An actual occurrence

“The army contracts!” echoed Grant. “Why, bless my soul, you are right!
This is the day set by the war department for opening them.”

All three lads instinctively glanced at the station clock.

“Great Scott!” exclaimed Nattie; “it’s after eleven!”

“In less than an hour the board will sit, and at Tokio–twenty miles
away!” Mori cried. “We have lost the chance after all.”

“Not without a struggle,” firmly replied the lame youth. “There’s Mr.
Burr over there. He is here to meet us. Nattie, take him to the nearest
stationer, and purchase three or four quires of official paper, pen and
ink. Be back in five minutes. Mori, come with me.”

While Nattie, too bewildered to speak, hurried away on his errand, Grant
grasped the Japanese youth’s arm, and almost ran to the station master’s
office. They found the official seated at his desk.

“What time does the next train leave for the capital?” asked Grant.

“At eleven-thirty, sir.”

“Too late. How long will it take you to start a special train?”

The railway employee stared at his questioner in surprise.

“A special train for Tokio?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“We couldn’t have it ready under twenty minutes. Why, what—-”

“Never mind the reason, sir,” interrupted Grant, impatiently. “I must be
in Tokio before twelve o’clock.”

“It is impossible, sir.”

“Not at all. It must be done. Where is the engine that brought the train
in a few moments ago?”

“It is still in the station, but it will go to the running sheds before
long.”

“I must have that engine,” exclaimed Grant, with determination. “I will
pay you five hundred _yen_ for an hour’s use of it. I will also give a
bonus of fifty _yen_ each to the engineer and fireman.”

Five minutes later a powerful locomotive left the station, bearing the
party. A small table had been secured, and hard at work upon it was Mr.
Burr, writing for dear life as Grant dictated.

The line was clear, telegraphic orders having been sent to that effect
from Yokohama, and the intricate mass of iron flew upon its journey at
the rate of seventy miles an hour.

It was a strange spectacle, and one never before witnessed in all Japan.
To the engineer and fireman, native born, it was a novelty indeed, and
they cast many curious glances at the group upon the tender.

As the miles were covered at terrific speed, the ponderous engine swayed
and rocked like a ship in distress. But amid the lurching and tossing of
the fabric, Grant stood imperturbably droning word after word, sentence
upon sentence, while the canny Scot jotted them down as best he could.

The document was a lengthy one, full of circumlocution and dreary
phrases, but at the end of twelve minutes, when the outskirts of Tokio
came in sight, it was finished. The three members of the firm affixed
their names just as the panting engine came to a sudden stop in the
railway station of the capital.

_Jinrikishas_ with fleet _karumayas_ had been ordered by telegraph. The
distance to the war department was at least a mile. Springing into the
vehicles, the party were carried swiftly through the streets, a promise
of ten times the usual fare having lent wings to the men’s feet.

A clock observed midway indicated a quarter of twelve.

“On, on, men!” cried Grant, imploringly. “Fifty _yen_ each if you do it
before the stroke of twelve.”

The promise was as a whip to a spirited horse. From lagging steps the
_karumayas_ bounded into a run. Down the narrow streets they darted,
past gardens, through thoroughfares crowded with pedestrians; on, on,
until at last, with a final spurt, the four _jinrikishas_ came to a halt
in front of the Japanese war office.

Leaving Mr. Burr to settle with the coolies–who had well earned their
pay–Grant dashed into the building just as the first stroke of a
sonorous bell overhead proclaimed the hour of noon.

As he passed through the entrance he noticed a door at the right bearing
upon its panels in Japanese, “War Department. Office of the Army Board.”
It was standing slightly ajar, and from the interior came a confused
murmur of voices.

Something prompted Grant and his companions to stop and peer through.
Seated at a large desk were several officers in uniform and other
gentlemen in civilian’s clothes. In the center was Yoshisada Udono,
Grant’s friend. Occupying chairs in the main portion of the room were
the German merchants of Yokohama, Swartz and Bauer, and Ralph’s father,
Jesse Black.

The warning bell had reached the seventh stroke!

Arising to his feet with a triumphant smile upon his lean, suave face,
the English merchant advanced to the desk and laid thereon a packet. As
he turned to resume his seat there was a noise at the door, and the lame
youth marched in with calm dignity.

“Ah, I see I am just in time,” he said, with a pleasant smile. “Mr.
Udono, will you please accept our bid for the contracts?”

