Boy Scouts in the Philippines
The Key to the Treaty Box
By Scout Master G. Harvey Ralphson
Author of "Boy Scouts in Mexico; or On Guard with Uncle Sam." "Boy Scouts In the Canal Zone; or The Plot Against Uncle Sam." "Boy Scouts in the Northwest; or Fighting Forest Fires."
Copyright 1911. M. A. Donohue & Company. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Eleotrotyped, Printed and Bound by M. A. Donohue & Co.
I. Black Bears and Wolves
II. It's Up to the Boy Scouts
III. The Midnight Visitor
IV. The Signals in Grass
V. On the Rim of the China Sea
VI. The Low Call of a Wolf
VII. A Missing Motor Boat
VIII. Wigwags from the Beach
IX. Two Keys to the Treaty Box
X. A Hot Night in Yokohama
XI. A Fairy History of Japan
XII. Pat Takes a Big Chance
XIII. Of the Wild Cat Patrol, Manila
XIV. The Senator's Son Seeks a Key
XV. Signal Lights in the China Sea
XVI. For Piracy on the High Seas
XVII. The Flare of a Rocket
XVIII. The Man Behind the Door
XIX. Boy Scouts Unearth Plot
Boy Scouts in the Philippines
The Key to the Treaty Box
BLACK BEARS AND WOLVES.
"Wake up—wake up—wake up!"
Frank Shaw, passenger on the United States army transport Union, San Francisco to the Philippines, awoke in his cabin to find the freckled face of Jimmie McGraw grinning above him.
"What's the use?" he demanded, sleepily and impatiently. "It will be only another roasting day on a hot deck on an ocean fit to stew fish in. What's the use of getting up? I'm going to sleep again."
Frank's intentions were all right, but he did not go to sleep again. As he turned over and closed his eyes, Jimmie seized him deftly by the shoulders and dumped him out on the scarlet rug which covered the floor of the stateroom.
Frank was seventeen and Jimmie was younger, and so there was a mixture of legs and arms and vocabulary for a moment, at the end of which Jimmie broke away and made for the door, which he had thoughtfully left open as a means of retreat.
Left thus alone on the tumbled blankets of the bunk from which he had been hustled, Frank rubbed his eyes, threw a pillow at his tormentor, and began making his way toward his cozy nest, much to Jimmie's disgust.
"Aw, come on!" the boy urged, still standing in a safe place by the doorway. "It's hot enough to melt brass in here, an' the siren's been shoutin' for half an hour! That means land—the Philippines! Perhaps you think you're lookin' for Battery Park, in little old New York! Get up an' look out of the port, over the rollin' sea, to the land of the little brown men!"
Looking through the doorway, over the boy's shoulders, Frank smiled serenely at what he saw and sat waiting for something to happen. Then Jimmie was propelled headlong into the room, where he landed squarely on top of the drowsy boy he had dragged out of bed. There was another scramble for points, and then two boys of about seventeen showed their faces in the doorway, laughing at the mix-up on the floor.
The transport's siren broke out again in its long, shrill greeting of the land which lay above the rim of the sea, and Frank, catapulting Jimmie against the wall at the back of the bunk, hastened to the open port and looked out.
The boys who had entered the cabin so unceremoniously were Ned Nestor and Jack Bosworth, who were traveling with Frank and Jimmie to the Philippines, the party being under the direction of Major John Ross, of the United States Secret Service.
They had left Panama about the middle of April, and it was now not far from the first of June, the transport having been delayed for a week at Honolulu, where she had put in for supplies. The boys had enjoyed the trip hugely, but were, nevertheless, not displeased at the sight of land.
Leave it to the lads themselves, and this was a Boy Scout expedition, although there was a serious purpose behind it. Ned Nestor and Jimmie McGraw were members of the Wolf Patrol, Ned being the Patrol Leader, while Frank Shaw and Jack Bosworth were members of the famous Black Bear Patrol, both of the city of New York.
Those who have read the first two books of this series will readily understand the object of this journey to the Philippines, but for the information of those who have not read the books it may be well to state here that while in Mexico and the Canal Zone Ned Nestor had been able to render valuable services to the United States government.
[Footnote 1: Boy Scouts In Mexico; or, On Guard with Uncle Sam. Boy Scouts in the Canal Zone; or, The Plot Against Uncle Sam.]
At the close of his work in the Secret Service department of the Canal Zone government, he had been invited to accompany Major Ross to the Philippines for the purpose of assisting in the uncovering of an alleged treasonable plot against the peace of the Islands and the continued supremacy of the United States Government there.
Knowing little of what there was to be done, or of what was expected of him, Ned had accepted the invitation to enter the Secret Service, stipulating only that his chums should be permitted to accompany him to Uncle Sam's new and somewhat unruly possessions in Asia.
"I won't go if we can't make a Boy Scout outing of it," he had insisted. "I shall be glad to be of service to the government, but I want the boys to have a jolly time, too. There must be plenty of opportunities for adventure in the Philippines," he had added, thinking of the many odd customs of the tribes of natives on the twelve hundred islands that constitute the group.
"I shall be only too glad to have your friends go," the Major had replied, "for I understand that they contributed not a little to the success of your efforts in Mexico and the Canal Zone."
"I couldn't have done a thing without them," had been Ned's generous reply, and so it was all arranged.
However, only three of the boys who had accompanied Ned from New York to the Canal Zone had been at liberty to go to the Philippines, the others reluctantly turning back home. The three to go were now assembled in the cabin occupied by Frank Shaw, looking out to the dim line of land.
Frank Shaw was the son of the owner and editor of an influential daily newspaper in New York, Jack Bosworth was the son of a wealthy board of trade man, and Jimmie McGraw was a Bowery newsboy who had attached himself to Ned Nestor, his patrol leader, just before the visit to Mexico and had clung to him like a puppy to a root, as the saying is, ever since.
"Come on, boys," Ned said, after an inspection of the ocean through the port, "let's go on deck. We can see the whole show from there."
The boys trooped up to the rail and were soon joined by Major Ross. It was now a little after dawn, and a sunrise breeze was lifting little ripples on an otherwise motionless sea. Spread out, a couple of miles away, was the outline of shore the siren was greeting.
It was a low coast, stretching away to right and left until lost in the mists of the morning. It looked monotonous and furry with forests, deserted and still, but in time the presence of man became observable.
A river wound down out of the trees and broke over a bar set against its mouth in the sea. On the right bank of the stream a tin roof glistened in the early sunlight. Wherever there is a tin roof there is civilization in some degree, though this seemed to be a sleepy one.
Presently the call of the siren brought forth a boat, not in the little bay, but up the river a few hundred yards. It moved down to the coastline with only the canopy, which was of faded scarlet cloth, and the heads of the rowers in view above the tops of the bushes and creepers which lined the stream.
The land smoked under the rising temperature brought on by the climbing sun, and Jimmie chuckled as he nudged Frank's arm.
"I see your finish there," he said. "A boy as fat as you are will melt over there. There's nothin' left of the brown men in the boat but their heads!"
Frank looked along the bow-shaped shore, over the palms, now touched with the red light of a hot morning, and wiped his streaming forehead.
"This doesn't look good to me!" he said. "I thought we were going to Manila!"
"Didn't Ned tell you about it?" asked Jack Bosworth.
"Not a word."
"Well, we're going to disembark here; I don't know the name of the place, or even if it has one, and make our way among some of these islands in a motor boat. There are a lot of secret service men at Manila who don't want to mix with us kids!"
"That's nice!" Jimmie cried. "We won't do a thing to 'em! We'll put it over 'em good, you see if we don't! I reckon Ned Nestor can give any of 'em half a string an' win out, at that!"
"Of course he can," Jack replied, "but I'm not kicking at this way of doing things. I'm thinking of the motor boat, and the long days and moony nights in the seas among these islands!"
"It will be great!" Jimmie admitted.
There was a short pause, and then he added, thoughtfully:
"Who's goin' to run the boat?"
"I can run it," was the reply.
"Yes, you can!"
"I own one," insisted Jack.
"Yes, an' you hire a man to run it!" Jimmie grinned. "I don't believe you can run a hand cultivator!"
"Of course not!" laughed Jack. "But I can operate a motor boat," he added.
"You can?" demanded Jimmie, with an exasperating grin. "Then perhaps you can tell me if the motor boat we're goin' to have has pneumatic brakes?"
"Sure it has!" laughed Jack. "And it also has a rudder that you can unship and use as a safety razor. You might open up a barber shop with it, only the eminent citizens over here don't have any more whiskers than a squash."
"You're gettin' dippy!" Jimmie shouted, darting away to the spot where Ned and the Major were standing.
Directly a flag broke out over the tin roof and in a short time the boat was at the transport's side. Full of enthusiasm, and with high hopes for the immediate future, the boys and the Major descended to the shaky little craft and the transport steamed off, her rails lined with soldiers and civilians cheering the boys and wishing them good luck.
The last voice they heard as the boat crossed the bar and swung into the sluggish current of the river was that of Captain Helmer, who had made chums and companions of the boys on the way over.
"Good hunting!" he cried, through his megaphone, and the marine band struck up "Home, Sweet Home," "just to give us a cheerful mood on entering this desolate land!" as Major Ross declared.
"Do they all think we're goin' huntin'?" asked Jimmie, as the windrows of salt water heaped up by the transport grew smaller and lapped on the beach.
"Sure they do," replied Jack. "Do you think the Major told them we were going into the jungles to catch a few recruits for the federal prison at Manila? Nice thing, that would be!"
"There are just two persons, so far as I know, outside of the Secret Service headquarters at Washington, who know what we are up to," Major Ross said. "These are Colonel Hill, of the Canal Zone force, and Captain Godwin, who is to receive us here."
