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Title: A United States Midshipman in China
Author: Yates Stirling, Jr.
Language: English
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  Lt. Com. Yates Stirling Jr. U.S.N.

  Author of
  “A U.S. Midshipman Afloat”


  Illustrated _by_ Ralph L. Boyer


  1909 BY



Those who have read “A United States Midshipman Afloat” will recall
that Philip Perry and his friend, Sydney Monroe, recent graduates
of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, had been but a short time in the
regular naval service when the battle-ship “Connecticut,” to which they
had been assigned, was ordered to a South American port. Here they
found a revolution in progress, and it became the duty of the young men
to prevent the delivery of certain machine guns and other war material
which had been shipped from America to the insurgents. In this they
were successful after some stirring adventure on land and sea.

The present book shows the same young officers on a United States
gunboat in the Yangtse River at a time when the lives of foreigners
in China are in peril. A further account of their experiences in
Eastern waters will be found in “A United States Midshipman in the
Philippines.” In all of these books the endeavor has been to portray
some of the bold enterprises which are all in the day’s work for a
naval officer, and to show how our modern navy accomplishes big things
in a quiet way.


      I. AN INCIDENT OF THE RIVER            9

     II. AN UNPLEASANT ENCOUNTER            21



      V. THE VICEROY’S TREACHERY            59

     VI. DIPLOMACY FAILS                    72

    VII. DISSENSIONS                        86

   VIII. IGNACIO SHOWS HIS HAND            108

     IX. HELD AS HOSTAGES                  122

      X. A CHINESE PRISON                  139

     XI. FRIENDS IN NEED                   152

    XII. A DARING PLAN                     167

   XIII. HOPES OF ESCAPE                   181

    XIV. THE ESCAPE                        194

     XV. AN ENEMY SILENCED                 208

    XVI. REËNFORCEMENTS                    234

   XVII. ABOARD THE “PHŒNIX”               245

  XVIII. THE START FOR KU-LING             259

    XIX. THE SECRET CHANNEL                274

     XX. RUNNING THE BATTERIES             288


   XXII. THE LAST CHARGE                   314

  XXIII. THE FORTS SURRENDER               332

   XXIV. PHIL EXPLAINS                     345




  A PISTOL SHOT RANG OUT                               71

  “WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS”                               150


  “THE MONITORS ARE ACTUALLY HERE!”                   256

  “THERE IS STILL A CHANCE”                           283

  THE AMERICANS WERE STRUCK DUMB                      342

A United States Midshipman in China



The United States gunboat “Phœnix” lay at anchor in the swift current
of the Yangtse River opposite the Chinese city of Ku-Ling. The surface
of the water seemed tranquil, but a closer look over the side of the
ship showed to the observer the strength of the muddy flood that swept
for thousands of miles through the length of the Chinese Empire, from
the far-away snows of the mountains of Tibet onward to the waters of
the Pacific Ocean.

Two young midshipmen were standing at the gunboat’s rail in eager
conversation. Their eyes were intent upon the scenes on the shore
scarce a hundred yards away.

“Oh, there’s Langdon!” exclaimed Philip Perry, the taller of the two
lads, as the form of the government pilot, Joseph Langdon, was seen
coming from the ward-room companion ladder. “Langdon, have you ever
seen this much talked about Chang-Li-Hun?”

“Seen him?” Langdon echoed, approaching the speaker. “I’ve talked with
him many a time, and you can take my word for it, there isn’t a man
in all China whom I wouldn’t sooner have for my enemy. He’s a past
craftsman in oriental subtlety and diplomacy. He rules his own people
with a rod of iron, and if an official displeases him, off goes his
head in the most approved Chinese fashion.”

Both midshipmen suppressed an unconscious shiver as the American pilot
of the Yangtse River illustrated the death of the disgraced official by
chopping at his own thick neck with a great sun-tanned, muscular hand.

“Everything looks peaceful enough ashore there now, doesn’t it?” Sydney
Monroe, Phil’s friend and classmate, said in a tone of inquiry. “It
doesn’t seem as if the foreigners were much in fear of the dangers of
Chinese violence. Look!” he exclaimed; “there are European women and
even children walking along the streets.”

“That’s the danger in China,” Langdon returned in a troubled voice.
“Living in this country is like being on top of a presumably extinct
volcano. No one knows when it will break out. Sometimes it comes
without the usual rumblings.”

“There must have been some rumblings,” Philip Perry exclaimed, pointing
suggestively at the half score of foreign gunboats representing all the
European navies.

“Yes,” Langdon answered, “there have been many signs which have greatly
alarmed those who have made a study of the Chinese situation. This
viceroy has within the last few weeks allowed many insults by his
people to foreigners to go unpunished, and will not listen to the
appeals of the foreign consuls. The missionaries all over the provinces
are in fear of some terrible calamity, and it is through their urgent
demands that these war-ships are here.”

“What do the foreigners fear?” Sydney asked, interestedly.

“Fear!” Langdon exclaimed. “Why, almost every kind of torture and
death. When once the Chinese are allowed to avenge themselves upon the
foreigner there’s no limit to their cruelty.”

“Why can’t we appeal to the Chinese government at Peking to protect
foreigners?” Phil asked gravely. “Haven’t we a treaty with China for
protection of United States citizens here?”

Langdon gave the lad a withering look, as he replied:

“This viceroy is not letting Peking know what is happening in his
provinces. If he succeeds in making the country over which he rules
dangerous and unprofitable to foreigners without doing more than kill a
few missionaries and ruining foreign trade, Peking will apologize for
the deaths and pay an indemnity to the families of those killed and
then to sustain him in the eyes of his people decorate him with the
Order of the Dragon. But if he goes too far, then Peking, in order to
save herself from an invasion of foreign soldiers, will disgrace the
viceroy in one of the many ways known best to the Chinese.”

“Here comes the captain now,” Sydney exclaimed as a small white
canopied steam launch shoved off from the jetty and stood toward the

All three walked toward the gangway to meet Commander Hughes, the
captain of the gunboat, who had been ashore to visit his consul and
gather the latest news of the much feared uprising among the fanatical

“Well, Webster,” Commander Hughes exclaimed in hearty tones to the
executive officer, as he put his foot on the quarter-deck, returning in
a precise manner the salutes of the officers standing near. “Keep your
guard for the mission ready to land at a moment’s notice. I saw that
half-breed Emmons, the oracle of the river. He is non-committal, but
I can see he fears trouble. He promised to warn me in plenty of time.
Emmons says that the Tartar general, commanding all the soldiers under
the viceroy, is not in sympathy with this movement, and if he can urge
the viceroy to take steps to suppress it, our presence here may yet be

After the captain had entered his cabin the two midshipmen turned
eagerly upon the pilot.

“Who is this half-breed Emmons the captain speaks of?” Phil demanded.

“Do you see all those launches over there?” the pilot inquired,
pointing to the near-by docks where many small vessels were unloading.

“Well, they belong to Emmons,” he added, “and he’s very rich. His
mother was a native woman and his father an American merchant skipper.
Emmons wears Chinese clothes and to meet him on the street you’d
take him for a native. We’re lucky to have Emmons with us, but if
the viceroy suspects that he is, he’d enjoy nothing better than to
confiscate his property and expel him from the provinces, even if he
doesn’t have him executed.”

“Where’s this mission?” Sydney asked gazing searchingly out over the
green sloped hills of the country.

Langdon held a pointing finger steadily out to the right of the walled
Chinese city.

“About five miles from here,” he said. “It’s built in the middle of an
ancient Chinese graveyard and is a thorn in the side of the Chinese.
It was erected three years ago, and by order of this same viceroy. No
other site could be used. He knew that the Chinese would never rest
until they tore the building down. It took nearly two years to build;
all the work was done by Christian converts. I don’t blame the captain
for feeling uneasy, for in my opinion that mission will be the first
point of attack.”

Phil and Sydney were soon after below in their rooms finishing their
unpacking; for they had but recently arrived on the station and had
joined the gunboat just previous to her leaving Shanghai on her
four-hundred mile cruise up the great Chinese river. So interested were
they during the day, viewing the shifting scenery, and at night so much
of their time had been occupied in standing watch on the gunboat’s
bridge, that they had quite forgotten their trunks as yet unpacked in
the ward-room passages.

After dinner that evening, while the midshipmen were enjoying the
bracing fall air on the quarter-deck, Phil was suddenly summoned to
report immediately to the captain.

Receiving Commander Hughes’ instructions to take the steam launch and
board each of the foreign gunboats, the midshipman left the cabin to
carry out his orders, much elated at the exalted rôle he was playing in
the affairs of nations. About an hour later, having visited each of the
foreign gunboats and given to their commanding officers his captain’s
letters, the launch breasted the swift current of the river on her
return to the ship. The coxswain of the launch was steering his boat
close to the hulls of the junks moored to the jetty, in order to avoid
the strength of the current. The river was silent; no sound could be
heard save the whir of the tiny engine and the rush of the tide against
the sides of the launch.

As the boat passed within the shadow of a high-sided junk, such as are
used by the wealthy Chinese as house-boats, a piercing cry rang out
over the quiet water from her deck, directly above Phil’s head; then
he heard the sound of a scuffle, followed by the splash of a heavy
body in the dark waters astern of the launch. The lad was on his feet
in an instant; throwing off his coat, he sprang out on the launch’s
rail, ready to go to the assistance of the unfortunate one who had
been swallowed up in the treacherous waters. The coxswain had by
signal stopped the headway of the launch and all eyes were searching
the waters astern: the ripples that closed over the body were visible,
while some yards down stream an object floated, all but submerged,
rapidly borne away by the hurrying flood.

The lad stood irresolute for the fraction of a second, fear of the
treacherous flood tugging at his heart; then overcoming this momentary
weakness, he turned to the coxswain beside him:

“Go down to leeward and pick me up,” he ordered, gathering himself
together and springing far out into the dark river.

As he struck out boldly sinister stories of the enchanted water surged
back to him. He had heard how the suction from the muddy bottom was
known to drag to their death even the strongest swimmers: men who had
missed their footing while stepping into boats alongside their own
ships had disappeared beneath the yellow surface never to rise again.
The Chinese superstition was that a dragon lived in the river and
that all persons who fell into his home were drawn to the bottom and
devoured by the monster.

Phil struggled manfully against these weird fancies, yet he was
conscious of the force acting to suck his body down while he exerted
all his strength to keep his head above the engulfing waters. The
high-sided junks flashed by him as he swam with the current toward the
victim struggling despairingly in the embrace of the river dragon. In a
few moments his strong strokes had brought him alongside the drowning
man. He grasped the man’s clothing and drew him closer, seeking a
firmer hold. Avoiding the waving arms, Phil’s hand worked its way along
the body until it reached his head, and there his fingers closed about
the long braided cue; twisting this around his hand, the lad swam out
toward the middle of the river. The Chinaman struggled violently,
striving to grasp Phil’s hand. The boy saw with terror that if the
Chinaman succeeded they would both drown.

“Be still or I’ll let you go!” he commanded, forgetting in his anxiety
that he was talking to a Chinaman, but nevertheless the man quieted
down and Phil’s hopes rose.

With the stinging water in his eyes, he gazed about him for the launch;
he could scarcely see; the oppressive darkness seemed to be closing in
about him. Then out of the night there loomed the sides of many junks,
massed in tiers, directly in the path of the current carrying him. This
new and terrible danger filled him with despair: even the strongest
swimmer could not expect to survive if he were drawn under that wooden
wall of vessels; if he were not crushed between their huge hulls he
would be forced beneath the surface for so long a time that life would
be extinct before he rose again. His one chance was to breast the
tide, swimming out from shore in the hope that thus he might clear the
outside junk.

The hulls seemed ever closer and the lad’s efforts weaker. The Chinaman
was a dead weight upon him; if he abandoned the man he could save
himself. Would it not be just? He could not hope to save both himself
and the Chinaman, therefore, was he not obeying the first law of nature
by abandoning the unfortunate man to his fate? But Phil, even with
death staring him in the face, dismissed these unnerving thoughts from
his mind. He would save the man or drown in the attempt! As he swam
manfully ahead, supporting the fully conscious but terrified Chinaman,
and casting anxious glances behind him at the fast approaching menace,
his heart was gladdened at the sight of the launch standing in boldly
between him and the junks, now but a few dozen yards away. Then he saw
the boat turn slowly, painfully, toward him in the grasp of the cruel,
relentless current which seemed to sweep her down under the yawning
whirlpool. He closed his eyes to shut out the sight. If the launch
failed to turn inside the distance she would be swept under the mass of
shipping and be capsized; then the brave men who had fearlessly taken
this risk to save him would all find a watery grave in the river.

“She can’t make it!” he gasped despairingly.



Phil had ceased to struggle; his doom was too close upon him to hope
to escape it. His one chance was the launch. A low cry of joy burst
from him as he saw her turn safely under the overhanging bows of the
junks and steam swiftly toward him. Yet he knew that all danger had not
passed; the current was still sweeping him down while the boat must
keep her headway else she would be carried back under the shipping. The
launch loomed above him; he saw her anxious crew gathered in the bow
ready to grasp the struggling men as they were swept by on the crest of
the flood.

He was conscious of strong arms about him, and the next moment he and
the rescued Chinaman were safely on board the launch, while she was
steaming at full speed for safety away from the treacherous shore.

After the rescued Chinaman had been resuscitated, and Phil had
recovered from his terrible exertions, he ordered the coxswain to land
at the foreign concession. The Chinaman lay on the deck of the launch,
fully alive but not showing by word or sign his gratitude to the
midshipman who had saved his life at the risk of his own.

As the boat stopped at the stone steps of the jetty, the Chinaman arose
unsteadily to his feet, grasping the boy’s hand in both of his, then
without a word stepped quickly out of the launch and was lost in the

Phil was so astonished at the man’s action that it was some moments
before he realized that a ring had been left in his hand. He examined
it eagerly in the dim light of an oil lantern; what was his surprise to
find that it was of massive carved gold, set with a green jade stone.

As the launch was secured alongside of the “Phœnix’s” gangway, Phil
stepped to the coxswain’s side and took the sailor’s rough hand in his
own, much to the embarrassment of the latter.

“Blake,” the lad said earnestly, “you saved my life, and you did it as
coolly as if you had been only making a landing alongside the ship.”

“It was nothing, sir,” the coxswain answered quickly, his face beaming;
“but to think of your jumping into this river to save a Chink,” he
added admiringly.

“My act was upon impulse,” Phil declared earnestly, “and took no real
nerve, while you deliberately measured your chances and saw that the
odds were dead against you; one slip, one spoke too little helm, one
revolution too few with the engines, and you and your crew would have
been swept underneath that mass of junks, and knowing this you took the
chance and had the nerve and grit to steer your boat cleverly to safety
and me with her. My act is insignificant beside yours.”

Leaving the coxswain still wondering at his words of praise, Phil
reported his return and went at once to his room for dry clothes.
Although the hour was early, and there were many things over which he
would have liked to talk with Sydney and their new friend Langdon, when
once in dry, warm clothes he found his exertions of the past hour had
sapped his strength, and he was soon fast asleep. Nor did he awake
until the sun was streaming in through his port-hole.

Turning out promptly, and making a hasty toilet, he was soon in
the mess-room, where he found the full mess at breakfast, and all
discussing the seriousness of the present crisis.

As he put his hands on the table the brightness of the ring the
Chinaman had given him startled him; the deep green of the stone stood
out clearly against the white tablecloth. Langdon, sitting beside him,
espied it immediately and grasped the boy’s hand, examining the ring

“Royal jade!” the pilot exclaimed. “Where did you get it? That’s one of
the finest stones I’ve seen in years.”

Phil felt abashed, not wishing to relate his experience before the mess.

“I’ll tell you later,” he whispered, withdrawing his hand before the
attention of the rest of the mess could be attracted. Then turning to
the executive officer, presiding at the head of the mess-table, he
asked anxiously:

“Is there any news, sir, about sending the guard to the legation? If
it is going I should like to be allowed to go in the detail.”

Sydney hastened to add his plea to go along also, and Mr. Webster’s
face broadened in an amused smile as he watched the eager faces of the

“I can tell you,” he replied heartily, “that you are both in the
detail, so you may rest easy. I for one hope there will be no necessity
for the expedition. China is a dangerous country when once aroused.”
Then, turning to Phil, whose joy showed plainly in his face, while his
pulses beat faster, he added:

“What’s this we hear about your rescuing a Chinaman from drowning last
night? It’s all about the ship forward, yet aft here we’re the last to
hear of it.”

Phil colored painfully while he outlined the episode of the river; he
said but little of his part, but praised unstintingly the coolness and
courage of the coxswain of the launch.

“Coxswain Blake belittles his own part as much as you praise it,” Mr.
Webster remarked kindly, as the officers rose from the breakfast table.

In Phil’s room after breakfast, Langdon examined the ring closely in
hopes of discovering a clew to the identity of the owner.

“There’s nothing here to tell,” the pilot announced after careful
scrutiny, handing the ring back to the midshipman; “it’s of great value
among the Chinese; undoubtedly the man was rich and he left with you
the only article of value he was then wearing. The Chinese are a queer
lot; their superstitions will not allow them to save a fellow-being
from drowning, but when they themselves are saved by a foreigner they
will at once put aside the obligation by giving their rescuer a costly
gift. Your Chinaman doubtless considers his debt is paid.”

After breakfast was over the midshipmen asked and received permission
to visit the foreign concession.

“You must go in uniform,” Lieutenant Webster replied to their request,
“and the captain’s positive orders are not to enter the Chinese city.”

The lads quickly agreed to keep to this rule, and a half hour later the
“Phœnix’s” steam launch landed them on the stone jetty abreast the

Here they were immediately surrounded by a score of Chinese ricksha
coolies, each one anxious to enlist their patronage in engaging a
jinricksha, which is the customary conveyance of the far Eastern
countries. The lads were soon seated each in one of these miniature
carriages; and the coolies in the shafts darted off at a lively pace
down the smooth macadamized roadbed of the Bund.

“Where shall we go first?” Sydney questioned, raising his voice so as
to be heard above the rattle of the wheels.

Phil shook his head in sign of perfect indifference. The sensation
of riding in one of these novel carriages for the first time was
distinctly pleasant. He felt half exhilarated and half ridiculous.
However, before they had traveled a block, he lost his feeling that
every one was looking at him, a grown man riding in a baby carriage,
and began to thoroughly enjoy the situation. The throngs on the streets
interested him, and the color scheme pleased his eye; the gayly dressed
natives sprinkled here and there with the more sombre garb of the
Europeans or Americans.

“I don’t care,” he answered as Sydney repeated his question. “Let them
take us wherever they will. Later, though, I want to go to the bank and
buy a draft to send home.

“Here we are,” he added suddenly, making energetic efforts to stop his
own ricksha in its mad career, as he espied the sign on a great stone
building: “Hongkong Bank.”

The lads alighting, bidding by sign their rickshas to wait, entered the
wide doorway of the bank.

Here they met scores of Chinamen pouring continually in and out,
depositing or drawing out great sacks of Mexican dollars, the token
currency of China. Behind the counters, although the bank was owned
by an English corporation, Phil saw only Chinese. Millions of dollars
daily passed through their hands.

Leaving Sydney gazing interestedly at the scenes of activity, Phil
moved over to a desk upon which were paper and ink laid out for the
bank customers. As he drew near, he took casual note of a foreigner
standing with his back toward the door, engaged apparently in writing.
At the man’s feet he saw a neatly folded paper lying. Apparently it
had just been dropped from the foreigner’s pocket. Stooping down, Phil
picked it up, hastily glancing over it to see if it was of sufficient
consequence to ask the stranger if it were his. He had barely time to
note that the writing was in English when it was roughly seized from
his hand, and looking up in surprise, he found himself confronted
by an angry, excited face, whose dark, piercing eyes snapped with
uncontrolled passion. The stranger thrust the letter into his pocket
with one hand, while the other was closely clenched as if he were about
to strike down the innocent offender.

“What do you mean by trying to read my letter?” the foreigner cried in
a voice full of wrath.

The blood mounted to Phil’s forehead as he returned unflinchingly
the stranger’s wild look. He was about to answer an apology when the
foreigner’s cutting voice stayed him.

“Just like you officious Americans,” the stranger exclaimed, surveying
the neat blue uniform of the American midshipman; “always meddling in
some one else’s affairs.”

“What’s the trouble, Phil?” Sydney asked in alarm, hastening to his
friend’s side, upon seeing the look on Phil’s face and the menacing
attitude of the other.

By an effort Phil controlled himself. His first thought was then and
there to settle accounts with this infuriated man; but wiser counsel

“I did not read your letter,” he retorted in a dignified voice. “I
wished only to see if it was of any consequence in order to restore
it to its owner.” Then realizing that his conciliating answer had
not changed the attitude of the stranger, he added in a voice of
self-contained anger:

“If you got what you deserved, it would be a sound thrashing for your
slanderous tongue.”

The foreigner, hearing the lad’s just rebuke, and seeing by his
muscular frame that he was capable of carrying his implied threat into
execution, shrugged his shoulders eloquently, pocketed his papers and
walked sullenly toward the door of the bank.

Phil stood his ground, his eyes defiantly following the stranger until
the swinging doors closed behind him.

Sydney was told of the cause of the unexpected dispute and was eager to
follow the foreigner and demand an apology, but Phil only laughed.

“I got in the last word; that’s something,” he said, as he quietly
wrote out his order for the draft. “I wonder who he is. By his accent
I should say he was of a Latin race. He spoke to me in good English,

“Do you suppose he is a naval officer from a foreign gunboat?” Sydney
asked by way of an answer.

“No; he’s probably some beach-comber,” Phil answered testily, taking
his paper to the cashier’s desk. “And as far as I am concerned I don’t
care who he is. He’s not of sufficient importance to give him any more
attention,” he added, shutting his firm jaws with a snap in dismissing
the unpleasant incident.

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s forget him. There are lots of things here
more amusing.”



Upon their return on board the “Phœnix,” the midshipmen found all was
activity. A message had been received from Emmons which had decided
Commander Hughes to wait no longer before sending the guard to
protect the defenseless mission on the hill some miles from the town.
Persistent rumors were current that the Chinese outlaws would very soon
make an effort to efface this heathen blot of stone from their sacred

In the course of a half hour all was in readiness to embark the guard.
Tents, rations, Colt gun and rifles were carried into the waiting
boats, and in a few minutes more the small party of officers and men
found themselves on the stone jetty, immediately in front of the
Chinese city. Under the eyes of a quickly-gathered, curious crowd of
Chinese, the sailors formed and marched along the road skirting the
fortified wall of the city. After some miles had been covered, the
great buildings of the mission came in sight, and soon after they were
admitted within the walled compound by the anxious missionaries, whose
dread of Chinese cruelty had been acquired through long residence among
these fanatical people. Many of their number they had seen sacrificed
by the lawless element of a superstitious and conservative race, whom
they had come thousands of miles to civilize according to their Western

The sailor sentinels were quickly stationed at the four corners of the
walled compound, and the peaceful mission was soon transformed into a
warlike fortress.

“What do you think of all this?” inquired Phil of the pilot after the
lads had finished their duties of preparing for the defense.

“I think,” answered Langdon, a grim smile on his face, “that these
missionaries are wise to build their houses inside of a stone fort. The
only way to succeed in civilizing the Chinese is to make sure that they
don’t kill you before you’ve had a chance to show them the benefits of
our methods.”

“But I mean,” urged Phil, “do you believe that there’s going to be

“I’ve seen a great number of these threatened uprisings,” replied
Langdon thoughtfully, “come to nothing for the want of a leader with
energy enough to keep alive the spark of fanaticism; I hope this one
will follow in their footsteps, for if the Chinese ever awaken to the
knowledge of their power, our small force of ships and men could never
stem the rising flood.

“Do you see the forts over yonder?” he continued, pointing to the
numerous heavy gun emplacements on the heights below the city; “those
batteries command the anchorage occupied by the allied fleet, and their
garrisons are now wavering between their loyalty to the government
at Peking, and their families and friends taking an active part in
the intrigues against the lives of the foreigners. If those guns were
turned against us, our position here would indeed be a serious one.”

The two midshipmen, listening to the words of one who had lived ten
years among the Chinese, felt their hearts beat faster: secretly they
were glad that their cruise in the Orient was likely to be fraught
with grave dangers.

The missionaries and their numerous Chinese converts inside the walled
mission were once more at ease; they believed that all danger was past:
the Chinese had never attacked a mission so strongly defended by the
rifles of the hated but much feared foreign sailors.

The hot day came to an end, and the night wind from the distant
mountains brought to the anxious ones a desire for sleep which they had
not felt for days.

Phil and Sydney lay awake long after the mission was wrapt in slumber.
They had talked over the situation very thoroughly, the views of
Langdon having made a deep impression on their minds. There certainly
was a danger! Could the Chinese troops be depended upon to withstand
the bribes of the lawless ones?

Sydney’s even breathing, at last, showing that he had fallen off
to sleep, cut short further conversation between them; while Phil,
casting an annoyed glance at the unconcerned sleeper on the adjoining
cot, arose and silently left the tent; he was far from asleep and,
being the officer of the guard for the night, determined to make an
inspection of the sentries.

The night was dark save for the dim light shed by the crescent moon low
in the western sky. Ascending the mission stairs, he stepped out on the
broad top of the high barrier of brick and mortar and walked down the
wall. A sentry was posted at the near corner of the quadrangle.

“Is everything all right?” he asked quietly.

“Yes, sir, but I seen a bunch of Chinese up there near the gate a few
minutes before you come,” the sailor made answer. “I hollered at ’em,
and they ain’t stopped runnin’ yet.”

“What can I do if they don’t run?” he added, questioningly.

“Nothing; just call the sergeant of the guard,” replied Phil quickly.
“On your life don’t shoot without orders.”

“If a Chink shoots at me, sir, can’t I fire back?” the sailor asked,
casting an apprehensive glance into the darkness outside of the

Lieutenant Wilson had instructed the midshipmen to make certain
that the sentries did not fire first: the viceroy of the province
was believed to be striving to hold the malcontents in check, but an
untimely shot might precipitate hostilities.

“If you are fired upon,” Phil ordered, “fire your piece and arouse the
garrison, but don’t shoot unnecessarily.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” the sailor answered, as the midshipman drew away up
the wall to visit the next sentry.

While Phil was crossing the stone archway over the heavily-barred iron
gate, the main entrance into the mission, he was attracted by a dark
object on the ground below him, close up to the metal doors.

A closer look filled the boy’s thoughts with an unknown dread. The
object appeared harmless enough, and yet why was it there against the
gate of the mission? Phil saw now that it was a large box, outlined
dimly in the shadow of the archway.

He peered about him uncertainly. He could see the two lookouts at the
wall’s corners; they were alert and yet in ignorance of the danger at
the mission gate. The midshipman’s thoughts dwelt on the information
given by the sentry with whom he had just spoken: there had been some
Chinamen at the gate but a few moments ago! Was this box harmless or
did its presence there foretell a warlike design against the hundreds
of non-combatants, women and children, now under the protection of the
American sailors?

His startled gaze traveled over the gloomy expanse of surrounding
country outside of the high wall: the shadowy mounds, graves of
departed Chinese, dotting the grassy slopes about the compound might
be now concealing an armed force of attacking fanatics; beyond the
graves it rested for a moment on the low mud walls of abandoned houses,
believed by their owners to be forever polluted by the close presence
of the despised foreigners. Down on a lower level the high walled
city lay sleeping; the closely packed roofs resembling a continuous
floor, upon which fell the dim light of the waning moon; then again it
descended to the silent waters of the river, the towering pagodas along
its banks standing like guardian sentinels, with the anchored ships a
phantom fleet upon its dark surface.

A spark-like glint below him caught his eye, and its ominous message
sent the blood from his heart. With every faculty alert Phil threw
himself at full length on the wall and peered anxiously below into the
deeper shadow of the gateway: a sputtering spark but a few feet away
from the box told only too plainly its terrible mission: there was an
explosive against the gates, and the crawling point of fire was the
live end of the slow-match, surely and deliberately burning its way
toward the captive force that would, in a fraction of a minute, hurl
the powerful gates asunder, thus letting in the ambushing Chinese,
doubtless watching and waiting, concealed in the misty shadows.

The lad’s heart stood still as it flashed upon him what his duty
demanded of him. If he were a second too late he would be blown to
pieces and yet the gates would be shattered and useless to protect the
mission. His mind was made up quickly: he must first warn the garrison
and then quench the fatal spark twenty feet below him.

“Turn out the guard!” he cried loudly; then as he heard the startled
sentries repeat his words, he dropped silently to the ground on the
outside of the compound and grasped the lighted end of the fuse between
his fingers, but a few inches from its awful goal.

He heard the startled cries of his companions awakened from their sleep
by the alarming summons; the rattle of rifles and accoutrements as the
sailors hastened to their stations on the wall. The reaction had now
set in; the boy’s limbs seemed about to fail him. Almost unstrung he
clung to the box while he collected his scattered thoughts. If the box
remained there the enemy might yet succeed in exploding its contents
against the gate.

With his body pressed close to the torpedo, and in its deeper shadow,
his ear detected a sound near him in the grass at the edge of the road.
Suddenly a figure darted forward across the archway and stopped on the
other side of the box, fumbling with its top, as if to relight the
fuse. Phil held his breath as he reached forth his hand and clutched
the wrist of the intruder. Drawing the surprised man, with all his
force, across the box, he threw him to the ground. A cry escaped the
captive as he felt the strong arms of the midshipman enfold him,
smothering him to the earth.

The two bodies heaved and strained; the efforts of the Chinaman became
visibly weaker, and finally Phil cast the insensible form from him.

“Who goes there?” in excited tones from above him showed him that aid
was near. A sailor peered over the wall immediately above the lad’s
head, his menacing rifle covering the exhausted boy.

“It’s Midshipman Perry, the officer of the guard,” he whispered
hoarsely; “heave me a line, quick! Keep the gate closed! The place is
full of Chinese!”

A rope dangled down from a corner of the archway and Phil, grasping its
end, quickly made it fast around the box, giving the signal to hoist.

“Be careful, that’s powder,” he cautioned; “send the end back for me.
Hurry,” he added, casting a fearsome look into the shadows behind him.

With the end of the rope in his hand he stooped down to tie it about
the body of his captive; when, without a moment’s warning, he felt
a stinging blow in the face, that sent him reeling to the wall. He
clutched wildly at the offender, now on his feet and struggling madly
to free himself from the terrifying embrace of the midshipman. The
fully recovered celestial fought with the strength of despair, uttering
piercing shrieks which seemed to be answered from the surrounding

Suddenly Phil was wrenched nearly off his feet, and then fell backward
against the wall, the torn coat of the man in his hands, while the
escaping prisoner melted into the night.

Hand over hand, up the rope, it was but the work of a second to the top
of the wall, and there he found an anxious group of officers and men
who had watched, with bated breath, the struggle below them.

Phil explained the circumstances at once to Lieutenant Wilson.

“I feel sure they’re concealed all about here,” he ended excitedly. “I
heard answers to the man’s cries.”

Lieutenant Wilson turned to Langdon, who had been an eager listener.

“Is it an attack, Langdon?” he asked anxiously.

Langdon shook his head, much mystified, then the garment in Phil’s hand
caught his eye. He took it from the lad in silence and carried it down
from the wall, entering the small gate-house inside the compound.

“Keep a strict watch, Mr. Monroe,” the lieutenant ordered, motioning
Phil to follow him, and together they entered the room where Langdon
was carefully examining the garment.

It was a blue tunic, plain save for a white border and a number of
Chinese written characters on its back. It was this lettering that
Langdon was studying.

“Viceroy Chang-Li-Hun,” he read slowly aloud. Then he glanced up, a
worried expression on his usually calm face.

“Mr. Wilson,” he said, “it’s serious; we’ve the viceroy’s soldiers
against us.”



If the man with whom Phil had fought was a soldier of the viceroy, it
was indeed convincing evidence that the outlaws were receiving aid of
the official class. Lieutenant Wilson at once saw the seriousness of
the situation for all foreigners living within the provinces under
the jurisdiction of Viceroy Chang-Li-Hun. The American naval man knew
that his duty required him to place this information in the hands of
his commanding officer on board the “Phœnix” immediately, in order
that all the foreign powers represented might know that the threatened
uprising was no longer one of unorganized, misguided coolies or working
men, but was at the instigation of the powerful mandarins, receiving
their instructions, no doubt, directly from the viceroy himself. Did
he dare take the risk of sending messengers out of the mission at
this time when the enemy were doubtless gathered about the walls of
the compound, perhaps even now making up their minds to attack the
defending garrison? Yet in the morning affairs might have grown even
worse: the morrow’s sun might see the mission besieged, and every
outlet barred.

“Langdon,” Lieutenant Wilson questioned, after an impressive silence,
while his companions waited, looking to him to give the orders which
each felt the terrible development demanded, “are you sure that you
have read these characters correctly? We must not alarm the foreigners
unnecessarily. Might not this garment have been worn by a discharged
soldier? Are we safe in assuming that the viceroy is back of this
attempt on the gate because one of the culprits wears his uniform?”

“It is possible, sir,” Langdon answered thoughtfully, “but I believe
improbable. This plan is not one that could be conceived by a stupidly
ignorant coolie mob; you can see for yourself it must have been devised
by those who have some knowledge of the use of explosives; and knowing
as they must that the mission is being guarded by American sailors, it
was intended as an affront to the nation that they represent.”

“I believe you are right, Langdon,” the lieutenant agreed promptly.
“I shall act upon your judgment; your knowledge of the Chinese should
make your reasoning sound.” Then he turned to the expectant midshipmen:
“Mr. Perry, this news must be taken to Captain Hughes to-night; I
offer you the chance to go; your right to be chosen can’t be disputed:
your discovery of the viceroy’s treachery and your heroic conduct in
frustrating his design has won you the privilege.”

Phil flushed with pleasure at his senior’s words of praise, while he
stammered out his readiness to undertake the hazardous enterprise.
Asking that Sydney accompany him he received a ready assent.

“Can you spare me, too, sir?” Langdon asked earnestly. “I know every
foot of the land about here; I’ve shot pheasant all over these hills,
and understanding the language, may be a help to Mr. Perry if he should
be stopped by the natives.”

“Yes, certainly,” the lieutenant replied quickly, his face showing his
appreciation of the pilot’s offer. “I couldn’t order you, but your
desire to go speaks highly of your courage. It is our duty, as naval
men, to expose ourselves to danger.”

“It’s bred in me, too, sir,” Langdon answered. “I served with the flag
during my boyhood, and am ever ready to sacrifice all I have for it.”

“I shall not encumber you with useless messages,” Lieutenant Wilson
said finally to Phil as he turned to leave the gate-house and return to
the wall; “you know the situation and can explain our fears to Captain

The midshipmen and the pilot went to prepare themselves for their
journey, while their senior ascended the wall to dispose his small
force in order to guard all approaches and prevent a surprise. There
would be few eyes closed in sleep that night; the gravity of the
situation was fully impressed on even the sailors accustomed as they
were to danger.

Hastily arming themselves with a pair of revolvers each and with plenty
of ammunition, the three volunteers again ascended the wall.

The moon had set and the land about the mission was veiled in
darkness. The men moved slowly along the wall of the compound, while
Langdon’s keen eyes peered into the night to discover the best location
to leave the mission. They had traversed nearly half of the wall and
were at the far end of the compound before the pilot seemed satisfied
that the way was clear. He put out his hand and touched Phil on the

“We’ll leave from here,” he whispered; “the Chinese, if they are about,
are all in the front. See; the land is clearer; there are not so many
graves as in the front to conceal an enemy.”

Throwing themselves down on top of the wall they grasped its edge, and
lowered themselves silently to the ground. Langdon led the way directly
from the mission, and further into the country. The land here was but
slightly cultivated, the ground firm and for the most part clear, so
our travelers swung along at a lively pace.

Having covered about a mile, Langdon stopped to allow his companions to
join him.

“This is the main road leading into the city,” the pilot informed them
as they arrived at the narrow path in which the speaker was standing.
“We’ll follow this right into the foreign concession; it’s late, past
ten o’clock, and there’ll be no natives on the road. It’s our safest

Phil nodded in sign of assent, his eyes on the Chinese road.

