“By the way,” said the consul, “where are the papers you took from the captain of the Shark—the boat you fought with your submarine?”
“I have them here,” was the reply.
“Better leave them in my safe.”
Ned consented to this, and later, on the march to Peking, he was very glad that he had done.
At twilight the boys joined the flying squadron, and were all off for the imperial city, little suspecting that the perils before them were greater than any they had encountered.
A BIT OF SEALING WAX
The night grew clearer as the flying squadron advanced toward the imperial city of China. The roads were rough in places, but the superb machines carried the boys and their companions at good speed.
It may well be imagined that the party created something of a sensation as it whirled along. The constant popping of the engines, the strong lights which flashed ahead, and the voices of the marines brought many a sleepy-faced Chinaman to the door of his home.
Now and then the boys were hailed from the roadside, but little attention was paid to these calls. Finally, however, a voice addressed the party in English.
“Where are you going?” it asked.
Ned instructed the Captain to proceed a few paces with his company and then halted to see what manner of man it was that spoke to him in that tongue. He found an old Chinaman, a wise-looking old fellow with a keen face, leaning over a rude gate in front of a small house.
“Did you speak?” he asked, advancing to the gate.
“I did,” was the reply. “I was curious to know where you were going in the middle of the night.”
“You speak English remarkably well,” Ned said, not in any hurry to satisfy the old fellow’s curiosity.
“I ought to,” was the reply. “I have just come back from New York. I owned a laundry there for a good many years.”
“And have returned to China to live in peace and comfort?”
“I don’t know about the peace,” replied the Chinaman, with a sigh.
“You think there will be a war?”
The Chinaman nodded.
“The coming revolt,” he declared, “was conceived more than two hundred years ago. For fifty years organization has been going on. For six years the revolutionists have been working as a whole.”
“And they are strong?” asked Ned.
“Wherever in the world Chinamen live, in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, London, Berlin, St. Petersburg, anywhere, everywhere, there are funds being collected for the coming civil war.”
Ned wanted to ask the loquacious old fellow what his private ideas about the justice of the struggle were, but he decided not to do so. He thought he might find out in another way.
“And the revolutionists will win?” he asked.
“God forbid!” was the reply, and the boy had the answer he thought he would receive.