remaining "at
attention" till, sewn up each in his hammock, the two bodies plunged
overboard and sank out of sight.

The _Strong Arm_ rejoined from Hong-Kong after having buried her men in
the Happy Valley cemetery, and she, too, added to Captain Helston’s
anxieties by developing considerable engine-room defects, and by having
eaten up half her coal.

Hunter, eager to arrive at the scene of action and not to miss any of
the fighting, had pressed her through head seas at the greatest speed he
could get out of her, with the result that for six days she was
practically useless, with every artificer in the squadron tinkering away
at her bearings and condensers.

Fortunately the weather held fair, and by repairing only one main engine
at a time she was able to crawl away from the island each night and
crawl back in the morning, lying most of the day utterly unable to
assist in a fight if the pirates had come out.

Each night the destroyers "No. 2" and "No. 3" crept inshore to cut off
any issuing torpedo-boats, but, after their first fatal attempt, none
attempted a sortie, and, save that on occasions when Mr. Lang or Mr.
Parker ventured within gunshot during daylight and drew a sulky warning
fire from the batteries on each side of the entrance, there were no
signs of life and nothing to remind them that, hidden behind those rocks
and wooded slopes, hundreds of cunning, slit-like eyes were keeping
watch.

With the weather fair and the sea calm the destroyers coaled without
difficulty from the little _Sylvia_, and in four days of arduous work
the _Laird_ and the _Strong Arm_ also filled up their bunkers.

It can easily be imagined how difficult, how dangerous, and how slow was
this operation in an open sea, with the chance of the pirates coming out
at any time to interrupt it, or the wind and sea rising and making it
impossible.

However, Captain Helston’s luck held, and in six days’ time he had all
his bunkers full, and the _Strong Arm_ repaired sufficiently well to
rely upon getting sixteen or seventeen knots out of her.

But he had no definite plans to act upon.

After seven months’ hard work, during which he had overcome a thousand
difficulties, he had brought his little squadron to the scene of action,
but, once having reached his goal, he seemed to lose his power of
initiative, and instead of making the first move himself, he waited for
the enemy to do so.

Day succeeded day and nothing was done.

Each night, with lights out, the _Laird_, _Strong Arm_, and _Sylvia_
vanished into the darkness, rejoined each other at a given rendezvous
next morning at earliest daybreak, and moved in towards the island.

The destroyers sleepily would join them after their night’s watching,
and there the squadron would lie till sunset came, and the same routine
commenced again.

To the Commander of the squadron and to all his officers, to say nothing
of the men, it became very apparent that events had reached an impasse.

If the enemy chose but to lie quiet in their island stronghold and wait,
a time would surely come when the blockading squadron would have to
depart.  No ships, however stoutly built, can stand constant work for
any length of time in those stormy seas without a refuge in which
occasionally to shelter, coal, revictual, and give their crews a "run
ashore".  Men and officers, too, become "stale", dispirited, and
discontented with the monotony of blockade-work and the monotony of an
unvarying and not too palatable diet.

Once this "staleness" develops, the sick-list grows apace, and general
slackness makes itself felt.

There was no doubt whatever that the clever schemers in that little
island had laid their plans accordingly, and were quite content to allow
Captain Helston and his ships to wear themselves out in a wearisome
blockade, probably conjecturing that, with the dislike of prolonged
inaction, the Englishmen would throw their cards on the table and make a
combined attack on the island, which they considered—and justly, as
events turned out—was impregnable to sea attack.

Nor were they wrong in their supposition, for at the end of ten days’
monotony, ten days during which not a sail nor the smoke of a steamer
had broken the empty circle of the horizon, everyone became impatient,
and no one more so than the nervous, highly-strung Helston.

He knew well enough that every day which elapsed meant a further
encroachment on the funds of the China Defence Association, and if he
had perchance forgotten this fact, Ping Sang was there at his elbow to
jog his memory and counsel a more active policy.

"My dear Captain," he would say, patting Helston’s still empty sleeve,
"we can’t remain here for the remainder of our lives.  I’ve already
spent nearly a million and a half, and we seem as far off as ever from
securing these pirates.  With all your guns and with all your fine
English sailor men, you surely ought to be able to knock the pirate
syndicate and their Chinese bandits on the head."

Nothing that Helston or anyone else could tell him would make him
understand the rashness of opposing ships to forts, especially ships
with but scanty reserves of ammunition (in the hold of the stout little
_Sylvia_), and with no place of refuge in case of damage.

Hunter, the lion-hearted, was also for trying the weight of his metal
against the shore guns.

"As a preliminary to what?" Helston would ask.

"Well, you see, sir, we’d batter their forts to pieces, and then we’d
land and secure them, and possibly might be able to turn any guns left
in them on the blackguards down below."

Helston’s own ideas, if he could have put them in definite form, were
probably to try and starve the pirates into making a desperate sortie,
and, if this should happen, he was perfectly confident of the result.
This may have been the soundest scheme, but success depended on so many
factors. First, it meant time—possibly a considerable time—and time
meant money, and Ping Sang was already inclined to draw tight the
purse-strings.  Secondly, it meant a sufficient force to blockade, and
that, Helston ruefully confessed, he did not possess; and thirdly, and
most important of all, was the question whether the island could be
starved out in, say, two months, or possibly three at the most.

On this last point the two Chinese captured from the sunken torpedo-boat
were able to give information which effectually dispelled this hope.
For the first day or two after their capture they had preserved a sullen
silence, and expected instant death.  As day after day went by, and they
received food and blankets to sleep in, it dawned upon them that they
were not being reserved even for torture, and they gradually became more
communicative.

A Tsi, the silent, inscrutable, right-hand man of Ho Ming, interviewed
them every day, at first with no success, but eventually he was able to
bring them into a more amiable frame of mind, and they promised to give
what information they possessed.

When their leg-irons were removed, and they were marched up on deck and
taken aft between a file of marines, their thoughts again flew to death,
and their terror was great, in spite of A Tsi’s assurances that did they
but speak the truth they need fear nothing.

Each one was separately examined in Captain Helston’s cabin before the
Captain, Dr. Fox, and Ping Sang.

The first, a tall Tartar of fine physique, was only held upright by the
vigorous support of A Tsi, who bundled him into the cabin, his knees
bending and knocking together under his huge body.  Looking from one to
another like a hunted animal at bay, he salaamed, with both hands to his
forehead, to each one in turn, and a second time to Captain Helston.

His story, drawn out of him with difficulty, was this. He had been a
sailor aboard a merchant ship captured by the pirates, and, on the
promise of his life, had taken service with them, being sent aboard one
of the old torpedo-boats on account of his knowledge of seamanship.

He had no complaint of his masters’ conduct towards him, and they paid
him two or three dollars a month, with which to buy tobacco and
sweetmeats.

"He looks half starved.  Ask him if they get enough to eat," asked
Helston.

"He says they get plenty," answered A Tsi, smiling, "but North Chinaman
he never gets fat."

"What does he know about the store of provisions on the island?"

He seemed to know a good deal about these.  He had formed one of a
working-party a fortnight ago to unload a captured ship laden with
tinned meat and flour, and they had to leave a large part of it in the
open, covered with tarpaulins, because the go-downs were already full.

"At the end of the time each man was allowed to take away what he
wanted," finished A Tsi, whilst the Chinaman spread his hands apart and
tried to express a vast quantity.

At each question there would be a rapid flow of queries and answers in
Chinese between A Tsi and the prisoner, the latter gesticulating
excitedly to explain his answers, and, whilst the former was
interpreting, he would try to follow him with pantomimic gesture and
alterations of expression, looking from one to another in an imploring
manner.

He was asked the number of men on the island.  He could not tell.

"Many?"

"Yes, a great many."

"A thousand?"

"Yes, more than a thousand."

"Two thousand?"

He screwed up his face and evidently did his best to calculate.

No, he could not tell; a thousand, yes; but two thousand he could not
say, and solemnly shook his head long after A Tsi had finished.

Being a sailor, he could give more definite information about the ships.
There were four cruisers and eight or nine torpedo-boats, not counting
the one to which he had belonged nor the two that were wrecked.

"Has he seen the two destroyers, and are they damaged?"

Yes, he had seen them come into the harbour, and many men had been sent
aboard them, but he did not know whether they were damaged.

The names of three of the cruisers were _Yao Yuen_, _Mao Yuen_, and _Tu
Ping_.  These were the three of which Ping Sang had originally informed
Helston.  Another he mentioned, the _Hong Lu_, was evidently the cruiser
which had beaten off "No. 2" and "No. 3".

"Ask him if they are very fast."

"_Yao Yuen, Mao Yuen_?" and he shook his head.  "_Tu Ping_?" he shook
his head still more vigorously.  "_Hong Lu_?" and he opened his hands
quickly and nodded, nodding so fast that Cummins, who had just entered
the cabin, with the inevitable toothpick in his mouth, chuckled "He! he!
he! you’ll lose your pigtail, old chap, if you aren’t more careful."

"What speed can she go?"

No; he did not know.

"As fast as a torpedo-boat?"

He drew in his breath with a whistling noise, and tried to show by
gestures her extreme speed.

"What size is she?"

He did not know, nor what guns she carried.  He was taken on deck to
look at the _Strong Arm_, lying quietly half a mile away, and then
brought down again.

No; she was not so large, but how large he could not say.

As to the forts, all that could be got out of him was that there was one
on each side of the entrance, and, as far as he knew, none anywhere
else.

He did not even know how many guns they had.

"Have they done much practice firing from them?"

Yes; he had heard them many times lately, but his knowledge on all these
points was vague in the extreme.

He could rattle off the names of all the merchant ships there, and
seemed to have a sneaking regard for his old ship, for he plucked A Tsi
nervously by the sleeve and talked excitedly to him, pointing to the
Captain.

"What does he want?" asked Helston.

"He says, sir, that if you recapture the _Tsli Yamen_, the ship he
belonged to formerly, he wants you to say a good word for him to the
owners."

"Tell him that if he answers all our questions truthfully we will not
forget him."

When this was explained to him he salaamed very vigorously, bending his
long body three times to Helston.

"How many white men are there on the island?" asked Cummins.

He could not say.  "Three?"

No, there were more than three—four, five, or six, maybe, but he could
not say.

Asked as to the events just previous to the arrival of the squadron, he
did not know much.  Some two or three ships had been captured lately, no
big ones, and the _Hong Lu_ had come in the same day as the destroyers,
only early in the morning, from the south, he knew, for a friend of his
was aboard her and had told him.

She had brought two white men with her.

"Could he describe them?"

He pretended to limp.  Evidently one was Hamilton, the lame Englishman,
and the other, from his description, might have been Hopkins.

"Are there any white men prisoners on the island?"  It was Cummins who
asked this, and he, in fact, had asked most of the questions since he
had come down to the cabin, Captain Helston almost unconsciously giving
way to him.

"No prisoners, only engineers and soldiers.  One white man in charge of
the forts, two others in charge of all the ships’ engines.

"They keep no white men prisoners.  If they find one aboard a captured
steamer they send him to the mainland in a junk."

"Are there any white women on the island?"

"No.  Once there were two, but he thinks the white men began to quarrel
amongst themselves, so they sent them away very quickly."

"No chance of winning a wife here, sir," added Cummins, chuckling.

"I’m not so certain about that," replied Helston, the hard lines on his
careworn face softening.

"Still thinking of that little minx Milly," growled Dr. Fox to himself.

Cummins then showed the prisoner a rough plan of the island, copied from
Ping Sang’s original chart, and, after A Tsi had explained it, the
Chinaman roughly indicated the position of the forts, go-downs
(warehouses), the white mens’ houses, the anchorage of the men-of-war
and the captured merchant ships.

"I think that we have obtained all we want to know from this man,"
Helston concluded.  "Except about the amount of food on the island, he
does not seem to know much.  Does anyone want to ask him any further
questions?"

Cummins wanted to know what stock of coal there was on the island.

As far as the man knew, there were enormous stacks of it on shore, and
several ships laden with coal.

"Does any ship ever leave the harbour by the small channel at the back
of the island?"

"Only small steam-boats and junks," the prisoner said.

"I’ve nothing more to ask him," said Cummins, so the man was marched
away and given a cigar to smoke as a reward.

"We shall not starve them out, sir," was Cummins’s only comment.

Helston shrugged his shoulders.

The second man was brought in, a cunning-looking rascal with unshaven
head, his repulsive face made still more hideous by several scars.  More
scars were visible on his sunken-in chest, and altogether he was a most
disagreeable-looking specimen of the human race.

He talked more freely than the other man, and told his story very
volubly.

He had been a "boss" workman in the engine works at the Foochow Arsenal,
and had been recruited with many others by the German Schmidt, and
shipped to Hong Lu without any knowledge of the character of the
employment.

"Does he complain?"

"Oh no, rather not!"  He was paid well, spent nothing except a little on
tobacco, and had not much work to do. After working for some months on
board the merchant steamers, he was put in charge of the engines of the
ill-fated torpedo-boat, and that was why he was aboard her that night.

"What did he do aboard the merchant ships?"

He seemed to have been a leading hand of shipwrights, and had had many
men under his orders.  He quite warmed to the subject, and told of all
the jobs he had done for the last six months.

He had lengthened the funnel of one steamer, added a fo’c’stle to
another, altered the bows of a third, and the masts of a fourth.

"My aunt!" chuckled Cummins, as A Tsi interpreted this, "I see now how
these people make their fortune. They capture a steamer, bring her in
here, alter her so that her own builders would not recognize her, and
then take her down to some quiet port on the mainland and sell her.  Ask
him, A Tsi, if that is so."

Yes, that was so; and the Chinaman looked surprised at their ignorance.

The syndicate, it appeared from what he said, had constructed a
ship-repairing yard, and kept it most of the time working at high
pressure.  Sometimes they kept a ship as long as six months, but
whenever a ship did leave, no one could possibly recognize her as the
one which had been brought in.

On all other points this prisoner corroborated the first, and dotted
down on another rough plan of the island the positions of the forts,
ships, &c., very much as he had done it.

As to food and coal, they had enough to last "many moons".

"Mountains of coal" was his description.

Asked by Cummins why the other torpedo-boats had not come out, he
promptly replied that their engines were unfit for any speed, and that
their crews were probably frightened.

Directly Ping Sang heard the man’s statement about reconstructing
steamers captured and altering their appearance, he went away to his
cabin, and returned carrying some papers.

At the first opportunity he asked the prisoner, speaking in Chinese, and
with very unusual excitement, if ever he remembered the capture of a
ship named the _Fi Ting_.

He remembered her quite well; had worked aboard her. "She had one funnel
and three masts (’Yes,’ nodded Ping Sang), and they built a covered-in
fo’c’stle, took out one mast, and shortened the other two."

"Yes, yes," nodded Ping Sang excitedly; "anything else?"

"We altered the bridge, built it ten or twelve feet farther forward, and
put up several cabins between it and the funnel."

"You did! you did!  And what name did you give her?" shrieked Ping Sang.

The man thought a little and shook his head, evidently in some fear of
the fat little merchant.

"He won’t say, sir; says that he cannot remember; he only did what he
was told; it was not his fault," said A Tsi, to whom the man had turned.

Another flow of language came from Ping Sang, before which the wretched
Chinaman flinched, and eventually he gave the name _Ling Lu Ming_.

"I knew it!  I knew it!" roared Ping Sang, rolling from side to side,
and getting red in the face with indignation, which just as suddenly
turned to a broad smile, and with a twinkle of his eyes he told Captain
Helston that he had bought the _Fi Ting_ for £150,000, lost her six
months later, and then bought the _Ping Lu Ming_ cheaply for £120,000 in
Amoy.

"I always suspected she was the same," he added cheerfully.

It was one of the amusing characteristics of this little man that his
wrath always vanished as quickly as it grew, and was followed by envy of
the "cuteness" which had got the better of him, and he bore not the
least malice, only looking forward to a future opportunity of "squaring
the account".

The prisoner, seeing Ping Sang’s benign, amused expression, took courage
and ventured a smile too—a cunning, treacherous enough smile; but it
quickly died away, and the colour fled from his yellow skin, for Ping
Sang, catching sight of it, jumped from his chair, and shaking a fat
little finger at him, let flow a torrent of words which left him
speechless with anger, only to recover his usual urbanity a moment later
when Captain Helston asked him what he had said.

"Nothing, nothing, Captain; only assured him that I would have his liver
torn out and make him eat it if he did not stop grinning."

He meant it, too, for, if half the stories which were told of Ping Sang
were to be credited, although he was as gentle as possible under the
British flag, yet woe to anyone who crossed his path when not under that
protection.

At this moment the signal midshipman came running down from the bridge
in a state of great excitement, and reported smoke on the horizon coming
from the south-east.

The prisoners were sent away, and everyone immediately went on deck.

On deck all was animation.  It was about half-past four—the men’s
supper-hour—all being below except the watch-keepers; but directly the
word had flown round the mess-decks that a steamer had been sighted,
every man Jack poured up to see and hear news of the approaching
stranger.

Already signals had been made to "No. 2" to steam to meet her, and
leisurely she gathered way, though by the little puffs of black smoke
that came from her funnels quickly, one after another, one knew that her
stokers were shovelling coal on her furnace gratings for all they were
worth.

Gradually the column of smoke mounted up over the horizon, and from the
foremast-head a sharp-eyed signalman sang out that she was a man-of-war
with fighting-tops, and was making straight for the island.

If she was a man-of-war she might be yet another of the pirate ships,
and there was the welcome chance of a "scrap"; but even if this did not
turn out to be true, there was something else almost as welcome: she
might bring a mail, and it is only those who "go down to the sea in
ships" who know what that means.

Then "No. 2" began to signal, and the yeoman of signals, saluting,
reported to Captain Helston "The _Undaunted_, sir!"  (The _Undaunted_
was one of the armoured cruisers of the British China Squadron.)

"Can’t capture her, I suppose?" suggested Ping Sang, with a smile.

"She may be coming up here to capture us, though," answered Helston,
looking worried.  "The Admiral would hardly have sent her out of her way
unless he had important communications to make.  I trust sincerely that
she brings no bad news."

"Cheer up, old croaker!" said Dr. Fox; "we’ll get some mails at any
rate."

By this time the naked eye could easily identify her white side and
yellow funnels and cowls glistening in the setting sun, and the white
ensign flying at her gaff, as fair a sight as any British naval man ever
wants to see.

"No. 2" was following her towards the squadron, looking like some
disreputable little terrier keeping a respectful distance from a stately
St. Bernard.  More signals flew backward and forward, presently the
semaphores began to jerk their arms up and down, and the _Undaunted_
slowed as she came abreast the _Laird_, and stopped her engines.

"Away first cutter!  Away galley!" yelled the bos’n’s mate, and rapidly
these boats were lowered, and in a couple of minutes Captain Helston was
being pulled across to the _Undaunted_ by six strong pairs of arms,
whilst the cutter, with that signal flying from the _Undaunted_, "Send
boat for mails", was not much behind-hand.  In half an hour both boats
were back again, and the bulky mail-bags hauled aboard by willing hands.
Then letters for home, already written and only waiting for closing up,
were sent across, and the _Undaunted_ slowly began to move away.

As she steadied on her course her crew "manned and cheered ship", three
ringing cheers coming across the water, and one cheer more for luck.

The _Laird’s_ were not slow to answer, and the crew ran aloft, crowded
along the port side, and, taking time from little Cummins, who, with his
cap in his hand, yelled as best he could with a toothpick in his mouth,
sent back cheer for cheer.

The _Strong Arm_ sent her cheers, too, and the _Sylvia_, "No. 2", and
"No. 3" joined in with their more feeble shouts.

Down they poured out of the rigging, eager to get their mail, which the
Master-at-Arms was already distributing, the _Undaunted_ slipped away on
her errand to the north (a mission-house had been burnt down somewhere
or other, somebody or other had to suffer for the deed, and she was away
to see that somebody or other did suffer for it), and the little
squadron was left alone again with its pirate island—a lonely-looking
island and a rather lonely little squadron after its fleeting glimpse of
its own white ensign, reading its letters from home in the failing
daylight, with a job to do which seemed too big for it.

As Dr. Fox rather vulgarly expressed it to Helston, "You’ve bitten off a
bigger piece than you can chew, old chap."

"Well, perhaps so, Fox; we’ll see."

Captain Helston’s letters—his official ones, at any rate—were certainly
a worry to him.  He had hardly finished reading them when sunset was
reported, and up he had to go to superintend the scattering of the
squadron for the night, and to make the rendezvous for the early
morning.

He came down to dinner, but let it go untouched.

"Come up on deck, Fox, and get some exercise on the quarter-deck," he
said at length.  "I want a yarn with you."  (Dr. Fox usually dined with
him.)

"Never take a man away from his food to tell him bad news," growled the
Doctor, after they had paced the quarter-deck twenty times without
saying a word.  "Let me know the worst."

"My arm’s hurting me, Doc.  Can’t you ease it?" exclaimed Helston in his
most worried expression of voice.

"Well, well, stay still, and I’ll just rearrange it, old chap.  Now,
that’s more comfortable, eh?  Hand a bit too low; blood too much in the
fingers, eh?  Have it in the sleeve in another week.  Feel better now?"
And Dr. Fox made him more comfortable, speaking as if his patient were a
little petulant child.  "Now, tell me all about it."

"It comes to this," began Helston, wheeling round and rapidly walking up
and down.  "The Admiral is going to communicate with me in one month
from this date, and, in case I cannot report any material progress, he
has orders from home to assist me.

"You know very well what that means.  My chance of promotion is gone
unless I manage to capture the island in four weeks."

Dr. Fox was well aware that a month was all too short a time.  He knew
only too well Helston’s limitations as a commander, and his inability to
formulate or to adhere to any plans involving grave issues.  He knew,
too, the bad effect of this mental indecision and anxiety on his health,
his growing inability to sleep, and his increasing irritability of
temper, yet he could not, merely as senior doctor of the expedition and
old friend of its commander, accept the responsibility of making any
suggestion either for further delay or for immediate action.

"It is not my job, and I will not originate anything."

But one thing he did know, and that was that if anybody could do the
work it was Cummins, and to Cummins the decision should and must be
left.

"Send for Cummins, Helston; tell him what you have told me; give him
twenty-four hours to arrange a course of action; don’t attempt to
influence him in any way, and act upon his advice.  On no account ask
either Bannerman, who is a mere talker and a braggart, or Hunter, who is
a magnificent, a splendid man, but a fool."

Now, as has been said before, Captain Helston was jealous of his
Commander.  He would have been the first to resent the imputation; but
there it was, call it what you may, the necessary sequence of a feeble
will hardly yet conscious of its weakness in the presence of the strong
and overmastering will of a junior officer.

"You’re right, Fox, I know you’re right.  I’ll send for him and see what
he suggests."

"That is not enough, Helston, you must decide to act upon his
suggestions."  And Dr. Fox argued with him for half an hour or more as
they paced that deck.  At last Helston agreed, and Cummins was sent for.

He came shuffling aft, a queer, grotesque little figure in the darkness
(no lights were burnt or shown at night-time), took a glowing cigar from
his mouth, and saluted.

Helston told him of the admiral’s letter.

"That means all U.P. with us, unless we do the trick in a month; eh,
sir?" he chuckled.  "They are not any too liberal at home, are they?"

"I have sent for you," continued Helston, and Dr. Fox noticed a
constrained tone in his voice, "to ask you for your advice as to what is
to be done."

"Do you intend only to consider my suggestions, or do you intend to act
upon them, sir?" replied Cummins, and Dr. Fox saw his figure stiffen to
attention, could almost hear his jaws clench together, and saw his cigar
go whizzing overboard and extinguish itself in the sea.

"I—I—intend—to—to—follow them," said Helston nervously, "and I’ll give
you twenty-four hours to formulate them."

"I do not require twenty-four hours, sir.  Two days I want to examine
the coast-line of the island more thoroughly.  If I obtain no accurate
information as to the position of the guns and other defences they have,
I want you to bombard the entrance on the third day, and at the end of
the third day I will give you my further plans, which depend on the
result of the information I can gain during that time; that is, sir, if
you require them."

"But what then?" asked Helston nervously.

"I cannot say, sir.  All depends on what we discover by the end of that
time."

"Very good, Cummins; you can make what dispositions you choose."

"It all depends on the weather, sir, and I must have calm days—the first
two calm days."

"All right!  Come down and look at that chart again."

"Thank you, sir, and I’ll have another cigar as well."

                     *      *      *      *      *

The visit of the _Undaunted_ and the mail which she had brought were
perhaps more welcome to the gun-rooms of the _Laird_ and _Strong Arm_
than to anyone else, for monotony palls more readily on youngsters than
it does on men, and certainly they become more rapidly home-sick.

Dinner that night in the _Laird’s_ gun-room, though it did consist
chiefly of corned meat and sardines, was a joyous meal.

Every one of them had heard from home, everyone had something to talk
about, and the gun-room, littered with piles of newly opened newspapers,
illustrated weeklies and magazines, was like a bear-garden.

Books, boots, telescopes, school-books and midshipmen’s logs, papers,
uniform caps, sextant boxes, and oilskins lay in confused heaps on the
deck and on the tops of the midshipmen’s lockers, where they had been
swept off the table during the progress of laying it for dinner.

Several rapid and vigorous passages of arms had already delighted
everybody, except, of course, the seniors, who did not appreciate the
damage resulting to crockery and glasses, of which they were already
running short.

Glover himself, forgetting for a moment his wounded leg (it was now
perfectly healed), had thrown himself with unaccustomed vigour into a
mêlée at the lower end of the table—the end farthest from where Jeffreys
the Sub (the reigning monarch) and the two Assistant Engineers sat—and
had disappeared from view under it.  Here he was passed from one to
another by the gentle process of being kicked from side to side, and his
only chance was to hug the first pair of feet he could get hold of and
drag the owner down with him.

This he did, and there they lay and struggled as to who should gain the
vacant place, whilst their chums joyously drummed on their ribs
indiscriminately and laid odds on one or the other appearing first.

Eventually Glover’s head did appear first, but a glass of water poured
over his head by a chum who was backing the other, and a vigorous pull
from below by his opponent made him disappear again, and the table-cloth
went with him, dragging with it knives and forks, glasses and plates, in
a mighty cataract.

This was too much for the onlookers, and with one accord they
disappeared under the table and fought, while the domestics, perfectly
accustomed to such a scene, jumped nimbly round, saving plates and
glasses as these came to sight amidst the struggling jumble of arms and
legs.

Those at the upper end of the table, which fortunately had its own
separate cloth, went on with their meal undisturbed—all except Dumpling,
who, seizing the mess extras-book, dealt vigorous blows on any
undefended portion of anatomy which disclosed itself from beneath the
table.

That was Dumpling "all over".  Was there a fight or a "scrum", he was
always near at hand, whacking indiscriminately, but never venturing a
"rough and tumble" himself.

By this time the uproar was so great that Jeffreys, Ogston, and the
other Assistant Engineer could literally not hear themselves speak, and
the table, heaving once or twice as the midshipmen fought and struggled
beneath it, gave ominous signs of capsizing.

"Stop it, you young idiots!" roared Jeffreys, smiting the table with his
open hand and calling the senior midshipman by name.

In a minute they were back in their places, flushed and happy, with
collars gone, coats torn, and here and there small gashes on their
faces, which their nearest chums wiped affectionately with the crumpled
table-cloth.

Order once restored, they fell to with redoubled vigour, and sardines
disappeared like magic—sardines, tinned butter and biscuits.

"Well, I can’t get over that news from home," said Dumpling for about
the fourth time since the mail had come aboard.

"Whatever is it, Dumpling?" they all chorused.  "Your old cat had
kittens?"

"No, you chaps, didn’t I tell you?  My sister is engaged to the son of a
duke.  I simply can’t get over it."

"Can’t you, really!  Then try if that will help you," sang out Mellins,
and he heaved a sea-boot at Dumpling’s head.  Dumpling was much too
nimble, and it only crashed into the helpless Mess steward, who was
doing his best to serve them all, smashed to smithereens a jug which he
was carrying, and caught him fair and square on the chest.

"Awfully sorry, Watson," said Mellins apologetically.

"Put Mr. Dunning down for six jugs, Messman," said Jeffreys—"six for
sky-larking."

"But I didn’t throw it; it wasn’t my fault," stammered Dumpling.

"Your fault, be hanged! you deserved it."

"But my sister _is_ engaged to the son of a——" he began again.

"Come here, Dunning!" Jeffreys yelled.  "Now, stand at my side here;
give me your arm.  No, I’ll be quite gentle with you," as he twisted it
slightly and Dumpling winced.  "Now, tell us all very nicely about your
sister. Whom is she going to marry?"

"The son of a du——" began Dumpling.

"No, no, she isn’t, my friend.  Just repeat after me: My
sister—is—going—to marry—a—broken-down—drunken—cab-driver. Now do as I
tell you," as Dumpling became defiant, "or before you know where you are
you shall have a dozen of the best across your back."  And he twisted
his arm till he writhed with pain.

"My sister is—going—to—marry a cabman," he stuttered, red in the face.

"A—broken-down—drunken cab-driver," Jeffreys roared; but Dumpling was
spared the indignity of repeating that, for a messenger put his head in
at the door and sang out that the midshipmen of the picket-boat and
second cutter were wanted in the Commander’s cabin immediately, and as
Dumpling had the second cutter, he wriggled himself free and escaped.

Mellins was the proud "owner" of the picket-boat, and, with their recent
animosities forgotten, both boys bolted like rabbits to the Commander’s
cabin.

"Mr. Christie" (Mellins’s real name), he began, as they both stood to
attention, "you will have your boat ready, with steam up, to hoist out
at five o’clock to-morrow morning.  See that her tanks and bunkers are
full.  You, Mr. Dunning, are the duty cutter for to-morrow, I believe.
You will also be ready to lower into the water at five o’clock, and be
prepared to be taken in tow.  You can provide rifles and pistols for
your men, and sling the former under the boat’s thwarts.  Ammunition
will be given you in the morning.  Both of you will see that your crews’
food is prepared overnight, and that your boats’ breakers
(water-barrels) are full of drinking-water.  Go away and make your
preparations at once."

Both boys slipped away with eager faces, but with this difference, that
whilst Mellins went off to find his coxswain, and was clambering into
his boat two minutes afterwards to make certain that all was correct,
Dumpling first went down to the gun-room to pose as a hero, specially
selected by the Commander, and, with a lot of unnecessary fuss, found
his dirk, and took it for’ard to sharpen it on the grindstone.

"That youngster wants kicking badly," said Ogston.

"He shall get it when he comes back," answered Jeffreys nonchalantly.



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                        *Spying Out the Pirates*


    We go Inshore—In Under the Forts—Helplessly Drifting—We Hide
    among Rocks—A Terrible Moment—Spying Out the Pirates—Taking
    Notes—Hopkins Again—How shall we Escape?—Cummins Decides


        _Mr. Midshipman Glover tells how he visited the island_


The wound in my leg healed completely in seven days, and I was as right
as rain, but that old brute, Dr. Fox, would not let me go off the
sick-list.

You can imagine how wild this made me, for I was dreadfully afraid of
losing my billet in "No. 3".

The coming of the _Undaunted_ had put new life into everybody, and when
Mellins and Dumpling got their orders that night, the wildest rumours
went flying round.