“A road, did you say, Langdon?” the boy asked; “it’s more like a

“It’s the only kind of road you’ll find in the Chinese Empire,” the
pilot replied as they moved swiftly over its uneven surface; “the
natives don’t use carriages and coaches for passengers, nor wagons to
carry their freight, but transport their merchandise in wheelbarrows or
on the backs of the small Tartar donkeys. In the north the Manchus have
a rickety cart drawn by man power or by pony and there the highways are
wider, but are even less smooth, for the natives never repair their

They had traveled another mile when Langdon called a halt and
cautioning silence pointed to a grove of trees ahead of them.

“A village,” he answered the questioning looks of his companions;
“we’ll leave the road and circle it. The wind is from the river, so I
hope the dogs which inhabit these small towns will not smell us. These
Chinese curs have a keen nose for a foreigner and if our enemy is about
they might warn him of our presence.”

As they skirted the village Sydney glanced with interest down into
the mean and ill-smelling collection of mud-walled hovels, situated
below the level of the surrounding country. He had heard that this
location was chosen to protect its occupants from the blasts of the
winter gales, and in consequence during the wet season the floods
from the heavy and prolonged rains swept down upon them, carrying off
bodily their insecure buildings and frequently drowning many of the
unfortunate inhabitants.

“Will the Chinese ever learn to build their villages in a common-sense
way?” he asked the pilot.

“They’ve done the same thing for twenty centuries,” Langdon answered,
following Sydney’s gaze; “what was good enough for their ancestors is
good enough for them, is their motto, and nothing that we can say will
ever move them. After you’ve been here for a few years, Mr. Monroe,
you’ll cease wondering at anything you see the Chinese do.”

Suddenly the lads felt themselves grasped by the strong hands of
Langdon and drawn down into the thick grass. The silence was broken
by a faint sound of voices that seemed to come from directly below
them. Langdon motioned the boys to remain where they were, and crawled
noiselessly forward to the edge of the embankment surrounding the
village. Phil could now hear a high-pitched nasal voice, raised
excitedly after the Chinese fashion, with many loud and piercing
notes. He could see Langdon ahead of him partly hidden in the grass,
and his curiosity was aroused to know what this midnight meeting might
foretell. Then the voices ceased and the noise of tramping feet came
clearly to his ears. From out of the shadows, but a few yards from
where Langdon was lying, a squad of Chinese soldiers moved off into the
night, over the road they were traveling, toward Ku-Ling.

After a few minutes had elapsed, the soldiers’ footfalls dying away
in the distance, Langdon rose to his feet and joined the impatient

“They were soldiers!” Sydney exclaimed. “We distinctly saw their
uniforms as they entered the road.”

“What were they saying? Could you hear?” Phil questioned eagerly.

“One of them was the man you fought with at the gate,” Langdon
answered; “it’s just as I supposed: there was a movement on foot to
attack the mission if that party was successful in destroying the
gateway. The one doing all the loud talking was ‘saving his face,’ as
the Chinese say; he was explaining that a monster, half man and half
bird flew down from the wall and put out the fuse as fast as he could
light it, and that he had mortally wounded the ‘devil,’ but fear having
entered his heart, he had run away as fast as he could, followed by his
companions. He says that the ‘foreign devils’ can change into these
monsters whenever they wish, and that their breath is like fire.”

Phil gasped in astonishment at the ludicrous account of his battle with
the soldier.

“But his companions will not believe any such tale as that,” he cried;
“surely they’ll know it is made up out of whole cloth?”

“On the contrary,” Langdon answered, “they’ll believe it, and
what’s more he believes it himself by this time. Doubtless he was
so frightened that he remembers little that happened, and their
imagination is so vivid that a Chinaman will generally believe his own
words as they fall from his lips.”

“What would have happened if they had been successful?” Phil
questioned. “That small body of men could not have intended attacking

“No, but after the gate had been blown in it would be an easy matter
for a few thousand Chinese to gather. There are tens of thousands of
Chinamen in these small towns within a mile of the mission. All they
need is a match to start them, and that was the intention of these

“It looks as if it were serious,” Sydney said in an awed whisper as
they cautiously regained the road. The soldiers were not in sight, so
the Americans proceeded, cautiously watching for the first signs of
their enemy on the highway ahead of them.

Finally they reached the limits of the foreign concession, and it was
after midnight before they arrived on board the “Phœnix”; but Commander
Hughes was awake and directed that they be shown down to his cabin

The situation was quickly explained to the naval officer by the

The captain sat in silence for some minutes after they had finished,
his face showing strongly the strain he was under: all the Americans
on the river were in mortal danger, and he and his small force were
all that stood between them and a fate far worse than death. Phil and
Langdon anxiously watched the captain’s face as if to read the next
move on the international chess-board, which Commander Hughes, as the
senior among the foreign captains, was called upon to make.

“Gentlemen, the news you bring me is so terrible in its possibilities,”
the captain finally began, “that I am quite at a loss how to act. Our
force is too small to resist an attack; we must resort to diplomacy
with this rascally viceroy. And yet we don’t know how far-reaching the
movement may be. If we sit idly by the natives will gain confidence,
mistaking forbearance for cowardice, and can readily drive all
foreigners off the river.

“Mr. Perry,” the captain added, rising and ringing for his orderly, “I
want you to take the steam launch at once and go to each of the foreign
gunboats; request that their commanding officers come on board here to
a meeting in a half-hour’s time. Explain to them the gravity of the
situation.” Then turning to the waiting marine, “My compliments to the
officer on duty, and tell him to have the steamer ready for Mr. Perry

Phil soon delivered his captain’s messages to the officer of the deck
of each of the foreign gunboats and upon his return was detailed by
Commander Hughes for the duty of secretary to the international council.

Slightly nervous in the presence of so many seniors, the midshipman
sat near his captain, pencil in hand, ready to take notes of the
proceedings of the council.

“Commander Ignacio of the ‘Albaque’ is ill,” a young foreign lieutenant
announced as the American captain glanced at him inquiringly, “and
begs you will receive me as his representative.”

Commander Hughes bowed politely in agreement and then in a few words
described the incident at the mission.

“Before it is too late,” he added, “I believe that it is our duty to
lay our difficulties before the viceroy, and demand that he take steps
at once to quell this uprising. Meanwhile we should warn all foreigners
living in the foreign concession at Ku-Ling that if our diplomacy
fails they must be ready to take refuge on board the gunboats. We
must deal with the situation fearlessly, for only in that way can we
expect success. Chang-Li-Hun must be made to see the seriousness of his

To this clear proposal all agreed and Commander Hughes was chosen by
acclamation to lead the embassy on the morrow to the viceroy’s yamen.
Two other commanders were selected, and then with many expressions for
success the council adjourned.

“I have my doubts of the utility of a conference with the viceroy,”
Langdon told the lads the next morning at the breakfast table. “He’s a
tricky Chinaman and generally has his own way.

“Well, we shall soon see,” he ended as an orderly appeared to summon
him and Phil to be ready within fifteen minutes to accompany their
captain on the mission to the high Chinese mandarin.

A half hour later a bright array of uniformed officers landed on the
jetty; there were three of the gunboat captains and their aides, all in
full dress uniform, which is prescribed for an official visit upon a

A line of green sedan chairs, the color portraying to the curious
throngs that their occupants were of the first rank in official
parlance, wended its way in single file through the guarded gates into
the stench of the crowded, walled city. Each chair was carried on the
muscular shoulders of four coolies, and at almost a dog’s trot, they
bore their burdens over the narrow, crooked streets.

Phil gazed excitedly upon the thousands of inquisitive natives,
crowding so near the foreigners that the pungent odor of their bodies
came distinctly to his nostrils; their ignorant faces at such close
range appalled him. The chair coolies cried out hoarsely, jostling the
multitude to prevent being trodden under foot by the persistent rabble.

The embassy had covered but half the distance to the yamen when it was
wedged tightly against a heaving mass of excited yellow bodies. Phil
saw the faces of the crowd darken with a superstitious loathing; he
seemed to read in their cruel eyes an awakening to the knowledge of
their power, and the helpless plight of the despised “foreign devils”.
The multitude pressed ever closer; reaching out their claw-like talons
to touch the gold-embroidered uniforms of the naval officers. The lad
cast a swift glance at Langdon next him; he felt confident he would
read in his face the extent of the danger threatening them. The pilot
was shouting unintelligible words to his chair coolies; the while his
face was black with passion.

The coolies refused stolidly to budge, and by sign threatened to
put down the chairs upon the ground; all the while jabbering and
gesticulating wildly to each other and to the mob, which appeared on
the point of engulfing the foreigners in its noisome embrace.



The gaping crowd pressed ever closer. Phil could feel the fetid breath
of those nearest him; he saw a big Chinaman emerge from the dense
throng and push his way to Langdon’s chair; the lad would have cried
out a warning, but all happened with such lightning-like swiftness that
he had not found his voice before the bold Chinaman had released his
hold upon the pilot’s coat, and had fallen back into the arms of his
countrymen nearest him, a deep red stain upon his closely shaved head,
while Langdon waved menacingly his Colt revolver, the blunt butt of
which had successfully cowed the would-be leader.

Fortunately for the foreigners, a troop of mounted soldiers arrived
on the scene at this juncture and brutally cleared the way, trampling
under their horses’ feet the nearest of the mob, chained as they were
by the mass of humanity behind them. Presently the chairs were again
in motion; the soldiers now keeping the crowd in check, and in a few
minutes more the embassy arrived in front of the yamen, the official
residence of the viceroy. The heavy, grotesquely painted doors were
quickly opened, and closed sharply in the faces of the unruly crowd.

The naval men alighted from their chairs, well satisfied to have
escaped so easily from a disagreeable situation; but the pilot was not
so well pleased.

“We’re in for it, I fear,” he confided to Phil; “that was another
insult. The viceroy knew we were coming and he doubtless planned
that we should be mobbed, holding his soldiers back to give us a few
unpleasant minutes.”

“What would that Chinaman have done to you?” Phil asked gravely.

“It was an act of bravado,” Langdon answered smilingly, the picture of
the discomfited man in his mind; “but if he had succeeded in pulling me
from the chair it would have been serious; a leader is all these people

“Pretty tight squeak, eh, Langdon?” Commander Hughes asked while they
waited for the summons to approach the audience-chamber.

“It looked bad for a time, sir,” the pilot replied; “if some one had
thrown a stone, we’d have been mobbed then and there, and the soldiers
would have been powerless to save us. Not in my ten years among these
people have I seen such a menacing mob. We must deal boldly with the
viceroy, sir, or else we’ll not get out of the city alive.”

“Is it really as bad as that?” the captain asked anxiously.

“Yes, sir,” Langdon answered earnestly, lowering his voice so as not to
be heard by any save the captain; “they were in an ugly mood, and if I
am not mistaken they were acting under orders from the yamen; otherwise
the rabble wouldn’t have dared molest us. If we don’t keep our feet on
their necks, they’ll make short work of every foreigner in the Yangtse

After a few minutes more of waiting the inner doors were thrown open
and the naval men were ushered into the second courtyard, and then
through more doors to the council-chamber of the viceroy. Here they
found Chang-Li-Hun and his advisers ready to receive them.

Commander Hughes advanced toward the viceroy and bowed ceremoniously;
the ancient Chinaman clasped his hands in front of him and murmured a
few monosyllables in his own language, after which all were seated.
Phil found his place between Langdon and a Chinaman, while Commander
Hughes sat at the viceroy’s left, the seat of honor in the dragon

The silence was undisturbed for several minutes, during which time the
lad gazed covertly about him. He noticed the sphinx-like face of the
high mandarin, whose power was as far-reaching as even the empress
dowager’s, to whom he acknowledged allegiance but gave it grudgingly.
This wizened old man had the power of life and death over nearly twenty
million human beings. If he so willed, he could order any of his
subjects to be brought to the execution grounds and chop their heads
off with as little feeling as one would have in beheading a chicken.
The midshipman’s eyes traveled in turn over each face of the viceroy’s
advisers, men of great promise in the empire; they represented the
enlightened few governing with iron rods a people who are yet stifled
in the superstitions and customs of medieval times. Through the open
door, the lad caught a glimpse of Chinese guards; their blue tunics
similar to the one he had stripped from the back of the Chinaman at the
mission gate.

Finally the silence was broken by the high-pitched voice of the aged
viceroy in his own staccato language. Phil believed he could read both
anger and contempt in the tones of the mandarin’s voice.

After he had spoken there was a moment’s silence, then a voice was
raised in perfect English. Phil gasped in surprise as he beheld the
speaker; a Chinaman seated on the right hand of the viceroy. There was
not a trace of the accent which he had believed was habitual with every
Chinaman who learns the English tongue.

“His Excellency, Chang-Li-Hun, thanks the high naval commanders for
the honor of this visit and desires to hear their requests,” the
interpreting Chinaman announced.

“Give our compliments to his Excellency,” replied Commander Hughes
without a second’s hesitation, “and say that the time has long passed
for requests. We come now to demand that our countrymen be protected,
in accordance with the sacred word of China given by treaty.”

The interpreter’s face was a study; the American’s words were evidently
unexpected; he glanced uneasily at the viceroy as if fearing the storm
which he knew would break forth when the sharp words were translated
into his guttural tongue. After a few moments of thought, during
which time the old mandarin blinked his watery eyes expectantly
the interpreter spoke, hesitatingly and as one who is not sure of
his ground; but instead of the burst of rage which Phil felt was
inevitable, the old statesman nodded his head in assent.

The lad saw Langdon rise to his feet and speak in an undertone to
Commander Hughes; then the Chinese mandarins grasped the arms of their
heavily carved chairs with indignation and horror while the pilot’s
voice in their own tongue rang out loudly, in direct address to the
viceroy. Then he turned to his captain and explained his action.

“The interpreter did not give the viceroy your words, sir,” he said,
his voice quivering with emotion. “I thought it best that he should

The parchment-like features of the aged mandarin were stamped with
hatred as he snapped out his reply to his attentive interpreter.

“His Excellency is much disappointed at the unfriendly attitude of
the foreigners,” the Chinaman announced after the viceroy had ceased
speaking, “and is grieved to hear their harsh language.”

Again Langdon’s voice was raised above the silence which followed the
placid words of the interpreter: but this time in English.

“Those were not the viceroy’s words,” he exclaimed turning toward
Commander Hughes but glowering at the discomfited interpreter; “his
answer was a threat against our lives.”

Commander Hughes was on his feet instantly, his face pale with anger.

“Langdon,” he cried, “tell the viceroy that our meeting is ended; that
we came to demand punishment for those of his countrymen who attempted
to injure our mission on the hill back of the city, but as he refuses
to keep to his country’s treaty, we shall be forced to resort to arms
to protect our own people.”

Langdon promptly translated Commander Hughes’ words to the viceroy,
sitting craftily observing the incensed foreigners.

Chang-Li-Hun was too clever a diplomat to show his hand was against the
foreigners; he must appear to aid them in their endeavors to protect
their countrymen, and by the art understood best by the Oriental he
would make these naval men “lose face” in the Chinese eyes, and thereby
show his people that the vainglorious boasting foreigners were but
human, and could suffer and die as easily as those of their own race.

A few guttural words escaped from the lips of the aged mandarin, which
Langdon translated at once, not waiting for the unreliable interpreter.

“The viceroy begs you will again be seated; he says he knows nothing
of the acts against the mission.”

“Tell him, then, Langdon,” the American captain ordered, while the
members of the embassy reluctantly took their seats; “and give it
to him as strong as you can,” he continued his wrath but slightly

This was all too pleasant a task for the pilot, whose knowledge of
Chinese officialdom had not left him with much respect for their
roundabout methods. He went straight to the point, addressing the
viceroy directly, while the latter appeared to listen eagerly.

After the pilot had stopped speaking and had reseated himself at
Commander Hughes’ side, the viceroy drew his interpreter aside, and in
a voice so low pitched that Langdon could not hear a word, conversed
with him earnestly for many minutes; then the interpreter arose and
hurriedly left the council-chamber.

The embassy sat in silence, wondering what would be the next move of
this adroit diplomat. Phil’s nerves were atingle with expectancy; the
dangers of their position within a hostile city, and in the grasp of
an avowed enemy, gave his young and untamed spirit high hopes for
excitement. How he wished for Sydney that he might share whatever was
in store for the embassy before it again reached the safety of its
steel broadsides!

The naval men had not long to wait before the inner gates of the yamen
were thrown open and a battalion of soldiers filed into the courtyard,
outside the audience-chamber. Another moment, and the light screens
forming the sides of the council-chamber were removed and the embassy
looked fairly out upon this martial display.

The soldiers were quickly formed into a hollow square between the
embassy and the outer gates, which then were likewise opened and a
seething mob of excited, riotous Chinamen poured through, filling up
the courtyard beyond.

“What’s the meaning of this?” the American commander exclaimed in
sudden alarm; but before Langdon could disclaim his knowledge of
what was about to happen, a part of the square opened and a number
of tightly-bound prisoners were dragged to the middle of the
courtyard directly in front of the viceroy. As they approached, Phil
unconsciously turned away his head to shut out the pitiful spectacle;
the prisoners were cruelly shackled together in a manner practiced only
by the Chinese.

After the lad had gained control of his feelings and once more glanced
toward the prisoners, the viceroy was speaking, while the pilot
listened intently; the mob beyond was silent, gazing with evident
enjoyment at the terror-stricken prisoners before the viceroy.

“His Excellency says that he has just discovered that these men were
arrested last night by his guards with contraband concealed upon their
persons, and when tortured confessed to having attempted to blow in
the gates of the American mission, and that he will punish them in our
presence as a warning to his people,” Langdon announced loudly, then
lowering his voice, he whispered hurriedly to Commander Hughes: “I
don’t like the looks of it, sir; a moment ago he knew nothing of it,
and now he claims to have the culprits; it seems strange.”

“Hold!” cried Commander Hughes, starting to his feet; “we must have
proof that these are the right men; we want no useless executions.” For
he knew only too well that this form of punishment was the one dear to
the Chinese heart, and he could read upon the faces of the crowd that
it was waiting joyfully to see these human heads severed from their
bodies and doubtless had been promised this stirring sport.

Langdon translated his captain’s wish hastily to the viceroy, but the
mandarin turned a deaf ear, raising his thin, veined hand with its
claw-like nails as a sign to proceed with the gruesome work.

A muscular Chinaman, naked save for a loin cloth, stepped from the
ranks of the soldiers brandishing a sharp curved sword, and moved
quickly to the side of the kneeling prisoners. Commander Hughes and his
colleagues started precipitately toward him as if to prevent him from
carrying out his murderous intentions.

Phil saw the bright blade circle above the head of a terrified prisoner
and then descend. He closed his eyes in horror to shut out the
appalling sight.

A report of a pistol shot rang out deafeningly, and he opened his eyes
to a view of Langdon with a smoking revolver in his hand, while the
executioner lay on the sand beside his victim.

[Illustration: _A PISTOL SHOT RANG OUT_]



“I guessed as much!” the pilot cried out, striding forward; the guards
timidly giving way before his menacing revolver. “These men are
Christian converts; it’s but a trick to make us lose face before this

He reached the side of the prisoners and raised one to his feet. Phil
watched with fascinated gaze as Langdon dragged forward excitedly
the chained and terrified men who had been plucked from death by the
timely and unerring shot of the American; there was something strangely
familiar in the ashen features of one of them.

“This man is a mess attendant from the ‘Phœnix!’” Langdon exclaimed,
pointing to the nearer of the two prisoners; “the trick was to execute
them before our eyes before we could interfere.”

Both Commander Hughes and Phil saw at once that the pilot was right;
there was the ward-room servant who had been missing since the day of
the gunboat’s arrival; he was a Chinaman from a distant province and
unable to speak the local dialect, and in consequence had been singled
out as a victim by the scheming officials.

The midshipman feared that all was lost; he could see no avenue of
escape; the viceroy’s attitude was certainly hostile, and how could
they, a mere handful of officers armed with only their revolvers, hope
to cope with the soldiers of the yamen, to say nothing of the hundreds
of thousands of fanatics inside the walled city? A single wave of that
treacherous hand would condemn them to a fate from which his soul
revolted; he had heard of the terrible deaths meted out to foreigners
by these semi-barbarians. The lad glanced anxiously at his companions;
he saw in their faces that they were determined to sell their lives as
dearly as possible, but the unequal struggle could have but one ending.

The naval men were standing together near the table; every eye was
upon the aged mandarin, sitting calmly, and to outward appearances, no
more concerned than if he were witnessing a play on the yamen stage;
Langdon remained beside the prisoners, and not far from the soldiers
stolidly waiting orders from their high chief.

The situation was impressive and one to unnerve the stoutest heart; a
false move, an ill-judged word, and those hundreds of modern rifles
might be turned against the defenseless officers. Phil knew that
nearly two thousand sailors were under arms on board the war-ships,
ready to be landed if the embassy had not returned to the jetty by
eleven o’clock; it was now ten-thirty by the great clock in the
council-chamber; but before the half hour had passed all would be
decided and the landing force would not be necessary. The midshipman
knew that Commander Hughes would not retract a single word uttered in
the conference, and that he would presently give out his ultimatum to
the viceroy, which would either be accepted or else more foreign blood
would be laid at the door of this cruel official, Chang-Li-Hun.

“Be careful, Langdon,” Commander Hughes said in a low voice, in which
no emotion was evident, although Phil could see the involuntary
twitching of his lips; “don’t throw a match into the magazine. Tell him
quietly that we have seen through his treachery and wish safe conduct
through his city back to our vessels; and insist that these prisoners
accompany us.”

Phil shook with excitement as the pilot steadied himself to give his
captain’s words to the viceroy; he understood thoroughly that this was
the only course open to the American commander if he wished to save
the hundreds of foreigners in the province from the insults and scorn
of the Chinese expulsionists, even though the result to him and his
colleagues was death. The lad’s mind dwelt for the fraction of a second
upon the terrible revenge that would be visited upon those responsible
for the killing of the members of the embassy; he thought of Canton and
Peking, and how the despised foreign soldiers had, with fire and sword,
brought home to the defilers of the sacred rights of ambassadors the
terrible consequences of their guilt; yet there was scant encouragement
for him in such recollections.

Langdon had given his captain’s ultimatum in a calm voice from which
all passion had been expunged, and now all waited with breath abated
for the words of the wizened old man, in whose hands the fate of so
many lives rested.

The viceroy at length stirred uneasily in his chair and turning to one
of his ministers uttered a few low gutturals. The spell was broken; a
harsh command rang out, and instantly the soldiers faced about, forcing
with set bayonets the disappointed populace through the outer gates,
which swung shut with a loud rattle behind them. Then the military,
gathering up the two lifeless bodies, sacrifices to the humor of a
viceroy, melted away in all directions, leaving the embassy once more
alone with the yamen officials.

The viceroy raised his teacup to his lips, a signal that the visit
was at an end, and then rising slowly, he bowed coldly, and attended
by his ministers withdrew from the room. In a few minutes the chairs
were brought and the embassy were only too glad to be gone from this
nerve-racking and fruitless council.

Langdon, with his usual energy, saw the liberated prisoners seated in
chairs in the midst of those of the foreigners and near his own, and
then stepped to the captain’s side to report that all was ready to

“I don’t think we shall be molested,” he said hopefully; “it seems
plain that the viceroy will do nothing to stop the uprising, but it
appears he is afraid to openly defy you.” Then he raised his voice
admiringly: “Do you know, captain, that you’re the very first foreigner
to make Chang-Li-Hun lose face, and before a crowd of his own people
whom he had deliberately collected to witness your own discomfiture.
You gave us all a close call in doing it, sir; I could hardly believe
my ears when I heard you tell me to shoot the executioner, but there
wasn’t time to allow you to repeat it.”

The return to the jetty was well and safely guarded by hundreds of
well-armed soldiers and the crowds were handled so easily that the
foreigners could readily see that the episode of the morning was
prepared for them by the yamen officials. Commander Hughes realized
that the visit to the viceroy had given ample proof that whatever
injury was done to foreigners by the natives of the province could be
charged to the stand taken by the viceroy; and with this official
backing the hostile movement would spread to insurmountable proportions.

“Why the viceroy permitted us to take those Chinese prisoners I can’t
understand,” the pilot exclaimed to Phil, a half hour having passed
since the return of the embassy.

Phil was silent, but intensely interested. He had just seen the foreign
captains file into the cabin, unsummoned, eager to hear the result of
the mission to the viceroy.

“The two prisoners came to me immediately we got back to the ship,”
Langdon continued excitedly, “and told me of an attack to be made
to-night on the Inland Mission. They claim to have secured this
information from the Chinaman who was beheaded before our eyes; he was
a northern Chinaman, but could speak the local dialect. The soldiers,
knowing these men were to die, did not take the trouble to conceal
their plans. It seems that an army of outlaws have taken Lien-Chow for
their headquarters; it is a small town about seven miles from here on
the To-Yan Lake, and they intend to move in a body upon the mission.
These malcontents have been guaranteed aid from the viceroy, and if
the mission is captured, they hope to gather enough reënforcement to
allow them to march against the forts, and the result would be their
capture, for the soldiers there would not fire a shot against their own
countrymen. The guns of the forts will then be turned upon us and our
escape down the river will be cut off, for these vessels cannot face
heavy ordnance.”

“But why,” exclaimed Phil, after the pilot had finished, “should they
attack a guarded mission when there are so many others scattered over
the country undefended?”

“It seems to show,” returned Langdon, “that the viceroy is directing
the movement. To attack and massacre the inmates of an unguarded
mission could readily be attributed to an uncontrolled mob and would
be a subject for conference and indemnity; but an attack on a defended
mission, and by soldiers in uniform, will show the Chinese that the war
is between the representatives of the foreign governments and their
own, and being successful will stir the whole population of this part
of China to rise and drive out all foreigners. I believe to-night
will be one of blood for foreigners in China, if those away from the
protection of our river gunboats have not already paid the penalty of
their trusting natures.”

“We must not delay an instant in taking this information to the
captain,” Phil declared excitedly, the contemplated movement of the
expulsionists with its possible results flashing through his mind.

The foreign gunboat captains were gathered about the cabin table when
Langdon and Phil were announced by the orderly, and all listened
intently while the pilot gave hurriedly the story brought by the two
Chinese refugees.

A buzz of eager conversation and questions ensued as Langdon finished.
Each of the captains had his own plans to advance, but Commander
Hughes, as the senior, was the first to be heard. He arose, his face
grave, and at once the room was hushed; all recognized and respected
his understanding and fertility of resource.

“We must acknowledge a failure in our diplomatic mission to the
viceroy,” he began, weighing each word carefully; “the cable being
in the hands of the Chinese officials, we are for the present cut
off from instructions from our respective governments. We have here
every available vessel on the river, except those necessary for the
protection of the missions farther up the country; the state of the
river at present will not admit of the battle-ships coming to our aid,
and the two monitors of my government are by last accounts as yet in
the Philippines. We must act here and now; there is no time for calm
and deliberate judgment; our decision must be made quickly, and our
act must be as prompt, if we are to be in time to prevent a general
massacre of foreigners.”

The speaker stopped and glanced earnestly at the faces of his
colleagues; each recognized full well the delicacy of the position.
Would their respective governments sanction their acts, or would they
find themselves disgraced and relieved of their commands, for not
having followed a course of procedure decided upon by their sovereigns
at a great distance from the scene of disturbance and in the light of
events which had not as yet transpired?

“My government,” Commander Hughes resumed, “is one of the most
conservative of those represented here; it has ever been against
striking the first blow. But there has now come a time when humanity
calls for other and more drastic measures. You have just heard from
the lips of one who knows these people far better than we that these
fanatics aided by the viceroy intend attacking a mission guarded by
American sailors.”

Commander Hughes as he spoke spread out a chart upon the table before
him, beckoning Langdon at the same time to his side.

“If we remain anchored here the guns of the forts, if hostile, will
soon drive us from the city,” he began again, his eyes on the chart.
“Before we strike a blow we must first embark all foreigners from the
concession and change our anchorage to one beyond the range of the
forts. With this startling news from the Chinese prisoners, coupled
with the attempt last night to blow up the gates of the mission, the
intention of the Chinese is no longer a matter of conjecture. We have
now to face a condition. This mission, guarded by sailors from my own
ship, is in imminent peril and must be relieved at once. Every moment
is precious. The means only should now be considered by us. I have two
plans in mind: the first one is to move farther up the river to a point
abreast the mission,” placing his finger on the chart; “from the river
it is but three miles to the mission, and we can easily land a force
after dark and march across to its relief.”

As the captain finished he glanced inquiringly at the pilot.

“That would be very difficult, sir,” Langdon said quickly, reading
the question in his captain’s eyes. “True, from there the distance
is short, but we shall have to cross a wide and deep irrigation
ditch. This canal is nearly fifty feet in depth and its sides are

“Are there no bridges?” inquired a foreign officer anxiously.

“There are several bamboo bridges,” Langdon answered, “but they are
narrow and frail. Probably even now they have been destroyed.”

“Then we must adopt my second plan,” the American commander declared
stoutly. “We have but two thousand men available for landing, which
depletes our ships to an alarming extent, anchored as they are under
the guns of the batteries; if we wait until the mission is attacked
and then land to the rescue, we might find ourselves at a great
disadvantage against the many thousands of well-armed enemies; besides,
in our absence it might prove too great a temptation for the men of
the forts to open fire on our ships, thus cutting us off from our own
vessels. Lien-Chow, where the Chinese fanatics are massing, is from
here seven miles by land and sixteen by water; the rebels will not
leave the cover of their city before dark.

“My recommendation is therefore to get under way at once from this
anchorage, taking with us all foreigners who wish to leave the foreign
concession, and then steam by the forts and into the To-Yan Lake.
Immediately upon our arrival off Lien-Chow I propose to land and
fearlessly attack the rebels in their headquarters. In routing them we
shall either break the back of the uprising, or else make it incumbent
upon the mandarins, the real offenders, to devise other plans for
encouraging this movement against the lives of the Europeans.

“Are you with me, gentlemen?”



Commander Hughes’ plans were agreed upon, though not until after much
opposition by the other members of the council, and word was at once
despatched to the foreign merchants and consuls ashore to close their
stores and houses and seek protection on board the gunboats of their
respective nationalities.

Inside of three hours all preparations were completed and the
international fleet weighed anchor and, in column, the “Phœnix”
leading, steamed boldly down the river.

Langdon had gone to the gunboat’s bridge to pilot the fleet through
the narrow and dangerous channel leading into the shallow waters of
the To-Yan Lake, leaving Phil and Sydney at their guns, aft on the
quarter-deck of the vessel; for all the gunboats had cleared for action
to be prepared in case the Chinese should precipitate hostilities.
While the fleet was getting its anchors up from the bottom of the
muddy river, they gazed with rising pulse at the unusual activity
inside the Chinese batteries; they could see groups of blue-clad
soldiers surrounding the big guns in their rocky emplacements. Would
the forts open fire upon the allied fleet as it steamed past?

The midshipmen knew that if one shot was fired from that impregnable
fortress at the miniature battle-ships the sound would travel around
the world. It would mean war! The forts belonged to the Chinese
government and were manned by her soldiers; no idle excuse would be
accepted by the nations insulted.

“These ships wouldn’t stand a ghost of a chance against those guns,”
Sydney exclaimed nervously as he joined Phil on his side of the deck.
The sailors stood silently at their batteries, each gun loaded with
high explosive shell and ready to hurl its charge at the enemy at close
range if it should suddenly declare war.

“It’s pretty short range,” Phil declared, “and our gun pointers could
send every shell through those rock gun ports. A fleet of our gunboats
would drive the Chinese gunners from their guns.”

“One Chinese shell, though, would sink us,” Sydney returned, intent
upon gaining his point. “However, let them go ahead. Those rascals will
find the ‘Phœnix’ will give them a surprise-party.”

“The monitors are what we need,” Phil exclaimed, “but they are over a
thousand miles away, broiling in the heat of Manila. With the monitors
here the forts could be silenced and captured by the fleet.”

The long column of moving gunboats was now stretched along the river
from Ku-Ling to the southward. The leader had now safely passed the
forts and its bow was directed down the river for the entrance of the
To-Yan Lake, a good six miles distant.

It was with a feeling of relief that the midshipmen saw the last
gunboat in column, following the “Phœnix’s” lead, pass out of range
of the fort’s guns. It showed that China, as a nation, had not as yet
openly challenged the world to battle; but if those in the forts had
known of the avowed intentions of the fleet might they not have acted

Under the skilful direction of Langdon, the Yangtse River pilot, the
allied fleet steamed to the southward, leaving on its starboard hand
the high bluff point of land below the city, upon which, fortunately,
the Chinese had not as yet mounted protecting batteries, and then
entered the shallow waters of the forbidden lake. From this point the
channel led away from the course of the river and to the westward
behind the city of Ku-Ling.

“Do you see Commander Hughes’ plan?” Phil exclaimed excitedly. He
took a piece of paper from his pocket, and drew a hasty map of their
surroundings. “Here’s the river, and here,” he said, “is the lake,
which we are entering. Lien-Chow, you see, is ahead of us,” and he
pointed to a dull color of blue that raised itself slowly from the
muddy waters of the lake. “It’s in the rear of the fort guns, you
notice, and our ships will be safely anchored while we are relieving
those in the mission, which lies over there.”

“Yes,” answered Sydney; “but if we succeed in repulsing the rebels at
Lien-Chow and rescuing the mission,” he went on doubtfully, “what shall
we do next? We shall be cut off from Ku-Ling. The forts will never let
us pass freely again.”

Phil put his sketch in his pocket. He wanted to complete it later and
send it home in his next letter. “Well,” he declared, “we can’t worry
over that now. The rescue of those in the mission, you see, is our most
important duty. The future must take care of itself.”

It was shortly after two o’clock in the afternoon, when the long
line of vessels dropped anchor off the town of Lien-Chow; and almost
immediately the gunboats had lowered their small boats and were
embarking their sailors. Phil found himself in the steam launch with
Commander Hughes and Langdon; the former had been chosen to command the
expedition, and the lad thanked his good fortune for his assignment as

The long line of boats, laden with armed bluejackets, rowed swiftly
toward the not distant shore of the bay, while two of the gunboats,
remaining under way when the fleet anchored, took up their stations
where they could shell the enemy if the landing was opposed.

[Illustration: _PHIL’S COMPLETED MAP_]

The midshipman stood beside Commander Hughes, whose keen eyes were
directed toward the Chinese town, in which direction the launch was
heading. Phil could not discern even a trace of nervousness in his
captain’s face, yet upon the success of this bold attempt to coerce
the Chinese mandarins his future career in the navy rested. Langdon’s
eyes were searching the approaching shore-line for signs of the enemy.
He hastily took the spyglass from Phil’s hand and leveled it in the
direction of a grove of trees to the right of the middle of the town.

“It’s a piece of artillery,” the pilot exclaimed, pointing with his
glass toward the grove.

Commander Hughes leveled his field-glass and gazed for a few seconds in
the direction indicated.

He had framed an answer, but it remained unspoken. A puff of brown
smoke darted from a bright flash amidst the trees, and the screech of
a shell came loudly to the ears of the advancing foreigners, while a
column of water rose suddenly in the air scarce fifty yards short of
the line of boats.

The two watchful gunboats, from the flanks, opened fire with their
broadsides, and in a second the grove was blotted from sight by scores
of explosions.

“That relieves us of the stigma of firing the first shot,” Commander
Hughes exclaimed gladly; “but I had hoped not to have to fire at all.
My prayer was that the rebels would disperse at this show of force.”

The boats had not covered another hundred yards when the town broke
forth, in its entire length, with a hail of rifle shots; the distance
was too great to see the flashes and hear distinctly the discharges,
but the water in front and around the boats was cut to foam by the
hissing missiles. As the boats drew nearer, the rattle of musketry
came sharply to Phil’s ears, while he heard again the wailing bullets
speeding by him. The attacking sailors were silent, but the flank
gunboats poured a storm of shell into the town.

Phil glanced admiringly at his captain; the latter was strikingly cool
in face of the stubborn resistance with which he had not reckoned; he
had believed that the rebels were but an unorganized mob and could
easily be intimidated by the allied forces; but instead he now saw that
the enemy was in force and well intrenched, while the screech of shell
and explosion of shrapnel above the sailors’ heads bore witness that
these Chinese outlaws were well supplied with modern ordnance.

