THE TIE THAT BINDS
“Another fight! Let’s beat it!”
“No, wait a minute. Maybe it’s some of the gang.”
A mob of men swirled around a corner. Now they moved at a rush, now they stood still. The mass seemed to revolve around its centre; figures darted in and out; the mass heaved and sank and heaved again. Oaths and savage yells. They came to a momentary halt under an electric light and the gobs obtained a clear view of them.
“The limeys! They’re at it again!”
“Those aren’t our guys!”
“That other bunch has ganged up on ’em! Look! Look at that, will you?”
Above a struggling group a knife had flashed. They did not wait for more. Letting out a yell, they went tearing into the combat.
“Watch out for the knives!” somebody cautioned.
“And when you—git your man down”—this from Hardtack—“be sure he don’t git—up agin. Take that!”
Overwhelmed by numbers, the bluejackets were fighting desperately. Three of their number were laid out in the street. They heard the smash of the new attack and turned wearily to meet it. But instead of a fresh rush of the enemy, a hoarse bellow reached them—“All right, you guys! Give ’em hell!”
They swung around and waded into the fight again, and within five minutes the street was cleared. As a mopping-up job it was a creditable performance. A bluejacket kicked the last knife wielder down a flight of steps and summed up the affair with “That’s that!”
“Come on!” yelled Hardtack. “Let’s beat it while the going’s good!”
They picked up their wounded and scattered in all directions. Hardtack and Wally found themselves running down a street alongside some gobs and half a dozen of the English. They did not slacken pace until well away from the scenes of disturbance.
Then a bluejacket panted, “‘I sy, wot’s the ’urry?”
There was sense to this, since they had arrived in a portion of the city where patrols would not be likely to search for them. They slowed to a walk.