I tried my best to make Mellins stow me away in the bows of his
picket-boat, but, good chap as he was, he would not hear of it, even
though I offered to bring a big home-made cake which had come in the
mail.

Poor old Mellins! it _was_ hard for him to refuse.

Just think, then, how I felt when at 4.30 next morning the half-deck
sentry woke me with, "Commander wants you, sir, immediate!"

Down I climbed—into my clothes—shoved a cap on my head without brushing
my hair, and rushed up on deck.

"Eh!  Mr. Glover," the Commander chuckled, as he looked at me over a cup
of hot ship’s cocoa.  "Dr. Fox says you are fit for duty, so be prepared
to leave the ship at 5 a.m. to report yourself to Mr. Parker."

Hardly knowing whether I was standing on my head or on my heels for joy,
I dived down below and started packing my chest; but I need not have
been in such a hurry, for the Commander sent his messenger to tell me to
take only what I could carry, so I had to be content with Dumpling’s
leather bag again.  He certainly did have jolly good bags. I managed to
shove in most of the cake, after chopping off a big chunk, which I hid
in Toddles’s locker, and another, which I gave the coxswain of the
picket-boat as a surprise for Mellins.  I saw him hide it among some
oily rags, so I guessed that old Mellins would never find it.

It was simply ripping getting back to "No. 3" again—Mr. Parker, Mr.
Chapman the Engineer, and Collins the Sub all jolly pleased to see me,
and Pat Jones too.  The only thing wanting was Toddles, and I had not
the heart to say good-bye to him, but left him snoring in his
hammock—he’d had the middle watch.

The Commander came across to "No. 3" with me, and when he was aboard we
took the picket-boat and second cutter in tow and steamed slowly inshore
towards the island, not straight for the entrance, but some way past the
place where the two pirate torpedo-boats had run ashore, making a great
sweeping circle in order not to come under fire from the forts.  We
towed the picket-boat in order to save her coal.

As soon as we were close to the land and beyond that projecting corner
of which I have told you, and which hid us from the forts, we cast off
the boats, the Commander going away in the cutter and the picket-boat
taking her in tow.  They went as close inshore as possible, creeping
slowly along, away from the entrance, and examining the rocks bit by
bit, whilst we kept abreast of them ready to open fire if the Chinese
did any rifle-shooting from the cliffs.

It was not particularly exciting work, and as far as we could see from
"No. 3", there was not a single place up which a cat could climb.  It
was not till the afternoon that we saw anything approaching a beach, and
even that had perpendicular cliffs behind it covered with brushwood.

They must have been dead tired in the boats, but the Commander still
kept at it, standing up in the stern-sheets of the cutter jotting down
notes, taking sketches, and reading off angles on his sextant.

Then, however, we got round to the back of the island.

The shore here was low, but too high for us to see over it into the
harbour, and just as we caught sight of the little channel running out
there, a crowd of ragged ruffians showed up and began peppering away at
the boats.

We let into them with our 12-pounder on the bridge, found the range with
our second shot, and sent them scurrying like rabbits to cover, followed
by a man on a shaggy pony, who cantered slowly after them.

"D’ you recognize your friend?" asked Mr. Parker, handing me his
telescope.  Sure enough, it was the black-bearded man who had fought so
splendidly on board that destroyer.  I recognized him at once.

"Glad he got safely home," I said.

"I don’t think he’s got home yet," grinned Mr. Parker. "I don’t think
he’ll find many home comforts in this island.  Hurry him up, Jones,"
turning to the gun’s crew, who had ceased firing.

Jones took careful aim, fired, and the shell burst just behind the pony,
sending up a cloud of dust and stones. The frightened beast reared and
tried to bolt, but the rider calmly quieted it, and, shaking his fist at
us, walked it slowly over the crest of the slope.

"That’s a fine chap," said Mr. Parker admiringly, and sent me down to
his cabin to get him some more tobacco.

Our work for the day was done, and after towing the boats back to the
_Laird_ we joined "No. 2", and after dark took up the usual position
close to the entrance for the night.

As we towed the cutter back to the ship I could see that Dumpling was
wildly excited, and wondered what yarns he would spin in the gun-room
that night about his experiences under fire.

The Commander did not return to his ship, but came back to "No. 3" and
turned in early, dog-tired—too tired even to smoke or make any funny
remarks.

I was not allowed on deck, and slept like a log.

Presently—it seemed only ten minutes afterwards—I was roughly shaken
and, half dazed, ordered on deck to get the dinghy into the water.  It
was very cold, quite dark, and a damp drizzle made everything
slippery—as cheerless an outlook as one could imagine.

We got the dinghy out, put a compass into her, and Jones, with the oars
wrapped round with cotton-waste to prevent them from making any noise in
the rowlocks, took his place in the boat.

Then up came the Commander in his overcoat, and he and I got into her,
somebody threw me an oil-skin, and we shoved off into the dark.

I had not the least idea what we were going to do, and, only half awake,
felt miserable to a degree.

"Just the morning for it," chuckled the Commander; "a damp mist and a
calm sea."

"What are we going to do, sir?" I asked, beginning to wake up, and
shivering.

"Right in under the forts, boy.  Want you to tell me when we come to the
rocks which had those lights on, wait there till it’s light enough to
see the guns, and slip away again.  The tide is flowing strongly now,
and will carry us down to the entrance."

"Oh!" was all that I could answer, and felt anything but happy.

Jones was only paddling easily, but for all that we bumped into a rock.

"Get into the bows, Glover, and shove her off," the Commander told me,
and I scrambled for’ard.  We went on again, keeping along towards the
entrance, and occasionally bumping.  On the top of one of these rocks
was a great sea-bird.  It flapped, screeching, into the darkness with a
shrill cry of alarm, which I thought would wake the whole island.

How my heart did beat!

It was chilling work, and my teeth were chattering as I leant over the
bows, shoving her off any rocks, and trying to find one with a lamp on
it.  There was a good deal of danger, too, for though the sea was calm,
the swell was quite noticeable directly we got close in under the
cliffs, and though the boat was a strongly built old tub, her sides once
or twice creaked and groaned as they ground up against the rocks.

"Oars," whispered the Commander.

Jones stopped pulling, and I noticed that we did not seem to lose way;
in fact, we glided quite rapidly past a great dark mass of boulders.

"We must be near the entrance now; look how we are being set in with the
current," said the Commander softly.

"H’st!" he hissed, and we heard the regular noise of oar in rowlock.  It
was coming towards us, coming from seaward, every moment louder and
clearer—ump-ump! ump-ump! backwards and forwards.

"It’s a native boat," the Commander whispered; and then, "Back
starboard, Jones!  Back for your life, man!"

Jones jerked his oar violently in the water, and, oh horrors! the rotten
wood cracked, gave way, and the blade fell into the sea as a dark shape
went splashing past us, with a little glow amidships as from a red-hot
charcoal brazier—enough to show the dim blotch of a man swaying to and
fro, grunting loudly at each ump-ump of a long sweep over the stern.

We thought that he must see us or hear the noise of the breaking oar,
and remained as still as death, whilst the native—a fisherman probably
coming back from raising his traps—disappeared into the darkness.

What were we to do?

We had no spare oar in the boat, and Jones vainly tried to scull with
the remaining oar over the stern.  He could not even bring her bows
round against the current, which we could now hear bubbling and sluicing
past the rocks, and when at last we managed to get her round by paddling
with the bottom boards, our last oar broke off short, Jones nearly
tumbling overboard as it gave way.

In desperation he ripped up another bottom board, and we three paddled
as if for dear life.  We could see nothing, not even each other’s faces,
but a cold breeze coming from the island told us that we were already
inside the entrance channel, and were being sucked in between the two
forts which we had come to spy out.  Work how we could—and how it did
tire my wrists! with a great deal of noise and splashing, which we
expected every moment to raise the alarm—we could not make the least
headway.

"Make for the side," came from the Commander.

But we could not even do that.  The boat was out of our control, and,
spinning round and round in the eddies of the current, was drawn through
the dark channel towards the pirates’ harbour.

I forgot that I was cold and wet and sleepy at the thought of our
horrible position, but do not think I was really frightened, for,
somehow or other, one never did feel frightened when the Commander was
near (people have often told me the same thing since), and Jones too; I
felt that he too would be able to find some way out.

Suddenly ahead of us we saw a ruddy glow outlining the sharp edges of
the rocks; we swung round a corner, and then in an instant shot into the
glare of a camp-fire on a rock twenty feet above us.

Two Chinamen, one of them leaning on a rifle, were standing by it,
warming themselves, and we could hear them talking sleepily to one
another.

We were in the shadow of the rocks and whirled past, not one of us
moving a muscle or making a sound whilst we watched those sentries and
expected to be seen.

It seemed ages as we were sucked in by the current.

At last we were past, and then the motions of the boat became more
gentle, and we found ourselves in a kind of back eddy, with all sorts of
timber and branches and floating leaves going gently round and round in
a circle.

"Now paddle, boys, and don’t splash," the Commander whispered, steering
as best he could.  The light of the fire suddenly disappeared.

"Give way, boys, we’re round a corner—out of sight of the sentries."

We got the boat under some control and moved slowly towards the darkest
part we could see.  We had not the least idea what it would be, but
pushed on, my heart going like a steam-hammer.

Presently something swept across my face, catching me a stinging blow.
In my excitement and nervousness I had to bite my lips to prevent myself
from yelling with fright, and clutched at it.

It was a branch of a tree.

I hauled on it, hand over hand, found my face wetted with damp leaves,
and, the others helping, we made out way right in among the branches.

The Commander plunged the boat-hook over the side. "Two feet deep," he
said, then knelt down, felt for the bottom plug and pulled it out, and
the water came gurgling rapidly through.

In a minute it was up to our ankles, and there we had to stand and weigh
the boat down as the water crept up, till gradually it was over our
knees.  Ugh!  How cold it was!  But there was nothing else to do if we
wanted the boat to sink, and we had to do it.

"Crawl ashore," the Commander whispered, as water began to flow in over
the gunwale, and Jones and I climbed along the branches, half in and
half out of the water.  Jones got to land first, stretched out his great
hand and hauled me ashore.

In a moment the Commander joined us.

"Push on inland, boys," he whispered, as calmly as anything, "the boat
is all right."  And we forced and squeezed our way through the clinging
bushes and undergrowth, going in single file and keeping close together
so as not to lose one another in the darkness.

Presently we burst through to a clear space, and our feet trod on hard
ground.

"A path!" the Commander said, and struck softly across it.

Then we came to more thick bushes and briars, ran up against some stumpy
trees with rocks in between them, and found ourselves climbing upwards.

In a minute we had to climb hand over hand, very steep it was, and I
thought we should never stop, and the noise we made seemed prodigious.

The light of the camp-fire appeared once again.  We halted, and could
see the two men still listlessly standing over it.  They had not heard
us yet, and we scrambled upwards till the light was once more shut out
from us.

At last we clambered on to what seemed to be a little ledge among the
rocks.  I could go no farther, and fell down in a heap.

We lay down on this ledge, huddled close together for warmth, till
gradually and slowly the darkness diminished.

First we could distinguish one another’s faces and the long grass we
were lying in, the thick bushes in front of us, and rock and more bushes
behind and on each side.

Gradually we could make out the cold surface of the water below us, and
presently, right away over the harbour, some ship struck four bells (six
o’clock), another and another repeated, and we could hear the shrill
pipes as the hands were turned out,[#] probably on board the pirate
cruisers.


[#] Men turned out of their hammocks by the Bos’n’s pipe.


From across the water came the throbbing sound of a native gong, one
solitary one at first, then two or three more, till it seemed as if
hundreds were being beaten, the noise rising and falling till the whole
harbour seemed to be filled with it.

Lights flared up as fires were lighted, and we knew that the pirate
village was bestirring itself.

As the dawn approached we could realize our position. We were perched on
a ledge some sixty feet up the steep face of a rocky uneven cliff,
covered with thickset, dwarfed trees and gorse-like bushes, growing
wherever they could find foothold.

Beneath us ran the path, along the water’s edge, which we had crossed an
hour before, and the overhanging tree which concealed the water-logged
dinghy, and along whose branches we had scrambled ashore.

"If they don’t spot the dinghy or the damage we did clambering up here,"
chuckled the Commander, "we shall be as safe as in a church, and simply
have to lie snug till nightfall."

Then happened what I have recalled since with even more horror than the
remainder of that day’s dangers, and which absolutely seemed to freeze
up the whole of my inside.

It was my own fault, you see, and very nearly placed us all in the most
frightful danger.

By pushing aside a tussock of thick grass and looking down I could just
see that path, and as it grew light enough to distinguish objects I saw
something dark lying in the middle of it, right in the open.  It seemed
strangely familiar, and involuntarily I put my hand to my head. My cap
was missing, and was lying there right in the path, a path well trodden
down and evidently much used.

I can never say how I felt then, or how I managed to make myself
understood by the Commander—even thinking of it makes me still shiver
now, and, scores of times a year, I see that cap in my dreams lying
there with its gilt badge just showing bright—but the Commander, with a
cheery smile, pressed me down as I tried to rise, wriggled himself over
the edge, and commenced climbing down, branches crackling and swaying,
and stones sliding down ahead of him.

I kept my eyes glued on that cap, and waited with the greatest anguish
to see his arm pushed out from the tall grass at the side of the road.
I expected that he would wriggle himself through that and reach across
with his arm, but though no arm appeared the cap disappeared, and in a
minute I heard him coming up again.

"How did you do it?" I asked him thankfully, as he sank down beside me.

"With a long briar, my son—a prickly creeper which came in very handy."

Even as he spoke a long string of natives (Koreans, the Commander told
me) laden with firewood passed in single file along the path.  Fancy
what would have happened if they had been but five minutes sooner!

They had hardly disappeared from sight as they followed the path, when
suddenly a most tremendous banging of guns commenced from the direction
of the entrance to the harbour, and, craning our necks round a corner of
rook, we could see clouds of powder smoke floating up.

"’No. 3’ come in to look for us," muttered the Commander.  "I hope
Parker will clear out of it before he gets damaged."

We listened, and tried to hear whether any shots were coming from
seaward, but could hear none.  The firing from the shore slackened,
burst out again with fury, died away, and all became quiet once more.

"Parker’s got out of range safely," chuckled the Commander.

                     *      *      *      *      *

After that I must have gone to sleep, and I woke up in broad daylight to
find myself very hungry and very cold. Jones was lying coiled up in the
grass and sound asleep, the Commander was peering through the bushes
with his field-glasses and making little sketches in his note-book in
front of him.  He heard me stir, smiled cheerfully as he broke off a
stalk of grass and began chewing it, and handed me his glasses.

"Start away from your right and tell me what you see."

Sliding into a better position, I had a splendid view of the whole
harbour.  On the extreme right I could see the low ground from which the
black-bearded man had shaken his fist at us yesterday, and the narrow
channel of water marking the outlet.  Sweeping the glasses towards the
left, I made out some torpedo-boats moored close together in a little
bay.

"How many can you count?" the Commander asked me.

I counted seven.  Then came three old-fashioned craft, ship-rigged with
their to’-gallants and top-masts struck, whilst anchored all round them
was a crowd of junks without a sign of life among them.  They all seemed
deserted.

"Those are the corvettes missing from the Yangtze Squadron," the
Commander explained, excitedly for him, and his enthusiasm made one feel
quite cheerful and frightfully excited too.

Still farther along to the left were twelve merchant steamers of all
sizes and in no regular order—some mere hulks with no masts or boats,
one without a funnel. Others, some four or five, had swarms of people on
board, and from the clattering and hammering that came from them they
seemed to be under repair.  I told the Commander what I thought.

"Yes," he said, "they are altering them so that they can sell them
without their old owners being able to recognize them."

Inshore I could see quite a busy little town, with large sheds and
wooden warehouses, and hundreds of primitive bamboo-matting huts,—the
pirate town, I knew, and you can guess that I forgot all about being
hungry.

A rough pier jutted out from it, with a big steamer tied up to the end
of it, and even as I looked they were lowering a mast into her with the
aid of some tall sheer-legs.

Higher up behind the town were some bungalows—one of them was probably
Hopkins’s house, I thought—and the whole side of the hill was green with
cultivation, the steep slopes terraced out in squares like a
chess-board.  Above these the hill was too steep for even Chinese to
cultivate, and finished off in a flat peak much higher than any other
point in the island.  We all had noticed this hill from the sea.

Still farther towards the left, and under rather high land, were four
cruisers moored head and stern.  One I thought was very like the cruiser
that had driven off "No. 2" and "No. 3" when we sank the destroyer
outside the island.

"That is the _Hong Lu_," the Commander told me when I asked him.

"What guns can you make out?"

It was difficult to see accurately, for she was lying bows on towards
us, but she seemed to have a gun about the size of a 6-inch on her
fo’c’stle, and three on each side in small sponsons.

"Those other three are the _Yao Yuen_, _Mao Yuen_, and the _Tu Ping_,"
said the Commander, "and they seem to have all their guns aboard.  But
what do you make of the funny-looking craft moored right inshore?"

"Why, she’s an ironclad, sir," I whispered, "with two turrets!"

"Yes; but has she any guns?"

I looked very carefully but could not see any.  From a port in one
turret something projected, but only a little way, and it looked ragged
at the end.

"No, I don’t think so, sir."

"That ship is the old _Ting Yuen_, Glover.  They must have raised her
from the bottom of Wei-hai-wei harbour, though why on earth they brought
her down here if she had no guns fairly beats me."

Close to her were two old friends—the remaining two of the three
Patagonians which had caused us so much bother all the way out from
Malta, and near them three more torpedo-boats.  Huge stacks of coal
lined the shore behind them, several more warehouses, and another little
pier.

How I did wish that Mellins and Toddles had been with me to see all
this! and I forgot altogether that we were in such a helpless plight.

Steam-boats were darting about from one ship to another, and backwards
and forwards between the ships and the shore.

Over the little town was a thin cloud of blue smoke, and from what must
have been forges or workshops, darker columns of smoke curled upwards
into the still air, with here and there a white jet of steam.

They seemed tremendously busy, and the little town fairly hummed with
life.

"Carry on to your left and tell me what you see?" the Commander ordered.

First of all the high land, under which the cruisers lay moored, sloped
gradually towards the channel through which we had drifted, and then
ended abruptly in two terraces, one overlooking the other.  A zigzag
path cut in the face of the cliff opposite us led up to these terraces,
starting from a little landing-place at the water’s edge. A steam-boat
was lying alongside, having evidently towed a boat-load of stores there,
and a long line of coolies were trudging up in pairs with what looked
like ammunition boxes suspended between them from bamboo poles across
their shoulders.  Others were trooping down empty-handed.

Following the zigzag path I made out a gun shield covered with a
tarpaulin.  That was on the lower platform, and sticking out from the
rocks I could see the muzzle of a quick-firer on the upper platform.

"That’s one of the forts, sir," I said excitedly.

Below the guns the rocks ran on for thirty or forty yards, and then were
hidden behind some higher rocks on our side of the entrance channel.
These shut out all view of the sea.

"Now come where I am and look round the corner to the left," said the
Commander, rolling out of the way and chuckling to himself with
amusement at my excitement. I did as I was told, and, pushing aside some
branches, peered down.

The path below us—the path on which my cap had fallen—ran along the foot
of the cliffs, along the water’s edge, till it came to a little
landing-place made of strong balks of timber.  Reckoning in cricket
pitches—a dodge the Commander had taught me—I thought that it was almost
sixty yards away from where our dinghy was sunk.

The landing-place, like the one opposite it, had a small derrick at one
corner, with tackle and blocks rigged for lifting weights out of a boat.
Broad irregular steps cut in the rock led up from it to a well-cut path
which, running sharply upwards, turned round a corner and was lost to
sight.

At this corner a little platform, with a parapet all round it, had been
levelled, and on it was a small shelter covered with matting.

In front of the shelter was an old oil-drum with its sides pierced with
holes, and a little smoke was even now rising gently from it.  This was
the fire we had seen as we had drifted in.

Against the parapet two or three rifles were leaning.

Down below, with his legs dangling over the landing-place, a Chinaman,
in a sort of uniform, was fishing and keeping up a running conversation
with the sailors in the steam-boat alongside the opposite jetty.

Tied up to this landing-place were several small boats.

I told the Commander all I had seen, and then he ordered me to make
sketches, showed me how to make them fairly accurately, and lent me his
pencil.

I had a pocket-book of my own, and worked hard at it for two hours or
more, and I think that I was really too frightened of the Commander to
worry about our actual danger, for he was furiously angry at my first
few attempts.

"I’ve never done anything like this before, sir."

"What the dickens were you doing in the _Britannia_?" he muttered.
"I’ll see that you get plenty of practice when we get back to the
_Laird_."

"But please, sir, how are we going to get back?" I ventured to ask him
presently.  He would not answer me—only chuckled.

Every now and again the man who was fishing would be joined by some
comrades, who were apparently on duty as sentries, for presently another
steam-launch came swiftly from the town and ran alongside the
landing-stage. The fisherman dropped his line and stood to attention;
his chums ran up the steps, seized their rifles, and presented arms,
whilst two Europeans stepped ashore.

One was the man with the black beard, the second was none other than
Hopkins, and you can imagine how excited I was, for I could have hit
them with a stone, they were so near, and I could hear Hopkins laughing
merrily as he spun some yarn.

They climbed the steps, passed the sentries, and disappeared round the
corner.

In about half an hour they came back and crossed to the other jetty.
Here they were met by a third European, and all three walked up towards
the fort, the coolies making way for them.

They did not stay long there.  Hopkins and the black-bearded man came
slowly down the zigzag path, jumped into the steam-boat, shoved off, and
steamed towards the _Hong Lu_.

We followed them intently, and I noticed that they both kept looking up
towards the top of the hill, behind the town, which I have told you was
the highest point on the island.  They seemed extremely interested in
something there, and even stopped the boat and gazed steadily up at it
through field-glasses.

They were evidently satisfied, went on again, and we saw them run
alongside the _Hong Lu_ and climb up her accommodation-ladder.

The Commander had watched them carefully through his glasses, and now I
saw him earnestly searching the top of that hill.

"That explains it all," he muttered to himself, and passed them across
to me.  "Look under those trees."

I could see nothing at first except a great broad track running up the
side as if some heavy weights had been roughly hauled up it, but looking
more closely under the trees I saw crowds of Chinese working like ants,
then I made out the bend of a derrick, like a single boat’s davit,
showing up against the sky-line.

With this to guide me, and looking very carefully, I made out a great
tarpaulin or canvas, covering something. It was a huge gun.

"Now I know why they fished up the old _Ting Yuen_," said the Commander,
"and why she has no guns.  They’ve managed to mount one of her 12-inch
guns on top of that hill, and there is another on the beach close
alongside her waiting to go up too, if I am not mistaken.

"My aunt," he chuckled, "how proud our sappers and gunners would be with
a job like that!"

He seemed perfectly cheerful, and chuckled merrily to himself, though,
for my part, I only thought that that big gun up there made it all the
more impossible to capture the island, and that lying, as we were, right
in the middle of the pirate harbour on a little ledge of rock not a
hundred yards away from the sentries, with no chance, as far as I could
see, of escaping, was not particularly funny.

I was simply frightfully hungry and fearfully thirsty. I had sucked
grass and licked wet leaves till I was nearly sick.  My legs and body
were so stiff that it pained me even to roll over, ever so gently, and
the sun was not warm enough to dry me properly.  Jones was still sound
asleep, and the Commander began making more sketches of the top of the
hill, peering hard through his glasses, then adding a little to the
drawing, and correcting the measurements by holding the pencil up
against his eyes and moving his thumb along it.  He was strangely
elated.

A steam hooter sounded in the town, the clatter and hammering died away,
the coolies working in the ships were taken ashore, the sentries cooked
their dinner in the hot brazier, and everything became still and quiet
except the pain inside me.

I felt hungry and miserable and longed for the _Laird’s_ gun-room fire,
and knew they were just beginning lunch aboard, and probably having a
good rough-and-tumble fight.

"Pull your belt in, youngster, and buck up," said the Commander
cheerily.

"Please, sir, I hav’n’t got a belt."

"Well, get a big stone and lie on it."

That did relieve the pain a little.

"We’ve got eight or nine hours of it, youngster.  Move your legs about
every now and again to keep them from getting cramp."

Presently he asked me what plans I had made, and really I got quite
excited in working out different schemes, and he was so jolly about it
and never snubbed me that I forgot to be miserable for quite a long
time.

Every now and again we stopped even whispering, whilst some Koreans
straggled along the path beneath us, going to or coming from the fort.

At first we were in a horrible funk lest they should see the broken-down
bushes and trampled grass, or even the sunken dinghy; but they were much
too self-absorbed to notice anything, and gradually we left off fearing
that they would discover us.

It seemed pretty evident that none of the Chinese lived anywhere near
us, for not one passed during the whole day.

Then we talked of England, and somehow or other I mentioned Fareham.

"That is where your cousin lives, is it not?" he asked.

"Milly?  Why, do you know old Milly?" I said.

"Well, just slightly."  (I had a faint suspicion that he looked a little
red in the face.)  "I met her at a dance in Southsea.  Don’t go often to
that kind of thing—make an awful mess of dancing, Glover, so generally
stay away—but I had to go to this one, and met your cousin. Had one or
two dances with her."

"Isn’t she a perfect ripper?"

"She was extremely forbearing with me," he smiled, "and when I trod on
her toes did not seem to mind a little bit."

"I should not be here if it had not been for her," I told the Commander.

"I rather think she got her father the Admiral to put in a good word for
me too," he replied.

"Do you really?" I said, and remembered that Mr. Pattison had told me
the same.

"She asked me to keep an eye on you and give you a leg up whenever I
could.  That is why I got you off the sick-list yesterday."

"What did Dr. Fox say when you asked him, sir?"

"Curse the boy! take him away and drown him for all I care."

"What a brute he is!" I said, rather forgetting myself, and wanting to
bite my tongue off directly I had said it.

"He’s the most kind-hearted man on board the _Laird_, Glover, and don’t
you forget it," the Commander answered severely.

I felt snubbed, and knew that I deserved it.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The steam hooter sounded again, but the coolies were not taken back to
the ships; they seemed to be all collected round one of the sheds, and
were making a great clamour. Something unusual seemed to be going on,
but we could not make out what.

Half an hour later the Commander passed me the glasses and pointed to
the side of the high hill.  Looking through them I saw a long file of
coolies slowly tramping along a zigzag path, looking like a great snake,
and winding up the hill towards the gun.  They were in groups of eight,
and each group of eight had some very heavy weight between them, going
very slowly and frequently stopping.

"They are taking up shell," the Commander said.

I watched that long procession toiling up the hill for a long time, and
watching it made me sleepy, and I dropped off to sleep.  It was nearly
dark when I woke, and I heard Jones and the Commander talking softly.

Jones was saying: "The tide don’t ebb till nigh three bells, sir, and it
won’t be running strong till eight or nine o’clock."

"I’ve been watching the morning ebb, and it ran very strongly past the
end of the landing-stage," replied the Commander, "so that if we creep
down in the dark, get hold of one of those boats and cast off, we shall
be whisked out in no time.  We may have to knock a sentry or two on the
head, though," he chuckled.  "You’ll have to do that part of the show,
Jones."

"Right you are, sir.  I’m a bit cramped now, but I’ll be all right
soon."



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

                      *The Escape from the Island*


    We Scramble Down—We Secure the Sentries—We Capture the
    Steam-boat—We Run the Gauntlet


               _Midshipman Glover’s Narrative continued_


At six o’clock (we could hear the cruisers striking their bells, so knew
what time it was), and just as it was getting dusk, a little steam-boat
came across from the opposite fort, the European we had seen in the
morning landed at the jetty below us, and went up towards the fort,
leaving the boat with a coxswain, bowman, and a stoker.

In a few minutes he returned and went back to his own side.

At seven o’clock, or a few minutes afterwards, he came again.  It was
quite dark, but we heard the bowman make the boat fast by hooking: the
bow rope into a ring on the landing-stage.  The bowman then lighted a
lantern and showed the way up the cliffs to the European, the two
sentries who had been crouching in front of their now fiercely blazing
fire following him round the corner.

In about ten minutes they returned.

Another hour dragged past—my goodness, how it did drag!—the lights went
out in the little town, and just as the _Hong Lu’s_ bell struck the hour
the steam-boat came puffing across again.

The same routine was carried out, and for ten minutes the little
steam-boat lay alongside the landing-stage with no one aboard her except
the coxswain and the stoker. Evidently this European had to visit the
fort every hour, and we noticed as he passed across the glare of the
fire that he appeared to be walking unsteadily.

"We must stretch our legs," the Commander whispered. "I can hardly move
mine;" and he rose to his feet and began hopping up and down.  Jones and
I did it after him, one at a time, and though at first our legs were
horribly cramped and painful, the blood at last began to flow through
them, and we were able to move freely.

"My old rheumatism, sir—the same what I had up the Straits—won’t be no
better for this, sir, I’m afraid," said Jones.

Then the Commander told us to be prepared to climb down to the path
directly the guard-boat came alongside again and the European and the
sentries had gone away.

There was no doubt at all that he was visiting the fort every hour, for
as two bells (nine o’clock) rang out away over the harbour, we heard the
crew of the steam-boat chattering as they took her alongside the
opposite landing-stage.

Then a lantern came down the cliff path swinging jerkily, we heard
several rough oaths, a command in Chinese, and the steam-boat shot
across into the light of the camp-fire to our jetty.

"Stand by," whispered the Commander as coolly as possible, though my
heart was beating tremendously fast; "I will go first, and, when I’m at
the bottom, you, Glover, will follow, and Jones will bring up the rear."

We heard the hook-rope catch the ring, the European landed, lurching
unsteadily, and disappeared up the path with the bowman and the two
sentries.

Instantly the Commander slid over the edge of our ledge and went
wriggling down.  He made hardly any noise, and gave a low whistle when
he had reached the bottom.

With my heart in my mouth I followed, grasping every branch and bit of
rock, and lowering myself down. Everything I touched seemed to make an
awful noise.

When I was half-way down my foot slipped, I grabbed at a branch, missed
it, and went falling headlong, smashing through bushes, dislodging
stones, and falling with a crash into a bush at the bottom.

The Commander was at my side in a moment.

"Not hurt, Glover?  No.  That’s all right.  Keep absolutely still; the
men in the boat heard you, but they are not moving."

We waited a minute; the two men began talking to one another (we could
just see their faces in the glow of the sentry’s fire above them), and
then Jones commenced to climb down, making wonderfully little noise for
such a big man as he was.  Some stones came rattling down, however, and
the men became uneasy again, looking over their shoulders towards us,
but not leaving the boat, and, of course, not being able to see us.

As Jones joined us the lantern reappeared, and the European came
stumbling down the steps.

The coxswain began excitedly talking to him, pointing in our direction
("Get hold of a big stone, each of you, and hide in the long grass," the
Commander whispered), but the European, evidently rather drunk, only
cursed him, got into the boat, and still cursing made them shove off.

We breathed freely again and then waited.

"We have to settle those two sentries—Jones and I will do that.  You,
Glover, cast off one of the boats and get her alongside."