A few boats in the long line wavered and held back, but the majority
kept steadily on, followed in but a few seconds by those less brave.

“When we ground,” Commander Hughes commanded, “you go to the right,
Perry, and you, Langdon, to the left: tell the officers to advance at
double time straight upon the intrenchments. We dare not stop now;
given the slightest encouragement, the Chinese could repulse us.”

Phil felt the launch tremble, and then a grating sound told him the
boat had reached as near the shore as its draft would allow. Without
hesitation, he jumped waist-deep into the water and waded to the shore,
a scant hundred yards away. He saw his two companions follow his lead,
then he started away at top speed up the beach amidst a perfect storm
of bullets, giving to the leader of each detachment as he passed the
commands of his captain.

“Form a skirmish line and advance on the double,” he shouted to boat
after boat as their keels grated on the sandy shore; then reaching the
last boat, he quickly turned and raced back to join his captain.

Running to seaward of the advancing sailors, he had covered but a
short distance when he found himself among a company of demoralized
foreigners; their swarthy faces were ashen from terror. The midshipman
at once saw the danger in this panic; already had it begun to spread to
left and right; the companies nearest the one in disorder had halted
and the sailors were glancing back uncertainly and with increasing
uneasiness. A general stampede was not far distant. The leader of this
shameless company appeared to be wild-eyed with terror. He seemed
powerless to stop the threatened rush for the boats. The lad stood
transfixed with horror. If the infection spread a panic would be the
natural consequence, bringing certain defeat to the allied arms and
leaving the mission helpless to the mercy of the cruel enemy. Without
a second’s hesitation Phil raced up to the fleeing officer. Whirling
him about to face the enemy, the lad cried out in sudden astonishment
and misgiving, as he came face to face with the man who had so grossly
insulted him in the bank at Ku-Ling.

Phil was conscious of a look of bitter hatred on the stranger’s swarthy
face, but there was no time to consider aught save the danger of a
panic and the defeat to his captain’s plans.

“Would you have us all massacred? Don’t you see that these Chinese will
run from you if you will only turn and charge as you were told?” the
lad cried desperately, menacingly emphasizing his words with his loaded
revolver. Then lowering his voice, he added in flinty tones for only
the officer’s ear: “Now run straight as you’re heading; if you turn
back I’ll blow a hole through you!”

The foreign officer felt the muzzle of Phil’s revolver prodding between
his shoulder-blades, close to his heart, and read the determination in
the American’s voice.

“Encourage your men to follow us,” the midshipman cried as the officer
moved forward uncertainly.

“Forward! Charge!” the officer ordered in a voice becoming bolder with
excitement as he saw there was nothing left him but to obey.

The startled sailors recoiled in surprise, muttering incoherently to
themselves, and then seeing their officer advance on a trot toward
the enemy’s trenches, they turned, at first fearfully, then gaining
courage, impetuously, and charged straight toward the source of the
leaden stream.

A quarter of an hour later, Phil stood beside Commander Hughes in the
trenches of the enemy, while the victorious sailors were following
doggedly the retreating rebels. Langdon stood close by guarding a
prisoner; within the pilot’s huge fist was clutched the Chinaman’s
snake-like cue, while he eagerly questioned the terrified man in
Chinese. The others waited impatiently to hear what intelligence could
be extracted from the much frightened Oriental.

“I impressed upon him that if he did not tell me the truth that I would
kill him,” the pilot exclaimed hurriedly; “he sticks to his story that
to-night they are going to attack the big mission on the graveyard

“We’ve but half succeeded,” Commander Hughes exclaimed, the lines in
his face growing deeper from anxiety. “We’ve scattered the outlaws here
with heavy loss,” the dead bodies almost filling the deep trenches
speaking eloquently that fact, “but we must push forward at once to
relieve our mission. I cannot sleep another night until those innocent
non-combatants have been rescued. My men are even secondary,” he added
forcefully; “it is their duty and privilege to die in the cause of

“We cannot hope to succeed without opposition,” Langdon said; “but
before the news of our fight here arouses the viceroy to action against
us, we should relieve the mission, bringing everybody here where we
can protect them. It is but a two-hour march and is but the natural
sequence to the attack we have made.”

“Quite so,” Commander Hughes agreed hopefully. “Langdon,” he added in
a sad voice, “you don’t know what it is to rule a dozen different
nationalities. It is a wonder we can accomplish anything.” Then he
turned to Phil, who had listened eagerly, his young face full of
concern. “Recall the sailors,” he ordered.

After the men had been ordered back from their excited pursuit of the
fleeing Chinese and had fallen into military order in rear of the
captured trenches, the American commander gathered the senior officers
of each nationality about him to urge upon them the necessity of prompt
action to relieve the threatened mission.

Phil started, the hot blood suffusing his face, as he saw with sinking
heart the rank of the foreigner whom he had humiliated before his own
men. Three heavy gold stripes on the officer’s sleeve told him the rank
was that of commander, equal to that of his own captain. This cowardly
officer was then in command of one of the foreign gunboats, but why
had he not seen him before at the councils of the allies on board the
“Phœnix”? Was this Captain Ignacio of the “Albaque,” who had each time
pleaded sickness and sent a young officer to represent him?

Further speculation upon this perplexing situation was cut short by
Commander Hughes’ forceful talk to the allies. All listened intently;
the well-modulated, clear voice of the American held his listeners
spellbound with attention, but many of the foreigners showed in their
faces only too plainly that they already feared the displeasure of
their governments for having followed the lead of this strenuous
American commander. Was it not an American mission, guarded by American
sailors? Then why should not the Americans rescue their own people?
The officer who had felt the cold chill of Phil’s revolver was loudest
in his condemnation of further attacks; his arguments were so cleverly
worded that he soon won over to his side the timid ones. The British
captain alone stood by the American in his endeavors to persuade his
brother captains that their one chance of helping the missionaries was
to vigorously pursue the advantage already gained.

“We’ve not forgotten Tatnall’s ‘Blood is thicker than water,’” the
British commander exclaimed as Commander Hughes wrung his hand warmly,
in eloquent silence.

“We must abide by the decision of the majority,” Commander Hughes said
sorrowfully. “I dare not think what will happen to those within the
mission if my men cannot withstand the attack.” Then he turned flashing
eyes upon the group of hesitating foreigners.

“What do you propose?” he questioned, controlling the anger and
humiliation in his voice with some difficulty.

Phil saw the officer whom he had recently humbled before his men cast
a knowing look at several of his co-conspirators, and then heard him
boldly voice his plan.

“My compatriots,” he began, “believe that this useless killing of
Chinese is harming our country’s interests. We have decided that we
should send a flag of truce to the viceroy to request him to use his
own soldiers to fight these Chinese rebels.”

“A flag of truce!” cried Commander Hughes, in eloquent disdain. “How
will the viceroy answer us? Probably by throwing the lifeless carcasses
of our emissaries on the sand for the dogs to feed upon.”

Commander Ignacio flinched before the menacing disgust in the
American’s face, but he held stolidly to his point, while all of the
allies, with the single exception of Commander Buresford, echoed the
foreigner’s proposal.

“The Inland Mission containing over a hundred innocent men, women and
children, is still in danger from these rebels,” Commander Hughes
exclaimed anxiously, making a last stand for what he considered was
vital to his cause. “Although we have scattered their forces, they can,
as we know, quickly regather. By concerted action, even without danger
to ourselves and possibly without bloodshed, we can march this force of
two thousand sailors over the seven miles of intervening country. By
daylight we can return here with these refugees and then we shall be in
a far better position to again open negotiations with the viceroy. If
he should refuse to treat with us now--by to-morrow these outlaws will
have recovered from their repulse. I beg that my brother officers will
agree with me on this point,” he ended in entreaty.

Commander Ignacio craftily refused to allow the point to be discussed;
he feared the persuasive powers of the earnest and loyal American.

“We have decided that question,” he replied quickly, an ugly leer on
his face. “Now our business is to select those to go to the viceroy.”

Commander Hughes was about to suggest that this foolhardy foreigner
should be chosen, and was on the point of refusing to risk the lives of
his own officers in such a dangerous undertaking, when to his surprise
the name of Ignacio was voiced by the combined council.

Phil glanced closely at the foreigner. The lad had heard his captain’s
views of the possible fate of the flag of truce. Would Commander
Ignacio accept the dangerous post?

It seemed plain from Commander Ignacio’s face that the detail was not
to his liking, but in his successful attempts to overrule the plans of
the American, he had become the avowed leader of those in opposition
to the Anglo-Saxon policy of quick action. Phil was eager to accompany
the flag of truce, but to serve under Ignacio was indeed disquieting.
The midshipman could see that his captain was taken unawares by the
acceptance of Ignacio to lead the dangerous mission. Knowing the
Chinese as he did, he honestly believed they would go to their death.

The selection of the other members of the embassy was unanimously left
to the decision of their leader, Commander Hughes.

“As my country is the most interested,” the American declared, “I
shall select my own officers.” Then turning to the midshipmen standing
near, Sydney having left his company of sailors to satisfy his eager
curiosity, “Mr. Perry,” the American commander said in a low voice,
“you have shown yourself worthy of this trust. I shall send you, Mr.
Monroe and Langdon. I hope and pray that no harm will come to you.”

Phil could scarcely believe his ears. He, a midshipman, selected for
such an important duty!

Commander Hughes then again addressed the foreign commanders.

“Gentlemen,” he said in a firm voice, “I do not count on the success of
this flag of truce. If it fails we shall be forced to attack the forts
with our unarmored vessels. However, the decision is final. My orders
are that the embassy be sent without a moment’s delay. We shall remain
here until our friends return.”

Then, dismissing the allies, he took Langdon’s arm and walked toward
the American sailors.

“If I only had five hundred American sailors,” he declared hotly, “I
would throw over these half-hearted allies and march to the relief of
the mission. But with this mere handful, failure would be assured.”
Then he beckoned the midshipmen to him. “Langdon, you and these young
men must uphold the dignity of our country. You, Langdon, must speak
directly to the viceroy. Impress upon him that I am in deadly earnest.
If he harms the American mission I shall not rest until his city is
laid in ashes. I shall destroy his arsenals and foundries. The forts
will not be able to resist the attack of the American monitors, which
should soon arrive.”

“The monitors!” Langdon exclaimed. “Are they coming?”

“I wish I could believe it,” Commander Hughes replied sorrowfully. “But
we must make the viceroy believe that we are hourly expecting them. He
fears an American monitor, and the thought that they are coming may act
in our favor.”

Preparations went forward rapidly, and inside of half an hour,
Commander Ignacio led his small party out of the allied camp.

Carrying a large white flag conspicuously displayed, the four
emissaries, with an escort of eight sailors, four from the “Phœnix” and
four from the foreigner’s own gunboat, gained the road leading toward
the city of Ku-Ling. Unencumbered with all save their firearms, which
were carried for protection against the marauding bands of outlaws, the
seven miles were quickly covered, and in less than two hours the city
gate loomed before them.

Approaching the city wall, Phil saw that there was great commotion at
the gate; soldiers ran hither and thither, and before the flag of truce
had arrived near the stagnant water of the moat, there was a noisy
clanking of rusty chain, the drawbridge was suddenly raised, and the
ponderous gates tightly shut.

The midshipmen, in spite of the precariousness of their position,
could scarcely suppress a smile of gratification: this act alone
spoke volumes; what must these Asiatics think of the prowess of the
foreigners if they feared an attack from a dozen men?



As the drawbridge clanked upward, and the soldiers disappeared hastily
behind the closing gates, Commander Ignacio, glancing nervously at
Langdon, brought his party to a stop.

“You know the customs of these people; what shall we do?” he exclaimed
anxiously, betraying that with all his vain boasting before his
confrères he depended upon the American pilot to give him courage to

“They have raised the drawbridge until the viceroy can be notified,”
Langdon answered calmly; “I don’t consider we are in much danger; of
course the Chinese never do what might be expected of them. If they
opened fire now we couldn’t escape,” he added, casting a swift glance
of disdain at the nervous officer and giving the midshipmen a covert
wink; “so we might as well put on a bold front.” Suiting his action
to his words, he threw himself down on the ground, as if he intended
to be comfortable while the viceroy indulged himself in his Oriental
diplomacy of wearing out the patience of those who wished to treat with

Over an hour passed anxiously for the foreigners; conversation was
fragmentary and pointless. Under the eyes and within close range of a
semi-civilized enemy, who might refuse to recognize a flag of truce,
their position was not calculated to inspire confidence. Then the
drawbridge creaked slowly down, and a gorgeously dressed official
advanced through the opened gate, preceded by a white flag and followed
by an armed guard of soldiers.

Commander Ignacio and his party rose hastily to meet them.

After the elaborate Chinese ceremony of greeting had been concluded,
the mandarin turned to Commander Ignacio, and inquired his mission.

“We have come to see the viceroy,” Ignacio replied in English, for
the Chinaman was no other than the interpreter, whom Phil had seen so
discomfited the day before.

With a nod of approval, the mandarin beckoned that all should follow,
and led the way across the drawbridge and into the ill-smelling city.

The emissaries and their guards passed at a rapid pace through the
narrow and dirty streets; the curious inmates of the walled city kept
at a respectful distance, their faces expressing wonder rather than

Phil, noticing the change in their demeanor from the day before, called
it to Langdon’s attention.

“Yes,” the pilot assured him, “it’s a good sign; the will of the
mandarins is always reflected in the faces of the lower classes. They
hate us just as much as ever, but the brisk work at Lien-Chow has shown
them that we are able to carry out our threats.”

Upon their arrival at the yamen, the viceroy received the foreigners
at the second door, one door nearer the entrance than where he had
received Commander Hughes. This did not fail to impress the visitors.
After all, was Chang-Li-Hun prepared to make terms?

The viceroy was accompanied by the same mandarins whom Phil had seen
the day before, and in contrast to their master’s sphinx-like face
their features betrayed the apprehension which they doubtless felt.

Chang-Li-Hun seated himself at the head of the table, motioning
Commander Ignacio to a chair on his left.

After all were seated, refreshments were brought, and silence was
preserved until the viceroy signed that the table be cleared; then
turning to Langdon he inquired courteously in Chinese the wishes of the
flag of truce.

The pilot, after a motion of consent had been received from the leader,
informed the mandarin of Commander Hughes’ terms. Phil watched his
friend’s face closely, glancing occasionally at the dignified old
Chinaman, whom nothing apparently could move.

“There is a hostile movement against the foreigners in your provinces,”
Langdon commenced in the mandarin’s language, using all the flowery
and diplomatic terms which these astute diplomats clung to so closely.
“This movement can exist only through your tolerance. We do not claim
that your Excellency is giving it active support, but you are taking
no steps to smother it. That being the case, the allied powers have
taken the law in their own hands. Having discovered that an army of
rebels were concentrating at Lien-Chow, only seven miles from your
Excellency’s city, with the avowed intention of attacking the American
mission and massacring the inmates, the allies have but a few hours ago
attacked them in their stronghold and dispersed them with many killed,
while not a foreigner has been hurt. These rebels were permitted
to collect despite the fact that you have seven thousand soldiers
under your orders capable of suppressing these outlaws. Commander
Hughes has directed us to say that if your Excellency will give his
honorable word upon the spirit of his father that no further outrages
will be permitted, and that he will protect with his soldiers the
American mission, and also cause to be issued and posted throughout
the provinces orders to desist from attacks on Christian converts and
their teachers, then the foreign sailors will be at once withdrawn from
China’s soil.”

Chang-Li-Hun’s face was barren of expression while the pilot was
delivering himself of this long speech.

“I am not the general of the soldiers,” he craftily replied; “suppose
I, a civilian, should give the soldiers orders to protect foreigners,
how may I be assured that they will obey?”

Langdon fearlessly gazed at the aged mandarin, whom he knew was trying,
as the Chinese say, “to throw dust in his eyes.”

“Is not the Tartar general under the orders of the viceroy?” he asked

“I may give an order,” the viceroy answered evasively, “but I am not a
soldier; then how shall I risk the displeasure of my father’s spirit,
when I would not know if it were being enforced?”

By the viceroy’s words his treachery was unmasked. Langdon had been
told in the strictest confidence by Emmons that General Hang-Ki
had embraced secretly the Christian belief; not suspecting this,
the viceroy had put his foot into a trap by insinuating that the
general could not be depended upon to carry out orders to protect the
foreigners and the thousands of Christian Chinese, who were alike
called foreigners by the fanatical anti-Christians.

“Where can the general be found?” Langdon inquired finally.

“His residence is in the forts,” the viceroy answered.

“Then our mission is with him,” the pilot declared, rising from his
chair; “your Excellency then will agree to give the order and I shall
endeavor to obtain his promise to conscientiously carry it out. My
captain’s one desire is to spare the misguided people of the city from
the further vengeance of the foreign powers.”

“What do you mean?” the viceroy asked, for a second dropping his mask
and gazing at the pilot through worried eyes.

“I mean,” Langdon answered, raising his voice to be heard throughout
the room, “that if the Chinese soldiers and these outlaws, calling
themselves patriots, insist upon massacring the inoffensive foreigners
and their followers, such a fire of shot and shell will be thrown into
this city by the allied fleet that all property will be destroyed.”

The aged mandarin started perceptibly at hearing these menacing words;
then he seemed to arrive at some conclusion, for his parchment-like
face betrayed a faint smile as he motioned the pilot to be again seated.

“How will the fleet bombard Ku-Ling?” he inquired; “your ships cannot
again pass the forts if I order them to fire upon you.”

“Your Excellency,” Langdon answered boldly, “has forgotten that two
American monitors are now on their way to join the allied fleet. With
the addition of these vessels, our ships do not fear the fire of your
forts; besides you will know that if the American commander orders it
our sailors can take the forts with ease by storm. Our captain is in
earnest,” he urged, believing from the viceroy’s attitude that he was
weakening. “If the mission on the hill which is under your protection
is harmed he will at once put into effect his plans to reduce the forts
and destroy your city.”

“I shall send for the general,” the viceroy finally announced. “He
may be some hours in arriving, and meanwhile you may rest after your

The party arose, following the interpreter, and shortly found
themselves in a plainly-furnished room, where he left them abruptly.

Langdon immediately explained his conversation with the viceroy, and
expressed himself as certain that the flag of truce would be successful.

Phil had not as yet been addressed by Commander Ignacio, and naturally
felt disinclined to join in the conversation. He had surprised many
furtive glances from the foreign captain, and was sure they were not
of good omen; however, now he smiled pleasantly at the two midshipmen,
without a trace of the ill nature with which Phil felt he regarded him.

“This was my idea from the start,” Commander Ignacio exclaimed
boastfully; “that fire-eating captain of yours came near getting us in
a nice muddle, but I believe I shall straighten it all out.”

Phil’s anger flared into his eyes at hearing this direct slur
upon Commander Hughes’ actions, but his training had taught him
subordination, and he controlled the words of censure that came readily
to his lips.

Langdon however was not so diplomatic.

“I beg to differ, Commander Ignacio,” he exclaimed hotly; “Commander
Hughes’ acts have made this truce possible. Until he showed that he was
in earnest by attacking and capturing Lien-Chow the viceroy would not
have received us at all.” The foreigner’s expression changed suddenly,
and as he saw the midshipmen unconsciously nod in approval of the
pilot’s words, a scowl of bitter hatred appeared on his swarthy face.

“You Americans are an insolent race,” he cried angrily. “What do you
know about such matters?” he continued violently, turning scornfully on
Langdon; “you are merely a hired pilot.”

Phil’s greatest fear seemed on the point of being realized; this
braggart might spoil all through his self-conceit. Until now all had
gone smoothly; the viceroy had as much as shown that he was ready and
willing to make terms, and now this incompetent coward had shown his
ugly hand.

“Don’t answer him, Langdon,” Phil whispered, laying a restraining hand
on the pilot’s arm; “nothing that he can say will affect our confidence
in you.”

The anger died on Langdon’s face as he realized the logic in the lad’s
words, and then the strained situation was relieved by the arrival of
the interpreter.

“His Excellency, the general, was fortunately in the city,” he
explained, “and was readily found; he now waits in the viceroy’s

The foreigners were presently again before the high mandarin.

Phil gazed admiringly at the stranger, whom he knew must be the Tartar
general. The Manchu stood over six feet in height, his skin bronzed by
exposure, in striking contrast to the almost effeminate appearance of
the Chinese mandarins about him. The fierceness of his Tartar ancestors
looked from his dark almond-shaped eyes; he seemed to the lad an
embodiment of those of his race who had many centuries before under the
great Ghenkis Khan overrun the whole of Asia, carrying their victorious
banners even into Europe; here was the soldier leader whose ancestors
had followed no other calling.

The conference was again opened by the viceroy’s thin voice.

“Upon investigation I find that the general was not informed of the
presence at Lien-Chow of these outlaws. I myself knew nothing of it.
The mission was safe in my keeping, but when your commander lands an
armed force on the soil of China, he must take the consequences; I dare
not interfere as long as there is a single foreign sailor on our shore.
Before I can treat with you, every armed man must be first withdrawn
and the ships again anchored in the Yangtse River; the To-Yan Lake is
by royal decree forbidden water, and I must demand that the war-ships
leave there immediately.”

Langdon gazed in surprise at the old diplomat. Could reliance be
placed in his implied willingness to make terms after the sailors were
withdrawn from China’s soil and the ships anchored again in the river?

“That is quite impossible,” Langdon answered promptly. “Commander
Hughes will not withdraw from China’s soil until he has received your
promise given on the sacred spirit of your father.”

“When your commander has anchored his fleet at Ku-Ling and then comes
to me apologizing for entering the forbidden lake, then I will give
my decision, but not until then,” the viceroy cried angrily. “I have
washed my hands of your mission; by putting sailors there your captain
has taken it from my protection.”

Langdon was so intent upon his conversation with the viceroy that he
failed to notice that Commander Ignacio had changed his seat to one
beside the interpreter, and that in low tones the latter had given the
foreigner the details of the conversation upon which so much depended.
The pilot now turned to apprise this officer of the latest demand of
the arch villain, but to his consternation the foreign commander had
risen to his feet, his black eyes snapping with importance, and waved
the American to silence, then turning to the interpreter at his elbow
exclaimed in English:

“I consider that the viceroy’s demands are just. I was from the first
against this ill-judged action. Tell his Excellency as senior member
of this flag of truce, I shall agree to these terms, and am sure my
colleagues, with the exception of this American, will uphold me.”

A smile of triumph played about the corners of the viceroy’s cruel
mouth while the interpreter gave him the meaning of Commander Ignacio’s
rash words.

“So,” he thought, “the foreigners are not of one mind.” The clever
diplomat believed that he had at last found a way to pierce the armor
of the despised foreigner.



The Americans were speechless with amazement. Phil was confident that
he read triumph in the spiteful face of the foreign commander. Langdon
gazed with unfeigned disgust at the officer who had brought defeat
to the allies. This wily Chinaman would now refuse to interfere with
the unlawful acts of his subjects; trusting to the dissensions of the
allies to bring their punitive efforts to naught. All realized that
now even their own lives were in peril, and they were powerless to
interfere. Commander Ignacio was the appointed head of the embassy and
his decision was authoritative.

The Americans quickly learned the ill effects of the traitor’s words,
for the viceroy at once disregarded the pilot’s presence and in the
most insulting tone turned to his interpreter.

“His Excellency,” that Chinaman said upon the completion of the
viceroy’s ultimatum, “sees that the ranking officer has more
intelligence than his low-caste companions, and that as he has given
his promise that an apology will be made, his Excellency will at once
set him at liberty to return to his people. And his Excellency further
warns his compatriots that if the sailors are not withdrawn within
twenty-four hours to their ships, and if the fleet does not leave the
To-Yan Lake, that the lives of those held as hostages will pay the

Phil, throwing discretion to the winds, was upon his feet before the
interpreter had finished his threatening sentences.

“Commander Ignacio,” he exclaimed, beside himself with anger and
mortification, “can you not see what you have done? The viceroy offers
you your freedom; you must at once insist that we are under the sacred
protection of a flag of truce and that he has not the right to detain

“Are you then so anxious about your precious skin?” the foreigner
answered, an expression of intense dislike on his swarthy face.

The viceroy had risen, taking the arm of an assistant. He bowed
formally, and moved away toward his own apartments.

Langdon heard his parting instructions to his interpreter.

“Hold these American dogs and send the others back to their own people.
Let their commander tell them that when their sailors have ceased to
pollute Chinese soil then I shall treat with them. And to show my
displeasure at the attack of the foreigners upon our innocent people, I
shall hold these dogs as hostages.”

Realizing his helplessness, the pilot was silent, and he and the
midshipmen allowed themselves to be led away by the waiting guards.

Commander Ignacio gave Phil a look of triumph as he passed him, which
glance the lad returned proudly. Doubtless this despicable man believed
he had won a signal victory over the midshipman who had accused him of
cowardice before his own men.

The Americans were conducted to a room outside of the council-chamber
of the yamen. All were too crestfallen and disappointed with the turn
affairs had taken to care what their fate might be. Through the windows
of the room they saw the traitor and his four sailors pass along the
courtyard on the way back to the camp of the allies, and a few moments
afterward, their own sailors were brought and shoved roughly into the
room where their officers were held captive.

“If that villain,” Langdon exclaimed angrily, “had only kept quiet,
we should all have been returning by now. He played right into the
viceroy’s hands.”

“It is all my own doing,” Phil moaned. “Why didn’t I tell our captain
the kind of man he was?”

“What do you mean?” Sydney and Langdon asked in a breath.

Phil told of the attack on Lien-Chow and of the cowardly part Commander
Ignacio had played.

“Well, if that isn’t the queerest!” the pilot exclaimed after the
midshipman had finished; “Commander Hughes in my hearing complimented
him upon the fearless attack of his men; they were the first in the
enemy’s trenches after the Americans and English. And it was you that
put wings to their leader’s feet.”

The pilot’s laugh sounded so incongruous that the Chinese guards
glanced suspiciously inside, fearing that the handful of foreigners
might be planning some daring escape.

“I feel that it is my fault,” Phil repeated penitently. “I alone am
responsible for our captivity.”

“Cheer up, lad!” Langdon exclaimed. “It might be worse. The viceroy
will soon find that Commander Ignacio will not be supported. He will
not dare to hold us long.”

But the pilot, with his wide knowledge of the Chinese, did not know the
capacity for cruelty of this aged mandarin.

Even as the pilot spoke, the room filled with soldiers, who disarmed
the Americans, binding their hands behind them and attaching heavy
chains to their ankles. Langdon began to caution the sailors to submit
without resistance, but before he could give the advice a stalwart
sailor had picked up a heavy chair and floored the nearest of the
Chinese soldiers.

The sailors were quickly taken away, and after their work was
completed the guards withdrew, leaving the midshipmen and the pilot
bound upon the hard floor. The tight cords on their wrists cut cruelly
into the flesh.

Phil gave himself over to despair; he could see no way out of their
terrible predicament. Langdon, breathing heavily beside him, was
silent, while Sydney was speechless with anger and mortification.

After several minutes the interpreter entered their prison; his sallow
face betrayed not a spark of sympathy as he told Langdon to be prepared
to receive the sentence of punishment at the hands of the viceroy.

The pilot growled an answer in Chinese which caused the interpreter’s
face to show a shade of annoyance; then he answered in English,
glancing fiercely at his captives.

“We respect a flag of truce, but those who land on friendly soil and
attack innocent villagers are not entitled to its protection.”

Phil would have denied the Chinaman’s assertions, but the next second
he was roughly dragged to his feet, and with his companions, led into
the private apartments of the viceroy.

There the mandarin was seated comfortably in his chair of state,
enjoying hugely the discomfiture of the foreigners. One by one the
Americans were forced down upon their knees before the viceroy; the
guards zealously pulling the hair of the helpless ones as a caution to
obey quietly.

While Chang-Li-Hun spoke to Langdon in a low voice, the midshipmen
were held down on their knees, their heads bent forward, and as each
moved to ease his cramped limbs, the cruel hands of the soldiers would
inflict some new and painful torture to keep them motionless. The
strain was well-nigh unbearable; the body bending forward brought a
heavy and increasing strain on the wrist bindings.

“Your two companions being officers of a foreign navy under arms
on China’s soil, I have the right to hold them for punishment and
execution, if I so desire. You being but a civilian, if you will
apologize publicly I will set you free at once,” the viceroy said in a
conciliatory voice.

The pilot stoutly refused to accept his clemency.

“Would your commander really dare attempt to bombard my city?” the
mandarin continued curiously.

The severe pain at his wrists spurred Langdon on to picture blackly the
doom awaiting the self-satisfied and treacherous official.

“If you hold these officers captive, the American commander will not
rest until he has set them at liberty. If you harm a hair of their
heads he will raze your city to the ground and every shell will be
directed at this yamen. The inside of the wall will be as desolate as
that of your great city of Nanking after the Taiping rebels had sacked

The viceroy turned livid with uncontrolled rage. He spurned the bound
prisoner with his foot, while the soldiers, seeing the anger in their
master’s face, pulled the hair and beard of the helpless man.

Langdon was now beside himself. By a mighty effort, he bore back upon
the soldiers, his great strength scattering them with ease, and then he
raised his head and gazed full into the face of the viceroy.

“By holding us as hostages you are but signing your own death-warrant.
Our mission here was for your own good. Your people will suffer, but
the mandarins are those whom Commander Hughes desires to punish. You
know that if your city is destroyed by the foreign fleet you must
either commit suicide or falsify the reports to Peking which in time
will be discovered. If you liberate us at once and give your promise
that foreigners will be protected, even now you can redeem your action.”

Chang-Li-Hun could hardly believe his ears. He had never been talked to
so plainly in all his life. His mandarins stood near him, the scowls on
their outraged faces betokening evil for the helpless Americans.

Langdon was, at a motion from the viceroy, quickly restrained, and
struggling violently in the hands of numerous soldiers was borne out
of the council-chamber. The midshipmen’s guards were severe as they
dragged the unresisting lads from the presence of the viceroy.

“I fear I’ve made a worse muddle of it,” the pilot exclaimed dolefully,
after they were again alone in the room which for the present served
as their prison. Then he recounted to his companions what had passed
between him and the powerful mandarin.

“We can hope for no immediate relief from our people,” Phil declared
dejectedly. “Even though the allies condemn Ignacio’s actions and are
willing to aid in our release, they cannot storm the city by land from
Lien-Chow. First the fleet must pass through the fire of the forts.”

“There is one other chance,” Langdon replied hopefully. “The viceroy
is certainly acting without or perhaps even contrary to orders from
Peking. I could tell that by the anger in his face when I accused him
of it. His government is being kept in the dark. It knows nothing
of the conditions within his provinces. If the foreign ambassadors
in Peking have back-bone enough to insist upon knowing the state
of affairs, the throne will ask for reports, and Chang-Li-Hun, as
powerful as he is, must disclose his treachery. If these reports are
not satisfactory to the ambassadors and at the same time if sufficient
fear can be put into the emperor’s heart by intimidating him with the
threat of another sack of the capital by the foreign soldiers, then he
will send one of his trusted Manchu generals with an army at his back,
from a neighboring province. When once these soldiers have arrived in
front of the viceroy’s yamen then Chang-Li-Hun must acknowledge himself

“Meanwhile what is going to happen to us?” Sydney asked.

“Come, brace up, Syd,” cried Phil, trying hard to appear cheerful.
“We’ve been in as bad a place before. If our time has come, nothing
that we can say or do will stop it.”

“It isn’t that I am afraid of what’s going to happen,” Sydney exclaimed
in a hurt voice. “If they’d given us a show it wouldn’t have mattered;
but to violate a truce! That’s what makes me feel like tearing these
shackles off and throttling every Chinaman in sight, and to feel I
can’t makes me wish to use all the bad words that I know.”

Phil could barely suppress a laugh; Sydney had described his own
feeling more accurately than he could himself.

“We may just as well keep our tempers,” Phil replied philosophically.
“It only wastes one’s strength to get angry, and we’ll probably need
all the endurance we have before we are again with our own people.”

“Did the captain send any telegrams to the admiral or Washington about
the state of affairs?” Langdon asked suddenly.

“Yes, he sent one yesterday and one was given to the Chinese operator
in the concession this morning,” Phil replied. “The last one was a long
one and outlined what he intended doing, with his reasons. They were
all in cipher. I helped him prepare them.”

“They haven’t gone further than the viceroy’s waste paper basket,”
Langdon returned. “He will guard every outlet for news. Doubtless his
version of the actions of the foreigners will be wired, unless he sees
fit to remain silent.”

“How can he remain silent?” Sydney inquired. “The gunboats came here
believing that there was going to be trouble. Surely if the foreign
governments do not hear from their representatives they will be

“It’s too deep for me this time,” Langdon declared. “The viceroy knows
what he’s doing; that I can assure you. History usually repeats
itself in these Chinese troubles, and he is probably banking on the
timidity of the foreign governments. If the plain unvarnished facts of
the attack on Lien-Chow got to Washington with no word from Commander
Hughes, what would happen? That is what Chang-Li-Hun is counting on.”

“The president would wire for particulars,” Phil answered.

“Yes, and he wouldn’t get them,” Langdon returned; “and then what would

“I don’t know, but the viceroy believes he does and he hopes
that Washington will act in such a way as to give the victory to

As the pilot’s voice died away, the predicament of himself and
companions came home forcibly to Phil. His arms and legs were swollen,
causing him great pain, and the thought of the further cruelty of those
who held them captives was not pleasant.

“Is there no way to escape?” the lad asked, glancing about the insecure
looking prison.

“We might succeed in getting out of the yamen,” Langdon answered
discouragingly, “but we could never expect to get out of the city.
There are but two gates, and both are heavily guarded at all times.
Once we are missed from here the news would travel with the speed of
wireless telegraphy throughout the city. No, we are as secure as if we
were on a desert island.”

“Can’t we bribe the guards?” Sydney asked, casting a contemptuous
glance at the ragged soldier at the door.

“What have we to bribe with?” Langdon asked mournfully. “I haven’t a
cent about me.”

“The green jade ring my grateful Chinaman gave me!” Phil exclaimed.

The Americans took heart at the thought of this priceless possession.

“Guard it carefully,” Langdon cautioned; “it may save us.”

“Does Commander Ignacio really believe,” Sydney asked suddenly, “that
Commander Hughes will apologize to the viceroy?”

“That traitor Ignacio knows that he will not!” Phil exclaimed angrily
at the thought of his treachery. “There’s more in this than we
understand. It’s a plot to defeat our captain, and he with only his
small force is powerless if the other nations side with this villain.
Our only hope is that the other foreigners will not stand for Ignacio’s
cowardly agreement.”

“Those in the mission,” Langdon said with alarm in his voice, “are in
a worse plight than ever. Unless Commander Hughes finds himself strong
enough to relieve the mission it will sooner or later be attacked; our
fifty sailors cannot withstand a long siege against the Chinese regular

The more Phil speculated upon the situation the more perplexing it
seemed. Numbers of helpless foreign missionaries were scattered among
the cities of the provinces. Even now many might have been killed by
the lawless element. In the past many missionaries had been killed by
mobs stirred to violence by printed circulars sent out openly by the
mandarins. Would the firm stand of the foreigners deter the mandarins
from giving license to their people to destroy? Phil knew that this was
his captain’s hope.

Langdon’s voice interrupted the lad’s musings.

“We shall be separated,” he said dejectedly. “Please don’t be rash.
Remember the cruelty of these people. They might kill in a fit of
anger, even though your death was against their interests. Don’t expect
kind treatment. You will probably be liberated when our captain has
shown the viceroy that he is equal to his threats, but I am not an
officer and I know too much to suit that scheming interpreter.”

That the pilot despaired of his life was indeed disquieting news to the
midshipmen, but their solicitations were quickly cut short by the sound
of tramping feet in the hallway outside their prison door.

A number of armed soldiers entered the room and dragged the captives
roughly to their aching feet, hurrying them along the stone pavement up
the courtyard.

Phil saw ahead of him the unresisting Langdon, brutally kicked and
struck by his captors as he shuffled painfully along, then his own
guards turned down a corridor, dragging him after them.

