Chapter XIV. Sandy Proves His Case
 

"They'll be dead if you don't get out of here an' do somethin'!" said Sandy. "The Chinks'll eat 'em up!"

Frank looked around the dismal subterranean chamber and a cynical smile came to his lips.

"We might get out of here," he said, "if we had a ton of dynamite. I don't know but I'd take a chance on getting injured myself in order to see these Chinks sailing into the sky."

Jack, still suspicious of Sandy, turned toward him with a frown. The lad met the other's eyes steadily.

"Do you know the way out of this?" Jack asked.

"No," admitted the boy. "Never was in here before. Never knew there was such a place."

"Well," Jack went on, "the longer we remain here the longer we'll be in finding our chums. I'm going to make a break."

"If you have a gun," Sandy said, calmly, "I'll go ahead with it. If I get plugged, or anythin' like that, you boys may be able to get away. These Chinks are quick to run if there is danger ahead, and I think I can scare them off. Give me the gun!"

Sandy reached out his hand, but Frank did not extend the gun he had taken from his pocket.

"You're nervy, all right," he said, "but you don't have to take all the risk. Suppose we wait until daylight and then make a rush?"

"Why daylight?" asked Jack.

"There may then be some friendly face in sight, if we are able to get to the street."

"There's force in that," Jack replied, "but this is no palace car to wait in."

"You let me go and try," Sandy urged.

Frank shook his head gravely.

"No use," he said. "There are probably a score or more of Chinks around this old shack. We've got to wait until morning before we try to get away. The only question in my mind is this: Will they let us alone until daylight? If they don't, then it will be a scrap."

The boys sat down against the earth wall of the chamber and waited. Now and then they could hear whispers in a tongue they could not understand. Occasionally they heard a wagon creaking along the distant street. Then they knew that the doors connecting the mud hut with the outer world were open.

"I wonder if old Chee is still asleep from the dope?" Sandy asked, after a long time had passed.

"Why did they dope her?" asked Jack. "I don't see any nourishment for them in that."

"Guess they thought I'd be apt to help you boys," Sandy replied, "and made up their minds to catch me and chuck me away somewhere. Chee's a nervy old lady, an' probably scrapped when they searched for me. I'd like to help her."

"Why do you call her Chee?"

"Because she's so cheerful, an' because I don't know her name," was the reply.

"It must be pretty near dawn," Jack said, after a long silence, with a prodigious yawn.

Frank looked at his watch and found that it was six o'clock. It had been a long night. The sun would rise shortly after six.

Five minutes later sounds of trouble of a physical nature were heard along the tunnel by which the chamber had been reached. There were blows, grunts, and ejaculations of rage. Then they heard a voice they knew:

"Donner! I make your face preak! Come py mine punch of fives. Oh, you loaver!"

"Hans!" cried Jack. "How the Old Harry did he get here?"

"He'll soon be able to tell you himself," Frank said, "if he keeps on coming."

Indeed, the German's voice came nearer every instant, nearer and more emphatic. He was panting, too, and the sound of blows reached the ears of the listening boys.

"Get in there!"

The words were spoken in English, but not by Hans.

"There's that gink who rounded us up back in Taku," exclaimed Jack. "He seems to be winning all the tricks. I wonder how he got hold of Hans?"

"I thought Dutchy was back with the submarine," Frank replied. "How he got to Tientsin is a mystery to me."

The next moment Hans' broad face, now red from anger and exertion, appeared at the mouth of the tunnel, looking like a full moon, and then his bulky figure was projected violently into the chamber. He scrambled in on his knees, but arose instantly and swung his fists in the direction of the tunnel, shouting imprecations on some out-of-sight person.

There were numerous cuts and bruises on his face from which blood was oozing, and his clothing was torn and dirty, as if it had been dragged through the mud.

"Loaver! Loaver!" he shouted, still shaking his clenched fist at the entrance. "Vait a liddle, yet! I eats dern alife!"

"I wish you would!" cried Jack.

"Give me a bite while you are at it," Sandy cut in.

Hans gazed around in bewilderment for a time, and then his face brightened as he caught sight of Frank and Jack. It did not take the lads long to arrive at a mutual understanding of the happenings of the night.

Hans had been followed from the place where he had left the other boys and captured. He did not know what had become of Ned and the others any more than Frank and Jack did.

His story brought some relief to the others, for it was presumable that their chums were now well on their way to Peking. Once there, the imprisoned lads knew that every effort for their release would be made-- then the whole power of the United States government, through the ambassador, would be exerted in their behalf.

"But what's the use of all that," Jack asked, grumblingly--for he was getting hungry! "What's the use of all that if the Chinks sit out there like blooming cigar-store images and never give a hint as to where we are? We are likely to starve before the American ambassador can act with success."

Hans rubbed his stomach protectingly.

"Empty!" he said. "I could eats a Schinks!"