“Certainly, Grant, with the greatest pleasure,” quickly replied the
secretary. “Where have you been? I actually thought you would be—-”

He was interrupted by a snarl of mingled stupefaction and rage. Mr.
Black, who had been staring open mouthed at the lads, sprang forward,
and shouted:

“It is too late! It is past the time. The hour of twelve—-”

“Has not struck yet,” quietly interrupted Grant. “Listen! ten, eleven,
twelve! I was three seconds to the good.”

If ever baffled fury sat enthroned on a man’s countenance it did then
upon that of the English merchant. He was speechless with anger and
disappointment. Shaking his fist in Grant’s face, he stammered and
choked in a futile effort to berate him.




“Mr. Black, a word with you,” suddenly said Nattie, stepping up.

The lad’s tone was full of meaning. He turned and added to his brother
and Mori:

“Let us leave for some quiet place and have it over with. You know we
have a sad duty to perform.”

“What, what’s that?” asked the merchant, in alarm, recovering his
speech. “My son Ralph! What of him? Don’t tell me he is injured.”

“Come with us,” replied Grant, evasively.

Leaving Mori to make a brief explanation to Mr. Udono, Nattie and he
took the Englishman into a side room and there told the story of his
son’s awful end.

It is a strange commentary on human nature that even the vilest beast
contains a well of tenderness. The hand that slays in cruel sport can
also caress with fond affection. The African mother has her maternal
love; the foulest rogue a word of kindness.

Mr. Black was an unscrupulous man. He was a scoundrel at heart, but
there was an oasis in the desert of his immoral nature. It was his love
for his son Ralph. The news of his offspring’s death came as a terrible
blow. His grief was pitiful.

The spectacle of a strong man weeping in agony of spirit swept away all
thoughts of punishment. Grant exchanged glances with his brother, and
then said, sadly, but with firmness:

“Mr. Black, we know everything. We know fully your connection with the
foul plot to abduct me, but we are content with our triumph over you. We
could have you arrested and sent to prison for a term of years, but we
will be merciful. You can go forth in freedom, but on certain
conditions.”

The miserable man stood listening with bowed head.

“You must leave Japan at once,” continued Grant, “and also make
restitution of the money overpaid to you on account of our father’s
debt. That debt was paid to you before his death, and you know it.”

“No, Grant, your father did not pay me,” replied Mr. Black, brokenly.

“Then you still deny it!” exclaimed the lame youth, his voice growing
hard.

“I will explain. I received part of the money, but not from your father.
The day Mr. Manning died in his office I received a call from Willis
Round. He said that he had taken the fifty-six hundred dollars in gold
from the safe, and would divide with me if I would promise to back him
up in pushing the firm to the wall. It was his idea to purchase the good
will of the business at a forced sale and start in for himself. I–I
consented, but our plans have failed.”

“Through no fault of yours,” said Nattie, _sotto voce_.

“Do you agree to the conditions?” asked Grant.

“Yes, I will do as you say,” replied the disgraced merchant. “I will
repay you and leave this country at once. I am content to do so. Oh,
Ralph, my son, my son!”

He tottered from the room, and that was the last the lads saw of him. On
the following day a messenger brought to them in their office at
Yokohama a package of money containing the amount previously paid to Mr.
Black.

Before the end of the week he had settled up his affairs and left Japan.
It was heard later that he had returned to England, where he went into
retirement with the money saved from his business. It is to be hoped he
sought repentance for his misdeeds.

In these o’er-true tales it is a pleasure to part with some characters,
but painful to bid farewell to others. A writer has his likes and
dislikes, even in his own literature. It is said that the immortal
Dickens cried when he penned the description of Little Nell’s death in
the “Old Curiosity Shop,” and that his heart stirred with a curious
anger as he chronicled the villainies of Bill Sykes in another story.

It is probably for a similar reason that I do not like to write the
words that will put an end for all time to Grant and Nattie and Mori. We
have spent many pleasant half hours together. It has been a pleasure to
depict their honesty, and manliness, and truth, to watch their brave
struggle against misfortune, and at last to record their final triumph.

They will succeed in life–integrity and moral worth always do. They
secured the famous contract, and made a legitimate profit from it. That
was before the recent war between China and Japan. They invested their
increased capital, and are now, at the present date, on the fair road to
fortune.

Mr. Burr is the manager of their Yokohama house. Mori is in general
charge of the business in Japan, and Grant and Nattie are now traveling
in the United States visiting their relatives and quietly keeping an eye
out for the trade.

Sumo is established in the main office as porter and messenger. He
sports a gorgeous uniform and is ever relating to the small boys of the
neighborhood his memorable fight with Raiko, the thug, at the foot of
old Bandai-San.

And now, in the language of those gentle people, the Japanese, I will
say “_Sayonara!_”