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had been read many times out of a grammar or phrase-book. I took him for
a Frenchman.

"I must be going now, but I hope to meet you on board," I said, and we
bowed again and I left him.

"He's all right," I heard the teller say as I went out, and understood
that the bank-clerk had assured Trego that my character was good enough
for him to be friendly with me on the passage to Hong-Kong.

As we swung out of Calle San Fernando I saw the _Kut Sang_ tied up at the
embankment of the Pasig River, with the Blue Peter at her foremast and
heavy black smoke pouring from her funnel. She had the aspect of a vessel
getting ready for sea, and the last of her cargo was being put into her
hold.

It was then that I was attracted to a knot of natives and sailors
clustered about an organ, in front of the decrepit building which I knew
for the Sailors' Home, roaring out the chorus of "Rock of Ages" as though
it were a chantey. There could be no mistaking the figure seated at the
wheezy little organ - the Rev. Luther Meeker, with his battered helmet on
the back of his head and his goggles turned skyward as he wailed in a
high-piped tenor the words of the old hymn.

He was too busy to see me and was making hard going of the tune, for the
assorted voices which followed his lead held to various keys. He may have
seen me from behind his goggles, but, if he did, he gave no sign, and I
urged the driver to whip up the horse and pass the group at a good clip.
I had no desire to be annoyed by the old impostor, and was afraid that he
might have some new pretext to keep me from going in the _Kut Sang_.

We were well clear of the congregation when I was startled to see Petrak
emerge from the pack of staring natives about the organ, and run after my
carriage.

"Take your luggage aboard for a peseta, sir!" he cried, grasping the side
of the vehicle and keeping pace with it.

I confess that I suspected some game, and that Meeker had waylaid me. It
looked like a bold move to block me at the last minute, and I was rather
amused at the idea of watching their game and seeing what might be the
tactics.

The little fellow had changed his appearance a trifle. His red head was
covered now with a black cloth cap, making him look more like a stoker
than a seaman. His ratlike visage was covered with a coppery stubble, but
its colour was not apparent at first glance, for his face was smeared
with coal-dust and grease.

"I'm nigh dead for a drink," he whined. "Let me take your luggage aboard,
sir - just a peseta, sir. I've had jungle fever and was shipwrecked - in
the _H.B. Leeds_ it was that went down in a typhoon. I can't get a ship
out of this blasted place. I'm an honest sailor if some hard on the
drink - just a peseta, sir, and I'll put your dunnage down in your cabin
slick as a whistle."

"I have a mind to turn you over to the police," I told him, expecting him
to take alarm and run away, for I was not so sure he had not had a hand
in the murder of the sailor in the Flagship Bar.

The _cochero_ had pulled up his horse on the mole in the thick of the
scattered cargo, and Petrak still clung to the stanchion supporting the
canvas-top of the carriage.

"And for why?" he demanded with a touch of arrogance, giving me a shrewd
look. "What have I been doin' of, sir?"

"That little cutting in the Flagship Bar."

"The squarehead? Not me, sir. The bobbies got that chap right enough - one
of his mates out of this wessel right alongside what you're goin' aboard
of. Just a peseta, sir, and I'll handle your luggage."

"They have got the fellow who stabbed the man in the Flagship Bar?"

"Slick as a whistle, some two hours back. One of his mates, he was, that
did the cuttin' - lampman out of this wessel. Take your luggage."

"Take it along, then, and see that you don't drop it," I told him,
convinced that the little villain could have had no hand in the murder,
even if he had been on the scene.

He shouldered my bag and went up the gangway and I followed him closely.
I looked in at the door of the saloon where I saw the old captain seated
at the table, with a litter of papers about him, arguing with a tall
rawboned New Englander, whom I knew to be the mate. He was complaining
about something.

"I say we ain't goin' to git out to-night, Cap'n Riggs," he said. "The
bo'sun has went and got hisself stabbed and four of the white hands are
missin', and we ain't got nobody to work ship but the chinks."

"We've got to have a crew, Mr. Harris, and that's all there is to it,"
said Captain Riggs. "You say the Greek got cut?"

"Dead as a door-nail, cap'n. Went out for lamp-wicks and got hisself slit
open in a gin-mill, the fool! We're turrible short-handed, cap'n."

"Who cut him?"

"Hanged if I know. The police say the lampman, but the lampman didn't
leave the ship until after the bo'sun was done for, near as I can make it
out. But the police have the lampman locked up for it, and I'm too busy
to bother my head. First we know they'll want all the crew for witnesses.
There's some monkey-business goin' on, too."

