On reaching the main stairway he heard voices overhead. The sound seemed
to come from a room opening into the hall above. Quickly removing his
shoes, the lad tied the strings together, and throwing them about his
neck, he ascended to the upper floor.
Fortunately, Nattie had visited the Black mansion in his earlier days
when he and Ralph were on terms of comparative intimacy. He knew the
general plan of the house, and the knowledge stood him in good stead
The room from which the sound of voices came was a study used by the
English merchant himself. Next to it was a spare apartment filled with
odd pieces of furniture and what-not. In former days it was a guest
chamber, and the lad had occupied it one night while on a visit to the
merchant’s son.
He remembered that a door, surmounted by a glass transom, led from the
study to the spare room, and that it would be an easy matter to see into
the former by that means.
He tried the knob, and found that it turned at his touch. A slight
rattle underneath proclaimed that a bunch of keys was swinging from the
lock. Closing the door behind him, he tiptoed across the apartment,
carefully avoiding the various articles of furniture.
To his great disappointment, he found that heavy folds of cloth had been
stretched across the transom, completely obstructing the view. To make
it worse, the voices were so faint that it was impossible for him to
distinguish more than an occasional word.
“Confound it! I have my labor for my pains!” he muttered. “It’s a risky
thing, but I’ll have to try the other door.”
He had barely reached the hall when the talking in the next room became
louder, then he heard a rattling of the knob. The occupants were on the
point of leaving the study. To dart into the spare room was Nattie’s
first action. Dropping behind a large dressing-case, he listened
“Well, I am thoroughly satisfied with your part of the affair so far,”
came to his eager ears in the English merchant’s well-known voice. “It
was well planned in every respect. You had a narrow escape though.”
A deep chuckle came from the speaker’s companion.
“No suspicion attaches to me,” continued Mr. Black. “I met the boys last
night, but I don’t think they saw me.”
“Oh, didn’t we?” murmured Nattie.
“You can go now. Give this letter of instructions to my son, and tell
him to make all haste to the place mentioned. Return here with his
answer as quickly as you can. In this purse you will find ample funds to
meet all legitimate expenses. Legitimate expenses, you understand? If
you fall by the wayside in the manner I mentioned before you will not
get a _sen_ of the amount I promised you. Now–confound those rascally
servants of mine! they have left this room unlocked! I must discharge
the whole lot of them and get others.”
Click! went the key in the door behind which Nattie crouched. He was a
The sound of footsteps came faintly to him; he heard the front entrance
open; then it closed again, and all was silent in the house. After
waiting a reasonable time he tried the knob, but it resisted his
efforts. Placing his right shoulder against the wood he attempted to
force the panel, but without avail.
“Whew! this is being caught in a trap certainly! A pretty fix I am in
now. And it is just the time to track that scoundrel. Mr. Black must
have been talking about poor Grant.”
Rendered almost frantic by his position, Nattie threw himself against
the door with all his power. The only result was a deadly pain in the
injured shoulder. Almost ready to cry with chagrin and anguish, he sat
down upon a chair and gave himself up to bitter reflections.
Minutes passed, a clock in the study struck three; but still he sat
there a prey to conflicting emotions. He now saw that he had acted
foolishly. What had he learned? They had suspected the Blacks before,
and confirmation was not needed.
The discovery of the visitor’s identity was something, but its
importance was more than counterbalanced by the disaster which had
befallen Nattie. The recent conversation in the hall indicated that the
merchant’s companion would leave at once for a rendezvous to meet Ralph,
and possibly Grant.
“And here I am, fastened in like a disobedient child,” groaned the lad.
“I must escape before daylight. If I am caught in here Mr. Black can
have me arrested on a charge of attempted burglary. It would be just
nuts to him.”
The fear of delay, engendered by this new apprehension, spurred him to
renewed activity. He again examined the door, but speedily gave up the
attempt. Either a locksmith’s tools or a heavy battering-ram would be
necessary to force it.
Creeping to the one window opening from the apartment, Nattie found
that he could raise it without much trouble. The generous rays of the
moon afforded ample light. By its aid he saw that a dense mass of
creeping vines almost covered that side of the mansion.
“By George! a chance at last!”
Cautiously crawling through the opening he clutched a thick stem and
tried to swing downward with his right hand. As he made the effort a
pain shot through his injured shoulder so intense that he almost
fainted. He repressed a cry with difficulty.
Weak and trembling, he managed to regain the window sill. Once in the
room he sank down upon the floor and battled with the greatest anguish
it had ever been his lot to feel.
To add to his suffering, came the conviction that he would be unable to
escape. He remembered the telltale slit he had made in the screen door.
When daylight arrived it would be discovered by the servants, and a
search instituted throughout the house.
“Well, it can’t be helped,” mused the lad. “If I am caught, I’m caught,
and that’s all there is about it.”
It is a difficult thing to philosophize when suffering with an intense
physical pain and in the throes of a growing fever. It was not long
before Nattie fell into a stupor.

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He finally became conscious of an increasing light in the room, and
roused himself enough to glance from the window. Far in the distance
loomed the mighty volcano of Fuji San, appearing under the marvelous
touch of the morning sun like an inverted cone of many jewels.
A hum of voices sounded in the lower part of the house, but no one came
to disturb him. Rendered drowsy by fever, he fell into a deep slumber,
and when he awoke it was to hear the study clock strike nine. He had
slept fully five hours.
Considerably refreshed, Nattie started up to again search for a way to
effect his escape. The pain had left his shoulder, but he felt an
overpowering thirst. His mind was clear, however, and that was half the
“If I had more strength in my left arm I would try those vines once
more,” he said to himself. “Things can’t last this way forever. I
must–what’s that?”
Footsteps sounded in the hall outside. They drew nearer, and at last
stopped in front of the spare-room door. A hand was laid upon the knob,
and keys rattled.
“We have searched every room but this,” came in the smooth tones of the
English merchant. “Go inside, my man, and see if a burglar is hiding
among the furniture. Here, take this revolver; and don’t fear to use it
if necessary.”
Like a hunted animal at bay, the lad glared about him. Discovery seemed
certain. Over in one corner he espied a chest of drawers. It afforded
poor concealment, but it was the best at hand. To drag it away from the
wall was the work of a second. When the door was finally opened, Nattie
was crouched behind the piece of furniture.
He heard the soft steps of a pair of sandals; he heard chairs and
various articles moved about, then the searcher approached his corner.
Desperate and ready to fight for his liberty, he glanced up–and uttered
a half-stifled cry of amazement and joy!

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