The steam-boat had shot across to the other side, the drunken man had
gone staggering up the path, and then we heard the engines working again
and heard the guard-boat going up harbour, the thud of her engines
getting fainter and fainter in the night.

"Now wriggle along through the grass till I tell you to stop."

Even as the Commander gave this order he gave a warning hiss, and we
sank down in the grass, for the two sentries, more concerned about the
noises the coxswain had described than the officer was, or perhaps
anxious for something to do to pass the time, lighted a lantern, and,
coming down the steps, began walking along the path towards us.

"The Lord hath delivered them into our hands," the Commander muttered
piously.  "Jones, you seize the one with the lantern—by the throat, mind
you—I’ll seize the other.  You put out the light, Glover, and stand by
to help.  Not a word and no noise."

Chattering to themselves they came along swinging the lantern
unconcernedly.  Perhaps they had expected to find that a goat had fallen
down and broken his neck, and hoped to make a good supper of its strong
meat.  At any rate, they were not the least on their guard, and were
quite unarmed.

I was much too excited to feel frightened.

They were examining the face of the cliff, holding the lantern up to
find the cause of the noises, and as we were lying in the grass on the
other side of the path they never even saw us.

As they passed, Jones and the Commander jumped up and sprang at them.
One gave a funny hoot like an owl—it was the Commander’s man, I think.
The man Jones tackled never made a sound except a gurgle, and both went
down like stones.  I seized the lantern as it fell and blew it out,
whilst they dragged the two Chinamen into the long grass.

Jones’s man seemed to be giving the most trouble, so I tore up a handful
of coarse grass and stuffed it in between his jaws.  Then, Jones holding
him by the neck all the time, I unwound a long sash or belt he had round
his waist and bound his arms.  Jones bound his feet together with his
knife lanyard, and he lay perfectly still like a log, not making a
sound.

[Illustration: THE COMMANDER AND JONES OVERPOWER THE TWO SENTRIES]

Then I crept over to help the Commander, but his man was as limp as a
rag, and it was an easy job to gag him and secure his arms and legs.

"Now for the boat, boys," whispered the Commander, and we crawled to the
landing-place, keeping well down so as not to show up in the light from
the fire.  We wriggled along, got hold of the boat’s painter, hauled the
boat alongside, and slid over the side into her.

There was a pair of oars in the boat and some rude rowlocks, but good
enough.  I was just going to shove her off into the stream when the
Commander gave a chuckle, as if he had had a sudden inspiration, and
said softly: "Get her close in to the bank.  That’s it; now haul her
along."

We hauled hand over hand till we came opposite the spot where the two
sentries lay gagged and bound.  The Commander and Jones sprang ashore,
leaving me alone in the boat, and presently reappeared out of the
darkness and bundled first one and then the other into the bottom of the
boat, both sliding down like sacks of potatoes.

We then let the boat drift down with the ebb tide, which was already
setting out strongly, till the Commander with a couple of strokes sent
her in under the bank again, where we lay in absolute darkness just
above the landing-place.

"What is he going to do?" I thought.  He kept chuckling to himself, so I
knew that everything was all right; but why did he not get away as
quickly as he could? I was tremendously anxious to know, and expected
every moment that one of the fellows at the bottom of the boat would
commence yelling.

We waited there, crouched down beneath the bank, till we could hear the
guard-boat coming back.  It ran alongside the other landing-stage, the
crew talking sleepily. Presently the light came down the zigzag path
again, jerking more than ever, and the steam-boat shot across into the
light of the sentry fire and bumped against our jetty. It was hooked on,
the bowman helped the European up the steps, and then, of course, the
sentries were discovered to be missing.

The flow of language was pretty strong, I can tell you, and the European
staggering about in drunken anger round that glowing fire was not a
pleasant sight.  He called out to the coxswain, and that man jumped
ashore. Why he wanted him was very easy to see, for he could hardly
stand without support, and leant heavily on him. Like this the three
disappeared round the corner, and the boat was left with no one but the
stoker in her.

"Now drop alongside and board," chuckled the Commander.  "You take the
helm, Jones, I’ll manage the stoker, and Glover, you cast off the
ropes."

In a moment we had shot out from the bank, and were alongside the
steam-boat before the scared stoker knew we were there.  The Commander
laid him out in the bottom of the boat with a crack over the head with a
stretcher he had found in the boat.  Jones jumped aft, secured the
boat’s painter, unhooked the stern rope, and got hold of the helm.  I
sprang across her bows and unhooked the bow rope, the Commander opened
the steam-valve, the propeller flew round (it went astern for a moment,
but the Commander found the reversing-lever and threw it over for
"ahead").  I shoved her bows off for all I was worth, nearly falling
overboard doing it, and by the time I had recovered myself we were away
with the boat, and our two gagged sentries, towing behind us.

Jones steered her bows round till we were in the middle, and then I
wondered how ever we were going to find our way through the twisting
channel.

The tide was sluicing us out as fast as it had borne us in that morning.
The glare of the fire was shut out as we rushed round the corner into
the channel, into absolute pitch darkness.  You could almost feel the
intense darkness, and I was horribly scared lest we should smash into a
rock, so hung on like grim death for fear of being knocked overboard.

But then the Commander stopped the engines, and we simply drifted
between the wall faces of those two forts, only standing by to shove her
off if she had hit up against anything.  But we were well in the middle,
well in the grip of the current which was running like a millstream,
swinging us round and round like a cork, and all we could do was to hold
our breath and trust to being safely swept out to sea.

The only noise was the bubbling of the current, till suddenly the stoker
in the bottom of the boat let fly a most piercing yell which echoed from
side to side.  The Commander was on top of him in a moment, and must
have caught him by the neck.  We could see some lights moving overhead.
Somebody called out, and I jumped aft to help the Commander.

"Go back, Glover, and stoke; shove a little coal on at a time.  I can
manage him, and we shall want all our steam when we get outside."

I had never done such a thing before in my life, but it wasn’t difficult
to find a shovel, and I lifted the furnace door open, and by the light
of the furnace saw where the coal was stored.  I threw some on, as far
back as I could, and shut up the door again, but already the alarm had
been given.  On each side of us I could hear men shouting and see lights
hurrying up and down, and that one flood of light from the open door
must have just showed them where we were.

Sentries began letting off rifles, and the shouting redoubled.

We were half-way through by this time.  We began to feel the motion of
the sea beneath us, and, unless they had a search-light ready, or we ran
on a rock, we were almost out of danger.

They _had_ not a search-light ready, and we _never_ ran into a rock, but
in two minutes knew by the dancing of the steam-boat and the wall of
blackness that appeared behind us that we were clear of the channel and
out at sea.

Suddenly the darkness was lit by vivid flashes and with horrid
ear-splitting bangings—the batteries commenced firing at us from both
sides of the entrance.

I was horribly frightened at first, for I thought that they must be able
to see us, but I was quite wrong—they were simply firing blindly.  One
little shell hit the water behind us, and, bursting, showed us up for a
second, but nothing else came near, and in a minute or two they ceased
firing. The Commander opened out the steam, and the little steam-boat
jumped nimbly along, dancing about like a duck, and taking in a lot of
spray over her bows as she breasted a tide rip[#].


[#] Tide rip.  This is a jumbling sea caused by the wind blowing against
a strong tide.


We ran out of the tide rip in a short time, and then the stoker began
groaning again, so we bound his legs and arms with rope so that he
should not jump overboard. As we were doing this a search-light began
sweeping the sea, then another from quite a different quarter, and we
knew that Mr. Parker and Mr. Lang were looking for us.

The lights swept past us once or twice, lighting us up sufficiently for
us to see each other’s faces, but they were too far off for the
destroyers to spot us, and presently they switched off and we were in
darkness again.

With the danger over I began to feel how frightfully hungry and thirsty
I was, and how cold.  My feet and legs were warmed by the furnace fires,
but the cold spray had soaked me through and through.

Perhaps the Commander was feeling the same, for at length he said, "I’m
not going’ to stay out here all night," and told Jones to steer towards
where we had seen the nearer search-light.

I threw on some more coal.  The glow of the fires did not matter now,
and we rummaged round and found a lantern, but there was no candle in
it.

Then the Commander handed me an oil-can, and I threw some of it through
the furnace door, shutting it again very quickly.  There was a great
rush of smoke, and a flame shot out of the funnel three or four feet
high.

It lasted only a few seconds, however, and then I threw in another, and
then a third lot of oil.

"They’ve seen us, sir," Jones sang out.  "One of them has hoisted
position lights."  And, sure enough, two bright little lights, one above
the other, shone out.

Jones steered towards them, a search-light began sweeping round, swept
past us, came back again, and steadied itself on us for a few seconds.
We all yelled as hard as we could and blew the whistle, the light was
switched off, and in a couple of minutes the black outline of one of the
destroyers appeared as we ran alongside in her lee.

The crew cheered wildly, strong arms helped us on board, and by the
light of a lantern I saw the cheery red face of Mr. Parker and Toddles
too, of all people, looking white and scared.

They took us down below into the warm ward-room, got our things off,
wrapped us in hot blankets, and gave us food.

Pat Jones was brought down too, much against his will, for there was no
fire anywhere else, and we three sat and warmed ourselves and ate, till
I slid off my chair, coiled myself in a corner next the stove, too
sleepy even to answer Toddles’s questions, and went to sleep.  What a
sleep that was!



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                    *Cummins Captures One Gun Hill*


    Cummins will Take the Risk—A Landing-Party—Glover Lands as
    A.D.C.—A Night Landing—Climbing Up-hill—We Rush the Hilltop—The
    First Mistake—Preparations for Defence—We are Discovered


When the dinghy with Commander Cummins, Glover, and the petty officer
Jones had disappeared into the gloom, "No. 3" went back to her usual
position for the night.

As dawn was breaking Mr. Parker brought her back opposite the forts, and
waited with steam raised for full speed, in order to dash off out of
range directly the Commander returned from spying out the forts.  As the
shadowy, indistinct outlines of the island became clearer, and the
low-lying rocks at the entrance gradually took on a definite shape, he
and Collins looked anxiously for the return of the dinghy, but could see
no sign of it whatever.

He still maintained his position in the hope that the Commander was
lurking behind some rock, and therefore was invisible from the
destroyer, until the light gradually became so strong that he was
himself able to localize the positions of most of the guns, and almost
immediately afterwards knew by the running to and fro, and the shouting
of men in the batteries, that "No. 3" had been observed from the two
forts.

With his hand on the engine-room telegraph, Parker waited in the most
keen suspense, and it was not till the forts opened fire and twice
nearly struck "No. 3" that he recognized the uselessness of remaining
where he was, and the imminent risk of being sunk, rang for "full speed
ahead", and darted out of danger.

It was these shots which the Commander and Glover had heard from the
rocky ledge inside the harbour.

To remain anywhere near the entrance was impossible, and Parker knew
that the dinghy itself dare not put off from land in daylight, so,
trusting that the Commander would find means of concealing himself
during the day and of escaping next night, he had steamed to the
rendezvous and reported the events of the night to Captain Helston.

Helston’s discomfiture was great, and his mind all the more perturbed,
because on Cummins he now undisguisedly relied for the successful
termination of his schemes, and, in his absence, was unable to suggest
any course of immediate action.

Nothing was done, though the squadron, as may be imagined, kept anxious
eyes on the entrance to the harbour during the whole day, and vainly
hoped to see the little black dinghy shoot out from the land, standing
by, with guns trained on the forts, to open fire and cover its escape.

With feelings of the greatest anxiety, anxiety shared by every officer
and man in the squadron, the bigger ships drew off again at night and
left the two destroyers to return inshore, with extra injunctions to
keep a good look-out.

The relief next morning when "No. 3" joined the rendezvous, towing the
two pirate boats and signalling that she had the Commander’s party on
board uninjured, was therefore very great, and when the Commander
steamed alongside the _Laird_ in the captured steam-boat, her crew,
scenting some extraordinary adventure, broke into cheers as the little
man complacently climbed the accommodation-ladder and reported himself
to Captain Helston, who was nervously awaiting him on the quarterdeck.

They went down below immediately, whilst officers and men crowded round
the after gangway and along the side to get a view of the steam-boat—the
first trophy they had won from the pirates—and to ask rapid questions
from the blue-jackets of "No. 3", who now formed her crew.

"We don’t know nothing about it," said the temporary coxswain.  "We sees
a flare, they having thrown oil on the fires, and turns our search-light
on ’em, and in a few minutes alongside she comes as cool as you
please—the Commander working the engines ’imself, Mr. Glover adoing
stoker, an’ Pat Jones a-steering of ’er, with a boat be’ind ’em
chock-full o’ ’arf-dead Chinamen."

"What has become of the dinghy?" somebody asked.

"It ain’t come back, that’s all we knows, an’ ever since we’ve been
bobbing about in this ’ere craft on our lonesome."

Meanwhile, down in the Captain’s cabin, Cummins was giving an account of
all that had happened since he had left the _Laird_.  Helston’s face
dropped when he mentioned the 12-inch gun mounted on the hilltop, but
the Commander with a decisive gesture and a glitter in his eyes said:
"That is the key of the whole island, sir, and I’m going to capture it
to-morrow morning if you will let me. After getting back to ’No. 3’ I
took a short rest, and, an hour before sunrise this morning, put a crew
into the steam-boat, saw that they had plenty of coal and water, left
them in charge of the other boat we had captured, and went round in ’No.
3’ to the south of the island, to the foot of the hill.  The sea was
quite calm, and I went inshore in a Berthon boat, discovered a place
where I can land, waited till there was enough light for me to make
certain that it was possible to scale the hill-slopes, and then came
away again, without, as far as I know, being seen. I steamed back,
picked up the steam-boat and joined you. That is the reason why I am
rather late at the rendezvous. If you give me fifty men, sir, I will
scramble up and capture that gun without firing a shot.

"Risk, sir!" he continued as he saw indecision and doubt in Helston’s
face; "there are no risks.  At the worst I can but destroy the gun and
come back.  At the best I can maintain myself there till you can
reinforce me, and then we have the whole island at our mercy.  These
Chinese are not soldiers, sir, they are mere coolies, and will never
face us.  The men on board the ships are probably not much better."

Cummins with all his skill had made two mistakes. The gun, as you will
learn later, did not effectively command the whole harbour, and the
coolies were not by any means to be despised.

The Commander had all his plans cut and dried.  Fifty men, with two
days’ rations in their haversacks, were to go aboard "No. 3" at sunset.
Two hours before sunrise next morning he would land them at the foot of
the hill, scramble up, and rush the gun.  During this time "No. 2" was
to demonstrate in front of the entrance, play her search-light on the
forts, fire her guns, and distract their attention.

At daybreak the _Sylvia_ was to be close in under the foot of the hill
and be prepared to land another fifty men from the _Strong Arm_, with
the _Sylvia’s_ two Maxim guns, plenty of ammunition, water, and
provisions.

If the first party did not succeed in capturing the gun, or, after
having captured it, could not maintain their ground, Cummins would fall
back under cover of the guns of the _Sylvia_ and "No. 3", destroying the
big Chinese gun, if possible, before he left.

If, however, he found himself able to maintain his position on the top
of the hill, he would signal for the _Strong Arm’s_ party to land.

"Once get that gun to bear on their ships and we shall drive them out to
you, sir," he concluded, "and I have no fear of the result then."

"With a hundred men away," answered Helston doubtfully, "it may not be
so easy."

"I shall take the marines, sir; none of the big guns are manned by them,
either on board here or on board the _Strong Arm_.  You know they have
complained often enough about that; but I have always had this
eventuality in my mind, and they will, therefore, not be so much missed
in a general action."

Helston paced nervously up and down his cabin.  "What will happen if the
weather breaks?"

"It all depends on the weather, sir, I allow that, but such a risk one
must face, and personally I am prepared to face it.  Remember that you
have but a month to capture this island."

"I know it, Cummins, I know it," replied Helston; and then turning
suddenly with some of his old fire and animation said, "I tell you what,
I’ll go myself."

This was the last thing in the world that Cummins wanted.

"There’ll be a lot of climbing, sir, and with your disabled arm you will
be extremely handicapped; and when I drive these fellows out to sea your
place will be aboard your ship in command of your squadron."

"Yes, yes, you are right; you always are, for the matter of that," he
added bitterly, and his voice rising as the excitement of coming action
elated him.  "We shall both get our promotion.  I promise you that if I
get mine you shall have yours."

Lowering his voice he added, "You said the other day, Cummins, that
there was not much chance of winning a wife here.  I don’t talk about
these things, but my promotion would win me a wife."

"I think mine would also, sir—I pray it would," answered Cummins in a
grave voice.  Both men shook hands for a moment—dropped them—Cummins
stuffed his into his pockets—both looked foolish.

"By the way, sir," stammered the Commander confusedly, "I never told you
that one of these prisoners was dead when we took him out of the boat
last night. It was the man Jones caught around the neck.  I rather fancy
young Glover, in gagging him, stuffed grass down his throat.  We dropped
him overboard.  Glover does not know the real cause."

"Better not tell him," said Helston.

Jenkins interrupted further conversation by announcing breakfast.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The news that a party was to be landed quickly spread through the
squadron, and there was intense excitement on the lower deck and the
most extraordinary rumours. The yarn spread that the Commander, Glover,
and Jones had cut their way through the whole of the pirates, disabled
the guns in the forts, killed any number of men (sometimes as few as ten
were mentioned), and after running the most awful perils had captured
the steam-boat from alongside the _Hong Lu_ and brought her and a host
of prisoners out under fire.  When they knew that the Commander himself
was going in charge of the party, every man and boy wanted to go with
him, and every few minutes men would knock at his cabin door and say,
scratching their heads and shuffling their feet uneasily, "Please, sir,
begging your pardon, sir, but I’d be much obliged if you’d give me a
chance ashore, sir."

All day long the equipment of the party was being prepared, rations
stowed, water-bottles and water-breakers filled, leather gear fitted,
pouches filled with ammunition, and the thousand and one requirements of
a landing-party carefully arranged.

During the forenoon the Commander, accompanied by A Tsi, had gone across
to "No. 3" and interviewed the prisoner.

From the sentry whom he had knocked on the head (he had not throttled
him as had Jones his man) he learnt that a broad path ran right along
the crest of the hill and led straight towards the gun.  As far as the
man knew—and he seemed quite willing to tell all he knew—there were no
earthworks round the gun, and no guard was left there at night.

Before he went back to the _Laird_ he asked Glover if he would care to
land with him as his "doggy", as they call a commander’s A.D.C. in the
navy.

"Ra—ther," said Glover, dancing with joy, and went joyfully back with
him to the _Laird_ to make preparations, and only too delighted to be
able to relate to his chums his adventures of the last twenty-four
hours.

Later in the day he could be seen, surrounded by his admiring and
envious mess-mates, wriggling from side to side to get glimpses of
himself in the broken remnants of the looking-glass in his sea-chest
cover.

He had his haversack, water-bottle, and field-glasses slung from one
shoulder, a rolled-up blanket went round the other, a revolver holster
hung from his cartridge-belt, and a carefully sharpened cutlass (in
place of a dirk) was at his side.

Quite a formidable object he looked, and he admired what he could see of
himself immensely.

Two things marred his perfect happiness.  One was, that neither Mellins
nor Toddles was going to land; the other was, that he had to leave
behind the greater part of his home-made cake.

"An ill wind that blows nobody any good," said Mellins gloomily, as he
transferred the remainder to his own chest.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Directly it was dark the landing-party "fell in" on the quarter-deck.
Helston made them a little speech, and then they were sent across to
"No. 3", the rest of the ship’s company crowding aft to see them over
the side and wish them luck.  Helston did not like the look of the
weather, and said so; Cummins did not either, but kept that to himself,
and only wanted to get away from the ship before orders were
countermanded.  For once he was as nervous as a woman.  Directly,
however, "No. 3" steamed away in the dark and had lost touch with the
Flag-ship, all fear and anxiety left him, and he could have whooped for
joy.

He called the men aft, said a few words to them, explained exactly what
he wanted them to do, and finished by saying: "You have ten hours to get
through aboard here.  Sleep, boys, sleep all you can; you’ll want it
before you’ve finished."

But the marines were all young men—most of them Cockneys; not one had
ever been under fire before, and the prospects of a fight at daybreak
made sleep impossible for them.  In little groups they lay down wherever
they could find shelter from the cold night wind, smoking their pipes
and talking with subdued excitement.

The officers lay on the ward-room deck and tried to sleep, but even they
failed to do so.

Cummins himself was on deck practically the whole night, for the sun had
set behind a very angry-looking bank of clouds, and the breeze showed
signs of increasing and veering to the south.

A strong southerly breeze would make it almost impossible to land on the
southern shore of the island, and it was this tendency of the wind to
veer to the south’ard which gave him so much anxiety.

At two o’clock in the morning it was blowing quite fresh from the
south-west.  It was raining very heavily, with strong gusts of wind, and
the outlook was most unpromising.

Parker, in dripping oil-skins, reported the barometer still falling, and
for a while Cummins almost decided to abandon the enterprise.

Fortunately the wind, an hour later, went right round to the north-west,
the stars came fitfully out, and a young moon, in the intervals of
drifting clouds, gave light enough to see occasionally the outlines of
the island.

"Carry on, Parker, the elements are with us," chuckled the Commander.

"They won’t be for long, sir; the glass is still falling."

The engine-room telegraph clanged down below, the sleepy artificer
answered back, "No. 3" slowly forged ahead with two of the _Laird’s_
cutters in tow, and the marines, starting to life with the movement of
the engines, knew that their hour for action was approaching.

An hour later "No. 3" had steamed round to the south of the island and
stopped her engines in the shadow of the big hill whose shoulder and
flattened top loomed darkly above her, outlined against a faint moon.

A strong, cold breeze blew down its slopes, but the sea was only gently
ruffled by it.

The first to land in the black shadows at its foot were the Commander,
Glover, and two signalmen in one of the Berthon boats.  With little
danger or difficulty they reached the shore and jumped to land as the
boat tore her bottom out against the rocky beach.

A few minutes were spent in hurriedly choosing a more suitable
landing-place, and then the spot was marked by a signal lantern placed
at the water’s edge behind a great rock, so that its light could not be
seen from shore.

This was the signal for the rest of the party to land, and in a few
minutes they heard the regular beat of oars, and the two cutters,
appearing out of the dark, grated up the beach.  The men with their
rifles slung over their shoulders began hastily jumping ashore.

"Keep your feet dry, men, and don’t hurry," said Cummins, as he saw them
jumping into the water in their excitement to be the first ashore.

The boats were hauled out of the water and then the order was given to
"fall in".  They "fell in" in three little detachments—twenty Royal
Marine Light Infantry under their subaltern, a huge, jovial giant named
Saunderson; ten blue-jackets under Pattison, the late skipper of
destroyer "No. 1", who to his great joy had been taken out of the
_Sylvia_ and given another chance; and twenty Royal Marine Artillery
under their captain, Williams, a famous cricketer and Rugby player.
These artillery or Blue Marines had to bring up the rear.  The light
infantry or Red Marines had to lead the party.

The blue-jackets consisted of six seamen gunners, two armourers with
tools to disable or repair the 12-inch gun, and two torpedo men with
explosives to destroy it if necessary.  Besides these fifty men and
their officers there were two signalmen, Richardson, the "young doctor"
of the _Laird_, a sick-berth steward, Glover, and the Commander.

Half the men carried axes, half Wallace entrenching spades, and every
six men had a nine-gallon water-breaker to carry up between them.

Cummins went slowly from one group to another as they stood at the foot
of that hill casting hurried glances upwards, and told them that it was
two hours before sunrise, that they had two hours to get to the top,
that there was to be no hurry, and that not a word was to be spoken.

"You have to keep together, men.  If any man loses touch with the rest,
make uphill; he can’t go wrong."

In single file, one after another, Cummins going first, Glover sticking
to him like a leech, and the two signalmen close behind, they began to
clamber up, hauling themselves hand over hand, forcing their way through
bushes, and always keeping upward.

It was slow work, and Cummins halted, whenever a clear spot was reached,
to enable stragglers to close up.  At the first halt, a quarter of an
hour after the start, the little party was silently mustered.  All were
present, fifty-three men and six officers.

There had been a great deal of noise of breaking bushes, falling stones,
and muttered oaths, but the shrieking of the wind among the trees
effectually drowned it.

Presently Cummins found himself faced by an almost perpendicular cliff
and called another halt.  Ten minutes—it seemed like hours—went by
before he found a way up, and the little column, bending to the left,
struggled on again.

Now the ground became more open, covered with coarse grass up to the
knees and dotted with stunted trees. Progress was more rapid.

A pheasant disturbed from sleep flew off with a "whr! whr!" which made
the men’s hearts leap to their mouths. Occasionally a frightened
wood-pigeon darted from his roosting-place.  Most scaring these noises
were in the pitch darkness.

Faintly, at intervals, they could now hear the dull sound of distant
firing, sometimes fast and furious, dropping again to a few single shots
at long intervals, then recurring with renewed vigour.  It was Lang in
"No. 2" demonstrating outside the entrance and drawing the attention of
the forts.  These were replying savagely.

Not a sound came from above except the soughing of the cold wind.

At the next halt two marines were missing.  One rejoined, bruised from a
fall, but they could not wait for the second.  "Who is he?" was
whispered along the line. "Bolton, a Blue Marine," was passed back from
the rear.

At the end of the first hour he was the only man missing. Some of the
water in the breakers had been spilt, a helmet or two knocked off and
lost in the darkness—that was all.

Another half-hour of slowly pushing upwards—men were breathing hard and
panting; another halt was called.

A blue-jacket had sprained his ankle, and after a hurried examination by
Dr. Richardson, two men were told off to assist him.  Rifle straps were
eased, water-breakers changed hands, and leather gear adjusted.

Looking downwards towards the sea Cummins saw the first faint glimmer of
approaching dawn—far away in the east.  They must push on.  Bending
again to the left to keep in more open ground, they still steadily
pressed upwards.

Another halt; and the wind, lashing more savagely through the trees,
drowned any noise, and told them that now they were reaching the crest
of the hill.

Cummins went cautiously forward to reconnoitre, and reappeared, Glover
panting with excitement behind him. "I’ve found the path, Saunderson,"
he chuckled, and the word was passed to move on again.

Four men were now missing besides Gunner Bolton, but there was no time
to wait; already objects were becoming more visible, and daylight was
fast approaching.

In another two minutes they were in the open, on a broad, well-beaten
track, and a subdued "Oh! oh!" of excitement ran along the men.

The column pressed on rapidly, turning to the right uphill, and walking
in the grass at the side of the path to make less noise.  Every moment
the men expected to be fired upon, and were already beginning to unsling
their rifles as their excitement and nervousness increased.

As they turned a corner an angry gust of wind, blowing up from the
harbour below, dashed cold rain in their faces—still not a sound in
front except the weird noises of the wind as it swept through the trees.

Some of the youngsters were beginning to get "jumpy", and one or two
began loading their rifles without orders.

Cummins caught the sound of a breech-block closing (the rifles were
Martinis, not Lee-Metfords), guessed what was happening, and knew that
someone would let off a rifle and give the whole "show" away.

He halted at once, sent Glover back with orders for every man’s rifle to
be examined, and for the name of every man, found with a cartridge in
his rifle, to be taken.

This took time, but steadied the men, and whilst it was being done
Cummins crept forward, followed by Glover, and a blurred, indistinct
mass he had seen in front of him gradually shaped itself into a clump of
trees.  The path dropped slightly in front of him, ran across an open
space, and then rose abruptly towards the trees.

"Our gun is up there," whispered the Commander joyously, and lay down,
coolly munching a stalk of grass, his supply of toothpicks having failed
him, and tried to make out whether there was any sign of life under the
trees.

As they lay there another gust of wind carried up from the harbour the
clattering noise of beating gongs.  "Eh, boy! that’s the second time
we’ve heard that noise," he chuckled.  "Run back and bring up the men.
We are not a hundred yards from the gun."

As the men came up they were rapidly extended from left to right.

"Fix bayonets, men; not a sound—no cheering—no shooting," the order went
in whispers from man to man.

The subdued rattle of fixing bayonets ran along the line, and Glover
afterwards said it gave him the "shivers" to hear it.

He was lying watching the Commander, and thought he would never give the
order to charge.

He could see the indistinct outline of the gun among the trees covered
with a huge tarpaulin, and just then somebody near him whispered, "There
are people moving about there, sir," and he could actually feel the men
bracing themselves for a rush.

At last the Commander was "up", and trotting down the slope with a bit
of grass between his teeth.  Glover followed, vainly trying to draw his
cutlass.  The men sprang after them, breasted the rise, swept over some
level ground, and with a final rush leaped over a parapet of sand-bags,
swarmed around the gun, and found—Gunner Bolton doing "sentry-go"
backwards and forwards in rear of the gun! There was not a Chinaman to
be seen.

Some of the men simply sat down and laughed, others, furious, cried out
that "They’d been jolly well had," and that "Gunner Bolton ’ad made
fools of ’em all, ’e ’ad," and that "They would jolly well knock ’is
blooming ’ead off, that they would, next general-leave day."

"Fall in, men," sang out the Commander, with a twinkle in his eye.  "You
shall have plenty of fighting presently."

Then he sent them back for the water-breakers and armourers’ stores
which they had dropped when fixing bayonets, whilst he and Williams, the
captain of marines, took a rapid survey of the position, and Pattison
and his blue-jackets commenced to overhaul the gun.

The top of the hill was flattened out into a little plateau about a
hundred yards long, sloping gently towards the harbour and then falling
abruptly into the steep side of the hill with a quite well-defined edge.
It had its back to the sea and was facing the harbour.

At the east end, the end nearest to the entrance channel, and in the
corner overlooking the sea, was the gun, an obsolete 12-inch Krupp,
mounted in a deep circular pit, and poking its muzzle over a wall of
sand-bags ten or twelve feet thick and about six feet high.

A little cluster of stunted trees hid the gun from view out at sea.
Their trunks had already been half sawn through in preparation for
felling them, and a few more strokes of the axe would bring them down.

The first thing to be done was to ascertain whether the gun could be
made ready for service, as otherwise it was useless to remain there.

Already Pattison and his men had hauled away the tarpaulin covering its
massive breech, and were rapidly examining the mounting and training
gear.

"Rough and clumsy, sir, but we shall be able to train her round all
right," he reported.

Magazines had been tunnelled out through the side of the gun-pit down
into the ground, and the doors were closed with padlocks.  These were
wrenched off, and Pattison reported plenty of ammunition.  In a corner
he found boxes of friction-tubes and fuses.

His men also found the ropes and blocks to be used in training the gun.
They were brought out, made fast to the great gun-carriage at one end
and to huge steel rings sunk in the concrete foundations at the other, a
dozen sturdy Blue Marines "clapped on" to the ropes, and with Cummins
standing on the sighting-platform the ponderous mass was slowly, and
with many jerks, trained across the harbour.

It was then that the Commander realized his first mistake.

From that sighting-platform he could look down towards the sea, but the
other edge of the plateau shut out all view of the harbour.  It was now
light enough for him to make out "No. 3" below him, but, looking inland,
the flat top of the hill prevented him from seeing anything except the
high land on the opposite side of the island, across the harbour.

