GRANT ATTEMPTS TO ESCAPE

During the rest of the voyage up the coast Grant was kept forward with
the sailors. Ralph carefully avoided him, and, in fact, seldom appeared
on deck.

Shortly before midnight on the second day out the prisoner was awakened
from a troubled sleep by the entrance of several men in his little
apartment forward. One of these was Raiko. Without a word of
explanation, the coolie seized Grant and with the aid of his companions,
bound him hand and foot.

An hour later the junk was brought to anchor and the sails furled. Then
a boat was lowered, and Grant, Ralph, and Raiko were rowed ashore by
members of the crew. As they left the craft, Yoritomo leaned over the
clumsy rail, and called out, sneeringly:

“How about that four hundred _yen_ and the free pardon? Your little plan
didn’t work, eh? Farewell, excellency, Grant Manning!”

The prisoner maintained a dignified silence, but at heart he felt sore
and discouraged. While on the junk he considered himself almost safe
from violence, but Ralph’s cowardly assault and the grim, evil face of
the coolie. Raiko, boded little good.

The night was clear, and a full moon cast its mellow rays over the
scene. The junk had anchored in an extensively landlocked bay. Across to
the right were several twinkling lights, proclaiming the presence of a
town. But where the boat had landed were simply clumps of bushes and
sandy dunes.

The little party set out at once for the interior. Grant’s feet had been
loosened, but his hands still remained fastened. Raiko walked in
advance, and it soon became evident that he was familiar with the
country. At the end of the first hour a halt was made in a grove of
trees near a hill.

The coolie disappeared, leaving the prisoner in Ralph’s care. After he
had gone Grant attempted to engage the merchant’s son in conversation,
but without avail. He absolutely refused to speak. Presently Raiko
returned with three horses and another native.

The lame youth was lifted upon one and secured in such a manner that he
could not escape; then the others were mounted by the remaining members
of the party and the march resumed.

Raiko went first, as usual, then Ralph, leading the prisoner’s steed,
and finally the new coolie bringing up the rear. It was a strange
procession, but there were none to witness it, the narrow paths followed
being entirely deserted.

Several hours passed in this manner. The moon sank behind the western
mountains, leaving the scene in darkness. Mile after mile was covered
without a halt. The aspect of the country changed from hill to plain,
from valley to heights. Rivers were forded, bridges crossed, and lakes
skirted, and still no word between the members of the cavalcade.

During all this time Grant had not remained idle. He was not a youth
prone to despair. The result of his conversation with the junk’s captain
had certainly discouraged him for the moment, but with the vivacity of
youth he speedily recovered his spirits and set about for a way to
better his situation.

In the first place, he found that the jolting of his mount, which he had
railed against at the commencement, had actually loosened his bonds. His
arms had been tied behind him with a leather thong around the wrists and
elbows.

The discovery sent a thrill of hope through him. Working steadily, but
without making the slightest sound, he finally succeeded in freeing both
hands. The operation took some time, and it was not until after the
moon had disappeared that he completed the task.

Meanwhile, his mind had also moved rapidly. He formulated a plan. It was
nothing less than to wait for a favorable opportunity, and to make a
bold dash for freedom. Burdened as he was, with a deformed and feeble
frame, Grant was no coward, nor was he lacking in valor of spirit.

He knew that the attempt would be productive of danger. It would draw
the fire of his companions, and, moreover, lead to terrible risks to
life and limb, but he was perfectly willing to brave all if by so doing
he could effect his escape.

During the weary hours spent on board the junk he had thought over his
abduction and the events leading to it. The actions of the Blacks were
almost inexplicable. It had never occurred to him that they would resort
to such desperate measures.

He had read of such cases in books of romance treating of life in the
earlier centuries, but to believe that an English merchant in Japan
should carry off a business rival in the present day was almost beyond
his credulity.

“It is the last move of a man driven to the wall,” he had concluded, and
not without a feeling of triumph, it must be confessed. “We have taken
the market from him, and simply because the market chose to come to us,
and we have beaten his firm and others in both the export and import
trades. And as a final straw, it seemed as if the valuable army
contracts would also come to us. Fool! he should have known that Nattie
and Mori could easily secure them even if I had dropped out of sight.”

This was not so, and only his innate sense of modesty compelled him to
say it. Nattie and Mori, the Blacks, and all the foreign population of
Japan knew that only Grant could win the prize. His business tact, his
personal friendship with the powers at the head of the government, and
his well-known reputation for honesty were the virtues forming the
magnet that would attract the golden plum.

The outrageous assault of Ralph on board the junk had shown Grant how
desperate his enemies were. It hinted strongly at nothing short of
murder. No man, no matter how brave, can walk in the shadow of a
threatened death without inwardly wishing himself free from danger.

Grant was as others in the same situation. He was willing to face any
known peril to escape the unknown fate awaiting him at the end of the
journey. Then he had a natural desire to turn the tables on his enemies;
to cause their defeat and punishment, and not least of all, to reach
Tokio in time to secured the coveted army contracts.

As the night became darker the little party hovered together. As stated
before, Ralph was leading Grant’s horse, and forming the rear of the
cavalcade was the new coolie. Raiko was almost out of sound ahead.

The lame youth felt in his pockets, and to his great joy found a
penknife which had been overlooked by the greedy coolie. Waiting until
they rode into a narrow valley running between high hills, the prisoner
softly reached forward and severed the leading thong. Then, with a
fierce tug of his hands, he caused his mount to wheel sharply.




This sudden action brought the horse ridden by Grant in collision with
that of the hindmost coolie. The shock unseated the fellow, who was
naturally unprepared, and he fell to the ground with a cry of terror.
Belaboring his steed with one hand, the prisoner dashed down the valley
like a whirlwind.

He had not gone fifty yards before he heard a prodigious clatter of
hoofs, then with a loud report a revolver was discharged behind him. The
bullet flew wide of the mark, as could be expected under the
circumstances, but it served its purpose just the same.

At the sound Grant’s horse dashed sideways, stumbled over a hummock of
earth or rock, and with a crash, animal and rider fell in a heap
against the edge of rising ground. Fortunately, the lame youth escaped
injury, but the terrific fall partially stunned him, and he was unable
to resist when, a moment later, Ralph rode up and seized him.

Raiko followed close behind, and the other coolie limped up in time to
assist in rebinding the prisoner. After seeing him again seated upon the
horse, Ralph launched forth in a tirade of abuse, which he emphasized by
brutally striking the prisoner with his whip.

“Thought you would give us the slip, eh?” he cried. “You crippled puppy.
I’ve a good notion to beat you to death! We’re having too much trouble
with you, anyway, and I think I will end it right here.”

“You will receive full measure for this outrage some day, you coward,”
retorted Grant, whose discomfiture had made him careless of
consequences. “None but a brute would act as you are doing. No, I’ll not
stop talking. I don’t care a snap of my little finger for your threats.
Do what you please, but remember there will be a day of retribution.”

The English youth evidently thought so, too, as he desisted, and
mounting, rode ahead with the leading strap attached to his saddle. This
time extra precautions were taken. Grant’s legs were fastened by a
thong running under his horse, and his arms were securely bound.

The journey was continued without halt or incident until a gradual
lighting of the eastern sky proclaimed the advent of dawn. The first
rays of the sun found the cavalcade upon the summit of a verdure-crowned
hill. Down below, nestling in the center of an extensive valley, was the
shimmering waters of a large lake, and, looming massively on the farther
shore, could be seen the ruins of an ancient feudal castle.

“Thank goodness! the rendezvous at last!” exclaimed Ralph. “Now, to see
if Patrick is here before us.”