The brown oarsmen tugged and strained at the oars, and the waters of the river came up to the rim of the native boat and crept in and spread themselves over the rotten floor. The boys were all glad when the prow touched the little dock at the lone pueblo where Uncle Sam's flag snapped in a breeze which was coming over the trees, bringing with it a musty smell of decaying undergrowth.
Captain Godwin met them at the landing with great hand outstretched. He was a stout, brown-faced man of fifty, with muscles like iron and a mind all stuffed and tucked in with the glory of the United States. He was proud of the service he had passed the greater part of his life in, and was proud of the record for efficiency he had made. A kindly, bluff, seasoned old man of war, with soft blue eyes and a hard hand.
"I should have sent the Manhattan after you," he said, after introductions had been made, "only there's something the matter with her batteries."
"You bet there is!" laughed Jimmie. "The only battery that never gets under foot or loses a shoe is at the foot of Broadway, in little old New York!"
"Hardly at the foot of Broadway," Jack began, but Jimmie interrupted.
"Never mind," he said, "if we know where it is! You go an' fix up this motor boat of the name of Manhattan, an' we'll have a ride."
"The boat will be ready by to-morrow morning," the Captain said, smiling at the friendly arguments of the two boys. "I presume you have your instructions?" he added.
"I have them here," Major Ross said, rather sternly, as he took a sealed packet from his pocket.
"When and where are you to open that packet?" asked the Captain.
"On my arrival at this place," was the dignified reply.
The Major seemed to be of opinion that the Captain was stepping on his official rights.
"Then we'll go up to the house and you look them over while I see what can be found to celebrate this auspicious event! I don't often have the pleasure of meeting four happy, husky, hungry boys fresh from the United States!"
"You're the goods, all right!" shouted Jimmie. "But how did you guess we were hungry?"
Captain Godwin laughed and clapped both his broad palms on his knees.
"How did I know?" he roared. "That's a good one! As if the boys weren't always as hungry as black bears!"
"There are two Black Bears in the party!" Jimmie said.
"And two Wolves!" Jack added.
Captain Godwin looked from face to face in smiling wonder, and the boys thrust all kinds of Boy Scout signs and words at him.
"I see," the Captain said, then. "I've heard of the Boy Scouts! And now we'll go up to the house. Never saw a Black Bear or a Wolf that wasn't hungry!"
The jolly Captain gave instructions to his servants and they promised, with many native grimaces and a waste of tribal vocabulary, to have a satisfying breakfast ready in half an hour. Then Godwin drew Major Ross and Ned to one side, his good-natured face assuming a grave expression as he seated them in a private room of the rambling and wobbly old house.
"There's something unexpected here," he began, as the Major sat with his sealed instructions in hand, "and I wish you would open your packet immediately. To tell you the truth, I'm not a little worried."
The Major opened the packet and glanced hastily through several typed sheets. Then his keen eyes grew puzzled and he arose to his feet and looked out of the window.
"Something here I don't understand," he said. "Where's this Lieutenant Rowe?"
"You are to confer with him here?" asked the Captain, and Major Ross nodded assent. "Do you know what information he possesses?" continued the Captain, "what papers he has in his possession?"
"My instructions say he has important documents."
"Well," said the Captain, arising to his feet, "now I'll take you to the place where I last saw Lieutenant Rowe. He came here in the launch Manhattan, which you are to have use of, last night, and went to bed without talking much with me. I suspect that he brought the boat from Manila, though I can't be sure. Anyway, he brought with him only two young men who did not seem to know much about the boat—Americans."
"Have you seen him, the Lieutenant, or either of the young men, this morning?" asked the Major, impatiently. "And why do you say you will take us to the place where you saw him last? What is wrong here?"
"I don't know," was the reply. "There are no known hostile elements here, and yet the little nipa hut where Rowe and his men lodged last night was found empty this morning—empty and the contents in disorder, the floor spotted with blood."
IT'S UP TO THE BOY SCOUTS.
"Do you mean that he has been murdered?" asked the Major, his face, flushed before, looking gray and old.
"I don't know," was the reply. "I have tried to look on the bright side of the thing, but there's a subconscious warning in the back of my brain somewhere. I've tried to be jolly, this morning, but I've about reached the end of my store of optimism. It looks to me as if the Lieutenant had been made way with."
"This leaves me stranded," the Major said. "I am ordered to act only after acquiring later information concerning the situation, the same to be delivered by Lieutenant Rowe. In the absence of that information, what am I to do? My present orders may be all wrong."
"Perhaps," Ned suggested, "it may be well to visit this hut and see what we can discover there. The Lieutenant may have gone out for a morning's hunt."
"No such good luck as that," replied the Captain. "Why, the little furniture the hut contains is broken to bits, and the floor is streaked with blood! There was a fight in there last night, depend upon it!"
"And no one heard anything unusual during the night?" asked Ned.
"Not that I know of."
"Are the usual residents of this place, so far as you know, all here this morning?" was the next question.
"I will ascertain that," said the Captain. "I learned of the strange happening only a few minutes before your arrival."
The three left the house, the only one of size there, and proceeded down a mushy street between huts and thickets until they came to a little nipa hut set high on poles. They climbed the bamboo stairs and stood on the swaying porch in front, seeing no one about the place.
The door stood wide open, and Captain Godwin was first to enter. There was only one room in the hut, but there were two alcoves opening from it—narrow little alcoves in which, evidently, bedding and articles not wanted for immediate use were tucked away during the day.
As the Captain had stated, the apartment was in disorder. The mosquito wiring had been torn from the three windows and the door and now lay in a tangle on the floor. Bamboo chairs had been broken, and there was a faint odor of whisky in the room. Major Ross glanced casually over the interior and turned away.
"I can't stop here now," he said impatiently. "I've got to write a report of this happening and get it to Manila. I suppose I can depend on one of your men to deliver a letter for me?" he added, turning to Captain Godwin.
"Yes, but it will mean a great delay," replied Godwin. "It will take at least a week for a man in a swift canoe to go to Manila and return here."
"It is unfortunate," grumbled the Major, "but I must, I suppose, endure the delay. Unless," he continued, a sudden smile coming to his face as he thought of the cozy club-life he had formerly enjoyed at Manila, "unless I go with the messenger and receive my instructions verbally."
"And in the meantime—"
Captain Godwin was about to protest against being left alone there under such tragic circumstances, but Ned caught his eyes and stopped him. He had no idea what the boy had in mind in checking his expression of regret at the proposed departure of the Major, but he liked the appearance of the lad and closed his teeth on the words he was about to say.
"And in the meantime," he repeated, "we can look about for some traces of the missing man," the Captain completed the sentence.
"Exactly," replied the Major. "I regret exceedingly the peril of the situation so far as Lieutenant Rowe and his companions are concerned, and sincerely hope that they are all alive and not in serious trouble, but it appears to me that my place is at Manila at this time, and not here. We must start in on this remarkable case right, and I must confer with my superior officers."
"We can put in the time very well, looking up clues in the vicinity," said Ned. He wanted to handle the matter in his own way, knowing that while Major Ross might be an expert in military matters, he did not possess a particle of the detective instinct so necessary at that time.
"Yes," the Major replied, with his mind fixed on a few days of lazy routine at Manila, with all the comforts of civilization within reach of his hand, "yes, you may be able to accomplish a great deal in the way of discovering clues, and may even be able to locate the missing men—I have no idea that they have been murdered, but understand this: You are not to take any important action without consulting with me."
"Of course not," Ned replied, chuckling in his sleeves at the thought of waiting in an emergency for instructions from Manila. "I hope we shall be able to report good progress upon your return. Shall you go in the launch?" he added, hoping with all his strength that the officer would not take the motor boat with him.
"Certainly," was the quick reply. "I must make progress, you know!"
Jimmie and Jack, who had followed their chum to the nipa hut, now entered and stood by the door. Ned saw them winking knowingly at each other when the Major spoke of going away in the motor boat, and decided to prod their inclinations a bit.
"I shall be sorry to have the Manhattan away just now," he said, "for we might use her to good advantage during your absence. However, there seems to be no other way."
Jimmie and Jack slid out of the doorway and down the oscillating bamboo stairs, and when, an hour later, the Major went to the little dock where the Manhattan lay he found the two boys working over her, sweating and complaining in loud voices against the inefficiency of modern motor boat manufacturers. The Major went on with his preparations for departure, never doubting that the Manhattan would be ready for him in a few minutes. At last Jimmie turned an oil-smeared face toward Ned.
"No use," he exclaimed, "she won't go! The batteries are off and there's something wrong with the carbureter, and the spark-plug is twisted, and the delivery is all to the bad. Perhaps Major Ross can bring new parts down from Manila."
"Shut up, you dunce!" whispered Jack. "You'll give yourself away!"
Captain Godwin nudged Ned with an elbow and turned his laughing eyes away. He saw what the boys were doing, and rather approved of the idea of journeys among the islands in the motor boat during the Major's absence.
"Preposterous!" shouted the Major. "You must get the boat in shape to make the voyage to Manila! My mission will not endure delay. Captain Godwin, see what you can do with the boat."
Captain Godwin knew about as much of the running gear of a motor boat as did Jimmie, but he at once oiled up his hands and his face and tugged and pulled at the wheel, tapped on the supply pipes, investigated the electric appliance, and finally announced that the boat was not in running order.
The Major blustered about for a few moments and then set forth on his mission in the canoe in which the party had landed.
"Perhaps," he said, at parting, "I may be able to catch a ship at Banglo, or whatever the name of that little pueblo is on the island to the west. In that case I shall return inside of ten days."
