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      My companion lifted higher in the saddle with delight. Then soberly he said, "We have got to lose her." I turned inquiringly and he continued: "She has done me the honor to tell me--Miss Harper and me--that if she succeeds in what she is now trying to do--you know?--"

      [Pg 73]"Not for the present, my boy. Without boasting, I do know, but I could not prove it yet; at least, not to the legal mind. Have you got those notes?"

      Fred agreed with him, and then added, "I tell you what, Frank, we'll get three dresses just like those, if they don't cost too much; and when we get home, we'll have Miss Effie and your sister and my sister put them on. Then we'll arrange the garden to look like that one as much as possible, with a little furnace and teapot in front of the girls, and the pedestal of a statue near them. Won't that be nice?"

      {219}Before the steamer stopped she was surrounded by dozens of the smaller boats, and, as soon as they could do so, many of the boatwomen came on board. The captain recommended one of them who was known as "American Susan," and the trio were confided to her care for transfer to the hotel on Ho-nan Island. Susan and her attendant women shouldered the valises which the travellers had brought from Hong-kong, and led the way to her boat. The gallantry of the boys received a shock when they saw their baggage carried by women, while their own hands were empty; but the Doctor told them it was the custom of the country, and by carrying their own valises they would deprive the women of an opportunity of earning a few pennies. To this view of the matter they yielded; and before they had recovered their composure the boat was gliding across the river, propelled by the powerful arms of her feminine crew. Susan proposed to be in their employ during their stay at Canton, and a bargain was speedily concluded; for fifty cents at day, the boat was to be at their disposal from morning till night to carry them over the river, or to any point they wished to visit along its banks. Frank thought they would be obliged to look a long time to find a boat with two men at the oars for a similar price in New York, and Fred thought they would have to look still longer to find one rowed by two women.

      "My dear," he gasped, as he slid into the seat reserved for him next to his wife, "I couldn't help it. Someone stole my hat and wig."

      Charlotte had ceased, in consternation not for the conditions without more than for those within. With the first strong swell of the song from below, the dying leader strove to sit upright and to lift his blade, but failed and would have slammed back upon the pillows had not she and Miss Harper saved him. He lay in their arms gasping his last, yet clutching his sabre with a quivering hand and listening on with rapt face untroubled by the fiery tumult of cries that broke into and over the strain.


      The Doctor's conclusion may be taken as a fair expression of his character. Naturally, the effect of such a preposterous revelation upon a sluggish and doubting mind would be to arouse it to a kind of furious defence of all that man has been in the past, and a scarcely less spirited rejection of that grotesque possibility of the future which the Clockwork man presented to the ordinary observer. Gregg, on the other hand, may be excused, on the score of his extreme youthfulness, for the impetuosity of his actions. His attempt to persuade the editor of the Wide World Magazine that his version of the affair, put in the shape of a magazine story, was actually founded on fact, ended in grotesque failure. His narrative power was not doubted; but he was advised to work the story up and introduce a little humour before offering it as a contribution to some magazine that did not vouch for the[Pg 194] truth of its tall stories. As this was beneath Gregg's dignity, and he could find no one else to take him seriously, he shut up like an oyster, and just in time to forestall a suspicious attitude on the part of his friends. It was only years later, and after many experiences in this world of hard fact and difficult endeavour, that he began to share the Doctor's view, and to cherish the memory of the Clockwork man as a legend rich in significance.The Clockwork man looked vaguely distressed. "Theoretically," he agreed, "what you say is correct. I can conceive it as a mathematical problem. But actually, you know, it isn't at all obvious."


      Ere the sun shall go down there are heads to be--'


      The two men bowed.