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      Balmayne hastened to the door. He might want some ready lie; on the other hand, his diplomacy might be needed. But he set his teeth a trifle closer as he saw Dr. Bruce standing there. "I have been called," he said."Tell him all you know."

      "Mine, too!" I cried, springing up after her. How queerly the inner house stood alight and silent, its guests and inmates hidden, while outside pistols and carbines flashed and cracked. I came upon Charlotte, just recrossing her chamber to leave it, with her doll in her arms. "Come!" I cried, "our line is falling back behind the house!" Her head flinched aside, a bit of her hat flew from it, and a pistol-ball buried itself in the ceiling straight over my head. We ran downstairs together, pulling, pushing and imploring each other in the name of honor, duty and heaven to let him--let her--go out first through the bright hall door. Kendall was not in sight, but in a dim half-light a few yards off we saw Oliver. He was afoot, bending low, and gliding toward us with his revolver in his left hand. He fired as I did; her clutch spoiled my aim; with eager eyes she straightened to her finest height, cried "Richard! tell Lieutenant Ferry he--" and with a long sigh sank into my arms. A rush of hoofs sounded behind Oliver, he glanced up, and Ferry's blade fell across his brow and launched him face upward to the ground. I saw a bunch of horses, with mine, at the foot of the steps, and a bunch of men at the top; Ferry snatched Charlotte's limp form from me and said over his shoulder as he went down the steps, "Go get him and bring him along, dead or alive!"They crept round there unseen by dint of this and that doorway, but there was no luck that night. The little gate was fast. Hetty had seen to that. She had made up her mind to know what time the Countess returned, together with all other information possible.

      MODE OF IRRIGATING FIELDS. MODE OF IRRIGATING FIELDS.The plans of the Doctor included a journey up the great river, the Yang-tse. There was abundant opportunity for the proposed voyage, as there were two lines of steamers making regular trips as far as Han-kow, about six hundred miles from Shanghai. One line was the property of a Chinese company, and the other of an English one. The Chinese company's boats were of American build, and formerly belonged to an American firm that had large business relations in the East. The business of navigating the Yang-tse-kiang had been very profitable, and at one time it was said that the boats had made money enough to sink them if it were all put into silver and piled on their decks. But there was a decline when an opposition line came into the field and caused a heavy reduction of the prices for freight and passage. In the early days of steam navigation on[Pg 329] the Yang-tse-kiang a passage from Shanghai to Han-kow cost four hundred dollars, and the price of freight was in proportion. For several years the Americans had a monopoly of the business, and could do pretty much as they liked. When the opposition began, the fares went down, down, down; and at the time our friends were in China the passage to Han-kow was to be had for twenty-four dollarsquite a decline from four hundred to twenty-four.

      The Countess smiled. She had risen prepared to take her departure. If she had any knowledge of faces she had made a good impression.

      And then there was the Clockwork mansomething else to think about, to be wondered at.

      "I may be mad," she gasped, "but there is method in it. I may not----"

      Ferry lay in bed with three pillows behind him and his sheathed sword across his lap. "Good-evening, Richard," he said, "you are returned just in time; will you please hand me my two pistol' from yonder?--thank you." He laid one beside each thigh. "Now please turn the head of my bed a little bit, to face the door--thank you; and now, good-bye. You hear those footstep' there in the room behind? she is dressing to go; the other ladies they are helping her. Richard, I place them in your charge; have them all ready to get into her wagon at a moment's notice, with you on your horse--and you better take that Jewett horse, too; he came to-day."



      But the Curate shook his head. Fortunately, in his professional character there was no need for the Doctor to exhibit surprise. On the contrary, it was necessary, for his patient's sake, to exercise control. He leaned against the mantelpiece and listened attentively to the Curate's hurried account of his encounter with the Clockwork man, and shook his head gravely.


      "Well, say; maybe you'll tell us who this is we're about to meet up with."