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Chapter 10 An Exciting Night In The Llamaserai

  • "There are two points which we must hold in constant remembrance," sai_ikola. "The first is that you are  _not_  a Chinaman, and the other is tha_f you go before the High Priest to-morrow morning and pose as one, he'l_ertainly find you out, and then we shall be ruined completely. If you ru_way I had better run too, for all the good I can get by stopping, but that _m resolved not to do. It has cost me many years' labour, to say nothing o_ome thousands of British sovereigns, to get as far as I have in thi_usiness, and come what may I am determined not to turn back."
  • "But in what way are we to get out of the difficulty?" I asked dejectedly. "I_ can't come before them and brazen the matter out, and I can't remain awa_or fear of confirming what they already suspect, and I can't leave th_onastery without drawing down suspicion on you, I must confess I don't se_hat  _is_  to be done. I suppose we couldn't bribe the man to withdraw hi_harge?"
  • "Not to be thought of," said Nikola, with conviction. "Our lives would then b_imply dependent on his reading of the term 'good faith.' You ought to kno_hat sort of trust we could place in that."
  • "Could we force him to clear out, and thus let it be supposed that he ha_rought a false accusation against me, and was afraid to stay and face th_onsequences?"
  • "That is not possible either," said Nikola. "He would want to bargain with us, and, to be revenged on us, would turn traitor when we refused his demand. I_hat case it would be 'pull devil, pull baker,' and the one who could pull th_ongest would gain the day. No, you had better leave the situation to me. Le_e tackle it, and see what is to be done."
  • I did as he wished, and for nearly half an hour could hear him pacing up an_own his room. I did not intrude upon him, or interrupt him in any way. At th_nd of the time stated he abandoned his sentry-go and came in to me.
  • "I think I see my way," he said. "But when all is said and done it is almos_s desperate as either of the other remedies we thought of. You will have t_arry it out, and if you fail—well, Heaven have mercy upon both of us. Yo_ave saved my life before, I am going to trust it to you now; but remembe_his, if you do not carry out my plan exactly as I wish, you will never see m_live again. Give me your best attention, and endeavour to recollec_verything I tell you. It is now close on midnight; the gong for early servic_ill sound at half-past five, but it will be daylight an hour before that. B_ook or by crook I must get you out of this place within a quarter of an hour, and, even if you have to steal a horse to do it, you must be in Pekin befor_alf-past one. Once there you will find the house of Yoo Laoyeh, who lives a_he rear of Legation Street, near the chief gate of the Tartar city."
  • "But how am I going to get into the city at all?" I asked, amazed that h_hould have forgotten what struck me as a most hopeless barrier—the wall. "Th_ates are closed at sundown and are not opened again till sunrise."
  • "You'll have to climb the wall," he answered.
  • "But, as you know very well, that's altogether impossible," I said.
  • "Not a bit of it," he replied. "I will tell you of a place where it is quit_racticable. Do you remember the spot where you proposed to Miss Medwin?"
  • "Perfectly," I answered with a smile. "But how do you know it?"
  • "My dear fellow, I was within a hundred yards of you the whole time. No, yo_eed not look at me like that. I was not spying upon you. After the fashion o_he great Napoleon, I like to be prepared for every emergency, and, thinking _ight some day want to get into the city when the gates were shut, I utilize_ome spare time by taking a look at the wall. You see how useful that chanc_isit has proved. Well, two bastions from where you were seated that day th_tones are larger and more uneven than anywhere else along the whole of tha_ide of the city. To my certain knowledge three men have been in the habit o_limbing that portion of the ramparts for the last three years, betwee_idnight and sunrise, smuggling in goods to the city in order to avoid payin_he octroi duty, which, as you know, is levied during daylight. When you hav_ot over you will find a sentry posted on the other side; to him you will pa_hree taels, telling him at the same time that you intend returning in a_our, and that you will pay him the same amount for the privilege of gettin_ut. Having passed the sentry you will proceed into the town, find Yoo Laoyeh, and let him know the fix we are in. You may promise him the sum of £100 cas_f he falls in with your suggestions, and you must bring him back with you, willy-nilly, as fast as you can travel. I will meet you at the southern gate.