And so the Major went away, urging the rowers to greater exertions and wiping his red face with a red handkerchief. Then a strange thing happened. Jack drove Jimmie away from the Manhattan, asked Captain Godwin to bring him a wrench, and in ten minutes, or as soon as the canoe bearing the disgusted Major was conveniently around a bend, the boat was sailing about on the river like a bird in the sky.
Captain Godwin started to censure the boys for the deception they had practiced on the Major, but his severe words ended in a laugh.
"You helped!" Jimmie said, accusingly. "You knew what was up! Why didn't you tell him?"
"We'll discuss that later," was the smiling reply.
"Anyway," Jimmie said, "we're rid of the old bluffer, and may be able to do somethin', if he stays away long enough."
"You came near spoiling the whole thing," declared Jack, grinning at Jimmie. "You and your talk about twisted spark-plugs! You'd have been finding worn places in the spark next! You know about as much of a motor boat as a pig knows of the hobble skirt. Good thing the Major knows less about a boat than you do!"
"Why didn't he use the wire, instead of going off on that long journey?" asked Jimmie.
"The government can't lay cables to all these tiny islands," Captain Godwin replied, "but we are promised a wireless outfit before the season closes. Now, if you are ready," he added, turning to Ned, "we'll go back to the hut and make the examination suggested. I'm afraid there was a tragedy there last night."
"Are any of the people missing from the pueblo?" asked Ned, as the boat came to the dock and they all stepped ashore.
"Not a man missing," was the reply.
"Have you talked with the man who was sent to the hut to wait on the Lieutenant and his companions?"
"Only briefly," was the reply, "but he will be at the hut when we get there. He is rather above the average native in intelligence, and may be able to throw some light on the mystery."
"Is he dependable?" asked Ned.
"I think so. He has been with me for a long time, ever since I came to this out-of-the-way jumping-off place."
"Well," Ned said, "you go back to the hut, if you will be so kind, and take the boys with you. I want to look about a little."
Captain Godwin hesitated, but Jack started away.
"Let Ned alone," he said. "He'll be giving us the shape of the aeroplane the Lieutenant and his men sailed away in before long!"
"He wants to consult the dream book," added Jimmie.
Frank Shaw, who had been sitting on the bridge deck of the Manhattan during this conversation, now sprang ashore and followed along after Ned.
"You ginks do a lot of talking!" he said. "Run along with the Captain and I'll take care of Ned."
Ned and Frank examined the ground around the pier and walked up and down the river bank for some distance. Save here and there where the natives drew up their canoes, and where the women came down with the meager family washing, the bank on the pueblo side was covered with a growth of bushes except where the little pier ran out in front of the house with the tin roof.
Several times Frank saw his companion take out a rule and measure impressions he found in the soft earth under the thickets, and once he saw him put something he had picked up in his pocketbook. Knowing well the methods of his chum, Frank looked on with interest and maintained a discreet silence.
When the two reached the hut at last they found Captain Godwin and Jimmie and Jack sitting on the porch with a government map of the islands before them.
"That is just what I was thinking of," Ned said, taking a seat by their side. "I have yet to learn in what portion of the Philippines we are stopping."
"Strange the Major did not inform you as to that," Captain Godwin said.
"I have an idea that he knew very little of our future movements when we landed here," Ned said. "His instructions were unopened, remember, besides being a month or more old."
"I see," observed the Captain. "Well, you are on a little island of the Babuyan group, in the Balintang channel, north of the island of Luzon and southeast of the coast of China and Hong Kong. The transport sailed due west from Honolulu and to the north of Luzon. The nearest station of any size is Pata, on Luzon. The Major left without informing you as to his instructions?"
"Yes, he was in such haste to get away that he left us here without a word of information as to what we were to do. Rotten, don't you think?"
"He was in a hurry to get back to the soft side of military life at Manila," laughed the Captain. "Well, before you investigate the hut it may be well for me to give you some idea as to the situation. What I have to say may give direction to your search of the place."
"Everything is as when the discovery of the absence of the men was made, I hope," Ned said.
"Nothing has been touched," was the reply.
"Then go ahead with your story," Ned replied. "I have come a long way on speculation, and am anxious for something tangible."
"Some months ago," the Captain began, "it was discovered that hostile influences—hostile to the United States Government—were at work among the outer islands of the Philippine group."
"I was told that much."
"Yes; well, investigation—and a crude and indifferent investigation it was—developed the fact that the tribes on some of the islands were forming an alliance against Uncle Sam."
"Now," said Ned, "you have come to the end of my information of the subject. What comes next?"
"At first little attention was given to the matter. Some of the native tribes are always in revolt, though the news of the battles and skirmishes are kept off the wires. Finally, however, it was learned that rifles were being received by the tribes belonging to this alliance."
"Then some nation alleged to be civilized must be at the bottom of the matter," Ned suggested. "I am anxious for you to come to that point."
"Well," hesitated the Captain, "I don't know what nation to suspect. It seems that no one does. I think that is the problem you were brought here to solve."
"It seems to me that the wise men at Washington ought to be able to secure information on the subject," Ned ventured.
"I half believe that the state department does know a lot about the matter," the Captain replied, "but does not see fit to act in the absence of conclusive proof."
"But how can a mess of Boy Scouts get the truth?" demanded Ned.
"By being Boy Scouts," was the smiling reply. "The launch was brought here for your convenience, and you are to go floating about among the islands north of Luzon, hunting, fishing, gathering specimens, and all that until you find out what sort of people it is that is doing this trading with the natives."
"That was the idea in the Canal Zone," laughed Ned, "but we had little hunting to do! It was quick action down there."
"And I hope it will be here," said the Captain. "Military detectives have been sent down here, but have gone back as ignorant as when they came, for the seasoned secret service man shows what his occupation is and betrays himself at the start. Now it is up to you. And you must go ahead without further instructions, for Lieutenant Rowe, who was to have posted you as to recent developments, is either dead or a prisoner in the hands of the plotters!"
THE MIDNIGHT VISITOR.
There was silence on the unsteady porch of the nipa hut for some moments, and then Frank Shaw asked:
"Is there any proof at all that any government is trying to arm the native tribes against the United States?"
"If there is," the Captain replied, "I do not know of it."
"It may be simply a commercial conspiracy," said Jack.
"Go on!" exclaimed Jimmie. "If anybody should ask you about it, it is the Japs, or the Chinks!"
"When a play fails in New York, or a man jumps off one of the East River bridges, if you leave it to Jimmie, the Japs or the Chinks are at the bottom of it."
This from Jack, who ducked low to avoid a blow from the newsboy, and wandered off down the stairs leading to the porch.
"Yes," the Captain said, "it may be a conspiracy for the acquisition of wealth. I am not an anarchist, but it is my belief that there are many corporations in the world who would set the nations at each other's throats if a profit could be made out of it. But, after all, there is no need of guessing. You boys are here to find out what is going on, and you may now do it in your own way."
Ned left the Captain talking with Frank and Jimmie on the porch and went into the one room of the hut. Everything was in disorder there, as has been said, and Ned moved about cautiously in order that nothing might be disturbed. The Major and Captain Godwin, on their visit of the morning, had been careful to leave the place just as it had been on the discovery of the strange happening.
There was a rough table in the center of the room, and three bamboo chairs were overturned beside it. It was in front of one of the chairs that the spots of blood had been found. The light matting which had covered the floor here was torn and twisted, as if a heavy person had clung to it and had been dragged away by superior strength.
Under the edge of this piece of matting Ned found long scratches, as if shoe heels had slipped there and protruding nails had furrowed the floor. There were also various oblong papers and numerous match ends. On the floor, under the rolling back of another chair, were the scattered remnants of a pack of playing cards. Mixed with these, and lying between the ace of clubs and the jack of diamonds, were half a dozen pieces of gilt paper, seemingly torn from an official seal.
In a corner of one of the alcoves, where it had been thrown or wafted by the fan which swung from the ceiling at the middle of the room, was a twisted piece of letter paper burned at one end. It seemed to the boy that the paper had been twisted in the form of a torch and lighted to give a more satisfactory illumination than that provided by the matches which had been burned. It was about half consumed.
After spending half an hour in the room Ned went back to the porch and sat down.
"What about it?" asked Frank.
"The mud is settling," laughed Ned.
"But not so the bottom can be seen?" asked Captain Godwin with a smile.
"Not yet," was the reply. "Perhaps a little talk with the servant who was sent here with Lieutenant Rowe last night might help to clear the case," he added.
Captain Godwin beckoned to a short, squatty Filipino who stood leaning against a tree not far away and the fellow advanced deferentially up the bamboo stairs, evidently much in awe of the Americanos.
"Tag," the Captain said to him, as he stood with one brown hand clinging to one of the roof supports, "this gentleman wants to ask you a few questions about what took place last night."
"Yes; I have been waiting."
The English was almost perfect, and the fellow's appreciation of the gravity of the situation was apparent. It was later explained to Ned that Tag, as he was called by the Captain, had been educated in an English school at Manila, and had lived in army circles nearly all his life until he had taken service with Captain Godwin.
"First," the Captain put in, "I want to say that it was not my fault that Lieutenant Rowe did not lodge in my own quarters last night. I proposed that to him, and he said that he had a great deal of work to do, should be moving about more or less during the night, might be detained here several weeks, and so preferred to set up a small establishment of his own. This was the best that could be provided on a moment's notice."
"He was served with supper at your house?" asked Ned.
"Yes; and he was to have desayuno there this morning. That is, he was to have his first breakfast with me. Later he was to arrange for a table of his own."
"You came here with them?" asked Ned of the Filipino.