Wondering what was about to happen Phil saw a soldier knock loudly upon
a door; a most unearthly yell from within was the only answer, then
the door opened inwards and he found himself shoved into the midst of a
crowd of half-naked Chinamen. His heart sank within him as he realized
that he was to be imprisoned along with the lowest of the criminals of
the viceroy’s provinces. But a moment later he could have cried out
for joy at the sight of Sydney thrown roughly almost into his arms.
At least he would have his friend to share his tortures; that was
something for which to be thankful.



The arrival of the Americans in the jail was heralded with delight
by their scantily-clad fellows; they one and all crowded about the
lads examining their uniforms and putting very dirty hands on their
white skins. Many had never seen a foreigner at such close range.
The midshipmen were so tightly bound that they could not escape this
unpleasant, although apparently friendly, treatment.

Finally Phil could bear it no longer; the sickening odor from their
unwashed bodies became more than his endurance could stand. Managing
to rise to his feet, he painfully crossed the damp floor to a wooden
bench, the only article of furniture in the cell; reaching this he sat
down upon it, gently but forcefully pushing the prisoners seated beside
him until he had the bench entirely to himself. The Chinese stood close
by in silent surprise, showing no anger at this treatment.

“Come here, Sydney,” he called. “We’ll take the bench and keep these
ruffians away. They’ll smother us with their heathen curiosity.”

Sydney crawled through the delighted crowd, the prisoners moving aside
readily for him, and as he reached the bench and raised himself off the
reeking floor to a seat beside Phil, the gaping Chinamen chattered like
children, quite absorbed in the infrequent spectacle of foreign devils
in their jail.

A number of the more bold among the prisoners squatted on the floor
close to the bench, examining the stout boots and leggins of the
midshipmen, but these Phil motioned away, emphasizing his meaning by a
shove from his manacled feet. The Chinamen arose at once, their faces
expressing only astonishment.

The lads were soon left alone; their fellow prisoners had formed a
circle around them with an intervening space of over a yard, while one
or two of their number assumed the rôle of protectors and faithfully
kept their comrades from infringing upon this forbidden ground.

“They are more kind than their masters,” Sydney said, after the
midshipmen had gathered their scattered wits.

“Poor fellows, they seem as happy as if they were only doing penance
for small sins,” Phil replied, gazing compassionately at his motley
companions. “Yet they are all condemned to be executed. Do you see the
large ring each wears about his neck, with a brass tag attached? That’s
the mark of a felon to be beheaded, or worse.”

“Where do you suppose they’ve taken Langdon?” Sydney asked anxiously.
“It’s certainly terrible to be helpless in the power of these cruel
Chinese. They may even now have beheaded him. The viceroy was angry
enough to revenge himself.”

“I hope it’s not so bad as that,” Phil answered, trying hard to be
reassuring, not feeling, however, a particle more secure than the
condemned men about him. “Langdon said,” he added grimly, “if our hands
were lifted up high behind our backs and they hurried us out of the
cell, our heads would probably be cut off in the large outer court.
Until they do that, I suppose we may be sure that we are not in any
immediate danger of death.”

Sydney shuddered at the unpleasant thought. And this was the China that
they had been so eager to visit.

Toward evening a great tub filled with millet was brought in by the
keepers and this the prisoners devoured ravenously. Luckily for the
lads, they had satisfied their appetite from the viceroy’s table, for
they would have stood but scant chance among that hungry rabble.

The cell was now entirely dark, save for a swinging light which
streamed through the barred doors. The midshipmen scarcely closed their
eyes during the long hours of the night, and when the first streaks of
day shone into their foul cell, they were sitting open-eyed on their

A jailer brought a basin of water to the door of the cell and then
entering, took off their irons and led them out into the courtyard.
The lads’ hopes rose, but they soon saw that it was to be only a
preparation for more imprisonment. A bowl of rice apiece was given
them, which was quickly eaten, and then each received a steaming cup of
tea. This reassuring meal put new life into the lads and they felt more
cheerful than at any time since their imprisonment.

“What’s he doing?” Sydney cried out in alarm, as the jailer began to
rub his neck with a damp rag, while another rubbed his wrists and
ankles. Phil was afterward given the same treatment, and then the
hateful irons were again put on, but in addition there were put about
their necks the dreaded rings, with the dangling brass tags that
jingled ominously.

The midshipmen were stunned. Like the others of their cell-mates they
were now wearing the badge of death. They also had been condemned by
the viceroy and would be held in this loathsome prison until their
numbers were called by the “Board of Punishments,” the Chinese high
court of justice.

Once more in their cell the lads sat dejectedly on their bench. They
had small desire for conversation; each felt his doom pressing upon
him, and strange to say with this weight of trouble their thoughts
turned to Langdon.

“If we are to be executed,” Phil said sorrowfully, “poor Langdon must
have already met his death.”

Sydney had not the heart to reply. He nodded his head sorrowfully. Then
a thought struck him, and he raised hopeful eyes to his companion’s

“He must be near us, Phil,” he exclaimed. “Can’t we find some means of
communicating? If we could only talk their language we might ask our
jailer; he appears friendly and probably knows.”

Phil was silent for a few moments, then he suddenly began to whistle
loudly the stirring music of their class song. The tune brought tears
to Sydney’s eyes. It took him back to the day the brigade of midshipmen
marched by the reviewing stand for the last time with his class as
seniors. Two hours afterward, with his diploma in his hand, he had
shaken hands as a graduate with the secretary of the navy. What a
terrible contrast! Then a sudden fear took possession of him. Had Phil
lost his mind? Was the knowledge of their terrible end too much for
his nerves and had his strong mind succumbed? While these disquieting
thoughts were coursing through his brain, Phil ceased whistling and
listened eagerly. From a distance a high-pitched treble of a whistle
came indistinctly to their ears amid the noises of their cell.

The Chinese crowded about Phil in evident delight, while a number of
jailers stood outside the half-closed door peering inside, smiles on
their ignorant faces.

“They seem to enjoy my music,” Phil said in a perfectly rational voice;
“but thank goodness, Langdon is still alive!”

“Maybe it was from one of the sailors,” Sydney suggested.

Phil continued his whistling for many minutes until his listeners had
become thoroughly accustomed, then he put forth his strategy.

“Langdon knows our signal code,” he said quietly, “and I’m going to try
to whistle him a message, if we can only get these fellows quiet. At
least we’ll find out who it is that is confined near us.”

Then by single and double whistles, covered up ingeniously with
snatches of tunes, he spelled out:

“Who are you?”

The lads waited breathlessly for several minutes, which seemed to them
as many hours. Then the answer came distinctly:

“Langdon. If the interpreter comes to you show him the ring. It may be
your last chance.”

Phil acknowledged this, and then to allay the suspicions of the
jailers, he whistled several lively tunes.

The long day dragged slowly by. In their cramped surroundings they
leaned back against the wall and dozed off, only to be awakened by the
pains in their tightly-bound limbs. The irons galled terribly.

At last the jailer brought them their evening meal, a bowl of rice
apiece, and before leaving them for the night, examined their shackles.
While examining Sydney’s swollen wrists he “hi-yaw’d” loudly, calling
the midshipmen’s attention to where the tender skin had been chafed
through, the red flesh showing clearly.

“Of course; what does he expect?” Sydney exclaimed angrily. “These
irons are not lined with velvet!”

The jailer took Phil by the shoulder and led him to a corner of the
cell, where a Chinaman was lying, his pale face showing that the poor
fellow’s death was but a matter of hours.

Stooping down, the jailer lifted one of the sick man’s arms. The sight
that met the lad’s gaze was heartrending. The wrist where his iron had
been was a festering sore. The diseased flesh had slowly spread until
his forearm to the elbow was infected and the man was dying of blood
poison. Phil at once understood the terrible danger to his friend. He
had heard of the maggot which is said to infest all Chinese prisons.
The earth beneath his feet at a depth of a few inches was swarming with
these deadly parasites, and their instinct leads them directly to a
fresh wound. Once this insect enters the flesh of a victim, his death
by a fearful, agonizing and lingering illness is assured.

Pointing to Sydney’s irons Phil demanded by signs that they be
immediately removed, but the jailer shook his head in dissent, his
expressive face portraying a fear for himself if he did, while he
struck his own neck with his hand as if to say, “That’s what would
happen to me if I took his irons off.”

Phil’s solicitude for his friend was great. How could he hide this
wound from the searching little worm? He thought of his pocket
handkerchief in his blouse pocket; reaching inside his coat with his
manacled hands, he dragged it slowly out, with the intention of using
it as a bandage about Sydney’s wrist, but to his consternation as he
pulled a bright spark of metal flashed before his eyes and the precious
jade ring fell loudly to the floor at the jailer’s feet.

The Chinaman pounced upon it with avidity, hastily concealing it in his
loose clothes. Phil attempted to hold him, but he roughly pushed him
aside, shutting the barred door in his face with a loud slam.

Their last hope had flown. The Chinaman would doubtless conceal the
ring and say he knew nothing in case he was questioned.

The keen disappointment at the loss of the talisman made Phil fear even
more for the terrible predicament of his companion. A few more days in
this noisome hole might mean his death. Ill fed, with no opportunity to
wash away the accumulated dirt from their unclean surroundings, he must
surely fall a victim of the insidious insect.

Another night passed in torture, relieved only by an occasional
exchange of signals between Phil and Langdon. He had fared no
worse than the midshipmen. Phil told him of the loss of the ring
and afterward there was a long silence, as if the news were too
disappointing to find an answer.

Finally after several hours, the midshipmen were awakened from their
painful slumber to hear the signal from the pilot.

“The viceroy has received some word from the allies. He asked me many
questions to-day,” and then abruptly the whistle ceased.

The lads were eager to hear more, but Langdon was silent, and soon a
jailer entered and threatened by signs to gag the midshipmen if they
continued; so, much against their inclinations, they stopped signaling.

Early the next morning the lads were awakened from an uneasy sleep by
loud cries in the courtyard outside of their cell door. The jailer
hurried in, unlocking their chains and signed them to follow him. The
midshipmen upon staggering to their feet would have fallen, if it had
not been for the prompt support of their fellow prisoners, who having
risen from their earth beds were gazing curiously through the open door.

Emerging into the sunlight Phil at first could see nothing, but the
jailer, taking each by a hand, led them staggeringly across the sandy
courtyard. Then suddenly, pushing on their shoulders, the jailer forced
the midshipmen on their knees before two mandarins.

Phil raised his eyes and saw the kindly face of the Tartar general,
while from the lips of the other, a stranger, came in perfect English
as he raised the almost fainting lads to their feet:

“Come with us; we are your friends.”

Jubilantly they followed the Tartar general’s military figure, and soon
found themselves within a large room where a small table was set, and
the tempting odor of food struck pleasantly upon their hungry senses.

[Illustration: “_WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS_”]

The lads were told to be seated, the mandarins taking chairs opposite

Phil was fairly bursting with suppressed excitement. Were they to be



The midshipmen saw that something had occurred to bring about this
change in the behavior of the mandarins, but for their lives they could
not guess its import or the effect it would have upon their condition.
Both lads had come to understand something of Chinese perfidy, and
determined to school themselves to bear any disappointment.

Very deliberately the two mandarins finished their meal, the
midshipmen, even under their tension of impatience, doing full justice
themselves to the savory dishes, and then the servants removed the
remnants of the repast. Meanwhile all four men sat in silence, the
mandarins in their silken robes in great contrast to the forlorn
appearance of the Americans in their dirt-covered uniforms.

At length the silence was broken by the unmusical voice of Hang-Ki, the
Tartar general. While he talked, making many gestures with his hands
to illustrate his meaning, the lads racked their brains for a solution
to this unexpected treatment. Finally the general finished, glancing
interestedly at the midshipmen, anticipating no doubt the effect his
words would have on the faces of the youths.

Phil drummed calmly with his finger nail a signal to Sydney.

“Show no feeling,” the latter read from the clear clicks upon the
hardwood table, and he nodded guardedly in assent.

The second Chinaman was now interpreting the general’s words, and the
midshipmen listened eagerly.

“His Excellency, General Hang-Ki, was given this ring by a soldier who
said it was found by one of the jailers on the person of one of the
American officers. He wishes to know from where it came.”

To Phil’s delight the Chinaman held up the jade ring, which he had
believed was irrecoverably lost.

Phil saw no reason for concealment, so he at once told the story of his
rescue of the Chinaman from the river.

Then it was the midshipmen’s turn to watch the general’s face as Phil’s
words were given him in his own language, but to their disappointment,
his features did not betray the slightest signs of aught save interest.

Finally the interpreting mandarin turned to the expectant lads, a smile
on his intelligent face. They had been wondering unsuccessfully who
this Chinaman might be, using the English language as readily as his
own. He spoke a few words to the general, and receiving an affirmative
nod, he again addressed the Americans.

“I see you do not know me. My name is Emmons. So far I have been
powerless to aid you. The viceroy is not my friend, and if it were not
for the confidence shown me by the general, I should before now have
shared the fate which you have so narrowly escaped. Even now all danger
is not over. This ring, you say,” addressing Phil, “was given you by
the man you saved from the river?”

Phil nodded silently.

“That part we cannot explain. The ring is a gift from the emperor to
Ta-Ling, the viceroy’s official secretary and interpreter. The stone
is the most priceless jade. Fortunately for you the jailer, fearing to
keep it in his possession during the night, gave it to the captain of
the yamen guard, who brought it at once to the general. If it had gone
to the viceroy, before now you both would have been executed.”

“What do you mean?” Phil exclaimed. “Did I commit such a serious
offense by saving this man from drowning?”

Emmons smiled grimly as he answered:

“By saving Ta-Ling’s life you committed a serious offense against
the foreigners in China. That it was he you saved there can be but
little doubt, and he is the bitterest enemy the foreigners have among
the viceroy’s advisers. He is a graduate of an American college, and
because of his harsh treatment at San Francisco each time he returned
to college from his yearly visits to China, he has sworn to avenge
himself upon all Americans, and of course all foreigners will suffer,
because the Chinese people cannot discriminate between an American and
one of another nationality. Because of my American blood I have gained
his enmity, and while once I enjoyed the viceroy’s confidence, now he
has openly shown me his displeasure. This uprising was started by the
wide circulation of handbills, printed in the yamen and distributed
at Ta-Ling’s direction throughout the provinces, calling upon all
patriotic Chinamen to exterminate the foreigners. General Hang-Ki
is the only friend that the foreigners have; he commanded an army
corps against the allies at Peking in 1900, and knows the terrible
consequences awaiting those who dare resort to such barbarous and
uncivilized methods. Unfortunately Ta-Ling has the entire confidence of
the viceroy, and has poisoned his ear against the wiser counsel of the

“Is the mission still unharmed?” Phil interrupted anxiously.

“Yes,” Emmons answered promptly, “the viceroy has given the general
orders that it be guarded from attack, although Ta-Ling has been making
desperate efforts to gather together the rebels, who were dispersed by
the foreign sailors at Lien-Chow. If he should succeed in having the
general’s soldiers withdrawn from their camp near the mission, he may
yet succeed in his cherished wish.”

“But Ta-Ling himself has enemies,” Phil exclaimed. “It must have been
these who attempted to drown him in the river.”

“The one who attempted to drown him in the river is sitting opposite
you in the person of General Hang-Ki,” Emmons answered, smiling at
the lads’ astonished faces. “Knowing that the general would not lend
himself to the intrigues against the lives of foreigners, Ta-Ling
decided to put the general out of the way. The night you saved the
secretary from the river and, as you supposed, received this priceless
royal jade ring as a reward, his Excellency was spending the night with
me on my house-boat. The general, if possible, always sleeps in the
open air, and this aided the would-be murderer in his design. I had
been asleep for some hours when I was aroused by cries, and hurrying
to where I had left the general sleeping, I saw him hurl the body of a
man overboard; but the assassin had nearly accomplished his purpose as
the knife thrust over the general’s heart will show.” Emmons turned his
tongue to the Chinese language, and the general baring his chest, the
lads gazed in horror at the terrible wound.

“We believed,” continued Emmons, “that the man was only a robber, until
we saw this ring and heard your story, but now there can be no doubt
that the would-be assassin was the viceroy’s interpreter, Ta-Ling

“Is it likely,” Phil asked incredulously, “that if the man was Ta-Ling,
he would give me this ring?”

“He didn’t give you the ring, you can be sure of that,” Emmons replied
decidedly; “it slipped off his finger when he thanked you. Afterward
when he missed it, he doubtless thought he had lost it in the river.”

“Do you suppose he has recognized me as the one who pulled him out of
the river?” Phil asked suddenly, grasping at the hope that the Chinaman
might befriend him; but Emmons quickly dashed this hope to the ground.

“The night was dark, and besides, after his experience in the river,
for he cannot swim, I doubt if he remembers much of what happened.
According to the old law of China he would not dare for his soul’s
peace to take your life if he knew you had saved him, but Ta-Ling is
a progressive Chinaman, and considers his self-preservation in this
world of more importance than the peace of his spirit hereafter. If
this attempt on the life of a trusted general of the emperor were
known, Ta-Ling could not be saved by even the viceroy. The penalty is
death by a terrible torture.”

“Will the general report this occurrence to the viceroy?” Phil asked
excitedly, his hopes again rising that the interpreter might be
disposed of and Langdon and the rest of the hostages liberated to
return to the safety of their ships.

“The general believes that the time has not come to expose him,” Emmons
answered, lowering his voice to almost a whisper. “Ta-Ling is now the
master of the viceroy’s yamen and if we failed to break his authority
he would make certain of your destruction, reporting to the viceroy
that you all had committed suicide for shame at your misdeeds.”

Both midshipmen’s faces broke into smiles in spite of the serious
situation. Emmons, seeing the merriment caused by his words, hastened
to explain.

“I know that such an idea is entirely foreign to the American mind,
but not so with the Chinese. If a man knows he has committed some deed
which his fellows condemn, he is ashamed, or as we say in China, ‘loses
face,’ and he is very likely to commit suicide to regain his good name.
And again, a Chinaman held prisoner may take his own life for revenge
against his captors.”

“They needn’t fear that from us,” Phil replied. “We’ll cling to life as
long as we are able.”

“That’s what the general and I have come to help you in,” Emmons said
in sympathy; “the jailer has already been cautioned to say nothing of
the ring, and the soldier who brought it to the general is no friend of
Ta-Ling; but even with this doubt removed your lives are in danger so
long as you are held by the viceroy. An ultimatum was received from the
American commander last night that the allies have refused to approve
the commander of the flag of truce’s promises and if the hostages are
not liberated before noon to-morrow, the allied fleet would bombard the
city. This has thrown the viceroy into a fever of fear, for he owns
much valuable property in and about the city. He has given the general
orders to open fire on the fleet if it again moves to an anchorage off
the city.”

“Will he obey the order?” Phil asked eagerly.

“He must,” Emmons replied. “He dare not refuse a direct order from the
viceroy, but he has demanded this order in writing, so as to protect
himself when the day of reckoning comes. General Hang-Ki has sent a
memorial to the viceroy protesting against this action; he realizes
that these gunboats stand for many great battle-ships that would be
sent against his forts as soon as the spring floods bring rising water
in the Yangtse River.”

The midshipmen were silent, while Emmons spoke to the general. The
conversation lasted for several minutes, when finally the former again
spoke in his father’s language.

“The viceroy is ignorant of our presence here and we must soon leave
you. If Ta-Ling should discover that we had talked with you, all hope
for you would be over.”

The midshipmen were cast down into the depths of despair. Then they
were not to be liberated at all, and would again go back to their
prison and be in the cruel clutches of that fiend Ta-Ling.

“The general has done his best to arrange an escape,” were the cheering
words from Emmons. “To-night you will be put in a cell away from the
Chinese prisoners. The door of the cell will be unlocked. Here is
a plan of the yamen, and I have marked your route to the gate and
safety. I shall have chairs waiting you at the gate. Success depends
upon yourselves; we dare not help you farther. In this room marked
in pencil you will find mandarin robes, which you must put on. The
guards throughout the yamen will be removed until midnight, so you must
succeed before that time. The room in which you will find disguises is
occupied by the viceroy’s treasurer. He is a close friend of Ta-Ling
and cannot be bought. If you are discovered the general will be
powerless to save you.”

“And Langdon?” Phil asked earnestly, his heart beating high with hope.
“We cannot go a step without him and our four sailors.”

“That is more difficult,” Emmons replied with annoyance. “He is being
constantly visited by Ta-Ling. To attempt his escape may defeat all.
The four sailors are in another part of the yamen and except for cruel
treatment are safe for the present. The general is grateful to you for
revealing this plot against his own life, but his real intention is to
give your captain information as to what will happen if he attempts
to run by the forts. There is, however, a channel, known to only the
Chinese, leading behind and close to the long narrow island on the
opposite side of the river. This island is now covered with tall reed
grass which will conceal the hulls of the gunboats from the rays of the
search-lights of the fort. Here is a sketch plan of this channel. If
your commander will start at night and use the channel I suggest, it
may be that he can take his entire fleet past the forts undiscovered.
I dare not take this message myself, for my movements are closely
watched. I fear even now Ta-Ling may have discovered our purpose.”

“Can we depend upon this information?” Sydney whispered to Phil, as
Emmons and the general rose to their feet. “Might it not be a trick to
blow the gunboats up by mines in this narrow channel?”

Phil put the question to Emmons, but the latter assured them of the
honesty of the general.

“The general believes he is serving his country in giving this
information,” he added; “he knows his people will suffer through the
viceroy’s treachery. If the fleet can pass without being discovered, he
cannot be held guilty of disobeying the order of the viceroy. So you
see it is important that this message should reach your captain in time
to prevent him from carrying out his threat of running the batteries.”

Reluctantly the midshipmen agreed to leave Langdon and the four sailors
behind and make the attempt to escape in order to carry the information
of the secret channel to Commander Hughes. Each felt that in doing so
they might be sacrificing their friend to the revenge of Ta-Ling when
he had discovered the absence of the midshipmen, but the good of the
cause demanded it be so.

In but a few moments the jailer led the lads back to their distasteful

Passing a great tub of clear water, both lads looked longingly at it
and then at their soiled hands. To their delight the Chinaman smiled
and motioned that they might indulge in a bath.

Delightedly the lads stripped their unclean clothes from their bodies
and bathed in the soothing water. Forgetful of their surroundings,
with the complacent jailer sitting close by an amused spectator, they
talked gayly of their hoped-for deliverance. Then the bright smiles on
their faces were suddenly frozen by the sound of a voice which they had
learned to dread.

“You seem very cheerful for men who are soon to be executed,” Ta-Ling
said in his perfect English. “What has put my good friends in such
excellent spirits?”

Both midshipmen were speechless with astonishment. How long had this
eavesdropper been listening? Had he discovered the intrigue of the
Tartar general? These were the questions that passed through their
minds. They waited in cruel suspense for the next words of their enemy
to answer these fateful questions.

Ta-Ling turned upon the trembling jailer, berating him soundly,
punctuating his words with kicks and blows which the cringing man
received without a sign of resentment.

“I have told him that if I saw you laughing again,” he cried angrily,
“he would have his head chopped off. Your treatment here has been too

Then as an afterthought the mandarin picked up Phil’s uniform blouse
from the ground at his feet and searched through the pockets carefully.
Phil was terrified; the plan of the yamen was in his trousers pocket on
the ground at the Chinaman’s feet. If he searched through his trousers,
all hope of escape would be ended.



Ta-Ling threw down the coat impatiently and glanced disdainfully at
the other articles of apparel. He then took up Phil’s muddy trousers
gingerly as if fearful of soiling his esthetic hands. The lad’s heart
was in his throat while he watched the Chinaman guardedly, striving to
appear unconcerned, and cudgeling his brain for something to say in
order to turn the man’s attention from a search of the guilty garment.

“Why are you so bitter against my people?” Phil asked hoarsely. “Were
you not educated in America?”

Ta-Ling dropped the tattered garment, glancing up quickly, a scowl on
his yellow face.

“Why am I bitter against you?” he answered. “I despise everything
American. Was I not put in a pen in San Francisco along with such
cattle as coolies from Japan, Corea and my own country? Your stupid
officials claimed not to be able to distinguish between us. I heard
one say ‘All Chinks look alike to me.’ After the first experience,
when I was washed and my clothes fumigated as if I had been a pauper
immigrant, I got letters from college friends, but armed even with
these I suffered indignities at the hands of these ignorant officials.
When I left America with my graduation diploma in my pocket I took
oath to my father’s spirit that I would consecrate my life to making
foreigners respect the persons of the high class Chinese, and in
starting this crusade I saw it was first necessary to drive all
foreigners out of our sacred country.”

Both midshipmen were astonished at the earnestness in Ta-Ling’s voice.
If the situation had been reversed, would they have acted differently?
Had not this man ample reason to hate all foreigners?

“Even if some of our stupidly ignorant and irresponsible officials
could not distinguish between ranks in your society,” Phil urged, “why
should you revenge yourself against us? We are innocent of all blame.
We came into your city under the sacred protection of a flag of truce,
and in committing a crime against us you will only confirm foreigners
in their belief that a Chinaman is not worthy of considerate treatment.
Your cause will not be benefited, and your people will suffer; the
allied fleet will avenge our deaths as was done in Peking.”

“What do I care how many of these low-caste dogs die?” Ta-Ling retorted
scornfully; “there are over four hundred million of such animals. Your
deaths will force the foreign governments to wage war on China, and
once this war is begun, our people will rise up from one end of the
empire to the other to drive the foreigner from the soil of China.”

“But the missionaries, who have at heart only the enlightenment of your
people,” Phil urged, catching his clothes stealthily from the ground at
Ta-Ling’s feet.

“They, of all the foreigners who come to China,” the Chinaman returned
somewhat shamefacedly, “are working unselfishly, but they must suffer
with the others; all foreigners must go for China’s good.

“I tell you these things,” he ended, turning to leave the midshipmen
with their jailer, “because your death-warrants have already been
signed by the viceroy. At the first hostile shot fired by the allies
your heads will pay the forfeit and we shall attack the mission,
guarded now by your sailors, and kill every foreigner within.”

As Ta-Ling left them, the jailer seized the lads roughly and dragged
them toward their cell. As the door closed behind them Phil shuddered
at the demoniacal laughs of derision from their fellow prisoners.

“Our cause has a bitter enemy in Ta-Ling,” Phil whispered, after the
lads had been sitting on their hard wooden bench for several minutes
and the noise from their prison mates had subsided; “but I believe
he’ll fail. When Commander Hughes commences to throw his shells
into the city, he’ll be one of the first, with all his vain show of
patriotism, to cry enough and seek safety.”

Sydney did not reply; his thoughts were upon the coming night, when the
two midshipmen were to make their dash for freedom.

After a few minutes he confided his fears to his friend.

“If Ta-Ling finds that we have talked with the Tartar general we’re as
good as dead men,” he said in an awed whisper.

This terrible thought sent a shiver through Phil.

“Did you notice the look on the jailer’s face when Ta-Ling was talking
to him?” he continued in an anxious voice; “it was one of cringing
fear. If Ta-Ling even suspects that we had been out of our cell and
questions that man he will tell all. The jailer probably is keen enough
to know that Hang-Ki and Ta-Ling are enemies, and of the two he fears
the latter most.”

“Well, the die is cast,” Phil answered, smiling with a great effort;
“there’s no use crying over it. We are either going to escape to-night
or we are going to have our heads chopped off out there in the
courtyard. Nothing that we can do can alter our fate, so we might just
as well look cheerful, even though we don’t feel that way,” and suiting
his actions to his words he began to whistle the class march.

Sydney sat mournfully listening, while the Chinese criminals crowded
around them, jabbering noisily.

The hours dragged wearily along. As the light through the barred door
became dimmer, foretelling the end of the tedious day, the midshipmen’s
hopes rose; so far Ta-Ling could not have learned of their visit to his

The midshipmen were taken out into the courtyard as usual for their
evening meal and after the meagre fare had been eaten with great effort
by the anxious and impatient lads, the jailer removed their irons and
washed carefully the aching sore on Sydney’s wrist.

Phil was delighted to see that the man had recovered from his fear of
a few hours ago, and that he lingered a much longer time than seemed
necessary, for Sydney’s wrist had been securely bound with Phil’s
handkerchief and appeared to be healing, auguring well for the success
of the coming night.

It was quite dark when the jailer had finished his solicitous
attentions, and replaced the irons on their feet and hands. Motioning
the midshipmen to follow him, he led them along the stone flagging
of the courtyard, cautioning silence by raising his hand and shaking
his head jerkily. Loaded down as they were with heavy chains, to move
quietly was not an easy task, and was one calculated to fatigue the
lads to an alarming extent after their two days of cruel torture in
these steel bonds.

After traversing nearly half the length of the courtyard, the jailer
suddenly threw open a door, and forcefully pushed them through it into
darkness. The door closed quietly behind his retreating figure.

Their hearts beating fast, Phil and Sydney strained their ears to catch
the first sound of alarm. Heavy footfalls approaching on the stone
pavement soon told them the reason of the jailer’s haste and his sudden

Holding their breath tightly, they heard the newcomer stop hesitatingly
before the door of their cell, then after a second he moved farther
along, and finally the opening and shutting of a door told them he had
entered a room near or even next to the one in which the two midshipmen
had been so suddenly thrust.

Sounds of a low-pitched voice came distinctly to their ears through
the frail partition; the lads listened eagerly. Then the bold tones of
Langdon’s voice sounded distinctly.

“For a man who was educated among white men,” he was saying in a
scornful voice, “you seem to have a queer idea of our honesty. If you
liberate all, I’ll take the letter to our captain, but I shall not tell
him I believe the viceroy will play fair, for I don’t believe he will.
I don’t trust him, nor you. Send the letter by one of your own people,
and see what answer he’ll send back. The threat that at the first gun
fired by the allies our heads will be chopped off will not affect his
plans. What are two midshipmen, four sailors, and a pilot to a country
like ours?”

“Commander Ignacio and two of the allied gunboats have accepted the
viceroy’s word and are back at their old anchorage,” Ta-Ling’s voice
urged. “That shows the viceroy’s good faith.”

“Don’t talk to me of that traitor,” Langdon exclaimed; “he isn’t white
anyway; his skin is as yellow as yours.”

“Then you refuse your life?” Ta-Ling’s voice asked.

“You Chinese are a soft-brained lot,” Langdon said, ignoring the
question; “your intrigue is as plain as children’s play. Men like
Ignacio might be fooled. I don’t know what promises you’ve made to
him. Probably offered to give his countrymen the railroad concession
to Peking, which your viceroy has cheated the Americans out of by
his underhand dealings; but you ought to know after four years at an
American college that we are not that kind. Commander Hughes is in this
river to see that Americans are left unmolested, in accordance with the
treaties made between the two countries.”

“I suppose you know that when I was in your America I personally
investigated nearly a score of murders of Chinese in what you call the
West. Each case was as brutal and flagrant as any that has occurred in
China,” Ta-Ling’s voice broke in triumphantly. “How then can you boast
of the honesty of your people?--for in not a single instance were the
murderers punished.”

“That’s because you Chinese are a weak race, and haven’t the back-bone
to stand up for your rights,” Langdon replied, “while we are men enough
to insist on fair treatment for our citizens abroad. That’s where you
are lacking in national character.”

A rattle of chains and harsh cries of rage and pain followed the
sally of Langdon, causing the listeners to hold themselves rigid with
suppressed excitement.

“That beast!” Phil whispered. “I wish I had let him drown.”

“I’ll go to your midshipmen friends,” Ta-Ling said sullenly. “I believe
they are frightened enough to be bought by the price you refuse.
Remember, I’ve given you the last chance you’ll get.”

Langdon was apparently too angry to speak. The lads could hear
distinctly his heavy breathing, caused by some torture administered by
this cruel Chinaman.

“You’re trying to hedge, is that it?” the thick voice of the pilot was
heard to say; “or do you count upon catching the gunboats unawares as
they steam by the forts flying flags of truce?”

The Chinaman administered a vicious kick in answer, and the lads held
their breath in almost a panic as they heard the door of Langdon’s cell
close and Ta-Ling’s footsteps die slowly away down the courtyard.

“It’s all up with us,” Sydney breathed hopelessly. “He’ll soon find
we are not in our prison, and then----” he ended with a shiver as his
thoughts dwelt upon the terrible death by decapitation.

A loud clank made the overwrought midshipmen start terrified; then Phil
fairly gasped with surprise and joy; his arm manacles had fallen to the

In the darkness he quickly reached out and grasped Sydney’s hand,
fingering nervously the cruel iron bracelets. The metal rings were
clamped but unlocked, and he readily removed the irons from his
companion’s hands. In but a moment more they both stood free of their
retaining bonds.

“Ta-Ling and the jailer,” Phil whispered as a sound of approaching
footsteps became audible. “If they enter here we must overpower them.
It’s our one chance now.”

Sydney moved closer to Phil, taking his hand in silence, and pressing
it in sign of his readiness to follow his friend’s lead.

“They must make no outcry,” Phil continued. “I’ll take the one nearest

The Chinamen stopped at the cell door, and the voice of Ta-Ling was
raised angrily, storming in Chinese at the jailer, apparently for
daring to remove the prisoners from their former cell.

The midshipmen retreated until their backs touched the wall of the
narrow cell, having replaced their hand irons to appear to be still in

A dim light shone into their cell as the door swung loudly open, and
the scowling face of Ta-Ling appeared, with the jailer behind him,
timidly holding up an oil lantern.

“So you didn’t like to be kept with the rest of the cattle?” Ta-Ling’s
cruel voice began. Then he stopped suddenly, and threw up his head with
a wicked laugh. “You’ve heard Langdon’s answer, then?” he continued,
signing to the terrified and trembling jailer to put down the lantern
on the solitary wooden bench. The man entered the cell to obey, leaving
the door open.

Phil saw the time had come for action. He sought Sydney’s eye, then
stealthily moved his foot, quietly throwing the door off its balance,
allowing it to swing slowly closed. He had purposely moved so that
Ta-Ling in addressing him must turn his back upon Sydney and the
jailer. Burning with excitement he watched Sydney grasp his hand irons
firmly. The great bulk of the jailer loomed almost grotesquely in
the light of the flickering lantern. Fearing that Ta-Ling might be
attracted by the eagerness which he was powerless to hide, Phil lowered
his gaze, but out of the tail of his eye he was conscious that the iron
flashed in the lamplight as the click of the shutting door caused the
interpreter to glance toward it suspiciously.

Then a rattle of chain and a dull sound behind him made Ta-Ling swing
suddenly around. Phil’s opportunity had arrived. With fingers itching
for this cruel Chinaman’s throat he sprang upon him, smothering the
cry that was ready to give the alarm to the yamen guard, and bore him
heavily to the ground. In the flickering light he saw the man’s face
turn livid, then purple, while his muscles relaxed. Glancing up, he saw
Sydney removing a great bunch of keys from the prostrate body of the



Ta-Ling had ceased to struggle; his eyes protruded in ghastly fashion,
while through his open mouth his tongue showed blue and swollen. Phil
was terrified at the sight, believing he had killed the Chinaman, but
upon opening his coat he felt his heart beating faintly.

With a sigh of great relief he rose to his feet and, taking the lantern
in his hand, he scanned his prostrate victim.

“You must put on his clothes and release Langdon,” Sydney whispered,
holding the keys out toward Phil.

Without a word, but with fingers trembling with excitement, the lad
stooped down, stripping the robes from the inanimate form; the baggy
trousers, the silken hose and satin shoes and the long flowing robe
with the mandarin square of the scholar embroidered in gold on its

Discarding his naval uniform he hastily put on his enemy’s garments.
When completely clothed he turned to Sydney, who gasped with
astonishment at the altered appearance of his friend. The hat with its
horsetail plume and pink button concealed his long front hair which in
a Chinaman is always missing, being shaved close to his scalp.

Sydney immediately followed his comrade’s example and was soon arrayed
in the costume of the Chinese jailer.

Phil pointed to their discarded irons and in a few moments they had
snapped feet and hand manacles over the helpless limbs of Ta-Ling. Then
they both turned impatiently toward the door. Phil hesitated for an

“They may come to before we can make our escape,” he said. “We must gag

Stripping their prisoners of their undergarments, these as gags were
tied firmly over their mouths.

“I hope he doesn’t smother,” Phil whispered in some alarm; “he seems to
be hardly breathing.”