  • Knock four times, and as you knock, cough. That shall be the signal, and a_oon as I hear it I will open the gate. All that must be guarded agains_nside shall be my care. Everything outside must be yours. Now let us com_long, and discover by what means I can get you out."
  • Together we left the room, descended the stairs, and, crossing the ante- chamber, entered the big hall. The wind which, as I have already said, came i_hrough the narrow windows on either side rustled the long hangings till th_lace seemed peopled with a thousand silk-clad ghosts. Nikola crossed i_wiftly and left by the southern door. I followed close at his heels, an_ogether we passed unobserved through the great courtyard, keeping well in th_hadow of the building until we reached the first gate. Fortunately for u_his also was unguarded, but we could hear the monk, who was supposed to b_atching it, placidly snoring in the room beside it. Slipping the enormous ba_side we opened it quietly, passed through, and, crossing an open strip o_reen, made for the outer wall. Just, however, as we were about to turn th_orner that separated us from it, a sudden sound of voices caused us t_esitate.
  • "This way," whispered Nikola, seizing my wrist and dragging me to the left. "_an find you another exit. I noticed, yesterday, a big tree growing by th_ide of the wall."
  • Leaving the centre gate we turned to our left hand, as I have said, an_ollowed the wall we desired to surmount until we arrived at a large tre_hose higher branches more than overspread it.
  • "This is the very place for our purpose," said Nikola, coming to a halt. "Yo_ill have to climb the tree and crawl along the branches until you get on t_he wall, then you must let yourself down on the other side and be off to th_ity as hard as you can go. Good-bye, and may good luck go with you!"
  • I shook him by the hand and sprang into the branches. Hitherto it had seeme_s if I had been acting all this in a wonderfully vivid dream. Now, however, the rough bark of the tree roused me to the reality of my position. I climbe_ntil I came to the level of the wall, then, choosing a thick branch, made m_ay along it until I stood upon the solid masonry. Once there, only a drop o_bout twelve feet remained between me and freedom. Bidding Nikola, who wa_atching me, good-bye, in a whisper, I leant over the wall as far as I wa_ble, grasped the coping with both hands, and then let myself drop.
  • Once on the ground I ran across the open space towards a cluster of smal_wellings. In an enclosure adjoining one of them I could dimly make out _umber of ponies running loose, and knowing that if I could only secure one o_hese and find a saddle and bridle in the residence of its owner, I might b_n Pekin in under an hour, I resolved to make the attempt.
  • Creeping up to the nearest of the houses, I approached the door. Inside _ould hear the stertorous breathing of the occupants. A joss-stick burn_efore an image near at hand, and though it was well-nigh exhausted by th_ime I secured it, it still gave me sufficient light to look about me. _oment later I had a saddle and bridle down from a peg and was out among th_onies again.
  • Securing the most likely animal I saddled him, and as soon as I had done so, mounted and set off towards Pekin as fast as he could take me. The night wa_ark, but the track was plain; the little beast was more than willing, and a_ did not spare him, something less than three-quarters of an hour, countin_rom the time I had bidden Nikola good-bye, found me dismounting under th_reat wall of the city.
  • Having found a convenient spot, I tied up my pony, and when he was made secur_et to work and hunted along the wall until I came to the scaling place o_hich Nikola had told me.
  • As I reached it a light wind blew from over the plain, and sent the dus_ddying about me, otherwise not a sound disturbed the stillness of the night.
  • Then, having made sure that I was unobserved, and that I had chosen the righ_pot, I began to climb. It was no easy task. The stones were large and uneven.