"I came on in advance to clear up the place."
"I see. Who came with you?"
"Did they come into this room—the room occupied by the Lieutenant and his companions, I mean?"
"No; they were working the fan from the porch."
"Are those men in the place to-day?"
"Yes; but they know nothing."
"But they were to remain here during the night?"
"They did, but they slept."
"I don't know. From the complaints they have of their heads I suspect that they were."
"And you were to remain here during the night?"
"Yes, that was the understanding, but I was sent away about midnight."
"By Lieutenant Rowe."
"Did he give any reason for sending you away?"
"He said they were going to bed and would not need me."
"And did they go to bed as soon as you left? You, of course, remained about the hut for a short time?"
"Yes, I remained about the hut for half an hour. They did not go to bed."
"What were they doing?"
"The Lieutenant was working over papers and the others were playing cards."
"Could you hear what they were talking about?"
"Yes, until the other man came."
Ned and the others bent forward with new interest. Here was a fresh feature in the case—a man who had not been referred to before coming into the hut about midnight.
"Who," asked Ned, "was this other man?"
"Had you seen him about the place before?"
"Never. He came in the night and went in the night."
"Was he in uniform—the uniform of a soldier?"
"No; he wore citizen's clothes."
"Which way did he come from?"
"I don't know," was the surprising reply. "I first saw him when he was climbing in at the window."
"Climbing in at the window!" repeated Captain Godwin. "If he climbed in at the window when the others were awake, he must have been expected!"
"Yes; I should think so."
"I can't understand this at all!" exclaimed Captain Godwin, his good-natured face looking anxious. "Lieutenant Rowe said nothing to me about expecting company. And why should he conceal the fact from me? Why, indeed, should a visitor come crawling in at a window at midnight? Are you sure it wasn't one of the three men I conducted to the hut that you saw at the window?" he added, turning to the Filipino.
"Oh, yes; I am quite sure it was a fourth man. He mounted to the window-ledge on a ladder, pushed the screen aside and vaulted over the sill."
"And how was he received?" asked Ned.
"He was welcomed, and given a chair at the table. But first he went back to the window and made some sort of a signal to those waiting outside."
"Oh, so there were others waiting outside!" grated out the Captain. "Why didn't you come and tell me what was going on? Why didn't you tell me about this the first thing this morning? That is the trouble with these made-over men," he continued, half angrily as he looked at Ned. "You can teach them to do things by rote, but when an emergency comes they are like putty."
"I had no instructions to report what I saw at the hut—no orders to play the spy," answered Tag, indignant that his conduct should be criticized. "And this morning you gave me no chance to talk with you."
"How many people were there outside?" demanded the Captain.
"I don't know," was the reply. "There was the flash of a match to show that the signals from the hut were understood, and then I went to bed. There is no accounting for the freaks of these military Americanos, so I went to my bed. If I sat up at night taking note of the movements of the soldiers sent here, I should get no rest at all, besides laughing myself sick over the foolishnesses of them."
Ned was watching the fellow with interest. He had no doubt that he was telling the truth about what he had seen there the previous night—that is, the truth so far as he went in the recital. Still, Ned did not trust the fellow. He believed that he had seen more than he had described, even if he had not been a party to what had taken place.
"What else did you see here last night?" he asked.
"Nothing—nothing at all."
"And you say you went to bed without satisfying your natural curiosity as to what you had seen?" roared the Captain. "I don't believe it! Buck up now, and tell us what was done after the fourth man entered the hut, or I'll send you to the military prison at Manila."
"I have told everything," said Tag with a sniffle. "You Americanos expect us to see everything and know everything! If we are so wise and capable, why don't you permit us to govern ourselves—send away your soldiers and let us handle the situation here?"
The Captain frowned and fumed about for a moment, and Ned was afraid he would carry out his threat of placing the Filipino under arrest. This, he believed, would be about the worst move that could be made. Seeking to conciliate the fellow, he said:
"There is a great deal of sense in what you say, and I honor you for not playing the spy on the officers. Captain Godwin will not send you to prison, I am sure, as we need you here. For instance, we want the story of the men who worked the fan. Will you talk with them and tell us what they say?"
Tag hastened away, somewhat mollified, and Ned turned to the Captain.
"The fellow knows more than he pretends to," he said. "We must keep him here, and make him think that we trust him."
"I can talk with the fanmen myself," grunted the Captain, not very well pleased with Ned's interference. "I know the lingo."
"Of course," Ned replied, "but I want to know if Tag will tell us the same story, as coming from them, that they will tell you under a rigid cross-examination. In other words, I think Tag, as you call him, will shape their stories to suit his own purposes."
"And so you want to set a trap for him? All right! Go ahead, lad, and make what you can out of this mess. What do you think those visitors came here for at midnight? And do you believe they are responsible for the disappearance of Lieutenant Rowe and his companions?"
"Here comes Tag," Ned said. "Suppose we wait and see what he says of the experiences of the fanmen."
The Filipino had in a measure recovered his good humor and was very respectful to the Captain. He addressed him instead of Ned when he spoke.
"They say they were given drink after the fourth man arrived and went to sleep."
"That accounts for the strange odor about the place!" cried the Captain. "Now, what the dickens does it all mean?"
"Cripes!" broke in Jimmie. "I wish I had as many dollars as times I don't know. Say, when we goin' to get a ride in the Manhattan? Me for the rollin' deep whenever you get this thing doped out."
"It looks like we had work cut out for us here," Ned replied. "Now, Captain," he went on, "it looks as if the late arrivals last night drugged the servants and took the secret service men away by main force."
"Main force!" roared the Captain. "Why didn't they shoot, or yell, or make some sort of a row that would have brought help? I've got a lot of old women here who could have stood off an attacking party! Force—nothing! Lieutenant Rowe was in the deal. He wanted to disappear with something he had in his possession, and he worked the abduction dodge."
"You may be right," the boy replied, "still, that does not change the fact that there were enough men about this hut last night to make just such a capture—with the assistance of a clever man on the inside—a man pretending to be friendly to the Lieutenant—say, for instance, the fourth man, or—Tag."
"How do you know how many men there were about here?" asked the Captain.
"If you will go to the river bank a few rods south of the pier," was the reply, "you will discover that a large canoe beached there last night. You will see that it was drawn far up into the thicket, a task which must have taxed the strength of at least eight men. Then, about the hut, and especially under the windows which the visitor entered, there are plenty of footprints."
"Footprints!" echoed the Captain. "My people don't wear footgear that leaves prints!"
"There were at least three pair of European shoes in the group," Ned went on, "Now, the next query is this: Why did the visitor enter by the window? If you will notice the floor in there, below the two front windows, you will see that the shades were drawn there last night, and that they were pulled down when this other wreck was produced and torn from the rollers."
"I hadn't noticed that," the Captain said.
"This shows that some one in this hut was expecting a visit, and also that the visit was to be kept a secret from you. The front windows overlook your quarters, and the window entered is the one most protected from view from your place. Now, this precaution may have been taken by the midnight visitor, coming here as a friend, or by an enemy, for the purpose of concealing from you what went on here."
"And that is why the Lieutenant did not sleep under my roof!" said the Captain. "He was expecting the fellow. Well, what do you say, did the fellow betray his confidence and bring enemies to carry him away?"
"His friend might have been followed here," Ned replied. "He might have been the person sought by the intruders. The next question is: Who was this visitor?"
THE SIGNALS IN GRASS.
Captain Godwin turned to the Filipino.
"Can you give us a description of him?" he asked.
Tag shook his head.
"I saw only his figure at the window," he said, "and only for an instant. He was assisted in, and then after a time, the lights were lowered, or extinguished entirely."
"So that is why you didn't loiter around!" cried the Captain, "You thought they had gone to bed! Are you sure you did not stop and listen to what was said?"
"I went to bed at once," was the sullen reply.
"Did you see them burning matches after the lights were out?" asked Ned.
"I could not see the interior of the hut from my bed," replied the Filipino, with flashing eyes.
"Well, don't get hot about it," advised the Captain. "Go on, Ned."
"The matches burned," Ned went on, "were not of the kind kept in stock here, the sort supplied by you to your guests. There is a difference in the shape and size of the stick. The paper which I found in the alcove is part of an official letter dealing with the situation we came here to look into. It is more than half burned, so little can be learned from it."
"It is a wonder they didn't see that it was entirely destroyed," suggested Frank.
"It may be," Ned replied, "that they intended to burn the hut after their departure, and left the paper blazing."
"That is just about it!" cried the Captain.
"Then we have to take it for granted that the visitor came here with instructions for Lieutenant Rowe. Secret instructions, probably. He either betrayed his trust and assisted in what was done, or was followed here and attacked with the others. It is a great puzzle. One might ask a dozen questions without finding an answer. For instance: Why was the interior of the hut wrecked?"
"There was a fight, of course," Frank said.
"And not a shot fired!" cried the Captain. "I don't believe it! A fight would have led to shooting; shooting would have attracted attention. No, sir, you will find that Lieutenant Rowe stood in with this game! Why should official communications follow so closely on his heels? If the officials who sent him here had anything to add to his orders, they might have sent a messenger on after him, of course, but there are no cables here, so he could not have been notified that the man was coming. Yet it is clear that he expected this man! Oh, he was in it, all right!"
"Did you size him up for that sort of a man?" asked Ned.
"I didn't see much of him," was the reply.
"You may be right," Ned said, "although I can't see why he came here at all if he was to make so sensational a disappearance."
"He wasn't thinking of disappearing when he came here," insisted the Captain. "Something in the instructions the fourth man brought changed his line of action. I'll bet my head on it!"
"Will you kindly talk with the two men who were put to sleep and see if they confirm the story told by Tag?"