“We can’t take any chances now,” Sydney returned calmly; “it’s their
life or ours. If we are caught now nothing can save us.”

To make more sure of their prisoners, the arms of each were bound to
their sides, so that upon regaining consciousness they could not work
their gags off their mouths and give the alarm to the yamen.

“I hope they’ll be found before they starve to death,” Phil said
anxiously. “I fear the jailer will feel that we are ungrateful for his
aid. I don’t dare liberate him; he may in fear betray us into the hands
of the guard.”

“They’ll surely be found in the morning,” Sydney assured him. “Our
friends the prisoners will clamor when their breakfast doesn’t appear,
and then a search will be made for him and for us too. If we are not
found before,” he ended grimly.

“What’s this!” Phil exclaimed, drawing from the inside pocket of his
Chinese coat a number of papers and examining them in the light of the
lantern. “A telegram!” he cried, “and addressed to Commander Hughes!”

Both lads gazed at the sealed envelope as if they would like to bore
through the outer covering and read the message within.

“Dare we open it?” Phil asked. “If it is in the ordinary cipher I know
the key word. It may be something important, and as well for us to know
the contents if we lose the telegram. And here is a letter addressed
to the captain,” he continued excitedly. “This is surely the one which
Ta-Ling tempted Langdon to take. But come,” he added hastily, “we must
not allow him to be a minute longer in his chains.”

Taking the keys from Sydney’s hand, he opened the cell door and led
the way to the door of Langdon’s prison. There was no sound in the
enclosure except an occasional shrill cry from the prisoners at the
far corner. As they waited in the silent courtyard to make sure all
was well before entering, Langdon’s heavy breathing came distinctly to
their ears.

After a few seconds Phil selected the right key and the next moment the
door swung open, while the lad whispered softly:


But there was no answer; then the dim light shed its fitful rays about
the dungeon and the lad gave a smothered cry of concern, for the sight
which met his gaze was indeed appalling: Langdon, bound tightly, was
triced up to a beam overhead by his feet and the iron ring about his
neck, and he was by degrees strangling to death.

The anxious lads quickly cut the ropes and lowered the insensible man
to the floor. Then removing the irons they worked over him anxiously
while the time passed on winged feet. Finally the pilot opened his eyes
and stared at the lads with angry, sullen eyes, making a futile attempt
to speak.

“You miserable coward,” he finally managed to say in a thick whisper.
“I hope some day you’ll be treated as you’ve treated me.”

The midshipmen were at first so taken aback that they were silent. Then
the comical part of the tragedy appealed to them and in that instant
Langdon recognized his rescuers.

“We’ve got him now in almost the same condition that you were in,” Phil

The pilot gazed in wonder at the midshipmen. Raising a trembling hand
he passed it over his eyes uncertainly, as if he would sweep away the

“What does it mean?” he asked weakly.

“It means that we are for the time free,” Phil answered; “but come,
we must start. If we delay Ta-Ling may be missed and a search for him
would spoil all. Can you walk?” he asked solicitously.

“In a minute,” the pilot replied. “Help me to my feet. I’d have been
gone in a half hour more,” he added, feeling his sore and swollen

The lads helped him to his feet and he stood unsteadily, leaning his
great weight on their shoulders.

“It was partly our fault,” Sydney said apologetically; “he no doubt
intended coming back and lowering you; but we couldn’t allow him to
leave our cell.”

After a few minutes more to permit Langdon to regain his strength and
give the blood a chance to circulate into his cramped limbs, Phil made
the motion to follow, and all three noiselessly filed out into the
courtyard and entered the cell where the Chinamen were lying.

The interpreter’s breathing showed that he would soon regain his
senses. Langdon glared triumphantly down upon the villain who would
gladly kill all the foreigners within the Chinese Empire.

“He’s not half gagged,” he exclaimed in a hoarse whisper. Then he
untied the gag which the lads had made and jammed the mandarin’s mouth
full of his own clothing, binding it in with a tight bandage. After
rearranging the jailer’s gag, he arose and gloated over the fallen
favorite of the viceroy.

Phil had torn open the telegram and in the dim light scanned it
anxiously. Then he drew from his pocket a pencil and in silence wrote
the key word above the words of the message. Sydney regarded him in a
fever of excitement. Finally Phil’s pencil was still and he looked up
with a white, anxious face.

“I’d like to destroy it, but I don’t dare,” he said. Then he read in a
voice trembling with emotion:

“Department condemns your actions in entering To-Yan Lake and attacking
Chinese soldiers. Proceed immediately back to Ku-Ling and offer ample
apology to viceroy. Consider yourself relieved of your command.”

If a shell had exploded in their midst the eager listeners could not
have been more surprised.

“Burn it up,” Langdon exclaimed indignantly. “That’s the way things are
run from a distance of ten thousand miles.” Then his glance encountered
the wide-open eyes of Ta-Ling and he snorted with rage as he roughly
jerked the bound Chinaman to his feet.

“Did you hear it?” he cried.

The mandarin’s eyes burned balefully as he nodded his head in assent.
Langdon released the Chinaman, and but for Phil’s steadying hand he
would have fallen to the floor. Then the pilot raised the long braided
cue of the interpreter and with a swift cut of his jack-knife severed
it close up to the Chinaman’s head; the next second, holding it out to
Phil, he cried gleefully:

“Put this on under your cap; it’s all you need to complete your costume.

“You won’t be so keen to show yourself in public hereafter,” he
continued spitefully to the mandarin.

Ta-Ling was beside himself with rage, but he could only grow red and
utter inarticulate sounds, while Langdon sat on the wooden bench
laughing scornfully at the disgraced official.

“If he doesn’t commit suicide in twenty-four hours, it’s because
he’s chicken-hearted.” Langdon laughed in a low tone, mainly for the
Chinaman’s ear. The pilot knew he held the secret of the cablegram.
Apparently he had guessed at the contents and was going to send it
together with the letter for the American captain. If the viceroy
knew the stand that was being taken by the American government, every
missionary in the valley of the Yangtse would be unsafe. The mandarin
officials in the towns of the provinces were as yet guarding the
foreigners against attack until they could be sure of the outcome at
Ku-Ling. Once the viceroy had humbled the foreign pride then the rabble
would be free to indulge its aroused hatred.

Phil cut short the pilot’s mirth by taking him by the arm and leading
him silently to the door. Once outside the cell the lad showed him the
sketch plan of the yamen with the path they must take to reach the room
where clothes would be found.

“If we only knew where the sailors are,” Sydney whispered.

Phil shook his head. It might only defeat them, and the sailors would
be no better off.

Langdon for the first time realized that he was not in the plot and
would have asked many questions, but Phil and Sydney grasped him firmly
on each side as if he were their prisoner and marched openly down the
stone pavement of the courtyard. The place indicated on the sketch was
easily found and Phil, leaving his companions, pushed the door quietly
open. The room was lighted by a single swinging lamp, while in one
corner sat a Chinaman reckoning laboriously on his abacus, a counting
device used by the Oriental races; the click of the small wooden balls
as he moved them along their wires sounded distinctly in the quiet of
the room.

As Phil closed the door softly behind him the Chinaman glanced up
casually, speaking a few words in his guttural tongue. The lad made
no reply, but glanced about hastily to make sure those near could not
discover what was about to happen. His heart was beating fast. He saw
a door beyond the victim which he knew must lead directly into the
viceroy’s own apartments; voices, almost inaudible, came to his ears
from the rooms on the other side of that slender partition. He saw
that he must work quickly and silently. Any moment the door might open
and he would be discovered, for his disguise would be useless under
the direct gaze of a Chinese mandarin. The treasurer had seen him but
indistinctly and had taken for granted that he was Ta-Ling.


Moving silently to the side of the absorbed Chinaman, Phil stood for
the fraction of a second looking down on his work. His eyes sought out
the curve of the neck in its enveloping robe while he measured the
strength of his antagonist. Raising his hands in readiness, he poised
them aloft ready to grasp the slender neck within his muscular fingers.

As if by premonition of the danger threatening him, the Chinaman
dropped his hands from the abacus and glanced swiftly up into Phil’s
face. The next second the midshipman’s hands had encircled his neck
and the terrified outcry which the lad saw in his frightened eyes was

“Hurry, Langdon!” Phil whispered over his shoulder, as the pilot
noiselessly entered to dress himself in one of the many robes hanging
about the room.

While Phil slowly reduced the treasurer to a harmless state, the pilot
made a hasty change, and as the lads had done, rolled his own clothes
in a bundle, concealing them under his flowing robe.

With articles of clothing the Americans silently bound and gagged the
treasurer and laid his body away, hidden from the view of the casual
observer entering the room; then the three proceeded to carry out the
last and most trying stage of their perilous adventure.

Phil leading, they arrived in sight of the outer gate. So far no
guards had been met, but now with sinking heart Phil saw a large crowd
gathered on the outside of the open gateway. Soldiers, their muskets
in hand, stood stolidly on guard, while others sat on the ground,
chattering volubly. Was this but the usual crowd always seen at the
gates of a Chinese yamen--the poor awaiting crumbs from the rich man’s
table? Overhead several oil lanterns shed their meagre light upon the
assemblage. The score or more of Chinese would surely penetrate their
disguise! He saw Langdon raise his hand with its flowing sleeve to his
face, and quickly imitated the movement, nudging Sydney to do likewise.

A hoarse cry rang out from the guard at the gate as they approached,
which sent chills of terror down the lad’s spine. His first inclination
was to turn and flee back into the yamen and he stopped so abruptly
that Sydney trod on his heels. What were the men at the gate calling to
each other?



For the moment the midshipmen were sure that they had been discovered.
Then Langdon’s low voice reassured them:

“Come, it’s all right. They take us for mandarins, and are calling the
guard to ‘attention.’ Keep your sleeves over your faces and don’t look
up as we pass.”

Again the Americans were in motion toward the lighted gateway. With
hearts beating high, in a terrible suspense, their feet mechanically
carried them slowly toward the spot where they would be under the fire
of a scrutiny of scores of people whose nationality the Americans were
endeavoring to counterfeit. Would not the Chinese see through their
flimsy disguise? As the escaping men passed the first guard, he raised
his rifle smartly to the “present” in salute, but the quick motion
struck terror to Phil’s heart, making him jump aside involuntarily as
if he were dodging an expected blow. Shamefacedly the lad recovered
himself by a great effort. In a moment more the gateway was passed and
the Americans found themselves on the edge of the inquisitive crowd.

Langdon raised his hand, and immediately three chairs were brought by
coolies from the edge of the narrow street and placed obediently on the
ground before them. Phil longed to be within the shadow of the chair
canopies. How could these Chinamen be so easily deceived! As he fairly
dived into the friendly darkness of the nearest chair he cast a swift,
uneasy glance at the crowd. The reason of their immunity was plain.
The eyes of the crowd were directed upon the ground for fear in the
presence of their all-powerful rulers.

Langdon gave a brief order in Chinese. With high hopes for success Phil
felt his chair borne upward to the muscular shoulders of the coolie
carriers and then with loud shouts of warning to the crowd to make
way, they started off in a long, swinging walk. Phil drew his curtains
tightly shut and lay back with a great sigh of relief in his cushioned

They were out of the yamen at last, but the city gate must yet be
passed. If their absence were discovered while they were yet within the
walled city their recapture was assured.

Although the coolies traveled at a lively pace, it seemed to the
anxious Americans that they were but crawling through the deserted
streets; the Chinese on account of the lateness of the hour were all
within their hovel-like houses. An occasional soldier, clanking a chain
loudly to frighten away demons, and calling out in his harsh language
that all was well, brought a sudden shock to Phil’s high-strung nerves.

At last the gate of the city was reached and the chairs stopped.
Through his bamboo screen Phil saw that the guards were hesitating
about opening the gate. Once a gate was closed an order from the
viceroy alone could open it between the setting and rising of the sun.

An officer came forward, peering inside the protecting hoods. Phil
believed that all was lost as he felt, even in the gloom of his chair,
the scrutinizing gaze upon him. The officer spoke a few words, and the
lad realized by the rising inflection in the man’s voice that he was
asking a question. The midshipman nodded and raising his hand pointed
haughtily to the gate.

Then to his joy the officer withdrew his head as if satisfied and gave
an order in a loud voice. Immediately the gate swung open and with a
rattle of rusty chain the drawbridge was lowered.

Quickly the Americans were carried through the gate and across the
moat. They had left the terrors of the walled city and were now upon
the neutral ground of the foreign concession. As they passed over the
wide streets, in great contrast to the ill-kept, narrow ones of the
Chinese city, the pungent odors of the docks struck pleasantly upon
their nostrils.

Phil’s chair was still in the lead, and the Chinese carriers, as if
acting under instructions, trudged steadily onward to the “Bund,” the
street paralleling the water front. Finally the coolies halted, putting
the chairs down for the occupants to alight. Phil disentangled himself
from the enshrouding curtains and stood on the broad street, joyfully
inhaling the fresh air of the river, while Langdon waved the coolies to
be gone.

Once alone the Americans were at liberty to talk. Phil told in as few
words as possible of their visit to Emmons and the Tartar general.

“Where is Emmons?” Langdon exclaimed irritably. “We’re in as much
danger as ever here. The foreigners have all fled. The concession is
deserted, and doubtless the streets are full of robbers who would
very cheerfully pitch us into the river for the sake of a few Mexican

Phil was about to disclaim any knowledge of the whereabouts of the
half-breed, when Sydney’s exclamation of surprise drew his attention to
three small gunboats anchored in the river but a short distance away,
and the bright lights of a steam launch approaching the jetty from one
of their dark hulls.

Phil’s heart was filled with joy. Here at last was safety!

The three men hastened gladly to the landing at which the launch had
arrived, while Phil stepped forward to accost an officer who had
hastily left the launch and was approaching up the ladder from the
landing float below.

“You are late,” the newcomer said irritably. “I’ve been watching the
landing for over an hour.”

Phil was about to reply, but something which he could not explain held
his tongue, for he recognized instantly the voice of Ignacio.

“Where are your chairs?” Commander Ignacio continued; “you can hardly
expect me to walk through the dirty streets of your ill-smelling city,
even for the pleasure of seeing that young braggart tortured in true
Chinese fashion. You see I am not entirely confident of you and your
viceroy, so I have brought along a few companions;” he pointed toward
the float, where eight or ten sailors had disembarked from the launch,
rifles in hand.

Phil’s tongue clove to the top of his mouth at the suddenness of their
dilemma. What should he do? Ignacio had said too much now to cover his
tracks, and his sailors would undoubtedly obey his orders, even to
killing three innocent Americans in cold blood.

“Come, what are we waiting for?” the foreigner added, grasping Phil’s
arm, and turning him away from the river. “I don’t want to lose all my
sleep; it’s nearly ten o’clock now.”

Phil’s companions stood by speechless. Even Langdon with all his sang
froid was at a loss what to do. To reveal their true character to their
enemy would mean that at the least he would take them forcibly back to
the viceroy. Phil at the Naval Academy had been declared a fine mimic
and in the class minstrel shows he had to the delight of the brigade
caricatured and impersonated each of the officers on duty at the
school. Could he impersonate Ta-Ling? Was it possible to imitate his
voice and the peculiar pronunciation of the English words? It was their
only hope. Even if he failed, they could be no worse off.

By a great effort he stilled the rapid heartbeats and brought his
trembling voice under control.

“I was detained by his Excellency the viceroy,” he began in a voice
that startled even himself and made Langdon and Sydney fairly jump
with surprise and glance hastily around for the owner of that despised
voice; “but if you are now ready we can start. The chairs are up the
street only a short distance.”

Commander Ignacio voiced his willingness and the two men in the lead,
followed by Sydney and the pilot, retraced their steps toward the gate
of the walled city.

“Send your men back to the ship,” Phil, stopping suddenly, said in the
voice of Ta-Ling. “You know me well enough to know that I have no wish
to harm you.”

Commander Ignacio hesitated. Doubtless he felt safer with a few trusty
sailors between himself and the treacherous Chinese.

“Did you send my telegrams?” he asked quickly; “and have any come from
Washington for that American pig?”

“Yours were sent,” Phil answered promptly, “but the American captain
has received none.”

“Well, it will come, I’m sure, and then after he is disgraced, I
shall be chosen as the leader of the allies,” the foreign captain
said boastfully; “but you must keep your part of the contract and
hold your people in check until I can get the credit of quelling
the disturbance. Say a month before you kill these flat-chested

“That was our agreement,” Phil replied; “now show that you have
confidence in me and send your men aboard.”

Commander Ignacio reluctantly left Phil’s side and walked back to the
landing float to give his orders.

“Don’t open your mouths!” Phil whispered in a tense voice. “When his
men are once out of sight I’ll lead him to where he thinks the chairs
are waiting. When I raise my hand, jump on him like a ton of brick. The
chairs we got were waiting for Ta-Ling and they may now be waiting for
him near here, so we must be quiet about it. I noticed the coolies were
surprised when Langdon motioned them to go.”

Phil had barely finished his instructions before Commander Ignacio
rejoined him.

“I’ve sent them back,” he said in a voice that showed plainly his
dislike at so doing, “and ordered the launch to return and wait for me.
Have you the viceroy’s promise for the railroad concession?” he ended
covetously; “it means fifty thousand[1] Mexican to you when the deed
is signed.”

“Yes, that’s all fixed,” Phil replied, now laughing inwardly at the
success of his strategy, as he saw the steam launch with the sailors
leave the float and head back to their ship.

“Remember your promise to make way with those three Americans. Their
government will do nothing except demand satisfaction,” the foreigner
urged earnestly. “That means a little money squeezed from the viceroy’s
hoarded savings and half a dozen cut-throats beheaded in the presence
of the American representatives.”

“But you only asked that one of them be executed,” Phil returned,
aghast at his joke on such a gruesome topic.

“Well, I might have said only one,” Ignacio made answer; “he is the
darker of the two midshipmen; the one that dared rebuke me at the
council before the viceroy; but the others know too much to go free.”

By this time the party had left the docks and were walking slowly up
the street leading to the city gate. The street was in darkness. The
few lanterns had not been lighted since the exodus of the foreigners,
and as they passed the large buildings, it was plainly seen that the
foreign concession had been given over to pillage; the steps and
pavement in front were littered with articles which could not easily be
carried away by the avaricious Chinamen.

“Have you a revolver?” Phil asked. “I am not armed, and sometimes these
robbers are dangerous if they think they can get money.”

Phil wanted to know if Ignacio was armed. He feared that in the
struggle which was soon to come a pistol might be accidentally
discharged, which would not only arouse the Chinese guards at the gate
scarcely a few hundred yards away, but might bring a party of sailors
from Commander Ignacio’s ship.

“Yes, two; one in each pocket,” the foreigner answered, shoving his
hands in the pockets of his naval tunic. “I always carry them, and I
can shoot through my coat from the hip and hit every time.”

“Good,” Phil thought; “they’ll come in very handy for us before the
night is over.”

They were nearing a part of the street which to the lad seemed the very
place to carry out his design to render harmless the companion walking
so confidently beside him.

“Our chairs should be near here,” he said, leading the way down a
narrow alley behind a great white building, the English Bank, which
Phil recognized as the scene of his first encounter with Commander
Ignacio. What spot could be more fitting for this last encounter?
Then he continued: “What makes you think a telegram will come from
Washington disgracing the American captain?”

“The telegram you sent me this morning was from my friend, the naval
attaché in Washington; he says it is already published in the American
paper,” Commander Ignacio answered. “Everything is printed in the
newspapers in America, you know. They do not understand there the
military value of secrecy, which is the fundamental basis of diplomacy.”

Phil ground his teeth in rage and mortification. He could have struck
the man down for talking of his country and countrymen so slurringly.
Yet he could only acknowledge that the man was but repeating what had
often been said in Europe.

“Where are the chairs?” Commander Ignacio asked in some alarm, as they
reached the end of the alley and it was apparent that the square,
court-like space was empty. Phil appeared to search the deeper shadows
with his eyes, at the same time making the guttural call which he had
heard used by Chinamen calling to them a chair and coolies. Ignacio
still had one hand in his pocket and Phil felt sure his nervous finger
was on a trigger. The lad racked his brain to devise some scheme to get
him off his guard. Even now his suspicions might have been aroused.

Langdon and Sydney were close behind their victim, doubtless watching
eagerly for the sign from Phil. Ignacio stood close to a door, his
right hand, which was no doubt encircling the butt of a revolver,
nearest the knob.

“Try that door,” Phil said in as careless tones as he could command.
“It’s rather damp outside and they might have gone inside to sleep.”

It apparently did not occur to the foreigner that the great bulky
chairs would not be taken inside, and if the coolies were there the
chairs would have been plainly in evidence in the court, for he
unguardedly took his right hand from his pocket and raised it to the

Phil waited not a second, but raised his hand quickly above his head.
He saw the bodies of Sydney and Langdon hurl themselves upon the
unguarded victim. Then the door flew open inward and his heart stopped
beating with terror and dismay, while the silence was broken by the
loud report of a pistol shot, accompanied by the most unearthly yells
he had ever heard.



Langdon and Sydney had so forcibly driven their enemy to the ground
that one of the revolvers, which was cocked, had gone off, the noise
of the discharge reverberating through the bare building in a most
startling way. Intent upon their work, the pilot had seized the wrists
of the foreign captain in an iron grip, while Sydney quickly disarmed

Phil’s heart stopped beating at the sight which presented itself as the
door swung wide open. By the light of three or four dripping candles,
he saw a dozen Chinamen seated about the floor of the room.

As the lad forced his way boldly into the midst of the startled
Chinamen, holding before him a revolver taken from Sydney’s hand in
passing, the surprised Orientals threw themselves face downward upon
the floor, whining piteously for mercy.

Leaving the disarmed foreigner to Sydney, Langdon quickly joined
the other midshipman, surrounded as he was by the cringing and
terror-stricken natives.

“Canton Chinamen,” he whispered; “these must be Emmons’ launch crews;
but what are they doing here?”

Langdon raised his voice, addressing the terrified men. At the sound of
their own tongue a Chinaman raised himself tremblingly from the floor,
his fear giving place to joy as he recognized the familiar voice of the
pilot, whom he had so frequently seen piloting ships on the great river.

After a few minutes’ conversation with the native Langdon turned to
Phil, drawing the lad out of ear-shot of their helpless enemy lying
upon the floor with Sydney’s muscular weight upon his chest.

“It looks bad for us!” he exclaimed. “This man, Nam-Sing, is one of
Emmons’ head men, and these men are his crew. A mob this afternoon
looted the foreign concession and destroyed all of Emmons’ launches,
butchering the Canton Chinese crews in cold blood. The foreign
gunboats, he says, looked on and would not interfere. Emmons, he
thinks, was killed. These men took refuge in the secret vaults of the
bank, known by Nam-Sing because he was for some years employed here.
Believing that all was quiet, they were trying to muster up courage to
escape down the river.”

Phil could have wept with disappointment. On the threshold of safety,
they found their escape cut off. His mind sought for a way to overcome
the difficulties. Ignacio’s launch was at the landing. Why could they
not overpower the crew and escape in it? But he soon saw that this plan
would be worse than foolhardy. They could not expect to pass the alert
gunboat, and once alongside, the strategy would be discovered. But what
else could be done? A junk was out of the question, for the wind was
contrary, blowing up the river, and before they could hope to pass the
forts, daylight would reveal them and the Chinese guns would soon make
them return and surrender or else they would be sunk. The longer the
Americans remained on shore the smaller were the chances for escape; it
was but a matter of time before their absence from the yamen would be
known. While the lad pondered wildly on a method of escape he saw the
Chinaman Nam-Sing attract Langdon’s attention and then fairly explode
in a volley of excited words.

“He says that one of the launches is not so badly damaged,” the pilot
whispered to Phil. “It’s a steam launch, but under the stern-boards is
a small gasoline engine, and he thinks the mob did not destroy that,
for it is hidden from view.”

“Come on!” Phil exclaimed eagerly. Then he cast an uncertain look at
the captive whom Sydney had bound hand and foot, securing a gag in his
mouth and muffling his ears so that he could hear only the loudest

“We must leave him behind,” Langdon insisted immediately, interpreting
the glance. “He must take his chances.”

“I don’t dare leave him there,” Phil exclaimed. “He might be killed by
the Chinese. No, the consequences would be too serious.”

“Then what are we to do?” the pilot asked impatiently. “He would as
soon stick a knife in you if you were in his power.”

“I know,” Phil declared stoutly, “but I am going to get him on board
his own ship.”

“But how on earth can you?” Langdon exclaimed in disgust at Phil’s
leniency. If the pilot could have had his way he would have wrung his
neck then and there, which punishment the foreigner doubtless deserved.

Phil did not reply immediately. A bold plan had flashed through his
mind, and he was rapidly revolving it in his thoughts to discover if it
was feasible.

“Tell the Chinese to carry the prisoner,” he said finally, his mind
fully made up to attempt the one scheme which seemed to give the
foreign commander a chance for his life. If he left him in the foreign
concession his life would not be worth a copper cash when the robbers
from the city came back to complete their ghoulish work.

Langdon trusted Phil’s judgment too thoroughly to demur, so he quietly
gave Nam-Sing his orders, and then the three Americans started,
cautiously leading the way down the alley and out upon the street
running toward the river.

Reaching the “Bund,” Nam-Sing pointed out the direction of the launch,
which appeared to be their last chance for safety. Passing the waiting
launch of Commander Ignacio, Phil glanced uneasily at the sailors; but
they appeared to give them but passing notice.

The midshipman saw Nam-Sing step aboard a black launch some hundred
yards down the “Bund” from where their prisoner’s launch was lying.
Phil directed that the bound foreigner be laid on the deck forward,
then he watched impatiently the crew of the launch, under the guidance
of the Chinese leading man, go to work with the usual Oriental
industry. The lad saw at a glance that the engine and boiler were
beyond patching; the machinery was a mass of twisted steel, while the
boiler tubes were bent and wrenched from their sockets.

Quickly uncoupling the useless engine from the propeller shaft,
Nam-Sing directed the removal of the boards covering from view the
small compact gas engine. With familiarity he tested out the spark
circuit and examined the gear wheels, making sure all was right. After
a delay of not more than ten minutes, although it seemed much more
to the ever-increasing anxiety of the Americans, the Chinaman seized
the crank lever, exerting his power to start the engine. The machine
wheezed and sputtered. Again and again came the wheezing cough and when
Phil was about to give up hope, it coughed volubly, then the smooth
chug of the rapidly rotating engine struck joyfully on his ears.

Langdon took his place at the wheel, while Phil motioned that all lines
be cast off from the shore, and presently the launch moved slowly away
from the dock out into the swift current of the river.

“Head her for the starboard gangway of the ‘Albaque,’” Phil ordered in
a calm voice, although his pulses were throbbing wildly.

Langdon fairly jumped with surprise.

“Why, man alive! What are you doing?” he exclaimed.

In the gloom Phil almost smiled as he realized how odd his plan,
without explanation, must seem to his companions.

He spoke quietly, his manner calm, but decided.

“We shall find a small boat in the water made fast to the lower
swinging boom forward of the gangway. When we get alongside, I’ll go
on board and give a message from their captain. While I’m on board you
and Sydney move the launch ahead sufficiently to be able to drop the
prisoner over the bow into the boat. Do it carefully and make no noise.
He is securely bound and will lie there until the morning. By that time
we shall, I hope, be safely out of his reach.”

Langdon and Sydney could hardly control an expression of their
enthusiasm at the conception of such a daring plan. Its very
recklessness with Phil’s knack of mimicry would carry it safely through.

A gruff hail in a foreign tongue came startlingly from the black hull
of the gunboat, which the launch was slowly approaching.

Phil waited a second for breath and then in the voice of the Chinese
interpreter called across the water:

“On the service of the viceroy.”

As the launch stopped at the gangway of the war-ship Phil boldly
ascended the ladder to the deck. There he found an officer awaiting

“Commander Ignacio has sent me for a copy of the letter written by him
yesterday to the viceroy. This letter has been lost in transit and he
wishes to give his Excellency the copy.”

Phil pronounced his words slowly, making his accent even broader than
that used by the real Ta-Ling.

“Will you wait?” the officer asked politely. “Commander Ignacio keeps
his own papers. I shall endeavor to find it.”

Phil bowed his willingness, and the foreign officer beckoning the
quartermaster to follow with his lantern, the two disappeared within
the cabin.

The disguised midshipman saw the launch crawl slowly ahead, and a
moment afterward his straining ear caught the indistinct sound of a
body being lowered into the whale-boat tied at the boom of the gunboat.
Then as the launch drifted almost imperceptibly back to its place at
the ladder, the gleam of the lantern told him that the ship’s officers
were returning.

“Here is a package of letters marked for the viceroy,” the officer said
as he emerged from the cabin; “but have you no written message from my

Phil feared he had gone too far. He would like to hold the proofs of
Commander Ignacio’s perfidy, but not at the risk of detection.

“No, your captain gave me no letter,” he answered carelessly; “he
supposed that Ta-Ling, the viceroy’s secretary, was well enough known;
I am Ta-Ling, the viceroy’s secretary; but if you do not wish to
trust me I shall return and get a letter from him. It will, however,
displease both your commander and the viceroy.”

The officer gave Phil a searching look, but apparently seeing nothing
suspicious in his appearance, handed him the package.

Phil was about to descend the ladder, when the officer, as if wishing
to make amends for doubting the honesty of the Chinaman, stopped him by
a motion of the hand.

“There’s a Chinaman on board who came over in a sanpan, shortly after
our captain left the ship. He had escaped from a mob ashore and asked
our protection.”

Phil held himself well in hand, fearing by undue interest he would
jeopardize his cause.

“Would you care to see him?” the officer continued.

The midshipman nodded indifferently.

“I must hurry,” he said; “my viceroy becomes very impatient if he is
kept waiting.”

An order was given to a sailor standing near and Phil saw the man go
rapidly forward. The lad’s hopes ran high. Was it Emmons?

A moment afterward Emmons was brought aft by the sailor messenger. The
lantern was raised above the sailor’s head, shedding its light on the
startled face of the half-breed. Phil regarded him with well-feigned

“This man is an enemy of the viceroy,” Phil declared, in well simulated
anger. “His escape would be a very serious matter. I can take him with
me now if you will agree to trust him in my hands.”

The officer did not exactly relish the turn of affairs. If he had made
a mistake in delivering his captain’s letters and then the fugitive
into the wrong hands, he knew he would suffer severely.

“I dare not do that,” he said. “By my government’s regulations asylum
must be given to all asking protection. To-morrow after my captain
returns he will, if he sees fit, deliver him to the viceroy. I shall
lock him up for safety and you can be sure he will not escape.”

“But I have been searching for this man,” Phil declared, his voice now
really earnest. He must get Emmons from his perilous position. “It is
all-important that he be taken to the viceroy to-night. I can assure
you that if your captain were here he would deliver him up to Ta-Ling.”

All suspicion had disappeared from the officer’s mind upon hearing
this earnest appeal. After all, he was but a Chinaman, and he knew his
captain was very friendly with the viceroy and his powerful secretary

“All right,” he said. “I will take your word that in delivering the man
to you I shall be acting as my captain would wish.”

“He should be bound,” Phil said almost gleefully. “Can you get me a

The officer, leaving Phil’s side, crossed the deck to a chest; opening
it, he searched through its contents. The midshipman, greatly fearing
an outbreak from Emmons, stepped cautiously to his side and whispered
for him to make no outcry.

“I knew you immediately,” Emmons breathed.

At the sound of muttering voices, the officer looked up quickly; the
light of the lantern on his face told Phil that his suspicions had
been aroused. Quicker than thought the midshipman drew back his fist,
then he shot it forward, striking with force the startled half-breed
squarely under the chin. Emmons lay where he fell, moaning audibly,
while Phil quietly explained his act to the officer.

“He had the temerity to revile me,” he said; “but give me the rope. We
should be on our way back to the city.”

Emmons was quickly bound, hand and foot; then Phil bowed ceremoniously
and, lifting the stunned man on his broad shoulders, walked steadily
down the ladder and into the launch, where he deposited the body with a
great show of force for the benefit of those above. A few seconds later
the launch had left the war-ship and was headed down the river as if
she would again land in her berth at the dock.

As soon as the gunboat had disappeared in the darkness, Phil and Sydney
cut the ropes binding the prisoner and raised him to a seat on the deck
house. He was but stunned by the blow and presently opened his eyes,
gazing about him in bewilderment.

“What happened?” Emmons asked, recognizing in the thin light of a
screened lantern Phil’s anxious face bending over him. The lad quickly
explained the reason for his apparently unfriendly act.

Emmons, with a genuine show of deep gratitude, thanked the midshipman
for his unlooked-for deliverance; then he plied the lads with eager
questions, and Phil gave him the unvarnished history of the night’s
experiences; of the triumph over Ta-Ling, and then the ruse they had
played upon Commander Ignacio and the officer on board the “Albaque.”

“I have, I think, papers which will reveal all that villain’s secrets,”
he ended, patting the papers in the pocket of his long Chinese robe.
“And the plan of the secret channel--I have that safe here also,” he
added. “We owe a great deal to you.”

“Yes,” replied Emmons, “but it has cost me all that I have accumulated
in ten years of business. I got warning this afternoon from the Tartar
general that an order had been signed by the viceroy for my execution.
I succeeded in hiding in an abandoned house in the foreign concession
while the soldiers of Ta-Ling searched for me. After dark I tried to
find Nam-Sing and the launch which I was holding in readiness to aid
your escape, but when I reached the docks I found all my launches
deserted, and their machinery wrecked. Knowing that I could not remain
another day ashore without capture, I secured a sanpan and sculled to
the nearest gunboat, believing I was then safe; but it seems that I had
put myself in the hands of an enemy.”

“The blood of every foreigner killed should be laid to Ignacio’s
account,” Phil declared angrily; “but we have now the means of exposing
his treachery.

“Tell us about the mission,” he exclaimed anxiously. “Is it yet

“It is still under the general’s protection,” Emmons replied, “and he
will not permit an attack. I have expected every day to hear that the
soldiers had been removed. Ta-Ling’s outlaws are encamped within a mile
of the soldiers, apparently waiting an order from their leader.”

“How many are there of these rebels?” Sydney asked in alarm.

“I have not seen them, but my men tell me there are thousands,” Emmons

“There must be some reason for the delay,” Emmons declared. “Have you
read the viceroy’s letter to your captain?” he asked quickly. “Maybe
there we shall find the cause of it.”

With trembling fingers Phil drew the letter from his pocket and without
hesitation broke the formidable looking seal of the viceroy. The
writing was in English and the penmanship seemed strangely familiar.

“It’s the same writing as that in the letter I picked up in the bank!”
he exclaimed in surprise, then in the lantern’s dim light his eager
eyes traveled rapidly over the words before him.

Sydney and Emmons waited impatiently until Phil began to read excitedly:

“His Excellency, Chang-Li-Hun, is deeply grieved at the lawless
actions of the foreign gunboats, which have banded together under the
leadership of the American commander to defy the authority of the laws
of China. Commander Ignacio and two of his brother commanders have
accepted his Excellency’s leniency and after voluntarily offering their
apology have anchored at Ku-Ling. To show that China has kept faith,
his Excellency has caused a strong guard of his soldiers to encamp on
the hills near the American mission.

“If by ten o’clock to-morrow morning the foreign gunboats will steam to
Ku-Ling flying white flags of truce, the viceroy will still give them
clemency. The viceroy has held the hostages to show his displeasure at
the foreigners for entering To-Yan Lake, waters forbidden them by the
government of China.

“His Excellency will be powerless to protect either the hostages or the
mission if a single hostile shot is fired. Enclosed is a telegram for
the American commander.”

“If this letter and the telegram had gone to Commander Hughes,” Phil
exclaimed as he folded the letter and returned it in his pocket,
“Ta-Ling and Ignacio would have won. Without the strong personality
of our captain the allies would have weakened and accepted the terms

“Now when Ta-Ling is liberated,” Sydney cried alarmingly, “the soldiers
will be removed and the rebels allowed to attack the mission.” Then
he stopped suddenly, while a lump rose in his throat. “Does Ta-Ling
suspect the secret of the channel is ours?” he asked fearfully.

Emmons shook his head thoughtfully.

