Under Dewey at Manila/Chapter 3

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CHAPTER III


A FRUITLESS CHASE


While the party of three ate the meal prepared for them, Larry worked at the rear of the wayside resort, chopping the wood Harmon had pointed out.

With five dollars in his pocket the youth felt easy again. In Honolulu, where accommodations were cheap, five dollars would last a long while, and he felt that his luck was bound to change before the money was entirely gone.

Close to where he worked was an open window, and from the conversation of the three he learned that Captain Nat Ponsberry was the commander and part owner of the Columbia, a three-masted schooner, which had just come into Honolulu from Panama, and was to leave the following week for Hong Kong, China. Tom Grandon was first mate of the schooner, and evidently he and the captain were old friends, both hailing from Gloucester, the original home of the schooner build of sea-going vessels. The Rev. Martin Wells was to be a passenger, bound also for Hong Kong. He had been picked up in Honolulu, where he had been attached to the English missions. He was in no hurry to get to Hong Kong and had chosen the sailing-vessel because it was cheaper than the regular steamer, although, of course, not nearly so fast.

The three made a pleasant party, both the captain and Tom Grandon being full of fun, and the clergyman not being above a joke himself, although never forgetting his cloth. More than once Larry found himself laughing at what was said, as each quizzed the others about being scared to death.

"I'll wager life on the Columbia isn't as dull as it is on some vessels," thought Larry, as he finished cutting the wood and hung up the axe. " I wish she was bound for San Francisco—I'd give the Rescue the go-by and strike Captain Ponsberry for a position. Even as it is I may strike him, if nothing better turns up, although I've no great hankering to visit the land of the heathen Chinee."

"Well, Larry Russell, if that's your name, I reckon as how it's about time we boarded ship and sailed for Honolulu!" cried Captain Ponsberry, after he and his companions had made a brief tour of the Pali. "I promised to be back to the Columbia by seven o'clock, and I'm a man as never breaks my word."

"I'll have the team out in a jiffy," answered the youth, and rushed around to the stable. The horses had been left in harness, and it was an easy task to hook them up. He drove around to the front of the resort, the three clambered in, and with a farewell to Ralph Harmon, and a rather unnecessary crack of the whip upon Larry's part, they bowled off down the sweep of the road across which the stately palms were now casting long, wavering shadows.

It was a beautiful drive, that down the Nuuanu Valley and into Nuuanu avenue, past lovely homes that have a perpetual summer, homes hedged in by palms and cacti, and here and there a field of bamboo, with vines clustering everywhere. In two places they passed large cemeteries, surrounded by tall, gray walls, overgrown with moss and guarded by long rows of solemn-looking cypresses; and then they came whirling down into the town proper, now silent and almost deserted, for the time for business was over, and the workers had hied themselves to their homes, to the bathing-beach at Waikiki, or to some other place of amusement.

"Oh, had we some bright little isle of our own,
In the blue summer ocean, far off and alone,"

quoted the Rev. Martin Wells, and then, as if fearing he was getting too sentimental, he quickly changed the subject. "Larry, you drive like a veteran. Do you own a horse?"

"A horse? I? Hardly. Why, I'm—I'm—that is, I don't own much of anything in this world—just now," stammered the youth. "Steady, boys, steady; you've behaved well so far; don't spoil your record," he went on, to the team.

"Do your family live here? " went on the inquisitive man in black.

"No, sir, I have no family, only two brothers, who are miles and miles away from here. I am a sailor boy, but my boat is laid up for repairs, and so I'm knocking about earning a living as best I can."

"A sailor boy, eh?" put in Captain Ponsberry. "Why didn't you say so afore, youngster? A sailor boy, and stopped those bosses that way! Well, I never! Reckon you're a putty good hand afore the mast. What ship did you sail in?"

"The Rescue—Captain Morgan."

"Oh, yes, I heard tell she was laid up here—got knocked out in a southeaster—they're putty bad around these parts, though they be wuss off the coast of Chili. So you're one of his boys? Well, if you ain't got much to do, come down and see me. We're loading and unloading, you know."

"If you can give me work at that, I'll jump at the job," answered Larry, quickly. "I'd like to work out that five dollars, if nothing else."

"Now jess you stow it about the gold, lad; ye earned that fair and square, an' more, too—eh, Parson? eh, Tom? Don't you think our lives was worth—let me see—less'n two dollars each?"

This was said so drolly Larry was compelled to laugh. "I wasn't looking at it that way—it was a big price for stopping a team—I'd like to stop 'em every day in the week at that figure."

"God forbid!" murmured Mr. Wells. "You might slip down, and then—" he shook his head seriously. "Yes, yes, Captain Ponsberry, give him work by all means, if he wants it, and you have room for an extra hand."