"Eat one for me," advised Jack.

Sandy, who had been listening in silence to the explanations which had been made, now asked:

"How many Chinks are there out there?"

"Army!" answered Hans.

This was discouraging, for, as has already been stated, the boys were meditating a rush as soon as the city was astir. They did not anticipate much help from bystanders, even if they should gain the street, but they knew that such a ruction as they would be able to put up would attract the attention of the authorities, and so bring the matter before the courts.

While they talked the chances over, another breeze of trouble blew in from the entrance tunnel. An argument of some kind was in progress between the men stationed there.

Sandy moved forward to the mouth of the dark hole and listened. The argument was being carried on in the language of the country, but now and then a few words in English were heard.

"I tell you they got away, slick and clean!" the Englishman said, as Sandy listened.

A mumbling of native talk, and then another sentence:

"And some one will be here directly."

Jack, who had heard the words, turned to Frank with a grin.

"Is that a promise or a threat?" he asked.

"I think our friends are coming," Frank replied.

"They can never find us in this hole," Jack complained. "Suppose we make a little noise?"

"If they are headed this way, they know where we are," Frank said, "and it seems as if we ought to wait for them.".

"I'll starve!" muttered Jack. "I could eat a fried telegraph pole, and like it!"

"I eat since yesterday only plue sky!" Hans contributed. "My pelly makes argument mit my konscience! But?"

Sandy sat dejectedly by the wall and said nothing. He knew that he was still suspected of leading the boys into the trap in which they now found themselves, and was studying over plans to assist them out and at the same time establish his innocence.

It seemed to the lads that a whole day passed without a single thing to break the monotony, but Frank's watch insisted that it was only eleven o'clock. It was dark most of the time in the chamber, for the boys were saving of their flashlight batteries.

Finally one of the plans which had been slowly maturing in Sandy's brain brought the lad into action. Noiselessly he crept away from the little group and moved on his hands and knees, along the tunnel leading to the cellar of the old mud house.

He reasoned that that point would not be so closely guarded as the exit would be; also that Ned and his companions, if they returned to the city in quest of the boys and sought the mud house, would be more apt to be watching the house itself than the exit, which was some distance away from the road.

After proceeding a few feet, Sandy stopped and listened. There were no indications of human presence in the tunnel ahead, or in the cellar, which was not far away now, and from which a faint light shone.

When the boy reached the entrance to the cellar he saw three Chinamen lying on the earth floor, either asleep or under the influence of opium. It did not take the lad long to make up his mind as to which one of the causes, sleep or opium, had put his guards off their guard.

There was a strong odor of opium in the cellar, and a closer examination of the place showed him that the watchmen had been "hitting the pipe," as the boys on South Clark street, Chicago, would have expressed it. However, the way did not seem to be clear, for there were soft footsteps on the patch of board floor which covered a part of the cellar, and then a Chinaman backed down the ladder.

He came down slowly and stood for an instant on the cellar floor before looking around. When at last he saw the men asleep on the floor he muttered some jargon which Sandy could not understand and turned back to the ladder again.

Sandy believed that the man he saw was the only one the "pipe" had left on guard. If he could prevent him reaching the street, he might be able to get the other boys out of the trap in which they had been caught.

The Chinaman seemed large and strong, but Sandy would have taken even greater chances in order to convince the boys that he was not their enemy, so he sprang upon him. The struggle was a desperate one for a time, for Sandy was not very strong as compared with his opponent, and the man he was fighting with fought viciously.

Sandy did not dare cry out to the boys in the chamber for help, for that might bring other enemies into the fight. The only way seemed to be to conquer the Chinaman and then get the boys into the street as silently as possible. Once there, they would have little difficulty in making their way out of the city.

It is quite probable that Sandy would have come off second best in the encounter if Jack had not heard the racket the two made and came into the cellar with a bound. The two boys soon had the Chinaman down and well tied up.

"You're a brick, Sandy," Jack said, as the boys faced each other in the dim light. "While we sat in there waiting for some one to get us out, you got a move on and did something! Say," he added, with a grin, "ain't this tie-up game getting stale? Suppose we knock this fellow on the head? He may get away if we don't. And these others? Think they are sufficiently soused with opium?"

"They won't make any trouble for a long time," Sandy answered. "It is a wonder they got into such a trance! There must have been something stronger than opium in their pipes."

"Didn't know there was anything meaner than opium," Jack said.

"There is a drug that is used by old soaks after the poppy stuff gets too mild for them," replied Sandy. "Perhaps these men got some of that. Keep quiet, boys!"

This last as Frank and Hans came through the tunnel and stood staring at the men on the floor and their chums.

"Who did it?" asked Frank.

"Sandy did it!" answered Jack. "Ain't he the broth of a lad? Sure he's the goods."

"Perhaps we'd better be getting out," Sandy observed. "I hear some one upstairs. They're comin' down here, too."