GRANT IS MYSTERIOUS

The occupants of the office waited for a few moments to see if the
English merchant and his hopeful offspring cared to continue the
scrimmage, but no attempt was made to open the door. Nattie glanced
through the window, and saw them retreating up the street as fast as
they could walk.

“Well, did you ever see the beat of that?” he finally exclaimed, turning
back to his companions. “What is the meaning of it all, brother?”

Grant, who was still fuming with indignation, explained the affair in
detail. Presently he quieted down and concluded by saying, regretfully:

“I am very sorry it occurred. To have such a row in this office is
simply disgraceful. It also means an immediate suit for that debt, and
any amount of trouble.”

“We’ll see if it can’t be prevented,” replied Nattie, cheerfully. “This
is Mori Okuma, brother. You remember him.”

The lame youth turned with outstretched hand and a smile of welcome to
his brother’s friend. The young Japanese, whose modest garb and quiet
manner proclaimed the high-class native, responded cordially to the
greeting. He appeared to be not more than eighteen years of age. He had
the kindly eyes and gentle expression of his race.

“I am greatly obliged to you for your assistance,” said Grant. “But I
must apologize for such a scene. It is unfortunate that you found this
generally respectable office the theatre for a brawl. Believe me, it was
entirely unsolicited on my part.”

“Oh, Mori don’t mind that,” broke in Nattie, with a laugh. “I’ll wager a
_yen_ it reminded him of old times. He was center rush in the Yale
football team, you know.”

Mori smiled, and shook a warning finger at his friend.

“I must confess that it did me good to see that old scoundrel thrown
into the street,” he said, naïvely. “I know him well. My father had
dealings with him several years ago. And the son is a savage, too. He
intended to strike you, the coward.”

“I’ll settle all scores with him one of these days,” said Nattie,
grimly. Then he added, in a businesslike voice: “I have spoken to Mori
about the firm, brother. He thinks favorably of the idea, and is willing
to consult with us on the subject. Suppose you show him the books and
explain matters.”

“I will do that with the greatest pleasure,” replied Grant, smilingly.
“I presume my brother has told you about how we stand, Mr. Okuma?”

“Oh, bother formalities!” exclaimed Nattie, with characteristic
impatience. “Call him Mori. He is one of us.”

The young Japanese bowed courteously.

“We are friends,” he said, “and I hope we will soon be partners.”

The lame youth fervently echoed the wish. Calling attention to the
balance sheet he had recently drawn up, he explained the items in
detail, proving each statement by ample documents. Mori listened
intelligently, nodding his approval from time to time.

Presently Nattie slipped out into the street, returning after a while
with a _musmee_, a native tea-house waitress. The girl, _petite_ and
graceful in her light-blue robe and voluminous _obi_, carried in her
hands a lacquered tray, upon which were three dainty cups and a pot of
tea.

Sinking to her knees near the desk, the _musmee_ placed the tray on the
floor, and proceeded to serve the fragrant liquid. Work was stopped to
partake of the usual afternoon refreshments, and the boys chatted on
various subjects for five or ten minutes.

Finally Nattie gave the _musmee_ a few _sen_ (Japanese cents) and
dismissed her. She performed several elaborate courtesies, and withdrew
as silently as she had come. The task of explaining the affairs of the
firm of John Manning was resumed.

“Now you understand everything,” said Grant, half an hour later. “You
can see that with fresh capital we should carry on quite an extensive
business. The Black debt, which I explained to you, has crippled us so
that we will have to fail if we can’t secure money. We believe it was
paid, but unfortunately, there are no traces of the receipt.”

“I hardly think Mr. Black would hesitate to do anything for money,”
replied Mori, thoughtfully. “Your esteemed father undoubtedly settled
the debt.”

“We have written contracts with the twelve American houses on this
list,” continued Grant. “Then there is the chance of securing that order
from the government for the Maxim revolving cannon and the fifteen
million cartridges. We also have a standing order for lacquered ware
with four New York firms. In fact, we would have ample business for
eight months ahead.”

“There’s money in it, Mori,” chimed in Nattie. “I can’t explain things
like Grant, but I believe we can carry the majority of trade in this
city and Tokio. What do you think of it?”

“I am quite impressed,” replied the Japanese youth, with a smile. “I
have no doubt that we can do an extensive business. You will pardon me
if I defer giving you an answer until to-morrow at this hour. As I
understand it, you wish me to invest twenty thousand _yen_ against your
experience and the orders on hand?”

“And our contracts,” quickly replied Grant. “They are strictly
first-class.”

“And the contracts,” repeated Mori, bowing. “They are certainly
valuable. I think you can rely upon a favorable answer to-morrow. Until
then I will say _sayonara_.”

“_Sayonara_. We will be here at four o’clock to-morrow afternoon,” said
Nattie and Grant, seeing their new friend to the door.

“Now, I call that settled,” exclaimed the former, tossing his helmet in
the air and adroitly catching it on the end of his cane. “I am certain
Mori will go in with us. He’s a thoroughly good fellow, and can be
depended on.”

