NATTIE MAKES A DISCOVERY

During the important and engrossing events of the past few days Nattie
had not forgotten the sport promised for the seventh of the month. He
was passionately fond of athletics, and he never let slip an opportunity
to participate in all that came his way.

Extensive preparations had been made for the celebration of the treaty
made by Commodore Perry in the year 1853. Not only the foreign residents
were to take part, but the natives themselves promised a great
_matsura_, or festival.

The committee of the Yokohama Club, under whose auspices it was to take
place, had secured the racing grounds upon the bluff. A varied programme
had been arranged to cover the entire day. The sports had been divided
into two parts, modern racing and games in the forenoon, and ancient
native ceremonies after tiffin.

The main feature of the latter was to be a grand wrestling match between
foreigners. To add to the interest, the competitors were to remain
unknown to each other until the moment of their appearance in the ring.

Nattie had given in his name among the first. The prize offered was a
valuable medal and a crown of laurel. For several days the lad had
devoted his idle hours to practice with a retired native wrestler. The
evening before the seventh he was in fine fettle.

As an added chance, however, he resolved to take one more lesson from
his instructor–a final bout to place him in good trim for the morrow.
The scene of the practice matches was in the large “go-down,” or
warehouse, of the firm, located near a canal separating the bluff from
the native quarter.

The appointment for the evening was at nine, and shortly before that
hour Nattie left a tea house on his way to the place of destination. The
day had been sultry, and toward nightfall threatening clouds gathered
over the bay.

Rain promised, but that fact did not deter the lad. As his _’rikisha_
sped along the Bund he recalled the points already taught him by his
master in the art of wrestling, and he fancied the ringing of cheers and
the outburst of plaudits were already greeting him.

The Manning “go-down” was a large square structure of stone, with iron
shutters and massive doors. It was considered fireproof, and had as a
watchman a brawny Irishman recently paid off from a sailing ship. His
name was Patrick Cronin, and he claimed to be an American by
naturalization.

On reaching the entrance Nattie looked around for the fellow, but he was
not in sight. Taking a key from his pocket, he opened a narrow door
leading into a little corner office. As he passed inside there came a
wild gust of wind and a downpour of rain. The storm had burst.

“Good job I arrived in time,” muttered the lad. “Whew! how it does pour
down. Looks as if it has started in for three or four hours at least. If
it keeps on I needn’t expect old Yokoi. I wonder where Patrick is?”

He whistled shrilly and thumped upon the floor with his cane, but only
the echoes came to his ears. After a moment of thought he lighted a
lantern and sat down near a window opening upon a narrow alley running
between the building and the canal.

The absence of the watchman was certainly strange. It was his duty to
report at the “go-down” at six o’clock. In fact, Nattie had seen him
that very evening. The building was full of valuable silks, teas, and
lacquered ware, intended for shipment on the following day.

Thieves were rampant along the canal, several daring robberies having
occurred during the past week. Then again there was always the danger of
fire. As the lad sat in his chair and thought over the possible results
of the Irishman’s dereliction, he grew thoroughly indignant.

“By George! he’ll not work for us another day,” he muttered, giving the
stick a vicious whirl. “I’ll wager a _yen_ he is in some groggery at
this very moment drinking with a chance shipmate.”

Going to the door he glanced out into the night. The rain was still
descending in torrents, and it was of that steadiness promising a
continuation. When Nattie returned to his seat it was with the
resolution to keep guard over the firm’s property himself.

It meant a long and lonely watch with naught save the beating of the
rain, the dreary gloom of the interior, and the murmuring sounds from
the nearby bay for company. The lad had a stout heart, however, and he
settled himself for the vigil without more ado.

He found comfort in the anticipation of a scene with the recreant
watchman in the morning. He made up his mind even to refuse him
admission if he returned to the “go down” that night. The minutes
dragged slowly, and at last the watcher found himself nodding.

“Jove! this won’t do,” he exclaimed, springing from his chair. “I am as
bad as Patrick. The lantern is going out also. Wonder if I have any
matches in my pocket?”

He searched, but without favorable results. A hasty examination
revealed the unwelcome fact that the oil receptacle was empty. In
another moment the light flickered and died out, leaving the little
office in darkness.

Disturbed in spirit, Nattie went to the door, almost inclined to visit
some neighboring warehouse or shop for oil and matches. One glance at
the deluge still falling drove the idea from his head. He was without
umbrella or rain coat, and to venture for even a short distance would
mean a thorough drenching–something to be religiously avoided in Japan
during the summer season.