“The chart was procured by Hang-Ki from the viceroy’s papers through
bribing a lesser official,” he answered. “Ta-Ling may have discovered
its absence and suspected that I would carry it to your captain. That
would explain his sudden desire to have me captured and executed.”

“To-night is the turning-point in this intrigue,” Phil exclaimed,
while his heart beat faster at the thought. “We must use this channel
to-night, and after we have run the forts and anchored in safety above
Ku-Ling, we must start at once to the rescue of those in the mission.
I hope Lieutenant Wilson can withstand the assault until aid arrives.

“Our poor sailors in the yamen,” he added sorrowfully, “I fear are no
better than dead men.”

“You are right,” Emmons declared in no uncertain voice. “To-morrow
Ta-Ling will cause the high reed grass on the island to be set on fire.
It is dry and will burn like tinder. Then the island will offer no
protection, the search-light on the fort will disclose the presence of
the gunboats and the secret channel is well within the range of the
fort guns.”

While the midshipmen were absorbed in their conversation with the
half-breed, the launch, under the skilful guidance of the pilot,
steamed rapidly down the swift current of the river. The junks moored
at the docks flashed by unheeded. The high frowning cliffs, on top
of which were the gun emplacements, appeared dimly from the darkness
ahead. Then the launch’s bow was turned sharply to port, steering
across the river, to put as great a distance as possible between it
and the menacing batteries.

The midshipmen and Emmons had now joined Langdon at his post at the

“To-night Hang-Ki has relieved many of the lookouts in the forts,”
Emmons whispered, “and if we can keep close under the shadow of the
island we may pass undiscovered.”

Phil was in a fever of anxiety. He glanced fearfully at the frowning
forts, looming oppressively close in the darkness to starboard. The
island on the other side of which was the secret channel slowly took
shape, and as the launch approached became ever more distinct. Now
he imagined he could see the tops of the high reeds, tall enough to
conceal the hull of a gunboat, waving menacingly in the fitful breeze,
and in the stillness, broken only by the muffled chug of the gas
engine, he could now hear the dry rustle telling him only too plainly
that this rank vegetation was ripe for Ta-Ling’s torch.

The night was dark and cloudy, and the deeper gloom of the island
toward which Langdon was steering would make it almost impossible to
locate the small launch.

Even under the trying circumstances, expecting momentarily to hear the
loud discharge of hostile cannon, Phil’s mind dwelt anxiously on the
possibilities before the coming day. Fully realizing that the lives of
those in the mission depended upon the ability of the allies to pass
the forts before morning, would they find the fleet prepared to start
immediately? Without mishaps two hours must elapse before the launch
could reach Lien-Chow, and then scarcely five hours of the night would

With all lights save that at the compass carefully screened, the launch
sped quietly onward. The forts had faded slowly into the darkness as
the island shore had been approached. Langdon spun his wheel from side
to side seeking the deepest channel, while a Chinaman with a long
bamboo pole measured the depth of the water continuously, calling out
in a sing-song whisper his soundings.

“Go on this side of the island,” Phil ordered, hastily measuring with
his eye the distance by the chart. “Time’s precious. We must run the

“Aye, aye,” the pilot answered quickly, bringing the bow of the launch
smartly about to parallel the island shore. “They can’t hit us anyway,”
he added contemptuously.

Minute after minute dragged by. The Americans were on the point of
congratulating themselves upon having passed the forts in safety, when
a flash of flame sprang from the darkness of the hill forts and the
screech of a shell sounded menacingly in their ears.

With the anxiety of one who is being fired upon without the opportunity
to return the fire, those on the launch stuck manfully at their posts.
Sydney’s blood raced rapidly through his veins, and his hopes seemed on
the point of being cast to the very depths of despair.

Flash followed flash on the fortifications and the reverberations of
the heavy artillery shook the valley. It seemed to the midshipmen
that hundreds of guns must be hurling tons of steel at their small
inoffensive black launch as it bravely steamed down the river.

With intense excitement and fearful dread as to the outcome, all gazed
fascinated upon the myriads of flashes of flame from the forts. The
moans and screeches of the shells were loud in their ears while the
steel bolts lashed the water to foam about them.

Suddenly a bright shaft of light bored through the night and then swung
spasmodically over the water. Fearfully the midshipmen watched the
search-light ray in its attempt to concentrate upon the rapidly moving
launch. When once they were held in its beam, they would furnish as
clear a target for their enemy’s guns as if it were day.

As Phil watched, fascinated, the wavering light, it stopped uncertainly
short of the launch but truly in line, then the light raised suddenly
and the lad was fairly blinded by the bright flash as it clung
tenaciously to the discovered hull. The fort guns now renewed their
vociferous cannonade and the screech of shells was sufficient to
unnerve the stoutest heart.

“One hit and we’ll be counted out,” Phil exclaimed wildly, clutching
Sydney in his excitement, as he dodged involuntarily the hot breath of
the speeding projectiles.

“Take that sounding pole!” Langdon shouted hoarsely, as the terrified
Chinaman dropped it on deck and dived for safety below decks.

Sydney quickly grasped the pole as it clattered from the man’s hand,
and plunged it over the side. It struck bottom, showing the water had
suddenly become dangerously shallow.

“Keep her off,” he cried loudly, above the roar of the hissing shells.

Blinded by the bright glare of the search-light, Langdon had nearly
run the launch ashore on the island, but by quick action, he now threw
the bow out into the river. A low grating sound made Phil’s heart stop
beating, but the next second the launch darted clear of the treacherous
shoal. Then to the joy of the anxious men the search-light beam died
suddenly away.

The fire from the forts immediately slackened, and in a few seconds
had ceased altogether. An occasional boom and the screech of a passing
shell, however, showed the Americans that the enemy was waiting
impatiently to begin its fusillade as soon as the now extinguished
search-light could again pick up the helpless target.

A startled cry from Emmons drew the Americans’ attention. Looking
anxiously in the direction indicated by the half-breed, Phil saw the
white and colored lights of a steamer standing up the river, in the
middle of the main channel. Those in the forts seemed also to have made
the discovery. The entire crest of the hill forts burst into sudden
flame and the distant screech of shell told the lad that this time the
launch was not the target.

“What can it be?” he exclaimed in a fever of excitement. “The allies
know better than to carry lights. It must be a stranger.”

Then as he gazed spellbound upon the spectacle before him, the
search-light of the fort once more cut its narrow path of flame through
the inky blackness. It swept spasmodically over the intruder and
then to the Americans’ delighted eyes was revealed the outline of a
monitor, the light of the search-light beam reflected brightly from her
glistening, pointed hull.

“The ‘Monterey’!” Phil cried, joyfully hugging Sydney. “And Jack
O’Neil is on board her.” But a second later his joy was changed
to apprehension. Would the monitor appreciate the situation and be
prepared to return this fire? A fear took possession of his thoughts
that the sailors, not knowing of the existence of hostilities, might
have been standing unprotected upon the deck and before they could have
sought the shelter of armor many might have already been killed by the
shells of the enemy.



All eyes were now intent on the American war-ship. The guns in the
forts had become silent, as if startled at the sudden appearance of an
enemy worthy of their metal. The monitor, apparently unconscious of the
danger into which it had run, steamed proudly onward. The search-light
of the fort lighted up every detail of the formidable vessel; the
heavy turret guns were lowered, pointing inoffensively away from the
inquisitive search-light.

“They won’t dare fire again at her!” Sydney exclaimed. “See, she has
shown her colors!”

As the midshipman spoke a large American flag rose proudly aloft to
the truck of the “Monterey,” where it fluttered defiantly, as if to
say: “Now if you fire, knowing who I am, you declare war on the country
which I represent.”

Then the Chinese threw down the gauntlet; a flash of flame darted from
the dark fort, licking the heels of a great shell, and a high splash of
foam sprang up in the glare of the search-light not more than a half
hundred yards from the bow of the silent monitor.

Again, like huge fireflies on a summer night, the hill forts flashed
fire, while still the monitor steamed boldly onward, closer and closer
to the hostile guns.

“Why doesn’t she return it?” Sydney exclaimed excitedly. “A few shots
from her guns will startle the soldiers in those forts.”

As the lads watched the one-sided contest, two shafts of light darted
from the monitor; the search-light from the fort from its size and
greater illuminating power concealed the commencement of the war-ship’s
less powerful lights, but upon the forts two round white spots traveled
slowly along, and where they rested the midshipmen could see distinctly
the gun emplacements and the great gun tubes protruding from the
protecting rock and earth.

In a terrible suspense those on the launch held their breath, while
the heavy turrets, plainly visible in the light from the forts, swung
around slowly; then the gun muzzles were raised and pointed steadily at
the two white spots, the end of the search-light rays. After a terrible
suspense, two great tongues of flame leaped far out over the river and
a dull boom shook the air.

“Fine shots!” Phil exclaimed joyfully as he saw the earth on two of the
emplacements rise in the air as if a magazine had exploded underneath

Again the monitor spoke angrily with her great twelve-inch guns,
and again within the illumination the eager watchers saw masses of
earth fly high in the air as the half ton shells exploded on the very
parapets of the Chinese forts.

“She’s turning!” Sydney exclaimed.

Sure enough, the “Monterey” was swinging her bow away from the enemy.
Not understanding the meaning of this treatment, the war-ship was
circling to return down the river, out of range of the formidable forts.

The search-light of the fort held steadily upon the retreating
war-ship, but those of the “Monterey” had been extinguished. The fort
guns, for the time silenced by the straight shooting of their enemy,
now reopened with renewed energy. But the monitor, as if unconscious of
the rain of shell about her, turned in silence, her flag waving proudly
at the mast-head, and started down river.

“Head over for her!” Phil ordered.

With relief and satisfaction, the Americans saw that now after the
monitor had turned, the Chinese gunners were shooting wildly. All the
shots were falling aimlessly short of the retreating war-ship. But
still the search-light ray clung tenaciously, as if it feared the
monitor once out of the vision of its bright eye would take wings and
fly away.

Suddenly from the monitor’s after turret belched forth a single flash.
Those on the launch watched in excited admiration to see the burst of
flame on the ramparts of the fort, but instead, high above the guns,
above even the search-light mounted at the very top of the hill, a jet
of flame, a living ball of fire, cleft the darkness; a second later and
the monitor had faded from sight.

“Shrapnel,” Phil exclaimed intensely, as the sound of the explosion
reached his ears; “that search-light is out of business for the
present.” Then he realized that the launch and the “Monterey” were
rapidly approaching each other on converging courses.

“Light the side lights,” he cried to Emmons, at his side, spellbound
and silent. “We can’t take the risk of having her shoot at us. She
might hit us.”

Emmons obeyed the order by giving a few harsh commands to his reassured
Chinese boatmen and soon the red and green lights were burning on
the launch’s sides. The forts were now silent, their target having
dissolved into the night, but Langdon had taken her bearing and the
launch’s bow was held in the direction which he knew would bring them
close to the monitor.

After many long minutes of anxious search a dark smudge appeared almost
directly in the path of the launch. Then suddenly a flash sprang from
the dark smudge, and a shell shrieked across the bow of the approaching

“Stop her!” Phil cried in alarm, while he ran quickly forward. Standing
at the bow of the launch, he cleared his voice and raised his hands to
his mouth, ready to answer the hail from the war-ship.

“Boat ahoy!” came distinctly across the water. “Stop where you are, or
we’ll sink you.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” Phil hailed back. “We’re friends--American naval

“All right, don’t come any closer and we’ll send a boat,” came the
answer in clear, decided tones.

Those on the launch noted the creak of blocks as a boat shot down from
its davits into the water, and a few minutes afterward they heard the
regular dip of the oars and their rhythmical thud in their sockets.
Then a long, slim whale-boat, propelled by six stalwart sailors, shot
out of the gloom and came quietly alongside the motionless launch.

An officer scrambled nimbly on board.

“What’s the meaning of this?” he exclaimed in astonishment. For in the
ray of the solitary lantern held in the hands of a Chinese boatman, he
saw that he was in the presence of Chinamen. He stopped precipitously,
sliding his hand cautiously to his revolver holster while he eyed
suspiciously the men before him.

Phil was about to answer the officer’s question, never realizing the
cause of the speaker’s abrupt silence, when his eye caught sight of a
familiar face peering in over the launch’s rail. Forgetful of all else,
the lad hastened excitedly forward. Reaching down he grasped the owner
of the face in a strong grip.

“O’Neil!” he exclaimed delightedly. “Well, if this isn’t luck!”

While Sydney in his turn shook hands warmly with their old friend the
boatswain’s mate, who had served with them through many a difficult
position during a South American revolution, when they were together
on the battle-ship “Connecticut,” Phil explained the situation to the
mystified officer.

The lad for the moment had not fully appreciated the dumbfounded
astonishment of the naval man, Lieutenant Washburn of the “Monterey,”
upon finding himself among Chinamen, after he had heard the answer from
the “Monterey’s” hail that American naval officers were on board the

“We’ve just escaped from prison,” Phil explained, “and your ship
arrived in time to save us from those guns. Their shots were beginning
to come pretty near, I can tell you.”

“Escaped from prison,” Lieutenant Washburn exclaimed, still mystified.
“Where then is the ‘Phœnix’? She hasn’t been sunk, I hope,” he added
hastily in sudden alarm.

Phil quickly set his mind at rest on that point. “She’s at Lien-Chow,
in the To-Yan Lake, and we are on our way there now.

“Commander Hughes will be mighty relieved to see the ‘Monterey’!” he
exclaimed joyfully. “With her the forts have no perils--she can run by
whenever she wishes.”

“I am sorry for him,” Lieutenant Washburn answered, his voice betraying
a note of bitterness, “for I am a great admirer of your captain. He’s
the kind of man we need in command of our ships. There’s a rumor afloat
that he’s in disgrace and will be put under arrest. I hope it’s not
true, but the rumor was persistent in the fleet when we left. If it’s
true I suppose our captain has the order.”

Phil pretended to be greatly surprised and unconsciously raised his
hand to make sure the telegram was safe in his pocket.

“The ‘Monadnock’ is on her way up the river. She’s slower than we are,
and as our captain is senior he pressed ahead.

“Nice surprise they gave us,” he added laughingly, pointing to the now
quiet forts. “We thought they were only having target practice and
supposed of course they’d stop to let us pass. But when they opened
on us, although our captain had sounded to ‘general quarters’ as a
precaution, you could have knocked us all down with a feather.”

“I am happy to say their target practice upon us was not good,” Phil
returned in high humor; “but if you’ll excuse me, I’ll shed these gay
clothes. Mine are pretty seedy after three days in a Chinese prison,
but I’d appear to better advantage when we go aboard the ‘Monterey.’”

The war-ship, by signal-lights, informed her lieutenant that she
was about to anchor, directing the launch to follow and then come

Before the rattle of chain announced that the anchor was holding the
steel fortress stationary against the swift current, the midshipmen
recited to Lieutenant Washburn the story of their adventures. O’Neil
listened eagerly, grunting with glee when they told of the triumph over
Ta-Ling and Commander Ignacio.

After a short delay the launch was steered alongside the anchored
war-ship, and the Americans, now in their own clothes, quickly
scrambled over the low side.

Commander Barnes, the monitor’s captain, ranking junior to Commander
Hughes, immediately summoned the midshipmen and Langdon to his cabin.

Phil as spokesman gave the surprised captain a detailed account of
the happenings since the attempt to blow in the gates of the American
mission. Commander Barnes’ eyes opened wider and wider in astonishment
as the lad proceeded.

“It’s all very terrible,” he exclaimed after Phil had finished. “The
admiral knows nothing of this. Why has not Hughes wired the situation?”

“He has sent telegrams,” Phil declared, “but the viceroy will not
forward them.”

“That’s strange,” the captain said in a low voice. “The admiral led
me to suppose that I would be in command of the three ships, and that
Hughes would be relieved of his command. Yet I have no orders to that

Phil trembled with joy at overhearing these words, not intended for
his ears. The “Monterey” brought no orders. He held the only order in
his pocket, and the fatal telegram would remain there until Commander
Hughes had won his fight and relieved the situation.

But time was pressing. The fleet must run the batteries to-night. The
arrival of the monitors would make the passage of the secret channel
even more secure by hotly engaging the forts if necessary. In order to
make success sure the midshipman knew that they should proceed at once
upon the remainder of their journey.



Commander Barnes consulted his watch and then called for his orderly.
The ring of the bell had scarcely sounded before a marine stood
obediently before him.

“It’s eleven now,” the captain mused, then, turning to the orderly:

“My compliments to the executive officer. Tell him to secure and pipe
down. We shall remain here for the present.”

Forgetting in his anxiety the vast gulf in rank between them, Phil
raised his hand impatiently.

“Captain!” he exclaimed, intensely in earnest. “We must go to Commander
Hughes immediately. The mission must be relieved to-night. It is
probably now surrounded by the outlaws. To-morrow the difficulties will
increase. The secret channel may be impossible, besides there are four
American sailors in prison in the yamen. By to-morrow they will have
been executed.”

Over Commander Barnes’ face flitted for a second the suspicion of a
frown, while the orderly waited with indecision in his manner.

“By the morning we shall have two monitors,” the captain answered; “I
think we can rely on their guns to escort the fleet past the forts
without harm. However, you may go on your launch and give your news to
Commander Hughes. I have orders forbidding me to enter To-Yan Lake.

“I do not see how the allied fleet can possibly embark its sailors and
be here before daylight,” he added, after a few moments’ thought, “so I
see no reason to keep my officers and men up all night in waiting.”

“Commander Hughes will be here inside of three hours,” Phil urgently
exclaimed. “I am sure, sir, that he will not lose a moment. He does not
wish to risk fighting the forts. If he can bring Ku-Ling under his guns
without a fight, he will win his point and save the foreigners.

“If I may suggest, sir,” the midshipman added in a respectful voice,
“it would be best to keep all ready to get under way. It is but ten
miles to the allied fleet. We shall be there in an hour and in two more
the gunboats will be here on their way to enter this secret channel.”

Commander Barnes smiled indulgently at the lad’s earnestness as he
waved a dismissal to the orderly.

“Tell the executive officer,” he said, “to be ready to get under way in
three hours and notify the officer of the deck to keep a sharp lookout
for the ‘Monadnock.’ Signal her when sighted to anchor near us.

“Your captain has a convincing advocate in you, Mr. Perry,” he
continued, after the orderly had departed with his message. “I shall
wait his coming and be ready to join him.”

Phil was elated with the success of his appeal, and in a short time he
had gathered his party together ready to again embark in Emmons’ launch.

Before leaving the captain’s cabin the midshipmen had asked that
boatswain’s mate O’Neil be allowed to go, to steer the launch, which
request Commander Barnes readily granted.

“The telegram is the only order relieving our captain of his command,”
Phil exclaimed to Sydney while the launch sped toward the distant
lights of the allied fleet. “What would happen if I gave him the
cable?” he asked quickly.

“He would have but to obey it,” Sydney answered. “It’s a direct order
from the navy department. Commander Barnes as senior officer of the
American ships would be bound to send a flag of truce and offer his
apologies for Commander Hughes’ actions.”

“And that would mean a victory for the viceroy and Ta-Ling!” Phil
exclaimed. “If I lose my commission for it that telegram is going to
remain secret until the allied fleet have exacted an humble apology and
restitution from those guilty of wishing to murder innocent foreigners.”

In the light of a solitary lantern Phil opened the envelope and glanced
excitedly over their enemy’s correspondence with the viceroy. It was in
English and written in a clear and legible hand.

Paper after paper was read in silence by the two midshipmen, revealing
the most bare-faced treachery.

“Do you remember that day at the bank?” Phil exclaimed suddenly after
he had finished reading a letter which he held open before him, his
face in the thin light betraying intense wrath and indignation. “I have
wondered so often over that incident. I have never until now been able
to discover why Ignacio was so angry at me for picking up his letter
from the ground. Do you remember how he snatched it from my hand? I
thought he would strike me. Well, that innocent sheet of paper was a
letter from Ta-Ling. If I could have held it another minute much of our
trouble would never have occurred. This is Ignacio’s answer:

“‘I will do all in my power to thwart the aim of these Americans. I
despise them as much as you do. I have just drawn on the company which
I represent for the sum you named, and it will be deposited in the bank
at Shanghai. When you have obtained the viceroy’s signature, giving
my company the railroad rights from here to Peking, I shall at once
transfer this sum to your credit.

“‘Your letter was picked up from the bank floor, where I had carelessly
dropped it, by a young American officer. I do not think he had enough
knowledge or time to divine its meaning.’”

The two midshipmen looked sheepishly at each other for a second and
then both laughed.

“We are innocents, aren’t we, Phil?” Sydney laughed. “Now it’s all
clear. Ignacio attempted to throw the allies into a panic at Lien-Chow.
He worked himself into being selected as the senior officer for the
flag of truce, and he concealed his eagerness so cleverly that we
thought he was afraid. Then he played his game beautifully before the
viceroy. But by to-morrow morning Ignacio’s dreams will be smashed.
Ku-Ling will awake to find the fleet at anchor with its guns trained on
the viceroy’s palace.”

“What’s this new mischief you’re hatching?” inquired Langdon,
approaching the midshipmen, after having conned the launch over the
treacherous shoals at the entrance to the lake. “We’ll be at the fleet
in a short time now,” he added, pointing to the lights fast appearing

Phil arose, throwing a swift glance at the lights of the gunboats,
growing ever brighter as the launch sped swiftly onward. Then he
returned to his seat on the deck house and told the pilot of the

“Why did you never tell me of this meeting with Ignacio in the bank?”
Langdon asked, in a hurt voice. “I might have put two and two together
and saved us a great deal of trouble.”

“Oh! pipe down, Joe Langdon!” Phil exclaimed, in good humor. “You
wouldn’t have found it out any sooner than we did. It’s all plain
enough now after you know.”

“I can’t help worrying about our four sailors,” Sydney said sadly, and
immediately the mirth died on Phil’s face. “After Ta-Ling is released,
he will be mad enough to have them summarily executed.”

His companions made no reply. Each felt that the chances for the four
captive Americans were small.

While the launch was approaching the line of anchored ships, Phil left
his two companions and stood close beside O’Neil, while the sailor
steered for the lights which had been pointed out to him as being on
board the “Phœnix.”

The lads were delighted to have this fine American sailor-man again
with them. Phil recounted again all the exciting adventures through
which they had just passed and O’Neil in his turn told of the
monotonous life on board a monitor in Manila Bay.

“It’s worse than going to sea in a submarine, Mr. Perry,” the sailor
exclaimed. “She’s so low in the water and rolls so quickly that we was
awash all the way up the China coast. We couldn’t use them big guns at
sea; one second they are pointing in the water and the next they are
looking at the moon; but here in the river it’s different. We can cut
our name on those forts if they’ll give us a chance.

“That captain of yours, Mr. Perry, is a fire-eater. There ain’t nothing
he is afraid of. I am glad,” he added, lowering his voice, although
there was no one but a Chinese crew man within ear-shot, “to hear you
tell me that our skipper ain’t going to lead this expedition. He’s all
right when he gets good and mad, like he did when the fort fired at him
to-night, but he ain’t got the initiative. Now, ‘Bucko’ Hughes, that’s
his name on the foc’s’le, is different; he always likes to hit first.”
Then he continued in a moralizing tone while he spun his wheel to steer
the course to bring the ship’s lights on a proper bearing:

“The longer I live, Mr. Perry, the more I believe that’s the best
tactics for a fighting man. If you hit first and hit hard enough maybe
the other fellow’ll drop his fists and say he’s had enough.”

Phil slapped the sailor on the back in sign of agreement with his
views, while O’Neil brought the “Phœnix’s” lights, now close aboard,
broad on his beam in order to round to for a landing at the gangway,
and in answer to a hoarse challenge from the gunboat, he sang out in
his clear voice:

“Aye! Aye!”

“We’re still midshipmen,” Phil corrected; “you should have answered
‘No! No!’”[2]

“That’s all right, sir,” the sailor returned with a grin. “It ain’t who
you are; it’s the news you bring. If I’d said, ‘No! No!’ they might not
have waked ‘Bucko,’ and I know he’d want to see you as soon as you put
foot on board.”

A few minutes later Phil led the way up the gangway ladder and soon
found himself in the enthusiastic embrace of the officer of the
deck. Although it was after twelve o’clock many of the officers were
awake and a glance about the ship told the midshipman that careful
preparations were being made to protect the vital parts of the gunboat
from the shells of the enemy.

They were told that Commander Hughes was in the cabin and as yet in
ignorance of the return of the hostages.

“I sent down word just now by the orderly,” the officer of the deck
said with a smile, “that some commissioned officers were coming
alongside in a launch, so I suppose he’s awake, for it’s not often that
we receive callers this time of night.”

The three Americans and Emmons went hastily to the captain’s cabin,
where they found the orderly awaiting them, while Commander Hughes was
seated at his desk. Phil was shocked at the change in his captain’s
face. His buoyant expression had been displaced by a haggard look and
as he turned his eyes toward the door, the lad noticed, with a twinge
of pity, that their expression was one of worry, while the dark circles
below them told only too plainly the story of sleepless nights.

It was not until Phil had advanced almost to his side that Commander
Hughes realized who his visitors were. Then the mask dropped from his
face and he sprang eagerly to his feet with a glad cry.

“I was just thinking,” he exclaimed joyfully as he embraced one after
another of the men returning to him as if from the grave, “that for a
glimpse of you safe on board here again I’d give ten years of my life.”

After the first joyful shock of meeting was over Commander Hughes made
the midshipmen and their companions be seated, and each in turn told
the thrilling details of his experiences since leaving Lien-Chow with
the flag of truce. The story of Commander Ignacio’s duplicity, much to
the lads’ surprise, brought forth but little comment.

“I have suspected him,” their captain answered, almost sadly, “since
his return without you.”

When the part in their ventures taken by Emmons was told him, Commander
Hughes arose from his chair and, much to the embarrassment of the
half-breed, took his hand in both of his, thanking him eloquently for
his self-sacrificing acts. Then Phil’s heart leaped with delight as his
captain cast from him all signs of sentiment; the old fire had returned
to his eyes.

The midshipmen were so intent upon their own experiences that the
mention of the arrival of the monitors came only at the end of their

Commander Hughes could hardly believe his ears.

“The monitors are actually here!” he exclaimed, doubting the welcome
news. It was too good to be true.


“The ‘Monterey’ is at anchor at the entrance of the lake,” Phil assured
him. “The ‘Monadnock’ should have arrived by now. Commander Barnes
has kept up steam awaiting your arrival. I told him you would go up the
river to-night,” he added hastily.

Commander Hughes’ joy showed plainly in his strong face.

“How glad I should be that I have not yielded to the persistent
counsels of the other captains!” he cried. “No one knows what these
last few days of suspense and uncertainty have been. When Ignacio left
us it required the combined effort of Buresford and myself to prevent
the rest from following like a flock of sheep. I had wrung a reluctant
promise from those remaining to attempt to run the batteries to-morrow
night unless the viceroy agreed to our demands. My letter to him sent
by one of the renegades has not been answered.”

Phil gasped. The viceroy’s answer was in the pocket of his blouse, but
he must not deliver it. To do so would betray the fact of a telegram.

“But now,” the captain continued, “we cannot wait for his answer. The
lives of those in the mission depend upon immediate action on our part.
I feel sure that the news of the arrival of the monitors and this
chart of a safe channel will bolster up our allies’ waning courage.

“I fear for the sailors in the yamen,” he added, a note of grave
anxiety in his voice; “but if a hair of their heads is injured I shall
not rest until those guilty of the outrage are punished. The viceroy
himself shall not escape the penalty of this crime.”



The midshipmen, after leaving the captain’s cabin, hastened to their
rooms to bathe and don fresh clothes. Phil eyed his bunk longingly; he
had not had a comfortable sleep for many nights, but he withstood the
temptation and soon found the duty of helping to prepare the ship for
battle far more interesting.

Commander Hughes had signaled at once for the gunboat captains, and
each had left the “Phœnix,” enthusiastic at the lucky turn affairs had
taken, and cordially willing to coöperate.

“I am in doubt,” Commander Hughes confided to Phil on the quarter-deck,
where the lad had been directing the work of the men of his division,
“what to do with our non-combatants. Each gunboat is carrying a dozen
or more of their own nationality, former residents of the foreign
concession at Ku-Ling. These gunboats will offer no protection to the
women and children if we are discovered and fired upon by the forts.
One large shell might even, if it hit in a vital spot, sink this

“Why not put all on board the monitors?” Phil suggested; “they would be
perfectly safe there behind armor.”

“A good idea,” the captain replied gladly. “I shall signal at once to
have the refugees ready to disembark.

“How many can Emmons’ launch carry?” he questioned.

“It’s a good-sized boat, sir,” Phil replied. “I should say certainly
fifty persons.”

“That’s very well,” the former said. Then Phil, recognizing a change of
tone in his superior’s voice, drew himself to attention as the captain
added slowly:

“We shall be ready to get under way at one o’clock at the latest.
You will follow in the launch and when the ‘Phœnix,’ which of course
will lead the column, reaches the monitors, you will begin at once
to transfer all refugees from the gunboats, dividing them equally
between the two monitors. I shall write out immediately orders for the
commanding officers of the ‘Monterey’ and ‘Monadnock,’ which I shall
hand you for delivery before you shove off. They will be unable to
follow us through the secret channel, as their draft is too great, so I
have directed that they remain beyond the range of fire of the forts,
unless by chance we are menaced by the enemy’s guns.

“I sincerely hope,” he continued in a less official voice, “that
nothing happens to either of the monitors with such precious freight.
Do you know, Mr. Perry,” he added feelingly, “out in these countries
where lives are so cheap, we Americans would sacrifice a whole shipload
of men for the single life of a mother or a child.”

Phil inclined his head in mute token of agreement to his captain’s
humane sentiment. Then suddenly a thought seemed to strike the latter,
and he drew the lad farther away from the sailors engaged in making
a protecting screen of hammocks about the after-gun positions, for
greater safety against the possibility of infantry fire from the
island, close to which the channel was shown to lead.

“What is your theory, Mr. Perry,” he asked earnestly, “of the actions
of Commander Ignacio? Is it merely a hostile dislike for me and our
countrymen, or does it come from a deeper and more subtle reason?”

Phil hesitated; could he give his honest views, or more correctly
speaking, his knowledge of the reasons for Ignacio’s actions, without
endangering the asking of a question from his captain, to answer
which he might have to descend to subterfuge and even deceit? The
fatal telegram lay snugly in his pocket; he could almost imagine
that Commander Hughes’ piercing eyes could read, through the cloth
of his blouse, the words which seemed engraved in bold letters on
the lad’s brain. Phil had purposely cautioned his companions to say
nothing of the captured letters which had passed between Ignacio
and the viceroy’s secretary, for fear that the many allusions to
the hope of accomplishing the disgrace of the American leader might
awaken suspicion. These letters, the boy had decided, could not be of
benefit now to Commander Hughes, but would be of vital importance in
justifying the suppression of the cablegram taken from the person of

“I think, sir,” Phil answered after several moments of silence, “that
Commander Ignacio’s motive lies much deeper than personal enmity.
There must surely be some important objective toward which he has been
striving. Possibly,” he hinted vaguely in an endeavor to have his
captain broach the real reason, of which the lad knew only too well,
“he believes that he can secure better commercial benefits for his
own countrymen and to the hurt of American interests. They say that
the viceroy has been openly antagonistic for months to all American
investments in his provinces.”

“How stupid of me!” Commander Hughes exclaimed. “The railroad to Peking
and through the interior provinces! I have been so much engrossed with
my own troubles that I have not given the motive of this hostile action
the attention which it deserves. I heard in Shanghai before we sailed
that the American corporation having the railroad concession rights
was having great trouble in getting permission to break ground, and a
great mass of material is lying idle in steamers awaiting permission of
the viceroy to land. Of course, that must be at the bottom of all this!

“It is this commercial rivalry which will forever keep the Chinese from
looking upon foreigners as desirable residents of their country,” he
continued thoughtfully. “We are ever at each other’s throats in our
commercial dealings. There are grave consequences to be feared in the
opening of this vast and rich territory, and if we are not strictly
honest in our dealings with each other, the consequences may well
warrant the building of a great navy.”

Commander Hughes, as he finished speaking, gazed out over the water to
the anchored ships of the allied fleet and then, nodding a dismissal to
the midshipmen, he walked toward the companion ladder leading to his

“The signal is two white lights when ready,” he said to the officer
of the deck. “Notify me when all the ships have shown the signal, and
keep the launch ready for Mr. Perry.” Then to Phil, as he descended the
companionway, “Langdon must of course stay with us. We shall need him
to help us over the shoals at the entrance to the lake.”

Phil saluted and then glanced at the clock on the cabin bulkhead. He
saw its hands pointed to twenty minutes of one. In but a few hours
all would be decided. Either Commander Hughes would win and his act
of suppressing the cablegram be condoned, or else the gunboats would
be utterly defeated, maybe destroyed by the fire of the forts and his
hated enemy Ignacio raised to power as the leader of the dissenters.
The possibilities were so terrifying that he looked about him for some
object upon which to concentrate his mind. He wished to keep himself
from brooding on the future of the night’s venture. Gazing out into
the darkness, he could see black smoke and sparks belching from the
smoke-stacks of the “Phœnix’s” consorts. The shrill whistles of the
boatswain’s mates and the creaking of tackles came distinctly across
the still water, showing their hurried preparations to be ready.

He saw that two white lights burned at the yard-arm of his own ship;
she then was ready to lead the fleet on its perilous undertaking; to
run by, well inside of the range of the forts’ guns, with but a screen
of high grass to protect the unarmored ships from the heavy shells of
their enemy. While the lad watched silently, his pulses beating fast,
the signal of readiness flashed out from gunboat after gunboat, until
the entire fleet had mutely informed the “Phœnix” that it was ready and
eager to follow the lead of its intrepid commander.

A moment later he heard a step at his side, and the captain’s voice

“Here are the orders for the monitors. You understand what you are to
do. I shall give you further orders later.”

Phil took the two envelopes and put them carefully in his pocket; then
seeing his captain’s hand still extended, he grasped it warmly.

“We little realize how much depends upon our success to-night,”
Commander Hughes said in an earnest voice. Then casting from him
the air of depression, he added lightly, “Our star is still in the
ascendent. We shall not consider failure.”

Phil gazed almost worshipfully at his captain as the latter left him,
going forward toward the gunboat’s bridge to make the signal which
would launch the fleet upon its perilous mission; then he was conscious
that Sydney stood by him and the officer of the deck appeared anxious
to have the big launch shove off. Together the lads descended the
ladder, followed by Emmons as an interpreter for the Chinese crew men,
for Langdon had been detailed to remain to pilot the fleet.

Quietly the fleet got under way, forming in column of vessels with the
American gunboat leading. Then as if by signal, commencing with the
leader, each of the gunboats dissolved into the night. To the lads it
appeared as if a cloak had been thrown over each vessel.

“Their lights are all screened!” Sydney exclaimed. “Look! you can
barely see the vessel following the ‘Phœnix.’”

Phil allowed his eyes to travel over the scene where a moment before
many lights pierced the darkness; now all that was visible was the
shadowy form of the American vessel scarce a hundred yards away and a
dark smudge of the next following; all others had vanished from view.

In the long, tedious hour necessary to arrive at the anchored monitors,
the midshipmen stood by O’Neil and Emmons at the launch’s wheel. Their
pulses beat high in semi-dread at what the night would bring forth.
They had seen enough of the marksmanship of the forts to know that
their gunners were not to be despised. The island, behind which the
gunboats were to find refuge in passing the forts, was low, but being
covered with a dense growth of giant reeds, would conceal all but the
lofty spars of the vessels, which for greater security had been lowered
to the decks.

“Is there any doubt of the existence of this channel?” Sydney
questioned Emmons, a sudden fear of treachery coming into his mind,
for if it were not there the gunboats endeavoring to find its entrance
would ground upon the shifting shoals of the river and when day dawned
be under fire at close range of the enemy’s guns.

“I have navigated my launches on the river for six years,” Emmons
replied, “and never until the Tartar general gave me this chart did I
suspect that the channel existed. There is a legend among the Chinese
sailors that it was used by war junks a half century ago in escaping
from British men-of-war.”

