THE MAN WITH THE GLADSTONE BAG

The extreme gloom and the excitement of the moment caused Nattie to aim
badly, and the bullet whizzed past the object for which it was intended,
striking the ground several paces away instead. The shot had one result,
however.

It caused the assailants to hesitate. One even started to retreat, but
he was checked by a guttural word from the evident leader. The slight
delay was instantly taken advantage of by the boys. Still holding his
weapon in readiness for use, Nattie hurriedly wheeled both _’rikishas_
between them and the Ronins.

Thus a barricade was formed behind which Grant and Nattie sought refuge
without loss of time. As yet, not a word had been exchanged. In fact,
the events had occurred in much less time than it takes to describe
them. Now Grant took occasion to remark in tones of deep conviction:

“This is Ralph Black’s work, Nattie. It is the sequel to my discovery of
him in that low tea house this afternoon. He has bribed these cutthroats
to assault us.”

“No doubt. But we can’t stop to probe the why and wherefore now. They
intend to attack us again. It’s a good job I brought this gun with me
to-night. I have six shots left, and I’ll put them to use if–look out!
they are coming!”

While speaking, he noticed something stealthily advancing through the
darkness. He took rapid aim, but before he could pull the trigger he was
struck upon the shoulder by a stone which came from in front. The force
of the blow was sufficient to send him staggering against one of the
_’rikishas_. He dropped the revolver, but it was snatched up by Grant.

The lame youth instantly used it, firing hastily through the wheel of
one of the carriages. A shrill cry of pain came from the shadows, then a
loud shout sounded at the lower end of the street. Twinkling lights
appeared, and then echoing footsteps indicated that relief was at hand.

The thugs were not slow in realizing that retreat was advisable under
the circumstances. They gave the boys a parting volley of stones, then
all three disappeared into an adjacent house.

“Are you injured, brother?” anxiously asked Grant, bending over Nattie.

“No; a bruise, that’s all. The police are coming at last, eh? They must
have heard the shots. What are you going to say about this affair? Will
you mention your suspicions?”

“No; it would be useless. We have no proof that he set these men upon
us. We must bide our time and watch the scamp. Hush! they are here.”

A squad of Japanese police, carrying lanterns, dashed up at a run. Their
leader, a sub-lieutenant, wearing a uniform similar to that of a French
gendarme, flashed his light over the capsized _’rikishas_ and their late
occupants; then he asked the cause of the trouble in a respectful tone.

“We have been waylaid and attacked by three Ronins bent on robbery,”
replied Grant, in the native tongue. “We were on our way home from the
theatre and while passing through this street were set upon and almost
murdered.”

“Which way did the scoundrels go?” hastily queried the lieutenant.

“Through that house. The _karumayas_ fled in that direction also.”

Leaving two of his men with the boys, the leader started in pursuit of
the fugitives. No time was wasted in knocking for admission. One of the
policemen placed his shoulder to the door and forced it back without
much effort.

A moment later the sounds of crashing partitions and a glare of light
from within indicated that a strict search was being carried on. Grant
and Nattie waited a moment; then the latter said:

“Suppose we go home. We might hang around here for hours. If they catch
the rascals they can call for us at the house.”

Grant favored the suggestion. He told one of the policemen to inform the
lieutenant of their address, then he and his brother secured a couple of
_’rikishas_ in an adjacent street, and were soon home once more. The
excitement of the night attack had driven sleep from them, so they
remained out upon the cool balcony and discussed the events of the day
until a late hour.

After viewing the situation from all sides, it was finally decided that
a waiting policy should prevail. To boldly accuse Ralph Black of such a
nefarious plot without stronger proof was out of the question.

“If any of the Ronins or the _karumayas_ are captured, they may be
induced to confess,” said Grant. “In that case we can do something.
Otherwise, we will have to bide our time.”

Both boys arose early on the following morning and started for the
office immediately after breakfast. They called in at the main police
station on their way downtown and learned that nothing had been seen of
the Ronins or _jinrikisha_ men.