His calculations had been made from that ledge of rock on which he,
Glover, and Jones had hidden all the previous day.  He had forgotten
that they were then sixty or more feet above the harbour level, and had
not dreamt that from the water’s edge the gun itself was not visible.

To destroy the gun and get back to the _Laird_ was his first thought,
and he called for Pattison to jump up with him.

Pattison’s face dropped as he, too, saw that fifty yards of hilltop were
in between him and the pirate ships he had hoped to sink.

Suddenly Cummins turned to him with a suggestion. "How about
half-charges—eh?  A pinch of powder will ’flop’ them down there—eh?"

"We might try, sir."

"They won’t be very accurate at first, Pattison, but we’ll improve—eh?"

"Right you are, sir, I’ll manage that."

"We’ll ferret them out before the day is over," he chuckled again, and
looking down behind him he saw the _Sylvia_ looming in towards the
shore.

"For once Bannerman is up to time.  We’ll have the _Strong Arm’s_ up
here in a couple of hours or so."

He sent the signalmen down the hill to communicate with the _Sylvia_ and
to order the second party to land immediately, and then he and Williams
made plans for placing the top of the hill in some state of defence.

"We shall have them round us like flies when once they find us sitting
up here," Cummins said.

Fortunately for them, the enemy had evidently intended to mount a second
gun, had indeed already marked out the site for its gun-pit, and had
prepared hundreds of sand-bags to defend it.  These lay scattered in
heaps on the plateau, and were now used for making breastworks.

Williams and Saunderson hurriedly marked out the positions in which they
were to be built, and the marines, piling arms, and stacking their
greatcoats and blankets in a heap, "set to" with a will to haul the
sand-bags over to the edges.

"Safer to send some men out in the long field, I think, sir," said
Captain Williams, the cricketer, and ordered his taciturn
sergeant-major—a martinet named Haig—to select two of the older men as
sentries and place them, one along the path the column had just
followed, and another down the face of the hill, on the zigzag path up
which the Commander and Glover had seen the coolies carrying ammunition.

"’Square leg’ and ’long on’—eh?" chuckled the Commander.

"Yes, sir, I think they will be enough for the present."

The first breast-work was to be built at the narrow end of the plateau
farthest from the gun-pit.

It commanded the crest of the hill over which the little party had made
its final rush, and the path they had followed ran along this ridge,
dipping down for two hundred yards, and then rising steeply to the
bush-covered knoll, on top of which they had extended and fixed
bayonets.

One of Sergeant Haig’s sentries (Williams’s "square leg" man) was
already standing in the gap made by the path as it disappeared into the
dense bushes, and it was evident that an attacking force could take
splendid cover there, and could sweep the greater part of the plateau
with rifle fire.

This breast-work was therefore built right across the narrow end of the
plateau, sand-bag was piled on sandbag till it was nearly three feet
high, and as the men had hauled some great logs of timber across from
the gun-pit to strengthen it, they called it eventually the "Log
Redoubt", making loopholes in it for their rifles.

The bush-covered knoll in front of them they named "Bush Hill", and few
will ever forget it.

Some of the men dragged sand-bags to the edge of the plateau,
overlooking the harbour, to form two low breast-works, one on each side
of the zig-zag path, as it led up to the gun-pit.

For twenty yards in front of these two breast-works the steep hillside
was bare, but below this the whole hill down to the pirate village,
which they could see at the bottom gradually becoming distinct as
daylight increased, was covered with small trees and dense brushwood,
through which the zigzag path wound its way upwards.

Men lying behind these sand-bags were somewhat protected by the Log
Redoubt from rifle fire from Bush Hill, so Williams contented himself
with raising them only two sand-bags high.

These being roughly completed, more sand-bags were dragged to the
opposite end of the plateau, and a little redoubt constructed fifty
yards beyond the gun-pit.  From here fire could be directed along the
farther ridges, which were devoid of cover and sloped steadily
downwards, and also down both the harbour and sea slopes of the hill.

Sergeant Haig and nine Blue Marines were given charge of this work, and
so it was known as "Haig’s Redoubt".

Saunderson and his twenty Red Marines were told off to man the harbour
breast-works, and Williams and his remaining ten Marine Artillerymen
were to hold the Log Redoubt.

Every man was told off to his own special loophole, and each man laid
his rifle and greatcoat on the ground behind it, the precious
water-breakers were taken into the gun-pit, and the men’s blankets,
covered with the gun tarpaulin, were piled to form a little "zareba" in
the middle of the plateau.

Meanwhile the signalmen had returned, bringing back two of the
stragglers, and reported that the _Strong Arm’s_ party were already
landing from the _Sylvia_.

It was broad daylight now, and presently the remaining two stragglers
came into camp, looking very much ashamed of themselves.

For an hour both officers and men had worked like horses, and all this
time the cold wind swept up to them the noises of the waking town at
their feet—the dull drumming of Chinese gongs and the clanging of the
ships’ bells—but nothing else disturbed their work till suddenly the
raucous shriek of a steam hooter startled them.

"That is the signal to start work.  The coolies will be up here in half
an hour," chuckled the Commander.

"What are you going to do when they do come up?" asked Williams.  "If we
caught them and prevented them from carrying the news back it would be a
good thing.  Every few minutes is valuable."

"All right, Williams, we’ll try."

Then a signalman reported that the second party had already commenced
the ascent, bringing with them the _Sylvia’s_ two Maxim guns.

At the same moment the sentry on the zigzag path below came running up.
"Please, sir, there are fifty or sixty natives coming up from the town."

Cummins ordered everyone to conceal himself.  "Don’t any of you move
till I sound a whistle."

Five minutes later they could hear the merry chatter of the coolies as
they climbed up towards the gun, and the foremost of them appeared out
of the trees in the open path below them.  Something made them
suspicious; they stopped and pointed upwards, jabbering rapidly. Then a
young fool of a marine raised his head to look over the breast-work
behind which he was lying, and, in a panic, they all took fright, threw
down their tools, and scampered down hill as fast as their legs could
carry them.

"Heaps of time," said Cummins gently; "we’d better go to breakfast.
’Place your field’ again, Williams," he chuckled, "and we’d better have
a couple of people at ’point’ and ’cover point’ as well—eh?"

Breakfast of ship’s biscuit and corned beef, washed down with a "pull"
from the water-bottles, lasted ten minutes, and then everyone set to
work again.

Williams suggested that they had better start lopping down the bushes
below Saunderson’s two breast-works.

"It would give us a better chance if they tried to rush us, sir."

"Now, lads," sang out the Commander, "get your axes and knives and cut
down the bushes in front of you—make a clear sweep of them."

They started hacking and cutting, and in half an hour had cleared three
or four yards along their front, when suddenly, bang! went a shell,
bursting just below them, and the fragments went shrieking overhead.

Every man "ducked", then ran back up the slope, seized his rifle, and
lay down behind his own breast-work.

"Whew!" whistled the Commander, "that is their game, is it?"



                              *CHAPTER XX*

                      *The Fight for One Gun Hill*


    We Must have Oil—Under Shell Fire—The Pirate Guns are
    Silenced—The First Attack—Hopkins Wounded—The "Strong Arm’s"
    Arrive—The Oil Party Cut Off—A Momentary Respite—The Second
    Mistake—The Oil is Rescued—The Big Gun Fires


That first shell was quickly followed by two more, both of which burst
below among the bushes.  A fourth sang overhead, going out to sea.

Williams, Saunderson, Cummins, and the two signalmen searched through
their glasses and tried to find the guns that had fired.  The shells
came two or three a minute—one burst near the men’s blankets and covered
the tarpaulin with dirt, another crushed through the trees without
bursting.

"I see them, sir," yelled one of the signalmen; "right over there, sir,
under those trees;" and he pointed in the direction.  As they all
followed his hand, outstretched towards some trees on a hill, on the
other side of the harbour, overlooking the low ground near the outlet
channel, they saw two little spurts of flame shoot out from beneath
them.  Two little thin clouds of grey smoke drifted out of sight, and
almost immediately a shell burst three hundred yards in front of the
breast-works, high up in the air, and sent down a hail of bullets into
the bushes; the other flew overhead.

"Shrapnel," muttered Saunderson, and, seeing Glover looking nervously
from one to another, added, "I wish I wasn’t so immense.  Hi!  Glover,
come and stand in front of me."

Another shrapnel tore up the ground in front of the breast-work.  One or
two of the men were covered with dust.  They all tried to wriggle
themselves into as small a space as possible.

The non-commissioned officers had at first lain down with their men, but
now, seeing their officers standing behind them, rose sheepishly on one
knee, one after another.  Saunderson’s sergeant (Wilkins by name) stood
upright, walked up to Saunderson, saluted, and said, "Beg pardon, sir,
it shall not occur again," marched stiffly back to his men, and stood
there like a statue.

"It’s pretty hard luck on these youngsters to come under shrapnel fire
before they are used to rifle fire," Saunderson said to the Commander.
"If I once lay down behind a sand-bag, nothing in this world would
induce me to get up again.  I think I should give them something to do,
sir.  They are not old soldiers."

The Commander told Glover to ask Captain Williams to speak to him.

Glover bolted off, only too glad to have anything to do, gave his
message, and ran back.

"Never run, boy; you are apt to get overheated," chuckled Cummins.

Poor young Glover looked fearfully ashamed of himself and grew as red as
a tomato.

Williams was of the same opinion.  "Let them go on cutting down the
brushwood, sir."

Cummins nodded assent, and the necessary orders were given, the
sergeants repeated them, with many flowery additions, and the men
nervously rose to their knees and in a very half-hearted way prepared to
obey.

"Leave your rifles, you fools!" shouted Sergeant Wilkins.  "There are no
niggers to shoot you.  Get out of it, all of you!"

Once they got to work, spread out at wide intervals, they became less
nervous, and Blue Marines and Red Marines vied with each other as to
which should clear the wider space.

Williams and Saunderson worked among their men in the bushes, whilst
Cummins sat on the sand-bag breastwork, Glover nervously hovering round
him, and Dr. Richardson lying down by his side, waiting for a job.

Every now and then shells burst on the plateau, but it was evident that
most of them were directed towards the gun, and Pattison and his men
were having a very warm time of it.

Presently Pattison came across from the gun-pit to where the Commander
was sitting, saluted, and told him in a very low voice that the recoil
cylinders of the gun were empty, and that he could find no oil.  The
gun, of course, could not be fired with empty recoil cylinders.  It
would probably have toppled over into the sea.

Cummins did not reply for some time, and his face grew very stern.  "We
must get oil from the ships," he said at length, and sent a signalman to
find out from the _Sylvia_ whether the whole of the second party had
already left the beach.  "They are already a quarter of the way up," the
signalman reported.

"Well, I cannot send them back now.  I must get Bannerman to send me a
dozen hands with a couple of oil-drums, and"—his eyes twinkling
again—"I’ll tell you what I will do.  I will send Parker round to engage
those guns.  I believe he could reach them over that low ground."

He sang out for the signalman.

"Excuse me, sir," interrupted Pattison, "I should suggest that you ask
Commander Bannerman to go round and shell those guns with his
12-pounders, and order Parker to send up the oil.  I have been aboard
the _Sylvia_ for three weeks, and I think that Commander Bannerman will
be more inclined to engage those guns than to spare a dozen men to carry
up oil.  Parker, sir, you know; I do not think you know Commander
Bannerman."

The two men looked at each other in a strange way for a few moments.
Cummins smiled grimly, called for the signalman, and wrote down:

"Commander Cummins’s compliments to Captain Bannerman, and would he
steam off the low land to the west and engage two guns on the hill
behind.  They are seriously annoying him."

"Will that do, Pattison?" he asked, smiling bitterly.

"I think so, sir."

"And, signalman, also make to Mr. Parker from me, ’Send four drums of
oil—urgent’."

The signalman ran hurriedly off to make the semaphore, but before he
could cross the plateau a shell burst overhead, and he fell headlong.

The second signalman, at a nod from Cummins, darted out and picked up
the paper with the signals on it, and jumped down the side of the hill
overlooking the sea.

Dr. Richardson and his sick-berth steward ran forward, bent over the
prostrate man, picked him up, and carried him behind the gun-pit out of
fire.

Pattison and Glover helped them.

They came back immediately, Glover white as a sheet.

"He is dead, sir," reported Dr. Richardson; "the top of his skull was
carried away."

"Cover him up and get him out of sight of the others," said Cummins
slowly; "and, Richardson, I must insist on your remaining under cover."

"Very good, sir;" and Dr. Richardson went away to take shelter behind
the gun-pit parapet.

Back came the remaining signalman with the replies: "Captain Bannerman
will have much pleasure in supporting Commander Cummins, and will engage
the two guns which are annoying him ".

Cummins tore it up contemptuously.

The second was from Parker: "Oil is being sent with utmost despatch".

Pattison asked for orders.  He could do no more with the gun, and was
told to finish cutting down those trees—"They are probably aiming at
them as much as at the gun."  A few minutes went past, and then two
marines came staggering up—one with blood flowing from his head, another
with his arm limp at his side.  A shrapnel had burst short.

They fell down inside the breast-work, and Cummins sent them over to Dr.
Richardson.

They crawled across.

Then the sentries down below on the zigzag path came running back.
"Hundreds of men are coming up, sir; they look like sailors, sir."

Cummins was perfectly prepared for this news, because half an hour ago
he had seen a commotion among the cruisers in the harbour at his feet,
and boats pulling to and from shore, and had guessed that they were
landing sailors.

"The only people they can rely upon," he thought, and told Glover to ask
Captain Williams to bring his men back.

"No hurry, Glover," as Glover, wild with excitement, was rushing off.

"Wish to goodness I had never brought that boy," he muttered to himself.
"If he gets bowled over his cousin will give me my marching orders like
a shot.  I am sure she will.

"Plucky little fellow, too," he continued, as Glover came slowly back,
alongside the huge Saunderson, at the head of his men.

As they came up the slope a shell burst among them, and the smoke hid
Glover and Saunderson for a moment, but the wind carried it away, and
they reappeared, Saunderson steadying his men with a backward sweep of
his arm.

"That’s better, sir," he said to Cummins, his face glowing with pride as
the Red Marines stepped quietly over the breast-work and lay down
along-side their rifles.  "Got ’em in hand all right now, sir."

And Williams’s Blue Marines were just as well in hand, threw down their
axes, and took their places without the least fuss or confusion—half of
them in Sergeant Haig’s redoubt, half of them with Captain Williams
behind the Log Redoubt.  A minute or two passed, and then a few
blue-coated Chinese came into sight, and a little crowd of them halted
at an open corner of the zigzag path, then rapidly deployed into the
bushes on each side.

The men lying on the extreme right of the breast-work also caught sight
of them, and without orders began easing off their rifles.

The whole line would have been blazing away in another minute, firing
blindly into the bushes beneath them, if Saunderson, his face red with
rage, had not bounded across and stopped them.  Cummins chuckled.

As it was, their few shots made the Chinese scatter still more rapidly,
and they vanished to cover without firing a shot.

Then came the most trying time of all, and it tested the young marines’
endurance to the utmost.  The two guns were firing rapidly, shells were
screaming past, shells were bursting on the slope in front of them and
on the plateau behind them.  Every now and again a little white ball of
smoke burst with a dull "puff" overhead, and a hailstorm of shrapnel
bullets came splashing down.  They knew, too, that the Chinamen were
creeping up unseen through the bushes, and they could do nothing but
wait.

The intense tension of suspense was still further increased by the
sentry on the crest path running back from that gap in the bushes with a
scared face.

Another party was advancing along the path they had followed in the
morning, and almost before he had reported this, shots from Bush Hill
came whipping past, and then from the slopes below a furious fire burst
out, the bullets fortunately flying wildly.

Cummins sang out for the signalman.  "Go back and signal to Mr. Parker,
’Am attacked in front and left flank. I expect you to keep my rear
open’," and turning to Saunderson, who was standing near him, "Eh!
Saunderson, you make me nervous standing up; I wish you’d lie down."

"I will when you do, sir."

"But I can’t, you know," Cummins said, with a silly chuckle.

"For goodness’ sake keep moving, then, sir," the giant answered
nervously, as several bullets flew past, and one struck the sand-bag on
which Cummins was sitting.

Cummins dug it out with his finger.  It was a small-bore Mauser bullet.

"Hullo! that’s capital!" he cried, jumping to his feet, as a faint
report came from the extreme left, and a shell burst among the trees
from which the two guns had been firing.  "Bannerman’s got round at
last."

The men saw it too, and gave a joyful cheer of relief.

"Now, lads," he sang out cheerily, "you won’t be bothered with those
shells, and these Chinese can’t hit a haystack.  Save your cartridges,
and never fire till you are sure of hitting.  The _Strong Arm’s_ will be
here with their Maxims in another hour, so don’t waste a shot."

With the dreaded shells silent, the men settled down more confidently
and fired very seldom, and once or twice a yell of pain below told them
that a cartridge had not been wasted.

The bullets were going past in great numbers—ping-ping! flick-flick!
Occasionally one struck the ground with a puff of dust, or struck a
stone or an axe and went whistling away, twisted out of shape.  Every
now and again one buried itself in a sand-bag with a thud, but most of
them were high overhead.  Evidently the Chinese were too undisciplined
to take aim.

Still, it was a sufficiently awkward position, with three or four
hundred men attacking from below, and probably as many on the left,
concealed among those bushes opposite the Log Redoubt.

Cummins had only forty-eight men left, and though they were well in hand
and were steadying every minute, the odds were sufficiently serious.

He was perhaps not so anxious about himself as for the second party,
which was now reported by "No. 3" as being more than half-way up the
hill.  If the Chinese attacked them whilst they were struggling through
the thick undergrowth, encumbered with the two Maxims, ammunition, and
provision-boxes, it would go hard with them.  Once they joined him with
their machine-guns, he was confident of holding his ground till the oil
arrived and enabled him to fire the big Krupp.  His right flank, too,
gave him little concern, for it was comparatively open in that
direction, and gave no shelter for an attacking force; and so long as
"No. 3" could sweep the sea-slope of the hill, he did not worry about
his rear.

But could "No. 3" do so?

The wind, which had been blowing strongly from the north-west, was
already beginning to veer again to the south, and was increasing rapidly
in strength, and Cummins knew only too well that neither "No. 3" could
remain near the foot of the hill, nor the _Sylvia_ near enough to the
low land to smother those two field-guns if the wind remained in that
quarter and brought in a heavy sea.

Unsupported by the ships, he recognized that his position would be
precarious in the extreme.

If, too, the _Strong Arm’s_ party followed his route of the night
before, they would run right into the Chinese massed on his flank.
Fortunately he could communicate with them through "No. 3", and
signalled directions for them to incline to their right and make for the
shoulder of the hill on the eastern or gun-pit side of the top.

It took twenty minutes to get the signal to them and to get a reply, and
it was a great relief to him when the signalman reported that the
_Strong Arm’s_ landing-party had received the signal and were already
altering their course.

"The oil is also on its way up," was the signalman’s welcome news.

"I don’t know what we should do without you, Gordon," the Commander
said; "keep under cover as much as you can."

A marine now came hurriedly over to the Commander with a message from
Captain Williams.

"He thinks, sir, that they are gathering for a rush beyond those
bushes," pointing along the crest towards Bush Hill.

Cummins went across to the Log Redoubt, and found Williams scanning the
bushes beyond him through his glasses.

"They are gathering pretty thickly behind there, sir, and I think I can
make out a couple of Europeans."

Cummins could see them too, and he sent Glover to Mr. Pattison to tell
him to bring his men out of the gun-pit.  They swarmed over the parapet
and came flying across the level ground, and lay down in the grass on
the right of the Log Redoubt.

"They are using Mauser rifles, sir," said Williams.

"Yes, I know.  How do you know?"

Williams held up his left arm, his handkerchief tied around the wrist
and red with blood.  "Two tiny holes slap bang through."

"Bones broken?" the Commander asked anxiously.

"I don’t think so," Williams said, adding, as the most awful shrieks and
yells came from the bushes—"they are trying to frighten us and getting
up courage to rush across, but I think we can stop them in the open.
Steady, men, don’t waste a shot, and fire low.  Loosen your belts, men,
and see your ammunition clear."

Each of the ten Blue Marines loosened a couple of packets and laid them
in little piles at his right-hand side.

A wild crackle and splutter of rifle firing rang out—another hideous
yell.  Two Europeans sprang into the open, and a crowd of blue-coated
Chinamen followed them and began rushing madly across.

"Now, men, you can’t miss them; fire low, fire low, and take aim.  Take
aim, can’t you?" (this to a young marine who was shoving in cartridges
and pulling the trigger almost at the same time).

Seven or eight fell before they had gone as many yards, but still they
came on, the Europeans well ahead.

They covered a hundred yards, and now they were coming up the rise, the
ground behind them dotted with little blue heaps.

Cummins drew his revolver.  "Is yours loaded, Glover?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then don’t draw it unless they get over the sandbags," he chuckled, "or
you’ll be shooting me."

The marines were up on their knees now, firing over the breast-work.  It
was absolute slaughter, but the Chinese showed no sign of slackening.

One of the white men Glover recognized—the man with the black beard.

"Two of you take that black-bearded scoundrel," Williams sang out, "and
two the other white man."

Chinamen fell all around them, but still they came on.

"Take a shot yourself, Williams," Cummins ordered. (Williams was a noted
rifle shot.)

He seized a rifle, rested it on a sand-bag, took careful aim and fired,
loaded, and fired again.

The second European twisted round and fell.  As he fell his hat came
off, and Glover recognized, with a funny feeling of regret, that it was
Hopkins.  The Chinese following him stopped, came on again, looked back,
half a dozen threw up their arms and fell, and then the others had had
enough of it, could face no more, and, throwing their rifles away, ran
down the hill to the right.  The black-bearded man, with fifty or sixty
Chinamen still behind him, got to within fifty yards.  The marines began
to cheer, standing up now to fire.

They dwindled to forty, to thirty, and then with a sudden shock Glover
realized that they were actually up to them, and woke to the fact that
men were fighting hand to hand, marines clubbing their rifles and
smiting left and right (they were still outnumbered three to one), and
that the Commander was standing in front of him coolly firing his
revolver.

He suddenly remembered that he had a revolver too, and drew it, but
Cummins seized it and handed him his empty smoking one to reload.

A cheer on the right, and Pattison and his men threw themselves into the
fray; another cheer, and the mighty Saunderson with half of his Red
Marines came charging over; more revolver shots rang out, the Chinese
began to give way, turned tail, and rushed down the slope, the huge
bearded European last of all.

As he bounded back he passed Hopkins’s prostrate body, bent down, lifted
him up, and staggered away with him.

"Let him go, men; don’t fire at him," shouted Cummins, and he
disappeared into the bushes.

Glover heard the Commander mutter, "What a silly fool I am!"

The men stood up cheering like madmen; but firing started again from the
bushes, bullets came whistling over, and they were ordered to take
cover.

Saunderson ran back to his breast-work with his men.

"That was a pretty close shave, sir," said Williams, coming up and
painfully reloading his revolver with his wounded hand.

"A very close thing indeed," replied Cummins with a chuckle, as he
reloaded his.

Pattison lay on the ground without moving, blood pouring from his head;
one man was dead, lying half over the sand-bags with a bullet through
his chest; one had a bayonet wound in his thigh, and was sitting up
trying to stanch the flow of blood; another sat stupid and half stunned
with a blow on the head from the butt-end of a rifle.

"Sing out for Dr. Richardson," said Cummins, bending over Pattison.

"Here I am, sir," the Doctor answered, coming up with an axe in one hand
and an empty revolver in the other.

"I did not think it was the time to stand on professional etiquette,
sir."

"My word!" Williams burst out, "I saw that axe flying round, and, man
alive! you saved a beggar from running me through."

A cheer from Sergeant Haig’s breast-work made them turn round, and they
saw the head of the _Strong Arm’s_ party just appearing over the
shoulder of the hill, beyond the gun.

If fifty men ever cheered loudly these did.

"What about Pattison?" Cummins asked, before he hurried across to greet
them.

"Only stunned I think, sir; he’s coming round already," answered Dr.
Richardson.

                     *      *      *      *      *

At the head of the _Strong Arm’s_ party was Captain Hunter, looking like
an enormous school-boy out for a holiday, his great red face beaming
with sheer joy, and sniffing the air as stray bullets flew by.

He was followed on to the plateau by his men with the two Maxims and
their tripod stands, box after box of ammunition, more breakers of water
and more provision boxes, slung between them from poles across their
shoulders, coolie fashion.

The Commander hurried up to him.

"Never expected to see you yourself, sir," he said, as Hunter grasped
his hand.

"Well, fact of the matter is this.  Helston sent me down in the
picket-boat at the last moment to recall you, but I got there too
late"—with a broad grin and a twinkle in his eye—"to do that, and, well,
when I saw my men going ashore by themselves, I simply couldn’t stay
behind, and here I am.  Hope we are not too late for a scrap.  We didn’t
start till nearly seven o’clock, and we’ve just taken two hours and a
quarter to climb up that confounded hill. My fellows are pretty well
fagged out."

"Only a quarter past nine!" Cummins exclaimed.  "I thought it must be
past mid-day."  He rapidly explained the situation.  "We’ve just
repulsed a rush from the opposite side, and we have knocked over that
man Hopkins and thirty or forty of their men as well, so they won’t be
coming on again just yet.

"Two of our people are killed, I am sorry to say, and five or six
wounded badly.  Pattison is badly damaged, and Williams has a bullet
through his wrist.  Down below us, under cover of those trees, there are
about three hundred Chinese blue-jackets, and as many more on the crest
behind those bushes.  Those, though, won’t be worrying us for some time.

"The _Sylvia_ is keeping down the fire of two field-guns which bothered
us a good deal at first from the opposite side of the harbour, and I am
depending upon Parker to keep my rear open."

"You won’t be able to do so much longer," Captain Hunter replied; "the
barometer is going down rapidly, and a heavy sea was coming in even
before I left, and it is blowing hard now from the south."

It indeed was, sweeping up from the sea in great gusts which one turned
one’s back to, and bringing heavy rain-squalls with it.  Several of the
half-cut-through trees, which had not already been felled, had been
blown down, and the remainder swayed ominously.

"I’m afraid not, sir.  Where will you have the Maxims?" asked Cummins.

"My dear chap, I’m only a volunteer.  You’re in command, and I’m only
too jolly glad to do anything you tell me."

"That can’t be done, sir.  You are the senior officer up here, and must
take command."

Captain Hunter’s jolly face clouded over.  "Well, look here, Cummins,
’pon my honour I’m confoundedly sorry I’ve come at all if it spoils your
game.  Believe me, old chap, I never thought of it; I didn’t, really!"

"I’m only too glad to have you, sir," Cummins said, and what he said he
meant—always.  "Why, you are worth a dozen men yourself, sir!"

"D’ you really mean that?" Hunter answered, his face flushing with pride
and pleasure, like the great school-boy he was.  "We caught sight of a
lot of those skunks on our way up," he continued, "but they were much
too wily to come within reach of us."

"That is serious news, sir.  The recoil cylinders of the Krupp gun are
empty, and I had to signal to Parker to send some drums of oil ashore.
They are on their way up now, with a dozen men."

"Phew!" whistled Hunter, "they’ll run right into them."

Even as he spoke, the loud report of a solitary Martini was heard,
half-way down towards the sea, quickly followed by more shots, and then
a rattle of sharper reports—Mausers, evidently, by their short, sharp
cracks.

"I must go back for them; you carry on here;" and Captain Hunter sang
out for his marine officer, a dapper little subaltern, to follow him
with thirty men, and, with a cheery shout of "Come along, lads," went
striding down the hill he had just climbed.

Cummins now knew why bullets had almost ceased to whistle past either
from Bush Hill or the trees below him.  The little party painfully
toiling up with its oil-drums had been sighted, and the pirate leaders,
knowing probably for what purpose the oil was being brought, had sent
most of their people to creep round under cover and intercept it.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Parker, from the unsteady platform of his destroyer’s bridge, had heard
the first few rifle shots from the party which he had just landed to
rush those precious drums of oil to the top of the hill, and knew that
they were being attacked.  He could see them, too, lying in a small
circle round their drums, and attempted, as best as he could, to shell
the dense cover from which they were apparently being attacked.

The Commander now semaphored from the top of the hill an urgent message
for him to do his utmost to protect them.

He could do nothing with his guns.

A heavy sea was driving in and pounding itself against the foot of the
hill, smashing to match-wood the boats which had been left on the beach.
The violent motion of "No. 3" herself made accurate shooting from any
gun absolutely impossible, and though Pat Jones crawled out of his
hammock down on the mess-deck to fire his beloved 12-pounder, even he,
splendid old gunner that he was, could do no better.

The little shells were as dangerous to his own men as to the Chinese,
and, not only had Parker to cease firing, but the necessity for
immediately steaming out to sea became completely obvious.  He had
already hugged a lee shore too long, and must push away from these
treacherous rocks.

His feelings can be imagined when he was compelled to signal, "Cannot
maintain an accurate fire, and must haul out from the land".

"Hunter and Cummins will know I hung out to the last," was his only
consolation as he turned "No. 3" into the fierce rain squalls which
drove into his face, and plunged her bows into the heavy seas.

Cummins smiled grimly as the signal was reported to him, and anxiously
watched the destroyer fighting her way into safety.

With Parker unable to remain inshore, he knew that it was only a
question of minutes before Bannerman would be compelled to follow his
example, and expected momentarily to find himself once again under shell
fire from these two field-guns.

Another danger was also imminent—a much more serious danger.

Down in the harbour one of the older cruisers, either the _Mao Yuen_ or
the _Yao Yuen_, was being warped across to a spot almost under the ledge
which had concealed him the day before, with the very evident intention
of shelling the top of the hill from there.

Her guns would not be able to touch the Krupp gun, but with shrapnel he
knew that she could sweep the greater portion of the plateau, and knew,
too, that unless that oil arrived and enabled him to use his Krupp gun,
he could not possibly maintain his position.  Once he could drop those
12-inch shells into the harbour, however inaccurately at first, he was
confident of being able to destroy that cruiser—in time.

But without that oil and without the support of the ships, the very
existence of the whole party was at stake; and the possibility of
cutting through the mass of encircling Chinamen, fighting his way,
encumbered with wounded, along the crest of the hill, and then
endeavouring to maintain his position at some other point, even the
possibility of rushing one of the forts at the entrance and standing at
bay there, flashed through his brain.

He could do nothing more to assist Captain Hunter at present, so he
employed his men in still further strengthening the sand-bag
breast-works.  The Maxims were placed in sand-bag redoubts, one at the
angle between the Log Redoubt and the end of Saunderson’s breast-works,
and the other between these two breast-works.  Both swept any approach
up the harbour face of the hill by the zig-zag path, and the first also
commanded the bare crest between it and Bush Hill.

Sand-bags, too, were hauled to the edge overlooking the sea, and little
did the men think as they cheerfully piled them up that the Commander,
studying his notebook and the sketches he had taken the day before, was
debating the necessity of abandoning the hill, and the possibility of
rushing one of the two forts.