The Captain agreed to this, and went away to look the men up. He was back in a few minutes with the report that the men were not to be found.
"They left just after talking with Tag," he added, looking angrily at the Filipino.
"They said nothing to me of going," Tag hastened to say. "They certainly were not alarmed at what took place under their noses last night."
"Did they tell you who gave them the drink?" asked Ned.
"Yes; they said it was the fourth man."
"And there you are!" the Captain roared. "The fourth man! It is a wonder he didn't stick a knife into them!"
"How old were the men with the Lieutenant?" asked Ned. "You said they were young fellows."
"Well, they were tall and stoutish, but they looked young. Anywhere from sixteen to twenty, I should say."
"Did you notice a locked box in the party?"
"No; they carried nothing of the kind."
"They carried some baggage?"
"Yes; one suitcase. Came away in a hurry, they said. I saw the suitcase opened, on the table in there, and there was no box."
Ned took a thin, flat steel key from his pocket and held it out to the Captain. It was a key of peculiar construction, evidently made of individual pattern. In fact, it was such a key as usually goes with a strong cash box, having no duplicate.
"This was not used to open the suitcase?" he asked.
"Certainly not," was the reply. "Where did you find that?"
"On the river bank, where the canoe the men came in was beached," was the reply.
"Well," observed the Captain, "if we can't learn why they went away, or how, we may at least be able to discover where they went. Let us be about it."
"Unfortunately," Ned replied, "we can't track them through the waters of the channel. Water shows no footprints!"
"But they might not have gone away by water," insisted the other. "If they had, they would have taken the motor boat."
"They did send a man to get it," Ned replied, "but he couldn't operate it. That is why it was out of order this morning."
"How do you know that?"
"The man used matches there—the same kind of matches used in that room."
"Some day," laughed Jimmie, "some guy will come here an' move the bloomm' place away without bein' caught at it. Why didn't some one wake up?"
"I didn't wake up," said the Captain, "but that is no proof that others did not. You can't trust these Filipinos. The people of the pueblo might have helped them away."
"Exactly!" said Ned.
"If they left in a canoe," Frank suggested, "we may be able to overtake them."
"In this maze of islands!" cried the Captain. "I should say not."
"We'll get a ride anyway," Jimmie observed.
"If you'll tell Jack to get the Manhattan ready," Ned said, "we'll take a run out toward that rough-looking bit of land over there toward the coast of China."
The boy darted away, and Ned directed the Captain's steps to the spot where the canoe had been beached. After inspecting the thickets into which the canoe had been drawn when taken from the water, the two, Ned in the lead, pressed through the tangle which lined the bank until they came to a clear space strewn with food tins which had the appearance of having been opened within a few hours.
"They waited here," he said, "and ate while they waited. I found the key here, and not at the point where the boat was pulled from the river. The box to which it belongs was opened here and new papers put into it. At least some papers which it had contained were removed. They were burned one by one in that thicket ahead."
The Captain looked Ned over from head to foot and laughed.
"My boy," he said, "you surely know what your eyes were given to you for. Can you tell by looking at my coat how much money I have in the pocketbook in the breast pocket?"
"Hardly," laughed Ned, "but I can tell by looking at that light coat you have on that you went to sleep in your chair last night, with the lower part wrinkled up under you! Did you sleep that way all night? Own up, now!"
Captain Godwin blushed through his coat of tan like a schoolgirl.
"To tell you the truth," he said, "I did sleep in my clothes last night. After I left the Lieutenant at the hut I went home and mixed a little drink and sat down to read a bit. Well, sir, I fell asleep!"
"And woke up at daylight?" asked Ned.
"Pretty close to it," was the reply. "I awoke with a headache, too!"
"You mixed the drink yourself?" asked the boy.
"Yes; I always do."
"But your servant brought the glass?"
"Have you seen the servant to-day?"
"Sure! He got my early breakfast. We have two here, you know."
"Ever sleep like that before?"
Ned looked serious. This was something new. The Captain had without doubt been drugged, but who had contrived the thing?
"What are you getting at?" demanded Captain Godwin. "You don't think I was doped, do you?"
"Looks like it," was the reply.
"Then the whole native population is up to something!" shouted the Captain. "I've noticed a good deal of whispering lately. Do you think the tribe on the island has gone over to the insurrectos?"
"I don't know," Ned said, "but it seems to me that something is going to happen here before long."
"I'll watch out," declared the Captain.
"How long have you been in charge here?" asked the boy.
"Two years. There's really nothing to do, but Uncle Sam thinks he needs a man in charge here, and pays pretty well, and so I've remained. It is a dull life, and I'm not certain that I don't enjoy this little excitement."
"Unless I am mistaken," Ned smiled, "it will not be so dull here in the future. I see trouble for the whole group."
"About a thousand of these brown leaders will have to be killed off before there will be any security of life or property here," said the Captain. "The natives would behave themselves if let alone."
"Now," Ned said, "you have been insisting all along that Lieutenant Rowe voluntarily left the island. Let us see about that."
"I never said he left the island. He may be here still, plotting with the natives, for all I know."
"You are mistaken there. Whether voluntarily or not, his party left the island last night, with the men who came here in the canoe."
"If he left the island, why didn't he go in the launch he came in? That would have been the most comfortable mode of leaving the place."
"Because, as has been said, the man who was sent to seize the motor boat could not make it move."
"How do you know that?"
"The fellow burned matches like those used In the hut as already stated, and threw the sticks about. He left the electric apparatus out of order, and that is why it would not run this morning when the Major wanted to use it."
"Originally that might have been the reason," laughed the Captain, "but I have an idea that the boys—"
"Never mind that!" Ned said. "We are not supposed to know anything about it. For if the Lieutenant had been a willing member of the party, wouldn't he have taken charge of the motor boat and got the party away in it?"
"Oh, all right! Have your own way about it!" smiled the Captain. "Let us suppose, solely for the sake of argument, that the Lieutenant was taken prisoner and went away against his will. Does that prove that he was taken from the island?"
"I was coming to that point," Ned replied.
He then called the attention of the Captain to the food tins which lay scattered about.
"These tins," he said, "have been opened within a few hours, which shows that the intruders rested and waited here and ate their suppers, perhaps their early breakfasts also. There were several of them, as you will see by the number of tins opened. The party embarked here. You can see where the nose of the canoe struck the mud."
"I reckon, as I remarked before," the Captain said, "that you don't need any instructions as to the use of your eyes! And the gray matter back of them seems to know what to do with the material unloaded on it! What next?"
"About the Lieutenant going away voluntarily," Ned went on. "Now step down here to the river bank. You notice the footprints in the mud, close to the water's edge?"
"Yes; they are plain enough."
"And some are heavy and some are light. See that? Some are faint impressions in the mushy soil, while some sink in a couple of inches. Some of the deep ones are clean cut, while others show that the foot wobbled in the track."
"There must have been a fat man who was unsteady on his feet," observed the Captain.
"Yes, there was a heavy man, but his tracks are cut sharply in the mud. His step was quick and firm. Now these other deep tracks show a staggering foot. What does that mean?"
"Blessed if I know!" cried the Captain.
"It means, to my mind, that the men who made these deep, wobbly tracks carried a burden into the boat. What do you think that burden was?"
"You will be telling me next that it was a wounded man—perhaps the Lieutenant himself," said the Captain, his face alive with interest.
"It was a wounded man, all right," Ned replied, "but we have no means of knowing whether it was the Lieutenant. See, there are drops of blood close to the margin of the river!"
"You're a genius!" roared the Captain.
"Just observation," Ned said modestly. "There is nothing unusual about the faculty of seeing things. We all draw the same conclusions after the facts are pointed out. So, you see, there was a struggle in the hut, after all, and some one was cut with a knife, for there were no shots fired. As there would have been no fight if the Lieutenant had been in the game, as you express it, the inference is that he was taken prisoner."
"Granted—for the sake of argument!"
"Now," Ned continued, "you have seen Indian service, I understand, so you will no doubt recognize these signs in grass. Read them!"
"Sure I can read them," exclaimed the Captain, "but I never would have discovered them. Indian signals in grass, eh? Now, who do you think put them there?"
At the edge of the thicket were two bunches of grass, each tied tightly at a point near the top. On one the grass stood straight up beyond the band. On the other the top was bent toward the river.
"'Here is the trail,'" Captain Godwin read, pointing to the first one, "and the trail leads this way," he added, pointing to the other. "They left by the river!"
"There is one more," Ned said. "Read this," pointing to three bunches of grass, each tied near the top and standing in a row.
"That is a warning. It says, 'Be careful,'" read the other. "What does it mean?"
"Just what it says. It also means that there is a Boy Scout with the party!"
ON THE RIM OF THE CHINA SEA.
The rain fell heavily, persistently, provokingly. Now and then came a crash of thunder which seemed to shake the earth; vivid lightning cut zigzags in the murky sky. The little islands of the Babuyan group in the Balintang channel seemed to rock in the arms of the storm.
The motor boat Manhattan lay tossing and drawing at her anchor in an obscure bay of tiny dimensions on the west coast of a small island which is a member of the Babuyan group and faces the China Sea. Ned, Frank, Jack and Jimmie sat sweating in the little cabin, which was in the back of the boat, the engine being located toward the center. The day was dark because of the clouds and the downpour of the rain, and the heavy foliage of the trees which came down to the very lip of the bay made it dim in the little cabin, but there was no artificial light.
The boys were waiting for the storm to subside. They knew the moods of the weather man of the Philippines well enough to understand that the rain was likely to continue for several days, it being the opening of the rainy season, but they preferred not to face the initial tempest. In a few hours comparative quiet would come, and there would be only the steady fall of rain.