“Heigho! I am in for it, I suppose. Confound that Irishman! I would like
to punch his empty noddle for this. Here I am in the dark, condemned to
remain all night without sleep, and–by jingo!”

A very sudden and painful thought had occurred to the lad. The morrow
was the day upon which he was to shine as a wrestler! The seventh of
July; the day of sports in celebration of Commodore Perry’s treaty.

“I’ll be fit for athletics and wrestling matches if I stay around here
and lose my sleep!” murmured Nattie, ruefully. “Why, I’ll be all played
out, and a five-year-old boy could throw me. But what in thunder can I
do? I can’t leave and run the risk of the place catching fire. There’s
more than twenty thousand dollars’ worth of stuff in here, and it would
be just nuts to a thief to find himself among all those silks.”

It was impossible to communicate with either Grant or Mori. The streets
in the warehouse district were unfrequented, and in such a violent storm
even the policemen would hie themselves to a convenient shelter.
Muttering maledictions upon the head of the absent watchman, Nattie
closed the door and returned to his seat near the window.

Occasional flashes of lightning illuminated the outside, and during one
of these the lad espied a man crossing the bridge at the corner of the
building. Thinking it might be some kindly person who would not disdain
to carry a message, he hurried to the door leading into the street.

As he opened it he heard voices. The newcomer had paused and was looking
back at the indistinct figure of a second man on the other side of the
canal. In the intervals of light Nattie observed the person nearest him
start back and evidently expostulate with his follower.

They were barely ten yards away, and by the aid of a brilliant flash of
lightning the lad noticed something familiar in the appearance of both
men. One was tall and thin, while the other had a short, stumpy form and
a rolling lurch as he wavered vaguely near the end of the bridge.

“Get back, man. What do you want to come out in this wet for when you
have a cozy nook in yon house? Go back, I say.”




It was the attenuated individual who had spoken. He placed one hand upon
his companion’s arm, but the fellow staggered away and replied:

“Got–hic–my dooty ter do. Oi’m too long away as ’tis, m’ boy. Dash
ther–hic–rain. It ain’t wetter in th’ blooming ocean, knife me if
’tis.”

“You are a fool to come out in it, I say. Return to the house, and I’ll
join you presently. There are three more bottles of prime stuff in the
closet. Break one out and help yourself.”

“But me dooty, man! It has never been said that–hic–Pat Cronin ever
went back on a job. Ask me shipmates. Why, they sing er song about me:

“‘So he seized th’ capstan bar,
Like a true honest tar,
And in spite or tears and sighs
Sung yo! heave ho!'”

“Shut up; you will have the police after us,” expostulated the other.
“Do you intend to return to the house, or shall I lock up the bottles?
Answer me, yes or no?”

“Sure and Oi don’t want to lose th’ drink, but—-”

“Yes, or no?”

“Ah, it’s th’ funny man ye are. He! he! he! Phwy don’t yer git fat? If
Oi—-”

“Then it is ‘no,’ eh? Well, here—-”

“Hould an, me buck. Oi’ll go back and take another swig. Then to me
dooty, yer understand. Here goes.

“‘So he seized th’ (hic) capstan bar,
Like a true honest tar,
And in spite of—-‘”

The husky notes died away, a door slammed in one of a row of wooden
shanties across the bridge, and all was quiet. The tall, thin man
glanced keenly after his companion; then, slipping up to the Manning
“go-down,” he examined the entrance. It was locked. Inserting a key he
soon gained admission. As he softly closed the door again he stood
within a pace of Nattie.

It had not taken the lad many seconds to catch the drift of affairs. He
knew full well that Patrick’s tempter was no other than Willis Round,
the firm’s ex-bookkeeper. His presence in that locality during a heavy
storm, his familiarity with the recreant watchman, the evident and
successful attempt to entice him away from his post, could have only one
meaning.

He had designs on the property of his enemies.

Long before Patrick had lurched back to the shanty Nattie had slipped
into the office. When he heard the key grating in the lock he was not
surprised; but he was considerably puzzled as to the best manner in
which he should treat the situation.

“If I only had my revolver I would bring the scoundrel to terms,” he
muttered, regretfully. “I had to leave it home this night of all nights.
As it is, I haven’t a solitary weapon. A bamboo cane wouldn’t hurt a
fly. Ah, I’ll try the lantern.”

Creeping across the floor he secured the object just as the
ex-bookkeeper reached the door. Returning to his post, the lad waited
with rapidly beating heart.