  • Sometimes I got a good hold, but in many cases I had veritably to cling by m_ails. The strain was almost too much for my strength, and when I had bee_limbing for five minutes, and there still remained as much of the wall ahead, I began to despair of ever getting to the top. But I was not to be beaten; an_emembering how much depended upon my getting into the city, I dragged mysel_earily on, and at last crawled on to the summit. When I reached it I coul_ee the city spread out on the other side. A little to the left of where _tood was the place, to be for ever sacred in my eyes, where I had propose_o, and been accepted by, my sweetheart, while away to the right was tha_uarter of the town where at that moment she was in all probability asleep, and, I hoped, dreaming of me. As soon as, I recovered my breath I crossed th_all and descended by the steps on the other side.
  • I had scarcely reached the bottom before a man rose from a dark corner an_onfronted me. In the half light I could see that he was a Chinese soldie_rmed with a long spear. Telling him in a whisper, in answer to his inquiry, that I was a friend, I pressed the money that Nikola had given me for tha_urpose into his not unwilling hand, and as soon as he drew back, astonishe_t my munificence, sped past him and darted down the nearest street.
  • From the place where I had passed the sentry to the thoroughfare where Yo_aoyeh resided was a distance of about half a mile, and to reach it quickly i_as necessary that I should pass the Benfleets' abode. You may imagine wha_houghts occupied my brain as I stood in the silent street and regarded it.
  • Under that roof was sleeping the one woman who was all the world to me. _ould have given anything I possessed for five minutes' conversation with her; but as that was impossible I turned on my heel and made my way through a by- lane into the street I had been sent to find. The house was not a big one, an_t first glance did not strike me very favourably. But the style of buildin_id not matter if I found there the man I wanted. I knocked upon th_oor—which I discovered was heavily barred—but for some minutes got n_esponse; then, just as I was beginning to wonder in what way I could bes_anage to attract the attention of those inside, I heard a patter of bare fee_n the stone passage, and after much fumbling the door was opened and a ma_ppeared before me. One glance told me that he was not the person I wanted. _nquired if Yoo Laoyeh were at home, but from the answer I received I gathere_hat he had gone out earlier in the evening, and that he was probably at _eighbouring house playing  _fan-tan._
  • Having asked the man if he would take me to him, and at the same time offerin_im a considerable bribe to do so, I was immediately conducted into the stree_gain, down one by-lane, up another, and finally brought to a standstil_efore one of the largest houses in that quarter. My guide was evidently wel_nown, for when the door was opened the keeper did not attempt to bar ou_assage, but permitted us to pass through to a fair-sized room at the back.
  • Here quite thirty Chinamen were busily engaged upon their favourite pastime, but though we scanned the rows of faces, the man for whom we were searchin_as not among the number. As soon as we were convinced of this fact we lef_hat room and proceeded to another, where the same game was also being carrie_n. Once more, however, we were doomed to disappointment; Laoyeh was not ther_ither.
  • Being anxious to obtain some news of him my guide interrogated one of th_layers, who remembered having seen our man about an hour before. He imagine_e had then gone into the room we had first visited. We returned there an_ade further inquiries, only to elicit the fact that he had been seen to leav_he house about half an hour before our arrival.
  • "Have no fear. I will find him for you," said my companion, and we thereupo_roceeded down the passage, past the doorkeeper, into the street again. Onc_ore we took up the chase, trying first one house and then another, to brin_p eventually in an opium den a little behind the English Legation. The oute_oom, or that nearest the street, was filled with customers, but our man wa_ot among them. The inner room was not quite so crowded, and here, after al_ur searching, we discovered the man we wanted. But there was this drawback, he had smoked his usual number of pipes and was now fast asleep.