Since leaving the little island where the transport had landed them, they had visited three little dots of land in the channel, and on each one they had found signals in grass pointing to the north and west.
"That Boy Scout, whoever he is," Jimmie said, as they discussed the signals in the almost stifling atmosphere of the cabin, "is strictly next to his job! He's showing the way, all right!"
"I'll bet you a can of corn against a bite of canned pie that he's from New York," Jack Bosworth observed.
"Speaking of pie," Frank cut in, "there's a little restaurant on Beekman street where they serve hot pies at noon for a dime. You go in there at twelve and get a peach pie, and an apple pie, and a berry pie, hot out of the oven, and buy a piece of cheese, and go back to the office and consume your frugal repast. What?"
"If you talk about hot pie here," Jack said, threateningly, "I'll tip you out of the boat. Pie! When I go back to little old New York I'm going to have mother meet me at the pier with a pie under each arm!"
"I won't take your bet, Jack," Jimmie said. "I'd lose. I know he's from New York, an' he belongs to the Wolf Patrol."
"I thought you left your dream book at home!" cried Frank.
"There was a boy named Pat Mack," Jimmie went on, "who enlisted and went to the Philippines a year ago. He was sixteen when he enlisted, but looked older, and so they let him in, he bein' a husky chap. He belonged to the Wolf Patrol, an' was a chum of Ned's. You remember him, Ned?"
"Pat Mack?" repeated Ned. "Who would ever forget him? Why, that red-headed Irishman is not a person to be forgotten, if once known. Why do you think he is with the party we are following, Jimmie?"
"Because Captain Godwin said one of the young men with the Lieutenant has hair so red that he didn't need a light to go to bed by. That's Pat Mack! And if he is with that bunch there'll be something doing before long. That boy will fight a rattlesnake an' give him the first bite."
"He is all to the good as a pugilist," Ned said. "That was the trouble with him in New York. He was always in some kind of a mess because of his quick temper and his ready fists. I hope it is Pat who is leaving these signs."
"You bet it is," Jimmie insisted. "Say, look here! Who's rockin' this boat?"
The boys were all sitting quietly in their seats, but the Manhattan was rocking in a manner not accounted for by the storm. Motioning the others to remain where they were, Ned arose and passed out of the cabin.
The boat was still swaying violently, and Ned could at first see no good reason for it, but presently a commotion in the water, a commotion not caused by the wind and rain, caught his eyes and he advanced to the stern. After looking into the water for a moment he went to the cabin and beckoned to the boys.
"If you don't mind getting soaking wet," he said, "come out here."
"What is it?" asked Frank, lazily.
"Is it anything good to eat?" asked Jimmie.
Jack made no response but bounded forward and looked over the edge of the boat into the bay. What he saw was a great head with protruding jaws and a long, dark back covered with enormous half defined scales, like armor plate.
"What is it?" he asked, drawing a revolver from his pocket.
Ned pushed his hand back and the weapon was returned to a pocket.
"Don't shoot," he said. "We are not yet ready to announce our presence here."
"But what is that thing?" demanded Jack. "Is he trying to eat up the boat?"
"That is a crocodile," Ned replied. "Corker, eh?"
"Will he bite?" asked Jack, reaching for a boathook.
"Jump in and see," laughed Ned. "They live on fish, but eat dogs and men when they feel just right. The rivers and lakes of the Philippines swarm with them."
Jimmie and Frank now came out of the cabin and looked down at the crocodile.
"He's scratching his old nose on the boat!" Jimmie said. "That's what makes it rock so!"
"He thinks it's a sandwich, with meat inside," laughed Frank. "Suppose we give him a poke in the ribs?"
He reached forward with the boathook, which he took from Jack's hand, and jabbed at the creature, which did not appear to mind the presence of the boys at all, but continued his nosing of the boat.
"His hide is as tough as the crust of the pies Bridget used to make!" the boy said, jabbing harder than before and throwing his weight on the handle of the hook.
Just then the boat shunted to one side, the crocodile swished away, and Frank fell headlong into the agitated waters of the little bay. Jack saw him going and tried to catch him, but did not succeed.
The crocodile had turned away from the boat when Frank struck the water with a great splash, but he turned back and surveyed the submerged figure with some degree of interest.
Frank of course went down under the surface as he fell, and remained there for a second. When his body rose toward the surface the crocodile approached him. Jimmie and Jack drew their revolvers.
"Don't shoot!" commanded Ned.
"He'll eat Frank alive!" whispered Jimmie.
"He's making a grab for his leg now!" Jack added.
Frank came to the surface and struck out for the boat, which was only a few strokes away, the crocodile following in his wake, the giant armor-plated body moving through the water stolidly and without visible means of motion. The rough back looked like a log which had lain long in the waters of a swamp and had caught rust from mineral deposits and a nasty brown from decaying vegetation.
Frank knew the danger he was in, but did not seem to understand that the boys on the boat were aware of his peril, for he swung his body out of the water and whirling, pointed to the crocodile. As he did so the monster speeded forward and snapped at his arm.
"Shoot! Shoot!" cried Jimmie.
But no shots were fired. When the great mouth of the monster opened something shot out from the boat and landed squarely between the extended jaws of the crocodile. There was a snap, a crunching sound, then the water was whipped into commotion by the writhing body of the monster.
A rope was thrown to Frank and he was soon on board, not much wetter than his chums, standing in the driving rain, and not at all injured by his adventure.
"Cripes!" Jimmie cried, as Frank stood panting by his side, "I thought he had you where the whale had Jonah."
"What was that you fed him?" asked Frank of Ned.
"Just a bottle of gasoline which lay here," was the reply.
"You couldn't make a throw like that again in a hundred years!" Frank said.
"If you're goin' to feed gasoline to the crocodiles," grinned Jimmie, "I'll notify the government."
"If the breed listens to what that fellow has to say of gasoline as an article of food," Ned laughed, "there won't be much demand for it."
"He'd have had my arm if you hadn't hit the mark," Frank said. "I'll owe you an arm as long as I live, old man!"
"And that big fish owes Uncle Sam a quart of gasoline and a good blue glass bottle," laughed Jack. "I wonder how it will set on his tummy?"
"Now," Ned said, "I'm as wet as it is possible to get, so I'm going on shore to see if our Boy Scout left any mail for us. I'm getting anxious to catch up with the Lieutenant and his abductors."
"I'm goin' too!" said Jimmie.
"You're not," Ned replied. "I'm not going to the trouble of keeping track of you in that wilderness."
"All right!" Jimmie grunted, apparently resigned to his fate, but when Ned rowed ashore and disappeared in the thicket which skirted the bay the little fellow recklessly slipped into the water and came out unharmed on the beach farther to the south than Ned had landed. He stood for a moment with the salt water running out of his hair and over his freckled face, made an amusing grimace at the boys in the boat, and scurried into the jungle.
"The little dunce!" Jack exclaimed.
"If he keeps close to Ned he will be all right," Frank observed, "but if he goes to wandering about on his own account he will get into trouble. I've got a hunch that the people we are following are on that island."
In five minutes Ned made his appearance, rowing swiftly out to the boat.
"They are there!" he exclaimed. "I found the trail mark and the direction. A yard from the last direction I found the triple warning three times repeated. You know what that means?"
"Life or death," was the reply, and the three boys stood looking into each other's faces for a moment without speaking.
"I guess they're going to murder the prisoners," Jack said, presently, breaking the painful silence.
"That is what the sign seems to read," Ned said, gravely.
"Then we may as well be getting out our guns," Frank said.
Ned nodded, and turned toward the shore again. In a moment he faced his chums again, his eyes startled and anxious.
"Where's Jimmie?" he asked.
"He went ashore!"
"Didn't you see him?"
Ned turned from Frank to Jack and then pointed toward an elevation toward the center of the island.
The clouds hung low and the rain was still falling in torrents, but under the gray sky and through the downpour of the rain two columns of smoke lifted an eloquent voice.
"That's a Boy Scout call!" exclaimed Jack.
"Two columns of smoke," Frank said, "mean 'Help'! Jimmie couldn't have kindled two fires since he has been gone, could he?"
"Of course not," Jack replied. "That's Pat Mack, the red-headed rascal!"
"I bet he wishes he was back on Chatham Square!" observed Frank.
The boys waited ten minutes, but Jimmie did not make his appearance.
"He's in trouble!" cried Frank. "We better go and see what kind of a fix he's gotten into."
"It may be," Ned said, after a short pause, "that he has seen the call for help, and is making his way in that direction."
"That is just like him!" Jack burst out.
"Are we going in there after him?" Frank asked.
"We are likely to lose him in the thicket if we go," Ned cautioned, "and it seems to me that we ought to wait a short time. He is wise enough not to go butting into a camp."
"What sort of a place is it in there?" asked Jack.
"It is one of the nameless islands of the Babuyan group," Ned answered. "Like most of the others, it is of volcanic formation. There is a central elevation, and a stream of good size starts up there somewhere and runs into a bay farther north. I was thinking of speeding up and trying to get into the interior by way of the river."
"With the engine barking like a terrier in a rat pit!" said Frank.
"For once," said Ned, with a smile, "you have said a good thing! We've got to lie here and wait until dark. Then we can advance through the jungle and look for their campfire."
"Perhaps they won't build a fire."
This from Frank, who was stuffing his pockets with cartridges.
"Of course they will!" Jack put in. "They will have to keep the wildcats away."
"Wildcats!" laughed Frank. "There isn't a wildcat within a thousand miles of this island."
