Terry and the Pirates...and the Chinese Bells can be found in






TERRY AND THE PIRATES . . .and the Chinese Bells

By MILTON CANIFF


HAVING struggled through the narrow, winding streets of the busy Chinese city, Terry and his tall friend Pat strode side by side to the water's edge. Here, where their boat, Peach Blossom, was moored, they were to meet Connie, their China boy, cook, interpreter, guide and man of all work.

Connie was nowhere to be seen.

"Well—let's hope—" Pat stepped down into the boat and Terry followed closely.

Connie was not on board.

"Gosh, Pat!" Terry eyed his friend worriedly. "Where can he be? Lost, y'think?"

"Lost!" Pat threw his pack to the deck. "Not Connie. Probably arguing with some Chink to split a penny in his favor." He consulted his watch. "Well—if he doesn't come pretty soon—we'll take our sturdy craft and go without him!"

"We can't do that, Pat," Terry told him earnestly. "Golly! We need Connie!"

"Serve him right t'be left behind," Pat snapped.

But Terry noticed that Pat kept eyeing the shore.

At last someone came running toward the boat, but it was not Connie. It was an American girl and she headed straight for the Peach Blossom.

"What th'—!" Terry exclaimed and with Pat he stepped ashore to find out what caused her evident excitement.

The girl came at once to the point.

"You're going up the Lun Chow Creek," she said breathlessly. "Take me along—please! I—I'm Mona Lane. My uncle's Martin Lane. You've heard of him. His collection of bells is famous. He's up there—lost somewhere! Please take me with you!"

Terry and Pat exchanged a quick look.

"Whew!" said Terry, but Pat came out point-blank as usual.

"What I'm wondering—how do you know so much about our plans, Miss Mona Lane?"

The girl pointed backward. "I met your China boy—Connie is his name. He was blowing a bean shooter, that's why I noticed him. We got to talking."

"Bean shooter!" Terry snapped. "Why did I ever give Connie that thing anyway!"

The girl was tugging at Pat's lapels.

"Oh, he didn't mean any harm!" she cried. "Won't you take me? I'm so worried about my uncle! He should have returned long ago. I—I know the dangers." She tapped the gun at her waist. "And I can finance the trip. There's—there's nobody I can trust. When I learned that you—Americans—"

This decided Pat.

"Okay," he said. "Come aboard."

Not long after Connie, grinning from ear to ear, made his tardy appearance. He carried a large paper sack.

"Bleans!" he explained. "Connie amazed at Connie's sharp wits get so cheap." Then, seeing the stony look on Pat's face, he added, "Velly solly late. Had to take singing lesson. Come cloppity-clop sloon as plossible."

When the three were below and Mona had gone for her things, Pat opened a package.

"An automatic apiece," he explained. "I anticipated trouble on our own expedition, and now—with the hunt on for Mona's uncle—well, we can expect the worst."

"Oh, woe is Connie!" mourned the China boy, dropping a stack of dishes. "And me not mad at one person in world."

"You want to quit?" Pat snapped.

Connie bent down to pick up the remains of the chinaware.

"Connie velly unhappy," he apologized. "Too bad show like coward. Really velly blave fellah. So solly!"

Mona Lane wasted no time in coming aboard, and her equipment, Pat and Terry saw with appreciation, was all packed in one knapsack. From this she drew out a folded paper and handed it over for their inspection.

"It's a rough map," she said. "I made it myself, to tell you the truth. Uncle has his. But I've studied it so often with him, I feel I know it by heart. Now there—" she pointed, "the West River runs into Lun Chow Creek. It is navigable to the great oak. From there a trail is blazed by cuts on the trees to the pagoda. It was there my Uncle hoped to find the Sweet-Singing Bell. Now—" she paused a moment, "—now—I want to find my uncle! He's more important than all the bells in China!"

Pat folded the map, placed it in an inner pocket.

"We'll find him for you," he promised, "if we have to wring the necks of the pirates which infest this country."

Connie caught the play on words and broke into an amused chuckle.

"Pletty good joke! Bells for bad Chinee cornin' tootie sweetie peal out!"

Terry looked over at the girl.

"Say, how long's it since you saw your uncle last?" he questioned.

"It's three weeks," Mona answered.

Both Pat and Terry avoided her eyes.

"Oh, I know what you're both thinking!" she cried. "That this is useless! That my uncle is—is dead! But I'm sure he isn't! He didn't go there to plunder. He went to buy this bell and that's entirely different! "

It was on the tip of Terry's tongue to say, "Then, if it was as easy as that, why didn't he take you with him?"

But Pat again offered a word of cheer.

"We'll get him, bell and all," he said. "Now, for full steam ahead. We can't afford to lose a minute."

Up the West River chugged the Peach Blossom, on into Lun Chow Creek. There was no difficulty finding the great oak. It jutted up like a lone sentinel where the creek narrowed.

"Here's where we start inland," Pat announced, buckling on his automatic.