Grant was not so demonstrative, but the happy expression on his face
spoke volumes. He bustled about the office, restoring the books to the
safe, closed the various windows, and then announced, cheerily:

“I think we deserve a little vacation, Nattie. Suppose we knock off now
and have an early dinner out at home. Then we can go to the theatre
to-night. Horikoshi Shu is going to play in the ‘Forty-seven Ronins.'”

His brother shrugged his shoulders as if the latter prospect was not
entirely to his taste.

“I confess I can’t see much in Japanese theatricals since my visit to
the States,” he replied, “but we’ll take it in. Dinner first, eh? Well,
come along.”

Leaving the office to the care of a watchman, they walked down the
street toward the custom house. Grant recognized and bowed to a score of
persons within the few blocks. It was evident that he was well known in
the foreign mercantile circles of Yokohama.

“They will be surprised when they hear that we have resumed business,”
remarked Nattie, with a grin.

“It will be unpleasant news to some,” replied his brother, dryly. “If we
have the success I anticipate I wouldn’t be astonished if we found the
whole crew banded against us. Black & Company can influence the three
German houses and probably others.”

Nattie snapped his fingers in the air in defiance. They presently came
to a _jinrikisha_ stand, and selecting two vehicles promising comfort,
were soon whirling away homeward. The distance to the suburb on the
heights where the Mannings lived was fully three _ris_, or more than six
miles, but the _karumayas_ made little of the task.

These men, the “cab horses” of Japan, clad in their short tunics, straw
sandals, and huge mushroom-shaped hats of the same material, possess
wonderful energy. They think nothing of a couple of miles at full speed,
and the apparently careless manner in which they tread their way
through mazes of crowded streets is awe-inspiring to the foreign
visitor.

It was an old story to Grant and Nattie, however, and they leaned back
against the soft cushions in comfort. After passing the custom house the
_karumayas_ turned into the Japanese town. Here the scene changed
instantly.




Here the broad roads dwindled to narrow lanes lined with quaint wooden
shops, apparently half paper-glazed windows. Broad banners bearing the
peculiar native characters fluttered in the breeze. Here and there could
be seen the efforts of an enterprising Japanese merchant to attract
trade by means of enormous signs done in comical English.

The _’rikishas_ whirled past crowded _sake_, or wine shops, with
red-painted tubs full of queer liquor; past crockery stores with stock
displayed on the floors; past tea houses from which came the everlasting
strains of the _samisen_ and _koto_; on, on, at full speed until at last
a broad open way was gained which led to the heights.

Espying a native newsboy trotting by with his tinkling bell attached to
his belt, Nattie called him, and purchased a copy of the English paper,
the Japan _Mail_.

“I’ll see what Brinkley has to say about the trade,” he smiled.
“To-day’s work has interested me in the prices of tea, and machinery,
and cotton goods, and all of that class of truck. Hello! raw silk has
gone up several cents. Rice is stationary, and tea is a trifle cheaper.”

“That’s good,” called out Grant from the other _’rikisha_. “I can see my
way to a good cargo for San Francisco if this deal with Mori comes to
pass. Any mention made of purchases?”

“Black & Company are down for a full cargo of woollen and cotton goods,
and the Berlin Importing Company advertise a thousand barrels of flour
by next steamer.”

“We can beat them on prices. They have to buy through a middle man, and
we have a contract straight with Minneapolis. I’ll see what—-”

“Jove! here’s something that touches me more than musty contracts,”
interrupted Nattie, eagerly scanning the paper. “The Committee on Sports
of the Strangers’ Club intend to hold a grand celebration on the seventh
of July to celebrate the anniversary of Commodore Perry’s arrival in the
Bay of Yeddo, and the first wedge in the opening of Japan to the
commerce of the foreign world. Subscriptions are asked.”

“We will give five hundred dollars,” promptly replied Grant. “In a case
like this we must not be backward.”

“That’s good policy. You hold up the honor of our house at that end,
and I’ll see that we don’t suffer in the field.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why, there are to be athletic sports galore,” chuckled Nattie, in high
glee. “A very novel programme is to be arranged. It will consist of
ancient Japanese games and modern European matches. There is to be a
grand wrestling contest among the foreign residents. That suits me clear
down to the ground. And the funny thing about it is that no one is to
know the name of his antagonist until he enters the ring.”

“That will certainly add to the interest.”

“I should say so. I am going to send my name in to the secretary
to-morrow. Let me see; this is the second of July. That means four days
for practice. I’ll secure old Matsu Doi as a trainer. Whoop! there will
be loads of fun, and–what under the sun is the matter?”

Grant had arisen in his _’rikisha_ and was staring back at a
shabby-appearing native house they had just passed. For the purpose of
taking a short cut to the road leading up the bluff the _karumayas_ had
turned into a squalid part of the native town. The streets were narrow
and winding, the buildings lining them mere shells of unpainted wood.

“What is the matter?” repeated Nattie, stopping the carriage.

Instead of replying, Grant tumbled from his _jinrikisha_ with surprising
agility, and stepped behind a screen in front of a rice shop. Then he
beckoned to his mystified brother, and with a peremptory gesture ordered
the _karumayas_ to continue on up the street.