After arriving at the anchorage of the monitors, for the “Monadnock”
now lay near her consort, Phil directed the launch be steered alongside
the farthest gunboat. Refugees, men, women and children, carrying in
their hands but the necessary clothes for one night, quickly embarked
and were carried expeditiously to the monitors, where Phil gave
Commander Hughes’ verbal instructions and the written orders.

This duty completed, the launch once more drew up alongside of the
“Phœnix’s” gangway ladder.

“Mr. Perry!” called a voice from the bridge, which Phil recognized as
that of his captain. “Remain in the launch and start ahead of us. If
you find less water than our draft, signal us at once.”

Phil acknowledged the order and gave the word to proceed. He had taken
the precaution to make a rough sketch of the chart; now laying the
sheet of paper on the deck house under the ray of a bull’s-eye lantern
he judged the course to steer. O’Neil swung the launch’s bow in the
compass direction, while the Chinese leadsman stood ready to test the
depth of water with his bamboo pole.

Silently they sped onward; the low island across the river slowly took
shape and the lad directed the boatswain’s mate to steer for the end of
the black line barely discernible above the water.

“We are now within the arc of fire of the forts,” Phil whispered to
Sydney; “from here to the island the gunboats will be unprotected if
discovered by the sentries at the guns. However, it’s long range, and
fortunately the night is dark.”

Silently and regularly the leadsman thrust downward his pole until
twelve feet, three feet greater than the maximum draft of the gunboats,
was buried beneath the surface.

All on board the launch were silently anxious. The deep channel of
the river had been left behind and, under the train of the fort guns,
they were traveling over water that on the charts issued by the home
government showed barely enough water to float a row-boat, and yet the
leadsman untiringly plunged his bamboo to a distance of twelve feet
without touching the sandy bottom. Hope rose in Phil’s heart.

“Emmons’ chart is true!” Sydney exclaimed in a low, joyful voice. “See,
we’re nearly abreast of the point. In a few minutes more the island
will be between us and the guns.”

Phil’s eyes traveled excitedly over the scene; the forts, some
thousands of yards away, were enshrouded in darkness; the island
appeared ever more distinct, the deep shadow of its high vegetation
rising ghastly from the water.

“Round the point close,” Phil directed O’Neil, “and keep in to the

Boldly the launch neared the dark land, now so near at hand that it
seemed possible in the darkness to reach out and touch the long,
overhanging reeds. The dry rustle of the wind among the rank growth
seemed in the silence almost as loud as the footsteps of an army

So far all seemed to be progressing happily for the allies. The channel
was an established fact and the midshipmen saw with relief that once
behind the island the gunboats could not be seen by the soldiers in
the forts. The island was narrow, but so long that when the vessels
emerged from its protection above the city of Ku-Ling, they would be in
the dead angle of the heavy batteries and well beyond the range of the
lighter guns.

The launch chugged steadily onward, the intention being to discover if
possible any shoaling of the water in the channel, but the leadsman’s
bamboo pole betrayed no change.

“What’s that ahead, sir?” O’Neil exclaimed suddenly; “It’s a launch,
I’m sure.”

The lads strained their eyes in the direction indicated, but could see
nothing; then a light shot into the air, followed by a shower of sparks
and a bright flame, and again all was darkness.

“What does it mean?” Phil gasped in sudden alarm. “It’s a launch,
that’s sure. She’s carrying no lights, and the flame from her
smoke-stack shows she has seen us and is making haste to escape.”

“She’s going faster than we are, too,” O’Neil exclaimed, his keen eyes
detecting what the midshipmen had failed to see.

“Do you smell smoke?” Sydney questioned anxiously.

A moment later there was no longer doubt of the presence of smoke;
a light breeze from the direction of the island carried the pungent
odor of burning brush down the wind to the nostrils of the surprised

“There’s a fire on the island!” O’Neil suddenly exclaimed.



After the Americans had departed, leaving Ta-Ling tightly bound and
gagged on the cell floor, the Chinaman remained quietly bemoaning his
cruel destiny. He knew from the silence throughout the yamen that it
would be futile for him to waste his strength in useless struggling at
the bonds that bound him. His Oriental mind counseled self-destruction.
There was no alternative to wipe out the dishonor of being defeated
and humiliated by his despised enemies. The loss of his sacred cue was
a bitter misfortune. How could he appear before his brother mandarins
with this necessary appendage missing? The more he revolved the
situation over in his mind, the calmer he became. His Western teaching,
with its more worldly and less devious ways of thought, came to his
aid, driving away all ideas of self-destruction, and he resolved that
he would fight according to the methods taught by his new learning so
long as life remained him.

It seemed to the helpless man that many hours must have passed while he
remained motionless on the damp earth. He had during this time thought
over and over again of all that had been said by the Americans. While
he lay to all appearances insensible, he had heard the wording of the
cipher message to the American commander. He had been upon the point of
sending the cablegrams to the American ship, but now they were in the
hands of the midshipmen and he had heard them say that they would not
give them to their captain. So much of the plan of his ally, Commander
Ignacio, was a failure.

The missing chart which he felt sure had been taken by Emmons caused
him the greatest anxiety. He had intended to block this channel with
sunken stone-laden junks, but with the usual roundabout methods of the
Chinese he had found the mandarin in charge of such work could not load
the junks for some days, so he had passed it by, believing that the
presence of such a channel would remain a secret. Hang-Ki, the Tartar
general, could be the only one of those in the secrets of the yamen
who would dare thwart him. Ta-Ling’s veins swelled with suppressed
anger as he blamed his ill-luck for not having succeeded in his attempt
on the general’s life. This man he felt sure was also in the daring
plot which had liberated the Americans and placed him, second only in
power to the viceroy, in chains, helpless, while his carefully-laid
scheme of forever ridding China of the foreign leeches was falling like
a house of cards about his head.

While his mind grappled with the intricate intrigues, there came a dull
boom of heavy cannon, shaking violently the yamen. Again and again
the earth was shaken and the deep tones of discharges of great guns
reverberated through the vast building.

What did it mean? Had the Americans then succeeded in escaping and were
the fort guns firing upon them? How could they escape by water when
every launch had been wrecked by his trusted soldiers?

The yamen now was no longer silent. Ta-Ling could hear shrill cries and
the hurried march of feet. Men were running wildly here and there, an
unknown fear in their hearts. The Chinaman’s hopes rose; the viceroy
would send for him to know the cause of the firing and he must before
long be discovered. He tugged desperately but fruitlessly at his bonds,
but Langdon had done his work well.

Exhausted and breathless, he at length resigned himself to fate. Then
he heard his own name cried by the viceroy’s crier, resounding loudly
throughout the yamen. After what seemed an eternity, the door of his
cell was thrown open and several guards entered the dark prison.

“Here they are,” he heard a soldier exclaim, and then he felt himself
grasped roughly and carried out into the courtyard.

The next moment a light was thrust in his face and then the guards
recoiled in mortal fear as they beheld the features of the Chinese

“We beg a million pardons, Excellency,” the leader cried, cringing
before the terrible eye of the viceroy’s secretary, while his
companions prostrated themselves before him.

Ta-Ling made a sign to remove his gag, his joy at deliverance fighting
with his outraged dignity at being so roughly handled.

“Take off these irons, you dogs,” he hissed when he could speak; “the
keys are on the floor of the cell.”

The keys were quickly brought from where Ta-Ling had seen them thrown
by the midshipmen, and soon he was free.

“Meet me at the yamen gate,” he ordered huskily, kicking a kneeling
figure savagely to punctuate his words; and then he hastened to his
quarters to replace the clothes of which his former captives had
deprived him.

Upon the threshold of his room he encountered the frail figure of the
aged mandarin, his features stamped with fear.

“You traitor,” he cried in a weak trembling voice, as he caught sight
of the disheveled Ta-Ling; “so this is the end of your vain boasting.
The foreign dogs are coming to destroy me.”

The secretary used all of his powers of persuasion to reassure his
master. He told the viceroy hurriedly of the escape of the Americans
and the loss of the chart, but protested that there was no immediate
danger from the guns of the fleet.

Leading the trembling old man back to his own room, he called loudly
for the treasurer, appreciating that in order to make true his words to
his master not a second must be wasted.

Receiving no answer to his call, he retraced his steps to his room, and
there he was not surprised to find the bound body of his friend in the
dark corner where Phil had thrown him.

After setting the man free, he gave him hasty instructions and sent him
to keep the viceroy company, while he feverishly threw on the garments
of a mandarin before joining his awaiting soldiers. Hastily writing an
order he took it to the viceroy for signature, then calling a waiting
messenger he directed it be taken at once to the Tartar general at the

Ten minutes later Ta-Ling, preceded by his guards, pressed through
the frightened throngs of Chinese in the narrow street outside of the
yamen. The gun fire had now ceased and the terrified natives were
slowly slinking back to their hovels.

Passing unhindered through the city gate, the secretary led the way
directly to the jetty. Here he was to have met his ally, Commander
Ignacio, earlier in the evening, but much to his surprise and
satisfaction, as he reached the landing, he saw a steam launch waiting.

“Can you take me to the ‘Albaque’?” he questioned the coxswain eagerly.

The sailor glanced up in surprise. Where was his captain? He had seen
him, as he supposed, with this Chinaman.

“I am waiting for the captain,” he replied, a shade of suspicion in his
voice. “Wasn’t he with you?”

It was Ta-Ling’s turn to be surprised.

“With me!” he exclaimed. “I was to have met him hours ago.”

The coxswain shook his head, mystified. Had he not seen his captain go
away with this man? Then he suddenly thought of the crowd of Chinese
who had boarded a launch below him and had then gone alongside of his
ship. His captain surely could not have been among those men. He gave
it up. It was too deep for his understanding, for that launch had then
gone down the river shortly before the fight between the forts and a
strange war-ship.

“All right; get in,” he said finally.

In several minutes Ta-Ling was greeted warmly by the officer of the
deck of the “Albaque.” The latter was glad to see the Chinaman again.
The quartermaster of the gunboat had persisted that the launch of the
Chinaman had not landed, but had gone down the river, and the young
officer had commenced to fear that he had been duped into giving up
both the captain’s correspondence and the Chinese refugee.

“May I see your captain?” Ta-Ling asked anxiously. “It’s of the utmost

“My captain has not returned!” the officer exclaimed, alarm in his

“Where is he? quick, man! Everything depends upon my finding him at
once,” Ta-Ling cried in vexation.

“He was with you; the launch was waiting for him,” the officer
returned, catching his breath, his heart in his throat.

“I haven’t seen him since this morning,” the Chinaman declared
impatiently. “Does no one know of his whereabouts?”

The officer was rooted to the spot from fright. His throat was parched
with fear and his tongue unruly.

“You were here to-night asking for the papers of the captain,” he
managed to gasp, his worst fears realized.

“You’re dreaming, man,” Ta-Ling retorted almost angrily. “Come,
explain! What do you mean?”

The officer related to the anxious Chinaman how some one whom he could
have taken oath was he had come on board from a launch and he had given
him the copies of his captain’s letters to the viceroy, and also a
Chinese refugee who had escaped on board from the shore.

Ta-Ling groaned in anguish as the full significance of this news dawned
upon him. The Americans evidently had Emmons--and his chart. But had
they escaped? That was surely the cause of the firing.

“What was the firing?” Ta-Ling asked hurriedly.

“An American monitor and the forts,” the officer replied in a shaky

“What have I done?” he added questioningly, much terrified over the
results of his indiscretion.

“You’ve given your captain’s letters to his enemy, for one thing,” the
Chinaman answered in his cruel voice, “and besides you have liberated a

A shrill cry from the steam launch, which had, while waiting for the
Chinaman, hauled out to the lower boom to lie more securely in the
tideway, cut short Ta-Ling’s words and drew the two men to the rail.

“There’s a man tied hand and foot in this boat,” called out the
coxswain in alarm. “It’s the captain!” he exclaimed with many
imprecations upon those who had perpetrated the deed.

“Cut him loose, quick!” the officer cried excitedly.

Eager hands quickly cut the tight cords, and Commander Ignacio soon
stood on his quarter-deck.

“An hour ago I would have throttled you if you’d stood here before
me,” were his first words, spoken hoarsely and with difficulty to the
Chinaman, “but I see it all now. We’ve been unmercifully duped.”

[Illustration: “_THERE IS STILL A CHANCE_”]

With many bitter recriminations the whole plot and its disastrous
success was discussed. Commander Ignacio could barely control his rage
against the young officer who had innocently betrayed him.

“Come, we must act at once!” Ta-Ling finally exclaimed. “There is still
a chance.”

The foreign captain’s face brightened as he questioned eagerly the
excited secretary.

“The channel will be useless to the fleet if we can burn off the reed
grass,” Ta-Ling explained quickly. “The land itself is low and will
not hide the gunboats from the forts. But we must be quick. That
fire-eating American will start immediately he receives the information
of this channel.”

“Come to my cabin,” Ignacio ordered in a low voice, glancing
suspiciously at his abashed lieutenant.

“If I understand you,” he continued as the door closed behind them,
“you ask me to aid you in burning the vegetation on this island.”

“Certainly!” Ta-Ling cried impatiently. “Isn’t it to your interest that
this American does not succeed?”

“Softly,” cautioned the foreign captain; “we don’t want our talk to
be common property,” indicating by a motion of his hand the hatchway
leading to the sleeping quarters of his officers; “some one may be
awake down there.”

Ignacio pondered for a few seconds. To go in his own launch and set
fire to this island would betray his part in the intrigue with the
viceroy. His sailors could not be depended upon to keep such a secret.

“I see no alternative but to decline,” he continued decidedly. “You
must do this act yourself; my men could not be trusted with such a

“I will furnish the men,” Ta-Ling cried, beside himself with
impatience. “You must furnish me a launch with some one to run it; but
hurry, man,” he urged excitedly. “The grass must be burned off before
the fleet arrives at the island, or else we are defeated.”

Commander Ignacio immediately awoke to action. The thought of the
lieutenant who had innocently betrayed him came happily to his mind; he
could run the engine and the sailors could remain on board ship. The
secret would be safe with this officer. No one could connect him with
the act of burning the island.

The lieutenant was called and was eager to regain his captain’s favor.
Ten minutes later the launch from the “Albaque,” manned by the Chinese
soldiers, with Commander Ignacio himself at the helm, had quietly left
the gunboat.

Reaching the northern point of the island, a landing was made and a
Chinaman landed, armed with instructions from the viceroy’s secretary
to set fire to the grass in as many places as possible and to return in
time to be picked up on the launch’s return.

The launch then steamed down stream, stopping at several points to land
the soldiers.

As yet, all was well. The launch had run the complete length of the
long island, landing the incendiary soldiers; the south end of the
island was only a few hundred yards ahead. Ta-Ling directed the foreign
captain to steer once more to the steep shore. There were no more
soldiers remaining; the ten men had all been landed and ten fires were
by now burning fiercely in as many places on the long island. Stepping
ashore, he was soon lost in the high grass towering over twenty
feet above him. Lighting a fire-brand, hastily made of dry reeds, he
carefully applied it, as he walked along, to the dying vegetation. Now
in an hour the island would be a blazing furnace. For the rest of the
night the channels would be lighted as bright as day. Even the monitors
would not dare to attempt to pass the forts until the following night,
and by that time he would have fully revenged himself on the Americans
and escaped to the interior. He smiled cruelly as his thoughts dwelt
upon his cunning ruse upon the viceroy; the mandarin, in his excited
fear, had signed the order to Hang-Ki to withdraw his soldiers from the
mission to protect the forts. Now the bloodthirsty rabble, armed and
organized by him (Ta-Ling), could with impunity hurl themselves upon
the mission.



The midshipmen gazed fearfully toward the island. What could it mean?
Had the grass on the island been fired, and if so, would the fire reach
dangerous proportions before the fleet had safely passed its shelter?
What was the meaning of the launch ahead of their own?

Suddenly from a point on the far end of the island a single flame of
fire shot in the air; the breeze caught it, helping it forward on its
career of destruction. Quickly at intermediate points fires appeared
to spring to life out of the very ground. Then, as if to complete the
picture of failure in Phil’s mind, a heavy reverberation shook the dry
air and the noise of a screeching shell came to his ears.

“It’s the end,” gasped Phil as the search-light from the fort appeared
suddenly, as if the monstrous guns had been awakened from a sound
sleep and opened this one bright, piercing eye.

The midshipmen were spellbound with fear as they saw the beam of light
sweep slowly along the island, penetrating the thick grass. For an
instant, as the bright ray swept by, the launch ahead stood out in bold

“Ignacio’s launch!” Sydney exclaimed, aghast. Then the enemy dissolved
into the night. The light moved over their own launch and then step by
step approached the southern end of the island where, the lads knew,
was the column of advancing gunboats.

An exclamation of relief escaped Phil as he saw the beam of light
stop and then sweep back along the island. As yet, the gunboats were

A terrible anxiety filled the lad’s mind. By now Commander Hughes would
know the meaning of the numerous fires. Would he turn back, believing
the attempt to run the forts would be a useless sacrifice? Here was
a situation from which there could be no protection. The channel ran
close to the island; the grass was dry and burned like a prairie fire.
After the great bonfire had once gained its head no living thing could
remain in the channel. In a half hour the fire would have devoured the
protecting screen and the gunboats would be in the direct view of the
fort guns.

After the first alarm gun the forts had become silent, but the lads
watched the search-light swing back toward the allied fleet. Then
Phil’s heart seemed to stop beating, then beat faster for joy as the
hull of the “Phœnix” appeared, standing out ghastly in the glow of the
conflagration, steaming boldly onward; the white surge under the bow
showed the effort Commander Hughes was making to take his fleet as soon
as possible through the waters of the dangerous channel. Then the lads
saw the terrible light sweep along the length of the following column;
deliberately it moved, revealing one after another of the unprotected

Then the sound of the fire so close at hand was drowned by a sullen
roar as the guns of the forts hurled their great shells toward the
daring gunboats, hastening forward silently to put the flames of the
burning island between them and this irresistible menace.

“If they can get behind the fire before it gets too hot they’ll be
safe,” Phil cried clutching Sydney’s arm in his excitement. “They can’t
see through the fire; even the search-light will be useless.”

“How many guns have you?” O’Neil asked suddenly. The boatswain’s mate
had in silence steered after the launch ahead, urging Emmons time and
again to encourage his men to speed the gasoline engine up to its
limit. “We can’t be no use to them gunboats,” he added in explanation;
“our job is to catch the fellows that set this here island on fire.”

Phil withdrew his attention with difficulty from the terrible one-sided
battle raging astern of them, to answer the sailor’s question.

“There are two stacks[3] and a thousand rounds of ammunition. Can we
catch them?” he questioned eagerly.

“If we can’t, we can stop ’em with twelve rifles,” O’Neil replied

“I don’t dare fire on the launch,” Phil cried. “If we can overhaul
them, that’s another matter.”

The spectacle now revealed to those on the launch was awe inspiring.
The forts had developed into a blaze of fire, while all about the
advancing gunboats shells struck incessantly. The sides of the small
vessels had burst into flame as they fired their small guns at the
distant enemy. The high vegetation on the island near them burned with
ever-increasing rapidity, the flames mounting high in the air and
lighting the surroundings as bright as dawn.

The “Phœnix” now had entered the channel, and with her battery silent
cut swiftly through the brightly lighted water. The air was shaken by
the noise of shell and the shock of explosions.

The flame of fire from the burning island formed a fiery veil, through
which the eye could not penetrate, but by the increased roar of
explosions and discharges, the lads felt confident that the monitors
were now engaging the forts.

Another and even greater danger suddenly confronted the allies. The
breeze, which had been light, now had increased and was blowing the
suffocating smoke toward the channel. In a short while as the fire
gained headway the channel would be enshrouded in thick smoke through
which it would be well-nigh impossible to see. If by a fatal chance a
gunboat mistook the channel it would remain hard and fast aground and
in the morning would be destroyed by the forts.

The “Phœnix” was now close aboard, a wave under her forefoot showing
her burst of speed. The air every minute became hotter and more
stifling and those on the launch without protection would soon suffer
from the scorching heat of the flames.

A line whistled over the launch, while Commander Hughes’ cool voice

“Make it fast, and keep under our lee. We’ll protect you from the heat.”

Quickly the tow-line was secured in the bow of the launch and those
on board the smaller vessel were almost thrown from their feet as the
launch was dragged forward by the tautening of the tow-rope.

Thicker and thicker, and more stifling, became the smoke. The Americans
wet their handkerchiefs, putting them over their mouths to enable them
to breathe.

Phil wondered how the following gunboats were faring. The screech
of shell was no longer heard near them, but the reverberations of
discharges still smote upon their ears.

Then after what seemed hours of anxious waiting they emerged into the
clear night. Filling their lungs with the pure air the lads gazed about
them. The island, a mass of soaring flame, was behind them, and far
away on the port quarter they could see the stirring spectacle of the
monitors hotly engaging the forts. The city of Ku-Ling had been passed;
the lights of the three anchored gunboats were indistinctly visible in
the darkness.

“Where’s the launch?” Sydney exclaimed, gazing searchingly about him.

“She’s back to the ‘Albaque’ by this time,” Phil replied
disappointedly. “If we could have only caught them red handed. That
means that Ta-Ling and Ignacio have both been set free, for only they
would set fire to the island.”

Inside of ten minutes, Captain Hughes’ voice hailed them:

“Let go the line. We are going to anchor.”

The line was quickly cast off and a moment later, the lads were on
the deck of the gunboat, warmly congratulating their captain upon his
well-earned success.

“Signal the monitors to join us and be ready to land their sailors,”
the captain ordered the signal officer, then turning to Langdon, “We
must take the chance from this side. Perhaps we shall find the bridge

The allied gunboats one after another dropped their anchors near the
“Phœnix.” As they passed the American vessel the crews manned the rails
with lusty cheers, which the “Phœnix’s” crew returned with a will.

“Here they come,” Sydney exclaimed in admiration as the two victorious
and unharmed monitors steamed swiftly toward their flagship and
anchored one on each quarter.

“This is to be only an American expedition,” Commander Hughes declared
to the eager midshipmen. “Four hundred men all told from the three

Quietly and without confusion the American war-ships lowered their
boats and embarked their sailors. And inside of twenty minutes after
anchoring the strong force had started for the shore to push forward to
the relief of the mission.

Phil and Sydney remained with Commander Hughes, who had elected to lead
the force in person.

As the boats grounded upon the sandy shore the sailors noiselessly
fell in ranks under their officers. The American captain, with Langdon
as guide, took the lead, followed closely by the two midshipmen with
O’Neil and a dozen men. The main force came along a hundred yards
behind them.

As yet all was silent. The forts had ceased their fire, and no sound
came from the direction of the mission.

The force moved at a lively pace over the rough ground. The sailors
had been cautioned to move noiselessly, and all loose metal had
been carefully muffled; everything depended upon the possibility of
surprise, or else upon gaining admittance to the compound of the
mission before the enemy had gathered to the attack.

Phil marched by Langdon’s side; his blood warmed for adventure, and he
hoped that this time he would be able to see and enjoy the fighting.
During the few minutes in the attack on Lien-Chow, he had been so much
occupied in forcing Commander Ignacio to charge the enemy that he had
failed to take note of all save the sound of the bullets as they had
whistled past him. He rejoiced in the coolness and tact shown on all
occasions by his friend Langdon; his duty was not to fight, yet he was
ever eager to risk his life wherever Commander Hughes suggested.

The Americans moved steadily onward, Langdon time and again leaving
the narrow road to circle a small hamlet with its shading willow trees
in an endeavor to avoid the discovering bark of the always-present
Chinese dog. Fortunately the countryside was deserted; there were no
travelers on the road to flee and give warning of the approaching band
of hostiles.

As the distance to the mission diminished, the sailors grasped their
rifles more firmly, ever expecting to hear the discharges and see the
flashes of the guns of an ambushing enemy.

While the expedition was ascending a small hill covered with the graves
of centuries of China’s dead, Langdon turned quietly to his captain
and pointed to an indistinct mass coming in sight beyond the ridge
ahead of them.

“The mission,” he whispered; then he stopped in his tracks, while those
behind pressed forward eagerly to know the cause. The metallic bark of
a Colt gun rang out distantly on the quiet evening air, accompanied by
the duller rattle of musketry. The mission was already being attacked.



The ominous sound of strife sent shivers up and down Phil’s spine; the
mission was surrounded by a force far in excess of the handful guarding
the helpless ones inside its wall; but the droning sound of the Colt
gun was reassuring; it showed that Lieutenant Wilson had been on the
alert, and he knew that officer well enough to believe that he would
sacrifice himself and every man with him before the women and children
were allowed to fall into the hands of the cruel Chinese mob.

These thoughts flashed through Phil’s mind while the sailors quickened
their pace in obedience to Commander Hughes’ orders.

Reaching the crest of the hill, Phil gazed with his companions through
the darkness down upon the valley between the mission hill and the one
on which they were standing.

“Don’t deploy yet,” Langdon cautioned in a whisper to the American
commander, who, he observed, was on the point of forming for the
attack; “we must cross the bridge over that irrigation ditch in the
middle of the valley; you can see the shadow of willows along it from
here. Once across that, all will be clear ground between us and the

They pressed forward until the pilot raised his hand warningly and
Commander Hughes signaled a halt. Langdon, motioning Phil to accompany
him, left the column and advanced cautiously along the road toward the
bridge, concealed from their view by a group of willow trees. Reaching
the bridge, the pilot examined carefully the bamboo structure, then he
gingerly placed his heavy foot on the wooden planking, testing it with
his great weight of over two hundred pounds. Motioning Phil to remain
where he was, he then walked cautiously across the bridge to test the
fastenings on the other side of the deep ditch. The midshipmen saw his
huge bulk dissolve in the darkness, but in a few moments he returned
and his discovery was calculated to bring despair to the stoutest
heart. They quickly joined the main body, waiting impatiently to push
forward to the rescue of their comrades.

“Many of the lashings are cut on the far side, sir,” Langdon exclaimed
in a low, excited voice; “one or two men at a time can probably cross
in safety, but no more. There is no other bridge for five miles, and
that may be in a similar condition.”

Here indeed was an effective stop to the eager sailors in sight of the
battle between their comrades and the bloodthirsty enemy. The volume of
musketry fire directed upon the mission had increased alarmingly, and
at frequent intervals came the roar of artillery.

“Breaching the wall or shelling the gate,” Phil whispered in an awed
voice as his eyes caught the flash of a heavy explosion at the base
of the wall. His gaze, accustomed to the darkness, traveled over the
ground across the ditch; it was strewn with high mounds, graves of
forgotten Chinamen, and the lad saw that the natural protection offered
excellent cover for the sailors when once across the shaky bridge
structure; but, and a great fear rose in his mind, it would also aid
the enemy in its endeavor to prevent the rescuers from crossing the
nearly destroyed structure. Were those mounds even now concealing a
large force of Chinese soldiers, who, when the unwary foreigners had
rushed upon the tottering bridge, and many had fallen to the bottom
of the deep culvert fifty feet below, would open fire upon their
demoralized comrades, cut off from further attempts to succor those
inside the mission compound?

The sailors advanced in silence to the edge of the ditch, and then
Commander Hughes, grasping Langdon’s arm, stepped boldly upon the
treacherous planking, whispering to the midshipman hurriedly:

“Stay on this side and send the men over two at a time.”

As soon as the midshipman saw that his captain and the pilot were
safely on the other side, he and Sydney silently selected two sailors
to follow; then in turn two more to cross the intervening space. Slowly
those on the wrong side of the bridge decreased; Phil could see that
Commander Hughes had deployed his men to protect the bridge in case of
a sudden attack, while he and Langdon at the far side of the bridge
were receiving and instructing the men after they had crossed the
swaying structure. Then without warning, a flash of flame shot out into
the night from the direction of the Chinese graves, and the screech of
hostile bullets sounded loudly about the foreigners. Phil, from his
position, saw the figures beyond the bridge seek refuge behind a high
mound, and then the reverberation of the sailors’ rifles told him that
Commander Hughes was returning the fire in the hopes of protecting from
the hot fire of the enemy those still to cross the ditch.

The bridge was already swept by a hail of lead; a groan from a man at
his side told him that unless they crossed quickly, there would be but
few remaining at all to cross the tottering bamboo. He sent five men at
a time, watching fearfully until he saw them disappear in the gloom;
then six followed; the bridge stood the weight, but swayed and seemed
on the point of falling. There were now but four remaining, Sydney and
two men, one of whom lay sorely wounded on the ground at his feet.

“Go, Syd!” the lad exclaimed to his brother midshipman. The lad shook
his head, forcing the remaining sailor before him; then by mutual
consent he and Phil lifted tenderly the wounded man.

Carefully they picked their way across the bullet-swept, swaying
structure. With their burden, they reached the middle in safety; Phil
shuddered as his eyes took one fleeting glance at the fall below him.
Amid the noise of strife, the tearing of the thongs, holding the bridge
on the far side, gave the two officers no warning, and not until the
floor tilted to an unnerving angle did they see that they must hasten
if they would not be precipitated to the bottom of the ditch. The
wounded man was a dead weight on their hands; Phil, when he had felt
the bridge sinking under him, ran his hand nervously over the face of
the wounded sailor; the drooping jaw told him that he had passed beyond
mortal aid.

“He’s dead; save yourself!” he cried loudly to his companion as he let
fall his burden and sprang forward.

By almost superhuman effort, side by side, the whistle of the enemy’s
bullets in their ears, they threw themselves at the rising earth as
their platform with increasing speed sank beneath them.

Clutching at the crumbling earth, digging their fingers deep into the
rank grass, while the bridge behind them fell with a great crash into
the stagnant and noisome water fifty feet below, the two lads drew
themselves up, breathless but safe.

Phil quickly found Commander Hughes, who had sought cover behind a
mound and was waiting until his men became steadied before giving the
order to advance.

Langdon threw his great arms about the lads as they reached the
protecting earth mound, while the captain’s voice struck encouragingly
upon their ears.

“Splendid!” he exclaimed.

“He was dead, sir,” Phil said sorrowfully. “We couldn’t have saved his
body and ourselves too.”

Silence lasted for several minutes, each reverencing the visit of death.

“We must win now!” Commander Hughes exclaimed grimly. “And we must
repair that bridge before we can return. But come; we must leave our
cover and drive these Chinamen from our path.”

Suiting his action to his words, he blew a shrill blast from his
whistle, the signal on the skirmish line for “attention.”

“Forward,” he commanded in a voice that sounded loudly above the din of

The sailors sprang forward with enthusiasm; the long wait under the
fire of an unseen enemy had bottled up their energy. Each sailor’s
foremost desire was to come to close quarters with the treacherous
Chinamen. The long, slender line moved upward toward the mission crest;
the men taking cover as they found it, and shooting when their keen
eyes discerned a shadowy form skulking away before their advance into
the darker shadows.

The sharp rattle of the Colt guns told the advancing men that the
mission was stubbornly resisting.

Phil moved incessantly along the advancing skirmish line, carrying
orders from his captain to the flank companies; the alarming song of
the bullets ever in his ears.

“Press forward, keeping the guide on the center!” had been Commander
Hughes’ simple instructions, and faithfully were they being carried out
by the determined men. The mission loomed through the darkness scarce
five hundred yards distant; the tongues of flame from its wall answered
by cries of rage and defiance from the enemy’s position inspired the
rescuing sailors to renewed exertions to reach the protecting compound.
The Chinese who had opened fire upon the Americans during the passage
across the ill-fated bridge had stolen away toward the shadowy flanks;
between the advancing sailors and their objective there were now no
answering shots. Then suddenly the battery which had been hurling shell
at the stone wall of the mission turned its fierce attention upon the
unprotected rescuers.

“Seek cover!” Commander Hughes ordered; and the men huddled together
in groups, thankful for the homes of the dead, which furnished such
perfect protection from the well-directed fire of grape and canister
from the Chinese artillery, now giving its undivided attention to the
approaching reënforcements.

Commander Hughes saw that a new danger confronted the success of his
undertaking; those in the mission as yet could not know of the close
proximity of their friends, and might they not in their vigorous
defense turn the muzzles of their Colt guns against them? The thought
was fearful to contemplate.

“Mr. Perry,” he ordered in a strained voice, “those guns,” pointing
to the hill on the right from which long tongues of flame darted
momentarily, “must be silenced. We dare not advance further under their
murderous fire. Take a hundred men and flank them.”

Phil gasped at the suddenness of the order, thanking his captain in his
heart for his confidence in his ability to do what seemed to the lad

“Langdon will show you the way,” Commander Hughes ordered quickly;
“don’t expose your men to our own fire. I shall endeavor to get word to
the mission. Mr. Monroe will remain with me.”

As silently as possible Phil selected those to go with him, among them
being his old friend O’Neil, leading them on a run back toward the
ditch which had been crossed scarcely a quarter of an hour before;
then he gathered the men about him to explain the dangerous work for
which they had been chosen.

“We shall get on the flank of the artillery, and when the order is
given to advance we must gain a position from which we can charge
directly upon the battery. The lives of all depend upon our success.”

The men in silence accepted the conditions, and in another minute
Langdon was leading the small band along the deep ditch in the shadow
of the bordering trees. After traversing a few hundred yards the pilot
paused at a road crossing the one they were on.

“This is the road we took the other night,” Langdon whispered; “we
shall follow it for a short distance and then we shall be on the flank
and a little in rear of the Chinese position.”

The command moved cautiously forward until the pilot stopped and
the midshipman knew that the position desired had been reached.
Deploying his men quietly, he bade them advance silently toward the
pandemonium of the Chinese attackers ahead of them. While he moved
forward up the gentle rise of the land he could see distinctly the
bright flashes from the enemy’s guns, but his own men were as yet
undiscovered and protected by the intervening crest of the low hill up
which they were doggedly marching. He glanced fearfully to his left
to see how Commander Hughes and his men were faring; that part of the
battle-ground was in darkness; the Chinese seemed now too much absorbed
in their desire to destroy the mission to give thought to the handful
of sailors known to have crossed the bridge before it collapsed into
the ditch below.

Steadily the flanking party advanced toward the coveted position over
the uneven ground, the men casting apprehensive glances to left and
right, their rifles held ready for instant conflict.

While Phil’s attention was absorbed by the stirring sight ahead of him,
against which he would in but a few minutes launch his hundred men in
what seemed a forlorn hope, to take and silence the formidable battery
now exerting itself to the utmost to breach the wall of the compound,
a terrifying danger loomed before him. The sailors in the compound
were delivering a murderous fire from their Colt guns, directed at the
troublesome artillery, but many of the bullets were falling alarmingly
close to the flanking force. The midshipman realized that he must go no
farther; with the battery scarce three hundred yards in his front and
his men as yet undiscovered he must call a halt and remain without that
awful zone of fire until their friends on the mission wall had been
apprised of his intentions by Commander Hughes.

The word was passed quietly by word of mouth along the line, and the
sailors, keyed to the highest pitch of excitement, threw themselves
face downward on the ground, while less than a hundred yards ahead of
them a storm of bullets swept every inch of the soil.

“It looks black,” Langdon breathed in the grass close to Phil’s ear as
they both were racked by ominous foreboding while watching the sweep
of the devastating stream of bullets; “they haven’t got word to the
mission yet that we are here; if those guns are pointed ten degrees
further this way, it will be all up with us. See,” he added pointing
in the direction of the active artillery, “those guns are behind
intrenchments, for otherwise the Chinese could not have stood such a
murderous fire for a minute. It’s withering,” he gasped with a shudder,
while the singing of bullets redoubled, seeming to be slowly drawing
their deadly zone nearer to encompass the crouching sailors.

Phil cast his anxious eyes often on the dark slope of the mission hill
where he had left the main force under Commander Hughes, but the night
was too dark for him to discover what was going forward. There was
nothing for him to do save wait with what patience he could muster. To
rush ahead could mean but annihilation at the hands of his own guns. He
must not open fire upon the battery, so close that the smell of burning
powder was rank in his nostrils; to do so might draw the fire of the
Colt guns, for how could the mission know that help was so near at hand?