"Now, what do you mean?" demanded the captain, losing patience.

"Just what I'm sayin' of - thar's a furriner sittin' on the dock watchin'
everything that goes over the side. Looks like a Rooshan Finn to me. What
sort of a charter we got, cap'n? This ain't no blockade-runnin' game, is
it? You got orders for Port Arthur? If you have, I'm out - I don't want no
Japs blowin' me up unless I'm paid for it."

"Mr. Harris, you are talking nonsense. We are chartered for Hong-Kong. My
orders are to get to sea to-night, no matter how I do it, and you ought
to be able to scrape up a crew at the Sailors' Home for the asking. We'll
manage all right with the chinks on deck, if we can get some good
helmsmen. You can't expect to get out with a battleship crew this trip.
Get the cargo in her and send the Dutchman ashore for men who can take
the wheel."

The mate went out, and I stepped into the saloon and presented my ticket
to the captain. I was rather surprised to find such an old man in
command, for he was gray and stooped, but he surveyed me over his glasses
with kindly eyes, although I knew he was being harassed with difficulties
in getting routine established on board the _Kut Sang_, for she had been
in dry-dock and everything seemed topsyturvy.

"Glad to meet ye, Mr. Trenholm," he said. "I'm up to my scuppers with
business. Maybe we'll sail to-night and maybe we won't, but your room is
No. 22, starboard side, well aft, all to yourself. Two more passengers to
come yet, according to the list. Didn't know I was to have passengers
this trip, so I can't tell what the accommodation will be, but we'll try
and make things homelike if they ain't like a liner. You got a valley?"
He pointed to Petrak, who stood behind me with my baggage on his
shoulder.

"Hardly that," I laughed. "He says he's a sailor with a Manila thirst in
his throat and no job."

Petrak swung his burden to the deck and squared his shoulders, making a
gesture, which he intended as a salute to the captain.

"Petrak's my name, sir," he said, addressing Captain Riggs. "I've been
bo'sun, sir, discharged out of the _Southern Cross_ when she was sold in
Singapore, and shipped out in the _H.B. Leeds_ that went down in a
typhoon. Junk picked us up, sir, what was left of us, and I lost all my
discharges and can't get a ship out of here. I'm smart, sir, and strong,
if I do look small. It's because I ain't had no wictuals to speak of,
sir."

"Ever handle steam-wheel?"

"Aye, sir. One trip out of Cardiff to Delaware Breakwater in the
_Skipton Castle_. Stood wheel - "

"See the mate," said Captain Riggs, and Petrak went out, deserting my
baggage.

A black boy in a scarlet _sarong_ took my bag away to my stateroom, but I
went up to the hurricane-deck, where I found a grass-chair under an
awning and sat down to enjoy a cigar.

Just above where the _Kut Sang_ lay was the Bridge of Spain, presenting a
moving panorama of the many races that mingle in the Philippine capital.
The river itself was alive with _cascoes_ being poled about by half-naked
natives, the families of the crews doing the cooking and primitive
housekeeping on the half-decks, while the family fighting-cocks strutted
on the roofs of the boats and crowed defiance to each other.

On the opposite side of the river was the walled city and the moss-grown
walls of Fort Santiago, and on both banks were steamers and river-craft,
making a colourful and noisy scene.

The Rev. Luther Meeker was preaching to the group before the Sailors'
Home, and I watched him until he closed the service and started toward
the dock, two men carrying his little street-organ behind him.

Mr. Harris, the mate, was doing the final work of getting the steamer
ready to sail, and was preparing to cast off the lines, when a dray,
loaded with boxes, pulled up alongside the vessel.

"What ye got there?" demanded Harris. "That ain't for this packet - git
out the way thar!"

Just then a man in white darted out of the office of the harbour-police
station, and, holding up his hand, cried to Harris:

"One minute - one minute!"

"One minute yer grandmother!" retorted Harris angrily. "Who be you to
hold up this ship! Vamose!" he roared to the driver of the dray.

The man in white ran up the gangplank with a paper in one hand and a
malacca cane in the other, and I recognized him as Mr. Trego, the man to
whom I had been introduced in the bank. He met Harris at the foot of the
ladder to the hurricane-deck, and they were right below me, so I could
not avoid hearing what took place between them.

"Call the captain, Mr. Mate," said Trego hurriedly, and, with his voice
lowered, "Here are my papers - get those boxes off the wagon, eef you
please. I am supercargo for the owners. I hold the charter for these
sheep. Queeck - on deck with those boxes of the machinery."