As they lined up on the ground there came, through the trees, a strange cry.

"Did you hear that?" Mona asked of them all.

They had, but it was Connie who answered her.

"Most likely Chinese bandit getting head chopped off," he explained. "Not much serious!"

He grinned cheerfully at Mona, and then looked about among the lower branches of a nearby tree. What he wanted was a proper walking stick. He found it, and announced, "Evlything hotsy dandy. Comes Connie lescue bell collector."

Pat led the way, then came Terry, Mona and at last, Connie. The cuts on the trees were plainly visible, but led them over a rough boulder-strewn trail.

"Your map was off on one point, Mona," Pat said at length. "It's getting dark and that pagoda's nowhere in sight. We'll have to camp here."

Next morning, thinking to surprise the rest of the party, Connie rose with the dawn and walked to a nearby stream for water with which to prepare breakfast. Somehow he missed his way, though he had not gone far. But the China boy had a curious feeling of being watched. Holding his gun in one hand, he called to his friends. Only once, he called, and then was silent. An opening appeared in the boulder near which he was standing and Connie felt himself being hauled down, down into a dark, damp place.

Terry and Pat had both heard his cry and came on the run. But no sign of Connie could they see.

"Perhaps he went on ahead," Terry decided at last. "Let's push on. Maybe the pagoda is nearer than we think."

It was, perhaps, only a half-mile further. Coming to the top of a hill they saw it, rising tall among a cluster of trees.

"Guess you were right, Terry," Pat said, moving on. "Connie must have gone on ahead. Maybe inside the door waiting."

But Terry detected a note of insecurity in Pat's voice. Was he worried about Connie?

"It looks so—empty! " Mona murmured as they advanced. "I wonder if we'll find my uncle here! Or if—"

They went up to tire door. Pat pushed and it gave way easily.

"Hm," he muttered, "somebody must be around here. This place has a lived-in look."

"Listen!" Terry whispered suddenly.

The three stood like statues.

"You hear it?" Terry whispered to Pat.

"Yeah. And it sounds like a—snore!"

"It—it is a snore!" Mona said softly, almost unbelievingly.

"Guess it isn't visitors' day," Terry observed. "Anyhow, they can't be expecting us—"

Pat was moving toward a low door at one end of the room. He pushed it open and there, on a bench before a heavy iron door sat the snorer. In his hand was a vicious-looking sword.

"Hey, you!" Pat seized him by the throat. "Wake up! We're looking for a man named Lane and our China boy. Seen 'em?"

The fellow bobbed his head and motioned toward the heavy door, while from behind him he drew out a torch. This he handed to Pat.

Terry had watched the whole proceeding and he could tell that Pat held his thought. This was too easy. The guard to what seemed the entrance to an underground passageway was too eager to have them go on in.

But he took the torch from Pat without a word. As he lighted it, he saw that Pat slipped his hand down to his holster.

Thus, with Pat on one side holding his gun and Terry holding the brightly burn-, ing torch on the other, Mona Lane moved like a person in a trance through the heavy double doors.

But, once inside, the girl found her speech in a cry of horror.

"Uncle! It is! Oh, it is my uncle!"

Terry and Pat were gazing straight ahead at the same gruesome sight. Indeed, it was all their eyes could make out in the light of the torch. Against the wall ahead was the figure of a man. From a jutting rock overhead dangled a rope which was drawn around the shoulders, holding him in place. The rope was needed, it was evident, for the head hung down upon the chest.

As they stood so, the girl began to weep heartrendingly. Before Pat or Terry could offer a word of comfort, a purring voice spoke in the darkness.

"Death follows the luckless one who presumes to barter for the Sweet-Singing Bell!"

"Come out and fight!" Pat suggested, firing a shot in the direction of the speaker.

The guard, now wide awake, came from behind and snatched Pat's gun. From ahead another evil face emerged. Pat jabbed in his face, while Terry grabbed the legs of the guard. The fight was over almost before it started, with Pat and Terry pounding their assailants.

Mona had taken the torch and now its rays outlined the muzzle of a gun around a bend in the rock.

Only a moment the gun showed. The holder cried out in sudden pain and the gun rattled to the floor.

"Connie shoots in hand!" Connie's voice rang out. "Come an' ketchum!"

"Connie!" cried his three friends, and with new vigor Pat and Terry leaped upon their would-be assassin.

"He's boss," Connie explained, emerging from the shadows. "No more, except pletty girl's uncle back there." He grinned widely. "Connie velly blave fellah!"

When questioned, Connie revealed his bean shooter. His gun had been taken. It was this which saved their lives. Mona's uncle was unhurt. It was an effigy which hung before them. The pirates were holding the collector for ransom, and only wished to throw a scare into his niece. After being brought in through the secret underground passage, Connie had pretended to fall in with the pirate's plans and so had been allowed his freedom.

Terry and Pat were still chuckling over the bean shooter as they stood on the deck of the homeward-bound ship.

"Saved!" Terry laughed. "By a bean shooter!"