  • By this time it was hard upon two o'clock, and at most I dared not remain i_he city more than another hour. At the same time it would be a most foolish, if not dangerous, proceeding to attempt to travel with my man in his presen_ondition. If he did nothing else he would probably fall over the wall an_reak his neck, and then I should either have to leave him behind or remain t_nswer inconvenient questions; but whatever happened I knew I must carry hi_ut of this house as quickly as possible to some place where I could endeavou_o bring him back to his senses. I said as much to the man who had found hi_or me, and then between us we got him on to his feet, and taking him b_ither arm led him off to his home. By the time we got him there he had in _mall measure recovered from the effects of his smoke. Then we set to work, using every means known to our experience, to bring him round, and by half- past two had so far succeeded as to warrant me in thinking I might set off o_y return journey.
  • "But what does your Excellency require of me?" asked Laoyeh, who was still _it mystified, though fortunately not so far gone as to be unable to recogniz_e.
  • "You are to come with me," I answered, taking good care before I spoke tha_he other man was well out of hearing, "to the Llamaserai, where Nikola want_ou. There is a hundred pounds English to be earned; how, I will tell you a_e go."
  • As soon as he heard Nikola's name and the amount of the reward, he seemed t_ecome himself again. We accordingly left the house and set off together fo_hat part of the wall where I had made my descent into the city. The sam_oldier was still on guard, and when I had placed the money I had promised hi_n his hand, he immediately allowed us to pass. Within twenty minutes o_eaving Yoo's house we were ready to descend the other side of the wall.
  • If I had found it difficult to ascend, I discovered that it was doubl_ifficult to descend. The night was now very dark, and it was well-nig_mpossible to see what we were doing. The cracks and crannies which were t_erve as resting-places for our feet seemed almost impossible to find, an_ight glad I was when the business was accomplished and we stood together o_terra firma_  at the bottom.
  • So far my visit to the city had proved eminently successful. But time wa_lipping by, and there was still the long distance out to the Serai to b_vercome. I went over to where the pony stood hitched to the tree, exactly a_ had left him, and placed my companion upon his back. He was almost, if no_uite, himself now, so urging the little animal into a canter we set off, h_iding and I running beside him. In this fashion, running and walking, we cam_o the southern gate of the great monastery. I had carried out my share of th_usiness, and when once I should have got Laoyeh inside, the direction of th_emainder would lie with Nikola.
  • Having turned the pony loose, his bridle and saddle upon his back, _pproached and knocked upon the door, coughing softly as I did so. Then littl_y little it opened, and we found Nikola standing upon the threshold. H_eckoned to us to enter, and without losing a moment we did as we wer_rdered. Daylight was close at hand, and the unmistakable chill of dawn was i_he air. It was very certain that I had returned none too soon.
  • Having passed through the gate, and fastened it behind us, we made for th_econd archway on our left. The sentry box—if one might call it by tha_ame—was still deserted, and the guard was snoring as placidly in his littl_oom at the side as when we had crept through nearly four hours before. Thi_ourtyard, like its predecessor, was empty; but to show the narrowness of ou_scape, I may say that as we crossed it we could distinctly hear the jabberin_f priests in the dormitories on either hand.
  • At last we reached the door of the big hall. Opening it carefully we spe_cross the floor and then up the stairs to our own apartments. Once inside, the door was quickly shut, and we were safe. Then Nikola turned to me, an_aid—
  • "Bruce, you have saved me a second time, and I can only say, as I said before, you will not find me ungrateful. But there is no time to lose. Yoo Laoyeh, come in here."
  • We passed into the inner room, and then Nikola opened a small box he ha_rought with his other impedimenta. Then bidding the man seat himself upon th_loor, he set to work with wonderful dexterity to change his appearance. Th_peration lasted about a quarter of an hour, and when it was completed Nikol_urned to me.
  • "Change clothes with him, Bruce, as quickly as you can."
  • When this was done I could hardly believe my own eyes, the likeness was s_onderful. There, standing before me, was an exact reproduction of myself. I_eight, build, dress, and even in feature, the resemblance was most striking.
  • But Nikola was not satisfied.
  • "You must be changed too," he said. "We must do the thing thoroughly, or no_t all. Sit down."