No rifle fire was annoying them, no shell fire alarming them.  Captain
Hunter, whom they idolized, had gone to rescue the oil-drums; therefore
the oil-drums would be up at the top directly, and the big gun would
have the pirates at its mercy, so right cheerfully they worked, despite
the soaking rain sweeping the top of the hill.

Glover was standing near the Commander, blue with cold and soaked to the
skin.  Cummins suddenly noticed him and his condition.  "Go and help
with the sand-bags, boy; you can run this time," he chuckled, and turned
to watch Captain Hunter’s progress below him.

He and his little party of thirty marines had disappeared among the
trees and bushes, crashing their way through them, but now they were
hotly engaged, and their progress could be traced, as they fought their
way down, by the line of smoke puffs which rose above the bushes.

The line steadily descended towards the little spot near the sea, from
which the rapid firing of more Martinis comforted him with the certainty
that the destroyer’s men were still guarding the precious oil.  The loud
reports of their big-bore rifles, however, were almost drowned by the
constant crackling of the small-bore Mausers.

Had he not been certain that, by a merciful dispensation, a Chinaman can
seldom be made to take aim, he would have thought it impossible for any
of the little band to survive.

Now the wind brought up the sound of British cheers—he could swear to
Captain Hunter’s above the rest. The line of smoke puffs swept
downwards, and he knew that they had joined hands with the destroyer’s
men.

Then came the upward struggle, and slowly they fought their way, whilst
the Chinese set up a shrill yell of triumph, and the Mauser fire
crackled in one continuous roar.

Still the line of black powder smoke advanced, but more slowly.  Then he
saw, with anxious eyes, that it was stationary.  The Chinese had got in
above Hunter and cut him off.  He watched a single tree; the little
puffs of smoke came regularly behind it; the yells of triumph redoubled.

Captain Hunter and his men could advance no farther. Could he take the
tremendous risk of reinforcing them and still further weakening the
little garrison at the top of the hill?

His mind was made up in a moment, and he called Williams and Saunderson
to him and showed them the position of affairs.

"Take forty of your men, Williams; leave me Sergeant Haig; creep down to
the left till you get on a level with them, and rush their flank.  There
is no hurry, and don’t waste cartridges."

"Thank you, sir, my men want something to warm them."

As they filed down the hill towards the left, the two field-guns again
opened fire.  Bannerman at last had been compelled to haul out in the
face of the gale.

"Take cover, men," Cummins sang out to the few bluejackets and marines
still left to him; "their bark is worse than their bite;" and he
remained in the open watching and waiting for Williams to come in touch
with the enemy.

He and his party had already disappeared among the trees which had
swallowed Captain Hunter and his men nearly an hour before.  Ten minutes
went by and nothing happened.  Minutes seemed like hours, and to his
tense nerves it seemed that the Chinese were closing in on Captain
Hunter, and that the Martini rifle fire was slackening.  Surging through
his brain swept the burning thought that he had made not one, but two
mistakes.

To find the gun unable properly to control the harbour was bad enough,
but now his second mistake was ten times more serious.  The Chinese
could fight, and his whole plans had been based on the opposite belief.

For a moment his own inherent optimism and resourcefulness, bred in the
bone through many generations of fighting men, deserted him.  He saw the
failure of his scheme, the ruin it would bring to the whole squadron,
and the end of poor Helston’s ambitions.  Of his own fate he cared
nothing at that moment, but cursed himself for leaving the sea to
venture a soldier’s job, and for sacrificing, to his own self-assurance,
the men who had so willingly followed him.

At that moment his vivid brain even pictured the final back-to-back
struggle and the sobbing panting of stricken men as one by one they
fell.

Would he be the last? he wondered.

A shell burst on the ridge, and the jagged fragments screaming past him
woke him from his nightmare to catch sight of Glover’s scared face as he
stood at his side.

Putting his hand on the midshipman’s shoulder he said softly: "Glover, I
am sorry; get under cover, boy."

But before Glover could move away a great burst of cheering came up from
below.

Williams and Saunderson, with their forty men behind them, were charging
into the flank of the unsuspecting Chinamen, and, hardly firing a shot,
they were driving them like sheep from Captain Hunter’s path.

Yells of pain and shrieks of agony told that they were relying on cold
steel.  The Martini fire broke out again with a roar, and now the line
of smoke began to ascend once more.

With a gasp of relief and a funny feeling at the back of his throat, the
Commander saw it coming towards him rapidly now, the whole eighty of
them cheering madly.

They had got the Chinamen "on the run".

"Bring a Maxim over here, Glover!  Quick, boy! we shall have them when
they break into the open."

The cheering redoubled.  Chinese suddenly appeared among the trees below
them, doubling to left and right as Hunter burst through with a dozen or
more of his men. Then came the destroyer’s men with their drums of oil,
Collins the Sub at their head, a knot of men carrying some mess-mates,
and, bringing up the rear, Williams, Saunderson, and the marines
fighting slowly, running a few yards, then dropping behind a tree and
shooting downhill.

Directly the oil-drums were safe and the wounded had burst through,
Hunter swung his men round and went down again, his great, joyous,
bellowing cheer heard above the noise of Mauser or Martini.  The Chinese
gave way and fell back down the hill.  Some that tried to escape to the
left had to pass Sergeant Haig’s redoubt, and his men knocked them over
like rabbits; others swept across the right towards Bush Hill, but then
the Maxim spoke with its horrid "br-br-br", and brought them down in
heaps.

In less than a minute not a living Chinaman was to be seen, but a
desultory fire commencing again from "Bush Hill" showed that they were
still under some control.

As Captain Hunter and his party, flushed with success and breathless
with their exertions, swung into the plateau, a shrapnel burst above
them, and the bullets, pouring down all round them, covered them with
dust.  A marine fell with a yell, his thigh smashed, but no one else was
touched, and Hunter ran up to Cummins, who had now recovered his
composure.  He was simply mad with the physical joy of fighting, and
this hailstone of shrapnel bullets had simply intoxicated him.

"My country! that was a pretty bit of fighting," he roared; "worth ten
years of ordinary life.  I’ve got your oil, and we’ve brought every man
Jack back again.  There’s a man on the other side I’d like to shake
hands with—after my own kidney, that chap—a huge fellow with a black
beard; led ’em on time after time, but those skunks of Chinamen would
not follow him."

"He led the first rush," Cummins answered, trying to calm him, "and led
it well, too.  Have you lost many men, sir?"

"What a brute I am!" he cried, the joy of battle quickly vanishing.  "I
don’t know exactly, but we’ve brought them all back.  Before we came
ashore I told my men that if anyone fell he should not be left, and—and
they are splendid fellows, Cummins."

The casualties were serious enough.  Five had been killed—two of the
destroyer’s and three of the _Strong Arm’s_—and eleven wounded—three of
these belonging to Captain Williams’s party, three to the destroyer, and
the other five to Hunter’s party.

"That oil is worth a good deal now," said Cummins sadly.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Behind the gun-pit parapet Dr. Richardson busied himself with the
wounded, a lieutenant of the _Strong Arm_, Gibbins by name, took charge
of the gun in place of poor Pattison and commenced to fill the recoil
cylinders, the less fatigued of the men carried on hauling sand-bags
towards the edge overlooking the sea, whilst the remainder, thoroughly
exhausted, lay down behind the breast-works.

Shells were still coming from those field-guns, but the _Strong Arm’s_,
reassured by the _Laird’s_, who had already begun to despise them, soon
learnt that they were harmless so long as they kept down behind their
sand-bags.

Meanwhile preparations were being made to shell the hilltop from the
guns of the cruiser which had been warped across the harbour.  Her guns
could not at first be elevated sufficiently to reach the top of the
hill, but they were overcoming this difficulty by letting water into her
on one side and giving her a list to starboard, and thus tilting her gun
muzzles still farther upward.

Hunter and Cummins were anxiously watching this operation—necessarily a
slow one—and it was not completed before Gibbins rushed across to them
and reported the Krupp ready for action.

"We’ll weigh in first, old chap!" Hunter exclaimed with glee.

A great shell, grooved and lead-coated to take the rifling, was hoisted
out of the magazine, the derrick raised it to the breech, a dozen men
shoved it home with a long rammer, a quarter charge of powder-bags
followed it, the clumsy breech-block was slowly worked across, Gibbins
sprang up to the sighting-platform and jammed in the friction-tube with
its lanyard, and all was ready.

Cummins coolly examined everything till he was satisfied that nothing
was wrong with gun or mounting, and then the ponderous mass of steel was
laboriously trained towards the spot where lay the cruiser under the
cliffs, at the opposite side of the harbour.  From the sighting-platform
not even her masts could be seen, and the direction had to be roughly
found by means of rifle cleaning-rods stuck in a line on the edge of the
intervening plateau.

Clumsy this method was, but the best available.

Cummins grasped the lanyard, the gun’s crew were ordered out of the pit
in case of accident, the marines, lying behind the breast-work at the
edge of the plateau and in front of the gun, were cleared out of danger,
and he gave it a sharp tug.

A huge cloud of smoke, a huge, bellowing roar, cubes of burning
gunpowder leapt down the side of the hill, some or the sand-bags were
blown over the crest, the muzzle of the gun cocked itself into the air
as the gun recoiled along its slides and then gently slid forward again.
Everyone rushed to the edge to see where the shell fell.  Half a minute
of breathless anxiety, heedless of the bullets that were flying past,
and then, up on the cliffs, behind the cruiser, a balloon-shaped mass of
white smoke burst out, masses of rock leapt into the air and fell
splashing into the sea, and the roaring of the explosion tossed from
hill to hill, and, crashing from cliff to cliff with tremendous
reverberations, came up to them like thunder.

"Their game is up," shouted Hunter.  "Cheer, men, cheer!"

Cummins, a quaint little rain-soaked figure, standing on the parapet of
sand-bags behind the gun, and with the lanyard still in his hand, simply
chuckled: "You can load again, men, she is quite safe."



                             *CHAPTER XXI*

                           *On One Gun Hill*


    The Hill on Fire—Gunner Bolton, R.M.A.—I Help Dr.
    Richardson—Doing Well—We Stir Up the Pirates—Reporting to the
    "Laird"—A Yarn with Collins—A Overwhelming Rush


            _Mr. Midshipman Glover relates his experiences_


I have often wondered whether or no I was really frightened.

Certainly, whilst we were climbing up that hill through bushes and
trees, in the most absolute darkness, I should have been in an utter
funk if I had not been obliged to stick to the Commander and do my
utmost not to lose touch with him.

As far as I can remember I thought of little else but that, and to wish
that he would not go so fast.  When at last we had found the
pathway—just as it was getting light—I was too excited to be really
frightened, and afterwards, when I had to follow the Commander about the
level space on the top of "One Gun Hill", as we called it, I was kept so
busy taking messages that I hardly thought of the bullets, or even the
shells, and was much more afraid lest the Commander should think that I
was funking.

At first it was simply horrid to have to walk across, for you could hear
bullets going by and making a noise just like a crack of a thin whip,
and sometimes would see one strike the ground or a sand-bag just in
front of you, where you would have to pass in a few seconds, and
then—well, it was jolly hard work to prevent your legs from going as
fast as they could go.  I seemed to take up so much room, so much more
than anything else near, that it seemed actually impossible for the
bullets to miss my body.  In fact, when they commenced shelling us, and
Mr. Saunderson, who is really an immense man, turned round and told me
chaffingly to stand in front of him, I thought that I actually should
shield him if I did so.  That feeling explains what I mean rather better
than anything else I can say.

Later, however, I became so awfully tired and sleepy that things just
happened, and I did what I had to do quite mechanically.  When the
Chinese made their first rush I was hardly even excited, and remember
that I thought it the most natural thing in the world to see Hopkins
fall down wounded.  I was sorry for him, just as one is in a dream, and,
in fact, I kept on thinking that presently I should wake up and find
myself on board the _Laird_, with some silly idiot of a midshipman
playing a trick with my hammock.  It never even occurred to me till long
afterwards that all that time the Commander had been standing in front
of me to protect me.

I was very cold and very wet, and stood shivering and watching Captain
Hunter trying to rescue the oil-drums, and afterwards found myself
hauling sand-bags and piling them round one of the Maxims, and getting
warmer every minute.

Then I remembered that the Commander had told me to do this.

When a little time afterwards he put his hand on my shoulder, with a
terribly sad expression on his face, and said in a strange voice,
"Glover, I am sorry," I had not the least idea what he meant, and
thought that it was because I was absolutely drenched to the skin.

Of course I know now what he meant, but at the time had not the faintest
notion that we were in so much danger.

What did at last really wake me was the firing of that big Krupp gun and
the noise of the shell bursting on the cliff on the opposite side of the
harbour, just above the cruiser which was preparing to shell us, and not
far from the ledge where the Commander, Jones, and I had been hidden.

Quite close to where it burst were several little groups of
Koreans—white patches against the green background. They had been
watching from daybreak the attempts to recapture One Gun Hill, but now
vanished out of sight, and we never saw them again.

Our second shot, five minutes later, was still nearer the cruiser, but
she made no attempt to move, and began firing single guns.  They had
been obliged to give her a tremendous list to starboard, in order to
elevate their guns sufficiently, and as her gunners could not see our
Krupp gun from the decks, they had men stationed high up on the cliffs,
some distance away, who signalled with flags (I could see them quite
plainly) after each shot, whether it was right, left, short, or over.

Most of them went right over (they were firing shrapnel), some burst
very short, only the fragments of the shell coming crashing on the
ground round the gun, whilst the bullets plunged into the bushes below
us, beating them down.

Many actually struck the slope of the hill before bursting, and whether
it was these, or whether it was the burning cubes of gunpowder which
went flying down the hill each time we fired that gun, I do not know,
but presently the bushes and undergrowth began to smoulder, and the
smoke, all the denser because they were damp, was driven down towards
the town by the wind.

This in time increased the clear space below the breastworks, but the
smoke made our shooting all the less accurate, did not hide us at all,
either from the two field-guns or the cruiser, and unfortunately
concealed the movements of the Chinese behind it.

I suppose that Captain Hunter or the Commander never thought of that at
the time, otherwise they might have stamped the fire out when it first
began to burn.

"Go and get something to eat," the Commander had told me; "I sha’n’t
want you for half an hour."  So I had gone across to Sergeant Haig’s
breast-work, and was lying down close to a fire his men had made, and
huddled up against the sand-bags to find some shelter from the wind and
rain.

I was feeling precious hungry again, so, unfastening my haversack, I
broke off a big hunk of that home-made cake.  It was jolly good, and I
had a good pull at my water-bottle; old Mellins had filled it with weak
tea. It was jolly hard work pulling out the stopper, for my fingers were
so numb with the cold.

I broke off another piece of cake and gave it to the marine lying next
to me.  It was Gunner Bolton, with his rifle pointing through a loophole
and his finger on the trigger.  He turned round into an easier position,
and after a few bites said: "D’ye think, sir, as ’ow I shall get into
trouble about that ’ere gun?

"You see, sir, it was just like this.  I’d been bringing up the rear and
got rather be’ind’and, what with one thing an’ another, and in them
thick bushes, it being so dark an’ all, I jest lost mysel’ and couldn’t
no’ow find the rest of ’em.  So I thinks to mysel’, ’Jest obey orders’,
and when you’re lost, as the Commander said, ’Jest climb and climb’.

"Well, that was what I did, sir," he continued, with a half-anxious,
half-humorous expression, "and I climbed and I climbed till, blow me!  I
simply fell over them sandbags, and not a savidge anywhere could I see.
So I jest lights my pipe and stops there, knowing the Commander would be
along in no time.  But you see, sir, I’ve rayther done ’im out of ’is
show, and my mates are rayther furious about it too.

"I wish I’d ’ung on to the party, an’ then there wouldn’t ’ave been none
of this ’ere trouble."

He munched his cake solemnly and then added slyly: "That ’sentry-go’
business, sir, that’s what riled ’em. That was just for effect, I don’t
mind telling you, sir."

"That’s all right, Bolton," I told him.  "You won’t hear any more about
it from the Commander, I’m sure of that."

"Well, I ’opes you’re right, sir; an’ if you’ll look arter this ’ere
rifle of mine I’ll jest see if there ain’t a little o’ that ’ot cocoa
left."

He crawled away, scraped a little out of the big mess-tins, warmed it
over the fire in his own tin cup, and brought it back to me.

It was jolly refreshing, I can tell you, and warm and oily.

He took his rifle from me and watched me drink.

"You’ll put in a good word for me, sir, when we gets aboard the _Laird_;
now, won’t you, sir?"

I promised that I would do so, but could not help smiling.

"You see that ’ere Chinaman?" he said presently, jerking his thumb
towards a motionless blue heap which lay about a hundred yards away
along the crest—one of those who had bolted away from Captain Hunter.
"I shot ’im, sir; knocked ’im all of a ’eap.  Caught ’im in the upper
works I did, sir, an’ ’e jest toppled over an’ over an’ never moved a
’air, though there I was all waiting, with another cartridge jammed in,
in case ’e did.

"Never moved a ’air," he kept repeating softly to himself, evidently
vastly contented with his marksmanship, "an’ with that ’ere rifle too,"
and he kept patting its breech.

"Eh! look at that, sir!" he said, pointing down to the harbour, just
after the Krupp gun had fired again, and jumped to his feet, waving his
rifle over his head and cheering loudly, as did the others, for the
shell had landed, fair and square, in the cruiser’s stern, and seemed to
have practically wrecked her.

Every man on top of the hill roared himself hoarse.

However, they sank down behind the sand-bags again, for they had drawn a
rapid fire from "Bush Hill" and the field-guns.

I watched the great clouds of black smoke rolling up from the cruiser.

"If that ain’t pluck, call me a coal-shovelling stoker!" cried Bolton,
as the big fo’c’stle gun fired again before our Krupp had time to
reload, and the shell burst just below the crest.

We ducked our heads behind the sand-bags, and the fragments tore up the
ground.

"There’s a Englishman a-running that show, sir; none o’ your spotted
Dagos, I’ll be bound."

He was just a little too talkative for me, so I went away, Sergeant Haig
smiling grimly as I left.  "Haven’t had much to do this side yet, sir."

I ran across to the rear of the big gun just as it fired again.

That shot was short, and whilst they were reloading her the cruiser
fired two more rounds; but our next shell struck her farther forward,
bringing down her funnel and foremast and crumpling her up like
match-wood.

We could see them taking to their boats and pulling ashore, and the men
yelled again with delight, for although her shells had done very little
mischief, and had only wounded one man—a marine behind the "Log
Redoubt"—the noise of their bursting shells was intensely unpleasant and
disconcerting.

The big Krupp was now turned on the cruisers lying to the right of the
town, but these were so much closer in and right down under the land
that it was still more difficult to drop shell anywhere near them.

Of course we could not see anything of them from the gun itself, and had
to chance more or less the direction and also the powder charge, trying
first three bags of powder, which sent the shell almost over the back of
the forts at the entrance, and then two bags, which did not send it far
enough, but made it go ricocheting down the side of the hill before it
burst near the bottom.  We tried elevating the sights a little, and
gradually began to drop our shells with some amount of precision.

The _Hong Lu_ was, of course, the ship we were most anxious to hit,
because she was the only ship which was really good for any serious
fighting.

I was watching the men working like demons inside the gun-pit, hauling
the big shell and the bags of powder from the magazines, and training
her with the clumsy tackles, when presently Dr. Richardson called me.

He had found a little hollow in the side of the hill overlooking the
sea, and there he had brought all the wounded men and was busy among
them still, with monkey-jacket off and sleeves rolled up.

He was bandaging a marine who had just been struck by a shrapnel bullet.

It had struck him a slanting blow on the back of his head, and he sat
there gazing stupidly in front of him, supporting himself mechanically
with his hands as he swayed unsteadily.

When he had finished the bandage, Dr. Richardson lowered him on his back
in the grass, and injected something into his arm with a syringe which
the sick-berth steward handed him.

He shoved the needle right through the skin, and I thought that the man
would surely yell, but he only opened his eyes for a second and then
closed them again.

"Now, Glover, if you have nothing to do, try and get some cocoa for
these fellows."

I was only too jolly glad to do anything for them—there were nearly
twenty of them huddled in a sheltered corner, most of them apparently
asleep, and one or two groaning terribly.

I stepped across to Sergeant Haig, and the stern old man got hold of
some cocoa and some water out of a breaker, and I hunted up some fairly
dry wood for the fire, and in time we got it hot.  I had to carry it
back myself, as he would not leave his men.  When I had done this, and
everyone who was not unconscious had had some of the cocoa, Dr.
Richardson sent me to get blankets and any oil-skins I could collect.
The blankets were not difficult to find, for they were all under that
big tarpaulin, but very few men had their oil-skins, and those that had
them were not any too willing to part with them.

But I managed to bring back half a dozen, and we covered up all the
wounded we could.

Mr. Pattison looked simply awful.  He had lost a tremendous lot of
blood, and his head was covered with bandages; but his face was a horrid
purple colour, and he was puffing out his cheeks and blowing through his
lips every time he breathed.

"Hasn’t come round yet," Dr. Richardson told me.

"Will he die?" I asked anxiously, for everybody had been awfully sorry
for him ever since he had lost destroyer "No. 1", and I, of course, knew
too that he was frightfully gone on Milly, and wanted to see him get
back his luck.

"Can’t tell, Glover; hope not;" and Dr. Richardson sat down wearily and
tried to light his pipe.

"Haven’t we done splendidly so far, sir," I said, opening my jacket to
shield him from the wind as he struck his damp matches.

"Ask Pattison," he answered, shrugging his shoulders.

Captain Hunter came down just then to see how the wounded were getting
on, so I slipped away, and, to tell the truth, was not at all sorry.

And, also, being near so many men who had been hit made me feel rather
frightened.

                     *      *      *      *      *

I had better explain to you now exactly how we were situated at this
time.  All told, one hundred and fourteen men and ten officers had been
landed.  Of these seven had been killed and eighteen wounded, including
Mr. Pattison, but not including Captain Williams (nor indeed Captain
Hunter and Mr. Saunderson, who both had skin wounds, and several of the
men as well).

This left us thirty seamen and fifty-four marines, one of the wounded
blue-jackets and three of the wounded marines being still able to handle
their rifles whilst lying on the ground behind the sand-bags.

The marines were manning the breast-works and the blue-jackets the Krupp
gun and the two Maxims, Mr. Gibbins being in command of the big gun, and
Collins the Sub in command of the Maxims.

The sand-bag breast-works we had made in the morning were now vastly
improved, and were much more substantial, because the men, when not
firing, had dug away the earth behind them and strengthened them in
front with the earth thrown out.  Each man, in fact, had vied with his
neighbour in digging himself farther into the ground, so that actually
there was now a trench behind the breast-works.

The rain, too, had soaked into the bags and made them more heavy and
bullet-proof.

Captain Williams’s Log Redoubt ran right across the side facing Bush
Hill, and was so high that it kept off a great many of the bullets from
there, and made it almost safe to walk about the top of the hill, if you
only stooped down.

The Maxim redoubt, too, at the harbour end of this breast-work, was
quite strong and nearly four feet high, and Mr. Collins and his men
added to it whenever firing was slack.

The town itself was hidden from us by the line of smoke from the
smouldering bushes about fifty yards down the slope of the hill.  Hardly
a shot came from that direction. None either came towards Sergeant
Haig’s redoubt or from the sea at our rear.

It was nearly mid-day, and the field-guns were still shelling us, but I
think that the noise of their shells was the worst part of them so long
as we kept under cover. Although several had burst right in the centre
of the plateau during the last hour, nobody had been touched during that
time.  These were all common shell,[#] for they appeared to have run
short of shrapnel, or found that they could not rely on the fuses
bursting properly.


[#] Thin-walled shell with a large bursting charge. Shrapnel shell have
a small bursting charge and scatter round bullets when they burst.


The men had become so used to these shells, that if one burst they
hardly turned to look at it.  Sometimes you would see a man screw
himself down more firmly into the ground; but most of them took no
notice at all, and joked amongst themselves or jeered at the unfortunate
signalman, or one of the Maxims’ crews, who happened to be in the open
and had to throw himself on the ground to escape the flying splinters.

The Commander did once try to reach those guns with a Maxim, but the
range must have been well over two thousand yards.  We could not see
where the bullets were going, and certainly they had no effect on the
people working them.

Once or twice, though, when the firing from the bushes became brisk, we
soon made them ease down by letting off fifty or sixty rounds into Bush
Hill, and Collins kept both the crews very much on the alert, with belts
of cartridges ready to pump out bullets in case the enemy tried to make
another rush.

We had a fair amount of ammunition left, a fair amount of water, and
plenty of provisions, and so, all things considered, we were pretty
comfortable.

The rain too had ceased, the wind also began to lose force, and every
now and again the sun came out, though not for long enough to dry our
dripping clothes.

Captain Hunter and the Commander had been all this time walking up and
down the plateau as if it were the _Laird’s_ quarter-deck, or standing
on the edge and watching to see where our big shells were falling.  They
and Mr. Gibbins, who had to climb up to the sighting-platform each time
the gun fired, were the only people much exposed to danger.  The
Commander did not take shelter, I am sure, because the Captain did not,
and to give the men confidence; Captain Hunter because he thoroughly
enjoyed the excitement.

Down below us we could see little "No. 3" a mile out to sea, the
_Sylvia_ not far from her.  Both were having a very bad time of it, half
smothered in spray and both rolling heavily—the _Sylvia_ because she had
very little of her cargo of coal left and was very high in the water,
and "No. 3" because she always did so.

Right away across the island, beyond the entrance, the _Laird_ and the
_Strong Arm_ were steaming backwards and forwards, and they too were
making pretty heavy weather of it.  I wondered whether they could see us
at all, and thought how Mellins and Toddles must wish that they were up
here with me.

"No. 2", half buried in the heavy seas off the corner of the island near
the forts, was doing her best to keep up communication between the big
ships and the _Sylvia_ and "No. 3".

Mr. Lang always seemed to have the rotten jobs to do; but I have heard
that this was because he was something like Mr. Pattison, and never
thought of anything except getting close to the enemy, and Captain
Helston had never forgotten the loss of "No. 1".

The big Krupp was now beginning to drop her shells quite close to where
the cruisers, torpedo-boats, and the remaining (Patagonian) destroyers
were lying.  One had fallen almost aboard the _Hong Lu_, but we could
not rely upon any shot with the least degree of accuracy. However, all
of them had started to get up steam, clouds of black smoke coming up
through their funnels, and the Commander thought immediately that they
might try and escape, so Captain Hunter sent me with Gordon the
signalman to try and report this to Captain Helston.

The signalman had previously found a little open spot on the hill with a
good background, against which his flags could be seen from the sea, and
he began waving them vigorously from side to side, whilst I watched
through my glasses to tell him directly the signalman on board the
_Sylvia_ or "No. 3" spotted him.  "No. 3" it was who first ran up the
answering pendant.

"Them _Sylvia’s_ don’t think of nothing but sleepin’ an’ eatin’,"
growled the signalman, and commenced slowly semaphoring "Captain Hunter
to flag-ship.—Am dropping shells into harbour, and ships are rapidly
getting up steam.  All quiet up here."

I saw that "No. 3" had taken in the message, and she hauled down the
answering pendant and began to steam towards "No. 2" till it was
possible to pass it on to her.

Presently "No. 2" had also received it, and hoisted flags to call the
_Laird’s_ attention.  Her signalmen must have been very much on the
alert, for almost immediately her answering flag went crawling up—a tiny
little patch in her rigging—to her mast-head, and I could see "No. 2’s"
signalman perched on the unsteady bridge, half smothered with spray and
semaphoring with his flags.

Down came the flag aboard the _Laird_, and I could imagine the signal
midshipman already tearing down the bridge ladder to take the message to
Captain Helston.

"That’ll cheer ’em up, sir, out there in the wet," said the signalman,
as I climbed up again to report to Captain Hunter that I had managed to
pass it through to the flag-ship.

I was sent down to wait for any reply, and found the signalman watching
the _Laird_ through his telescope. "She’s just going to make a signal
from her mast-head semaphore, sir," he said.  So I stood by to write it
down as he spelt out the letters.

[The mast-head semaphore consists of two large black-and-white arms,
which can be worked from the bridge below.]

"I.F—E.N.E.M.Y—L.E.A.V.E—H.A.R.B.O.U.R," I wrote down as he sung out the
letters, and the message continued, "Endeavour to support me with your
gun. ’No. 3’ and ’No. 2’ are to rejoin the squadron, and _Sylvia_ to act
independently."

I was just rushing up hill with this when the signalman sung out,
"They’ve started again, sir," and spelt out, "Officers and men, _Laird_
and _Strong Arm_, congratulate you all on success.  Repeat signal to
’No. 3’ and _Sylvia_."

I left him obeying the last order, and took the signal to Captain
Hunter.

He and the Commander smiled grimly.

"Those torpedo-boats and destroyers will never dare to go out in this
weather," I heard the Commander say. "The _Hong Lu_ might possibly run
away, though she certainly couldn’t fight in this weather, and those
other two old tubs could not even run away."  He was right, too, for
though they all did weigh anchor directly afterwards, they never
attempted to leave the harbour; but, whilst the big ships began slowly
steaming round it, merely keeping steerage-way on, the destroyers and
torpedo-boats moved in so close to the land that it was impossible for
the big Krupp to touch them.

I felt quite sad to signal, "Cruisers not attempting to leave
harbour—steaming slowly to avoid shell", and knew how dreadfully
disappointed they all would be.

"If only this gale would blow itself out, we might tempt them out, even
now," I heard the Commander say.

For the next half-hour we tried our utmost to hit the _Hong Lu_, but as
she was constantly on the move, and the clumsy gun could not even train
steadily, but went groaning round its roughly-made turn-table in a
succession of jerks, it was evidently impossible to do so.

Then we tried another scheme to lay the gun for a certain spot on the
cliff opposite us, with a very small charge of powder behind the shell.
A man at the edge signalled whenever the _Hong Lu_ in her circling came
towards it. Mr. Gibbins stood by with the firing lanyard and fired
directly he could see the top of her fore-mast in line with that spot on
the cliff—the top of her fore-mast being the only thing he could see
from the sighting-platform, and then only when she happened to be right
on the far side of the harbour.

Well, we never did hit her, nor any of the others either.  They never
gave us a chance; tumbled to our plan directly and stopped their
engines.  Then, when the blue-jackets had struggled with the gun and
trained her in a different direction, the _Hong Lu_ would be out of it
again.  They evidently had people signalling the movements of the gun
from the cliff above them.

If we could only have made certain of our powder charge it would have
been more easy; but even with, say, only one bag and a half of powder,
the shells would never drop in the same place twice running, though,
whether it was due to the powder being old and bad, or the gun too
worn-out, I do not know.

It was frightfully disappointing, and even the Commander showed signs of
irritation.  Mr. Gibbins and his sweating gun’s crew were simply
furious.

The poor old gun was by this time simply white with bullet splashes, and
looked quite helpless as it wobbled from side to side and puffed out its
erratic shells.

The marines, too, had constantly to be shifting away from Mr.
Saunderson’s breast-works so that it could fire over them, and this
annoyed them.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Now that the rain had ceased, the bushes began to burn quite furiously,
fanned by the wind, and the cloud of smoke stretched right across our
front, rolling down towards the town.  The fire had left a clear space
of blackened twigs and half-burnt grass for nearly sixty yards in front
of Mr. Saunderson’s breast-works, and it was lucky enough for us that it
had done so.