"Oh, cap'n!" called Harris, after he had taken a quick glance at the
paper which Trego thrust before him, and Captain Riggs came out of the
saloon.

"What's up now?" he demanded. "What's this?"

Harris waved his hand toward the paper, and Trego put it before Captain
Riggs.

"Read it," said Trego. "Here are your orders from the company." He leaned
against his cane and twirled his moustache, while Captain Riggs adjusted
his glasses and scanned the papers.

"Get that stuff aboard, lively," said Captain Riggs to Harris, and the
mate gave orders to have the slings thrown outboard.

"Where do they go?" asked Harris.

Captain Riggs looked at Trego inquiringly.

"In the storeroom below - right under the feet of me," said Trego,
stamping his foot.

"Cargo in the storeroom," said Captain Riggs in surprise.

"Eet ees for you to obey," snapped Trego excitedly. "You will please to
see from my papers that I am the commander of all. Read eet again eef you
do not know!" And he shook his malacca cane in the air.

"Get that cargo aboard and stow as this gentleman - Mr. - what is it,
Trego? - as Mr. Trego says. Move navy-style! Keep clear of the side
there, you! Can't you see we've got cargo coming over there!"

"My dear sirs, I beg your pardon," said a familiar voice, and I stepped
to the rail and looked over to see the Rev. Luther Meeker standing at the
edge of the embankment, within a few feet of where Trego, Riggs, and
Harris stood.

"Get out the way!" bawled Riggs to him.

"No offence, I hope," said the missionary, "but is this the steamer
_Kut Sang_?"

"It is," said Riggs, and turned his attention to Harris and Trego, who
were giving orders to the Chinese at the winch.

"Then all is well," said Meeker, and he turned away toward the gangplank,
where the two men were standing with his organ between them, awaiting his
orders.

"Go right on board with it, my good men," he said to them. "This is my
ship, sure enough," and he preceded them up the gang.

Captain Riggs came up the ladder from the foredeck in time to see the men
bringing the organ aboard, although Meeker was out of his sight by the
time the captain reached a position where he had a view of the gang.

"Here. Where are you chaps going?" he shouted to the porters.

They stopped and looked up at him.

"Gear for a passenger," said the taller of the two.

"What passenger?" demanded Riggs, in surprise.

"A parson," said the spokesman, and as he said it Meeker himself came up
the after-ladder.

"Ah, the captain," he said. "I am the Rev. Luther Meeker," he explained,
presenting his ticket. "I am going to Hong-Kong, and, if I am not
mistaken, this is the good ship _Kut Sang_"

"That your baggage? All right, you men - come aboard and look sharp."

"That is my hymnal organ," said Meeker, looking over the side. "Come
right along with it, my good men, but leave it below. How do you do, my
dear Mr. Trenholm? Captain, those two men are sailors who are looking for
a ship, if - "

"I'll meet you below in a minute in the saloon," said Captain Riggs,
handing back the ticket. "Mind that you stay aboard, because we sail at
once, sir."

Meeker bowed to me again, and hurried aft, twirling his shell crucifix
between his fingers in a nervous manner.

"Hang a parson, anyway," growled Riggs, grinning at me. "They always make
a fuss - like as not he'll sing his way to Hong-Kong, with that old
melodeon of his. Oh, Mr. Harris! There are two men below with a parson
who say they are sailors. Have the Dutchman sign them on if they are able
hands."

He went down the ladder again to the fore-deck, and I went down to my
stateroom to see that my baggage was safe.

"Smart job, my man; smart job!" I heard the Rev. Luther Meeker saying as
I stepped into the passage.

He was in the stateroom next to mine, but the door was open.

"Who's that?" asked somebody cautiously. Then, in a louder tone: "We got
your dunnage stowed all snug, sir."

I stepped into my room, and, after a minute's whispered consultation, I
heard some one step into the passageway and run forward. Looking out I
saw the little red-headed man scurrying away.

"Single her up!" called Captain Riggs from the bridge, and I knew we were
letting go of Manila as the winches drew in the mooring-lines, and the
whistle blew a farewell blast.

The nose of the _Kut Sang_ fell away from the embankment and into the
current of the Pasig, which swung her toward Manila Bay and the China
Sea.

I could hear Meeker humming a tune and arranging his baggage. I stood for
an instant and pondered over the situation, not sure that I would not be
wiser to remain in Manila rather than sail in the _Kut Sang_. I shivered
as I sensed danger about me, as one feels the presence of an intruder in
the dark that cannot be seen.