"We'll make room," put in the mate of the Columbia. "There is one Kanaka in the gang isn't worth his salt. I'll discharge him and Larry can come on first thing in the morning."

So it was arranged; and at the livery stable where the turnout had been hired the boy left the three men, feeling lighter in heart than he had for a long while. A week's work would mean at least six to nine dollars in addition to the five given him, and who knew but that his newly made friends would put in a good word for him elsewhere, or Captain Ponsberry might even ask him to go on the Hong Kong trip. The more he thought of the trip, the more strongly did it appeal to him.

"I might just as well see all of the world I can while I am at it," he argued mentally. "It won't do me much good to go back to San Francisco right away; for I can't help Ben or Walter, and none of us can bring Uncle Job to terms until we are of age and can apply for a legal settlement of mother's estate. If I went to Hong Kong with Captain Ponsberry, and he promised to bring me back here or to San Francisco, I know he would do it."

As I have mentioned, the business streets of the thriving seaport city were practically deserted, but up at Emma Square, a few blocks off, the native brass band was giving its weekly evening concert. Although not a musician himself, Larry loved to hear a band play, and he wandered off in the direction, to join the crowd that stood close to the performers. They were playing a popular air, which had drifted hither from London by way of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, as such airs are bound to do. Larry had heard the same tune in Buffalo, ground out on a mechanical piano, and for a brief instant a spasm of homesickness passed over him.

"Music seems to be the same, no matter where a fellow goes," he thought. "What a conglomeration of people and what a lot of native children! The Kanakas must love music. Well, it's nice enough for most—ha!"

Larry broke off short, and pushed his way through the crowd to the other side of the bandstand. He had seen a face that he recognized only too well. It was the face of the foreign sailor who had been his room-mate on the night he had been robbed.

"See here, I want to talk to you," he said, catching the fellow by the sleeve of his pea-jacket.

The man turned and cast a heavy pair of eyes upon him, eyes which peered from under bushy eyebrows. He was a Norwegian, Olan Oleson by name, and his reputation well fitted that which Larry had given him.

"What you want? " asked Olan Oleson, grimly, evidently well understanding what was coming.

"I want my money, that's what I want," demanded the youth, firmly.

"Your money? I know notank about your money," and the Norwegian shrugged his huge shoulders and attempted to turn away.

"I say you do know," cried Larry. "You just give it back to me, or I'll have you locked up."

At this Olan Oleson scowled darkly. "You mak one mistak; I no tak your money," he growled. "Let go!"

He jerked himself free, and slipped through the crowd. But Larry was not to be shaken off thus easily, and he quickly followed, to catch the Norwegian again by the jacket just as the crowd was cleared.

"You've got over six dollars belonging to me, and I'm bound to have it, you rascal," he said. "Come, now, no more fooling. I'm not in the humor for it."

"You go way, boy, or maybe you get hurt," returned the Norwegian. "You mak big mistak—I never see you before."

"That isn't true. You slept in the same room with me,—down to the Traveller's Rest,—and you went through my clothes while I was asleep, and then got out. I'm going to have my money, or have the first policeman we meet lock you up."

The last words had scarcely left Larry's lips when Olan Oleson drew back, at the same time putting forth one of his broad feet behind the youth. Then came a sudden and heavy shove, and Larry tripped over backwards, to fall with great force at full length.

As the youth went down, his head struck the ground, and for a few seconds he was stunned and bewildered. Then he leaped up and gazed around him. The Norwegian was running down the highway as rapidly as his heavy weight and natural awkwardness would permit. He was off in the direction of the shipping.

"He's going to get aboard of his boat and hide, if he can," thought Larry, and made after the man.

Several squares were passed, and Larry was slowly gaining in his pursuit, when Olan Oleson turned and darted into a side street which was but little better than an alleyway. In a few seconds more the boy reached the spot, to find the fellow had disappeared as completely as though the earth had swallowed him up.

The side street was filled with little shops, kept by Chinese and the poorer class of Kanakas. It was a foul-smelling and vile-looking district, and Larry went in but the distance of a block.

"I'll not run any more risks," he reasoned, as he retraced his steps. "Some of those chaps look evil enough to knock a fellow down on the slightest provocation. I might be robbed again, and that wouldn't pay."

Nevertheless, as he walked away, and sought a respectable lodging-house in another part of the city, he determined to keep his eyes open for the Norwegian so long as he should remain in Honolulu. But never once did Larry dream of the important part Olan Oleson was to play in his future life, causing him some amazing adventures, and placing him in a position to take part in one of the greatest naval engagements of modern history.