There had been a complete lull of firing, and I had gone across to yarn
with Mr. Collins, to whom I had not yet spoken.

He was in the Maxim redoubt at the corner, strengthening it with sods of
turf, and he winked at me as I came near him.  "Having a good time,
Glover?"

"Ra-ther," I said.  "Wouldn’t Mr. Parker like to be here too?"

"He’s a splendid chap," said Mr. Collins.  "Never thinks of himself, and
sent me up here without my asking. Do you know, he had every mortal
thing ready—except the oil-drums, of course.  The men even had their
leather gear on, and water-bottles filled, before he got the Commander’s
signal.  He thought he might want reinforcements."

"I rather expected to see Jones come ashore," I said.

"Poor old Jones is on his beam-ends, groaning in his hammock, pretty bad
with rheumatism or something like it.  That day on the ledge in the rain
was too much for him.  You’re a pretty lucky chap to get ashore—the only
midshipman of the whole crowd," he continued.  "How did you manage it?"

"Well," I said, rather sadly, for I had at one time been conceited
enough to imagine that I’d been chosen for ability, "the Commander knows
a cousin of mine, and she asked him to look after me."

Mr. Collins smiled somewhat sarcastically.  "If I hadn’t had an aunt who
knew an admiral, who’d known Helston years ago, I shouldn’t have been
here either."

"He seems rather down on me now, though," I said. "Whenever I go near
him he sends me away."

"Can’t you guess why, you fool?" Mr. Collins asked, hammering down a big
load of earth his men had brought him.

"No; I thought I’d done something wrong."

"Silly young ass!  Why, he and the Captain are simply being potted at
from those bushes beyond us, and he doesn’t want you to be bowled over.
He won’t take cover either; he can’t, I suppose, while the Captain
struts about enjoying himself.  It may be jolly plucky, and Hunter is as
grand a man as ever lived, and I’d follow him, and we’d all follow him
anywhere, but he’s simply playing the fool."

"Oh!" was the only thing I could say.

We were interrupted by one of the Maxim gun’s crew pointing down the
slope of the hill just beyond the line of smoking bushes.

"Beg pardon, sir, but I think there’s a heap of natives down among them
there bushes."

"Go back and tell the Captain, Glover," Mr. Collins told me, stepping
inside the redoubt and calling his men back to the Maxim.

"Go quietly."

I had hardly left him before the most frightful yells came from below
and from Bush Hill; out from the cloud of smoke burst hundreds and
hundreds of screaming Chinamen, and from Bush Hill a most awful fire was
opened.  I could hear the rattling of a Maxim, and a fearful hail-storm
of bullets swept across the level top of the hill.

I had never heard anything like this before, and bent down and ran.



                             *CHAPTER XXII*

                     *The Final Attack on the Hill*


    We Defend the Gun—Hunter to the Rescue—Hopkins Again—A
    Confession—Hopkins’s Will—Hopkins Makes a Request—Back to the
    "Laird"—Helston Acts—I am Sent Below


             _Mr. Midshipman Glover’s Narrative continued_


As I ran I heard both our Maxims pumping out lead with their horrid
noises, and Mr. Saunderson’s voice steadying his marines as they fired
point-blank down the hill. Sergeant Haig’s men slewed round to their
left and fired sideways into the howling mob, and Captain Williams
behind me was trying to stop the Chinamen’s Maxim. The noise was
awful—the noise of Martinis, Mausers, Maxims, and the screaming Chinese.

"Tell Mr. Gibbins to keep his men inside the gun-pit till they are
wanted," roared Captain Hunter, as he looked at his revolver to see that
it was loaded, and "Stay there till he leaves it," added the Commander
quite fiercely.

Hardly had I given the message to Mr. Gibbins, whose men had already
seized their rifles, before the marines began rising on their knees,
some of them fixing their bayonets.  I knew what that meant, and must
confess that I was horribly frightened, and felt jolly thankful to get
to the lee side of that big gun and behind the parapet. With my head
over the sand-bags, I could see all that was going on.

Mr. Saunderson fell forward, but scrambled to his knees again, looking
very white in the face.  A marine near the Commander sprang right in the
air with an unearthly yell and collapsed in a heap.  A second later
hundreds of pale, tawny faces, with little pig eyes, showed up over the
crest, and one or two of the marines came crawling back to the gun-pit
for shelter.  I saw Captain Hunter lift the second off the ground and
almost throw him back to his place.

They were all on their feet now, firing without putting rifle to
shoulder.  Chinese went down like nine-pins, but hundreds took their
places; a crowd of them were right up to the breast-work, just to the
right of the centre Maxim, hitting out with rifles, prodding with
bayonets, and slashing with old naval cutlasses.  The marines clubbed
their rifles, fighting like tigers, man after man dropped down, and a
howling mass broke through, pushing Saunderson’s marines on one side by
sheer weight of numbers, and came streaming across towards the gun.

I saw the dapper little Subaltern from the _Strong Arm_ rushing across
with his men from the breast-work overlooking the sea, but they were
thrown back like corks in front of a wave, and now the yelling mob was
right up to the sand-bag parapet.  I had drawn my revolver unconsciously
as they came rushing across, and I seemed to become quite cool.

"Now’s your time, boys," shouted Mr. Gibbins to the twenty blue-jackets
he had inside the gun-pit.  "Fire downwards or you’ll hit our own men."
He leaped on top of the parapet, and, as the first Chinaman tried to
scramble over, struck him a blow on the head which knocked him headlong,
and then began coolly and deliberately firing his revolver into the
seething mass below him.

The whole top of the hill seemed covered with Chinamen, a seething,
struggling, yelling mass, with a fringe of marines at the edge, the
butt-ends of their rifles, swinging round and round, coming down with
sickening thuds on those shaven heads.

Here and there among them, two or three marines, back to back, were
clearing a circle round them, and across to the left I could see Captain
Hunter cleaving them in front of him.

They were all round us now, clambering over the parapet or pulling down
the sand-bags, and though they fell, shot at the muzzles of the
blue-jackets’ rifles or bayoneted through the body, more filled their
places, and tore the sand-bags down like wild cats.

One had half wriggled himself over in front of me—my pistol went off,
and he sank down out of sight.  Another climbed over him, and I found
myself on top of the parapet, though I cannot remember getting there.  I
fired again, and he too fell, clinging to my legs.  I staggered forward,
and should have been dragged down among them, but a blue-jacket on my
left ran him through with his bayonet, and with a gurgle he let go my
legs and slid down.

"Keep farther back, sir," the blue-jacket muttered hoarsely, and jumped
across to drive back three more who were nearly over.  With a terrible
kick of his iron-shod boot he caught one full in the face, but another
gripped his leg, the third his rifle, and, before anyone could move, had
hauled him headlong to the ground.  As he disappeared among them they
closed round him with a yell.

I felt a burning red feeling in my head and eyes, and, like a fool,
jumped after him, fired my last four cartridges right into them, and
began hitting out with my fist and the empty revolver.

Somebody caught me by the wrist, but I wrenched myself free; somehow or
other the pressure in front of me became less.  I found myself standing
over the blue-jacket, with my back to the parapet, with only three or
four Chinese in front of me, prodding at me with boarding-pikes and old
cutlasses; but, strangely enough, it struck me even then that they were
not trying to kill me.  I discovered that I had an axe in my hand—how it
got there I don’t know—and was waving it round and round.  The
Maxims—our Maxims, by the noise they made—started again, and men were
cheering all round me.  Chinese came sweeping back past the sides of the
gun-pit and brushing against me, and those in front seemed to melt away.
It was just like a wave that had swept up a sea-shore, surged against a
rock, flung itself all round it, and then, with its force spent, slid
back to the sea.

Suddenly I was seized by the collar from behind and swung off the
ground.  I struggled, I bit, I hit out with what strength I had, but the
axe was torn from my hand, my feet were swept from beneath me, and
before I could even yell for help I was rushed across the plateau, over
the breast-works, and down the side of the hill in the midst of the
Chinese.

Just as we got below the edge, one of the men who had hold of me fell
with a shriek.

I kicked myself free (he was dead), but two more pounced on me, threw me
to the ground, lifted me up, struggling like a cat, and bore me down
again.

I was half choked with the smoke of the burning bushes as they rushed
through them, and a hundred yards below they stopped, threw me face
downwards on the grass, forced my hands together behind my back, tied
them there, and then two of the hulking cowards sat on me.

I didn’t think—I didn’t feel any pain; my brain seemed absolutely
frozen, for, just as that brute had fallen and I had kicked myself free,
I saw something which I shall never forget for the rest of my life.

Captain Hunter had seen me and, head and shoulders above the retreating
Chinamen, had plunged down through them, roaring to his men to follow.

From the bushes below the great black-bearded man suddenly rose up.
With curses and blows he rallied his men, and they turned and faced
upwards.  Down came Captain Hunter through a mob of them, cutting his
way to me.  He had a long-handled axe in his hand.  Circling it round
and round his head, striking to left and right, he was carving a way
through them, and they gave way and fled helter-skelter, to leave him
confronted by the huge European.  I saw Captain Hunter’s face light up
with a fierce joy, and he raised his axe for a mighty stroke; but the
European fired his revolver point-blank, the axe dropped from his hand,
his arms sank to his side, he stared stupidly in front of him, the
revolver cracked again, and, with a sob, I saw Captain Hunter disappear
beneath a howling mass of Chinamen, who turned again with a yell of
triumph.  But by this time his marines had poured over the breast-work
and flung themselves in front of his body, and that was the last I saw
of that awful hilltop—the little knot of marines fighting slowly
backwards towards their breast-work, and carrying Captain Hunter with
them.  I cared for nothing then.  I did not even mind those brutes
sitting on me.

Chinese came flying past, some shrieking with fright, others screaming
with pain.  One or two, when they saw me, tried to spring at me; but the
two men drove them off, then lifted me up like a doll and carried me
farther away, covering me with a Chinaman’s tunic to prevent me from
being recognized.  They stripped it from a native lying wounded and
dying in the bushes.

The noise of firing recommenced above me, and some bullets came
crackling through the bushes (our bullets), and I almost wished that one
would kill me.

Chinese yells burst out again in the direction of the Bush Hill.  They
were answered by defiant cheers, one of our Maxims began to rattle, then
a burst of Mauser firing drowned every other sound, the noise of
fighting dwindled away, a solitary shout, a piercing scream, the Maxim
ceased, and all was still once more.  I could not tell whether that
attack had been repulsed or whether it had swept across the hill, and
felt that I only wanted to die.

My captors—three great lusty sailors—hurried me downhill, and presently
they came to the cultivated plots above the town, and across these they
went at a run, avoiding parties of coolies hurrying up the hill and
armed with strange, old-fashioned weapons.

I saw that they were making for a small, white-painted bungalow under
some trees, and presently they reached it and flung me down in an
out-house among a lot of firewood and coal, tied my legs together and
slammed the door, bolted it from the outside, and left me in darkness.

How long I remained there I do not know, but now I felt a stabbing pain
in my chest whenever I tried to wriggle into a less painful position,
and another in my leg close to where I had been wounded before.

I began to wonder what they were going to do with me, and whether I
should be tortured—for we had all dreaded falling alive into their
hands—but I don’t think that I really cared what happened.

The door flew open, two of the sailors came in, caught me up, and
carried me out across a garden and through a verandah with long cane
chairs under it.  Here a native servant led them inside the bungalow, a
bamboo curtain was pushed aside, and they sat me down on a mat on the
floor.

Lying on a little trestle-bed in one corner was a man groaning in his
sleep.  The native servant bent over the bed, touched him on the
shoulder, and he woke with a start and raised his head.

It was Hopkins, his eyes glittering strangely, and his face all drawn
with pain.

"Thank God! you are safe, Glover," he cried, and made them unfasten my
legs and arms.  When I was free once more he ordered the men out of the
room, but they refused to go, talking excitedly.

"Guess they want their re-ward," he drawled, and asked me to open a
heavy cash-box at his side.  He fumbled at his neck and found the key.

"Tally up a couple of hundred dollars’ worth of bills," he asked me,
"and sling them at those scoundrels."

It was a funny thing for me to be counting out the sum to be paid for my
own capture and handing it over to those brutes, but I did it
automatically.  I really did not feel, or hear, or see anything quite as
if I were awake; and when I read over what I have written, it seems so
jerky and disconnected, that I have often tried to make it read more
smoothly, but then I don’t think it would give you quite the impression
it still gives me.  Incidents just seemed to happen; they did not seem
to have any connection, but went on, one after another, till I woke up
standing over Hopkins’s cash-box and paying those ugly brutes.

I ought to have hated and loathed Hopkins, but somehow or other I
didn’t—none of us did, I fancy—and remembering, as if it were in a dream
I had just wakened from, the gallant way he had led that charge, I felt
awfully sorry for him, and forgot that, but for him and his partners,
Captain Hunter would not be lying dead on that hill above me, nor many
others—how many, I dare not think.

"Captain Hunter is killed.  That brute with the black beard shot him," I
blurted out; and it may seem funny to you, but I knew that he would be
just as sorry as I was. His face twitched.  "That is Schmidt," he said.

"He died trying to rescue me," I said, and something seemed to stick in
my throat.  I could not keep it back, and threw myself on the floor and
sobbed and sobbed till tears came.

Even now I don’t feel in the least ashamed of myself, and I know that I
was absolutely too played out to mind then.

"I’m sorry, Glover, I’m mighty sorry, but it would have been up against
you if he had hauled you back."

He said it so seriously, that a faint idea of what he meant flashed
through my mind, and I remembered the second attack which I had listened
to whilst I was being carried down the hill, and the endless stream of
coolies pouring up the hill.

"Why?" I gasped.

"Come here," he said, stretching out his hand and drawing me gently to
him.  "Guess there ain’t no blood on it ’cept my own," he added
bitterly, as I half drew back.  "You and your chum, young Foote, were
the last to shake that hand, youngster, and you wouldn’t have seen me
again an’ been still jumping around but for that and one thing besides."
I remembered then that Toddles and I had shaken hands with him when he
had been exchanged for Ping Sang.

"I reckon that if somebody hadn’t just sloshed around and coralled a few
of these heathen, and sent ’em up to bring you down at a hundred-dollar
bill a head, you’d be getting about stiff by now.  If that whole outfit
up top there ain’t wiped out by sundown, we’ve got a couple o’ thousand
who’ll eat what’s left after dark."

He was so earnest, and so evidently believed what he said, that his
words made me feel cold with horror.

He saw my dismay and said: "I reckon, though, that this combine is just
about busted.  We shall just have to quit.

"Those rotten ships ain’t no more use for fighting than—than—than I am,"
he finished, and caught his breath as some pain seemed to grip him.  He
went on in a minute.

"See here, youngster, I’m shot clean through the stomach.  I reckon I
might pull through if it had been a slate-pencil of a Mauser bullet, but
it was a Martini bullet, and I’ve got just two more rounds of the sun
and then I pass in my checks.  I had seen you on top of that hill
sticking to little Cummins like a ’possum, and when I got downed I
guessed that I’d fish you out to do something particular for me."

"The Commander wouldn’t let me stick to him if he could help it," I
said.  "He was afraid of my being shot, for he knew that he was being
fired at."

Hopkins smiled.  "Guess he didn’t calculate that I stopped ’em potting
at him when you were in his vicinity. I’ll show you why."

He put his arm under his pillow and drew out a photograph, looking at it
with strange eyes, and handed it to me.  "Guess that’s the reason."

It was a photograph of Milly, and just like the one Mr. Pattison had.

"How did you know Milly?" I cried, tremendously surprised.

"Helston introduced me one day in London.  I met her several times, put
the old man" (the Admiral) "on to a good thing in oil shares, got an
invite to his place at Fareham for a couple of days, and—and—and—well,
Glover, your cousin simply knocked me over, and" (the colour rising
under his tanned face) "I asked her to be my wife."

"You did?" I asked, simply astounded.  (Fancy old Milly marrying a
pirate!)

"Yes, I reckon I did," he answered quietly, his face twitching again;
"and I reckon I meant it, and meant it for all time."

"Did she——?" I began.

"She did not say ’No’," he replied, speaking reverently. "She said that
she would give me my answer when I came back."

"But how could you——?" I began, and could have bitten my tongue off.

He knew well enough what I meant, and his face paled and became
fearfully hard and rigid.

"If she had promised to be my wife, Glover, I would have thrown up this
cursed job, though I reckon they might have hunted me down in time and
got a knife into me later.  As it was, I had to go through with the
show.  I had sworn to back up my pals, but calculated my job might about
end when I’d delayed Helston and brought out those beastly destroyers.

"Youngster, we three—Hamilton, Schmidt, and myself—have looked death
face to face together a hundred times, and, wife or no wife, a white man
could not throw up the cards and back out of the game when his chums
were cornered.

"I could have quitted any night this last fortnight, skedaddled out in a
junk, but, well, I didn’t, and here I am now, with a hole in my stomach,
waiting to be planted."

I had dropped his hand, but took hold of it again.

"What do you want me to do?" I asked.

He pulled a packet from under his pillow, wrapped round in Korean oiled
cloth.  "That’s my will, Glover.  I want to sign it.  You’ll find a pen
and ink on that table over there.  Get it."

I brought pen and ink and unwrapped the package. I found a few
legal-looking papers, and a sheet of the _Laird’s_ mess note-paper
dropped out, with "H.I.M.S. _Laird_" printed on it.  As I picked up this
I saw written on it, "My Last Will and Testament".

"We shall want another witness," he said, "to do those lawyers out of a
haul;" and he beat on the wall with a split bamboo.

His butler or head boy came hurriedly in with a scared face.  Hopkins
could not sit up in bed, so I held the paper against a book whilst he
signed his name, "Reginald S. Hopkins, late U.S.N.", and then I added my
own name and the head boy his, first in Chinese characters and then in a
rough school-boy hand in English, "Hi Ling".

"Promise me, Glover, to hand that to the Admiral."

"To the Admiral?" I said.  "To Milly’s father?"

"Yes, youngster; I’ve left her all I possess, and it’s a tidy big lump,"
he added.

"But!" I gasped.  Milly could not take his money—a pirate’s money, I
thought.

He guessed my thoughts and winced, but added with a grim smile:

"Every cent is as clean as it ever is on the New York Exchange.  My
guv’nor made it in oil, and that’s what’s left of it.  The Admiral won’t
smell nothing worse than oil, I reckon, in those greenbacks, for I’ve
never had fingers on them."

"How can I take it to Milly?" I asked.  "Are you going to send me back
to the Commander?"

"Guess not," he smiled faintly.  "Those docu-ments won’t be dispatched
that way, I reckon.  They’re hurrying up with spades to bury that little
lot right away.  Back you go to the _Laird_ as fast as I can send you.
I’ve got a destroyer waiting for you, with her boilers near bursting,
and two thousand dollars I’ve promised those wretched cowards aboard her
when they bring back a receipt for you from Helston.  The weather is
pretty bad, but she’ll stand it, and I’ll die more easy when I know
you’re safe aboard that packet.  And you’ll take Hi Ling too, in case
there’s any legal rumpus concerning that signature.

"Will you do this for me, youngster?"

I hated going back to the ship without the Commander and his men, but if
he would not send me back to them there was no help for it; and,
besides, I wanted to do what I could for him.

"If you won’t send me back to the Commander, I’ll take them aboard and
promise to hand them to the Admiral," I said.

Hi Ling had gone away, but now returned with two of the sailors who had
captured me.  They brought a great blue cotton cloth and began to wrap
me in it, whilst Hi Ling talked excitedly to Hopkins, evidently in great
distress.

"He doesn’t want to leave me," Hopkins said.  "I’ve nobody else to look
after me."

"But you can’t be left alone," I said; "they might kill you."

"Not till I’ve got that receipt from Helston," he answered grimly,
pulling a revolver from under the bedclothes.

The blue-jackets prepared to lift me on their shoulders, and I hurriedly
shook hands with Hopkins, not daring to look at his face.

They lifted me up and took me out of the room, but I heard him call out,
and they put me down.  He called me, and I went back.

His face was rigid with pain and sorrow.  "Glover, youngster," and he
clenched my hand, "tell her I loved her; tell her I love her now; tell
her that I died fighting. I led that charge well?  I did, did I not?
Tell her that."

I felt a sob coming up at the back of my throat, and darted out again.

He called me back, and said in half a whisper, with a catch in his
throat; "She may think I died fighting—on—your—side.  Don’t let her
know."

I squeezed his two hands.  I could not say a word, for my lips were
quivering.  I left him there.

The sailors seized me roughly, covered me from head to foot in the blue
cloth, and began running.  I could hear Hi Ling panting at my side.

In a little while they stopped, I felt the breeze and the smell of the
sea, and they jolted me into a boat and began pulling from the shore.

They unwound the cloth which still covered me, and I saw that we were
making straight for one of the Patagonian destroyers.  We bumped
alongside, and I scrambled painfully up.  The Chinamen on deck
gesticulated savagely, and one or two spat at me; but I was so utterly
miserable, that I did not seem to care what happened, or even to be
frightened.

They cast off almost immediately, keeping close inshore till they came
near the entrance, and then had to shoot out into the harbour.

The destroyer must then have come into view from One Gun Hill, for a
huge shell fell with a splash in the water a hundred yards astern,
ricocheted against the cliffs, and burst with a roar, the frightened
crew throwing themselves flat on the deck or rushing down below.

I jumped to my feet and yelled with delight.  It was our 12-inch Krupp,
and the Commander and his men were still holding out on the top of the
hill.  Oh, the relief and the joy of it!

I looked upwards, but could not see the top of the hill on account of
the smoke from the gun and from the still burning bushes.

We were now slipping past the ledge on which the Commander, Jones, and I
had lain two days ago, and the cruiser at the foot of it was burning
furiously quite close to where we had sunk the dinghy.

"Mista Hamilton belong all same dead man."  I turned round.  It was Hi
Ling, rubbing his thin hands sadly and then pointing to the wreck.
"Shell he come and makee blow up—vely blave man—plenty numbly one
fightee man. All belong vely bad joss," he added mournfully.

"The lame Englishman dead?" I asked.

The Chinaman nodded his head.

Then we ran past the place where we had knocked over the two sentries,
passed between the landing-stages, and between the two forts, lined with
men gaping down at us, twisted round a corner, and dashed into the full
force of the gale and the huge seas on our starboard beam.  No wonder
that the crew would not take me out under two thousand dollars.

I could see the _Laird_ right ahead, five miles out to sea, and the
Chinamen hoisted a great white flag at the masthead, which flew as stiff
as mill-board to leeward, and made straight for her.

They had to ease down immediately, as seas were coming right over us,
and we were hardly clear of the rocks near the entrance before Mr. Lang
in "No. 2" sighted us, and came racing along to cut us off, tumbling and
lurching through the following seas.

One of the crew came running aft, jabbered to Hi Ling, and pointed to
me.

"Captain he wantchee you go topsides all same blidge," said Hi Ling.

Up I went, and they made me understand that I had to make myself
conspicuous, so that Mr. Lang could see me.

I waved my handkerchief—I don’t know what had become of my cap—and
shouted in my excitement, though, of course, that was silly; and then a
wave flopped on the bridge and drenched me from head to foot, and as the
salt water soaked through my clothes, those places on my chest and leg
began to smart again.

Mr. Lang had seen our white flag, and came staggering up with a signal
flying at the yard-arm—"Heave to" and "Send a boat".

A boat could not live for a moment in that sea—at any rate, no boat that
we had—so I jammed myself against the bridge rails and semaphored with
my arms, "Midshipman Glover on board—a prisoner—being taken back to
_Laird_".

I could see the stir this signal made, everybody trying to see me.  Then
Mr. Lang spotted me and waved his arms.  His signalman semaphored,
"Remain where you are; will communicate with _Laird_".

I explained to Hi Ling, and he to the captain—a great, gaunt,
honest-looking Tartar—who grunted a reply.

Off went Mr. Lang to the _Laird_, and in twenty minutes back he came and
semaphored, "Will follow you to lee of island and send a boat".

I told Hi Ling, but the captain shook his head decisively after
chattering to some of the others.  "No can do," said Hi Ling, "Mista
Hopkins he wantchee leceipt flom numbly one ship," and he pointed to the
_Laird_.  "No can do," and he pointed to "No. 2".

I signalled across, "Have orders to transfer me to _Laird_—refuse to put
me aboard you—no fear of treachery—have no torpedoes in tubes" (I had
noticed this previously).  Mr. Lang waved his hand, and "No. 2" thrashed
back to the _Laird_.

We had already drifted half a mile past the entrance, and presently saw
the _Laird_ steaming away towards the north of the island, and we
followed her, even before Mr. Lang could get back or make a signal, and
soon began to get shelter in the lee of the land.

The _Laird_ came grandly down, her masts swaying in a stately,
deliberate manner as she rolled from side to side, till she, too, ran
into smoother water and lowered a cutter.

Five minutes later it came alongside, with Toddles in command.  I jumped
in, followed by the captain and Hi Ling, and we shoved off back to the
_Laird_.  She gave us a lee, and I caught a rope and scrambled up,
followed by the captain, as agile as a monkey, though Hi Ling could not
face it, and remained terror-struck in the boat as she went up and down,
and the crew kept her from stoving in her side against the ship.

It was Captain Helston who hauled me through the gangway, and I
hurriedly explained that the big Chinaman wanted a receipt for my safe
return.  He was given it, swung himself down the side without deigning a
word or a look, and the boat took him back to the destroyer, after we
had hauled Hi Ling on board with a bow-line under his arm-pits.

"What news, Glover?  Quick!" said Captain Helston.

I told him all I knew.  It was a painful story and a long one, and I
finished it in his cabin.  He was fearfully agitated, and paced
backwards and forwards, clutching his empty sleeve.

Dr. Fox, too, who was standing over me, was scarcely less alarmed.  I
had never seen him show the least feeling before.

"What are we to do, Fox?  What are we to do?" Captain Helston kept
saying.  "It is impossible to land another man, even if I could spare
one, and we’ve only three hours of daylight left.  They’ll all be
murdered."

A midshipman—it was Dumpling—came down.  "They’ve fired that gun again,
sir," he said, grinned at me, and disappeared.

"They are still holding out, Doc.  What can we do?"

"This is a matter of life or death, not only of strategy and tactics,"
said Dr. Fox suddenly.  "One thing must be done—done at once, too—and
you know what that is."

"Yes, yes.  I must draw off their attention from Cummins by attacking
those forts; a terrible risk, but it must be taken."  His face became
quite calm and happy again, and he rang the sentry bell.

"Send the First Lieutenant to me."

The First Lieutenant came running down.

"I am going to attack those forts at once.  Signal to the _Strong Arm_
to support me, and to Parker and Lang to close and await orders."

"Very good, sir," said the First Lieutenant and vanished with a joyful
smile.

Picking up his telescope, the Captain went on deck, and Dr. Fox began
taking off what was left of my monkey-jacket and examining my body.  I
heard the buglers sounding out for General Quarters, and heard the
stamping of the men as they rushed cheering to their stations.

"Look at yourself, boy," said Dr. Fox, standing me on a chair, and I saw
myself in the sideboard glass.  I had no cap, my face was scratched all
over, my flannel shirt was all covered with blood and was almost torn in
half, one trouser leg had a great tear in it, and there was more blood
on that, but the sea on board the destroyer had washed most of it away.
I was sopping wet, and one boot had gone too.

"You don’t look worth much; hardly worth sending you back, was it?"

I snatched at my torn monkey-jacket and pulled out the package.

"Mr. Hopkins is dying, sir.  That is his will, and he wanted to know it
was safe aboard here.  He has left everything to Milly."

"To Milly!" said Dr. Fox, astounded.  "I knew that he did meet her two
or three times.  Was he too in love with her?"

"Yes, sir; I think she half promised to marry him. Aren’t you awfully
sorry for him, sir?"

Dr. Fox smiled that cynical smile that made you want to kick him.

"I can’t stop here all day," he growled.  "I’m short-handed with
Richardson away, and must look after my job.  You have had enough
fighting to last you till doomsday, so just you go down to the
ammunition passages and wait there till I come."

"Can’t I stay on deck, sir?"

"Do what I tell you!" he snarled, and, to see that I obeyed him, he took
me down below himself.



                            *CHAPTER XXIII*

                       *The Attack on the Forts*


    Below the Armoured Deck—We Engage the Forts—We Silence the
    Forts—My Wounds are Dressed


             _Mr. Midshipman Glover’s Narrative continued_


The men were hurriedly closing water-tight doors and lowering the
water-tight hatchway covers.  Dr. Fox and I must have been nearly the
last to go below, for the men had to stop lowering the big armoured
hatchway cover aft, in order that we might scramble through it and climb
down the steep iron ladder to the magazine flats.

The heavy iron armour fell into place with a thud.  I heard the men
above screwing down the clamps which secured it, and for the first time
in my life realized that we were shut in below the armoured deck, and
wondered how we were going to escape if anything happened.

Of course I had often been there before during drills, but this was the
real thing, and I felt like a rat in a trap.

The big space we were now in was called the "cross passage", and ran
right across the ship, with the sloping dome of the armoured deck above
it.  The magazines opened into it at the after end, and on each side the
ammunition passages ran for’ard.  These were two tunnels just broad
enough for two men to squeeze past, and just high enough for them to
stand erect.  They ran along each side of the ship, under the curved
edge of the armoured deck, to open into another cross passage for’ard,
where were more magazines, and from the top of them rose the ammunition
hoists—great armoured tubes, five on each side—leading up to the main
and upper deck 6-inch guns.

From the for’ard cross passage a huge armoured tube ran up to the
fo’c’stle to feed the fo’c’stle 8-inch gun, and there was a similar one
running up from the after cross passage to the quarter-deck gun.

Standing underneath and looking up through this one, I could just catch
a glimpse of the sky; but of course no daylight came down, and though
there were electric lights here and there on the bulk-heads, it was very
gloomy.

Men were in the whitewashed magazines, with felt slippers on their feet,
handing out 6-inch shell and cartridge-cases. Others, rushing out from
the darker ammunition passages, seized them, shoved them into little
canvas bags bound with rope, and dashed back again to feed their own
especial ammunition hoist.  Hooking the bags to a rope which ran up the
tube, passed over a pulley-wheel at the top and led down again, they
hauled the shell and cartridges up to the 6-inch gun above them.

I crouched in a corner to be out of the way, and as it grew hotter and
hotter, and the stifling air became full of dust, the electric lights
themselves began to blur indistinctly; and the men, leaping along the
passages, jostling each other as they passed, muttering as they barked
their shins or dropped a projectile, clothed in nothing but boots, duck
trousers and flannels, their faces and necks streaming with
perspiration, looked like demons.

A stoker near me, one of two who stood by with a fire-hose, muttered to
his mate, "Blow me, Bill, if it ain’t as ’ot as ’ot."

"You’ve ’it it to a shovelful; it’s wurs’n what them stoke’olds are," I
heard Bill reply, as he cut off some tobacco and stuffed it into his
cheek.