"Don't you ever think it," Jack insisted. "There are plenty of wildcats in the Philippines, and snakes, and lizards. In fact, the islands are not unlike the Isthmus of Panama in this regard. And monkeys! Well, we've heard enough chattering already to put us wise to them."
As the boy spoke a great chattering broke out in a thicket only a few rods away from the beach. The monkeys seemed frightened, and moving toward the shore.
"Jimmie is in there!" Ned exclaimed. "I wish I could chloroform the little pests. They will betray the presence of the lad."
While the boys waited, wondering what was to be the outcome of the dangerous situation, the sharp whistle of a launch came from the opposite side of the island. The first blast was followed by three others, in quick succession, and then a shot was heard from the interior.
"This must be receiving day for the little brown men!" said Jack. "There's a boat over there talking to them. What about it, Ned?"
"If you boys will promise not to leave the boat," Ned said, "I'll go ashore and try to find out what is going on. This island lies on the rim of the China Sea, and that boat may be from the land of the Celestials!"
"Bringing arms to put Uncle Sam to the bad!" exclaimed Frank. "I'd like to pull their pigtails!"
The boys promised not to leave the Manhattan, and Ned rowed ashore and struck into the jungle. There was now an uproar of chattering all over the island, it seemed, and he walked swiftly under cover of the racket. In half an hour he was on an elevation which gave him a view of the China Sea. What he saw caused him to drop suddenly to the ground.
THE LOW CALL OF A WOLF.
When Jimmie left the Manhattan he thought it would be perfectly easy to follow Ned into the jungle. Before leaving Captain Godwin's charge the boys had been provided with bolos, and the youngster slipped one under his jacket before leaving the motor boat. This he used to good purpose, though with great caution, as he crept through the thickets.
As is well known, it is almost impossible to make headway in a Philippine forest without chopping down creepers and tangled vines. The bolo is always in use by parties hunting or exploring. It is a short, heavy sword, or knife, similar to the machete of Cuba, and is frequently used in warfare. In the hands of an expert it becomes a very effective weapon.
Gaining the thicket, Jimmie stood still and listened for some indication of the presence of his patrol leader. But the patter of the rain, the rustling of the great leaves, the scolding of the wet and alarmed monkeys in the trees about him, served to shut out any other sounds.
He walked as fast as he could through the jungle toward the center of the island, or in the direction which he believed to be the center. Always his way was uphill, and now and then he was obliged to draw himself up some acclivity by pulling, hand over hand, on a creeper trailing from a tree.
Certain that he could find his way back, he did not blaze the way. Here and there he hewed down a thorny limb which tore at his clothes, or cut a creeper from a tree, but he made no effort to mark his path.
Occasionally he came to a little glade, a space clear of trees but hemmed in by the eternal jungle just the same. Here the way was choked with rank cogon grass, growing from eight to twelve feet high. He found this as mean a growth to pass through as any briar patch or cane-brake.
Cogon grass seems a useless parasite on the bosom of old Mother Earth, and yet it presents a compensation in its gorgeous white bloom, for, like the poppy, the cogon is a show-piece of nature, and she flaunts it in places where beauty is needed, too. Jimmie had never seen a field of buckwheat in blossom, or he might have compared the cogon stretches to fields in the United States at certain seasons of the year.
Even in his haste, in the uncomfortable day, the boy stopped to gaze in wonder at the wonderful balete tree, which is a representative of the fig family. This tree begins life as a parasite, at least it springs to life in a crotch of some other tree. Here it thrives on the humus and decayed vegetable matter and sends long, winding tendrils down to the ground.
These tendrils take root and grow with such vigor that the supporting trunk is rapidly enveloped in a coalescing mass of stems, while its own branches are overtopped by the usurper, which kills it eventually as much by stealing its sunshine as by appropriating the soil at its base. When very old these trees possess a massive trunk, usually, with a large cavity in the middle where the trunk of the other tree rotted out. Some of the younger trees, however, seem to stand on stilts.
Jimmie saw many things to marvel at, for a Philippine forest is not at all like a forest in the states of New York or Illinois. In the glades he saw plants of enormous size, with leaves seven feet long. He came upon rattan or bejuco thickets, where thorns, pointing down the stems like barbs on a fish-hook, snatched at his clothes and clung to them too.
A variety of this plant has a stem, trailing on the ground, five hundred feet long. This stem is hollow and divided into compartments by diaphragms at the joints, like the bamboo. Each compartment contains about a mouthful of pure water.
Jimmie climbed upward for half an hour, thinking every moment that he would come upon some trace of Ned, but Ned, as the reader knows, was at that time waiting in the cabin of the Manhattan for the return of his friend. Unconsciously he wandered off to the right, or north, and presently came to an elevation from which he could overlook the rain-splashed waters of the China Sea.
By the time he reached this position Ned was also in the forest, hoping to meet Jimmie as well as to learn the meaning of the signals from the unknown launch and the firing on the island. Ned, however, for a long time kept to the left, and when at last he came to an elevation he was at least a mile away from that to which Jimmie had ascended.
From the hill—it could not be termed a mountain, though it was of volcanic formation—Jimmie looked into a glade from which the smoke of a fire ascended. He would have observed the two columns of smoke which had been seen from the motor boat had he reached the position earlier, or if he had not been surrounded by the thicket when the Boy Scout signal rose to the sky.
He could see people moving about the fire, which was partially protected from the storm by a heavy canvas on the windward side. A crude shelter composed of great leaves and canvas was also seen, and in this he thought he saw several reclining figures. By this time the boy had given up all hope of coming upon Ned, and also of finding his way back to the Manhattan without a careful study of the location.
From the place where he stood he could look over a large portion of the island. He could see a river running to the east, and wondered if the bay in which the motor boat was lay not near the mouth of the stream. Still, there were many indentations in the shores of the little isle; he could not discover the Manhattan in any of them.
He studied over the situation for a time and then arrived at the conclusion that he could best find his way back to the boat by following the line of the coast. That, however, necessitated a long journey and, perhaps, the swimming of streams which would doubtless take him far into the night, and a Philippine jungle is no place to travel in the darkness. Besides being decidedly uncomfortable, such a trip would be dangerous. Even if there were no wildcats on the island, there were plenty of reptiles. Then he caught sight of a launch off to the east and changed his plans.
His idea was to circle the camp and gain a position between it and the place where the launch had made its appearance. If the people on the boat were planning to land he wanted to see them before they reached the camp. If they were enemies he thought he could avoid them readily enough; if they were friends they might assist him in releasing the prisoners.
"Of course they're in with the game that's goin' on, though," he mused, as he made his way around the hill. "If they wasn't, what would they be comin' to the island for? There's no one here to visit—or wouldn't be if this party of dagoes hadn't landed. The men in the launch are here to meet the others, and that's all there is to it. I'm goin' to see what their business is!"
It was growing dim over the forest when Jimmie gained the position he sought, and there were lights in the launch down in a little bay and lights in the camp halfway up the hill. The rain still came down heavily, driven with considerable force by the wind, and the boy was, of course, soaked to the skin and suffering from the stings of the insects which swarm in Philippine forests, but still he waited patiently for some signs of communication between the people on the boat and those in the camp.
There was no stir in the thicket which lay between the two, and Jimmie concluded that he had arrived too late to witness the meeting of the two parties. The next thing to do was to get as close to the camp as he could without danger of detection and observe what was taking place there. It might be even possible, he thought, to get near enough to hear something of the conversation.
With this object in view he moved as stealthily as possible through the jungle, up the hill, toward the fire, shining dimly in the rain. Much to his surprise he found no guards posted about the camp. When fifty yards away, concealed from any possible view of those about the fire by a mass of creepers, he saw that the inhabitants of the camp were hustling about in the work of building a good-sized shelter of the huge leaves which grew about. The reclining forms in the shelter he had first seen were now only partly in sight.
"They are tryin' to keep the prisoners dry, anyway," the boy thought.
The shelter last spoken of was at the right of the fire, and Jimmie circled off so as to reach it from the rear, his purpose being to learn if the persons lying there were really the men who had been carried away from the island where Captain Godwin had his headquarters.
Presently he came upon a group of four people, standing, somewhat protected from the storm, under a great tree. He drew as close as he dared, even risking discovery, and listened. He could hear voices above the wailing of the wind and the patter of the rain, but could not understand what was being said. The conversation was being carried on in a tongue with which he was unfamiliar.
"Three of them are Chinks," he mused, when, in moving about, the men came between his line of vision and the slow flame of the fire. "They wear their shirts outside their trousers and have their hair done up like the Chinese in Pell street!"
Directly the fourth man of the party, who seemed to be an American, or, at least, an Englishman, asked:
"And the treaty? Will they sign?"
The others nodded and chattered away in their own tongue.
"When will they be here?" he then asked.
More chattering followed, and then the four hastened to the shelter which was being constructed. Jimmie gathered from the two questions he had heard that the island had been chosen as a meeting place, and that the shelter was being built for the accommodation of those expected.
He had heard something of the purpose of the government in sending Ned to the Philippines, and remembered now that there had been talk of a possible organization of the native tribes against the United States government. Now he suspected that the chiefs were to meet there to execute the treaty which was to tie the tribes together and bring about an armed revolt against American occupancy.
"It looks to me," he thought, "like the Chinese were at the bottom of the trouble. I guess China would like to get a foothold here!"
There was nothing more to be learned from the position he occupied, and so he moved on, always keeping to the right of the campfire, blazing dimly in the rain and requiring constant care, until he came out in a thicket close to the rear of the shelter where the men he believed to be prisoners lay. In five minutes he was at the canvas wall of the refuge, listening.
