The man with whom Ned was struggling was evidently unarmed, for he fought only with his hands and feet. He tried by all the tricks known to wrestlers to break away from the boy, or to hurl him to the floor, but Ned had skill as well as strength, and all such efforts proved unavailing.
While this silent struggle was going on, the rough door came crashing in and a score of Chinamen, evidently fleeing from an enemy, rushed in and flocked toward that south wall. Ned and his enemy were trampled under foot for a moment, then the room was clear save for a half dozen marines who stood in the doorway, their smoking guns in their hands.
Ned’s head whirled from a blow he had received, and there was a numb feeling in one of his arms, but he arose to his feet and glanced around. Jimmie stood with the marines, a grin on his freckled face.
“Gee whiz!” he shouted, “how that man did go!”
“Which man?” demanded Ned. “Why didn’t some one follow him?”
“He just went through that wall,” Jimmie answered. “When I tried to follow him I bumped me nose! Say, but he went right through that old wall!”
“Where did the Chinks go?” asked Ned.
“Down through the floor!” was the reply. “But, say, did you ever see anythin’ like that vanishin’ priest? I’ll bet a pie he’s forty miles away right this minute.”
When Ned and the marines took up the search for the diplomat and the Chinese, it did seem that they were forty miles away! There were numerous passages under the old temple, and in these the fugitives must have hidden.
“How did you know?” asked Ned of the marines who had broken into the underground rooms. “How did you know there was danger inside?”
“That little imp of a Jimmie,” one of the men said, “came to the entrance and shouted fit to wake the dead. They were trying to carry the Captain and the kid away. Bright boy, that!”
Two of the marines had been slightly wounded by knives in the hands of the Chinese, but they declared themselves quite well enough to go on with the journey.
“The Chinks didn’t fight,” one of them said. “They just threw knives and ran! We never hit one of them! Sheep, that’s what they are! Just sheep!”
“Well,” Ned said, “we’ve lost our chance on the road to Peking, the fellow we want having escaped, so we must go ahead and set the rat trap once more.”
“You’ll walk if you do,” one of the marines said, showing from the outside, “for the Chinks have made off with the motorcycles!”
SANDY PROVES HIS CASE
“They’ll be dead if you don’t get out of here an’ do somethin’!” said Sandy. “The Chinks’ll eat ’em up!”
Frank looked around the dismal subterranean chamber and a cynical smile came to his lips.
“We might get out of here,” he said, “if we had a ton of dynamite. I don’t know but I’d take a chance on getting injured myself in order to see these Chinks sailing into the sky.”