Then I laughed at myself, and opened my bag for my pistols.




CHAPTER V

THE DEAD MAN IN THE PASSAGE


The _Kut Sang_ was dropping downstream as I locked my stateroom and made
my way to the upper-deck, partly to get a last look at Manila, but more
for the purpose of considering what I should do in the matter of telling
Captain Riggs that I suspected Meeker was not a missionary.

In the last few minutes before the departure of the vessel I had suddenly
been struck with the idea that Meeker was more than a mere spy who
mistook me for one of his own ilk. This feeling was vague and formless,
and I did not know how to begin to put together the various elements that
seemed to connect some sort of a well-defined plot.

No sooner would I set about putting certain facts together than I would
laugh at myself for manufacturing a mystery; and, after I had tried to
shake off the impression that the _Kut Sang_ and all of us in her were
more than mere travellers and seamen, the fantastic ideas insisted upon
running through my head.

Through this formless mass of queer events of the day, Meeker and the
little red-headed man kept to the front of my fancies, and with them the
steamer _Kut Sang_.

Why, I asked myself, had Meeker made such strenuous efforts to keep me
from taking passage in the vessel? It seemed absurd to suppose that he
had acted as he did, simply because he disliked the idea of having me for
a fellow passenger.

Then there was Trego and Meeker's appearance at the bank, "seeking alms,"
and the further fact that Trego was in the _Kut Sang_. It seemed to be
more than a coincidence that the two of them should meet as they did.

I even found something queer in the killing of the boatswain of the
_Kut Sang_ at the Flagship Bar, and began to wonder if Petrak did not
have a hand in the murder, even though he was so ready with a denial when
I spoke to him about it.

As I stood at the rail of the hurricane-deck, and thought of these
things, Petrak came up from the fore-deck and stood at the foot of the
ladder leading to the bridge, where I could hear Captain Riggs pacing to
and fro and speaking through the trap to the helmsman about the course.

The little red-headed man grinned at me and set to work polishing the
knob of the wheel-house door, and not until that minute did I realize
that he had come along with us in the _Kut Sang_. And he likewise
reminded me at once that it was I who had brought him aboard.

"I signed on, sir," he said, pointing to his new cap, which had the
steamer's name embroidered upon it. "Thanks to you, sir, I got a ship
out."

"I am glad you did," I said curtly, not sure whether I ought to be amused
at the turn of events by which I had unwittingly brought the little
rascal along with me.

I glanced up the companionway to Captain Riggs, and had a mind to go up
and speak to him about Meeker, but I disliked to invade the bridge,
sacred territory at sea. He was standing just at the head of the ladder
then, and could see me.

"Would you mind the peseta, sir?" asked Petrak.

I remembered that he had brought my bag aboard, and, finding a peso in my
pocket - five times what he had asked for - I gave him the coin.

"Here," I said; "take this, and keep out of my reach. I've seen quite
enough of you for a time."

"Please don't tip my crew," Captain Riggs called down to me in a pleasant
manner. "The steward's department must attend to the passengers, for we
are short-handed on deck, and I can't have the men running errands."

"It's for services rendered," I told Riggs, and he nodded as if satisfied
with my explanation, and turned away to the other end of the bridge.

Impulsively I started up the ladder, determined at least to tell him what
I suspected of Meeker and let him judge for himself, or be on his guard
against the old impostor, whether he liked my tale-bearing or not. As I
put my hand out to take the ladder-guard, Petrak thrust himself before me
and barred the way.

"Can't go on the bridge, sir; against orders," he said.

I fell back, convinced that he was right and that I had had a narrow
escape from making an ass of myself. Captain Riggs probably would not
thank me for disturbing him or bothering him with idle rumours and
fanciful yarns about passengers, even though they might be spies.

The steamer was now well into the bay. The sun was at the rim of hills
between us and the open sea, and the sky was aflame in a gorgeous
tropical sunset.

Harris, the mate, was busy on the fore-deck battening down hatches and
clearing up the litter of ropes and slings. The _Kut Sang_ was plainly
enough short-handed for the passage, for there were but half a dozen
Chinese sailors in sight. Petrak worked with a cloth on the brass-knob,
and he was loafing without a doubt.

I suspected that he was afraid I was waiting for him to go away, so that
I might go up the ladder to the bridge. One of the men who had brought
Meeker's organ aboard had the wheel, a long, lanky cockney he was, from
what I could see of him through the window of the pilot-house.

