A BOY SCOUT SURPRISE PARTY
When Ned heard the assaults of the midnight visitor on his door he looked at his watch, then slipped over to the window facing the street. Twelve o’clock and the thoroughfare below still teeming with life. Peking has something over three millions of population, according to the records, but, as a matter of fact, no one knows the exact size of the town as to humanity, for the Chinese live in densely-packed districts, and there are no census reports given out.
The city is many centuries old. It was a thriving capital three thousand years before Christ was born and during all the years of war and starvation and intrigue it continued to grow.
The hardy races from the North, which overran the country and kept a Tartar on the Chinese throne for centuries, are virile and pertinacious. It has been the fate of every civilization we know anything about to be wiped out by hardy races. Rome went down before the Northmen, and England had its oversea conqueror. Greece and Italy succumbed to the might of brawny arms, and civilization shrank back for hundreds of years. So China fell before the men of the mountains, and her records were destroyed.
As in all large cities, there is a night side to the life of Peking. If you traverse the streets at night you will find shops which have been closed all day opening for the trade of the night workers. You will see people who have slept through all the daylight hours walking through the streets to their nightly toil. You will see about the same things, only on a smaller scale, that you see in the daytime.
This night was no different from any other, except that there were more men who did not appear to have any particular business there lounging along the streets. Now and then these loiterers, walking slowly along the business ways, slipped unostentatiously into alleys and narrow by-ways and so on into basement and garret halls where others of their kind were assembled.
When Ned looked out of his window, listening meanwhile to the steady boring sound at his door, he saw a light at a window opposite to the building in which he stood waving slowly to and fro. There was a long vertical motion, and then the light moved from side to side again.
Ned counted the slow strokes. Left to right, right to left, back again and yet again!
“Six,” he mused, “and all in action!”
The mouse-like gnawing at his door continued, the sounds seemingly louder than before. The intruder was evidently gaining courage!
Presently the boy leaned out of his window, which was on the third floor of the hotel, and watched the entrance below. There appeared to be a great rush of customers at that time. At least a score of natives passed in at the large door.
Then Ned turned to the right and studied the window of the room next to his own on that floor. There was a light in that room, too, but it seemed to be a red light. Then it changed to white, then to blue.