All was still inside, and it was evident that the conspirators did not suspect that they had been followed to their retreat. Looking about, he saw that most of the men of the party were still busily engaged in constructing the shelter and that no one was near the place he wished to investigate, so he cautiously lifted a corner of the canvas and looked inside.
The men there were four in number, and all seemed to be bound hand and foot! The captors were not taking any chances on escape, although they evidently believed themselves to be in full possession of the little island. All was still inside the shelter except that the rain descended steadily on the leaf roof and now and then a low moan came from the front of the place.
"That must be the man they cut up," thought the boy. "I wonder if it is Lieutenant Rowe who is wounded?"
While the boy waited, uncertain what course to pursue, another signal came from the shore and was answered by another pistol shot.
"Another bunch of Chinks!" he thought.
The signals brought considerable excitement to the camp, and Jimmie concluded that the new arrival must be a person of some importance. In a short time nearly every person in the camp rushed away down the hill toward the bay where the first launch was anchored, as if to welcome the new arrivals.
"Now's my time!" thought the boy, and in an instant his inquisitive head was thrust under the canvas, and then the low, snarling call of a wolf penetrated the shadowy place where the men he believed to be prisoners lay.
The effect of the signal was instantaneous. A figure half arose and dropped back again, only to roll over and over in the direction from which had come the Boy Scout signal used by all members of the Wolf Patrol. As the bound figure came awkwardly rolling on, Jimmie saw, with what joy may be readily understood, a red head shining in the firelight! Never in all his life had any color looked so good to Jimmie as that brilliant red did at that time!
"Pat Mack?" he whispered.
The figure wiggled and twisted vigorously, but there was no verbal reply.
"I'll bet dollars to doughnuts they've put a stick in his mouth," said Jimmie, and this whispered observation was answered by another muscular demonstration.
"Sure," muttered the boy, "it is Pat an' he's tryin' to talk to me with his feet, an' them tied up plenty!"
Bolo in hand he crept into the shelter, although the sound of voices told him that the people who had gone down the hill were now returning. He could not see the cords which held the still struggling man, but he found them with his fingers and cut them, not quite certain that he was serving a friend, but willing, under the circumstances, to take the risk. First the cords which held the feet were severed, then those which held the wooden gag in place, then that which confined the hands.
When this last cord was cut two muscular arms flew up and seized the boy about the neck, drawing his head down until his nose was buried in the wet clothes of the man he had released.
"Let up!" he muttered in a smothered voice.
Still the powerful arms drew him down, and the boy was beginning to wonder if he had not better use his bolo when a voice whispered:
"Jimmie! Is it dead we both are?"
"We will soon be if you don't let up!" answered Jimmie.
"Jimmie from the Bowery?" demanded the other.
"Sure!" was the reply. "What is this, anyway, a catch-as-catch-can? If you don't let up I'll take a rib out with my bolo."
With a spring which almost keeled the boy over the figure sprang up, ducked under the dripping canvas, and crouched in the thicket from which Jimmie had observed the tent. Jimmie's first thought was to follow, then he thought of the remaining prisoners and turned to cut their bonds.
But he was too late. As he turned three men came to the front of the shelter and bent low for the purpose of entering. To have hesitated longer would have been to invite capture, and so, with a sigh of regret, the boy shot under the canvas and joined the other in the thicket.
"It's leg bail for it!" came the familiar voice of Pat Mack, and the boys poked their faces into the thicket and kept going, regardless of the thorns and creepers which tore at their garments and tripped their feet. It was so dark now that they could not see a hand held two inches from their eyes, but they kept on, making as little noise as possible.
A MISSING MOTOR BOAT.
"You rapscallion," Pat Mack whispered, as the two came together in the embrace of a particularly tough creeper, "how did you ever get here? I saw you last on the good old Bowery!"
"I didn't fly over," replied Jimmie. "Here," he added, "take this bolo an' cut that rope! What did you mean by chokin' me when I cut you loose?"
"A hug of affection!" retorted the other. "You looked like an angel to me! Did you flutter down from the sky in the rain?"
"I ought to give you a good punch for it!" Jimmie replied. "You near took the hide off me beautiful nose! Have you got that bloomin' steel cable cut? Seems to me they are comin' after us!"
The boys stood perfectly still and listened. Above the patter of the rain, above the murmur of the trees, above the chattering of the aroused monkeys, came the crash of heavy bodies through the bushes, the sound of human voices.
"Sure they are!" whispered Pat, and they set off again.
Working their way painfully through the jungle, falling now and then over long vines, coming into contact with great trees and swinging parasites which brushed against their faces like snakes, the boys pressed on as rapidly as possible, but ever the sounds of pursuit came closer! The pursuers were more familiar with jungle methods than they, and no pretense of secrecy was made.
"Have you got a gun?" whispered Jimmie.
"I haven't even got a toothpick," was the reply.
"We'll have to fight before long," Jimmie said, panting with the exertion of the unfamiliar struggle with the jungle.
"There's plenty of hollow trees about," suggested Pat. "Why not hide in one of them until they pass?"
The suggestion seemed a good one, for a moment. Then the uselessness of such an effort at concealment became apparent. With sinking hearts the boys heard the low whine of a hound!
"I wonder how they managed to track us so easily," Jimmie said.
"Give me the bolo," Pat said. "I'll split the dog's head open if he comes near us. Use your gun on the men."
The boys did not give up hope of final escape, but pressed on for a time. However, the acclivity they were ascending grew steeper as they advanced, and they were obliged to stop now and then to rest. On one of these occasions they heard a commotion in the jungle just ahead of them. This was disheartening!
"They've flanked us!" whispered Pat.
The pursuers were carrying a torch which, in the rain, gave a dim light, but still served to direct their steps, and the glow of the flame now reached to the very spot where the lads stood. The bushes behind them parted and the glowing eyes of the hound looked up in their faces. Then the call of the beast told the men following that he had at last sighted his prey.
The boys turned to flee again, but came up against an almost perpendicular wall of rock. The pursuers saw them now and came on with cries of victory.
"Guess they've got us!" Pat said.
"Not yet!" Jimmie answered.
But, however courageous the lads might have proved themselves to be, they would have been taken in a moment had they not received unexpected assistance. The hound was almost at their feet when a shot was heard and the great beast fell to the ground, struggled for an instant, and lay still.
Another shot followed the first instantly, and the torch dropped from the uplifted hand of the evil-faced man who was carrying it in the lead. An intense, uncanny darkness followed the extinction of the torch, and the two boys took advantage of it to edge around the face of the rock which had blocked their progress. Without the help of the dog, and without the torch, the pursuers could do little, and stood on equal terms with the pursued.
It was impossible, of course, for the boys to make their way through the jungle without making any noise, and in a moment the pursuing party showed its temper by firing revengeful shots at the spots from which the sounds of their progress proceeded. After half a dozen bullets had clipped the bushes about the heads of the lads two shots came from in front, the lead whizzing over their heads. A sharp cry of distress was heard in the rear at the second shot, and then all was still.
The boys crouched in the open space between the "legs" of a balete tree and waited for some possible explanation of the strange thing that had taken place. Who had killed the hound, and who was it that was shooting at the enemy over their heads? These questions were hard to answer.
"It is one of the boys from the Manhattan," Jimmie concluded, at last.
"Then why don't he show up?" demanded Pat. "Who is in the Manhattan?"
"Ned Nestor and two members of the Black Bear Patrol," was the reply. "We came over here to sleuth."
"To sleuth. To do the Sherlock Holmes stunt. To put down an insurrection in the Philippines!"
"You seem to be putting it down," Pat said, in a sarcastic tone.
"We've got it by the neck!" insisted Jimmie.
"Ned's being along will help some," said Pat. "He's the boy to get to the bottom of a tough case. If he's on this side of the world, that's him in the shrubbery just ahead. Did you hear the signals a short time ago?"
"Well, that's the bunch coming."
"What bunch?" demanded Jimmie.
"Why, the Chinks, of course."
"What they coming here for?"
"I guess they expect to take the Philippines home with 'em," was the reply. "Anyway, they're plotting to take Uncle Sam down and search him for them."
"Did you hear much of their talk?" asked Jimmie.
"Quite a little, but Lieutenant Rowe made so much noise I couldn't hear all that was said when they were near me. He's badly wounded."
"I'd like to know just what took place at the hut Captain Godwin put you fellows in night before last," Jimmie said.
"There's treachery somewhere," began Pat, but just then a sound reached their ears which drove all thoughts of that other night from their minds. It was the low, snarling call of a wolf!
"That's Ned!" whispered Jimmie.
"It's a Wolf, anyway," Pat exclaimed, losing caution in the excitement of the moment. "That will help some!"
The boy's voice must have been heard above the rain and the swishing of the tropical growth, for several shots came from the rear, and one of the bullets cut into the tree near Pat's head.
"They seem to be gettin' the range!" Pat said, scratching his head and blessing his lucky star that a bullet had not connected with it.
"They couldn't hit a flock of bridges!" said Jimmie, disdainfully.
Then he straightened up and gave out a long, shrill cry, like that of a wolf calling to the pack. Pat caught him by the arm and drew him back into the semi-shelter of the "legs" of the balete tree.
"You'll have a spray of lead flying this way in a second!" he said. "Can't you give the Wolf call without alarming the people of Hong Kong, six hundred miles away?"
"I'm celebratin'!" answered the boy.
Again the wolf cry echoed through the forest, and this time it was answered from within a few feet of where the boys stood. There were no shots this time, and it was concluded that the pursuers had returned to the camp.
"Ned!" called Jimmie.
"Hey, there!" added Pat.
"That voice sounds like Chatham Square!" said a voice close to the boy's elbow, and in the darkness two hands fumbled together and clasped in a hearty greeting.