EVIL TIDINGS

To those who have not experienced the coming of sudden disaster, word
descriptions are feeble. It is easy to tell how this and that occurred;
to speak of the wails and cries of the injured; to try to depict the
scene in sturdy English, but the soul-thrilling terror, the horror, and
physical pain of the moment must be felt.

In the present case the accident was so entirely unexpected that the
very occurrence carried an added quota of dreadful dismay. The spot had
never been considered unsafe. At the time of construction eminent
engineers had decided that it would be perfectly feasible to lay the
rails close to the edge of the sea.

A stout parapet of stone afforded ample protection, in their opinion,
but they had not gauged the resistless power of old ocean. The coming of
a fierce south wind worked the mischief, and in much less time than is
required in the telling, the doomed train was cast a mass of wreckage
against the unyielding face of the cliff.

The first crash extinguished the lights, adding impenetrable darkness to
the scene. It found Nattie and Mori within touch of each other. They
instinctively grouped together; but a second and more violent wrench of
the coach sent them flying in different directions.

The instinct of life is strong in all. The drowning wretch’s grasp at a
straw is only typical of what mortals will do to keep aglow the vital
spark.

Terror-stricken, and stunned from the force of the shock, Nattie still
fought desperately for existence. He felt the coach reeling beneath his
feet, he was tossed helplessly like a truss of hay from side to side,
and then almost at his elbow he heard a familiar voice shrieking:

“Mercy! mercy! The blessed saints have mercy upon a poor sinner. Oi’m
sorry for me misdeeds. Oi regret that Oi was even now going against the
law. Oi confess that Oi meant to lead them two young fellows away so
that—-”

The words ended in a dreadful groan as the car gave a violent lurch,
then Nattie felt a shock of pain and he lost consciousness. When he came
to, it was to find the bright sun shining in his face.

It was several moments before he could recognize his surroundings. A
sound as of persons moaning in agony brought back the dreadful truth. He
found himself lying upon a stretcher, and near at hand were others, each
bearing a similar burden.

The temporary beds were stretched along the face of the cliff. A dozen
feet away was a huge mass of shattered coaches and the wreck of a
locomotive. A number of Japanese were still working amid the _débris_,
evidently in search of more victims of the disaster.

Nattie attempted to rise, but the movement caused him excruciating pain
in the left shoulder. A native, evidently a surgeon, was passing at the
moment, and noticing the action, he said, with a smile of encouragement:

“Just keep quiet, my lad. You are all right, merely a dislocation. Do
not worry, we will see that you are well taken care of.”

“But my friend?” replied the boy, faintly. “His name is Mori Okuma, and
he was near me when the accident occurred. Can you tell me anything of
him? Is he safe?”

“Is he one of my countrymen, a youth like yourself, and clad in tweed?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Well, I can relieve your anxiety,” was the cheering reply. “He is
working like a trooper over there among the coaches. It was he who
rescued you and brought you here. Wait; I will call him.”

A moment later Mori made his appearance, but how sadly changed was his
usually neat appearance. His hat was gone, his clothing torn and
disordered, and his face grimed with dust and dirt. He laughed cheerily,
however, on seeing Nattie, and made haste to congratulate him on his
escape.

“This is brave,” he exclaimed. “You will soon be all right, old boy. No,
don’t try to get up; your arm is dislocated at the shoulder, and perfect
quiet is absolutely necessary.”

“But I can’t lie here like a stick, Mori,” groaned the lad. “What’s a
dislocation, anyway? It shouldn’t keep a fellow upon his back.”

“You had better take the doctor’s advice. The relief train will start
for Kobe before long, and once in a good hotel, you can move about. This
is a terrible accident. Fully twenty persons have lost their lives, and
as many more wounded.”

“Have you seen anything of Patrick Cronin?”

“No, nothing. It is thought several bodies were carried out to sea when
the water rolled back after tearing away the parapet. His may be one of
them.”

The Irishman’s words, heard during the height of the turmoil, returned
to Nattie. He now saw the significance of the Irishman’s cry.

“Something is up, Mori,” he said, gravely, explaining the matter. “It
certainly seems as if Patrick was leading us on a wild-goose chase.”

“That was Grant’s impression, anyway. Did the fellow really use those
words?”




“Yes, and he evidently told the truth. He was in fear of death, and he
confessed aloud that he was leading us away so that something could
happen. At the interesting moment his voice died away to a groan, then I
lost consciousness.”

“What do you think he could have meant?”

“It is something to do with the Blacks, I’ll wager.”

“But does he know them?”

“He is acquainted with Willis Round, and that is the same thing.”

Mori seemed doubtful.

“You don’t think he intended to lead us into a trap?” he asked,
incredulously.

“Hardly, but—-”

“Grant?”

Nattie sat up in the stretcher despite the pain the effort caused him.

“Mori, we must communicate with him at once,” he said. “There is no
telling what could happen while we are away. Confound it! I’ll never
forgive myself if this should prove to be a ruse. Can you telegraph from
here?”

“No, we must wait until we reach Kobe. Now don’t excite yourself, my
dear fellow. You will only work into a fever, and that will retard your
recovery. I really think we are mistaken. But even if it should prove
true, it won’t mend matters by making yourself worse.”

The lad fell back with a groan. He acknowledged the wisdom of Mori’s
remark, and he remained quiet until the relief train finally carried him
with the balance of the survivors to the city they had recently left.
Mori hastened to the telegraph office after seeing his charge to a
hotel.

What Nattie suffered in spirit during the Japanese youth’s absence can
only be measured by the great love he bore his crippled brother. The
very thought that something had happened to him was anguish. He knew
that Grant was bravery itself despite his physical disability, and that
he would not hesitate to confront his enemies single-handed.

When the turning of the door knob proclaimed Mori’s return, Nattie
actually bounded from the bed and met him halfway. One glance at the
Japanese youth’s face was enough. Evil news was written there with a
vivid brush. In one hand he held a telegram, which he gave to his
companion without a word.