A PLAN, AND ITS FAILURE

The lower order of criminals are seldom courageous. Personal bravery is
not found in the same soul that harbors a disregard for laws human and
divine. The thief cornered in the dark will fight, but simply with the
desperation of a rat at bay.

It was to this natural law that Grant owed his life. Yoritomo, the
captain of the junk, was a scoundrel at heart, but he had a wholesome
regard for justice as meted out in Japan. A number of years spent on the
penal farms had taught him discrimination.

While there he had witnessed–and even assisted at–several executions
for murder, and the terror of the scene remained with him. A golden
bribe offered by the Blacks had purchased his services in the abduction
of Grant, but when Ralph, in his insane rage, called to him for
assistance in throwing the lame youth into the sea, he peremptorily
refused.

Instead, he called several sailors to his aid, and rescued Grant from
Ralph’s grasp.

“I’ll permit of no murder on my junk,” he said in Japanese. “You have
paid me well to help you carry this fellow to the Bay of Sendai, and I
will do it, but no violence, sir.”

“What do you mean, dog?” shouted the discomfited youth. “How dare you
interfere? If I wish to get rid of him I’ll do so.”

“Not on board this vessel,” replied the captain, doggedly.

“I suppose you are afraid of your neck?” sneered Ralph.

“Yes, I am. I run enough danger as it is. How do we know that we were
not seen in Yokohama? My craft is engaged in trade along the coast, and
is well known. When your prisoner’s absence is found out the authorities
will secure a list of all shipping leaving the port on such a date. I
will be suspected with the rest.”

Ralph remained silent. A craven at heart, he would not have dared attack
one physically able to offer resistance. The picture drawn by the
captain was not pleasant. What if the truth should be discovered? It
would mean disgrace and a long term in prison. And he had just
contemplated a murder!

The punishment for such a crime is death. The youth shuddered at his
narrow escape. He scowled at his prisoner, then stalked aft to the mean
little cabin under the shadow of the wing-like sails.

Grant had been a silent spectator of the scene. When Ralph made the
violent attack on him, he struggled as best he could, but he was no
match for his athletic assailant, and would have undoubtedly succumbed
if it had not been for the timely aid of the captain.

The latter’s unexpected action sent a ray of hope through the lame
youth. Possibly he could be bribed to further assist him! Grant was
philosopher enough to know that honor does not exist among thieves. The
bonds of fraternity found among honest men is unknown in the criminal
walks of life.

When Ralph left the deck Grant drew Yoritomo aside, and boldly proposed
a plan evolved at that moment by his fertile brain. He did not mince
words, but went to the point at once.

“Captain, a word with you,” he said. “I wish to tell you that you are
making a bad mistake in being a party to this abduction. You probably
know the laws of your country, but you do not know that such crimes
against foreigners are punishable by death in many cases.”

Yoritomo shifted uneasily, but made no reply.

“Do you know who I am?” continued Grant, impressively.

The captain shook his head.

“Indeed! You must belong to one of the lower provinces, then. Have you
ever heard of the firm of Manning & Company, dealers and importing
merchants?”

“Yes.”

“Well, my name is Grant Manning, and I am now head of the firm. I am
also a personal friend of his excellency, Yoshisada Udono, of the War
Department, and of the Superintendent of Prisons in Tokio. Ah, I see
that you know what the latter means. You have been a prisoner in your
time, eh?”

“Yes, excellency.”

The words were respectful, and the lame youth took hope. He followed up
his advantage.

“The young man who bribed you to assist in his nefarious plot is crazy.
No sane man would attempt such a desperate scheme nowadays. You are sure
to be discovered before many days. The detectives are even now after
you. I have relatives and friends who will move heaven and earth to
rescue me, or to secure revenge if aught happens to me. Discovery means
death to you. You are even now standing in the shadow of the gallows.”

Grant had lowered his voice to an impressive whisper. The tone, the
surroundings, the situation had their effect upon the listener. He
trembled from head to foot. He fell upon his knees at his companion’s
feet and begged for mercy.

“Oh, excellency,” he pleaded, “I crave your pardon. I acknowledge that I
am guilty. Mr. Black offered me a large sum to help in your abduction. I
need the money, for I am very poor. I accepted, and now I lose my life.”

“Not necessarily so,” replied the lame youth, repressing a feeling of
exultation with difficulty. “If you will do as I say I will assure you
of a pardon, and promise you money in addition. What did the Blacks
agree to pay you?”

“Two hundred _yen_, excellency.”

“And for that paltry sum, not equal to one hundred American dollars, you
have run such risks. You are a fool!”

“Yes, excellency.”

“Now, I’ll promise to see that you are not punished, and I will also
give you twice that amount if you head in to the nearest port and put me
ashore. What do you say?”

Yoritomo hesitated.

“Remember your fate when the authorities capture you, which they surely
will before long. Don’t be a dolt, man. I will pay you double what the
Blacks promise, and assure you of a pardon besides.”

“Can you pay me the money now?” asked the captain, cunningly.

He had evidently recovered from his fears–enough, anyway, to drive a
shrewd bargain.

“Part of it, and give you good security for the balance,” replied Grant,
confidently.

He reached in the pocket where he generally kept his purse, but found it
empty. A hurried search disclosed the fact that his valuable gold watch
and a small diamond stud were also gone. He had been robbed.

“The confounded thieves!” he exclaimed. “They have completely stripped
me.”




“Then you have no money?” asked Yoritomo, incredulously.

“No; I have been robbed by those people. I will give you my word that
I’ll pay you the four hundred _yen_ the moment I set foot in Yokohama.
Or, if you wish, I’ll write a note for the amount, and you can collect
it at any time.”

“Have you anything to prove that you are Grant Manning?” queried the
captain, suspiciously.

Grant bit his lips in annoyance. The question boded ill for his chances
of escape. The hurried search through his pockets had shown him that he
had nothing left; not even a letter or a scrap of paper. He was
compelled to answer in the negative.

“I thought so,” cried Yoritomo, scornfully. “You have tried to play a
pretty game, my brave youth, but it didn’t work. You Grant Manning? Ha!
ha! ha! Mr. Black told me who you are. You are a rival in love, and he
is taking this means of getting rid of you. So you would try to wheedle
me with lies? I have a mind to let him throw you overboard as he
intended. Begone forward, or I’ll tell my men to scourge you!”

“You are making a serious mistake,” replied Grant, with dignity. “You
will live to repent your actions. I am—-”

“Begone, I say!” interrupted the captain, menacingly. “Here, Tomo, Haki,
drive this fool forward!”

Sick at heart and almost discouraged, the lame youth limped toward the
bow. As he passed the mainmast a coolie slipped from behind it and
entered the cabin. It was Raiko, Ralph’s man. He had overheard the
futile attempt, and proceeded forthwith to tell his master.