  • I did so, and he once more set to work. By the time I left his hands I was a_nlike my real self as a man could well be. No one could have recognized me, and in that case it was most unlikely that our secret would be discovered.
  • On the way from Pekin I had clearly explained to Laoyeh the part he would b_alled upon to play. Now Nikola gave the final touches to his education, an_hen all was completed.
  • "But, look here," I cried, as a thought struck me; "we have forgotten on_hing—the scar upon my arm."
  • "I had omitted that," said Nikola. "And it is just those little bits o_orgetfulness that hang people."
  • Then taking a long strip of native cloth from a chair he constructed a sling, which he placed round my neck. My left arm was placed in rough splints, whic_e procured from his invaluable medicine chest, and after it had been bandage_ felt I might also defy detection, as far as my wrist was concerned.
  • Half an hour later the great gong sounded for morning worship, and in a fe_oments we knew that the courtyards and halls would be filled with men. Actin_nder Nikola's instructions I descended to the hall alone, and choosing m_pportunity slipped in and mingled with the throng. I was not the onl_ripple, for there were half a dozen others with their arms in slings. Nor wa_he fact that I was a stranger likely to attract any undue attention, inasmuc_s there were mendicants and people of all sorts and descriptions passing int_he Serai directly the gates were opened at daylight.
  • I had not been in the hall very long before I saw Nikola hobble in on hi_tick and take his place beside the High Priest. Then the service commenced.
  • When it was at an end it was evident that something unusual was going to tak_lace, for the monks and their guests remained where they were, instead o_eaving the hall as usual. Then the High Priest mounted the small platform a_he further end and seated himself in the chair of justice. Nikola followe_nd took his place beside him, and presently two tall monks appeared bringin_ith them the man who had brought the accusation against me on the previou_vening. He seemed pretty certain of being able to prove his case, and I coul_ot help smiling as I watched his confident air. First the old High Priest, who it must be remembered was almost blind with age, addressed him. He sai_omething in reply, and then Nikola spoke. His voice was scarcely as loud a_sual, yet every word rang across the hall.
  • "Liar and traitor!" he said. "You have brought this charge against my faithfu_ervant for some devilish reason of your own. But old as I am I will meet it, and evil be upon you if it be proved that what you say is false."
  • He then turned to a monk standing beside him and said something to him; th_an bowed, and leaving the platform disappeared in the direction of ou_taircase. Presently he returned with Laoyeh, whose head was bent, and whos_ands were folded across his breast. He climbed the steps, and, when he ha_one so, accuser and accused confronted each other from either end of th_latform.
  • Then it was that I saw the cleverness of Nikola's scheme. He had arranged tha_he trial should take place after the morning service for the reason that, a_hat tune, the big hall would not be thoroughly lighted. As it proved, it wa_till wrapped in more than semi-darkness, and by the promptness with which h_ommenced business it was evident that he was resolved to dispose of th_atter in hand before it would be possible for any one to see too clearly.
  • First the man who brought the accusation against me was ordered to repeat hi_ale. In reply he gave a detailed description of our meeting in Canton and le_p, with a few unimportant reservations, to the stab he had given me upon th_rist. He then unhesitatingly asserted the fact that I was a  _kueidzu,_  o_oreign devil, and dared the man who was taking my place to disprove it. Whe_e had finished, Nikola turned to the High Priest and said—
  • "My father, thou hast heard all that this wicked man hath said. He accuses m_ervant yonder—he himself being a thief and a would-be murderer by his ow_onfession—of being one of those barbarians whom we all hate and despise. _ave found my man faithful and true in all his dealings, yet if he is _oreign devil, as this fellow asserts, then he shall be punished. On the othe_and, if this rogue shall be proved to be in the wrong, and to have lied fo_he sake of gain, then it shall be my request to thee that I be allowed t_eal with him according to the powers with which thou knowest I am invested. _ave no fear; judge therefore between us."
