“He assaulted me!” complained the manager.
“Produce him! One, two, three. At the third word he comes!”
Obeying a motion from the frightened man, a native opened a door back of the counter and Captain Martin was pushed out into the room, smiling and evidently enjoying the situation.
“I could have butted out at any moment,” he said, “for these Chinks are not fighters, but I heard what was going on out here and thought I’d let events shape themselves. If I had been out here a short time ago I am afraid I should have made trouble for myself and for you.”
“It is nice to watch a game that you can’t lose at,” laughed the consul. “Come along, with your men, to my office. This lad wants a chance to read his message.”
“Sure,” was the reply. “I want to know how that Dutchman come to bring you here, and how my men managed to get here just in time. There are mysteries to explain. What?” he added, with a laugh.
“I guess we’ll have to wait for explanations until we know what is in this message,” Ned said. “Come along to the office, Mr. Consul, for we have lost a lot of time already.”
“I am anxious to know what the message contains,” said the consul.
THE DARK ROAD TO PEKING
Half an hour later the American consul, Captain Martin, and Ned sat in a private room at the consulate. The marines and Jimmie and Hans were in the large outer room.
The cablegram from Washington lay open on a table with a translation by its side. It read:
“Proceed to Peking immediately and report to the American ambassador. Keep within reach of the flying squadron. Avoid complications with the natives. Look out for plots to delay your party. Important that you should reach Peking at once. Wire conditions.”
“Not much news in that,” said Ned. “Guess we’ve met all the trouble the Washington people anticipated.”
“Shall you go on to-night?” asked the Captain.
“It is a dark, rainy night,” the consul warned, “and the highways of China are none too safe, even in daylight, for American messengers who are insufficiently guarded.”
“We’ll look out for our part of the game,” Captain Martin laughed.
“We’ll, keep close together,” advised the consul. “You will meet trouble on the way. The men who bribed the telegraph people will not get into the discard now. You’ll find their hirelings waiting out on the dark road to Peking.”
Ned pointed to the dispatch.
“We’ve got to go,” he said. “I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have met a true American here,” he added, extending his hand to the consul. “I shall tell the story of to-night in the State department at Washington when I get back.”
“Well, get it straight,” laughed the consul. “Say that a blundering German boy, who said he was a Boy Scout from Philadelphia, nearly dragged me out of bed about midnight and informed me that other Boy Scouts were in trouble at the telegraph office. I knew that Ned was expected here, and so lost no time in getting down. That’s all. The marines did the rest.”