The officer in charge promised to have the city scoured for the
wretches, and apologized profusely for the outrage. On reaching the
office, Grant called in several coolies and set them to work cleaning up
the interior. By noon the counting-room had lost its former appearance
of neglect. The desks and other furniture were dusted, the books put in
order, and everything arranged for immediate work.

At the “tiffin,” or midday lunch hour, the brothers dropped in at a
well-known restaurant on Main Street. As they entered the front door a
youth arose hastily from a table in the center and disappeared through a
side entrance. It was Ralph Black.

“If that don’t signify guilt, I’m a chicken,” remarked Nattie, with a
grim smile. “He’s a fool.”

“All he needs is rope enough,” replied Grant, in the same tone, “and he
will save us the trouble of hanging him. I suppose he was ashamed or
afraid to face us after last night’s treacherous work.”

On returning to the counting-room they found the young Japanese, Mori,
awaiting them. To say that he was cordially greeted is but half the
truth. There was an expression upon his face that promised success, and
Nattie wrung his hand until the genial native begged him to desist.

“My answer is ready,” he announced, producing a bundle of papers. “I
suppose you are anxious to know what it is?”

“You don’t need to tell us,” chuckled Nattie, “I can read it in your
eyes. Shake, old boy! Success to the new firm!”

“You have guessed aright,” said Mori. “And I echo with all my heart what
you say. Success to the new firm of Manning Brothers & Okuma. If you
will come with me to your consul we will ratify the contract without
loss of time.”

Grant’s eyes were moist as he shook hands with the young Japanese.

“You are indeed a friend,” he exclaimed, fervently. “You will lose
nothing by it, I assure you. If hard work and constant application to
duty will bring us success, I will guarantee that part of it.”

An hour later the newly-formed firm of importers and traders was an
acknowledged fact. In the presence of the American Consul as a witness,
Mori paid into the foreign bank the sum of twenty thousand dollars, and
Grant, as his late father’s executor, turned over to the firm the
various contracts and the mortgages on the warehouse and office
building.

“The very first thing we must see about is that debt of Black &
Company,” announced the lame youth. “It won’t do to have the new firm
sued. We will call at their office now and pay it under a written
protest.”

“Yes, and deposit their receipt in the bank,” added Nattie, grimly.

“Nothing was found of the first receipt?” asked Mori, as they left the
consulate.

“Not a sign. I have searched through all the papers in the office, but
without result. There is some mystery about it. Father never was very
orderly in keeping documents, but it is hard to believe that he would
mislay a paper of that value.”




“Who was in the office when your father–er–when the sad end came?”

“Three clerks under the charge of a bookkeeper named Willis Round. Mr.
Round was seated at a desk next to father’s at the moment. I was in the
outer office.”

“Was your father lying upon the floor when you were called?” asked Mori;
then he added, hastily: “Forgive me if I pain you, Grant. Perhaps we had
better allow the subject to drop.”

“No, no. I see what you are driving at. You think that possibly Mr.
Round may have stolen the receipt?”

“Exactly. Take a case like that; a valuable paper and an unscrupulous
man within easy reach, and you can easily see what would happen. I don’t
remember this Mr. Round. What kind of a man was he?”

“I never liked him,” spoke up Nattie. “He had a sneaking face, and was
always grinning to himself, as if he had the laugh on other people. Then
I saw him kick a poor dog one day, and a man who would do that is not to
be trusted.”

“I guess you are right,” agreed Grant. “Come to think of it, I never
liked Mr. Round myself. He was a thorough bookkeeper though, and knew
his business.”

“Where is he now?” asked Mori.

“I think he left for England. He was an Englishman, you know. After our
firm closed he waited around town for a while, then I heard somebody say
he returned to London.”

The office of Black & Company was on the Bund, only a few squares from
the consulate, so the boys walked there instead of taking the
omnipresent _jinrikishas_. The building was a dingy structure of one
story, and bore the usual sign over the door.

As Grant and his companions entered the outer office a tall, thin man,
carrying a much-worn Gladstone bag, brushed past them and vanished down
the street. The lame youth glanced at the fellow’s face, then he turned
to Nattie with a low whistle.

“There’s a queer thing,” he said. “If that man wore side whiskers, I
would wager anything that he was Mr. Willis Round himself.”