  • When he had finished the old man rose and hobbled forward on his stick; h_ooked steadfastly from one to the other of the two men, and then, addressin_aoyeh, said—
  • "Come thou with me "; and took him into a small room leading out of the bi_all.
  • For nearly half an hour we sat in silence, wondering what the upshot of it al_ould be. I watched Nikola, who sat during the whole of the time with his chi_esting on his hand, staring straight before him.
  • At last our period of waiting was at an end. We heard the tapping of the Hig_riest's stick upon the floor, and presently he ascended the platform again.
  • Laoyeh followed him. Reaching his chair the old man signed for silence, and a_oon as he had obtained it, said—
  • "I have examined this man, and can swear that the charge this fellow ha_rought against him is without truth in every particular. Let justice b_one."
  • Then facing Nikola he continued—
  • "The rogue yonder waits for thee to do with him as thou wilt."
  • Nikola rose slowly from his chair and faced the unhappy man.
  • "Now, dog!" he cried. "By the words of thine own High Priest I have to dea_ith thee. Is it for this that thou earnest into the world. Thou hast dared t_align this my servant, and thy superior has sworn to it. Draw nearer to me."
  • The man approached a few paces, and it was easily seen that he was afraid.
  • Then for nearly a minute Nikola gazed fixedly at him, and I cannot remembe_ver to have seen those terrible eyes look so fierce. If you can imagine _abbit fascinated by a serpent you will have some notion of how the man face_is persecutor. Slowly, inch by inch, Nikola raised his right hand until i_ointed to a spot on the wall a little above the other's head. Then it bega_o descend again, and as it did so the fellow's head went down also until h_tood almost in a stooping posture.
  • "You see," said Nikola, "you are in my power. You cannot move unless I bid yo_o so."
  • "I cannot move," echoed the man almost unconsciously.
  • "Try how you will, you cannot stand upright," said Nikola.
  • "I cannot stand upright," repeated the man in the same monotonous voice, an_s he spoke I saw large drops of perspiration fall from his face upon th_loor. You may be sure that every eye in that large hall was riveted upo_hem, and even the High Priest craned forward in his chair in order that h_ight not lose a word.
  • "Look into my face," said Nikola, and his words cut the air like a shar_nife.
  • The man lifted his eyes and did as he was ordered, but without raising hi_ead.
  • "Now leave this place," said Nikola, "and until this time to-morrow you canno_tand upright like your fellow-men. It is my command, and you cannot disobey.
  • Let that help you to remember that for the future my servants must be sacred.
  • Go!"
  • He pointed with his right hand to the doors at the end of the hall, and, ben_ouble, the man went down the aisle between the rows of gaping monks out int_he courtyard and the streaming sunshine. The High Priest had risen to hi_eet, and calling up a monk who stood beside him, said—
  • "Follow him, and be certain that he leaves the Serai."
  • Then approaching Nikola he said—
  • "My master, I see that, without a doubt, thou art he whom we were told t_xpect. In what way can thy servant prove of service to thee?"
  • "Grant me an interview and I will tell you," said Nikola.
  • "If my lord will follow me," said the old man, "we can talk in private." Nex_oment they disappeared into the room where the High Priest had conducted th_xamination of Laoyeh. Thereupon the congregation dispersed.
  • As soon as the hall was empty I seized my opportunity and went upstairs to ou_wn apartment. There I discovered Laoyeh. According to Nikola's instruction_e changed clothes again, and when he was himself once more, I gave him th_eddler's dress which Nikola had prepared for this occasion, and also th_eward which had been promised him. Then bidding him good-bye, I bade him ge_ut of the monastery as quickly as he could.
  • It was nearly an hour before Nikola joined me. When he did he could hardl_onceal his exultation.
  • "Bruce," he said, almost forgetting his usual caution in the excitement of th_oment, "I have discovered everything! I have got the chart, and I have learn_he password. I know where the monastery is, and at daybreak to-morrow mornin_e'll set out in search of it."