"So long as we don’t get no blooming fire down ’ere, I’m a-comfortable
enough a-standin’ ’ere a-watching of them others a-workin’.  But what
breaks me ’eart every time," he continued, "we don’t seem to never get
no ’ead o’ water through this ’ere hose-pipe.  I don’t ’old with them
new-fangled pumps they’ve got aboard this ’ere junk."

"The same ’ere," answered his mate, and they settled themselves
comfortably on the coiled-up fire-hose to enjoy their quids of tobacco.

Dr. Fox, the three Paymasters, the Chaplain, and the sick-bay people
were trying to get a clear corner, and were laying out bandages,
tourniquets, and surgical dressings, the mere sight of which made me
feel horribly uncomfortable, and more like a rat in a trap than ever.

It was bad enough whilst the men were rushing to and fro, and in that
thick, stuffy atmosphere you could smell nothing but sweating men; but
presently they had brought out as much ammunition as they could heap
round the bottom of the hoists, and there was nothing more for them to
do yet.  The ammunition parties grouped silently below their own special
hoists, and the magazine parties had time to pass their arms across
their eyes and wipe the stinging sweat away.

It was a time of terrible suspense, for not a sound could be heard from
above, where we knew the guns’ crews were standing round their guns, and
from below nothing but the regular rhythm of the big engines, the rapid
throbbing of the dynamo-engines and the pumps behind the bulk-heads, and
every now and again the harsh rumbling of the steering-engine aft.

Added to all this we were rolling very heavily.

Presently a man came scrambling down one of the hoists—sliding down the
rope—and there was a sudden stir as men eagerly questioned him.

"Are we getting close inshore?" "Have the forts opened fire yet?" "Is
that big gun still firing?" "Where’s the _Strong Arm_?"

Then there was silence again—all but the noises of the engines drumming
and thudding on the other side of the white bulk-heads.

The First Lieutenant, trying to appear calm, walked round and round,
first along the port side, then down the starboard passage, seeing that
everything was ready and everybody in his place, speaking a word here
and there to a petty officer, and followed closely by his midshipman
messenger, a very junior chap we called "Daisy".

Then the little bell at our end of the conning-tower voice-pipe tinkled
loudly.  The man stationed there sang out for the First Lieutenant, and
he came running up. Captain Helston was giving him an order from the
conning tower.

"Very good, sir," he shouted back.

"Stand by on the port side, men; we are just going to commence."

Oh, wasn’t it exciting! and didn’t I wish that I was up above that
armoured deck with the sky overhead, instead of lying down there so
stiff and sore that I could barely move!

The men were fidgeting nervously from one foot to the other, and then
the silence was broken by the banging of the guns in the port battery
overhead.  A second later the quarter-deck 8-inch went off, and we could
feel the ship quiver; another quiver came from the fo’c’stle big gun
for’ard.  Two minutes of this and then men shouted hoarsely down the
hoists for more ammunition, the voice-pipe bells tinkled, and the order
came down to pass up only common shell (shell with thin walls and a
large bursting charge).

Men flew backwards and forwards, the dust thickened again, the heat and
the mugginess were horrid, and every now and again some of the powder
smoke would be blown down the hoists and make those stifling ammunition
passages darker still.

The First Lieutenant walked steadily backwards and forwards along the
port side, singing out, "Steady, men; don’t hurry—don’t crowd," and the
two stokers near me tucked their feet out of the way and went on chewing
their quids of tobacco.

Then a man slid down one of the starboard hoists and crawled aft to Dr.
Fox.  He had a great gash in one leg, with some spun yarn tied tightly
about it.

"They’re firing furious," he gasped, "and a splinter from the first
cutter caught me."

Then the port guns ceased firing, and we heard the steering-engine
rumbling "hard over".

"We are turning now, boys, and going past again. Stand by for the
starboard guns," sang out the First Lieutenant.

The quarter-deck gun ceased firing.  Now we were almost round again, and
could faintly hear the boom of the _Strong Arm’s_ guns coming down the
hoists.

There was a crash and a roar above us, something came clattering down
one of the port upper-deck hoists, a man jumped and picked it up—a
fragment of shell—and he dropped it again precious quickly with burnt
fingers.  I remember that the men all laughed at him.

"Want the doctor!" someone shouted down.

In a moment Dr. Fox was there with a bag over his shoulder.  They made a
bight in the rope hoist, he placed his foot in it, and grasped the rope
over his head.

"Haul handsomely, men," he growled, and they hauled him up the hoist.
He was down again in a minute or two, sliding down the rope.

"Too late!" I heard him mutter as he landed, his hands and sleeves
covered with blood.

"Who was it, sir?" somebody asked him, but he took no notice.

Then the starboard guns and the quarter-deck 8-inch commenced, and we
had begun to go past those two forts for the second run.

I pictured our shells bursting against the rocks and among the guns I
had seen there, and wondered whether the European in charge was sober or
not, and whether the Commander was still holding out round his Krupp
gun. If only I hadn’t been such a fool as to jump down off that parapet
of sand-bags, I might have been with him still.

We were coming to the end of the second run now, and the First
Lieutenant had just said as he wiped his forehead: "They can’t stand
much more of this if we’re making anything like decent shooting," when
they commenced cheering on deck, and somebody shouted down that the
forts had hoisted a white flag.  The men below cheered from one end of
the passages to the other, and the guns above ceased firing.

Dr. Fox and a sick-berth steward climbed up a hoist to look after some
more wounded on deck, and in a few minutes the main engines began to
slow down and presently stopped altogether.

On deck we heard the bos’n’s mate pipe, "Away, second cutter!" a voice
yelled down the hoist, "Any second cutters down below there?"  A couple
of men belonging to that boat scrambled hastily up, there was silence
again, and we could do nothing but wait and wonder what was happening.

"If we sit here much longer I’m blowed if we sha’n’t miss our first
dog-watch," said one of the stokers cheerfully, and unbending his
cramped legs.

"’Tis a hill wind that don’t blow nobody no good," added the other
reflectively, and they both spat into a dark corner behind the
fire-hose.

"Put those two men in the Commander’s report," said the First
Lieutenant, who had just come over from the opposite side and saw them
spit.

Daisy, his midshipman, got out his pocket-book and took their names.

"What about yer hill wind now?" said the first one who had spoken, as
Daisy went away, and they sat down again.  "That will blooming well stop
yer chawnce of going ashore and picking up a bit o’ loot."

Old Mellins scrambled down to see me, and jolly glad I was.  He is such
a thoughtful chap, and had brought me some grub—a pot of pâté de foie
gras and some bread and butter.  Till I saw it I never realized how
terribly hungry I was; and you should have seen me eating it, with
Mellins standing over me, spreading great chunks of the pâté on thick
slices of bread and butter, and telling me all that had happened.

"Our first run past those forts simply knocked the stuffing out of them.
You couldn’t see them for dust and the smoke of the shells, and when we
turned round and went for them again they hardly fired a gun.  We could
see them tumbling over each other in their hurry to scramble out of the
forts, and after we’d ceased firing someone hauled down their colours
and hoisted a white flag as big as a sheet.  It was simply ripping."

"How about the Commander?" I asked.

"He’s going strong, and firing that big gun into the harbour every four
or five minutes.  ’No. 2’ and ’No. 3’ are right in under the forts, and
Toddles has taken the Captain inshore to take possession of them, or
what is left of them."

"Anybody killed?" I asked.

"We have one, poor Joe Connolly, the coxswain of my picket-boat," said
Mellins sadly, "and the _Strong Arm_ has three killed and nearly twenty
pretty badly wounded.  A 6-inch shell burst on her upper deck—in the
battery."

Dr. Fox and his sick-berth steward came along then, and Mellins was sent
away to get me some more clothes, as the ones I had on were torn and
blood-stained.  It wasn’t all my blood, I think, for when Dr. Fox had
ripped off my shirt he only found a clean cut along my ribs, and the
wound in my leg was a nasty stab made, I expect, by one of those horrid
boarding-pikes the Chinese were prodding me with.

This wound was much the more uncomfortable, and Dr. Fox took quite a
long time probing and syringing it till it was quite clean.

It was very painful and smarted a good deal; and wasn’t I jolly glad
when he had finished and left me alone again, and Mellins had helped me
into my clean things!



                             *CHAPTER XXIV*

                      *The Capture of the Island*


    A Crisis—Inside the Pirate Island—A Feeble Resistance—Doctors
    Wanted—An Awful Night—Schmidt Escapes


Whilst the _Laird_ and the _Strong Arm_ steamed past the forts for the
first time, at a range of between four and five thousand yards, the
forts had replied furiously and struck the _Laird_ repeatedly.

Hardly had she fired the first gun before a shell passed through her
foremost funnel, making a large rent in it, but, fortunately, not
bursting.  A second struck the first cutter, completely wrecking it and
wounding one or two men with the splinters which flew in all directions.
Another shell struck the armoured belt at the water-line and burst,
doing no damage, and leaving only a dent in the hard steel.  A fourth
had passed through the ward-room and burst in the Gunnery Lieutenant’s
cabin, setting it on fire, whilst the last struck one of the upper-deck
6-inch gun-shields, forced it back on top of the gun and burst, killing
Connolly, the captain of the gun, and wounding three of his men badly.

The _Strong Arm_ had not been struck till the ships began to turn, but
then she was hit by several shells in quick succession, and lost three
killed and seventeen wounded.

But the fire of the two ships had been so terrific, that even as they
steadied on their course, and edged in to within three thousand yards
for their second run, the signalman up aloft in the fore-top saw the
Chinamen already leaving their guns, and before they had completed this
second run the enemy had hauled down their flag and presently hoisted a
white one.

Captain Helston immediately ceased fire, and ordered Lang and Parker to
go close inshore with their destroyers and reconnoitre.

Mr. Lang signalled from "No. 2" that the forts had been evacuated, and
Helston called away the second cutter and went himself to make certain
that such was the case.

There was no doubt about it—the forts were completely deserted—and he
signalled to the _Laird_ and ordered her to land fifty men and occupy
them at once, pushing on himself through the entrance-channel till he
came abreast of the deserted landing-stages.  Not a Chinaman could be
seen.

Here he made the men lie on their oars, and now he could see the whole
of the harbour, the smoking wreck of the cruiser at the foot of the
cliffs on his right, the little town on the other side of the harbour,
and the cruisers beyond it, hugging the shore and mixed up in confusion
with the anchored merchant ships.

The cruisers were evidently not showing fight, that was as plain as a
"pike-staff", but the sharp bursts of rifle firing that the wind brought
down from One Gun Hill told him that Cummins was still being severely
pressed.

He knew from Midshipman Glover’s hurried report that the little party
was much reduced in numbers and must be running short of ammunition,
and, as far as he could judge, the attack on the forts had not reduced
the danger of the Commander’s position.  In fact, the inference was that
he might have driven out the garrison of those forts only to reinforce
the crowds of infuriated Chinese, who would now make one more determined
effort to overwhelm the gallant little cluster of men who had so
desperately held on to that hilltop since daylight.

Fortunately the sudden necessity for immediate action, the prompt
resolve to bombard the forts as the only means of relieving the pressure
on the Commander’s party, and the celerity with which the reduction of
those forts had been carried out, bore him along on a wave of fortune
which seemed to sweep away his recent indecision and vacillation.

He abruptly determined to take a step still more decisive.

The risks of the project almost appalled him; but the necessity for
instant action was so vividly apparent, that though he momentarily
hesitated before irrevocably committing his little squadron, the
continuous rattle of musketry from the hill above decided him upon one
final resolution.

There might be more guns hidden on the high land all round him.  The
cruisers might still oppose him valiantly, and there was but one hour of
daylight remaining, yet he determined to make this last effort for
entire success.

"Get back to the _Laird_ as fast as you can," he said to Toddles, the
midshipman of the boat, who had been looking with wonder at the change
which had come over him.

"Back starboard; give way port.  Pull, men, for your lives;" and with
bending oars they drove the boat out to sea again, out between the
destroyers, and splashed through the heavy seas.

With their boat half-full of water, they pulled under the lee of the
_Laird_, hooked on their boat’s falls, and were hoisted up with a run.

"Belay those fifty men," Captain Helston told the First Lieutenant, who
hurried up to receive him as he scrambled down on deck, "and go to
quarters again.  I’m going to take the whole squadron inside."

"Oh!" whistled the First Lieutenant, and rushed off.

The bugles blared; signals flew to the _Strong Arm_; men passed the word
to the guns’ crews that they were going right inside; men bellowed the
news down the ammunition hoists, down the engine-room and stokehold
gratings, and on deck and down below from the bowels of the ship cheer
after cheer burst forth.

Now the _Strong Arm_ had the news, and her men too began to cheer as the
two ships gathered way and made straight for the entrance.

As they passed between the two weather-beaten little destroyers, rolling
gunwale under, with their funnels white with salt, the crews of the
destroyers sprang to "attention" and then broke into cheers.  The
_Laird_ was right in the entrance now, her boats, swung out at the
davits, almost grazed, to port and starboard, the rocky ledges in which
the abandoned guns were mounted.

Grandly she answered her helm, swung round the bend in the channel, and
steadied as she majestically moved past the deserted landing-stages.
The _Strong Arm_, carefully handled by the First Lieutenant, followed
her. "No. 2" and "No. 3" dashed in after them, and the whole of the
squadron except the _Sylvia_ was inside the island harbour.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The sudden approach of these two ships to the attack had found the forts
totally unprepared to make any effective resistance.

For the last three weeks the squadron had shown such an evident
disinclination to come to close quarters, that Hopkins, Hamilton, and
Schmidt had been lulled into a sense of false security, and, imagining
that no attack would be made from that quarter, had withdrawn a
considerable number of the artillerymen from the forts, all trained and
disciplined men, to strengthen the attack on One Gun Hill.

The seizure of the Krupp gun had taken them completely by surprise, and
the necessity for its recapture was imperative.

Unable to rely upon their coolies, they had hastily denuded the ships
and gathered sufficient blue-jackets to make the first rush.  Though
nearly successful it had ended disastrously, Hopkins being mortally
wounded and such a number of men being killed, that the remainder could
only with difficulty be again induced to advance from cover.

The unsuccessful attempt to cut off the small party with the oil-drums,
the destruction of the cruiser, and the death of Hamilton, the lame
Englishman on board her, made it evident to Schmidt that he must, once
for all, overwhelm Cummins and his men before the weather abated and
allowed further reinforcements to land.  He had, therefore, brought up
every coolie he could find, armed them with every weapon he could lay
his hands on, and stiffened their wavering ranks with the disciplined
men from the forts and what blue-jackets he could muster.

Inciting them to fury with tales of what their fate would be if they
were captured, he had plied them with drink, and gathering them behind
the smoke from the burning bushes, had hurled them at the top of the
hill.

It was with this wild, fanatical mob, mad with unaccustomed drink, that
Hopkins had sent the small body of blue-jackets to endeavour to rescue
Glover, and though in this he had been successful, the assault itself
had been finally repulsed.

Only a few men were left in the forts themselves, and the European in
charge, who had been drinking heavily during the last ten days, was in
no fit state to utilize even those that remained to him, and when
Schmidt first awoke to the fact that the squadron had at last ventured
to attack, he left his beaten men to continue to harass the top of the
hill with rifle fire, and rushed down towards the forts.

Before he could reach them he met the terror-stricken mob of men flying
from them, and almost immediately afterwards saw the top-masts of the
_Laird_ and the _Strong Arm_ appearing behind the harbour entrance.

These frightened fugitives, scared out of their very lives, had splashed
hurriedly past the destroyers lying huddled inshore, and spread the
panic among their crews, who, not even waiting till the _Laird_ appeared
inside the harbour, took to their boats or jumped overboard and made for
the shore.

Schmidt knew well enough that there was nothing now to stop Helston’s
squadron, knew that the greater part of his blue-jackets were already on
top of the hill—many of them dead—knew that one of his partners had been
blown to pieces on the opposite side of the harbour, and that the other
lay dying; but with a gambler’s trust in the last throw of the dice, he
jumped into a dinghy, pulled himself across to the _Hong Lu_, and tried
to rally his cowed and dispirited men.

                     *      *      *      *      *

It was from the sides of the _Hong Lu_ that suddenly, as the _Laird_ and
the _Strong Arm_ steered into the harbour, flames shot out and shells
came wildly past them.  The two remaining cruisers joined in, and for
perhaps five minutes the water round the two ships was lashed into foam,
and the cliffs behind them were struck time after time by the Chinese
shells.

But every gun that could bear upon the unhappy cruisers crowded under
the land poured in a fire so concentrated, so coolly aimed, and so
accurate, that their already demoralized crews could not stand to their
guns, and running their ships ashore, swarmed over the bows and left
them to their fate.

The _Hong Lu_ did indeed make one desperate and gallant attempt.
Extricating herself from the other ships, she commenced steaming towards
the _Laird_ and the _Strong Arm_, and came down at great speed with the
intention of either ramming one or other of them, or of forcing her way
past and escaping to sea.

The _Laird_ and the _Strong Arm_, opening out a little in the broader
part of the harbour, poured in a very hail of 6-inch shells.  The _Hong
Lu’s_ thin, low plates were rent open in a dozen places, water poured
in, and she began visibly to sink by the head.  An 8-inch shell burst at
the foot of her foremast under the bridge, her bows were smothered in
flame and smoke, she fell off to port, and then she too ran with a crash
up the shore, and her crew began jumping overboard.

The _Strong Arm_ steamed towards her to complete the destruction, if
necessary, and saw one huge solitary figure on her quarter-deck.  This
was Schmidt, who quickly dived into the sea, swam with powerful strokes
to the land, and disappeared in the dense cover.

With the _Hong Lu_ abandoned all opposition ceased, and from the top of
One Gun Hill the faint sound of cheering could be heard.  Looking
through their telescopes they could see the gallant little party
clustered behind the breast-works they had defended so long, standing up
on the sand-bags and waving their helmets as they cheered.

They, too, were safe.

The light was already beginning to fade, and heavy squalls of rain made
signalling difficult, but Cummins managed to get one semaphore signal
through to the _Laird_: "Enemy disappearing; am short of ammunition, and
require medical assistance.  Richardson is killed."

Helston sent for Dr. Fox and handed him the signal.

"I’ll go myself," said the Doctor.

"I thought you would," replied Helston.  "I’ll give you fifty men, and
you must get up there as fast as you can, and I’ll turn my search-lights
on the top of the hill as soon as it is dark.  I don’t expect that
you’ll find the Chinese have any more fight left in them, but if you do
I will help you."

"No. 3" was sent out to bring the _Sylvia_ into the harbour, parties of
men were sent aboard the ships, destroyers, and torpedo-boats to remove
the breech-blocks of their guns, and a strong body of men was sent down
to the forts to do the same there.  They found five bodies in the
batteries, but very little material damage done—very little compared to
the apparent destruction as seen from the ships.  Two of the smaller
guns had been dismounted and one of the 6-inch had been disabled, but
nothing more, though masses of the rock behind them had been blasted
with the shells and lay between the guns in heaps.

Another party tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the fire aboard the
_Hong Lu_, but had to leave her to her fate, for the flames had taken
firm hold of her and were spreading rapidly towards the magazines.

It was quite dark before these precautions were complete, and meanwhile
Dr. Fox, with his escort of fifty men, was hurrying to the top of the
hill, bearing more ammunition and the urgently-needed surgical
dressings.

He had landed far from the town, and, giving it a wide berth—for already
the sounds of rioting and tumult rose from it—had struck the zigzag path
just as daylight failed.

But few natives had been met, and these had fled precipitately.

Dr. Fox pressed on up the hill, aided by the _Laird’s_ search-light,
which lighted up the path ahead of him, made still more slippery and
treacherous by the heavy rain now falling.  Urged to his utmost
exertions by the knowledge that he and his men were urgently wanted, he
scrambled on, stumbling every now and then over the bodies of dead
Chinamen and over rifles which had been thrown away in their flight, and
now lay scattered in great numbers on the path.

At last he came out into the open in front of the breastworks, and
feeble cheers greeted him from the remnants of the defenders.  The
search-lights of the ships lighted up the whole of that charred open
space below the crest, and hundreds of prostrate bodies dotted it,
thickly piled, literally in heaps, where the Maxims had swept them down
in their last mad rush, their yellow faces horrible in the beams of the
light.  Right up to the sand-bags they lay, giving proof of the
fierceness of their charge, whilst the dark eyes and haggard, drawn
faces of the marines and bluejackets behind the breast-work showed only
too plainly the terrible struggle they had made to defend it.

Cummins came forward with blanched, anxious face, his left arm bound
across his chest.

"Thank God! you’re come.  Poor Richardson was killed three hours ago,
and we have thirty men wanting you."

The worn-out defenders had roused themselves for a minute or two to
welcome their comrades, but then lay down exhausted, and, with all
danger past, fell asleep immediately, drenched though they were by the
bitter cold rain which swept moaning across the plateau.

Nobody on that bleak hilltop will ever forget the night which followed.

The men were too utterly wearied to carry down the wounded, even if this
had been possible.  No one thought of leaving the dead unguarded, so the
fifty men whom Dr. Fox had brought hastily pulled down the Log Redoubt
which Captain Williams had maintained so stoutly, and with the timber
made two bonfires under the lee of the gun-pit parapet.  By their light
and that of the search-light Dr. Fox dressed the wounded who hobbled
stiffly over from where they had fallen, or were carried to him.

The dead, too, were collected, reverently laid together, and covered
with the big tarpaulin from the Krupp gun—Captain Hunter, Dr.
Richardson, eleven marines, the signalman who had been the first to
fall, the sick-berth steward who had been killed with Dr. Richardson
during that fight round the gun, whilst trying to protect the wounded,
and five blue-jackets.

The Commander resolutely refused aid till the last, and when his turn
came Dr. Fox found that he had a terrible gash on the left shoulder—from
a cutlass—cutting clean down to the collar-bone and shoulder-blade, and
his arm was quite helpless.  "Another inch, and you would have bled to
death," said Dr. Fox grimly.  "The bones saved you."

"I dodged my head in time, or it would have caught me there," said
Cummins, raising a feeble chuckle; but then he fainted through loss of
blood and sheer exhaustion.

Saunderson had a bullet through his chest, and lay very still, wrapped
tightly round with a bandage, and too worn-out and numbed with cold to
worry about his condition.

"You’ll be all right," Dr. Fox told him, and covered him with a blanket;
"only don’t move till morning."

                     *      *      *      *      *

Down below every corner of the harbour was being searched by the lights
of the ships, for Schmidt was still at large, and there was no knowing
what devilry he might devise.

The _Hong Lu_, burning fiercely, threw a red glare over the hills and
turned the harbour to a blood colour, and from time to time tremendous
explosions on board her quenched the flames momentarily, but they leapt
out again more furiously than ever.

From the town itself came the angry buzz of shouting and yelling; rifle
shots rang out in a jerky, spasmodic crackling, and it was evident that
the natives, emboldened by hunger, by the desire to save their own
possessions, or by the lust of looting, had gradually crept back and
were now fighting among themselves.

Presently the horrors of the night were intensified by flames springing
from the go-downs and warehouses near the water’s edge.  In half an hour
they were well alight, burning fiercely, and, fanned by the wind, the
flames spread to the bamboo-matting huts, leaping from one to another
with their fiery tongues till the whole lower part of the town was one
roaring furnace.  The flames and the black smoke blowing across the
lurid harbour almost hid the search-lights of the ships.

It was a weird and frightful spectacle, fit end to an awful day.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Far from exulting in its success, Helston’s squadron that night was sunk
in gloom darker than the acrid clouds of black smoke sweeping through
its rigging, for the names of the killed and wounded had been signalled
with flash-lamps from the hill, and posted up on each lower deck was the
grim list, the roll of killed beginning with Captain Hunter, idolized by
officers and men alike, and ending with Gunner Bolton, the corner man in
the _Laird’s_ Nigger Minstrel Troupe.  His mess-mates would chaff him no
more "that he had done them out of a show".

Even Ping Sang was not happy, and wrung his hands as he saw the flames
devour the warehouses, crammed, as he guessed only too accurately, with
his own merchandise, and implored—at times almost commanded—Helston to
endeavour to save them.

But Helston was obdurate—not another man would he risk; and though he
did send two steam-boats to haul off a big steamer lying alongside the
pier under the town, and they succeeded in towing her away before the
flames reached her, he resolutely refused to land another man either to
quell the riot or subdue the fire.

Even now he was anxious about Cummins and Dr. Fox, and "stood by" all
night with a couple of hundred men, to go himself to their assistance if
the hill were again assailed.

In the intervals of smoke he could see the flickering bonfires they had
lighted on top of the hill, and round which they were huddled waiting
for the morning. One incident broke the strain of that terrible night.
It was when the clouds of smoke were densest that suddenly a man aboard
"No. 2", which was lying farthest out from shore, sang out that he had
seen a sail show black above the low land near the narrow outlet.

He lost sight of it behind the driving smoke, and when the view had
cleared again and a search-light had swept towards it, a junk could
plainly be seen bending and staggering under the fierce gusts of wind
which whirled down on her as she cleared the island.  A rain squall shut
her out, and when it had passed no further trace of her could be seen.

Mr. Lang thought rightly that Schmidt himself was aboard her, and made a
signal asking permission to endeavour to cut her off to leeward of the
island, but Helston refused to allow him to venture out—the risks were
too great—and doubted not that the helpless, clumsy junk could well be
left to the short shrift of that howling gale outside.

Even his own ships must have been dispersed that night, and he gave
fervent thanks, where thanks were due, that success had been granted
him, and that his squadron lay in safety inside the harbour.

Schmidt it indeed was who, with some of his boldest men, had seized the
junk under cover of the smoke, cut her grass hawser, towed her silently
with a dinghy till she had reached the outlet, hoisted her
bamboo-matting sails till he had cleared the land, and then let her run
before the raging gale under bare poles.

How he at last reached land, gathered more men round him, and spread
terror through the island waters of the Chusan Archipelago, must be told
another day.



                             *CHAPTER XXV*

                        *The Fruits of Victory*


    Oh, the Pity of It!—We Find Hopkins—Helston has
    Suspicions—Helston’s Speech—A "Stand Easy"—Ping Sang Departs—We
    Hand Over our Ships—Homeward Bound—The Admiral Speaks his Mind


                  _Dr. Fox concludes his experiences_


If I had only known that I should have to spend the whole night on top
of that hill, I should never have been such a fool as to volunteer.

The young Surgeon of the _Strong Arm_ was every whit as capable of doing
the work as I was, and his youth would have carried him through the
night’s exposure without harm.  As it was, I always date the
commencement of my rheumatism from that horrible night, and never cease
regretting that at the moment when Helston showed me the signal from One
Gun Hill, and I read of the death of my Surgeon, Richardson, and of the
wounded lying there without anyone to look after them for the last three
hours, my common sense should have failed me momentarily.

Ugh!  How it rained and blew!  That zigzag path was a miniature torrent,
and my feet slipped backwards in the squelching mud at every pace.  The
idiot, too, who was training the _Laird’s_ search-light thought, I have
no doubt, he was lighting my way; but he kept his beam fixed on me and
the men who went with me, with the result that I was nearly blinded.
The shadows were made still more intense, and it was more difficult than
ever to avoid stumbling over the bodies of the dead Chinamen which
littered the path.

Two hours’ hard work it was before the wounded were patched up and made
fairly ship-shape.

The Mauser bullet wounds did not bother me much, but quite a number of
men had deep flesh wounds inflicted by cutlasses, swords, or bayonets
during the hand-to-hand fighting, and it does not require much
imagination to understand the difficulty—the impossibility, in fact—of
making a good job of these, dressing them by the unsteady light of the
_Laird’s_ search-light, with the rain pouring in torrents and driving
almost horizontally across the top of the hill before the gale.

As each case was finished, and the poor fellow, blue with cold (the skin
of their hands and faces was wrinkled like a washerwoman’s hands), was
laid down somewhere in the lee of the dripping sand-bags, I injected
morphia to ease his pain, and could only hope that he would be
sufficiently alive in the morning for us to get him safely down to the
ships, where he might have a chance of being properly looked after.

Little Cummins had about the worst wound of the lot, and even if he
managed to pull through, I had little hope that his left arm would be of
much use to him.

However, he tried to be cheery, especially when I told him that young
Glover was safe and sound aboard the _Laird_, and gave one or two of his
irritating chuckles before he fainted.  He then lay quiet for the rest
of the night.  There was no need to give him any morphia, for he was
absolutely "played out".

Saunderson, with a bullet through his right lung, did not worry me much,
because so long as he kept still and was tightly bandaged, nothing more
could be done for him, and his grand physique would carry him safely
through the night’s exposure.

Things were made more comfortable when the men who had come with me
pulled some logs across from one of the breast-works and made a fire
close to the Krupp gun parapet, and probably more lives were saved by
this means than by anything I did.

The men who had defended the hill all day were now fast asleep, most of
them absolutely unprotected from the cold rain, so I made my fellows
bring them nearer to the fire.  Many were so exhausted that they were
carried across without being awakened.  In fact, it was so difficult to
distinguish the dead from the living, that they actually carried over
two dead men and laid them down round the fire, nor was their mistake
discovered till morning.

At last I finished, and had time to crouch down behind some sand-bags
and managed to light a pipe, shivering with cold and cursing myself for
a fool for ever having been induced to join Helston in his mad
enterprise.

The gale shrieked and howled; the rain stung my face. Seawards, out of
the pitchy blackness of the night, the waves bellowed as they pounded
the foot of the hill in one incessant roar; the burning ships and
warehouses, the crackling of musketry in the town below, the constant
explosions from the doomed ships, all made of the harbour a very
inferno, from out of which the cold, clear search-light flashed
pitilessly on the slaughter-house round me.

Twenty English and two hundred or more Chinamen lay there sleeping their
last long sleep.

Oh, the pity of it all!

My worst enemy could not accuse me of being sentimental, and that night
all feeling whatever seemed numbed; but as I recognized the dead faces
of Hunter, Richardson, and a dozen men whom I knew, the only thought was
one of bitterness that men should throw away their lives so
comparatively uselessly, and the selfishness of it all made me feel
almost angry with them.

Hunter’s family I knew.  He left a wife and two children. Richardson had
only recently married; and little did they reckon, they and the other
poor fellows, when they volunteered for this expedition in their lust
for change, for excitement, for self-glorification or chance of
promotion, the misery they were to inflict.

Who bears the bigger share when the man goes out to war?

Is it the man, with his cares forgotten as the shores of England slip
down below the horizon, with the hot blood coursing through his body and
the fighting instinct of the male animal to bear him along, or is it the
woman he leaves behind him—the mother, wife, or sweetheart—who is left
to her humdrum daily duties, with her heart full of empty pains and
aching fears, to hope and long and dread for news, day after day, week
after week?

It seems foolish to write this, but all through that ghastly night, turn
my thoughts how I would, they ever came back to the bitterness, the
selfishness, the pity of it all.

Every now and again some wounded man wanted attention—one man became
delirious, and at intervals uttered horrible shrieks.  Pattison also
became delirious, and I had to keep a man watching lest he should tear
off his bandages.

About three in the morning one of my men thought he heard a cry for help
down the sea slope of the hill, and we searched by the light of the
signal lantern for nearly an hour, but found no one.

