“Didn’t you see him crowd out with the marine officer?” asked Ned.
“He was here after that fellow left,” was the reply. “But he can’t escape from the building,” he added, “for every avenue is guarded, and the chap the cablegram belongs to has just asked for it!”
TRICKS THAT WERE VAIN
Ned eyed the bullying detective keenly. He did not believe that the cablegram had been demanded by another. That was only a pretext on the part of his enemies to make their attitude of delay appear more reasonable. If, as was claimed, the message was now claimed by two, the holders would certainly be justified in using great caution in delivering it.
He did not believe, either, that the telegraph officials had been nervy enough to resort to police protection. That would be to bring the matter into the courts, and he did not think those who were opposing him would care for that.
“You are not telling the truth,” he said, coolly, to the detective. “No one here could honestly claim the message, because no one in Tientsin, previous to my arrival, knew there was such a message here, if I except the telegraph people and the man who sent it. If a claimant has shown up, he is acting under instructions from you.”
“You are deceiving yourself!” snarled the other.
“Where is Captain Martin, of the marines?” asked Ned, not caring to dispute the point. “If you have arrested him, you’ll be having his men after you before morning.”
“You mean the men you left in the cornfield?”
“Certainly, the United States marines.”
“Then you don’t know that they have gone back to Taku?”
“No; neither do you,” replied Ned. This was too cheap!
“But, they have,” insisted the detective. “At least, they have disappeared from the camp in the cornfield.”
“You seem pretty well posted as to our doings,” said the boy.
“We are pretty well informed as to all crooks who come here,” was the reply.
“What are you going to do about delivering the cablegram?” Ned asked, ignoring the insult.
“Wait until morning and deliver it to the American consul.”
“In America,” Ned said, with a provoking smile, “we elect men of your slant of mind to the Ananias club.”
“You’ll see,” was the reply. “In the meantime, you are in custody.”
Where was Jimmie? Had he escaped from the building, or was he detained in the room he had surreptitiously entered? If he had indeed escaped, would he have the good sense to hasten to the camp instead of trying to assist his chum single-handed?
Ned asked himself these questions, but could find no answer. He saw that the detective was not inclined, not yet desperate enough, to march him off to prison, however, and took courage from the fact. If he could secure a short delay all might yet be well.