We were well clear of the ships at anchor outside the breakwater when
four bells - six o'clock - struck, and Harris came up and went on the
bridge, passing without apparently seeing me. He growled something to
Petrak, and the red-headed man went toward the forecastle.

"Time for Rajah to have the bell going," said Riggs as he descended to
the hurricane-deck and greeted me affably. "What do you say to going
below and seeing what's on the table?"

As he spoke I heard the rattle of a gong, and as I turned to go below
with Captain Riggs, Meeker came around the deck-house and joined us,
regarding us from under his heavy brows as he approached, and rubbing his
hands in a manner that increased my growing dislike for him.

"My dear sirs," he said; "that is a beautiful sight. I have never seen,
in all my twenty years in the Orient, such a sunset."

"Can't keep me from my meals," said Captain Riggs, waving to Meeker to
precede him into the companionway. I was rather pleased at the captain's
gruffness with him, and resolved that as soon as the opportunity offered
I would discuss the crafty gentleman with Riggs.

We found Trego at table. He looked up, and made no attempt to conceal his
surprise at seeing Meeker.

"Ah! Mr. Trenholm," he said to me, and we shook hands, and the Malay boy
gave me the seat opposite him.

"Mr. Trego - allow me - the Reverend Meeker," said Riggs.

"So you and Mr. Trenholm have met before?" said Meeker, evidently
astonished because Trego spoke to me without an introduction.

"Old friends," and I winked at Trego, to the further mystification of the
pseudo-missionary, who took the seat beside me. Captain Riggs took the
head of the table, so that he was between Trego and me.

"And this is Rajah, the mess-boy," said Riggs, indicating the black boy
who stood behind him, clad in a white jacket with brass buttons, below
which he wore a scarlet _sarong_ reaching to his bare feet, and evidently
fashioned from an old table-cover. The hilt of a kris showed above the
folds of his _sarong_, and the two lower buttons of the jacket were left
open, so that the dagger might be free to his hand. He grinned and showed
his teeth.

"Dumb as a dog-fish, but can hear like a terrier," said Riggs. "Picked
him up in the streets of Singapore, where he was sort of an assistant
magician. He's quick with that knife, gentlemen."

The captain was obviously proud of his queer bodyguard and servant.

"It is a pity that he should be allowed to carry a fearsome weapon, which
is a menace to his fellowmen," said Meeker, shrinking away from the boy.
"I believe he would slay a human over a trifle."

"Absolutely harmless unless he has some reason to anger," laughed
Riggs, somewhat amused at the nervousness of Meeker. "Has to pack that
cheese-knife - chinks pick on him if he don't. Give him a wide berth,
though, when they see that blade. Quick with it."

"But we should lead the barbarian to the light," said Meeker. "It is a
dreadful example for Christians to set such people. They should not be
allowed to carry such weapons - the practice leads to crime."

"Soup all around, Rajah," said Riggs, as if to close the subject.

"Do you carry deadly weapons, Mr. Trenholm? Do you approve of the bearing
of arms?"

"I always have a weapon at hand," I replied seriously. "One never can
tell when it will be needed in this country, and I believe in always
being ready for an emergency."

"Indeed! And is it possible that you have a dagger concealed upon your
person?"

"No daggers; but this is my right bower" - tapping the butt of the pistol
on my right side - "and this is my left bower," and I tapped my left side.

Mr. Trego burst out laughing at this, much to the discomfiture of Meeker,
who glared at him, and edged away from me.

"And do you carry such death-dealing machinery, Mr. Trego?" asked Meeker,
a sneer in the question.

Trego reached for his malacca cane. In an instant he had whipped it apart
and presented a delicate point toward Meeker, who recoiled at the
suddenness of the unexpected thrust.

"With me at all times," said Trego, when the captain stopped laughing.
"And my cabeen - eet ees one beeg arsenal, like you call it in your
language. Yes."

"A pitiable example for the heathen," said Meeker. "I trust that you are
not armed to the teeth, as the expression goes, captain."

"I don't want to spoil your appetite," said Riggs.

"Of course, Mr. Trego needs those things, as he is - "

"A passenger," said Trego, giving the captain a quick glance.

"A passenger," said Riggs blankly. "To be sure, a passenger. Now, Mr.
Meeker, I wish you would say a grace, if it pleases you."

Meeker bowed his head and mumbled something which I could not make out;
besides, I was much more interested in a little byplay between Captain
Riggs and Trego, which began as soon as Meeker and I had piously cast our
eyes downward.

It was a signal conveyed by Trego to the captain, in which he cautioned


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