No longer, no more terrible night, have I ever spent; but at last it did
end—the darkness lessened, the uncanny search-light was switched off,
and daybreak gradually revealed the gruesome sights which had been but
half seen and only partially conjectured before.

Fortunately both the doctors of the _Strong Arm_ came up to relieve me
an hour after daylight, and I quickly scrambled down the hill, slipping
and sliding in the mud.

I met Helston on the way down, and his face lighted up with relief when
he saw me, and I was able to give him a fairly cheerful account of the
wounded.  He had landed with a couple of hundred men and driven the mob
of Chinamen out of what was left of the town, and was now on his way to
Hopkins’s bungalow, guided by Hi Ling, the head boy.

"Come along with us, Doc, old chap.  I want you to see Hopkins before
you go off to the ship, if it is not too late."

We were close to the European bungalows, and Hi Ling led us straight to
the one Hopkins inhabited, going on ahead of us.

As we approached we saw that everything was in disorder. Furniture,
clothes, books, and papers were strewn all over the verandah, and a dead
Chinaman lay sprawling half in, half out of a window.

"Looted during the night," I thought, and saw that Helston also thought
so, and neither of us expected to find the American alive.

Hi Ling met us on the verandah, wringing his hands and moaning.  We
pushed aside a bamboo curtain and followed him into a room where
everything was in still greater confusion, a trestle-bed overturned,
drawers ransacked and their contents scattered, and lying on the floor
was Hopkins himself, with a dead Chinaman beside him.  The one we had
seen from outside had probably been killed as he tried to escape.

Both had bullet wounds, and had evidently been killed by the revolver
Hopkins still held in his clenched hand.

He was quite dead, and I must confess that I felt much relieved, because
nothing could have saved him, and also I did not want him to speak to
Helston of Milly, as I feared he might have done, for Helston was of
such a peculiar disposition, that I was very anxious that he should know
nothing about the photograph or the will which Hopkins had made in her
favour—nothing, at any rate, till I had got him safely home.

I hurriedly examined Hopkins, and whilst doing this tried to find the
photograph of which Glover had told me; but it was not near him, only
the crumpled-up piece of paper which Helston had signed on young
Glover’s safe return.

Poor fellow! the knowledge that his will was safe may have cheered his
last moments.

We prepared to lift the body and place it decently on the bed, but,
unfortunately, whilst we were righting the trestle-bed the photograph
fell on the floor, and though I hastily tried to seize it, Helston
stooped before I did and picked it up.

His face became rigid as he recognized it, and I saw his hand shaking as
if he had an attack of ague, but in a few moments he recovered himself
and gently laid it on the table.

"Help me to lift him, Fox," he said in a husky voice, looking at me
suspiciously, and we laid Hopkins on his bed and left Hi Ling to prepare
his master for burial.

The faithful Chinaman was actually crying.  I had never seen a Chinaman
cry before.

Hardly had we gained the verandah before Helston stopped, turned
abruptly, and went back again.  Through the open window I saw him place
the photograph in Hopkins’s breast, inside his pyjamas.

He rejoined me immediately, and said in a strained, hard voice: "What is
the meaning of it all, Fox?  You seem to know something about it.  Tell
me, for God’s sake!"

I thought it best to tell him all I knew, and did so.

As I feared, he magnified the very little that I could tell him, and
would not believe that I knew no more.

Poor chap! his face was drawn and haggard as he rapidly questioned me in
a jerky, constrained manner, trying vainly to conceal his agitation, and
darting suspicious glances at me.

"Did you know anything of this before we left England?"

"Nothing.  I knew that they had met.  Nothing else."

"But had you no suspicions?"

That made me angry.  I hate being badgered.

"Look here, Helston, all I know I have told you.  That he should fall in
love with Milly is nothing remarkable. A dozen men, to my knowledge,
are, or pretend they are, in love with her, and as to the photograph,
why, every girl thinks the gift of a picture of herself quite sufficient
a reward for that."

"Yes, perhaps; but there must have been something in it if he has left
her all his money."

"Oh, confound you, don’t be such a fool!"  And, thoroughly irritated, I
left him to climb his way wearily to the top of the hill, whilst I went
off to the _Laird_ to get something to eat, a bath, and an hour’s sleep.
But for that nine stone, more or less, of frilled and furbelowed Milly,
Hunter would not be lying dead on the hill above, nor Richardson either,
and without Richardson I was left single-handed, just when I wanted him
most.  I wished most devoutly that Helston and I had never saved the
life of that avaricious old Chinaman, Ping Sang, ten years ago.

The first thing I did when I went aboard the _Laird_ was to get the
First Lieutenant to send half a dozen men ashore to bury Hopkins behind
his bungalow, and then I had a hot bath and turned in, and slept like a
log till I was called an hour later.

I felt better after that, and was hard at work for the rest of the day
preparing one of the cleanest of the merchant ships—the _Hoi Feng_—for
the wounded, and by night we had brought them all down from the hill and
safely aboard her, sending to her the wounded still on board the _Strong
Arm_ and our own ship as well.

But for half an hour for dinner I did not stop working all day, and what
with our own people and the wounded Chinamen, who began creeping back to
the town in great numbers, we had enough to do and to spare.

It was nearly midnight before I finally turned in, and at two o’clock
Jeffreys, the Sub-lieutenant, woke me up and told me that the Captain
was walking up and down the quarter-deck in the rain, and would I speak
to him and try to make him go below, as no one else dare approach him.

He was walking up and down with long strides, his hands clasped behind
his back, his head drooped between his shoulders, and his eyes vacantly
staring ahead of him.

He seemed to wake, as if from sleep, when I put my hand on his shoulder
(his monkey-jacket was wet through).

"And this is the moment Bannerman chooses to ask me for the _Strong
Arm_," he said fiercely, "and poor Hunter not even buried yet.  How I do
despise that man, and wish, with all my heart, that I could give her to
Cummins; but he won’t be fit for duty for weeks, and is junior to
Bannerman, so I suppose Bannerman must have her.  It makes me boil over
with anger to think of him stepping into Hunter’s shoes."

This was not, I knew well enough, the real cause of his discomposure,
but I was only too glad that his thoughts should be turned into another
channel.

"He’ll be stepping into yours if you don’t take more care of yourself
and get below out of this rain," I told him.

Ultimately I managed to induce him to undress and go to bed; but his
mental condition seemed very unstable, and I much feared that the strain
of the whole expedition would result in his complete break-down.

However, he slept soundly enough after that, and was much more composed
in the morning.

That day every man who could be spared from the squadron was marched to
the top of One Gun Hill, and there Hunter, Richardson, and their men
were buried, and their graves marked by rough wooden crosses, with their
names carved on them.

Three volleys were fired.  The buglers of the squadron sounded a
melancholy Last Post, and they were left there with that grim
bullet-splashed Krupp gun to guard them.

The expedition had been successful.

It was Helston who read the burial service, and before the men marched
down to their ships he made them a short address as they stood on the
plateau in a hollow square round him.  He always showed to advantage on
these occasions with his tall figure, commanding features, and resonant
voice.

"Officers and men of the Royal Navy and Royal Naval Reserve," he
said—"we have paid the last honours to those of our comrades who lie
buried here on the summit of the hill they defended so valiantly, and no
words that I can say will add to their honour.

"They have, by their courage and devotion, enabled this expedition to be
completely successful, and now that our return to England will not long
be deferred, I want to say two things to you.

"Do not forget them.

"When we leave them here on this lonely hilltop standing in the midst of
a distant ocean, sometimes think of them.

"If fate had ordained that any of you standing round me should have been
now lying amongst them, you would have wished to be remembered by your
mess-mates.

"They have done their duty and given up their lives in the doing of it;
so let every man keep the memory of what they have done, before him, as
long as ever he can, and thus pay them a greater honour than by merely
marching here to their burial.

"The other thing which I want to say is this.

"They have not died directly serving their Queen or their Country (we
are, as you know, lent to the Chinese Government), and this makes the
sacrifice of their lives all the more bitter, and it will be still more
deeply felt by their relatives at home.

"But though they were not serving under the British Admiralty, remember
that what they have done here, on this hilltop, will add to the glory of
our navy, and help to keep alive its fighting spirit.

"The Royal Navy has not been tried severely for many generations, and it
is such a deed as this—the defence of One Gun Hill—which increases the
confidence the navy has in itself to maintain its old traditions
untarnished when the hour of trial shall come.

"Rest assured that the lives which have been lost since we left England
will not have been wasted if we—those who are dead and those who are
alive—have helped even a little to increase the honour and prestige of
the Royal Navy.

"Men, remember the mess-mates you are leaving here, even as you would
wish to be remembered yourselves."

Helston always "fancied" himself at speech-making, and was almost
cheerful as he and I walked down the hill together and stopped on the
slopes to watch a crowd of surrendered coolies who had been set to work
to bury their own dead.

                     *      *      *      *      *

For a week after the capture of the island of Hong Lu the gale blew with
such fury that Helston could not venture out of the snug harbour.

During this time practically the whole of the Chinamen had surrendered,
and were employed by Ping Sang and A Tsi to bury their dead countrymen,
and afterwards to load the merchant ships with what goods had been saved
from the great fire and prepare them for departure. Among the coolies
were sufficient seamen to form crews for all the captured merchantmen,
and the survivors of the men-of-war’s crews were also set to work on
board the remaining cruisers, destroyers, and torpedo-boats to get them
in a fit state to steam to the mainland.

Personally I should have hesitated to send these men aboard their own
ships again, but Ping Sang and A Tsi never doubted the expediency of
this course, and their trust was not misplaced, for they worked with
such energy that in a very few days the ships were ready for sea, and
cleaner probably than they had ever been.

A Chinaman knows his master when he meets him—he has wits enough for
that—and right well did they labour to appease the wrath of such a
tyrant as was Ping Sang.

Each one thought that the safety of his head and his pigtail depended
upon his exertions, and no greater stimulus was required.  Though a
Chinaman may not dread death, he dislikes the idea of the preliminary
pain sufficiently strongly.

At any rate, they coaled our five ships with a speed which could not be
equalled by the smartest ship in the Channel Fleet.

During this time we doctors were extremely busy, and, more by good luck
than by excessive skill, the wounded progressed favourably.

They were all aboard the _Hoi Feng_—the steamer I had converted into a
hospital ship for them—and did extremely well.  Pattison was
convalescent in ten days.  Saunderson and little Cummins joined him soon
after, and all three were always ready to greet me cheerily whenever I
climbed up the side, Cummins chuckling hugely, and annoyingly, at having
"dodged the doctors", because he knew well that I had at first thought
his arm would have to come off.

Young Glover rather worried me.  The boy’s wounds would not heal
properly, and the wound in the chest must have penetrated more deeply
than I, at first, had thought, because he developed some pleurisy on
that side.

Helston’s broken arm was also on the way to recovery, and the rest in
harbour and the comparative immunity from worry did him a vast amount of
good.

I took him for walks ashore every day when it did not rain, but was
always careful to land on the side opposite to the town, and never went
anywhere near One Gun Hill or Hopkins’s bungalow.  He always made great
efforts to talk about every subject under the sun, but before we had
gone far he inevitably reverted to the one subject—Milly.  It was
slightly tedious, and tried me considerably; but the man’s whole
existence was centred round her, so I suppose it was natural.

That did not make it any the less boring, however.

Our people had been for a month on salt provisions, but we were able to
supply them now with fresh vegetables from the island, and killed the
few oxen and goats we could find to give them fresh meat.

There had been many fowls on the island, but, unfortunately, during the
first two days, the coolies had eaten them all.

However, there were plenty of pheasants and pigeons in the woods, and
from somewhere or other guns appeared—every officer seemed to have
brought one, though little did any of us think that we should get any
sport—and shooting-parties landed every day and were so successful, that
the wounded on board the _Hoi Feng_ fairly revelled in fresh game.

The fresh meat and the vegetables did probably more good than all our
doctors’ skill; at any rate, we attributed the excellent progress they
made to this change of diet—and rightly, I think.

Eventually the weather moderated, and Helston sent the _Sylvia_ to
Shanghai to telegraph his dispatches to Peking and to the Admiralty at
home, to purchase more surgical dressings and more cattle, and to await
instructions from England before returning.

Ping Sang went with her.

Very glad, too, we were to get rid of him, for the old gentleman had got
"on our nerves", and we had begun to dislike him intensely.  Without a
spark of humanity, and unable to sympathize with our heavy losses, he
showed by his manner, even if not by his actual words, that he regarded
us practically as his employees, and, now that our work was
accomplished, was only too anxious to see us started on our way home.
According to agreement with the Admiralty, the cost of the personnel of
the expedition would cease when he had sent us to Hong-Kong, so it was
quite natural that he should try to hasten our departure. However, he
showed so little consideration for everybody that we hated him.

He was also much incensed at Helston’s absolute refusal to allow his men
to aid in refitting the captured ships; but Helston rightly considered
that they deserved a rest after their three months’ hard work, and a
right good time did they have, leave being given after morning
"divisions" to every man not actually required on board, and they
indulged themselves to their hearts’ content in securing trophies,
playing football, seining for fish, and scrambling about the island.

What strange beings blue-jackets and marines are!

They asked to be allowed to mount guard over the graves on One Gun Hill
during the time the squadron remained, and worked out all the details
themselves. Helston found their arrangements such that every man in the
squadron would at one time or other do his turn of duty on that plateau,
and the only alteration he made in the scheme was to detail two
midshipmen for duty there in charge of the hilltop, changing them every
twenty-four hours.

Many of the men also went ashore in their working suits, and the
blacksmiths and the armourers obtained permission to take their tools
with them.

We could see from the ship that they were working round the big Krupp
gun, but did not interfere, and in about ten days they asked Helston and
myself to go up there.  We found that they had constructed a stout iron
fence, enclosing the gun-pit and the graves, planted small fir-trees all
round it, and actually built a solid stone cairn supporting a great
boulder of some hard rock.  It had evidently come from the beach at the
foot of the hill; but we never asked how they had managed to haul it up,
though we shrewdly suspected that they had forced the coolies to do this
for them.

They had smoothed and polished the faces of this boulder, and on them
had engraved the names of all the men buried there.  On one face were
also the names of those killed previously—during the fight south of
Hong-Kong and during the operations outside the island.

Strange fellows they are, for, probably, if Helston had given them
orders to do this, the work would not have been carried out half so
substantially.

They were all up there to show it to Helston.  Every man in the squadron
had done a little, so they told me. Helston made a speech, and everybody
was vastly pleased with himself—with justice, too, for the railings and
the monument were stout enough to stand unattended for years.

The _Sylvia_ returned a day or two afterwards with the news that the
Chinese Government was sending a transport with blue-jackets and
officers to take over our ships, and that when this was done we should
be immediately taken down to Hong-Kong and sent home.

She brought a mail which she had found waiting for us at Shanghai.
There was nothing for me, as usual, except a couple of bills.  Telegrams
came for Helston from the Admiralty congratulating him and the
expedition on its success, and also the Queen had done us the honour of
telegraphing her congratulations, condolence at our losses, and
expressions of sympathy with the wounded.

These two telegrams were immediately signalled round the fleet, and it
was rather pleasant to know that they had been sent off from England
only three days since.

Helston made a big ceremony of the reading of the Queen’s telegram,
"dressed ship", and "fell in" the crew of the _Laird_ on the
quarter-deck, making them a speech after they had heard the telegram,
and calling for three cheers for "The Queen".  The feeling of personal
loyalty to the Queen was always so intense that one invariably felt that
the cheers were completely genuine.  Every man Jack yelled his cheers
till he was hoarse.

Helston went from the _Laird_ to each of the ships in turn and repeated
the ceremony, returning so extremely pleased with himself that I
conjectured rightly that he had repeated the speech as well.

We had nothing now to do but wait for the transport, and it appeared at
last, a great lumbering steamer, the _Moi Wa_, crowded with Chinese
blue-jackets.

"Ping Sang must have hustled them at Peking," said Helston to me,
evidently surprised at the promptness of the Chinese Admiralty.  "He
knows we are anxious to get home, and did his best for us, I expect."

"Did his best for us?  For himself, you mean!" I answered.  "He doesn’t
care a twopenny rap for our feelings, but wants to get rid of us and the
cost of our pay and food.  Why, I actually heard the old miser ask the
Paymaster whether he would have to pay the men left behind at Hong-Kong
wounded; and the Paymaster told me that Ping Sang also asked him to let
him know what was the total daily pay of the officers and men killed on
One Gun Hill, and when he learnt it he rubbed his hands with delight—the
fat, oily brute—and said, ’Five pounds a day, fifty dollars a day,
nearly four hundred dollars a week’, and went off chuckling."

"You don’t make allowance for him, Doc."

"No, I don’t," I replied shortly, "and I cannot either."

How we all managed to pack ourselves into that transport I cannot
imagine, but we did somehow or other after she had been cleaned out,
and, amid much firing of salutes from the Chinese now aboard our old
ships, we slowly steamed out of the harbour three days later, lumbered
through the dark entrance-channel and between the forts which had kept
us at bay for so long, and turned our bows southward.

We all felt a pang of regret at leaving the ships which had been our
homes for such an exciting three months, and I think everybody came on
deck to watch One Gun Hill sink slowly beneath the horizon, and was
somewhat silent for the rest of the day.

We anchored off the dockyard at Hong-Kong four days afterwards.  A most
uncomfortable passage it was, and one of the first persons to come over
the side was Harrington, the sub-lieutenant of "No. 1", who had been so
badly scalded and kept in hospital.  He was practically well, and only
rather sad that he had been unable to accompany us.

Helston and I, as soon as we could manage it, took rooms at the Peak
Hotel, taking Jenkins with us and Hi Ling as well, for I meant to keep
my eye on that man and see him safely in England, in case there was any
legal trouble about Hopkins’s will.

A big cruiser left for home almost immediately, and the crew of the
_Strong Arm_ took passage in her.  Bannerman went with them, of course,
and very glad we were to see the last of him.  I know that I was.

The remainder of us were ordered home by the next intermediate P. & O.,
and we had five days to wait for her.  These five days were full of
troublesome annoyances to me, because the colony, from the Governor
downwards, especially the Chinese merchants, fêted us as I certainly had
never been fêted before and trust never will be again. However, I
managed to avoid most of the entertainments, and spent most of my time
playing golf in the Happy Valley, and left all those things to Helston,
who, on the average, must have made three speeches a day, so enjoyed
himself thoroughly.

Cummins, Saunderson, and Glover I had sent up to the officer’s
sanatorium, and the last two were practically well before we left.

Eventually our P. & O. arrived, and we made a comfortable voyage home in
her, only marred by the foolish enthusiasm of the people at Singapore,
Colombo, and Aden, who gave grand dinners in our honour, and wanted more
speeches.  They did not get them from me, but Helston was in his
element.

By the time we reached Port Said, Cummins had resumed duty, little the
worse for his terrible wound, and Helston, frightfully eager to reach
England, especially Fareham, as quickly as possible, telegraphed to the
Admiralty and obtained permission to go overland.  He arrived in London
a week before we did.

I joined him at his hotel as soon as possible, and found Jenkins there
in a bland state of happiness.

"The Cap’en is just doing ’imself a treat, sir," he told me.  "That
there Miss Milly ’as come to ’er senses at last, sir, and all’s going to
end ’appy like.  The Admiral ’as been and read ’The Articles of War’ to
’er, I reckon, and the Cap’en ’e won’t be wanting Mrs. J. and myself to
keep house for him no longer."

"Have you seen your wife yet?" I asked him; and his face dropped as he
answered somewhat mournfully, "Well, sir, I ain’t finished my leave
yet."

Helston came in presently, looking marvellously well and full of
animation.

"It’s all right, old chap," he sang out, as he nearly wrenched my hand
off.  "Milly is going to marry me directly I’m promoted, and, from what
they tell me at the Admiralty, I shall be promoted in July without a
doubt.  You must be my best man, old chap; and the Admiral is bringing
her up for a week or so, and we four will have a jolly good time before
we go down to Fareham."

My "jolly good time" meant, as I expected, looking after the Admiral and
listening to his endless and pointless yarns.  However, I did not mind
for once in a way, and should have quite enjoyed myself if Milly herself
had seemed happy.  But, poor little soul, I could see that she was not,
and one evening, when we happened to be alone in the private
sitting-room, after a very tiring day, she suddenly came over to where I
was reading the evening-paper, buried her head on my shoulder, and burst
out crying. She broke my spectacles, too, which was a nuisance. As far
as I could gather between her sobs, she was feeling frightfully lonely,
wanted a mother, which, poor little soul, she had not had since she was
two years old, and didn’t want to marry anyone.

I sent her off to bed, and went out to buy another pair of spectacles.

I had an idea that the old Admiral would not be so keen for her to marry
Helston if he had known that Hopkins had left her all his money, and
told him all about it; but I had misjudged the old man, for the first
thing he said was: "Well, Helston deserves it, if any man does, and
Helston shall have it, too," so I could say no more.

Next morning Milly was in the most boisterous spirits.



                             *CHAPTER XXVI*

                              *Home Again*


    Home at Last!—The Big Gun Again—Milly’s Wedding


            _Mr. Midshipman Glover tells of his home-coming_


Hurrah!  How jolly good it is to be back at home once more!  You
shore-going loafers don’t know what it is like to feel that in an hour
or two you will drop the Ushant light and pick up the Eddystone.  It’s
pretty bad sometimes when it is the other way about, and you are going
away and don’t know how long it will be before you will see Old England
again; but it’s just worth it all to come back, see the Eddystone
sticking up out of the sea, and then make Plymouth and the green hills
of Devonshire and of Cornwall.

You people who stay at home all your lives don’t know what England is
like till you have lost sight of her.

Toddles, Mellins, and I, we were just fizzing over with happiness, and
stayed up all the night, and had a bet as to who would spot the
Eddystone first, the officer of the watch on board that P. & O. letting
us stay in a corner of the bridge so long as we didn’t make a row and
move about much.

Toddles saw it first, so Mellins and I had to stand a jolly good
blow-out at the very first opportunity.  I was all right now, as right
as rain, and had been quite well for a fortnight at least.

We ran into Plymouth Sound early in the morning; they sent out Admiralty
tugs to take all our people ashore.  We three midshipmen got leave till
night, and the three of us had a splendid time.  Mellins swore that he
had never eaten so much in his life, and we all hoped that he
hadn’t—even he was rather sorry for himself afterwards.

They let us go on leave next day.  The Admiralty had given us a month as
a special reward (whoop! wasn’t that luck?), and it was just splendid
going home.

My Pater lives in Hampshire, and has a jolly snug house right in the
country, miles away from the railway.  Effie, my little sister, met me
in a dog-cart and drove me home. She looked as smart as a new pin, but
you can’t imagine how shabby I was, for, somehow or other, I had lost
all my plain clothes, and had to borrow odds and ends from Toddles, and
they were much too small for me, and my boots were Purser’s Crabs[#],
done up with string.  But it didn’t matter a cent.


[#] Boots of Admiralty pattern supplied to the men from the Paymaster’s
stores.


Effie made her pony go like the wind, I can tell you, and my battered
old uniform tin case went jumbling into the road—it couldn’t damage it
any more, though—and we had to lash it in.

You feel such a man when you get into the train, and, well—when you get
out at the sleepy old station and drive along the same old road and meet
all the village people you’ve known ever since you can remember, you
feel quite young.

We met Toby, the stable-boy, half a mile from the house, leading the
farm horses back from watering, and I couldn’t resist this, made Effie
stop, jumped on the back of one of them, and raced her home.

She simply flew along, but I overhauled her and won easily, tearing up
the drive; and though there were the Pater and my Mother and everybody
at the door waiting for me, I couldn’t stop the horse, and he turned
sharply into the stable-yard and pitched me off into a bush.

Jolly old bush!  I’d been pitched into it fifty times.

We sailor men look forward to that day coming home all the time we are
away, and it’s worth it, I can tell you.

I’d brought everyone of them a present of sorts—a curio from Hong-Kong,
or something I had picked up on the island—a rifle from One Gun Hill for
the Pater, and a great piece of shell which had burst aboard the _Laird_
for my Mother, and she couldn’t get it out of her head that that was
what had wounded me.

Then and there I had to show them all my wounds—I had four, you know.

First, that little one on my head, which you could find if you looked
carefully; and the one on my chest which had given all the trouble, and
had left a pretty big scar; and the stab on my leg, and the bullet wound
just below it.

Wasn’t the Pater proud, and so was Effie; but my Mother burst into
tears, and then, I think, we all cried and hugged each other and had a
ripping time; and I told them that Toddles and Mellins were coming to
spend a fortnight with me, and that Mellins loved sardines and cake—the
richer the better—and told Effie she would have to marry one of them,
for they were the best fellows in the world, and she said she would, and
so that was all right.

Of course we quieted down afterwards, and then I had to go and show Toby
my wounds, and the old housekeeper, and she cried too, and gave me some
home-made bread, with honey spread half an inch thick on it, the
honey-comb in it too, for she knew I liked that.

And the bed too—same little bed, in the same old attic, with a funny,
poky little window looking over the kitchen garden—it had never looked
more cosy; and my Mother came up when I turned in, and cried when she
saw my pyjamas all in holes, and knelt down by my bed and said her
prayers, and I said mine to her, and she cried again, and I blubbered a
little, I was so absolutely happy; and Effie came in very early next
morning, and we had a jolly good pillow fight.

Good things cannot last for ever.  It’s just as well too, I expect, or
else we should never know they were so good.

Toddles and Mellins came presently, and we had simply a ripping time;
but then we were all appointed to different ships, and had to join them
at Portsmouth.

I hadn’t forgotten Milly and the old Admiral at Fareham, and had taken
him the will, as I promised Hopkins.  I don’t think the lawyers made any
difficulty about it, though I believe it took a precious long time to
get the money over from America.

Milly wanted to kiss me—I always dreaded that—but I shook her hand hard
and edged away; so that didn’t come off, and she never tried again.  She
wanted to know a lot about Hopkins, but she never found out that he had
been a pirate and was fighting against us, and I don’t think anyone ever
told her.  I’m sure the Captain never would.

She was properly engaged to him now, and things seemed to be going on
very serenely.

I went down to the village and saw him and Dr. Fox, and Jenkins too, in
mortal fear of his wife—I guessed that at once—and the Captain asked me
to his wedding, which he hoped would take place in August.

Dr. Fox was as grim as ever.  He was opening a parcel when I went in,
and I heard him say in his snappy voice, "Look what the silly fools have
sent me!  What a waste of time, and I have nowhere to put the thing."

It was a brass model of the big Krupp gun in its gun-pit, and round the
oak stand was a silver plate with the names of all the _Laird’s_ men on
the lower deck who had fought on One Gun Hill.

I myself should have been jolly proud to get it, but Dr. Fox gave one or
two funny coughs, and said again, "What silly fools!  I shall have to
write and thank them, I suppose.  I hate writing letters."

I met Mr. Saunderson that day just outside Portsmouth Dockyard, walking
along the Hard.  He stretched out his huge hand and lifted me half off
the ground.

I was glad to see him.

"Don’t want you to keep the bullets off now, Glover," he said, and took
me into the Keppel’s Head and gave me lunch.

I went to sea for the next four months in my new ship, the _Royal Oak_,
in the Channel Fleet, and when the July promotions came out it was
simply fizzing.

Captain Helston and the Commander had both been promoted to
post-captains, and Mr. Parker of "No. 3" and Mr. Lang of "No. 2" to
commanders.  Collins, the sub of "No. 3", and Harrington of "No. 1", who
had tried to save the stokers when the shell burst her boiler, were made
lieutenants, and best of all, down at the bottom of the list was "Noted
for Early Promotion", and then followed my name, and Toddles’s and
Mellins’s, two more of the _Laird’s_ midshipmen, and three of the
_Strong Arm’s_. Dumpling’s name wasn’t there.  Ogston, the Assistant
Engineer of the _Laird_, had been promoted a few days before.  We were
all so glad.

You can imagine how excited I was, and I had to stand a sardine supper
that night down in the _Royal Oak’s_ gun-room.

I knew, too, how frightfully delighted they would be at home, and the
very next mail brought a fiver from my Pater.

Pat Jones happened to have been sent to my ship as one of the
quarter-masters, and he was just as delighted as I was, and I tried to
make him share the fiver with me, but he wouldn’t.

However, I know that the Pater is going to look after him and give him a
good billet whenever he leaves the service, so that will be all right.

Well, Milly was married in August, up in London, and as the _Royal Oak_
happened to be in Portland I managed to get leave, and went up to see
the wedding.  It was a jolly grand affair, and there were any number of
old friends there.

I met Captain Cummins the day before, looking in at a jeweller’s shop in
Regent Street, with his hands in his pockets and a toothpick in his
mouth.  He had such a melancholy, comic-looking expression, and he
chuckled, just as he always did when he caught sight of me, and took me
into the shop to help him to choose something for Milly.

It was a thing she could stick in her hair if she wanted to, or she
could divide it in three and fasten it round her neck by a chain, with
the big piece under her chin if she wanted to wear it like that.  I know
he must have given a tremendous amount for it.

He gave me lunch at a swagger club, but didn’t talk much.  He had just
been given command of a ship on the Cape of Good Hope station, and was
going to commission her in a week’s time.

"Busy laying in a stock of toothpicks, youngster," he chuckled.

I think he was rather down in his luck.

The wedding was a glorious success, and I did think that Milly or any
other girl ought to be jolly proud of such a husband as Captain Helston.
He looked splendid, though his left arm was still almost helpless, and
made a speech at the lunch afterwards; and dear old Toddles—he had
managed to get away too—had to reply for the ladies, and we all enjoyed
ourselves, except Toddles, who was red and angry for the rest of the
day.

Dr. Fox was there, quite genial, for a wonder, and Captain Williams and
Mr. Saunderson, and Mr. Parker and Mr. Lang, now both of them
commanders.

Mr. Pattison had gone on the Australian station (I felt very sorry for
him), but Captain Cummins was there, and made an awfully funny speech,
and then went off without saying good-bye to anybody.

Toddles and I managed to fasten a couple of white shoes on the carriage
with wire, so that they couldn’t get them off, and we made a splendid
noise when Captain Helston and Milly drove away.

In the evening Toddles and I went to a theatre—Captain Helston had given
us a box all to ourselves—and we did wish that Mellins could have been
with us.  We had a ripping time.  Toddles forgot all about the speech,
and we managed to catch the last trains back—he to Portsmouth and I to
Portland.  He was much more lucky than I was, for his ship was alongside
the jetty, and he only had to walk aboard, whilst I had to take a shore
boat and pull two miles off to the ship, getting on board at two in the
morning, wet through, and had to be up again by six o’clock, as I
happened to be signal-midshipman for the week.

I never heard anything more of Ping Sang, though I believe he sent
Captain Helston and Dr. Fox two expensive Chinese jars; but about three
months after the wedding both Toddles and I got letters from A Tsi, and
he sent us each a very quaint carved ivory junk.

We were both jolly pleased with these, and Toddles says he intends
handing his junk down to his children as an heirloom.



           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

    [Transcriber’s note: the source book had running headings on its
    odd-numbered pages.  In this etext, those headings have been
    combined into an introductory paragraph at the start of each
    chapter.]





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mr. Midshipman Glover, \R.\N. - A Tale of the Royal Navy of To-day" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home