After what seemed an eternity to the anxious men, the fire of the Colt
guns suddenly ceased, while from the Chinese position, believing no
doubt that their enemy was weakening, a great volume of musketry fire
added its roar to that of the big guns. Phil felt the moment had come;
the cessation of the rhythmical discharges of the Colt guns must be the
result of communication between Commander Hughes and those defending
the compound. He glanced anxiously through the night toward the hidden
enemy, while he was at that moment framing the words which would send
his hundred men in a mad dash against an intrenched foe, counting their
numbers by the thousands.



With the order to charge trembling on his lips, Phil hesitated. What
did the silence of the mission tell him? Had Commander Hughes succeeded
in gaining an entrance, and had the mission ceased its fire by his
order to allow the midshipman’s party to flank the battery so intent
upon breaching the wall through which the savage horde would surge into
the enclosure, butchering every Christian found there?

He turned to O’Neil, lying quietly beside him in the high grass.
Through many adventures the lad had become thoroughly convinced of the
sailor’s good and calm judgment. He turned to him now, a grave fear
in his mind that precious moments were slipping away, yet if he made
a mistake and that withering fire should again be loosened, all would
indeed be lost.

“Are they waiting to allow us to advance?” he whispered, half rising to
his feet.

“Wait,” O’Neil cautioned; “if they know we’re here they’ll signal.
See!” he added, his eyes fixed upon the mission.

Even as he spoke, a bright light flamed suddenly above the wall, its
appearance awakening the enemy to renewed action.

Each of the hundred sailors turned his eyes expectantly toward the
mission. The light burned brightly and then flickered regularly and
evenly for a few seconds, again burning steadily.

“You’re right; signal!” Phil exclaimed, straining his eyes to read the
message which he knew would be spelled out by that flashing light.

Slowly, painfully the bright point of light appeared and disappeared;
all who knew the navy code were reading, with muscles tense and breath
held tight, the encouraging words flashing to them from across the
intervening darkness:

“We are holding our fire.”

There was small need to give the order to charge; every sailor in that
impatient line in but a moment knew that those in the mission were
waiting and trusting to them for deliverance from the murderous fire of
the Chinese artillery.

The lad rose to his feet, grasping his revolver firmly, and as one
man the sailors swept forward. Three hundred yards ahead four pieces
of modern artillery were battering away at the concrete wall of the
mission, while dusky figures, believing their foe had been silenced,
swarmed boldly over the grassy slopes behind and on either side of the
guns. So noiselessly did Phil’s men advance that the enemy were even
now ignorant of the presence of a foe so near at hand.

“When we charge,” Langdon whispered breathlessly, “order the men to
yell; the Chinese are as much afraid of noise as they are of bullets.”

Phil had always trained his men in their drills to charge cheering. Now
the time had arrived; in the next hundred yards the men would surely be
exposed to the view and fire of their enemy; concealment then would not
be an advantage; the Chinese should see and hear the danger in order
to have it strike terror to their hearts.

Raising his whistle to his lips, Phil blew a shrill blast.

“Open fire!” he shouted at the top of his lungs, “and charge, men,
cheering!” he added, raising his voice in an excited shout as he sprang
forward, leading the way toward the now startled enemy.

The sailor line, an advancing sheet of flame, charged straight for
the crest of the hill in front. The Chinese, occupied in their
attack on the mission, had never dreamed that the small body of men
believed to have crossed the bridge would dare attack a position as
impregnable as theirs. Then out of the night, without warning, what
seemed to their superstitious minds a thousand yelling demons came as
lightning towards them. If these were the foreigners that had crossed
the bridge a miracle had been wrought and their number increased a
hundredfold; their simple minds were ready to believe that the despised
foreign devils had taken wings and flown across the unbridged ditch.
An unreasonable terror seized the surprised Orientals; some threw
down their guns and deserted precipitously, while others showed their
military training in turning gallantly and firing fiercely at the
rapidly approaching attackers; some even made a vain effort to turn the
artillery in the direction of the unlooked-for attack, but the charging
Americans were amongst them before a single gun could be moved.

His revolver tightly gripped, Phil fired blindly at the shadowy forms
now but a few yards from him; the bright flashes of his shots revealing
the terror in his victims’ faces as they gave way before him, and
then screaming with pain and an unconquerable fear, melted into the
night. Deafeningly in his ears rang the discharges of both the pilot’s
and O’Neil’s revolvers, unerringly mowing down those who dared stand
in their path, while on either side he saw his men fire volley after
volley into the mass of totally demoralized Asiatics. Without leaders
to stay them, their wild terror had put wings to their feet, and in but
a few minutes the Americans found themselves in undisputed possession
of the fortified position held so recently by their enemy.

Phil could hardly believe his eyes; he glanced joyfully about him at
the four guns and his exultant men crowding into the enemy’s deserted
trenches. O’Neil’s cool voice soon brought him to a realization of his
duty; his thoughts had been full of his easily-won victory against such
a formidable foe.

“We must hold this hill,” the sailor exclaimed; “if the Chinese find
out how few men we have they’ll try to retake it.”

“You’re right, O’Neil,” he answered quickly; “but I must send word to
Commander Hughes. I’ll stay here while you, Langdon, take a dozen men
and give the captain the news; he may have some new move in mind.”

Langdon readily agreed, and after a hand-clasp with the midshipman, the
pilot led his handful of men back toward the main American force.

After his friend had gone, Phil, with his boatswain’s mate, looked
carefully over the situation. He saw with joy that the enemy had left a
great store of ammunition for the artillery pieces, and that the guns
were similar to those his men used for drill on board ship. He started
his men to work with a will and in a few minutes they had turned the
guns’ muzzles away from the mission and directed them toward the line
of the enemy’s flight.

“This is the very thing, sir,” O’Neil cried, showing the midshipman
a shell which he recognized at once as canister; “they can’t do much
against us if we can find plenty of that kind.”

Phil immediately ordered a search, with the result that nearly half of
all the ammunition boxes were found to contain these deadly cartridges.

Scarcely had the survey been completed when the Americans found
themselves suddenly subjected to a heavy musketry fire from the
direction taken by the fleeing enemy; the lad could see distinctly
shadowy forms darting here and there from behind the mound-like graves,
and each moment the figures drew closer and seemed bolder; Phil
realized that their enemy had been rallied in its precipitous retreat
by a trusted leader and now the reassured Chinese were advancing
intent upon recapturing the guns which they had abandoned in their
demoralized stampede. A few of his men had already opened fire upon
the misty forms, but the lad saw at once that the battery could not be
saved by the weak fire of less than a hundred rifles.

“Cease firing!” he shouted above the increasing din of battle. “To the
guns, men; load with canister!”

Obediently the sailors dropped their rifles and took their stations
at the four guns, the leading men, petty officers, instructing those
under them as coolly as if they were but drilling recruits on board
ship. Phil heard the metallic rasping of the shells as they were loaded
into the breeches of the guns and the silvery ring of the breech plugs
thrown quickly shut. The guns’ crews stood silently ready, waiting for
the word from their young leader.

Controlling his excitement, the lad delayed the expectant word to open
fire; the Chinese, in their eagerness to discredit the bravery of their
enemy, mistook the silence to mean that the foreigners had retreated
and came boldly on, shouting their fanatical war-songs and exposing
their numbers to the view of the Americans waiting to open upon them
with their own artillery. The sailors trained their artillery pieces in
silence, keeping the muzzles pointed in the direction of the reckless
horde of delirious Chinamen.

Then swiftly at a word from the midshipman the four guns in unison
roared out a challenge, leaving death and destruction in the path of
the hundreds of bullets fired at once from the bores of the guns. Again
the reverberation shook the hilltop and again the leaden hail poured
into the now disordered ranks of the advancing fanatics. As rapidly as
if the guns’ crews were at target practice, the four guns spoke, each
time cutting deep gaps in the enemy’s line. After a feeble attempt to
rally the disordered legions, the Chinese leaders turned and fled,
followed by the already stampeded soldiers.

Having assured himself that this time the enemy would not be likely to
return, Phil gave the order to cease firing and then turned his eyes
expectantly toward the mission, realizing that its inmates had seen the
attack and were doubtless anxious of the final outcome. However, in
but a few minutes the signal-light appeared and flashed out a message
which showed the boy that his captain had understood that he had
gallantly repulsed the sudden attack:

“Am coming to join you.”

Ten minutes later Commander Hughes, with a hundred more men at his
back, stood beside Phil in the enemy’s trenches; his captain was
unstinting in his praises, while Sydney, who had accompanied him,
hugged his chum delightedly; Langdon stood by an amused and pleased

“You’ve taught the enemy a lesson which they will not soon forget,” the
American captain exclaimed, “and they will not be likely to wish to
try conclusions with us again to-night, but at the same time we cannot
afford to treat the Chinese with too much scorn.”

Phil quickly explained the find of canister, and the captain, much to
O’Neil’s embarrassment, called him up before the assembled sailors and
complimented him upon his ready resource.

“It’s men like you, O’Neil,” he said warmly, “that make an expedition
of this kind possible.”

O’Neil even in the darkness grinned sheepishly, as if he had been
discovered doing something for which he ought to have been ashamed.

Great was the rejoicing in the mission at the unlooked-for deliverance,
and upon Commander Hughes’ order the relieved non-combatants quietly
packed up their most treasured belongings, ready to be conveyed through
the enemy’s country to the protection of the war-ships.

It being found impossible to save the captured guns, Phil, with
O’Neil’s aid, deftly dismantled the breech mechanisms and, securing
a heavy axe from the mission, rendered quite useless the delicately
fitting parts, giving the sailors the damaged pieces to carry to the
ditch where they would be thrown into the stagnant water at the bottom.

The missionaries, with tears in their eyes, bid farewell to their home,
expecting that after the sailors had gone, the Chinese would return
and send up in smoke that spacious monument to their earnest labors in
China. The party was obliged to make a wide detour to reach a bridge
some miles from the one crossed earlier in the night.

Dawn was breaking when the commander led his victorious men with the
rescued missionaries safely to the bank of the river, where small
boats were waiting to transport them to the protection of the American
war-ships. As the last of the refugees disembarked at the gangway of
the “Phœnix,” the sun peeped out from behind the distant hills.

Phil and Sydney longed for a few hours’ sleep, but they well knew that
if they succumbed to this desire they might miss altogether what they
felt would be the closing scenes in the drama.

By signal, Commander Hughes at once ordered that all non-combatants be
sent on board the gunboats, and that the monitors hold themselves in
readiness to get under way within the hour.

Phil’s hopes ran high as he and Sydney made themselves presentable
after their strenuous night’s experience.

After a hasty breakfast the lads appeared on deck. There they found
their captain before them, gazing closely through his binoculars at
the distant forts.

At the gangway three cutters were lying, and the landing force of the
“Phœnix,” rifles in hand, were standing in ranks ready to embark.

“March the men into the boats, Wilson,” Commander Hughes ordered
suddenly, putting his binoculars in their leather case. Then as he
turned to go below to his cabin, “Mr. Perry, you and Mr. Monroe report
to Mr. Wilson.”

“Where are we going?” Phil asked excitedly as he saluted the lieutenant.

“To the ‘Monterey,’” Lieutenant Wilson answered, “but that’s as far as
I know. The captain must expect hot work; each of my men is ordered to
take two hundred rounds of ammunition.”

“We’re going to storm the walled city,” Sydney exclaimed. “There’s no
sign of submission on either the forts or the viceroy’s yamen. The
captain means to rescue the four sailors and carry out his threats upon

Phil’s pulses beat faster at the thought. Now war had been declared,
and his captain believed in striking promptly before his enemy had time
to gather his forces!

Quickly the sailors were embarked in the waiting boats, and as
Commander Hughes, accompanied by Langdon, took his place in the stern
of the leading cutter, the oars were thrust out through the rowlocks
and the boats pulled with swift strokes alongside the monitor, anchored
only a few hundred yards down the river from the “Phœnix.”

“Get under way, Barnes,” Commander Hughes ordered as he stepped on
board the “Monterey,” “and signal the ‘Monadnock’ to follow us. Bend on
the signal to her to ‘clear ship for action’; the gunboats will remain
here out of range of the fort guns.”

The stirring call of the bugles sounded with its nerve-tingling ring
throughout the ship, repeated in a few minutes by the “Monadnock,” and
with a cheer of delight the crews disappeared below decks to their
stations for battle.

Inside of fifteen minutes all was in readiness, and the heavy anchors
were lifted from the bottom of the river.

With all the men not at gun stations behind the thick armor of the
small river battle-ships, the “Monterey” gracefully turned around close
to the fleet of anchored gunboats. Phil’s nerves were atingle as he
heard the admiring cheers of the allies float to them across the water.
Then the “Monterey,” her huge turret guns loaded and ready to open the
battle, and followed closely by her consort, steamed swiftly toward the
hostile forts.

“Break the battle flags,” Commander Hughes ordered in his calm voice,
standing on the bridge beside the captain of the “Monterey,” while
Phil, Sydney and Langdon, in the lee of the conning-tower, gazed,
consumed with excitement, upon the forts, toward which the two big
twelve-inch guns were pointing. Phil saw on the flagstaff at the top
of the emplacement the proud yellow banner of China, with its monster
dragon endeavoring to swallow a red ball, just beyond the reach of its
fiery nostrils.

“O’Neil is in the turret,” Sydney exclaimed to Phil at his side. “He
will fire one of the guns. I wonder if he can still shoot the way he
did at our record target practice when you had the after turret.”

“He’s as steady as a rock,” Phil replied enthusiastically. “I’ll wager
that every one of his shots will go true. He was the best gun-pointer
on the ‘Connecticut.’”

“What’s the range?” Commander Hughes inquired, a shade of excitement
creeping into his voice.

“Three thousand yards, sir,” the officer at the range-finder called out

“Fire one shot at the nearest gun emplacement,” the American commander
ordered the “Monterey’s” captain, “and signal the ‘Monadnock’ to sheer
up abreast us and when the fort replies swing around and open with her

Phil saw the alert signalmen swiftly signal with their small hand
flags the message to their consort, and then immediately afterward
the “Monadnock,” which had been steaming in the “Monterey’s” wake,
swung her bow in toward the city of Ku-Ling, which the two vessels
were rapidly passing. The high wall was thronged with Chinamen; their
curiosity having overcome their fear of the terrible foreign war-ships.

The next second a heavy roar filled the air and the forts disappeared
completely from view in the brownish vapor from the turret gun.

Grasping the rail tightly in his excitement, his heart beating like
a trip-hammer, Phil gazed through the quickly dissolving smoke. The
sonorous screech of the shell in his ears, he strained his eyes to pick
up the huge projectile, travelling nearly a half a mile a second toward
the hostile fort.

Grasping the binoculars from Langdon’s hand, he raised them swiftly
to his eyes. A black dot appeared, upon which the lad focused his
attention, as if to lose it might mean a miss. He saw the bird-like
bolt rise high above the white stone emplacements, and knew on the
instant, from his long experience watching just such shells at the
peaceful drill of target practice, that the messenger of destruction,
filled with an explosive that would scatter death and consternation in
its path, would go true to its aim.

“Right on top of the emplacement!” he shouted excitedly a half second
before a liquid fire flashed on the parapet of the forts, while tons of
earth and rock were scattered in every direction.



While Phil had been gazing spellbound at the half ton shell, fired by
O’Neil with such startling effect, Sydney was watching excitedly a
small squad of Chinese soldiers toiling painfully upward from the gun

When the roar of discharge shook the air he had seen these small black
figures throw themselves behind the jutting rocks, and after the
missile had exploded upon the parapets of the forts, hurling by its
tremendous force a large gun backward from its substantial mountings,
these persistent dots of men again appeared to view, creeping steadily
upward. What did it mean? Were these men deserting their guns?

Sydney heard his captain give the order to reload, and knew that within
the minute another shell would be speeding toward the enemy. The
foremost Chinaman had now reached the foot of the great flagstaff, and
the next second, to the lad’s delight, he saw the yellow banner flutter
slowly to the ground.

“They are striking their colors,” he cried excitedly.

All eyes turned in glad surprise toward the flagstaff to the right of
and above the gun emplacements.

“A white flag!” Phil gasped, a tinge of disappointment in his voice, as
he saw the banner of submission mount the flagpole quickly. Now all was
over, and he had seen but one shot fired.

“Cease firing!” Commander Hughes hastily ordered, fearing that the
next shot might, with the white flag displayed on the forts, cause the
Chinese to think that the monitor had intentionally disregarded the
sanctity of the emblem, thus precipitating an engagement with the forts
which the American officer was only too glad to avoid.

The bugles sounded the retreat from firing, and disappointed faces soon
appeared from the turrets, to gaze out upon the unwelcome white flag
flaunting in the light morning breeze.

“Follow us,” had been the signal to the “Monadnock,” and the two
victorious vessels, in column, made a graceful turn and then steamed up
stream toward the renegade gunboats anchored off Ku-Ling.

“What does it mean?” Phil breathed excitedly to Langdon.

“Something has happened,” Langdon exclaimed, shaking his head in

“The viceroy’s now going to send a flag of truce to us,” Sydney
suggested; “and I hope Ta-Ling comes with it. I’d certainly like to see
Phil hand him back the pigtail he borrowed.”

Despite the seriousness of the situation all laughed at the thought of
the discomfited Chinaman without his cue.

The ships were now passing close to the “Albaque”; the sailors of that
gunboat watched the American monitors in sullen silence. The midshipmen
looked in vain for Commander Ignacio; he was not on deck.

“She’s ready to get under way,” Phil exclaimed, pointing to that
vessel. “See! her anchor gear is rove off and her steam launch has
been hoisted inboard.” Sure signs indeed that the gunboat was ready to

The “Monterey” slowly steamed by the renegades until the gate of the
city came in view from the river; then a rattle of chain announced that
the war-ship had anchored.

The “Monadnock” had by order stopped astern and upon signal dropped her
anchor, so that in case of treachery that monitor’s big guns could be
readily trained on the forts.

“Now, Barnes,” Commander Hughes said with energy, “call away the
landing force and set them ashore.” Then he drew Lieutenant Wilson
aside, talking earnestly with him for some minutes.

Inside of another ten minutes the midshipmen found themselves on the
jetty of the foreign concession, while in ranks along the water front,
their rifles at the shoulder, stood three hundred stalwart sailors from
the three American ships.

Phil glanced uneasily toward the high city wall. The gate he could not
see, but he knew it was closed and the drawbridge raised. Probably the
Chinamen he had seen on the wall when the monitors steamed down the
river were now peering out through the hundreds of loopholes, their
rifles ready to defend their city from the foreign invader, for the lad
knew that Lieutenant Wilson’s orders had been to rescue the sailors in
the yamen.

“How shall we cross the moat?” he faltered to Langdon at his side.

The question remained unanswered, for the next moment a heavy discharge
rent the still air, followed by an explosion near the city wall. Again
came the shock of firing and Phil saw that the “Monterey’s” big guns
had been fired at the main gateway of the city.

Shell after shell sped quickly toward the gateway, scarcely five
hundred yards from the monitor’s guns.

The lads gazed about them in bewilderment. How could this aid them?
Then the firing ceased and a flag waved rapidly from the war-ship.

“Fours right,” Lieutenant Wilson cried excitedly, hastily leading the
column to the cross street up which the monitor had fired. Arriving
there, Phil gasped with admiration at the havoc wrought by the big
shells. The drawbridge was down across the moat and the great gate of
wood and iron had been literally torn from its huge hinges and thrown
bodily fifty feet within the city.

In silence the sailors were led across the drawbridge, Phil noticing
the severed chains which had allowed the bridge to fall in place, and
then they were inside the city.

No signs of life were visible, and the open doors and windows of the
houses showed plainly that the Chinese had departed suddenly, fearing
the shells of the foreigners.

“To the yamen, Langdon,” Lieutenant Wilson cried eagerly. Then as the
pilot pointed out the direction: “Fix bayonets!” The rasping of the
three hundred bayonets as they were adjusted on the rifles lasted for
half a minute and then Lieutenant Wilson added sharply, “Forward,
double time.”

At a run the rescuing column swept along the narrow street.

Phil and Sydney eagerly raced ahead, followed closely by the lieutenant
and Langdon. After but a few minutes the midshipmen reached the gateway
of the yamen.

An exclamation of grave concern from Sydney caused his companions to
cast anxious glances toward the expansive parade grounds in front of
the yamen gate. The sight that met their eyes was indeed disconcerting.
They had expected no more than feeble resistance, but there before
them, drawn up as if on parade, was a vast army of Chinese soldiers.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Lieutenant Wilson asked falteringly,
coming to a sudden stop, while his men gazed in wonder at the thousands
of well-armed soldiers, apparently in battle array, awaiting the word
to begin the fight.

“It means that viceroy Chang-Li-Hun has overshot his bolt,” Langdon
returned joyfully; “these men are of another province. Do you see their
yellow plumes? The viceroy’s soldiers wear red.

“Sent by Peking,” he added. “It means the viceroy is to be brought to
account by his government.”

While Langdon was speaking, a horseman rode rapidly toward the
Americans. Langdon walked out quickly to meet him when he drew rein
at the edge of the roadway, and immediately addressed him in his own

Then, after a few moments’ rapid talk, he turned to the lieutenant, a
broad smile on his face.

“Just as I supposed. They are here to suppress outlaws. His general
has gone to the forts to confer with Hang-Ki. He says the viceroy has
refused to receive him.”

“Tell him,” Lieutenant Wilson said hurriedly, “that four of our sailors
are held prisoners in the yamen, and that I am going to enter by force
if they refuse to open the gate.”

“He says his men will not interfere,” the pilot returned, after a few
hurried words with the Chinese officer. “In fact, I believe they’d
gladly help us. This viceroy is not popular with the Manchus.”

Without more ado Lieutenant Wilson knocked loudly on the gate with the
butt of his revolver. There followed a whispered consultation from
beyond the gate and then a small slit slid back suddenly, revealing a
pair of almond eyes, peering out suspiciously.

Before Langdon could speak, the Chinese officer had dismounted from his
Tartar pony, and held the owner of the eyes in earnest conversation.
A moment later the slit was closed sharply, and the officer recoiled
angrily, muttering invectives at the rudeness of his rebuff.

“He says, break in the gate,” the pilot laughed in amusement.

Anticipating this move, Sydney had led a party of men to where a
telegraph pole was lying on the ground, ready to replace a pole
apparently condemned.

“It couldn’t have been handier,” he exclaimed, as the men lifting it
moved it in position to batter in the gateway.

A few forceful blows, and the American sailors poured through the
shattered gates.

Another gateway barred further progress, and this was soon sent flying
to pieces and the foreigners found themselves within the main courtyard
of the viceroy’s palace. Never before had foreign sailors entered these
sacred precincts with hostile intent.

“Mr. Perry, you and Mr. Monroe press ahead,” Lieutenant Wilson ordered.
“You know something of the yamen,” he added, a faint smile on his
earnest face. “Don’t be rash,” he warned. “I’ll be on hand if you need
aid, but it looks as if the yamen were deserted.”

Quickly selecting a dozen men, among whom was O’Neil, who had pressed
forward to the midshipmen’s side upon entering the building, Phil led
the way toward the viceroy’s private apartments.

The door through which they had entered the night before was bolted
from within, but by the united weight of Langdon and O’Neil it soon
opened obediently. They found this room empty, but the door to the
viceroy’s bedroom was open slightly.

“Careful, Mr. Perry,” O’Neil cried, catching the lad’s arm and drawing
him back from the open door.

The boatswain’s mate was just in the nick of time. A rifle muzzle had
suddenly been thrust through the opening and discharged, filling the
room with the noise of thunder. Phil recoiled in terror, his face
burning painfully from the heat of the discharge, while his ears were

“Do you see, sir?” O’Neil observed huskily, as he wrenched the rifle
from the Chinaman’s hand and clubbed him into insensibility before he
could run. “Always approach an open door with caution and from the

Crowding into the viceroy’s bedchamber, the Americans were struck dumb
by the sadness of the spectacle before them.

There in the great canopied bed lay the form of the aged viceroy; his
eyes were closed, while upon his parchment-like face had spread the
pallor of death. The room was empty save for a single figure standing
beside the bed, a look of mortal fear in his eyes.

“Dead!” Phil whispered in awe at the sight, while he reverently removed
his cap. The sailors stood in silence, their heads uncovered, thrilled
by the scene. Chang-Li-Hun’s face, even in death, had not lost its
cruel expression. He lay there, silent, unconquered. The will of Peking
held no terrors for him now.


Langdon motioned to the Chinaman at the dead man’s bedside that no harm
would come to him, and after gaining courage, but eyeing fearfully
the insensible body of the last remaining guard, he came slowly to the
pilot’s side.

“He says Ta-Ling has not returned,” Langdon breathed in a subdued voice
after a minute’s talk with the frightened man. “He’s the treasurer you
choked in the next room,” he continued hurriedly to Phil, “and he will
lead us to the cell where the sailors were confined.”

The lad’s hopes ran high. If Ta-Ling had not returned, it might be
possible that the men were as yet alive.

As the Americans hastened after the Chinaman, they passed Lieutenant
Wilson and his waiting sailors in the courtyard.

“The viceroy is dead!” Phil exclaimed hurriedly as he passed him.

The treasurer led the way past the cell in which the midshipmen had
spent so many horrible hours of torture, but to Phil’s alarm it was now

“The prisoners are gone,” the lad faltered, pointing to the deserted
prison. “Ask him the meaning, Langdon.”

“He says he knows nothing,” the pilot replied after stopping suddenly
and questioning the distracted Chinaman. “He has been with the viceroy
all night. Upon hearing of the arrival of the troops sent by Peking,
the viceroy swallowed poison, a deadly Chinese drug, which he always
carried with him.”

Moving rapidly onward the Chinaman stopped suddenly in front of a cell

Phil’s heart was as lead as he pushed the door open. The cell was empty.

“Ta-Ling did return,” he cried in despair.



O’Neil, with his characteristic energy, wasted no time upon the cell,
which he had made up his mind long since would be found empty, but with
three or four sailors at his back had pressed forward to the end of the
narrow corridor.

He heard Phil’s cry of disappointment as he found himself on the edge
of a smaller courtyard, and was just in time to discover a fleeing band
of Chinamen disappearing through a narrow alley at the far end.

Calling loudly for the others to follow, the boatswain’s mate ran
hurriedly forward across the stone-paved court.

Reaching the entrance to the alley, the sharp discharges of rifles from
the other end caused him to stop abruptly, but before he could gain
a place of safety, a stinging pain in his shoulder made him cry out

Then his anger overcame his training in discretion and with his men
beside him, while the heavy footfalls of the midshipmen advancing on a
run across the courtyard told him of the approach of reënforcements, he
boldly raced between the bordering walls of brick and mortar now swept
by the enemy’s bullets.

As he again emerged into the sunlight, he was barely in time to see the
persistent enemy scattering like a covey of partridges through numerous
passages at the far end of a third courtyard, while from that direction
a hot fire was directed upon him and his handful of men.

What should he do? He could advance no further in the face of that
rifle fire. Glancing anxiously behind him, he saw the midshipmen and
their men were nowhere in view, and yet they had been only a half
hundred paces behind when he had charged down the alley. The sailors
were returning the furious fire of the Chinese, but O’Neil saw that
the enemy was hidden and the spatter of their bullets against the wall
behind the Americans showed him only too plainly that even the poor
shots of the Chinese might accidentally make a hit. Reluctantly he
ordered a retreat back through the arched passageway.

As O’Neil and his men again reached the second courtyard, across which
he had chased the fleeing Chinamen, he saw the midshipmen and their
party surrounding several objects upon the ground, which had been
covered over with a large piece of canvas.

“They are safe,” Sydney’s voice hailed as he caught sight of the
returning sailors. “You ran right over them.”

The prisoners were quickly freed from their manacles, and, supported by
their comrades, the party hastened to rejoin Lieutenant Wilson.

The four sailors had had a narrow escape. Ta-Ling, determined upon
revenge, had been upon the point of beheading them when O’Neil and
his men had caused him to desist. Then covering them hurriedly with a
large piece of canvas, he hoped to conceal their presence until the
Americans had given up their search, when he would return and finish
his diabolical work. But the curiosity of an American had defeated his
plan; for raising the corner of the canvas the sailor had seen the
blue-clad legs of a bound and gagged shipmate.

Arriving in the main courtyard, Phil’s eye caught the bright color
of a Chinese mandarin’s clothes, their wearer standing at Lieutenant
Wilson’s side.

“Hang-Ki!” he exclaimed joyfully as he recognized the Tartar general’s
erect form.

The two midshipmen hastened to the Manchu’s side and shook hands with
him warmly.

Hang-Ki had been patiently waiting for Langdon’s return to interpret
his words to the American lieutenant. Another mandarin stood by
Hang-Ki’s side, his rugged frame indicating clearly that he also was of
Tartar blood, from which race the military leaders of China are taken.

The midshipmen waited impatiently to hear what Hang-Ki had to tell,
while Lieutenant Wilson congratulated all hands upon the success of the
rescue, and shook hands as all had done with the rescued men.

“His Excellency says the viceroy killed himself early this morning;
the captain of the yamen guards brought him the news, but it did not
arrive in time to hoist the white flag before the monitor had fired her
shell. He says many men were hurt during the night engagement and asks
how many Americans were killed.”

“Tell him we’ve lost only one man in all the fighting,” Lieutenant
Wilson replied.

Hang-Ki, after Langdon had given him Lieutenant Wilson’s words, shook
his head as though mystified.

The two generals expressed a wish to visit the American commander, and
make China’s peace for the hostile acts of the dead viceroy.

The sailors were assembled and marched directly to the landing.

As the river and the anchored ships came into view, Phil grasped
Sydney’s arm excitedly, pointing to a white yacht lying gracefully at
anchor between the monitors and the “Phœnix”; the latter having left
the allies at the upper anchorage and steamed down the river while they
were inside the Chinese city.

“The ‘Alacrity’!” he exclaimed, “and the admiral’s on board; there’s
his flag at the main,” pointing to a large blue flag, with two white
stars in the field. Then the joy died in his face. The letter of the
viceroy and the telegram, as yet undelivered, came to his mind.

“Where’s the ‘Albaque’?” Sydney asked suddenly, searching the river for
Ignacio’s ship.

“There she goes,” Langdon cried, pointing down stream, where a trail of
smoke from a fast disappearing steamer hung low over the muddy water of
the river.

Upon reaching the “Phœnix,” there was Commander Hughes on deck,
anxiously waiting to hear the results of the expedition. His face was
wreathed in smiles as he heard of their unlooked-for success. Then,
motioning Langdon to follow, he led the two Chinese officers to his

Phil had not dared, with his guilt written plainly on his face, to look
his captain in the eye while that officer showered praises upon the two
midshipmen, and he was much relieved to be able to escape to his own
room, there to map out a course of action.

“Our best plan, Syd,” Phil declared, “is to take all these papers to
the captain and make a clean breast of it.”

Sydney agreed wholly with his friend’s plan and all that remained
was to muster up courage to go to the captain. Both midshipmen would
much rather have faced a hundred Chinese rifles than confess to their
captain that a telegram and directed to him from the navy department
had been purposely hidden.

A rap on the door caused Phil’s pulses to beat quicker and his heart
rise to his mouth.

“The captain would like to see Mr. Perry and Mr. Monroe,” the orderly
announced, peering in through the curtain at the startled lads.

“Come on, Phil,” Sydney urged; “we’d better get it over with.”

In silence they walked into the cabin. Phil’s head swam as his old
friend Admiral Taylor shook his hand and spoke solid words of praise
for his valuable services.

Hang-Ki had risen to go upon the entrance of the midshipmen, and after
bowing to the admiral and captain he stepped quickly to Phil’s side,
pressing into his hand the jade ring.

“He says,” Langdon interpreted, “that he has evidence enough without it
if he is lucky enough to capture Ta-Ling.”

“I am delighted, Hughes,” the admiral said as Commander Hughes returned
with the midshipmen, after having escorted the Chinese soldiers to the
gangway, “at the successful end gained by your clear-headed policy.
Washington, hearing nothing from you and at the same time receiving
news of your doings from a foreign government, was quite justified, in
view of your known impetuosity, in being anxious. It was current in
Shanghai that you had been relieved of your command, yet I received no
word up to the time of sailing, two days ago.”

Phil saw his opportunity had come to bare his secret, and drawing the
viceroy’s letter, the telegram and the correspondence of Ignacio all
from his pocket, he laid them in silence on the table between the two

The lads waited in a fever of dread while the officers glanced in
surprise at the papers before them. Phil saw that the admiral held the
cipher telegram, with the translation underneath the cipher words.

“What does this mean?” the admiral cried sternly, reading aloud the
translation of the cablegram.

Phil boldly told where and when he had found the telegram, and his
reasons for not delivering it until now.

The admiral regarded the lad severely.

“Knowing this was from the department in Washington, you concealed it,”
he exclaimed. “Explain yourself, sir.”

Phil swallowed hard and then pointed a trembling finger to the other

“After you have read those, sir,” he said huskily, “I shall be ready to
stand guilty or not guilty in your eyes.”

Both officers eagerly read the letters from Ignacio to the viceroy’s

After the admiral had finished reading, he regarded Phil in silence,
his expression fathomless to the anxious midshipman. Commander Hughes’
eyes gave him no encouragement; they were directed to his brightly
polished shoes. It was a question between the senior midshipman and his
commander-in-chief. Technically a great breach of naval discipline had
been committed.

The minutes ticked away slowly by the cabin clock while the lad waited
for the wording of his doom.

“Mr. Perry,” the admiral at length began in his usual calm voice, “this
is the second time that you have placed me in a most embarrassing
position, but I want to say right here,” and his eyes snapped, “if I
had a son, and he had committed this breach of naval discipline in
order to save the situation, I would be mighty proud of him.” As he
finished he put out his hand to the surprised but happy midshipman, who
grasped it joyfully.

Phil was so surprised that he could not find voice to utter a single
word. He stared dumbly at the admiral, his tear-dimmed eyes eloquently
speaking the words he could not utter.

Commander Hughes jumped up and grasped the midshipman by the hand,
showing in his face the keen pleasure the admiral’s decision had given

“This correspondence I shall keep in my safe,” the admiral said, a
twinkle in his eyes, “in case I have trouble in explaining our young
friend’s crime. It may also serve us in the future with this foreign
Judas Iscariot.

“And now, young man,” he added, his kind face beaming with good
nature, “I think after a few months I shall have to deprive your
captain of your services. I am going to put in commission a number of
small gunboats for duty against the Philippine insurgents, and I have
decided to give Mr. Perry command of one of them with Mr. Monroe as his
executive officer, and I suppose,” he suggested with a smile, “that you
will want O’Neil as the chief boatswain’s mate.”

Phil could hardly believe his ears. Instead of censure, here was the
admiral offering him a ship of his own.

As one in a dream he thanked the admiral and accompanied by Sydney,
withdrew from the cabin.

By order of Peking Hang-Ki was made viceroy and he at once took steps
to safeguard all foreigners throughout the provinces.

The allied gunboats within the hour anchored off Ku-Ling, and before
the day was over the foreign concession had taken up the thread of
business where it had been so rudely interrupted. Commander Hughes
detailed a force of mechanics from the American war-ships to repair
the damaged launches of the faithful Emmons, and before a week had
passed the launch trade was flourishing as of old.

The concession to build the railroad to Peking was made more secure
to the American company, and before the “Phœnix” sailed for Shanghai
the lads saw the material, which had long waited for permission to be
landed, safely stored in go-downs and the work on the road started.

Ta-Ling made good his escape, and it was believed that he had gone to
the mountains, there to remain in hiding until another opportunity
might present itself to avenge himself on the despised foreigner.

O’Neil’s wound was found by the doctors to be not dangerous and, with
his arm in a sling for several days, he was gazed at admiringly by his
less fortunate shipmates.

Langdon received the personal thanks of the admiral, and Commander
Hughes stoutly declares that he is as good a pilot ashore as he is on
the river.


[1] Mexican dollars.

[2] There is a prescribed rule for hailing a boat at night. A ship,
seeing a boat approaching, hails, “Boat ahoy!” If enlisted men are
in the boat the proper answer is “Hello!” If midshipmen are in the
boat the answer is “No! No!” if commissioned officers, “Aye! Aye!” If
a captain is in the boat the answer is the name of his ship, and an
admiral’s proper answer is “Flag”--meaning that the boat carries an
admiral’s flag.

[3] Twelve rifles.


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

  Archaic or alternate spelling has been retained from the original.

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